"It's beautiful... but at the same time, horrible. It gives me a funny feeling."
IN THIS ONE... The Doctor escapes the Minotaur and the destruction of Atlantis, and Kronos turns into a girl and lets the Master escape.
REVIEW: How are they going to wrap all this up in less than 25 minutes?! By having a lot of it happen behind the scenes, actually (one might imagine a version of this story that takes place in Atlantis for a lot longer where we see the Master's revolution). I bet the Brigadier is more than slightly frustrated that he didn't get any closure on this one. Sorry UNIT, but the Atlantis stuff is a much better setting. This time around, we get the Minotaur's second of four appearances on the series (if the Nimon count - wait, it this one some kind of Nimon?), gorgeous on film, even if trapped in a somewhat silly fight - the Doctor defeats it with a red cape, matador style. The lighting's atmospheric even in the scenes shot on video (in the cell, for example). And I really like the last shot of Atlantis, with stone and timber falling from the sky, and its Queen, having betrayed her King, her head cast downward in shame and defeat. Galleia really deserved more screen time.
It's not just eye candy either. In the middle of this kitchen sink finale, there's a relatively long scene in which the Doctor tells Jo a story from his youth, a story about his darkest, but best day. It's a Buddhist fable about everything being a miracle, and relates to the Doctor's adventures quite well, and even his fascination with ephemeral, flawed humanity. Could Jo be the daisiest of daisies?--I am fighting the 6th Doctor's urge for wordplay, but I'm losing--Or the dizziest of dizzies? We don't know what day he's talking about, but I like to think it's when he decided to leave Gallifrey, having realized how his people are squandering the gift of time travel. The wise old man who guides him, well, we'll eventually meet him so, no spoilers.
The Master doesn't fare so well, but I'm not faulting Delgado who plays it like he's really unhinged. He's as angry as he is happy for the Doctor being dead, and grows quite manic even before his nemesis shows up alive and well. This is a Master whose lapses in judgment are due to mental illness, surely, and you see it when his cool veneer drops away. Maybe I'm grasping at straws trying to explain why he would let the Doctor speak at his "coronation". At least he calls the Doctor's bluff when a time ram is threatened, and he's right to. He just doesn't count on Jo making the ultimate sacrifice. And how humiliating is it for him to beg the Doctor for his life? Obviously, he takes advantage of the Doctor's mercy to escape, but it still comes at the cost of his dignity. And that's how his hate for his old friend grows. In that climax, Kronos can be perceived as a giant lady with golden eyes, a cool, dramatic visual. Oh, and baby Benton? Well, he survives some of the worst babysitting ever (duck for cover, the console the baby's sitting next to is about to blow!) and when the temporal anomalies evaporate, Benton becomes a big naked adult. Cue end of season laughter. (At least it doesn't feel that forced, as far as these things go).
THEORIES: Atlantis gets mentioned a number of times on the series, but does it all amount to a coherent history? The extracanonical material has tried to fill the gaps with some success. For example, The Daemons says the eponymous monsters were responsible for the destruction of Atlantis, but in this serial, we see it's Kronos' fault. The novel The Quantum Archangel says the Daemons gave the Atlanteans the Kronos crystal, which works, both as an explanation of that throwaway line and within the parameters of the Daemons' manipulation of civilizations. What about The Underwater Menace, which features a fairly different Atlantis? Well, that takes place in the present, which gives the survivors 3500 years to evolve (or, as it happens, devolve) and forget their history. In the novel Transit, the Doctor mentions there are three different Atlantises, which is meant to cover these inconsistencies (two of them colonies of the first?), but to further muddy the waters (so to speak), the Torchwood novel The Undertaker's Gift establishes that the Time Agency had a hand in it as well.
VERSIONS: I am unaware of any significant differences in the Target novelization.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Looks like I'm happy so long as we're in Atlantis. Great setting, nice characters, sharp dialog, cool effects. Still feels rushed as a finale.
STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - I'm not kidding about the serial's kitchen sink quality. The show's makers through a lot of stuff at this, and while it builds up the TARDIS and how time travel works, it also plays for time with nonsense set pieces. Strangely, it means the really rather good Atlantis sequences get shorted, and the finale rushes by too quickly. A lot of good stuff, a lot of bad stuff, a lot of ambivalence.