Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Visitation (Part Four)

Originally Broadcast 23rd February 1982

Written by: Eric Saward
In a nutshell: The Doctor must rescue Tegan and Mace and reunite with his other companions in time to stop the Terileptils. But first, can he save himself from his own friends?

Review: When the Doctor delivers his clear ‘end of the episode’ speech in desperation before suddenly jumping into action seems a bit anticlimactic. What was the point of his worried ‘end of us all’ dialogue unless he knew he had a cliffhanger to provide? I do like the little scene afterward with the Doctor using the gun on the door. It allows for a moment of smugness from Davison’s Doctor (“I never miss”) and we finally have our regulars on the move again as we edge toward the finale and I must say it’s about time.

The line about saving the Universe with “a kettle and some string” is very apt in this episode as the Doctor manages to pick locks and doors with a safety pin. What’s strange is that this is the Davison episode I’ve watched the most so I should remember it better than any other, yet I can’t remember ever seeing the trick with the safety pin before. Maybe my brain’s just trying to save the BBC budget by blocking it from memory. When our trio are sniffing around the Terileptil’s base I like the scene when the Doctor almost loses his patience with Tegan. There’s also a line that links back to his search for Heathrow in the first episode, which gives us a nice sense of continuity about the story.

Meanwhile Adric is being beaten by the Glamdroid which Nyssa then helpfully destroys with her silly time wasting machine she’s been building for two episodes. Whilst I think the characters (apart from Nyssa) got some good interaction in, this really felt like a painful and pointless subplot to get rid of some characters to give opportunity to others. I think that’s the real pain of having too many companions, in the 1980s one of them has to be sacrificed to give a good story.

Can someone remind the Doctor that this isn't how he does things?
I really like the moment between our heroes when Adric and Nyssa are trying to land the TARDIS. It’s so lovely and fitting that all it needed was a good thump on the console, which it again needs from the Doctor afterward. The Doctor does seem to get a little shirty with Adric and Nyssa but they’ve at least delivered us the TARDIS which means the episode won’t overrun as we can just materialise to the scene of the climax.

I love the Terileptil’s gun because it looks so much like a mini umbrella. I can’t help thinking it’s what gave JNT the inspiration for Colin Baker’s Doctor, it is a little embarrassing. It doesn’t feel right that the Doctor, Tegan and Mace get into a fistfight with the aliens, the Doctor always strives to find a non-violent solution. I know he must have figured out this is 1666 so the place must set on fire, but that doesn’t mean he needs to start beating up other species. Also, why the heck does he give the computer chip to Mace before leaving? Nyssa gives a simple “won’t that confuse the archaeologists?” but that doesn’t really justify it. As the episode ends, we discover this was all set in 1666 and the Doctor started the Great Fire of London which I think is the most fantastic twist of all. I know Peter Davison is a great fan of the ‘Doctor in history’ moments and this one ranks as one of my favourites. The Visitation, whilst having an uncharacteristic ending, is a hugely fun adventure with strong writing, acting, aliens and visuals. For me it’s one of the top three highlights of the fifth Doctor’s time on our screens.

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