Having done plenty of work to establish the setting, this episode is content to trust that the interplay between the Doctor, Jo and the Master is enough to entertain the audience for 25 minutes. It’s a fairly safe bet, given how well established these characters are, and this is pretty indulgent (we didn’t really need to spend 25 minutes on the way to the Ogron planet) but very entertaining. We don’t really learn very much to advance the story except the intriguing nugget that the Master is working for mysterious ’employers’ who want the Doctor brought to them, and the suggestion that Jo and the Doctor have been travelling the universe for quite some time given Jo’s fretting about a court martial when she gets back, and says, ‘We keep landing up in one terrible situation after the other.’
Having the Doctor get rescued by the Master, who wipes the floor with the Moon Prison Governor, is a lovely, if over-long sequence played with such dry humour it doesn’t really matter. And there is a long sequence of the Doctor recounting to Jo the events of Malcolm Hulke’s previous script The War Games while the Master listens from the control deck and reacts with wry amusement as he eavesdrops on gossip about the Brigadier, the Time Lords and even himself. Hulke’s wryest script is performed brilliantly, with lines like ‘Thank you Miss Grant, we’ll let you know’ when Jo pretends to be looking after an unconscious Doctor (actually pillows under a blanket), and the Master turning the volume down to quiet Jo’s incessant talk while he sits back to read, quite aptly, The War of the Worlds.
Then, towards the end of the episode the story proper kicks back in as the Draconian Empire boards the Master’s spaceship to take everyone back to Draconia. It seems events set in motion by the Doctor and Jo’s arrival have now had wider ramifications: the cancellation of diplomatic relations between Earth and Draconia means the Draconians are taking action against Earth vessels. And so, the Master goes from captor to captive. But he has another trick up his sleeve: he’s sent an emergency message to the Ogrons. As the cliffhanger kicks in, it feels like eveything is beginning to converge.
Next episode: Frontier in Space – Episode Five