“If I exist only by my will, then my will is to destroy, and all things shall be destroyed! All things!” – Omega
Another story with good concepts and dialogue that is almost totally tanked by bad costuming and production decisions. If you can make it through the first episode or so by just accepting to the woeful appearance of the jelly creatures, then the story moves quite briskly and has some especially nice moments—not the least of which is the revolutionary idea of having the older versions of the Doctor meet the current one. All the wonderful posturing and tripping over pronouns between Second and Third is enjoyable as is the First being like a scolding parent. The whole back story created for solar engineer Omega and the rise of the Time Lords is important and interesting. It definitely deepens their history and scale.
The blobby Gel Gaurds are of course a real let down for the episode. (Though their floating eye within the translucent bulb does yield a good effect.) The monster design somewhat works while in the darkened corridors of Omega’s fortress and indeed seems to have been created with this in mind—so it’s as if somebody later decided to stick them in the middle of grassy fields and rock pits without really thinking through how badly they would appear outside their original settings. (As for the animated blob, it looks like a barely formed trial run and should never have been used. The show was a bit too ambitious to try to make that work.)
In addition to the costumes and effects, there are definitely some flubs in the writing. The description in dialogue often does not match what we see (like when the Doctor and Jo describe the hunting instinct of the blob since it ignored her and went after him—we didn’t see this happen at all due to limitation of effects and you kind of have to force yourself to imagine that was indeed what you saw happen.) Also, some things don’t make sense like why the scientist seems so convinced that a complete stranger has disappeared when even his wife just assumes he’s wandered off and isn’t at all concerned. The whole bit with the anti-anti-matter recorder seems a bit forced—especially since they discover it after they’ve already made their big plan. What would they have done had it not accidently fallen in there?
The Brigadier again comes off kind of dim but he does show a lot of bravery as he seem ready to storm an alien fortress on a distant plan with just himself and a country bumpkin with a rifle. It’s funny to see his tetchy exasperation when the Doctor suddenly takes off and leaves an outside scientist there to use the lab. (“Make yourself at home. We’re only supposed to be a top-secret security establishment. Liberty Hall, Doctor Tyler. Liberty Hall!”) Actually, there are several points where the Brigadier seems almost on emotional edge. It’s interesting that later in the series he does have a mental breakdown and I am anxious now to see that scene in that Davis episode to see how it might fit into this time period. We even get to see Benton and the Brigadier’s first looks at the inside of the TARDIS. (“Well sergeant, aren’t you going to say it that it’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Everybody else does.”) But after all this time, the Doctor never took them in before that?
There are some nice surrealistic moments like the watercooler in the middle of the wasteland or the mental fight with Omega. The ‘invisible man’ reveal of Omega being nothing more than a force of will is well done in both the horror on the faces of the Doctors after they lift the mask and Omega’s pitiful cry of realization at seeing nothing in the mirror. Despite some problems, the story stands up pretty strong in its concepts and how the Doctors have to work together
Best (or worst) unsettling moment:
The trippy scene of the Doctor’s mental battle with Omega comes out of nowhere as he wrestles with a vampirish creature in slow motion in a black void. It’s actually done rather artfully—but is so odd and unlike the whole rest of the story that it makes you wonder what in the world is doing on. Other moments that are disturbing are Omega’s piteous howl at realizing he can never exist outside the anomaly and, though in the end it doesn’t turn out to be so bad, the sight the eerie face on the radiograph print that we assume marks the demise of Mr. Ollis.
- Multiple Doctor story
- Jelly babies (from the second Doctor no less)
- Time Lord legend
I didn’t have any problem with them as a kid but as I was older the idea of multiple-Doctor stories bothered me. (Not because the Doctor would have memory of the event and should know what to do. It has become clear that only the latest in line in such a cross-meeting remembers it and the others are presumably returned without knowing that they’d ever been taken out of time.) I was uncomfortable because it seemed to undercut and not fit the narrative of the First and Second having been on the run. How could they have been so scared or isolated from the Time Lords and then suddenly be cooperating on a big project as if it was perfectly normal? I have to assume that when pulled from their own time stream, these versions of the Doctor must first receive an explanation of the situation, pardon by the Time Lords, and have time to deal with and accept this new situation before they meet their later self. Otherwise they should be confused and surprised or horrified. Of course here the Second Doctor also describes himself as a temporal anomaly, suggesting that it is like he’s not really the Doctor at all.
Apart from design, it’s just a real shame that this story is not what it could have been had William Hartnell not been so ill that he could barely pre-record a few scenes. It would have been amazing to have the three of them all running around and bouncing off of each other instead.