I remember watching it in 1987 when it was first shown, and really not liking it, and not having seen it since I have largely agreed with the general fan opinion that it is not up to much. However, as a completist I just had to purchase and watch it, and I am glad that I did.
OK, I am not saying it has suddenly turned into a classic masterpiece like `Talons' or `Androzani', but watching it again I was surprised at how much there is to enjoy.
For anyone looking here who does not already know (thought I cannot imagine that will be too many people!) this is the first outing for Sylvester McCoy as the seventh Doctor. Colin Baker declined to appear for the regeneration scene, hence the rather odd and rushed start to the serial. The first minus point is that it is never made clear just why the Doctor regenerated.
What follows is a reasonable tale as evil Time Lady the Rani kidnaps the Doctor, and attempts to trick him, while he is in his post regenerative confusion, into helping her with some weird scheme involving strange matter (a real scientific concept by the way) and several geniuses kidnapped from Earth.
The plot is a bit of a mess, and having Kate O'Mara as the Rani imitating Bonnie Langford's Mel was a mistake. The Doctor's malapropisms get on your wick after a while, and Mel is irritating. But there are good points as well. The moral dilemma of Beyus, blackmailed into helping the Rani, is nicely portrayed, and a little thought provoking. Sylvester McCoy grabs to opportunity with both hands and puts a lot of energy into his characterisation, already evoking memories of the 2nd Doctor's habit of appearing to be an idiot, but really being one step ahead of the opposition. Playing the spoons was a bit of a misstep, but I quite like the tumbling, especially in the early scenes where it is used to good effect to show his disorientation.
In general it comes across as being an average story. Not worthy of great praise, but not worthy of the contempt that it has been shown over the years either. And one other plus point, which was not a factor when I first saw it, is that I am a bit of a fan of the later characterisation of the seventh Doctor, in his last TV series and later in the Big Finish audios. It was a shakey start, but it led to some great things, so finds a little forgiveness on that score.
As usual 2Entertain have done a remarkable job on the presentation. The picture is clear and sharp, as is the sound. There is a host of extras, including the usual informative info text, which gives an interesting insight into the machinations behind the scenes.
Not a total flop, some glimmer of better things to come, an entertaining enough 90 minutes, a decent DVD presentation and extras. After much umming and aahing, three stars.