Doctor Who #277: Inferno Part 4

TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 30 1970.

IN THIS ONE... No one in the Mirror Universe believes the Doctor, even after he averts a disaster.

REVIEW: The intense background noise is starting to get to me, but maybe it's meant to. It's like we, as an audience, are under immense pressure, just like the people of Inferno are. It's definitely a relief when we move to a scene not so close to the drill site. The drilling and the alarms, through which Stahlman continues to shout that it's all under control. It's really not, of course, but no one listening to the Doctor, Sutton, or on Earth-1, Sir Keith. There's a remarkable example of the Doctor taking control of a situation where everyone is against him, leaving them all dumbfounded as he disregards their threats, something they're probably not used to. Judging from conversations between Petra and Sutton and others, this world will has a number of punishment scenarios for any action or speech that does not conform to party policy, so people must seldom get out of line. And yet there are the Suttons of this world who dare say they don't want to become servant "zombies" of the state. In another scenario, this world would crack under pressure. In this one, it's played as the metaphor of the Earth's crust spewing forth a brew that returns men to their primal natures.

The problem with the parallel universe is that everyone is as stubborn as Stall-Man, really. No matter what the Doctor says or does, he won't find an ally here, and no one will believe him. It's a most annoying way to keep a story going, the plot driven by characters simply refusing to cooperate with the protagonist come hell or high water. The Doctor throwing pointed barbs at them can only take us so far, but the best bits have to be in the interrogation, which is just a barrage of questions, directed like a firing squad by Douglas Camfield. I'm with the Doctor, it doesn't look all that painful, probably because the violence and torture is off-screen so as not to disrupt the family's tea time. There's a slight hope when alt-Liz tries to give the Doctor a chance and even compares notes with her Earth-1 counterpart - is it a better life than what she's been handed? - but nothing comes of it. The Doctor uses a green werewolf attack as a chance to escape, and typically, goes right back to the control center to try and stop the drilling. Typical, but Camfield pleasantly turns an ordinary gun-pointing cliffhanger into an actual moment by juxtaposing the countdown. We're counting down to disaster AND to the Doctor's death.

But is any of this happening in our universe? We do go back, through a hokey but charming transition through a blurry disco ball, and I wish we'd found Liz taking the Doctor's role in similar events. But it seems the early episode disaster never happened, so no one had to suggest reverse-drilling, not even Sutton. Liz is worried about the Doctor, but that's largely the extent of her role. We also see Sir Keith leaving for London, which might be the trip that got him killed in the other universe. Is time moving differently there? Are we just a day behind? That would be useful for the Doctor to prevent Earth-2's catastrophes on Earth-1 later on. Or is it simply that alt-Stahlman is more powerful politically and has suffered fewer delays due to Sir Keith's meddling? Is he just closer to breaking through the crust?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Though perfectly pleasant, the plot is at a standstill as nothing our hero does makes much of a difference. You could remove this episode and have Part 3 almost seamlessly flow into Part 5.



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