5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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ARC OF INFINITY
"It's working, sir! Omega is confused!"
We're an optimistic bunch here at Androzani. Just about all the Fifth Doctor stories are new to us, since by this stage we'd given up on him totally the first time around, but we haven't lost hope. No matter how unlikely it is that we're going to find a Fifth Doctor story we actually like, when we sit down with the next video we're always convinced that this is going to be the story that turns us completely around and makes us rabid Fifth Doctor fans.
Arc Of Infinity is not that story.
So bad is it, and we swear we are not making this up, that partway through the third episode we had to stop the tape and look the story up, since we were utterly convinced that they must have switched to an hour format partway through. During the fourth episode, we decided that a problem must have developed with the matrix, because no matter what the VCR's timer said, the episode appeared to have a running time measured in days.
There are so many bad aspects to Arc Of Infinity that we're spoilt for choice. But why don't we start with the horrible, terrible, awful fanwank? We feel deeply sorry for any poor bastard who happens to see Arc Of Infinity as their very first Doctor Who, because it'd probably be their last as well. Who are these people with the neck braces? Leela - wha? And who the hell is Omega?
Not only is it totally opaque to anyone who can't recite chapter and verse of Time Lord history, it's also stunningly unoriginal. As far as we can see, it doesn't add a thing to our knowledge of Gallifrey, apart from a load of bollocks about pulse loops that we don't believe for a second anyway. It's just a rehash of Robert Holmes's Gallifrey stuff in The Deadly Assassin, lumped together with a rerun of The Three Doctors.
No, wait. We've forgotten the Amsterdam stuff. That's supposed to be the exciting new bit. Lots of canals 'n' bridges (although sadly, in the Tegan/Robin cafe scene, no space cakes) to drag the punters in for the new season. Well, yes, very pretty, but did they have to yoke it to such a moronic plot? First of all, there are those two complete drongos Colin and Robin, whose feebleness is only equalled by their acting ability. Robin starts by shying away from a policeman because he's lost his passport. Ooh, good, that must mean he's an international criminal mastermind? No, what it actually means is that Robin's an idiot. Not only does he seem to think that the police have a combination of x-ray vision and telepathy, he also obviously believes that losing your passport's a capital crime. Why the bloody passport's even mentioned at all is beyond us, since neither it nor the police turn out to have anything to do with the story at all. Then there's a big bunch of filler about whether Colin plans to sleep with his boots on, following which he gets drilled by Robochicken and starts acting all possessed. (Yes, we know that with his dramatic skills it's difficult to tell, but take our word for it.)
Colin's mysterious cousin then arrives, and the reason why they picked such terrible actors for the boys now makes sense: it's a desperate and doomed attempt to make Tegan look good. Apart from a bit of wobbling around and some napping, the three of them then mercifully drop out of the story again until it's time for our tour of picturesque Amsterdam. And what a tour it is: not only approximately five weeks long, but completely pointless to boot. (Why would Omega run away from the one man who has the potential to prevent him from turning into a pile of green moss?)
In the middle, back on Gallifrey, there are endless scenes of corridor running, interspersed with endless yapping. There's also some hilarious footage of the supposedly mysterious but all-too-obvious villain (hint: whenever you hear someone repeatedly referred to as a good friend of the Doctor, watch your back) jigging a pen around ever more frantically to try and make his scenes dynamic. Of course, we also get to see the Doctor executed, but since we all know he isn't really going to die, the only interest extractable from the scene is in musing about how for a people who apparently abolished the death penalty long ago, the Time Lords seem to have death-dealing gadgetry suspiciously ready to hand.
There's also some terrifically annoying handwaving. Hey, Omega's supposed to be dead! No, actually, he isn't. Why? Who knows? And as for the pulse loop confusing Omega, well, gosh, that was lucky, wasn't it? Just don't ask how, and it'll all be all right. Why Omega's so dead set on bonding with the Doctor in particular's never explained either. And the dialogue is excruciating, crammed with cliches like "Don't force me to use this" and "No time to explain now", not to mention clunkers like "Why now turn to evil?"
Overall, the story seems fantastically pointless. Omega wants to come home, but we've been there done that already, and this adds nothing new. As for the deep thematic significance, thanks but no thanks. We've already seen Tonight's Title Fight: The Good Of The Many vs. The Good Of The Few. Over and over and over again.
The Doctor's as dynamic, powerful and impressive as ever, which is to say not very, in this, and despite a good performance Nyssa's scenes with him never seem to rise above the dull. They're like two straight men in search of a comedian. The Time Lords are adequate, and Omega we suppose is fine, although we were so bored by the Omega story it was hard to concentrate. About the one character who really makes an impact is - yeah! - Colin Baker, reprising his deep-frozen character Paul Merroney from The Brothers as Maxil, and looking, if we may say so, damn good in a pair of tights. It's really only a bit part, but he manages to be the guy who draws your eye in every scene he's in.
Dum de dum. Isn't it time for Caves Of Androzani yet?
MORAL: Some days, it's better not to get out of bed.
AS YOU KNOW, NYSSA
The lumbering way they attempt to fix up the Earthshock temporal grace problem in this leads us to suspect they had letters about it in the off-season.
They don't seem very concerned about having shed Tegan, do they?
I CONGRATULATE YOU ON YOUR FINE CHOICE OF MURDER WEAPONRY
"Impulse laser?" Could this be the least likely pre-death line ever?
"Fetch my indent kit..." Should have looked at the script a bit more closely there, Pete. Ident kit, surely?
Don't you hate the way the Time Lords keep ignoring the perfectly obvious point that one of them must have sent the Doctor's biodata? We wanted to smack their heads together.
ONLY THE GRAVEST EMERGENCY COULD MAKE US DO RETAKES
"Only the gravest emergency could perperpermit me..."
WHAT HAS IT GOT IN ITS POCKETSES?
Check out the lingering fanwanky shots of the contents of the Doctor's pockets. And isn't it nice that with Omega about to create the biggest bang in history, the Doctor finds time to put his hat on?
WHAT'S THE DUTCH FOR CRYPT?
You'd think that Tegan's description of a crypt behind a fountain would be pretty distinctive. Why don't they look for that instead of trekking round all the youth hostels?
WALK ON BY
"What if he was being difficult? Chose not to remember Tegan?" You mean there's a choice? Quick, enlighten us!
HE'D RATHER SEE THE PUPPETS
Why doesn't Omega try and nick the Doctor's TARDIS?
I DIDN'T INHALE
He picked Amsterdam because it was below sea level? Yeah, right.
PASS THE BARF BAGS
Isn't it heartwarming that pure evil can be redeemed by the simple, trusting smile of an innocent child?
"What will happen?" "He'll revert to antimatter." For God's sake, Nyssa, pay attention! We don't want to drag through all of that again.
A brilliant intelligence, and he can be fooled by the Doctor saying "I see you, Omega!"?
EITHER THAT OR MY POPCORN'S READY
Love that silly little "ding!" noise that announces that the antimatter source has been destroyed.
SO NOT ACTING
We love the way, after Nyssa points out they've got Tegan back, that the Doctor says "So it seems", with a brave little smile before his face falls.