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The Endless Quest
on 11 June 2013
It's a good idea - tie all the stories together with one linking theme - a quest, like Bilbo's journey to Mount Doom or Jason and the Argonauts; the Dr gets sent by the White Guardian (kinda like God) to find the ultimate McGuffin, before the Black Guardian (kinda like Satan, only played by Valentine Dyall) gets to it first. It's the kind of good idea that works best if not thought about too much, or better yet not at all, put it to the back of your mind and hang the sense of it; it's much better that way.
The six stories really have to be considered separately.
THE RIBOS OPERATION-
A very good-looking, well-acted, Robert Holmes sting story. Looks like Eisenstein's Russia, very well plotted, delightfully funny; a real star turn from Ian Cuthbertson as the master swindler, and a lovely cameo from Timothy Bateson as the heretic that realises he was right all along. Pity about the Shrivenzale - but spare a poor for poor Stuart Fell - it's got to be better seeing the thing from the *out*side! 4/5
THE PIRATE PLANET-
It's good - nearly as good as the previous one. Funnier - Douglas Adams, but never to the detriment of the story, which is a very good story - and Bruce Purchase and Andrew Robertson clearly having a whale of a time, and in the end the arch-villain is the nurse! And with a lovely model, and air cars, and caverns, and Liquorice Allsorts, and a linear induction corridor, and some nice location filming, it all looks great. And there's a robot parrot - it's very good. 4/5
THE STONES OF BLOOD-
First half's good - first half's spooky and menacing and mysterious - and then the second half explains it all, and I wish it had explained it all some other way. We've got these blood-drinking rocks smashing about the place, yet the *really* scary things are supposed to be a pair of disembodied voices with flashing lights. Beatrix Lehmann *is* a delight to watch, but this is a story that should have ended like The Devil Rides Out, not Crown Court. 2/5
THE ANDROIDS OF TARA-
Graham Williams did get into a strop about this; that horrid Phillip Hinchcliffe had done all sorts of naughty plagiarism like ripping off Frankenstein and Quatermass, and everyone said it was brilliant, but when Graham Williams rips off Prisoner of Zenda he gets all told off! The point was that it's not really a very creative pastiche of Zenda - it really is 'Look this is Prisoner of Zenda, but we've put Dr Who in it', like a not very good piece of homework (the Flashman version is much better btw). That said it's inoffensive and fun and pretty to look at (check out the hats at the coronation), and Peter Jefferey is very good - though my favourite in this has to be Cyril Shaps as the Archimandrite. 3/5
THE POWER OF KROLL-
Somebody had told them to stop making Dr Who funny, so they did. It wasn't a good idea. There is a scene introducing the guys at the refinery, and it's a Robert Holmes script, so it should scintillate a bit, but it's not allowed to - they talk about Harg's library books. Phillip Madoc is good, even though he was going to be playing the bad guy, and Neil McCarthy (who is playing the bad guy) is in good eye-rolling form, and it's nice to see John Leeson (contracted for the season, but there's not much K9 can do in a swamp), and John Abineri is always good, but if you're going to hang a story on a 'the biggest monster in Dr Who ever' you'd better make sure it looks fantastic, because if it looks c**p or funny, your story is going to fall apart. There's lots of location filming, but really when you've seen one reed bed... 2/5
THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR-
It tries bravely, but it's barely got the legs. The war, the time loop, the Shadow manipulating the whole thing, some great work from John Woodvine and William Squire, and a good story that almost fills all six episodes... But it looks cheap; there's nowhere you can look at and go 'Ooh, that's clever' because it's all been put together on what little money was going at the end of the season. A great pit that some sets from earlier stories in the season couldn't have been re-used because this is a climax that is seriously wanting in spectacle (and Davyd Harries comedy acting tends to undermine it). And that final scene in the TARDIS with the Black Guardian really doesn't achieve what it should. 3/5
It's hit and miss; a very large Curate's Egg - some parts bad, some parts excellent - I still have to wonder about the central premise - stop the universe and redress the balance? How much more deus ex machina can you get? All this is about a mission from God? Pull the other one.
Oh. Mary Tamm's good throughout.