Doctor Who #334: The Three Doctors Part 3

"How does anyone survive? Force of will. Mind, you might say, over antimatter."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.13 1973.

IN THIS ONE... Omega, an ancient Time Lord bend on revenge, is revealed. The 2nd Doctor brings Benton and the Brig to the anti-matter universe.

Meet Omega. He's the solar engineer who destroyed a star to create the black hole that powers the Time Lords' time travel technology. Considered a hero, he was believed to have been killed in the process, but no, he created his own world through force of will "inside" the black hole's anti-matter universe by apparently harnessing a singularity that looks a lot like a steam jet. He wants revenge on the Time Lords, so hopes fellow exile the Doctor will join him (he obviously needs somebody on the outside), and he doesn't care if he destroys our universe in the process (so obviously, the Doctor won't work with him). It's also obvious his time spent as a god in his little realm has gone to his head (this is a joke that will become clear later). Proof of his madness is accicentally represented in the design for this story, which is cheap and cheesy, and quite possibly my biggest objection to it. Everything has glitter on it. The sets have visible hinges and sticky tape. Organic elements clash with smooth surfaces. Omega's com unit (above, left) is basically a balloon surrounded by unpainted styrofoam blocks, and made me laugh out loud when squeaky, balloon-rubbing sounds started to come out of it. Omega's mask is memorable, but I wonder why it's so fish-like.

The direction isn't helping any. Characters are made to stand in groups for easy camera shots, which looks as artificial as the set dressing. Some characters spend prolonged periods in shadows, as if they'd missed their marks and couldn't find their light. Only the wrestling match inside Omega's mind has any depth - stark lighting, a nice surreal mix of overhead and POV angles, weird colors - and that nevertheless feels disconnected from the rest of the action. At least the insert shot of the magician's flowers dropped in the previous episode pay off in this one. Lennie Mayne's direction made me wonder if it ever would, so inept it was in other respects.

So it's all up to the characters, which are a mixed bag. The Brig is still unwatchable, acting like he has a mental block preventing him from believing the proof of his eyes. It is annoying as hell. If he were the serial's Stupid Bureaucrat Archetype(TM), he would have been classified as both insane and incompetent by now, and the writers would be planning just desserts for him. His whole protestation that the anti-matter pocket universe has to be an English beach, even though there's no ocean and it looks like a pit or ravine, is simply embarrassing. As if intelligence can't be lost or gained, only transferred, it's Jo who gets a bit of a boost in this one. She mediates quite well between the two Doctors and comes up with a crucial solution, something relatively obvious the Doctors missed. That's pretty much the model for future Doctor-companion interactions - simple common sense, which often eludes the Doctor's overactive mind, inspires and saves the day. And now that the Doctors have gone past their miffed and uncooperative phase, they start to work as a unit, finishing each others' sentences, and deferring to one another. Pertwee still looks edgy about sharing the spotlight with another star, but it's funny that he lets Troughton have the fattest bits of technobabble because he's "better at it" (he is).

- Though the Brigadier is a lost cause, the other characters do their best to entertain despite the pretty terrible - and distracting! - sets and direction.


Mitchell Craig said...

In the Brigadier's defense, he may be insisting on things not being real as an alternative to going insane.

Omega got a better design in "Arc of Infinity", which has a great Doctor/companion dynamic I enjoy in Five/Nyssa (which was never explored enough during Davison's run...oh, well).

Siskoid said...

Five/Nyssa only got its due in the Big Finish audios.

CiB said...

Brig is partially an in joke here. Not just any beach: Cromer (a coastal town in Norfolk). Which sounds like Chroma, which is sometimes used as an abreviation of Chromakey, which is another name for Colour Seperation Overlay, which is how most of the special effects in Who are done at this point (including the monsters in this story). The Brig stating he's pretty sure thats Croma was, incording to an interview with Nicholas Courtney (on the back of the companion chronicle "Old Soldiers", I think) a line he improv'd as a dig at the special effects, because like most actors he hated responding to things that weren't there.

Siskoid said...

His line about UNIT HQ being closer than Jo thinks (in Part 4) is also suspect.

In the commentary, Courtney says he was responsible for three lines in the story, none of which I hold against him. But clearly, he didn't make up the whole beach speech, only added to it in an effort to make it palatable.


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