Ad Astra Per Aspera: Fifty Years

 

Ad Astra Per Aspera: Fifty Years

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The crew of Apollo 1: Virgil “Gus” Grissom (Lt Col, USAF), Edward White II (Lt Col, USAF), and Roger B. Chaffee (LCDR, USN)

 

Fifty years ago today, tragedy struck the Apollo manned lunar landing program and claimed the lives of three brave explorers. Their memory lives on, but their spirit carries us higher.

Rest in peace, gentlemen.

 

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Timestamp #101: The Androids of Tara

Doctor Who: The Androids of Tara
(4 episodes, s16e13-e16, 1978)

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As a bookend to the fifteenth anniversary, it could have been so much more.

With the TARDIS in transit, the Doctor challenges K9 to a game of chess. Romana uses the Key’s tracker to steer their course to Tara. While the Doctor goes fishing, Romana hunts for the next fragment. As she locates it, she is attacked by a wood beast and rescued by a knight with a electrified sword. He identifies himself as Count Grendel of Gracht, and he confiscates the fragment under the law for identification. To compensate her, the count takes Romana to his castle to tend after her twisted ankle.

The Doctor, asleep on the riverbank, is found by Zadek and Farrah, two swordsmen, and they recruit him to fix their android. The Doctor is taken to Prince Reynart who offers him a reward for his services fixing the android, which looks like the androids from a different Fourth Doctor adventure. After a face is attached, it is designed to look like the prince and act as a (life model) decoy for his coronation the next day.

Upon arriving at the Count’s castle, Romana is tended to an engineer named Lamia. The engineer and count admire her “construction” and decide to disassemble her. The swelling in her ankle convinces them that she’s not an android after all. Instead of being disassembled, she is drugged. Similarly, he ends up drugging the retinue and kidnapping the prince.

When they come to, the Doctor and the retinue develop a plan to use the android decoy to stand in until the prince is rescued. The Doctor calls in K9 for support and learns that Romana has not yet returned. In Grendel’s castle, Romana awakens and is taken to see Princess Strella and Prince Reynart. Both are Grendel’s captives, and Romana is physically identical to the princess. If Reynart is not crowned as king at the proper time, Grendel may be chosen to ascend in his stead. The count leaves Romana and the prince in their cell and heads to the coronation.

The Doctor sends K9 to Count Grendel’s castle to search for Romana and the prince while he and the rest of the retinue carry on with the decoy plot. As they journey, the retinue explains how a plague attacked ninety percent of the population and the androids were built to keep the civilization moving. The culture has become a mix of feudal and futuristic elements. They are attacked by Grendel’s men, but still manage to arrive in time for the ceremony. In a somewhat Weekend at Bernie’s sequence, the android is crowned, but as Princess Strella approaches to pledge her fealty, the Doctor grabs the royal scepter and strikes her dead.

This really isn’t a very good cliffhanger since we know that Romana and Princess Strella are still in captivity.

The princess is really an android. Count Grendel convinces Zardek to postpone the oath-taking until the next day on the premise that other android assassins may be in the court. Grendel retreats to his castle and orders Lamia (who is experimenting with the Key Fragment) to build a Romana android that will assassinate the Doctor. Grendel then offers the Doctor a chance to collect Romana, which he knows is a trap, but chooses to spring anyway. The real Romana escapes and makes her way on horseback to the Doctor, but arrives to find Lamia dead after the Doctor and K9 have thwarted the assassination attempt.  She escapes with the Doctor to the prince’s home, with Grendel in hot pursuit. In private discussion, the count stalls by offering the throne to the Doctor, but then destroys the decoy prince and escapes with Romana.

Count Grendel explains his new plan for usurping power: Romana will marry the king, who will then die as a matter of convenience so Grendel can marry the widow and assume the throne. The Doctor knows that a full siege of the castle would take too long, so he and K9 sneak in through the moat and tunnel system to disrupt the wedding. After a sword duel, during which the gates are opened and the prince’s forces storm the castle, Count Grendel escapes by diving into the moat and swimming away, presumably into exile. Meanwhile, Romana rescues Princess Strella from captivity.

Putting the wrap on the adventure, Prince Reynart reunites with Princess Strella, the Doctor reunites with Romana, and the Time Lords reunite with the Key Fragment. On their way back to the TARDIS, they make one more stop: They must retrieve K9 from the boat in the middle of the moat.

The positives: Mary Tamm and her four distinct roles (Romana, Romana-bot, Princess Strella, and Princess-bot). I mean, it was fun to see her range and skill beyond being a snarky foil for the Doctor.

The negatives: Pretty much everything else. It was a lackluster story, and while the rest of the season hasn’t been exactly stellar, at least the other tales were fun. This one felt paint-by-the-numbers and, dare I say, boring. I wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either.

Remember how I said that Louise Jameson saved Underworld from joining the ranks of failing grades for me?

Thank Mary Tamm for this one.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Power of Kroll

 

 

 

 

Timestamp #100: The Stones of Blood

Doctor Who: The Stones of Blood
(4 episodes, s16e09-e12, 1978)

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It’s a time of milestones: The 100th adventure, the dawn of the franchise’s 15th anniversary, and the 100th (regular) Timestamp.

This adventure begins as the Doctor and Romana assemble the first two pieces of the Key to Time, with Romana one-upping the Doctor repeatedly. The Doctor determines that the next stop is Earth, where a druidic sect is pouring blood on the stones of a cromlech. As he pilots the TARDIS to their destination, they duo receive a warning to beware of the Black Guardian. This prompts the Doctor to finally explain the mission to Romana.

The TARDIS lands and the Time Lords set out, soon coming across the stone circle and an archaeologist named Amelia Rumford. The professor introduces the stone circle as the Nine Travellers, and explains the blood as it relates to deVries and his sect, worshippers of Cailleach. The Doctor heads out to meet deVries while Romana (and her impractical shoes) keeps an eye on Professor Rumford and her assistant, Vivien Fay.

Mr. deVries and his maid, Martha, are in the middle of an incantation when the Doctor arrives, and deVries entertains the Doctor as he stalls for time. During the tour, the Doctor notes that the portraits of the previous owners have been taken down. That may be important later. Meanwhile, the survey team wrap up their work and retire to their cottage for tea. Crows have been circling the site all afternoon, but as the team leaves, the birds depart. DeVries explains to the Doctor that the crows and ravens are the eyes of the Cailleach, and as a figure appears in a rather ridiculous bird costume to draw the Doctor’s attention, deVries knocks him out. Back at the stone circle, Romana hears the Doctor’s voice calling, and she investigates in her bare feet. She approaches a cliff and is startled by something unseen, toppling backward off the edge toward the ocean below.

The Doctor awakens on a sacrificial altar inside the Nine Travellers, but as the professor approaches on a bicycle, the druids scatter. Rumford had returned to offer Romana a flask of tea, and together (with the help of K9’s nose) they save Romana from her state as a literal cliffhanger. Romana claims that the Doctor pushed her over the edge, but after K9 verifies the Doctor’s identity, Romana determines that it must be the third Segment’s power at play. After a brief respite in the TARDIS, they return to the cromlech and continue tracking the Segment. Between the camera angles and the acting, it’s no longer a mystery that Vivien has something to do with the use of the Segment’s power.

As Romana accompanies the women to the cottage, the Doctor and K9 visit deVries. Just before they arrive, deVries and Martha are crushed by giant sentient stones. The stone returns to attack the Doctor and is repelled by K9, however the pup is critically damaged. At the cottage, Romana reviews the professor’s notes, noting that the owners of Boscombe Hall, the headquarters of the druids and the site of the Convent of the Little Sisters of Saint Gudula, have all been women. Romana and Rumford head to the Hall to investigate further where they find the Doctor working on K9. Romana takes K9 back to the TARDIS to rebuild him while the Doctor pursues the lead that the stone creature feeds on blood.

The next few minutes are a rapid series of back and forths. At the stone circle, a woman in the crow costume summons another stone creature with a bowl of blood. At the Hall, the Doctor puts his investigative skills to use and discovers a priest hole. Inside, he discovers the portraits of the Hall’s previous owners: They all share the likeness of Vivien Fay. At the TARDIS, Romana starts the process of restoring K9, but as she leaves she notes a raven and a crow watching her. Vivien intercepts her at the stone circle and operates a scepter, causing Romana to disappear.

The Doctor and Rumford are chased out of the Hall by one of the stone creatures. They lead it to Romana’s cliff and the Doctor plays matador, tricking the beast into a late night swim where it sinks to its death. The pair meet up with Vivien at the stone circle where she offers Romana’s safety if he leaves her alone. She then vanishes in the same manner as Romana, telling the Doctor to count the stones. He notes the missing stones and links their sentience to the Ogri, a race from Ogros in the Tau Ceti system.

The Doctor (and a fully recovered K9) determine that Romana and Vivien are hiding in hyperspace, so the Time Lord builds a device to jump into hyperspace. While he is away, Rumford and K9 defend the device against two attacking Ogri. The Doctor materializes on a spaceship, a prison vessel of some sort, and frees Romana. The ship is physically hovering just over the Nine Travellers, but cannot be seen because it is in an additional dimension to our own. The Time Lords search the ship and discover two sparkling globes called the Megara. They are justice machines who act as judge, jury, and executioner when the law is violated. The Doctor and Romana sneak away as the Megara deliberate.

As K9’s power packs expire, his force field fails, but the Ogri retreat to recharge. They quickly come across two unfortunate campers who are consumed tout de suite. Professor Rumford reactivates the machine on schedule, but the gateway summons a silver-colored Vivien instead of the Time Lords. She destroys the machine, then returns to the ship with the two Ogri to break the news to the Doctor and Romana. Vivien sics the Ogri on the Time Lords, but the Megara interrupt to dispense justice. Since they have deliberated in his absence, he petitions for an appeal and is granted a two hour reprieve to state his case. He calls Romana and Vivien to the witness stand, constructing his defense that they only released the Megara in concern for their welfare.

Romana continues to search the ship while Vivien is testifying – the Megara kill one of the Ogri after Vivien tries to summon them to her defense, and the Doctor petitions for her to be attached to the truth assessor, a Megara lie detector – and both she and the remaining Ogri are teleported back to the stone circle thanks to Rumford’s repair of the hyperspace device. They escape, and eventually discover a potential weakness in Vivien. They run from the Ogri, and Romana and the Ogri return to the ship.

As the Doctor continues his trial, he uncovers that Vivien is the Cessair of Diplos, a criminal wanted by the Megara for murder and misappropriation of the Great Seal of Diplos. The Megara are not convinced and pass sentence on the Doctor, however when they attempt to execute him, he pulls Vivien into the beam with him. The beam is short-circuited, and the Megara are convinced to scan Vivien to learn the truth. When all is said and done, the Ogri is returned home, Vivien is imprisoned in a stone at the cromlech for fifteen hundred years, and the Great Seal of Diplos – the third Segment to the Key of Time – is taken by the Time Lords. As the Megara turn their attention to the Doctor’s sentence, he uses the Seal to send them back to hyperspace.

With their epic quest halfway completed, the Doctor and Romana leave in the TARDIS and continue to their next stop.

This story was a fun one overall with some incredible chemistry between Tom Baker’s Doctor and Beatrix Lehmann’s Amelia Rumford. It also showcased a costuming choice for Vivien’s Cessair of Diplos role that would have been right at home on Star Trek. Her somewhat risqué (for this franchise so far, at any rate) low-cut silver-gray gown called back to William Ware Theiss and his famous theory of titillation.

This serial wasn’t perfect by any stretch: The “Time Lord on trial” angle of the story was a bit rough, and while it worked out in the end, it felt kind of wedged in between the more supernatural elements of the plot. The start of the second episode was also a bit jarring since it was the only one not to contain the standard “last week on Doctor Who” cliffhanger-refresher segment.

One final note is another Star Trek link: Tau Ceti appears to be a galactic crossroads in both franchises. In Doctor Who, it is home to Diplos, Ogros, and Zygor. On a larger scale, Star Trek references the star system on the order of ten times in over fifty years, including as the home of the Traveler and the Kobayashi Maru. These franchises aren’t unique in this regard, since Tau Ceti is a staple of modern science fiction.

It only makes sense, almost as a rite of passage, that this franchise would take advantage of the second closest main sequence star to our own.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Androids of Tara

 

 

 

 

Timestamp #99: The Pirate Planet

Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet
(4 episodes, s16e05-e08, 1978)

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I’m ushering out the double digits with Douglas Adams. There’s no better way to go.

The story begins with the impatient and flamboyant captain of a mining operation taking out his frustrations on a nervous Mr. Fibuli. The vacillating scientist informs him that a new source of vasilium has been located, and the captain orders it mined before making an announcement to the city about their potential promised prosperity. The citizens are comically overjoyed, but one stands out as underwhelmed. Unbeknownst to him, that man is being watched as a selectee by a local cult. Because it’s Doctor Who, and cults are standard operating procedure.

On the TARDIS, the Doctor cleans and stores the first segment of the Key of Time before joining Romana in the console room as she studies the obsolete time capsule that is her current home. The Doctor inserts the core into the console and is, shall we say, less than enthralled about the next destination: Calufrax. The TARDIS is unable to materialize – Romana thinks that the Doctor doesn’t drive properly, but the Doctor believes that this was a natural aberration – and the event damages the mining operation’s engines and the Doctor’s face. Romana takes the helm and pilots the TARDIS by the book, and they materialize without any further incident. Well, except that they aren’t on Calufrax and K9 has starting spinning out of control.

The dissident from the earlier celebrations, Pralix, is having some sort of episode, and just like K9, the cult is chanting and spinning in their headquarters/temple/lair. It’s probably not a coincidence that Pralix is repeating the chant: “Life force dying! Life force dying!”

The Doctor, Romana, and K9 leave the TARDIS to investigate, and while the citizens ignore the Doctor, they readily engage with Romana. In typical Adams fashion, K9 speculates that it’s because she’s prettier. One of the citizens exchanges diamonds and rubies for jelly babies, and proclaims that they are in a new age of prosperity. The man leaves with a warning to avoid the Mentiads, and the Time Lords find that the streets are littered with precious stones. The citizen inadvertently tips off the guards, who eventually encounter and arrest Romana.

Romana has become much more humorous in this episode, and she’s very much the Doctor’s equal in personality. Perhaps that’s why they clash so much more than other companions.

Turns out that the cult members are the Mentiads, and they set out to collect Pralix as the Doctor arrives, drawn by the young man’s cries. Mr. Fibuli informs the captain that the Mentiads are marching, and they link it to a rogue telepath in their bailiwick. The captain sends his guards to intercept the cult, but their weapons are useless, so the leader orders his troops to break contact, locate the telepath, and kill him. The guards arrive at Pralix’s house and K9 stuns them, but the Mentiads are right on their heels. They are impervious to K9’s stun ray, but they quite effectively stun the Doctor with their powers.

The captain discovers that his officers failed and that the telepath is now with the Mentiads, and he executes one of them as an example with his robotic parrot. He’s a pirate captain, you see, so he has to have a parrot. Back in the city, the Doctor comes to and makes a plan to find Pralix and Romana, settling on seeking the Time Lady first since she’s likely to be in more danger. Pralix’s friend Mula sets out to find Pralix as the Doctor and a man named Kimus head to the bridge, which is the captain’s headquarters. It’s a pirate ship, you see, so it has to have a bridge. En route, Kimus explains how their economy works: The mines are automated and refill when the captain announces a new age of prosperity. Coincidentally, the stars in the sky change as well.

Fibuli reports that the macromat field integrator is burned out, and they don’t have a replacement. After listening to Romana’s tale of how the TARDIS works, the captain has her inspect the integrator, and she learns that the planet itself travels through space to each mining location. She asks for the Doctor’s help, and he arrives on cue. They are escorted to the engine room to affect repairs, but after receiving another strange signal from the Key core, the Doctor comes to a conclusion. He convinces the captain to allow them to return to the TARDIS, but then escape (thanks to Kimus) and head for the mines.

The captain is fearful of the Time Lords discovering the secrets at the bottom of the mines: The planet is hollow, and it travels through hyperspace, materializes around a target, absorbs all of the valuable minerals, and destroys the rest. The guards pursue the Doctor’s group through the mines and run straight into the Mentiads, led by Pralix. They erect a telepathic force field to block guards, and the entire group returns to the cult’s headquarters where K9 and Mula are waiting.

The target on Calufrax is a crystal that, when refined, can block the Mentiad psychic energy. Though dangerous, the captain orders the mine to operate at excessive capacity to complete this task. Meanwhile, the Mentiads explain the history of the planet, which was prosperous until the reign of Queen Xanaxia. They also discuss the life force, which spikes as each planet is consumed and causes great psychic pain in the telepaths as it is destroyed.

The Doctor and Kimus attempt to steal an air car but fail, and are taken back to the bridge. While they are on the way, Fibuli finds another source of crystals: Earth. After he is restrained, the Doctor grills the captain about his true goals. The Doctor is released and shown to the captain’s trophy room, where the remains of each consumed world is on display. Each display is a supercompressed mass of stone, kept on the very edge of becoming a black hole. If the system were to fail, the pirate planet would be destroyed in a gravitational whirlpool. Disgusted and appalled by this grotesque museum, the Doctor demands to know the end goal, but the captain is pulled away as the Mentiads approach the bridge. The captain attempts to kill the Doctor and Kimus, but K9 arrives and distracts the captain’s assassin robot while the heroes escape. They duck into a room where they find Queen Xanaxia, held in a series of time dams at the last seconds of her life, which are powered by the energy extracted from each planet.

I loved the scene with K9 returning to the Doctor with his own trophy, the dead robotic parrot assassin, in the equivalent of his mouth.

The Doctor returns to the bridge, ready to expose the secrets he’s discovered, and is made to walk the plank – It’s a pirate ship, you see, so it has to have a plank – however the real Doctor appears with a projector. The one who was thrown overboard was a hologram, and so is the captain’s nurse, the latter being powered by the Queen. The Queen’s image is nearly corporeal, almost resurrecting her. She also is in control of the captain. The downside is that the time dams require an exponentially increasing amount of energy, and there is not enough power in the universe to keep her alive indefinitely.

Fibuli completes his crystal-powered psychic jammer, which removes the Mentiad advantage, and the Queen’s avatar and the captain prepare to jump to Earth. The Doctor escapes and encounters the group, and he tasks K9 with establishing an inference wave to counteract the psychic jammer. Meanwhile, the Time Lords remember what happened with the TARDIS upon arrival – both the TARDIS and the planet were trying to materialize at the same time, cancelling each action – and they return to the TARDIS with a plan.

The Doctor dropped the apple on Newton’s head? That made me laugh.

The Time Lords repeat the circumstances, effectively jamming the planet’s materialization, while the Doctor communicates telepathically with the Mentiads. As the TARDIS nearly comes apart around him, the Doctor guides the Mentiads on destroying a component in the engine room. The end result is that the bridge is in shambles, Fibuli is dead, and the captain mourns him. The captain attempts to kill the nurse avatar, but she turns on him. Kimus fires on the avatar, and she is destroyed.

When the TARDIS materializes, the Doctor and Romana return to the trophy room and discover that the remains of Calufrax are the second fragment of the Key. After the captain and the nurse are killed, the Doctor develops a plan to restore the planets (though the status of their valuable minerals is unknown) and retrieve the Key fragment. He wraps up the adventure by helping the Zanak natives destroy the bridge and seal their new freedom in a nice spatial neighborhood.

This was fun adventure that kept clipping along. It had the whimsy of recent stories, but it took the extra step of ratcheting up the humor to match the fantastic plots. That places it in a better position than the rest of the more fanciful serials since Sarah Jane’s departure.

I’m also a fan of Douglas Adams. There are a lot of parallels between works like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and this franchise, so his touch on the Doctor Who mythos didn’t hurt a bit.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Stones of Blood

 

 

 

 

Timestamp #98: The Ribos Operation

Doctor Who: The Ribos Operation
(4 episodes, s16e01-e04, 1978)

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Our Odd Couple meets an intergalactic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Sorta kinda.

The Doctor is training K9 to respond to a dog whistle, and then promises him a holiday. It is not meant to be as the TARDIS loses power and materializes in a bright white light. The doors open and the Doctor is summoned by the White Guardian, a being that the Doctor appears to deeply respect. The White Guardian tasks the Time Lord with locating and assembling the Key to Time, a powerful cube that controls the equilibrium of time. A Black Guardian, the counter to the White Guardian, is also seeking the Key. The Doctor is given a locator to find the pieces, as well as an assistant in the Time Lady Romanadvoratrelundar. For simplicity, let’s call her Romana. Or Fred. Nah, Romana is better.

Romana, a new graduate the Time Lord Academy, gives the Doctor the core to the Key. The core acts as a homing beacon for the pieces of the Key, and it takes them Cyrrenhis Minima, and then immediately to Ribos. Coincidentally, on Ribos, two men are sneaking onto a castle’s parapet. In the room below, the guards extinguish the lights and secure the treasure room. One of the shady figures, Unstoffe, slips the guard dragon a Mickey, drop into the room, and set to work. Instead of stealing anything, he leaves a large blue stone in the display case. Meanwhile, Garron, the other rogue, meets up with the Graff Vynda-K, and exiled tyrant.

The Doctor and Romana arrive on Ribos, and as he is warning her to expect the unexpected, he gets trapped in an unexpected snare.

The Graff is astounded by the supply of jethrik, a very valuable mineral, on the planet. Garron eavesdrops on the conversation, but is interrupted by the Time Lords. Garron escapes, and the duo continue on to the treasure room. They trace Key fragment to the Crown Jewels, but Unstoffe drugs the guard and sounds the alarm, causing the rest of the guards to converge and lower the door to the waking dragon as part of their morning ritual. The Time Lords hide as the guards enter and open the room. Garron follows, petitioning the guards to store a large sum of money for him in the vault. The Doctor presumes that the rogue is also after the Key segment.

The money is intended as a deposit by the Graff for the purchase of the planet, which Vynda-K intends to use as a base for an army and navy. Together, Garron and Unstoffe weave a con about a lost mine of jethrik, which intrigues the Graff. The Doctor and Romana investigate the jethrik that Unstoffe smuggled into the vault, and they deduce that it is the Key fragment. Meanwhile, the Graff finds a bug in his chambers and determines that Garron is trying to swindle him. If true, the Graff intends to kill the conman.

The Doctor unravels the con and sneaks into the vault from below as Unstoffe sneaks in from above, both targeting the jethrik. Unstoffe is one step ahead, however, and gives the Time Lord the slip. The Doctor escapes through the dragon’s den and attempts to run with Romana and Garron, but is intercepted by the Graff. He takes them into custody as he attempts to recover his money and discovers that the story of the lost mine was part of the con. From the cell, the Doctor signals K9 with the dog whistle.

The Ribos guards use the Seeker, a local religious shaman who uncovers Unstoffe’s hideout. The guards prepare a raid, but the Graff plots to kill the guards and take the stone for himself. Unstoffe takes refuge with an outcast named Binro, a heretic who eschews the mythology of two battling titans for a more scientific explanation of the seasons, which the rogue validates.

The captives use the listening device in Graff’s quarters to warn Unstoffe of the pending raid, and Binro offers refuge in the city’s catacombs. Meanwhile, K9 frees the captives, and they follow the Key’s core to the catacombs and the jethrik. The trifecta is completed when the Seeker sends the guards to the labyrinths (home of the ice gods) in pursuit of Unstoffe.

Convenient plot point: The catacombs also house wild shrivenzales, just like the one that guards the vault. As the Graff and the guards search for everyone, the Doctor inadvertently gives away their position by knocking loose a skull. The creatures come to the rescue, scattering the guards, and the Graff resolves to use the Seeker’s talents to find the fugitives.

Outside the catacombs, the Graff waits impatiently for the Seeker, killing a guard to prove his might. The Seeker reveals that if the Graff’s platoon enters the catacombs, all but one of them will die. They proceed regardless.

Binro offers to help find Garron for Unstoffe, but the rogue finds Unstoffe on his own with help from the recently stolen Key core.  Binro, on the other hand, is apprehended by the Graff. The Seeker leads the Graff to the rouges, but Binro sacrifices himself for them. Unstoffe is wounded as he charges the Graff, and Garron tries to bluff his way out. As the Doctor, disguised as a guard, signals for K9, a shrivenzale attacks. Romana and K9 follow the sounds of combat, and the guards outside the catacombs seal the labyrinth with cannon fire. In the resulting cave-in, Sholak is crushed and the Graff vows revenge.

Romana and K9 free Garron and Unstoffe. Elsewhere, the Graff kills the Seeker before turning on the disguised Doctor, determined to be the last one standing as the Seeker’s prophecy comes to pass. He hands the Doctor a timed explosive and leaves, but not before the Doctor exchanges it for the jethrik. The Graff is killed in the explosion.

The Doctor and Romana head for the TARDIS, avoiding an attempt by the rogues to pick the Doctor’s pocket, and leaving them to commandeer the former Graff’s ship. The Time Lords depart with only five segments remaining in their quest.

I really liked the dynamic between the two pairs. Garron and Unstoffe are evidently very close friends and colleagues, and the contrast between them and the Time Lord team helped drive the character drama. Placing the Doctor and Romana into an Odd Couple dynamic – newcomer Romana takes the role of Felix while the Doctor and his increasingly ratty scarf is our Oscar – added some humor to this already madcap con artist story. Even more interesting is how the reluctant mentor is evoking some of the grumpiness from regenerations past.

I settled at a 3.5, and I round up.

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet