The Master returns again! Isn’t he tired of Earth yet? Posing as a professor in the field of temporal science, he develops a machine that can peer through the gaps in time itself, and summon the ancient god Kronos to help him conquer the universe. Ambitious chap, isn’t he?
This one definitely teeters on the edge of hokiness, but unlike The Dæmons, it manages to go full circle into insane brilliance. There’s a lot to be said about a story that simultaneously deals with time travel, flying gods, Atlantis, a minotaur, and a man who turns into a baby. Frankly, I’m not sure how that could be anything other than brilliant.
What also helps is the characters. The Brigadier is back, and is fantastic at playing the role of bemused outsider. The Master is back, and is he’s completely fruit-loopy, charismatically evil and his exchanges with the Doctor are some of the best so far. There’s a sequence where the Doctor tries to follow the Master’s Tardis to Atlantis and not only manages to land his Tardis inside the Master’s, but simultaneously lands the Master’s Tardis inside his, leading to the one of the most bizarrely brilliant sequences I’ve seen in Doctor Who, new or old.
There’s also a quiet moment where the Doctor talks to Jo about when he was a little boy and talked to an old mentor about seeing the vibrancy of life in everything around him, in which he actually SMILES! It’s uncharacteristically touching and shows a side of the Doctor that isn’t always complaining about things and being a grump. An earlier scene in the Tardis where the Doctor’s subconscious thoughts are floating around like whispers is also well done. Actual character moments – how about that? Get this writer a job.
There is of course some dated cheesiness: the Kronos creature does not look like an all-powerful consumer of spacetime, and instead looks like a man in a paper suit hanging from some wires. It supposedly destroys Atlantis at the end of the story, but then turns out not to be a monster at all and rescues the Doctor and the Master from oblivion. No mention is made of the Doctor’s previous visit to Atlantis in the future (The Underwater Menace).
Jo is a little more involved in the action this time, but I still find her acting to be awful. It’s a shame, but the rest of the cast makes up for it, and the plot is just the right mix of loose science, history, and megalomaniacal villainy that Doctor Who should aim for more often. It wasn’t perfect but it turned out much better than I expected it to.