At the edge of creation, the Doctor, Leela and K-9 land
on board a spaceship crewed by Minyans, a race the Doctor
had assumed to be long since extinct. The vessel, the R1C,
is on a quest to locate the P7E, a ship containing the missing
Minyan genetic stock. The quest leads the respective crews
of the R1C and the TARDIS into the heart of a newly formed
four-part tale has two main claims to fame. The first is the
copious references by writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin to
the mythological Jason's quest to find the Golden Fleece.
Just as Jason found the fleece at the edge of the world, the
R1C's commander Jackson (James Maxwell) discovers the golden
race banks of the Minyans at the edge of the universe.
story's more dubious claim to fame is its heavy use of CSO
(Colour Separation Overlay, or Chromakey). In an experimental
attempt to save money on set construction, actors and props
are superimposed on to model sets of the planet's cavernous
interior. It was an experiment that failed: the composite
shots lack depth; props, costumes and actors' hair frequently
disintegrate at the edges, especially when moving at speed;
and you see the same old bits of model scenery cropping up
again and again and again. These are not the worst special
effects ever to appear in Doctor Who, not by a long
chalk, but the big problem is that they are on screen for
such a long time - at least 40 per cent of the story's duration.
cost-cutting measure that works rather better is the adaptation
of the R1C sets to serve as the interior of the P7E. This
makes sense, because the two vessels were once part of the
we are thrust headlong into the centre of the Planet of CSOverkill,
the first episode proves fairly entertaining. It offers up
several intriguing elements, including a regenerative race
- the Minyans - who regard the Time Lords as gods. There's
also some semi-educational stuff about the formation of planetary
systems (although this is seen to take place rather more rapidly
than it would in nature).
go downhill once we enter the planet, which is populated by
a race of bland slave workers, guards dressed in all-over
outfits that look disturbingly like gimp suits, and yet another
mad computer (only a year after the one in The Face of
Evil). In fact, the only halfway interesting character
in the entire story is the R1C crewman Herrick, played with
gung-ho enthusiasm by Alan Lake.
is arguably the weakest story in what I consider to be Tom
Baker's weakest season, Doctor Who's fifteenth (though
it's up against some pretty stiff competition from The
Invisible Enemy). Whereas that other much-maligned Graham
Williams-produced season, the seventeenth, can at least boast
the excellent rapport between the Doctor and Lalla Ward's
Romana, here there is little enjoyable banter between Baker
and Louise Jameson as Leela. Outside the influence of her
creator, Chris Boucher, or writer/script editor Robert Holmes,
Leela comes across as an idiotic savage, rather than the intelligent
but uneducated warrior she was intended to be.
video release therefore represents what is probably the poorest
story in Baker's entire seven-year reign. Underworld?
Underpants more like.
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