It’s a shame JNT didn’t introduce two-parters until the Davison years, as I think there’s probably an entertaining, small story of the Doctor’s evil double in here (definitely more fun than Black Orchid). Critically, the two of them meet for a few minutes, and it’s done better than any previous time the Doctor’s actually been face to face with his doppelganger. All you’d need to do is strip away all the Savant/Deon rubbish (which is resolved entirely off-handedly with Lexa shot and killed the moment she runs out of plot, and the rest of the Tigellans left to deal with hostile vegetation on their own).
Meglos is one of the era’s last would-be galactic dictators (‘Three metres by five metres, and I could have had the galaxy. The universe.’), with a brilliant line in cold pragmatism: ‘Three men? That’s the price of success, general.’ He has the same cruelty as Skagra, and much the same effect on the Doctor, who’s entirely baffled as to why anyone would want to control the universe. And as performed by Tom Baker (consenting to wear the effective spiny makeup) he’s a brilliantly memorable baddie. No wonder Gareth Roberts wanted to bring him back to face Matt Smith as the terrifying enemy of The Lodger.
And elsewhere, there’s a level of effort going into this that’s well above what most of the material deserves. Meglos returns to Zolfa-Thura as the sun sets over the screens, a contrast to the bright morning skies of Part One. The comedy business about Brotodac wanting the Meglos’s copy of the Doctor’s coat plays a part in the plot, as the appearance of a second coat threatens to uncover the Doctor’s ploy to imitate Meglos (although I’m left wondering when Meglos ran up the coat – did he have a sewing machine offscreen? Or is Brotodac coveting a bit of Meglos’s skin?).
The flipside is that anything that isn’t related to the Meglos plot hardly gets a look in. Romana, recently the co-lead of the show, carrying chunks of The Horns of Nimon, is relegated to lurking about babysitting two Tigellans the Doctor has taken to Zolfa-Thura for no discernible reason. And there’s no obvious reason for the Earthling either. Given JNT was concerned that Tom Baker had become too dominant in his own show it’s an odd move to do a story where literally the only thing worth tuning in for is Tom Baker.
Next episode: Full Circle