Thursday, October 14, 2010
Lying dormant for most of Part 5, apart from uttering one word ("Scum!"), Brian Blessed makes his bombastic debut in this episode by throwing scenery everywhere before promptly eating it. And why not? Yrcanos is a larger-than-life character. Who on Earth could you possibly imagine playing this role other than Blessed, and make the warrior king as complex a character as he does? I can think of only John Rhys-Davies, and only because he could only succeed in doing a passable impersonation of Brian Blessed, not Yrcanos.
As if Brian Blessed wasn't enough, Nabil Shaban makes his proper return to Doctor Who in this episode, too, with a much better looking headdress than the one he wore as Sil in Vengeance on Varos. Shaban has been lauded up an down in every review written about both Varos and this story, and I'm not one to stop that trend. Shaban is one of the great treasures of Doctor Who, and Sil one the programme's most biting character parodies. Sil is cut from the same sniveling capitalist cloth whence came The Sun Makers' The Collector, but with that extra bit of repulsion that makes him a perfect fit in the midst of Thatcher's Britain of the 80s. If The Happiness Patrol intended to bring down the Thatcher government, then Sil was the political cartoon that started it all.
So, with both Blessed and Shaban dominating this episode in alternating scenes (they rarely appear in the same shot), it's actually Colin Baker's post-mind scramble performance that I find most endearing and entertaining. Baker's Doctor has always been manic (most notably, and unfortunately, in The Twin Dilemma), but he's seldom been as manic as a happy drunk. Watch him slither down the wall for almost 30 seconds while Yrcanos and Peri carry on with their own conversation. Bakers' silly, giddy grin during that scene is infectious.
Colin Baker is perhaps the most generous of actors to play The Doctor in that he allows Blessed and Shaban more than ample space to ply their trade, yet knows when to make is own mark as the star of the programme. When you consider that, thanks to much indecision and indifference on the part of a soon-to-be-departing script editor Eric Saward, Baker had no idea what The Doctor's motivations in this story were once he underwent the brain alteration process, you begin to understand that Colin Baker is a consummate professional, and completely undeserving of the fate that was to befall him mere weeks after shooting this story.
Posted by Steven at 12:01 PM