Tom Baker’s confrontation with the Deciders is brilliant. Mere minutes after they pardoned their own children, with great solemnity and pomp, their authority crumbles before the Doctor’s coldly furious verbal assault, as he accuses them of the responsibility for deceiving the community and permitting the slaughter of another child. In a season that already contains his brilliant performance as Meglos, this is Baker at his electrifying best. Cancel the resignation: he can wipe the floor with these people.
The rest of the episode can’t hold a candle to this scene. It’s another very short one with a very long recap. Romana has been possessed, which largely means Lalla Ward is on the bench. This doesn’t allow the new boy a chance to fill the void, though: the Doctor sends him out of the room before turning on the Deciders, and he’s reduced to acting as a messenger. Instead, George Baker gets the best of the remaining material as it’s revealed he hasn’t really turned his back on his daughter, and he’s as outraged as the Doctor when he learns the secret behind the Alzarian civilisation: no-one knows how to fly the starliner.
Round the edges, some interesting, underdeveloped strands: Dexeter is a Mengele figure, horribly planning to perform vivisection on the Marshchild. Like the Outlers, he rails against the ‘wall of deliberate ignorance’ constructed by the Deciders, but unlike them he works within the closed system than has been built to contain their secrets. The TARDIS can do short hops and is much more steerable than usual: the shot of the four Outlers standing around the console has possibilities – I wonder if it lingered in a young RTD’s memory and fed into the idea that the Ship ought to have six operators. Their unexpected arrival on the starliner provides the one funny scene, as the Doctor confidently expects Romana to emerge only for the Alzarian children to parade out. Inside the TARDIS, Romana’s room foreshadows the soft furnishings of Arc of Infinity’s Gallifrey: clearly President Borusa’s new regime was most concerned with chintz for the masses.
Next episode: Full Circle – Part Four