Doctor Who #474: Underworld Part 3

"The Tree at the End of the World's always guarded by dragons. They're fire dragons, aren't they, with tongues of flame."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.21 1978.

IN THIS ONE... Our heroes rescue Idas' father and Herrick is captured and tortured by the Seers.

REVIEW: Very long reprise on this one, especially considering that none of the episodes are over 22 minutes or so, and especially since so much screen time is spent on running through CSO backgrounds, just like in Part 2. It's a slim script, and a production intent on saving money on sets (in addition to the green screen stuff, the P7E is the first Mynian ship redressed). It's unfortunate that the CSO's limitations are more distracting this time around, playing havoc with the Doctor's hair and others'. Still, the designs aren't bad. Having a suspended sword as part of the sacrifice ceremony recalls Damocles, only one more Greek myth invoked by this serial. The descent down the shaft is accompanied by amusing muzak. And under their hoods, the Seers have strange jukebox heads (are they cyborgs?). Ok, that last one's a bit dodgy ;-).

The point is that despite the serial's budgetary limitations, everyone seems to be doing their best to make it lively and fun. For once, Leela isn't the most primitive, uneducated character on screen, so has a good time explaining obvious things to Idas, like the difference between the sky and the ceiling. She seems quite happy to forget she used to be the one who didn't know anything about spaceships. The Doctor has plenty of nice lines, of course, and good scenes working out how myth might hide the truth. There's a moment when Tom Baker looks into camera and asks the audience a question. That goes a bit too far, and I'm dreading the days when the production starts doing this more obviously. Of the Mynian heroes, only Herrick has any soul (maybe he's regenerated a bit less than the others) and he tries to go out in a blaze of glory. Like Leela, he was recently pacified and now seems a lot more aggressive than normal. Is there a connection? The script doesn't make a point of it.

Speaking of aggression, the Seers are a realy mean bunch. I mean, these guys give each other orders amended with phrases like "or you'll be next [to be sacrificed]". You could just have asked, dude! They oversee what the Doctor cleverly calls "official sadism", like the engaging sacrifice ceremony and Herrick's torture in which we discover that they've lost the knowledge of the gene bank they're meant to protect. The finale is next and yet it feels like we're still in the exposition phase of the narrative. I don't know that it can wrap things up satisfactorily.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - I'm enjoying discovering this world, but there's very little plot to inhabit that world.



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