Ah, now this season has got going. That was an unexpected hit for me – one of those rare serials at this stage where the title means nothing to me, and so I can go into it without any preconceptions. I was immediately impressed by the truly dangerous and hellish world portrayed, and the cliffhanger of the TARDIS seemingly destroyed is great.
The hatstand being left behind was a very neat touch. Turlough subsequently using it as a pretend weapon was even better. It was a great story for him; he’s been a little less interesting since his enlightenment, acting like any other companion, so this was a timely reminder that he’s actually an alien, and a particularly freaky one at that. It was good to see him get the opportunity to completely lose his shit again; this serial really made the most of Mark Strickson’s extraordinary face.
I like the Tractators, who sound like a race of extremely authoritarian farmers. Not the most convincing of costumes, and not quite as effective when they started talking, but their powers were impressive and interesting. I also liked that they had a separate leader whose character was fairly well fleshed out, with his own motives and weaknesses for The Doctor to latch on to. Davison struck me as being on particularly good form, actually – he’s got that kind of default brilliance that Tom and Troughton had, where regardless of the rest of the episode, you know you can rely on them.
The plot was intriguing and never seemed like it slowed down, thanks to the constant drip feeding of new information, as everything slowly begins to make sense. I wasn’t completely sure what was going on with the TARDIS towards the end – it looked like it had somehow merged with the underground tunnels, but the explanation that it had been pulled apart into lots of fragments didn’t quite marry with the visuals.
It’s not quite clear how the pulling apart happened either, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt because I enjoyed the serial so much. My only other criticism is that Tegan was a bit thick at times towards the end; blabbing secrets to the enemy and failing to cotton on to The Doctor’s plan, much like Adric used to do at times. And as for the other “companion”, what the hell happened to Kamelion when the TARDIS was in a million pieces?
Oh, and naturally, the mentions of “the hungry earth” reminded me of The Hungry Earth, a story that I don’t remember particularly well, other than it being crap, but that I’m sure had similar sequences of people being pulled through soil. Plus, of course, the excavation machine thing looked very similar to Max Thingy from Voyage of the Damned. It’s like the new series mined Frontios but turned everything to shit, much like the Tractators did.
I’ll be taking a very short break for the next few days, as other commitments mean it’s going to be near impossible for me to spare 45 minutes at a time. Oh well, at least the sad day when I have no new Old Who to watch will be postponed, even for a little while.