Doctor Who #589: Arc of Infinity Part 1

"You put things off for a day, next thing you know it's a hundred years later."
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Jan.3 1983.

IN THIS ONE... A kid is turned into a zombie by Big Bird's skeleton and after almost merging with Omega, the Doctor is recalled to Gallifrey where he meets... Colin Baker?!

REVIEW: The production goes to Amsterdam, not that the Doctor gets to taste the local color. No sooner does he land that he's called back to Gallifrey on automatic. So that part of the story is all about a couple of students sleeping rough in a crypt when their hostel proves to have no rooms for the night. Their snuggling is interrupted by the TARDIS briefly showing up and dropping off(?)... something. That something stands as one of the most ridiculous Doctor Who monsters ever - the Ergon - who looks all the world like Alien's xenomorph impregnated Big Bird. It somehow turns one of them into a zombie (well, sleeping in a crypt will invariably attract some kind of undead) and shoots a Weeping Angel trying to get the other (watch it, you'll see).

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Nyssa have been fixing things around the TARDIS, though the Doctor's priorities leave a lot to be desired. Navigation, the chameleon circuit and temporal grace are all crap, but he slaps himself on the back for fixing the audio on the viewscreen when there isn't even anything to listen to in space. Nyssa, her personality still set to "dull", wants to fix the rest, because that's what we really want to see when we tune in. Their work is interrupted by the unnamed villain - but an anti-matter guy with a fantastical helmet, a tendency to show up only on anniversary years and a knack for creating ridiculous monsters? It can only be Omega - trying to bond with the Doctor, thereby regaining a foothold in normal space. Why he fails or even if he fails isn't quite clear, but at least he's shown to be playing a long game. Sadly, this is another techno-plot with techno-explanations where nonsense replaces logic, just like Time-Flight. When anything can happen because [SOMETHING I CAN'T REALLY FOLLOW], it's hard to care about any of it.

The Gallifrey strand of this story is a rehash of The Deadly Assassin's central premise - and The Invasion of Time's too - wherein a member of the High Council is secretly in league with the villain. This is one corrupt bunch, so we can hardly fault the Doctor's mistrust of them. They might well try to kill him just so Omega can't bond with him. At least we know it's not the Time Lady (Thalia, not Flavia here). Borusa is now president and played by a totally different actor (the regenerations are really slipping through his fingers) and Michael Gough can be seen in the background, and he's just too recognizable not to be the traitor. Arc of Infinity marks the first appearance of the Castellan too. The other Time Lord of note is Commander Maxil, played with humorless efficiency by Colin Baker who, less than two seasons down the road, will become the Doctor himself. A lot of Gallifreyan firsts, but does that make this an episode to see?

THEORIES: Colin Baker as Maxil... will anyone stand up to deny the existence of some kind of Time Lord body bank?

VERSIONS:
The CGI option on the DVD buffs various effect, putting shiny lights on staser and Ergon fire, Omega's arrival as twinkling lights, and the crown of Rassilon.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low
- The episode feels like a string of curiosities that would interest the hardcore fan, but it's not much more than that.

6 comments:

Craig Oxbrow said...

A pair of doomed backpackers in a European capital in the early 80s? Shame the Ergon wasn't quite up to An American Werewolf In London...

Mitchell Craig said...

Interestingly enough, Pierce Brosnan was considered for the role of Maxil. Oh, possibilities...

Siskoid said...

And Patrick Stewart as the Castellan!

karl said...

Sarah Sutton seems to have grown several inches in height and looks quite a bit older in the gap between seasons from Time-Flight.

Siskoid said...

Shoes and longer hair, but we can infer (as the books and audios did), the two of them traveled together alone a while.

Gordon Dymowski said...

I'm thinking more that the Fifth Doctor, as he was regenerating, was thinking, "Hopefully I'll be better able to deal with that Maxil dolt..."

...which then influenced his regeneration, leading to much fan-fiction speculation.

 

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