As Peter Davison’s era comes to an end, changes are afoot. Gone is Tegan, and in her place arrives Peri, an American student. Kamelion finally reveals he’s been hiding in the Tardis cupboard for the past four serials but his story comes to an end as he is destroyed by necessity. Finally, Turlough leaves us to return to his own people, after meeting his long-lost brother and finally revealing why he was exiled.
This may be a story about a doomed volcanic planet and the Master’s attempt to mislead a god-fearing tribe of primitives in his ongoing attempt to gain immortality, but nevertheless, character drama features more strongly here than it usually does. There are some nice moments with Turlough and the Doctor, particularly when the Doctor tells him their friendship will be over if he is withholding important information. The large amount of on-location filming also lends a more natural (less staged) style to the events. It’d be nice to see the whole show shot on film, but I know that wasn’t the style at the time.
Peri’s story naturally begins on Earth, as she expresses boredom to her stepfather and wants to get away and travel. I think it’s good to have a more international cast of characters (even if her accent isn’t entirely convincing). Of course, it also helps that she looks good in a bikini. Conversely, Turlough should never wear shorts. Ever.
There wasn’t much I didn’t like about Planet of Fire. In an otherwise disappointing season so far, this stands out as pretty good. A relatively straightforward story with some good twists, nicely handled themes of faith and science, actual character development with the main cast and a shake-up to keep things fresh for a while.
I also liked the reveal of the Master’s true predicament at the end of part 3, and he was a pleasure to watch throughout. His fiery demise was… unexpected. How can he possibly return from that?!