The Doctor spends the majority of this episode stuck in the TARDIS and kept away from the action, which speaks to the thinness of the story. What there is I enjoyed, particularly Lalla Ward getting the chance to sweep in and tear a strip off Soldeed, expose the Co-Pilot and take command of the Anethans as they plunge into the Nimon’s power complex. This is a top episode for Romana. The Doctor’s arrival, by way of contrast, is almost entirely played for laughs as he accidentally arrives smack bang in the most conspicuous spot in the city, haphazardly confronts Soldeed and makes a hash of escaping.
This looks a lot shabbier than the rest of Season 17. Soldeed appears to work in the IT department, with piles of old computer parts on shelves around his office. The Skonnon council chamber is a bit daytime TV, and the model of the power complex is noticeably lacking in the kind of details on things like the Jagaroth spaceship. The labyrinth is at least supposed to look samey, but there’s little sense of Skonnos as a place compared to somewhere like Chloris (where the story’s ideas flowed through into some of the set and prop design). Here, the opulent grandeur of the Skonnon costumes seems at odds with their reduced surroundings, and not in an especially convincing way.
It’s not a washout though. Graham Crowden is going over the top, but the character is meant to be a nervous, deluded wreck. The Anethans, very pretty youths with shirts slashed to the waist, are of the sort we’ll come to expect from the coming JNT years: a bit bland, but again that’s in the writing. Simon Gipps-Kent and Janet Ellis sound like they’re auditioning to be Adric and Nyssa. There are a couple of very funny bits (Romana’s quip about the ‘power complex’ and Soldeed correcting the co-pilot’s pronunciation of hymetusite). The crumbling corpse in the Nimon’s lair is well done. But the show hasn’t been quite this slapdash since Season 15.
Next episode: The Horns of Nimon – Part Three