Doctor Who #110: The Return

"There was a galaxy accident. A giant solar flare. Now, we no longer have a being that you can see or recognise."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 3 of The Ark. First aired Mar.19 1966.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands at the end of the Ark's trip, but the ship has been taken over by genocidal Monoids. Brought down to Refusis II, the Doctor meets the natives who are basically poltergeist.

REVIEW: Once again, the production values prove to be the serial's biggest strength. With the Monoids in charge, humanity is relegated to a small kitchen set (with magic pills that turn into food in water), but the control room still works, and makes use of an impressive big screen CCTV system. Simple, old-school model work gets us down to the planet, and I, for one, am a fan of the craft involved. Refusis itself is unlike any planet we've yet seen, rather lovely with its strange flora, mountains and alien castles. So they skimped on the Refusians by making them invisible, so what? At least they're not so much invisible as they are creatures of mental force, which is a new wrinkle. The science behind it is completely ridiculous, but since they have no corporeal form, there's room enough for the people and animals of the Ark. Hopefully, they can adapt to booming voices watching them take showers.

The serial's weakness is the dialog. There's such an overwhelming use of phrases like "it's kind of like a...", "it's sort of a...", "it's some kind of..." that you'd think it was a first draft. The Refusians are more eloquent, but sound like they're rambling. In their case, it's all overwritten. And the science... terrible. Galaxy accidents? Dodo's flu mutating so that it sapped the humans' will, making it easy for the Monoids to revolt? These explanations just draw attention to themselves for no reason. The last one in particular... It's not like the Guardians were particularly aggressive in the first place. In 700 years, politics evolve. Why not just have it be that?

Do the Monoids make the transition from goofy servants to creepy villains? Not quite. As true "monsters", the worst elements of their costumes makes it hard to take them seriously, which wasn't a problem when they were meant to be sympathetic. Armed with extreme Flash Gordon guns called "heat prods", they still seem a lower-level threat. I do like how they still use a lot of hand gestures despite having collars that allow them to speak, but the sight of #2 throwing flower pots around doesn't exactly fill me with fear. #2's also a very bad liar, caught out by Dodo, of all people. The humans do better, with some engaging representatives in Dassuk (Brian Wright) and Vanussa (Eileen Helsby), but they don't get to do very much and need Steven to lead them (sapped will epidemic, you see). Dodo's a right brat just asking to get her heat prodded, and the Doctor, showing off his talent as a diplomat, still has that surprising moment, after the Refusians destroy the shuttle, when he seems happy to stay on Refusis forever. Really?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The Return looks good (if you ignore the aliens) and is a success for the production team, but as a piece of writing, it needs a lot of work.


Toby'c said...

I really cracked up at the first mention of the security kitchen - it made me think of that Futurama episode where Zapp took over the Planet Express ship and turned the laundry into a brig.

Siskoid said...

Well they had to sleep in there, so it was quite the kitchen.


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