Doctor Who #590: Arc of Infinity Part 2

"Our duty, if not our conscience, is clear."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.5 1983.

IN THIS ONE...
The Doctor is executed so Omega can't bond with him. Meanwhile in Amsterdam, Tegan returns.

REVIEW: By not having Tegan appear in Part 1, the program makers tried to make us believe she was gone for good. 30 years and countless program guides later, that doesn't quite play anymore, but still. Nice attempt. Since last we saw her, she lost her job, her uniform and her bouffant haircut (Janet Fielding famously had it cut so JNT would stop trying to make the style take off). The fact she's zombie Colin's cousin and that she chose this very moment to go to Amsterdam is a peculiar coincidence even if it shows a companion continuing to get into trouble after the Doctor's influence (but see Theories). And Amsterdam? Oh Tegan, no wonder people had pictures of hanky-panky in the TARDIS, you liberal-minded minx you!

Speaking of the Doctor's friends, there's something very strange happening on Gallifrey. In the centuries since he left the planet in a stolen TARDIS, he's only returned a couple times, and each time, he befriended a couple of characters and made enemies of others. Some he already knew from his time at the Academy, but none of these were particularly friendly. This time around, he's got two new friends made prior to the story - Hedin and Damon - and both could have and should have been characters we'd previously met. I mean, who is Damon that he's willing to commit treason for the Doctor? Shouldn't he be Engin from The Deadly Assassin or Rodan from The Invasion of Time? And Michael Gough is playing Hedin just as Borusa was played in the previous stories, while Borusa himself is now president and a weaker character for it. For a show that's starting obsess with continuity, it fudges the details. At least Leela gets a mention, but maybe telling us why she isn't present should have been part of the equation, because Nyssa really shouldn't be the only one pleading for his life. It would have been so easy to fix this too. Time Lords change skins all the time (they even do it in this very story), and the Council could have preemptively sent Leela away to prevent her from interfering with actions they knew they were going to take. Tell us that! As it is, the Doctor's actual friends on Gallifrey have disappeared, and a crop of new friends magically appear.

Plot-wise, everything points to the Castellan being the traitor because he's sneaky and unwilling to believe there's a traitor in the council, so obviously, it has to be helpful Hedin who defends the Doctor knowing very well his voice would be the sole dissent. It costs him nothing to do so. Omega (still unnamed) is now seen to be in a TARDIS, surrounded by his minions, from which he plots and seems to succeed at stealing the Doctor's body during the execution (the 5th Doctor's third already, I think). Omega may be playing a long game, but there's every hope the Doctor is too, judging by his willingness to enter the execution chamber. His lack of explanations at least allows Nyssa to shine, both as an impassioned advocate and as a desperate, gun-totting rebel. Nyssa comes into her own as a companion who would do anything for the Doctor, which is loads better than her previous characterization as a cautious TARDIS babysitter. Let's hope she can keep this up once Tegan rejoins the crew.

THEORIES: Ok, so it's highly fortuitous that the TARDIS drops Omega off in Amsterdam, right in the crypt where Tegan's cousin is sleeping, the day before she herself shows up. On the one hand, it my lend credence to the idea that the TARDIS chooses its companions and steers itself in their way. At least this time, the ship knows her already. Or Tegan may always have been fated to meet the Doctor again because the Mara is still inside her (see Snakedance, in a few days) and it wants to be carried to the stars. Of course when you're trying to justify clunky writing, nothing really fits the situation. How does the Mara know where the TARDIS will appear, for example, and why doesn't the TARDIS just appear back at Heathrow where Tegan was at the time?

VERSIONS: The DVD's CGI option adds a bit more glow to the execution and the usual effects to staser shots.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The reappearance of a resourceful Tegan and Nyssa finally getting to do SOMEthing elevate an episode that's otherwise unremarkable.

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