Sue: Steve Gallagher. Why does that name ring a bell?
Me: You met him about 15 years ago. He came to our university to talk about scriptwriting. I think he was friends with Bryan and Mary Talbot.
Sue: Did you ask him a question about Doctor Who?
Me: No. I was too embarrassed.
Sue: That’s a shame. Oh well, I’m not worried about upsetting him. It’s not as if I’ll ever bump into him again if this is rubbish.
The episode begins with an impressive tracking shot that takes us through a spaceship set.
Sue: This is the beginning of Alien, isn’t it?
And the shot doesn’t stop.
Sue: ****ing hell, this is impressive. I’ve never seen a camera move like this on Doctor Who before.
When we reach the bridge of the ship, Sue encounters its human crew.
Sue: Randall and Hopkirk!
Me: Just Hopkirk, actually.
Down below, two manual workers, Aldo and Royce, toss a coin, which suddenly freezes in mid-air.
Sue: That coin has been pixellated to ****. Quantel was a bit crap in the early 1980s, wasn’t it?
The ship’s consoles explode as the coin falls to the ground.
Sue: That was an insane opening.
Me: Is that good or bad?
Sue: It’s great.
A crew member named Sagan catches Sue’s eye (I can’t imagine why).
Sue: It’s Vince Vicious – the love child of Sid Vicious and Vince from Queer As Folk.
Sadly, she doesn’t recognise Rorvik, the ship’s captain, beyond the now familiar cry of:
Sue: He’s dead famous, him. They’ve got a very good guest cast this week. So far so good.
The Doctor and Romana are still searching for a way out of E-space.
Sue: They are bickering again. In real life, I mean. I wish you hadn’t told me that they keep falling out with each other. I can’t stop noticing it and it makes me feel sad.
At least Adric seems happy.
Sue: Adric is so nice to K9. Aww, he just stroked his head. They have definitely bonded.
Back on the spaceship, a time sensitive lion named Biroc is having a bad time.
Sue: What’s wrong with Lenny?
Biroc manages to escape from his captors. Sue sighs.
Sue: I hate it when they do that on Doctor Who, and they do it a lot. Why not use a Spock-like neck pinch or something like that? When the monsters knock people out without even trying, it looks pathetic.
On the TARDIS, the Doctor prepares to generate a non-determinate action.
Sue: I miss the Doctor’s old scarf. I’m glad it’s still there on his hat stand. It’s very reassuring.
Romana is worried about the consequences of taking Adric out of his own universe.
Sue: She’s just looking for an excuse to get rid of Adric. I don’t like this side to Romana. She can be quite catty when she wants to be.
The TARDIS console explodes suddenly, and then the doors open out onto a white void.
Sue: Is it the Black Guardian?
The time winds reach K9 and he catches fire.
Sue: This is definitely not good.
Biroc enters the TARDIS and he fiddles with its controls.
Romana: Who are you?
Biroc: The shadow of my past and of your future.
Sue: It’s turned into 3-2-1 again. Am I supposed to be following this?
Me: Not really.
Sue: Good. Cos I haven’t got a ****ing clue.
The Doctor wants to take K9 outside with him but the poor thing is too damaged.
Sue: Typical. He only wants to take his dog for a walk when it’s completely impossible. He’s a terrible owner.
Left alone in the TARDIS, Romana confides in Adric.
Romana: What if the Doctor and I went different ways?
Sue: Hey, I don’t like the sound of that. Romana isn’t going to leave, is she? I have a bad feeling about this.
Sue is impressed with the minimalistic set design.
Sue: Visually, it’s very striking. It’s just a shame that you can see the edge of the cyc curtain. We’ve seen something like this before, haven’t we?
Me: Yes, in The Mind Robber. And no, it isn’t the Master.
Sue: I even didn’t say anything!
Rorvik’s crew search are searching for the TARDIS in the void.
Sue: Why has that man got a Calor gas heater strapped to his chest?
The Doctor has follows Biroc to a gothic stone doorway in the middle of nowhere.
Sue: Okay, I have decided to just go with this. I haven’t got a clue what’s going on any more, but its atmosphere is making up for it. It’s so eerie.
The episode concludes with the Doctor facing certain decapitation by a robot.
Sue: Nice cliffhanger. I don’t see how the Doctor can possibly get out of that.
Of course the Doctor gets out of it.
Sue: They’re playing the Darth Vader theme. Der Der Der Der-Der-Der, Der-Der-Der. I quite like the music in this one.
K9’s memory wafers are screwed.
Sue: So K9 basically needs some more RAM? Is there a PC World in E-space?
Romana leaves the TARDIS for a quick chat with Rorvik’s crew.
Sue: She’s brilliant. This is what her own show would be like. I’d watch it.
Meanwhile, at the gateway, the Doctor is attacked by two Gundan robots.
Sue: They are very scary, but they aren’t half stupid.
Back on the ship, Marty Hopkirk prepares to close the doors.
Sue: You can tell it’s the future because their phone has been painted silver.
The crews’ orange jumpsuits remind Sue of many things, from the Misfits and Guantanamo Bay to Devo.
Sue: “Are we not men? We are Devo!” They also look like they might be a Formula One pit crew – it’s the chequered flag on their pockets that does it. Sorry.
Rorvik escorts Romana to the bridge of his ship.
Romana: What are you actually up to?
Sue: I bet they’re miners. It’s always about mining in Doctor Who.
We learn that the humans have enslaved the time sensitive Tharils, which they use to navigate the time lines.
Sue: How did they stumble onto this? How did they know that time sensitive lions could be used that way? It’s hard to get my head around.
Rorvik forces Romana into the navigator’s chair by pulling on her hair.
Sue: Hey! He’s horrible! I’m definitely on the lions’ side now.
Aldo and Royce are instructed to prepare a Tharil for revival, but they accidentally electrocute it instead.
Sue: I wonder what roast lion tastes like?
Me: Chicken, probably.
Rorvik’s crew find their way to the stone doorway.
Sue: They look like a bunch of tourists walking around York Minster. I hope they’ve brought packed lunches with them in their backpacks.
Me: Funnily enough, they have!
Sue: Good. I like this. It’s much more realistic than the sort of thing we usually get. It’s definitely been influenced by Alien.
The Doctor interrogates a Gundan robot about the secret of the gateway.
Me: Did you follow that?
Sue: Not really. I think we’ll probably have to have a chat about this later.
Meanwhile, back on the ship, the electrocuted Tharil isn’t dead.
Sue: You don’t get many hand-held POV shots in Doctor Who. This is way ahead of its time. The direction is superb – very modern.
The Gundan tells the Doctor what he wants to know.
Gundan: There are three physical gateways and the three are one.
Sue: I’m not following this at all. It’s starting to slip away from me.
The wounded Tharil heads for the ship’s bridge.
Sue: It’s turned into a stalk and slash movie.
Romana tries to break free of her bonds.
Sue: She’s got a POV shot now! If they’re not careful, this could turn into Peep Show.
As the Tharil moves in on Romana.
Sue: Smack My Bitch Up!
The lion’s paw reaches for Romana’s face.
Sue: Brilliant cliffhanger. I’m sorry if I’m not saying very much, I’m trying to concentrate on this. Actually, can I ask you a few questions before we carry on?
Sue: So where do the humans come from? Are they from our universe or are they from E-Space? That’s what I don’t understand.
Me: I don’t know.
Sue: What do you mean, you don’t know? You’re a Doctor Who fan. You’re supposed to know these things! What bloody use are you?
Sue: This is a very long recap, but I forgive them – it was so good, I want to see it again.
As the Tharil advances on Romana once again.
Sue: I’ve just noticed something. They are dubbing extra moaning and groaning sounds over Romana.
Me: It looks like Doctor Who porn.
Sue: I wouldn’t know, love.
We glimpse the Tharil’s scared face as he looms over Romana.
Sue: That was horrible. They didn’t show that last week, did they? Maybe they thought it would be too scary? Or maybe they didn’t finish the make-up on time? Either way, that gave me a shock.
Back at the gateway, Rorvik takes his frustrations out on K9.
Sue: Another theme of this season is let’s kick the crap out of K9. It’s starting to annoy me. It’s cruel.
Adric flips a coin to determine his next move.
Sue: Remind me again – why does Adric wear a blue badge?
Me: It’s for his mathematical skills.
Sue: Oh. He looks like a sheriff. Or Terrance Trent D’Arby.
Me: You are beginning to make less sense than Warriors’ Gate.
Biroc tells the Doctor that K9 can be fixed, but he will have to stay on the other side of the mirror.
Sue: I don’t like the sound of that.
The Doctor finally works it out.
Me: I understand.
Sue: I wish I did! I’m still enjoying it, though. I just hope it makes sense at the end.
Aldo and Royce find Romana still attached to the navigator’s chair.
Sue: She’s the only person I know who can take charge when she’s the one who’s tied up. She’s brilliant.
The Doctor follows Biroc though a landscape of black and white photographs.
Sue: Okay, I’m completely lost. Where are they now? Which letter of the alphabet is this universe? They are having a nightmare lighting that chroma.
K9 enters Rorvik’s ship but he is immediately thrown back off.
Sue: Hopkirk! No! That was twenty grand you just wrecked. K9 is having a horrible time of it this week.
The crew search the ship for Romana.
Sue: This lot are idiots. The first place I would look is under that gold blanket right in front of their faces. It’s just common sense, which this lot don’t seem to have.
One of the crew decides to investigate the ship’s power supply.
Lane: I’m going up to check the main routings.
Sue: He’s dead. Whenever people investigate the main routings in horror films, they are always the next one to die.
Romana discovers that the hull of the ship is made from dwarf star alloy, which explains why it is so heavy.
Sue: That is one hell of a design flaw. The McLaren F1 team wouldn’t have made that mistake. They’ll definitely lose the Constructors’ Championship now.
Lane not only survives, he leaves the ship and finds Romana hiding outside.
Sue: ****ing hell! Someone on Doctor Who has peripheral vision! I may faint.
The Doctor has arrived in Biroc’s past.
Sue: Meanwhile, on Zelda.
Back then, the Tharil’s ran a mighty empire.
Sue: Ooh, a lioness. They are very cute but I keep expecting them to start singing something from Cats.
The wounded Tharil takes Romana’s hand and they both disappear.
Sue: Oh, **** it. I give up. I’m just going to go with it instead.
The Doctor sits down for lunch.
Sue: That’s the very same table from the other place. That’s a bit cheap.
Suddenly, we jump forward in time with an impressive match-shot.
Sue: Oh, it is the same table. I don’t understand this but it’s ****ing clever.
Rorvik tries to motivate his men but they are much more interested in their packed lunches.
Sue: This is brilliantly done. It’s so much more believable. Real people. Real idiots.
The Doctor is appalled when he discovers that the Tharil empire was built on slavery.
Sue: ****ing lions. You can trust them as far as you can throw them.
The episode concludes with… erm…. er… let’s just say that it’s a very strange cliffhanger.
Sue: WHAT THE ****?
Sue: It looks fantastic, the direction is stunning and the acting is great. I don’t have a clue what is going on but I don’t care any more. I’m just going with it.
The Doctor butts heads with Rorvik.
Sue: Tom Baker is very good in this one. He’s very intense. I think he’s trying to concentrate on the plot as well.
Me: I could murder a pickled onion.
The Doctor becomes very agitated indeed.
Sue: And now Tom’s gone over the top. He was walking a tightrope back there but I think he just fell off it.
Rorvik is rapidly losing the plot, too.
Sue: This is what I meant when I said on the radio that human villains are much better than alien monsters. This guy is so much scarier than an Ice Warrior. And you could bump into him in the street.
Biroc urges the Doctor to do nothing.
Sue: I’m telling you, it’s the theme of the season: sitting on your backside doing nowt.
Adric arrives at the gateway just in time to turn Rorvik’s MZ weapon against him.
Sue: You go, girl! Sorry, I mean, you go, Adric!
Our heroes escape into the void as Rorvik fires the MZ directly at a mirror. It doesn’t go well.
Sue: They need some comedy parp-parp music. If only Dudley was still around.
Rorvik decides he will use his ship’s engines to blast his way through it.
Romana: The back blast backlash will bounce back and destroy everything!
Sue: I wonder how many takes it took her say that?
The Doctor tells Romana to wait in the TARDIS. Romana refuses and she tells Adric to stay behind instead.
Sue: The dynamic is very sweet. It’s like they are his foster parents.
Romana: (to Adric) If we are not back for whatever reason in thirteen and a half minutes, I want you to dematerialise.
Sue: Can you imagine Adric in his own series?
Me: I’m trying not to, thanks.
Sagan breaks out some more Tharils from cold storage as he chows down on a chocolate bar.
Sue: Is he auditioning for a part in a Yorkie Bar advert?
Meanwhile, two Tharils are sneaking up on the ship.
Sue: How did they get there?
Me: They are lions who came through the mirror. I think.
Sue: All these lions look the same to me.
Rorvik attacks the Doctor.
Sue: He’s a nasty piece of work. He doesn’t look like much but he’s a right git.
Romana hits back at Rorvik, with limited results.
Sue: Oh, Romana! I am so disappointed in you. Hitting him with a plastic clipboard? Pathetic! It wasn’t even made of wood!
Romana redeems herself by shorting out the power. Biroc then tells the Doctor and Romana to do the right kind of nothing – and all three of them disappear.
Me: I’m completely lost now. You know, I’ve seen this story dozens of times and I really hoped it would make sense this time.
Sue: Just go with it love. It’s the only way.
Rorvik completely snaps.
Sue: Even the Master would have been weirded out by that.
Back on the ship, the Tharils take their revenge and Vince Vicious is electrocuted.
The Doctor and Romana race back to the TARDIS.
But Romana doesn’t want to go.
Romana wants to stay in E-space with Biroc.
Sue: No, no, no, no. no.
The Doctor is flabbergasted but he doesn’t put up much of a fight. He gives K9 to Romana to look after.
Sue: I don’t believe this.
The Doctor: I’ll miss you. You were the noblest Romana of them all.
Sue: No, this isn’t happening. Is that it?
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor struggles to come to terms with what has just happened.
Sue: Tom Baker’s bottom lip almost went then. I don’t blame him.
The Doctor: She was superb.
Sue: Yes, she was.
If that wasn’t bad enough, she also has to deal with the departure of her favourite metal mutt.
Me: Don’t worry, the Doctor can always get another K9 out of the stores.
Sue: Do they really?
Me: Don’t be silly.
Sue: Do Romana and K9 have their own series of adventures in E-space, then?
Sue I wish Ian Levine would reconstruct that.
Me: It wasn’t that bad!
Sue: No, I mean – shit, I don’t know what score to give it. I need to think about it.
Me: I’ll come back to you in 30 years. I still don’t know what score to give it.
Sue: I definitely won’t forget it in a hurry.
While Sue was chewing it over, we watched some of the extras on the DVD.
Sue: The director was treated very badly. You have to admire him.
Sue: I thought so. That makes sense. I think I’m ready to mark it now.
Sue: I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t understand it. But I don’t care. It was a breath of fresh air. It was different and interesting and very, very original. I would give it a 10 if I could follow it.