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 The Visitation...
The Visitation is a pretty good story even if - as someone on my Twitter feed pointed out - it has certain similarities to The Time Warrior with a character from Eric Saward's radio writing thrown in.
It starts strongly building up tension before killing off everyone we've met so far. In New Doctor Who they'd have all been bumped off in the pre-credit sequence. In fact this almost feels New Whoish, perhaps it is the younger Doctor. You can certainly see the same story with David Tennant.
Saward deals well with the multiplicity of companions: knocking them unconscious, splitting them off to do various different jobs & taking over their minds. However whilst Janet Fielding & Sarah Sutton deal with what they are asked to do pretty well I'm afraid Matthew Waterhouse is starting to look out of depth. There does seem to be a limited lifespan for the three companions. It makes the stories too messy to plot effectively & the constant bickering is already becoming tedious. There's an EastEnders like grumpiness to pretty much everyone that doesn't quite fit Doctor Who (at least in my opinion).
This is Peter Davison's fourth story & I'm quite enjoying the change from Tom Baker. His Doctor's clearly less certain & less forthright. He tries to convince & help, even when he's being frustrated (by events or his companions). As I mentioned earlier you can see the seeds of the New Doctor Who Doctors in his performance.
Mention should be made of Michael Melia's convincing turn as 'Terileptil Leader' (no names, no pack drill). The costume is slightly restrictive & it definitely (at least body wise) is of the 'obvious bloke in a costume' type. However the face is impressively designed & they would be one of my favourite aliens if it weren't for the hands, which are too stiff & too obviously gloves. I blame the director Peter Moffatt for that. It's a schoolboy error in Doctor Who: like focusing on the traditional weak point of a Doctor Who monster costume - the feet. Other than that Moffatt does a reasonable job even if the story does lack any real sense of urgency.
However Melia rises above the stiffness of the costume & gives quite a nice vocal performance. The Terileptil Leader has a certain brisk, cold intelligence plus obvious menace. These are a ruthless race. Willing to wipe out humanity in order to settle three of them & some androids in the place. Pretty spacious for three of them.
I also liked Michael Robbins as Richard Mace. Mace is an out of work actor who’s become a highwayman since the plague shut London's theatres. I suspect Robbins's performance is one that you either like or don't. I like it. Mace feels real in a story without much in the way of supporting parts except a gang of rent-a-peasants & a very bored horse.
So I enjoyed it even if it is a gentle little story lacking much in the way of genuine tension, although the death of the Terileptil leader is disgustingly gruesome really for the timeslot. The funny thing is as I've been writing this review I've realised that even though I found it fun I'm less impressed with the direction in retrospect. If the story as a whole had the same power as the first five or ten minutes of the first episode then it would be an absolute classic but alas it doesn't.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.