It’s That Man Again in a dull story that just doesn’t work, mostly because it’s based on a rather rubbish idea. Adventures in Earth’s history are the one missing strand of storytelling that neither Letts, Dicks or Hulke considered for the Doctor’s Exile and I’ve always been of the opinion that not only was sticking to just the Twentieth century a mistake, thinking that Doctor Who In Exile can only be about Mad Scientists and Alien Invasions was a mistake, and not having more pseudo-historicals, like The Time Warrior, was not only a mistake but a real missed storytelling opportunity.
Over on ITV, Timeslip was telling the kind of stories that could and should have been part of the Exile format. And, apart from anything else, as well as opening up the format, more pseudo-historicals would have made a welcome alternative to having the Master turning up every bloody week.
Part of the problem with the Master, by which I mean what makes him such a rubbish baddie, is that, in story after story, his only realistic hope of attaining power over the universe is either by gaining access to a superweapon or an alien being that he can’t control or by entering into an ill-judged alliance with an unreliable ally. Okay, so the New Series retcon that he’s actually been driven insane, on purpose, by the Time Lords helps to makes sense of his otherwise baffling actions but you’d think Letts and Dicks could have come up with more for Delgado to play with.
Terror of the Autons: ill-advised alliance with the Autons
The Mind of Evil: alien being he can’t control
The Claws of Axos: ill-advised alliance with the Axons
Colony In Space: superweapon he can’t control
The Daemons: alien being he can’t control
The Sea Devils: ill-advised alliance with the Sea Devils
The Time Monster: alien being he can’t control
Frontier In Space: extremely ill-advised alliance with the Daleks
Kronos covers both the Master’s bog standard tactics but the real problem with TTM isn’t the poor casting, of which there’s plenty, it’s the poor plotting and the even worse resolution with yet another Deus Ex Machina hot on the heels of the last one in the previous story. Having the great and mighty Kronos turn out to be nothing more than a great big ladyface in the sky is a huge letdown, but at least they avoided the cliche of using Stephen Thorne again.
As a story of two halves, the plan was, unsurprisingly, to get the Dr & Jo to the Newton Institute as quickly as possible in the first half, and then off to Atlantis soon after that for the second half, with the minimum of hanging around in between. So no dodgy dream for the Doctor and we open with him building his Time Sensor instead.
When it comes to the guest cast, future Omega mk2 Ian Collier’s voice hasn’t broken yet but he’s okay, unlike Aiden Muprhy who gives AmDrammers everywhere a bad name. As for wooden Wanda Moore, did she have to play Ruth Ingram as a cold-hearted, humourless, unlikeable, man-hating lesbian? Perhaps that’s a form of sexism all on it’s own, especially when you remember this was the early Seventies, but on the plus side we do have Queen Gallea’s magnificent cleavage to admire. Maybe that was another intentional, and sexist, contrast – clever girls have no sense of humour and aren’t sexy and sexy girls can’t be trusted?
Personally, I find the whole debate around objectification and Third Wave Feminism tediously dull and boring. For the record, I am a heterosexual and – shock, horror! – I find good looking women attractive, like Nicola Bryant for instance. If you have a problem with me pointing that out then let me tell you that I really couldn’t care less. Attractive and Sexy aren’t always the same thing but the former usually trumps the latter, and if you have a problem with that then you’re probably neither of them. Of course Attractive can be Sexy but the truth is you don’t have to be Sexy to be Attractive, so there’s hope for all of us, me included. As for that Ingrid Pitt, she’d deffo get it, and so would Nicola Bryant if she’d let me. Which she probably won’t but anyway, moving on…
Ingrid Tits, otherwise known as Countess Dracula, had already starred with Jon Pertwee in The House That Dripped Blood a couple of years earlier and if you look carefully on the wall of Pertwee’s dressing room in that film, you can see a publicity shot from Inferno…
We only need six minutes from part one, which just goes to show you how little is really going on. Part two fares rather better in terms of footage used but it’s really just the writers taking a huge info-dump as the story stands still. Part three has the plot looking around in vain for somewhere to go and failing to find it, with some of the most blatant padding we’ve ever seen. Never mind the Doctor doing a Wilf Lunn and building his jamming gizmo, by the time the episode ends the Doctor, Jo and the Master are still where they were at the start.
Even though Krasis & Kronos turn up and Dr Percival gets eaten by the latter, nothing has fundamentally changed. Apart from the fact that we now know the Master has summoned up another superbeing that he can’t control… So it’s a pity that the mighty Kronos turns out to be not only silent but also a man-sized space pigeon flapping about on panto wires. Oh dear. So, given his less than impressive appearance, you won’t be surprised to learnt that I bunged a fair bit of motion blur onto all the shots featuring Kronos to help disguise the fact that, as monsters go, he’s a bit rubbish.
All that padding is the main reason why part three has just four minutes in the final edit, all we need to move things forward. Part four kicks in at the twenty-two minute mark and actually fares even worse than part three, with only two and a half minutes needed to get us to Atlantis. All that buggering about with Delgado & Pertwee chatting to each other is pure yawnsville, as is Jo bringing the Doctor “back from the dead”. It’s interesting to note the similarities between the way Kronos eats his dinner and the Reapers from Father’s Day in the New Series, but it doesn’t move the plot forward so it can go. All of which means that we finally get to Atlantis twenty-four minutes and thirty-four seconds into the edit. The fact that we’ve covered the first four episodes in the same amount of time as one only goes to show you how slow this story is and how little actually happens.
The BBC Atlantis of 1972 isn’t exactly on a par with the BBC Atlantis of 2013 but they don’t have Ingrid Tits knocking about the place, Pertwee’s old squeeze from two years ago, which is a shame as she might have stopped it getting cancelled after just two series! The 1972 version is all a bit Up Pompeii to be honest, and I keep waiting for Frankie Howerd to turn up with his Prologue. The bloke playing Hippias can’t act, King Dalios has got K’Anpo Rimpoche’s face, and nobody has given any thought to the continuity issues between this and The Underwater Menace from six years ago. Or The Daemons from just the year before.
But that’s okay, as the Doctor’s meeting with Professor Zaroff will take place not only in the future, but in a different Whoniverse, at least according to me it will. Reconciling Azal destroying Atlantis with Kronos destroying Atlantis is a bit trickier without the aid of a Fan Edit, though for that the obvious answer is to fix the former so it doesn’t contradict the latter.
We hit the final episode at thirty-eight minutes in and the transition from part five to part six was complicated by the fact that the theme music comes in really early on the former. So that meant lining up the two versions of the scene so they were “in sync” to cover the join, something complicated by the fact that the sound on the part six version isn’t the same as part five. Once that’s out of the way Hippias gets dispatched as quickly as possible, as the whole Minotaur sequence is really quite poorly done. Part six survives pretty much intact, with thirteen minutes of material making it into the edit and the whole thing is finally over in just fifty-two minutes without the need for either Big Ladyface or Baby Benton.
This is Classic Series Fan Edit #146, which means there are only 10 more to go!