Sue: I used to think Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was an android if that’s any help. Oh, David Fisher’s name rings a bell.
Me: It should. He wrote the last one.
The Doctor and K9 are playing chess in the TARDIS.
Sue: I love the banter between these two. I could watch them do this all day. I also like the way the Doctor drapes his scarf over K9. It’s very affectionate.
Romana lands the TARDIS perfectly.
Sue: If you want it done properly, let a woman do it.
They have arrived on the planet Tara, and the Doctor uses the TARDIS’ scanner to have a good look around.
Sue: I don’t remember the Doctor moving the camera like this before. I bet Romana installed that feature.
Romana decides to change into something more appropriate.
Sue: I think I preferred the Tahitian dress she was looking at earlier.
Me: I wouldn’t have complained.
Sue: She suits that hat, though. She’s turning into the Doctor.
The Doctor would rather go fishing than search for the Key to Time, so Romana sets off on her own adventure. And as she moves through a forest, we can hear strange birdsong, which sends our cat, Tegan, mental.
Sue: That bird doesn’t sound right to me.
Me: We’re on an alien planet, remember?
Sue: Yes, but it sounds artificial. Is everything on this planet an android? Is that it? We’ve seen this before, haven’t we?
The tracer leads Romana to an ancient stone statue which she immediately transforms into the fourth segment of the Key to Time.
Sue: Job’s a good ‘un. Straight back to the TARDIS. The End. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
Cue the Taran Wood Beast.
Sue: Oh my goodness. What is that? I have no words for that.
Romana is rescued by a knight in shining armour.
Sue: Is it the Master? Don’t look at me like that, Neil. Look at his beard!
Sue: Well, if he isn’t the Master, he’s definitely famous.
Me: It’s Peter Jeffrey. He’s an excellent actor. You probably recognise his voice.
Sue: No, I recognise his nose. You don’t forget a nose like that. He’s very smooth for a man with such an enormous nose.
Me: You liked him in The Macra Terror as well.
Sue: “The Macra” what?
The man in question is Count Grendel. He offers to fix Romana’s swollen ankle for her, promising it won’t take up more than an hour of her time.
Me: That’s what I tell you every time we sit down to watch Doctor Who together.
Sue: Yeah, but this guy is a lot more charming. Although, to be fair, you do have a big nose like him.
The Doctor is snoozing on a river bank when he’s suddenly attacked by a man with an electric rapier.
Sue: That was a bit dangerous. He could have burnt his lip off. Well, what’s left of it at any rate.
Sue doesn’t recognise Paul Lavers at first.
Sue: He looks like a young Robert Redford.
Paul will be pleased.
Sue: So is this planet like Westworld? Is it a theme park for robots in medieval costume?
Grendel takes Romana to Castle Gracht on horseback.
Sue: The establishing shot of the castle is very impressive. It’s a subtle but effective special effect. How can they do something as good as that and still have crappy monsters running around the place? Those monsters are going to ruin this story, aren’t they? I can suspend my disbelief as much as the next person but that thing was pushing its luck.
I tell her we won’t be seeing the Taran Wood Beast again any time soon. I even promise not to buy a Taran Wood Beast action figure, should they ever release one.
Sue: Not even if it’s part of a set and it’s the only way you’ll get your hands on a Romana? It’s just the sort of thing they would, you know.
Have I mentioned that I took Sue to a branch of Forbidden Planet recently?
Sue: So why bother having a monster at all if it’s only going to be in it for a couple of minutes?
Me: It’s Doctor Who. You have to have a monster.
Sue: It never used to be like that. Who says Doctor Who always have to have a monster? Where is that written down? Why can’t the villain just be some bloke?
Grendel gently places Romana on a bed in his castle.
Sue: He’s dashing, isn’t he? I wouldn’t mind being rescued by him.
But Grendel is too good to be true, which Romana discovers to her cost when she’s restrained to the bed with retractable straps.
Sue: Oh, come on! She could slide out of that! You could trap an obese person in that, but that’s about it.
Grendel instructs Madame Lamia, his surgeon-engineer, to cut Romana’s head off.
Sue: They must be having a laugh. With an electric bread knife? Seriously? They were all the rage in the 1970s, mind. They were always on the conveyor belt at the end of The Generation Game.
The Doctor is taken to a hunting lodge, and when he tries to leave, Paul Lavers takes a slice out of his scarf. Sue actually gasped in horror at this point, but Prince Reynart intervenes before any more damage can be done.
Sue: I like Errol Flynn over there. The acting is very good this week. That’s why Tom is bringing his A-game again. I like it. Why can’t David Fisher write the rest of the season?
When it becomes clear that Romana isn’t an android after all, Grendel lets her keep her head, mainly because he believes he has a better use for it.
Sue: Yeah, I bet he does, the dirty pervert.
Romana is drugged.
Sue: I bet that’s Rohypnol.
Meanwhile, back at the lodge, Reynart employs the Doctor to fix his android double. He explains he plans to use it as a diversion when he ascends to the throne, at which point the Doctor immediately recognises the plot.
Sue: Have I missed something?
Me: The plot is loosely based on a famous story. It will come to you later. Probably.
The Doctor and Reynart drink a toast to their cunning plan. Paul Lavers pours the wine.
Sue: I know where I recognise him from now. (As Paul) This magnificent set of four golden goblets, available at a special QVC price of just £99.99, which you can pay in three easy instalments! Just look at the stem on that. Lovely.
Me: I’m impressed. Do you remember his name?
Sue: Paul somebody or other. He was one of QVC’s first presenters, wasn’t he? It can’t have panned out for him as an actor, then. What a shame. He was a bit of a looker in his youth.
The wine has been drugged and the episode concludes with everyone slipping into unconsciousness. The Doctor makes it as far as the door, but finally collapses at the feet of Count Grendel.
Sue: I bet that isn’t the first time Tom Baker has fallen down after a glass of wine. There was definitely some method acting going on there. Good cliffhanger, though. I like this one so far.
Sue decides to rate the actors’ ability to fall unconscious.
Sue: The guy with the beard was the best. He’s an old pro. Paul shouldn’t worry, though: there isn’t much call for falling asleep on QVC, even when you’re demonstrating a really comfortable bed.
I try to steer her back on track.
Me: I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned the carpentry yet. What about that staircase over there?
Sue: Nah, it’s a bit naff. I do like the costumes in this one, though. Even Romana’s purple outfit is starting to grow on me. The production design is very good, but just because something is made from wood, it doesn’t mean I instantly fall in love it. I do have some standards, believe it or not.
The Doctor summons K9 with a dog whistle.
Sue: I ****king love K9. I hate it when they lock him in the TARDIS. You should never leave your dog locked up in your vehicle. Especially on a sunny day like this.
The drugs wear off and Romana wakes up. She wants to know how long she’s been unconscious for.
Sue: (As Grendel) Long enough, dear. Long enough.
Grendel takes Romana on a guided tour of the dungeons where he’s holding Prince Reynart and Princess Strella captive. Strella is the spitting double of Romana, and Grendel boasts that he now has two beautiful women he can marry.
Sue: The dirty bastard.
The Doctor fixes Prince Reynart’s android double so it can attend his coronation at the allotted hour.
Sue: I like his gold lamé suit. That’s very Elvis.
However, something is definitely bugging Sue.
Sue: How come they have all this technology and yet they act like they’re in the Middle Ages? How can you have electronic weapons and life-like androids, but still ride around on horses? I don’t get it. Why hasn’t this society invented Facebook yet?
Lamia attempts to drill into the Key to Time, without much success.
Sue: Get Paul from QVC to do it. She’s making a right pig’s ear of Diamonique Hour.
Sue is curious about this story’s location.
Sue: Which castle is this?
Sue: Yes, you can tell. It looks like Yorkshire.
Me: Really? I didn’t know you were an expert on castles, Sue.
Sue: I can just tell.
Me: Shall we get in the car and visit it then, since it’s only down the road?
Sue: If you like.
Me: It’s in Kent!
Sue: Is it really? that’s a bit daft, isn’t it? Call it Kent Castle, then, you morons!
It’s almost time for the coronation.
Sue: There are plenty of extras milling around. I like it. There are some nice details in this, like the clock with the extra hours. A lot of thought has gone into this. It’s a nice blend of sci-fi and history. It doesn’t make any sense, but it looks great.
The Prince is nowhere to be seen, which means Grendel will be crowned in his absence. However, when he enters the throne room, he is astonished to find Prince Reynart already seated there.
Grendel is not amused.
Sue: I know which story this is based on, now.
Me: Good. It took you long enough.
Sue: It’s Weekend at Bernie’s.
The Doctor stops the android Reynart from breaking down mid-coronation, and as the Doctor switches on his speech circuits, Sue is as tense as I’ve ever seen her. And then, when another character played by Mary Tamm enters the throne room, the Doctor immediately attempts to smash her head in with a sceptre.
Sue: What a strange cliffhanger. If she turns out to be the real Princess, the Doctor is going to look very stupid (and a bit bloody). But we know that isn’t going to happen – this story is full of androids. You’d have to be an idiot not to work it out.
Sue: I don’t know why the Count doesn’t suggest that the Prince sitting on the throne right now is an android. He’s got the real one locked up in a cell, so what else could it possibly be? What’s he waiting for?
Lamia lets it slip that she has a sadomasochistic crush on Grendel.
Sue: So much for women’s rights on this planet. I can’t believe anyone would enjoy being abused by a power-mad sex pest.
Me: Then I wouldn’t bother with Fifty Shades of Grey if I were you, love.
The Doctor encounters Romana’s android double, which has been designed to kill him as soon as he speaks.
Sue: This isn’t suspicious, is it? Not a smile or a wave from his best friend. Really? She should appear as natural as possible for this to work.
The android fails to assassinate the Doctor, thanks to a shoddy design flaw, and Lamia runs outside, where she is accidentally gunned down by Grendel’s men.
Sue: The idiots! I hope the Count really cared about her, after all.
Sue: It’s turned into Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I think I’d probably take my chances and make a run for it – this lot can’t shoot straight to save their lives. They only shoot the things they’re not supposed to shoot, probably because they can’t see a thing with those helmets on.
When the Doctor pokes his head outside the pavilion, it’s almost shot off.
Sue: How is it that the gunfire sounds louder inside the pavilion than it does outside? How is that even possible?
K9 cuts a hole in the rear of the tent with his laser.
Sue: Take your time, K9. There’s no rush. Their weapons don’t seem to have an effect on cloth. They might deafen you after a while, though.
The real Romana comes to the rescue on a horse, and no one can figure out a way to include K9 in their great escape.
Sue: I can’t believe they left K9 behind. Unbelievable…
K9 stands his ground and successfully neutralises Grendel’s men.
Sue: So they needn’t have run anyway after all. They should just let K9 off his leash. He doesn’t muck about.
After this kerfuffle, Grendel arrives at Reynart’s lodge under a white flag.
Sue: Shoot him in the head! What are you waiting for?
Me: This planet is steeped in tradition and ceremony.
Sue: Sod that. Shoot him in the head!
Grendel throws a spear at Reynart’s artificial chest.
Sue: That was pretty good. That would have shocked the kids.
In the ensuing confusion, Grendel’s men manage to kidnap Romana.
Sue: That was a weak cliffhanger, but another solid episode. I’m really enjoying this.
Sue’s silence speaks volumes once again, and it’s only when the Doctor plans to enter the castle in a rowing boat that she has anything to say.
Sue: There’s just one thing I don’t understand: now that they can fly the TARDIS properly, and they can land it on a sixpence, why doesn’t the Doctor use it in situations like this? He could just materialise inside the castle without all this carry on, surely?
Grendel moves to Plan B, which involves two weddings and two funerals.
Sue: He’s a great villain. He’s so blatant. He’d have been a brilliant Master. I’m sorry, but there’s simply no getting away from it.
The Doctor arrives at the castle as night falls.
Sue: This looks great. Like a proper drama. Or a feature film.
The Doctor and K9 arrive at a hatchway beneath the castle. The Doctor instructs K9 to cut a hole in the wood with his laser.
Sue: I don’t understand how anyone couldn’t like K9. What’s not to love?
Me: Some people think he’s a bit childish.
Sue: What do they think they’re watching? I, Claudius?
The Doctor interrupts the wedding between Reynart and Romana, so Grendel challenges him to a sword fight.
Sue: The Doctor doesn’t know what he’s doing. That’s very funny. The lack of music and the hand-held direction is great, too.
The Doctor lulls the Count into a false sense of security before he strikes back with some ferocious swordplay.
Sue: This is great, but I think I preferred it when he was taking the piss.
Sue is annoyed as the Doctor allows Grendel to retrieve his fallen sword (she has no concept of honour), and when the king’s men storm the gates, she’s even less forgiving.
Sue: There’s only six of them! Why didn’t they just get a bigger boat and follow the Doctor that way?
The Doctor corners Grendel on the battlements and the Count dives into the moat below.
Sue: So he won’t surrender, but he’ll happily run away like a coward? Nice dive, though. I’m pleased he lived to fight another day. He should definitely come back.
Me: Maybe he could team up with the Daleks?
Sue: Yeah, that would be interesting.
The Doctor rushes off to rescue Romana and Princess Strella from the advances of Grendel’s right-hand man, even though they both took care of themselves ages ago.
Sue: That was very funny. And the Doctor not knowing which one was the real Romana was a lovely touch, too.
Crisis averted, Princess and Reynart fall into each other’s arms.
Sue: A full-on kiss on the lips. The kids wouldn’t have liked that very much.
The story concludes with the Doctor laughing his head off as he realises that K9 has been left behind in his little boat.
Sue: That look of joy on the Doctor’s face sums up this story nicely. It was amusing and loads of fun.
Sue: I really enjoyed that. It looked gorgeous, and the direction was very good, too. I don’t think there was a bad performance, and the script was very witty and engaging. I can’t really fault it. Okay, the monster at the beginning was completely pointless, and the society didn’t make a lot of sense, but I can overlook that.