The structure of the serial is good. Like Hulke’s The War Games, there’s a logical progression and escalation, with the first episode introducing the colonists and their situation, the second focusing on IMC and their objectives, with this episode bringing both sides together. In principle, having set up two groups of people with opposite aims, this should be where the sparks fly. In practice, it’s a bit damp.
The main issue is that having brought Dent face to face with Ashe, Hulke introduces the idea of an Adjudicator who will come in and decide who gets to stay: ‘legality must always be maintained.’ This is sensible, but not very dramatic, especially because this involves waiting around. Instead, the hotheaded Winton, who only an episode earlier was telling Ashe, ‘We must move on to another planet’ in a complete volte face is trying to get Ashe to stiffen his spine against Dent: ‘Procedures, nothing, Robert. This planet’s ours and the sooner you’re off it, the better.’
Winton and Jo in a moment of madness then decide to get proof to expose IMC not by returning to the attacked dome, but trying to infiltrate the IMC spaceship. The shady Norton, so obviously an IMC plant it hurts, clearly warns his colleagues and so Jo and Winton are immediately captured. Then escape. Then Jo’s recaptured. Then she escapes. Then she’s captured again (this time by the aboriginal “Primitives”) while the Doctor launches a rescue bid only to discover he’s been pipped to the post. In short, having postponed a showdown between colonists and the corporation, Hulke has left himself with no plot for this episode.
It’s not a complete disaster: Caldwell’s open defiance against Dent is beautifully played by Bernard Kay and Morris Perry, there’s quite a good chase scene as Winton makes his escape across a suitably grim-looking landscape, and the Primitives, having been lurking in the background, ignored by the squabbling humans, seize the initiative. By the end of the episode, both the Doctor and Jo are headed towards the ruined Primitive city, which at least suggests this is going somewhere.
Next episode: Colony in Space – Episode Four