|Oh, oobee do/I wanna be like you/I walk like you/talk like|
""We have the power to do anything we like, absolute power over every particle in the universe, everything that has ever existed or ever will exist as from this moment. Are you listening to me, Romana?"
"Yes, of course, I'm listening."
"Cause if you're not listening I can make you listen, because I can do anything. As from this moment there's no such thing as free will in the entire universe. There's only my will because I possess the Key to Time."
1) ...and so the final story of the Key To Time Saga ends with this bloated, epically awful story which serves as an argument against the six-part format, primarily because so much of it is taken up by the equivalent of water-treading. There is barely enough in this mess for a four-part story; making it a six parter makes for an unbearably slow watching experience.
2) This serial is rife with some wretched performances--and none are as bad as John Woodvine's scenery-devouring turn as The Marshall. Woodvine pitches his performance at such a melodramatic level where he seems to be shouting every single line--even the ones where he's supposed to be whispering--and comes off as strident and bullying. Hell, when your performance is so bad you can't even convincing sell the single word 'Fire!' (a word you have to repeat over and over again for an episode and a half because you're stuck in a time loop), well...it's time to go act in another story. Or show.
3) I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out what the deal was with William Squire's Shadow. We're literally given no back story whatsoever when it comes to this goof save that he likes to laugh a lot and is an agent of The Black Guardian. Much like Woodvine, Squire is chewing up the scenery while actually doing very, very little. And when we learn of The Shadow's ultimate fate--and that the Guardian actually planned for it to happen--you have to wonder why he was sitting there on Xeos doing all this pointless scheming and running around in the first place.
|Nooooooo! Drax! Go away! Stupid Drax....|
4) This is Lalla Ward's first appearance on Who, and her turn as Princess Astra (coupled with Baker's interest in her) inspired Williams to cast her as Romana when Mary Tamm gets pregnant. However, even though Astra is integral to the plot and Ward is fairly decent in her performance in comparison to Woodvine, Squire and others, the reason she's so integral is literally forgotten about for about three episodes until someone realizes they need to get back to the Key To Time aspect of the story.
5) ..but then, the scattershot nature of the plot is indicative of the script by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. Plot developments are dropped suddenly, perils are introduced only to be waved away a few minutes later, whole characters seem forgotten for long stretches, and there are gigantic stretches of plot that seem riveted on just to eat up time. Add in a shockingly shoddy grasp of science even for this era of classic Who, and you have a monstrous mess.
6) And then there's...grumblemutter...Barry Jackson's Drax. An awfully conceived character to begin with given tiresome life by Jackson, Drax is given far too much time to introduce himself as a comedy element the story really didn't need, then seems to complicate the plot solely for the sake of complicating it. And the biggest problem with him? He's introduced in the fifth episode, long after the last significant character (the computer Mentalis) was introduced in the second episode. I have to think that Baker and Martin had so written themselves in a corner that they created Drax solely as a deus ex machina to get the story to wrap up neatly.
7) Look, I know that the science in classic Who can get really wonky....but The Shadow uses a mechanical device designed to control and communicate with living beings to control and communicate with K-9. Really, Bob Baker and Dave Martin? Really?
|"Of course I am evil...I am able to turn myself into a|
negative image, see? See?
9) And while we're on the subject of characters I actually like, I rather enjoyed how Davyd Harries' Shapp is originally presented as The Marshal's lackey who does nothing but follow orders...and ends up transforming over the course of the serial into someone who is opposing his superior's insanity in his own way. Plus Harries manages to infuse Shapp with a strange sardonic humor of his own that actually serves as a subtle form of comedy relief. Sadly, he degenerates into a slapstick buffoon (get used to this), but for a while he's a refreshing presence.
10) Of course, all this five-pounds-o'-story-stuffed-into-twenty-pounds-of-television leads to a rather good finale to this ambitious season-long story arc. The moment where Baker figures out the implications of what having the Key to Time truly are works wonderfully until it's blunted by some of the patented Williams era forced humor. And the status quo the series ends up with, where the Doctor slaps a 'Randomizer' onto the control console so he and Romana can evade The Black Guardian (well realized by Valentine Dyall) is promising at this point. Granted, it all goes to Hell starting with the very next serial (and guess what we're covering next time?), but for the time being it leaves the series in a potentially excellent place.
Overall...a boring and aggravating serial that's marred by some horrendous acting and poor plotting. The final sequence, which is good, does little to alleviate the overwhelming ennui that infuses this pointless tale.
And just a warning...it gets worse.