One day very soon I’m going to write an article on the BBC show Blake’s 7 and why you should give it a try. In it, I may mention how close in feel that show is with this particular episode of Doctor Who. It was a show about an evil empire and everything always went wrong for the small band of rebels and it was overall a rather bleak and depressing look at the future. It had grainy outdoor film sequences and drab and dark indoor sets, with an army of uniformed Earth police who were rather trigger happy. These are some of the things that made that show so good, and what makes this story great, and also ahead of its time, seeing as this was made years before Blake’s 7.
The Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee and his companion Jo arrive on a cargo ship
in the future. A strange noise is heard and the crew of the spaceship believes
the Tardis crew to be the Earth Empire’s former enemies, the Draconians. The
two races are at peace, but it’s a very shaky peace and an outbreak of all out
war seems likely. The cargo ships are being attacked on both sides and both
sides blame each other. However when the ship the Doctor is on is attacked, it
is only Ogrons, a race of unintelligent mercenaries who attack, but the human
crew sees them as Draconians. Who is trying to trick the Empires? Why would
they want to start a war? Is there a greater force at play? And how can the
Doctor convince the humans to listen to him when they think he is a spy?
That’s basically the plot. Most of the story involves the Doctor moving from
place to place trying and mostly failing to persuade people to believe his
story. Now, from the sound of that, you’d think the story would be long and
boring, but it’s really not. This is because of a lot of different reasons. The
Cold War theme worked very well at the time, but it surprisingly still works
now, but more in just a building tension way, rather than in any topic sense.
It’s still great though, there’s an atmosphere of dread and depression over the
whole story and it works very well. It helps that the sets and direction make
the worlds and ships visited all seem rather dark and washed-out. You really
feel like these are real Empire run, almost wartime conditions. The aliens the
Draconians are fantastic creations, they seem like Japanese Samurai, and even
have a feudal system. Their make-up looks amazing and their costumes are
luxuriate and a deep green colour, to contrast with the functional and grey
uniforms of the Earth. There are also some great locations in this story, the
Earth command, a Moon prison, a number of very different looking ships, the
Draconian Court, the barren wasteland of the Ogron world and even deep space.
The whole look and feel of the story seems like it’s had a lot of detail into
it and works very well.
The other main reason this story works is the actors. The supporting cast does
a good job, but this is obviously a show run by three people. The Doctor, Jo
and ‘spoilers’ the Master. All three of them do a fantastic job and have great
chemistry between them. Jon Pertwee brings a touch of class and conviction to
the role that’s seldom rivaled, Jo is one of the best companions, fun, pretty,
but a bit of a ditz and of course Roger Delgado as the Master, well… No-one is
as good as him. I like the other Masters, the actors all do a great job with
the part, but, Roger Delgado just is the Master. He’s suave, smart, arrogant
and the perfect foe for the Doctor.
There are only two problems with this story.
1. It does at some points drag, especially when there are whole episodes which
are fun, but don’t really further the plot.
2. This is the last story with Roger Delgado, before he died in a tragic car
accident. And although he’s brilliant here, he doesn’t get a proper send-off.
The end of the story is a bit confusing and we never really see what happens to
him, so there’s never really a final confrontation. It’s a shame, but it isn’t
this story’s fault.
Overall this story works really well. There are a couple of problems which stop
me giving it a 5/5, but I really enjoyed it. It’s very well made and the cast
are great. Definitely one to watch.