A rare example of a third episode that’s better than the first two, this is really a showcase for Tom Baker’s dual performance. As the Doctor, and almost for the last time, he’s at his breezy best, offering broad grins to the hostile Tigellans, dropping quips (‘Who’s Who?’, ‘Let’s hope that many hands will make the lights work’) and trying to blow out the flames once Lexa decides to sacrifice him to Ti. As Meglos, he’s entirely different: ‘I am Meglos’ he howls at Caris as he menaces her; ‘Earthling? You again?’ he asks plaintively as his body starts to disintegrate. He creeps through the shadows of the Tigellan underground like Victor Caroon in The Quatermass Xperiment. This is all very strong, and distracts from the staleness elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Lalla Ward, dressed in a frilly version of the Doctor’s new costume, gets to enjoy herself too: leading Grugger and his pirates on a merry dance, bamboozling them with bafflegab about the planetary rotation, and rescuing K9 (although not before he gets a kick from Grugger). Elsewhere, this is pretty (obviously the jungle looks good, but even the inside of the Tigellan city looks convincingly solid and gloomy) but unremarkable. I like this last chance for Baker and Ward to have a carefree adventure before Gallifrey comes calling and the night starts falling on the fourth Doctor’s run.
Next episode: Meglos – Part Four