“Come along, folks. All aboard. Have fun. Remember your time. 1959.” – The Tollmaster
This story lost my respect as a kid as soon as they showed a bus station full of bumpy purple aliens bopping to “Rock Around the Clock” (!) I’d forgotten just how dreadful the rest was as well—from the opener with aliens that look like plastic toy soldiers to the god-awful American FBI characters. It’s purposefully hokey and silly and not a favorite of mine.
That said, I can point to a few interesting ideas that are explored the story. The idea of an alien species that mirrors the growth characteristics of bees is interesting, and the way they reveal the parallels subtly in stages is well done. (Especially when explanations of the beekeeper about his colony coincide with the Chimerons’ changes.) The rapid growth of the young queen is quite interesting. The cliffhanger of the larval stage emerging from the egg is almost gruesome. While the baby in a onesie is not quite convincing, the effect of her growing from child to teen before our eyes is well done. I also like the idea of her having a special vocal defense. It’s nice to get to see the Doctor pulling all the pieces of a plan together like the radio and honey. I also like the way they handle the booby trap placed around the TARDIS since there are actually some good pyrotechnic effects as the Doctor tests the barrier and traces a circle around it.
Unfortunately, these good ideas are buried in a sea of silly costumes and over-played characters. Things like the space bus crash scene are played for fun but are very poorly filmed and people are put in laughable situations for no reason. I can’t stand the smug Billy, and the pace of his willingness to give up his human life for her makes no sense. Delta is too aloof to ever be likeable and even Ray is a bit annoying. She was initially considered as a new companion, yet, other than her unique accent, she doesn’t quite stand out as a personality because her intended characterization—a plucky young girl with a knack for tools—just doesn’t ring true. The only one I really admire is holiday camp master Burton who despite seeming to be an unremarkable lonely middle-aged man is the one who stays behind and bravely rescues Mel. I love the scene where he comes suddenly out of nowhere to confront Gavrok as best he can for her. If they were going to pick one of the Welsh characters to be a companion, he should have been the one.
Best (or worst) unsettling moment:
Even as a kid, I was disturbed when the whole bus of tourists was blown to pieces. Mel’s mournful “You killed all those innocent people!” really brought it home
I am not sure how much of this story could have been rescued. I would have like to have had some of the ideas recycled into a different story with a more serious tone.