Pip and Jane Baker contributed this story, with an historical setting set in the Luddite Riots and including George Stevenson, the man who invented the steam train. We see the introduction of a new villain (ess) in the Rani, a Time Lady played by Kate O’Mara, and the return of the Master from what appeared to be certain death in ‘Planet of Fire’.
The story is very solid, and has the feel of a more traditional story than those of recent times. It has its issues and its embarrassing moments – principally in the second episode where Luke Ward is turned into a tree which then saves Peri by moving its dodgy rubber branch from the dame fate – but it is basically a tight and enjoyable tale. Pip and Jane Baker, a husband and wife team, seem to write well for the time its set, no doubt Eric Saward also had a strong hand in parts of the script too.
|Anthony Ainley and Kate O'Mara|
Having said that, the Master was definitely superfluous to requirements in this one. We do get a great dynamic between Anthony Ainley and Kate O’Mara, that’s for sure. It’s even a little bit humorous at times, but it does prevent the writers from exploring the Rani character further. As a new villain, I as an audience member would have liked to know more about her and see more scenes with her opposite Colin Baker.
Thankfully the Doctor-Peri relationship has cooled down somewhat by this stage, and they clearly care a lot about each other. The use of George Stevenson as a character was well written and realised, thankfully because it was possible that it just would turn out cheesy and pointless. The direction is strong, and the location, in a sort of open-air museum I think, was just perfect. You couldn’t asked for a better place to shoot and hence it all feels very authentic.
The cast help sell that too, it’s solid all the way across and features some pretty special beards too! I really enjoyed seeing the interior of the Rani’s TARDIS, which I thought was well done. What wasn’t well done was the dinosaurs. They were fine when stuck in a jar with some sort of green liquid, but the final scene when the TARDIS is hurtling through time and they fall and grow was, along with the tree-incident, the main effects-failure of the show.
The story features a large amount of location filming, which is what makes the setting so convincing. To be able to use the trolleys and train tracks, and to see the whole town functioning, is the highlight of this story.