Doctor Who #276: Inferno Part 3

"But I don't exist in your world!" "Then you won't feel the bullets when we shoot you."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 23 1970.

Doctor Who does Mirror, Mirror.

The Doctor fades from view and reappears in a more evil universe. Classic! Maybe he thinks he jumped to the future, because he's a little slow to catch on, even with odd Big Brother-style posters and strange logos on the sheds. The fun of these patently absurd stories (a parallel world so different where people nevertheless are in the same positions as their Earth-1 counterparts) is that the actors get the chance to play alternate versions of their characters. Benton is brutal. Liz is a cold and severe brunette. But it's Nick Courtney as the Brigade Leader who steals the show. It's not just the cool scar and iconic eye patch, it's his whole attitude, leaning in his chair, so still and relaxed to the point of indolence. He's so unlike the Brigadier, creepy and sadistic without having to do much of anything. An amazingly unctuous performance. I also like that unlike everyone in our universe, he asks "Doctor what?" no "who?", no doubt the name of the show on Earth-2.

And the guest characters are here too, of course. Well, almost. Sir Keith was killed 24 hours ago, a result of a more ruthless (and beardless), but not much different Stahlman. Petra and Sutton have a similar relationship though his inappropriate advances may get him into a lot more trouble. Not only are women more authoritative in the "evil" universe (what does that say about the Doctor Who writers?), but the more controlled society can get you reported and summarily punished. Though the people are slightly different (and for more occasional viewers, there are brief scenes on Earth-1 to remind you who they really are), the events they are embroiled in aren't. Ooze is still coming up to the surface, and the same people, including Stahlman, have been contaminated. The story basically continues from the same point, except everyone but the Doctor has changed.

The Doctor isn't the only Earth-1 visitor though, Bessie comes too. Why? Well, to have a bit of HAVOC action, of course! And it's good! The Doctor wrestles with a black-hatted UNIT man (or rather, a Republican Security Forces man) while driving through a shooting gallery, a sequence made all the more exciting because of the quick editing and Pertwee's face being right there on camera. He goes climbing up the factory ladders again, but it's followed by the contaminated UNIT/RSC soldier doing what is reputedly the highest fall in TV history up to that point. And it is quite high. There's room for humor too, with the Doctor hiding in a bin and wearing its lid as a camo-hat. Some darker comedy as well in the alt-characters' nasty reactions to the Doctor talking to them as if they were the people he knew.

THEORIES: So where IS the Doctor of the parallel universe? The New Adventures novel Timewyrm: Revelation, uhm, reveals that the leader of the Republic (the Big Brother figure) is the Doctor's third incarnation, having chosen from the Time Lords' mug shots instead of letting the regeneration proceed naturally. He dies from the events of Part 7. Obviously, there is no canonical evidence that there is any connection between the characters. My personal theory is that the fascist tendencies of this Earth's history never made it a particularly favored travel destination for the Doctor. Even if this dimension's Doctor had the same adventures, the Time Lords probably wouldn't have exiled him there (his interest in humanity was a factor). And it's even possible that he and Susan were captured by the authorities after sticking around too long in London and stuck into some Republican version of Area 51.

- An iconic episode, with a brilliant performance from Nicholas Courtney, some witty lines, and cool action sequences too.


Mitchell Craig said...

Now this is where "Inferno" starts getting good. Granted, the serial would be better as a four-part story; nonetheless, parallel world stories are always fun.

FYI, Christopher Benjamin, who played Sir Kieth (as well as Arthur Gordon Jago), turned up in the NuWho episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp:.

Siskoid said...

True enough! And I didn't realize where I'd recognized him that time either. Some weird blind spot I seem to have for Mr. Benjamin.


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