I’ll be honest: after part 1, I had decided this story was going to be rubbish. The annoying schoolkids stealing a car, the cheesy villain and awful-looking video effects, Lethbridge-Stewart working at a school for some reason..? What’s going on?! Thankfully, the story does develop and it turns out to be one of the most interesting I’ve seen so far.
Certainly, Doctor Who doesn’t deal with local time phenomena very often, and the revelation that Nyssa and Tegan are six years back in the past is a good one. Of course, the Brigadier is always great to have on screen, and two of them is twice as nice. His memory loss seemed like a lazy conceit at first, but it makes sense in the end and the story comes together well. He’s a terrific character to have alongside the Doctor, and it almost made me nostalgic for the Pertwee years again (heaven forbid!).
It’s the nastiness and horror that is most surprising, though. Mawdryn and his brothers in exile, doomed to torturous immortality, is a tragic tale in itself, but the make-up designs are something else. Heads split open, pulsating brains poking out, not to mention the horribly burned skin earlier on – it’s all rather grotesque. Excellently grotesque! I liked how he pretended to be a regenerated Doctor as well. This one really surprised me, I had no idea what to expect, and that’s a good thing.
I suppose the weak link is really the Black Guardian. He’s played like a pantomime villain stuck in a pop video, and even after it’s all finished, I don’t entirely know what he was after, whether he just wanted the Doctor dead or if he was in on Mawdryn’s plan to drain his regenerations first. Turlough is even more confusing, with seemingly none of the crew bothering to question what an alien is doing posing as a schoolboy on Earth. Since he’s sticking around on the Tardis for a while, I suspect we’ll learn a lot more about his plan in the next story. It makes a change to have a secondary character with an ulterior motive, at least.
This was surprisingly good, then. One of the most memorable, unusual and intriguing stories so far; well paced, horrific and humoured in equal doses, and complemented by a distinctive synthy soundtrack. And from the looks of things, it’s far from over.