Our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, is journeying through all of time and space to bring us his thoughts on every available Doctor story. Today is the Fifth Doctor adventure Enlightenment...
So the Black Guardian trilogy ends with a bang, not a whimper. There's so much to adore in this story, from its initial concept, which is perhaps best described as a mini version of The War Games: various ship's crews are 'borrowed' from different time zones in Earth's history to take part in a race. Instead of the War Lord though we have the Eternals, a race 'beyond time'.
They seem empty. Bereft of ideas & emotions, shells of thought. It's a hard concept to grasp. After all what do they do when they're not racing for 'Enlightenment'? They are clearly supposed to be something but what that something is seems pretty abstract. And how do they fit in with our bird hatted friends, the White & Black Guardians? After all the prize seems to be in their keeping somehow? Do the Guardians nip into Eternalsville & put out a 'who wants to be a Captain' request? The Guardians can't have been entirely peripheral because Wrack (Lynda Baron) is clearly already a signed up member of the Black Guardian's gang. There's some questions to be answered there & frankly I can't be arsed to answer them. Not now. Probably not ever if truth be told.
As the conclusion to the Black Guardian trilogy it is also the end of the 'evil' Turlough story arc. Mark Strickson is excellent in this: confused, chicken-hearted, freaked out & finally decided. When he is offered Enlightenment he makes the right choice. Whether the Doctor is right to believe him when he says he never wanted the deal with the Black Guardian is moot. He certainly wanted it initially, but perhaps the price he was asked to pay become too high too quickly. Anyway after this Turlough's definitely one of the good guys but you're never quite sure if he can be entirely trusted.
The thing is though that Turlough's story isn't really the central one or at least it isn't particular the most interesting. It is the relationship - if that's the right word - between Tegan & the Eternal Marriner (Christopher Brown) that holds the most fascination. Marriner is fascinated by Tegan, but it isn't physical. It's emotional. Tegan's mind fascinates him. She's full of interesting thoughts & emotions. She is alive. With big, glowing capital letters & Marriner is drawn to that life like - cliché alert - a moth to a flame. Tegan finds it rather creepy, although at the end as Marriner is returned to his unalive living you do get the impression that she's a little sorry for him. Christopher Brown is excellent as Marriner & the scene between him & Janet Fielding are wonderful.
It's interesting to note that the Edwardian Eternals, Marriner & Striker (Keith Barron) are both quite buttoned down & unemotional at the beginning & whilst Striker remains pretty much like that all the way through (& I should pay a minor tribute to Keith Barron for a surprisingly good performance) Marriner starts to fray a little at the edges. Meanwhile on the Wrack's ship, a Pirate Ship in full Oo-Ar cliché mode, the Eternals there seem to be acting - very loosely in the case of the terrible Lee Johns - as if they've stepped out of a Hollywood Pirate blockbuster. Lynda Baron is delightfully OTT. If she had a moustache she'd be twirling it. It's like two two parters have been stuck together. One all serious & Bidmead esque & the other some kind of camp Pirate tribute. All that's missing is a parrot.
So it makes for a slightly odd, if vastly entertaining story, which I have fond memories of as a twelve-ish year old. Tegan's party dress in particular remains a fond memory for me. (Cough)
Enjoyable, entertaining & well worth a watch even if I Peter Davison gets a little side-lined. It's almost, but not quite, a Doctor light episode. Davison is good though but for once the bulk of the action & acting is left in the hands of the companions.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.