Another strong episode, with come very obvious Biblical overtones as the Melkur lurks in the garden of this paradise tempting Kassia. It’s unusual for a story like this to play out as family drama, with wife turned against husband and daughter, and the resulting mix of science fantasy and domestic drama is compelling and very Star Wars. Sarah Sutton is impressive as an imperious, precocious Nyssa – although there’s no hint that she’s companion material (the Doctor barely acknowledges her existence when they meet). Elsewhere, Neman’s love of money is a curious touch for an idyllic alien planet.
The other thing that interested me are the parallels with the last Master story. As in The Deadly Assassin we have a planet of nobles and guards going through a troubled period of transition as the outgoing leader’s time comes to an end. There’s an ancient power source hidden in the vaults, and the Doctor, under suspicion of attacking said leader, joins forces with a local dignitary to investigate as another esteemed personage falls under the Master’s baleful influence. It’s clearly not a retread, but I wonder whether any of this was deliberate or if I’m just spotting patterns that aren’t there.
I wonder if anyone watching this guessed the Master was the villain behind it? We see there is someone inside the Melkur, with decaying hands and an insidious voice, plus there’s a line about the possibility of another TARDIS (‘I thought they might be from some sort of a TARDIS’) which is skipped over quite quickly, but which plants the idea. The Master has past form seducing the wife of a ruler (buxom Queen Galleia), so it’s not like any of this is wholly unlike his previous MO.
The only thing that I think doesn’t work is some of the clumsily inserted science dialogue: all the stuff about Fourier analysis and foldback flow inducers sounds lumpen alongside lines (purloined from Shakespeare) like ‘Kassia is as good a name as Tremas’. But this is a minor complaint when so much else is enjoyable.
Next episode: The Keeper of Traken – Part Three