Timestamp #69: The Green Death

Doctor Who: The Green Death
(6 episodes, s10e21-e26, 1973)

Timestamp 069 The Green Death

 

The Doctor and Jo battle corporate fat cats and green slime.

Starting with a closed mine, the workers are waiting for news, but jeer the official who brings them news of money for expansion. As the protest continues, a worker displays a green glow on his skin, and he dies as he sounds the alarm. Back at UNIT, the Doctor is working on the TARDIS as Jo eats breakfast and reads about the mine and Professor Clifford Jones, who has concerns about the corporation and its manipulation of worker health for profit.

In the exchange between our heroes, it seems that Jo is a bit off, but that she and the Doctor are more in sync than they have been. This exchange gets heated as the Brigadier tries to assign the Doctor to the mining case. The Doctor refuses because he wants to take Jo to Metebilis III, but Jo is far more interested in waging an environmentalist battle. The Brigadier and Jo head for the mine, and it’s obvious that the Doctor and Jo are diverging on their philosophical courses. As the Doctor heads to Metebilis III almost in rebellion against Jo’s interests, he is attacked just after landing.

Jo meets Professor Jones, and the man is a bit of an ass who gradually warms to his visitor. His research involves a new high protein fungus, and he’s upset because thousands of gallons of waste, almost like a liquid plastic sludge, are being pumped into the mine. The Brigadier, meanwhile, meets with the corporate executive at Global Chemicals, Mr. Stevens, and offers extra security in light of the protests. He also intends to investigate the mine as soon as the Doctor arrives. The Doctor returns from his trip amid a flurry of attacks and immediately sets out for the mines.

Mr. Stevens orders that no one should go into the mine, but his directive is made through a strange mental haze. In violation of that order, Jo accompanies a miner named Bert down inside the mine to help another infected man, and as the Doctor and the Brigadier arrive to investigate, the cage descends out of control. Bert takes a humorous opportunity to toss Jo around the cage, the Doctor saves them by jamming the mechanism, and Jo and Bert climb down the rest of the way. The miners can free the cage, but they are missing some equipment to to cut the cable. Even though Global Chemicals has the equipment, they claim not to, although a staffer named Mr. Elgin knows differently.

The mental haze from before takes a twist: Mr. Stevens is controlled by a strange disembodied voice which commands his to “process” Mr. Fell, one of the dissenting staff, and that staff member comes back as a near automaton. Resistance is apparently futile.

The Doctor’s investigation reveals that the lift was sabotaged, and he works with Professor Jones to sneak into Global Chemicals and steal the cutting equipment. He is detected by the voice, and intercepted by security guards who are dispatched with Venusian aikido. He is soon trapped by Stevens who, strangely, dismisses the incident after showing the Doctor the empty storage container where the cutting equipment should be. The Brigadier arrives with some cutting equipment that he rounded up by luck, the cable is cut, and the Doctor and a miner enter the shaft.

Bert and Jo explore the mine and find some of the green slime. Bert touches it and is incapacitated, so Jo goes on alone to find help as the Doctor finds Bert and the slime. The Doctor follows Jo, and they both encounter a group of maggots in a large pool of slime who attack as a cave-in begins. They use a mine cart to ford the slime, and climb a crevice to the surface inside the factory. Elgin saves the Doctor and Jo from drowning in the pipe as it fills with sludge, and Fell experiences a conflict between his conscience and the programming, which drives him to commit suicide.

The Brigadier tries to leverage a little government muscle to break open the mystery, but the Prime Minister shuts him down. Later on, the Doctor, Jo, the Brigadier, and Jones are relaxing with a high protein fungus dinner, but the mood is spoiled by word that Bert has died from his exposure. The egg that they retrieved from the shaft hatches, and a maggot creeps up to Jo. Mr. Hinks, the assistant to Stevens, is sent to retrieve the egg, but is attacked by the maggot instead. He quickly dies.

At this point, it’s obvious that Jo and Jones are falling in love. But what of Sgt Benton? Did it not work out with them? Whatever happened, it’s immaterial as she’s totally twitterpated with Jones and his trip to the Amazon, and totally uninterested in the large blue Crystal of Convenience – it later displays a +3 attribute for rolls against brainwashing – that the Doctor brought back from Metebilis III.

The analysis of the slime shows that it works as a virus that changes the victims, and UNIT has orders to seal the mine and limit the spread of the infection. This causes the maggots to escape to the surface, and since bullets and spray don’t work, the Doctor realizes that only a counter-virus will work. Back at Global Chemicals, the Brigadier has sent Captain Yates undercover to find evidence of wrongdoing within the company. That is a great move by the Brigadier, and it demonstrates just how much more dynamic he is in this story than in previous serials.

The Doctor is warned not to return to the corporate offices, so he is forced to don several successive costumes – a move that is very reminiscent of the Second Doctor in The Underwater Menace, The Enemy of the World, and The War Games, just to name a few – to move freely about the compound. Captain Yates provides the Doctor some intel, which the Time Lord follows to the top floor of the factory. The top floor reveals the mystery with a supercomputer called the BOSS, or Biomorphic Organizational Systems Supervisor. It appears that, once again, someone really wanted to spell SHIELD. The Doctor overwhelms the machine with the Liar’s Paradox, but is captured by Stevens who tries to brainwash the Doctor and fails.

On the lovebird front, Jo upsets Jones by accidentally ruining the slides for the slime analysis, so she sets off the find another sample. Her accident turns out to be a critical step toward the cure. He sets off after her and saves her from the grenade barrage that destroys the field of maggots, but he sustains a head injury.

Captain Yates is captured trying to rescue the Doctor. The Doctor escapes, but Yates is brainwashed by the BOSS. The Doctor and Sgt Benton save Jo and Jones, but Jones has been infected by the slime. The Doctor returns to the professor’s lab where he is ambushed by Yates, but the Doctor uses the crystal from Metebelis III to break the brainwashing. The Doctor sends him back in under the guise of still being brainwashed to thrown Stevens off the trail, but that doesn’t work as well as they had hoped. Benton returns to the lab with an empty maggot chrysalis, and they discover another maggot that ate the fungus and died. The Doctor then realizes that the fungus is a cure. They scatter samples all over the area and kill the maggots, but they are stalked by a giant dragonfly, the adult form of the creature. The Doctor defeats it with his overcoat.

Okay, those maggots are downright freaky, with their mouth filled with razor sharp teeth like a langolier.

Captain Yates escapes from the factory and passes word to the Brigadier and the Doctor that the computer is planning something at 4pm that afternoon. The Doctor discovers the cure with Jo’s help and administers it to Jones, and then goes to confront BOSS before the supercomputer links with the other supercomputers around the world. The Doctor reverses Stevens’s brainwashing with the crystal, and Stevens triggers the self-destruct, stopping BOSS permanently.

The voice actor for BOSS, John Dearth, obviously had a lot of fun in the sixth episode with his singing, and the Stevens/BOSS hybrid was a beautiful bit of acting. I was amazed by how well it was performed.

With the crisis stopped, Jo gets engaged to Jones and decides to join the professor on his travels. The professor’s research gets a major UN grant thanks to Jo’s uncle. The Doctor gives Jo the Metebelis crystal as a wedding gift and silently sneaks out with only Jo noticing.

Her days of traveling about time and space are done, and he drives off into the sunset, obviously heartbroken. That ending alone ratcheted up the score for this serial because of the sheer power in so little dialogue.

I’m going to miss Jo Jo.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – Tenth Series Summary

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Thoughts on Legends

 

Thoughts on Legends

SW legends

 

I’m sure you’ve seen the news. A group of Star Wars fans who want Lucasfilm to continue the Legends/Expanded Universe stories have purchased a billboard in San Francisco to raise awareness and place their demands in the public sphere. After multiple attempts at petitioning online and through letter-writing campaigns, this crowd-funded purchase was their next step. If the news reports are any indication, it got noticed. I know at least one Lucasfilm employee saw it.

Sincerely, congratulations on executing a successful crowd-funding campaign, although I believe that $5000 would gone a lot further as a group donation to Make-A-Wish or Force for Change, both of which are friends of the Star Wars brand. But, I digress.

I once had the greatest of respect for the Bring Back Legends petitioners. I still am a huge fan of the Legends/Expanded Universe stories because that is where I really dove into Star Wars after discovering the movies. I was there for Heir to the Empire – there should be a t-shirt for that – and for pretty much everything that followed, for better or for worse. I recognized how futile the overall campaign was in the post-buyout era, what with the marketing challenges and high potential for general audience confusion, but these guys were super passionate in their fandom.

They still are. That’s part of the problem.

Somewhere along the line, they started becoming aggressive toward fans and artists. They started harassing my friends and fellow fans, including threats of bodily harm, rape, and death. That aggression escalated when The Force Awakens premiered, resulting in some in this movement spoiling plot points on public sites until Lucasfilm relented. This actually caused some sites, including the official Star Wars Books page on Facebook, to shut down for a time because they couldn’t stop the flood.

The Legends movement became the face of ruining the Star Wars experience for all fans because it wasn’t the right canon.

Yeah, it’s the internet. No, it’s not right.

It wasn’t every Legends supporter, but this echoes GamerGate and the Mens Rights Activist movements (among countless others) in that a very vocal extremist minority has become the movement’s active voice. I’m sorry, but perception is reality, and right now, this movement is perceived as being a bunch of bullies.

I don’t stand for that in fandom. It has poisoned their efforts, and it has poisoned Star Wars fandom overall. It’s even driving away some of our best ambassadors.

As a Legends/EU fan, I share Chuck Wendig‘s sincere hope that the Legends movement gets some resolution. I firmly believe that more Star Wars work means more great mythology to enjoy, but I cannot find it in my heart to support the Legends movement because of this activity. They need to find a way to clean their house, excise the cancer, and make amends to fandom at large.

Star Wars is still forever, and it should be for everybody.

Timestamp #68: Planet of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Planet of the Daleks
(6 episodes, s10e15-e20, 1973)

Timestamp 068 Planet of the Daleks

 

Picking up immediately after the events of Frontier in Space, this serial ties off some loose ends from the beginning of the Doctor’s adventures.

The Doctor contacts the Time Lords telepathically before lying down and entering a healing trance. Just like the last time, his temperature and heart rates rapidly decline, but Jo is okay with this because she’s seen it before. This talent got me thinking: The Third Doctor started his adventures in another healing trance, but he stayed at his normal temperature and cardiac rhythms. Is a violent demonic summoning or a grazing gunshot injury that much more traumatic than a forced regeneration, or did the Doctor enter this healing coma during the trip from Gallifrey to Earth during his transition from Second to Third?

Or am I overthinking it? That’s always a strong possibility.

The TARDIS lands and Jo goes to find help, but finds some strange flowers that start spraying the TARDIS. She evades the flowers and finds a spacecraft, along with a corpse within. Some time later, the Doctor emerges from his coma and discovers that the TARDIS has triggered the emergency air supply despite the planet’s breathable atmosphere. He has also pulled off a quick wardrobe change from green to purple.

Jo is discovered in the spacecraft by two people who recognize Earth as a place in their legends. They are alerted to a nearby patrol, and they leave Jo in the ship’s relative safety as they set off for the TARDIS, which has been completely covered in the sap from the spitting plants. The soldiers break the sap and rescue the Doctor from suffocation. Given the sheer magnitude of the TARDIS interior, he must have been inside for a very long time to use up that much oxygen. The soldiers identify themselves as Thals, and they recognize the Doctor (and his previous companions Ian, Barbara, and Susan) from their legends.

In a quick info-dump, we discover that the plants are fungi who spread their spores by spraying, that the planet is Spiridon, and that the natives are invisible. The Thals treat the Doctor fungal infection, but Jo needs attention soon, so they set out to find her. On their way, they hear a noise and see a circular depression in the ground. After spraying the area with a revealing compound, they discover an inoperative Dalek, and the Doctor learns that the Daleks are trying to replicate the Spiridon invisibility science. Fortunately, they have had limited success.

Separate Spiridon patrols find the Doctor’s group and Jo. One of the Thals, Codal, distracts the Spiridon patrol long enough for the rest of the group to reach the ship. When they reach it, they find the TARDIS log that Jo was using, but two Daleks arrive and nearly destroy the ship and the Doctor interferes since he believes Jo is still inside. The Daleks stun him, destroy the ship, and take him away.

These Daleks don’t seem to know who the Doctor is.

The Doctor has some great motivational moments with Codal during their incarceration, including a quote: “Courage is being afraid but doing what you have to do anyway.” The Doctor tries to escape the cell with his sonic screwdriver, but fails, so he uses the TARDIS log to transmit a signal that will jam the Daleks. Meanwhile, a Spiridon named Wester (who sounds a lot like an Ice Warrior) tends to Jo’s infection, and she joins the rebellion. Several Spiridon slaves are moving vegetation samples into the Dalek base, and the pair sneak in using those crates. In a conceit for the audience watching along at home, Wester carries stuff around to show us where he is.

The Thals are surprised when a new ship crash lands on the planet. It is piloted by a Thal crew bearing a message intercepted from the Daleks to their supreme commander: There are 10,000 Daleks on the planet. Additionally, the planet has an icy core that spews out molten ice magma, which the Daleks use to cool their base. In a move very similar to The Daleks, the Thals attempt to infiltrate the base using the cooling tunnels.

The Doctor’s Dalek disruptor works, but only once at close range. He quips, “You know, for a man who abhors violence, I must say I took great satisfaction in doing that.” Really? He abhors violence while using guns and hand-to-hand fighting more than his predecessors? I’m not entirely sold on that claim. Anyway, he and Codal begin to look for a way out and discover the Thals infiltration team. They jam the door open and dodge an ice magma explosion that covers a Dalek patrol. They escape the base after retrieving the location of an explosives cache, through a vertical ventilation shaft on an improvised hot air balloon. The Doctor also discovers the massive Dalek army under ice.

Jo follows the Daleks who are also seeking the explosives. The Daleks arm the bombs, and Jo attempts to disarm them but takes a falling rock to the head. When she comes to, she takes the two disarmed bombs and hides. The remaining explosion takes out two patrolling Daleks. The Doctor’s group escapes from the shaft and discovers Jo with a happy reunion. The Doctor explains that he (conveniently) learned of the Dalek invasion force and this planet during the events of Frontier in Space, and that the Time Lords steered the TARDIS to Spiridon to stop the evil plan. The group proceeds to the Plain of Stones, a good place to spend the night since the stone formations store heat from the daylight, which will protect them from the intense cold of Spiridon night. Vaber, a Thal who is at odds with their leader Taron, steals the bombs in the middle of the night and is captured by the Spiridon slaves. Taron and Codal pursue Vaber, disguise themselves as Spiridons, and attempt a rescue, but the Daleks exterminate Vaber after he attempts to mislead them. Taron and Codal retrieve the bombs in the chaos and escape. Meanwhile, Wester stops by the Plain of Stones to warn Jo about a new wrinkle: To defeat the Thals, the Daleks have cultivated a bacteria to destroy all life on Spiridon. Luckily, they have also developed an immunization to protect themselves. The Doctor’s group develops a plan to enter the base, including luring the Daleks to the molten ice pools and submerging them, then using the casing to sneak in.

We still have no idea what the Daleks look like inside the shell at this point. Also, add two Daleks to the Doctor’s list of “non-violent” acts.

Once inside the base, Wester breaks containment on the bacteria, sacrificing himself but sealing the room so that it can never get out. As the Thals break into the base, the Daleks spot a Thal boot in the Spiridon disguises, blowing the cover for the Doctor’s team. They escape to the cooling chamber and set their plan into action. The timeline is accelerated as they learn that the Dalek Supreme is inbound, and the Daleks (who have finally recognized the Doctor) decide to capture the Doctor for interrogation by their supreme leader. The Dalek Supreme, who has a unique light-up eyestalk, is ruthless, and he exterminates the section leader for allowing the Thals to disrupt the operation.

In the chaos, Jo and Latep use one of the bombs to slow down the Daleks, and the rest of the group set the last bomb to open an ice magma vein and flood the chamber where the invasion force is gathered. They are successful, and the Daleks are re-frozen into suspension. The setback forces the Dalek Supreme to abandon the base. The Thals hijack the Dalek Supreme’s ship and return home to Skaro. The Doctor only asks that they do not glorify this adventure and that they return to a peaceful existence. Latep asks Jo to return to Skaro with him, but she declines as she is starting to become homesick after this series of adventures. As the Thals take off, the Dalek Supreme arrives and pursues Jo and the Doctor to TARDIS. The TARDIS dematerializes successfully, but the Daleks start making plans to recover their army. They are never defeated.

I still love how manic the Daleks get under stress.

Despite the inconsistencies, I had a lot of fun with this serial.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Green Death

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #67: Frontier in Space

Doctor Who: Frontier in Space
(6 episodes, s10e09-e14, 1973)

Timestamp 067 Frontier in Space

 

The Time Lords might be regretting restoring the Doctor’s driving privileges. This story starts with an Earth cargo ship getting ready to jump to hyperspace, but the TARDIS nearly collides with the ship before materializing inside it. The humans are already on high alert since there’s a war brewing between them and the Draconians. Almost on cue, Jo spots a ship through the viewport that looks like a derelict, but it changes shape into a Draconian battle cruiser. The human cargo pilot, Stewart, sends a distress call while his co-pilot, Hardy, goes to retrieve their weapons in preparation for repelling boarders. Hardy encounters the Doctor and Jo, but Hardy sees the Doctor as a Draconian. While the Doctor tries to talk Hardy down, Jo freaks out since Hardy appears to her as a Drashig.

Back on Earth, the human president – A woman president on television in the 1970s! – and the Draconian ambassador (who is also the Emperor’s son) are confronting each other as the distress call comes in. The president dispatches General Williams to supervise the rescue attempt, which is becoming a political football as riots break out on the planet over the string of altercations. On the ship, the Doctor and Jo are confined while the pilots deal with the Draconian assault. The sonic hypnosis field they encountered caused Jo and the pilots to see their greatest fears, hence the mistaken identities, but it seems to be only keyed into human physiology. The Draconians break through the airlock, and Hardy tries to use the Doctor and Jo as hostages. The boarders are Ogrons, not Draconians, and they stun the pilots and the Doctor while I wonder if the Daleks are not too far behind.

The Ogrons confine Jo and steal the cargo and the TARDIS, but the Doctor questions their actions after he comes to and releases Jo. The Ogron actions don’t make sense since, while they are mercenaries for hire, they resealed the airlock and left everyone alive. While he muses on this turn of events, an Earth battlecruiser docks with the cargo ship, and the cargo pilots accuse the Doctor and Jo of being Draconian spies. Back to the jail cell they go, which gives Jo the fun opportunity to brainstorm an escape from the cell.

The cargo ship arrives at Earth and the President wants to question the Doctor and Jo in the presence of the Draconian ambassador. The Doctor reasons with the President that a third party is manipulating both sides to induce a large-scale war, and after the general has them taken away, and the sympathetic president takes the political road of lodging a formal protest with the Draconian Emperor.

Speaking of footballs, our heroes certainly fit the role. The Draconians are curious about the Doctor’s claims, so they break the Doctor out and interrogate him, but he escapes only to be re-captured by the humans. The Ogrons show up and try to break them out again, this time under the guise of Draconians, which cements the idea with the humans that the Doctor and Jo are indeed working for the Draconians.

General Williams convinces the President to break off negotiations with the Draconians and expel them from Earth, but she refuses to attack them without proof. Williams uses a mind probe on the Doctor, but it overloads as he keeps telling them the truth and they keep turning up the power. The President tries compassion one last time, but ends up sending the Doctor to the lunar penal colony. On the moon, the Doctor meets Professor Dale, a member of the Peace Party, who shows him around.

The President receives criminal records from Sirius IV for the Doctor and Jo, and the commissioner arrives to extradite them. Thus marks the return of the Master, who explains to Jo that he is working with the Ogrons to overturn humanity, and has only arrived now because (surprise!) his minions brought him the TARDIS.

Back on the moon, Professor Dale is working with an overseer named Cross who has left two spacesuits for escapees to cross the lunar surface and steal a ship to return to Earth. Dale believes the Doctor’s story and asks him to be his accomplice for the escape attempt. But Cross pulls a double as he depressurizes the airlock after sabotaging the spacesuits. The Master ends up saving them and gains custody of the Doctor, fully intent on taking him and Jo to the Ogron homeworld because his employers are very interested in the Time Lord. Jo stages an impressive distraction (including a James Bond reference, which appears to be a constant inspiration for the Pertwee era) as the Doctor breaks out of the cell on the Master’s ship, dons a spacesuit, and crosses the ship’s hull to the flight deck.

I really enjoyed the accurate lack of sound in the spacewalk sequences.

The Master figures out the ruse and threatens to throw Jo out of the airlock, but the Doctor gets the jump on him. During the confrontation, neither of them see the Draconian battlecruiser approach, and they board through the airlock where Jo is being held. The Draconians take all of them hostage and set course for the Draconian homeworld, but of course, the Master signals the Ogrons for help.

The Draconian emperor unwittingly shares the Earth president’s desire of not wanting to start a war without proof, and the Doctor, who is holds a title of nobility on Draconia, tries to convince the emperor of the plot. As luck would have it, they are interrupted by an attacking Earth force, which is really the Ogrons under hypnotic guise. The Ogrons rescue the Master, and as the hypnotic field fades, the emperor is finally convinced of the Doctor’s story. The Doctor, Jo, and the Draconian ambassador take an Orgon prisoner and the Master’s police ship back to Earth to convince the president of the plot, but the Master is following to destroy the evidence. The Master fires on the Doctor’s ship, causing a distraction that allows the Ogron to escape to the flight deck. The Master’s ship docks, and they rescue the Ogron and kidnap Jo.

And the Doctor is using a gun again. Huh.

The Doctor’s ship is intercepted by an Earth battlecruiser. The president hears the tale and while she is sympathetic, the general is unwilling to help the Draconians until a certain revelation is made about his past (and previously unknown) military mistakes. They all set course for the Ogron homeworld, where the Master’s ship has arrived. The Master tries to enthrall Jo and use her and the TARDIS as bait, but she has conditioned herself against the Master’s spell. He also tries the hypnotic sound, but she resists that as well. As she is taken away, she swipes a spoon, which she later uses to escape. She signals the general’s ship as it reaches orbit, but the Master surprises her and explains that she sprung his trap. The transmitter was a short range model, and only the Doctor could have heard her distress call.

The general’s ship lands and his team is ambushed by the Ogrons, who are then driven away by a large creature called the Eater. The Master is angry, and after yet another ship lands, he ambushes the rescue party with the help of his employers: The Daleks.

It was a nice twist that was telegraphed with the presence of the Ogrons, and in this cameo appearance, they conveniently kill all of the rescuers except the Doctor and the Draconian ambassador. It’s at this point that I really missed the old Dalek ray sound and their old voices. The Master convinces the Dalek leader to leave the Doctor unharmed so that his nemesis can see Earth in flames before he is exterminated, and the Doctor gets introduced to yet another jail cell. He escapes after jury-rigging the hypnotic signal, and he sends General Williams and the Draconian ambassador back to Earth with news of the new threat. As the Doctor and Jo make their way to the TARDIS, the Master intercepts the them. The Doctor startles the Ogrons with the hynoptic signal, the Ogrons jostle the Master, the Master shoots the Doctor, and this story ends on an excellent cliffhanger as Jo helps a weakened Doctor to the TARDIS where he contacts the Time Lords and sends a warning.

This story had its moments, but overall it felt like an elaborate setup serial with some excellent performances. Jo was great, and the Master was fun to watch. Looking ahead though, it is sad that Roger Delgado would never reprise that due to his untimely and accidental death. This was a good, yet completely unintentional send-off.

 

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Planet of the Daleks

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #66: Carnival of Monsters

Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters
(4 episodes, s10e05-e08, 1973)

Timestamp 066 Carnival of Monsters

 

There is a lot of filler in this lackluster serial.

This tale begins with a cargo ship that arrives on Inter Minor and deposits several parcels and two beings. The new arrivals, Vorg and Shirna, are traveling carnival workers, and they are accompanied by a strange looking machine. As they get settled, the indentured dock workers start to get agitated, but the violence is quelled by one of the planet’s bureaucratic officials.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS materializes on a more Earthly cargo ship, which the Doctor mistakes for Metebelis III until Jo finds a crate of chickens. While the Doctor – decked out in a fine green and brown version of his typical red, white, and black number – tries to figure out if these birds are the dominant intelligent life-form, Jo finds another crate marked “SINGAPORE”. The travelers discover that they’re still on Earth, in the year 1926, on the SS Bernice. The ship is soon attacked by a plesiosaurus, and the travelers are discovered and confined to a cabin as stowaways. Strangely, there is a plate in the deck that the ship’s officers cannot see, the clocks are running backward, and the time of day doesn’t correlate with the sun’s position.  The pair escape thanks to Jo’s convenient ring of skeleton keys since the sonic screwdriver only works on electronic locks (for now). They inspect the plate and return to the TARDIS for a magnetic core extractor, but find the passengers and crew repeating the previous moments in time. As they arrive at the TARDIS, a giant hand reaches down and pulls it away.

It turns out that they have materialized inside traveling carnival’s attraction machine, which is operated by Vorg and Shirna, and contains Ogrons, Cybermen, Tellurians (humans), and the fearsome Drashigs. The Inter Minor customs officials are xenophobes and demand a demonstration of the machine’s benignity, so the keepers amplify the hostility of the Earth habitat. After a brief chase around the Bernice, the travelers are captured before the keepers turn down the hostility settings to prevent the captives from harming each other. The ship’s crew and passengers restart their cycle, and Jo and the Doctor enter the metal plate to find the internal workings of the machine.

The carnival keepers have an expired license, so the customs officials stage a tribunal and decide to eradicate the aliens within the machine. The eradication device only damages the machine, and the paranoid officials believe that it is armored to protect a transmitter that is signaling an invasion force. They extract what they believe to be a transmitter, which expands to normal size outside of the miniaturization field as the TARDIS.

As those shenanigans continue, Jo and the Doctor explore the machine and enter the habitat of the Drashig. It sets off on their trail, hunting them by cutting off their escape route, and the Doctor distracts the beast by igniting the swamp gas with his sonic screwdriver. Vorg reaches in and holds back the Drashigs so the travelers can escape. All of this leads the Doctor to reason that the machine is a miniscope, something that he helped to ban and destroy in his earlier life. Jo, rightfully so, is offended by the concept of being on display.

The Drashigs follow the scent into the machine’s interior and wreak havoc, which plays into the hand of the planet’s lead controller, who desperately wants to overthrow the planetary president. As the Drashig rages on, the travelers retrieve a rope from the Bernice and use it to traverse the machine’s extraction shaft, however only the Doctor escapes. The Doctor confronts the tribunal about the ethics of the miniscope while Vorg and Shirna reason that he is a showman like them based on clothing and manner.

The Doctor returns into the machine to rescue Jo as the miniscope starts to fail based on the damage, which will kill all of the inhabitants. The scheming tribunal members help the Drashigs escape, and Vorg fixes the eradicator to fend off the beasts, but not before they eat the scheming tribunal members. The Doctor sends all of the inhabitants back to their original temporal coordinates just before the miniscope melts down.

Everyone gets a happy resolution as Vorg receives kudos for saving the day and starts ripping off the remaining tribunal member with a shell game. The Doctor and Jo sneak away on the TARDIS, and Shirna smiles as they dematerialize.

It was a quick story, but very shallow, and barely earns a mid-range grade. I really liked Shirna, and I think she would have been a good companion for a little while.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Frontier in Space

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.