It’s been a whole year since we started watching Doctor Who together.
Sue: It’s flown by.
Me: Really? I thought you’d be fed up with it by now.
Sue: Not at all. In fact, I think it’s probably brought us closer together.
Nicol: I think I’m going to be sick.
Me: Go away, Nicol.
A bombastic fanfare heralds the arrival of model spaceship.
Sue: This sounds like Dudley.
Me: Oh yes, this is definitely Dudley. This is basically what Doctor Who sounds like for the next seven years.
Sue: I can live with that.
The camera sweeps through the spaceship’s cockpit.
Sue: I like the direction straight away. That was a lovely tracking shot. And that pilot is very easy on the eye, too.
Me: I am still here, you know.
Sue: Yeah, this is a nice, pacey start. I hope they keep it up.
The TARDIS avoids colliding with the spaceship by materialising inside it.
Sue: This place reminds me of the Doctor Who Experience. Did they model the railings after this episode? I bet they did.
A high-pitched whine convinces Jo that she’s being attacked by a Drashig.
Sue: Not the bloody Drashigs again! How’s that going to work, exactly?
But before we can get into that, Sue is distracted by a picture that’s been chosen to decorate the ship’s cockpit.
Sue: (Pointing) There’s a woman with a laser coming out of her nipple. Look at it, Neil! I can’t believe they put porn on the wall in a children’s TV show. That’s shocking.
At least she’s impressed by the Draconians.
Sue: Their masks are great. They look like the Klingons. Who came first, Neil? This lot or the Klingons?
Me: The Klingons did, but they didn’t look like this then. They look more like this eventually, but many years from now. Does that make any sense?
Sue: Actually, forget the Klingons, this reminds me of Babylon 5.
The Doctor tells Earth’s authorities that victims of space piracy have been forced to witness their deepest fears, thanks to a post-hypnotic command.
Sue: Is it the Master? This has the Master written all over it.
The Doctor unlocks the door to his cell, but he’s spotted as soon as he tries to leave. So he apologises and steps back inside again.
Sue: That was funny. That was padding with a punchline.
I don’t have the heart to tell her that the scene is essentially a metaphor for the whole story. And then some Ogrons turn up.
Sue: It’s the Orcs again! Are the Daleks in this? Are the Master and the Daleks in this one? Is that even allowed?
Sue: It’s nice to see a woman in charge. This was well ahead of its time. I hope she doesn’t turn out to be useless. That would be a bit of a blow for feminism.
The Ogrons have stolen the TARDIS.
Sue: How did they get the TARDIS through that tiny door? That’s impossible!
A security team from Earth turn up to investigate. One of them wants to know if the Doctor is on his way to a fancy dress party.
Sue: He’s a fine one to talk. Has he looked in a mirror recently? He looks like he’s late for an American football practice. Look at his headgear! If you lit him from behind, he’d look like Mickey Mouse.
The Doctor and Jo are accused of being Draconian spies. Cue titles.
Sue: This isn’t too bad, you know. It’s quite epic for a Doctor Who.
Sue can’t stop looking at the picture of the woman with a laser for a nipple.
Sue: It’s realistic. It’s just the sort of thing a bloke would Blu-Tack to the wall. But did we really need to see it? A female president implies that we’ve gone beyond all that nonsense in the future.
Luckily, I have the perfect distraction:
Me: We could play the Frontier in Space drinking game, if you like.
Sue reluctantly agrees and Jack Daniels makes a welcome return to the experiment. We will take a shot every time the Doctor or Jo are incarcerated. Warning: this is a very dangerous game indeed.
Sue: If you lit that pilot from behind, he’d look like Mickey Mouse.
Me: You said that yesterday.
Sue: Trust me, it’s worth repeating.
General Williams (aka Eric Cantona) wants to use a mind probe on the Doctor.
Me: (Screaming) No! Not the mind probe!
I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
Sue: Is the mind probe really that bad?
Me: You have absolutely no idea. Actually, we could push the boat out and play two Frontier in Space drinking games at the same time, if you can handle it: we have to take a shot every time someone mentions a mind probe, as well.
The Doctor tells Jo about the time he once met a purple horse with yellow spots.
Sue: Now that’s an episode I’d like to see.
The Doctor says he’s never been employed by anyone in his life.
Sue: What is he talking about? Isn’t he technically working for UNIT this very second? And then there’s the Time Lords. He’s always doing odd jobs for them. What a liar.
Sue believes that General Williams is “definitely in on it” (whatever it is), and she thinks the actor who plays him (Michael Hawkins) exudes enough menace to be the big man himself.
Sue: Is this bloke the Master? Is this a new Master who’s regenerated between stories? Or maybe an old Master? They could do that if they wanted to, couldn’t they? That would be a shock. Instead of The Three Doctors you could have The Two Masters. Am I close?
The action shifts to the Draconian embassy on Earth.
Sue: I love the Draconians’ flat; they have great interior designers. It’s bright and airy. Maybe Habitat make a comeback in the future? It’s possible. Actually, I bet this looks more believable now than it did back in the 1970s. This reeks of the 1970s.
A strange whining sound is piped into the prison.
Sue: It’s driven our dog out of the room. I’ll have to deduct a mark for that. And it was doing so well, too.
The episode climaxes with an Ogron platoon storming the prison.
Sue: I may have to give a mark back for this, because this is very exciting. These Orcs don’t piss about, do they? Yeah, this is pretty good, actually.
Me: You’re drunk.
Sue: It’s a hard life being President of Earth. Actually, I don’t like this scene. It implies that she cares more about her nails than she does the Draconian threat.
She is of course referring to the scene where the President is pampered on the brink of war.
Sue: I love her shoes, though. Her shoes are very trendy right now.
After what feels like weeks of build-up, the Doctor is finally subjected to the mind probe.
Sue: Is that it? It’s a sink drainer! Actually, this is what they do to people who go on Jeremy Kyle. “Have you ever had sexual contact with a Draconian?” And why does every woman in this society looks like she’s about to go to a cocktail party? That’s a bit silly.
The Doctor mocks the mind probe’s ineffectiveness (a word Jon Pertwee couldn’t possibly say in real life).
Sue: Shoot him in the kneecaps – that will wipe the smug grin off his face. Or threaten him with a DNA paternity test.
The authorities pack him off to a penal colony on the Moon instead.
Sue: Is it Guantanamo Bay in space? We’re going to need a very large drink when he gets banged-up there.
Me: Are we still playing the Frontier in Space drinking game? I’m still recovering from yesterday’s hangover.
Sue: You wimp.
Back on Earth, the Ambassador for Sirius IV demands custody of the Doctor and Jo. There’s just one tiny problem: the Ambassador is none other than…
Sue: Oh no. It’s him again.
Me: I love how the Master doesn’t even warrant a cliffhanger any more. He just waltzes into the scene in a wide shot.
Sue: I quite like that. It’s subtle.
Me: But do we want the programme to be subtle at this point?
Sue: To be honest, I’m less interested in this story now that the Master’s turned up. It felt quite fresh up until then. Now I’m just waiting for him to **** it up. I wonder who he’s working with this time… It can’t be the Daleks, surely? Even the Master isn’t that stupid.
The Doctor joins the penal colony’s escape committee.
Sue: The Doctor’s been reduced to drinking out of a cup that’s been designed for a toddler. In a pair of blue pyjamas. Yeah, this isn’t one of his better days.
The episode ends with a botched escape attempt that leaves the Doctor trapped in a room with no oxygen.
Sue: The story is beginning to lose momentum, but I’ve seen worse. The drinking definitely helps.
Sue: It’s Battle of the Beards!
The prison governor and the Master are fighting for custody of the Doctor.
Sue: The governor can’t stop fondling his whiskers. I think he might have goatee envy, because the Master definitely wins this round.
Meanwhile in another cell…
Sue: This is the best cell we’ve seen so far, and I’m becoming quite the expert. You can actually film around this one. I’m guessing that we’ll be spending a fair amount of time in this particular cell.
The Doctor wonders who the Master is working with this time.
Sue: Yeah, who’s the Master going to be betrayed by this time? Is it the Cybermen? Or the Yeti? They’re hyping it up, whoever it is.
The cell that the Doctor and Jo now find themselves in comes equipped with a state of the art CCTV camera.
Sue: So no knocking one out before you go to sleep!
The Master decides to eavesdrop on his captives.
Sue: I notice that the Master doesn’t have any porn on his dashboard. He’s a class act.
The Doctor pretends to talk to Jo as he surreptitiously breaks out of his cell at the same time.
Sue: There is a lot of continuity in this story.
Me: Yeah, there’s a surprising amount of references to old stories. Maybe it’s because this is the 10th anniversary year.
Sue: I like it.
Me: You like a bit of fanwank then, do you?
Sue: I beg your pardon!
By the time I’ve explained this concept to her, Jo is still banging on about UNIT’s past glories.
Sue: They should talk about all the times the Master has ****ed it up. That would wipe the smug grin from his face. And why doesn’t he just pay an Ogron to watch over them? I bet they’re cheap.
As the Doctor slips out of the cell, Jo tries to keep the fake conversation going.
Me: For the love of God, somebody give her a Target novel to read!
The Doctor makes it outside the spaceship.
Sue: I can see the strings. But they’re trying, bless them.
Sue gasps when the Doctor suddenly hurtles, out of control, into the inky blackness of space.
Sue: What a great cliffhanger.
Me: There’s still another 10 minutes left to go.
The Master grows tired of Jo’s never-ending monologue, and he doesn’t believe her when she insists that the Doctor is fast asleep.
Sue: She bored him to sleep.
Me: She was halfway through The Mutants at the time.
Sue: Hey, I liked The Mutants!
The Doctor clambers towards the airlock on the other side of the ship.
Sue: Oh dear, he’s caught his leg in the strings.
The Master isn’t fooled by Jo’s antics and he taunts her for being such a terrible actress.
Sue: He’s funny, I’ll give him that. The Master definitely livens things up, I suppose. I just can’t take him seriously any more. He smells of failure. And what does the Master want the Doctor for, anyway? You’d think he’d keep as far away from his arch-nemesis as possible, especially with his track record.
A Draconian landing party boards the ship and the Master and the Doctor are immediately overpowered.
Sue: Just use your fingers!
The Master, the Doctor and Jo are thrown into a cell together.
Sue: Do we have to take three shots of Jack Daniels when all three of them are locked up? Is that how it works?
Me: If you like. Any excuse will do.
The Master activates a device that he’d secreted in his pocket.
Sue: Why didn’t they search him? That’s the first thing you do when you throw somebody in a cell. Even I know that!
The episode concludes with an Ogron flying a spaceship.
Sue: What a rubbish cliffhanger.
Me: And no Ogron porn, either.
The Doctor, Jo and the Master are granted an audience with the Draconian Emperor.
Me: This is the scene I remember from my childhood. I’m in my nana’s house, there’s a white rug on floor, and pikelets are definitely involved…
Sue: (Ignoring me) The Draconians are great. At last, an alien you can shoot in a close-up without being embarrassed about it. Their masks are that good. Why haven’t they turned up in the new series yet? I assume they must turn up in the old series quite a lot – you don’t create something that good and not use it again. It’s a bit like the Orcs, they were too good not to use again, too.
A Draconian is assigned to partner the Doctor in his quest to avert interplanetary war.
Sue: I hope they become firm friends. The Doctor should have an alien companion. It would make him appear less racist.
And then we’re treated to a dogfight in space – Doctor Who style.
Sue: Say what you like, the director is doing his best with what he’s been given. He wouldn’t know a cliffhanger if it bit him on the arse, but he can handle the action scenes pretty well. This isn’t bad, all things considered.
The Doctor suggests the crew arm themselves against the Ogron boarding party.
Sue: The Doctor loves shooting Orcs. I’m beginning to think he’s got something against them.
General Williams recounts the events which led to the first Earth-Draconian war.
Sue: Hang on a minute. This is Babylon 5! It isn’t just similar to Babylon 5 – it is Babylon 5!
You have to admit, it is uncanny.
Sue: I’m glad Eric Cantona came good in the end. Just like the real Eric Cantona did.
The Master hypnotises Jo into doing his bidding.
Sue: If Jo falls for this, I’ll be very disappointed. She should have been trained to… Oh right, she has been trained. Thank God for that. Jo’s back to being her brave self again this week. I love how she takes on the Master and wins. You go, girl!
The episode ends with the Master reverting to his tried and tested fear-ray instead.
Sue: Another sloppy cliffhanger. They should have ended the episode with a monster. That’s just basic, that is.
Sue: Why is Jo frightened of that?
Me: The Mutant?
Sue: Yeah, I thought they were supposed to be the good guys. She almost slept with one once, didn’t she? Oh look, another cell…
Jo digs her way out of the cell with a wooden spoon.
Sue: Use the bowl, love. Otherwise you’ll be there forever.
Me: When she gets out, she can give the Master his just desserts.
Sue reaches for a cushion, but I manage to talk her down.
Sue: What’s that picture on the wall supposed to represent?
Me: Ogron porn?
Sue: It does look a bit testicular…
As the episode builds towards a crescendo, our cat, Captain Jack, can’t take his eyes off the Ogrons.
Sue: Jack loves this episode.
Me: Yes, but he’s smashed off his face on drugs.
And then the Doctor finds himself outside the spaceship once again.
Sue: This is the last episode, so it should be pulling its finger out. I mean, didn’t we do this last week?
On the fabled Ogron planet (“What a dump”), the Ogrons are terrified by something hideous/ridiculous.
Sue: It’s Jabba the Hut.
Me: Jabba the Hoover Bag, surely?
Sue: I’m surprised you know what a hoover bag looks like, Neil.
And then the Master’s allies appear…
Sue: I knew it! I said it was the Daleks. They’re extremely late. It must have been exciting for the kids until they realised they’d only get to see them for 10 minutes. Oh dear, they sound terrible. Is there a special edition where Briggsy does the voices?
Not only has the Doctor been thrown into another prison cell, we’ve run out of Jack Daniels too.
Sue: The Doctor will escape by reversing the polarity. He always reverses the bloody polarity.
The episode concludes with the Doctor positively shitting himself.
Sue: I can’t believe this isn’t over yet. How many episodes is this really, Neil? Be honest.
Me: Well, technically it’s 12.
A cushion hits me between the eyes.
Sue: So I don’t have to mark it?
Me: No, you still have to mark it.
Sue: Is the next episode called Frontier in Space Episode Seven?
Sue: So, is this 12-parts or not?
Me: It’s two six-parters which dovetail nicely into each other.
Sue: Is that supposed to make me feel better? Because it doesn’t.
Sue: These stories are too long, And it isn’t even over yet, which doesn’t exactly help. If they’d compressed that into four episodes, it would have scored a seven, or maybe even an eight. But they blew it.
Sue: I can’t believe it isn’t over yet. Having said that, watching the Master working with the Daleks should be fun.