‘He’s made the choice.’ The pace quickens but only slightly: this is a script that’s not afraid to take its time and tell a fairly linear story. After several serials where multiple storylines have seemed randomly shoved together, that’s not a bad thing. The scope widens to encompass the Buccaneer and its madly cackling Captain Wrack – making Lynda Baron the second camp grand dame to be a spaceship captain in the penultimate story of a Davison season.
She’s introduced towering over Turlough, panning up from her high leather boots via her decolletage. Baron really goes for it, as intrigued by Turlough as Marriner is with Tegan. At the end of the episode, she turns direct to camera to deliver the cliffhanger lines, like a foreshadowing of Morgus. There are different schools of thought on her performance: predictably, I really like it. Yes, she isn’t icily controlled like Captain Striker – but why should all the Eternals be emotionally constipated? She’s leaning into her Anne Bonny persona, and that seems completely in keeping with the idea of the Eternals leeching off the ideas in the heads of the Ephemerals they kidnap. The Edwardian crew of the yacht imagine a captain to be a stern, distant figure; the pirates Wrack have kidnapped expect someone domineering and larger than life. We get the leaders we deserve.
Were Davison’s Doctor really a “bland” character he’d fade into the wallpaper up against someone like Wrack. Quite the opposite: his grumpy harumph when Tegan reveals her party clobber is wonderful, as is the business he does to pick a new sprig of celery (the old one gets dumped in a holster). He exudes control and confidence when he rescues Turlough from ‘exploding’ in the void of space, declaring that the Eternals are already too powerful and therefore none of them must win the race and become more powerful still.
Next episode: Enlightenment – Part Four