Sunday, 6 October 2013

Vengeance on Varos

Peri, meet Sil!
Philip Martin, the writer of the very existential ‘Gangsters’, approached Eric Saward to write a script for Doctor Who. After a lot of wrangling and trying to convince John Nathan-Turner, Martin turned in the very interesting script for ‘Vengeance on Varos’.
Nabil Shaban as Sil.
It’s a strong story, violent at times but probably not to the same level as some other recent stories such as ‘Attack’ and ‘Caves’, and it’s the sort of story which asks a lot of questions. We find the Doctor and Peri going to the world of Varos which is ruled by television to some extent. A society which broadcasts live from the ‘punishment dome’ all that happens in there – a place where those deemed to be criminals are tortured and killed by various ‘entertaining’ methods. The ultimate in reality TV.
The Governor (Martin Jarvis) asks the populace to approve pretty much any decision he makes, and if they disapprove enough times, he eventually is killed and replaced. Philip Martin calls into question the way people watch TV and what that
Martin Jarvis, Jason Connery and Colin Baker.
might look like in the future. Considering reality TV these days and the way it’s heading, it’s not actually that far off the mark. It also, to a lesser extent, questions democracy. In some ways allowing the people to vote on every decision their Governor makes is basically mass democracy on all levels. At the same time we have the elite, people in positions of power who are living well on the work of the masses living in cubicles. It’s a very interesting society, one that we get a decent glimpse at. Martin has done well to create a world the viewer can imagine more fully than we see on the screen.
Peri gets turned into a bird creature. Thankfully, it didn't stick.
For all of that, there are plenty of faults in ‘Vengeance on Varos’. Again we have a whole lot of bickering in the TARDIS between the Doctor and Peri. It’s a long time since we had a story without a TARDIS scene or two. At times the story gets quite dull. This I put down to the director, Ron Jones, more than anyone else. I think the music is rather good, so the director needed to inject more energy at places because it does fall rather flat in places.
On the flip side of that we have the wonderful Nabil Shaban as Sil, a green slug-like creature from the
planet Thoros Beta. He is on Varos negotiating on behalf of the Galatron Mining Coporation, and despite being clearly evil he also provides a bit of comic relief with his strange laughing and calls of ‘Water me!’ It’s a magical performance perfectly cast. Actually the whole cast is well chosen.
Once we get into the story and the arguing between the Doctor and Peri dies down a bit, Colin Baker begins to come into his own. A bit more levelled-headed in this tale, it’s his best so far. Peri (Nicola Bryant) has a hair-raising time throughout nearly being turned into a bird which is… an interesting idea at the very least! Her performances are becoming more solid with each story.
So there you go. Two forty-five minute episodes which make a pretty decent story.


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