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on 20 August 2007
For this review, the best way to get around this boxset is to review each serial separately:

-'The Keeper of Traken' brings the events in this 'mini saga' to a start. Even though 'Keeper is the weakest story of the three, it still has much to offer. Geoffrey Beaver's brilliant portrayal of the villain is truely spectacular. And, of course, there's also Anthony Ainley's great double part (for those who know.) 'Keeper also shows a solid performance from Baker (not Waterhouse!) and introduces the lovely Nyssa.

-'Logopolis' brings the Baker era to the climax it deserves. Logopolis is, indeed, the best in this set. It's got interesting (and real) scientific concepts, truely funny moments, truely serious/shocking moments and, of course, The Master. Plus, of course, a lovely planet of Mathematicians (guess what that's called!)

-'Castrovalva' opens up the Davison era of the show. This was actuarly the forth recorded serial in Davison's first season. You can clearly see that Davison is confident in playing his role and plays his 'confused' Doctor with great skill. Never before has The Doctor went through his regenerations in one swift move. Plus- you also find out that the TARDIS has a whole room dedicated to cricket!
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on 25 March 2007
JUST as the looming, entropic undoing of the universe casts shadows before it the Doctor cannot ignore, this loose trilogy - and Logopolis in particular - has cast a long shadow across many seasoned Whovians' lives. Season 18 was a death-haunted, melancholy thing given it was `children's TV', a moody sequence of stories about partings, loss, societies in decay; in Tom Baker's finale even the Doctor couldn't escape, saving everything, but not himself. Could this box still evoke the same dark feelings it did in a ten-year-old, a quarter of a century on? Delighted to report - appalled to report - it's `Yes.' Logoplis is how to say 'goodbye' properly.

These stories appeal because they're Doctor-centric. ...Traken, the slightest of the three but ideas-rich and beautiful looking, opens with the kind of Doctor-companion exposition not seen since the Hartnell era. John Nathan-Turner's tenure as producer would eventually become top-heavy with references to the show's past, but here it's still beguiling (perhaps thanks to the guiding hand of golden Pertwee-era stalwart Barry Letts), the looks back adding gravity as the end of everything looms. It's all in Baker's face, suddenly older, more gravely etched than before. The excellent commentaries across all the stories add texture, and the lead actor admits in his that, having agreed to stand down, he had many fears about the future - a neat mirror to the Doctor's own unspoken fear that perhaps there wouldn't be a future. The grin wasn't hiding the fear, and so all-the-more heroic, in the face of a dreadful unknown.

Logopolis is the dark heart of this set, brooding and funereal. In terms of its (still slightly wooly) science - perhaps even in its attitude to life and death - this is where the show first started to grow up, and touch on the `after-effects' that Russell T Davies threads through his stories. So many moments still resonate - the darkening control rooms as the Doctor and (not-as-bad-as-you-remembered) Adric explore the recursive loop trap (writer Christopher H Bidmead admits his fascination with the TARDIS as a jumping-off point - and what fan isn't fascinated by the ship?); the Watcher; the Cloister Room and more, the Cloister Bell - a harbinger of doom nightmarishly distorted by the very unraveling it heralds. If you can get this set for under £20 then do; it's worth it just to hear Baker say `the Cloister Bell' in ep. one, though he has so many memorable lines here - `Because he's here' of the Watcher, `Nothing like this has ever happened to me before', the rant at the `companions' he `never chose' and of course `It's the end...'; you will see that sequence a dozen times if you watch this lot soup-to-nuts, and never fail to thrill at the sickly dying fall of that helter-skeltering music as the Doctor - The Doctor for so many viewers - lies broken at the foor of the Pharos.

Castrovalva can't compete, but sets up the massively-underrated Davison Doctor neatly nonetheless. To make him so young and vulnerable was a brave and necessary step, and the excellent documentaries and add-ons give both the outgoing and incoming Time Lords a chance to have their say about playing the role. It emerges that Castrovalva was the fourth Fifth Doctor story recorded, to give the new man time to find the characterisation, then unpick it as the regeneration starts to fail; Davison's determined creative struggle with the role throughout his period in the TARDIS (which he rounded out with his finest performance) is one of the fascinating subtexts in this set, as is the help he got from his `second self' - there are many nods to both Patrick Troughton and his portrayal of the Doctor throughout, including the story of his amazing appearance on the Castrovalva set... bending the rules of time, and all that... Davison's archive interviews (Pebble Mill, Nationwide, Swap Shop) hint at a slight zany, unhinged humour under the pleasant open manner and floppy-haired, head boy good looks; shame that couldn't have broken free when he donned the cricket sweater. Still, splendid fellow.

Highly recommended then, though with one small proviso: fans of Christopher H Bidmead (especially his excellent Target novelisations of Logopolis and Castrovalva) might be slightly disappointed to find that he comes across as a slight chump in parts of the commentaries, although it's possible he's sending himself up - possible. He even mentions at one point that he himself had recently re-read the novelisations and thought them rather good. Talk about recursive trap...

Anyway, don't be frightened by that grinding, tolling bell in your mind. You need this. And I didn't even mention the Master (a ghostly chuckle fades on the edge of hearing)...
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on 5 November 2013
Keeper of Traken

What a lovely story. What a lovely production. It's like a late Shakespeare - Winters Tale or Cymbeline, possibly with a dash of All's Well and MND. The script is finely lyrical, and the design graciously opulent.

Some fine performances, not just from the front line of Anthony Ainley, John Woodnutt (always good value) and Sheila Ruskin (gorgeous in the red wig), but lovely majestic Margot Van Der Bergh as well, and tremulous Robin Soans, and grasping Roland Oliver, and a very nice cameo from Dennis Carey, even if he is stuck in a chair under half a stone of latex (in Blake's 7 'Gambit' he's much more mobile, and great fun to watch).

And while the Trankenites all do their damnedest in pursuit of the Right Thing, evil Melkur lurks in the garden, the serpent in Eden, occasionally promenading (well done Graham Cole!) and directing Kassia about his wicked ends.

When the place finally starts to collapse, there is a very strong sense of impending apocalypse (Margot Van Der Bergh totters magnificently with cane and goose feather fan), and Adric's mathematical solution to the disaster really is edge of the sofa stuff.

And then, at the end of Episode 3 it suddenly becomes obvious that Melkur's burning eyes equate to those twin screens inside something that is much bigger than he is. Oh dear, it's a TARDIS, and I wonder whose it could be.

It's a twist on a par with the Daleks turning up at the end of Frontier in Space - there's nothing in the story up til then to suggest that it's the Master, but once it's established that it's him, it makes perfect sense.

It was quite a surprise, watching it again, just how little the Master is in it (Daleks in Frontier again...), just three scenes, OK, two and a walk-on, and in that Geoffrey Beevers does a lovely job of being the Master, and than it all goes wrong for him, and his shrieking demise really is something to see - except of course that he's not dead.

End of the story. `Hang on Nyssa, just got to check out this grandfather clock', and it all comes true, and it's all over for Tremas, two faces become one, and the result chuckles as it departs. It's one of those top twenty really good Dr Who cliffhangers. Seven years after Roger Delgado's death, the Master is back.

If there's a couple of shortcomings, the technobabble is a bit intrusive - Traken works best when it's about people - I'm not really bothered about the Source Manipulator or the Ion Bonder, and while Anthony Ainley is playing very capably (if against type) as the kindly father, loving husband, wise scientist, and the final transformation is superb, why call him `Tremas'?

Nyssa's father is not, nor never was, the Master, so there's no reason to call him Tremas other than showing off cleverness, and it's not actually *very* clever. `Magister' in The Daemons had a modest amount to recommend it, but JNT's anagrams are juvenile, and in this case a bit cynical - `Hey, if you write the letters in "Alucard" backwards, you get...'


Dead Hard Sums

'I'm going to fix the Chameleon Circuit by using Block Transfer Computations'.

'Oh that's clever'.

'Yes, you see, Block Transfer Computations...'

'No, I was being sarcastic. You know you're not really going to fix the Chameleon Circuit, so as a narrative device, it's a bit redundant, you might as well say you're going to flush The Master out by filling the TARDIS with the Thames'.


Well, that's the start; there had to be a better excuse to land the TARDIS next to the the one remaining Police Box on the Barnet Bypass (even though it had just been removed, so the BBC had to use a prop!), which was a nice opening, with the ambivalent Watcher watching, and then the Master interferes, starts condensing policemen and Auntie Vanessa, and we get TARDIS inside TARDIS inside TARDIS, which is such a neat idea, it's really a shame they didn't do more with it, but no, after a brief stint by the Thames (more Watcher, lovely...) we're off to Logopolis to do hard sums.

I can't quite understand why, with a machine like the TARDIS containing all sorts of clever gadgets, they need to go all the way to Logopolis to get hard sums done, but heck, let's go anyway.

Nice set. Nice costumes. It's only taken two episodes to get there, and it's a good job it looks nice because once you've explained the concept of all the Logopolitans chanting numbers to stop the universe falling to bits (even if some of the Logopolitans are painted on the backcloth) it's not a terribly exciting place, and I don't find the Entropy thing in the least bit credible.

In terms of 'it's all a bad dream' the Master cunningly destroying Logopolis is actually good drama (and by gum, the story could do with some) but it's not a dream; we're meant to believe this.

So Logopolis falls down, and we have to go to the Pharos Project in Cambridge to do some more hard sums and save the universe and as a result the Fourth Doctor falls off a radio telescope and dies, turning into the Watcher, who really was the Dr all long.

I don't know, it's not such a great tale really; there's a lot of faffing about even if the tone is solidly funereal throughout, and the last stand of the fourth Doctor, well it's a bit banal really falling off a gantry, compare to the curtain calls of the first three it's a cheap little exit for a Doctor of Tom Baker's stature. He deserved the Richenbach Falls, however much of a pain in the neck he'd made himself (as The Making Of explains) to those that had to work with him.

In the Making Of Frontios, CHB explains how pleased with himself he was for all the things he did with the TARDIS. Nice one, Mr Bidmead, I'm glad you feel you can be proud of them.

3/5 and that's being generous. Tom's exit should have been much better.


It starts by getting away from the Pharos Project, so that's got to be a plus, and then it faffs about for a couple of episodes, with the Doctor's scarf unraveling, and his needing to go to the Zero Room, and the TARDIS going back to Event One, and the Dr having to jettison a whole lot of it, and pretty much anything you like - making an omlette, reading Our Mutual Friend, kite flying - as long as it's not getting on with telling the story. It's CHB; don't worry about the narrative so long as the science is impressively complicated.

The Fifth Doctor's first action is to be ill, and he stays ill pretty much for the first two episodes. Not a great start and, since Adric gets shanghaied, the show is pretty much Tegan and Nyssa for quite a while, carrying the Dr round in a zero coffin, and being in the woods, and not climbing the rocks very much. It's rather as if JNT was experimenting with 'Well, what if the story *isn't* exciting to start with...?' - and in ten years time he'll be saying, 'But that was something I had to find out for myself...'

Excitement is rare in Castrovalva; Adric is caught in the web, and the whole city folding in on itself are the dynamic bits, after that it's not terribly active.

The city is nicely designed and attractively peopled, and what story there is works up to a point, with Shardovan the most likely bad guy - he's the one in black after all - but no, it's the kindly old Portreve (a nicely disguised Anthony Ainley) who's the Master all along, so none of this is real, it's just a cleverly created trap for the Dr.

Erm...? Not real? So it's all pretend? So none of the people are actually people? Oh. I'm honestly not all that bothered then.

And this Dr, well I have only just met him, and I'm sorry he's poorly, but he has got three mates with him, and the other bloke's on his own, so I'd rather not get involved, thanks. I don't mean to seem heartless, but...

It's not that there's anything wrong with this story, it's just a bit inconsequential, light on ideas, rather as if someone had said, 'Oh well, the regeneration'll do for the first couple of episodes, then it can just be about the Escher pictures on Greame McDonald's office wall'.

I wish K-9 was still in it too.

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The BBC is nothing if not inconsistent with their Dr Who releases: after the ripoff of the 48-minute Sontaran Experiment being released as a full-priced single-disc with few extras, they made partial amends with this rather good boxed set seeing the last two Tom Baker stories, The Keeper of Traken (which reintroduced the Master for the first time since Roger Delgado's death) and Logopolis (which unfortunately introduced the most irritating assistant in the show's history, the incredibly surly Tegan) and the first with Peter Davison, Castrovalva. If Baker's later episodes had felt tired and stretched and Davison's never realy lived up to its initial promise, these stories at least are among the best from this era, with a fair amount of originality and ingenuity. But perhaps the most outstanding aspect of the set are the extras, the best of them a 50-minute documentary on the changing of the guard from Baker to Davison, A New Body at Last, which is surprisingly frank about Baker's increasingly atrocious behaviour on the set, which it even demonstrates with clips from the recording room floor and mea culpa comments from Baker (a combination of fear over being so typecast he'd never work again and the BBC `pub culture' of the day, apparently).

Definitely one of the BBC's better Dr Who boxed sets.
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VINE VOICEon 4 February 2007
Depending on how you approach the 3 serials in this box set, they're either tawdry relics of a cheaper, slower age of television; or they're pure gold. There are so many reasons to enjoy the release of NEW BEGINNINGS, but even fan boys like me can see that not everyone is going to be bowled over. So let's get the criticisms out of the way first.

Generally, there are a number of problems that beset all of the productions. Firstly of course: the effects, though not ALL of them fall flat. For instance, after the poorly staged struggle between the Doctor and the Master on the Pharos project gantry, the sequence at the climax of LOGOPOLIS where Tom Baker's Doctor regenerates into Peter Davison's version works extremely well. However, this is one of the few exceptions. The fake eyes painted on Kassia's lids when she's possessed in THE KEEPER OF TRAKEN, the risible model work in LOGOPOLIS and the cheesy visual representations of the recursive trap in the citadel in CASTROVALVA aren't exactly high points.

Secondly, despite what I'm going to say about the acting later, it has to be said not everyone deserves a BAFTA. For example, Sheila Ruskin is well cast as the zealous, obsessive Kassia in THE KEEPER OF TRAKEN. But for my money she overplays certain moments. Witness her stagey collapse after the murder of Seron in episode 2.

This though is nothing compared to Anthony Ainley's Master in CASTROVALVA. Either he or the director seemed to think that his commendable underplaying in the previous tales was a bad idea, and he often relishes his part just a little too much. Take a look at the moment in episode four when he cries out: "My web! MY WEB!" All seriousness instantly evaporates. OK granted, it's a dreadful line to which an Oscar winner might have difficulty supplying credibility. Certainly his earlier, well-judged performance as Tremas suggests that he was capable of better.

Matthew Waterhouse's Adric too is a liability. In the huge shadow of Tom Baker's stellar performances, we don't notice him so much and he's less irritating. But he has this odd bouncy walk that suggests he's not comfortable in front of a camera. Called on to have a big emotional moment he makes an absolute pig's ear of it. In CASTROVALVA, he and Ainley in the Master's TARDIS have a competition to see who can be the most appallingly OTT. It's hard to say who wins.

Despite all this, I confess I love these stories. TRAKEN's pace, fairy-tale and mythological resonances, its detailed, opulent set designs, Shakespearean characters (not to mention dialogue) and sting-in-the-tail ending make it the best of the set. Spellbinding.

LOGOPOLIS might look cheap, but there's no denying the grandeur of the ideas and the emotional power of the 4th Doctor's swansong. Ainley's Satanic Master is genuinely creepy here and he would only be this good again 8 years later in his final story, SURVIVAL. Tom Baker's moody, brooding performance is a haunting thing of beauty. Paddy Kingsland, my favourite of all the 1980's DR WHO composers provides a rich, funereal and melancholic score.

Peter Davison gives a likeable, well-acted debut in CASTROVALVA, though his Doctor is so fragile and unstable for much of the time, it's anyone's guess at this stage how he's going to turn out. Luckily, this allows Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding's companions to shine. Tegan is rarely more sympathetic than here, and one can see the unused potential of the practical Nyssa. The large multi-levelled sets of the citadel are effective, and there is much to admire in the production and script.

As usual, the extras on the discs are excellent and a massive selling point. Photo galleries, commentaries, contemporary trailers, interviews and news items are all present. Most fans will want to see BEING DOCTOR WHO in which a mostly enthusiastic Peter Davison discusses his approach to the role. But best of all are the moments in the documentary A NEW BODY AT LAST where Tom Baker is surprisingly candid about how difficult he had become to work with and how this led to his leaving the show. A lot of the studio footage from the time would seem to bear this out. Far from ruining one's image of the man, one has to admire his honesty and self-awareness! 26 years later, the man is still a hero.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 January 2011
This is not the greatest Tom Baker Doctor set to own. Firstly, and the main reason is that the 3rd in this loose trilogy, stars Peter Davidson, and its pretty weak.

The two Tom Baker series are better, but not classics. Sure both have their moments. The Tardis within in a Tardis sequence in Logopolis is the best scene in the whole boxed set by some margin, but thats it really. Tom Baker does a fine job as always, but overall the script and stories are rather poor. Another factor is Anthony Ainsley, who is not in the same league as Roger Delgado's Master.

On the plus side there is another Tom Baker commentary on the Logopolis story. Thats worth having as these are pretty rare. And at the moment it is good value for money at under a tenner.
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VINE VOICEon 22 March 2007
These three stories form what the fans term 'The Master Trilogy' and is noticable for the goodbye of Tom Baker and hello from Peter Davison.

The use of the Master was an old technique used by previous production teams in surrounding the new Doctor with familiar things to allow him to find his feet.

The Keeper of Traken is usually the forgotten story in this trilogy being overshadowed by the huge events of the next two but is in many ways the best of the three, I'm not going to go into plot details but will attempt to review to discs themselves. 'Keeper' has one wonderful thing going for it, an absolutely first rate audio commentary, by actors Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton, the late Anthony Ainley and writer Johnny Byrne.

This is such a refreshing change to hear Matthew voice his opinions without being constantly insulted and treated in a dismissive way by his fellow contributers as has happened on previous releases. Anthony Ainley gives his only contribution to a DVD in this commentary, recorded shortly before his death and has many points of interest to say.

There is also a 'making of' style documentary and Sarah Sutton's apperance on Swop Shop and a nice featurette on the return of the Master plus the usual PDF documents that appear on all three discs. It isn't often that I think that the audio commentary is so good as to be the best feature on the disc but it is here.

Logopolis is of course Tom Baker's final story and Doctor Who has never been as dark but again no plot reviews just the disc. The main feature, the episodes aside is the documentary 'A New Body At Last' which is not only a making of but also an overview of the events surronding the departure of Baker and the arrival of Davison, this was critical to get Tom Baker to participate and he does, now it is very rare for Baker to open up and actually talk about Doctor Who with it being tongue in cheek but here he does, he tells it like it is and there is genuine anger at effectively being removed from the part, some of his revelations are shocking and I watched in a sombre silence. A riveting documentary. The audio commentary is a little generic with only Tom Baker really having anthing interesting to say.

There are news items and appearances on Pebble Mill At One for Davison and quite extensive repairs to the episodes themselves in both picture and sound. Another great disc.

Castrovalva is Peter Davison's first story and is very nostalgic through the sense that this was a new beginning and direction for the show after the seven years of Baker's reign.

The extras are not quite as extensive as on the other two discs, with most of the important aspects being discussed on the Logopolis DVD these are more relaxed and easy going and are just there to fill space.

The main feature is a mini documentary by the director Fiona Cumming and is basically a behind the scenes type feature. The Crowded TARDIS is a look at the crew of the ship and is the most redundant feature in the set, it serves no function at all and just repeats facts mentioned in other features and commentaries. This commentary here is basically the same as Logopolis but with Davison replacing Baker and is nothing to shout about.

The most interesting feature is two deleted scenes, Peter Davison being interviewed on Blue Peter and Swop Shop and a music video put together featuring the title sequence. The whole disc is rounded off by a lovely little easter egg that features some really rare footage and is a delight.

So there we are three hugely important stories that took Doctor Who from one era to another and brought it firmly into the 1980's. Well worth a look.
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on 7 March 2007
The Keeper of Traken has an excellent story. The history of the arrival of Melkur is well-told, and put a shiver down my spine.

The Master is not as physically hideous as he was in The Deadly Assassin (where his goggle-eyed, decayed face almost made me throw up!). Geoffrey Beevers says he insisted on using a less restrictive mask so he could act with his eyes.

Logopolis is a partially symbolic tale. It's clear that the city is modelled on a microprocessor, with references to machine code, arithmetic/logic units, and so on. The story involves some dubious scenes - such as measuring the police box exterior dimensions, but I note that it was such things that I found most fascinating as a child.

There are classic scenes, such as the Doctor's Tardis materialising within the Master's, which has already materialised around a Police Box - Leading to an infinite regression of Tardises within Tardises, getting gloomier and gloomier as the levels are descended.

Castrovalva, Peter Davison's debut, is a very interesting story that loses out because of budget limitations. You can picture how Castrovalva itself was supposed to look, with its Escher references, but some of the realisation is poor, as acknowledged in some of the extra features. Still, the Tardis interior scenes are well done. I found the opening up of the Doctor's ship fascinating.

Adric, Tegan, and Nyssa are less annoying that my memories of them. I now see them (particularly Adric and Nyssa) as youngsters, of whom my tolerance is greater than my previous view of them as young adults.
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on 18 July 2012
While I like the Master as a nemesis of the Doctor, three episodes in a row about him was about two too many. I am quite shocked so many have written such positive reviews, it is a boxset I could quite easily watch once and only watch again if I was watching my complete collection from start to finish

'The Keeper Of Trakken' promised to be a good story, but the overall plot was not strongly supported. I personally feel the Melkor could have been a good story in its own right. It is very slow paced, you can more or less see the way the plot is going and there isn't much in it at all.

'Logopolis' was a decent enough story without many strengths. I never did like the inside of the TARDIS displayed as gardens and brickwork, to me it should be like portrayed in much of the Peter Davison era - it is a spaceship after all. This story had a little bit of intrigue, all three did, but very much underexploited. The climax seemed a rather limp conclusion, it did see the Doctor regenerate which is one of the few and indeed earliest memories I have of Doctor Who having had a childhood which made regular TV slot watching hard, and as I gather now difficult enough without TV guides (which we didn't have except at Christmas)

'Castrovalva' was a slow paced, clever in places, story which again could have delivered more and maybe a lot quicker. I agree with those who found seeing the inside of the TARDIS exciting, I feel as hollow inside as the TARDIS with the loss of rooms and feel some other solution to the fix may have been better - or the loss only temporary. Like the previous two stories the plot had oodles of potential and much of it was untouched.

I don't regret buying these, I would like eventually to have all Peter Davison's stories and am currently only five shy of said ambition, sadly there are only 20 "to collect". Maybe after the long stint of Tom Baker, the short stints of 20, 11 and 12 stories per subsequent Doctor, and their fading character appeal as Doctors, was a precursor to the eventual demise. I love the 80s feel to a lot of his stories, the way TV and films were done in those days puts to shame the later and current approaches which are too techno-centric and lack solid plots.
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on 11 July 2007
A wonderful trilogy that bridges the transition from the best Doctor of them all (Tom Baker) to the equally brilliant Peter Davison. The stories all involve The Master, played superbly by Anthony Ainley, who made the role all his own and eclipsed his predecessors with ease. Keeper of Traken kicks off the action, with the evil Melkur offering a suitable challenge to The Doctor and his cheeky sidekick, Adric. The story features some wonderful guest stars, including the excellent John Woodnutt, who never fails to brighten a scene. Logopolis follows and it's a story that superbly builds-up to the regeneration of Tom Baker into Peter Davison. A tense, moody atmosphere is present throughout and Tom Baker is joined by some wonderful new companions to help him on his way. Once again, Anthony Ainley steals the show. Just when you think it can't get any better, Castrovalva takes us on a rollercoaster ride as the new Doctor battles The Master for supremacy in the ancient citadel of the title. Peter Davison makes a confident debut and engages with veiwers straight-away. He is aided by a cracking guest cast and another star-turn from Mr Ainley. If you liked the new series story 'New Earth', you'll find these stories hit the target.
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