Doctor Who #280: Inferno Part 7

"Same time, same place...only a different dimension." (Sliiiiiiiiiiiderrrrrrrrrrs)
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jun.20 1970.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor's back just in time to prevent Stahlman's apocalypse.

It's really very interesting that the Doctor uses the knowledge he gained in one world to solve problems in other, and it even seemed for a moment that he would be saving Earth Prime from his sickbed. Though I am plenty entertained by Liz insisting that she's the Doctor's physician even as the Brigadier keep forgetting that fact (no doubt, it's the skirt), Pertwee's active Doctor can't really sit one out. He's soon up and about and realizing that free will isn't an illusion and that things CAN be changed. It's a little bit of philosophy is an otherwise action-driven finale.

But it's that action that causes problems. For one thing, the Doctor returning home is terribly mishandled. One second the world is ending and the console's not working, and the next the Doctor is lying on the floor on our world. It's a moment that's been robbed of its "nick of time" element. Very odd editing there. Once he's out of his coma, the Doctor's confusion is pleasant enough a device - calling the Lethbridge-Stewart Brigade Leader and so on - but it soon turns sour as he starts to act like a madman, smashing the machinery instead of calling on his allies. It works because he's just been to a world where no one listened to him, but he knocks out some UNIT guards and is soon back in the control center, and nobody says a thing. There's a lot of this kind of pointless back and forth, in fact. Petra stands up to Stahlman, but then does he tells her anyway. Sir Keith says the Minister ordered the work stopped, only to complain that he has no actual authority over Stahlman. Everyone can see Stahlman is having attacks, but there's apparently nothing that can be invoked to supersede his orders. And the Doctor having a go at the contaminated technician (again) feels just as pointless. Really, all the Primord action (I haven't been using the word because it's only used in the credits, but there it is) is redundant now that we've seen these creatures die in the other universe.

So it's down to the epilogue and its character moments to truly save the episode from being ordinary. Don't look to Sutton and Petra, because their romance, while not as melodramatic as on Earth-2, is certainly inane. No, the real shocker is that the Doctor announces his console has been fixed and he takes off with an "I liked you" to Liz (yes, we saw the warm hug) and a "good riddance" to the Brig. Except he has to take all back when the console only materializes on the rubbish tip a few feet off. The exile isn't over yet, and he has to make nice with the Brig, an amusing moment that shows (as much as a previous scene between the Brig and Benton) that Lethbridge-Stewart isn't quite as pompous or arrogant as the Doctor makes him out to be. He's got a sense of humor about himself and can easily forgive the insults, though he'll remind you your saying them well enough. The final shot is of Liz, strangely - or I might say, awkwardly - having a fit of giggles at the whole affair. She's always poked fun, but with a dry wit. This laughing seems inappropriate for her character, and has always been a rather hokey way to end a story (see Scooby-Doo and Star Trek). And sadly, it's the last we see of Liz. As the next season begins, she'll be gone in favor of a younger, dumber model (with apologies to Jo Grant). It's too bad, and it's too soon to lose a truly competent assistant, but you know what? This is probably the best thing for Liz's career. The Doctor was holding her back.

VERSIONS: The Target novelization is a trimmer, fitter version of the same story.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - In the final chapter, Inferno has trouble getting keeping the plot going, especially since we've literally seen it all before. Our refuge is the regular characters, which spark off very well one against the other.

- Parallel universe stories are always fun, and this one features iconic evil versions of the Brig and Liz (oh and Benton too). The Primord plot is rather silly, but creates a situation where experiencing one universe allows the Doctor to save another, and of course, it's Liz Shaw's last story already. Cherish them, there are only four, and all of them feature strong scenes for the companion.


Anonymous said...

I really liked Liz, too.

Was there ever a better run of 35 Doctor Who episodes than The War Games through Inferno?

Season 5, maybe, although there's so much of it we can't see. (Based on recons, I think I liked Enemy of the World better than you did.) Maybe a run with Talons of Weng-Chiang in the middle, if you could 'lose' The Invisible Enemy. And I'm partial to Full Circle - Castrovalva, too.

But I think we've just seen the very best of Doctor Who on your journey.


Siskoid said...

I think you could see The Brain of Morbius to Horror of Fang Rock as a very solid 40 episode run.


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