"Well, look what happened last time. The man they arrested turned out to be the Spanish ambassador!" (Without a doubt a joke about Delgado's role in the early 60s series, Sir Francis Drake.)TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Apr.10 1971.
IN THIS ONE... The Time Lords send the Doctor to a 25th-century colony having trouble with monsters, robots and infertile ground.
REVIEW: I think the story goes that Letts and Dicks inherited the new cost-saving (except not really) format and scripts of Season 7, so it was only a matter of time before they allowed their Doctor go spinning through time and space again. To their credit, they don't flush that format's premise, but instead re-introduce the Time Lords and have them use the Doctor as an unwilling agent to achieve their own ends. The Doctor will be able to travel, but on THEIR dime and where and when THEY choose (the production team just needs to nail that dematerialization sequence, popping out of existence just won't do). The episode's opening flies us off into space, boldly stating that this isn't like the rest of the UNIT era. It's perhaps a disappointment that after visiting a number of quarries on Earth, the alien planet here is played by a quarry too, albeit one with an impressive robot. As night comes, I don't care so much. The sound design makes it seem a harsh place indeed.
For Jo, this isn't just the first visit to an alien world, it's surprisingly her first look at the TARDIS interior. We haven't had any jokes about it being bigger on the inside in a long while. I can't even remember it ever being treated as a joke before, actually. Even after all she's seen, Jo's a bit skittish about exploring another planet, and the Doctor SO wants her to want it. It's sweet. This is his natural element, but she never actually signed up for it, nor even believed his stories about space-time travel were true. Usually, this happens during the get-to-know-you phase of the relationship, but Jo is already a companion, and it would break the Doctor's heart if it turned out she didn't have the right kind of adventurous spirit. Of course, it's also Pertwee's first alien planet, and his Doctor's reaction to it. After more than a year of exile (our time, anyway), he actually seems humbled by the experience. He's never seemed quieter or less confident. Like it might all be a dream (and he does know he's being manipulated by the Time Lords). For the show's historian, check out the third Doctor licking a rock! And I thought that was just the Tenth's shtick (and Due South's Benton Fraser, of course, but that's just an indicator of what else I'm watching at present). Also, his real name on screen! Well, in some form of Gallifreyan.
And the plot? It sort of could have happened on UNIT-era Earth, couldn't it? A base under siege, people starved for natural resources, a human villain probably behind the monster... It's not an experimental power complex, but it could be. Setting it in the future allows it to be more fantastic, of course, so we have giant CSO lizards, odd primitive natives, and a robot, in addition to the Master's doomsday weapon waiting in the wings. That's a lot to juggle, but with 5 episodes to go, writer Malcolm Hulke has them all under control. Unlike several of the recent stories, Hulke's guest cast isn't there only to block the Doctor's efforts. These have an open mind and allow themselves warm to Jo and the Doctor. The future is a place where people accept the Doctor's help and don't have it shoved down their throats, and that's a breath of fresh air at this point.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Not an extreme change of pace, but a welcome one nonetheless.