Sezom: It seemed such a small price to pay…
Romana: It always does.
I quite liked this one as a lad—the monsters were unique and menacing, there were a sense of danger for the young captives, and it was simple and concise story. The overall plot is rather generic but not at all bad. Even now, I find the idea of the Nimon creatures moving from planet to planet going through the same long-game steps of trickery to exact tribute very interesting—even moreso when we basically get a preview of the fate of Skonnos through the sad fate of Sezom, the parallel to Soldeed on Crinoth. (It’s also extremely interesting to note how his reaction to realizing the cost of his greed is brave rebellion whereas for Soldeed it’s displaced blame and destruction.) The story is also another of those with Greek mythology parallels both obvious (Minotaurs) and subtle (Skonnos being Knossos, Aneth as Athens—all of which I only got in reading later).
Watching the story as an adult, however, it is also harder to miss the aspects of the story that generally give this story a bad reputation—some OTT acting and Tom Baker’s silliness at full gallop. There are moments watching this story where I literally wanted to yell out ‘Oh come on!’ at the slapstick antics of the Doctor from some extended silliness with K-9 (CPR?) to the ridiculousness of his work on the TARDIS (grinds and boings?!). Most of the extras and minor characters like the copilot are rather lackluster. The actor playing Soldeed is a totally different story. While there are a few dialogues where his overly dramatic performance fits, for the most part Soldeed is played exceedingly over the top with tons of cringe-worthy delivery from his ridiculous call (“Lord Niiimooon?”) to his overacted death scene.
On the other hand, Romana is in top form—from her chic fox hunting outfit to her fierce bared-teeth at the captain when she realizes they’ve left the Doctor behind. She takes on a lot of the morality role of the Doctor in this story such as when she tears into Soldeed (“They’re parasitic nomads who’ve been feeding off your selfishness and gullibility!”) I also really like the role she takes in leading the scared captive youngsters like a protective den mother through the maze. It suits her new persona well. She also comes across a lot less bored and more fun, especially with her broad smile as she teases the Doctor: “I’ll tell you something interesting. When I mentioned the black hole to Soldeed, he didn’t seem to know what I was talking about.” “Ah, well, people often don’t know what you’re talking about…”
Best (or worst) unsettling moment:
After getting labeled as “cargo” and expecting to die, the Anethan youth get a great chance at freedom through Romana and the Doctor’s intervention. It’s quite frustrating and disheartening to see all but two stand there like sheep and miss their chance. I half expected all of them to be slaughtered (at least one was) and it all seems unnecessary and sad.
- An ‘air corridor’ from the TARDIS to a spaceship door
I think if this story had been better acted it would have turned out quite well.