‘I’m beginning to wish I never started all this.’ The script does a good job of balancing the Doctor’s newly proactive approach with much self-doubt, notably in the cafe scene between McCoy and Fresh Prince‘s Joseph Marcell. None of this is original in the scheme of things (it’s essentially a play on “Do I have the right” from Genesis of the Daleks), but it has been rare for the Doctor to spend a scene pondering his own choices. It would be tiresome every week, but here it adds some weight to the story, the idea that he’s dragging the Earth into the middle of his war with the Daleks. Maybe that explains why he’s so maudlin and snappy. John has the right idea: ‘Just get on with it.’
There’s a good pace to this, and its themes (of Fascism and dislike of the unlike) are obvious without being too laboured – Ratcliffe is a Nazi sympathiser, Mike comes from a racist family and so is presumably susceptible to Ratcliffe’s rhetoric. As the Daleks have always been Space Nazis, Ratcliffe’s alliance with them and what looks like Davros all neatly ties together, and the idea of Daleks fighting among themselves follows on from the end of Revelation of the Daleks, while talk of renegades against the Emperor remembers The Evil of the Daleks.
My favourite bits of this are the scenes with the Hand of Omega, which is effectively creepy – a floating coffin that inters itself. It’s in some sense alive, like the TARDIS, and the Doctor talks to it like it’s a dog while it obediently follows him. My other favourite bits are the scenes with McCoy and Aldred, where their easy chemistry is evident and McCoy chooses to insert a bit of funny business (like pinching the ATR soldier’s pen), while Ace gets to do all the action sequences. There’s something a bit Tom and Louise about the two of them, with the Doctor educating Ace while trying to keep her out of harm’s way just as the fourth Doctor did with Leela in The Invasion of Time. Spiridon isn’t the last Pertwee era planet to have its name mangled in an anniversary season.
Next episode: Remembrance of the Daleks – Part Three