‘Release the Myrka!’ I remember watching this episode as a kid and being really excited about the Myrka. I can still access the thrill of seeing it smashing through the airlock door, head glimpsed through the torn metal. Obviously now, after years of hearing it be the butt of jokes, I can also see it’s a clumsily finished and ridiculous pantomime dinosaur. However, maybe I’m over-generous because of fond childhood memories, but I don’t think it’s any less credible than Erato, the Mara or the Skarasen. It definitely did the job for this kid.
‘It concerns me that they did not wake up as we planned in the first place.’ My eyes! It’s tedious to point it out, but Sea Base Four is so over-lit it’s almost painful. And, when the TARDIS is also a brightly-lit white space it doesn’t provide much in the way of interesting contrast. The show’s got this right recently (even in stuff like Four to Doomsday), so I don’t buy the argument that there was nothing to be done – particularly since, when the bridge goes into Missile Run mode, the lighting’s turned down and the atmosphere immediately improves by a corresponding amount.
‘How long before I must retire, my work half done? If I could continue…’ This was the first Doctor Who I had on video (recorded off air, including the Children In Need links). In Special Edition form it was the first DVD I owned. I’ve read the novelisation numerous times. It introduced me to the first four Doctors. It’s impossible for me to be objective about The Five Doctors, because I love it more than any other episode.
‘I’ve had quite enough of you, whoever you are.’ A red-letter episode because this is the first Doctor Who I can remember watching. Specifically, the Doctor battling the Master for control of Kamelion, and the continuity announcer who upset me by announcing this was “the last in the series – and now A Question of Sport” (I had no concept of TV seasons at that young age). As such, this has a special place in my heart.
‘Fortunately we are in England.’ Like the first episode of Black Orchid, this is a fairly harmless bit of whimsy which pulls on Merrie England and Bad King John stereotypes well enough while introducing a mystery for the Doctor to solve. The location filming looks very pretty (and damp), the sets and costumes are all very nice (including a preview of Fielding’s Season 21 look), the performances are all pretty good, the Doctor gets to be a swashbuckling hero (although I don’t get why he decides to leave the TARDIS when he can see lots of angry knights outside). If it weren’t for Sir Gilles Estram, this would be a pleasant, undemanding diversion.
‘Back to your echoing void, back to the vastness of eternity.’ It’s easy to focus on the final scene, but it’s just summing up the themes of the story: no-one should have total power, neither the icy Striker, the fiery Wrack, nor any of the Eternals. The Doctor’s defeat of Wrack puts paid to the Black Guardian’s plan to unleash the Eternals’ amorality across time and plunge the Universe into chaos, and his rejection of Enlightenment is a restatement of his basic morality – he wants to see the Universe, not to rule it.
‘He’s made the choice.’ The pace quickens but only slightly: this is a script that’s not afraid to take its time and tell a fairly linear story. After several serials where multiple storylines have seemed randomly shoved together, that’s not a bad thing. The scope widens to encompass the Buccaneer and its madly cackling Captain Wrack – making Lynda Baron the second camp grand dame to be a spaceship captain in the penultimate story of a Davison season.
‘It’s as though someone’s been rummaging around in my memories.’ This really does feel like a Hartnell throwback, with a romantic sub-plot for Tegan, and the Doctor, on the moral high ground, confronting Striker and the Eternals’ dependence on ephemeral minds to fuel their own existence. The episode isn’t packed with incident, but it’s full of ideas and character – the opposite of the “and then this happened and then this happened” approach that’s often the nature of scripts during this period.
‘Tell the Doctor, winner takes all.’ It opens on a shot of chess pieces, setting up the wider conflict between the Guardians that, after eight episodes of a cackling Valentine Dyall, begins to coalesce in this episode. The TARDIS control room has never looked better than it does here, bathed in warm, amber light. It reminds me, slightly, of the 13th Doctor’s TARDIS without the slightly obscene thrusting crystal. And right the way through the episode, the lighting is great – dark corners below decks on the yacht, low lighting in the corridors and dining room. It’s a different perspective given some other directors of the period blamed production shortcoming on the fact it was impossible to get the technicians to turn the lights down.
‘This is Terminus: no-one’s happy here.’ I think this is easily the best episode of the story because the themes of freedom and self determination suddenly come into focus as the Garm, the Vanir and finally Nyssa assert their independence, and hope conquers despair. Whether that’s enough pay off to probably the most joyless Doctor Who so far is debateable, but it at least feels like the slog had some purpose.