Thursday 12 July 2012

597 Mawdryn Undead Part Four

EPISODE: Mawdryn Undead Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Wednesday 09 February 1983
WRITER: Peter Grimwade
DIRECTOR: Peter Moffatt
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 7.7 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Black Guardian Trilogy: Mawdryn Undead / Terminus / Enlightenment

The Doctor tells the older Brigadier, Tegan & Nyssa that helping Mawdryn will cost him his remaining eight regenerations and refuses, leaving for the Tardis. Turlough has found his way to the Tardis but the Black Guardian appears to him, warning him that two Brigadiers represents a threat to his plan and ordering Turlough to keep them apart. Turlough searches the ship, finding the younger Brigadier and locking him in the chamber that contained the Mutants. The Doctor tries to leave the ship in the Tardis but the necessary course causes Tegan & Nyssa to age as they travel through time. He returns to the ship, reverses the polarity of the neutron flow and tries again but this time they are reduced to youth. He theorises that they have become infected by a virus produced by Mawdryn's Mutations and returns them to the ship. They will be unable to travel in time and unable to leave the ship so the Doctor agrees to Mawdryn's plan on the condition that the process is used to cure Nyssa & Tegan too. The younger Brigadier escapes from the mutants chamber, finding his way to the Transmat Capsule where he removes the Tardis homing device to seek the Tardis. When he finds his way there nobody is present so he continues to wander the ship. The Doctor wires himself, Nyssa and Tegan into the circuit and has the older Brigadier activate it. Turlough attempts to stop the younger Brigadier from entering the lab but at the precise moment that the sequence comes to power the younger Brigadier enters, and shorts out the time differential between the two versions of himself, providing the energy for the process, granting Mawdryn & the Mutants the death they long for and saving the Doctor. Nyssa takes the older Brigadier back to the centre of the Tardis, while the Doctor speaks to the grateful dying Mawdryn. Turlough finds that the crystal the Black Guardian provided him with has cracked and flees. The Doctor & Tegan take the younger Brigadier to the Tardis as the ship starts to destabilise. They materialise in 1977 and leave the younger Brigadier on the hill where he is found by the school Doctor, responding to the Brigadier's earlier summons. The older Brigadier is returned to 1983, but recalling that Turlough is still on the ship the Doctor is forced to make a quick goodbye. Entering the Tardis they find Turlough aboard who requests that the Doctor take him with you.

Aw that's fabulous stuff, I loved that. That just works for me, clever story with the eventual solution using stuff set up in earlier episodes IE The Doctor is saved by there being TWO Brigadier's wandering round the ship. Yeah we can gloss over quite how that works but when you think about it the Doctor giving up his remaining regenerations and the shorting of a time differential having the same effect does make you wonder if the Time Lords' ability to regenerate are somehow linked to their travelling in time. (a similar idea is hinted at in the new series in Amy & Rory's child River Song, conceived in the Tardis, having the ability to regenerate). And how much energy was released by the Brigadiers touching? Enough to give the Doctor extra regenerations?

I missed this episode on original transmission (Cubs) so it was some years later before I saw it to find out how it ended!

The child actresses playing the younger versions of Nyssa & Tegan, Lucy Baker & Sian Pattenden had worked together before in the first two episodes of the Douglas Camfield production of Beau Geste. Neither actress is credited here despite each of them having a line of dialogue which I thought Equity rules say they should be. Lucy Baker now acts under the stage name of Lucy Benjamin finding fame as Lisa Fowler in Eastenders.

There are a few interesting plot holes here, almost unavoidable when doing a time travel story. The younger Brigadier picks up the Homing Beacon from the Capsule, which is presumably the one he said he got from Tegan in the previous episode. We'll forgive his memory being faulty due to what happens afterwards and the resulting breakdown that causes the younger Brigadier but think about it.... the younger Brigadier takes the homing device home, puts it in his toolbox, the older Brigadier digs it out and gives it to the Doctor who uses it to reactivate the transmat capsule where the older Brigadier finds it and takes it home ...... If that's true it's the same homing device going round and round and round! It's probably best to assume that Tegan *did* give him the homing device she was carrying offscreen and that the younger Brigadier ends up with two in his possession. Still the release of energy when he meets his older self does nicely explain why the homing device was broken when he found it in 1983!

I'm also forced to ask who set up the machinery on Earth that the Doctor deactivated in 1983 and disguised it in the statues? It wasn't Mawdryn! Does Mawdryn have tiny robot servants that set up the equipment after he leaves? And who made the Transmat capsule invisible after Mawdryn left it? Was it under instructions to cloak itself? And isn't it a huge coincidence that the same school Mawdryn materialises at would later have an alien pupil secreted away at it *AND* have an old friend of the Doctor's teaching there? As the Doctor indicates in this story there does seem to be some cosmic forces working here and you do wonder if the entire chain of events was set up by the Black Guardian (and the White Guardian, acting in opposition and guaranteeing the Brigadier's presence) with his servants doing the necessary tidying up following the events of 1977.

But these are just minor details in what is otherwise a superb story from Peter Grimwade. It's a big starring story for Nicholas Courtney and really shows him off, the subtle difference between the two Brigadiers. We introduce a new companion, one with an edgy secret and a hidden past: you have to ask questions about Turlough, which planet is he from and why is he on Earth? We bring back a Doctor Who villain last seen swearing vengeance in the form of an actor possessing one of the best voices ever. I really can't believe that there are some people out there who don't like this story.

Mawdryn Undead was novelised by the television story's author in 1984. It was released on video in November 1992 followed by Terminus & Enlightenment in early 1993. All three stories were released together on DVD as part of the Doctor Who - The Black Guardian Trilogy boxset

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