|Originally Broadcast 26th January 1985|
Written by: Phillip Martin
In a nutshell: Varos is a world being exploited by the slithery Sil, a world hell bent on broadcasting executions and trials for the population. Can the intervention of the Doctor make the people change their ways?
Review: I said previously how the first episode was more relevant today because of its representation of the population who watch reality television and rule their lives by it. This part, then, is the same except we have to swap reality television for a more political stand. This episode really demonstrates how politics works (all the governors being the same) and how the general population doesn’t like anybody. The married couple really come into their own here, metaphorically displaying the two sides of the argument, for and against the political party set up by Martin Jarvis’ Governor. I think the argument set up in the narrative is a lot more relevant and relatable to today, as we have the likes of George Bush followed by Obama and Tony Blair followed by Brown and Cameron/Clegg, all of whom are the topic of debate amongst couples and the general population as a whole.
As for the story itself (breaking away from politics), it feels like there’s no enthusiasm or dramatic impact at times, most visible when the Doctor is watching a TV monitor of Peri being turned into an animal. Surely he should be rushing down to save her rather than having a casual conversation about what’s happening to her? There’s some more very dodgy acting by certain individuals and the Doctor gets fooled by the same hologram trick twice in two episodes (it happened before ‘A Good Man Goes To War’!) is pretty poor storytelling. The story jumped when it wanted to as well, giving us a quick explanation of something we could never have known (and don’t know how the Doctor does) such as the swinging vines being deadly to touch (something Gareth Roberts talks about in DWM #332).
|The same trick used twice. We're not that stupid!|
The actual A-plot to the story is a bit, not boring, but predictable and lazy at times, it’s quite clear what the outcome is going to be by the end of episode one although there’s one stand out performance in the entire serial, which is Forbes Collins who reminds me of Jim Broadbent in both appearance, speech and everything else he does in the episode. It’s like having Jim Broadbent in Doctor Who without actually employing Jim Broadbent! Go back and watch his performance as the Chief Officer, it’s absolutely fantastic and the best thing about this stories guest cast.
Someone not so good is Martin Jarvis as the Governor, I don’t have anything against Jarvis’ acting skills, but the character himself is just a bit too believing and dull. He’s only good for one thing and that’s to enforce the political stance I talked about in an earlier paragraph.
It’s strange to have got so far into a review and not mentioned either the Doctor or companion, but to be honest, there are so many other good elements in this story they take rather a backbench to the other narratives, which are far more interesting.
One thing to mention about Colin’s Doctor though, is the jokey nature he takes up in this episode, making a snide comment after he’s had a hand in dropping two people into an acid bath. This is the only Doctor I can imagine saying something along the lines of a Bond-line but it still doesn’t fit perfectly in my mind.There is a good game to play whilst watching this episode, see how many household items you can spot. I’ll start you off with a black bin bag in said acid bath scene and there’s some tin foil in there too. Keep your eyes peeled!