Doctor Who #606: Enlightenment Part 2

"You are a Time Lord. A lord of time. Are there lords in such a small domain?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.2 1983.

IN THIS ONE... The Eternals and the reason for their race around the solar system are explained.

REVIEW: Enlightenment's fantastic premise takes full flight in Part 2 and a great deal of the appeal comes from the Doctor (and his companions) figuring out what the rules of the game are. The Eternals, beings from outside time who can find a way to look down on even the Time Lords, use the universe and its denizens for their amusement. It's a big game using human (or if you will, ephemeral) ideas and disposable "NPCs", and the prize is Enlightenment, whatever that means to them. The Eternals are not quite omniscient; there's a short delay when they choose to access a mind. They may be omnipotent, however, but they choose to follow a set of rules in any given game experience, refusing to go beyond the limits they've set themselves. Like good role-players, they see obstacles as necessary and pleasant elements, even Jackson's attempts at mutiny, though he never gets to throw the mind control rum overboard. The episode is constructed around a series of expository reveals that gets us more and more interested as details are uncovered, the last of which is a surreal walk on the deck of the yacht, in spacesuits. The script's requirements sometimes strain the effects budget, but never break it. It's all very acceptable even when it's necessarily more static than a race should be.

The one sore point is the Black Guardian, and I find myself conditioned to rolling my eyes at him as soon as he appears. Compared to the Eternals, also beings hovering above time and space, he's just dreadful. The Eternals show their power, but the Black Guardian just appears out of nowhere to make empty threats. He tells Turlough he's had many opportunities to kill the Doctor (what, since his last appearance?) and condemns the boy to eternal life aboard Striker's ship. Is that supposed to be a punishment? Will the ship even exist beyond the present race? As usual, even the "torment" threatened, nothing happens by the Guardian's actions. Turlough, still refusing to commit murder throws himself overboard. Having this guy in my ear all day long might make me commit suicide too. This is a character who actually has the line "Nyeh he he", after all.

Despite this dark stain on the episode, there's a lot to like about the way it reveals character. Turlough gives up Jackson's mutiny as soon as he feels threatened by the Eternals, drawing a disappointed look from the Doctor. Though he may conveniently rid himself of his guilt because the Eternals are telepathic and already knew, it doesn't change the fact that his moral weakness is a danger to the Doctor's efforts to help people. In a sense, Turlough is an improved version of Adric, who betrayed the Doctor on a regular basis too, but did so out of naivety or as an ill-considered trick. Adric's treachery was often the result of poor writing. Turlough's is part of his character, something motivated and to hopefully overcome. Taking himself off the board by jumping ship may be the bravest thing he's ever done. Tegan, exasperated by Marriner's attentions, is in fact the weaker character simply because we're used to seeing her a bit more firery. Still, it's fun to see the bedroom reproduced from her memories, showing that poor Aunt Vanessa is still in her thoughts, as is the old stewardess uniform.

REWATCHABILITY: High - A well-constructed world-building exercise and a much better set-up than Part 1, I won't let the Black Guardian's lame appearance put me off.

2 comments:

snell said...

What, no "theories" on the Eternals? I've always fancied that the Celestial Toymaker was an Eternal, his devotion to games similar to these Eternals' seeking a distraction...

Siskoid said...

That's an interesting idea. I've been blinded to it by the novels' assertion that the Toymaker is instead a Guardian.

Eternal status makes much more sense.

How about I write a little THEORIES paragraph in tomorrow's review?

 

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