On the Occasion (part 38)

My 40th anniversary marathon of Doctor Who finally resumes at 12:40 PM PST with The Visitation (episodic version.) Not really as bad as I remembered it, though I must admit that it has been well over a decade since I bothered to watch it last. An alien crash lands in Earth’s past, controls the locals, and spreads the plague – all fairly routine stuff. Colorful local helps our heroes to thwart the unbelievable (to him) menace, and in the end causes the great fire of London. 3.5/5. I’d rather like to see a proper historical story sometime…

2:30 PM PST – Black Orchid (movie version.) Hey look! No alien menace, no evil masterminds, no sci-fi elements! A period piece, that is kept purely period (except for the TARDIS and our heroes) and turns out to be quite a ripping yarn. It’s a case of constant mistaken identities, in this Agatha Christie type mystery. Plus we get to see the Doctor play his favorite sport: Cricket! And it’s kept to the amount of episodes to tell the story. 4/5.

3:30 PM PST – Earthshock (episodic version.) Well, they certainly put the “shock” in to this story. For one they didn’t call it Return of the Cybermen or something similar, thus the shock of the baddies is retained (especially after 8 years) and the Doctor’s shock at finding out who he’s dealing with as late as well into the penultimate episode. Also the ultimate shock in the end is something that hadn’t been done for a while – the mortality of the regular cast. Constant action and suspense is also quite a welcome shock, compared to some of the more slowly paced stories of this series. One quibble is the “continuity” placed into this episode: The cyber leader is too knowledgeable (even personally familiar) of the Doctor’s previous encounters with his race, especially since they never exhibited the “hive” mentality of their Star Trek cousins. The script, the design (especially the new cybermen), the music and the direction for this story are superb. A very well deserved 5/5.

5:25 PM PST Time Flight (movie version.) What was the fettish with the Master during the Davison era, eh? This story had a good concept, with a realtively decent script – but to have the Master in it just wasn’t needed. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good airplane story (well, some may argue that we never have…) and some 15 years later we’re at Heathrow with Concordes being hurtled back into prehistory. Tegan gets a lousy farewell… 2.5/5.

7:00 PM PST the 20th series begins with Arc of Infinity (episodic version.) The 20th anniversary sees the return of the 10th anniversary foe – Omega. This time he has help from within the high council of time lords. A fairly average open to an extraordinary series. Oh, and Tegan’s back (an no longer in that uniform…) 3/5.

I am skipping Snakedance, as I have recently viewed it for an article, which I “reprint” here:


Out of all of the Twentieth season stories of Doctor Who, Sankedance is the only story that doesn’t have any connection with the older mythology of the series (Omega, the Black Guardian, the Brigadier and the Master all are key in the other stories,) instead it’s a sequel to the extremely well conceived story from the previous season – Kinda (where we see that Tegan is beside herself, and the Doctor is found to be an idiot…*) In that story Tegan was possessed by the snake-like Mara through an unshared dream. Now the Mara has returned through Tegan’s dreams – from the dark places of the inside (or where ever) – to return home to Menusa in time for the anniversary celebration of its banishment some five hundred years earlier.

Where the winds of restlessness blow
Where the fires of greed burn
Where hatred chills the blood
Here in the great minds eye
Here in the depths of the human heart
Here is the Mara.

Sankedance divulges more of the mythology of the Mara than was shown on the world of the Kinda. We see here that the Mara was a creation of the society that it eventually took over. Where the power of the minds brought forth from the dark places a creature that would come to dominate until the outsiders – the Federation – came and banished the Mara, but not destroyed. Much like in Kinda, where the wheel of time is turned by the Mara to repeat history (only to be thwarted by the “not we”) here the Mara attempt to re-enact history in order to change it’s own outcome. At a point in time when everyone is focused on the history and mythology surrounding the Mara and its supposed demise – the once a decade celebration of it’s banishment – the Mara hopes to channel all the mental energy that was once used in its creation to bring forth a new Sumaran dynasty on Menusa.

One of the highlights of this story is the possessed Tegan. In Kinda we briefly were treated to this (before transferring to one of the Kinda,) but in Sankedance the possessed Tegan is the menace through out. And unlike in Kinda, where the Mara only existed on one host at a time, we have a secondary possession with Lon (a younger, yet still Behaving Badly Martin Clunes) with the Tegan-Mara being in full control. Janet Fielding looked as if she were finally allowed to have some fun – especially in part two where she was able to act like a child over the aftereffects of the fortuneteller incident (definitely a change from here more rigid personality…) Still in the end, she is chilling in her fully possessed state. More so than the first outing, this is a more emotionally draining experience for Tegan. The upside this time is that she is finally free of the Mara.

In all, this second Mara story is an excellent example of Doctor Who – especially in a season full of reliance of the past. It is a shame that a potential third story never came to be. One can only hope that the BBC may consider this and Kinda for a potential DVD set in the future, as it is an excellent example of what the series could do differently and still be Doctor Who.

*Sorry, I couldn’t resist the Avengers type description…

Oh, and 4/5.

So, at 9:00 PM PST, it on to Mawdryn Undead (episodic version.) The Brigadier returns, as does the Black Guardian, and David Collings makes another guest appearance. We’re also given a new companion – Turlough – but he’s working for the Black Guardian. This is really an anniversary story (complete with a clip montage…) I’ve always had a soft spot for this one (sad fan boy that I am) but I can’t help to wonder what it would have been like if William Russell was able to come back as Ian… 4/5.

That’s enough for today. Tomorrow – more!