Home : Archive : TSV 11-20 : TSV 15 : Review

The Caves of Androzani

Reviewed by Nigel Flockhart

Well, the previewers said it all: "a classic", "the last good story for a while", "a masterpiece of drama" - said DWM.

So with baited breath and a finger poised over the video remote, I settled down to watch. And what I found was a flawed masterpiece, though the flaws weren't so much with the programme itself but with what happened to it afterwards.

Robert Holmes is a personal favourite of mine, along with Saward and Boucher. His stories are always filled with a rich blend of interesting characters, set in interesting locations, and The Caves of Androzani was no exception. We get a wonderful cross-section of the good, the bad and the ugly. The cold Morgus was almost Richard III-like as he turns to the camera and delivers Shakespearean monologues. There was Stotz, the ruthless mutineer, who was likeable in a strange way; Salateen - who was double-sided (both of them), emotionless and mysterious; and finally Sharaz Jek - the twisted aesthetic genius, driven by hate, superb in his lust for Morgus's blood and his captivation with Peri's beauty.

Acting honours go to Peter Davison for his fever-pitch portrayal of the dying Doctor. Any criticism of his being cold can be immediately dispelled in the scenes as he races to save Peri's life, selflessly putting her life ahead of his by giving her the milk.

As for the Magma beast - well, it suffered from the same old thing that the BBC still hasn't grasped - the unseen is infinitely more terrifying than the seen. As it was the beast wasn't too bad, though the head looked too ornamental, like an Oriental dragon, and the overall effect was spoiled by the stupid piece of plastic around the shoulders.

The army was rather ho-hum, coming across as armed freezing workers compared to the gunrunners who were far better presented and more believable.

The settings were well done, especially the exterior Devon sandpit locations, seen in the opening chase and final parts of the story.

The score by Roger Limb was very effective, especially the bell/chime countdown as time runs out for the Doctor.

Then unfortunately came the cuts, which were probably the worst I've seen in Doctor Who (and I had thought the stabbings in Revelation of the Daleks were bad). Episode Four bore the worst testimonies to the knife. Chellak, Salateen, Krelper and co. and finally Stotz, Morgus and Jek's deaths all suddenly disappeared. The last three cuts thoroughly disgusted me, the whole climax of the story is absolutely ruined save for the Doctor's spectacular dash to the TARDIS, and we have our friends across the Tasman to thank for it.

And so what was in the UK (and could have been here) turned out to be a defiled classic, thanks to overkill with the censor's scissors.

This item appeared in TSV 15 (September 1989).

Index nodes: The Caves of Androzani