Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 8/30/17 3:54 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
In The Skin of the Sleek, the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) arrive on the planet Funderell, an aquatic planet where giant electric eels known as Sleek swim under the surface. But soon the TARDIS is lost to the depths and the Doctor and Romana are separated, and the two find themselves encountering old friends and new enemies. Something strange is happening on Funderell, and if the Doctor and Romana aren't careful, they may find themselves underwater. The Skin of the Sleek is a refreshing start to the finale of this series of the Fourth Doctor Adventures. With a strong performance by Baker, and an even stronger performance by Ward, the main cast shines here. The strong guest cast and the excellent script by Marc Platt help this story to really stand out from other finales from this range, resulting in one of the best stories from this series.
Tom Baker and Lalla Ward star as the Fourth Doctor and Romana II in this story. Baker is on top form as usual, sounding a little older, but missing none of that charm and fury that made him so fascinating in the role. I like how his performance is similar to another recent story of his, Night of the Vashta Nerada, where, rather than being his obfuscating, charming, funny Doctor, he takes on a more serious tack over the course of the story. But really, it's Lalla War who shines most in this story as Romana. She hasn't sounded this youthful in ages, thanks to the casting of Joannah Tincey as her old school friend Sartia, with Ward letting her hair down a bit, and letting shades of the TV series Romana shine out in her performance. But it's the final scene, with her begging Sartia for answers as she's abandoned on the sea, that's the best moment of the story. Ward's emotions really come through to the surface here, and it really put me into the story of a woman who was just betrayed by someone she thought was her best friend.
Marc Platt delivered a very strong script here for this story. The story of a floating village on an abandoned planet with another Time Lord is already an interesting enough story, but Platt supplemented the story with some great dialogue and exceedingly strong character moments, making an excellent story in the end. There were a lot of really interesting story ideas in this story; I quite liked the idea of Sartia killing the god of the floating village, as it sets up a really fascinating conflict between the people of the village and the Doctor's group. I also really enjoyed the idea of a planet where you could sink if you stood still too long, but that was teeming with danger underneath the surface. But Platt's script was at it's peak when it was focusing on little character moments. Things like Romana's youthful personality throughout the story owe something to the direction of Ken Bentley, but it's nice that Platt wrote in a more youthful Romana, as it really elevated the story. But other little moments, like Sartia's musing over the death of Funderell's Daughter, and the scene where Sartia abandons Romana stick out because of some excellent writing by Platt. If I can find one criticism of his play, it's that the reveal of Sartia's hatred for Romana doesn't really come as a shock, but more of a tepid wimper. But it's forgotten given the betrayal that Ward conveys in that scene, so I'm not holding that against it too much.
Overall, The Skin of the Sleek starts off the Series 6 finale right, with a strong tale of monsters, old friends, and treachery. Tom Baker is on top form, as always, but it's Lalla War who steals the show as Romana, giving a powerful performance throughout. The guest cast, with members such as Tincey and Newall, was strong as well, and Marc Platt's script was an enjoyable creation. The script was at it's best when it was focusing on more intimate character moments, but it was also a really great story about a small village doing what it can to survive. It sets up an interesting conflict in next month's story, and one I'm very excited to hear.