“You are a mistake and must therefore be eliminated, according to my data you should not exist.” – Styre
I used to think there was not much to this very short two-part story, but really there are a lot of large ideas and important characterizations packed into it. Sarah’s playfulness really starts to come through—she’s more relaxed with the Doctor and wonderfully teasing with Harry. Harry starts to jump to action a bit more. The space crew’s fracturing really does reflect the reality of torture—one gives in a betrays his shipmates, another goes mad, others struggle to retain their humanity in the face of pressure.
It’s also amazing that the most epic part of the story is just a background setting. Our heroes are literally on a new Earth, one that was depopulated and wiped clean by solar flares but after thousands of years has returned to its natural state. I like how understated the magnitude of all of this is—disconcertingly pointed out when the Doctor notes that the open field of scrub they are standing in is Picadilly Square but at the same time not the focus of the story. Instead, we get a tight tale of the Doctor and his companions all having to figure out and separately face a callous enemy (the mystery of which is let out only little by little) that considers them nothing more than lab rats and then work together with the Doctor’s knowledge and unusual use of brute force to defeat him.
Best (or worst) unsettling moment:
The callousness of Styre’s experiments are almost too vividly described. Drowning, death by dehydration, crushing, burning. One doesn’t even want to imagine too much when he says he will find new interest in being able to test on a female of the species.
- The first of several instances of a depopulated earth returned to nature
In the scene where the robot is stationary and moving on its hinges, it looks pretty good. Unfortunately, they most often have it moving which would have made a good shop except is ends up making it wobble and look fake. Also, it seems a little absurd for the Doctor to fall down the “whacking great subsidence” that he had just complained about a second before.