Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Visitation

‘The Visitation’ was the second of Peter Davison’s stories to be recorded, behind ‘Four to Doomsday’. It’s a return to a more ‘traditional’ style of Doctor Who story, with an historical setting mixed with alien and science fiction elements. It’s a very solid story, enjoyable too, if not one without its issues as most stories have.
The Doctor and co spy a stranger in the tree
Eric Saward’s first Doctor Who script would see him very quickly become the script editor – Antony Root was script editor on a temporary basis only whilst JNT looked for a permanent person in the post. It’s a very solid four episodes, strongly directed by Peter Moffat, good pace and build up to the climax, a new and interesting villain, and a great setting.
The combination of history and science fiction is what Doctor Who does best, so it’s no surprise that ‘The Visitation’ is such a competent piece. By now, I have to be honest, it seems clear that the show’s biggest issue is the three companions. They have become caricatures and even over 100 minutes of story it seems very difficult to find something for them all to do. Naturally they get split up at points and have their own subplots, in ‘The Visitation’ though they inherit another pseudo-companion, Richard Mace (Michael Robbins) , who gets more of a supporting role than either Tegan, Adric or Nyssa. The sad thing is, he’s far more interesting than any of the three companions as well!
Android disguised as death.

Tegan meets the Tereleptil.
A highway man, an actor and a rogue, it might have been an interesting exercise to have a companion like that, but instead we get feisty, whiny and meek. No offence to any of the actorsn because they did their best with questionable material which rarely showed any interesting in using or developing their characters. Hey, in ‘Kinda’ they just wrote Nyssa out and barely used the other two. It goes to show that by now the best mix is just one companion with the Doctor. They can have a fair bit to do, whilst it allows for more colourful characters (like Mace) to also chime in with a sizeable role without diminishing that of the companion.
In ‘The Visitation’ Tegan spends half the story hypnotised, Nyssa spends nearly half in the TARDIS tinkering with a machine to destroy androids and Adric runs around looking for people, fighting badly and being pretty darned useless.
Saward starts the story well, with a group of humans attacked by androids and Tereleptils who have just arrived on Earth. They all die, so we don’t see any of the characters again,  but immediately the audience is drawn into this story.
Who you looking at?
The Doctor and his companions don’t take long to get drawn into local politics when a group of villagers immediately attack them after they arrive for very little reason other than ‘they’re strangers’. We see the android, the house, the Tereleptils. The main one has some great animatronics moving his mouth, although like the Marshmen in ‘Full Circle’ the joins in the costume betray poorly that there’s a man inside. Needed to be wet! Such a common issue with Who monsters!
Richard Mace helps out the Doctor.
It’s an interesting and pretty silly plot to be fair. Three Tereleptils on Earth plan to wipe out the population with a deadly virus. And then what? There’s just three of them. They can hardly populate the Earth now, can they? Still, it’s effective enough in my opinion. Most plots fall apart under real scrutiny, and I don’t just mean Doctor Who but Sci-fi plots in general.
The sets are a highlight, and the locations were perfectly chosen. The sets are pretty much faultless, easier to do when you don’t have to build a lot of futuristic stuff I know, but even the backdrop for London in the final scene is well done. The idea that this is the start of the fire of London is great too, the sort of thing which Doctor Who should have done more of by now – explain historical events. It’s paced well, moves along, has colourful characters. Far from perfect, but a very solid story!


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