So, here I was, all set to point out that a supporting role in this episode went to David Troughton, son of my favorite Doctor Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor. Heck, he even had a couple moments where he reminded me of his dad. But then I noticed something…that surly teenage kid in this episode…
Holy crap! It’s Merlin!
So, the way I see it, I can use this write-up to either make a bunch of no-doubt lame jokes about Merlin and the Doctor teaming up to save the day, or I can take a good, solid look at what was a pretty solid episode of the show, one where the Doctor’s usual modus operandi actually caused him more trouble and almost got him killed rather than the other way around.
Maybe I can do both?
OK, so, the Doctor is taking this special train in a future time period on a resort destination for some planet where the world’s natural radiation and light would make it otherwise uninhabitable. Donna stays behind to sunbathe by the pool while the Doctor heads off with a group of strangers for a trip to see some emerald waterfall that takes four hours in each direction. On board the shuttle are a woman traveling alone, a professor (Troughton) and his assistant, Merlin, and Merlin’s parents. There’s also the hostess, a member of the crew. When the shuttle breaks down partway through and it sounds like something is banging on the walls outside, and the engine car disappears, taking the driver and the mechanic with it, the thing to do is wait the one hour for the rescue craft to show up.
But that lone woman passenger…she’s acting weird. Like, repeating everything everyone says while huddling in a fetal position weird.
Basically, this all comes down to no one, not even the Doctor, recognizing what the heck is going on. There’s obviously an alien intelligence inside the woman. Is she still in there? We never find out. What happens when the woman starts repeating things others are saying, to the point where she’s speaking in unison with everyone?
What happens when she starts predicting what someone is going to say?
And what happens when it’s the Doctor?
See, the Doctor did his usual thing when the shuttle crashed. He flashed the psychic paper to get into the cabin. He rewired the door to open it. He had, up to that point, chatted with everyone on board in his usual friendly way without giving out his name. And he was that tiny little bit of arrogant that comes from being, as he put it, “clever”. None of that exactly endears him to the rest of the passengers. Sure, Merlin knows magic and he’s a bit more likely to question what’s going on than his parents, both of whom are panicking, or the Professor, who can’t see past his own knowledge to see what might be happening, or the Professor’s assistant who’s mostly shuts down and gets really scared, but the Doctor is being bombarded with questions he can’t answer, particularly as he is naturally resistant to just tossing the possessed woman out an airlock to be vaporized. Why won’t the Doctor give them a name other than “John Smith,” which is clearly an alias? How did he know how to work the door to get into the cabin? Who is he really? Why is he protecting the scary alien lifeform inside that woman?
And then she takes over his voice, getting him to repeat her, all to get the other passengers to toss the mildly dazed Doctor out the airlock. Merlin jumped in to help last, and I am very disappointed in him.
Fortunately, the hostess notices the woman is using the Doctor’s verbal style and catch phrases and realizes the alien stole the Doctor’s voice and shoves her out the airlock instead…along with herself because that was the way it had to be. She died to save the others. Everyone hates themselves. No one learned that poor woman’s name. Even the Doctor has no real explanation for what happened when he tells Donna about it later.
Heck, he was so out of this time, he didn’t even notice Rose screaming silently for him on a viewscreen at one point. For a man that is very observant and clever, he sure does miss out on a lot.
Maybe Merlin saw it. He had to do a lot of dumb things to hide his magic once upon a time…