Doctor Who #602: Terminus Part 2

"Are you doctors?" "Baggage handlers. We just receive and pass on."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.16 1983.

IN THIS ONE... We meet Terminus' Nordic denizens and Nyssa famously drops her skirt.

REVIEW: Is it me or is there an anti-epic streak in the Black Guardian trilogy? On the one hand we have people stealing the secret of immortality from the Time Lords (in the previous story) and a space station at the dead center of the universe (in this one), and on the other, a story where all the villains want to do is commit suicide, and at the center of the universe, a dark empty shaft. These slight disappointments go hand in hand with the Black Guardian's ineffectual posturing, I suppose. Happily, he's not in this episode. Instead, we're introduced to the Vanir, armored soldiers who ferry to Lazars to a wolf-like minotaur substitute called the Garm, the plague victims never to be seen again. Terminus is less a hospital than a waste disposal station, it seems. Once again, there's some very interesting production design on display. The Vanir's Norse-sounding names and dependence on "hydromel" justifies armor that includes a Viking-like face plate, while their being ferriers of the dead inspires a cross between skeletons and Egyptian scarabs. Shame about the noisome clacking. The Garm, big ol' mascot though he is, has a cool-looking tunic as well. We don't know what's going on yet, but enough is revealed and enough is kept a mystery to keep us going.

As the action began on a plague ship, a companion or two were bound to catch Lazar's disease. Given the amount of contact each had with the lepers themselves, it's surprising Nyssa should be the one, and last of her kind too. Tsk tsk. Turlough professes illness too, but he's probably just whining. It's Tegan who should be sick at this point, so many 20th-century humans have some immunity? Hey, the heroes need to find a cure before the end, right? Might be why T&T (TNT? I like that, it describes Tegan and Turlough's relationship pretty well) are cut off from the Doctor and unable to rejoin him. Shot on film, with mood lighting and sound, their scenes have a taut realism going for them, but do divorce the duo from the plot, which is too bad.

And no review of this episode would be complete without a dissection of THE moment of the season: Nyssa casually dropping her skirt when she gets too hot from the fever. In the context of the "becoming a woman" arc that's been building all season, the Doctor finding her bloody skirt might make attentive audiences squirm a bit. On a purely functional level, the skirt is a crucial clue and the blood so many breadcrumbs to follow, but I wonder if director Mary Ridge didn't mean it to be more significant. Nyssa gets a little more attention than most Lazars (it's probably just because she's the only one with lines... sorry if everything sounds like a double entendre from now on), so we can discover more about Terminus than we otherwise might. Though sick, she still manages to put a fighting move on one of the Vanir (truthfully, fight choreography is one of this era's great weaknesses), and then gets thrown in with the other lepers, a sad image. After Adric, were audiences of the day concerned another companion would bite the dust?

VERSIONS: The CGI option's model shots add so much SCALE that was missing from the transmitted serial! Terminus is enormous compared to the plague ship, which itself was huge compared to the raider. The ship's design was changed somewhat, but keeps its bulbous shape, adding one of those plague skulls to the hull. A new wireframe model was built for the shot of the ship's map. Even the interior shaft of Terminus was rebuilt, giving it more depth and texture.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Famous moment or not, we're still waiting for something important to be revealed or to happen. TNT playing Ripley in the duct system without any Alien to come after them is particularly wasteful.

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