It has taken me a while to get through this epic 12 part story. I had seen part 2 many times as it was given away free with the Sun when I was a wee lad. But all of the other episodes were new to me. With most of the parts missing, I was always dreading watching such a long story. But I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought.
The parts of the story set with the representatives and most of the Dalek stuff on Kembel were quite dull, but once the Doctor had stolen the key component for their weapon, the adventure really took off.
I enjoyed seeing Nicholas Courtney as Space Agent, Bret Vyon, who I naturally assume must be a distant descendant of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.
Unfortunately Bret does reach an untimely end at the hand of his sister and future companion, Sara. Speaking of untimely ends, Katarina sacrifices herself into an airlock. Although Katarina has only been aboard the Tardis for around 3 or 4 individual episodes, William Hartnell does sell the hell out of the emotion of her death. I’m just unsure as to why Katarina was shoehorned in as a companion in the first place. I can’t remember her being needed specifically for any point in the plot, and then gets replaced by Sara in the next episodes. She is easily one of the most short lived companions in the history of the show ( and I don’t count people like Astrid or Jackson Lake as companions).
When the Doctor, Sara and Steven escape with the component they embark on a planet-hopping adventure similar to in The Chase. The Doctor gives them a fake version of the Dalek component and the whole story stops for a couple of episodes while they go from location to location when hiding. There are some bizarre choices of places to visit. For example the Tardis lands at a Police Station in the 60’s where there is some back and forth about them mistaking the Tardis for a police box. They also accidentally visit a silent film studio in America. The Doctor and companions have a drink in the Tardis to celebrate Christmas and even break the fourth wall, wishing the audience a merry Christmas too.
I can’t make my mind up about if I like the fourth wall breaking or not. I think I like it. It’s just so innocent and sweet in 1966. But you can imagine that it would look a lot more out of place if Christopher Eccleston turned to the camera halfway through The Unquiet Dead and said the same thing. There is also a strange part where the Tardis lands in the middle of a cricket match for the commentators to act unintentionally, comically nonchalant and the same when it dematerialises again.
Then we are reintroduced to the Monk. I was looking forward to this since I love The Time Meddler. He doesn’t really do much apart from give the Daleks a bit of a break for a couple of episodes. I like the way that the Doctor doesn’t seem shocked to see the Monk again but calmly congratulates him on his escape. After stranding the Monk yet again, the Doctor is able to return to Kembel. Mavic Chen is becoming more delusional about the power he thinks he has over the Daleks. This ultimately leads to his death when the Daleks have had enough of him – quite right.
The Doctor triggers the Dalek weapon, the Time Destructor and dashes to get it into the Tardis. The Daleks knows that it will start to age anything in it’s path and so they let him. Steven goes back into the Tardis but Sara insists on going with the Doctor. Unfortunately they don’t get back to the Tardis in time for the Time Destructor reaching full power. Sara is aged to death quite horrifically. It’s a shame that she didn’t get to have more adventures with the Doctor than this one single story. Steven helps the Doctor into his ship and they recuperate. The Daleks then get aged to death in a similar way. It does feel like a fitting end to a story that has such a lot of death of good people, that the Daleks should have a similarly icky death scene. This story does end on a poignant note with the Doctor and Steven contemplating death and how there was an unnecessary loss of life.
As I previously mentioned, I wasn’t looking forward to a twelve part, mostly missing story. But once I sat down and got into it, the episodes went a lot quicker than anticipated. I loved seeing Nicholas Courtney and Peter Butterworth. In fact it is a shame that he hadn’t got a chance to do at least one more proper story with the Monk – but I think it’s probably a bit late and a bit too obscure to recast the part and have him reappear in the new series. Although it is more comic than it intends to be, and shares a lot of traits with The Chase; I still found myself enjoying the story a surprising amount. I don’t think it will be one that I come back to watch in the near future but it still has its moments of excellence. Therefore I shall award this extremely long story of around 5 hours, 5 aged Sara’s out of ten.