‘Are you capable of carrying a tired thespian?’ After Kinda threw buckets of ideas at the wall, this offers practically none. It looks very nice though, with some pretty spring filming and authentic-looking locations. It’s a shame, Mace aside, that it’s populated by non-characters with banal descriptions like ‘Poacher’, ‘Miller’ and ‘Scythe Man’ (unforgivably, villagers who grew up together don’t call each other by their names), but it requires no effort to follow, and was probably just the job for eating your dinner in front of on a Tuesday evening.
Overall, it feels like it’s pitching for a Season 13 style – something like Pyramids of Mars or The Android Invasion, with some horror overtones (the Grim Reaper stalking the halls of an abandoned mansion) and lots of verdant scenery. But whereas both of those contained mystery and scares, the script fails to provide any real mystery at all, and Peter Moffatt directs it with no feel for scares. This is illustrated by the introduction of the Terileptils – the Doctor just casually mentions them without elaboration while browsing round their escape pod, and Moffatt reveals their leader by having it wander idly into shot. It’s a shame, given some real effort has gone into making a costume that looks like it’s inspired by a period-appropriate woodcut of the legendary Bishop-fish.
Characterisation of the regulars isn’t particularly strong either: the Doctor is almost as antagonistic as his next version – particularly towards Adric (Davison leans in quite aggressively towards Waterhouse to deliver the line, ‘I said, let’s find them’), and is very dismissive about ‘Earthlings’ and ‘parochial Earth people’ before snapping at Nyssa: ‘If you’ve quite finished lecturing me.’ Saward reserves the best lines for Mace: ‘I’m afraid my frame was never designed for rapid acceleration’, ‘You have a very mean way of exposing a man’s cowardice’. It’s a shame he couldn’t have saved some for Adric or Tegan.
Next episode: The Visitation – Part Three