Trapped in the Death Zone on Gallifrey, two out of four Doctors are hiking toward Rassilon’s Tower with a companion.
The other two? They’re having a tea party inside the Tardis, although I don’t see any actual tea. Tegan and Turlough are enjoying what look like green cocktails. Susan’s apparently got some lemon meringue pie. There’s also a lavish fruit bowl.
It’s just a little scene, but whenever I watch episodes where Doctors and their future and/or previous companions meet up, I wish that everybody would hang around for a little while after the adventure is over and have a reunion party in the Tardis. This is the only time anything like that happens.
By the time we join them, Susan has had time to catch up with her Grandfathers (as far as I can tell, Dr 1 and Susan didn’t mention the Dalek). The two Doctors are now discussing their plans.
Another interesting thing about the scenes between Drs 1 and 5. Dr 1 has always been something of a cantankerous old Time Lord and doesn’t seem to like very many people. In The Three Doctors, he called Drs 2 and 3 “the clown and the dandy” and goodness knows what he would have made of Dr 4. But he likes this future self, calls him “my boy,” and isn’t at all tetchy during their conversations. He does have some run-ins with Tegan, however, as subsequent scenes will demonstrate.
Dr 5 brings up a primitive computer graphic image of Rassilon’s Tower on a screen on the Tardis’s control panel. There are three ways to get into the tower: Above, Between, or Below, as Dr 2 will sing later from an old Gallifreyan nursery rhyme.
The initial plan is that Dr 5 and the two women will walk over to the Dark Tower, pick an entrance, and go inside to shut off the forcefield generator and release the Tardis. Dr 1 then intends to bring the Tardis over to them in the tower so they can get out of here. I don’t think they’re aware yet that Drs 2 and 3 are wandering around nearby, but Dr 1 will pick them up on the Tardis sensors shortly.
The trio sets out, but they don’t get far before Dr 5 meets the Master and stops for a chat. He doesn’t believe the Master is there to help any more than Dr 3 did and Tegan, keeping a safe distance with Susan, doesn’t have any reason to trust the Master either (remembering how he shrunk her Auntie and pushed Dr 4 off a radio telescope, which is how she ended up here in the first place).
None of them notice the Cybermen coming down the hillside, until the squad has almost marched on top of the Doctor and Master. When they try to run, the Master gets zapped and knocked out. Dr 5 takes the transporter beacon, which the Master showed him during their conversation, uses it, and finds himself in the Time Lords’ Inner Council chamber.
When the Master comes to, he’s surrounded. He quickly makes friends with the Cybermen by pretending that he’s there to help them. Unlike the Doctors, the Cybermen believe him. Cyber-Suckers!
Tegan and Susan ran when Dr 5 disappeared, but Susan irksomely twists her ankle. They get back to the Tardis safely, but Susan’s pretty much out of commission for the rest of the show, which is a great disappointment to me after they took the trouble to bring Carole Ann Ford back specially for this.
Plan B: Dr 1 and Tegan will hike to the Dark Tower while Susan and Turlough sit and wait for them to lower the forcefield and signal to bring the Tardis over.
Once the Inner Council has explained things to Dr 5, he admits that he owes the Master an apology, but he’s suspicious that someone here on Gallifrey–perhaps someone in this very room–has been using the time scoop to set this situation up. The handheld transmat thing has a tracking device inside it, sending a signal which the Cyberleader was picking up, which explains why that group of Cybermen has been making a nuisance of themselves following the Master around the Death Zone since he first arrived there.
Borusa orders an investigation, which almost immediately turns up a box containing the Forbidden Black Scrolls of Rassilon hidden in the Castellan’s rooms. The Scrolls burst into flame when Borusa takes them out of the box, singeing his nice, white gloves and possibly causing a fire hazard on set for a few seconds.
The Castellan denies all knowledge of the scrolls, but Borusa refuses to believe him and summons the Commander of the Guard. It’s a pity the Commander who walks in isn’t Maxil, who was played by Colin Baker, the upcoming Dr 6, in the last story set on Gallifery, Arc of Infinity. At Borusa’s instructions, this unnamed Commander escorts the Castellan out to be interrogated, using the Mind Probe.
“No, not the Mind Probe!” the Castellan exclaims in horror.
Sadly for the situation and the actor, this line is too ridiculously camp to take seriously. If you watch the DVD with the Companions’ commentary on, they all say “No, not the Mind Probe!” along with him and laugh. Which is what I tend to do as well.
But the Castellan will not be subjected to the unspeakable torments of the Mind Probe. As soon as the door to the Inner Council chamber slides shut behind them, we hear a zap! and a scream outside. Dr 5 goes out to find the Castellan slumped on the stairs, dead. Shot while trying to escape, says the Commander–which doesn’t sound any more convincing on Gallifrey than it ever does on Earth.
Not only does Dr 5 find this death highly suspicious, he can’t believe the Castellan was the person behind the whole time-scoop kidnapping of his selves. Officious, weaselly little jerk the Castellan might have been, but he had a horror of anything that smacked of the ancient weapons.
In answer to this, Borusa suggests that the Doctor go lie down and rest for a bit. Dr 5 does leave the Council chamber, but nips back into it right away to carry on his own investigation.
The info-text that accompanies all the classic Who DVDs and BluRays tells me that this part of the story was originally written for Dr 4 before Tom Baker decided not to participate. While I’m sorry that Baker’s not in this show, it was probably a good thing for Peter Davison; it not only gives his Doctor something to do besides hike the misty, freezing Welsh countryside, but places him in the central role for solving the mystery.
Speaking of hiking inhospitable terrain, back in the Death Zone, Dr 2 and the Brigadier continue to play Frodo and Sam. At least Dr 2 has his heavy fur coat. When they reach the tower, they choose the “Below” route and go in via a tunnel through a realistic looking cave (probably also somewhere in Snowdonia), where they are briefly menaced by a gratuitous Yeti instead of Shelob.
Dr 3 and Sarah Jane have also reached the tower, but find their path blocked by a guardian–an android I’ve never seen on Doctor Who, but it’s pretty cool. Its slick silver, form-fitting costume and way of jumping up and teleporting around in the blink of an eye to shoot deadly bolts from its arms remind me of something from Japanese monster movies.
Sarah Jane and the Doctor hide behind a rock. The squad of Cybermen who come stumbling along after them aren’t so sensible; they probably think they can take on anything, but the Silvery droid dispatches them all in a matter of minutes.
Curiously, one of the Cybermen pukes when it’s speared by a droid bolt. You don’t see that very often. Just as well, really.
While the droid is distracted by its slaughter of the Cybermen, Dr 3 sneaks into the cave where it stores its extra bolts and other supplies. He steals a coil of silver rope, and he and Sarah Jane slip past to climb up the rocky slope behind the tower. They’re going to try the “Above” route to get in.
Dr 3 lassos an Art Deco looking pinnacle on the tower’s top and he and Sarah Jane zipline over onto the parapet. It’s actually a pretty good composite effect for the period.
That leaves Dr 1 and Tegan to try “Between”–i.e., the front door.
This pair reaches the tower without incident, apart from Tegan’s annoying the tetchy first Doctor by persistently calling him “Doc” as if she were Bugs Bunny. But it’s a rare matching up of Doctors to a companion they aren’t used to, and I enjoy it.
When they reach the door, they walk right in and stop at a chamber with a checkerboard floor, which seems to be an usual tiling pattern for Gallifrey interior design and really doesn’t match the rest of the decor. Dr 1 is immediately wary of it, especially after he and Tegan entered the tower so easily.
He tosses some coins borrowed from Tegan onto the squares. The first four rows are safe, but once a square in the middle row is touched, the defense system activates and green energy beams zap down on the board and would have killed anyone actually standing on it.
While they’re trying to figure out how to get around the Checkerboard Floor of Death, the Master shows up with his new Cyber-friends close behind him.
Unlike Drs 3 and 5, Dr 1 has no idea who this person is, and asks, “Do I know you, young man?”
The Master replies, “Believe it or not, we were at the Academy together.”
At this point, the Master is still trying to be helpful to the Doctors in spite of being burned twice already, and offers a word of warning before the Cybermen come in.
Dr 1 doesn’t move into hiding very quickly and, for a moment, he’s standing right in front of them. I don’t know how the Cyber-leader fails to see him; at least, the Cyber-leader doesn’t say anything about that old man who ducked out of sight as he entered.
The Master knows something about this floor that neither the Doctor nor the Cybermen do, and jumps energetically all over the squares, crossing the dangerous area and coming back again to show them it’s safe. But when the Cybermen attempt to cross, they all get zapped.
The Master continues to jump gleefully over the Cyber-bodies on the squares for the Doctor and Tegan, and tells them that the solution to the problem is as “easy as pie” before he crosses the floor one last time and heads on into the tower.
Dr 1 works out that what the Master actually said was “easy as Pi.” He does a bit of math before he walks straight across one edge of the floor without regard for which squares he’s stepping on, but he doesn’t get zapped.
That’s everybody now in the Dark Tower, heading for Rassilon’s tomb and soon to meet up–except for Dr 5, who is snooping around the Inner Council chamber and Susan and Turlough, who are stuck in the Tardis. At least the latter two aren’t bored; the Tardis has been surrounded by a third batch of Cybermen who are setting up explosives to try and blow it up.
To be continued…