"First course interrupted by bomb explosion. Second course affected by earthquakes. Third course ruined by interference in the kitchen. I'm going out for a walk. It'll probably rain."TECHNICAL SPECS: The one episode from this story that still exists, it can be found in the Lost in Time DVD collection. First aired Jan.6 1968.
IN THIS ONE... Jaime and Victoria are undercover in Salamander's household, where the latter plots to poison various and sundry. This is the one with Griffin the Chef in it.
REVIEW: No reprise to start the only existing episode, so I wouldn't blame anyone for feeling lost, especially since this hardly feels like a Doctor Who story. The Doctor is hardly in it, acting as an analyst waiting for his "agents" to report back in. Jamie, in his fascist uniform, seems quite adult and serious, easily handling both infiltration and gunplay, and even Victoria has an action moment, pushing her trolley into a group of armed guards. Atypical to the point of being off-model. Troughton IS in a good part of it, but as Salamander. It's nice to see part of his performance intact here because the transformation is quite amazing. He does something with his features that creates an entirely different character, one that doesn't quite look identical to the Doctor. His mouth and eyebrows are stiff and pinched as opposed to loose and relaxed when he plays the latter. The fact they look different makes the "doubles" conceit a lot more credible.
Aiding and abetting the idea that this isn't a Doctor Who story is the large cast of guest characters who have a lot more to do than our heroes. Astrid continues to be a reckless action heroine, soon recognized leading to Jamie and Victoria being rumbled by Salamander. Kent is the Doctor's guide, but mostly gets a visit from bullies who break his fine china. Fariah becomes a more interesting character when she admits she helps protect Salamander's life every day quite against her will. She may be one of the angels after all. Bruce as well. He doesn't know what Salamander is up to. There's some nice tension when Denes (aside: DON'T draw attention to the fact he's being held prisoner in a corridor!) eats what we think is a poisoned meal, until Fedorin confesses he wasn't able to spike the lunch, which Salamander sees as an invitation to make him commit "suicide". Well played twists there.
The very special guest-star, however, is Reg Lie as Griffin the Cook, a fun little showcase for a character that won't appear again despite getting several comic scenes. Griff is a culinary genius who genuinely believes his food to be terrible. His negativism is played for laughs, and though he's meant to bounce off Victoria and Fariah, he mostly talks to himself. All part of the wit of the script (which again delivers), and I suppose it's a good thing that a 6-parter's length allows for these kinds of detours. In a story watched as a whole, Griff reads like padding. In singles, watched week to week (or day to day, in my case), he makes the episode. In the same way that's he's not happy with his situation, neither is anyone else. Even Janos the guard takes time off to flirt with Astrid. No one is where they want to be, and Griff is their spokesperson.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - I don't know that it's Doctor Who exactly, but the script is witty and Griffin the Chef deserved a comeback.