|Yes, it is the Doctor about to pitch a cricket ball in space...|
and that moment is one of the least stupid in this serial.
“Or what? Who’ll believe us? We’ll be laughed at!”
1) This was the first serial Davison and crew shot for the 19th Season and It. Is. Horrifically Bad. And I don’t think its horrific nature can be attributed to the four principals (well, three of the four; Matthew Waterhouse’s been doing this for long enough that there’s no excuse for him to be awful) trying to get into their characters.
2) I suppose I should be grateful that Nyssa gets a couple of things to do--to the point where you can almost see why Davison wanted it to be just her as companion--and that’s she’s the least risible of the quartet. But even Sarah Sutton has her moments of overacting badness, which only contributes to the heavy fog of terribleness that just pervades the entire story.
3) Boy, when the crew starts to refer to the Urbankins as ‘frogs,’you never again can get past the fact that these are not-very-good actors in not-very-good masks and awful robes. Even Stratford John, who is a decent actor who tries to infuse his character of main baddie Monarch with a degree of charm, can’t overcome the unwieldiness of the big ol’ sparkly green mufti.
4) The biggest problem with this story is that is smacks strongly of Making It Up As You Go Along. There is no forward coherence as to the scheme, and the ultimate reason behind Monarch’s actions (and the final twist regarding his nature) smacks of a spur of the moment decision. That sense of the production staff having no idea where they’re going just sinks the serial something fierce.
|"Well, the Greek Guy is your Exposition News Network|
reporter...the rest of us? Damned if we know..."
5) The four ethnic types and their coterie....what purpose do they really serve? I don’t think the script ever gives a true rationale as to why Monarch has been gathering these people up with each subsequent trip to Earth, and save for some expository dumpage from Philip Locke’s Bigon, they pretty much do nothing but provide some, ummm, local color and stretch out the paper thin plot so that it’ll somehow fit into four episodes.
6) And speaking of stretching the plot...how much of the serial’s running time is made up of those ‘recreations’? It seems like a third of the story’s running time is spent watching the repetitive performances. And I still don’t understand why the final explosion where all four presentations just go off at the same time. If that whole aspect of the story wasn’t an argument for the ultimate switching to a three-episode serial structure Nathan Turner used at the end of his tenure, I don’t know what is.
|I'd look like this, too, if I was stuck in this serial.|
Words. Fail. Me.
8) I honestly don’t know who’s worse--Adric with his gullible super-earnestness, falling in with Monarch....because that's Adric's move at this point, or the overtly hysterical Tegan. I personally waver towards Tegan, simply because of the way her screaming and stomping about not only goes thoroughly over the top, but it actually drags Davison’s performance down at moments (the exchange cited above is ludicrous in the way Davison’s voice actually cracks at an inopportune time). Even at this early stage, you can see how the ‘Kindergarten TARDIS’ concept simply wasn’t going to work.
9) Okay, I’ll give the serial this much--I rather liked some of the tech on display. For some reason, I really responded to the simplicity of the oxygen helmet, which has a quaint retro look to them.
10) I think we can safely put the cliffhanger of Episode One in amongst the Lamest Cliffhanger Of All Time. Having an alien frog show up as a severe looking woman in the dress Tegan sketched out, and having Tegan be creeped out by it is not fascinating viewing.
Overall...Ugh. Just...ugh. It’s not the worst Davison serial. It’s not the worst Davison serial this season. But it’s still rotten and stinking of cheese.