We’re off on holiday again as the Fifth Doctor era begins to draw to a close.
This time, John Nathan Turner decided he wanted to go to Lanzarote for his yearly jolly boys outing.
If you recall, the last time they went away was for Arc of Infinity – when they visited Amsterdam – and it was absolutely redundant to the plot.
Will it be any less redundant this time for Planet of Fire?
And will the story be any good? The last two have been acceptable, so will this be a rare three out of three for JNT-era Who?
Doctor Who – Planet of Fire Review: What’s This One About?
A Google search for a synopsis of Planet of Fire comes back with this…
“The Master re-establishes psychic control of his robot slave Kamelion. He wants to hijack the Doctor’s TARDIS to reach the planet Sarn, where he seeks the healing power of Numismaton Gas to restore himself. Once on Sarn, Turlough comes face to face with his destiny”
Thoughts – What’s This One Really About?
I had to look that synopsis up because I couldn’t find a way of explaining the story without saying what it’s really about.
In many ways the plot doesn’t actually matter, because ultimately, Planet of Fire is a means to an end.
The brief for the writer – “Oh No It’s” Peter Grimwade – was most likely to do the following.
- Write out Turlough
- Tie up the loose ends with who Turlough is and where he came from (since nobody bothered to explain it before now)
- Bring back and then write out Kamelion, since he couldn’t actually be used as they would have wanted (hey, who’d have thought that?)
- Introduce a new companion
- Give the Fifth Doctor one last confrontation with the Master
- Make use of the Location Filming
And to give Peter Grimwade credit, he does do all of those things, and in particular he manages to give Turlough an interesting backstory that works alongside what we knew of him from Mawdryn Undead. There’s even a mention of the lawyer that was said to be his guardian in that story. Grimwade created the character of course, so that shouldn’t be too much of a shock.
But what Grimwade fails to do is turn these key plot points into an interesting story.
Maybe there’s too much on his plate; too many boxes to tick, but Planet of Fire just ends up being extremely boring.
Do We Really Need To See Another Master Story?
I liked the Master in the Five Doctors because the character was written by the guy who invented him.
It almost made me forget how utterly dreary the Anthony Ainley version is.
I can accept that they wanted one last confrontation with him and the Fifth Doctor, and it seems as though this one is written as a final battle, seeing as he clearly dies at the end of it (although one would wonder why he didn’t just step out of the
fire since there was nothing stopping him), but even so, the character is just so dreary,
No doubt I’ve said this before, but Roger Delgado’s Master worked not only because he was a better character and actor, but because in the eight stories in which he appeared, he wasn’t the sole villain in any of them. Alongside him there were
The Autons, The Keller Machine, The Axons, The Company, The Daemons, The Sea Devils, Kronos, The Ogrons and the Daleks.
But in the Anthony Ainley stories, he’s the sole villain in all but one (and that one was – you guessed it – the Five Doctors).
There’s only so much interest that can be gained from seeing a one dimensional boo hiss villain lay traps like a crap Dick Dastardly and flaunt his little shrinking gun. We don’t need to him come back for a seventh time in 21 stories.
And what does he even bring to Planet of Fire?
Nothing, that’s what. He just sits around in a box for ages, while Kamelion pretends to be him.
Overall we’ve just had far too much of this character.
Sadly he’ll be back, although thankfully with less frequency.
What We’re Left With
The rest of Planet of Fire is – as I say – boring as all hell.
Other than the guy who looks like the Iron Shiek (Timanov), I couldn’t identify any other character from Sarn either by name, appearance or relevance to the plot, and I only finished watching it 20 minutes ago.
There are very few stories – if any – that I could say the same for. Even duds like Underworld, Terminus and Time Flight have recognisable characters whose roles within the story are clear.
Not here though; it’s just dreary.
From memory, the plot as far as they are concerned is “There’s a chosen one coming! It’s him! No, it’s him! Let’s just go to a different planet”.
So Grimwade did what he needed to do, but what he failed to turn it into was an interesting tale.
Considering his previous efforts, he did remarkably well as it was.
The Fifth Doctor Timeline
Like Frontios moves directly into Resurrection of the Daleks, Planet of Fire appears to happen straight after that one. Either that or the Doctor just felt like commenting on the Daleks long after the fact.
If you are to take it that it did follow directly on, there’s an argument to suggest that all three stories happen in the same day. I haven’t seen anyone sleep yet, have you?
- So we’ve got a new companion, and watch out dads and schoolboys, she’s got breasts!!! And she’s wearing a fucking bikini!!! OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!
- As Peri, Nicola Bryant turns out to be a decent companion. Well…maybe she does. She’s good in the audio dramas at least. But Planet of Fire isn’t the best of starts for her, as she not only doesn’t seem to be the best actress, but her character comes across as a bit of a whiny brat. And yet she’s still a marked improvement over Tegan.
- Kamelion really was a waste of time, but at least they managed to get Gerald Flood back to do his voice. I’m not sure why there was a need to have him occasionally turn into a silver Howard though. I think it would have been funnier for them to use the prop like one of the Weeping Angels and have it move about when the camera is off it. That would at least have given me a chuckle.
- Of course, the plot with the Master doesn’t really make all that much sense. Even if we allow for him to have piggy backed along with the TARDIS to Sarn by influencing Kamelion after his accident, surely his accident would have killed him?
- And even if we allow for it not to have killed him, how did he manage to make a control room in a shoebox? And if the control room was shrunk when he was shrunk, how did it get into the box? And how does it have a lid?
- How come Turlough had previously wanted to go back to his home planet (see: Enlightenment) if he was a political exile.
- Why was the thing in the sea in the sea? Why would it be on Earth and why would it take them to Sarn rather than to Trion?
- Isn’t it massively convenient that the Doctor and Turlough are on holiday somewhere that has a landscape that is exactly the same as Sarn?
- Why did Turlough bother to save Peri, and seeing as he did save her, why not leave her on the beach?
- And how did Peri’s hair not only dry, but restyle itself while she was asleep in the TARDIS?
- Let’s be honest; there’s clearly something a bit mucky about the relationship between Peri and her stepfather.
- Just watching this, you’d have to think that Peri’s family not only must assume she’s dead, but that Howard was responsible for it. He probably got arrested. Indeed, the Big Finish audio , The Reaping (which is really good by the way and is worth listening to) makes that point.
- At long last, Turlough changes his clothes, but he was better with what he was wearing before.
- DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #134. Hmmm, I’d have it lower.
Doctor Who – Planet of Fire Review: Final Thoughts
Planet of Fire does what I assume it sets out to do, and unlike Arc of Infinity, the use of location adds to it, but beyond that it’s just a very boring story.
I’m not even sure if it’s bad, it’s just dull. There are no issues with sets, costumes, noticeably bad acting, music or anything else.
But it just oozes a sense of being totally unremarkable.