Doctor Who episode 594: Terminus – Part Three (22/2/1983)
‘If we don’t do something quickly, the whole universe will be destroyed’ *Boing* The bathos of that climactic sound effect is typical of the whole. There’s a good story in Terminus, but unlike Warriors’ Gate, it’s being actively hindered by poor production standards or, more likely, time constraints. Fight scenes look under-rehearsed. Even some of the dialogue scenes look like they could have done with one more take. There are images which seem to have been lifted from horror films, like Nyssa being chained up like a King Kong sacrifice to the Garm, or the dead pilot slumped in his chair like the desiccated corpse in Alien. But they’re empty references without broader relevance.
What does work is the abject misery of Terminus, where everyone is a slave to a faceless company. Most of the Lazars think they’ve been sent not to be cured, but to die, out of sight out of mind. There are haunting historical overtones of the Vanir selecting prisoners – ‘the fit ones go first’ – and the rivalries and power play between the guards feels real. I also quite like the scene on the stairs between Tegan and Turlough (who’ve finally escaped the ventilation shafts). Turlough is starting to question his evil mission, and prompts Tegan to consider how far she would go in the interests of self-preservation or to protect a friend. Again, though, divorced of immediate relevance it risks looking like filling time.
I’m struggling to reconcile the plague ship plot and the universal destruction storyline, though. It’s not that they have to fit neatly together, but there doesn’t seem much in the juxtaposition that makes either plot more interesting. They’re just there, bumping up against each other. Perhaps there’s a point around the equally impersonal nature of time and the profit motive, but I don’t see it.
So, while there’s more depth to this than Mawdryn Undead or Arc of Infinity, its plot seems equally full of random coincidences. Snakedance aside, Season 20 so far is largely less about telling stories than documenting ‘a bunch of stuff that happened’.
Next episode: Terminus – Part Four