Reviewed By: X-alt
Review Date: 2/5/16 7:36 pm
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Here is a severly underrated story which begins as the story of young adults sleeping in a "spooky" crypt, a "pump house": "Well I'm not too keen on the neighbors" is probably the funniest quote in the four-episode story given that comedy is utterly absent from it. In parallel, there's the Gallifrey plot (and the noted presence of Colin Baker). An air of mystery lingers throughout the story and it took me a couple of episodes before I was able to join the two given that a great majority of the plot centers on the Doctor himself, as he reveals himself the only medium for one of his most underrated archenemy to reappear.
Highlights were the return of Time Lords as early as episode 1, and especially Omega -- came as no surprise for me, as evidenced by the costume, the fact that he comes from another "dimension", as well as the overall matter/antimatter intrigue laid out as early as episode 1 (the Doctor, however, is very long to react and identify the creature "bonded" with him) -- and the (short) absence of Tegan, giving Nyssa more screen time (I think she was left in the background in season 19 due to the presence of two other companions with an history -- something quite new for a companion at the time!) as she's the only one to attend to the Doctor when he's in trouble, both in the TARDIS (episode 1, when the "bonding" began) and on Gallifrey, where she pleads for the Doctor's innocence (episode 2) or after his mind was transferred into the Matrix, leaving him helpless and incapacitated (episode 3). Plus, we're not even sure, at least in episode 1, that Tegan will definitely come back given that, during season 19, one of her principal concerns had clearly been to go back home and be sure not to miss her professional interview at the airport she was driving to when she met the Doctor. This has changed in season 20 and she appears eager for adventure (in episode 4 she is even happy to have "got the sack") and plays the role of the leader in the Earthbound plot, especially in episode 2 (she is captured by Omega in episode 3 only to be used in order to "persuade" -- blackmail -- the Doctor).
I must say I found it an excellent episode to begin season 20, and a good episode overall, probably one of Fifth's best in terms of convincing acting and intrigue. An interesting addition to the Whoniverse was probably the introduction of the "Matrix", introduced in episode 1 and recurring throughout the story. We also learn of Leela's marriage to a Gallifreyan. What I liked about this episode is also the characterization of Nyssa, who I thought had been a bit redundant in the previous season, who is seen kicking asses in the two middle episodes... at last! More generally, episodes dealing with the relationship between the Doctor and his people are rare, and often misunderstood (as in New Who's The End of Time). When Zorac declared in episode 2 that "each and every time the Doctor returns to Gallifrey there's violence", an older Time Lord, Councillor Hedin, answers: "Perhaps it is we who should modify our approach".
It is true that the Time Lords had so far left Doctor with almost no initiative ("The War Games", "The Three Doctors" etc.): though deemed not to have been "cooperative" by Castellan in episode 2, using Romana as example, any hooked audience would remember that the first time they heard about the Time Lords was this story in which the Second Doctor is forced to regenerate and sent to Earth, or that the Third Doctor had to bargain with them after the 10th anniversary story to regain the right to travel in time and space, or that they forced him to travel to Skaro in order to destroy the Dalek in season 12 etc. This episode conveys new outlooks for the Time Lords, showing them clearly as dependent on the Doctor -- as they already were in Omega's first episode. A shame that the character of Omega is not properly explored and that he remains a 'baddy', because the existence of a Time Lord castaway in a world of anti-matter is a very interesting theme, though it was far less exploited than in "The Three Doctors".