Reviewed By: Drew Vogel
Review Date: 6/17/17 1:29 pm
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My biggest complaint about this story is that its placement within the season disrupts the flow. I would have placed this between "Invaders from Mars" and "The Chimes of Midnight". The only hint of a connection is the brief appearance of some Type 70 TARDISes apparently attempting to apprehend the Doctor, which is a nice bit of foreshadowing, but it feels tacked on for the sake of having that connection. Fundamentally, this is a standalone story that has nothing to do with the Charley Paradox.
It's quite a good story, though. It's one of those stories where the tension comes from the unknown. Once the truth is revealed, it turns out that there was never much danger after all. This sort of thing can sometimes seem rather unsatisfying. As others have pointed out, the Doctor doesn't really accomplish much. In fact, he makes what seems to be a catastrophic mistake, which fortunately turns out just fine, so no harm done. It's unkind but not incorrect to say that the Doctor blunders his way through the story accomplishing very little.
That doesn't bother me, at least not this time. The story works because the mystery is compelling, and the resolution of that mystery doesn't change that. Still, there's not a lot of story to fill four episodes, so a lot of time is spent running through plot. For example, the Doctor spends a lot of time arguing with ROSM. These scenes are well-written and fun, but they don't really advance the story at all. With a total running time of 126 minutes, some of that could have been trimmed down a bit. I think this story would have worked better at a more traditional 100 minuntes. On the other hand, the slower pace seems to complement the atmosphere of the story.
Lastly, I want to say something about the characters. There's this idea that character development involves informing the audience of a character's biography or backstory. That's certainly one way to do it, but it's not the only way (or necessarily the best way). Look at Lupton from "Planet of the Spiders". At one point, the story comes to a complete halt so that he can deliver his backstory to us via infodump. It's a good scene because of John Dearth's compelling performance, but it doesn't make Lupton a better character. By that point, we've already seen his drive, his ambition, and his ruthlessness. Likewise, the character development of Orllensa, Haliard, and Ferras comes from how they respond to their situation. They are all good, well-developed characters, regardless of how much or how little of their backstory we learn.