Mawdryn UndeadBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 2 March 2005 - Reviewed by David Osbiston

Having re-watched this recently after a couple of years, it is a cracking way to introduce Turlough, bring back the Brigadier and encompass all the plots/ subplots in a good story.

Although the story has some weaknesses including the bizarre costumes for Mawdryn and the gang plus all the time line nonsense, which mucks up continuity, the pluses outweigh the negatives. 

Turlough is extremely well acted by Mark Strickson and is a shame that the potential in this story isn’t really enlarged upon until his final story. Peter Davison too excels as the Doctor with breathless enthusiasm – especially in parts three and four where he is willing to give up his remaining lives to save his friends. 

Although Nyssa and Tegan are bound by the TARDIS, they are effective in their roles and helpful as a plot device in the Doctor’s decision to help Mawdryn. 

And then there is Nicholas Courtney who is brilliant as the Brigadier and nice to see him mellowing as a schoolteacher and not as the baffoon he did during the later Pertwee stories. 

Peter Grimwade does write a very complicated story, which is very different to most of the stories surrounding it. It is a million times better than his last story (Time-Flight). However you do just think the Black Guardian is pure evil and can kill and destroy if he wants. So why doesn’t he just kill the Doctor himself? 

This is on the other hand a minor detail and does not really deter from a really good story, which is sometimes a forgotten gem in Davison’s era. 8/10

FILTER: - Television - Series 20 - Fifth Doctor

Mawdryn UndeadBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 14 December 2004 - Reviewed by Kim Arrowsmith

Mawdryn Undead has long been one of the most popular stories of the Davison era of Dr. Who. Its success lies partly in the way that it takes themes and characters that are very familiar to anyone who has watched the series for a number of years, and combines them with some fairly radical departures from the norms of the series plotting and characterization. 

One of the most obviously familiar elements of the story is the presence of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. It seems very natural, that in a story made for the series 20th anniversary season, a character who has played such a big role in the programme’s history should return, and it is a return to form as well. This Brig is very clearly the intelligent military man of the early Pertwee stories, not the frankly daft blunderer of The Three Doctors (what were you thinking of Bob and David?). That said, this is no return to UNIT’s glory days, as we discover the Brig teaching maths in a school, and suffering from amnesia brought on by some kind of nervous breakdown. Courtney plays both versions of the Brig very well here, and his vulnerability over his missing memories is very touchingly played, reminding us that any display of emotionalism must be hard for this old soldier. Some have said that the inclusion of the Silver Jubilee crates a problem with dating the UNIT stories. I have always assumed that they were contemporary, and so, to my mind, this doesn’t present a problem. 

Mawdryn Undead also sees the return of Valentine Dyall as The Black Guardian. Dyall’s portrayal of the character is quite entertaining, but The Black Guardian is, essentially, a pantomime villain, spending much of his time snarling at Turlough and threatening death and destruction at every possible opportunity. I’m almost tempted to boo and hiss every time he appears on screen. The rather strange choice of costume (“this is an ex parrot”) doesn’t help. In the hands of a less charismatic actor, this would all be very embarrassing, but Dyall somehow rises above the limitations of role and apparel, to give a performance that is, at times anyway, quite scary. The much discussed issue of why The Black Guardian can not be seen to intervene directly to destroy The Doctor is one I can not attempt to answer definitively, but perhaps it would incur the wrath of The White Guardian. 

Having dealt with the return of two previously seen characters, it’s time to talk about Turlough. Personally, I like the character, and I like Strickson’s performance. This is one of the areas where Mawdryn radically departs from the norms of the series. Of course, we’re used to seeing companions becoming caught up accidentally in the Doctor’s affairs, and deciding to stick around ( cf. Jamie, Sarah, Leela etc. , etc. ) , and companions who are kidnapped or unexpectedly removed from their own time ( Ian, Barbara, Tegan ) , but there has never been a companion who became involved with The Doctor because he was trying to kill him! He is also one of the few companions that it is hard to feel real affection for. Usually, the occupants of the Tardis are a pretty pleasant bunch. Strickson, in the opening moments of this serial, establishes Turlough as a sneaky, cowardly, cold young man, and, although his time with The Doctor mellows him a little, these essential traits remain in place until he leaves, under something of a cloud really, at the end of Planet of Fire. During this serial, Strickson starts the process of taking turlough from his starting point as a quite unpleasant individual to someone who begins to appreciate the values and actions of someone like The Doctor. Stickson’s performance is one of the joys of Mawdryn Undead. Of course, it was this dwelling on the interaction of characters in the Tardis crew that lead Andrew Cartmel to describe this era of the show as “Neighbours with roundels”, which I can’t help feeling not only ignores one of the things that made the early Hartnell series so compelling, but also seems a bit hypocritical from the man who gave us the Grange Hill with explosives character of Ace. At least in the Davison years, character development wasn’t done with a sledgehammer.

The plot of Mawdryn Undead also deals with a theme that is very familiar to long time fans of the series, that of scientists using their knowledge for questionable ends. We can see this theme in evidence in stories such as The War Games, The Brain of Morbius, Robot, Invasion of the Dinosaurs etc., etc. . . . Here, immortality is the goal sought by Mawdryn and co., and this is the first of two occasions in season 20 that immortality is seen as something craved by villains, the other occasion being, of course, The Five Doctors. However, Mawdryn is not a straightforward villain, and, rather like Omega in Arc of Infinity, we do feel some sympathy for him. This traditional bad scientist plot is given a twist by a quite surprising use of The Doctor’s ability to time travel. Tegan and Nyssa become stranded in 1977, while The Doctor is in 1983, both parties encounter The Brigadier, and it the eventual meeting of these two versions of The Brigadier that causes the release of energy that provides the plot’s resolution. This makes time travel central to the plot, rather than simply being the device by which The doctor and his crew enter the story. There have, of course, been stories where time travel has played a role in the plot ( The Chase, Earthshock, Pyramids of Mars, etc. ) , but in Mawdryn it plays a very central role, explaining The Brigadier’s breakdown, and providing the resolution. Given the unpredictability of The Tardis when piloted by the Fifth Doctor, it also raises the possibility of The Doctor being separated from his companions permanently, especially as it went with them and not him! 

Any mention of time in this story will inevitably lead into the long standing argument over whether this story plays fast and loose with the UNIT continuity by showing a Brigadier who has retired from the organization by Summer1977 at the latest. I have to say, I don’t think this argument can ever be resolved, as, when it comes to dating the UNIT stories, there is a lot of contradictory evidence in the series as a whole ( not least of all Sarah’s claim in Pyramids of Mars that she comes from 1980 ) . I am content to accept that the majority of the evidence tends to suggest that the UNIT stories were more or less contemporary, and that Mawdryn Undead doesn’t really present a problem in continuity terms. 

All in all, this is one of the best stories of the Davison era, and I would be very surprised if it doesn’t remain a firm favorite with fans for many years to come.

FILTER: - Television - Series 20 - Fifth Doctor

SnakedanceBookmark and Share

Sunday, 14 March 2004 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

'Snakedance' is in many ways highly similar to 'Kinda'. For one thing, it is a sequel to that story, also written by 'Kinda' scribe Christopher Bailey, and featuring the return of the Mara. Like 'Kinda', it suffers from cheap and stagy looking sets and horrible costumes, but is also well directed. And like 'Kinda', it has a superb script, great characterisation, and a superb acting. 

To address those minor negative quibbles first and get them out of the way, I actually much prefer the sets here to those in 'Kinda', with only the rocky exteriors and the cave bothering me. The rocky exteriors look better than they might have done due to the fact that they are recorded on film, but they are still obviously fake sets with a painted backdrop and some sand scattered about; in short, they always look as though they are indoors. The cave looks OK, but suffers from the same problem as those in 'Earthshock', in that it looks very little like a real cave at all. On the other hand, it has been sculpted in the past, so I suppose its shiny walls and unnatural rock shapes could be explained thus. But it still looks a bit silly when the veins in walls light up at the end. Ken Trew's costumes represent my only other criticism of 'Snakedance'; most of them look a bit silly, but are passable, for example those worn by Dugdale and Chela, but Ambril's pink and black costume is hideous and the ludicrous costume that Lon dons in Episode Four has to be seen to be believed. I should perhaps also point out that the curse of the Mara once more means the curse of the rubber snake, whether it be the one wrapped around Tegan's arm, the one that bites Dojjen and the Doctor during the snakedance, or the big Mara prop at the end. However, the snake effects used here have moved up a step since 'Kinda' and bonus points are awarded for the use of real snakes. 

So having got my rather shallow criticisms of 'Snakedance' out of the way, I'll start by praising the regulars. Janet Fielding again proves she can act, as the Mara once more possesses Tegan. She proves especially good when Tegan wakes up terrified from a nightmare, or wanders around in fearful confusion under the influence of the Doctor's dream inhibiting device. She's even better however when Tegan is fully under the Mara's control and she gets to play the villain; her tormenting of the fortuneteller at the end of Episode One, her callous treatment of Dugdale, even her power crazed ranting, all of these aspects are portrayed very well, and this is emphasized by the first two cliffhangers, superbly directed by Fiona Cumming. The real test of Fielding's acting skills is that she manages to seem menacing even with a rubber snake coiled around her arm, which is pretty impressive when all said and done. Actually, the Mara is realized very well throughout 'Snakedance' and is more prominent from the start than it was in 'Kinda', since the Doctor realises what his enemy is very early on. Cumming's use of snake skulls and distorting mirrors are both examples of how she achieves surrealism on a limited budget and shows Tegan alternately fighting or giving in to the Mara in her mind. Cumming's direction is impressive here, but Fielding is crucial to the success of these scenes. 

Sarah Sutton's Nyssa gets very little to do here, basically following the Doctor or Tegan around to allow plot exposition, but Davison is very well used as the Doctor. His frantic rushing around in an attempt to stop the Mara's rebirth is well ahdnled, and it's interesting to see how he looks to the supporting characters, with everyone except Chela assuming that he is a harmless crank. Ambril's reaction to him is very realistic, as he tries to convince everyone that on this occasion a celebration that has been performed once a decade for five centuries will on this occasion have dire consequences. His scenes with Dojjen in Episode Four are particularly good as the Doctor exhibits first fear and then finally understanding as Dojjen teaches him how to defeat the Mara. 

The supporting cast is excellent. Over the past ten years I've often seen clips from 'Snakedance' being used to embarrass both Martin Clunes and Jonathon Morris, but neither have cause for embarrassment (except perhaps for Clunes' costumes). Clunes is superb as the arrogant and bored Lon, whose transformation from obnoxious to manipulative and ruthless demonstrates that Lon is not a particularly nice person to begin with but is far worse under the Mara's control. Incredible, the famously big-eared Clunes, a man famous for portraying loutish behaviour in Men Behaving Badly, manages to appear both imperious and even dashing at times. Morris is also great as the erstwhile Chela, the one person other than Dojjen prepared to listen to the Doctor's warnings about the Mara, and his character is very likeable. Every character is well written, including Lon's snooty but well-meaning mother Tanha (Colette O'Neill), and the money grubbing but also likeable Dugdale (Brian Miller, husband of Elizabeth Sladen) whose fascination with what he thinks of as Tegan's skills at ventriloquism and the financial benefits this might bring him leads him into terror and slavery. Preston Lockwood's Dojjen is played with quiet dignity and although he barely speaks he brings a tremendous air of wisdom to the role. Perhaps most notable is John Carson's Ambril, a great character whose obsession with his work causes him to betray his sacred trust and hand over the great crystal to Lon. Ambril's motivation is always understandable, his greed for knowledge and artifacts nicely contrasting with Dugdale's greed for money and equally demonstrating how the Mara is capable of praying on people's weaknesses. Carson superbly portrays Ambril's barely suppressed excitement at the artifacts Lon shows him, as he handles them with trembling hands, and his defeated submission to the Mara's will as Lon smashes them is very well acted. In addition, Ambril's enraged reaction to the Doctor's solving of the riddle of the Six Faces of Delusion is almost worth watching the story for by itself. 

Bailey's plot is deceptively simple, carried along by the characterisation and more subtext picked up on from 'Kinda'. Buddhism apparently plays its part once more, in the origins of the Mara and the means by which the Doctor defeats it. Also as in 'Kinda' there are subtle criticisms of colonialism (or rather imperialism) as Tanha patronizes the natives and laughs at their quaint customs, whilst nevertheless fascinated by them. 'Snakedance' is perhaps less memorable than 'Kinda', affected to an extent by the law of diminishing returns, but it is a worthy sequel and after the disappointing 'Arc of Infinity' it bodes well for the remainder of Season Twenty.

FILTER: - Television - Fifth Doctor - Series 20

Mawdryn UndeadBookmark and Share

Thursday, 22 January 2004 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

Unfairly remembered for buggering up UNIT dating, 'Mawdryn Undead' is really a rather good story. It has a very atypical plot for Doctor Who, which makes rare use of the fact that the series can exploit time travel as a plot device. In addition to this, after committing the heinous sin of scripting 'Time-Flight' Peter Grimwade proves surprisingly successful at juggling an old enemy, an old friend, and a new companion. 

Firstly, the principle plot concerns Mawdryn, an unfortunate scientist who along with his companions once stole technology from the Time Lords in an attempt to emulate them. Having accidentally condemned themselves to an eternity of perpetual regeneration and mutation, they now seek to find a way of committing suicide, a difficult task for a group of immortals. This plot is used very well for a number of reasons; for one thing, it makes a refreshing change for a story to focus on an opponent of sorts for the Doctor who is not out to gain power, but who wants help to die. Perhaps wisely, the script side steps the moral issues of euthanasia by emphasizing the ghastly state of Mawdryn's existence, which further means that whilst he is suffering as a consequence of his own past actions, he is not an unsympathetic character. He clearly bears no malice towards the Doctor or his companions; he is motivated purely by his desperate search for help. David Collings, one of Doctor Who's finest occasional guest actors, conveys this beautifully, making Mawdryn seem desperate and pathetic, but never frightening, and also eliciting sympathy. The scenes in which he masquerades as the Doctor make for interesting viewing, and Tegan and Nyssa's uncertainty about him is made believable in part by some rather impressive burnt skin makeup. He clearly doesn't look that much like Peter Davison even then, but this gruesome makeup does make it easier to believe that they could mistake him for their friend. Mention of the Doctor brings up another notable element of the Mawdryn plotline, which is the Fifth Doctor's reaction to events. His initial refusal to help Mawdryn is interesting because whilst it's perfectly understandable given the cost, he clearly finds it enormously painful to reject Mawdryn's plea for aid. Even when asked to sacrifice his own life (or rather, future lives) to help someone whose predicament is entirely their own fault, he still finds it hard to turn them away. Davison brings out this facet of the Doctor's personality magnificently, and the Doctor's sympathy for Mawdryn when he first meets him speaks volumes about his character. When he finally agrees to sacrifice his future incarnations to save Tegan and Nyssa, it sums up this most compassionate of Doctors, as he visible struggles with the enormity of the situation that he is facing and still decides to put the lives of his friends before his own. There's also a certain irony inherent in his scenes with Mawdryn; Mawdryn is a thief who stole Gallifreyan technology and thus created his eternal torment. It's easy to condemn him for this and point out, as the Doctor does, that sometimes people need to accept the consequences of their own actions. The irony is that the Doctor also stole Gallifreyan technology, in the form of the TARDIS, and if he hadn't, he would probably have never met Mawdryn. 

The second main plot thread concerns new companion Turlough, a companion totally unlike any seen before. Mark Strickson makes an immediate impression in the role, as Turlough proves initially to be selfish, bullying, cruel, and arrogant, as his scenes with Ibbotson attest. As if these unsavoury qualities were not unusual enough in a companion, he soon makes a deal with the Black Guardian to kill the Doctor, and spends the remainder of the story alternating between trying to kill or manipulate the Doctor and trying to weasel out of his agreement. As soon as he agrees to commit murder, he becomes arguably the single untrustworthiest companion to join the TARDIS crew, and as such he's a great character. The Doctor's quick acceptance of his new acquaintance means that he is soon treating Turlough like a trusted friend, which adds an extra edge to proceedings, as Turlough repeatedly turns to the Guardian for instructions. Whilst Turlough will remain in thrall to the Black Guardian for two more stories however, he begins his slow redemption early on; after his initial attempt to kill the Doctor, he realises that the Time Lord is not the creature of evil that his Guardian claimed, and his general dislike of violence soon means that he's looking for less drastic ways to satisfy the Guardian. Strickson is great in the role, playing the arrogant bully with ease in Episode One, and then switching to increasingly panic-stricken coward as he realises that he has (almost literally) made a deal with the devil. His joining of the TARDIS crew at the end holds great promise, as he proves adept at lying and deceit and calmly shakes hands with the Doctor; indeed, it is worth noting that however frantic Turlough gets about his predicament, he always manages to present a calm façade to the TARDIS crew. It's also interesting that Turlough's first appearance in the series involves attempted murder motivated by a selfish desire to escape his exile; lest we forget, in his first televised story, a certain Time Lord also intended to kill a man with a rock in an attempt to get back to his TARDIS…

The return of the Black Guardian is rather poorly explained given that he last appeared some years previously in the final scenes of the Key to Time season, but his presence does add an extra dimension to an already multi-layered story, without making it seem too cluttered. The lurking menace of the Guardian works well in conjunction with the use of his new pawn Turlough, and his quiet manipulation of events from behind the scenes is well handled. Despite inexplicably wearing a dead bird on his head, Valentine Dyall's utterly malevolent performance is superb, and he is one of only a few actors who can get away with uttering lines such as "In the name of all that is evil!" without sounding over the top. The Guardian's constant torment of Turlough makes for some great moments, his ability to appear to Turlough anywhere "waking or sleeping" emphasizing the nightmarish situation in which Turlough has placed himself. 

The other old face to reappear in 'Mawdryn Undead' is the Brigadier. Whilst the production teams' original plan to bring back Ian Chesterton might have made more sense in light of the school setting, Courtney recaptures his old role with tremendous ease and the Brigadier is very well used. The idea of two temporal aspects of the Brigadier means that the plot makes good use of him, rather than just treating him as a gratuitous guest appearance, and makes for a satisfying addition to the already busy proceedings. Courtney brings to the role an air of dignity that draws on the Brigadier's characterisation in Season Seven, rather than the increasingly ludicrous buffoon that he became under Barry Letts' tenure as producer, and this is partly why he works so well here. Courtney also manages to make Lethbridge-Stewart seem vulnerable whilst maintaining his old character, and his performance in Episode Two as the Doctor tries to discover the cause of his breakdown six years previously is quite touching. The flashback scene as the Brigadier's memory is restored is rather gratuitous but nevertheless strangely satisfying, as the fan in me gets to see clips of old stories; more importantly, the entire scene serves as a reminder of just how strong a friendship developed between the Doctor and the Brigadier. I also hugely appreciate the fact that 'Mawdryn Undead' exploits the two time zone plotline, which is crucial to tying all the disparate elements of the story together in the final scene; with the Black Guardian having stacked the laws of probability against the Doctor, the coincidence of the two Briagdiers touching hands at exactly the right millisecond seems appropriate rather than contrived. 

Of the regular cast, I've mentioned Davison already. Given the number of elements vying for screen time already in 'Mawdryn Undead', Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding get relatively little to do, but when they are used, Grimwade uses them well. By keeping them largely together their different personalities can be exploited; thus, they get to meet Mawdryn and the Brigadier as a pair, which means that Tegan's automatic distrust of Mawdryn contrasts with Nyssa's natural desire to help those in need, and at the same time Nyssa's scientific background is well used throughout the script. Her ability to chip in when the Doctor is spouting explanations results in three way conversations between the TARDIS crew members which makes it seem less obvious that Doctor is explaining the plot to the audience through his companions. 

The production of 'Mawdryn Undead' is generally quite impressive; Peter Moffatt's direction is competent if unspectacular, but the location filming greatly benefits the story. The sets too are rather good; those for the school interior nicely match the exterior, and those used for Mawdryn's sets capture the cold grandeur suggested by the script. This contributes to an air of eeriness on board the ship that works particularly well in Episode One, and the incidental score helps. Paddy Kingsland's score is effective throughout, except for some silly music when Turlough is driving the Brigadier's car at the start of Episode One. The costumes used for the mutants are very effective, although exactly how Mawdryn obtains an outfit identical to those of his brethren having been carried into the TARDIS in charred rags is a question left unanswered… My only real criticism of 'Mawdryn Undead' is the propensity for technobabble, with talk of warp ellipses and Mawdryn's constant mutation little more than gibberish. The most obvious example if when Tegan and Nyssa become infected; the nature of their infection is very obviously glossed over, with even the Doctor explaining that he doesn't know why he and the Brigadier are immune. Poor explanations mean less technobabble, which is fine, but the fact that travel in the TARDIS seems to affect them differently to Mawdryn once they are infected remains niggling plot hole. But this is a trivial criticism; on the whole, 'Mawdryn Undead' is a rewarding story and one that is deserving of far greater appreciation than it usually gets.

FILTER: - Television - Series 20 - Fifth Doctor

EnlightenmentBookmark and Share

Thursday, 22 January 2004 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

The final story in the Black Guardian trilogy, 'Enlightenment' is very good. The concept of a race in space is not that original, but the idea of having the ships involved be replicas of sea ships from different periods of Earth history is inspired and makes for a memorable story. With the unusual nature of the aliens responsible for the race also central to the plot, the overall result is a story that feels like it's trying to be something special, and largely succeeding. 

The concept of the Eternals' need for Ephemeral minds to relieve the boredom of eternity means that writer Barbara Clegg is able to build a story around what is essentially a yacht race in space without it seeming contrived, but it is also an interesting idea in it own right. The Eternals' are memorable not just because they use sailing ships in space, but also because of the way they interact with the regulars. Marriner is the most obvious example; Christopher Brown's performance is initially deeply sinister, his obsession with Tegan seeming utterly predatory. During Episode One, and prior to the revelation of the Eternals' true nature, his intense interest in her seems sexual; his claims that he wants to please her rather than hurt her are not reassuring, they are horribly unsettling. Once the nature of the Eternals becomes clear Marriner's true motivation is revealed, but the disturbing parallels remain; in Episode Two he drugs her and then searches through her mind telepathically - it could easily be argued that this is a form of rape, and Tegan certainly considers it a kind of violation. Interestingly however, as the story progresses, Marriner's relationship with Tegan changes; she remains wary of him throughout, but it becomes clear that he really won't hurt her, and it is particularly interesting that the Doctor trusts him to look after her whilst he goes to rescue Turlough on board the Buccaneer. The effect of all of this isn't that Marriner is especially likeable by the end of 'Enlightenment', but instead that he ceases to be sinister and instead becomes rather pathetic, like a slightly frightening but harmless celebrity stalker who sends endless love letters to his or her idol. 

Christopher Brown's Marriner however is not the only Eternal of note. Keith Barron's performance as Striker is very effective, because he brings an impassive air to the role that makes it easy to believe that Striker is utterly inhuman. Striker acts almost as a spokesman for the Eternals, since he is used to reveal their nature to the Doctor and thus to the audience, and it proves a good choice. Barron's flat, almost disinterested, tone of voice conveys the nature of the Eternals beautifully; they are arrogant, but it is an arrogance born simply out of what they see as their natural superiority; they can control matter and they will endure forever. Their casual acceptance of the deaths of those Ephemerals killed by Wrack's destruction of her competitors is not the lack of concern for others demonstrated by, for example, the Master, but is instead born out of an inability to understand the importance of what to them is such a miniscule span of life. Barron brings this across extremely well, in addition to which he also creates a sense of boredom in Striker that emphasizes the fact that the race is merely a short diversion for him. 

Then there is Captain Wrack, played with considerable gusto by Lynda Baron. Baron's performance is almost over the top, but she gets away with it for the most part because as an Eternal who draws on Ephemeral minds to give herself shape and purpose, the portrayal of Wrack as a clichéd pirate captain is entirely appropriate. The decision to make Wrack female also helps; female villains are rare in Doctor Who, and this means that although Wrack is something of a cackling megalomaniac, she feels sufficiently different from the norm to be interesting. Having said that, the cliffhanger to Episode Three, when Wrack breaks the fourth wall and looks into camera, slightly undermines the proceedings, especially when Wrack rolls her eyes and then cackles; for some reason, by looking into camera Baron makes herself seem too over the top, rather than just enough. Nevertheless, Wrack works well as a one-dimensional villain whose very nature limits the potential for complex motivation. Whilst I'm on the subject of villainous Eternals, I should get mention of Mansell out of the way; possibly the worst actor ever to appear in Doctor Who, third-rate pop singer and recent participant in the vacuous "reality" TV show Reborn in the USA, Leee John is so bad that it is phenomenal. It is almost inconceivable that he ever got cast; his stilted, self-conscious, and just plain bad performance is the only real weakness of 'Enlightenment'. Mansell is not prominent enough to really spoil the story, but even so every other performance is so much better than his that it makes it noticeably cringe worthy. Even the actors playing the sailors in Episode One, who get very few lines, manage to show John up.

The regulars are all very well used in 'Enlightenment'. Peter Davison gets one of his finest moments in the role as the Doctor argues passionately with Striker, enraged by the parasitic nature of the Eternals and seeming genuinely angry. Perhaps more interesting however, is his relationship with Turlough; the Doctor is noticeably rather tense around Turlough for the first two episodes, but this changes after his panic-stricken suicide attempt at the end of Episode Two. What is particularly interesting is that it is never explained whether or not the Doctor realises that his new companion has been working for the Black Guardian for some time. There are hints; he doesn't trust Turlough to await further messages from the White Guardian, and he doesn't seem remotely surprised when Turlough's contract with the Guardian is discussed at the end of the story. Indeed all he says about it is that he believes Turlough when he says that he never wanted the agreement in the first place. The finale of the Black Guardian storyline is very well handled and Strickson puts in a fine performance throughout; it is clear now that he will not kill the Doctor, with this ultimately resulting in him throwing himself overboard because he won't obey the Guardian. Even more interesting is the scene in which Turlough is trapped in Wrack's power room with the vacuum shield switched off - he stops asking the Black Guardian for help, and instead screams out for the Doctor. The final scene with the Guardians is very well staged, Turlough staring at the diamond and weighing up power and fortune against the Doctor's life; his final rejection of the Black Guardian completes his slow redemption. It is interesting to watch the Doctor during this scene as he simply stands quietly and waits for Turlough's decision; his calm attitude suggests that he already knows what Turlough's choice will be. 

As I've already noted, Tegan too is used well in 'Enlightenment', as she is forced to deal with Marriner's stifling attention. Janet Fielding alternates between anger and vulnerability very well, and shows Tegan forced to deal with an unusual and frightening situation very well. She also conveys Tegan's gradual realization that Marriner isn't actually going to hurt her rather well, as the script calls for her to start arguing with him about the Eternals' use of Ephemerals for entertainment and about the fact that her thoughts are private. It is this gradual acceptance that Marriner won't harm her that allows Tegan to enjoy getting dressed up for Wrack's reception and after two episodes of being frightened, exploited, or seasick, it's nice to see Tegan smile. Her relationship with Turlough is also complete by the end of 'Enlightenment'; she still seems to consider him unreliable, but they have reached a point where they can travel together in the TARDIS, and the chess scene at the start of the story shows that their cooperation during 'Terminus' has resulted in a tentative friendship. 

The Guardians are well used in 'Enlightenment', nicely rounding off the Black Guardian trilogy. The return of Cyril Luckham to the role of the White Guardian, now complete with dead pigeon, nicely rounds off the trilogy by reintroducing the Black Guardian's opposite number. It is rather fine to see both Luckham and Dyall together in the final scene, as the two Guardians discuss the race; in keeping with the idea that the Guardians maintain the balance of the universe, there is no feeling of actual enmity between them. Instead, the Guardians are portrayed as opponents in a game of universal chess, their argument about light and dark, order and chaos, taking the form of a political discussion between two wily old men. Both Luckham and Dyall bring great dignity to their roles, but at the same time Dyall recaptures the malevolence of his role, whilst Luckham brings an air of calm benevolence to the White Guardian. Turlough's choice, and the fact that flames consume the Black Guardian, brings a satisfying air of closure to the storyline that started in 'Mawdryn Undead'. Despite the White Guardian's warning that the Black Guardian will return, this marks his final appearance in the television series (and he hasn't appeared in any novels or audio adventures set after 'Enlightenment') and it stands as a satisfying end to the battle of wits between the Doctor and one of the series' most unusual villains. 

In addition to all this great acting, plotting and scripting, 'Enlightenment' looks great too. The sets are very well realised and capture the period feel of the appropriate ships very well. The model work generally looks very good, although the rescue of Turlough in a big net looks poor due to the perspective being wrong. Fiona Cumming does a great job of directing, creating striking visual imagery throughout especially during Wrack's attempt to destroy Striker's ship. My only slight criticisms of the production are the silly neon sign proclaiming that the vacuum shield is off, and Malcolm Clarke's intrusive incidental score. Clarke's score is particularly irritating during Wrack's party, at which point it sounds like what it is - a feeble attempt to recreate music from the appropriate period using an electronic synthesizer. But this a minor complaint and overall 'Enlightenment' stands up as a fine Doctor Who story and one of the highlights of Season Twenty.

FILTER: - Television - Series 20 - Fifth Doctor

EnlightenmentBookmark and Share

Thursday, 22 January 2004 - Reviewed by Sarah Tarrant

I suppose ever since it was originally broadcast towards the end of the twentieth anniversary season I’ve been rather taken with the enchanting and imaginative tale of ‘Enlightenment’.

With the establishing TARDIS shots concluded we have the Doctor and Turlough exploring the darkened recesses of what they soon realise is the hold of a sailing ship which does rather echo the opening scenes of ‘Carnival of Monsters’. Thankfully this shipboard mystery steers another path with our duo moving onward and upward to encounter the boisterous, down-to-earth crew. Decked out in appropriate Edwardian sailors outfits their good heated banter is temporarily cut short by the strangers arrival. However following some relatively simple persuasion, the Doctor and Turlough are soon accepted as merely members of the crew, they even consider the Doctor to be the ship’s cook! The ease of their acceptance is in no small part due to a lack of money on the part of all the men the Doctor and Turlough encounter in the cramped living quarters. Whilst Turlough, typically for his character is more content to remain the Doctor is later escorted to meet the Captain by one of his junior officers.

Turlough’s decision is all the more understandable when the Doctor, and later Tegan, meet Captain Striker and his senior officers in the state room for what appears to be a light meal, something that is, apparently appreciated greatly by the Doctor. At first the cold emotionless state of the SS Shadow’s officers could merely be attributed to the responsibilities that their respective positions demand. It is however the interaction between the Doctor and Striker (played with an excellent cool detached demeanour by Keith Barron) as well as the Tegan and Marriner exchanges which helps us gain the clearest insight into these alien beings, now identified as Eternals. In episode two during an impressive emotionally heated exchange the Doctor learns from Striker much including that the Eternals are feeding on the minds of living beings to allow them to exist. Whilst Striker is able to suitably restrain his interest in the minds of the three travellers it is clearly more evident in the scenes with Marriner and Tegan. We, like Tegan, could assume this was merely romantic infatuation on the part of the ship’s First Mate but when confronted Marriner’s reply is that he does not know the emotion of love, he is merely seeking existence from Tegan. I find their relationship similar to a cat playing with a mouse, the cat enjoying its captive prey, the mouse longing to be free from the constant attention. With, as the Doctor discovers, heightened emotional states causing a barrier Marriner further attempts to calm his ‘prey’ by furnishing some quarters with familiar items taken from both Tegan’s room on the TARDIS and home in Brisbane. A cursory glance around the room reveals, we observe, a silver framed picture of her Aunt Vanessa, airline stewardess uniform plus the skirt/costume featured in the ‘Black Orchid’ story. When he escorts her there after she experiences a feeling of sea sickness Marriner tires to ply her with the suspicious ‘tot of rum’ more commonly given to the crew prior to their donning wetsuits and helmets prior to scaling the ship’s rigging.

It is Tegan’s discovery, on her first tentative venture from the TARDIS, of those wetsuits hanging up in a corridor near to stairs ascending to the deck that leads up to the memorable climatic ending of the first episode. With the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough in attendance in the ship’s wheelhouse Striker orders the activation of a viewing port by use of a series of buttons located under a wooden cover. First Tegan’s exclamation of ‘Electronics on an Edwardian sailing yacht’ and then to see that the vessel is actually not navigating a course through an ocean but is infact sailing with other vessels through space! Classic cliffhanger stuff!

Having established the general atmosphere of life on the SS Shadow we then gain another perspective on the race following Turlough’s apparent suicide attempt at the conclusion of the second episode. The space-suited boy is taken aboard the seventeenth century Spanish pirate ship, the Buccaneer where he encounters the scheming Captain Wrack (played with enthusiastic gusto by Lynda Barron). Now it has been said that as an Eternal Wrack shows far too much emotion when compared to the stoic Striker. I take the view that the minds of her crew contain far stronger emotions for her to feed off plus, of course, she is acting on behalf of the Black Guardian which might have affected her. I am also aware that criticism has been levelled towards singer and Imagination (80’s pop group (not really my type of music but I’m sure they had their fans in their day)) frontman Leee John for his portrayal of Wrack’s assistant Mansell. Whilst I’d admit he is not noted for possessing acting skills the part is such that it allows some allowance for his inexperience and his scenes and lines are fairly limited. As a seventeenth century Spanish pirate I personally feel he meets the requirements in a physical if, possibly not verbal sense.

As if the persuasive powers of Marriner were not enough Tegan is soon hypnotised by Wrack during their invited visit to the Buccaneer. Once again I recognised a similarity between this and the apparent ease with which the Master had hypnotised Jo Grant (‘Terror of the Autons’). It is understandable that Tegan would be the most susceptible of the three TARDIS crew as I believe she represents the audiences closest link to humanity. Whilst both Striker and Wrack are able to reach both the Doctor and Turlough’s minds their wills are not so susceptible to the Eternals control as the Australian stewardess.

I think it’s worth glossing over the Doctor’s desperate attempt to smash Tegan’s tiara containing the focusing jewel that Wrack had placed in it during her hypnotised state. Although it is inexcusable that he did not pick up the entire sheepskin rug rather than vainly claw at the pieces with Marriner and Tegan. I also feel its better to also forget the scenes in the grid room’s ion chamber and Turlough vainly attempting to pull away from the centre of the grid.

I do, however, appreciate the period detail in the ships and costumes, most notably those for Lynda Barron and the flowing feminine gown for Janet Fielding. The incidental music particularly in Wrack’s state room when officers, the Doctor, Tegan and Marriner were enjoying Wrack’s hospitality, was very pleasant adding to the stories appeal. Also I find it rather amusing that when the main cast members don the shiny black wetsuits and blobby red helmets of the second/third episode cross over they rather closely resemble, possibly unintentionally, some form of ant.

During this review I most managed to avoid commenting on the Guardian trilogy to which this is the concluding part. My reason for this is that I find it rather secondary to the main dynamic of the story although I do recognise its importance especially for Mark Strickson’s character. Although changing allegiances during ‘the race’ from Striker to Wrack he ultimately realises that this Captain is merely an instrument of the Black Guardian and she does not offer a way to break the contract he has with him. The contract, (of killing the Doctor in exchange for his freedom from Earth exile) was rather forced on him and it was a welcome character development that through his relationship with the Doctor, this was finally dissolved at the conclusion of the story. Whilst I grudgingly accept the enjoyment on offer in Mawdryn Undead, I do find very little to enjoy in the subsequent middle story of the trilogy. Apart from the guest cast the story of Terminus I fins is extremely slow and uninvolving. If it were not for the appearances of Andrew Burt (a regular cast member of the 70’s BBC naval drama series ‘Warship’ (the jovial Navigating Officer Paul Peak) and Lisa Goddard (her four appearances as small time criminal Phillipa Vale in the sleepy but surprisingly still popular ‘Bergerac’ series were the only must see episodes IMO) I’d probably wouldn’t bother with this story.

I find that the main plot of the race rather overshadows the return appearances of both Valentine Dyall and Cyril Luckham reprising their roles as the ‘all powerful’ Black and White Guardians. Having said that Valentine certainly gives a convincing portrayal of a cackling evil entity during his scenes persecuting Mark Strickson’s Turlough. Strickson himself rises to the challenge his character initially provides admirably, Turlough is clearly a tortured sole throughout all stories in the trilogy.

Maybe this is merely my opinion but I thought I’d just throw in that you could almost call this a story for the ladies (writer, director, leading cast member and now reviewer) but don’t let that prejudice your opinion of this story. Apart from that personal observation I would say that ‘Enlightenment’ is worthy of re-examination and maybe more people will realise what a neglected jewel it is nestled in the later stages of the twentieth season.

FILTER: - Television - Series 20 - Fifth Doctor