The Master returns with another plan to conquer the world, although I’m not sure it’s a very good one. Using another false alias, he equips a prison with a new ‘correctional’ device (that he claims to have invented), which can remove the ‘evil’ emotions from habitual criminals. In reality, the device is an alien creature that feeds on these emotions and can project fear and terror into the minds of others.
Meanwhile, he has hypnotised a Chinese delegate at a peace conference and has somehow used this device to amplify the terror through her telepathically and kill other delegates, with the intent on plunging the world into chaos. Oh, also he’s stolen a missile and plans to use it to throw the world into chaos… thus rendering the whole alien terror thing redundant, no? Coincidentally, UNIT is providing the security for the peace conference and the Doctor is visiting the prison, so everything is wrapped up in a neat little bundle of coincidence.
So, this was a bit poor, really. It’s not like the alien menace is particularly scary – it’s a brain in a jar that makes people clutch their heads and overact. The upside, I suppose, is that it makes the Doctor do that wide-eyed contorted face again (twice!). Also, it bombards him with images of the monsters he’s faced before, such as the Daleks, which was a nice touch.
The method of death doesn’t make any sense, though. The device can project hallucinations, but even if the mind thinks it’s real, it doesn’t explain how a person can drown by thinking they’re drowning and have water in their lungs. Or how someone imagining they’re attacked by rats can have real tooth and claw marks on their body.
What does work well, as ever, is the Doctor and the Master exchanging threats and pleasantries. They play off of each other well and are good fun to watch. Despite the stupidity of his plan (he requires the Doctor’s help, again!), the Master manages to get his Tardis circuit back and then informs the Doctor that he’s leaving. I suspect he’ll be back, though.
The Doctor’s character is starting to annoy me now. He’s so relentlessly grumpy and mean. At one point, Lethbridge-Stewart rescues him from being shot, and all he can say is “couldn’t you have been a bit quicker?” There is no joy in the man’s hearts, he takes no pleasure at anything. Granted, being stuck on Earth could be the sole cause – I just can’t see this man as someone who is filled with wonder and joy about the Universe. He’d more likely be annoyed that it’s too bloody big.
One final note, although originally made in colour, only monochrome copies of this serial exist at the time of writing. I understand they have been recoloured and will be released to DVD later in the year. I don’t think colour will help this one very much, though.