“It is not in anger, believers. Although we have cause for anger, we will act in justice.” – Lexa
They should have scrapped this one. It is decidedly one of the worst Tom Baker stories ever in terms of plotting, internal consistency, and sloppy writing. Add to that some awful looking effects, dull characters, lazy setting, and the horrible misuse of a former cast member and it’s almost an embarrassment to watch.
The idea of a society divided into two opposing but equally powerful groups centered around the same mysterious energy source–one worshiping it and one studying scientifically–is actually a good starting point. But it goes seriously downhill from there. A sentient plant, the only survivor of a destroyed plant, gets a band of mercenaries to kidnap a random human from earth so it can switch his consciousness to his body to just them promptly change his appearance to that of the Doctor. Why? How does he even know the Doctor? Why does he need some human to do that anyway? It’s obvious they added the person almost like a paint-by-numbers—like the script writer had heard somewhere that you have an earth character for the audience to sympathize with so they had to write one it. This forced writing is even worse at the end. Out of nowhere on the side, a defeated warrior suddenly shoots and hits the priestess. We don’t even see it on screen but she supposedly leapt to save Romana. There’s a line of “she sacrificed herself for me” and then on to the rest of the story. Again it’s as if the writer felt like having a character self-sacrifice is what you have to for a compelling story though it actually is so abrupt and the relationship of Romana and Lexa so non-existant that it makes no impact.
Some things are bad editing. There’s a ton of fringing on the overlay—it looks like the people are shimmering. Characters don’t see each other within plain sight at times. Then there is just the plain ridiculous. The solution to the horrible hysteretic time loop, one so impossible to escape that even Time Lords fear it? Just repeat the actions you do during the loop and somehow it magically works out Heck, you don’t even have to get it timed right or worry too much about your mark. Just make sure to say the right lines (even with a bit of coaching if needed) and all will be well!
By the last episode, they are hardly trying. They have the TARDIS materialize on the planet just with a black background and the actors looking to the side at nothing. They don’t know how to build the tension of the TARDIS crew leaving other than to suddenly make the TARDIS have a hiccup such that it can’t materialize quickly.
Best (or worst) unsettling moment:
Apparently Tom Baker in cactus makeup was scary to me as a kid since that’s the only thing I remembered from this episode. While it’s not a scary moment, I always feel bad when watching to think of poor Zastor putting all his hope in the Doctor and knowing that faith is going to be dashed when Meglos impersonates him. I’m not sure why—I guess it’s because he seems like such a nice old man. At least the ending scene of Romana getting a call to go back to Gallifrey sets up a series of much better stories to come.
Best description of the Doctor:
It’s amazing that such a horrible script could yield such a magnificent line to describe the Doctor: “He sees the threads that join the universe together and mends them when they break.”
It is absolutely criminal that they brought back Jacqueline Hill, the actress who brilliantly played the iconic character Barabara Wright at the start of the series, and put her in a relatively minor part as another character all together. What a wasted opportunity and waste of talent. Imagine if they had written a story with her surprise return as Barabara! Instead, we are left not only having to ignore that we recognize her but also having to ignore that the Doctor doesn’t recognize the similarity either.