Tom Baker’s penultimate tale as The Doctor was a four-parter written by Johnny Byrne that aired from 31 January to 21 February, 1981. It introduced a new companion, Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) and the return of The Master in the form of Geoffrey Beevers and the Anthony Ainley.
The Doctor and Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) arrive on Traken, where they learn from its Keeper (Denis Carey) that there is a threat to the planet, and the peace that it provides, or so the Keeper believes, in the form of a statue, Melkur. He asks the Time Lord for help, and as usual the Doctor gets caught up in events and people.
It also seems that the Keeper is right, the Melkur slowly infects the ground it stands on, as well as the environment and people around it with darkness, including Kassia (Sheila Ruskin), whether she knows it or not, who is coming to power on Traken.
And behind it all, the machinations of the Master, as it seems that the Melkur, in this case, is in fact, the evil Time Lord’s disguised TARDIS (which apparently has some offensive weaponry)! When we first see him in this story he is still in his disfigured state, but by story’s end, he’s assimilated the body and younger appearance of Nyssa’s father, Tremas, who uncannily looks a lot like Roger Delgado’s interpretation of the character.
Both Adric and Nyssa are driven by curiosity and science, though the big puffy shoulders on her costume need to go! They are both young characters, and I like that they embody a thirst for discovery and knowledge, it showed the younger viewers that these things could make you a hero.
This is a story that probably could have been wrapped up in three parts, it’s not the most tightly-paced story. Still, it’s a delight to know the Master has returned and will be around to do some scene-chewing. In fact this story is the first in what some people refer to as The Master Trilogy. It does, however, take way too long to reveal that it is he behind everything, it should have been quicker and then we could have a serious battle of wits between the Time Lords.
And I know that they were suffering budget constraints but the ridiculous effect with Kassia’s eyes – her eyelids are painted as eyeballs so that they can overlay a glowing eye effect, as well as lasers. Sigh.
While the Doctor’s quips and playful sense of humor is back, its very easy to see that not only is Baker tired, he seems tired of the role as well.
Next week, the Doctor confronts the Master again, and at great cost, as the events of Logopolis lead to a regeneration!