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This is a four-part serial, first broadcast between 27 January - 17 February 1973. A brief and somewhat spoiler-ish summary of the plot: the Tardis lands and the Doctor and Jo find themselves aboard the SS Bernice, making its way to Bombay in 1926. As the ship seems stuck in a time loop and suffers repeated attacks by a dinosaur, the two realise that things are not what they seem.
This is a very clever story, and for the most part it's been worked into a pretty good script. There's quite a lot to enjoy about this serial. Even the monsters work rather well considering this is 1970s Doctor Who. Since it's difficult to critique this serial without major spoilers, you may want to stop reading here if you haven't seen this yet.
Right. In this serial, the Doctor and Jo find themselves caught inside some sort of alien ant-farm, that is owned by a travelling showman named Vorg and his assistant Shirna who have set up shop on a planet called Inter Minor. During episode one and part of episode two, the Doctor and Jo think they're on the aforementioned SS Bernice crossing the Indian Ocean. Episode one switches between scenes set on the SS Bernice and Inter Minor, and it's only at the end of the episode that we realise what's going on.
The big problem with this serial is that the scenes set inside the ant-farm are so much better than the ones set on Inter Minor. On the SS Bernice and inside the rest of the ant-farm we get action that moves the plot forward, dialogue that sounds like something that could actually occur between living humans, sets that look right and monsters that don't look too badly wrong. On Inter Minor we get polystyrene sets, make-up and costumes that are conceptually interesting but don't quite seem to work, wooden acting and characters who mostly stand around spouting exposition at each other. The fact that this is rather interesting exposition - with class struggle and political infighting going on - helps somewhat but doesn't save the day. It's only when the Doctor escapes from the ant-farm at the end of episode three that things pick up, and in episode four Vorg and Shirna actually acquire personalities and help bring the story to a happy end.
It's pretty good. It could have been better.
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