Friday, August 21, 2009
After the glory that was Episode Six, this is bound to be an anticlimax in regards to tension. But the themes that carry on from those established in the parallel world are notable here.
Several scenes that occurred in the parallel world happen here as well once The Doctor returns. When number two output pipe blows in the parallel world, The Doctor, trying to stave off his own death but also trying to help the situation, has to convince those around him that his idea (reverse the systems) will work. It's Greg who believes him, and eventually, Stahlman relents. Back in the real world, when Liz passes on The Doctor's idea, it is Greg, once again, who agrees first with the idea, and, without Stahlman around to veto the decision, Petra carries forth and reverses the systems.
When the Doctor bursts in and starts smashing equipment to try and stop the drilling in the real world, it's disturbingly similar to the same scene towards the end of Episode Four in the parallel world. Then, as now, The Doctor is alone in the middle of the room, a ranting and raving lunatic who no one listens to. Stahlman stops The Doctor on both occasions - with a gun in the parallel world, and by ordering his removal in the real world.
The difference between the two Stahlmans is key. In the parallel world, once penetration zero is achieved, the infected Stahlman closes the bulkhead door, not only preventing the other scientists from leaving, but in order to convert them into Primords like himself. In the real world, Stahlman acts differently. He shoos the technicians out of the room, instead leaving himself to suffer his soon-to-be grisly fate alone. Was it Stahlman's inner humanity, his inner compassion, that came through at this moment?
Humanity is the theme of this entire story and the choices and instincts that an individual, or a group of individuals, makes. This is crystallized in The Doctor's beautiful speech he makes soon after he regains consciousness where he states that "free will isn't an illusion after all". People's choices have made the situation what it is. Liz's choice to become a military officer as opposed to a scientist, the driver choosing to disobey Stahlman's orders and drive Sir Keith back to the drilling project, Greg's choice to believe The Doctor when no one else would - the pattern can be changed, and it is the choices of these characters that have changed that pattern for good.
The Doctor is present in both worlds, but also an outsider in both, and it is not he who destroys one world with his actions, nor does he save another, but he does serve as the inspiration for others to better themselves and the world around them. It is Liz who turns to his side in the parallel world, and it is she who passes on The Doctor's ideas and theories in the real world. And it is Greg who stands by him in the parallel world, and it is he and The Doctor who go into danger to stop the drilling with only seconds to go before penetration zero in the real world.
This is one of the all-time great stories in Doctor Who history, perhaps even the best ever. Like another famous "classic" story (about which more later), there is a certain sadness after watching the credits roll as it signals and end of an era. Season 7 was an ultra-serious affair, perhaps a little bit sterile, but necessary after all the space age histrionics of Season 6. It also had one of the strongest female companions ever in the form of Liz. What follows now is what is often considered the "classic" Pertwee era, but it is by no means as good as what came before it.
Posted by Steven at 9:05 AM