"Vaporisation without representation is against the constitution."
IN THIS ONE... The Doctor investigates the assassination of the president and hacks into the Matrix.
REVIEW: The reinvention of Gallifrey proceeds apace with the introduction of the APC Net, AKA the Matrix, a massive telepathic computer built from every (dead?) Time Lord's brain cells, experience and memories, which translates into a virtual environment when you plug yourself into it. The Doctor gets there more than 20 years before Keanu Reeves. It's the mind as danger-filled quarry, so it must be pulling images from the Doctor's own brain, and David Maloney, a very visual director, is the perfect man to bring some of these nightmarish visions to life, in particular the creepy WWI soldier and the surgeon with the huge syringe. Notably, the process of going into the Matrix uses the slitscan effect from the opening credits, suggesting that the Doctor's adventures as we experience them are filtered through the Matrix. In effect, the program treats us as Time Lords tapping into the APC and unearthing our favorite renegade's memories. Taken with the opening scroll in Part 1, it certainly breaks that fourth wall and places a layer of artificiality over the serial.
It's also confirmed that the villain behind the Doctor's frame-up is the Master with a capital "M". Hate is all that's keeping him alive despite his body's apparent death (that's some willpower the Time Lords have, but possibly a function of "artron energy" since Elgin credits that phenomenon when the Doctor comes back from brain death), and it's hate for the Doctor. And here I thought all they had between them was a friendly (if lethal) rivalry. Well, turning into a zombie seems to have embittered him. And his hate will be his downfall, not only because the Doctor is too smart to stay a patsy for long, but because it's making the Master make mistakes. It's not very smart, for example, to leave a calling card in the form of a tissue-compressed cameraman, or to kill Runcible while the Doctor is with the Castellan, well alibied. It's probably a good thing he has a minion to push for the Doctor's immediate execution (I think it's fairly clear Goth is a villain, no spoiler there), or his nemesis would have gotten out of it much more quickly. If the plan to frame the Doctor is dangerously convoluted, the power grab is impressive (with one small plot hole). Goth, knowing he wasn't going to be named for succession (the President's "surprising" announcement), provokes an emergency election. It's a weird system where democracy is only invoked when a line of succession is broken, but the Time Lords are painted as conservative to a fault and unwilling to participate in change.
And mistakes or not, the Doctor is still up against the wall. Drawing caricatures during his trial, contemptuous of authority as ever, has him cleverly invoke a legal technicality that buys him 45 hours. If HE'S a candidate for the presidency, he can't be executed until the election is over. That gives him time to prove his innocence. At times, the investigation becomes too much like what we do on Earth to the point of ridiculousness. The chalk outline of the President, complete with high collar, is absurd, and Spandrell talks about "bullets" when clearly, stasers don't fire any. George Pravda, as Spandrell, is part of the problem, I think, because he speaks with an accent no other Time Lord has, even though, by all accounts, there's only one place to live on all of Gallifrey. But like most things in The Deadly Assassin, it works in the context of this one story even if it plays havoc with continuity. He's distinctive and interesting BECAUSE he's different.
On a personal note, I watch these with the subtitles on to better catch the quotes I use at the top of each article. Every time someone uses the word "biog", I keep reading "blog", so I register lines like "I never met him." "I know. I have seen your blog."
THEORIES: Time Lords keep dying, but no one regenerates. This is pretty much a constant in Gallifrey-based stories, so we should assume the tissue disruption caused by stasers inhibits the regeneration process. Further, it looks like either what was used to stab Runcible was treated with an anti-regeneration agent, or else he's not a true Time Lord. His job as television presenter would seem to indicate he's not a Lord of anything, but since he and the Doctor were likely in school together, it suggests he would still benefit from Time Lord advantages. It's hard to say where the line is between Time Lord and Gallifreyan, or if there even is a line. The only other explanation for all those permanent deaths (across all Gallifrey stories) is that everyone's on their last regeneration when it happens, but it's hard to imagine what kills them that frequently when they live such passive lives.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A couple of plot holes can't prevent this episode from impressing. Holmes is still throwing new information at us and building a culture and technology that will impact the rest of the series, forever.