Season 9 (June 2 - June 14)

June 2: Day of the Daleks Episodes One & Two
June 3: Day of the Daleks Episodes Three & Four
June 4: The Curse of Peladon Episodes One & Two
June 5: The Curse of Peladon Episodes Three & Four
June 6: The Sea Devils Episodes One & Two
June 7: The Sea Devils Episodes Three & Four
June 8: The Sea Devils Episodes Five & Six
June 9: The Mutants Episodes One & Two
June 10: The Mutants Episodes Three & Four
June 11: The Mutants Episodes Five & Six
June 12: The Time Monster Episodes One & Two
June 13: The Time Monster Episodes Three & Four
June 14: The Time Monster Episodes Five & Six



June 2: Day of the Daleks Episodes One & Two

"The Daleks are back!" proclaimed the Radio Times cover for this, the opening story in season 9.  And it had been five years since The Evil of the Daleks had them definitively meet their "final end".  But Terry Nation had failed to sell his Dalek spinoff show in the United States, and so the production team has decided (at the prompting of BBC Managing Director and Dalek superfan Huw Wheldon, who had previously successfully lobbied for a 12-part Dalek epic in the 60s) that it's time for the Daleks to make their return to Doctor Who.  Thus Day of the Daleks (the earliest story to still exist completely on its original 2" videotape) arrives to reintroduce the Daleks, and in color too!

And it's a pretty confident production that they've put together.  It may start with a rehash of the TARDIS shenanigans from the beginning of The Ambassadors of Death, but it quickly moves on to a tale of guerrilla fighters from the future who, for some as yet unknown reason, are attempting to kill Sir Reginald Styles, a man who's involved in an effort to hold a peace conference and who holds considerable sway in the negotiations.  The "time tunnel" effect is a good one, particularly as it evokes the look of the Pertwee title sequence and thus makes that also, pleasingly, look like a form of time travel.  And we're introduced to the Ogrons, large ape-like mercenaries sent from the future to stop those guerrilla fighters.  This also leads to the most entertaining part of this episode, as the Ogrons, back in their own time, report on the success of their mission: "We... found... and... destroyed... the... enemy," one Ogron says slowly, implying that this race isn't terribly bright.  "Any complications?" their Controller asks.  "No complications," the other Ogron replies offhandedly, with none of the struggle to speak that his colleague experienced.  So maybe it's just that one Ogron who's unusually thick.  The Ogrons themselves are a masterpiece of design, looking alien and strong, with really impressive headpieces.  And, breaking with tradition (a bit), the Daleks aren't held back until the cliffhanger but are given a brief moment at the halfway point, as it becomes clear that the Ogrons and the Controller are all servants of the Daleks.

Meanwhile, back in the 20th century, UNIT investigates the attempted assassination of Sir Reginald by a seeming ghost, which leads to the Doctor and Jo spending the night in the building waiting for another attack.  The most remarkable thing about these scenes is how much an establishment figure the Doctor is -- talking about conversations with Napoleon and enjoying the cheese and wine ("Yes, that's a most good-humored wine.  A touch sardonic perhaps, but not cynical") with the air of an experienced gourmand.  But other than that, and Jo attempting to feed Sergeant Benton, until Mike Yates swoops in and takes the food from him, nothing happens during the night.  No, it's in the morning when the guerrillas make another attempt to kill Sir Reginald, which leads to the sight of the Doctor fighting off soldiers literally single-handedly (as his other hand is holding a glass of something or other), thanks to his Venusian karate skills. It's a very entertaining sight, showing the third Doctor at the top of his game.  Only he's also been fiddling with the primitive time machine found earlier, which is sending a signal that the Daleks can trace -- leading to their full reveal, in all their colored glory.  Except they've been repainted in dark grey and black, with one gold and black Dalek, so they don't actually look much different from how they did in black-and-white.

Boaz, Anat, and Shura discuss killing the Doctor. (Day of
the Daleks
Episode Two) ©BBC
Weirdly, the cliffhanger reprise at the start of episode two includes the "sting" that normally signals the end credits.  It's said this is because director Paul Bernard assumed that's how these things were done, but it's not at all clear why he would think this.  But in any case, it's there and is as jarring as you'd think.  However, the bulk of this episode involves establishing that the Doctor is not, in fact, Sir Reginald Styles, which leads to the guerrillas tying him and Jo Grant up in the wine cellar.  And that's about it.  The Doctor speculates on how the guerrillas must have traveled back in time to kill Styles in order to change history, and we get our first mention of the Blinovitch Limitation Effect (the reason the guerrillas can't go back to yesterday and try to assassinate him again, although no explanation is actually given), and that's largely it.

Well, until the last few minutes, when Jo is accidentally sent into the future, which allows the Controller to know when and where to send Ogron troops to deal with these rebel fighters.  The Ogrons evidently don't care about being sneaky, as they march right up to Auderly House to kill the guerrillas -- leading Boaz and Anat to retreat while the Doctor ends up holding them off before following the rebels.  This leads to the rather surprising sight of the Doctor gunning down an Ogron in cold blood, which is treated as nothing special at all but just a minor incident along the way.  Certainly the Doctor doesn't show any sort of remorse or reluctance to kill the Ogron.  It's a strange moment, and it's rather odd that both Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts were happy to let this bit through without complaint.

And then the episode ends when the Doctor, who's entered a disused railway tunnel in search of Anat and Boaz, is confronted by a Dalek!  It's actually not a bad cliffhanger, even if it's the sort that normally tend to occur in Dalek stories -- it helps that it's shot very effectively, with a good use of lighting and framing.



June 3: Day of the Daleks Episodes Three & Four

The Doctor narrowly escapes that Dalek (and we get another reprise of the "sting" as well), only to be plunged into a nightmarish future where the Daleks rule the Earth (again; see The Dalek Invasion of Earth for the previous time).  The Daleks rule with an iron fist (plunger?) and humanity has been reduced to a race of slaves, with only a handful still able to fight back.  But the Doctor is determined to find Jo Grant in this, and sets off to do so.  These scenes have a nice touch to them; even if they're not necessarily as apocalyptic as the script implies, they're at least atmospheric.  Although the scene of the slaves emptying giant trash cans with just a little bit of gravel in them leaves something to be desired.

But all too soon, the Doctor is captured and interrogated before being released by the Controller and fawned over.  Jo and the Doctor are reunited, but the Doctor spends his time criticizing everything he's seen, calling the Controller out on the conditions of the slaves.  And this is actually a bit of a problem; the audience hasn't really seen much evidence that things are as dire as the Doctor says.  We've seen some empty fields, a handful of slaves, and some interrogating, and that's about it.  But that's where putting the Daleks in this story pays off.  Because we know what the Daleks are like, and we can imagine a world under their reign.  So even though we're told often about how bad things are without seeing much evidence for it, the Daleks' presence make it easier for us to accept that what we're being told is the truth.

But it's time for the philosophical discussions to end.  The Doctor and Jo attempt to escape on a three-wheeled Honda trike in what might be the least exciting chase ever (the trike appears to have underinflated tires and doesn't move very fast, which leads to lots of slow-motion jogging from the pursuing Ogrons), but they're recaptured and the Doctor is hooked up to the mind analysis machine by the Daleks in order to be properly interrogated.  And here we see that the title sequence not only represents time travel, but also the Doctor's mind.

The Doctor is interrogated by the Daleks. (Day of the
Daleks
Episode Four) ©BBC
Episode four doesn't have a reprise of the "sting", but that's probably because the cliffhanger reprise has been edited slightly.  Since this episode is concerned with wrapping things up, it's a game of two halves.  Thus, the rebels conveniently storm the Daleks' base in order to rescue the Doctor and Jo so that he can go back and kill Styles for them -- Styles, you see, lured all the world leaders to his country house and blew them up, leading to a hundred years of war and a ravaged planet that was easy picking for the Daleks.  The guerrillas want to go back and change history by killing Styles so that he can't kill all the other delegates, thus ensuring that the Daleks never invade.  It's never clear why history regards Styles as the architect of this explosion, given that he also died in it, and in any case the Doctor quickly works out the real cause: Shura is the one who blows up the house with everyone inside.  "Styles didn't cause that explosion and start the wars.  You did it yourselves."  So now the plan is to send the Doctor back and save everyone from being blown up inside.

The Daleks aren't going to stand for this, so they decide to also go back and exterminate Styles and the other delegates (since, curiously, they seem aware that they're in an alternate future that wasn't supposed to be: "The Daleks have discovered the secret of time travel.  We have invaded Earth again.  We have changed the pattern of history," the gold Dalek tells the Doctor).  So while the first half is set in the 22nd century, the second half is set in the present day (well, near enough).  And so while the Doctor gets everyone to evacuate Auderly House (even if Styles is very reluctant to evacuate -- although, weirdly, the implication is that the Doctor has explained that time travellers from the future are there to assassinate everyone rather than the more sensible "Everyone get out, there's a bomb in the cellar"), a huge Dalek task force of, er, three Daleks and a handful of Ogrons arrives to kill everyone.  Never have the limitations of the series' budget been clearer.64  But this time Shura blows up the Daleks and the Ogrons, rather than Styles and his delegates: history is therefore saved.

Even with the occasional glitches, there's a sense of self-assuredness about Day of the Daleks, as if everyone involved knows the best way to do things and is comfortable in doing them.  There aren't any uncertainties in the presentation, and there are a number of moments where you can tell they're trying to see what they can do to stretch themselves even further (such as the curved door in the Dalek base and the CSO-ed video screen that pulls back at the same rate as the main camera shot, to make it look like there really is a video screen set into the wall).  The script is clever (even if it's not quite as original as it sometimes thinks it is) and the acting is generally superb, with Katy Manning in particular having worked out the best way to play Jo Grant.  Day of the Daleks sees the show back on top.



June 4: The Curse of Peladon Episodes One & Two

Hooray!  An alien world!  And not one that looks like an utter tip like Uxarieus did!  And no mention of Time Lord interference with the TARDIS!  (Well, not yet.)

One of the interesting things about The Curse of Peladon is how they've given us a medieval-looking planet and culture, with lots of corridors moodily lit by torches and windswept mountainsides where it's always night (so less medieval and more Gothic).  And then into this environment they add a bunch of different aliens, who are all delegates from the Galactic Federation, there to determine whether Peladon should be admitted as a member, and this creates a wonderful juxtaposition of the old with the futuristic.  This is what Doctor Who is for.

It helps that the aliens are all sufficiently different from each other (even if, curiously, they're all shades of green), to make that juxtaposition even more striking.  The first one we meet is Alpha Centauri, with six arms and a head with a single giant eyeball in the center.  I have to confess: I adore Alpha Centauri.  It's a really striking design (and quite mobile too), and then they've added some wonderful characterization into the mix (the quick version: Alpha Centauri is a coward first and foremost, which leads to lots of great moments as the delegates' lives are being threatened).  Then we meet Arcturus, who appears to be a shrunken head in an elaborate life-support system.  And finally, we encounter an Ice Warrior and an Ice Lord.  Yes, the Ice Warriors are back.

And into this mix the Doctor and Jo are introduced, with both posing as representatives from Earth (the Doctor the delegate, "Princess Josephine" a royal observer), present for the same reason as the other delegates.  Only it quickly transpires that someone is trying kill the delegates and anyone who's in favor of Peladon joining the Federation.  High Priest Hepesh, a firm believer in the old ways, thinks it's the spirit of Aggedor, Peladon's royal beast, come to wreak a terrible vengeance.  The Doctor, meanwhile, is suspicious of the Ice Warriors.  So it's a mystery on our hands too.  Well, except for the fact that we watch Hepesh nod subtly to Grun, the King's Champion, who then goes off and tries to push a granite statue on the delegates (giving us episode one's cliffhanger).  So it's not exactly the most taxing whodunnit.

Nevertheless, episode two has a bit of fun with trying to pin the blame on the Ice Warriors.  We see Ssorg skulking about in the corridors, and when Arcturus is attacked, with the "servo-junction unit of his life support system" removed, Jo finds it inside a trunk in the Ice Warriors' quarters.  But when Ssorg finds Jo snooping, he claims to have no knowledge of the unit and indeed appears to tell Izlyr that Jo was attempting to plant the missing servo-junction unit inside their room.  Once all the confusion dies down, Jo is properly contrite about the whole matter: "I'm sorry if I might have misjudged you, but the Doctor did say you were a race of warriors."  "We were once, but now we reject violence except in self-defense," Izlyr replies.  But then, if the Ice Warriors didn't attack Arcturus, who did?

And while all this is happening, the Doctor (once he's finished rescuing Arcturus -- even if it later turns out that Arcturus wasn't in any actual danger) is led by Grun into the tunnels inside the citadel, only for Grun to run off in terror when a roaring sound is heard.  This leaves the Doctor to wander around the tunnels, eventually finding himself inside the inner sanctum of the holy temple of Aggedor.  Unfortunately, trespassing here is punishable by death (episode two's cliffhanger).  Convenient that, given that Hepesh earlier told Grun to destroy the Doctor.  That same scene also makes it clear that Hepesh is pretty firmly anti-Federation and is willing to do just about anything to prevent Peladon's admission.  So (red herrings about the Ice Warriors aside) it's less a whodunnit and more a "how will they overcome the villain" story.  But so far this has been quite an entertaining story.



June 5: The Curse of Peladon Episodes Three & Four

It was while watching episode three that I worked it out: The Curse of Peladon isn't a mystery or a typical action-adventure story -- it's a political thriller.  It's just a political thriller that happens to be set on a medieval/Gothic planet with aliens involved.

Alpha Centauri, Izlyr, Jo, Ssorg, and Arcturus debate what to do
about the Doctor's situation. (The Curse of Peladon Episode
Three) ©BBC
That also explains the details: it's clear early on that Hepesh is involved in the plot to destroy the Galactic Federation delegates, but it's not clear why we're supposed to suspect the Ice Warriors.  Until, partway through episode three, it's made abundantly clear that someone is helping Hepesh with his goals for their own ends, we just don't know who.  Now we know why the Ice Warriors keep getting framed (with the trisilicate key and Arcturus's servo-junction unit) -- well, because of that and because they've been the villains in two earlier stories and so writer Brian Hayles wants to keep them under suspicion as long as possible.  This is rather undercut by Alan Bennion's performance as Izlyr though, as he gives Izlyr a noble and thoroughly honest bearing.

This thriller strand continues when the Doctor, who's awaiting his fight to the death against Grun, is visited by Hepesh, who offers him a free passage out of Peladon so long as he'll leave and never come back.  The Doctor appears to take him up on it, and so when we see Hepesh next ordering the guards to search for the Doctor and kill him if necessary, we see how duplicitous Hepesh really is.  But it turns out the Doctor is more interested in finding the real Aggedor in the tunnels under the citadel.  He's successful and manages to soothe it with his special spinning mirror of hypnosis and a Venusian lullabye (which bears an uncanny similarity melodically to "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" -- one guess as to why that might be the case), and it's only Jo's chasing it away with a flaming torch in order to "rescue" the Doctor that ends the whole affair.  Although as the Doctor is explaining it later, he accidentally hypnotizes Jo when he's demonstrating his spinning mirror (in a scene a bit reminiscent of the Doctor accidentally hypnotizing Jamie in The Abominable Snowmen): "Jo?  Oh good grief.  Jo, snap out of it!"

And so the Doctor returns to face judgment and has a rather good fight against Grun, in which he eventually emerges triumphant -- which leads Arcturus to reveal his true colors and prepare to open fire on the Doctor.  And Ssorg too fires his weapon...

King Peladon stands over the body of his former friend Hepesh.
(The Curse of Peladon Episode Four) ©BBC
But no.  The start of episode four reveals that Ssorg was in fact firing at Arcturus, thus saving the Doctor's life.  It seems Arcturus had misled Hepesh into believing that joining the Federation "would mean slavery", in order to set up a separate agreement with Peladon for its mineral wealth.  Now that plot has been foiled, and it seems like the start of episode four is already wrapping everything up.  But, in true political thriller style, it's not over yet; Hepesh is still free and has a number of guards on his side, and so he tries to take over the throne in order to save Peladon from the Federation.  With the future king being held at the point of a blade, Hepesh tells the delegates to leave and never return, or else the king will die.  It's only the arrival of the Doctor, with Aggedor in tow, that saves the day -- although Aggedor ends up turning on Hepesh and dealing him a mortal blow.  But with Hepesh gone, the crisis is over, and all is ready for the king's coronation.

And I've made it this far without even mentioning the attempted wooing of "Princess Josephine of TARDIS" by King Peladon.  David Troughton (Patrick Troughton's son) spends a fair amount of time as King Peladon trying to convince Jo to marry him -- his mother was an Earth woman, so it's not unheard of.  And it does seem like Jo's tempted by the end (even if earlier she was angry with him for trying to woo her right after sentencing the Doctor to die: "One minute you're condemning the Doctor to death, and the next minute you're proposing to me!") -- but she decides to go back home instead.  The Doctor is confident he can get her home, since he's pretty sure the TARDIS only made the trip to Peladon because that's where the Time Lords wanted him to go and now that matters are settled he'll be sent back to Earth.  And so they depart, right as the real delegate from Earth arrives...

There's a lot to like about The Curse of Peladon.  We get an interesting alien culture juxtaposed with several different alien races, which allows the production team to stretch themselves a bit.  It's also directed and acted well and filled with memorable characters, and at four episodes it doesn't outstay its welcome (which won't be the case when we return to Peladon in two seasons).  Really, what's not to love?



June 6: The Sea Devils Episodes One & Two

It starts with a nice moment of tension, as something is attacking SS Pevensey Castle.  And then we get the first taste of a reptile hand and...

Well, we should probably talk about the music now.

It's certainly the most distinctive part of The Sea Devils (at least as far as these first two episodes are concerned) and that's because, as this is the first Doctor Who score entirely written and created by the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop, composer Malcolm Clarke has decided to make a purely electronic score, using an EMS VCS3 synthesizer.  It's monophonic, which means you only get one sound at a time, but you also get a "purer" electronic sound.  What this effectively means is that, as this score is a pioneering one in many ways, you get moments where it sounds like 80s synth scores only in 1972, and then moments where it sounds like someone's making random tuneless noises on a computer, and there's no real way to tell which type of moment you're going to get next.  It can be a rather challenging score, and it doesn't help that it's occasionally difficult to distinguish the music from the actual sound effects -- which (to digress for a moment) makes Mark Ayers' edited suite from The Sea Devils on Silva Screen's The 50th Anniversary Collection soundtrack all the more impressive.

Everything else we get though feels like typical Pertwee-era Who.  After the reptile attack, we pick up a strand last explored in The Dæmons: yes, it's been a little bit, but the Master is back.  He appears to be the only inmate of an isolated high-security prison (remember, UNIT caught him at the end of his last story), and the Doctor and Jo go to visit to make sure they're looking after him.  Everything seems to be in order, but it turns out that, true to form, the Master has all the staff at the prison under his thumb -- which leads to a moment where the Master requests a television set for the bedroom -- "Colour, of course" -- and then is later happily watching a children's television show called Clangers.65  But the Doctor is more interested in the sinking of ships that Trenchard, governor of the prison, mentions.  So when the Royal Navy refuse to help him (and it's a bit striking that it's the Navy and not UNIT in this story), he and Jo go off to investigate on their own, to a fort in the middle of all the reports of sinking ships.  While there they encounter a dead mechanic and something coming towards them...

Episode two reveals the something to be the dead mechanic's partner (as played by almost-but-not-quite-Jabba-the-Hutt actor Declan Mulholland, whose scene was cut from the Proper Version of Star Wars before being reinstated with a (not very good) CGI Jabba for the Special Edition), who keeps rambling about "sea devils".  It doesn't take long for the Doctor to actually spot one, which looks like a bipedal turtle in, wonderfully, a blue string vest, but it's not willing to talk.  After driving it off, the Doctor declares it to be related to the Silurians (and here's where the equally implausible "Eocene" name comes in) and thinks humanity should try and make contact with them.  He's in the middle of this argument with Captain Hart at the nearby naval base HMS Seaspite, in fact, when Jo spots the Master, who's there to get some electronic parts.  And when the Doctor heads back to the prison to check on the Master, he ends up engaged in a (rather fun) sword fight with him (why there are swords on the wall right outside the Master's room is another matter), which he ends up winning -- but then he doesn't see the Master pull a knife on him...

They're not bad, these two episodes, but they are rather standard for this time in the show's history, and so far there's nothing to make them really stand out (other than the score).  Not that that's a bad thing, though, as they're still entertaining enough.  The question is more whether the subsequent episodes will maintain interest.



June 7: The Sea Devils Episodes Three & Four

Well, the Master missed.  And Trenchard arrives to save the Doctor from death -- although as he's just going to lock him up (in what feels monstrously unfair, even given that this is Doctor Who and these sorts of things happen all the time -- a tribute therefore to Clive Morton's performance as Trenchard, who's nervously matter-of-fact about the flagrant violation of the Doctor's rights), it doesn't really help him out that much.  But it also means that we spend an episode with the Doctor locked up and Jo trying to rescue him, which does feel a bit like stalling for time.  But we also have the reasonably entertaining subplot where Captain Hart sends a submarine to find out more about the Sea Devils' base, only for said submarine to be invaded by the creatures they were there to investigate.

The Doctor is eventually freed, of course, which leads to an escape across the fields surrounding the prison, leading to the beach.  But the Master has been working on a device to contact the Sea Devils, and while the Doctor and Jo are trapped on the beach between Trenchard's guards and a minefield, the Master summons a Sea Devil, which emerges from the waves...

Episode four has a bit more action, and it starts with the Master sending the Sea Devil toward the Doctor and Jo, who are therefore forced into the minefield.  But when the Sea Devil follows, the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver (now in the form we'll come to know and love (more or less) for the rest of the 20th-century version of the series66) to explode the mines near the Sea Devil, causing it to turn and flee.  Thus our heroes are able to make their escape and return to the naval base.

The Sea Devils arrive to collect the Master. (The Sea
Devils
Episode Four) ©BBC
But while the Doctor is trying to convince Captain Hart of the Master's position of power in the prison (during which he scolds Jo for wanting to eat and then scarfs down the sandwiches prepared for her himself), the Master is putting his plans into motion.  Having contacted the Sea Devils, he then waits as a large group of them raid the castle, killing basically everyone inside, including Trenchard, who's shot down right outside the Master's quarters, defending his prisoner and doing his duty to the end.  It's a rather dignified end for this occasional parody of a man, even if it ultimately means his death.  And in any event it's no use; the Sea Devils have freed the Master (and presumably taken him with them).

During this the submarine is still being invaded, culminating with the Sea Devils breaking into the main control section of the sub (with a fabulous moment as the door melts away and then a Sea Devil bursts through what's left).  The commander of the sub, Ridgeway, allows the Sea Devils to use the submarine for their own ends so that he can find out where their base is.  And when the submarine is tracked on the naval base's sonar, the crew up there can tell it's heading for the semi-abandoned fort from the first episode -- which leads the Doctor to ask to take a dive down to the foundations to look for himself.  This means that they get a genuine diving vessel from the Royal Navy to film on, complete with its diving bell being lowered into the water and back out again.  It's very impressive, and it gives the story that extra frisson of reality.  And in story terms, when the Doctor is lowered down in the diving bell and then reports seeing something outside in the water before contact is lost, it's a suitably exciting moment -- one heightened by the fact that when the diving bell is retrieved from the water, the Doctor is gone...



June 8: The Sea Devils Episodes Five & Six

The Doctor has been taken by the Sea Devils into their base, where he tries to convince them that he can negotiate a peace between the Sea Devils and the humans; there's no need for any violence.  But the Master is down in their base too, and he has told them that man is weak and that they can easily reclaim the planet for themselves.  The Doctor is on the verge of convincing them when their base is attacked by the Royal Navy.  In the Doctor's absence a Parliamentary Private Secretary named Walker has arrived at the base and is dead-set on attacking the Sea Devils' base.  It's worth noting how director Michael Briant directs the scenes with Walker, often in extreme closeups while eating.  Walker appears to be obsessed with food, which not only accentuates his callousness -- as he appears to be more concerned with his stomach than with the consequences of his actions -- but also, when combined with the direction, makes him appear more monstrous than the Sea Devils. 

In any event, once the attack occurs the Sea Devils won't be dissuaded from attacking humanity, so the Doctor rescues the submarine crew and helps free the sub, allowing it to return to base.  After tearing into Walker ("I think you've got it all wrong, old man," Walker says, trying to defend his actions.  "Seek and destroy.  That's what you chaps say, isn't it?"  "But the point, Mister Parliamentary Private Secretary," the Doctor replies heatedly, "is that you have not destroyed.  You have just made them angry.  Very, very angry!"), the Doctor announces his intentions to go back down and try and broker peace again.  But before he can do so, the Sea Devils attack the naval base.

The Doctor fends off a Sea Devil. (The Sea Devils Episode Six) ©BBC
Episode six has a rather entertaining battle between the Sea Devils and the navy (I particularly enjoy the part where three Sea Devils round a corner one at a time, each stopping to fire its gun at the camera before moving on to let the next one have a moment), and the business with the Master and the Doctor is nice (the reason the Sea Devils are on the surface is to get parts to repair their reactivation switch), with the Doctor criticizing the Master's circuit design before making corrections -- except the Doctor is actually adding in some additional features that the Master is apparently unable to recognize.  This suggests that the Master isn't as much of an electronic genius as he sometimes claims.  There's also the rather amazing sequence where the Doctor switches a couple wires around, creating a shrill whine that incapacitates the Sea Devils.  This is allowed to go for so long that Jo is able to rescue Captain Hart, charge down to the beach, get a hovercraft going, and head out to sea for reinforcements before the Master switches it off -- despite the fact that there's a Sea Devil in the room with the Doctor and the Master, clearly writhing in pain the whole time.

Captain Hart arrives with more naval personnel to retake the base (so this is where the aforementioned battle occurs), while the Master takes off on a jetboat with the reactivation device with the Doctor in hot pursuit -- although this looks more like a chance for Pertwee to drive a jetboat (which he is clearly loving) than for any reasons of story, since the chase ends on the beach, only with Sea Devils ready to take the Doctor and the Master down to their base.

Walker is all ready for a nuclear strike, but he's beaten by the Doctor; once the Doctor learns that there's no chance of peace with the Sea Devils, he sets the reactivation device to overload by "revers[ing] the polarity of the neutron flow"67, which will cause their power supply to surge and explode, taking everything with it.  The Doctor and the Master manage to escape the colossal explosion, but in the subsequent confusion the Master manages to escape (by driving a hoverboat into naval-infested waters, but never mind).

There's nothing particularly wrong with The Sea Devils; it's sufficiently entertaining, and there are some moments in the serial that are quite marvelous indeed.  But the main issue here is that we've already had this story once before, only an episode longer and set in Derbyshire, and this new version doesn't have anything different to say.  The main impetus seems to have been to get the Royal Navy to help them make the show (which would have been a major coup for producer Barry Letts, who served in the Royal Navy during World War II), and to see what happens when the Master is inserted into the same basic set-up as Doctor Who and the Silurians.  But the fact is that, as good as Roger Delgado is, his character ends up distorting the story so that The Sea Devils is more about him than the eponymous creatures.  But as this iteration has nothing new to say on the subject of human-reptile relations, this isn't as great a loss as it might have otherwise been.

The bottom line is that, despite the best efforts of Michael Briant and Malcolm Clarke to do something different, The Sea Devils is content to simply carry on doing what's been working for the show for the last couple years, and, entertaining though it may be, it doesn't have any real ambition beyond that.  Still, this is the first story aired out of production order (they made it before The Curse of Peladon on account of the weather but showed it after to break up the two "space" stories this season), so at least it's pioneering in that respect.



June 9: The Mutants Episodes One & Two

"It's..."

Seriously, had no one on the production team seen the first series of Monty Python?  Because The Mutants (aka the reason no one except Doctor Who Magazine calls the first Dalek story by its original title) opens in exactly the same way.  But rather than gasp out the first word, he runs past the camera, being chased by uniformed guards in breathing masks.  Welcome to Solos.

And since this is another future story and yet the Doctor is still exiled to Earth, we have another assignment for the Doctor from the Time Lords (although this one is more overt than The Curse of Peladon): to deliver a box of something to someone -- the Doctor won't know what it is or who it's for until he arrives wherever the TARDIS takes him.  (This, incidentally, leads to what's probably Jon Pertwee's best-known goof on the show: "I'm not allowed to open it.  I couldn't, even if I wanted to.  No, I'm not meant to.  I couldn't open it, even if I wanted to.")  That somewhere is the 30th century, and a Skybase orbiting the planet Solos, which is about to be granted independence from Earth's Empire.  "We can't afford an empire any more," the Administrator from Earth (as played by the always excellent Geoffrey Palmer) tells the Marshal in command of Solos.  "Earth is exhausted, Marshal.  Finished.  Politically, economically, and biologically finished."  So this is a story "about" the end of the British Empire then.  Although we also see signs of discrimination between the native Solonians and the human Overlords, most notably in the separate transport cubicles.  So that's segregation and/or apartheid thrown into the mix.

Well, except that the discrimination is rather down in the mix (other than general "Solonians are dirty" stuff), but that's more because of the mutations that the humans apparently triggered in the Solonians (the mutants of the title) rather than because of some natural disposition (at this point in the story, at least).  No, the focus is on the end of Earth's hold on Solos.  Only the Marshal isn't ready to leave, and so he has the Administrator assassinated right before he tells the Solonians that they're free (so that's two for two for Geoffrey Palmer deaths on Doctor Who).  Err, yes... It's not clear what the Marshal's plan is, as if killing the messenger somehow eliminates the decision in the first place.  Is he trying to prove that he can convert the planet into one habitable for humans, and he needs more time?  Or does he think that proving the Solonians can't be trusted will make Earth reconsider their decision?  And in the chaos, Ky, the leader of the "terrorist" Solonians, starts to trigger the opening of the Doctor's box before escaping down to the planet, taking an unprotected Jo with him.

The Doctor and Professor Jaeger attempt to see what's in the
Time Lord box. (The Mutants Episode Two) ©BBC
Episode two is concentrated mainly on the Skybase.  There are some scenes with Ky and Jo on the surface of Solos, as they're tracked by a group of Skybase guards before escaping to a cave where Jo can breathe normally (the nitrogen isotope in the atmosphere that slowly kills humans is only a danger outside in the daylight, it seems), but the primary focus is up in orbit.  The Doctor is introduced to Professor Jaeger and his efforts to make Solos's atmosphere breathable for humans, and the Marshal attempts to cover his tracks in the assassination by killing the native Solonian assassin (who was acting on the Marshal's orders) and then the assassin's father, Varan, who's also the leader of one of the Solonian factions.  He misses Varan, though, which leads to a chase through the corridors of Skybase (and this is as good a time as any to note the distinctive triangle pattern on the walls courtesy of designer Jeremy Bear, which will go on to be used in dozens of subsequent BBC SF shows, including several Doctor Who stories), as the Marshal has declared that Varan is a "Mutt", or mutant.  It's only when the Doctor finds Varan, who is distinctly non-mutated, that the Marshal's plan becomes clear, and Stubbs and Cotton (hitherto the "everyman" characters in this story) begin to play a more significant part in the proceedings.

So the stage is set: Stubbs and Cotton are now working against the Marshal, and the Doctor determines that he needs to get to the surface.  So during an experiment to see inside the Time Lord package for Ky, the Doctor overloads the main power supply, giving him and Varan a chance to escape to the surface.  Except Varan grabs the Doctor outside the transmat booth.  "Die, Overlord, die!" he says to the person who saved his life and gave him this opportunity to escape.  That's gratitude for you.



June 10: The Mutants Episodes Three & Four

Yeah, it wasn't even a weird ploy: Varan really does want to kill the Doctor -- although the Doctor's able to dissuade him remarkably quickly (and even gets Varan to take him to Ky).  Which means we've moved on to the next phase of The Mutants: two episodes focused primarily on Solos.  It's a nice change of pace, and it means we get to learn more about what's going on with the Solonians.

Jo wanders into a radioactive cave. (The Mutants Episode
Three) ©BBC
The best thing to note about episode three is the design of the fully mutated Solonians; we got a glimpse of one in episode two, but here we get to see a group of them in all their glory.  Kudos to future Oscar winner James Acheson68 for his Mutt costumes, a striking blend of humanoid and insectoid and easily one of the best things about this story.  The scene where they're surrounding Ky in the cave, as he pleads with them to remember their time as humanoid when he was their leader, is really nicely done.
Meanwhile, Jo gets scared and wanders into a really wonderfully trippy-looking cave before passing out after being approached by a silver-suited figure.  And the Doctor meets up with Ky (as played by almost-but-not-quite-Luke-Skywalker's-best-friend-Biggs actor Garrick Hagon, whose scenes were mostly cut from the Proper Version of Star Wars before being reinstated for the Special Edition) and delivers the Time Lord package to him -- which turns out to be four stone tablets, written in the old language of Solos that no one understands anymore.

And while all this is going on, the Marshal decides to get rid of three problems at once, by blowing up the entrances to the caves and thus trapping the Mutts, Ky, and the Doctor.  And, it turns out, Stubbs and Cotton, who foolishly reveal their true colors over the radio when they meet up with the Doctor.  Thus it becomes clear that the caves are sealed in and the gas grenades that the Marshal also threw into the caves are billowing towards our heroes...

Fortunately that silver-suited figure from earlier comes to rescue them at the top of episode four, taking them to a place of safety and revealing himself to be a Earth researcher called Sondergaard (as played by actually-in-all-the-versions-of-Empire-Strikes-Back Lobos actor John Hollis (he's the guy with the weird thing on his head in Cloud City)), who's been hiding in the caves (thanks to the Marshal) and performing research into the history and culture of the Solonians.  This is also the scene where director Christopher Barry uses a piece of Mirrorlon (a reflective plastic) to shake whenever he needs the caves to start collapsing.  Except, since it's being shot at a weird angle, the piece ends up distorting the scene (so it's really obvious as a result) and not every shot it's used on has falling debris, so it really just looks like an odd directorial decision at times.

But this is the episode where the Doctor and Sondergaard work out what's going on on Solos: it seems the tablets are a type of calendar, one for each season.  Solos has a 2000-year-long orbit, and a highly elliptical one at that, so as the seasons slowly change, the Solonians adapt to the changes.  This is normally a natural change, but Professor Jaeger's experiments with the atmosphere on Solos have triggered the changes early.  There are also some symbols on the tablets that represent radiation, so the Doctor and Sondergaard go back into the cave Jo went into and find a strange crystal egg.  But in order to analyze it, they need to head to Skybase.

Meanwhile the others head to Varan's village (thanks to an entrance to the caves the Marshal didn't know about), where Varan, clearly mutating, has decided to lead his remaining warriors in a desperate battle against the Overlords -- and he's going to use Jo, Ky, Stubbs, and Cotton as decoys.  He manages to get everyone on board Skybase just as Professor Jaeger prepares to bombard the surface of Solos with atmosphere-altering rockets, which leads to a shootout between the Marshal and Varan which breaches the hull of Skybase, sending Varan floating into space (a nicely done effect) and threatening to send everyone else after him...



June 11: The Mutants Episodes Five & Six

What to do in the event of a hull breach in space: 1) roll around on the ground in an effort to look like you're in danger of being sucked out; 2) wait for the pressure between Skybase and space to equalize (!) but make sure you do it before the air runs out (!!); 3) once that pressure has equalized, calmly walk out, congratulating each other on surviving.  (Let's try and be charitable to the Bristol Boys and assume that Skybase Control has simply thrown a forcefield around the breach, and Cotton just doesn't understand what's going on.  But even so...)

Sondergaard tries to reason with the mutated Solonians. (The
Mutants
Episode Five) ©BBC
Back on Skybase for episode five (well, once the Doctor makes it back from the surface, dodging Professor Jaeger's rockets -- which are represented by really quite astonishingly poor explosions, without even a whistle to suggest they're coming from the sky), with the Marshal temporarily regaining the upper hand.  Jaeger's effort has gone horribly wrong and is slowly turning the surface of Solos into an uninhabitable desert, but the Marshal forces the Doctor to help fix the mess that's been made, by threatening Jo's life.  And... that's about it.  The Doctor succeeds in repairing Jaeger's mistake, and Stubbs, Cotton, Jo, and Ky temporarily escape before being recaptured (though not before Stubbs is killed, apparently by a laser blast to the butt) and stuck in a room which Cotton suddenly realizes will be flooded with radiation when the approaching Earth shuttle Hyperion (with an Investigator on board) needs to be refueled: "We'll all be done for!" Cotton exclaims.  (And look!  We've made it almost six episodes without mentioning Rick James (not that one)'s mesmerizing performance.  Not for necessarily the right reasons, mind, but nevertheless it's hard to look away any time he delivers a line.)

Fortunately, Jo, Ky, and Cotton escape before the room is flooded with deadly radiation by escaping into Hyperion's fuel probe (um, ok) and getting out via that.  But the main bit of entertainment in episode six is the Investigator's inquiry into the Marshal's actions (as reported to him over radio by Jo during their escape last episode).  When the Marshal appears to have the upper hand, everything bad is conveniently omitted from anyone's testimony (including the Doctor's, who believes the Marshal is still holding Jo captive) -- and, amazingly, the Investigator seems perfectly content with this story, not needing any corroboration one way or the other.  Everything's fine, nothing to see here, even though a high-ranking Earth official was assassinated on Skybase a couple days ago.  It's only when Jo and company burst into the Marshal's office that the Doctor changes his tune, accusing the Marshal and Jaeger of "the most brutal and callous series of crimes against a defenceless people it's ever been my misfortune to encounter."  But there's no real evidence, not even when Sondergaard shows up, and when a Mutt also arrives on board it freaks the Investigator out enough to give the Marshal all his power back, which means that Jo and friends head back into the refueling chamber until the Doctor makes Solos's atmosphere breathable for humans -- at which point the Marshal is going to force the Investigator and the crew of the Hyperion to become the first settlers on Solos.  Paul Whitsun-Jones, it should be noted, does a great job of portraying the Marshal as someone's who's become dangerously mad, and he makes it clear that this bizarre plan makes sense to the Marshal.

Ky evolves into the Solonians' ultimate form. (The Mutants
Episode Six) ©BBC
But fortunately for everyone, Sondergaard gives Ky that crystal they found in the cave, and that and the radiation trigger the mutation in him, only he moves rapidly from Mutt to an angelic form, who finds the Marshal and vaporizes him before moving on to help initiate the change in the rest of his people.  Solos is saved.

The Mutants has a rather low reputation in fandom, but to be honest it's hard to see why.  Sure, there are a few obvious targets (the opening shot, the sometimes severe yellow-fringing on almost all the CSO, anything involving Rick James), but there's also enough that's right going on (the design (and realization) of the Mutants, the basic storyline about an extra-long year, all the location footage standing in for Solos, Tristram Cary's score -- which sounds like The Sea Devils done properly) that it makes it easier to forgive some of these flaws.  It's an improvement over Bob Baker & Dave Martin's last script (The Claws of Axos, if you've lost track) and it's streets ahead of something like Colony in Space, and indeed in terms of ideas and entertainment it holds its own against that Pertwee "classic", The Dæmons.  It is a little loosely structured, and some might find the switching between Skybase and Solos a bit tedious (even if structurally it makes sense and keeps things more interesting than if they'd done, say, three episodes on Skybase followed by three episodes on Solos), but honestly, there's plenty to enjoy about The Mutants -- even if there's not necessarily much to love.69



June 12: The Time Monster Episodes One & Two

In an intriguing parallel with The Mind of Evil, this episode starts with the Doctor having a dream where the Master is literally towering over him, laughing evilly all the while, along with volcanic eruptions (yes, that same footage as from earlier stories), four-headed labryses, and a large crystal appearing.  It's an unusual beginning, to be sure, but it seems the Doctor is right to be worried about his dream (despite the Brigadier's understandable reaction when he hears about it): a volcanic eruption has recently occurred in the Thera group of islands, "'believed by many modern historians to be all that remains of Plato's metropolis of Atlantis'" (as Jo reads from the newspaper).  And how does this tie in with the Master?  Well, as we soon learn, the Master is working on a project called TOMTIT ("What on earth does that stand for?" Yates bizarrely asks, as if there's no way that could be anything but an acronym -- he's right, as it turns out, but it's probably named after the New Zealand bird and the words slotted in afterwards, à la WOTAN from The War Machines), which is designed to transport things through gaps in time ("Sort of through the crack between now and... now," Benton helpfully explains).

And this is where things start to get wrong-footed in this story, because Barry Letts and Robert Sloman have decided to do some stuff on Women's Lib (even though two years earlier they had incredibly smart and qualified Dr. Elizabeth Shaw as the Doctor's assistant/partner on the show (and the year before they had independent genius Zoe Heriot) and no one batted an eyelid).  The result is cringingly awful, as Dr Ruth Ingram complains about male superiority and attitudes but still lets the Master and student assistant Stuart Hyde be condescending and patronizing towards her (except when the script remembers to have her complain about it) -- and worse, easily manipulable by them ("Course, if you need a man in charge..." Stuart says, egging her on into doing a trial run on TOMTIT, which is apparently the last straw for her).  In a word, ugh.

Still, that aside, most of the first episode is decent (even if there's the self-indulgent stuff with Bessie and her super drive and inertia brakes) -- although, as the Master (in disguise not only as Professor Thascalos but in a radiation suit as well) demonstrates TOMTIT to the Grants Committee and UNIT, he shouts "Come, Kronos!" when everything is going wrong (it seems), as if no one will notice that.  And yet no one does, so...

Episode two involves the Doctor properly with the TOMTIT stuff (and therefore, the Master's scheme).  An unforeseen side effect of TOMTIT's running out of control is that it's aged Stuart about sixty years, to a man in his 80s.  He's raving deliriously about Kronos as well, which concerns the Doctor.  He knows that Kronos is a name for a very powerful being called a chronovore which could threaten the entire universe.  There's a conscious effort here to make The Time Monster feels like a real epic, an impressive season finale from a time before such things really existed.  This is slightly thwarted by the fact that episode two feels like a lot of padding.  Learning about Kronos is one of the key moments.  There's some technobabble with the Master (E=MC³ in the extra-temporal physics of the time vortex, doncha know), and some stuff with Benton being lured away by the Master (which is actually the most entertaining thing in this episode, as Benton is wise to the Master's plan and sneaks back into the room with TOMTIT that he's been sent away from, in order to get the drop on the Master -- which works, but only for about a minute) that's clearly there primarily to make the episode the right length.

Oh, and we get a couple views of the Crystal of Kronos in ancient Atlantis (since it's the same crystal as in TOMTIT, linked across interstitial time (I think -- this bit is rather hard to follow)), which are mainly important because the Master, at the end of the episode, uses TOMTIT to bring a priest of Kronos (Krasis, according to the end credits) from ancient Atlantis into the present day.  It's not the most exciting cliffhanger ever, but I guess you take what you can get.  And that's really about it for episode two.  It tries hard to impart a sense of epicness to the proceedings; it's a shame that doesn't really translate to what we actually see.  But maybe things will improve in the next few episodes.



June 13: The Time Monster Episodes Three & Four

Kronos recedes into the Crystal of Kronos. (The Time
Monster
Episode Three) ©BBC
Oh dear.  They've started to build up The Time Monster as this epic story, and then they spend two episodes giving us some of the most flagrant padding ever.  Episode three isn't as bad though, as, after Krasis explains his role to the Master, we see the Master summon Kronos (who looks like a cross between a bird and a man, all in white) for the first time.  He can't quite control him yet, but he knows he's close to being able to do so.  All he needs is the true crystal of Kronos -- the one he has is only a fragment of it.  So the Master needs to head to Atlantis to get that crystal.

That's the interesting bit.  The other stuff ranges from the rather laughable (bless them, trying to show time slowing down by having all the actors slowly jog in place, but it's incredibly obvious that that's what they're doing -- they probably should have actually slowed the film down and then superimposed the Doctor over it, but maybe that was technically beyond them) to the bizarre: yes, it's time to mention the time flow analogue, made out of random bits of junk around Stuart's apartment (wine bottle, forks, corks, keychains...) but seemingly able to interfere with the Master's efforts to summon Kronos.  "The relationships between the different molecular bonds and the actual shapes form a crystalline structure of ratios," the Doctor explains.  "... it's just like jamming a radio signal, Jo.  We used to make them at school to spoil each other's time experiments."  So that explains that, then.  Which might be okay if the Doctor's modern art device had lasted longer than thirty seconds.  But it doesn't, and so it's exposed as the padding that it is.

Episode three ends with Mike Yates and a caravan trying to get to the Brigadier, only to be stopped by the Master bringing threats from the past to stop them.  The last problem is a V1 Doodlebug which is going to fall right on top of where Yates's convoy is.  The Brigadier tries to warn Yates, but then there's a huge explosion (although, annoyingly, not even a hint that something fell out of the sky onto them).

But the problems really start with episode four, which may be the single worst episode of Doctor Who yet.  Yates barely survives the explosion, but there's no time to waste, so Jo and the Doctor head off in the TARDIS (which has been redecorated, as Jo points out, by sticking awful plastic bowls all over the walls instead of the previous round circles -- fortunately, the redesign only lasts this story) to stop the Master.  The Master himself freezes time around TOMTIT and then escapes from Benton, Ruth, and Stuart into his TARDIS: next stop, Atlantis.  We get some truly horrendous dialogue from Ruth first though (including such gems as "You know, Stuart, for a so-called member of the dominant sex, you are being remarkably feeble" and "why are you men so spineless?" -- which might just be all right if any of it were delivered convincingly), and then their efforts to free the Brigadier and his men from the time field only serve to turn Benton into a baby.

There's a hint of cleverness with the TARDIS scenes, with the first suggestion that the TARDIS is not only alive but also sentient (and we get a mention of telepathic circuits).  And, also somewhat cleverly, we see that the Doctor, in order to stop the Master, has materialized his TARDIS inside the Master's and ended up with the Master's TARDIS inside his TARDIS as well, in a sort of eternal paradox.  But rather than do anything interesting with this (as they would later do in Logopolis (and then rather less interestingly in the (admittedly brief) 2011 Comic Relief sketch "Space" / "Time" -- but at least they explore the paradox somewhat)), it's simply the backdrop for the Doctor and the Master to bitch at each other for the rest of the episode.  It's tedious and painful to watch, with little fun involved for anyone in the audience.  The whole thing ends when the Doctor leaves his TARDIS and gets swallowed up by Kronos, after which the Master sends the Doctor's TARDIS spinning off into the vortex.  Hooray.  Can we get on with the story now, please?



June 14: The Time Monster Episodes Five & Six

After a deus ex machina button to bring the Doctor back from floating through the time vortex, it's time for two episodes set in Atlantis.  These are marginally better than the last two, partly because the setting is a bit more interesting, but mainly because George Cormack is so watchable as King Dalios.  It's not perfect (these scenes open with Hippias rebuking Dalios for the lack of food in Atlantis, even though we'd seen them acting all buddy-buddy in episode three), and there's the matter of Ingrid Pitt's stilted delivery as Queen Galleia (and her rather, um, distracting costume), but these scenes are nevertheless an improvement over just about anything in episodes three and four.  Particularly worthwhile are the scenes of the Master failing to hypnotize Dalios ("A very elementary technique of fascination.  I'm too old a fish, too old in years and in the hidden ways to be caught in such a net.  You are no emissary from the gods," Dalios tells the Master), and then his successful efforts to seduce Queen Galleia, where we see the Master at his most charming ever -- all the more nefarious for using his wiles rather than simple hypnosis to achieve his goals.

The discussions between the Doctor and Dalios are also reasonably entertaining, but it seems events are moving faster than either of them anticipate: Galleia has convinced Hippias to venture into the catacombs of the temple in order to defeat the guardian of the Crystal of Kronos -- the Minotaur of legend (as played by body-of-Darth-Vader-in-the-first-three-Star-Wars-films Dave Prowse70) -- so that the Master can retrieve the true crystal for his own ends.  And then Jo is thrown into the catacombs as well...

Episode six sees the destruction of Atlantis as a result of the Master's actions.  But before that the Doctor and Jo are imprisoned, which gives Pertwee the chance to deliver the Doctor's "daisiest daisy" speech, where he describes meeting with a hermit after "the blackest day of my life," who then told him the secret of life.  It's a charming speech, and it gives us a little bit of insight into the Doctor's character, which is nice.

Queen Galleia learns the Master has killed Dalios. (The Time
Monster
Episode Six) ©BBC
But before long the Master has seized power and Dalios has died (though it looks more like he died because he was old rather than because he was gravely mistreated), and the Doctor and Jo can do nothing but watch.  But when Galleia learns of Dalios's death, she becomes angry and orders the Master seized, but the Master summons Kronos using the true crystal of Kronos -- after which Kronos descends upon Atlantis, causing its destruction (which is at odds with what we're told in The Dæmons -- by the same authors! -- and so a bit difficult to reconcile; meanwhile, the depiction of Atlantis here is at odds with that in The Underwater Menace, but that's probably to be expected).  The Master escapes in his TARDIS with Jo and the crystal, while the Doctor pursues him in his TARDIS.  The Doctor knows he can't let the Master go free with the crystal as it would mean the end of everything, so (with a little help from Jo) he does a Time Ram, which will utterly annihilate both TARDISes.  But at the moment of collision, Kronos is set free and rescues them all, sending them back home (including the Master, thanks to the Doctor's intervention).  Back on Earth, the gap in time is closed, freeing the Brigadier and his men, and returning Benton to his adult self -- albeit in the nude...

The Time Monster starts well, and there's a real sense of trying to make this the most epic Doctor Who story ever.  But somewhere along the way they get bogged down in pointless details and padding, rather than keeping their eyes on the big picture.  The result is a mess, frequently tedious and only occasionally entertaining; it's not the powerful story it wants to be and it never reaches the level of greatness it's striving for.  A lot of important elements of the story do start here (TARDISes may be sentient, the Doctor's  meeting with the hermit, the idea that the TARDIS travels through the "time vortex"), and you can tell that they're at least trying to do something big, but unfortunately these are small additions to a story that squanders its potential on a lot of Doctor-Master bitching and some truly horrible dialogue and awful moments.

And so season 9 comes to an end.  Season 8 may have given the impression that the production team were growing more comfortable with the series, but this season cements that impression.  There are some good moments and some terrible ones throughout the season, and there hasn't been a season that has been quite so uneven as a result -- and run the gamut of what this team thinks the show is about.  But even the less-than-impressive moments are generally worth our attention, as you can see that they're trying to make this show the best they can, and the confidence they exude as a result helps those weaker moments shine at least a little.  But in the final analysis, more than any other season yet (more so than even season 8, which at least introduced the Master to shake things up), season 9 feels like nothing so much as business as usual.









Footnotes

64 The special edition on the DVD attempts to rectify this well-known issue by adding in a bunch of CGI Daleks and additional scenes to beef up the numbers.  It also changes all the Dalek voices (which are somewhat different from how they'd been in the past, but they're not that bad) to more "proper" voices done by BBC Wales Dalek voice Nicholas Briggs.
65 And now you know why the John Simm Master is watching Teletubbies in "The Sound of Drums" -- it's an homage to this scene.
66 Actually it made an appearance in Colony in Space first, when the Doctor detects the alarm beam in the Master's TARDIS, but as it wasn't signposted as the sonic screwdriver, its use may have passed you by.
67 It's a requirement at this point to note that this is the only time this phrase occurs during the Pertwee era proper (though it'll show up again in The Five Doctors), but we've probably reached the point where anyone who's aware of this line as a catchphrase for the third Doctor's era is also already aware of this fact.
68 Best Costume Design, The Last Emperor (1987); Best Costume Design, Dangerous Liaisons (1988); Best Costume Design, Restoration (1995).
69 And yes, this is the story mentioned in Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses -- even if it's clear Rushdie (or, to be charitable, his character Saladin) didn't watch enough to actually understand the point of this story.
70 Seriously, did the casting people on Star Wars just watch season 9 of Doctor Who for potential actors?  It's a miracle Paul Whitsun-Jones doesn't show up as one of the Imperial officers aboard the Death Star.