Well, that was damn near perfect. It has a reputation that suggests as much, but bloody hell, that was something else. One thing I didn’t already know was that it had such a troubled start in life, what with Robert Holmes having to write it from scratch due to the original scripts being utter dogshit, which makes it even more remarkable.
I wasn’t mightily enthused at the notion of entering into Doctor Who‘s Gothic Horror phase. I’ve previously noted that I prefer science to fantasy, plus the phrase “Gothic Horror” itself just makes me think of moody vampires and Nightwish. But for one thing, Who‘s take on the genre is deeply rooted in science and logic anyway. Plus this new style has made the show become incredibly dark and violent, and I approve greatly.
This was an absolute thrill ride, with some amazing cliffhangers and incredibly high stakes. Everyone died, mostly in hideous physical and emotional pain. The seriousness of the threat was beautifully illustrated with the sequence depicting the alternative 1980, which established a relationship to causality that the show sticks by today. If the Doctor and Sarah fail, humanity ends in 1911. Simple as that.
But these two could hardly fail – they’re unstoppable. This was perhaps Sarah Jane’s best serial yet, proving that she’s almost the Doctor’s equal at this stage, performing as his right-hand-woman rather than a mere assistant. And Elisabeth Sladen is one of very few actors whose performances aren’t overshadowed by those of Tom Baker – they’re clearly having a whale of a time together, hence the above gif.
And you can’t underestimate the importance of the villains, all of whom were just brilliant. Scarman was The Demon Headmaster twenty years early, and Gabriel Woolf gives Sutekh bags of depth and personality with his voice alone. Furthermore, due to how deliciously violently they dispatched the good guys, the mummies have to be the first truly scary depiction of robots in the show so far. (Daleks and Cybermen don’t count, obvs.)
There was even a bizarre back reference to Victoria, for no apparent reason whatsoever. What more do you want?
Also, I note that I am now exactly halfway through Doctor Who – there are 826 episodes at the time of writing, and Part Four of this was the 413th. I’ve been doing this for fifteen months, but you’ll be pleased to hear that it’ll be more than fifteen months before I’m finished – I’ve got a very long list of spin-offs and specials to make things more interesting later on…