Shows - Review
Doctor Who (1963-1989)
Episode: Vengeance on Varos (Part 1)
Review by: Michael Hickerson
A lot of Doctor Who fans consider Vengeance on Varos to be the strongest story from the Colin Baker. And while it is easy to agree with this assesment, I'm not sure if it isn't a case of damning the story with faint praise. As I've stated time and again when it comes to talking about the sixth Doctor, love the character it's just too bad about the stories. Vengeance on Varos was a story that kicked around a long time before it finally made it to the screen. It was originally intended to be a story featuring the fifth Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa, but due to the editing and re-writes never saw the light of day until the sixth Doctor and Peri era. I will say this--it does fit rather well into the Colin Baker years and it's a nicely done story overall.
Certainly the extra work and care put into getting this story to screen shows. Overall, the supporting case are nicely realized--from the villainout Sil (superbly and evilly realized by Nabil Shiban) to the put-upon governor to the memorable Greta and Arak. Martin's script spends the first 25-minutes or so in typical Colin Baker years fashion--creating a dilemma to keep the Doctor and Peri in the TARDIS and introducing the minor characters and the background. This technique is rather effectively used here and we never feel as though the writers are coming up with reasons to keep the Doctor out of action and on the sidelines as we do in other Colin Baker era stories (most notably Mark of the Rani). And indeed, the script itself functions well on many levels--from an entertaining adventure story to a bit of social commentary as we see a society so caught up in the couch potato culture that they are forced to watch the video nasties unfolding on screen or risk punishment. Indeed, the story's cliffhanger almost feels like you are getting and inside look at the direction of Who serial and placing the cliffhanger. ("And cut it, now...") We see the soceity complaining that the influence of TV has become too much but not willing to take steps to remedy the situation until the Doctor steps in and take the situation away. The final scene of Greta and Arak not knowing what to do now that they don't have to watch TV during their free-time is particularily of interest.
Colin Baker gives a fine performance as Doctor here. The sixth Doctor commands the viewer's attention--and not just for his outfit. There are some intersting asides--such as the Doctor's almost casual dismissal of the death of the guards in acid (not a new thing...watch Full Circle and see how quickly and how alienly the Doctor reacts to the death of Varsh). And Colin Baker does a nice job with the script and really runs with it. Nicola Bryant is OK as Peri, and there are times when you get to see how she is being forced to be both Tegan and Nyssa as the script requires.
Visually, Varos is nicely done. The sets and design feel alien. The costumes are nicely done and Sil is a real treat to see on-screen. It's just a shame that the fond memories of him are trounced on by the inferior follow-up, Mindwarp. But that's another review.
Overall, Varos is a strong entry in the sixth Doctor era.
Last Updated: 10/25/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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