The conspiracy begins to unravel as Carrington is spooked by the Doctor’s continual questioning, and Reegan continues to eliminate weak links and loose ends: after last week’s unfortunate henchmen this time it’s the turn of the unlikely-accented Dr Taltalian, who falls victim to a bomb in a briefcase that looks like something Q-Division might have thought up, and of Sir James Quinlan, whose willingness to tell all to the Doctor makes him too dangerous to live.
Elsewhere, Liz is forced to work with a disgraced former colleague, and the Doctor volunteers to go into space to recover the real astronauts. There’s a lot of plot to get through, and the choppy scenes do not always made entirely obvious to the audience what’s going on: it’s not especially complicated, but this isn’t necessarily a story where you can afford to nip to the loo. Still, even if viewers weren’t paying attention to (or didn’t catch) the details, the tone is pretty clear. Doctor Who hasn’t really tried anything quite like this before, but it’s very ITC with aliens.
There’s a greater attempt to make the aliens seem otherworldly than anything since The Web Planet. The Silurians were us with scales. These aliens are something very different: their inability to communicate suggests a different way of thinking than human beings, like there’s no common frame of reference. They don’t speak, and they don’t necessarily appear malevolent. They spend most of the time locked in a cell, sick from lack of radiation. When they’re released, Michael Ferguson replays the trick he used with the Ice Warriors, shooting them looming above the camera out of the sun, reaching their hands out towards us – their touch, deadly. It’s an iconic image, and leads into another excellent cliffhanger.
Next episode: The Ambassadors of Death – Episode 5