Doctor Who #298: Colony in Space Part 4

"Surely the basis of all true law is justice."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 1 1971.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor and Jo are let off the hook by a weird puppet. The Adjudicator is less kind to the colonists, but then, turns out he's the Master.

REVIEW: So yeah, the Adjucator's voice is a familiar one, and since this is Season 8, he has to be the Master. There isn't even a musical sting when his face is revealed, because even the atmospherics register no surprise. To be fair, the Time Lords said they were sending the TARDIS in the Master's direction back in Part 1. Still, it's played surprisingly matter-of-fact. His relationship to the Doctor as well. He's no Bond villain here, but rather someone out of a soap opera playing a game of "I'll expose your secret if you expose mine". Of COURSE he decides to side with the miners over the colonists, because, you know, he's EVIL, but we still don't know what his real agenda is, which is the very fuel that seems to drive this whole story. (I've pretty much mentioned someone's undisclosed agenda in each review.)

We don't see very much of the trial, which is probably a blessing. There's already some measure of padding from the colonists discovering what we, the audience, already know about the miners' tricks (holograms, monster hands) without going on about it too much in talky scenes later. Are the guest characters showing signs of complexifying? Perhaps. Caldwell is still ambivalent as ever, hanging out with people whose amorality is obviously abhorrent to him. Looks like he's just keeping his head down and hoping his retirement comes soon. He's sold his soul, that one. Morgan has a bit where he seems to betray Captain Dent, but it's a trick to get at a gun. Explains why it doesn't make a, uhm, dent on the Captain, emotionally. Guy's an evil robot, and I just want to slap him. If the Master isn't lying, the situation was caused by a computer error that allocated the same planet to both groups, so why have the miners be such black hats? If both have a real claim to the planet, and we could empathize with both sides, wouldn't the drama be richer and more complex? As it is, I'm just happy to see Norton the spy get his comeuppance as things devolve into a firefight. (Though I don't believe for a second the Master will have the Doctor and Jo killed by a "stray bullet" during this sequence.)

The actual centerpiece of this episode is the Doctor rescuing Jo from the primitives, and our discovery that there's a lot more to their culture than had first met the eye. The green primitives we've already met. Seeing as they're hiding their loins, that bodysuit is meant to be their skin, isn't it? I didn't want to say something before, but it never really looks like skin (body paint too expensive?). On the other hand, the theatrical masks work because these mute telepaths don't need a moving mouth. And the same is true of the more intelligent subset of the race (or of another race using the greenies as soldiers), pale blind creatures with flowing capes and a skull shaped like a brain. They're short and point a lot, and really, Jo shouldn't be screaming when she sees them, it's rude. If I don't share her fear, it's because the synth music, truly a sore point for me since Part 1, is too high-pitched and silly to make these aliens anything but mildly adorable. A third type, a tiny puppet-like leader who apparently lives in a cupboard, CAN talk, but moves its mouth unconvincingly. At least it's reasonable. The civilization also features brightly lit corridors and painted art on glass that's an interesting artifact of how they've devolved as a society (but ultimately nonsensical when seen on a single window pane). The whole design is cartoony and visual-first (like a lot of episodes in this era), but a welcome change from the dreary quarry and corridors we've seen to date.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium
- The aliens are certainly risible, and by now, the Master's presence isn't shocking anyone, but the episode is thematically sound, with both story strands featuring a judgment.

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