‘There is no return. This is Terminus.’ Steve Gallagher is very good at space gothic – the crumbling castle of Warriors’ Gate, the haunted landscapes of Nightmare Country, and this: with secret passages, medieval lepers, and ghostly skulls it’s a futuristic Castle of Otranto. The setting is promising, but this episode drags ominously and it was almost certainly a mistake to sequence it between two other stories that also involve pottering around (better looking) spaceships.
It’s the quintessential corridor story: if not the TARDIS corridors, then the leper ship’s. As a result, everything takes place against a white or dull grey wall which might explain why most people struggle to sum up a lot of enthusiasm for it. At least Liza Goddard and Dominic Guard’s space pirates add a bit of glamour (and the most OTT cliffhanger scream in history). I’m mildly intrigued, but also mildly bored.
I don’t think it’s all bad: I like the idea, continued from Mawdryn Undead and here made explicit, that Turlough is inheriting Adric’s place in the TARDIS. He gets Adric’s room (and proceeds to announce he’s going to bin everything. Tegan looks a bit wan). However, I think it was a mistake to have the Black Guardian keep popping up. This could have been improved if Turlough got a few episodes where he thinks he’s free before the Black Guardian turns up again. Instead, it makes the Guardian look weak because he’s so reliant on a boy who’s already failed him several times, and it makes Turlough look dumb because he’s still trusting a cackling loony with a dead bird hat who says things like, ‘You will be safe. I am ready to lift you away’ in a really sarcastic way. I just want Turlough to reply, ‘Well clearly you won’t.’
Next episode: Terminus – Part Two