Saturday, 11 June 2011

Vengeance On Varos (Part 1)

Originally Broadcast 19th January 1985
Written by: Phillip Martin

In a nutshell: The TARDIS has ran out of power so, doing the only thing he can, the Doctor makes an emergency jump to Varos, the sole planet containing the element he needs. But on Varos, the world has become very ‘big brother’ and nobody is safe.

Review: The best thing about Vengeance is how it’s very ahead of its time (albeit not as much as, say, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954)) with its reflection on society. If anything, this story means more today and is more relatable to it’s audience than it ever was in 1985. After shows such as ‘Big Brother’, it isn’t the biggest stretch in the world to suggest this cold be a future incarnation of reality television and it is for that reason why I’ve always liked this serial.

Fair enough, beyond that there isn’t masses of amazing stuff, there’s cheap sets with wobbly bars for doors that don’t stick down, there’s flashy green lights used as an execution light as well as symbolizing a monster when the Doctor is making his escape. Overall this episode feels very cheap, it doesn’t hinder the script or the audience reaction to an unbearable extent although it is obvious a lot of the time through the forty-four minutes. What is a bit more noticeable is Jason Connery’s terrible acting in certain scenes, overall I kind of like the casting, although he is a little bit dull at times.

Speaking of dull, the seemingly married couple get on my nerves in this. They are definitely needed and, at first certainly, they are put to good effect and further our understanding of the plot, after all, they are essentially us as the audience watching this cheap reality show. However by the end of the story the editing falls down and they just get inserted to take us out of the main action and, partially, ruin moments of the story although they give us lines like “I like him. Him with the funny coat” about dear old Mister Baker who finally gets a chance to smile in this episode and have a (very brief) moment of fun before turning moody and serious again,

The scripting for the Doctor and Peri isn’t that fantastic, and certainly the weakest part of the opening episode (bar some cringe-worthy dialogue like “Trust them to put a real monster straight after a fake one”), as they are trapped in the TARDIS for over half the episode. I’ve heard some writers (obviously barring Chris Bidmead) who say the TARDIS is a plot device, you have to get the characters out of there as soon as possible and here that’s true. Being stuck in the TARDIS, the characters are barely used or seen for twenty minutes, I honestly forgot about them a lot whilst watching Sil, the Governor et al argue about their prices, I forgot I was watching Doctor Who for a while.

The final scenes were held for far too long here too, the Doctor collapsing (‘dying’) twice through the mirage he can see before the episode finally ended, although I’m not sure how this cliffhanger works. If the Doctor so easily walked through the last two ‘effects’ put on by the people of Varos, why does he instantly fall for their next trick? I thought the Doctor was smarter than that! Although the final shot is powerful and well cut together. How on Earth can the Doctor get out of this? I’m pretty sure that’s an obvious one in comparison to some of the more complex of endings.

Colin desperately seeking water!

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