Timestamp #124: Arc of Infinity

Doctor Who: Arc of Infinity
(4 episodes, s20e01-e04, 1983)

 

A Time Lord is fooling around with the bio-data extracts of the Doctor and communicating with a mysterious holographic figure, an act that only a High Councilmember can perform. When he is discovered, he kills the security guard and disables the console. On the TARDIS, the Doctor and Nyssa are performing a little maintenance when they start to lose control. The mysterious being that received the Doctor’s biodata attacks the TARDIS and attempts to temporally bond with the Doctor. The attempt fails, and Nyssa discovers that the creature is made from antimatter and is shielded by an area of space called the Arc of Infinity.

On Earth in Amsterdam, two backpackers squat in a crypt at the Frankendael mansion (which is actually a real world place). In the middle of the night, they are awakened by the lights and sounds of a TARDIS materializing. When one of them investigates, he is attacked by a bird-like creature, and the other backpacker runs in fear. He ends up at a hostel where he has a reservation and discovers that his friend was expecting company: His cousin is arriving the next day.

The Time Lord High Council, led by new Lord President Borusa, are investigating the antimatter being and its link to the Doctor. The commander of the Chancellery Guard, a man with a familiar face named Maxil, orders the Doctor’s TARDIS to be recalled to Gallifrey. When it arrives, Maxil arrests the Doctor and Nyssa, and when the Doctor resists, he is shot. Luckily, the gun is set to stun.

What a welcome home. At least the one computer technician is friendly enough to help behind the scenes.

The Doctor and Nyssa are taken to the TARDIS, which Maxil powers down to prevent it from leaving, as the High Council discusses how they could have handled things better than meeting one of their own with guns. Of note, Councilor Hedin is played by Michael Gough, previously the Celestial Toymaker and soon to be Batman‘s butler. He doesn’t seem to age much.

Our remaining backpacker, who we shall call Robin (for that is his name), arrives at the airport to greet his friend’s cousin. His hypnotized friend is named Colin, and the new arrival is none other than Tegan. Robin and Tegan adjourn to a local café to discuss Colin.

Maxil retrieves the Doctor and Nyssa, escorting them by gunpoint to the council chambers. Nyssa, despite being an alien, is welcomed by the High Council. (Speaking of aliens, where are Leela and K9 in all of this?) They discuss the Doctor’s tumultuous history (including Romana’s conspicuous absence, although they don’t use her full name) before detailing the antimatter being’s threat to the universe and how to solve it. Since it is being drawn to the Doctor through his bio-data extracts, the obvious solution is to execute the Doctor. As the Doctor is led away to await execution, Nyssa pleads with the High Council. En route to the TARDIS, the Doctor meets up with Damon, the friendly computer technician, who slips him evidence of a traitor on the High Council.

Damon teams up with Nyssa and arranges to meet with the Doctor. They compare notes (including a mention of Leela) before Commander Maxil shoos the pair away. The order is given to execute the Doctor, and we discover that the antimatter being is in the TARDIS on Earth with Colin. Under the sound of a cloister bell, the Doctor is taken before the High Council and, despite a last minute appeal by Nyssa, given the same treatment as only one Time Lord before: Destruction.

At the exact moment of dispersal, the antimatter being attempts to bond again, and unbeknownst to the High Council, the two are directed into the Matrix. The Doctor’s body, on the other hand, was shielded and hidden by the traitorous councilor. The antimatter being reveals that his is a renegade Time Lord, but leaves the Doctor before explaining further. Meanwhile, Maxil and the Castellan discover that the Doctor survived and begin a search of the TARDIS and the Citadel.

On Earth, Tegan and Robin investigate Colin’s mysterious circumstances. They find the bird creature (an Ergon) and are transported inside the renegade’s TARDIS where they are scanned. The renegade uncovers Tegan’s connection to the Doctor and uses her as leverage to gain the Doctor’s cooperation. The Doctor resists at first, but relents as the renegade tortures Tegan. The Doctor is rematerialized in the Citadel, and the renegade releases Colin as a reward for Tegan’s assistance.

The Castellan analyzes Damon’s evidence, then assembles the High Council to reveal the traitor: Lord President Borusa. As the Castellan weaves a tale of treachery, the Doctor finds Damon and Nyssa in the computer room and makes plans to return to Earth. Meanwhile, the real traitor is revealed through communication to the renegade to be Councilor Hedin.

Oh, Alfred, how could you?

The Doctor and an armed Nyssa race to the TARDIS as Maxil and his guards pursue them. Our heroes come across Hedin, who has Borusa at gunpoint and is demanding access to the Matrix, and are captured by the traitor. Hedin reveals that the renegade is Omega and is going to be transferred to our universe. They are interrupted by the Castellan, who inadvertently kills Hedin and takes aim on the Doctor before being called off. They are all too late, however, as Omega takes control of the Matrix.

The Doctor enters the Matrix and uncovers Tegan’s location. He and Nyssa slip away undetected, return to Earth, and after a lengthy search, they find the crypt. They defeat the Ergon but fail to stop Omega’s transfer into normal matter, revealing an exact duplicate of the Doctor’s appearance. Unfortunately, the transfer was incomplete, and the Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan chase Omega into the city as the renegade slowly deteriorates. The chase ends at the end of a dock, where the Doctor reluctantly expels Omega back to the antimatter dimension, ending the threat.

After checking on her cousin, Tegan reveals that she has nowhere else to go, and she rejoins the crew of the TARDIS as a willing passenger.

This story got a bit long in the tooth during elements of the chase and the return to Gallifrey, but much of that was absolved in the otherwise solid plot and characters. Definitely a good start to a new season.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Snakedance

 

 

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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Creative Criticality Programming Notes for Dragon Con 2017

 

Creative Criticality Programming Notes for Dragon Con 2017

 

 

Dragon Con approaches, and with that comes some time away to both prepare for and attend the convention. The following programming notes are in effect through Labor Day weekend.

 

The Weekly Podioplex: The Weekly Podioplex‘s August 22 edition will cover two weeks in releases. The show will return to The Chronic Rift Network for the September 5 edition.

The Timestamps Project: Timestamp 124: Arc of Infinity will publish on August 23. The Timestamps Project will return on September 6 with Timestamp 125: Snakedance.

Fortnight Philosophy: Fortnight Philosophy will be unaffected. The next publication is on August 28.

 

My Dragon Con schedule will go live right here on Creative Criticality after the convention schedule is made public. T-minus ten days and counting.

 

Timestamp: Nineteenth Series Summary

Doctor Who: Nineteenth Series Summary

timestamp-logo-fourth-fifth

 

From second best to last place in the span of seven stories.

The Eighteenth Series was remarkable in how it essentially redeemed the Fourth Doctor’s run, coming in tied for silver and even besting that era’s premiere season. The Nineteenth Series saw that high bar, tried to vault it, but face-planted on approach. There were two high points – The Visitation and Earthshock – and one that only appeared high because of the regeneration handicap. In reality, Castrovalva joined Kinda and Time-Flight as average, and the highs were pulled down by Four to Doomsday and Black Orchid.

Unfortunately, that drags everything right back to average.

 

I have some hope for future series with the removal of Adric (who has been a thorn in my side from his introduction) and the rise of Nyssa and Tegan as proactive companions. I am also optimistic based on the Fifth Doctor’s continued evolution. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from his character, and I’m eager to see how he grows (provided that he is given room to run).

I wish there was more to say, but there’s not much more beyond my already apparent disappointment. This series ties the Third for last place.

 

Castrovalva – 4
Four to Doomsday – 2
Kinda – 3
The Visitation –  4
Black Orchid – 2
Earthshock – 4
Time-Flight – 3

Series Nineteen Average Rating: 3.1/5

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Arc of Infinity

 

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 #123: Time-Flight

Doctor Who: Time-Flight
(4 episodes, s19e23-e26, 1982)

Timestamp 123 Time-Flight

 

This is what happens when supersonic goes supertemporal.

A Concorde is completing a trans-Atlantic flight to London when it disappears without a trace. On the TARDIS, the travelers have wrapped up the loose ends from Earthshock but not the grief from Adric’s sacrifice. Tegan asks the Doctor to go back and save him, but the Doctor cannot because it would unravel human history. He tells them that Adric died in the same way as his brother Varsh by giving his own life for those of others. Each the travelers mourns in their own way as the Doctor sets course for the Great Exhibition of 1851, but temporal turbulence from the Concorde incident forces the TARDIS to materialize initially over the runway at Heathrow and then inside a terminal. The Doctor rushes out and makes contact with airport security, using his UNIT credentials to get involved in the Concorde mystery.

Tegan tells Nyssa that, in the 1980s, police boxes have gone the way of flower power. She seems to forget that she actually stopped near one before joining the Doctor in Logopolis, which takes place only a year in the relative past. While both parts of her idiom are technically correct (and phased out around the same time), canonically police boxes are still around.

The Doctor has the TARDIS loaded onto another Concorde to repeat the first flight’s route and plan. The second plane falls into the same time-warp as first, but land at a place similar to Heathrow. The façade is broken when Nyssa spots a pile of skeletons and the travelers (and Concorde crew) discover that they have landed 140 million years in the past. Tegan spots the other Concorde, and with it a crashed spacecraft and a citadel in the distance.

The crew of the first Concorde, under control of an alien being unfortunately designed to look like the oriental mystic stereotype, take the TARDIS to the citadel. When crewmen from the second Concorde interfere, they are taken away by creatures that look like melted wax and soap bubbles. The Doctor is also captured by these beings, known as Plasmatons (blobs of protein in the atmosphere assembled into humanoid form), but is soon released. They encounter Professor Hayter, a passenger on the first flight whose work has trained his mind to evade the illusion.

The mystical alien realizes that Nyssa can detect his influence and encases her in a plasmatic shell. Tegan stays with Nyssa while the Doctor, Hayter, and Captain Stapley continue on. Hayter and Stapley work on freeing the entranced humans while the Doctor explores the caves and finds his TARDIS and the alien, who goes by the name Kalid. The Doctor deduces that Kalid is not the source of the psychic energy, but rather a conduit.

As Hayter and Stapley free the enslaved humans, Kalid focuses on stopping them, which frees Nyssa. Nyssa and Tegan continue to the citadel as Kalid attempts to force the Doctor to cooperate by menacing the Concorde groups. The ladies come across an apparition of Adric, but deduce that it is not real. Kalid continues his attempts to stop them with visions of the Melkur and the Terileptil, but the women rebuff each before coming to a futuristic tank-like device which they hit with a large rock. The act disrupts the psychic energy and reveals Kalid’s true identity: He is the Master.

After the destruction of Castrovalva, the renegade Time Lord was stranded in this time period and needs a new source of power for his TARDIS. He forces the Doctor to surrender the TARDIS key and steals the craft, intending to move it to the sanctum where the ladies disrupted the sarcophagus. The Doctor and Hayter find the newly freed humans from the future and task them with breaking into the sanctum. The Doctor discovers the Master’s TARDIS, which is where the remaining humans are being kept, and that the Master is looking for the source of the time-warp, which is centered on the sanctum. Once they break through, the Doctor and Hayter discover that there is something alive in the sarcophagus. Turns out that it is the entire Xeraphin race, once thought destroyed in the Vardon-Kosnax War. Nyssa nearly sacrifices herself to be a mouthpiece and conduit for the Xeraphin, but Hayter takes her place instead.

The Master rematerializes at the control room thanks to the Doctor’s earlier override of the coordinate controls. Stapley tries to sabotage the TARDIS, but he only helps the Master after being caught. The Master takes several control boards before sending the TARDIS into the atmosphere to hold position over the citadel.

The Xeraphin manifest as Anithon, who explains that they came to Earth to revive their race, but radiation poisoning forced them into hibernation. The Master arrived and tried to harness their power for his TARDIS, and the act resulted in a split between good and evil within the Xeraphin. The avatar splits into the good Anithon and evil Zarak, and the latter works with the Master to transport the sarcophagus to the evil Time Lord’s TARDIS.

The Master’s TARDIS takes off, and the Doctor’s TARDIS arrives with help from an avatar of Professor Hayter. Once the travelers are free of the sanctum, the Doctor deduces that the Master doesn’t have enough power to leave the area. Nyssa pilots the TARDIS with the Concorde crew to the planes while Tegan and the Doctor track down the Master. They all converge on the Concordes where the Master’s TARDIS has changed into the other plane but cannot leave due to Stapley’s sabotage. The Doctor negotiates terms, exchanging two operational planes, a functional TARDIS, and all of the humans for one part that the Master needs.

Everyone leaves prehistoric Earth. The serviceable Concorde ferries the twentieth-century humans, Nyssa, and the Doctor to London, with the TARDIS giving the plane the boost it needs to return home. The TARDIS materializes nearby, and the temporal limiter that the Doctor surrendered to the Master comes with a small catch: The Master’s TARDIS tries to materialize in the exact space-time coordinates as the Doctor’s, but ends up getting bounced to modern-day Xeriphas, where the Doctor hopes that the newly revived Xeraphin will keep the Master (and his newly fried temporal circuits) busy for some time.

The Doctor and Nyssa leave in the TARDIS, content in the assumption that Tegan is back where she wanted to be. Unfortunately, her expression tells a different story.

This was an average story bouyed up by the travelers. The companions work well together, and without Adric to share the spotlight, both women get a good chunk of the action and plot. Additionally, I’m really starting to see the attraction to Peter Davison’s Doctor and his continued fatherly evolution. The only negative is the acting, where there a few spots that still fall flat with the Fifth Doctor’s character.

Overall, this was a decent way to end the Fifth Doctor’s freshman series, but there’s still plenty of room to grow.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Nineteenth 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.

Timestamp #122: Earthshock

Doctor Who: Earthshock
(4 episodes, s19e19-e22, 1982)

 

It wasn’t seeing him blown to bits. It was the silence at the end.

On Earth, a squad of soldiers led by Lieutenant Scott climb a hillside in a search for a missing science team. Professor Kyle, the lone survivor, accompanies them. The team descends into a cave system to continue the search. During the search, they are stalked by two shadowy figures and communications jamming.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor is reading Black Orchid (which has to be more exciting than the actual episode) and consoles a depressed Adric. The boy feels that he is not a valuable member of the team, and he asks to return to his home in E-Space. One might say that some of Adric’s woes are self-induced, but the Doctor avoids that minor detail by proclaiming that he cannot calculate the coordinates. After a heated exchange, Adric begins to make the calculations himself. The Doctor pilots the TARDIS to the cave system so he can take a break from Adric, who in turn has a few choice insults for the Time Lord.

The Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan examine the fossils in the cave walls and wax philosophically about the fate of the dinosaurs. Above ground, the squad’s scanner technician guides the search team to the Doctor’s position. Below ground, the shadowy figures pick off members of the team one by one, reducing them to steaming piles of goo. The figures do not appear on the scanner, probably because they aren’t alive.

When the soldiers intercept the Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan, Lieutenant Scott accuses the Doctor of killing the squad members. After they uncover a metal hatch, the figures attack, and the Doctor identifies them as androids. The professor recognizes them as the beings that killed the science team. One of the androids identifies the Doctor, and its leader, a Cyberman, orders it to destroy everyone.

We haven’t seen the Cybermen since the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane faced them. This is a way different Cyberman than we’ve seen before. They’re a bit bulkier, have actual moving mouths, and are more verbose, emotional, and evolved.

The Doctor deduces that the androids are guarding the hatch, and working with Adric (who has left the TARDIS to look for the other travelers), the soldiers destroy the androids. The Doctor opens the hatch to reveal a bomb, which he disarms after taking everyone to the TARDIS and jamming the countdown signal. Through the remains of the androids, the Cybermen spot the TARDIS and understand who they are facing through a tour of previous encounters.

The Doctor pilots the TARDIS to the source of the bomb’s arming transmission, taking the soldiers because the ask to finish the job. En route, Adric and the Doctor make amends, and the boy decides to remain with his friends. The TARDIS arrives on a freighter in space, and the Doctor and Adric take a tour. The freighter is being inspected and replenished, and even though they are due for a bonus after they finish delivery, the crew’s morale is low since several of their number have gone missing.

The Doctor deliberately exposes himself to the security cameras, and the Cyber-Leader reveals to the audience that he has agents on the ship. All combined, the travelers are discovered and Captain Briggs sounds the alarm. A crewman named Ringway and two security guards pursue the intruders, but the guards are killed. Their screams draw the Doctor and Adric, who are confronted by Ringway at gunpoint and taken before the captain. The pair is interrogated by Captain Briggs before helping them to trap down a sudden power loss, which is related to the Cyber-Leader and his personal guard taking control of the ship, which is where they’ve been all along. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Scott, Tegan, and the soldiers search for the Doctor.

The Cybermen massacre the security teams, and the Doctor finally sees who he’s up against. The situation is exacerbated by Ringway’s revelation that he is working for the Cybermen. Ringway takes the bridge team hostage, but Adric, Briggs, and the Doctor incapacitate the traitor. Adric and the captain conclude that all 15,000 cargo containers likely carry Cybermen, which is bad since the cargo ship is heading for Earth. Meanwhile, the Cybermen use a thermal lance to penetrate the bridge security doors. Just as the door gives way, the Doctor reinforces it with antimatter, and the invading Cyberman is fused with.

Lieutenant Scott’s team destroys a Cyberman and critically damages a second. The damaged unit crawls to the Cyber-Leader just as the remaining bridge hatch is blown open. The Doctor meets the Cyber-Leader face to face, and Ringway is executed for not accounting for the soldiers on the TARDIS. The Cyber-Leader activates his army, filling the ship with Cybermen ready to invade Earth.

The Cyber-Leader turns the freighter into a missile aimed at Earth, intending to stop an interplanetary conference that plans to unite several civilizations against the Cybermen. Meanwhile, Tegan continues her reign of Ripley-like badassery by stalking through the cargo hold, armed with a Cyberman cannon, but is soon captured and taken to the bridge. The rest of Scott’s team make it back to the TARDIS, disabling a pursuing Cyberman patrol in the console room. Professor Kyle is killed in the crossfire.

The Cyber-Leader provokes the Doctor by threatening Tegan’s life to manipulate the Time Lord’s emotions. He leaves two Cybermen on the bridge with the crew and Adric to observe their emotions on impact, and then takes Tegan and the Doctor to the TARDIS to observe the impact from space. Scott and his team leave the TARDIS to search for the missing travelers and end up liberating the bridge. The captain suggests abandoning ship, but Adric sets to work on the unlocking the helm controls. Instead of stopping the ship, he inadvertently pushes it into time-warp. As the freighter barrels back through time, the Cyber-Leader orders the Doctor to land the TARDIS on the ship, but the Doctor cannot do so.

The captain orders the bridge crew to abandon the ship, but Adric slips out of the escape pod at the last second and breaks the final encryption code. On the TARDIS, our heroes realize that they’ve traveled back 65 million years and that the freighter is about to be the extinction event that kills the dinosaurs and paves the way for human evolution.

As Tegan distracts the Cyber-Leader, the Doctor grinds Adric’s badge for mathematical excellence into the Cyber-Leader’s chest unit. As he dies, the leader fires on the TARDIS control console, but falls to the floor as the Doctor fires the killing shot into the Cyberman’s chest. The damage to the console prevents the Doctor from rescuing Adric, and one critically damaged Cyberman destroys the freighter’s helm console.

Adric rides the freighter to the surface, ending his journey with the Doctor in a blaze of glory.

And even though I didn’t like him much, I shed a tear for his heroic exit.

 

With that powerful ending, it’s actually a little difficult to figure out where to go from here.

Overall, I enjoyed this story. It was well-written, even though it was slow in the beginning episode. The characters continue their ascent in the Fifth Doctor’s era, with Tegan stepping up with a touch of recklessness and the Doctor continuing his fatherly approach. Unfortunately, Nyssa was sidelined for a considerable portion of the story. And then there’s Adric.

Adric was far less annoying in this story, which is a good way to go out. He had his temper tantrum at the beginning which drove the plot, but he acquiesced and apologized before being the key that literally saved the world. He joins the small list of companions to die while traveling with the Doctor – the other two are Katarina and Sara Kingdom, both from The Daleks’ Master Plan – and his death was just as chilling but, in my opinion, more heroic. His arrogance was his downfall since nothing changed between him leaping out of the elevator and crashing into Earth, but his drive and motivation are something I admired.

Even though I knew it was coming – it’s very difficult to avoid spoilers around critical touchstones like this thirty-five years after the fact – the ending was still very emotional. Mind you, it doesn’t erase the problems I had with the character, but it does put a positive cap on his journey and growth.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Time-Flight

 

 

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.