With the E-Space ‘trilogy’ behind me, I am now very much aware that I am coming to the end of an era, as I watch the last of Tom Baker’s episodes as the Doctor. I figure things are going to end for him one way or another on Gallifrey, but before they get there, there is first an urgent matter to deal with on a peaceful little planet, whose leader (Keeper) is coming to the end of his life and reign.
This story could have been pretty boring, consisting as it does of a woman talking to a statue for much of it. But then the unmistakable sound of another Tardis materialising transforms it into an intriguing reunion between the Doctor and an old nemesis. The Master hasn’t been seen since his appearance in The Deadly Assassin, and I totally didn’t expect him to turn up again here. It’s funny how dropping an old face into a story can make all the difference, rather than cooking up a brand new villain, the all-powerful ‘source’ being an ideal goal for his huge ambition, as he seeks a way to escape death yet again.
Unlike his previous appearance, the Master’s face is a little more human here, albeit disfigured and burned, so he is able to have some decent banter with the Doctor without having to talk through a mask. I guess it’s a shame that it doesn’t last very long, as with Adric’s help, the source is disrupted and the Master’s power is lost, but I was pleased that he assumes a new body at the end and escapes. As a symbol of relentless determination across time and space, the Master is undoubtedly one of the best adversaries in this series. Using him sparingly like this, and without announcement, works very well.
Otherwise, yeah, the story was okay. Nothing special, a bit too much po-faced ritual, melodrama and blandness. If it wasn’t for the Master turning up, I would have been pretty bored. Tom Baker’s Doctor continues to elevate everything to a pleasingly watchable level, and Adric actually did something useful this time.