‘Kill them Scythe Man, and you die as well!’ This is like a checklist of Saward cliches – the monster that declares, ‘Excellent!’. The oddly civilised baddies (the Terileptil talks about living with grace and beauty). ‘You must think me a fool.’ Because a lot of its being done for the first time, it has novelty value, and there are some nice moments like the Doctor suggesting to the Terileptil, ‘Why not smile and let me live?’ Saward has an earned reputation for brutality in his scripts, but half the time they’re actually pitching for black comedy, and I think some of that is evident here.
The Doctor’s confrontations with the Terileptil are quite good. I’m enjoying him being less ranting than a lot of monsters – he has a fairly measured discussion with the Doctor, and admits, ‘The last place I want to go is home’ as he’s a condemned criminal. It’s hardly Boom Town, but there is a sort of cool relationship between the Doctor and the monster that’s more interesting than the rest of this, with its rhubarbing villagers and endless TARDIS scenes.
These are where the programme slips into accidental comedy. Adric stamping about complaining while Nyssa tries to calm him down so she can get on and do something makes this an unintentional sitcom. Who can hold back a smile when Waterhouse struggles with the line, ‘Why is he never around when you want him?’ (I don’t know anyone else who’s ever pronounced ‘want’ quite like that). And it’s begging for a laugh track when Nyssa sees Adric captured by villagers on the viewscreen, turns to camera and declares, ‘Oh no.’
Next episode: The Visitation – Part Four