Much like The Underwater Menace before it, I watched through this one with the unshakable sense that it wasn’t a particularly brilliant serial, but once again I bloody well enjoyed it anyway. I’m pretty sure you can put that down to the power of Troughton – with only three to go, there haven’t been any Second Doctor stories that weren’t worth watching. He’s just got this compelling presence that elevates every scene he’s in.
As has Wendy Padbury, and Zoe is well within the vicinity of “favourite ever companion” territory. The best bits of the story were the pair of them working as double act, whether for drama or comedy. Jamie was flying solo more often than not, but this worked well too – he’s more than capable of sustaining a scene or a plot thread single-handedly. That really is the strength of this era – such strong, well defined and well acted central characters.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for all of the guest characters. The Gonds were all very samey, and each and every one of them a stock archetype. The Krotons themselves were little better – why did one of them have a South African accent? It’s quite hard to take them seriously whun thuy taulk like thus, especially in the wide shots when it was revealed that the Krotons wore long shiny skirts. Poor production values all round, especially coming after what we saw last time.
The fact that it was such a step down from The Invasion, and with the knowledge that there’s some huge mythology-defining stuff to come by the end of this season, made it abundantly clear that this was something of a filler episode. But hey, even this hastily-cobbled-together-late-replacement still represents a significant milestone – it was Robert Holmes’s first script. As much as I’m dreading reaching the end of Troughton, I can’t wait to get stuck in to more stuff from him and Terrance Dicks…