Throughout this season, there’s been a sense that the show has been finding its feet again. After a huge amount of upheaval, everyone has been slowly settling in, and there’s been something not quite right. But with Inferno, they absolutely nailed it.
The main thing is that UNIT now feels like much more of a family all of a sudden. Benton has actual characteristics for the first time – he’s boyish and cheeky, and has become the Brig’s right hand man. Simply having that one extra regular character does so much towards building a consistent world, and I now feel that much more invested in the new format of the show, because it’s provided a group of people that we care about.
Of course, all this softening up was necessary to provide a suitable juxtaposition with everyone’s evil counterparts. The parallel universe stuff was absolutely inspired, and the cast are all on top form. I love how Nicholas Courtney uses so much ham for the Brigade Leader, when he’s always the epitome of suave and nonchalance as the Brigadier. Evil Benton was a complete shit, and Evil Liz was great. So much so that it’s a shame that this is her last serial – despite my reservations about Liz’s relationship with the Doctor, who knows what could have developed with more time.
The best thing about the parallel universe is how genuinely grim and disturbing their situation is. The impending apocalypse is fantastically realised, to the extent that it’s horrifying to watch it unfold. The scenes leading up to the Doctor heading home are amongst the most tense and dramatic in the show’s history, especially Liz shooting the Brigade Leader.
It’s a special type of horrifying too, because while you watch The Doctor fixing our universe, it dawns on you that the parallel universe is still doomed, and all those people are in the process of dying painfully. Despite their evilness, they did all come round to The Doctor’s side in the end, and they each showed great courage to rally round and help save our universe while theirs was already beyond saving.
This inherent grimness is counterbalanced by the optimism on The Doctor’s face when he realises that free will isn’t an illusion after all, and that the pattern can be changed. It’s powerful stuff, and it feels like a defining moment for the ongoing development of The Doctor’s character. His little speech subtly carries the spirit of joy and wonderment that so many subsequent actors and writers would bring to The Doctor. There’s also a certain ruggedness and air of defiance throughout Pertwee’s performance, which is what is setting him apart from his predecessors the most, thus far.
After just four serials, albeit mostly really long ones, it’s milestone time again.
SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 8.5
- Seasons/Series watched: 7 of 34
- Stories watched: 54 of 253
- Individual episodes watched: 278 of 813
Wikipedia reliably informs me that Inferno was the last seven parter, meaning nothing will be this long again until Trial of a Time Lord. While Inferno was certainly well worth its running time, it’s rare that long serials don’t slightly outstay their welcome, even by a little bit. After only seeing four different stories in an entire season, I’m looking forward to seeing a greater number of adventures for this newly-gelled UNIT posse, and I’m also looking forward to seeing Jo Grant, cause she is well fit. But above all else, I hear there’s a new villain on the way…