Naturally 'Caves of Androzani' has got an awesomely high reputation as being one of the, if not THE, best story of the Eighties, rivalled perhaps only by the likes of 'The Curse of Fenric' or 'The Greatest Show In The Galaxy' or, in my opinion but not everybody else's, 'Remembrance of the Daleks' (It's good fun if nothing else isn't it). So when, a few months ago, I purchase 'The Caves of Androzani' on DVD I was expecting to be blown away by this 'awesome story', and the fact that it was the only regeneration story currently on DVD from the programme's 26-year-run, I was itching to view.
What I got was a perfectly sound story, and I certainly can see why its reputation is so high, but it was still an anti-climax.
I suppose if I delve deep into the characterisation of Holmes, and the detailed society and culture of Androzani Major/Minor I can indeed agree that it scores top marks on that level. I will first present my annoyances with the story. These are minor glitches overall and they are beside the notorious television remotes of Morgus and the unconvincing Magma creature (and somehow Graham Harper thought that it was terrifying, and even asked Peter Davison at the end of Episode 2 on the DVD commentary if he and Nicola thought it terrifying too!). But there are other things - mostly the fact that it is so much more of an 'adult' programme rather than a 'children/family' programme because there is very little action till up to the final episode and I found that, although I enjoyed it, my younger cousins tended to switch off a lot when watching it. Another thing is the incidental score - which IS effective in some places, but in others it can be very tedious. And I have to say that the mercenaries chasing the Doctor at the start of Episode 4 are terrible shots, and Cralper looks ridiculous as he runs stiffly with his tiny gun held at his waist, firing randomly.
But lets move on to the much better things - and these are (apart from what I mentioned at the start) Davison's performance. The acting is excellent throughout - and I do agree that the performance of Davison at the end of Episode 3 is exceptionally good and hits the exact amount of anger and desperation without going outside of the Fifth Doctor's character, which I found was not the case when I recently watched 'The Visitation' where a lot of the Doctor's actions and manner of talking were not unlike Colin Baker's performance. It wasn't until I read Paul Clarke's review of this story that it suddenly hit home that the caves are actually sets and not really caves - I honestly never realised they were studio sets - obviously deep down I knew they were because of the picture quality, but I hadn't though about it till now. So excellent cave sets are evident - however Morgus' office is terribly bland, but the 'hologram' effects of Morgus talking to Chellak or Stotz are exceptional for the series.
The main thing I love about Caves is the ending. Harper's direction coupled with Davison's performance is immense as he trudges on towards the TARDIS carrying Peri in his arms as is his performance in the TARDIS in what is a spectacular regeneration scene as you all will agree - but they do cheat slightly by flooding the camera with light effects so that they just switch clips from Davison to Baker in between but this doesn't detract.
Overall then - Caves is a perfectly good story, and in comparison to 'The Three Doctors' which I'm watching now it excels miles. It's just that the heaps of praise was raising expectations a little too high.