A good half of this episode focuses on Jamie and Kemel’s journey fighting their way through Maxtible’s house, avoiding traps. This includes a five-minute wrestling sequence set to some stirring Dudley Simpson music, which looks and sounds like something from Star Trek. The liberal presence of axes, ropes and other dungeon paraphernalia adds to the Kirk-in-an-arena feel.
The first part of the episode focuses on a bizarre cul-de-sac subplot featuring Jamie’s being kidnapped and then rescued in short order by two minor characters – Ruth Maxtible’s fiance the foppish Arthur Terrall, and his hired stooge Toby – who looks like Bill Sykes. It adds to the sense of Victorian melodrama, but hardly helps advance the story.
Initially, the episode continues to dangle the possibility that Waterfield might be a rival member of the Doctor’s people. Jamie wonders whether he might have invented a time machine like the TARDIS – which the Doctor dismisses as unlikely, even though Jamie’s almost spot on. And Waterfield’s angry confrontation with the Dalek that kills Kennedy makes him appear even more Doctorish. When he wakes up from the knock-out gas in Maxtible’s house, the Doctor is clearly disturbed to learn that he’s been captured by the Master, which is a lovely opportunity for a ret-con.
Someone has stolen the TARDIS! It’s been a while since the Ship’s whereabouts has been so central to the story – long gone are the days when getting back to it was the overriding concern. It’s the first hint that the original script editor, David Whitaker, is doing something interesting with a serial that was consciously designed as Doctor Who‘s first season finale.
The Doctor and his own Holly Goodhead, Nurse Pinto, have infiltrated the Chameleon space station as the alien master plan approaches its conclusion. As above, so below: on earth the Commandant, Jean and Sam are desperately searching for the comatose bodies of the Chameleons’ victims.
Another procedural middle episode, which is mainly successful for postponing the climax for another week. The only surprises here are vaguely irrelevant details, like the miniaturisation of the Chameleon’s kidnap victims (discovered in a filing cabinet), with the only big reveal the reason for the Chameleons’ plan: a huge explosion on their home planet wiped their identities, and they plan to abduct 50,000 young people to ensure their survival.
A procedural episode that continues the holding pattern from the last week, albeit with a trip into the medical centre for a change of scenery where the Doctor discovers more sinister duplicates and alien equipment; he continues to wind up the indignant Commandant, and throws out more wild theories about what the Chameleons are doing. Hulke and Ellis throw in a few other flourishes like the Goldfinger style laser cutter – to add a few minutes of jeopardy to pass the time, but this is very much a bog-standard capture/escape middle episode.
Very much more of the same after the first two episodes. By now, the police are involved, the Doctor has turned the tables on the villains, and the Chameleon’s plan to kidnap and replace individuals is clear. If this had been a 50-minute episode from one of the secret agent shows it emulates, this would be the point when there’s a punch up, and a quick tag scene.
There’s something very disturbing about seeing Anneke Wills playing “Michelle Leuppi from Zurich” quite differently from Polly: a cold, dismissive lack of interest in other people, curt to the Doctor and Samantha Briggs. No wonder the Doctor quickly surmises this isn’t Polly brainwashed – there’s nothing of her personality in Michelle Then there’s the double punch of Ben discovering the real Polly’s body sealed, like a waxwork, inside a crate. It’s a shame this is more or less her final episode, but at least she goes out with an acting challenge. Michael Craze gets less to do – but gets an almost equally brilliant moment of horror when he’s shot as he talks to the Doctor on a video screen, and the Doctor can do nothing to help.
For the first time since June 1966 the TARDIS has arrived in present-day Britain – and the series has never looked more like a VT episode of The Avengers. This isn’t entirely surprising given it’s the first Doctor Who script by former Avengers writer Malcolm Hulke. Barring the Christmas run-in with the police in The Feast of Steven, it’s the first time the Doctor has had to properly contend with British officialdom (having worked comfortably alongside them in The War Machines) and watching it feels like a sudden premonition of the imminent UNIT years.