Saturday, 18 July 2009

Doctor Who: Planet of Evil

Part One

“Can’t… breathe…”

So, this is set in the year 37,166 much further into the future than we’ve yet seen- and it’s implies this is indeed 37,166 C.E. as the Doctor tells Sarah they’ve overshot by 30,000 years and all other characters are clearly human by their names. In fact we’re on the edge of the known universe where things start to shade into anti-matter. Never mind the dodgy science- this is very creepy indeed, and there’s a real sense that the Doctor and Sarah are very far away in terms of both time and space.

On the other hand, for the first time since Planet of the Spiders we get to see the inside of the TARDIS. It’s looking very Spartan these days…

There’s a nice sense of mystery and creepiness with Professor Sorenson’s odd behaviour and the general weirdness of the planet, made very effective indeed by the jungle set and great lighting.

Prentis Hancock’s Salamar should be an irritating character, insisting the TARDISeers must be murderers on very little evidence, but while this sort of thing is usually intensely annoying, here it’s clear that Salamar is supposed to be a pillock.

Part Two

“It doesn’t live anywhere. It just is.”

The jungle is still looking great, incredibly so for an all-studio story. Even the “oculoid tracer” looks fab. Doctor Who suddenly seems incapable of not being great. The Forbidden Planet elements become particularly obvious this episode- although it’s a pity that the Doctor, having namedropped Shakespeare (“dreadful actor”) proceeds top quote from Romeo and Juliet instead of The Tempest.

The pool of nothingness is great, in both conception and realisation. This is the scariest story yet, achieving this by keeping us constantly unnerved about how the usual rules don’t work in this place. Here, there’s no need for monsters as such- it’s the planet itself that’s the threat. Perhaps this is the firs out-and-out horror story yet.
I love the Doctor’s speech to the Morestrans: “You call it nothing, a word to cover ignorance.” And of course it’s their meddling- Sorenson’s ambition and Salamar’s imbecility- which is the root of their problems.

Part Three

“If we don’t make it this time, they never will.”

Wow! I can’t believe the cliffhanger resolution wasn’t a cop-out. The Doctor really does plunge into the anti-matter pool, and stays there for some time.

This is the episode where Sorenson comes more to the foreground, and rather amusingly starts acting out all the tropes of cinematic representations of Jekyll and Hyde, even to the point of swigging from a bottle of bubbling liquid. Salamar continues to be an arse, but by now even his own crew are starting to realise what a liability he is, particularly Vishinsky. His decision to eject the Doctor and Sarah into space just makes him look paranoid, and caused Vishinsky to snap. It’s only this that makes me realise this is basically the quintessential base under siege, but done brilliantly.

Part Four

“You and I are scientists, professor. We buy our privilege to experiment only at the cost of total responsibility.”

Salamar, relieved of command, has nothing to do but go completely mad and die pointlessly, as this is the done thing in these circumstances. With Sorenson and his clones on the earth and the ship counting down to impact there’s a real sense of hopelessness- this is a gripping conclusion. All the same, considering the Doctor and Sarah are only here because the TARDIS has overshot, it seems rather implausible that the Doctor makes two short hops without trouble at the end of the episode.

It’s quite surprising that Sorenson actually survives- by all the normal rules of the programme he should be dead!

That was great, genuinely scary and atmospheric. 5/5.

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