It would seem the Master didn’t get very far in time and space before somebody caught him and brought him back to Earth. And it’s fortunate for the Doctor that this somebody, the Axos, decided to land in England, rather than anywhere else in the world!
Under the guise of a friendly distress call, the Axos appeal to UNIT and the British government to help them restore power to their crashed ship – a biological machine that needs nutrients to survive. In return, they will give Earth the power to grow and reproduce bio matter. However, really, the Master has lured them here in exchange for his own freedom, and the Axos want to absorb all the bio-energy of Earth, leaving it lifeless.
For its time, the Axos ship is quite an ambitious thing. The outside looks strangely familiar. I think it’s possibly the same model used for the alien ship in Ambassadors of Death, but I’d have to check that. Inside, organic-looking walls and doors are lined with moving tentacles, creatures and pulsating… things. The occupants’ humanoid appearance is merely a disguise and really they look like people wearing pyjamas made from twigs and pizza.
There’s a lot of deception in this one. The Master deceives the Axos, the Axos deceive the humans, even the Doctor deceives everybody when he decides to team up with the Master and escape in his Tardis and leave the humans to die… but then actually deceives the Master and the Axos by locking them in a time loop!
I must admit, I was entertained. Cool aliens, some Tardis action, and the whole thing told in a mere four parts. The Doctor isn’t so much of an annoyance here, either. For a moment, I thought he was going to go the full-on ruthless bastard route and leave them to die, but it was only a ruse, he does care, really. A couple of times, he’s quite funny.
The music is worth a mention, too. It’s gotten progressively ‘synthy’ and overt in the last couple of seasons, and here it practically sounds like retro videogame music at times. Very distinctive, if a little distracting.
Finally, the Master is as fun to watch as ever. It’s unclear whether he escapes the Axos ship at the end, but I’m guessing he does. Sadly, the Doctor remains trapped on Earth. Despite repairs to his Tardis, it seems the Time Lords have programmed it to always return there. Pfft… so what’s new?!