Reviewed By: JMChurch25
Review Date: 11/21/18 10:26 pm
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The adventures of the Sixth Doctor after "Revelation of the Daleks" continue with a maligned story by Philip Martin that works to throws everything and the kitchen sink at you. When the TARDIS is dragged into the 23rd century by a signal from another Time Lord, the Doctor and Peri are brought into a strange situation on the planet of Magnus. An envoy from Gallifrey whom the Doctor is morbidly familiar with has been summoned to the courts of the planet's royalty. Led by Madame Rana Zandusia and helped along by the business slug Sil, the entirely female population want to use time travel for a preemptive strike against their suitably masculine enemies on the nearby planet of Salva. Caught in a battle of literal men vs. women and enveloped by slimy foes on all sides, the Doctor and Peri are forced into the machinations of not just the race of Magnus and his old foe but also his old childhood Gallifreyan nemesis. But something else from the Doctor's past is present deep in the bowel of the planet with an agenda of its own against the planet....."Mission to Magnus" is a story with a lot of potential behind it. There are some really creative elements to it in introducing a new Time Lord character unlike any we've heard before, throwing him together with some enjoyable classic monsters, and a combobulated but decent plot involving the use of time travel in interesting ways. The soundscape is good and appropriately cheesy 80's sci-fi, it follows the format of the main series in that the first half barely involves our two leads and focuses on the situation and the villains, and most of the acting is decent enough given the material the actors have been given to work with. It's certainly never boring hitting the mark of its era admirably (especially when compared to its predecessor "The Nightmare Fair") and it's one that you can have fun with in the right mindset. However, there are plenty of smaller theme and character moments that completely sink this one and make it unworthy of anything beyond an initial listen. For one thing, some of the themes and cliches of this story are honestly god awful and what it has to say about both the male and female genders is not exactly progressive. It's certainly not out of nowhere to say that these kinds of stereotypical male and female civilizations could exist in the universe. But when all the women are portrayed as intelligently superfluous beauty queens and the men as war-like and brutish idiots, it's kind of hard to notice a problem no matter how you feel about it. It's not enough to insult per se but it still feels pretty distasteful at times. For another, while all of the actors are good in their respective roles for the most part, the characters are just plain bad. I was honestly a little insulted with the way the Sixth Doctor was portrayed in this story despite the usual great vocals from Colin Baker. That's not to say that this Doctor hasn't had bad moments in other stories but it's so strange and very out of character for the Doctor in ANY incarnation to be that scared of a simple school bully no matter the past transgressions he's been through. The timid and weak way he reacts to and treats the character of Anzor throughout the story is frankly shocking when even the Daleks couldn't get that kind of a reaction out of him and even his eventual standup to him moment reeks of forced and underdeveloped. I sympathize with many of Peri's outbursts this story quite frankly and it brings a chilling reminder of the Sixth Doctor's early days which is really not a good thing. Speaking of which, Nicola Bryant is fine and Nicholas Briggs playing the usual Ice Warrior archetypes are fine as well but the rest of the cast struggles considerably. Malcolm Rennie as Anzor is suitably despicable but a total drain on the ears. Despite his loyalties to the ideals of his race and people, the character himself is loud, misogynistic, arrogant, cowardly, and completely unlikable. Kudos to Rennie for channeling such an intensely vile personality that somehow beats the other characters of the stories but I was glad to see the back of him with this story and especially glad to leave him to his eventual fate. Outside of that, there isn't too much to say about him and there's nothing redeemable about his personality outside of his thin veneer of douchebaggery. Nabil Shaban on the other hand playing the slug Sil is treated a bit better. His vocals are great and I loved hearing Shaban's unique voice again but he's not very cautious about his plans and it's pretty obvious what he's up to. There isn't much slippery subtlety with his presence here and it makes him easy to spot and much less tricky as a villain than he's been in other stories. There are also a couple child actors in this one who are pretty damn bad, a depressingly typical performance from Maggie Steed as the matriarch of the society, and the less I say about the male Salvakians the better. With all that being said, where does "Mission to Magnus" stand for me and does it deserve its poor reputation from the fandom? Well I can't say it isn't enjoyable or memorable and I do think it's better than a lot of other stories out there. But at the same time, that enjoyment is more from how out of touch and dislikable this one gets rather than from being good or engaging. In that sense, "Mission to Magnus" does get a tentative recommendation out of me and its one of those that needs to be heard to be believed. Give it a try but I don't blame you if you end up wanting to drown it in Mentorian sludge by the end.