It’s all quite efficient: the control room abuzz with activity; the international crew of highly-trained personnel; the base commander on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The trouble is, we have seen all this at least four times before, and writers Whitaker and Pedler don’t compensate for the repetition with anything new.
On the plus side, unlike the Cybermen-menaced Snowcap and the Moonbase, this base under siege has a crew made up of both the sexes, with women in senior posts. But even that’s old hat when we’ve seen The Ice Warriors and Fury from the Deep. Dr Gemma Corwyn is very Dr Crusher from TNG, acting as Commander Bennett’s unofficial counsellor, but her intelligence only stretches so far: when she must see Bennett is on edge, feeding him her wild suspicions about Jamie seems reckless.
Zoe gets a fairly low-key first episode, introduced in a Zoom call with Gemma before she comes face to face with Jamie in the Parapsychology Library (what, telepathy and all that jazz?). She laughs at him for being a transvestite, and he threatens to spank her (Dick Sharples was onto something) – probably enough to get both of them cancelled. It’s interesting that Jamie got the final scene with Victoria, and now gets the first scene with Zoe. It’s quite fun to contrast his solicitous approach to Victoria with his defensiveness with Zoe – which shows up the differences between the two women better than just having a third party recite Zoe’s credentials.
In general, it’s an episode where the men come off worse than the women – Corwyn makes Bennett look nutty; Zoe emasculates Jamie, and Lernov’s suspicions about the Silver Carrier are proved absolutely right when we see Cybermen ‘hatching’ from what look like The Prisoner‘s Rovers. Also, Jamie flashes his chest during a medical.
On the whole, though, none of this is very interesting. Troughton’s absence is felt much more strongly than his last holiday for The Web of Fear 2, and combined with holding back the appearance of the Cybermen until the cliffhanger makes this feel like the second episode in a row that’s playing for time.
Next episode: The Wheel in Space – Episode 3