This week, we have the Doctor travelling without a companion (and still using the lovely Victorian console room) for the first time since we’ve met him. He’s been recalled to Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, urged on by a mental image he has of himself assassinating the Time Lord Council President (Llewellyn Rees).
Sounds like lots of potential in this four-part story written by Robert Holmes, which ran from 30 October to 20 November, 1976. And the first two episodes prove to be a lot of fun, playing almost like a political thriller, the other two parts get back to more of a run, and escape story, but is still fun in how it’s presented.
Without a Companion to explain everything to, the story actually opens with a narration by the Doctor, talking about Gallifrey and the Time Lords, though most of it, I feel could have been explained through story exposition.
The story sees the return of the Master (Peter Pratt), who is existing in a painful, and decayed state, driven on by his hatred of the Doctor and the other Time Lords. In fact, we learn that he is at the end of his regeneration cycle, but he has a very deadly play in place.
Arriving on Gallifrey, he tries to get a warning message to the council, but as he’s a bit of a fugitive, he did steal the TARDIS after all, even if he was partially forgiven after his sentencing to confinement on Earth.
Still, he finds a way into the Panopticon, in the Time Lord Citadel, and sneaks into the council itself, as the retiring president is preparing to retire and list his recommendations for his successor.
With our first look at Gallifrey, we learn there is a bit of a class structure in place (currently, anyway) and that the council, itself is composed of a number of different chapters, of which, the Doctor is a Prydonian.
When the moment comes, the Doctor is unable to stop the assassination and is in fact thought to be the assassin. When he is arrested at Chancellor Goth’s (Bernard Horsfall) behest, and readied for execution, the Doctor claims Article 17 – a move to protect himself by throwing his name in the ring as possible presidential candidate.
As the Doctor begins to investigate, he realizes that the Master is behind it all, but can’t quite figure out what his plan is. So, to search for clues, he plugs himself into the Matrix, the repository of all past Time Lord’s knowledge. Only to find that the Master has taken it over, and turned it into a living nightmare.
At this point, the story just becomes a bit of a hunt and chase, through the reality of the Matrix until the Doctor escapes, putting the pieces together… He’s learned of the sash of Rassilon, the Eye of Harmony, but he can’t quite fit everything together, until he realizes the Master has a plan to extend his regeneration cycle, even if it means destroying all of Gallifrey!
Next time, the Doctor stares into the Face of Evil.