"Since we don't know what's up there, wouldn't it be more intelligent to carry a man rather than a bomb?"TECHNICAL SPECS: Still using an Internet source to watch it, waiting for the DVD. First aired Apr.18 1970.
IN THIS ONE... The Doctor flies into space, but not before the bad guys try to sabotage the launch.
REVIEW: Hey, Sgt. Benton's back! Nice to see him again after The Invasion, and it's about time the production built a little stability into its UNIT cast. Sure, the Brigadier's team has a lot of alien-caused roll-over, but it's hard to care for these sundry Captains and soldiers. Benton gets only a few short scenes, but there's an amusing politeness even to his throwing someone into a cell. Of course, he's jailing Lennox, a man who WANTS his door to be locked. After all, he's going against the conspirators. (New viewers might even think Benton is on the baddies' side, the way it's shot.) And Lennox is right to be afraid. When dinner is served, it's a radioactive isotope! It's not all that clear that the show's makers know just how terrible a fate this is - a prior scene has Lennox open one of these radioactive containers and open the door to the room, leisurely taking off his protective suit; scene needs an airlock and decontamination! - but WE do, and Lennox loses it too. A harrowing scene, especially for modern viewers.
Back at villain HQ, Liz continues to make me wonder how this companion was ever found wanting. She's active, she bends Lennox to her will, she foils the villains' plans, and when she gets swung around rather violently, she not only takes it in her stride, but lets out an emasculating barb too. She's really wonderful. On his end, the Doctor gets to play astronaut, even if Carrington would rather put a warhead on the rocket to blow Mars Probe 7 out of orbit. For mostly technical reasons, this thread is the weakest part of the episode. The fuel mixture is sabotaged seemingly leagues away from the rocket itself, and Whitaker invokes the old nugget about flying so fast you'll end up in the sun's orbit and burn, which is nonsense. The G forces acting on the Doctor distort his face in the most ridiculous ways, and the model rocket against a CSO sky is crap. Once we're in space though, the mystery of the capsule re-captures our attention and... is that another ship approaching?
I'm eager to find out what the antagonists' motivations are. Though Carrington and Quinlan hinted at something beneficial for humanity, Reegan's henchmen seem purely motivated by greed. Are the aliens simple weapons to break into banks? Or are those the limited dreams of small-minded men for hire? Is there something in sky that should not be discovered, or are they just hiding the alien astronauts from their mothership? Reegan certainly works very hard to stop the launch, running around a factory that is at times surprisingly good at evoking a launch platform, fighting UNIT soldiers, and fiddling with an almost absurd number of valves. It's the bit of action for this chapter and it works fine if you don't ask where the rocket actually is in relation to Reegan.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Some technical flaws, but the mystery is still interesting, Liz is still awesome, and Benton returns to the fold.