In an undisclosed future date, the ‘zones’ of Earth are under threat by a sinister world leader, using natural disasters and subterfuge to gain control and leadership and rule the world. He is called Salamander, and by an astonishing coincidence, he looks exactly like The Doctor. No surprise, then, that the arrival of the Doctor and company sees the people trying to overthrow Salamander turn to The Doctor for help in impersonating him and uncovering evidence of his evil-doing.
A previous serial had an unexplained double of the Doctor, with William Hartnell playing the Abbot of Amboise in the (entirely missing) four-parter The Massacre. Whether there is some speculative fiction on the origin of these inexplicable doubles (something about Timelords regenerating into the bodies of real people?), I don’t know. I’d imagine it was intended just as a coincidence, which, given the vastness of time and space, seems entirely appropriate. Frankly, this was probably another excuse to have Troughton put on a funny accent. He’s meant to be Mexican or something, but it’s amusingly bad or brilliant, I can’t decide.
Anyway, I enjoyed watching Troughton play both parts, and the plot left a lot of guessing until the end. Is Salamander really ‘evil’, or is there more at work here than it seems? The Doctor is initially skeptical without hard evidence. He also continues to uphold his non-violence stance and is reluctant to bring harm to Salamander, despite all he has supposedly done to the world.
In the end, a final moment of confusion sees Salamander in the Tardis, moments before dematerialisation, and he gets sucked out of the doors into the ‘void’. A dramatic and sudden end.
This six-part serial could easily have been four parts and not lost anything. It wasn’t bad, just not particularly interesting, aside from the Troughton double performance. Five of the six episodes are reconstructions, which certainly doesn’t help. I’m looking forward to episodes that aren’t just audio with pictures and captions – it’s the future, apparently! Not to mention in colour! Although I will be sorry to see Troughton’s run come to an end – I’ve enjoyed his performance so far. I think I even prefer him to modern era Doctor Who. He’s weird, yes, but he’s just so… nice.