Sunday, 25 October 2009

Doctor Who: Planet of Fire

Part One

“For our people to survive, we must have faith.”

Another script by Peter Grimwade, a writer with a decidedly mixed reputation. But it’s a positive start; filming in Lanzarote allows the programme to create an alien planet which looks very different. We’re instantly introduced to the cultural and religious fault lines of Saudi Ara- er, Sarn, with a conflict between Timanov (Jason King!) and his belief in the god Logar, and a new generation of sceptics. Sadly, this aspect of the plot is rather perfunctory as there is no real hint of any cultural hinterland to this religion beyond what is requited by the plot, but this is more or less acceptable given that this turns out not to be the main aspect of the plot.

The Doctor’s a bit upset over the circumstances of Tegan’s departure, but it’s notable that when Turlough asks if he missed Tegan he only replies “Well, we were together a long time.” I still maintain that the Doctor never particularly liked Tegan but just put up with her out of politeness!

Amazingly, Kamelion pops up again. I’d quite forgotten about him. And Turlough sabotages the TARDIS to prevent the Doctor hearing about a distress signal from his home planet of Trion. Well, well, well! I’d quite forgotten about Turlough’s sneaky tendencies, too, but even at this late stage it’s all quite in character- another reminder that in an exception from the norm the scripts generally develop the character superbly. Although I’m not sure how this fits in with his apparent wish to return home back during The King’s Demons.

We’re introduced to Peri and her guardian Howard, both of whom have absolutely 100% convincing American accents. They have a bit of an argument, the upshot of which is Peri taking off most of her clothes so she can go swimming. Mmm. Following which Turlough decides to keep his shirt on while swimming for some reason.

More plot stuff happens, as Turlough and Malkon both turn out to have a “chosen one” symbol on their arms, the TARDIS ends up on Sarn, and Kamelion turns into the Master…

Part Two

“I’m Perpugilliam Brown and I can shout just as loud as you can!”

Kamelion’s wearing the Master’s body but the real Master is here too, watching from behind a screen just as he was during The Keeper of Traken. Kamelion can’t maintain his form after mental pressure of Peri, but instead of turning back into his normal form he becomes a silver version of Howard, which is much cheaper.

We see the Master’s TARDIS again, and there still see to be a few light bulbs that need replacing. Lots of stuff happens which is entertaining enough- the planet’s going to blow up, the equipment kept underground is probably from Turlough’s father’s ship- but it all feels like a bunch of set pieces in search of a plot.

Part Three

“Gullible idiots!”

Full marks for finally getting Turlough to ditch that awful uniform, but the Doctor’s question mark braces are quite the fashion faux pas.

It turns out that Turlough and Malkon are probably brothers. This is an excellent departure story for Turlough, penned by his creator. I particularly like the scene with the Doctor warning him that if he holds back anything important then their friendship is at an end- in this situation more than any other Turlough has to choose between his natural deviousness and his decent side. 

The plot’s all over the place again this episode- the Doctor wanting to materialise around the Master’s TARDIS a la Logopolis, a healing flame a la The Brain of Morbius- but froth though it is it’s enjoyable all the same.

That’s quite a cliffhanger- the Master’s all little!

Part Four

“Leave us in peace. We wish to die with our faith.”

So, Sarn's a prison planet to which Turlough’s family were dispatched for being on the wrong side. It’s a little cursory, perhaps, but at least Turlough gets an origin. Apparently Trion has agents on every civilised world, including “an eccentric solicitor in Chancery Lane”. We finally learn that Turlough’s first name is Vizlor and that for him the English public school is “the worst place in the universe”.

Kamelion asks the Doctor to kill him, is a faintly embarrassing scene that reaches for pathos but doesn’t quite manage it as the prop was sadly never very mobile or suggestive of a personality. Timanov’s dignified exit is rather more effective. And as for the Master’s demise- well, that looked rather permanent. I feel absolutely sure that in the unlikely event we ever see the Master again we can expect a full and detailed explanation of his survival.

Turlough, it seems, is no longer a political prisoner. His leaving scene is most satisfying in terms of his character arc; in returning to Trion to face his responsibilities he’s finally grown up.

Peri, meanwhile, has been welcomed aboard…

That was entertaining enough, if a little slight. The plot was a little disjointed, but it was all good fun and Turlough got a good exit. A solid 3/5.

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