Sue: Ooh, new title sequence.
She’s quick, my wife.
Sue: The theme music is very techno.
Sue thinks any up-tempo electronic music is techno.
Sue: Why is Tom Baker snarling? Is he in pain?
I don’t have an answer to that.
Sue: Is somebody torturing him? Hmm… I’m not sure about these new titles. It’s very 1980s, isn’t it? It doesn’t get any more 1980s than chrome neon tubing. I’m sure it will grow on me, though. You have to move with the times.
Me: I love this version of the theme music.
Sue: You would. You listen to techno-bollocks all the time.
On Brighton beach, a camera is panning across some deck chairs. In fact, the camera is panning across some deck chairs A LOT.
Sue: For ****’s sake.
Halfway through the pan…
Sue: Are they taking the piss?
Sue: I could have had a shower while this was going on.
Me: They’re establishing the hell out of this beach.
Somebody’s snoring. And it isn’t one of us.
Sue: Has the director fallen asleep?
The camera finally settles on the TARDIS.
Sue: All that for that! Was it really worth it? WAS IT? REALLY?
As the Doctor slumbers, Romana takes K9 for a stroll on the beach.
Sue: K9 on pebbles. So how did they do that? Wait, don’t tell me, I can see the wire. I’m surprised Romana hasn’t tripped over it.
Romana throws a ball into the sea and K9 chases after it. Romana screams.
Sue: Is it the cliffhanger already? I know that pan was long, but was it really 20 minutes? It felt like it could have been 20 minutes…
K9 enters the sea and promptly blows up.
Me: That’s it. K9’s dead.
Sue: Romana’s killed K9!
I get my kicks where I can find them.
Me: There’s a new producer called John Nathan-Turner, also known as JN-T, and he wanted to change everything about the programme. New titles, new music…
Sue: So this isn’t Dudley?
Me: No. One of the first things JN-T did when he took over was he took Dudley to a nice restaurant…
Sue: That’s nice.
Me: And he sacked him over the starter.
Sue: I don’t think I like this JN-T character very much. How long does he stay for? I can’t believe he killed K9. What a ****.
Me: At least K9 got his old voice back before he died.
Sue: Did he? I didn’t notice. He wasn’t around long enough for me to notice. The bastards.
The camera zooms out until the Doctor and Romana are framed by animated stars.
Sue: Well that was different.
Me: I bet you’ll know what they used to create that special effect. It begins with the letter Q.
Me: That’s the one.
Sue: Quantel was very expensive. It still is. It must have cost the BBC a fortune.
Me: This is the first time Quantel was used in a BBC drama, I think. Top of the Pops used it a lot as well, of course.
Sue: It hasn’t stood the test of time, has it? It’s dated badly. You’d even think twice about using that effect on YouTube nowadays.
When we arrive on the planet Argolis, the first thing Sue notices is Peter Howell’s music.
Sue: I don’t like the incidental music very much. It isn’t incidental for a start. It sounds like the sort of crap you listen to. Tangerine ****ing Dream. I still haven’t forgiven you for taking me to see them in Manchester. Worst gig ever. Ooh, is that Oliver Reed?
She’s referring to Brock, the human broker who’s addressing an Argolin named Pangol via a video link.
Sue: I like the aliens’ hair. Do they all go to the same hairdressers?
The Argolins have built a Leisure Hive, however, tourist numbers are down this year.
Sue: So it’s a radioactive Center Parcs in the middle of a recession? Okay.
Argolis is about to go bankrupt, but thankfully a group of investors have offered to buy the entire planet.
Sue: It’s Dallas. The young angry one is Bobby Ewing, and the old grumpy one is Jock Ewing. I can’t wait to meet JR.
A shuttle craft from Earth arrives on Argolis.
Sue: The director isn’t in a hurry, is he?
Me: I thought you’d like the direction in this one.
Sue: Well, it’s certainly different, but it’s completely inappropriate for Doctor Who. It’s arty-farty when it should be fast-paced and exciting. (Pointing at the docking ship) I mean, what I am supposed to be looking at here? I’ve been staring at this for two minutes and I still don’t know what it is.
A volunteer enters the recreation generator and Pangol prepares to manipulate the visitor’s tachyonic image. Or something like that. Ask Christopher Hamilton Bidmead.
Sue: Why would anybody pay to go in that thing? And if they did, could you imagine the queues? They’ve only got one cabinet, which means they haven’t thought this through. I bet they’ve only got the one squash court as well. No wonder they’re going bankrupt.
When the demonstration goes horribly wrong, the Doctor enters the generator to investigate. “He’s terribly hurt” proclaims the Time Lord.
Sue: Terribly hurt? It ripped his ****ing head off!
Another Argolin named Mena takes charge of the situation. She believes the tachyonic experiments could rejuvenate a person.
Sue: Now that’s something I’d pay for.
The Doctor and Romana explore the generator room, which is littered with plastic mannequins.
Sue: It’s the Autons! Ooh, I’m actually excited, now.
The Doctor sneaks into the recreation generator when Romana isn’t looking.
Sue: Is this how he regenerates?
Me: Wait and see.
The episode concludes with the Doctor suffering the same fate as the generator’s previous occupant.
Sue: I knew it! Peter Davison, here we come!
Sue is disappointed when it transpires that the Doctor wasn’t in any real danger (“So why did he scream?”), but the director, Lovett Bickford, soon takes her mind off that.
Sue: Oh no, not this ****ing shot again!
The latest ship to arrive on Argolis is carrying Hardin, a human scientist who has been employed by Mena to help her live longer.
Sue: This is very Babylon 5. The costumes, the hair, the sets, the endless triangles everywhere. The more I watch Doctor Who, the more convinced I am that Babylon 5 was ripping it off half the time. It’s been a real eye-opener for me, this.
The Doctor and Romana gaze upon the war-torn surface of Argolis. The Doctor calls it beautiful.
Sue: Beautiful? It’s a radioactive dump!
The war that devastated Argolis only lasted 20 minutes.
Sue: The pan in Part One was longer than that.
Not only are the Argolins dying, they can’t reproduce any more either.
Sue: Okay, so let me get this straight: this race is dying, and they’re sterile, and they deal with this by building some squash courts? What use is that? What kind of legacy is a ****ing squash court?
Not for the first time, we witness a claw interfering with the Hive’s inner workings.
Sue: This monster had better be good. They are building it up to be something really special.
A man with a goatee beard (Sue manages to restrain herself) finds a human disguise in Brock’s quarters.
Sue: Yes, it’s definitely the Autons.
But before the man can warn anyone, he’s killed by a clawed beast.
Sue: Seriously, this had better be good…
The Doctor is framed for the murder and placed on trial.
Sue: Arrest the scarf! That’s the first decent joke in the whole story.
Meanwhile, Romana and Hardin are discussing tachyonics. At length.
Sue: I don’t understand a word of this. I can’t put my finger on it, but this story isn’t working for me. Everything is far too serious.
Me: This is what happens when you replace your script editor with a scientist. Nicol would probably love it.
I ask Sue what she thinks of the Doctor’s new costume.
Sue: It’s okay, I suppose. I like the colour burgundy. It makes for a nice change. I’m not all that keen on the question marks on his lapels, though. It’s the sort of thing the Joker might wear (She means the Riddler, bless her). Maybe it’s the Gallifreyan version of a Lacoste or Ben Sherman logo. That would explain it.
Hardin and Romana conduct a tachyon experiment.
Sue: Those crystals are so Babylon 5, it’s not even funny.
Me: LOOK! PEOPLE DOING SCIENCEY STUFF!
Romana and Hardin think they’ve cracked it, but as soon as they leave the lab, the experiment explodes.
Sue: First rule of science: wait until your experiment is over before you publish the results.
The Argolins test Romana’s breakthrough on the Doctor.
Sue: So is this how he regenerates?
Sue: I knew it!
Sue: So Romana kills K9 and the Doctor? I’m not sure how I feel about that. I still like her, though. Isn’t that weird?
Romana tries to halt the procedure, but it’s too late. She opens the door and…
Sue: That isn’t Peter Davison! That’s ****ing Gandalf! And he’s looking down the camera lens again. Dock his pay!
Sue: The new music is growing on me.
Me: What took you so long?
Sue: It’s very confident. The old version of the theme music was scary, this is more exciting. If only this story lived up to that.
The Doctor has aged hundreds of years.
Sue: The makeup is brilliant. The top of his head is particularly good. I bet Tom enjoyed this. It must have been a nice challenge for him. He must be bored by now. I know I am.
Incredibly, Sue believes this change could be permanent.
Sue: Does he stay like this until he becomes Peter Davison? It feels like we’ve got William Hartnell back again.
The Doctor isn’t very happy about this, to put it mildly.
Sue: Regenerate then! You can do it any time you want. Romana will show you how. Just close your eyes, concentrate really hard, and look like Peter Davison!
Sue can’t take her eyes off the plastic mannequins.
Sue: I don’t understand what the plastic people have to do with anything.
Me: Let it go, Sue. They aren’t Autons.
Sue: So what are they?
Me: I don’t know. Modern art, probably.
Sue: No wonder this civilisation is ****ed.
It’s fair to say Lovett Bickford’s direction continues to perplex Sue.
Sue: Some of the shots are quite nice, I suppose. It’s nice to see some depth of field for a change. The lighting is very effective at times, too. But then, in the very next scene, everything is over-lit. I don’t know what to make of it.
Brock tells the Argolins their arch-enemies, the Foamasi, are behind the hostile takeover of their planet.
Sue: This is so 1980 it hurts. Nuclear war, private enterprise, squash courts. The only thing missing here is a bloody Rubik’s Cube.
When we discover that Pangol was artificially created, Sue finally begins to engage with the plot.
Sue: That was a very clever twist.
Pangol spies the Doctor skulking by his TARDIS.
Sue: He looks like a tramp pissing behind some bins.
So Pangol sets off the alarm.
Sue: They’re playing ‘On the Run’ by Pink Floyd now. It’s quite good, actually.
And then we witness our first full-frontal Foamasi.
Sue: Oh dear.
Me: Not impressed?
Sue: Aren’t they supposed to be scary?
The Foamasi communicate by chirruping.
Sue: It’s cute. It sounds like a newt crossed with a canary. I hope they don’t expect me to be scared of it, though.
Meanwhile, Mena is dying.
Sue: She’s losing her marbles. Literally. It’s a shame, really. I liked her. I wanted to see her on 10 Years Younger.
The Foamasi attack Brock on sight.
Sue: Eh? What’s going on? Is that alien sexually assaulting him?
I try to explain during the credits.
Sue: So, the broker was a big green alien in disguise? He would have needed one hell of a girdle to pull that off.
And then Sue sums up her feelings so far…
Sue: I’m intrigued by the plot. It’s got its fair share of flaws but I’m curious to see how it ends. It’s a lot different to what we’re used to. Were you surprised when you saw this at – what age would you have been? Ten? Eleven?
Me: Ten. And I didn’t see it.
Sue: Were you still living in New Zealand?
Me: Not quite.
Sue: What do you mean, not quite?
Me: I was watching something else instead.
Sue: You’re joking.
Me: I still feel bad about this but I was watching ITV. They were showing Buck Rogers in the 25th Century at the same time, and because we didn’t have a video recorder… Well, let’s just say it was a very big decision.
Sue: Buck Rogers? Are you taking the piss?
Me: The trailers made it look amazing! Big budget spaceships – just like Star Wars – and women in tight-fitting Lycra. What more could a boy ask for?
Sue: But you missed Romana in a swim suit.
Me: I know. What was I thinking?
Sue: I didn’t see either of them. I was too busy having a life.
Sue: What are these things called again?
Me: The Foamasi.
Sue: How on earth do you remember all these silly names?
Me: This one is particulary easy. It’s an anagram of something else. Can you work it out?
Sue: Give me a minute.
The Foamasi imprison Brock in a cocoon.
Sue: That’s as good a use as any for loft insulation, I guess.
And Mira is still dying.
Sue: Is it something to do with a sofa?
Sue: My sofa? The anagram. I need to see it written down.
Me: It’s Mafioso.
Me: Wait a minute… That doesn’t even work!
Pangol hopes to raise an army with the re-creation generator, and the Doctor intends to stop him.
Sue: He’ll **** it up and turn into Peter Davison with any luck.
As an army of Pangols exit the generator, accompanied by bombastic militaristic music, Sue starts singing, “Quantel! Quantel!” at the top of her voice. And it doesn’t take her very long to notice that the Pangols come in lots of different shapes and sizes.
Sue: Look! A fun-sized Pangol.
She loves their headgear, though.
Sue: The helmet design reminds me of the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica. Actually, some of the ideas in this – like the army of identical replicas – is very Battlestar as well. Everybody is ripping off Doctor Who!
It turns out that the clones are copies of the Doctor, not Pangol.
Sue: I bet Tom wasn’t very happy when he saw the costume he’d have to wear in this scene.
Pangol tries again but the Doctor has…
Sue: Reversed the polarity, I bet. And I bet the baddie will turn into a baby as well. He’s a big baby already.
She’s right, of course, and Mena promises to bring Pangol up better this time.
Sue: Put him on the naughty step if he tries to take over the universe again.
The Doctor doesn’t seem bothered that he doesn’t have a randomiser any more.
Sue: I bet the Black Guardian turns up in the next one. I could write this, you know.
As our heroes return to the TARDIS, the Doctor admits he misses K9.
Sue: So do I. They didn’t even bury him. They went on ****ing holiday instead.
The TARDIS dematerialises.
Sue: Can he steer his TARDIS properly, now?
Sue: At least the story wasn’t a complete waste of time, then.
Sue: I took a mark off as soon as they killed K9.
Me: K9 isn’t dead.
Sue: Oh. Right. Good.
And then she punched me – very hard – on the arm.
Sue: That’s for lying to me again.
Sue: Okay, even though K9 isn’t dead, it’s still average. The monsters didn’t do anything for me. What was the point of them? They were a stupid distraction. The sets looked cheap when they switched the lights on, and the direction was up its own arse at times. The best things about this story were the costumes, the hair and some of the ideas. It’s probably Tom’s best performance for a while, too. But, at the end of the day, it was too much style and not enough substance.