Doctor Who #631: The Caves of Androzani Part 2

"Don't mock me, Doctor. Beauty I must have, but you are dispensable."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.9 1984.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor and Peri are brought to Sharaz Jek, from whom they escape to find the cure to their spectrox toxaemia.

REVIEW: In Part 2, Harper presents his two villains and dares dissolve shots of one with the other. They are two sides of a same coin, former partners, just as chilling as one another. In Morgus, we have the cold, calculating, controlled manipulator. In Sharaz Jek, we have the passionate, aesthete, tormented rebel. Each gets the directorial treatment he deserves, whether that's stately camera angles and music, or shaky-cam and rattlesnake-like percussions. For the mercenaries inhabiting the story, there's a certain bawdiness, the camera acting like Krelper will urinate on Stotz and then vice-versa. For the androids, crash cuts close in on their sensors as they examine the Doctor's worth as a target. Each faction seems to support its own style, with the Doctor and Peri as "normatives". Of course, this being his actual introduction, it's Sharaz Jek that makes the biggest impression. He could almost be a sympathetic victim/rebel - there is certainly a painful irony at work that a man who loves beauty would be disfigured and feel the need to surround himself only with androids who don't care - if he weren't so creepy. Making Peri the object of his lust - a fate that will befall her again and again - is only one element. The camera work another. And then there's the script itself which gives him vivid descriptions of violent imagery.

But then, this is a particularly violent and macabre story. The firing squad sequence, with the TARDISeers wrapped in red cloth, and General Chellak pushing the teetering "Peri" over. Stotz jamming a suicide pill down his subaltern's throat. In both cases, it's a fake-out. The dead Peri is an android duplicate, and Stotz is only bluffing, but unless you know that, there's no difference between the facsimile and the real thing when it comes to the effect it has on the audience. As if the threat of violence - possibly even sexual violence - wasn't enough, the Doctor and Peri are also living under threat of spectrox poisoning, something that will kill them in a couple days after some fairly unpleasant symptoms. And from one jail, they're sent to another. Escaping that one, Peri is almost immediately grabbed by Salateen, and the Doctor gets in the way of the magma beast (which would make a beautiful sculpture, but is hardly convincing as an animal, not with that rigid armadillo "cape"). The constant state of jeopardy still doesn't come across as gratuitously violent as Resurrection of the Daleks, maybe because the characters introduced to date are still alive to contribute to the story!

The Doctor, in his last hurrah, is in great form. I love how he and Peri keep their spirits up through the whole ordeal, and how he pops up to intercede between his companion and the tactile Sharaz Jek. His foiling of the android guard shows both bravery and his technical ability. But as usual, he's too trusting and is betrayed by Salateen. Just because he's a prisoner too doesn't make him a nice guy. He's less intense than his android duplicate, but still has a pretty dark sense of humor, laughing at the irony that Jek wants to confer immortality on a dying girl. Being there only means one thing: That Jek has a plant inside General Chellak's camp. Either Salateen could be a ruthless bastard. Jek is obviously brilliant, but damaged, and as the episode progresses, he makes more and more mistakes. He loses Peri because his androids do not read the Time Lord as a viable target, and he underestimates the mercs who are more than ready to exploit every crack, flaw and weakness. If we're asked to contrast Morgus and Jek, we're also asked to compare the latter with the Doctor. Both men are genius engineers who care for Peri and make major blunders. And it won't end happily for either of them.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Though the cliffhanger involves the equivalent of a giant rat (from another Holmes classic), the characters, writing and direction are otherwise firing on all cylinders.



Blog Archive


5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zine