Doctor Who #577: The Visitation Part 3

"I feel as though you've just killed an old friend."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.22 1982.

IN THIS ONE... It's the end of the sonic screwdriver!

REVIEW: I hate to keep harping on this, but from reviews I've read in the past, I feel like my opinion on Richard Mace is the minority one. But I'll give you an example of why I find the character so shallow and irritating. At one point in this episode, Mace expounds on how he feels his mind slipping into gloom and despair. He TELLS us, instead of ACTING IT OUT. And so it goes for the vast majority of his interventions. He keeps talking about this rich interior life he has and I believe none of it. It's a great shame. About as much as Nyssa being stuck in the TARDIS building a machine for the Doctor, with the help of Adric at his whiniest, no less. He's pretty down on the Doctor too, which looks to me like he's missing the previous incarnation, the one that didn't have all these stupid girls hanging on his arms. We've been talking about The Visitation's pacing problems, well in these TARDIS scenes, time seems to stop. Nyssa has time to defy the set shifters' union and move her room's beds out of the way, because apparently, they jettisoned a lot more of the TARDIS than we thought in Castrovalva. Isn't there a lab or empty room better suited to setting off a vibration machine than the bedroom (ok, I just now realized how rude that sounds)? Never mind the fact that the girls have to share a room in a ship with almost infinite interior dimensions. Anyway... Every time we return to the TARDIS, there's Nyssa doing technical things. It's a big snooze.

The Terileptil's plans are exposed, because the madder the plan, the more tempted the villain will feel to explain it. It is, quite simply, overkill. There are only three of them, and they want to cause the genocide of humanity (by plague) so they can live here unmolested. All three of them. Further, the leader wants to steal the TARDIS and use it to get an android workforce. He wants nothing to do with the Doctor's offer to bring the crash survivors to some other planet or time. No real reason. Just unreasonable, you understand. And it's all going to be done from a single location in Britain, with the help of a couple of mind-controlled drones like Tegan (lets pile on the psychic trauma, shan't we?). We also learn that Terileptils are into beauty and art, which explains the jeweled android, but not the rather industrial ship set. It's also a missed opportunity as there's no mention of human art. Couldn't they be convinced to leave us alone on the strength of our art?

Ultimately, what makes this episode memorable is the destruction of the sonic screwdriver. Like K9, it was something producer John Nathan-Turner wanted done away with because it made things too easy. JNT didn't live to see how true that is (the new series is guilty on all counts)! Of course, seeing as the sonic had made relatively few appearances in the last few seasons, I rather think it's a solution without a problem. It also begs the question as to why the Doctor can't build a new one, and also makes me wonder if this "old friend" is really the same screwdriver used by the second and third Doctors, because it really doesn't look like it. Be that as it may, I can't think of many classic Who stories where the sonic screwdriver was used as a deus ex machina. Exploding swamp gas in Carnival of Monsters? Not much more than that. RIP sonic screwdriver. We won't miss you because we hardly used you anymore.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Another slow, limp episode, made slightly more watchable by the death of the Doctor's little friend (1 down, 1 to go).


Anonymous said...

Boy, the sonic screwdriver sure does get overused these days, doesn't it?

But I'm actually not about to fault them for it, because it allows the stories to move a lot faster. No longer does the Doctor have to find a lab in which he can spend part 2 of an adventure cobbling together a device that can detect space-inverted tetrions; he clicks the sonic screwdriver and has an answer.

Siskoid said...

Right, there's a reason behind it. 11 uses it as a scanner a lot, which is fine. For 10 is did become a bit of a magic wand at times.


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