Category Archives: Nyssa

Terminus

Turlough is inducted rather easily into the Tardis crew, despite continuing to act suspiciously. Tegan’s fears are soon dropped and everything goes on as normal. Occasionally, Turlough hears from the Black Guardian again, telling him to kill the Doctor, but it has almost no bearing on this story, which is disappointing.

I like how their helmets have to be massive to cover their eighties perms.

I like how their helmets have to be massive to cover their eighties perms.

Terminus is a futuristic version of a leper colony, in space. It also turns out to be a time-travelling ship that caused the big bang and is inhabited by a large dog man robot creature thing. All of which raises more questions than it answers, like “if the ship’s engine explosion is what created the universe, where did the ship come from?” And “why is there a large dog man robot creature thing roaming around the ship anyway?”

Just... what?

Just… what?

Things have not aged well. Quite aside from all the big perms on show, the sets are repetitious and not really large enough to give the sense of scale of the the facility. At one point, one of the raiders, Olvir, is standing in a small area after having a fight and doesn’t notice Nyssa being abducted by the giant Garn two feet behind him. It’s quite bad.

Arse literally kicked.

Arse literally kicked.

There are some good elements. The actual industrial design of the place is quite appealing, and there’s a cool hull breach sealant used by the raiders early on, which is unusually good attention to detail. The hydromel medication the soldiers have to implant into their suits reminds me a bit of Ketracel-White from Star Trek DS9. The armoured uniforms are also very elaborate and ornate, like something out of mythology. The core concept of an engine explosion causing the big bang is intriguing, the sort of “big idea” I tend to like, but it doesn’t make a second explosion destroying the Universe any more believable, and it really doesn’t need to be such a catastrophic event to provide dramatic tension. It’s overkill.

Nyssa and Olvir are approached by a drone.

Nyssa and Olvir are approached by a drone.

And then there’s Nyssa, who is routinely useless throughout, getting captured, infected and captured again, until the end, when she finally decides to follow her true calling and stay behind to develop a cure for the disease. Hopefully she remembers to put some clothes back on too, the silly girl. Thus the Tardis crew loses another and I’m left none-the-wiser as to what Turlough is up to.

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Mawdryn Undead

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.

Dance, boy. Dance!

Dance, boy. Dance!

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!).

The timeframes aren't quite right, but that's mostly because the 1970s pretended to be the 1980s. Now that is really is the 1980s, the Brigadier retired in the 1970s. Perhaps they should have set the present day bits in the future to avoid this whole mess!

The timeframes aren’t quite right, but that’s mostly because the 1970s pretended to be the 1980s. Now that is really is the 1980s, the Brigadier retired in the 1970s. Perhaps they should have set the present day bits in the future to avoid this whole mess!

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.

Mawdryn, posing as the regenerated Doctor, is treated with suspicion.

Mawdryn, posing as the regenerated Doctor, is treated with suspicion.

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.

The Brigadier nearly runs into his other self, an act that would turn out to be not as catastrophic as first feared.

The Brigadier nearly runs into his other self, an act that would turn out to be not as catastrophic as first feared.

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.

Snakedance

Continuing the theme of bringing back old villains (well, it is the anniversary year), Snakedance features the return of the Mara, the snake-demon from Kinda. Hardly an iconic villain to bring back, since it only first appeared in the previous season, but the writer obviously wanted to explore his creation a little more, now from the perspective of an ancient legend, a creature that will return from our minds and become real once again.

A brainwashed Lon convinces Ambril to give him the great crystal.

A brainwashed Lon convinces Ambril to give him the great crystal.

There’s an attempt to explore the nature of legends and truths that are inferred from mangled facts over generations, but since the legend turns out to be literally true, this doesn’t really work. Nevertheless, this story is creepy and well-made. I would not have been old enough to see this at the time, but children of the eighties would no doubt have found much of the imagery to be very frightening. It’s bad enough that Tegan is possessed and starts talking with a strange deep voice, but everything is punctuated by images of snakes, skulls, glowing eyes and the sounds of screams. It’s not quite as creepy as the dream sequences from Kinda, but it’s close. Sensibly, the Mara isn’t seen until the end, and it’s a far more convincing effect than the paper snake from Kinda.

Did anybody order a nightmare?

Did anybody order a nightmare?

I enjoyed all the performances in Snakedance. Martin Clunes plays a great “bored prince” who is then brainwashed by the Mara. Tegan convincingly plays the villain role most of the way through, which gives Nyssa more to do again – although she does resort to screaming, unfortunately. The extended cast of carnies and servants are also nicely watchable. The Doctor continues to be the Doctor, digging and probing, seeing what others do not see.

The Doctor seeks the advice of the wise old man, Dojjen. Did somebody order a cliché too?

The Doctor seeks the advice of the wise old man, Dojjen. Did somebody order a cliché too?

I suppose the resolution is a bit of a cliché (believe that it doesn’t exist and it can’t exist is a well-worn trope), but it makes more sense than a sudden realisation that the Mara hates mirrors, so it’s fair enough. An improvement, then, but probably the end of the Mara for good this time.

Arc of Infinity

Whenever the Doctor returns to Gallifrey, there’s always some sort of political problem going on. For a society that has so much power, you’d think their security would be a lot better. This time, the Doctor is caught up in a conspiracy to free the ancient ex-Time Lord Omega from his antimatter prison. It’s been ten years since Omega last appeared, in the anniversary special The Three Doctors, so it’s an appropriate year to bring him back (from the dead?).

Welcome back to Gallifrey, Doctor. You're nicked. Sorry.

Welcome back to Gallifrey, Doctor. You’re nicked. Sorry.

While the Doctor and Nyssa are gallivanting around Gallifrey, another story runs parallel, following a couple of backpackers in Amsterdam, who we later learn are the cousin and friend of Tegan, who rejoins the adventure by sheer coincidence. Amsterdam just happens to be Omega’s base of operations on Earth, while he communicates with his accomplices on Gallifrey from afar.

Omega has changed his appearance since last time. And built a Tardis. And a chicken?

Omega has changed his appearance since last time. And built a Tardis. And a chicken?

The backpackers are almost unwatchably awful, but nevertheless, it’s an interesting way to split up the story into two parallel threads that come together near the end. The final chase through the Amsterdam streets is perhaps longer than it needs to be, and I would have liked to see the duplicate Doctor idea expanded upon.

This guy. Why? Just why?

This guy. Why? Just why?

Speaking of duplicate Doctors, this story casts Colin Baker as the security commander Maxil. At the time, this would have been a non-issue, but I found his presence distracting because I know that he will be cast as the next Doctor in a couple of seasons’ time (even having never seen any of Colin Baker’s episodes myself). He plays a ruthless by-the-book hardnose, so it’s difficult to get a feel for how he’ll be later on.

Floating around in the Matrix, Omega lets Tegan tell the Doctor where she can be found. Great plan, Doc!

Floating around in the Matrix, Omega lets Tegan tell the Doctor where she can be found. Great plan, Doc!

Arc of Infinity is mixed, then. The Amsterdam half of it is weak, but the mystery stuff with the Time Lords is pretty watchable, even if it doesn’t make much sense, and the plot introduces ideas that it doesn’t develop or conclude very well. One thing I will say, Nyssa was a lot better in this than she has been before, and that’s probably because she had more to do. Keeping the roster of Tardis crew down to a minimum is a good idea. I also liked the execution scene; even though it was obvious that he wouldn’t really die, it was a cool-looking contraption.

Time-Flight

The Tardis finally lands at Heathrow airport, but it’s entirely by accident, as a timewarp from millions of years in the past has snagged a passing concorde, causing it to vanish. It isn’t long before the Doctor is involved in solving the mystery (with a nice reference to UNIT confirming his credentials), with a second concorde flight plotted along the same course sending them all back through time.

A group illusion makes our heroes think they haven't left Heathrow airport. In fact, they are 140 million years in the past. And standing in front of a blue screen.

A group illusion makes our heroes think they haven’t left Heathrow airport. In fact, they are 140 million years in the past. And standing in front of a blue screen.

Intriguing as this setup is (and lovely as it is to see concorde in flight!), the plot takes a turn into the convoluted. Admittedly, I liked that they kept the identity of the Master a secret – Kalid is a strange and unusual villain, and his ‘death’ brilliantly grotesque – but for a lot of this story, I was was just left thinking… “what?”. Essentially, the Master is after another Great Power, needing to fix his Tardis and escape the past, but the details go by in a blur.

A master of pointless disguises, The Master as 'Kalid'.

A master of pointless disguises, The Master as ‘Kalid’.

An ancient race fleeing their world, crashing on Earth and forming an amalgamous consciousness, is a big idea that needs a bit more time to settle in. But we don’t get that much time to dwell on it, because there’s also psychic hallucinations, creatures made from psychokinetic soapsuds, a dead man that comes back to life, a Tardis in a plane, a plane in a Tardis, and a power struggle between the Doctor and Master involving various bits of equipment that block this, inhibit that, redirect this, counteract that. Frankly, it’s a mess. They might as well have just said “a wizard did it”, stuff the dramatic tension.

Although many of the visual effects are ambitious, the concorde take-off sequence is decidely shonky. Bluergh.

Although many of the visual effects are ambitious, the concorde take-off sequence is decidely shonky. Bluergh.

Peter Davison has to carry all of this burden, and to his credit, he does so very entertainingly, even while the plot is whooshing past at the speed of light. The supporting cast of concorde crew and passengers are unfortunately quite poor. Even Tegan, who should be in her element here, is underwritten and blandly performed. I wasn’t surprised to see her left behind at the end, but if this is her actual departure, it’s incredibly low-key! Even that brat Adric can’t stay away for long, appearing briefly as a hallucination (along with some previous monsters). It all comes down to the Master and Doctor facing off, and this forms the only really solid bit of drama in the story. What a shame. There could have been something good here, but it didn’t work for me.

Earthshock

I wasn’t sure what to make of Earthshock by about half-way through. The trouble with the Cybermen is, since Tom Baker encountered them in Revenge of the Cybermen, they’ve been a bit rubbish. For all their talk of lacking emotional weakness, they clearly display emotions themselves, from sadistic glee at watching others die, to frustration at being foiled. They’re just regular evil villains with a regular evil villain boss, and voices that somehow lack the creepy synthetic monotone of the 60s versions. Ironically, then, a downgrade.

The Cybermen watch clips of the previous Doctors' encounters with them. This was a nice touch. How things have changed!

The Cybermen watch clips of the previous Doctors’ encounters with them. This was a nice touch. How things have changed!

But in this case, I can forgive the slightly rubbish Cybermen, as the setup is one of the best. Unlike The Invasion, where Cybermen are already overrunning the Earth, here we have a classic isolated environment, a ship full of dormant Cybermen on a collision course. This potential doomsday scenario raises the stakes without over-egging the threat. Part 1 is a creepy little adventure in itself, as two of the android servants skulk around in a dark cave, picking off the squad of troopers, before the adventure is whisked off into space, troopers in tow. This is quite neatly written, with those fossils in the caves foreshadowing the explosive events at the conclusion, and the argument with Adric foreshadowing his ultimate demise.

The Doctor is letting the public into the Tardis a little too casually lately. Admittedly, the Cybermen forced their way in.

The Doctor is letting the public into the Tardis a little too casually lately. Admittedly, the Cybermen forced their way in.

This is not the first time a companion has been offed, but I wouldn’t count Katarina as a “main character”, so this is definitely a bold move. Admittedly, I never liked Adric, but I honestly didn’t expect him to die. The Doctor could be planning to go back in time and rescue him or something, but that would be pretty cheap. Besides, the silent end credits kind of said “this is final, be sad”. I applaud the bravery of finally doing this, of not simply concocting a last-minute rescue like every other story seems to do.

As is often the case in Doctor Who, the action scenes are poor. The lasers look particularly bad.

As is often the case in Doctor Who, the action scenes are poor. The lasers look particularly bad.

That’s one of the good things about Earthshock, how utterly powerless the Doctor is. He is completely at the mercy of the Cybermen, forced to do their bidding as officers and crew are killed around him. The conclusion is particularly clever, then; it’s not that the Cybermen failed to wipe out life on Earth, it’s just that they chose the wrong time to do it. Or the right time, depending on how you look at it. The rise of mammals are all thanks to them. Not content with simply burning down London, the Doctor is now responsible for sentient life developing on Earth. That’s pretty cool.

See ya, Adric.

See ya, Adric.

Black Orchid

I’m often critical of stretching or padding out stories over more parts than necessary, and although the show has settled into a rhythm of four-part serials, it’s still nice to shake things up now and then.

Nyssa meets her doppleganger, Ann. What is it with Doctor Who and dopplegangers?

Nyssa meets her doppleganger, Ann. What is it with Doctor Who and dopplegangers?

This simple two-part story was presumably quite cheap to make, with minimal effects and an Earthly location. It’s something of a holiday for the characters, too, who get to let their hair down and relax. Consequently, none of them irritate or frustrate like they would in a threatening situation; not even Adric, who spends much of the story filling up on buffet food. And the Doctor gets to show how good he is at cricket.

It's not like clowns aren't scary enough without there being deranged murderers inside of them.

It’s not like clowns aren’t scary enough without there being deranged murderers inside of them.

If anything, the larking about takes up too much of the runtime, with the mutilated murdering botanist plot having to wrap itself up in record time. I was quite enjoying the Doctor getting arrested and no-one believing his story, but that lasts for all of three minutes before we’re back at the mansion and rescuing Nyssa from the roof. The orchid explanation is blurted out as a mere aside to the action.

A horribly disfigured George Cranleigh abducts Nyssa, thinking she is his former fiancée.

A horribly disfigured George Cranleigh abducts Nyssa, thinking she is his former fiancée.

The plot may be brisk, and reliant upon a series of coincidences, but it’s a fun diversion. Not every story has to be a world-ending drama – there’s a lot to be said for simple character pieces, and this was a tragic tale in its own little way.