Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Reviews: Vol. 5.7
The departure of Tegan in the previous entry seems to have started something on an exodus. Even though this volume of our retro Doctor Who reviews only features two serials it does see Turlough and Kamleion say their goodbyes, and the regeneration of the Fifth Doctor.
Planet of Fire
As soon as the Doctor is forced to bid farewell to Tegan, Turlough leaves as well. Unlike Tegan he does have the benefit of a story to see him off. Beginning on the desert planet of Sarn where civil unrest is on the rise. One person, Malkon, is known as the Chosen One for his unusual triangle scarring on his arm. Elsewhere, on the Canary Islands on Earth the same triangle symbol is found on a metal artefact found by an archaeologist and his stepdaughter Peri. When Peri is in possession of the artefact it sends out a distress signal to the TARDIS.
The TARDIS lands nearby and Turlough saves Peri from drowning. He finds the artefact and reveals that he has the same triangle symbol scarred on his arm as well. As they travel to Sarn the robot Kamelion is activated by the Master and tries to manipulate Peri. What follows is a battle between the Doctor and the Master on Sarn while Turlough is recognised as the second Chosen One.
Turlough is given a more thorough backstory prior to his final departure. Sarn had been colonised by the people of Trion and subsequently abandoned. Turlough’s family had been exiled there after their role in a revolution. When their ship crashed on the planet his father was killed and Malkon survived alone whilst Turlough was exiled to Earth. It feels almost a shame that this more interesting backstory was left until the eleventh hour before revealing it.
After the introduction of Kamelion the character was left off-screen after the robotics engineer who created him passed away. After the unexplained absence from the previous several episodes his return here is well utilised in a story of deception. But like Turlough his involvement comes too little to late as he is destroyed in the closing scenes.
With the 5th Doctor era beginning to lose steam and putting out routine stories concerning ‘classic’ villains it’s good to see a completely original story take shape. Everything flows nicely to a well-constructed finale. The Master ultimately perishes in this serial as Ainsley was not expected to reprise the role again, but this turns out to have been a hasty move as he does return. Solid viewing.
The Caves of Androzani
With the crew of the TARDIS reduced to the Doctor and his new companion Peri they arrive on the desert planet of Androzani Minor. The planet is known for the production of Spectrox, a drug than extends ones life, and found in the mines inhabited by the bats found underground. A masked character named Sharaz Jek has been attacking the mining operation with an army of androids. In charge of the mining operations is Trau Morgus who is publicly funding a military operation but secretly backing the delivery of weapons to Sharaz Jek in order to profit from the war.
When the Doctor and Peri are captured by Morgus they get sentenced to execution. When they face the firing squad they are revealed to be android doubles after having been rescued by Jek. Unfortunately the Doctor and Peri find that they’re in the early stages of spectrox toxaemia after being exposed to unrefined spectrox and only the milk of the queen bat with cure them. Amid the escalating conflict between Morgus and Jek the Doctor struggles against his body’s instinct to regenerate as he tries to obtain the anti-toxin. Eventually he does make it back to the TARDIS but not with only enough bat milk for one person.
As a final appearance as the Doctor Peter Davison scored a pretty damn good story. In addition to the intrigue caused by the conflict and the different factions being played against each other there is much more action to be found. They face giant monsters and the Doctor finds himself having to navigate his way through a full battlefield. It’s a much more gripping story than anything else delivered in the previous season. Nicola Bryant finds her feet playing the Doctor’s first American companion and has an easy banter with him, even if her accent tends to wander from time to time.
Everything culminates with the regeneration of the Doctor, with the Fifth sacrificing himself in order to save Peri. After he collapses he is visited by the images of the companions he has travelled with and the Master taunting him. Peter Davison is a fondly remembered version of the Doctor, adding youth and vitality the role hadn’t seen before. He had an easy charm to him that became a regular characteristic for the role. Except in the next incarnation, but we’ll get to that next time.