Doctor Who #627: Planet of Fire Part 2

"I am the Master!" "So what? I'm Perpugilliam Brown and I can shout just as loud as you can."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.24 1984.

IN THIS ONE... Peri runs around Sarn's volcanic desert with the Kamelion/Master after her and Turlough meets a boy with the same branding has his.

REVIEW: The heaviest Kamelion episode yet, the old screaming metal puppet turns into Peri's stepfather Howard, and into a silver version of Howard, and into the Master when he's under the Master's control... There's a LOT of this. While faux Howard's accent is even worse than true Howard's, I will give Dallas Foster points for doing a pretty good imitation of Kamelion spazzing out. Bizarrely, they brought in Gerald Flood who played King John to do Kamelion's voice when he's being a useless robot. We know it's one of the voices he can do, of course, but couldn't he be voiced by ANYONE, including Foster's? The Master seems to be trapped inside his TARDIS, vicariously taking revenge on the Doctor and trying to poach elements of his TARDIS, as part of his usual disjointed continuity. Every time he appears, his previous appearance is either ignored or magically waved away. So while the Doctor's sabotage in The King's Demons might have resulted in events seen here, The Five Doctors is in the way. In The King's Demons, his fate from Time-Flight was undone with a few lines. On the one hand, it seems clumsy not to have him come directly from the previous defeat (and it only gets worse, you'll see), but on the other, it's like he's having as many adventures as the Doctor and I can't begrudge him his untold story. It's true that characters shouldn't be on pause while not on screen. Right, Kamelion?

This early, I'm liking Peri, or at least, the Peri that dares stand up to the Master. Young Nicola is, I think, at her worst when trying to present fear and uncertainty, her hesitations sounding forced and in the American accent, particularly whiny. And there's certainly some of that here. But beyond the fear is a good deal of courage, and she mostly sells how desperate Peri becomes when lost in Sarn's volcanic desert, running and sliding through incredible vistas that look like matte paintings but are real. (Cumming also brings the location's heat to the studio where she shoots through fire when she can.) It's also amusing to see her get pulled along by Turlough as soon as gets a second to sit down. We're getting to know her, but we're also getting to know HIM. Better late than never, I suppose. Turlough's always been intense, but rarely has he put such intensity at work trying to accomplish something. And whether his motivation is to escape Trion's notice, discover what happened to his father's ship or schooling the other Trion/Chosen One in the ways of the universe, he shows an new and surprising kind of leadership.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is more intimately involved in making us discover the world of Sarn. Is he the prophesy's "Outsider" whose identity has been usurped by the Master, or is their presence a coincidence? There seems to be some truth in these prophecies since the appearance of a Chosen One, someone with the Trion brand, apparently heralds a Time of Fire. Turlough's just arrived at wouldn't you know it, the planet is about to split apart. Timanov blames the Unbelievers for his world's woes, and his faith is rewarded; the facts reflect the myths. The Unbelievers are just as sympathetic, obliviously hiding out in volcanic vents about to fill with lava, about, in fact, to be roasted alive by the "god" they don't believe in. But they are more believers that Timanov gives them credit for, putting their faith in the Doctor and the prophesied social change he is said to herald. he's caught between the two factions, each taking ownership of their own "Outsider", both Time Lords. Timanov's tragedy isn't that he believes in the wrong thing, it's that his faith is abused. The Master is a false Outsider, and indeed, speaking through Kamelion makes him a false Master!

- Entirely too much Kamelion for my tastes, but all the regulars are good and the location is gorgeous.


snell said...

"Every time he appears, his previous appearance is either ignored or magically waved away."

Or, of course, it's possible we aren't seeing the Master's story in the correct order, from his perspective.

I know fan theories like to assert that Time Lords can only encounter each other "in order," but nuWho stories with River Song or Rassilon pretty much put an end to those, if you ask me. (and as if the Master would obey such rules, anyway)

So who is to say, for example, that after Logopolis the Master got himself trapped in the past, experienced Time Flight; during which he learned enough about the Doctor's new incarnation and difficult regeneration; and so nipped back to snatch Adric & set up the elaborate traps of Castrovalva?

It's a more fun explanation than "crappy story editing..."

Siskoid said...

I thought of that, but there's usually dialog that references the previous story, so it seems continuous in the text if not in the events. The Master could be lying, but with the Ainley Master, I have trouble giving him any credit as a brilliant mastermind.

I'll give you an example of how it doesn't actually work. 5Docs was a good story for saying the Master was out of sequence. After all, so were three of the Doctors! Time Lords might be able to call him up from somewhere on his timeline. Which could make Planet of Fire follow on from King's Demons, but instead of making the Master's predicament about the sabotage the Doctor perpetrated on his TARDIS, we'll learn it has nothing to do with it, it's rather his own experiments on tissue compression that are responsible.

We COULD fanfic it to make some kind of sense, but since the writers weren't thinking that way, we'll hit snag after snag as a the theory falls apart.

And I think you can invoke Rassilon there, because they might have revived him for the Time War. I don't think he's a past self or anything. The Master got new regenerations too, so they were handing that stuff out like candy.

snell said...

Actually, with Rassilon, I was thinking more of the "going after a future Doctor before a past Doctor destroys them" and "going to infect a past Master."...clearly more "out-of-order" encounters/manipulations here.

Siskoid said...

Clearly the Time Lords can break the rules in some ways, or else the multi-Doctor stories wouldn't exist.

Bill Doughty said...

Is it this episode or part 1 where we see Peri talking in her sleep, begging Howard not to hurt her? I know that sort of thing has been touched on in the novels and stuff, but that's an awful big thing to drop into the story and never mention it on-screen again.

Siskoid said...

It's in Part 1, but the line is: "I'm sorry, Howard. I didn't mean it. No, Howard. Please don't leave me alone. Don't, don't turn out the light."

There's no pause between "please don't" and "leave me alone". It's still a strange dream she's having, which the novels may have taken into a dark direction, but could mean she's a child in the dream and Howard is shutting the lights even though she's afraid of the dark. Why it's him and not her mother (or father) is the strange thing, but we're talking about a drowning-induced nightmare, not necessarily a repressed memory. Howard would be punishing her in the dream for disobeying him.

In other words, it's a distasteful thought, and going unexplored like that probably means the production hadn't really thought about it in those terms.

Tommy K said...

Part 1 is a lot of set-up -- oodles of set-up -- although it's all done with a firm, knowing hand. But Part 2 is when I start to love "Planet of Fire," and the chief reason, as you said, is that it's gorgeous. So much location shooting, so well-shot and so well-used. And the cast is particularly fine: I don't know that I ever like Nicola Bryant again as much as I do in this serial. She's feisty: that quote you have at the top of the page says it all. You've noted before (I think in your review of "Snakedance") that Cumming was a major Who director, and although I don't think this is necessarily her best work, it's still better than just about anyone else's at the time. The companions are always better when she's around, and here, Bryant is particularly appealing, and Strickson unusually effective and restrained. And yes, I too love the moment when, after sliding down a mountain and crossing a desert, Peri barely arrives at the spaceship before Turlough barks, "We have to go." It's a very funny moment, and Bryant nails it.


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