Poor Tegan just wants to get back to Heathrow Airport. Credit to the Doctor that he manages to land the Tardis in the right place, but unfortunately he’s about 300 years too early. It is by astonishing coincidence (or simply the Tardis’ “Adventure Detector”) that they land in the middle of an alien plot to wipe out London with a virus spread by rats. Yep, they did a “plague” story, and they started the fire of London too. What japes!
At its heart, this is another monster/alien invasion story. It shares similarities with The Time Warrior, with the Terileptil alien hiding out and controlling a group of humans with mind control devices. He also has an android that he dresses up as the grim reaper. It’s a shame that the Terileptil’s motives are so one-dimensional, despite the attempt to sympathise with him because he’s an escaped convict and has horrible scarring on his face.
But somehow, this story worked for me. It’s a standard formula, but it’s good fun. The supporting cast member who plays the thespian actor-turned-highwayman is a particular highlight. It’s always fun to see period characters responding to futuristic or otherworldly scenarios, and Michael Robbins plays the part wonderfully. He’s such a lovable rogue, I would have been glad to have him along for more adventures. Alas, we’re instead stuck with Adric, Tegan and Nyssa. To be fair, they’re not too bad in this and they work together well. There’s a bit of action, a bit of humour, a bit of horror. Standard stuff, but it’s competently handled.
The fifth Doctor has had a little time to settle in now. He’s more ‘human’ than the last one; you tell when he’s nervous or frustrated because his voice goes high-pitched and squeaky, bless him! He’s also had a bit more physical action so far, getting into fights and so on. One final noteworthy event: the Terileptil destroyed his sonic screwdriver! I was distraught! I’m not saying he deserved to burn in the fire at the end, but, well, I can’t entirely blame the Doctor for not pulling them all out of it!