I’ve watched this one before, along with the next two serials, thanks to the New Beginnings boxset – as with The Key To Time, I bought it due to the appeal of watching a continuous story unfold over several episodes. I remember all the big things that happen, which isn’t surprising considering they’re some of the biggest things in the show’s history, but none of the little details.
For instance, I was surprised when Nyssa was left behind at the end, considering I know for a fact that she’s in Logopolis. It’s odd, and I’m looking forward to (re-)discovering how and why she joins the crew full time. As of right now, I don’t have any particularly strong opinions on her based on this serial. She seems pretty handy to have around, and she works well with Adric, although I’m not sure I’d have picked her out as a potential companion on the strength of her debut.
It was tricky to know what to make of her father too. I didn’t trust him at first, but I can’t tell whether that was deliberate, or just because he has the same face as Anthony Ainley. However, once he was on the run with The Doctor and Adric, he simply became a great one-shot companion, and it’s a credit to Ainley that he can play loveable just as successfully as he plays evil. Tremas is great; so much more than just a body for The Master to take over.
Yes, The Master is back, and I’m very happy about this. It’s been so long since he was a regular part of the series that his return comes across as a breath of fresh air, rather than an attempt to recapture past glories. He looks a lot better than his last appearance even in his emaciated state, and the slowly-building, fleeting glances are very effective. I kind of wanted him to reveal himself a little earlier, but that’s just because I knew it was coming and I’ve missed him so much.
And ultimately, the story had enough going on to justify delaying the inevitable for as long as possible. There was an interesting framing device, effectively filling in the backstory on VT in order to get to the action quicker. Traken is a very interesting place, and Melkur would still be a great villain even if he didn’t turn out to be an even greater villain in disguise.
It’s interesting to compare it to Utopia, which does a lot of the same things – spending the majority of the running time telling a seemingly standalone story which doesn’t quite add up, leaving a few clues for the characters and viewers to pick up on, before unveiling The Master just as the audience has finished figuring it out. He then finds a new body and we’re left with the promise of huge adventures to come. Bring it on – I just hope my banner rotation can cope.