Even though he failed to endure Night of the Mini-Macra, and he dances like a Pussycat Doll with a urinary tract infection, Colin Baker has still captured Sue’s heart.

Sue: He hasn’t put a foot wrong. It’s a pity he was too fat to enter that sewer, which is ironic when you think about it, but no one would have voted for him to go in anyway, so it didn’t really matter in the end. He’s lovely. A real gent. Not like Eric ****ing Bristow.
Me: Were you ever worried that Colin would be voted out of the Spiridon jungle first?
Sue: Not a chance. He’s still my tip to win. My only worry is he isn’t doing enough to engage the rest of the nation. And was that a Doctor Who reference? If it was, I don’t get it.


Part One

GangstersSue: Who’s Philip Martin when he’s at home?
Me: Bloody hell, woman. He wrote Gangsters, one of the greatest television shows ever made.
Sue: Gangsters again? Why is everybody obsessed with Gangsters? It’s Gangsters this, Gangsters that. Enough of the bloody Gangsters already.

Vengeance on Varos begins with a topless man chained to a wall. I’ve never seen Sue take to a story so quickly before.

Me: Stop drooling and name the actor.
Sue: I don’t care. Maybe if I stare at him long enough it will come to me.
Me: His dad is very famous.
Sue: Is his dad fit as well?
Me: It’s Sean Connery’s son, Jason. He finds fame and fortune in ITV’s Robin of Sherwood shortly after this.
Sue: Oh yes. I remember him, now. He was a bit of a heart-throb, wasn’t he? When I made a living driving up and down the motorway selling posters for Anabas in the mid-eighties, he was very popular. I probably made a canny commission off of his face.

Jason Connery is Jondar, a Varosian rebel who now finds himself on the wrong end of a laser beam.

Vengeance on VarosSue: It’s a very bleak start. This is getting to be a habit.

Two Varosians, Etta and Arak, watch Jondar’s torture from the comfort (if that’s the right word) of their own home.

Sue: Who do these two remind you of?
Me: Yes, I know. I bet I have less hair than Stephen Yardley by the time this is over.

Meanwhile, on the TARDIS.

Sue: Peri’s just been for another session in the TARDIS gym. Has she got versions of the same costume in every colour of the rainbow? And have you noticed how her top is practically see-through?
Me: No, I’ve never noticed that before.

On Varos, the Governor and a reptilian creature named Sil are negotiating a complicated trade deal.

Sue: Oh, it’s Martin Thingy. He’s been in Doctor Who before.
Me: Martin Jarvis. Yes, he was a giant moth in The Web Planet. Do you remember that one?
Sue: Yes, it’s one of the few I do remember. I’m trying to forget it, though.

Sue is immediately drawn to Sil.

Sue: Is that a special effect or is he really that small? Is it done with mirrors?

Vengeance on VarosThey are joined by the Governor’s Chief Officer.

Sue: Oh look, it’s my brother, Gary.

Seriously, the resemblance is uncanny.

Varos is running a profitable sideline in recorded executions. Sil approves.

Sue: This guy is a creepy little ****er. But I like him.

From this point on, you can take it as read that Sue will giggle each and every time Sil does or says anything. The louder Sil gets, the louder Sue’s giggling becomes. It helps take the edge off the bleakness, I suppose.

The TARDIS pulls into a celestial lay-by. The Doctor shrugs his shoulders and slumps into a chair.

Sue: What a random chair. Where the hell did that come from?

Etta and Arak continue to comment on the action.

Sue: This is basically us on a really good day.

The Governor of Varos is put to the public vote. He loses.

Vengeance on VarosSue: I want to see Nick Clegg in a chair like that. Actually, their leader has a very Cleggy look about him.

Arak is convinced that their leader will die this time.

Sue: They can’t kill an actor this good that quickly. And the punishment is a bit extreme. He was only trying to secure a better deal for his planet. It’s not as if he was caught fiddling his expenses, or changing his mind about tuition fees. Give him a break.

Sue adores Sil but she does identify a weakness:

Sue: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: any villain who needs to be carried around is going to be rubbish if it ever comes to a fight. If you have to rely on other people, you’re basically ****ed. I like the way he comes with his own swimming pool, though.

A Varosian named Bax (“The one from Peep Show who isn’t married to Victoria Coren.”) suggests they execute Jondar to take the public’s mind off the fact that their Governor doesn’t have The X-Factor any more.

Sue: This is well ahead of its time. Where there many reality shows around at the time?
Me: Does Game For A Laugh count?

The Doctor and Peri are still languishing in the TARDIS.

Sue: Are these two ever going to do anything this week? At least William Hartnell had the decency to take a holiday when he had nothing to do.

Vengeance on VarosPeri has found the TARDIS’s instruction manual.

Sue: Is that the Doctor’s Haynes manual? He should have had that out years ago.

In a cell, a rebel named Areta (“She’s Hazel O’Connory.”) and a guard named Rondel (“Ron to his mates.”) reminisce about the history of their planet.

Areta: Varos is what is always was. A prison planet, a colony for the criminally insane. The descendants of the original officers still rule, by fear, with the spectacle of death our only entertainment.
Sue: This is cheerful.

The TARDIS has run out of Zeiton-7.

Sue: Why hasn’t the TARDIS got a fuel gauge? Why didn’t she warn the Doctor that this could happen? Even my car does that. Oh well, at least they have to go to Varos now. I thought they’d never get going.

Quillam, the chief scientist on Varos, hides his features behind a mask.

Sue: (Singing) “The Phantom of the Opera is here, in my very cheap set”.

Jondar is told that he has been sentenced to death.

Sue: He didn’t inherit any acting talent from his dad. He’s dreadful.

The Doctor and Peri arrive on Varos just in time to save him. Jondar decides to lend a foot.

Sue: At least he can kick people in the face like his dad.

Vengeance on VarosThe Governor monitors events from his control room.

Sue: This is nicely lit. But it has to be. They obviously haven’t got enough set to go around. This is like a stage play. A very cheap stage play. It’s basically Rep.

Sue claps eyes on the Varosian security’s transport.

Sue: And I thought smart cars were stupid. I’m surprised they don’t come with a set of golf clubs in the back. And why bother? You could walk faster than that.

Jondar wants to know why the Doctor saved his life.

The Doctor: You’re the only person we’ve encountered so far who hasn’t tried to destroy us.
Sue: That’s because he was tied up! For all you know, he could be the world’s most notorious serial killer and you’ve just let him go. You’ve only been there two minutes.

The Doctor, Peri, Jondar and Areta are hunted down by electric go-karts.

Sue: I’d like to see one of those do a three-point turn in that corridor.

Etta and Arak watch the action unfurl on their television.

Vengeance on VarosSue: Okay, so people on this planet get their kicks from watching people suffer? That would never happen today, would it?
Me: Not without a premium rate phone line it wouldn’t.
Etta: I like that one, the one in the funny clothes!
Sue: This is very postmodern. Wait a minute… Is that really supposed to be me? Is this where you got the idea for the blog from? Is it?

The Doctor asks Jondar where they are.

Jondar: Near the purple zone, next to the interrogation and execution area.
Sue: Opposite the diary room.

Our heroes continue down the corridor.

Sue: The direction is a bit crap. The script is excellent but the director hasn’t got a clue. This is the opposite problem to last week. One of these days they’ll get it right. You could definitely re-make this today and it would look amazing.

Our heroes are suddenly confronted by a giant fly.

Vengeance on VarosThe Doctor: It’s just an illusion.
Sue: Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, Ah-ahh.
Peri: What was that thing we saw? A creature from my worst imaginings.
Sue: That’s the worst thing you can imagine? A fly? Really?
The Doctor: That little fly was enlarged by the effect of the purple zone on our visual cortex.
Sue: I bet you wish you had a machine that could make small things appear big. Eh? Eh?
Me: Yes, Sue. Very good, Sue.
Sue: Then you could be like Robert Holmes.
Me: What?
Sue: You know… The porn star with the big dick.
Me: That’s John Holmes, you idiot. Interesting Freudian slip, though.

Next, our heroes encounter some green lights and Jondar practically wets himself.

Sue: Did Sean pull some favours at the BBC to get his son this gig? He can’t have passed the audition. He must have taken some acting lessons before he became Robin Hood. Because he’s bloody awful in this.

The Doctor recognises the lights for what they really are: lights.

Vengeance on VarosSue: That’s cheap. Even by Doctor Who‘s standards, that’s cheap. This is basically a cheap Haunted House when what you really want to see is a homicidal version of Wipeout. The idea is sound, though.
Chief: The strangers will be captured soon, then we’ll force some answers.
Sue: Yes, I bet you will. With an emphasis on the word ‘force’. I keep expecting a gay orgy to break out at any moment.

A go-kart is heading straight for the Doctor.

Me: Put your helmet on, we’ll be reaching speeds of 3!

A guard named Maldak (“Evil David Coulthard.”) captures Peri and he slaps her across her face.

Sue: Hey! There was no call for that. What a ****.

The Governor of Varos is put to the vote again. The poor thing.

Sue: Who’d want to put themselves up for a job like that? It’s crap. Unless it’s endless hookers and cocaine on your days off?

Vengeance on VarosThe Doctor finds himself alone and dying of thirst.

Sue: This will be Colin Baker on ITV any day now.
Governor: And cut it…. now.
Sue: I loved the cliffhanger. That was very clever. And Colin Baker took his coat off, which was nice.


Part Two

The episode begins with the Doctor succumbing to the elements again.

Sue: That’s what happened to Brian Conley. Poor sod.

Vengeance on VarosEtta and Arak can’t take their eyes off the screen.

Sue: This is bleak. They’re drinking their own urine, now.

Sil and the Governor continue to negotiate over the price of the planet’s ore.

Sue: It’s Dragons’ Den. The hideous creature with their own swimming pool is Hilary Devey. Obviously.

The Doctor faces a quick dip in an acid bath.

Sue: That’s very James Bond. Have they got a room full of piranhas next door? And do they video this bit as well?

The Doctor “accidentally” knocks a man into the acid bath, and then he “accidentally” helps his colleague fall in after him.

Vengeance on VarosSue: This isn’t for kids. What’s got into everybody? It’s worse than usual.
Me: Should the Doctor be blamed for their senseless deaths?
Sue: No. It was just an accident. But he didn’t show any remorse. That’s my problem with it. It’s not a very Doctorish thing to do, but this Doctor is a vicious swine.
Me: Do you think the programme is having its cake and eating it by criticising violence and showing so much violence at the same time?
Sue: That’s a bit deep, isn’t it? You’re not writing one of your essays now, you know. I don’t mind it personally, I just don’t think it’s appropriate for younger children.

Quillam finds the Doctor, but the Time Lord has disguised himself with one of Quillam’s masks. Quillam asks him to remove it and when he does, the penny drops.

Quillam: I’ve seen you on the screens!
Sue: Wait. You didn’t recognise him from his coat? How many people are wandering around this place dressed as a ****ing clown?

Quillam’s disfigurement is a source of fascination for Sue:

Vengeance on VarosSue: How did he injure himself? Did he wash his face in some acid by mistake? I bet it’s easily done when you live on this shit hole.

And then, completely out of nowhere, as Quillam leads the Doctor away at gunpoint:

Sue: How many times a day do you think the Doctor wishes he still had K9?

Elsewhere on Varos, Etta and Arak are watching their favourite prime time TV show – Old Men Wrestling In Nappies!

Sue: This is way ahead of its time. This is basically YouTube today.

The Doctor is led to the gallows.

Sue: I wish it didn’t look so cheap. This would be a very iconic scene if it didn’t look so flimsy. It’s the script that saves it.

Sil eagerly looks forward to the Doctor’s execution.

Sue: He’s horrible but I love him. He’s a great character. I won’t forget him in a hurry.

The Governor is satisfied that the Doctor is telling the truth.

Sue: Colin is really good. I didn’t think I’d like him, but I do. He’s totally committed to the part.

Peri is transmogrified.

Vengeance on VarosSue: If this thing is supposed to turn you into the thing you fear the most, Peri must be terrified of chickens. She should have pretended she was frightened of Raquel Welch.
Me: Nice topical reference, love.

The Doctor is struggling to find a solution to the problem.

Sue: Just reverse the polarity! Don’t tell me that you’ve forgotten to reverse the polarity.

The Doctor draws a gun and then he starts waving it in people’s faces. I specifically ask Sue to comment on this development.

Sue: It’s not the first time he’s done it, and it probably won’t be the last.

The Doctor blasts the machine’s controls.

Sue: This Doctor doesn’t **** around. I like that about him.

Peri is rescued in the nick of time.

Sue: She was strapped to some corrugated iron roofing. Her back must be killing her.

The Doctor decides to steal a go-kart.

Sue: I’ve just noticed that the little cars have giant K9 ears on top of them.
Me: That’s two K9 references in one night. What is wrong with you?
Sue: I don’t know why he’s bothering to steal the car anyway. A brisk jog would do the job.

Elsewhere, Etta and Arak are bickering over the events that are unfolding on-screen.

Sue: It really is me and you. It’s uncanny.

The Governor explains to Peri that the role of Governor isn’t something you would wish upon your worst enemy.

Vengeance on VarosSue: That makes sense. It’s a very weird system, though. It’s even worse than America.

The Governor pleads with Maldak to spare Peri.

Sue: Has Martin Jarvis got a crush on Peri? Is there anyone in the universe who hasn’t got the horn for Peri? Is this why the Doctor drags her around with him – so she can beguile the bad guys?

The Doctor, Jondar and Areta enter a green mist.

Sue: They are very happy all of a sudden. They must have found their way back to the green room.

As the Governor begins his speech to the nation, Arak presses both ‘No’ buttons.

Sue: Smack him in the face with a cushion!

The Governor has had a change of heart. Their system is wrong.

Sue: He really is Nick Clegg. It’s too late, Nick. You are so dead.

But Maldak comes good and he frees the Governor and Peri.

Sue: Now he needs to apologise for slapping her earlier. Bad David Coulthard.

Meanwhile, the Doctor, Jondar and Areta are enticed by visions of themselves.

Sue: If I saw a ghost of myself, I’d run away. It should be more tempting, like some sandwiches or Adric.

Vengeance on VarosOur heroes are intercepted by two old men in nappies, and that isn’t a sentence I get to write every day.

Sue: That has to be the most disturbing image in all of Doctor Who. That is completely ****ed up.

Quillam pursues the Doctor to a garden of poisonous vines.

Quillam: Let the show begin. I want to hear them scream till I am deaf with pleasure.
Sue: What time did this go out again?
Me: 5:20pm.
Sue: That’s mental.

Back at the Control Centre, Sil demands that water be sprayed on him.

Sue: He reminds me of Cassandra in the new series, always demanding to be moisturised. RTD must really love this story.

A series of fortuitous coincidences results in Varos gaining the upper hand in the negotiations with Sil.

Vengeance on VarosSue: That was a bit convenient. Did I miss something?

The episode concludes with Etta and Arak faced with nothing left to watch.

Sue: That will be us in a couple of months.
Me: I’m pretty sure we’ll look a lot happier than that.


The Score

Sue: I really enjoyed it. That was a nice change of pace. The direction was poor but some of the performances were very good – especially the Governor, Sil and the married couple – and the script was excellent. And Colin’s great.



Vengeance on VarosSue: Don’t you think it’s time you turned the comments back on?
Me: No.
Sue: You have to make the site interactive or what’s the point? I can take it. They can call me a ***** ****** ****** **** if they like. I don’t care. Just as long as they don’t call me a fan.
Me: But the comments take time to moderate.
Sue: So don’t moderate them. Let them write anything they like. If it keeps them off the streets, it’s a valuable service. And you don’t have to read the comments. It’s not compulsory, you know. I never read them.
Me: Yes, but…
Sue: I would like to know if I’m called a ***** ****** ****** ****, though. Just so I can laugh about it.
Me: Okay, you asked for it.


Coming Soon




  1. John S. Hall  November 23, 2012

    Anyone who could dare call Sue a ***** ****** ****** ****, is themselves far more of a ***** ****** ****** ****.

    Jus’ sayin’… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • StJason  November 23, 2012

      No, the real question is why ***** ****** ****** **** is such a bad thing to be called.

  2. Jay  November 23, 2012

    “Put your helmet on, weโ€™ll be reaching speeds of 3!”

    Space Mutiny, Neil?
    I don’t think you look like Mick Jones though.

    “Shit and Pain Baker” INDEED.

    • Neil Perryman  November 23, 2012

      Yes, shameless MST3K reference from my favourite episode. It’s so similar!

      • Jay  November 23, 2012

        It’s all *I* could think about!

      • Jeremy Phillips  November 23, 2012

        Big McLargehuge IS the Doctor!

        • CJJC  November 23, 2012

          This sets a dangerous precedent:


          • Jay  November 23, 2012

            My favorite’s always been Thick McRunFast

      • Mary Amray  November 23, 2012

        “Don’t be disappointed if he doesn’t come”
        “Mother, that’s personal!”

  3. Lewis Christian  November 23, 2012

    Hilarious! The best comments are about Neil/Sue being the couple at home, and this:

    Sue: Then you could be like Robert Holmes.
    Me: What?
    Sue: You knowโ€ฆ The porn star with the big dick.
    Me: Thatโ€™s John Holmes, you idiot. Interesting Freudian slip, though.

    And Sil is fucking brilliant.

  4. Glen Allen  November 23, 2012

    I love you both


  5. James C  November 23, 2012

    Hooray! My favourite C Baker story scores high on the Sueometer. Happy day.

    I suppose this is what ‘meta’ was designed for: the pair of you watching the telly commenting about a couple of people watching the telly and commenting about a show that positions everyone as voyeurs of violence by depicting voyeurism and violence…

  6. Jay  November 23, 2012

    It looks like Sue will feel as I do–This is such a good Doctor….why is everything else terrible??? (and this season gets off to such a tragically good start)

  7. CJJC  November 23, 2012

    “Put your helmet on, weโ€™ll be reaching speeds of 3!”

    Yep, my friend and I pulled that one out on a recent Varos rewatch. That and “I got my dad’s Enforcer for the weekend!” obviously.

  8. Othemts  November 23, 2012

    I got a big chuckle out of :

    “Itโ€™s a very weird system, though. Itโ€™s even worse than America.”

  9. Jenn M.  November 23, 2012

    A very appropriate score for Varos. And such a meta story to be reviewing right now!

  10. Bestbrian  November 23, 2012

    That was great. Happy Thanksgiving, thanks for the update, and I’m glad that Sue took my side on the comments issue. ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad to see Colin is holding up well. I never saw much of him originally (I’d recently discovered girls and beer), but I was pleasantly surprised when I looked back. All the best.

  11. Terry Francis  November 23, 2012

    Ooh, sneaky advert for the “Gangsters” box set. At a tenner, how could I refuse to finally cave in and purchase it?

    • Frankymole  November 23, 2012

      Do – it’s brilliant. Best surreal TV show since “The Prisoner”.

  12. Ozzy Baxter  November 23, 2012

    Sue: This Doctor doesnโ€™t **** around. I like that about him.

    Totally agreed!

    I miss all the drama. Why were the comments turned off? Someone being rude?

  13. Dave Sanders  November 23, 2012

    Who’s still calling Sue a ‘fan’? Of course Sue’s not a fan – she can ignore the coat and judge the stories objectively.

  14. Thomas  November 23, 2012

    Varos is a very good story. Shame the direction is so crushingly average, though- it really needed a Harper or a Grimwade to work properly.

    One of the more interesting things I find though- I think if that acid bath scene happened with Davison, as scripted, we wouldn’t give it a second glance- I think Davison would find a way to play it in a distressed or reluctant manner that would allow it to work. But here, with an actor and producer who want a Doctor to be loud and unlikeable, the scene jars heavily. Baker is of course fantastic in the role and gives it all he’s got, but its interesting to note how it’s really that take on the character that makes the action jar and not the scripted action itself.

    • Mark  November 25, 2012

      ” want a Doctor to be loud and unlikeable” did they really? What the hell where they thinking???

  15. John Miller  November 23, 2012

    A wonderful story, and a magnificent review.

    Neil, will you be watching Wartime as well? jk ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. fromEssex  November 23, 2012

    Quite interesting really. Colin is such a nice bloke in real life (at least I assume so from his commentaries, Tweets and appearances on I’m A Celeb), that I wonder whether he would have lasted longer in the part playing it more as himself. His character mellowed later on, but I think a lot of the damage was done during the Twin Dilemma and these earlier stories. You get the impression that Michael Grade took an instant dislike and that was it.

    Varos was a good story though, I’d probably give it an 8/10 too.

    • Frankymole  November 23, 2012

      Yes. I can’t agree with Sue that RTD must’ve loved this story. When he met Michael Grade, just a few years ago, RTD said this era was shit and it was right to suspend the show! Though Michael Grade had a personal dislike of Colin Baker as well, which is why he insisted Colin be replaced.

      • John  November 23, 2012

        “When he [RTD] met Michael Grade, just a few years ago, RTD said this era was shit and it was right to suspend the show!”

        How do you know this? ๐Ÿ™‚

        • John  November 23, 2012

          If you’re referring to the episode of ‘Michael Grade: On the Box’ featuring RTD, then it was Mal Young who said Grade was right, RTD so it had become neglected by the BBC but that he watched it and found it thrilling right to the end. ๐Ÿ™‚

          • John  November 23, 2012

            * said

        • Rhigson  November 30, 2012

          Its actually mentioned by RTD himself in his book ‘The Writer’s Tale’ …RTD meets Grade, who knows he’s a fan, and says ‘I suppose you’re going to have a go at me for cancelling it’, to which RTD replies ‘No, you were right to, it was shit’

          • Frankymole  November 30, 2012

            That’s right, it’s in RTD’s book. I was just reading it. At least he didn’t do a Gatiss and condemn the Doctors as “any ****** with an Equity card”!

      • DPC  November 24, 2012

        On the “Varos” documentary, one of the BBC suits applauded the story… (maybe because it gave Grade the impetus to drop the axe I suppose…)

        Grade cited a number of reasons in canceling the show, which included the budget (“too expensive to make”). Something like 22 years later, he lauds the new show, over how pretty it looked. (Since the content was pretty much inane, mawkish fluff with a glossy candy coating, there’s little laudable in that… I spent more time emoting over the visuals and music than I was the characters and story, the revival/reboot has often been too flaky and fake…)

        It’s said the BBC neglected the show, even while its producer JNT wanted to leave, with the BBC persuading him to stay. A McCoy-era DVD having a documentary that tells of at least one man who wanted to produce the show, so the BBC claiming nobody wanted to make it was a load as well.

        • Wholahoop  November 24, 2012

          The other possible reason related to the finances was that Eastenders was about to start and it was suggested, possibly in the super soaraway Sun that the Beeb were costcutting because of the finances committed to said soap. This might be complete testicles though

    • charles yoakum  November 23, 2012

      yes, colin has been a great ambassador for the show, no matter how shittily he was treated. its will always be a shame that he was given such poor direction for the powers that be. this story was far ahead of its time, with a dark satiric edge that was really too far ahead. it makes a better parody now than then.

      • Nick Mays  November 23, 2012

        It really is a crying shame that Colin Baker was treated so badly by the BBC and Michael Grade in particular due to personal dislike, especially at such a personally awful time for him and his wife when tbhey lost their baby son Jack to cot death.

        I remember an interview Colin gave for either DWM or the Radio Times 20th Anniversary Dr Who Special when he was just taking up the role in which he said he couldn’t bar the thought of someone having played the Doctor longer than him, so he wanted to play him for at least 7 years and 1 month. Ironically, what with Big Finish, he probably has. I’m so glad he didn’t “do an Eccleston” though, no matter how badly he’d been treated – he’s always been a great, enthusiastic ambassador for the series.

        (I suppose if you want to be really pedantic, Tom Baker didn’t actually play the Doctor for 7 full years. more like 6 years and 3 months)… ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Alisaunder  November 24, 2012

          Big Finish has been amazing for Colin. His stories are routinely brilliant and likable, without the arguing and contempt for Peri that put me off his era so much. Sadly, I can’t stand Sil.

      • DPC  November 24, 2012

        The story seemed to have as much fun predicting our future than being ahead of its time… modern day TV is gross but it wouldn’t be as grotesque, but one day it probably will be that way – once everybody gets desensitized to today’s reality shows and want more shock value… WHO was ahead of its time in that aspect, but it did succumb to the allure of gore. There’s a fine line between lambasting something bad and contributing to badness by sinking to its level, but at the same time there might not be any other way…

        It’s a shame “Varos” has no sequel – how would the addled citizens reform if the Governor put his foot down and halted every bit of depravity that was created and continued by previous administrations? It’d be nice to see a new era of people being civilized to one another but it could be “lord of the flies redux”, too…

  17. Wholahoop  November 23, 2012

    I had never been able to put my finger on why I never liked this story and I reckon WiS is right, itโ€˜s a cracking story with poor direction. The golf buggies were particularly awful.

    Welcome back to the comments section

    • DPC  November 24, 2012

      The story and acting do make up for the bland direction to be sure… but good stories don’t need fancy camerawork, though it never hurts to have…

      • Jazza1971  November 24, 2012

        I’m doing the Makaton sign for “toilet”. Just so you know.

  18. McKirkson, Anthony McKirkson  November 23, 2012

    Sorry, Neil and Sue but what does this mean?

    ‘Our 150th update includes torture masquerading as entertainment. And then weโ€™ll cover Vengeance on Varos.’

    Are you talking about parrallel universes?

    If not, then eat some carrot, jump out a window, lick some butter and wee on your neighbour. Then come back here and reply.

    If so, then wee on Sue, eat some bread, go outside and lick some dirt while continuously saying ‘Moo’ or you can reply.

    Your call, by the way are you— you know?

    • Tom  November 23, 2012

      … What?

    • sfHeath  November 23, 2012

      Took me a while to get it. “torture masquerading as entertainment” refers to “I’m a Celeb…”

      • Dave Sanders  November 23, 2012

        I think what Neil actually means is *us* watching him and Sue suffer for our amusement. So Wife In Space really is meta on as many levels as Red Dwarf: Back To Earth. But not deliberate, obviously. Or smartarse-shit.

    • DPC  November 23, 2012

      The reality show Colin’s been in.

      I’ve not seen “I’m a Celeb…” but they usually have people doing things that could be equivocated as “torture”. Like “Fear Factor”…

  19. Adam  November 23, 2012

    The married lady, that one on the right, she was Buttle’s wife in Brazil.

  20. Ludwig Wittgenstein XI  November 23, 2012

    What would amuse me to no end: a short essay (or (mini)podcast even?) on why Sue loathes Gangsters …
    VoV is a zeitgeist thing, syphoning (and somewhat prophetically at that) all the harshness/sadism of the time (and of times yet to come) and spewing it all out in a gleeful/grim/*satirical* manner … So 8 is just …
    Cheerio …!

  21. Jazza1971  November 23, 2012

    I’m so glad Sue likes Colin Baker as the Doctor. ๐Ÿ˜€

  22. Nick Mays  November 23, 2012

    It really is uncanny how the episodes you’re watching in this blog mirror real life – or at least, reality TV. Colin Baker, a former Dr Who is tortured for the viewing pleasure of millions on reality TV… and you’re watching Vengeance on Varos! And giant insects abound in both shows!

    It seemed quite a gruesome concept at the time, but here we are, 27 years later, post -Truman Show, post-Big Brother, and what are we watching? I daresay a cannibalistic version of Masterchef isn’t that far off! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Great review as ever, fully agree with the score and excellent comments by Etta and Arak – sorry, I mean Sue and Neil!

    • DPC  November 23, 2012


      Maybe that might be a part why Colin chose this particular reality show for charity… there’s a fun question to ask at a convention! “Varos” was (sadly) ahead of its time, involving the replacing scripted work with chucking average citizens into humiliating or harmful situations.

      Which reminds me, I’m going to listen to some Devo songs this afternoon… except “Whip It”, since it is by no means their best song, and they did (and still do) predict things in any number of their songs… thankfully the backing music is great or else I’d get very depressed! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

      and maybe “The Sun Makers” – Robert Holmes seemed more shrewd than he’s given credit for.

  23. Gavin Noble  November 23, 2012

    Happy 49th birthday Doctor Who!

    I watched the special edition a few weeks back and when I saw it I immediately thought Etta and Arak were like you two watching Who! Amazing how the blog has changed the way I think.

    Totally fair review and a fair score for the story.

  24. BWT  November 23, 2012

    Sue: “Smack him in the face with a cushion!”

    Nice. And she thinks this story is violent? Shocking…

    I love it though – its easily an 8/10 – despite the technicolour yawn coat…

    • DPC  November 23, 2012

      Colin’s presence makes the coat work, but – yeah – a little black would not have hurt. The trousers being yellow/black striped is what kills the concept (IMHO). The Doctor’s persona has to be louder, but the outfit has – oddly – dated. Especially as it’s ahead of its time; the late-80s did have some fashion trends of clashing colors and patterns…

  25. John Callaghan  November 23, 2012

    WIS: Wonderful as ever.

    ‘Gary’ appearing in this story makes me think that someone should prepare a video consisting of clips from Dr. Who with the voices from The Wife In Space dubbed over. “I can’t stand the confusion in my mind!” becomes “I’m a bit confused” and so on. And Vengeance On Varos’s Chief Officer would warn Sil that really, he should be watching Lost In Space. “It’s much better.”

    That might be the only mileage in the idea, but hey ho!

  26. Anonymous  November 23, 2012

    Yes! Happy Birthday Doctor Who!

    Also brave of you to turn the comments back on with this story.
    Let’s hope your living room looks nicer than Etta and Arak’s.

  27. chris-too-old-to-watch  November 23, 2012

    Yay Sue

  28. chris-too-old-to-watch  November 23, 2012

    I always think this would have been better as a single 50 minute episode. Always seems too much padding and golf carts for my taste: Do you think Dr Evil watched this as a kid?

  29. Christopher Pittard  November 23, 2012

    ‘Governor’s Recommendation DEFEATED.’ I think Dimblebot must have watched this back when he was a pocket calculator.

  30. Simon Harries  November 23, 2012

    A very enjoyable review as always!

  31. Merast  November 23, 2012

    Thanks for having us back! I quite like the story too, good choice Sue!

    • DPC  November 23, 2012


  32. John G  November 23, 2012

    Thanks Neil and Sue for restoring the comments – it’s great fun to be able to chip in with some views on Sue’s views, and hopefully the trolls will now have got the mesage and will keep away. I think Vengeance on Varos was the point at which I stopped watching the classic series – I was so distraught at that nice Doctor being replaced by some bad-tempered, arrogant impostor in a clown costume that I turned my back on the show and didn’t really come back to it until 2005. Having finally watched Colin’s era in its entirety in recent years, Vengeance is certainly one of the better stories, and for the most part I really don’t mind Colin now, as I know these days that arrogance and bad temper was part of the Doctor’s character from the start. I also like, as Sue has observed above, the fact that he was so committed to the role, and so enthusiastic about it. It is a real shame he didn’t get to play the Doctor in a higher quality era.

    Anyway, I’m glad Sue liked Vengeance – it has an effective streak of dark humour that makes up for the more violent moments, and Sil is the best new antagonist that this era produced. As has already been mentioned above, you could not be watching a more appropriate story either, given the star’s current travails in Australia. Go Colin! I think the Doctor Who fanbase could well help him become King of the Jungle…

  33. Paul Mudie  November 23, 2012

    “Is there anyone in the universe who hasnโ€™t got the horn for Peri?”

    No! ๐Ÿ˜€

    I’m glad Sue is enjoying Colin Baker’s Doctor. Many things from this era have aged badly or weren’t very good in the first place, but Colin’s excellent performance is not one of them.

    I’m pleased to see you turn the comments back on too. I hope you won’t regret it!

    • DPC  November 23, 2012

      Well… but then I’d be putting in a spoiler!

      She’s right; for some reason, apart from Sil, just about everything in the universe wants Peri. I mean, a big snail wants her… I’ve seen big snails in my aquarium, but they don’t turn me on… (I loved the snail anthropomorphizing and aquarium analogy in “The Twin Dilemma”… even if parts of the story are less-than-successful…)

      Some aspects of the era have aged, but all eras do in one form or another. As always, Colin shows how he was rightly cast as the Doctor. And when stories are written by those who may not be perfect but know how this Doctor works, I think Sue will be in for a treat! If the characters are right, it’s easier to forgive story foibles…

      Colin’s era has the advantage of being experimental rather than formulaic, but the risk is that the experiments aren’t successful. But I’d rather have that than the same-old formula all the time.

  34. Wholahoop  November 23, 2012

    Although I slag off the direction, the cliffhanger was well delivered with the timing of the Governor’s comments well edited, even if the fanbois in me was saying that he had probably gone into suspended animation.

    I was particularly uncomfortable with the acid bath “accidents” but had forgotten that started life as a Davison script so maybe it might have been handled differently

    • DPC  November 23, 2012

      It was a disturbing scene, but the Doctor definitely did not push either one in. One tripped, and pulled the other one in (believing him to be the Doctor but couldn’t confirm it… ewww!).

      But Varos is a disturbing planet, and enough elements make the story work and for the right reasons… it’s one of my faves.

      • Wholahoop  November 23, 2012

        I agree that the Doctor did not push them in but I was uncomfortable with his James Bond type quip after it happened. Only a minor niggle mind

        • Andrew Bowman  November 24, 2012

          I’d always put it down to a rueful quip. He certainly isn’t pleased it’s happened, but there’s not a great deal he do about it. In any case, they would have done it to him, so any real sympathy would have been a bit misplaced.

  35. Andrew  November 23, 2012

    Genius! Pure genius. A great post on one of the better Colin Baker stories. Didn’t know this was written with Davison as the Doctor though. Sue’s comments were brilliant. Especially the Robert Holmes one! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Nick Mays  November 23, 2012

      Very occasionally I try and visualise particular Dr Who stories with different Doctors in them, especially stories that you know were originally written for previous Doctors, such as Varos. Of course, Ambassadors of Death was originally a Second Doctor story, and Robot began life as a Pertwee story.

      Mind you, try visualising Pyramids of Mars with Pertwee, or The Visitation with Tom Baker. Or, dare I say it, Power of the Daleks with Hartnell… ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Thomas  November 23, 2012

        Robot was always a Fourth Doctor story- it’s just (intentionally) extremely similar to a Pertwee story.

    • Noodles  November 23, 2012

      I love that Sue’s comment is so very, very Sue.

      • charles yoakum  November 23, 2012

        bloody hell! congratulations. can’t wait to get a copy now that its official

        • Nick Mays  November 23, 2012

          Ditto that! It’ll tick all the boxes for Fan and “Not We” alike! ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. P.Sanders  November 23, 2012

    A clever story and very relevant now, like Nigel Kneale’s “The Year of the Sex Olympics”. Unfortunately as with much of this season the Doctor and Peri take ages to get to the story. Also Saward’s tin ear for dialogue scuppers poor Peri again – “a creature from my worst imaginings”… But I’m glad that she likes Colin. I hope she warms to Sylvester too after an equally inauspicious start.

    • DPC  November 23, 2012

      Sylvester’s era does get better over time and the novelizations always showed how great the stories were!

      But his start was auspicious for rather different reasons! ๐Ÿ˜€

  37. Simon Curtis  November 23, 2012

    I got Gangsters for my birthday, looking forward to seeing that, and Birmingham 30 years ago. As for Vengeance, love it!

  38. Paul Mc Elvaney  November 23, 2012

    Oh joy of joys, I knew Sue wouldn’t let me down and recognise Colin’s real talent! Also, I was in stitches laughing at the “What a pile of poo….on Colin’s face!” and I’m not sure why. ๐Ÿ˜€ One of the best posts and congratulations again on the book! But, can we really say whatever we want here?? OK then: ‘I like trains’.

  39. DPC  November 23, 2012

    Thank you MUCH for restoring the comments area! I apologize if I ever said anything bad, and – after reading your Facebook profile, it sounds like someone (not me) had said something incredibly vulgar.

    I’ve much enjoyed your entries on the Colin Baker era so far. Sue’s comments for “The Twin Dilemma” are ones I’d thought about, especially after reading how JNT – by this point – made many attempts to leave the show (doing season 21 solely because the BBC mandated him to do so in return for his wish of doing “The Five Doctors”).

    And it’s awesome to read others’ comments as well (except for the nasty and undeserved one that you received before shutting the comments down.)

    I believe Martin Jarvis was in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” as well as “The Web Planet”. ๐Ÿ™‚ He’s well-cast, I must say…

    As a big Colin-era fan myself, to read these reviews has been rather joyous. “Varos” is pretty darn good, even if the direction is nominal. Can’t wait to read “Mindwarp”, which was written by Philip Martin.

    Can’t wait for “The Mark of the Rani” and what she has to say about it! ๐Ÿ™‚

    As always, thank you much for a great blog!

    and looking forward to the book as well!

  40. Smith  November 23, 2012

    V. glad you have turned the comments back on, especially as it felt at the time that you’d turned them off just as you reached what is my favourite era.

    Really glad that Sue admires Six’s character and isn’t held back by all the goss.

  41. Mister  November 23, 2012

    “The Doctor โ€œaccidentallyโ€ knocks a man into the acid bath, and then he โ€œaccidentallyโ€ helps his colleague fall in after him.”

    This line, along with several other questions you ask Sue about this Doctor’s actions, makes me wonder: Do you hate Colin Baker’s Doctor? Do you actually believe the silly acid bath myth, or were you just joking? I’m wondering because, based on this review and the last few, you keep asking Sue about everything every Colin Baker hater brings up to defend their arguments. Even so much as the Doctor waving a gun at people’s faces. Sue is right, it definitely not the first time the Doctor has done this, so why bring it up with Colin’s?

    I’m not trying to start up one of those heated Colin Good/Colin Bad arguments, I’m just curious. Because I can’t tell if you bring up those points (acid bath myth, gun pointing, and others) because you don’t like him or if you are seeing whether Sue agrees with the general fandom.

  42. charles yoakum  November 23, 2012

    yay comments section back on. happy 49th birthday Doctor Who.

    i’m glad that sue can see through the direction to the elements that have always stood out to some of the fans: that there were elements of the story that were interesting and ahead ot their time, and that Colin, given another producer, would have been very memoriable in the role, at least memorable in a completely different way than much of fandom thought of him in the 1980s. Sadly, it really is time for a regime change. had JNT and Saward gone, this era would have been far better written and with a whole different focus. Sue will likley be able, with some distance, to see through the bad to the good. should be interesting.

  43. Doodvid  November 23, 2012

    The picture you chose of Jason Connery makes him look like a ‘Warriors of the Deep’ style Sea Devil.

    See? Wasn’t it worth turning the comments back on for insight like that?

    • John G  November 23, 2012

      Speaking of Jason, Sue wonders if he took acting lessons between this and Robin of Sherwood. If he did, they certainlydidn’t work! Richard Carpenter later admitted that Jason was only cast in Robin because of who his Dad was…

      • Nick Mays  November 23, 2012

        Now THERE was a “regeneration” that didn’t really work!

      • Fuschia Begonia  November 24, 2012

        Yep, he was terrible in Robin of Sherwood. Seems like a nice lad and easy on the eye, but he was no Michael Praed

        • John G  November 24, 2012

          I’ve often thought that Michael Praed would have made a good Doctor – he has a mysterious, ethereal quality that would lend itself to the role. It’s a great shame he never became the big star he once looked like being.

          • Frankymole  November 24, 2012

            Jason did screen-test for the role; until him, they were going to have Neil Morrisey (of Men Behaving Basly “fame”). Ouch.

          • Frankymole  November 24, 2012

            ^^ Badly. Not Basilly ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Nick Mays  November 25, 2012

            You never know, Neil Morrisey may have made a good Robin. He was excellent as DC ‘Dot’ Cotton in ‘LIne of Duty’ earlier this year. He can do seriously pretty well. Also he’d have been more of a lookalike for Praed.

        • Peter A  November 28, 2012

          According to the box set I have he was very nearly Paul McGann.

          • Frankymole  December 1, 2012

            Poor old PMcG. He also missed out on becoming “Sharpe” (thus giving Sean Bean his big break) because of a football injury. It seems Mr McGann was forever fated to miss out on becoming the lead in a long-running series (worst luck for Who fans).

  44. Dave Sanders  November 23, 2012

    One particular observation about Vengeance On Varos: nobody actually swears or gets any vengeance in it. So Colin’s titles are currently batting oh-for-three, given that the Cybermen are already entrenched on Telos and never actually attack anywhere.

    • Wholahoop  November 23, 2012

      Well there was a Twin Dilemma as in “How did they get the gig?”

    • DPC  November 24, 2012

      The Varosian society is what gets the vengeance, when the Governor wins (thanks to the successful intervention of the Doctor). Though how the vengeance and reform take place is not exactly told. Just that the Governor wins and the society can now move forward; we just never know how. ๐Ÿ™ But in sci-fi or in other fiction, it’s proof societies can change quickly instead of slowly.

      But I’m not sure how the title of the story involves swearing, or any lack thereof…?

      • Dave Sanders  November 24, 2012

        But that’s not what vengeance is – it’s punishing another party for a perceived wrong and witnessing them get their just deserts in kind. Sil is left without his lucrative commission at the end of VoV, but there’s no actual punishment – things just go back to the way they should otherwise be (and Arak and Etta suggest society is not necessarily going to be any better, now that the general populace has nothing to entertain them.

        And vengeance can be sweared.

        • DPC  November 24, 2012

          Perception was never my strong point… ๐Ÿ˜€

          You’re right – Sil doesn’t get anything, except a look of shock and a scream because of lost commission. Nothing is said of the people, who wouldn’t know what’s been going on…

          It’d be cool if Philip Martin wrote a 6th Doctor PDA following up with Varos since the Doctor’s first visit (but before “Mindwarp”…) And it needn’t be a 6th Doctor adventure, though I couldn’t fathom 1-5 visiting the place, and it wouldn’t be as dramatic… but it would be a novel use of time travel; Doc4 (in character) having to fix things his successor would inadvertently cause in Varos’ past! ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Longtime Listener  November 25, 2012

          But surely vengeance is fundamental to what Varos is all about – its origins as a penal colony, the systematic punishment of the Governor for popular discontent, the executions, perhaps the psychological underpinnings of the all the organised cruelty laid on for the gratification of a rejected and repressed population. The title doesn’t describe the changes at the end of the story but the status quo. Which makes it a whole lot more accurate than, say, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, which describes something that happened before the story even begins.

          • Nick Mays  November 25, 2012

            That’s the way I’d always thought of it too. The “Vengeance” describes the whole system and also the fightback against the system, thereby getting ‘vengeance’.

            Good point about the Dalek Invasion of Earth too.

            I guess some titles need a bit more thinking about, whilst others are less cryptic. i.e. ‘Caves of Androzani’, ‘Robot’, The Ice Warriors’…

    • Thomas  November 24, 2012

      Both titles have nothing on the season closer, though.

  45. Gavin Noble  November 23, 2012

    I am a little disappointed that despite this being the 150th update Nicol hasn’t made a cake or some marsh minnows at the very least to celebrate the occasion. Has she no sense of occasion anymore?

    • John Miller  November 24, 2012

      It’s the update, but it’s not the 150th story. The 150th story is, um…..

      • Wholahoop  November 24, 2012

        Dragonfire if you count Trial as four stories as the Beeb didn’t then did

  46. Jazza1971  November 23, 2012

    Does anyone else find that the recorded woman on the vote line for Colin seems to give a mocking laugh when she accepts your vote?

  47. Marty  November 24, 2012

    Excellent to see the comments back on, it was hard wrapping my praise into 140 characters and tweeting at you.

    So now we know…kinda what Gary looks like.

    Are the longer episodes / fewer parts to a story making it easier to watch?

    It is quite weird that this story, looking at it now went out at 5.20, that’s…well that’s before 6 and before 7:30 where I imagined it would have gone out.

  48. Philippa Sidle  November 24, 2012

    Yay! Comments!

    I only saw this story for the first time a few years ago, and was impressed. I’d seen very, very little of the Colin Baker era and had for years ignorantly assumed that it was all dreadful. The quality script of this one really surprised me and confounded my expectations. Now I really must catch up with the big gap in my viewing experience. I have this idea that I could sit my husband down to watch every episode in order, you see, then write a blog about it. How does Adventures with the Husband in Space sound as a title…?

    Congratulations on the book! Getting mentioned in the Bookseller is serious stuff.

  49. chris-too-old-to-watch  November 25, 2012

    Can’t believe that no-one has mentioned that Etta becomes Madge in Benidorm (or are we all too high-brow for that). There you are Sue, that’s what you’ve got to look forward to………

  50. Aciiiiiid Bath  November 25, 2012

    I shall now think of Robert Holmes as the porn star with a big dick that wrote some great doctor who. I wonder if size of penis influences quality of story.
    Oh and the Doctor wishes he has K9 on average 3.43 times a day. Normally when the washing up, ironing and the occasional zapping of a passing stranger needs doing.

  51. Polarity Reversed  November 25, 2012

    Very glad to see the comments back.

    This era is well past my Who-by date and I don’t have anything to contribute anymore, but I still keep an eye on the site, and I’ve missed the BTL banter from a wonderful bunch of fellow bonkerists that I feel I’ve come to know.

    Strange though it may seem, there are still plenty of us out here who don’t use the anonymity of an avatar for abuse, but point-blank refuse any involvement whatsoever with F***book or Twittaahh.

    Congrats on the publishing deal.

  52. encyclops  November 26, 2012

    There’s a lot to praise here: the premise, the meta-, the “Governyeuuuuurrrr,” Sil, and of course Etta and Arak. The latter are pitch-perfect as the kind of “ordinary people” who are themselves venal and unpleasant enough to make the overarching tyranny plausible; I see Etta in particular as the sort of “patriot” we get over here in our “red states.” Neil and Sue are infinitely less obnoxious.

    I can’t quite love this story, partly for the unfortunate cheapness of the sets, the often-lousy acting, and the sparseness of the cast failing to sell the idea that this is a planet rather than a stage play (I have a similar problem with The Pirate Planet); and partly because of all the tedious “it’s just an illusion” scenes and the transformation nonsense. Seeing them now, I can assume — just — that they’re more comments on the show itself (bad special effects intended to scare, gratuitous monster makeup), but the parts just don’t quite fit together in a way I find satisfying or enjoyable. Still, it looks more genius than ever on paper the more I see of it, and I’m glad Sue liked it. I’d probably be willing to grant a 7/10 or so even with my misgivings.

  53. Ryan Hall  November 30, 2012

    Sue: How many times a day do you think the Doctor wishes he still had K9?

    Wasnt there kinda talk of him coming back with C bakers doctor? it was even mentioned in DWM when they did like a write up of this story back in the late 90’s saying it was disscused on a radio interview?