Doctor Who #275: Inferno Part 2

"Well done, everyone. I'll have a new medal struck. The Order of the Turkish Bath."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 16 1970.

IN THIS ONE... Ooze found in the Earth's crust leads various people to turn green, and the Doctor disappears.

REVIEW: As the episode begins, there's a confrontation between a UNIT soldier and transformed (green werewolf) Slocum that threatened to prove that if UNIT shot at it, it would be automatically bulletproof. Not the case, but Slocum lasts more than any of us would with a chest wound, and his boiling hot blood scorches the wall behind him. He dies, but the contagion spreads to a couple of other unimportant characters. These "monsters"' temperature is something they have in common with the ooze that contaminated them in the first place. It doesn't look it, but it too, is incredibly hot. Coupled with the harsh sounds coming out of the monsters' mouths, which the Doctor describes as basically volcanic (do volcanoes screech and breathe heavily, this just seems strange to me), we get a sense that the Earth itself is possessing or at least communicating through these guys. Well, I did warn you not to drill down so far.

The culprit is Stahlman, of course, a character that is so stubborn as to be stupid. He hates the Doctor even if he's been helpful, denies a computer's findings then sabotages it, gets himself infected with green ooze, denies the Doctor his power just to be petty... Disappointingly one-sided, especially after the more layered portrayal of the guest cast in the previous serial. Sutton and Petra do a little flirting, and he's growing on her at least, but none of the other characters grow beyond their basic premise laid out in Part 1. Another disappointment is Liz, who is not at her best as a servile agent of the Doctor's, going from center to shed and back again according to his whims, with a "that's a good girl" and no explanations. He even dupes her into leaving him alone so he can leech some power for his console tests while she's looking the other way. In what will be her final story, Liz Shaw is being rather mistreated by the Doctor AND the show's writers.

If Liz is pushed to the side, and the Brigadier is largely ineffectual in managing the situation, the Doctor does get a few good bits. This is the first appearance of Venusian karate (soon, aikido), which includes a knowledge of pressure points. So the Doctor is a fighter now? Well, he was before, remember? The first Doctor was handy with fencing techniques and wrestling flips. For a more active Doctor like Jon Pertwee's, it makes sense that he would have some kind of fighting skill, and it's fun that it be fairly non-violent AND exotic (based on Asian martial arts and apparently from an alien world, or more likely, from a terraformed one in the future). This active Doctor is also one that tries to do many of his own stunts, and Pertwee can be seen happily doing a foot chase across an industrial park, sliding down ladders and everything. Otherwise, it's a lot of calling Stahlman out on his crap, a little of which goes a long way.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Read back and you'll find Liz Shaw is a major reason to like the previous episodes this season. Her absence in spirit if not in the flesh, keeps me from calling this more than a Medium, though it's a solid installment with a historical first. Not too keen on the flat depiction of the villain either. Hopefully, things are a little better wherever the Doctor is heading to when he disappears in the last scene.


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