What's it about: The actions of Mr Rees have alerted the Time Lords of Gallifrey, and Romana has assigned her best warrior. Independently, the Sixth Doctor has arrived on Earth. A power from the dawn of the Universe is about to be unleashed once more…
President: Lalla Ward can turn up in any Doctor Who story as far as I am concerned, whether it requires Romana or not. Even when Gallifrey reached its nadir in seasons four and (especially) five, Ward always delivered a powerhouse performance and knocked my socks off. Given she hasn't appeared alongside Colin Baker since the genesis of Big Finish (way back in The Apocalypse Element) it is surprising to see them so smoothly pick up where they left off. The Doctor and Romana talk in short hand with each other and understand the severity of the situation and how to reduce the technobabble and myths to a level that Mike would understand between them. I was laughing my head off when they rushed at Leela, screaming some kind of off-putting war cry. The promises to get Romana and Leela back to Gallifrey safe and sound in no time...but there is always the question of his ability to navigate. Oh how I would love a series of adventures with Sixie, Romana and Leela.
Mike Yates: Nice to see that this is a direct continuation of the story set up in The Screaming Skull.
Rees: Ultimately Rees is just a sadist who got lucky, who was in the right place at the right time and managed to extend his life through supernatural means. I rather like the idea that he is some grand super villain or God from the Dawn of Time, just a casually violent man who enjoys watching people suffer and has had the opportunity to make it happen for over a century. He likes the screams best, it isn't the same when they don't let you know how much it hurts when they die. We get a sneak peek into the past at Rees as a little boy, his mother dying, killing his father and mending the music box that she gave to him. The gift that the Doctor bestows upon Rees is probably more than he ever deserved given the terrible atrocities he has committed but it is a touching close for the character and ties up his story very satisfyingly. That is all I ask for.
Standout Performance: Colin Baker. Lalla Ward. Louise Jameson. Richard Franklin. An odd bunch to throw together but an engaging recipe for success.
Sparkling Dialogue: 'I may have cheated just a teensy weensy bit...'
Audio Landscape: Birdsong, doorbell, the polite chatter between dignitaries at a UNIT function, chaos breaking out, a full scale riot, jungle noises.
Musical Cues: Bombast gets taken to a new level when the sixth Doctor arrives and Ding Dong Bell suddenly becomes the inspiration for the most dynamic of soundtracks as all hell breaks loose. How Carter and Briggs have worked the nursery rhyme into all four stories to create a unified musical identity and yet altered the tone of the motif according to the genre has been quite masterful. It plays out in all its serene glory over the public address system and turns the dignitaries and guests into homicidal maniacs. I don't think I'll ever listen to Ding Dong Bell in quite the same way ever again.
Standout Scene: Thanks a little prodding from Mike the Doctor realises that he can head back into Rees' past and make a stand to stop him from making a terrible decision that will send him on a path of destruction. At first I thought this was going to move into A Christmas Carol territory with the Doctor blatantly manipulating the mans life to his own ends. I had a real problem with the haphazard way the eleventh Doctor tinkered with Sardick's childhood and turned him into the man he'd like him to be rather than the man he was destined to be. Rather wonderfully the writers take a much more effective stance than that and a much more subtle one. It's not that the sixth Doctor manipulates Rees, he offers him an alternative way of looking at his father and how events played out. It's not tinkering, its suggestion and that is a whole different thing. How he tenderly gives Rees his father back and encourages him to listen to the man is extremely touching. People object to Sixie being turned into a big softie but it's at moments like this when it really brings home the emotional nuance that this version of the Time Lord can tap in to. I was quite moved. When you realise the trick he has pulled off, well that's even more impressive. I love any story that allows the sixth Doctor to shine.