Appellate Judge Mac McEntire is almost as good-looking as Davros.
Doctor Who is one of the most enduring television franchises in history, and the main character's rivalry with his enemies the Daleks has, over the years, been symbolically representative of…Oohh, crap, this is a Turlough episode
Facts of the Case
The Doctor (Peter Davison, All Creatures Great and Small) is a Time Lord, traveling throughout the whole of time and space, with his companions Tegan (Janet Fielding) and freakin' Turlough (Mark Strickson). The Doctor's time machine, the TARDIS, gets caught in a trap, landing unexpectedly in the "present" of 1984, only to find a link between the present and the future. There, the Doctor's enemies the Daleks have a plot brewing, which involves freeing their sinister creator, Davros (Terry Molloy), from suspended animation.
For the most part, this has all the goofy charm we love about these old Doctor Who episodes, with a lot of running around, clunky monsters, cheap sets, head-scratching sci-fi weirdness, all backed up by quirky dialogue and likable characters. The episode concludes, however, with two big confrontations, which take the Doctor out of his comfort zone, challenging him emotionally, rather than mentally or physically.
This episode is somewhat controversial among fans, because of a scene in which the Doctor picks up a gun and goes after Davros, with the intent to kill. This is not "the Doctor goes Rambo," as some have described it. It's out of character, to sure, for a hero that a wise man once famously described as "all about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism." However, in the case of this episode, it's out of character by design. When the Doctor picks up that gun, it's because he's been pushed to absolute extremes. There's a big buildup to this moment, and everyone else is just as shocked as the audience when the Doctor goes off with that gun. Even then, with the gun in his hands aimed at Davros's head, the Doctor still argues in favor of compassion.
This powerful scene is followed by another, in which Tegan breaks down in front the Doctor, saying she's had enough of monsters and seeing people die. This puts the Doctor on the spot, forcing him to question himself, and how far is too far—even for him. It's a beautifully acted scene, surprisingly dramatic and downbeat from a time when the show tended to be more light and funny. For as much as the modern-day Doctor Who gets criticized for being so-called "emo," here's the classic series doing a heartbreaking scene, and doing it well.
Make no mistake, though, there is also a lot of fun to be had. Part of the plot has to do with the Daleks wanting to make duplicates of humans, and the Doctor winds up almost being duplicated as well, complete with mini-flashbacks on a screen behind him referencing past regenerations and companions. The Daleks, as usual, walk a fine line between menacing and goofy, while Davros is at his slimy best. His constant refrain of "Excellent!" has me wondering if this episode is where writers for The Simpsons got their idea for Mr. Burns's catch phrase.
And now, a poem.
I hate you, Turlough
You wander off
You kind of look
You serve no purpose
This two-disc special edition features the episode, which originally aired in 1984 in two hour-long episodes, as opposed to the usual four half-hour episodes. The set also includes an alternate four-episode version, which was made for repeats and syndication. This release adds a few new bonus features and ports over the rest from the previous DVD. The highlight of the new extras is a commentary moderated by Simon Pegg, star of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. He chats with actor Terry Molloy, writer Eric Seward and special effects artist Peter Wragg for a fun and lively track. Also good is the original commentary with Davison and Fielding, and the subtitle text production notes commentary. From there, we get an hour-long documentary looking back at the fifth Doctor's run, hosted by tenth Doctor David Tennant. This is followed by actor interviews, a look at the filming locations today, extended and deleted scenes, 1967 Dalek footage, an isolated music track, a photo gallery, a trailer, PDF materials, and another short "TARDIS-cam" feature. Overall, another outstanding package of bonus materials for a Doctor Who release.
Not even the presence of the always-annoying Turlough swayed me from enjoying this one. It's a fun Dalek adventure with a gripping ending. Give it a shot.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
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