Timestamp #141: The Two Doctors

Doctor Who: The Two Doctors
(3 episodes, s22e07-e09, 1985)

 

The triumph of The Five Doctors brought Icarus too close to the sun.

Starting in black and white the Second Doctor and Jamie McCrimmon in their TARDIS – although, that’s not the right console – the adventure phases into color as the mission is revealed: The Time Lords have sent them Space Station Camera in the Third Zone. The Time Lords have also installed a recall device on the console. Victoria is off on her own studying graphology – placing this voyage of the TARDIS in the narrow window between The Evil of the Daleks and Fury from the Deep – and excusing the uncharacteristic interference in affairs by the Time Lords is an exercise left to the viewer.

When they materialize, it is in the kitchen of Shockeye, a knife-wielding cook who wants to buy Jamie as the main ingredient in his ideal meal. The Second Doctor talks his way out of the situation by flaunting his authority as a Time Lord, but after they leave, the TARDIS leaves, subject to recall by the Doctor, to prevent the station scientists from studying it. In the kitchen, Shockeye and a woman Chessene scheme.

The Second Doctor and Jamie meet with Dastari, the Head of Projects, and explain that the time travel experiments of researchers Kartz and Reimer threaten disaster for the universe and should be stopped. While they talk, Dastari reveals that Chessene is a special experiment in augmentation called an Androgum, which the Doctor considers dangerous.

His fears seem justified when (unbeknownst to him) she kills a technician who discovers three Sontaran battlecruisers bearing down on the station. Instead of raising defenses, she opens the docking bays. During the discussion with Dastari, the man succumbs to a sleeping drug while the Sontarans invade the station.

Moving to another place and time, the Sixth Doctor and Peri are vacationing near a lake. Peri is bored, but the Sixth Doctor is intent on catching gumblejacks, the finest fish in the universe. After the fishing expedition is a flop, the pair returns to the TARDIS with plans to try a different body of water, but before they can leave, the Sixth Doctor collapses in pain. In a parallel, the Second Doctor is being tortured by the Sontarans. After the Sixth Doctor recovers, he remembers images of jelly babies and recorders, and he concludes that he is a temporal anomaly. He decides to consult with Dastari.

The TARDIS materializes in the kitchen again, but this time the atmosphere is dank and dark, saturated with the scent of death. The Sixth Doctor and Peri explore the station and are confronted by station computer. It tries to kill them, but the Sixth Doctor saves himself and Peri from decompression by dragging her to Dastari’s abandoned office. He reviews Dastari’s journal but refuses to believe that the Time Lords were responsible for the sacking of the station. Peri suggests that a third party is responsible, potentially to destroy relations between the Third Zone and Gallifrey. The pair leaves the office via service ducts and tries to deactivate the computer before it kills them.

Moving to Earth, time unknown, Chessene, Shockeye, and a Sontaran seize a Spanish hacienda after killing the elderly owner. Chessene absorbs the contents of the woman’s mind, discovering that they are situated just outside of Seville, Spain. Their Sontaran escort, Major Varl, announces the arrival of Group Marshal Stike of the Ninth Sontaran Battle Group. They are observed by two humans, Oscar and Anita, who are hunting moths and think that Dastari and the Sontarans are helping victims of a plane crash.

After what seems like an eternity of walking in circles, the Doctor attempts to disconnect the main circuit. Peri is attacked by a humanoid creature in rags, and the Doctor trips a gas trap and is ensnared. When the travelers recover, they discover that the attacker is Jamie. Together, they uncover that the Sontarans are responsible for the attack, and the Sixth Doctor and Peri investigate while Jamie sleeps. The Sixth Doctor discovers that he could indeed be dead if he arrived in the focus point of a temporal experiment, and his status as an anomaly signifies the collapse of the universe.

Peri returns with a recovered Jamie as the Doctor views videos of torture. He concludes that they were red herrings, illusions to dissuade people from investigating further. He also concludes that the Sontarans kidnapped Dastari, the only scientist in the galaxy who can duplicate the symbiotic nuclei of a Time Lord and the subsequent ability to travel through time. Such technology would make the Sontarans unstoppable. The Doctor enters a telepathic trance to find his past self, and he does in Seville.

Nice jokes, Doctor. I laughed.

The antagonists set up their equipment in the hacienda’s cellar while Shockeye snacks on a rat. The Sixth Doctor, Peri, and Jamie make their way to Seville while the Second Doctor discusses matters with his captors. It’s worth noting that the Second Doctor recognizes Sontarans despite never meeting them in his run.

It’s also worth noting that Dastari is fully on board with this plot. So, what was the point in drugging him earlier?

If only that was the sole problem with this story.

The Sixth Doctor, having shed his overcoat due to the heat, talks with Oscar and Anita about what they saw. The humans mistake the travelers for plain-clothes police officers, and the entire group makes their way toward the hacienda. In the cellar, the Second Doctor and Stike have a little rhetorical back and forth while Shockeye studies cookbooks and the Sixth Doctor scouts the area.

While Jamie and the Sixth Doctor enter the cellar, Peri poses as a lost American tourist. Chessene is suspicious, having read Peri’s thoughts, and wheels the Second Doctor through the entry hall as a test. Since Peri has never seen the Second Doctor, she doesn’t react. Peri takes her leave of the hacienda, but Shockeye and his stomach pursue. He later captures her and takes her to the kitchen.

The Sixth Doctor and Jamie investigate the Kartz-Reimer module, a device that will use the symbiotic nuclei – the Rassilon Imprimatur – to make time travel accessible to all. The Sontarans overhear the exchange and capture the pair. Stike threatens to kill Jamie unless the Sixth Doctor primes the machine, so the Time Lord does so. Stike tries to kill Jamie anyway, but Jamie stabs him with his sgian-dubh and escapes. The Sixth Doctor and Jamie find the Second Doctor, but as they attempt to escape, Shockeye returns with Peri. The Sixth Doctor and Jamie hide while the Second Doctor feigns unconsciousness.

Chessene and Dastari find the Second Doctor and decide to transform him into an Androgum. Chessene enlists Shockeye to move the Time Lord to the operating theater, but betrays him to harvest the brute’s genetic material. Meanwhile, the Sontarans scheme to betray their allies with their newly primed time device, but they don’t realize that the Sixth Doctor reveals that he has sabotaged the craft.

Shockeye awakens and releases the Second Doctor, now halfway transformed, so they can go on a dining spree. Dastari and Chessene double-cross the Sontarans, attacking them with acid and killing Varl before chasing after their wayward diners. The Sixth Doctor, Peri, and Jamie pursue them separately. While they’re gone, a critically wounded Stike heads back to his ship (time circuits in hand) intent on bringing back reinforcements. He forgets that he previously set the self-destruct and is killed in the resulting explosion.

Once in Seville, the Second Doctor and Shockeye end up at Oscar’s restaurant. They order massive amounts of food, but Shockeye pays with Oscar’s life. Shockeye runs as the Sixth Doctor arrives. The Second Doctor reverts to his former self after rejecting the Androgum transfusion, and the whole lot are returned to the hacienda at gunpoint by Chessene and Dastari.

What was the point of this narrative side trip? What a waste.

Once they arrive, the Doctor reveals the truth about the time device and returns the part he stole. Peri unwillingly but successfully takes a trip in the machine to test it. Chessene gives Shockeye permission to eat Jamie, but orders Dastari to detain the rest in the cellar. Once Dastari leaves, the Second Doctor confirms that the Sixth Doctor sabotaged the part so the machine would only work once. The two Time Lords escape from the cellar, and the Sixth rushes to the kitchen to rescue Jamie. He encounters Shockeye and the brute wounds the Time Lord. The two lead a merry chase into the woods as Chessene gives in to her base instincts and licks the Doctor’s blood from the ground.

There are so many issues here. “Once a [category], always a [category]” is an overused and false trope. It’s a horrible message to send, particularly in a franchise built around the premise that anyone can evolve and change.

The Sixth Doctor stumbles across Oscar’s moth-catching apparatus and ends up killing Shockeye with arsenic. A fitting revenge, I suppose, but is the Sixth Doctor really so bloodthirsty? Given the body count in this story and so many others in this era of the show, it seems so.

Back in the hacienda, Dastari tries to rescue the Second Doctor and Peri. In the end, Chessene kills Dastari, Jamie saves his Doctor and Peri, Chessene tries to escape in the time device but dies when it explodes. The Second Doctor recalls his TARDIS and the survivors of this story say their respective farewells.

 

Nostalgia aside, the Second Doctor is completely wasted in this story. The Shockeye storyline is also superfluous, and the culinary stabs at carnivorous diets were heavy-handed and awkward. I get that writer Robert Holmes wanted to promote his vegetarian lifestyle, but his efforts were painful at best. Which is where we find this story on the whole. Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines are huge highlights, but Troughton’s talents are squandered by keeping his Doctor restrained throughout the adventure. When the Doctors do get to interact, the chemistry between the two cranky characters is amazing but (sadly) brief.

Honestly, it could have been better off without involving the Second Doctor at all. The key DNA could have come from a previously unknown Time Lord who was trying to stop the experiments. If a recognizable character is required, bring back the Monk (it’s been long enough that he might be less annoying). If it needs to be more personal, try K’anpo Rimpoche – without whom the Doctor wouldn’t have made it past his third incarnation, or even had some of his foundational guidance – or Romana or Susan.

Even better, since the Time Lords of Troughton’s era were very strict about interference in time – they exiled the Doctor for less – this could have been a follow-up to The Mark of the Rani with the Sixth Doctor being driven to save the Master and the Rani in order to save the universe.

The story itself was lackluster and boring before the bloody side-trip to the restaurant. After that bout of filler – I’m guessing that they needed to justify the trip to Spain? – this one fell hard and fast, leading me to a conclusion that hasn’t been made on the Timestamps Project since The Power of Kroll.

 

Rating: 1/5 – “EXTERMINATE!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Timelash

 

 

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.

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Pop Culture Download: January 28, 2018

January 28, 2018

 

On the Docket
(In order of discovery this week)

Jessica Jones: Season Two is coming to Netflix on March 8. – [Deadline]

BEN Books acquires the publication rights to Snow, a crime/adventure series by Bobby Nash. – [BEN Books]

Michael Jan Friedman is trying to fund Empty Space, a new and mysterious space adventure. The Kickstarter campaign ends on February 16. – [Kickstarter]

Keith DeCandido continues 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch with a look at Howard the Duck (1986) and Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD (1998). – [Tor.com]

Michael French of RetroBlasting takes viewers on a tour of his impressive studio and archive. – [YouTube]

Every episode of Dark Shadows is available to stream on Amazon. – [Decider]

It’s only a year and a half old, but I finally saw Patrick Stewart singing country songs. You should too, then follow the trail to an actual sampler album. – [Billboard]

New York Times bestselling author David Mack will be taking part in his first Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) on February 1. This is celebrating the release of his new novel The Midnight Front, a World War II-era epic fantasy. The AMA will take place in the r/fantasy subreddit. – [Blog]

Naomi Parker Fraley, the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter, has died at age 96. – [CNN]

The 2018 Academy Award nominees have been announced. (I’m not sure if I’ll do another Oscars contest on The Weekly Podioplex.) – [Variety]

Neil Diamond is retiring from the concert tour circuit after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. – [PIX11]

Elton John is retiring from the concert tour circuit after fifty years on the road. – [CNN]

The Shannara Chronicles has been canceled after two seasons. – [Variety]

Acclaimed fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin has died at the age of 88. – [NYT]

Toys ‘R’ Us is closing over 180 stores worldwide. – [AJC]

The sixth Mission: Impossible film gets a title. – [Deadline]

Candice Bergen returns to television for a Murphy Brown revival series. – [Deadline]

Read More »

Timestamp #140: The Mark of the Rani

Doctor Who: The Mark of the Rani
(2 episodes, s22e05-e06, 1985)

 

A peaceful, hard-working existence at a mining village meets a trio of Time Lords.

This story has a fast launch out of the gate. A group of miners head for the relaxation of the local bathhouse, but they are gassed out by an unknown force. On the TARDIS, the Doctor is frustrated as the TARDIS is pulled off course by a mysterious time distortion. Peri, in an odd costume, is displeased at the rural setting.

The gassed miners have an odd mark on their necks, and the chemicals have transformed them into vandals more intent on fighting than working. In fact, they act more like Luddites than anything else, destroying machinery and attacking those who use it. The Doctor and Peri disrupt one of these attacks and find a red mark on one of the vandals, but the attacker runs off.

As the Doctor and Peri make their way into town – intent on meeting George Stephenson, an architect of the Industrial Revolution – the Doctor’s time distortion tracker keys in on the bathhouse. They also fail to notice the shadowy figure skulking in their wake. We soon discover that dark figure is none other than the Master and that the woman who runs the bathhouse is in on the scheme in some way. The Master commands the vandals – who don’t bat an eye at the Master’s advanced technology – to attack the Doctor. Our heroic Time Lord nearly falls into the open mineshaft before being saved by Lord Ravensworth, the landowner. They discuss the mystery of the mining village.

The Master, using a device that works on wood (unlike the typical sonic screwdriver), forces his way into the bathhouse and uncovers the identity of the old woman: She is the Rani, an exiled Time Lord, and a chemist who is distilling sleep-inducing neurochemicals from the miners. The distillation process causes the red marks, and the sleep-inducing chemicals are needed for Miasimia Gora, a planet that the Rani rules. The two Time Lords work together despite their deep distrust of one another and repeated attempts to sabotage one another in their quest to kill the Doctor.

The Doctor follows the clues to the bathhouse, going undercover as a miner to investigate. He succumbs to the gas, but upon awakening, he challenges the Rani’s ethics. She’s been coming to Earth for the neurochemicals for centuries, and their discussion reveals the presence of the Master to the Doctor. The Rani leaves to find the Master, leaving an opening for Peri to sneak in. Unfortunately, her attempt to save the Doctor is interrupted by the other two Time Lords. After some rhetorical back, forth, and trickery, the Master is given leave to deal with the Doctor. He has the Luddites drop the TARDIS down the mining shaft, and after a twist of fate, they find the Doctor and send him in after it.

Luckily, the Doctor is saved just in time by George Stephenson. The inventor spirits the Doctor and Peri to Lord Ravensworth’s home and sends Luke to find the lord with a message. Unfortunately, he is intercepted and enthralled by the Master, forced to kill anyone who might disrupt the upcoming meeting of inventors at Lord Ravensworth’s manor. The Master wants to use the meeting to accelerate the Earth’s technological development so he can harness that power for his own evil means, and he strikes a deal with the Rani so that she can return to Earth at any time if she helps his plans move forward.

The Doctor and Peri return to the bathhouse and investigate the Rani’s TARDIS. After dodging booby traps, they enter the console room, but the Doctor kicks Peri out as the TARDIS dematerializes remotely and moves to the mines where the Rani and the Master are scheming. The pair enter, retrieve some tools and leave, which frees the Doctor to sabotage the control column.

I do like elements of the Rani’s TARDIS console room, but it needs a bit more color and depth. It’s certainly better than redressing the Doctor’s console room once again. The renovated roundels are a nice touch.

The Doctor meets up with Peri at the mine shaft where she takes him back to Lord Ravensworth’s manor. Stephenson is gearing up to rescue one of the incoming inventors, but the Doctor realizes that the message was carried by Luke and that the assistant is acting funny. The Doctor goes in his stead to Redfern Dell, where the Rani and the Master have set landmines (those tools they retrieved earlier) to ambush Stephenson.

As the Doctor ventures out, Peri uses her botanical knowledge to develop a sleeping-draught for the affected miners. Her quest takes her to Redfern Dell with Luke to find the herbs. As everyone converges, the Doctor ambushes the other two Time Lords and holds them at bay with the Master’s Tissue Compression Eliminator. He watches as Luke inadvertently steps on a landmine and is transformed into a tree – a development that comes out of nowhere – then angrily marches his hostages through the dell. The Luke-tree saves Peri from sharing his fate, alerting the Doctor to his companion’s danger. He forces the Rani to save her but leaves Peri to take them to the mines as he tries to save the Luddite horde from the landmines. His captors don’t listen and succumb to their new fates.

The Rani and the Master escape due to the former’s trickery, but their triumph is short-lived as they board the Rani’s TARDIS. The Doctor’s sabotage causes the time capsule to tumble out of control, and the time spillage reaches a jar holding a Tyrannosaurus Rex embryo. The dinosaur begins to grow…

The Doctor and Peri return to Lord Ravensworth, exchanging the vial of neurochemicals (which they pickpocketed from the Master) for the TARDIS (which Ravensworth retrieved from the mines). The travelers board the TARDIS and dematerialize, shocking the inventor and his financier.

 

Really all I can say is that this was an average story. It was good to see another Time Lord in a large role, nice to see the Master again, and fun to touch on history once again with the first historical figure directly on screen since The Gunfighters. The Rani seems like she could be a good lead-in to the concept of Missy, which debuts nearly thirty years after this point.

It’s especially fun to see the mystery and menace of the Master. We’ve never needed to know how he survives each time, it’s just enough to know that he does and seems unstoppable.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Two Doctors

 

 

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 #139: Vengeance on Varos

Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos
(2 episodes, s22e03-e04, 1985)

 

It’s a hit-and-miss meta-adventure.

On a rocky red planet dominated by domes, a chained man is being tortured on television. Arak and Etta, our court jesters representing the common man in this play, complain about their mandatory entertainment choices, compulsory voting, and less-than-pleasing TV dinners. The whole thing is very 1984 meets The Running Man (or, if you’d rather for the sake of temporal argument, the novel version). Simultaneously, The Doctor is repairing the console on the TARDIS. Peri questions his skills, remarking on all of the traumatic events since they left Telos. The Doctor even burned dinner! Shortly thereafter, the TARDIS stalls in deep space and strands the travelers.

I enjoyed the parallel between both opening couples.

The dome planet is called Varos, and its governor is negotiating with a fish-slug creature named Sil over the price of the planet’s exclusive Zeiton-7 ore. The discussion ends in a stalemate, which upsets the Varos delegation because they have to announce the unfortunate news on schedule, and that will likely affect an upcoming vote. To complicate matters, the Chief Officer is collaborating with Sil behind the governor’s back. When the governor makes his televised announcement, he is met with a resounding “no” vote – his third consecutive failure – and is subjected to a Human Cell Disintegration Bombardment, which slowly kills the recipient with each dose. The Chief Officer gives the governor a moment to recover while a guard recommends a public execution of Jondar, the prisoner in the dungeon, to boost ratings.

On this week’s episode of Survivor

Peri brings the TARDIS operator’s manual to the Doctor, and they soon discover that the TARDIS has sufficient power but – as we discover through a barrage of technobabble – cannot transmit it since the transitional systems are misaligned. To solve it they need Zeiton-7 (of course), so set sail for Varos. They arrive just before the execution of Jondar, and the TARDIS is mistaken for a hallucination side-effect from the execution method. The Doctor and Peri end up rescuing Jondar – inadvertently executing a guard in the process – and escaping into the depths of the dungeons. They are rescued by Areta (Jondar’s wife) and Rondel (Jondar’s friend, a government official who is evicted from the Big Brother house… er, I mean, killed by the pursuing guards), and navigate back to the TARDIS with their peril-filled journey being broadcast to the masses.

Of course, the TARDIS has been taken by Sil and the governor. Luckily, attempts to open it have failed (which means that the Doctor has finally remembered how the lock works). Meanwhile, the Doctor is separated from the group: The remaining three are arrested, but the Doctor escapes into a desert scene where he nearly succumbs to the virtual heat. He is taken to a separate room to recuperate before being slated for execution by acid bath. The Doctor wakes up and startles the guards, both of whom end up taking a dip in the fatal pool with some oddly comedic music and a James Bond-style quip.

The Doctor’s escape gets stymied by Quillam, the planet’s chief scientist. Meanwhile, the governor decides to execute the Doctor and Jondar in a “good old-fashioned way.” They will be hanged while Areta and Peri are subjected to a cell mutator, but as the noose is slipped over his neck, the Doctor connects the dots and confronts Sil over his extortion of Varos. Sil orders his bodyguards to silence the Doctor by pulling the lever, but the Doctor and Jondar simply fall through the trap doors unharmed. The governor was using the staged event to learn the truth about the Doctor’s presence on the planet, which the Doctor suspected when the cameras were turned off.

In the cell mutator, the women are already being transformed. Sil pushes the Chief to continue the mutations in order to defeat the Doctor, but the Doctor confronts Quillam and stops the experiment in the nick of time by shooting the control panel. The men rescue the women the quartet escapes into the depths of the Punishment Dome after stealing a golf cart. Unfortunately, Peri is captured once again after wandering off.

The golf cart theft scene was unintentionally comedic, but the discussion between the governor and Peri was quite pleasant. Peri is really starting to grow on me. I enjoy her plucky, kind, and curious attitude toward everything.

The Chief and Sil set up one last vote in hopes that the governor will be killed and their alliance can secure control over the ore. The vote is resoundingly no, but Maldak (the guard overseeing the proceedings) saves the governor by destroying the field emitters. The governor, Maldak, and Peri escape into the Punishment Dome and pursue the Doctor, Jondar, and Areta, eventually joining up with them. The Chief and Quillam also pursue the running prisoners, but the Doctor traps them in an ambush with their own arrogance.

Our heroes end up back in the Varos control center to confront Sil, but his own mining corporation betrays his invasion plans when they find a second source of Zeiton-7, removing the corner from the market. The Doctor and Peri depart, Zeiton-7 in hand, and the governor proclaims that the era of injustice, torture, and executions is over.

In the end, the story’s court jesters Arak and Etta are left in confused disbelief over their new-found freedom from the television.

 

The stranded TARDIS part of the story was pretty bad. I liked Peri trying to solve the problem, but I didn’t like the Doctor moping instead of looking for a way out. The commentary on socially-driven entertainment to placate the masses was frighteningly relevant three decades later, and I did kind of enjoy the spin on The Running Man-style execution by entertainment. Some of it was silly, and the setting certainly amped up the dark and violent tone of the show in the John Nathan-Turner era, but the creativity was enjoyable.

It’s always odd when televised entertainment comments on the perils of televised entertainment; one would think that it would be self-defeating, but more often than not, it works on some level. It was decent enough here.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Mark of the Rani

 

 

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 #138: Attack of the Cybermen

Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen
(2 episodes, s22e01-e02, 1985)

 

After some time off, the Doctor has gotten better.

The adventure begins with two unfortunate sewer workers who find a shiny new brick wall where one should not be. One of them investigates, but the other is attacked by an unknown force.

On the TARDIS, the Doctor is working on the capsule’s circuitry, specifically the chameleon circuit. Peri is concerned that he is over-exerting himself after his recent trauma, but the Doctor disregards her. When she suggests some relaxation he agrees and sets course, but something draws the TARDIS away.

On Earth, stranded mercenary Lytton is planning a heist with some local criminals. One of the cohort, a man named Russell, relays the plan to an outside party under the guise of purchasing explosives. Later on, Lytton’s gang enters the sewers, intending to access the diamond vault from below. As they set up, two policemen patrol nearby.

The production values have improved this season.

The TARDIS stabilizes in the orbit of Halley’s Comet, circa 1985. Peri wants to land, relating the comet’s appearance to certain disaster, but the Doctor disagrees. A sudden distress signal focuses both of them on Earth, the source of the call, and in franchise fashion they decide to investigate. They touch down at 76 Totter’s Lane, and the newly repaired chameleon circuit (eventually) kicks in, disguising the TARDIS as an ornate cabinet.

The Doctor and Peri track the source of the signal and Peri expresses her concerns for the Doctor’s well-being. She’s worried that his mind is not quite right, specifically because he keeps confusing her for past companions like Tegan, Zoe, Susan, Jamie, and even the Terrible Zodin (who?). He reluctantly admits that she may have a point. As they wander the streets of London and return to I.M. Foreman’s scrapyard, two policemen shadow them. The policemen are unimpressed when the TARDIS dematerializes.

In the sewers, Russell hears someone following them, and Lytton orders Payne to deal with the intruders. Instead, the intruders deal with him. Meanwhile, using the TARDIS computers, the Doctor and Peri determine that the signal is being bounced around multiple relays, and the Doctor assumes that someone must be watching the transmitter and waiting for help to arrive. They materialize at the garage where Lytton’s gang entered the sewers, and the Doctor is dismayed that the TARDIS has taken the form of a pipe organ. They are confronted by armed policemen – although they’re likely not real police officers – but the pair dispatches them with ease and enters the sewers.

This Doctor is much more violent, echoing the Third Doctor.

The Doctor and Peri find Payne’s body as they explore. Meanwhile, the thieves encounter the newly built wall and a black Cyberman. Russell runs as the wall opens and reveals many more Cybermen, to whom Lytton readily surrenders. He explains to the Cyber Leader that he tracked the signals to their hidden ship behind the moon, and he offers his accomplice Griffiths as fodder to be assimilated as Cybermen.

Moving to the planet Telos, the Cybermen have slave gangs digging in a quarry. They attempt to escape, but only two make it out alive. Unfortunately, they need three people to fly their escape craft. They head for the Cyber Control complex, using a Cyberman head as a disguise.

Russell finds the Doctor and Peri, revealing himself as an undercover policeman. The Doctor disarms Russell, and at gunpoint, the officer reveals that he was pursuing Lytton. Together, they all head back to the TARDIS. The Cybermen learn of their presence and send a team to find them. The Doctor disables the black Cyberman with a sonic lance, prompting the Cyber Leader to evacuate with Lytton and Griffiths.

When the travelers return to the TARDIS, they find it overrun by Cybermen. I’m guessing that keys and locks are beyond the Doctor now, and he pays for that laziness as the Cybermen kill Russell and take aim on Peri. The Doctor agrees to cooperate to save her, coercing the Cybermen into the agreement by setting a self-destruct sequence, which drives the Cybermen to reveal the Cyber Controller’s survival on Telos. The Doctor sets a course for Telos before being confined with Peri, Griffiths, and Lytton. Lytton begins the info-dump and explains that the Cybermen found a timeship that landed on Telos and now have plans for both it and the TARDIS.

As the one not well versed in all things Doctor Who, Griffiths demands an explanation. Lytton and the Doctor explain that Telos is the adopted home planet of the Cybermen, and that it only came into their possession after they destroyed the native Cryons to take over their advanced refrigeration technology to store their troops after Mondas was destroyed.

After the Doctor sabotages the navigational controls, the TARDIS lands in the catacombs instead of Cyber Control and assumes the shape of a gateway. The Cybermen are attacked by a rogue cyber soldier, one of many who have been driven insane by faulty refrigeration tombs. While their captors are distracted, Peri, Griffiths, and Lytton run. Peri, now in a new (warmer) costume, is rescued by Cryon freedom fighters. Another group finds Lytton and Griffiths and detail how Lytton has been working for them to stop the Cybermen from destroying Telos. Apparently, all he needs to do is steal the original time vessel.

The Doctor is confined to a cold storage room where he meets Flast, a Cryon prisoner. Flast reveals that the Cryons were not completely destroyed and that the Cybermen plan to save Mondas (and rewrite time) by destroying Earth with Halley’s Comet. Peri gets pretty much the same briefing from her new friends. Peri is distraught, but the Doctor is angry, partially because the Cybermen are breaking the laws of time, and partially because the Time Lords were likely responsible for diverting the TARDIS to this time and place to stop them, making him their errand boy once again.

The Cryons costumes are really quite strange, but their swooping fantasy movements are very elegant.

Lytton and Griffiths are intercepted by the two prisoners, who have both been partially assimilated, and the four men join forces in order to hijack the time vessel. They enter a tunnel to Cyber Control, but Lytton is captured en route to the ship. Elsewhere, Flast shows the Doctor a mineral that is highly volatile above freezing temperatures. The Doctor uses it to escape the room and kill the guard, then leaves his sonic lance with Flast (who cannot survive outside the refrigerated room) after she volunteers to detonate the rest of the minerals and destroy Cyber Control. After she sets the bomb, the Cybermen note the Doctor’s absence and kill Flast by exposing her to warm temperatures, effectively boiling her alive.

That was one of the most unique (and sad) deaths on this show in a while.

While the Cybermen torture Lytton to reveal his plan, Peri and the Doctor reunite and make their way to the TARDIS. The Doctor lures the Cybermen inside the time capsule with a dead Cyberman’s distress signal. The new leader of the Cryons, Rost, pressures the Doctor to leave before the bomb explodes, but Peri reminds him that Lytton’s team is still on Telos.

The Doctor moves the TARDIS to the conversion center – the TARDIS takes its normal form this time – where they find a partially assimilated Lytton. Lytton and the Doctor take out the Cyber Controller, but Lytton dies heroically in the battle. The Doctor reflects on his misjudgment of the man as he and Peri leave in the TARDIS and Cyber Control is destroyed.

I enjoyed watching the effort to tie up some of the loose ends in Cyberman mythology, including the return of both Telos and Mondas from the black and white days of the franchise. I also liked the moments of compassion from the Doctor, which were a good shift from the arrogant and pompous attitudes displayed in The Twin Dilemma. It was also a nice twist to use an established villain and turn him into an anti-hero.

The big downside across these two 45-minute episodes was the dump truck of exposition used to drive the plot, but it wasn’t enough to drag it down too much.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos

 

 

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.