‘When I ask a question I do not expect flippancy.’ Sharaz Jek is a truly frightening villain, as insane as Hindle, filled with hatred and motivated almost entirely by vengeance. Like many of Robert Holmes’ previous villains he has a nice line in vitriolic peroration: ‘To think that I, Sharaz Jek, who once mixed with the highest in the land, am now dependent on the very dregs of society, the base perverted scum who contaminate everything they touch’ is very much like ‘I, Morbius, who once led the High Council of the Time Lords and dreamed the greatest dreams in history, now reduced to this, to a condition where I envy a vegetable.’ But he’s more frightening than most because he’s so unpredictable, suddenly turning on the Doctor to strike him in the middle of a conversation with Stotz. ‘I am mad,’ he tells Peri: and I believe him.
Faced with Jek’s madness the Doctor seems to be going a bit mad himself. This puts him through the wringer more than any previous Doctor: he’s poisoned, shot, beaten, his arms are nearly dislocated, he’s dragged through the caves, chained up on a spaceship and – to top it all – scalds himself cutting through his chains. His insouciance and sarcasm become defiance, with an undercurrent of what-the-hell determination. He wakes from a premonition of his imminent regeneration, perhaps holding back death so he can return to Androzani Minor to rescue Peri. Adric’s death haunts this episode’s climax as it will the next: this time it’s the Doctor at the controls of a crashing spaceship. ‘I’m not going to let you stop me now!’ is the kind of thing a villain usually declares at the end of Part Three. It’s extraordinarily powerful: the strongest cliffhanger in years.
Between these two madmen, everything is going to hell. Morgus is revealed as Stotz’s secret employer, double-crossing everyone for his own profit. His inability to believe anyone tells the truth leads him to assassinate the President: Krau Timmin offers the usual glib platitudes; everyone on Major talks like a politician and we get the clear sense that she’s as slippery as the rest of them. The Doctor’s curiosity isn’t just leading to his downfall: the whole of Androzani is crashing down about him.
Next episode: The Caves of Androzani – Part Four