Even though 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. He’s lovely. A real gent. Not like Eric ****ing Bristow.
Me: Were you 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 concern is that he isn’t doing enough to engage the rest of the nation. And was that a Doctor Who reference you made just then? Because if it was, I didn’t get it.
Sue: So 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 all of a sudden? It’s Gangsters this, Gangsters that. Enough of the bloody Gangsters already!
Vengeance on Varos begins with a topless man chained to a wall.
Me: Stop drooling and name the actor, love.
Sue: I don’t care. But if I stare at him long enough, maybe it will come to me.
Me: His dad is very famous.
Sue: Is his dad fit as well?
Me: He’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 heartthrob, wasn’t he? He was very popular when I made my living driving up and down the motorway selling posters in the mid-1980s. I probably made a canny commission off of his face.
Jason Connery is playing a Varosian rebel named Jondar who finds himself on the wrong end of a laser beam.
Sue: It’s a very bleak start. It’s getting to be a habit.
Two Varosians named Etta and Arak watch Jondar being tortured on a TV screen in the comfort (if that’s the right word) of their living room.
Sue: (Laughing) Who do these two remind you of?
Me: Yes, I know. And I bet I have even less hair than Stephen Yardley by the time this is over.
Meanwhile in the TARDIS…
Sue: Peri’s been for another session in the TARDIS gym by the look of it. Has she got different versions of the same costume in every colour of the rainbow? And have you noticed how her top is practically see-through this week?
Me: No, I’ve never noticed that before. Honest.
Back on Varos, the planet’s Governor is busy negotiating a complicated trade deal with a reptilian creature named Sil.
Sue: Oh, it’s Martin Thingy. He’s been in Doctor Who before, hasn’t he?
Me: It’s Martin Jarvis. Yes, he was a giant moth in The Web Planet. Do you remember that one?
Sue: It’s one of the few I do remember. I am trying to forget it, though.
Sil fascinates Sue.
Sue: Is that a special effect or is he really that small? Is it done with mirrors?
Varos runs a profitable sideline in recorded executions, and Sil can’t wait to see them.
Sue: He’s a creepy little ****er. But I like him.
From this point on, you can take it as read that Sue giggles each and every time Sil does or says anything. The louder Sil gets, the louder Sue giggles. It helps take the edge off all the bleakness, I suppose. Anyway, the Governor is put to a public vote and he loses.
Sue: I want to see Nick Clegg in a chair like that. Actually, their leader has a very Cleggy look about him, don’t you think?
Arak is convinced the Governor will die this time.
Sue: They can’t kill an actor that good this quickly. And the punishment is a bit extreme. He was only trying to secure a better trade deal for his planet. It’s not as if he was caught fiddling his expenses, or changing his mind about tuition fees, or something terrible like that. Give him a break.
Even though she adores Sil, Sue does identify a potential problem:
Sue: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; any villain who needs to be carried everywhere is going to be useless when it 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 wants to execute Jondar in order to take the public’s mind off the fact their Governor doesn’t have The X-Factor any more.
Sue: This is well ahead of its time. Where there many reality shows around back then?
Me: I don’t know. Does Game For A Laugh count?
Meanwhile the Doctor and Peri are still languishing in the TARDIS.
Sue: Are these two going to do anything this week? At least William Hartnell had the decency to take a holiday when he had nothing to contribute.
Peri finds the TARDIS’ instruction manual.
Sue: Is that like a Haynes manual? He should have got that out years ago.
The TARDIS has run out of Zeiton-7.
Sue: Why doesn’t the TARDIS have a fuel gauge? Why didn’t she warn the Doctor before this happened? Even my car does that. Oh well, at least they have to go to Varos now. I thought they’d never get moving.
Varos’ chief scientist, Quillam, hides his features behind a half-mask.
Sue: (Singing) “The Phantom of the Opera is here, in my very cheap set…”
Jondar is sentenced to death.
Sue: He certainly didn’t inherit any acting talent from his dad. He’s dreadful.
When the Doctor and Peri arrive just in time to save him, Jondar helpfully lends a foot.
Sue: At least he can kick people in the face like his dad.
The Governor monitors these events from his control room.
Sue: This is nicely lit. But it has to be, I suppose. They obviously haven’t got a big enough set to go round. This is like a stage play. A very cheap stage play. It’s basically rep.
Maybe all the money went on the Varosian transport system.
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 even bother? They could walk faster than that!
Jondar wants to know why the Doctor saved his life. The Doctor explains that it’s because he’s the first person they’ve encountered who hasn’t tried to murder them.
Sue: That’s because he was tied up! For all you know, he could be this planet’s most notorious serial killer and you’ve just let him go.
Electric go-karts pursue our heroes.
Sue: I’d love to see them do a three-point turn in that corridor.
Etta and Arak watch as the action unfurls on their television screen.
Sue: So, do people on this planet get their kicks from watching others suffer? That would never happen today, would it?
Me: Not without a premium rate phone line it wouldn’t.
Etta likes the one in the funny clothes.
Sue: This is very postmodern all of a sudden. Wait a minute… Is that really supposed to be me? Is this where you got the idea for the blog? Is it?
I wrestle Sue for control of our cushions.
Sue: The direction is a bit crap. The script is excellent, but the director hasn’t got a bloody clue. This is the opposite problem to last week. One of these days they’ll actually get it right. You could definitely re-make this today and it would probably look amazing.
Our heroes are suddenly confronted by a giant fly, which Peri immediately identifies as a creature from her very worst imaginings.
Sue: That’s the worst thing Peri can imagine? A fly? Really?
And then our heroes encounter some green lights and Jondar practically wets himself.
Sue: Did Sean Connery pull some favours at the BBC to get his son this gig? Because he can’t have passed the audition.
The Doctor recognises the lights for what they really are: lights.
Sue: That’s cheap. Even by Doctor Who’s standards, that’s cheap. This is basically a haunted house, when what you really want to see is a homicidal version of Wipeout.
A go-kart veers straight for the Time Lord.
Me: Put your helmet on, we’ll be reaching speeds of three!
A guard named Maldak captures Peri and slaps her face.
Sue: Hey! There was no need for that!
And then the Governor of Varos faces the public vote again.
Sue: Who’d put themselves up for a job like this? It’s crap. Unless it’s endless hookers and cocaine on your days off.
The Doctor collapses alone in a corridor, apparently dying of thirst.
Sue: This could be Colin Baker on ITV any day now.
The Governor tells the vision mixer to cut the transmission.
Sue: I loved that cliffhanger. That was very clever. And Colin Baker took his coat off, which was nice.
Etta and Arak are glued to the latest episode of I’m A Varosian… Get Me Out of Here!
Sue: This is very bleak, Neil. In fact, I think they’re drinking their own urine.
They watch the Doctor avoid a quick dip in an acid bath.
Sue: That’s very James Bond. Have they got a room full of piranhas next door?
The Doctor ‘accidentally’ knocks a guard into the acid bath, and then he ‘accidentally’ ensures that his colleague falls in after him.
Sue: This isn’t for kids. What’s got into everybody all of a sudden?
Me: Should we blame the Doctor for those senseless deaths?
Sue: No. It was just an accident. But he didn’t show any remorse. That’s my problem with it.
Me: Do you think the programme is having its cake and eating it by criticising violence and showing too much of it at the same time?
Sue: That’s a bit deep, isn’t it? You’re not writing one of your academic essays now, you know. I don’t mind it personally. I just don’t think it’s appropriate for young children, that’s all.
Quillam closes in on the Doctor’s location, but the Time Lord has disguised himself with one of the henchman’s masks.
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 remains a source of fascination for Sue.
Sue: How did he injure himself? Did he wash his face in some acid by mistake? I bet that’s easily done when you live on a shit-hole like this.
Quillam leads the Doctor away at gunpoint.
Sue: How many times each day do you think the Doctor wishes he still had K9?
Elsewhere on Varos, Etta and Arak are enjoying their favourite prime time TV show – Old Men Wrestling In Nappies.
Sue: This is way ahead of its time. It’s basically YouTube now.
The Doctor is led away to the gallows.
Sue: I wish this didn’t look so cheap. This would be an iconic scene if it didn’t seem so flimsy. It’s the script that saves it.
Sil eagerly anticipates the Doctor’s execution.
Sue: He’s horrible,but I think I love him. He’s a great character. I definitely won’t forget him in a hurry.
The Governor believes the Doctor is telling the truth.
Sue: Colin is really good in this. I didn’t think I’d like him that much, but I do. He’s totally committed to the part.
If things weren’t bad enough already, Peri is transmogrified.
Sue: If this thing is supposed to turn you into what you fear the most, then Peri must be terrified of chickens. She should have pretended she was frightened of Raquel Welch.
Me: Nice topical reference, love.
The Doctor struggles to find a solution to the problem.
Sue: Just reverse the polarity! Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten how to reverse the polarity.
He waves a gun around instead.
Sue: Well, 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 incarnation certainly doesn’t **** around. I like that about him.
Peri is rescued in the nick of time.
Sue: Her back must be killing her – she was strapped to a sheet of corrugated iron roofing.
The Doctor decides to steal a go-kart.
Sue: I’ve just noticed their 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.
Etta and Arak bicker over the events unfolding on-screen.
Sue: This is you and me on a good day. It’s uncanny, actually.
The Governor pleads with Maldak to spare Peri’s life.
Sue: Has Martin Jarvis got a crush on Peri? In fact, is there anyone in the universe who hasn’t got a crush on Peri? Is this why the Doctor drags her around with him – so she can beguile all the bad guys?
The Doctor, Jondar and Areta enter a green mist.
Sue: They’re very happy all of a sudden. They must have found their way back to the green room.
As the Governor delivers an imploring speech to the nation, Arak presses her wife’s ‘No’ button without her permission.
Sue: Smack him in the face with a cushion!
And then the Governor has a sudden change of heart.
Sue: He really is Nick Clegg. It’s too late, Nick, you are so dead.
But Maldak comes good and frees the Governor and Peri.
Sue: Now he just needs to apologise for slapping her earlier.
Meanwhile the Doctor, Jondar and Areta are enticed by visions of themselves.
Sue: If I saw a ghost of myself, I’d run a mile. It should be something more tempting, like a plate of sandwiches. Or Adric.
And then two elderly men wearing nappies, which isn’t something I get to write every day, intercept our heroes.
Sue: That’s the most disturbing image in the whole of Doctor Who. That is completely ****ed up!
Quillam pursues the Time Lord’s party into a garden comprised of poisonous vines. He wants to hear them scream until he’s deaf with pleasure.
Sue: What time did this go out again?
Sue: That’s mental.
Thankfully, a series of fortuitous coincidences results in Varos gaining the upper hand in the trade negotiations.
Sue: That was a bit convenient. Did I miss something?
And the episode concludes with Etta and Arak facing up to the fact that there’s nothing left to watch.
Sue: This will be us in a couple of months’ time.
Me: I’m sure we’ll look a lot happier than that.
Sue: I really enjoyed that. It 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. The script was excellent, and Colin was great, too.
Sue: Don’t you think it’s time you turned the comments back on, Neil?
Sue: You have to make the site interactive otherwise what’s the point? Don’t worry, I can take it. They can call me whatever they like. I don’t care, as long as they don’t call me a fan.