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This is a two-part serial, first broadcast between 2nd February - 9th February 1985. A brief and somewhat spoiler-ish summary of the plot: the Doctor and Peri have planned an outing to Kew Gardens but get lost, as usual. They end up in the middle of the Luddite riots, where the Doctor meets two old enemies.
The setting for this story is promising. It takes place at the time of the industrial revolution, there's excellent location work, the costumes are as good as can be expected of the BBC and the performances from the characters that belong in the period range from adequate to good. There's also a very nice incidental score.
Unfortunately, the story that unfolds within this setting is something of a disappointment.
The main problem is the script. It soon becomes clear that this story is not supposed to be taken seriously - we get maggots that turn people into zombies, land mines that turn people into trees, a baby dinosaur that doesn't do much of anything, and two villains who seem to spend most of their time competing for the 'campest Doctor Who villain ever' tiara. There's no real tension and little action, most of which consists of attempts on the Doctor's life that are clearly doomed from the start. At the same time, the story doesn't really work as comedy either. There's one bit of dialogue that made me laugh out loud - when asked what he and Peri do inside the Tardis the Doctor replies, "Argue, mainly" - but, unfortunately, in this story we get "arguing, mainly" rather than actual wit.
The sixth Doctor still has that mostly unfunny 'oooh, aren't I funny' thing going on that also plagued 'Vengeance on Varos' but, to be fair, the script gives him little to work with. Peri doesn't get a lot to do in this serial, and she isn't helped by the unflattering and impractical Snow-white outfit she's wearing. The Master and the Rani, the two villains of the story, are making the most of a script that gives them little to do apart from developing ridiculous schemes and bickering endlessly.
The period setting and the production values keep this serial from being a total loss. Still, unless you're either a fan of the sixth Doctor or you really like the industrial revolution, you might want to give this a miss.
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Original version of this review:
Behind the sofa
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