Monday, October 26, 2009
Condo is often mocked and derided for being a quite silly character, but I find him rather sweet. His complete lack of intelligence, though, says a lot about the plight of Solon and the neuro-surgeon's attempt to resurrect Morbius in a new body. If Solon has had to rely on the help of an oaf like Condo as his only assistant for all this time, then the fact that he has managed to achieve anything at all in regards to fashioning a new body for Morbius is remarkable in itself.
Condo also receives a caring portrayal by Colin Fay, who manages to turn Condo's simplistic, guttural lines into actual dialogue (although those same lines do make Condo instantly quotable). It's a thankless job that Fay has taken on, especially since most of his scenes are opposite Philip Madoc as Solon.
There's a reason why Radio Free Skaro has a fascination with Madoc, and it's not just because of his name. Madoc was already fantastic as the War Lord in his last appearance in Who, 1969's The War Games, but Solon is Madoc's definitive role in Doctor Who. Operatic at times, yet equally as effective when quietly negotiating with the Maren in order to secure The Doctor's release from being burned at the stake.
Speaking of the burning scene, it's probably my favourite one of the whole episode. First off, Tom Baker is hilarious. When Solon interrupts the burning ceremony and is chastised by Maren, The Doctor speaks up, "Take no notice, Solon. I'm delighted to see you! The music's terrible!" (The Doctor seems to have a problem with music in Season 13, as we'll find out in the next story). Obviously, The Doctor realizes that being anywhere is better than being about to be burned at the stake, but both he and Solon know exactly why the scientist wants The Doctor released - so that Solon can kill The Doctor himself and take his head.
Solon's overriding desire to have The Doctor's head makes The Doctor and Sarah's return to Solon's castle all that more intriguing. The Doctor realizes that he needs Solon to properly diagnose Sarah's blindness, and, to my surprise, he trusts Solon's findings implicitly, even though Solon's solution of asking the Sisterhood for some elixir means The Doctor has to return to the very people who wanted him dead even more than Solon did.
A special mention, too, for Elisabeth Sladen's great performance as a blinded Sarah, as she manages to show just the right amount of fear, sadness, and self-pity that any normal person would feel in that same situation. She also just looks like she can't see, and stumbles around with incredible believability. We're nearing the end of Sladen's time in Doctor Who, but her talent is very much on display in this episode.
Posted by Steven at 2:23 PM