Monday, 20 February 2012

Review: Doctor Who Classic: Arc of Infinity

http://images.wikia.com/tardis/images/9/9e/Arc_infinity_ep1.JPG
Commander Maxil investigates Omega's return.
Doctor Who - Season 20, Story One - Arc of Infinity

Time-Lash was a flawed end to a brilliant season, but there was some hope. The 20th Anniversary season promised to be the best yet, and it would start with that great pedigree - a Gallifrey story. The story would also see the return of ancient Time Lord Omega, who was part of the 10th Anniversary celebrations in the Petwee Era. Arc Of Infinity does not live up to expectations, but it has a few perks here or there that make it somewhat fun.
     The Doctor and Nyssa are getting along quite nicely, having completely abandoned Tegan on Earth in the previous serial. However, an anti-matter being is seen to interupt two guards on Gallifrey, and then it enters the TARDIS and binds with The Doctor. The Time Lords bring The Doctor back to his home planet, where he is to be killed to prevent the antimatter being from entering our Universe. This is overseen by the members of the high council, including Borusa (Leonard Sachs), Hedin (Batman's Alfred, Michael Gough), the Castellan (Paul Jerricho) and Commander Maxil (later Doctor, Colin Baker). Meanwhile, Tegan's cousin Colin has been kidnapped in Amsterdam, and so she comes across to investigate his disappearance. Tegan and her friend are abducted by the antimatter creature, who is revealed to be Omega. Omega takes control of Gallifrey's organisation (damn, these guys are pushovers), but The Doctor manages to escape and tracks Omega down in Amsterdam. Omega is expelled back to this Anti-matter dimension and Tegan rejoins the TARDIS crew.
    The story, while very pretty, really didn't require its Amsterdam setting and it does nothing to distract from the rest of the scenario. The Omega costume is ok, but the costume of his servant, the Ergon, is absolutely ridiculous; Colin Baker on the commentary describes him as an "anorexic chicken". The worst special effect in the serial, by far, is this story's interpretation of The Matrix, which is a shimmery picture of The Master's trap from Castrovalva with green-screened images of the actors balancing on barstools. If the effect was brief it could have been ignored, but The Doctor spends almost the entirety of the third episode in this scenario.
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This is all The Doctor does for an entire episode.
     Leonard Sachs' Borusa has neither the wit and charm of the previous two incarnations nor the bitter ruthlessness of his successor. Sachs is a great actor, but he doesn't do anything here. Michael Gough, having been in Doctor Who, does bring an impassioned performance. Of interest in particular to me is Colin Baker, who played my second-favourite Doctor. This isn't really his best performance, mainly because he was forced into a Gallifreyan guard's costume and made to work with Paul Jerricho, who he felt always bossed him around. One of the more interesting performances in the story is from Peter Davison, who gets to also play Omega in the last episode.
     Something I do love about Arc of Infinity though is that because writer Johnny Birne was the one who created her, this story is perfect for companion Nyssa, who finally gets time alone with Five. Their scenes together show a natural chemistry absent from Tegan or Adric, and her actions later in the story show naturalistic character development unlike anything this era really had to offer. Plus, Tegan at least wants to travel with The Doctor this time, instead of being constantly wanting to leave. 
     The Arc of Infinity is let down by a lazy script and really, really bad effects. The idea of bringing back an old foe for the 20th Anniversary was a noble one, but it wasn't executed well and it wasn't the best start to what had promised to be a good season. It's not as mercilessly shoddy as Time-Flight, but it didn't live up to any of its expectations. There are, however, a few quirks in characterisation that prevent Arc of Infinity from being a total waste of time, and that's why I have a little bit of fondness for it.

Thanks.

NEXT TIME: Martin Clunes, Martin Clunes.... it's Snakedance.

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