Doctor Who #617: The Awakening Part 2

"You speak treason." "Fluently!"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.20 1984.

IN THIS ONE... Turlough meets Tegan's grandfather and the Malus is destroyed.

REVIEW: Had Eric Pringle's 4-episode outline been made AS 4 episodes, I think The Awakening would have been a better story. As it is, the story's very creaky. Consider, for example, the role of Will, apparently the only out-of-time character to actually have traveled in time. The weird half-faced hunchback figure was a psychic project, and Sir George is merely under the Malus' influence. There's a time rift in town, but everyone in period clothes and on horses is just playing dress-up except for Will Chandler. It's like a plot element that belonged in the longer version of the script. Will plays a very small role in the end, merely the device by which we know the Malus was first awakened during the Civil Wars. Otherwise, he spends this episode running away, and then isn't taken home at the end, leading the audience to believe he's a new (and terrible) companion (a poorer version of Leela, if we go by the tea joke). He does push Sir George into the Malus' mouth, but isn't that a "there should have been another way" type moment?

But what about Tegan's grandfather? With Jane Hampden and Will doing a lot of the companiony things, Tegan and Turlough are shunted to the side, both as prisoners, but not in the same cell. Turlough is thrown in with Tegan's grandad, who seemed so important to the plot. But his disappearance isn't due to falling down the time rift, or anything interesting like that, and the urgency to escape and run to the Doctor is pointless. Once he gets to the church, he says and does nothing to specifically contribute to the Malus' defeat. Even the escape is botched - they can break the door down and then they can without any of the circumstances changing. Tegan does a little better, quick to inform Sir George that the Malus isn't serving him but using him (she has Mara experience on her side), and soonest to rejoin the Doctor and start turning the villagers against the power-mad village magistrate.

The production team of this era seems completely unable not to kill off its monsters without a gross-out moment. The Malus' creepy crawly gargoyle self is a psychic projection, but it still oozes green goo. And then there's the snicker-snacked villager who gets decapitated, which may just cross a line. Still, the Doctor and TnT are well characterized and get good lines, and it moves along at a good clip even if the pieces don't all matter. In terms of direction, Morris manages to make a giant animatronic face in a wall an effective threat, mostly through editing and sound design. And in the end, that's a sweet Pertwee-era-quality church model that gets destroyed, though I do wish the Doctor didn't somehow know the Malus was self-destructing. They're really taking shortcuts in how the Doctor gains necessary information.

VERSIONS: The Target novelization has no notable differences with the televised broadcast.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - It's a fine runaround, with better than average dialog and tension. Unfortunately, a lot of its elements are wasted.

- Too short! You can just see the better story in the all-too-condensed result.


snell said...

Of course, if it had been 4 episodes, you review of part 3 may well have been, "typical 3rd episode padding syndrome..." ;-)

Perhaps this story could start the discussion of whether the "two-parter" is too short generally for successful stories, a common complaint about nuWho's format...

Siskoid said...

2 parts, too short. 4 parts, often too long. 3 parts, just right, except they don't do those. At the time it would have meant too many stories a season, with each story having important start-up costs (design, etc.) so just not possible. As the number of episodes goes down, we'll some shorter stories (in the 7th Doctor era).


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