The second part of the ‘Black Guardian Trilogy’, three unrelated stories which get interrupted by Valentine Dyall’s booming voice as the Black Guardian as Turlough tries to manoeuvre himself into a position to kill the Doctor (and of course he fails to kill him every time), ‘Terminus’ gets stuck in the middle and appears to be a not very well regarded Doctor Who tale.
This is the final story for Sarah Sutton as Nyssa, and this exit is handled much better than Romana’s thankfully. Gallagher is an ‘ideas’ man, and presents us with several interesting ideas in ‘Terminus’. We deal with the Universe’s unwanted sick, a space ship fixed to the centre of the Universe and slavery. Not to mention a drug dependency as the Venir require a drug called ‘Hyrdomil’ to survive. Interestingly this drug appears in the form of a green glow-stick, the likes of which were used in ‘Snakedance’ as lanterns. It seems the season for glowsticks!
The story as I said has its drawbacks. Turlough and Tegan are basically superfluous to the plot, trapped under grates and separated from the action and the Doctor for basically the whole story. Turlough (Mark Strickson) is constantly in contact with the Black Guardian and ends up back in the TARDIS. Gallagher was very unhappy with the ‘Garm’, a big dog-creature who facilitates the treatment for Lazar’s disease, intended to mirror leprosy. He didn’t want the thing to be seen, yet the story was reworked to feature the beast heavily and I don’t think, for the time, it looked too bad. There are certainly worse monsters in Doctor Who.
|The Doctor fights a Venir|
The plot is interesting but not over-complicated. The engines are due to start up, but they are not safe and will induce a huge explosion if they start up. The only thing that doesn’t quite work is the idea of Terminus being able to time travel. This was expositional as the whole idea was the previous explosion started the Universe, but it’s very unclear how old Terminus is, who built it and for what. It seems the company found Terminus and decided to use the dangerous radiation leaks there to cure the Lazars.
Nyssa contracts the disease, and is cured by the treatment which sometimes kills. It is an experience which affects her greatly and leads to her decision to stay and help. It’s a progression through the story and not a sudden decision which is good plotting for once. As a viewer I felt a real empathy for the whole situation, it was well cast, and although it certainly wasn’t a ‘fun’ story I really appreciated what they were trying to do. The direction could have been snappier – they were running way short on time during the shooting apparently due to a strike and lost a lot of time. I found there were moments of pointless violence on behalf of the Venir, but I presume they were all basically criminals who were sentenced to be slaves. And they were completely reliant on the Hydromil.
Although this is missing the edge of humour that ‘Warrior’s Gate’ had, I do think that Steven Gallagher’s second script for Doctor Who has a lot of merit.