‘What is this horrendous place.’ The story arrives at Terminus, ‘at the exact centre of the known universe’, and – oh, more grey corridors. Accepting that Terminus itself needs to be grim, it’s a shame more wasn’t done to make the Lazar transport look a bit different. As a result, this looks as boring as some of the cheapo spaceship sets from the Graham Williams run, without the saving grace that at least those usually took place across multiple, visually distinct locations.
In a CoVid world, there might have been some interesting parallels to draw between the treatment of the sick, and the availability of the drugs that control it. There aren’t. You could probably reach for a metaphor about the commercial company that runs Terminus for profit and NHS privatisation, but I don’t think there’s anything really there. Essentially, the story is built around the casual reveal that Terminus is the centre of the universe; the Lazar stuff is a slightly awkward fit.
Bits work: the costumes emphasise the grimness – Terminus’ morose ‘baggage handlers’ wear skeletal armour; the Lazars wear shrouds and look like zombies. Hydromel glows green like the resurrection serum in Re-Animator. After doing a race of lion people, Gallagher comes up with a wolf man (wearing the skin of a Krarg), but sadly the design inspiration doesn’t stretch to realising it convincingly. Tegan and Turlough spend the episode crawling round ducts. The Doctor reprises the derided first cliffhanger to The Keys of Marinus when he declares, ‘Nyssa’s skirt… There’s blood on it.’ The cynicism and despair is at least well conveyed to the audience. ‘Bitter sweet taste of life’ indeed.
Next episode: Terminus – Part Three