Oh great, now I’ll always be confused as to which one is about Ice Warriors and transmats, and which one’s about the massive plant that’s taking over the world. Even now, mere minutes after finishing it, I’m having to check the DVD case to make sure I’ve got it right.
Ultimately, I’ll always remember Doom, Not Death as being an absolutely stunning example of a season finale. For the first time in ages, it feels like there’s been proper thought put into the structure of a season, with an episode count that equates to exactly half a year, split up into five fours followed by a six. It instantly makes a six-parter feel like a special occasion, rather than worrying whether it’s going to be a bit of a slog.
And even in itself, this is a damn fine example of a six-parter, with the two distinct main settings keeping things moving and also adding a more epic scale. It looks absolutely beautiful, partly thanks to the return to videotape for the location work. The Antarctica sequences are a particular triumph, especially the big explosion towards the end of it.
The guest performances are particularly strong in this one too. Chase is delightfully weird and creepy even before he gets possessed – I particularly liked him taking the time out to give The Doctor a guided tour of the house, and piss about playing his rubbish plant music. Just as excellent was Boycie, making a treacherous murderer likable throughout, even before he reluctantly joined the good guys. However, I couldn’t hear anyone shout “Scorby!” without thinking of Pam Doove.
It’s yet another episode with an undercurrent of violence, with The Doctor getting his hands dirty every now and then. It’s noticeable, but not particularly jarring – it just contributes to an overall tone that feels slightly more adult under Phillip Hinchcliffe than it did under Barry Letts. Both approaches are great, and I’ve got no qualms with stuff like The Doctor knocking the chauffeur/assassin the fuck out – it’s just this particular Doctor’s version of the Third’s Venusian Aikido. The sight of him stalking around with a gun is a little unpleasant, regardless of his insistence that he’d never actually use it.
The only real downside was the shit version of UNIT that showed up towards the end. It’s sort of missing the point of their popularity – if you’re not going to use the Brig or Benton, just say they’re the normal army or something. The Doctor has cut his ties with Earth now and that’s fine, but seeing him interact with complete strangers in the same way he interacted with his friends is weird.
That links into a slight issue that this era seems to be having in contextualising stories. UNIT were also a handy device for kickstarting the Doctor’s involvement in the plot, but it was confusing to see the Doctor taking orders from some unknown civil servant at the start of this serial. Pre-exile, the majority of serials would open with a little TARDIS scene, giving a glimpse of what passes for everyday life, as well as dropping the characters into the setting. It strikes me that we’ve barely seen the TARDIS interior for ages, and as such there’s swathes of the Doctor and Sarah’s relationship that’s undocumented.
None of this takes anything away from this particular serial, however. It’s pacey, thrilling and unpredictable, and a suitable finale to an astonishingly good season.
Yet another review where I barely even mention how great Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen are. Extraordinary performances are everyday occurrences to them, and they just automatically add a base level of brilliance to any serial they appear in. Which is probably why this season, as we reach its end, has gone down as my favourite so far.
SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 9
- Seasons/Series watched: 13 of 35
- Stories watched: 85 of 263*
- Individual episodes watched: 427 of 826
* Story count altered to reflect current thinking on exactly how many stories formed Series 9. I disagree with DWM on the issue, but their word seems to be official, and I’m a stickler for the rules. Even if the last three episodes were blatantly one long story.