on 9 October 2013
I think that one of my favourite aspects of this is that it's often very funny, and honestly so - not laughing up its sleeve or sending itself up, or treating the audience as too thick to understand the jokes, just funny, and that's good. It's perfectly possible to play something dead straight and still raise a laugh.
It's also very intelligently written - the Bristol Boys were seldom short of ideas - black holes were topical in 1973, meaning astrophysics was being talked about. 'Super luminescent emissions' wasn't too far from the Zeitgeist. It's good that the fairly daft piece of Deus ex Machina that the story hangs on isn't too implausible, and the Time Lord idea was overdue for development.
These are not quite the indifferent gods of War Games, and if not quite the the cynical politicals of Deadly Assassin, they are on their way there - I wouldn't trust Clyde Pollitt's Chancellor as far as the end of the street, never mind to the end of a light beam (he was at the trial in the War Games, and has presumably been promoted). Graham Leaman was previously a Time Lord in Colony in Space, and Barry Letts has confirmed that the two are playing the same characters (lending greater weight to the idea that Bernard Horsfall's character in War Games is Goth).
It's a pity about Bill Hartnell, and I'd like to know what his part might have been had his wife not phoned Barry Letts with the words, 'What do you think you're doing? He's ill, dammit!', but it's good that he's in it, though time had clearly not been kind to the poor man since 1966.
Mr Troughton is clearly having fun, somewhat (I suspect) at Jon Pertwee's expense - after all, Dr Who wasn't Patrick's show anymore, so he could get on with enjoying himself and (I further suspect) flirting with Katy Manning.
Stephen Thorne is on very fine furniture-chewing form as Omega; there is always a temptation for actors in masks to over play their role, and Mr Thorne does, but it works, making Omega all the odder - of course, he's been stuck in a black hole for millennia, his social skills are under-exercised. And *three* Doctors demand a BIG villain. The moment that he takes his mask off revealing nothing beneath is beautifully handled. Amid all the bluster, he's really quite moving.
And, as mentioned above, it's clever; the weather balloon, the picture, the blob, the gel guards, UNIT HQ zooming off into goodness knows where, and Corporal Palmer staring in disbelief - great cliffhanger.
Omega World is, admittedly, a quarry, but Lennie Mayne does his best with it - the weird camera angles are effective - and if Omega's palace lacks the impressive exterior of T. Dicks' novel, well, it's a shame, but there we are.
And it's also a lovely story for UNIT, and especially the Brigadier, who gets all the best comedy moments; there's a distinct sense of the military mind under such assault that it's close to breaking down - it doesn't of course, because Lethbridge-Stewart is such a professional soldier that he can even rationalise the TARDIS as a massive waste of UNIT money. Meanwhile Benton gets all the Jamie stuff to do, because Fraser Hines was stuck in Emmerdale.