"How on earth did you do that, Doctor?" "Elemental, my dear Benton!"
IN THIS ONE... The Master has a chat with Azal, Jo escapes her bed and finds her way to the church basement, and Miss Hawthorne leads everyone to believe the Doctor is a magician.
REVIEW: I can't decide if there's a recurring joke in this story about UNIT being "out of touch" or not, but here they are again, having communication trouble. The Doctor also has to explain once more how the UNIT tech is supposed to construct his heat barrier solving machine, and the camera goes "aw, let's just cut away". UNIT seems as out of touch with the Doctor's high science as it is with the Master's magic, and of course, they're really one and the same. In fact, the Master has trouble getting in touch with Azal as well, leading to the Pan-like figure's return again and again in each successive cliffhanger. The fact that Azal wants to speak with the Doctor instead is something the Master sees as a slight in his ongoing rivalry with the Doctor, but his motivation otherwise remains muddy.
The story still can't decide if it believes in magic or not, and it can be annoying. We're told again and again that it's all hogwash, but there's this very magical thing about Azal returning three times, and Yates speaks about spells and elementals as if he believes it. There's also a bizarre sequence in which the subjugated populace are made to believe rather too easily that the Doctor is a great magician. Just how superstitious are they? Or have their resistance to suggestion been worn way down by the Master? I know they've seen devils, but that doesn't mean the guy in the cape is some kind of sorcerer just because Miss Hawthorne says so. Still, some cleverness on her part having Benton shoot various things and people with a silencer, simulating telekinetic effects. And of course, Bessie's remote driving comes in handy. The dialog has a number of clever lines as well, and Miss Hawthorne knocking someone upside the head with a crystal ball, ending a frenzied, violent (read: exciting) fight. In other ways, it's not clever at all. Jo wakes up from a concussion and immediately runs out the window to follow her feeling, a handy ladder waiting for her.
At the center of the episode is a strange sequence with a Maypole and Morris dancers, which to non-Brits, is the most alien thing on the show since, well, Axos, but maybe the Krotons before that. I'm sure it's all a quaint tradition in the UK, but it's just bizarre to me. These odd revelers are somehow more effective than Azal himself, who turns out to be a major disappointment. His skinny chicken legs not withstanding, he just doesn't have a rich enough voice to go with his very concept. It comes off as shouty and forced. You destroyed Atlantis with that voice? Get in line, there are plenty of potential culprits for that one. With only one episode to go, I now fear that we won't get satisfying answers to all our questions.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Some clever turns of phrase, and Benton still being used at his most effective, but Azal is a bit rubbish and we're no closer to understanding the Master's plan.