on February 15, 2004
Yes, this is the second of three stories where Doctor Who went abroad on-location, and this time it's Amsterdam. Two Australian students on holiday, Colin Frazer and Robin Stewart, spend the night in an abandoned crypt near a fountain, and before long, Colin vanishes, only to turn up a zombie under control of aliens, leaving Robin in a lurch. His only hope is to get help from Colin's cousin, scheduled to arrive at Schiphol Airport.
For the Doctor and Nyssa, they pass near an area in space that was called the Arc of Infinity because it's the gateway between the universes of matter and anti-matter. The Doctor is attacked by a strange alien, initially billed as the Renegade, but then things get worse. It's another return to Gallifrey, only this time, the Doctor is in danger of suffering the same fate as Morbius, (q.v. The Brain of Morbius). An alien from the realm of anti-matter has been partially successful in bonding with the Doctor to get his polarity reversed. However, for that to happen, someone had to have given this alien the Doctor's bio-data extract, and only members of the High Council of Timelords have that power. The Timelords, still led by President Borusa, don't have time for that--they prefer the Doctor's execution to retain control of the Space-Time Matrix and prevent billions from being killed.
The Doctor has a few allies, such as Damon, a Gallifreyan technician who was on duty when the Doctor's bio-data was being accessed. There's also his old instructor Councillor Hedin of the High Council, a kindly person who manages to get Damon and Nyssa to visit the Doctor even though the Doctor is denied visitors under orders from the meticulous Castellan and his lackey, an unpleasant and trigger-happy commander named Maxil. However, Episode 2 ends with the Doctor apparently being terminated. What then?
There's a lot more to Nyssa that comes out here. Apart from her sensitivity, she gets to shoot some guards in the story, all in aid to rescue the Doctor. After all, the Doctor is all she has since the murder of her parents and destruction of her planet. One of Sarah Sutton's best moments in the series.
The Renegade and his pterodactyl-like helper have interesting H.R. Giger-influenced designs. However, the on-location shooting is utilized quite well so the viewer sees quite a lot of the streets of Amsterdam, particularly in a climactic chase scene in the last episode, where the Doctor and his companions are chasing the decaying Renegade (also played by Peter Davison, who must've made quite an impression running down the streets with a mixture of green-dyed glued Rice Crispies on his hands and face).
Other performers: Elspet Gray (Thalia) also appeared in the first Black Adder series as the Queen. Colin Baker (Commander Maxil) makes his first appearance in the series, and it's ironic that he shoots the Doctor in Episode 1, because at the end of next season, Baker succeeds Peter Davison as the Doctor. Also interesting is that he was a candidate to play the Castellan, but lost out to Paul Jerricho, who also beat out Patrick Stewart. But guess who else was initially considered for Maxil? Pierce Brosnan!! I kid you not! And Hedin is played by Michael Gough (Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred in the Batman movies).
The 20th season was the most memorable season for me, because I was really starting to get into the series, and Arc of Infinity really stayed with me, because it was a Time Lord story, the scenes in Amsterdam, and Sarah Sutton's appealing performance. Enjoying this story does not require smoking cheap grass from Amsterdam.
on December 30, 2013
Colin Baker, Peter Davison and Janet Fielding were very entertaining in the commentary. Colin's talk about the chicken helmet and coffee orders on set; Peter telling Colin that Maxill rather enjoyed shooting the Doctor; and Janet thinking out loud about a Gallifreyan kitchen redesign was - surprisingly - great fun.
The story itself was well done (I didn't find it boring anyway) and the new cgi effects were a nice addition to the story. The Nyssa character was really good in this story; she had a more central role ... and her shooting all the guards with ease was hilarious.
Some people may criticize some of the costumes (like the rooster-looking "monster" Omega dreamed up) but hey, if it wasn't cheap looking it wouldn't be Doctor Who now would it?
I'd recommend watching the "Omega Factor" feature on the DVD before the movie. Some of the scenes where Omega walks around Denmark smiling weirdly were confusing until it's explained in the feature.
on December 12, 2002
The doctor again faces off against the awesome "Omega", a fellow Gallifreyan who was accidentally sucked into the antimatter universe and will do anything to come back. Omega was last seen in the serial "The Three Doctors" - an extended episode that matched the first three actors who played Dr. Who up with some of the former companions. Supposedly destroyed at the end of that episode, Omega was just delayed, and it's taken him this long ("Three" had to have been in the early 70's) to come up with another plan that will return him to our universe, or destroy it entirely. Not quite sure who he's facing, The Doctor returns to Gallifrey - home of the time lords - to investigate. Though an advanced civilization, Gallifrey manages to have its share of petty intrigues, including a mysterious charachter who sides with Omega and his ways of neutralizing the Doctor before he can thwart Omega's plan. The plan, incidentally involves the "arc of infinity" which, happily for BBC production assistants, is located outside of England, in the happiest place on Earth - Amsterdam. (They couldn't use Paris again after "City of Death")
This was a lackluster story. Why Amsterdam? The concept of the titular arc seems like a weak excuse for going "out on location". Also, oddly enough, the first victim of Omega's happens to be a cousin of ex-companion Tegan Jovanka - a flimsy way of writing her back into the show (she'd been left behind at Heathrow at the end of "Time Flight". In a wonderfully bittersweet moment, she looks unhappily surprised to have missed the Doctor's departure). Omega's mystery collaborator is little mystery, and the Gallifreyan setting with its many intrigues reveals the weaknesses of Davidson's Doctor (Baker was much more in control when dealing with the Castellan and Borusa characters). Still, the script plays up the pathos of Omega's plight (he doesn't really want to destroy or conquer anything - he just wants to go back to his own cosmos), and you get future Doctor Colin Baker (Davidson's successor) as Maxil, the head of the Gallifreyan honor guard. (In a scene that proves ominous to those whovians who couldn't stand Colin Baker's Doctor, Maxil welcomes the Doctor home by shooting him.) A weak story, one that you can live without.
on January 22, 2001
"Arc of Infinity" is a story with a few interesting moments, in particular a satisfying and intriguing first episode, but the remainder makes for a merely average tale. Part one is exceptionally moody, providing good exposition - who is the alien?; who is his accomplice?; whose TARDIS has landed in the crypt?; is the Doctor to be executed by his own people?; how are the backpackers involved? However, after episode two everything unravels and, frankly, becomes a bit of a mess. By the end of the story, the link between the alien (I won't mention his name for the benefit if those who haven't viewed it yet) and Amsterdam is just too convoluted to be believable, especially after Tegan becomes involved. The concept of the Arc of Infinity doesn't really make any contribution to the story, and the notion of Amsterdam being on its curve and therefore central to the plot is downright ludicrous. The Amsterdam shots are pretty, but the chase in episode four goes on too long and just seems to be the BBC announcing "Hey, we're making Doctor Who in Amsterdam!" The same was done in Paris for "City of Death", but that was a much more engaging story. Most of the Time Lords are boring and stuffy, which, given our knowledge of their society, seems fitting, but Michael Gough's Councillor Hedin is the only interesting member of the High Council. Colin Baker (a future Doctor) is wonderful as the sadistic Maxil, and the alien is well designed. His identity (an old enemy) is revealed at the end of episode three, but there are enough clues in the story for a fan versed in Who history to work out who he is. The story is well plotted but realised less successfully - it isn't bad, just bland and uninteresting. There are several other factors that work against it - the Ergon is dreadful, the special effects of the Doctor wobbling in the Matrix are comical, Talor's last words are ridiculous and Tegan's cousin's Australian accent is dreadful - however, nobody, whether British, American or otherwise, can perform a decent Australian accent - it's just one of those things! ; ) However, Peter Davison is at his passionate best as the Doctor, and Sarah Sutton's Nyssa has a strong performance. "Arc of Infinity" is a passable and watchable story - it just isn't very memorable.