Doctor Who #344: Frontier in Space Part 5

"An Emperor who does not rule deposes himself!"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.24 1973.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor, the Master and Jo are taken to Draconia.

REVIEW: The weird meme about escape and capture is still catered to - as the Draconians are convinced not to hold the Doctor and Jo, she's captured by the Ogrons, and later the Doctor and his Draconian allies are placed under arrest by Earth forces - but it finally feels like the plot is advancing when the Doctor finally delivers his message to the Draconian Emperor. Granted, it's a bit of a deus ex machina to "turn" the Draconians thanks to an unseen adventure 500 years previous that ended with the Doctor becoming an honorary nobleman of Draconia, but the Dragon Emperor himself is a nice character, full of wisdom and Shakespearean presence. The language is stately and declamatory, but his dialog is well written and memorable. Will the Doctor FINALLY avert a war between humanity and a reptilian species? Hulke has given him a couple shots at it before, and third time might be the charm.

Though neither Empire's security is something to boast about - both heads of state are easily attacked by dumb-as-posts Ogrons who can't even be mind probed given their stupidity, though maybe they could be bribed with bananas (all hail the 9th Doctor) - I am intrigued by their politics. The Draconians have a monarchy, ruled with obvious wisdom and honor. They allow themselves to be convinced by the Doctor and even let a female speak in deference to human customs. The fact that females aren't "liberated" (as Jo would put it) might well be one of the reasons there's little trust between them and Earth, whose president is a woman. That may just muddy the waters, because Earth government appears to be a "weak" democracy faced with rioting and dissent, and of course, never trust the Doctor to their detriment. The UK vs. the USA? Is that how Hulke sees it? I might be reading too much into it. These people have their own agendas, easily divorced from our time's concerns, and the revelation that the first war between them was caused by General Williams misunderstanding a situation is well-played and has immediate consequences. To our surprise, Williams feels badly for the suffering he has caused and makes amends by suddenly siding with his Draconian opponents and the Doctor. They might have discussed these events before (did Draconian honor prevent them from broaching the subject in polite conversation?), but it's great that the nominal "black hat" from the early episodes is actually quite capable of admitting his own errors and doing the right thing. THIS is Hulke's trademark, giving every character their own point of view, none of them "evil" from their perspective.

The regulars have some good moments to get their teeth into as well. The Doctor knows the Master so well, he can tell when his nemesis is feigning sleep and why. The Master is too cocky to show any fear at all, nonchalant even in the face of Draconian guns. Of course, he knows his Ogron mercenaries aren't far behind. Still, when the Master isn't being betrayed by his alien allies, he's being disappointed by them. The Ogrons are so stupid, they leave one of their own to blow the hypno-sound scheme right to hell. He really does have bad luck in his choice of friends. Jo is very strong in this episode, not only standing up to the Draconian Court's misogyny, but proving she can't be hypnotized by the Master anymore. Her nursery rhyme trick might have been a little hokey, but the production plays along brilliantly, the Master's theme winding down comically when his power is disrupted by her nonsense. Our little Jo has come pretty far since Terror of the Autons. It would be a shame to lose her now (FORESHADOWING!).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Finally, the story's moving forward, which doesn't mean the episode skimps on the character moments, world-building, and neat model shots that were its strength.


snell said...

I seriously believe this is the funniest exchange in history...

OGRON: Look!
MASTER: That must be them. No other ship would be on a course for Earth at a time like this!
OGRON: WE are on a course for Earth!?!
MASTER: Naturally, because we're chasing them...sputter sputter

This cracks me up every time I see it. Delgado's sputtering annoyance is brilliant.

Siskoid said...

Definitely. He doesn't get enough credit for being good at comedy!


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