Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Doctor Queue - The Caves of Androzani (1984)

The Caves of Androzani (1984)
4 Episode Story
Fifth Doctor - Peter Davison (mostly)

The Fifth Doctor and his 'American' companion land the TARDIS on the planet Androzani Minor and quickly become embroiled in local political warfare over the mining and collection of a valuable substance called spectrox.

Also the guy from Hustle plays a soldier, and that soldier's android clone.

Your disguises and cockernee charm won't help you this time, Robert Glenister!

Change my dear, and not a moment too soon...
Hmm I've introduced myself to Davison's Doctor right at the end of his career. Sure he turned up in a few specials, including this great piece alongside David Tenant, but I really warmed to him as the Doctor very quickly, despite the odd 'cricket' outfit, stick of celery and "?" motifs (Doctor Who? Get it? ? ? ?) so will have to dig back into his past episodes to see more of him.

In 'Caves' Davison plays the Doctor charming, fairly unintimidating and with a familiar disregard for his own safety. There are several scenes when a gun or weapon is pointed at him and Davison's look of fear and submission is a new emotion that I haven't seen the Doctor portray in that situation before.

He isn't a coward though, and genuinely cares for Peri, his pretty companion. At the end of the 3rd episode the Doctor finds himself alone aboard the bridge of a spaceship heading away from Peri, and after a quick fiddle with his poorly tied hands, frees himself and proceeds to pilot the ship at breakneck speed back to Peri nearly crashing the thing and killing everyone on board. Oh Doctor!

Fairly sure this is the same place a certain young farmhand used to bullseye womp rats in his T-16

The political play between the planets Major and Minor is handled really well. There's a good separation between the two locations, considering the budget, and the three-pronged storyline - The Doctor, Morgus & the soldiers, Sharaz Jek & the androids, keeps things running at a quick pace.

I had read articles that compared Androzani's plot to 'Dune' but beyond the Spice=Spectrox (what a gloriously 80's sci-fi word) and Morgus=CHOAM the story is not a rip off. While Dune plays out as an epic galaxy-wide affair, Androzani's plot is a much more localised tale of android-guerrillas vs The Man.

And who better to create and co-ordinate those androids than the revenge fuelled Sharaz Jek, a cross between the Phantom of the Opera and a overly friendly Cyberdog employee. Played by ex ballerina Christopher Gable, Sharaz moves with a creepy grace and his overly theatrical performance adds to his general craziness.

Alongside hoarding the planet's supply of spectrox, and creating an army of android soldiers to defend said hoard, Sharaz also takes some time to watch the Doctor on his arrival in Adrozani Minor's cave system and is quickly shown to fall infatuated with Peri.

Peri is the Doctor's companion for this story, a good looking American lady who generally serves to look pretty, get hit on by Sheraz, fall sick, and cause the Doctor to sacrifice his life for her. Hopefully she has a more substantial purpose in other episodes, because she's a bit of a wet blanket here.

Interestingly her most memorable scene is the Doctor's death/regeneration, unfortunately it's for all the wrong reasons:

"Davison has joked on several occasions of how he was "upstaged" by Nicola Bryant (Peri) in his last major scene as the Doctor. Before the regeneration hallucination occurs, Davison is lying on the floor and his head is resting by Bryant, who is kneeling beside him. As he is delivering his last few lines, Bryant's loose fitting outfit prominently displays her cleavage"
Source: Wikipedia so...

The Doctor's regeneration scene is impressive in it's own swirly video graphics way. I don't yet have any connection with the various characters that are seen talking to the Doctor as he regenerates, although I recognise the Master, but the scene does a good job hammering home how many people's lives this Doctor has affected.

Closing comments - I enjoyed the story as much as 'City of Death' - the Fourth Doctor was definitely more colourful, and I preferred his nonchalant manner when threatened with violence, but as I mentioned earlier Davison's Doctor has a certain caring charm, like a friendly Dad.

Visually the episode had some interesting sets, lovely retro computers and my suspension of disbelief was only shattered by the awful rubber Magma Beast attack scenes, which looked like something you'd expect to be chasing contestents in Takeshi's Castle.

As with the Fourth, I'm really keen to explore more of the Fifth Doctor's history and will see what episodes fall into my lap next.

Until next time, keep your spectrox stored safely and your leather villain outfits buffed.

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