“I prefer Control poisoning my lungs, to their trying to poison my mind.” – Medok
The irony in the forcefully happy music announcements and the creepiness of the softly urging hypnotic night voice come through much better upon when hearing them as they were performed. I was surprised at how big and bold the cheesy band and cheerleader scenes apparently were as well. Even the scene at the spa and the Doctor’s unwilling makeover (which came across silly and unnecessary in the book) seemed more engaging when you could here the well-acted banter of the TARDIS crew, obviously now a cohesive unit.
The Doctor is in his element in this story—grinning insolently in the face of authority, dropping cheeky lines of rebellion like “Bad laws were made to be broken” and “Confusion is best left to the experts” as he wrecks the authoritarian plans of Control. Jamie starts to stand on his own more here, and Ben gets a nice story arc of gradually overcoming the conditioning that causes him to betray his friends. It’s interesting that his breakthrough moment is almost all internal, a silent tear after betraying his friend, not a cliché big moment of having to fight against it at the last minute. Of course he does get to redeem himself in a grand gesture by being the one to throw the switch to stop the Macra. Unfortunately, Polly gets a lot less to do—for the most part just get a new haircut and scream!
In the end, the whole story is focused on seeing through a false sense of contentment and camaraderie around you in order to wake up to the fact that you are being misused and misled. The over-the-top happiness is a great contrast when poor Medok comes running through to escape his ‘treatment’ as guards chase after him saying it’s ‘for his own good’ or when the supposedly reassuring control voice says things like “Our patrols have orders to shoot on sight. Happy sleep time everybody!” The Doctor is proud to break the rules and lead others to do the same; in a kind of personal mantra, the Doctor concludes at one point: “Don’t just be obedient. Always make up your own mind.”
Best (or worst) unsettling moment:
The grand image of the controller with a booming voice giving instructions seems all powerful, but when the TARDIS crew force them to actually show the controller in person, we suddenly see a feeble and defeated little old man, hardly understanding what is going on, sitting there instead. “Speak? Am I to speak?” he fearfully whispers to his real masters off screen. A great but disquieting peek behind the curtain of power.
- Holiday camp setting
- First classic one-off monster to have been brought back for the new series
Though we can’t actually see the episode, the few remaining bit and photos seem to indicate that the actual monsters in this story (very clearly big crabs but referred to as more like bacteria) did not come across very well in filming. Since almost all the cliffhangers rely on the menace of the creatures creeping in upon our heroes, I think that the these may not have come across very well. Also, I was very disturbed to see Polly’s beautiful long blonde tresses cut away no matter how trendy it may have been.