‘So, this air hostess person’s flying it, eh? Well I wish her the best of luck.’ In it’s new, twice-a-week broadcast slot, perhaps the audience was willing to overlook slower episodes because it never felt long until the next one came round. This has some nice bits, but is largely killing time, again, until the TARDIS arrives in Castrovalva – already seeded as the Master’s back-up plan in case the hydrogen inrush failed to destroy the TARDIS. In practice this involves lots of scenes wandering around the TARDIS – which given Logopolis offered much the same, in practice means the audience has spent a large chunk of the last six episodes watching people wander round the Ship. It’s worse than The Invasion of Time. Then, to shake things up, there are lots of scenes of Tegan and Nyssa wandering through some bucolic countryside as Nyssa does the daintiest striptease ever committed to film.
Davison is still given little opportunity to show us what the fifth Doctor is going to be like: again, he’s unconscious or out of it for swathes of this – and then gets relegated to a sensory deprivation tank. What we get is quite good – although I personally find the mannered eccentricity of lines like ‘Transport of delight!’ and ‘Go softly on!’ a bit cringe. The half-moon spectacles are nice, and there’s a hint of this Doctor’s sarcastic bite in his assessment of Tegan’s capabilities. The scenes where he’s instructing Nyssa to build him a zero cabinet and then for her and Tegan to push him about in it oddly reminds me of Homer Simpson and his two wives.
But we’re largely left in the hands of Sutton and Fielding, who compliment each other very well. Sutton’s often given fairly miserable material (could anyone deliver a line like, ‘As a scientist it’s easy to be tyrannised by facts’ in anything but a dissociative style?) only occasionally thrown something to work with – like her unexpectedly violent reaction to the reappearance of Zombie Tremas: ‘That face. I hate it!’ Fielding tends to get better dialogue. It’s a matter of taste, but I think I might prefer Tegan’s go-getter attitude in her earlier episodes to the surly backchat she’ll develop.
The last strand is the interplay between Ainley and Waterhouse, which is made more amusing by the Master’s very slow, very pointless lift which Ainley patiently brings to a standstill before delivering his lines. The most interesting bits here are the idea that this version of the Master – unlike Delgado’s – both genuinely hates the Doctor and is obsessed by him: ‘I must see him, hear him,’ he begs Adric when he realises the Doctor has survived his first test. Is there some vague swipe at heartless Thatcherism in the Master’s line, ‘The universe is purged of the Doctor and his impossible dreams of goodness. You and I belong to the future’?
Next episode: Castrovalva – Part Three