‘I’ve had quite enough of you, whoever you are.’ A red-letter episode because this is the first Doctor Who I can remember watching. Specifically, the Doctor battling the Master for control of Kamelion, and the continuity announcer who upset me by announcing this was “the last in the series – and now A Question of Sport” (I had no concept of TV seasons at that young age). As such, this has a special place in my heart.
It deserves a special place in my bin. It’s a load of rubbish, full of unclear character motivations, sudden non sequitur reversals, Tegan randomly flying the TARDIS, dreadful dialogue and, in a hotly-contended category, the Master’s worst-ever plan. ‘He wants to rob the world of Magna Carta!’ and make that brave Hungarian peasant girl die in vain. ‘The foundations of parliamentary democracy will never be laid,’ the Doctor says, barely able to contain his indifference. To try to make this sound less pathetic, the Master plans to use Kamelion to repeat this naughtiness on planets throughout the cosmos and ‘chaos will reign’ (much as the Black Guardian planned last week).
The whole thing is really an excuse for two things: firstly, to meet the serial-a-year contractual commitment to Anthony Ainley, and to introduce Kamelion, which seems to have impressed JNT and Saward in a demonstration. The robot looks quite good when it’s just required to sit (although it’s oddly cross-eyed) but even if it had worked as promised (including being able to walk) it’s difficult to imagine it being a useful regular addition to the show (particularly this version of the show). K9 was charming and fun and existed mainly in the context of the Graham Williams series. Imagine Kamelion shuffling around the Death Zone, or facing the Myrka.
I suppose given the brief, the episode does what Terence Dudley was paid for. It has enough material to fill the run time. It’s not as bad as Black Orchid – Part Two, while sharing most of its problems (idiotic characters and a nonsensical plot). The Doctor comes out of it relatively unscathed, having bested the Master in both physical and mental duels. The final scene of Tegan getting put in her place at least makes it clear that, while she can be infuriating, the Doctor wants her aboard the TARDIS (and she wants to be there). This is a weak end to another very patchy Davison season. So far he’s averaging two very good stories a year. No wonder he’s already made the decision to leave. But not before the 20th anniversary celebrations conclude.
Next episode: The Five Doctors