Doctor Who #274: Inferno Part 1

"You're liable to wake up Old Nick going that deep."TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired May 9 1970.

IN THIS ONE... They're drilling farther than they've ever drilled before. An accident creates a green werewolf. And the Doctor just there to leech power for his TARDIS console.

REVIEW: The weird editing on the opening credits is gone, thankfully, but we're still getting some special titles in this one. Gorgeous volcanic eruptions aren't just a bold use of color, but they seem to promise (or threaten) something for the story's characters down the line. And indeed, Dr. Stahlman is the prototypical scientist meddling with things he doesn't understand, drilling to the Earth's crust with no regard for safety. Can't tell yet if he's criminally negligent or if he has some darker agenda, but if there's a bad idea in the Whoniverse, it's to drill into the Earth. Not with everything the 2012 viewer knows is down there. And in fact, he releases some kind of ooze from down below, which turns the nicest guy at "Project Inferno" into a green werewolf. Nice trick to show poor Slocum being human and friendly in the opening scenes, so that we quickly bond with him and may be horrified at his savage murder of anyone who sees him in his mutated form.

This is Part 1, so we spend some time getting to know the guest cast, and a varied bunch they are. Sir Keith is the bureaucrat trying to hold the project together (I just realized, it's Jago from Talons of Weng-Chiang!), and in his ineffectual sparring with Stahlman, I think we should see a mirror of how the Doctor so often mistreats the people in charge. Sir Keith is sympathetic and Stahlman a humorless jerk, but isn't that how this Doctor has come across in the past three stories? In its year of color rebirth, the show seems intent on scratching at its own veneer, making its heroes as ambiguous as its villains. Sutton is the other reasonable man, a drilling expert who knows what's what and doesn't want to become a civil servant, but he's also hopelessly sexist (it's just like an episode of Mad Men). Petra is a strong woman who won't take his crap, but her loyalty may be misplaced (so she's Liz to Stahlman's Doctor, then).

Whether or not Stahlman has a secret agenda, his homologue the Doctor, does! An annoying consultant he may be, but he's also taking power from Inferno to get his TARDIS console started. This second thread is how the serial will fuel its seven episodes, with the Doctor moving to a parallel universe (see Theories), but not yet. Just weird distortions for now (epileptic viewers, beware). UNIT is also in the mix, the Brig and Benton (now a permanent member of the team), investigating the strange murder(s). It's lovely how Benton fixes up a temporary office, complete with the Brig's old army photos, and of course, that gives the Doctor the chance to trade some friendly barbs with the Brig. Liz doesn't get a big role this time, but the Doctor's affection for her is evident and makes their friendship rather delightful to watch.

THEORIES:
In trying to get the console working, the Doctor hits a wall and finds himself in "limbo". Modern viewers may recognize the "Void" found in between universes (from Doomsday, etc.). It would seem that the Time Lords have blocked the Doctor's access to the time vortex, but he seems to have, by accident (a power surge), found a place the console can still travel to.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Another good start, though obviously, the parallel universe thread is more intriguing than the werewolf element (yes, I know they're not really werewolves). Interesting guest cast, and some good moments for the regulars too.

2 comments:

Jeff R. said...

I've always thought that the entire second season of NuWho was basically an elaborate spinning out of this story. So yes, keep an eye on the void, parallel universe, demons and devils, Torchwood/Unit parallels, etc....

Siskoid said...

There's a case to be made for Doc10's biggest influence being Doc3!

(Just as I think Doc2 is stamped on Doc11.)

 

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