WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE MAGIC OF THE WIFE IN SPACE?
Sue: Robert Holmes. That’s a good start. I’m not thrilled with the cheesy narration, but I can live with it.
The Doctor is on his way to Gallifrey when he is overwhelmed by a vision.
Sue: OK, pause this for a second. What just happened?
Me: The Doctor had a premonition. He just saw himself assassinating the Time Lord President in the future.
Sue: I didn’t know he was clairvoyant. He kept that quiet.
The TARDIS arrives on Gallifrey and the planet’s security service identifies it as the property of a convicted criminal.
Sue: That’s not fair. I thought the Doctor had been forgiven? You know, when he saved everyone from being eaten by a black hole. And he’s been working for the Time Lords, on-and-off, for years. They have very short memories.
As the Doctor ponders his next move, Sue feels uneasy.
Sue: It doesn’t feel right seeing the Doctor on his own like this. I’m guessing that the new companion will turn up later. They’re usually very easy to spot. Hang on, is that a bong? There’s no time for that! People usually hide their bongs when the police turn up.
Guards break into the TARDIS but they fall for the Doctor’s ruse and he escapes into the Capitol.
Sue: Hmmm. I expected better. I thought security on Gallifrey would be a lot more formidable than that.
The Master, for it is he (not that Sue suspects a thing), is skulking around in the darkness.
Sue: Gallifrey looks like an eighties disco. I haven’t seen this much dry ice since I saw Gary Numan in concert in 1981.
Castellan Spandrell and Coordinator Engin uncover evidence that the Doctor has worked for the Celestial Intervention Agency.
Sue: So the CIA are like –
Me: The CIA? Yes.
Sue: Right. That actually makes sense.
It doesn’t take Sue long to warm to Spandrell, as played by George Pravda.
Sue: He’s an odd actor but I think I like him. There’s something loveable about him, even if he is a bit bizarre.
When Spandrell and Engin discuss the significance of the Doctor’s Prydonian seal, Sue pauses the DVD again.
Sue: OK, what does that mean?
Me: Well, it’s a bit like Harry Potter.
Sue: That doesn’t help. I’m a grown woman.
Me: It’s a chapter house.
Sue: Like a posh boarding school?
Me: If you like.
Sue: So Gallifrey is basically Oxbridge? This a lot for me to take in. It feels like I’m drowning in information.
We see the Master again and SHE STILL DOESN’T SAY IT. Later, when I ask her why it didn’t cross her mind, she tells me it’s because she thought the Master was a completely different alien species, which makes sense, I guess.
Sue: So this is a Gallifreyan Jubilee?
Me: More like an abdication.
Sue: I’m surprised that the Time Lords have television. What do Time Lords watch when this isn’t going on? Do they have Gallifreyan game shows?
Me: If you say The Regeneration Game, I will have to kill you.
We learn that Runcible the broadcaster/fatuous was one of Cardinal Borusa’s pupils at the Prydon Academy.
Sue: So Runcible was a media student?
Oh dear, she’s beginning to channel Jan Vincent-Rudzki. But at least she concedes that the Time Lords differ from humans in one significant way:
Sue: Silver eye shadow and lip balm combo. Nice.
OK, unless you happen to be David Bowie.
The episode concludes with the Doctor shooting the president, but Sue isn’t fooled.
Sue: They cloned a double of the Doctor from his bio-data thingy.
She’s awfully smug about this.
Sue: It’s pretty obvious, really.
Don’t worry, I stopped the episode as soon as the credits began – Philip Hinchcliffe wasn’t that big on anagrams and they give the game away – but Sue remains none the wiser, and that’s just the way I like it.top
Sue doesn’t like it when a cliffhanger is resolved unfairly, so when she spots the second gunman in the reprise, she’s not happy.
Sue: How am I supposed to get it right when I don’t have all the evidence?
Sue: So, if the Doctor was shooting at the other assassin, was he just a terrible shot, or did the assassin in the crowd kill the president and the Doctor was just firing blanks? Or did the Doctor really just kill the president? Is the Doctor the deadly assassin?
The Doctor is tortured in a cell, the design of which Sue loves (it reminds her of a more brutal version of Magneto’s cell from the X-Men movies). The Doctor refuses to confess and he is placed on trial. He is sentenced to death but the Doctor evokes Article 17.
Sue: That’s a bit far-fetched. How can you seriously have a convicted criminal running for office? That’s just silly.
Me: Bobby Sands, 1981.
Sue: Oh yeah. Good point, well made.
Goth is conspiring with the Master. He tries to hide it by putting on a raspy voice (for whose benefit?) but Sue has already guessed that it’s Goth anyway. It was his enthusiasm for the Doctor’s execution that gave him away.
Goth calls the Master “master” at one point, but she doesn’t bite. I’m disappointed, if I’m honest.
Sue: He looks like Darth Vader without his mask on.
The Doctor begins his investigation into the assassination. Sue howls with laughter when we see a chalk mark outline of the dead president on the floor of the Panopticon.
Sue: That was supposed to be funny, wasn’t it?
The Doctor scours the scene of the crime for evidence that might exonerate him.
Sue: The set is very creaky. It looks great but it sounds bloody terrible.
When the Doctor discovers the shrunken body of a camera operator, Sue immediately appreciates its significance.
Sue: But it can’t be the Master. It doesn’t look anything like him.
And then she comes to a rather startling conclusion:
Sue: What a terrible thing to regenerate into. He pulled the short straw, there. If I were him, I’d kill myself and start all over again.
The Doctor realises that the Master has tampered with the Matrix – a living mind that stores the cells of deceased Time Lords.
Sue: So is the Matrix like -
Me: The Matrix? Yes.
Sue: Is that just a coincidence? If it is, it’s a big one. Even the colour scheme is the same – all those greens. If you bought 100 Matrix DVD boxsets and you stacked them up, you’d have a Gallifreyan pillar.
Me: That would cost at least £100.
The Doctor’s mind enters the Matrix and he is immediately set upon by a crocodile/alligator (I admit it: I DON’T KNOW!).
Sue: Time Lord heaven is a bit shit, isn’t it? I mean, if this is where Time Lords go when they die, no wonder they put off as long as possible.
The Doctor explores this nightmare dreamscape and at one point he finds himself on a surgeon’s table.
Sue: Not. For. Kids.
The episode concludes with the Doctor facing an oncoming train.
Sue: That was great. Let’s watch the next one.
Me: We can’t. You know the rules. Trust me, it’s a lot better if the cliffhanger stays in your mind’s eye. For a whole day.top
It’s World Goth Day and we’re celebrating the occasion in Goth’s World. Even Nicol pops in for a bit.
She immediately regrets it. She’s brought her dinner with her and she’s just about to swallow a mouthful of vegetable lasagne when the Doctor steps into a large, ripe egg.
Nicol: Thanks for that.
Sue fills Nicol in on what’s she’s missed so far, and how the Doctor isn’t staggering around your average alien quarry.
Sue: He’s in a virtual reality called the Matrix. What do you think of that?
Nicol: It’s like Inception.
Me: It’s more like The Matrix.
Nicol: I was being sarcastic.
Me: Right, well you might want to work on that.
Sue: It’s very brave for its time. It’s very unnerving. You don’t know what will happen next.
The Doctor finds himself on a sand dune, but when he rubs away the sand, a laughing clown is reflected back at him.
Me: That terrified me when I was seven.
Sue: You don’t like clowns much, do you?
Nicol: Is this where you get your fear of clowns from?
Me: No, it’s clowns that give me my fear of clowns.
It becomes clear that Goth is in control of this reality.
Nicol: So it really is like Inception. Someone’s mind is creating this world and the other mind has to deal with it. So there.
The Doctor is attacked by a biplane.
Sue: I like the North by Northwest reference – they are definitely pushing the boat out – but the machine gun on that plane is pointing up at the sky. That’s bad direction, I’m afraid. It stands out because everything else is so good.
Goth decides to poison the water supply.
Sue: As if the Doctor would be tempted by that muddy puddle! He should have imagined a nice waterfall – that would have been more appetising. The rules in the Matrix are a bit sketchy.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Master dispatches a hypnotised slave to sabotage the Doctor’s connection to the Matrix.
Sue: Is that Rodney Bewes?
Neil: You and your Rodney Bewes fixation. No, it is not Rodney Bewes. Never ask me that again.
Sue asks Nicol for her verdict on the new Master.
Sue: What do you make of that, Nic?
Nicol rolls her eyes. But what do you expect from someone who thought The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a comedy. OK, maybe she’s right, but for her to work that out when she was 14 years of age still worries me.
The Doctor finds an empty phial of poison lying next to the puddle.
Sue: That’s a schoolboy error. You wouldn’t catch Carlos the Jackal doing that.
Regrettable spiders aside (“I’ve seen worse”), Sue soaks up the ending.
Sue: I really like this fight. It’s realistic because it’s so clumsy.
The episode concludes with Doctor Who‘s most notorious cliffhanger, as Goth holds the Doctor’s head under water and the director, David Maloney, holds it in a freeze-frame.
Me: Too strong?
Sue: No, I love it.
Me: For kids?
Sue: Not for kids.top
Sue: This is rather exciting.
That’s all I get out of Sue for the first few minutes of Part Four. But then the problems start…
Sue: I can’t understand a word the Master is saying. I bet he has a terrible time hypnotising people with that voice. “You will &*^&%& me.” – “Eh? What?”
The Master leaves Goth to die an agonising death.
Sue: Well, he certainly made the most of that death scene. Good actor, though.
Me: Bernard Horsfall played a Time Lord in The War Games. He exiled Patrick Troughton to Earth.
Sue: Did he really? I thought he looked familiar. That’s nice continuity, too.
Interestingly, Sue despises Borusa.
Sue: What a slimy git.
And then, given that she’s exhausted the limited options available to her, she asks the question I’ve been expecting for a while:
Sue: Are are these two old men the new companions?
Me: Spandrell and Engin? I’d love to say yes but I don’t think I can bluff it out.
Sue: They are very sweet. I couldn’t see them running up and down any corridors, though. That would be tricky.
Sue doesn’t believe that the Master is dead for a second. And the fact that there are nearly twenty minutes left on the clock is a bit of a giveaway, too, to be fair.
The Doctor and the Master face off in the mortuary and the Master lays out his plans for Gallifrey…
Sue: I haven’t got a clue what he just said.
And then she starts to bombard me with questions:
Sue: Right, so is this the same Master as the one we saw before? Or is it supposed to be the same one? I know it can’t be the same one. Do you know what I mean?
Me: No one really knows for sure. The Master could have regenerated several times before he ended up like this.
Sue: OK, that makes sense, because he sounds nothing like Roger Delgado. So has the Master been injured? He didn’t regenerate into this?
Me: I believe so. And because he’s on his 13th life, he can’t regenerate.
Sue: So how was he injured?
Me: I don’t know.
Sue: I bet he made a deal with some aliens and they betrayed him. That’s probably why he’s raced through all his regenerations while the Doctor is still only on his fourth life.
The Master and the Doctor have a big fight over the Eye of Harmony.
Sue: I’m losing interest. I’m not sure what the hell it is I’m supposed to be looking at. I just know it’s supposed to be bad. It’s a shame, but what else can you do in a TV studio? They should have battled it out in the Matrix. This is really boring compared to that place.
The Master falls down a black hole (no, not that kind) and before we know it, the Doctor is bidding Spandrell and Engin farewell. But the Master isn’t dead and escapes in a TARDIS disguised as a grandfather clock.
Sue: I think the Doctor knew the Master was still alive. He gave that clock a long, hard stare before he left. I think he likes having the Master around. I don’t know why.
When the Master’s TARDIS dematerialises, his face is superimposed over the clock face.
Sue: There was no need for that. It makes the Master’s TARDIS look cramped.top
The Final Score
Sue: I’m sorry but the ending let it down. The first three episodes were perfect. It was heading for a nine or a ten when they were in the Matrix, but the last episode felt like it had been directed by a completely different person. I wasn’t sure what was going on at the end. I don’t know how I feel about the Master coming back like that, too. The whole thing felt a bit off. And the ending felt contrived – they should have battled it out in the Matrix, that would have been more interesting. But I liked it and the first three episodes were as good as it gets.
Me: Damn it. I was really hoping that you’d say 9/10, and then I would say “Oh. Thank you, Sue” and it would have been wonderfully meta.
Sue: Yeah, but it isn’t worth a nine.
I decide to show Sue some extra features, specifically the interview with Jan Vincent-Rudzki where he explains why, as president of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society in 1976, he thought The Deadly Assassin was a load of old rubbish.
Me: Do you agree that the Time Lords in this story bear no resemblance to the Time Lords we’ve seen previously?
Sue: No. The bad guy was the same Time Lord who exiled Patrick Troughton. Of course it’s the same Time Lords.
Me: What about his criticism that Time Lords wouldn’t have bad hips?
Sue: Well, if you regenerated every time you had a twinge in your hip, you’d get through your twelve lives pretty sharpish. If they had unlimited regenerations, they’d all look like the Chippendales.
The experiment continues…
Firstly, the winner of the ‘It’s Not Dudley’ badge competition is: Thomas Evans. I’ll be in touch with you via Facebook later this week, Thomas. Thanks to all who took part and to everyone who took the time to vote.
Secondly, there will be a short delay until the next update. Sue is going to London for a few days and on Friday morning she will be in the same room as the Moff. Will their paths collide? Will she get his attention? Will security be called? Will absolutely nothing happen and I’ll wish I never even mentioned it? Probably.top
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