“It’s beautiful but at the same time horrible”- Jo Grant
The quality of this story is all over the map. There are a few moments of impressive ideas and some sparkling dialogue, but then other (many other) moments with silly ideas, awful dialogue, and horrible costuming and effects. It starts out problematic with the rather overdone and unbelievable characters of Ruth and (especially) Stewart. All the rigmarole that the Master goes through in bringing Kronos wears a bit then too (though his manipulation of the priest is very spot on to his character). There’s jaunty music at silly places and too many Venusian jokes. And who in the world thought it was a good idea to use the acronym TOM-TIT?
While there are several quite interesting ideas, they are not really followed through fully; in fact, most are actually used again in the Tom Baker era to much more satisfying effect—people from other times scooped up as weapons, slowed down time that only the Doctor can sense, matter transfer, a TARDIS within a TARDIS. Probably the best developed idea here is the discussion of the ‘telepathic circuits’ of the TARDIS and the significant introduction of the concept that they can literally change one’s spoken words before they come out of the mouth, critical to later ideas of language translation. It’s taken up a notch when these telepathic circuits are what are able to pick up the Doctor’s essence in the time void to restore him and, in a stroke of genius as he’s talking to Jo, we hear all his subconscious thoughts whispering and bubbling in the background.
As for our regulars, Benton and Yates get a lot more screen time and action, but unfortunately this is where the Brigadier is turned into a bit of an idiot—shaking his head as though he cannot understand the most simple of scientific explanations and failing to take real useful action. (I do like how he out-regulations the Minister though.) Jo continues to show initiative in her own right and gets elaborately decked out in a nice Atlantean costume.
The story picks up considerably in the last two episodes when we arrive in ancient Atlantis. It feels much more serious in tone and offers up some excellent dialogue interactions: King Dalios’s wonderful derision and rebuff of the Master (“I am the Master. I come as an emissary from the gods.” “Indeed? Any god in particular?”), the Master’s seduction of sultry Queen Galleia, the Doctor and Jo discussing his philosophic awakening on his darkest day. I wish the whole story could have been this rich in dialogue. Even the typical reaction to the TARDIS interior is extra flowery as the priest exclaims: “So vast a space inside so small a box!”
Best (or worst) unsettling moment:
The eerie sound of the Doctor’s subconscious thoughts is rather cool. The understated and unjoking delivery of the line “I shouldn’t listen to them too hard if I were you. I…I’m not all that proud of some of them” is even more affecting.
- Telepathic language circuits of the TARDIS
- A TARDIS within a TARDIS
- Super-speed Bessie
- The Master woos a woman to achieve his treachery
- It seems obvious that the Chronovores here must be another name for/related to the time-eating Reapers in the new era story Father’s Day. The limbo area where one could live in nothingness for ever is echoed in the description of the void in Doomsday. I sure hope that only Time Lords like the Doctor survive being swallowed by a Chronovore for that to happen—it’s awful to think of pitiful little Dr. Percival floating in eternity.
- I’d never notice the aspect of the TARDIS actually changing the words of the Doctor before they came out of his mouth in this story. Of course this fits with future explanations of the TARDIS filtering languages for instantaneous translation.
- I don’t think this story undercuts the previous Atlantis story The Underwater Menace as some suggest. Atlantis here is destroyed (sunken) 5000 years in the past and what we see in the modern day Troughton tale are ancestors of the survivors trapped underground for those year, the remains of a once great civilization whose gods have morphed from Greek tradition to reflect the fish and creatures in their new environment.
- Oddly the ‘time experiment’ is not so much about time travel as matter transfer. Is this the technology that the T-Mat is based on?
Unfortunately, no amount of good in this story will be able to make of for the woefully bad Kronos costume (especially its flying around on wires). I was embarrassed by it as a kid and cannot suspend my disbelief even as an adult to enjoy it. I wish they had not tried so hard to make it birdlike bur rather just had it as a horrible winged biped. Fixing that as well as some of silly banter in the early episodes may have lifted up the whole story.