In order to stop the Master from capturing a doomsday device, the Time Lords permit the Doctor’s Tardis to leave Earth and follow him to an off-world human colony in the future. And so the Doctor and Jo leave (unintentionally) on a proper Doctor Who Adventure™, complete with primitive aliens, spaceships, giant monsters, gun fights, and people in uniforms giving questionable orders to each other.
This ought to be a jolly exciting romp, and it does have its strengths. I like most of the production design, the uniforms, the ship interiors and the miniature models. The story takes place in a future where Earth is overpopulated and colonists have ventured out, but the greedy mining companies of Earth are stripping their dwellings of minerals to take back and build homes – thus setting up a conflict of interest. Sadly, a lot of this story consists the two groups (the mining company and the colonists) threatening each other, having fights and trying to sort out the legalities of their claims. Also, it’s six parts long. Yawn.
It’s just as well, then, that the Master shows up, disguised as an adjudicator, to make things interesting. While the two groups fight it out, the Master coerces the Doctor into infiltrating the alien inhabitants’ dwelling and uncovering their ancient doomsday weapon, with which he intends to rule the Universe. The aliens’ leader, a tiny little thing with a big head, decides to blow the weapon up, and the Master predictably escapes again.
This is certainly a better story than some of the recent ones, but not without its problems. Given his freedom, the Doctor is less insufferable than he was on Earth, with no UNIT to tell him what to do either. He continues to engage in a fair bit of judo-chopping action, verging on the ridiculous. Action scenes continue to date badly – and whenever guns are fired, the video noticeably flickers! Cliffhanger endings have started lying, rewinding to a few seconds earlier to show that, actually, everything was fine. Meanwhile, the music is somehow even synthier than ever.
There is never any question that this is a product of its time. But if the 25th century actually does see spaceships that use typewriter print-outs to relay information, I’ll change my stance.
Odd thing to mention: when the Tardis disappears and reappears in this story, it does so instantaneously rather than the usual gradual transition. Did they run out of cross-fade effects or something? It looks bad.