"Extraordinary people, the Atlantians, you know. Even more extraordinary than their cousins in Athens. Huh! Once reality became unbearable for them, they would invent a legend to tame it."
IN THIS ONE... Stu is turned into an old man by Kronos the Chronovore, whom the Master tries to summon after escaping under UNIT's very nose.
REVIEW: There are some who believe Doctor Who should only use time travel to get the Doctor to different times and places and NOT as a theme or subject matter. It's a perfectly valid point of view, but as a fan of time travel stories, I like the occasional foray into timey-wimeyness (and it's been in the show's DNA since The Edge of Destruction, though it was badly done there). This is the production team's second attempt this season at doing a "temporal" story - is there a reason director Paul Bernard pulls them all? - and not unlike other Barry Letts-orchestrated serials (Terror of the Autons, The Daemons), it has a kitchen sink/mish-mash/comic book quality. We find out that the time vortex and/or the Void is a ecological niche whose greatest predator is the chronovore, a creature that eats time. This causes different effects, like locally slowing down time (the Time Lords and Bessie seem more resistant, the plot might not be) and aging up poor Stu Hyde, whose room full of trippy posters just doesn't go with his gray hair.
And then there's the fact that the crystal used to summon the chronovore is anchored to another point in time (I was going to say exists at two points in time, but we all exist from our beginnings to our ends, so that wasn't helpful). While the Master is powering up the crystal in the present, it also powers up in ancient Atlantis where a priest apparently uses it to cross the bridge to our time. It's a good visual representation of the Doctor Who notion that science and magic are interchangeable based on context. What we see of Atlantis is appropriately mysterious, a feeling rather than a concrete place, on film and in the dark.
What holds it together is the UNIT family of course. The Doctor tries to figure things out and Jo is kind to the wizened Stuart. The Brigadier takes his orders amiably from the Doctor, but then relishes pulling rank on the Whitehall official. He also calls Yates to get a truckload of guns, and big ones. UNIT's finally learned its lesson about bullet-proof monsters. The Master's so cocky he consistently hides in plain sight, once again adopting a name that means Master in another language, and then staying in the director's office while UNIT is undoubtedly searching everything else in the area. And then there's Benton, still being used as a guinea pig, and yet, showing himself more resourceful than his superiors. Letts and/or Sloman must have great affection for the character (it's contagious) because he played the same kind of action man in The Daemons. Here he's able to figure out the Master's impersonation of the Brig is bogus, doubles back to a window on an upper floor, and climbs back in to surprise the villain. Unfortunately, he gets violently thrown into a locker and is knocked unconscious, but that's Benton. He's too competent and brave not to get himself hurt.
THEORIES: The Doctor's haunted look when he describes time as a "strange place"... Should modern viewers be reminded of Time Lords being subjected to the time vortex as children (The Sound of Drums). Whatever he saw made the Doctor run... and the Master go mad.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Some good character moments and an attempt to add to the show's mythology. It's too bad that at this point, it feels like a retread of last season's Master plan, and a slowly-moving retread at that.