Haisman and Lincoln avoid the pitfalls of many six-part stories by spacing out the revelations and making sure each episode feels like a concrete step forward rather than simply a restatement of what the audience already knows. This starts with the resurrected Yeti rampaging through the monastery, features some mid-episode tension as the Doctor and Jamie face Yeti on the mountainside, and finishes with the reveal of Padmasambhava.
Troughton does his most pensive acting when the Doctor and Jamie go on their perilous expedition to pick up equipment from the TARDIS, which all adds to the creepy atmosphere. There’s then one of the most brilliant bits of suspense, as they encounter a Yeti outside the Ship – which the Doctor hypothesises, and then proves, is entirely inactive if not directed by its controller. The sight of him, dwarfed by the robot as he unscrews its chest unit with the risk of it springing into life at any moment, is tense. But the real horror – and the bit that has stuck with me since childhood from the novel – is when the removed control sphere suddenly activates, and, like a rat torture, tries to burrow through the Doctor’s guts to get back into its Yeti. It doesn’t last long, but it’s supremely horrible.
The episode is far from grim, though. The Doctor’s smug satisfaction with his correct diagnosis of the Yeti problem is a far cry from the man who pretended to have defeated the Daleks by accident. Later, he tosses one of the spheres and a bunch of Yeti go chasing after it like a pack of pet dogs after a ball. And back at Detsen, Victoria and Thomni seem to have a bit of a thing going on – until she cleverly fakes poisoning to escape, leaving him to carry the can, the minx.
The script builds up to the reveal of Padmasambhava first by having the master himself plead with the Great Intelligence for release: ‘After so many years, can I feel the grip of your power loosen? How long before your great experiment begins and I can rest?’. Later, after the Intelligence orders the monks to leave Detsen, Khrisong: wonders out loud, ‘Has anyone seen Padmasambhava?’ However it’s Victoria, at the cliffhanger, who finally comes face to face with the ancient master – revealed as a decidedly corporeal figure who looks like a well-fed toad, and not the ancient, ethereal husk he sounds like might have been. It’s probably unintentional, but all fits with the Intelligence’s grotesque desire for physical form: always demanding more, always expanding, a Lovecraftian batrachian horror.
Next episode: The Abominable Snowmen – Episode Five