Now, I don’t particularly like stories about magic, in Doctor Who or in general. It’s purely down to personal preference, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with them, it’s just that I prefer my sci-fi/fantasy to be heavier on the sci. So there was an element of trepidation as I watched the opening episodes of this one, especially considering the running gag of The Doctor being interrupted every time he’s about to give the rational explanation for everything that’s going on. I was a little concerned that this would continue for the duration.
But I should have just gone with it from the off, because as soon as the explanation did arrive – as cursory and functional as it was – I started enjoying the serial a lot more. There’s clearly a hell of a lot of fun to be had by casting The Master as the figurehead of a Satanist cult, and the whole thing about a sleepy picturesque village harbouring a secret network of hooded minions was very Hot Fuzz.
The scale of the story escalated perfectly as it went along, with really grim moments like Benton having the shit kicked out of him by an invisible force, and The Doctor being tied to a stake to be burnt alive by evil Morris dancers. In the end, the world may have been saved pretty much by accident, rather than with the culmination of a brilliantly cunning plan, but it was nice that it was Jo that saved the day – she’s been an absolute star of this season, which is no mean feat for Katy Manning considering the might of Pertwee, Delgado and Courtney. They are a fantastic ensemble.
Regardless of the convenient nature of Azal’s demise, the coda on the village green is the perfect end to a season, especially the subversion of The Master’s usual last-second escape. He’s finally captured, bringing his run of consecutive appearances to an end. Probably for the best, considering the need to keep things as varied and unpredictable as ever despite the current production restrictions. But here’s a sign of how brilliantly the character has worked up to this point – the big cliffhanger at the end of Episode Three is The Master’s life being in peril. It’s not The Doctor we’re worried for, or one of his companions, but an actual villain. That doesn’t happen very often.
Pleasingly, this was one of those serials that seemed rife with links to the future, intentional or otherwise. It was amusing to see “BBC 3” used as a “Jaws 19” type gag, although it does mean that the UNIT adventures are actually set in the 2000s at the earliest. Then there was the nerdy UNIT Sergeant named “Osgood”, which got me wondering whether I’d missed a line in The Day of the Doctor. Turns out Moff wrote her to be this Osgood’s daughter, but didn’t include it in the script. I love the fact that the daughters of two different characters from the 70s are working together for the same organisation in the modern day.
Best of all, though? The lines “reverse the polarity” and the impeccable: “Chap with the wings, there. Five rounds rapid.” That line in particular encapsulates this whole era of the show. It’s completely distinct from everything that came before or after, but it’s oh so charming and captivating.
And so we reach the end of another season – these are coming round much more frequently now that the show has a far more sensible production schedule…
SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 8.2
- Seasons/Series watched: 8 of 34
- Stories watched: 59 of 253
- Individual episodes watched: 303 of 813
Ooh, the total number of stories and episodes will have gone up next time I do this bit. And the top figure will be out of 34 and a bit. But before that, I’ve got an appointment with some old friends. Brief cameos aside, I’ve not seen hide nor hair of a Dalek since the middle of April, and this ridiculous state of affairs must stop immediately.