Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Doctor Who: Terminus

Part One

“Don’t patronise me, Turlough.”

I’m approaching this with an open mind, although I’m well aware of its reputation. I’ve only seen it once before, in the late ‘90s, and I can remember very little. The only bias I have going into this is that I was hugely impressed with Steve Gallagher’s Warrior’s Gate. Still, there’s the awkward fact that I’m watching this in the full knowledge that it’s not popular and whatever I end up thinking I’ll suspect myself of either conforming to received opinion or setting myself in rebellion against it. I don’t win either way- much better to enter a story completely blind! Anyway, here goes…

We open with more development of the Turlough / Black Guardian angle as Turlough sabotages the TARDIS. Mark Strickson is excellent in playing this rather shifty, cowardly, self-centred yet redeemable character in a way I haven’t appreciated before. Tegan is getting suspicious of this newcomer, and incidentally is still wearing the same outfit. I assume she gets to change them once a season? Still, it’s shaping up to be an interesting relationship.

Meanwhile, we get to see Nyssa’s room again. And also Turlough’s room, which used to be Adric’s room, and still has all his old stuff in it- a nice touch, reminding us that Turlough doesn’t share the painful memory the other TARDISeers have to deal with, and is still yet an outsider.

As a result of Turlough’s sabotage things start going wrong with the ship, leading to yet another “I’ll explain later” from the Doctor. And then the Ship merges with somewhere else- a nice different way of arriving somewhere with the TARDIS exterior not being seen at all throughout the story. It’s very effective seeing the four TARSISeers gradually disappearing into the mysterious vessel.
And then of course we end with loads of lepers appearing, one of whom is apparently Kathy Burke…

Part Two

“We’re all going to die!”

The computer operated by the Doctor in this episode looks uncannily like the sort of thing that would have been released as a board game and advertised on kids’ TV at the time. Now that the Marathon is reaching a time I can actually remember I’m getting all these random outbreaks of nostalgia triggered by the most bizarre things.

Things are still good so far, with an interesting backstory of plague and corporate greed, and the odd coincidence of Terminus being at the exact centre of the universe. Not to mention Kali and Olvir being officially the most ‘80s people ever. I mean- that hair!

Peter Benson as Bor is instantly recognisable as Henry Tudor to those, like me, who have seen the first episode of The Black Adder far more times than is healthy. And there are other characters in similarly great looking armour with names like Eirak, Valgard and Sigurd, known as the Vanir. Hmm. I’ll take this as an indication that Norse myths are being referenced here but I’ve no idea which ones. The Garm’s a giant, too, so the giants are superseded by the gods, or “Vanir”, but that’s both very tenuous and not relevant to this episode.

Nyssa gets infected, and promptly strips off into her underwear. And at the same time she acquires some unsightly buboes and lesions. Yep, that’s how you get the dads watching, I’m sure they’re all leprosy fetishists…

Part Three

“You’re weird, Turlough.”

At this point it starts to feel a bit slow and plodding, presumably the problem people have with it, but I can’t quite put my finger on why it feels so. We’re getting plenty of plot revelations, the characters are well written and played, there are some good concepts and it’s even well designed. But still, there’s something a little unengaging about it all for some reason.

The Vanir power struggle subplot begins, to be paid off next episode, Tegan and Turlough have a conversation about the ethics of killing, mandated by the story arc- they’ve both been sidelined a bit- and we get the big revelation; Terminus’s first engine blowing up started the Big Bang and the second one’s about to blow, taking the universe with it! I’m not sure I buy this- surely the civilisation that built this ship also built many more, each with the potential to do the same, so by the law of averages the universe should have ended by now? Still, in the context of the story, it works. Oh, and it’s technically all Turlough’s fault if it does.

Part Four

“You represent a pure investment of my time and energy!”

It’s quite unexpected to see that the Garm does actually cure Nyssa. Not only that, he can talk, too, and also save the universe by pushing a lever. He’s a giant (Norse mythology!) as are the Vanir (Norse mythology!) and presumably the same species as the ship’s dead pilot.

The cure may have worked on Nyssa, but it’s crude, unfocused and as likely to kill as to cure. Nyssa, on the other hand, would be able to turn it into a much better cure, much as she would be able to synthesise unlimited supplies of hydromel to free the Vanir from their dependence on the Company, just as the Garm has been freed by the Doctor.

“It’ll be good to see the TARDIS again.” says the Doctor. “And Tegan.” Adds Nyssa, “Well…” says the Doctor!!! It isn’t even the first time he’s said something like this- he doesn’t even like Tegan, and is only putting up with her to avoid an unpleasant scene. Blimey!

Nyssa stays behind where she’s needed, in a fitting and unexpectedly emotional departure.

I can’t put my finger on anything that was actually wrong with this, but it seemed somehow unengaging for large stretches. There’s a lot about it that’s good though, and its bad reputation hardly sees fair. I give it a solid 3/5.

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