I quite simply loved this story. This is the first Doctor Who story to use parallel dimensions, a concept that often appears in many science fiction stories, so it’s interesting that it took nearly seven years for the production team to go down this route. This story also brings to a close Jon Pertwee’s first season as the Doctor, seasons now reduced to 25 episode, and with all the long stories in season 7 of seven episodes, Jon Pertwee only has four stories to his name after a full year as the Doctor.
|Olaf Pooley and Sheila Dunn|
But a fine start it has been, with four very solid stories, two of them excellent in fact. I started this marathon back in February and ‘Inferno’ definitely rates as my favourite story to date. It’s a piece full of atmosphere, sometimes apocalyptic, great characterisations by the actors, thoughtful and gripping story-telling by the writer Don Houghton, great stunts, fantastic location shooting, and one that simply doesn’t let up for the full seven episodes.
|Benton the Primord. All good... except those teeth!|
So I will start with the negatives. The Primords – I like them, mostly because they are not a unified group with a goal trying to conquer anyone, rather simply the effects of touching the ooze from deep inside the Earth. However, the teeth are a bit silly really, especially one shot of Seargeant Benton in Episode Six I think, when he looks right at the camera. The teeth don’t seem to fit the mouth, and are bright white. The audio of them snarling is also rather out of place, doesn’t seem properly mixed. There are a few other tiny details but all in all this story holds up to pretty tight screening.
They couldn’t have picked a more perfect location. The HAVOC stunt team did a brilliant job of falling off silos but the most amazing thing is the stuff shot on top of the silos, a good fifty feet or more above the ground. Not only did Douglas Camfield get his cameramen up there, but Jon Pertwee and Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier went up there too, with only a rudimentary handrail between them and the quick way down! In making a TV programme today, I doubt whether they would be allowed to film in a location like that!
It makes for an exciting story, following on from ‘The Ambassadors of Death’ in using a lot of stunt work and action sequences far becoming the hallmark of this era of Doctor Who. One thing quite unique to this story though is the use of the parallel dimension, and I think it’s one of the best examples of a parallel dimension story there is. With the UNIT team now regulars in the series, it was great that only the Doctor visited the parallel dimension, allowing us an alternative Brigadier (Brigade Leader), Liz Shaw and Sergeant Benton. Interestingly enough, other characters in the story, not regulars but guest cast, didn’t have a very different character to the one on normal Earth.
The guest cast is fantastic with Sheila Dunn as Petra Williams, Christopher Benjamin as Sir Keith Gold and Olaf Pooley as Professor Stahlman. The alternative Earth provides a reality where the royals were executed and perhaps England is living under some sort of fascist or communist regime. It’s unclear which one exactly, but this world seems to suit Stahlman more than the normal Earth. We also have the character Greg Sutton, played by Derek Newark, who appeared in ‘An Unearthly Child’ as the leader of the cavemen. This character is similar in both dimensions.
|Courtney and Caroline John in the alternate Universe.|
Howere Nicholas Courtney, Caroline John and John Levene get to play sadistic and brutal versions of themselves in the parallel dimension. They do a brilliant job, only Liz Shaw’s character has any sort of change in thinking. We see the whole world destroyed as well just as the Doctor escapes. With the end of the world nigh, and our group of characters desperately fleeing the Primords but trying to get to the TARDIS console, episodes five and six are like nothing ever seen in Doctor Who. The atmosphere created is apocalyptic in the extreme. It’s simply brilliantly-pitched television.
|Oh, and Jon Pertwee of course!|
Jon Pertwee has his best outing yet. He has a charm that is coupled with a self-righteous indignation, and those factors seem to be the hallmark of his Doctor. Caroline John is fantastic as both Lizes in this story. I’ve learnt by starting the next story that it’s her final story. They could have at least let her go out with a goodbye scene, if not another story especially for the character. She’s worked very well with Pertwee’s Doctor, and shown that the Doctor’s companions do not need to be stupid. ‘The Ambassadors of Death’ is another where she is clever, resourceful and more than the usual companion. Sad to see her go so quickly.
So for the first time, I am rating a story