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Doctor Who XXI.15-18: Planet of Fire

May 10th, 2012 (08:47 pm)

Primed as I have been by Patrick Mulkern's Radio Times entry, it's obvious why Planet of Fire has gained a reputation as the Doctor Who eye candy story for al persuasions. Noteworthy, though, is Nicola Bryant's performance, all method - which just makes the unattractiveness of Peri's character more apparent. I'm not sure why the programme was addicted to saddling the Doctor withe Doctor with selfish companions, and it's not as if they had redeeming character arcs. Peter Davison, meanwhile. chooses to quietly play the Doctor as someone ahead of the action, but unable to shape events - much as some actors must feel. Anthony Ainley's Master is badly served; though Dallas Adams's Brian Epstein-like appearance as the Kamelion-Howard-Master is a hint of what might have been, had John Nathan-Turner been able to channel his obsession with the entertainment industry more creatively.

The set of the Temple of Logar interior looks unhappily like a giant pizza oven. Perhaps the set designer was pining for the tourist restaurants of Lanzarote. Design is generally a problem, with the series not for the first time being too ambitious; the contrast between Lanzarote and Television Centre is very apparent.

Back in 1984, in DWB, a thirteen-year-old correspondent denounced Planet of Fire as 'a typical Peter Grimwade story'. I'd say that was only true now in that Grimwade was consistently let down by his interpreters. There's a story here, but it's lost, just as the pathos of Kamelion's plight is lost beneath the apparent cruelty of successive characters of all motivations.

ETA: I was a little harsh to Peri - while she loses points by joining in the Kamelion-kicking, she gains some just by offering her hand to the Doctor and helping him to the top of the mountain. That's a touching framing from the film cameraman, and perhaps redeems Fiona Cumming's workmanlike conceptualisation.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/508292.html.


Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: May 10th, 2012 09:47 pm (UTC)
Eleventh Doctor

I find Planet of Fire a failure on just about every level. I disagree that there is a story in there; I find it just another mid-eighties runaround. People refer to the Davison era as a soap, but a real soap would have made more of the Doctor letting the Master die and 'killing' Kamelion. Lanzarote looks nice, though. Somewhere else I should go one day, perhaps.

I think Turlough had a redeeming character arc, even if this story marks a partial return to the original version of the character.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 10th, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC)
Davison Clock

I agree with you about Turlough, and I should have acknowledged that.

I think there is a story there, but it's probably about Timanov rather than the regulars, and Peter Wyngarde's portrayal is too elusive for us to care about him.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: May 11th, 2012 11:20 am (UTC)
Eleventh Doctor

Wyngarde's portrayal is about the only thing I like in this story, other than the scenery! I thought it was more subtle than the one-dimensional bigot in the script. That said, I don't think I cared much when he got killed.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 11th, 2012 11:37 am (UTC)
Davison Clock

I don't think Timanov is a one-dimensional bigot, or if he is, it's only because his lines have been cut so much that there is no room for anything else. (Grimwade has been raiding Shakespeare for character names, I think...)