Home : Archive : TSV 11-20 : TSV 18 : Review

Hindscan: Season 23

Reviewed by Hamish Reid

Initially, the concept of a season shrouded under an umbrella title struck me as somewhat daunting. Once it started there was no escape. Despite the umbrella title I preferred to divide the episodes up into the titles provided: The Mysterious Planet, Mindwarp, Terror of the Vervoids and The Ultimate Foe. Not only does this make the stories easier to follow but it provides a form of familiarity with the Doctor Who series as a whole.

1. The Mysterious Planet

The opening sequence at the beginning of episode one was excellent. It provided an air of complete mystery. As soon as the Doctor entered the court room I was asking "Where is Peri?", but amongst the story that followed it was soon forgotten. On Ravalox, Sabalom Glitz was amazing. His blaming of society for his present undesirable nature was very reminiscent of many of those in present day New Zealand society. The location scenery was very pleasant. I would like to know if the village of Queen Katryca was built by BBC props, because it certainly looked like it had some substance. The robot, Drathro, was a little less desirable. The beliefs that it was holding to were understandable and the size of it made it different to other robotic creatures that have appeared in the past. The two 'chosen ones', Humker and Tandrell provided some restful, but necessary humour. Their function and appearance discussion was brilliant. I was constantly annoyed, like the Inquisitor, by the never-ending succession of interruptions (this feature was to continue relentlessly through the season).

2. Mindwarp

This story not only gave Peri a mindwarp it also gave me one! After parts one and two, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Following part three, I concluded that all that could happen now must have something to do with Sil and Kiv - it did, but the events that took place in part four took me completely by surprise. Things got really heavy after the Doctor was removed. The finish of this story left me both shocked and completely bewildered. My confidence in the Time Lords as a moral race was temporarily destroyed. I could not believe that they, after making such strong policies on non-intervention, could allow this to happen. It was nice to see Sil back, but he was really under-utilised. Brain Blessed's King Yrcanos was just as I imagined he would be: loud and unthinking! Thoros-Beta was quite fascinating in the opening scenes. It was nice to see some attempt being made to make a planet un-Earth-like - the pink sea was at least original. Overall I was not entirely happy with Mindwarp.

3. Terror of the Vervoids

Another of the murder mystery on a completely isolated ship stories. The trial of this story was to remember that it takes place in the future, after the Doctors trial (does this not make the trial itself a foregone conclusion?). The sudden appearance of Mel as a fully accepted companion was unusual at the start, we usually get time to know a new companion by seeing them first in their 'natural' environment. But, here Mel is. Her style was shocking at first. Her bubbling, over exuberant personality was a little much to cope with. The story itself came nicely packaged. Perhaps there were to many killings, but when the Vervoids finally revealed their true desires, some sympathy was given to both human and plant life, with human life triumphing again. It was great to see Honor Blackman even though the 'keen-to-be-fit' Professor Lasky lacked any apparent scientific capability. The finale to each episode seemed to feature Mel screaming her head off at some horrifying peril in the best spirit of all past female companions. The finale to part four was almost a complete turnaround. Had the Time Lords not killed Peri but one story previously? Now the Doctor had to be accused of genocide - beyond belief!

4. The Ultimate Foe

The conclusion to all this mess at last. Is the Doctor guilty? What were the secrets on Ravalox? Is this a real trial? All was to be revealed: with the Master appearing, a solution was fast becoming apparent, but even the Master was not responsible for what had occurred. The ultimate foe was the Doctor himself - obvious! The Valeyard being an amalgam of all the Doctor's evil thoughts was an original, if not difficult to understand concept. The entry to the Matrix sparked some scenes that were reminiscent of The Deadly Assassin: you never know if what was happening was really happening - "the only logic is there isn't any logic". It was nice to find out that the secrets of Ravalox (or Earth) were not forgotten. These great 'scientific' secrets were Gallifreyan. I would like to know if the shifting of Earth to a new position in space and renaming it Ravalox affects the continuity of the series. The Peri conclusion was a little unbelievable. I cannot imagine Peri happily settling down as a Queen with King Yrcanos - Americans don't even understand monarchy! But none-the-less the irritating Popplewick and the entertaining Glitz made the finale to the story worth remembering. This was by far the best story for season twenty-three, but the season as a whole rates very lowly against the series as a whole. Sylvester - your TARDIS...