Shows - Review
Doctor Who (1963-1989)
Episode: Planet of Fire (Part 1)
Review by: Michael Hickerson
Seeing the early stories of season 21, it's easy to see why Davison felt the overall quality of the scripts was going downhill and why he decided to end his tenure as Doctor after only three years. It's a shame really because after Awakening, the scripts take an upward turn in overall quality. And while I'll admit that Planet of Fire isn't my all time favorite Who story, it's still a nicely done one that is very enjoyable to watch. It's a pleasant enough way to spend four episodes. It does a lot of things extremely well and only a couple of things wrong.
For one thing, the location filming is put to great use. Having the story filmed on an actual volcano gives the alien planet location a different feel, rather than just being "yet another British rock quarry." Also, the idea that the Doctor and the TARDIS would visit another location on Earth besides Great Britain is nice.
Next up, we get some follow-up to the mysterious foreshadowing about Turlough from Mawdryn Undead. Indeed, watch Planet of Fire and then go back and re-watch Mawdryn Undead just to catch the off-hand hints at who Turlough is and his background that are sprinkled throughout the script and dealt with so well here. After the first half of the season seemed to have Turlough's character fluctuate back and forth for no good reason, it's nice to see some development here. The scene between the Doctor and Turlough in the TARDIS where the Doctor
tells Turlough that if he uncovers Turlough is lying to him, their friendship is at an end is nicely done. (And one of the more memorable of the Davison years)
Thirdly, we get a nice introduction to Peri. Those of you who hang around her on a regular basis already know my feelings on the bikini worn in this episode. But, at least at first, the writers try to give us something more to Peri than just being eye-candy in a cute bikini. She's given something to do and Nicola Bryant does fairly well, though I will never buy her bad fake American accent. (Indeed, it ranks up there with the actors trying to do Southern accents in War Games as one of the most unintentionally funny things in all of Who). Seeing Peri's conflict with her step-father and how that carries over to her battle with the Master is nicely done.
And even the Master does fairly well here. His plot is interesting enough to see how and why he'd do it. It's well motivated.
But as with many of the Ainley Master stories, it's the performance of Ainley that brings done the script as whole. There are some good performances here--Davison, Strickson, etc. Ainley's is not one of them. He seems too over the top at times and not as restrained and nuanced as he was in Logopolis, Castrovalva or would be in Survival.
Also, while the story finally gets around to using Kamelion again, it points out one of the major faults of the last few stories--namely that Kamelion is not dealt with after he enters the story. I know that is an unfair criticism to lob at this story, but it does point out a shortfall of the Davison years overall and I bring it up here. Indeed, it feels as if Kamelion is only brought up to be convenient to the script. It's a shame because it wastes the character.
Finally, let me say again--wearing Speedos is not something everyone could or should do. We certainly see evidence of that here with Turlough. The less said about that sequence the better as far as I'm concerned. I would send it out there as a warning to all guys--if you ever think of wearing a Speedo, just remember the reaction that everyone has to Turlough in them. That should serve as a GREAT form of deterrence.
Last Updated: 10/25/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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