"I'm a bit out of practice with manual landings, so if I were you, I'd find something firm to hang on to!"
IN THIS ONE... Peri is recaptured, the mercenaries are revealed to be working with Morgus, and the Doctor ends up at the controls of their ship.
REVIEW: It seems like every episode of Caves, I find some new technical aspect to praise, and while I don't mean to denigrate the talents of the technicians involved, I must give most of the credit to director Graeme Harper. After all, if the show could always look and sound this way, why doesn't it? This time around, it's the lighting. It's more than just Doctor Who looking cooler and scarier when you dim the lights. The Doctor, dying from spectrox toxaemia, looks positively cadaverous the way he's top-lit. And the choice to bathe the mercenaries' ship in red light emphasizes their innate violence, and without even trying, sets us up for the ship's impending crash. This, along with strong music, powerful camera angles and interesting staging (don't tell me, for example, that the Doctor's almost-quartering doesn't look like a crucifixion scene foreshadowing his sacrifice in Part 4), go a long way towards getting a full pardon for the magma creature.
The heroes, it must be said, are basically jumping from jeopardy to jeopardy (not that there's anything wrong with that), so it's the villains that end up getting the best moments. Creepy Sharaz Jek seemed to be making mistakes in Part 2, but he'd thought of everything (save the Doctor's resourcefulness) and the mercs are massacred for their presumption. And though Salateen aims to confound him by giving his duplicate disinformation, Jek is quite aware of the ploy. It helps to have androids with x-ray eyes. He's soon fingering Peri's neck again, wooing her with declarations of love and madness. Creep. And there's Morgus who gets just a little too paranoid when he sees the Doctor, meant to have been executed, aboard Stotz' ship (the plot thickens). He immediately believes (as we learn in one of his famous asides) the general must be taking orders from the President, and stages a quick assassination. It's a fun one too. Warning the President of "whispers" of assassination, he never says he's the one whispering, even as he pushes the man out an empty elevator shaft (and has the lift engineer shot - that's corporate fascism for you!). One can't help but wonder if this rash action won't come back to bite him. Again, it's the Doctor that confounds their plans, a man out of place whose very presence constitutes interference.
Peri is relegated to fearing for her life, but the Doctor gets better material. He's as insolent as his fourth self when recaptured by Jek, and gets a right smack for it, and aboard the merc ship, manages to take control of the cockpit. There's some fun business with the cutting of his bonds on an exposed power source, and of course, his honesty regarding how good he is with landings as the ship plummets down to Androzani Minor. I do wonder how much 2|entertain could have enhanced the story had they given it the Fiona Cumming re-edit/CGI treatment, because the ship scenes, while excitingly shot, suffer from the model work (and lack thereof!).
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Bob Holmes has created some very smart villains there, as much a double act as any of his famous duos, and they raise the episode's game considerably.