‘I’ve met your sort before. Any moment a mad gleam will come into your eye and you’ll start shouting, “the universe shall be mine”.’ After more chat and cups of tea, Skagra’s motives become clear: he wants to join all the minds in the universe under his control, sort of like the Great One but with a grey sphere instead of a blue crystal. To do this, he needs to free the Time Lord mind criminal Salyavin from the ancient prison planet of the Time Lords: Shada.
I like the way this has been seeded through the story; Salyavin was mentioned at the start of episode two, and the extent of his power’s been gradually hinted at. Here, Chronotis uses mind powers to quickly project his knowledge into Clare’s mind, enabling them to repair his TARDIS. This should clue in most of the audience ahead of the actual reveal at the end of the episode, so most attentive viewers can feel a slight sense of smug self-satisfaction.
The story’s structure is sound: Adams adopts a very Robert Holmes solution to six-parters; the first two episodes are the Cambridge ones; the middle two are spaceship adventures; the final two move the story to its endgame on Shada. And there’s an interesting use for the Krargs: rather than just being Skagra’s heavies, his intention is to project minds into their bodies, producing a compliant, intelligent army to support his universal conquest.
Of course, the way Doctor Who was produced by the late 1970s meant all the scenes in one set were usually recorded in the same block. The spaceship scenes in the middle episodes never made it to studio, and nor did the scenes on Shada. Which means, aside from the escape from Think Tank at the top of the episode, and the sequences in Chronotis’ study/TARDIS, this is animation all the way.
Luckily it’s good animation (the creation of the Krargs sequence looks like it’s aiming to be the new Dalek production line). I expect the animators were a bit annoyed that Clare let her hair down at some point, forcing them to do two different hairdos for her, and it’s a pity the prisoners of Shada weren’t old monsters as we’ve been promised for years, but largely it’s all good. The lumbering Krargs, floating spheres and mind control plot suggest Douglas Adams was familiar with The Web of Fear. And I’ve never understood why, once his cover’s blown, Salyavin couldn’t just use his powers to defeat Skagra.
Next episode: Shada – Episode Six