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Arc of Infinity

Reviewed by David Carroll

First Appeared in Burnt Toast#12, 1992

Season 20, story 1. Code: 6E
Main cast: Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding. Produced by John Nathan-Turner, directed by Ron Jones, written by Johnny Byrne.

Not quite what I expected.
          Commander Maxil

Imagine the Arc of Infinity, a place of ancient and unstable energies, vast and nebulous. Powerful. Perhaps beautiful, perhaps not, it's hard to say.

Imagine also a race that has atrophied for millions of years, also powerful, but slow, bickering, inefficient. Afraid of their own history, their preferred course of action is to do nothing at all. And when they try...

The Time Lords of Gallifrey have only ever performed two executions in all their history. They failed both times.

Would such a race have control panels with little perspex cubes you roll around, or white lounges in corridors and arty light globes on metal stands? It's hard to say, but I suppose it's possible, and I can't think of anything more suitable, just at this moment.

It all just doesn't seem... important enough.

Arc of Infinity should have been a very important story to open the show's twentieth year. It draws on its own mythos heavily, the Doctor once again involved in political machinations on his home world with an old enemy (insane, but sympathetic nonetheless). It also has a brand new location -- Amsterdam -- for the TARDIS crew to have a chase scene in. Tegan Jovanka, last seen left behind at Heathrow Airport, makes a reappearance in a rather nice plot twist. Peter Davison even ends up playing a villain in another rather nice plot twist.

And that's the main trouble with the story, it's all written rather nicely, but ends up rather flat.

For those of you unfamiliar with the events, basically Omega has reappeared and is once again after a physical existence -- and as much of the power of his former world as he can lay his hands on. To do so he must form a link with another Time Lord -- the Doctor. He fails, but now a race is on to discover which of the High Council has turned traitor before the link can be re-established -- or the Doctor is executed as a quick and somewhat pathetic solution to the problem. Meanwhile Tegan is out of a job and come to Amsterdam for a holiday. Only to be captured by a chicken-monster called an Ergon hiding in a crypt. Funny, she says. It's just like the things the Doctor gets involved in.

A fair-enough plot, well-structured with a good mix of the old and the new. Likewise with the actors. The scene where Colin Baker's Commander Maxil shoots the Doctor is of course priceless, and it's a good role too. Neither for or against the hero, he simply does his job as he best sees it. And he has dead eyes. Neil Daglish's Damon is a rather inexplicable earnest young man, and the High Council itself was about as energetic as it should be. That is, not at all. It's hard to say if the eventual traitor, Councillor Hedin, worked well. I assume Michael Gough is an accomplished actor (he is, of course, an admirable Alfred in the Batman movies) but the dedication to a cause that would make one of the High Council turn against his colleagues wasn't really evident. Colin and Robin, the two boys caught up in the action, never exactly exuded credibility either, though Colin's zombie stare was reasonably effective.

Two other people to mention: Nyssa always was a quiet one, but here demonstrated good solo companion material (not too sure about the scream though). Which meant Tegan, though the plot twist was a good one, had almost literally nothing to do. Her only important function was to wobble in the matrix.

I had reasonable expectations of Arc of Infinity when I sat down to watch it again. People machinated, the villain rubbed his hands together and laughed evilly, people got shot, Peter Davison ran round Amsterdam with green gunk on his face. It was all there.

But it lost something in the translation from imagination to reality. Doctor Who works best when it looks real (for example, Ghost Light), or doesn't need to look real (Happiness Patrol). Arc needed to look real, but never quite managed it.

It was, however, followed by the wonderful Snakedance, and all is forgiven.


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