Doctor Who episodes 642 & 643: Slipback – Episodes Three & Four (1/8/1985)
‘Are you in the habit of dropping out of ventilator shafts, Miss?’ The benefit of the shorter episodes is that Saward has got the Doctor and Peri into the action much faster than usual. The downside is that when you have longueurs, as here, they can practically take up the whole episode.
Having separated the Doctor and Peri with some mildly amusing business riffing on the show’s obsession with ventilation shafts, Saward has Peri meet Snatch and Seedle, one of his Holmes-inspired double acts. This pair are jobsworths who suspect Peri’s fall is part of some sort of con and speak in the exaggeratedly pedantic prose of fictional policemen.
Meanwhile, the Doctor bemoans having to hang about for 44 minutes (surely a joke about all those Season 22 Part Ones), before he’s paired up with Barton, a well-spoken robotic service drone. And the comedically self-obsessed Captain gets a massage from an obsequious Steward. Nothing else really happens.
‘I have beaten my fists raw on some of the finest criminals in the galaxy.’ While Seedle and Snatch jump to all the wrong conclusions about the Doctor’s role in a criminal gang responsible for stealing galactic art treasures (very David Agnew), the real suspect, Grant, thinks that the Doctor is actually a policeman on his tail.
The benefit of having two episodes running on the same day becomes obvious: with the investigating officers introduced in the last instalment, Saward can now hurry the plot along as they hunt the Doctor while he, in turn, joins up with Grant to unpick the secret of who is behind the time travel experiments that drew the TARDIS to the Vipod Mor.
There’s also a slight sense that Saward is sore about the TV show’s cancellation and is making some effort to prove he can take the series in a new and more comic direction. The Doctor, previously only too quick to pick up a gun in Saward’s episodes, now states, ‘Never carry one. Causes my pockets to bulge. Ruins the cut of my coat.’ I quite like this, even if Peri still doesn’t sound like any American teenager in the history of time: ‘I only know him as The Doctor. He’s always maintained I wouldn’t be able to pronounce his name.’
Next episode: Slipback – Episode Five