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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > Time Travel > British TV > Doctor Who – Planet Of Fire (BBC DVD)

Doctor Who – Planet Of Fire (BBC DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Episodes: B-



There is more housekeeping activity shoehorned into the 4 episode adventure, Planet of Fire, than any respectable Doctor Who serial should have to bear and, unfortunately the story is worse for wear.  In addition to the demise of Kamelion and the departure of Turlough, there is also the introduction of new companion Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant) and the apparent annihilation of the Doctor’s old nemesis and fellow Time Lord, the Master.   Finally, Peter Davidson himself had decided that this would be his final season as the Doctor and Planet of Fire was the next to last episode in which he would appear.


Given all these elements, it is amazing that the story came together at all.  Part 1 opens on the planet Sarn, where the local natives revere Logar, a god to whom they periodically sacrifice unbelievers via the Cave of Fire.  On the Tardis, Kamelion, the Doctor’s robot companion, links to the TARDIS' database core, which than picks up a distress signal that sends the ship off to the island of Lanzarote on Earth.  On Lanzarote, an archaeological team, headed by Howard Foster, discovers an alien artifact which is the source of the signal.  Turlough rescues Foster's niece, Peri (who, in a moment of spite, has taken the artifact), from drowning and brings her back to the TARDIS.  Kamelion is revealed to be under the control of the Master once again and the ship is abducted to the planet Sarn, where the Master is attempting to reconstitute his shrunken form utilizing the gas in the Cave of Fire.


And that’s just episode one.


It is discovered that a refugee ship from Turlough’s home planet, Trion, crashed on Sarn and that one of the leaders of the local tribe may in fact be Turlough's brother.  There is a struggle for power within the group, the Doctor and Turlough being assumed as the Outsiders come to fulfill a prophecy of doom (the eruption of the local volcano, which is imminent).  Others assume that Kamelion, taken over by the Master, is the prophesized Outsider.  Finally, the Doctor works out that the Master is attempting to heal himself utilizing Numismaton Gas.  The refugees from the Trion ship were actually escaped political prisoners and it is revealed that Turlough is also.   During the concluding struggle, the Master is apparently destroyed in the gas fires (Anthony Ainley, who played the Master’s contract was up and so he was dispensed with in a seemingly permanent manner, though, of course, a new contract might provide a convenient method of resurrection).   At story’s end, the Doctor kills off Kamelion, at Kamelion's own request, Turlough opts to return to Trion, where all political prisoners have been granted amnesty, and the Doctor has acquired a new companion in Peri.


As might be imagined, all this makes for some fairly frenetic plotting, the execution of which leaves something to be desired.  The Master, in particular, seems to have been tacked on to the plot and, though Ainley gives it his considerable best, his dialogue falls considerably short of par.  The abrupt ending of the entire season caused a bit of a mess with the legendary electricians’ strike looming large, and the overall quality of this episode suffers to the extent that, for a four-part episode, it is average at best.   The extras, too, are average, though long time fans will enjoy the tribute “Remembering Anthony Ainley.”   A second disc also has a special 66 minute edit of the 4 shows; any reduction in length has to be counted as a mercy, if only the extra disc didn’t jack up the price.



-   Don Wentworth


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