‘Your sense of humour will be the death of you, Doctor. Probably quite soon.’ Davison’s performance in this is subtly different; his insouciance and sarcasm are more pronounced than ever. I have the weird sense watching this of it feeling like the movie version of a British sitcom, where the characters are familiar but seem strange because everything is a bit more definitive. I suppose this is Davison’s final statement on his Doctor, he was enthused by the script, and is putting in even more than usual.
Unlike several earlier Season 21 serials that seem to be a pic ‘n’ mix of unrelated plots, everything in this is coherent, and the world makes sense. Jek is a master android builder because only androids can safely gather spectrox without succumbing to its toxic effects. The whole plot hinges on Morgus’ attempt to double-cross Jek to maximise his share of spectrox profit, and Jek’s revenge against Morgus. Christopher Gable gets some spectacularly grisly dialogue to deliver – scalded flesh hanging off the bone – as he goes full-on Phantom of the Opera on Peri. He walks the line between icy politeness to the Doctor, whose mind he admires, and creepy lust for Peri. Harper directs their scenes like a twisted Ballet, as Jek continually tries to approach Peri only for the Doctor to pop up and distract him.
Meanwhile, on Androzani Major, Morgus proves Jek’s point by continuing to be a true Thatcherite villain (all the talk of him closing uneconomic mines and driving up unemployment, while agitating about overproduction). And Stotz comes more sharply into focus in a truly gritty sequence where he threatens Krelper with a poison capsule: his cry of ‘Bite!’ echoing around the quarry is stylish and brilliant. This is all stylish and brilliant, though: the camera chasing Stotz through the tunnels; the mix from Jek’s face to Morgus’; the Doctor, lit by firelight, examining the remains of a destroyed android that still stands as it burns is such a striking image that it gets lifted for, of all things, Timelash. I live for the day when I can get a Magma Beast figurine.
Next episode: The Caves of Androzani – Part Three