‘We’re reliant on the Doctor because only the Doctor knows what is going on.’ This is a great Part Three – often they’re the ones with the exposition and a pause in the action, but this gets the balance right. There’s exposition, including some intriguing bits of Time Lord history, but it opens and closes with two Dalek attack sequences at the school, plus a fun Dalek hunt in the middle.
But there is a lot of exposition. The Hand of Omega is revealed to be an artefact from Gallifrey’s dark past, built by Omega as a remote stellar manipulator. The relationship between Omega and Rassilon is clarified – Omega was the technical engineer and Rassilon was the social one, and between them they built the Time Lords. I really like these revelations take place as the Doctor and Ace chat in a stairwell, rather than being built up as some big, portentous info-dump complete with grandiose flashbacks. It’s a bit of colour, almost incidental to the point of the story, even if it does signal the beginning of the famous “Cartmel Masterplan” positing that the Doctor is not, in fact, a mysterious and benevolent alien time traveller but is, in fact, a different mysterious and benevolent alien time traveller.
More interesting is the reveal that much of the action is a ‘massive deception’ designed to keep Chunky Gilmore and his troops from being exterminated while the Doctor arranges for the Hand of Omega to fall into the suckers of the Daleks. This plan has had to be made up on the hoof, though, as the renegade Daleks have turned up to the party as well as the Imperial faction. Hence the need to organise a confrontation between the two. The renegades have a surprise up their skirts though when it turns out that the mystery humanoid in a Dalek chair isn’t Davros but the creepy girl. How Ratcliffe never noticed her wandering in and out of his office is the biggest mystery of all. It’s a really fun, expectation-confounding twist though (and ties in with the Daleks’ reliance on logic from Destiny of the Daleks).
This is great. The comic-strip inspired Dalek Emperor; the Doctor bashing up the transmat; the way he can sense where the renegade Daleks have com from with one touch of their time controller; Ace’s bemused expression when she listens to the Hand of Omega; the idea of Ace’s anachronistic tape deck being a bigger threat than the Dalek taskforce (Big Finish nicked that one for Colditz), these are all fantastic. Practically the only bits I don’t like are Mike accidentally outing himself as a traitor in the dullest way possible, and the very 1980s music when the Doctor and Ace flee Ratcliffe’s warehouse which sound like the credits from The Clothes Show.
Next episode: Remembrance of the Daleks – Part Four