It’s great again to see Katy Manning presented with more material, including quite a lengthy scene with David Troughton. But it also highlights the downside of making Jo a more prominent character than most previous female companions, because that scene involves the King asking Jo to marry him. Her independence means she’s fair game as a love interest, and the King will soon be followed by several more suitors until she’s inevitably married off. Elsewhere, she again gets to save the Doctor’s bacon – or so she thinks – by leaping in with burning torch to scare off Aggedor. This is great; her ditzy accidental hypnotism a few moments later isn’t.
The alien delegates are now squabbling with each other even while the Doctor awaits trial by combat. ‘Arcturus is a coward by logic, Centauri is a coward by instinct’ but in a nice twist, Izlyr turns out to be the one to step in and try to help the Doctor. Meanwhile, Hepesh and the Doctor have had their own heart-to-heart, which exposes Hepesh as a true conservative: ‘I would rather be a cave dweller and free’ than accept power sharing with the Federation. He sets the Doctor free, only to leave him face to face with Aggedor, which the Doctor hypnotises with a Venusian lullaby before wandering back to the throne room just in time for a showdown with the champion Grun.
While most of the episode consists of various characters lurking around corridors (it’s well lit, so that’s something), the fight sequence is a bit more elaborate, doing a Star Trek style arena fight on film. Lennie Mayne does a decent job of making it as dynamic as possible with top down shots, and some handheld material. It’s easily the most elaborate fight sequence in the series to date, part of an increasingly obvious trend to make the Pertwee Doctor seem like an action hero (even when it’s actually a stuntman in a wig). I’m not sure about throttling Grun, which seems a bit imitable by children. The cliffhanger is that emerging cliché of a close up on a gun firing apparently at the Doctor, but probably not (see also The War Games, The Mind of Evil et al).
Next episode: The Curse of Peladon – Episode Four