Sunday 19 August 2012

635 Vengeance on Varos Part One

EPISODE: Vengeance on Varos Part One
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 19 January 1985
WRITER: Philip Martin
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 7.2 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Vengeance on Varos

The Tardis is forced to land on Varos to find the mineral Zeitron 7 which the Doctor needs to make repairs. Sil, the representative of the Galatron Mining Corporation, is negotiating with Varos' Governor for the price of Zeitron 7. Prisoners are routinely tortured & killed on television for the entertainment of the populace. The Tardis' arrival interrupts the execution of the rebel Jondar. The Doctor & Peri rescue him, fleeing into the Punishment Zone where they are saved by Jondar's rebel wife Areta and his friend Rondel. Rondel is killed by guards and the others are forced into the hallucination inducing purple zone which the Doctor guides them through. They find the Tardis gone, removed by the Varos authorities who try unsuccessfully to enter it. The Doctor is separated from the others who are captured. The Doctor is trapped in the purple zone where he's subjected to an intense hallucination of a dessert where he collapses to the floor seemingly dead.

I've seen it suggested that Vengeance on Varos is a commentary on video nasties and excessive violence/horror on television. Well if it is, and I think that message is in there, maybe they could have done it without making something that's too violent and horrific for television. Scenes of the rebel leader Jondar being tortured, descriptions of how the authorities could kill someone, the Governor's post vote suffering and even Peri getting slapped about by a guard aren't really suitable for television at that of night and make it grim viewing even now. And yet .... watch the scenes of the populace voting for or against the Governor, think "Press the red button now" and certain bit of this become eerily prophetic in terms of interactive TV and trial by media.

Oh dear it's the first appearance of the golf cart buggy on a human colony. I hate those things, lazy shorthand for "we can't afford to build a bigger tunnel to put a real vehicle in which we can't afford either". They'll be a few more of these before we're done.

The Doctor & Peri are curiously absent from most of the action, with the Tardis only appearing on Varos halfway through. Why all the mucking about with the Tardis needing the Zeitron? Have them materialise and get caught up in events as the Doctor usually does. In fact the Tardis being forced to land somewhere/the occupants getting thrown around is becoming a common occurrence recently. See also Mawdryn Undead, Terminus, Five Doctors, Warriors of the Deep, Frontios, Resurrection of the Daleks and Attack of the Cybermen!

Peri outfit watch: she's wearing exactly the same as she had on in Attack of the Cybermen 1 except in blue rather than pink. Still horribly impractical but a gift for the toymakers now who only have to produce one figure mold and repaint it.

I missed this episode on first broadcast: some church youth meeting I think. It's the only Colin Baker episode I didn't see on transmission.

The Governor Martin Jarvis should need no introduction. He was the Menoptera Hilio in The Web Planet and Butler in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. We've seen Stephen Yardley, playing Arak the male viewer watching Varos' broadcasts at home before. He was Sevrin in Genesis of the Daleks as well as playing Investigator Reeve in the Blake's 7 season 4 episode Sand. No I've not forgotten about the Blake's 7 season 4 cast guide, it'll be along in four days time! Yardley was about to find fame as Ken Masters in Howard's Way, alongside Resurrection of the Daleks/Attack of the Cybermen's Maurice Colbourne.

The rebel Jondar is played by Jason Connery, the son of Sean. The following year he'd find fame as the second Robin Hood in Robin of Sherwood. Another young actor in the production is Owen Teale playing the guard Maldak. Now a well known face on TV he played Evan Sherman in Torchwood: Countrycide. Part 1 of the four part version ends as Maldak approaches the Tardis.

New villain Sil is played by disabled actor Nabil Shaban. He'll be back in The Trial of a Timelord in episode 5-8: Mindwarp.

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