Sue: Louis Marks. I hope this doesn’t “Lose Marks” too quickly. I don’t want to be burnt at the stake if it turns out to be rubbish.
Me: That’s a pun. We don’t do puns.
Sue: But seriously, that name rings a bell. Should I know who Louis Marks is?
Me: He ran a very profitable sideline selling toy Daleks.
Sue: Did he really?
Me: No. And to answer your original question, he wrote Planet of Giants and Day of the Daleks.
Sue: Oh dear. I actually recognise the names of people who have worked on Doctor Who.
Me: When you can recite transmission dates off the top of your head, that’s the time to worry.
On the planet Zeta Minor, a Morestran is tending to his corpse garden.
Sue: Did he just bury a seven-year-old child? How grim is that?
Me: I don’t think they brought any seven-year-old children with them on this expedition, but I could be wrong.
Sue: Is it the Thals? He looks like a Thal. And I’m sure I’ve seen that caravan before.
Meanwhile, Professor Sorenson and a young man named Baldwin are analysing crystals found on the planet’s surface.
Sue: Are they intergalactic drug dealers? Are they cooking up some crystal meth? It’s a futuristic Breaking Bad. They even have their own caravan.
Meanwhile, back at the Morestran base/caravan, the corpse gardener is spooked by something in the jungle.
Sue: Just go back inside your caravan and lock the door. It’s probably safe in there. Don’t walk further away from it! What the hell are you doing, man!
But it’s too late; the gardener is pinned down by an unseen force and, screaming in agony and terror, he simply disappears.
Sue: It’s another monster that cleans up after itself. You get a lot of those in Doctor Who.
Baldwin hurries back to the base through a very impressive jungle set.
Sue: Are we on film now? This looks excellent all of a sudden.
But when Baldwin reaches a clearing, Sue sighs.
Sue: And now we’re on video again. What a shame.
Baldwin is ‘disappeared’ as well, but not before he presses a very important button.
Sue: So the monster in this story is invisible. What would Doctor Who do without invisible monsters? I’m surprised the BBC haven’t tried to sell you some invisible monsters for your toy collection.
Me: Who says they haven’t? I’ve got hundreds of them.
Meanwhile, in the TARDIS, the Doctor and Sarah intercept Baldwin’s distress call.
Sue: The Doctor is overjoyed with the prospect of danger. He’s a lunatic.
Also heading to Zeta Minor is a Morestran military ship.
Sue: This is very Star Trek.
As Commander Salamar barks orders to his subordinates, Sue points a finger at him.
Sue: Oh, it’s him again.
Me: Prentis Hancock – my favourite bad actor.
Sue: He hasn’t improved since last time we saw him. Are you sure this lot aren’t Thals?
It doesn’t take long for Sue to cast her critical eye over the Morestrans’ costumes.
Sue: They are probably very nice if you have a hairy chest to show off. I’m surprised they aren’t wearing gold medallions. The Thals could throw the chains at the Cybermen if they got into a fight with them.
Me: They aren’t Thals!
Thankfully, not all the costumes in this story are ridiculed by Sue.
Sue: Sarah Jane looks very nice this week. Practical but stylish.
The Sarah and the Doctor find the distress beacon in the Morestran caravan, with Baldwin’s skeleton lying next to it.
Sue: Okay, I’m a little confused. I thought the victims vanished? So why have they come back again?
Sarah returns to the TARDIS to gather some equipment, but the Morestran military lock her inside.
Sue: Just use the manual crank handle, love.
When the Morestrans summarise the current situation, most of it goes over Sue’s head. Thanks to Tom.
Sue: What the **** is Tom Baker staring at? Even when he doesn’t say anything, he’s still the most interesting thing to look at. I can’t take my eyes off him. What is he looking at?
Me: He’s probably giving the floor manager a hard time.
The Doctor and Sarah are placed in detention but Sarah quickly figures a way out.
Sue: Sarah is doing most of the heavy lifting in this story. I like it. But you have to ask yourself why the Doctor is having such an off-day. He looks like he’s wandering around in a daze.
The episode concludes with our heroes escaping to the clearing, where they immediately run into –
Sue: A fat Predator.
The Morestrans tackle the monster with their high-tech weaponry.
Sue: Their guns sound very wimpy. They look good but they sound like something you’d pick up at Toys R Us. And how is this monster killing everyone when it’s just standing there doing nothing? It isn’t even touching anyone.
The Doctor and Sarah decide to leg it and, luckily for them, the Morestrans couldn’t hit a barn door with their wimpy weapons if their lives depended on it.
Sue: Are they the UNIT of the future? Which one’s supposed to be Benton?
When the Doctor and Sarah hike through the jungle – on film – Sue focuses on the down side.
Sue: I wish it could look like this all the time. I know it’s a budgetary thing but doesn’t it make you feel sad? It’s so frustrating. Part of me wishes the whole thing was shot on video, that way I wouldn’t be disappointed when we keep switching back to it. Oh well.
The Morestrans send an Oculoid Tracker to find the Doctor and Sarah.
Sue: How big is this thing supposed to be? There’s no sense of scale. It could be really tiny or there could be people sitting in it. Which is it?
As it hovers over the Doctor and Sarah, Sue finally cottons on.
Sue: Okay, this is pretty good, actually. Technically, it’s quite impressive. I’m not really into the plot yet, but it looks very good. The direction isn’t bad either.
The Doctor and Sarah are returned to the Morestran ship, and when it fails to get off the ground, the Doctor explains what it is they’re up against.
Sue: Tom’s great, isn’t he? You could give him practically anything to say and he’d make it sound interesting. I like the way he stares right down the camera lens at the audience. He’s practically daring us not to take this seriously.
Sorenson begs Salamar to let him take a few crystals home with him.
Sue: Sorenson looks like Eddie Izzard on a very bad day.
Me: It’s Frank Spencer’s flying instructor. Remember?
Sue: Oh yes, so it is.
Incredibly, she recognises another actor.
Sue: His voice is very familiar.
Me: It’s Davros.
Sue: So it is. So is this the story where we find out what happened to his legs?
Me: No, it’s the actor who plays Davros. His name is Michael Wisher.
Sue: I thought he’d be a lot older. (pause). Are you sure they aren’t Thals?
Me: I thought we’d already established that.
The Doctor places a sample of Sorenson’s crystals in an empty toffee tin.
Sue: We’ve got a Harrogate toffee tin just like that.
Me: I know.
Sue: So that’s why we have a Harrogate toffee tin just like that. It all makes sense now.
The Doctor volunteers to have a chat with the monster on the Morestrans’ behalf. But it doesn’t go according to plan and the episode ends with the Doctor falling into a very deep hole.
Sue: Great cliffhanger. I haven’t got a clue what the Doctor was hoping to achieve there, but it was very exciting.
Me: I definitely remember watching that cliffhanger and freaking out when it first went out.
Me: I must have been obsessed with Doctor Who by then. That episode went out two days before my sixth birthday and the following Monday I was given a toy Dalek as my main present. It was a red one by Palitoy (not Louis Marx).
Me: It could talk and everything. I loved that bloody Dalek. I can see it now. I can even smell it now. It’s like I’m back in the room and not only can I remember the details of the room, I can remember the feelings I had when I was playing with it; this feeling floats on the tip of my mind, but if I try to focus on it, it slips away. Being a Doctor Who fan really does allow you to time travel. Sort of.
Me: This is our 300th episode of Doctor Who (not including recons).
Sue: Is that all? It feels like more.
Me: Fancy a dance?
Sue: Not really.
Nicol decides to join us for this momentous occasion; I fill her in on what she’s missed.
Nicol: Not anti-matter again! Why are they still obsessed with that?
Sue explains to Nicol that the Doctor has fallen into a hole that exists between universes. This is illustrated with images of Tom Baker being flung towards the camera on a Kirby wire.
Nicol: Right… Well, that definitely wouldn’t happen.
Sue: They’re trying, bless.
Nicol: If he fell into an anti-matter universe (which wouldn’t technically exist) then he would cease to exist as soon as he passed the event horizon. Everybody knows that.
The Doctor eventually emerges from the hole unscathed.
Nicol: Right, that’s enough bad science for one night. I’m off.
Back on the Morestran ship, Professor Sorenson is fighting off excruciating pain.
Sue: He’s suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome by the look of it.
But when Sorenson’s eyes turn bright red, Sue is much more forgiving.
Sue: That’s excellent; you could get away with that today.
Sorenson quaffs a steaming potion and he eventually returns to normal.
Sue: So this is basically Jekyll and Hyde in reverse. But I suppose if you saw this when you were five or six years old, you’d think it was the most original thing you’d ever seen.
Sarah tends to the Doctor, who remains unconscious after his trip to the anti-matter universe.
Sue: I still don’t understand how he got out of the hole. Did he just float out? They had better explain it soon.
The Doctor suggests he survived thanks to the tin of anti-matter he was carrying with him at the time.
The Morestrans attempt to leave the planet for the second time.
Sue: The front of their spaceship looks like a mobile disco.
It’s at this point that Sue figures out the perfect escape plan.
Sue: Why don’t they all just go back to the TARDIS and **** off? That’s what I’d do. Just let the ship crash. Job’s a good ‘un.
By this point, Sorenson looks awful. Like Killer Bob from Twin Peaks crossed with werewolf Benton from Inferno.
Sue: He is on the crystal meth. And he’s definitely due for his fix.
With Sorenson notching up quite a kill streak, Sue decides to forgive Mark Lawson. There’s a first time for everything.
Sue: Now this feels like a horror film.
A couple of days ago, we watched Mark Lawson Talks To Mark Gatiss on BBC4, and in it, Lawson referred to Doctor Who as a horror show. Sue took umbrage at this description, believing that it was more much about action adventure than horror, although there were a few horrific moments scattered here and there. Now she’s not so sure.
Sue: This is pretty scary, actually. It looks like he’s drinking blood and he’s obviously possessed by the devil. What time did this go out again?
The Doctor gets into an altercation with a Morestran, so he punches him in the jaw.
Sue: That was a canny punch. I take it this Doctor doesn’t go in for the finger to the chest routine. That’s fine by me.
When Salamar finds the Doctor and Sarah standing over yet another corpse, he shoots the Doctor in the face.
Sue: You bastard!
The episode concludes with the Doctor and Sarah facing the unlikely prospect of being buried alive in space.
Sue: Nice cliffhanger. I can’t really complain about that.
For once, it’s me asking all the questions, as Salamar forces Vishinsky to pull the lever that will send the Doctor and Sarah to their doom.
Me: Why doesn’t he just pull the lever himself? Why get into a fight with an old man?
Sue: He’s trying to make a point. He wants the old guy to have blood on his hands. It literally is a power struggle between them. Keep up, love.
The ship’s pilot is killed and everyone rushes back to the bridge. On his way out, Vishinsky pushes the lever back, saving the Doctor and Sarah.
Sue: That was a nice touch. He didn’t make a big deal out of it. I liked that.
As things go from bad to worse, Salamar loses his cool.
Sue: The problem with this guy is that he’s been ranting and raving from the moment we first met him. He hasn’t got anywhere else to go. He’s going to end up shrieking like a little girl. He should have ramped it up gradually.
Vishinsky gives the order to close all the hatchways.
Sue: Oh look – it’s the credits to Mystery Science 3000 Thingy.
The Doctor confronts Sorenson and he appeals to the scientist inside him to do the right thing.
Me: Great scene, don’t you think?
Sue: If you say so.
Me: Do you have any idea what just happened back there?
Sue: Not really.
Me: The Doctor just convinced the bad guy to commit suicide.
Sue: Seriously? I thought he was giving him an opportunity to flush his drugs down the toilet.
Sorenson prepares to eject himself into space, but before he can pull the lever, the anti-matter part of himself takes over.
Sue: The Doctor should have used assisted suicide instead. He could have stopped that from happening.
Salamar arms himself with a neutron accelerator and he sets off to find Sorenson.
Sue: He really is shrieking like a little girl, now. I told you that he didn’t have anywhere else left to go.
Salamar is killed by the anti-man, but not before he can unleash the neutron accelerator.
Sue: Okay, is everyone dead now? Just take the old guy, jump in the TARDIS, and leave.
The Doctor stuns the anti-man and he drags him into his TARDIS.
Sue: The Doctor’s a bit confident if he thinks he can land the TARDIS wherever he wants.
Me: According to Big Finish, Sorenson and the Doctor enjoy several adventures together in the gap between the next two scenes. Although Sorenson is tied up throughout, which limits him quite a bit.
As multiple versions of the anti-man wander around the Morestrans’ ship, Sue can’t see the point of them at all.
Sue: What do these things want, exactly? I don’t get it. How did this even happen? Was I supposed to know that the flask of light would do that? Should I get Nicol?
Me: I wouldn’t bother.
The Doctor manages to land the TARDIS next to the pool of anti-matter on Zeta Minor (this feat impresses Sue no end) and Sorenson falls into it.
Me: You know, I have absolutely no memory of this episode at all. Either I missed it or –
Sue: It’s shit. That’s why you can’t remember it. You just blocked it out.
Sorenson is miraculously returned to normal and he is welcomed back onboard the Morestran ship by Vishinsky.
Me: He killed loads of people and now they are queuing up to shake his hand. They should lock him up.
Sue: It’s called diminished responsibility, Neil. For example, if I killed you now, I could use this experiment as my excuse; I’d definitely get off.
Sue: That was average. It was on for a six or a seven but the last episode was a big disappointment. I was bored by the end of it. The plot didn’t really make any sense and I had no idea what was going on with the multiple monsters. The guy who played the commander was hopeless and I couldn’t care less about the rest of them. Tom was pretty good and the jungle was nice. If it hadn’t been for the jungle, I might have scored it lower.
Sue and I will now be taking a few weeks off to recharge our batteries and –
Sue: I’m happy to carry on. I think you’re making too much fuss out of a few negative comments on the blog. I couldn’t care less what people think or write about me. And if you dish it out, you have to be able to take it.
Me: But somebody called you a sour faced **** –
Sue: I’ve been called a lot worse. By you. It doesn’t bother me.
Me: Well, I need a break even if you don’t.
Sue: Actually, I would like to say something: I never claimed to be an expert when it comes to Land Rovers; it’s not like I’m going to appear on Mastermind with Land Rovers as my specialist subject (I’d probably pick the history of building regulations in the UK 2002-2012). I just like Land Rovers and the UNIT Land Rovers looked like Defenders to me. I couldn’t give a toss about what they were called in 1975 – it’s still the basic Defender shape. Not that I give a shit, of course.
Me: Right, that settles it. We are definitely taking a break.