32 Cool Things about
(And 18 Stupid Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore
Originally published in Celestial Toyroom Issue 460
1. This is the second adventure in Doctor Who's history to feature an airport and air traffic controllers.
2. The opening of the
story is the most predictable thing in the world. Oh look, there's an
airplane. Wonder if it's going to crash, or disappear?
3. Mind you, it's nice to see the passenger cabin of a Concorde, from a historical point of view, if not from a taste one (seriously, enough with the brown upholstery).
4. If this serial carries on directly from “Earthshock", why is Tegan back in her air stewardess outfit? Does she just put it on whenever she gets depressed, like some kind of comfort blanket?
5. Honestly, now, why can't the Doctor travel back in time and save Adric? I suppose you can rationalise it as that, since the Doctor doesn't know what happened on the bridge of the freighter before it crashed, he's reluctant to interfere, but from the viewer's perspective, Tegan's perfectly right.
6. The fact that everyone gets on with the next adventure after about five minutes of grieving shows up the artificiality of the series. They really should have ended the season with “Earthshock” and then picked up later when everyone has had a chance to process. Just look at them.
7. Janet Fielding does give a bit of tremolo to her lines for a few more minutes, just to suggest that she's still feeling the pain. But as far as the script's concerned, it's all ancient history.
8. We would suggest that the reason why the Doctor looks so horrified when he realises he's materialised over Heathrow is that he knows it's going to trigger Tegan's psychopathic obsession with air travel.
9. The fact that Nyssa doesn't query Tegan's reference to Flower Power suggests that she's now reached the stage where she just numbly accepts every daft thing people say to her. It'll be full-blown Stockholm syndrome next.
10. 1980s Heathrow! With its generic “Bookstall” shop and depressing yellow signs!
11. Why does the Doctor, perusing the newspaper, say “I don't know what English Cricket is coming to"? He's a Time Lord, surely he knows what happened to the sport in 1982?
12. When Airport Controller Sheard says to Tegan, “You're a stewardess", why doesn't he follow it up with, “then why aren't you on your effing plane?”
13. Forget his bullshit explanation of why it has to be the same type of aircraft; the Doctor just wants a ride on a Concorde. There's probably a deleted scene where he explains that it also has to be stocked with exactly the same kind of snacks, freebies, oh, and chilled champagne.
14. “I saw Concorde once on the tarmac at Melbourne!” Thank you, Tegan, for that oh-so-informative statement.
15. And to reiterate, sending Concorde up again is completely undramatic. Gosh, what could happen? Possibly the same thing as to the other Concorde?
16. If the Tardis tilts every time it lands on its side, then is all the furniture now in a gigantic heap on the floor of every room? And what happens when the Tardis spins, or encounters turbulence? This is before we get to the question of what happens to the swimming pool.
17. “Nyssa, what's the matter?” seems a distinctly mild reaction when someone randomly utters an ear-piercing screech.
18. We're not sure if the cut to CSO after Nyssa's scream, and just before everyone else figures out that Heathrow is an illusion, is clever or stupid, but we've picked one anyway.
19. PSA for Tegan: The Pleistocene actually covers a number of periods of repeated glaciation, so referring to it as “the ice age” is putting it mildly.
20. A story set at the end of the Cretaceous is followed immediately by one set during the Jurassic. Was the production team obsessed with dinosaurs or something?
21. Why does the Doctor say “I doubt it” so quickly when Nyssa asks if the dead creatures she glimpsed could have been brontosauruses? He has no idea what she saw.
22. The Master started his career by disguising himself for plot-related reasons, but we've now got to the point where he gets himself up as some kind of bizarre Sino-Arabic figure for no good reason at all.
23. At that, why does he maintain the disguise and persona when unobserved? Has he been learning about Method acting?
24.The story just about gets away with Kalid, mainly because it's hard to figure out exactly what ethnicity he's a caricature of.
25. “But some clever devil had taken photographs and the reality is that there's the rope lying on the floor, and this Indian juju man and his oppo are hiding behind some bushes laughing like a couple of skunks.” Nyssa just smiles politely at what must, to her, sound like complete gibberish; clearly the Stockholm syndrome has set in.
26. The script describes the Plasmatons as “life-sized dolls with poorly-defined limbs and blank features.” Clearly the writer is indeed channelling “The Faceless Ones".
27. Between Part One and Part Two, viewing figures dropped by a million and a half. Now, we're not usually ones to suggest viewing figures have anything to do with quality, but really, that speaks volumes.
28. Even more amazingly, 8.5 million people actually stuck with this serial.
29. Why does the Master kiss the Tardis?
30. It's a real missed opportunity that, upon meeting Kalid, the Doctor doesn't say, “Why, that's an anagram of... how interesting.”
31. Although the gulags were officially closed in 1960, forced labour did continue in the Soviet Union until the closure of notorious labour camp Perm-36 in 1987. So Professor Hayter's rationalisation isn't that far off base.
32. Sarah Sutton is once again a casualty of the Davison Era's surfeit of companions and temporary companions, sitting around in an overlay of soap bubbles for all of Part Two.
33. Not only are there too many regulars this serial, there are too many one-off characters, to the point where Parts Three and Four seem to consist mainly of finding ways to incapacitate them, occupy them, or kill them off.
34. Particularly noteworthy in this regard is Professor Hayter: He turns up, maunders on about hypnosis, and gets zapped into soap barely an episode later.
35. According to the infotext, Tegan wasn't in the first version of the script. Which is completely bizarre when you think that a story involving aircraft is pretty much tailor-made for a companion who's a stewardess.
36. The Adric sequence would later get conceptually reused in "The Five Doctors" for the scenes where Mike Yates, Liz, Jamie and Zoe variously appear to warn the Doctor back. Albeit with less gesturing.
37. The monster Kalid conjures up at the end of Part Two looks like a version of the Alien as conceived by The Jim Henson Workshop.
38. Kalid's snot-explosion. Gross.
39. "So you escaped from Castrovalva?" This just cries out for the Master to reply, enigmatically, "No".
40. "I might have guessed." How the Doctor should have guessed that the Master would go back to the Jurassic Period, disguise himself as a fat pantomime Easterner, and kidnap random aircraft by accident, is anyone's guess.
41. The Master's plan is actually less batshit than it sounds, since, given how much time the Doctor spends hanging around Earth, if you land anywhen and start randomly shooting out time contours, you're going to hit the Tardis sooner or later.
42. "In all my years as a flight engineer, I've never seen anything like it." Since flight engineers aren't normally expected to peruse alien computers as part of their duties, one wonders what his job has to do with it.
43. The aviation-related characters are so obsessed with all things aircraft that Bilton's reaction upon finding that the Tardis is hovering over the citadel, is to exclaim, "The Tardis has turned into a helicopter!"
44. At that, everybody in this story seems unnaturally obsessed with work; none of the stranded passengers or crew, even when they come out of hypnosis, mention things like family, hobbies, friends, interests, sports results, etc.
45. Update to the infotext on Michael Cashman's subsequent career: he's now a member of the House of Lords, and was appointed by Ed Milliband as the Labour Party's special envoy on LGBT issues worldwide. He was also one of the founders of Stonewall, which does sort of make up for having been a member of New Labour.
46. Blake's 7 Recyclingwatch: The episode "The Web" featured a gestalt entity whose psychic power was capable of animating two biological robots, and also controlling the mind of one of the Liberator’s crew. Of course, in "The Web" it all actually made sense.
47. The effort to stretch the plot out over four episodes leads to things like an extended infodump about the Xeraphin, the repairs to the Concorde and the various Tardises being shown in excruciating detail, and random cardboard airplane personnel wandering around doing ultimately pointless things. It's no surprise that the Doctor actually goes to sleep twelve minutes and eighteen seconds into Part Four.
48. John Nathan-Turner objected to the idea of the Doctor holding hands with his companions while they use the power of their minds to drive away the dark Xeraphin. Seriously, is the guy from Saudi Arabia or something?
49. It says something about the Master that he'd want a Tardis shaped like a Concorde.
50. Apparently Tegan would rather push a tea-trolley up and down a strip of industrial carpet, being sexually harassed by drunk executives, and repeat the safety instructions for the thousandth time, than travel anywhere in time and space. Priorities, people.