Wednesday 24 August 2011

275 Inferno: Episode Four

EPISODE: Inferno: Episode Four
TRANSMITTED: 30 May 1970
WRITER: Don Houghton
DIRECTOR: Douglas Camfield (and Barry Letts - Uncredited)
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Inferno
Episode Format: 525 video RSC

Section-Leader Liz Shaw intervenes allowing the Doctor to repair the computer. The Doctor is interrogated by the Brigade-Leader & Section-Leader. The Doctor is taken to the cells and placed with a sleeping figure. In the real world Sir Keith Gold leaves to consult with the ministry. The figure in the cell turns out to be the mutated Bromley and while fighting him the Doctor escapes. He infiltrates drilling control, disguised in a protective suit, attempting to stop penetration of the Earth's crust but is discovered and held at gunpoint as the drill breaks through.

Fab stuff again here. Very 1984/World War II film as the Doctor is interrogated by the Brigade & Section leaders. There's a nice sequence as the Doctor talks with Liz which shows there are parallels between her and her counterpart on the real Earth. Greg Sutton's insubordinate streak, criticised by both Director Stahlmann and Petra Williams, saves the Doctor's life as he tackles one of the guards holding him at gunpoint.

To do a Parallel Universe story you really need something for it to be compared to and this is the first time Doctor Who has had a large enough backing cast plus a stable setting, the Doctor's Earth exile, for it to get away with doing this. Here the recall of John Levene as Benton, and his insertion into the previous story becomes important expanding the familiar cast of supporting characters to three and presenting each of them as different versions of their normal selves: Sergeant Benton becomes the bullying Platoon Under Leader, The Brigadier the fascistic Brigade Leader and Liz becomes part of the army instead of a scientist. The in story support characters are less changed: little separates Stahlman from Stahlmann while Petra Williams & Greg Sutton become more straight laced and strict versions of themselves: note Greg's suit in this second reality. It's interesting that Doctor Who doesn't try a parallel universe again till Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel in 2006 when we have an extended cast formed from Rose's family & friends that we can compare the alternate versions to. The newer tale has another decent hook, like the Nazis having won the war here, in the Cyberman universe her father is still alive but she was never born.

The use of the Parallel Universe actually serves a function within the story instead of just being a story by itself by showing us what will happen if the Doctor doesn't stop the drilling in our world which in turn gives the closing stages of the story added urgency as the Doctor tries to prevent the destruction of Earth for a second time.

(I've actually looked at this story and parallel universe before: see A Rune With A View Issue 28)

This is the third consecutive story this season to have a large control room set as the main setting: The reactor control in The Silurians, the Space Centre control in Ambassadors of Death and now the drill control here. The seven episode structure has given more money for larger more elaborate sets. However as we've seen it also has meant that the scripts for the stories have had to be stretched somewhat.

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