Sunday, 12 August 2012

628 The Caves of Androzani Part Four

EPISODE: The Caves of Androzani Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Friday 16 March 1984
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: Graeme Harper
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 7.8 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: Revisitations Box Set - Volume 1 (The Caves Of Androzani / The Talons Of Weng-Chiang / Doctor Who - The Movie)

The Doctor escapes from the gun runner's ship and is pursued across the sand dunes, being saved by a mud burst that forces his attackers to retreat back to their ship where Morgus is waiting for them. He negotiates with Stotz, but the other gun runners won't go along with the plan so Stotz mows them down. Chellak & Salateen close in on Jak's lair but Salateen & the many of the soldiers are mown down by the androids. Chellak fights his way through to Jak, ripping his mask off to expose the distorted features underneath but his foe pushes him out of the base, sealing the door behind him and trapping Chellak in a mud burst which kills him. The Doctor finds his way to Jak's base and find Peri close to death. Jak directs him to where the Queen Bat can be found and the Doctor braves the mud bursts to milk the bat obtaining the antidote to the Spectrox Toxaemia. Stotz and Morgus force their way into Jak's base where Morgus & Jak struggle with each other. Stotz shoots Jak, but in turn is killed by the returning Salateen android. The injured Jak kills Morgus by forcing his head into the energy beam between two pieces of machinery. Jak collapses in Salateen's arms as the Doctor arrives and collects Peri. They make their way to the surface and into the Tardis just as the mudburst finally hits. The Doctor gives Peri the Bat's Milk enabling her to quickly recover but he collapses on the floor, hallucinating his former companions encouraging him to live and the Master telling him to die. He is surrounded by a glow and regenerates on the Tardis floor, before sitting up and greeting his startled companion.

Well.... there's a real urgency to this episode, driven by the need to save Peri's life and given a doom laden feeling by the heart beat like tone repeating in the background all the way through. Peri survives but it's curtains for everyone else, bar Frau Timmin who successfully usurps her employer. Everyone else: dead, including the Fifth Doctor. No episode featuring a regeneration is going to be a light thing of joy and this one certainly isn't. The Fifth Doctor's last word is "Adric" perhaps reflecting the remorse he still feels for the death of his companion. The Fourth Doctor died saving the Universe. The Fifth dies saving his friend. The Regeneration sequence is a little reminiscent of the previous regeneration with the hallucinations of former companions and the Master being reminiscent of the flashbacks we witnessed as the Fourth Doctor neared his end. Here though Anthony Ainley (The Master), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Mark Strickson (Turlough) & Gerald Flood (Voice of Kamelion) are all rehired for original filming of their cameos. The final end comes amid a slit screen visual, pre empted at the end of the previous episode (has the Doctor been holding his regeneration back to save Peri?) and an explosion of light & sound which director Graeme Harper wanted to be like the end of The Beatles A Day in the Life.

So... Caves of Androzani: Acknowledged Doctor Who classic and frequent pole topper for all time favourite story. And yet..... It doesn't really do it for me. Yes Graeme Harper's visuals & directing are very good and easily the best thing about the story. But in contrast Robert Holmes' feels like he's not firing on all cylinders. Significant ideas (the Gunrunners in the employ of their customer's foes, the disfigured masked villain, the duplicate robots, the death by falling from a great height) are recycled from previous Holmes works with the duplicates being a particular sore point given the constant reuse of the theme throughout the fifth Doctor's era. I don't like the cave sets: yes they look nice enough but while you get the feeling of being enclosed from the sides they all give the impression of being a great height with no roof which just feels odd. There's not a single really likeable member of the supporting cast, nobody you can identify or sympathise with like in earlier Holmes tales. And the whole struggle itself is about revenge and greed, no side has a moral high ground that we can support. Tellingly it all ends up in one huge ultimate stalemate with nobody getting what they want and almost everyone ending up dead. It's too violent, it's dark and it's grim. No thank you.

With that Peter Davison takes his leave of us. A quieter few years professionally followed, perhaps partly due to the arrival of his & Sandra Dickinson's daughter, Georgia Moffat, in late 1984. In 1986 he took on the role of Doctor Stephen Daker in A Very Peculiar Practice and two years later returned to the role of Tristan Farnham in All Creatures Great & Small. He's been barely off our TV Screens since. Now married to actress Elizabeth Morton, the third (and best) Madeline Bassett in Jeeves & Wooster, Davison returned to the role of Doctor Who both for Big Finish audio plays and in the 2007 Doctor Who Children in Need special Time Crash opposite his future son-in-law, Tenth Doctor David Tennant.

Caves of Androzani has been repeated by the BBC once, in 1993 as the Fifth Doctor's entry in the 30th anniversary season. It was novelised by the author's friend Terrance Dicks, Holmes declining once again to adapt his work for book form. He would be persuaded to have another go with his next commission for the series. It was released on video in January 1992 alongside Robot, Tom Baker's first story. The next two releases in March 1992 would be the stories from the opposite ends of each of those Doctor's eras, Logopolis & Castrovalva. Caves of Androzani was initial released on DVD on 18th June 2001 with several effects shots stabilised beyond the level which was capable at the time of the original production for television. It was re-released as a special edition in Doctor Who: Revisitations Box Set - Volume 1 with The Talons Of Weng-Chiang & the 8th Doctor Movie.

Join us tomorrow when Colin Baker is Doctor Who!

1 comment:

  1. I love Caves of Androzani, and it's by far and away the best regeneration story. Before with Billy to Pat it was borne out of necessity so not really the done thing. With The War Games, I think it's a bit flat at the end. The really dramatic punishment are the fates of Zoe & Jamie. The face change thing is too arbitrary.

    Tom's is far too ponderous and portentous and it's an EVENT! Here it's a consequence of the Doctor doing the right thing and trying to make amends for the mess he's landed Peri in.

    The pacing of the story is tight as a drum, and John Normington is excellent.

    Peter Davison was my Doctor, my first memories of the show being Castrovalva Part One. One of the better actors to play the part, and sadly not always served by the material. For every Earthshock there is a Time Flight.

    I'd like to have seen him get better material, as out of all the Doctors he is the one who has the poorest stories.