It's fitting that a story ending with the Doctor regaining his freedom is primarily concerned with a tragic figure attempting to grasp his own. It's a shame Omega doesn't get a good chunk of screen-time until episode three; he's the best thing here. The Time Lords' great power coming at the cost of one man's imprisonment and torment. One man making a sacrifice, to set his people up above the very Gods. That and his Catch-22 dilemma make for enthralling viewing. Thorne plays it perfectly, giving Omega a dark, sad anger -- full of power and menace. It's a pity that all this great storytelling comes in the middle of "...that's Cromer out there..." and the constantly belching Gel Guards.
Troughton easily steals every scene he appears in. ("This is a show Jon Pertwee stole from Pat Troughton. He's stealin' it back.") Between accidentally breaking the Brigadier's radio and subtly probing the limits of Omega's self-control, he shows himself to be the ultimate Doctor -- always entertaining and always in command. Points off for not showing us him briefing the UN Security Council... That would have been a hoot! William Hartnell is charming. Fan of Hartnell's Doctor that I am, it's great to see him back for one final adventure. Sadly, because of his health, it's more nostalgia that I feel rather than genuine enthusiasm, but he's still a lot of fun in his brief appearances.
The script, which seems excited at the epic story of Omega's fall, feels oddly tired at other points. Tedious and awkward are the scenes of the Time Lords watching the proceedings from their distant world. The argument for allowing the Doctor meet his other selves boils down to "I must!" and counter arguments are dissuaded with "On the contrary, blah blah blah, I must!" Not exactly Socrates' Apology. There's also some plot sloppiness. For example, at the end of episode three, the Time Lords suddenly know a lot more then they did before, without explanation as to how.
The science in this serial is, well, at least they tried to make it sound scientific. But I think even the most scientific-illiterate would realize grass doesn't grow underneath buildings and black holes don't go around sucking in and farting out Mr. Holises...
The rest of the script seems to consist of nothing but padding: corridor running (which Tyler even comments on being a waste of time), people being captured, and the never-ending farewell scene, which is undercut when they're reunited moments later (although Nick Courtney's performance in those minutes instantly forgives the mockery his character underwent in the rest of the serial).
"This is a place. Just like any other place," states Pertwee, looking around at a rock quarry, which indeed looks like every other place he visited. For being the tenth anniversary special, outside of the guest stars the serial doesn't look very special. The battle sequences in episode one aren't effectively directed. This is a long way from AMBASSADORS OF DEATH's fight scenes. The UNIT troops don't even bother taking cover; they just stand right out in the open. Barry Letts rightly criticizes the sets on Omega's world for being too pantomime. The cheaply made sets look exactly like cheaply made sets. If only they could have shot Omega's throne room on location in some run-down castle...
As for the DVD extras, I've not been a huge fan of some of the fluff that gets put on these discs, but I must admit to being tickled this time. The Pebble Mill piece is hilarious. The production notes are great, with a lot of focus on earlier script drafts/ideas ("Deathworld" seems more interesting than what we got). Even the commentary (often the weakest link on these DVDs) sparkles. The best formula seems to be a mix of production crew and actors, and that heuristic is true again. Katy Manning and Nicholas Courtney's anecdotes and clowning are amusing, and Barry Letts' dry comments are always informative. But one thing: couldn't we have had Terrence Dicks on the commentary track too?
Review Extras. Things may which amuse only me, but I'm including anyway:
1. Omega has great powers. In his domain, everything is possible, because he can make things jump in and out of the frame like he's a student film director.
2. Omega claims that the Doctors must eventually wear masks such as his. A pity they never did that. Can you imagine Troughton clowning with that big headdress on? Comedy gold!
3. Despite the fact that the anti-matter thing ate all of Mr. Hollis, only his screaming face appears on the photographic slide; presumably, this was the closest part of him to the cosmic-ray detector device. Lucky for him it wasn't his butt that was closest. They'd still be trying to identify it.
4. The thought-transference stuff meant switching the camera quickly between shots of Pertwee and Troughton. It goes so fast that it almost looks like subliminal advertising. And I can tell you that after watching these scenes, I was strangely hungry for a giant nose.
5. In all of Troughton's three post-WAR GAMES appearances, he's involved in a plot that has him running around yelping about Time Lords. Given that they weren't even formally introduced until his final episode, this has always struck me as being slightly wrong somehow...
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