Reviewed By: adamelijah
Review Date: 3/15/15 11:19 pm
1 out of 2 found this review helpful.
This story is one of the best dystopian Doctor Who stories (in the same league as the Sun Makers) as it features the Doctor and Peri landing on a former prison colony that's still run by the descendants of its former guards and the government stays in power through corruption and by selling torture as entertainment.
It's a great cautionary tale that ages well because it was so far ahead of its time, before the start of the age of reality shows and right at the beginning of the rise of trashy American shows that made people's misery fodder. It's bleak and unlike in other stories, the cheap sets actually serve the story and to establish the poverty of the planet, and the hopeless of the situation.
The story had some great performances Martin Jarvis is such a great performer as the Governor, giving a performance that makes his sympathetic but not entirely moral. His scene where he speaks to the guard before Episode 2 is one of the more powerful guest performances in Doctor Who.
The Doctor's role in this is controversial. The moments in the TARDIS establish that despite his bluster, this Doctor is flawed particularly when it comes to basic TARDIS stuff, but in this story, the Sixth Doctor establishes he isn't someone you mess around with. The Doctor shoots weapons, sets up deadly booby traps, and delivers James Bondesque quips when two guards stumble into a vat of acid. He's resourceful, courageous, and resolute. While he does use violence, it's never gratuitous or unjustified, but it is decisive.
While I love the performance, I can understand why so many people got upset, as this really isn't family viewing in the mold of prior seasons, and the Doctor is so changed from say the the Fourth Doctor who forbid Leela from killing even in self-defense. Though, compared to some actions in the new series, I think this isn't all that shocking considering events like the 11th Doctor leaving a space pirate to die when he could have saved him because the pirate was an evil man.
In addition, there are some moments of tenderness and caring as the Doctor rescues Peri that shows complexity to this Doctor's character.
I said this is in the same league as the Sun Makers in terms of dystopia and it's a pretty even match. The Sun Makers had a better companion and better locations. This has a better guest villain in Sil, as well as a more realistic scenario, plus a couple of other great guest performances.
In the end, this is a fantastic episode that showcases the strengths of the Sixth Doctor.