Having adjusted my expectations downwards after Episode One, I enjoyed this with far fewer reservations. Partly this is because the film sequences are up to director Christopher Barry’s normal high standards: the handheld shots look great, and the masked guards looming out of the fog make this look like an early episode of Blake’s 7. But it also helps that the Skybase sequences are lit more atmospherically (the Herbarium, where Meatloaf-wannabe Varan hides out is all red and green low lighting, and the power failure the Doctor engineers plunges the space station corridors into moody darkness).
Pertwee also gets more to do, forming a reasonably interesting double act with George Pravda’s Jaeger as the two to them spar over the ethics of terraforming – ‘genocide as a side effect?’ – and the problems of atmospheric conversion. In fact, once the clumsy reveal of the Marshall’s treachery (he shoots Varan’s son and stands over the body holding the gun as Varan walks in) is out of the way, this shapes up into a nice little episode, with the Doctor pretending to cooperate with the Marshal while conspiring with Stubbs and Cotton on Skybase, and Jo teams up with Ky and ‘The dispossesed, the outcasts, the “terrorists” as the Overlords label them’ on Solos. Script and direction details are again all well done, with a discussion between Jo and Ky about the fate of London, and our first glimpse of a full mutant as a shadow on the cave wall.
In another indication that the production office is on top of their brief, the slight similarities to Day of the Daleks are inverted by having the Doctor be the one in with the elite, while Jo has been captured by the freedom fighters. This is good.
Next episode: The Mutants – Episode Three