I quite liked this story, even if aspects of it don’t work like they should. The introduction of Turlough as a new companion with sinister motives gives the series a nice shot to the arm. I liked the return of the Brigadier (even if I am seeing him as the head of UNIT as I watch the 3rd Doctor stories) and the idea of a villain pulling the strings to kill the Doctor adds some nice tension to the proceedings.
Tegan is afraid that the Mara may still reside in her, but the Doctor and Nyssa assure her it is gone for good. Tegan wants to go to Earth to be surrounded by familiar sights to help her recover from her ordeal.
I liked that they didn’t just forget the events of Snakedance. It makes sense Tegan would still be worried and out of sorts after being possessed by the evil entity again.
Turlough is definitely a different kind of companion. He is an alien who for some reason we aren’t told has been placed on Earth and has to pretend to be a British schoolboy. He clearly desires to leave Earth, and so of course he jumps at the chance the Black Guardian gives him. Watching Turlough vacillate throughout the story as to whether he will kill the Doctor kept things tense, as did his attempts to placate the Black Guardian when he did fail to kill the Doctor.
Turlough could be really unlikeable but actor Mark Strickson is able to make Turlough’s snide remarks entertaining and quite funny. There is also the fact that he is an alien being forced to live on Earth and is hiding out in a school. I’d be making rude and sarcastic remarks myself in a situation like that.
One question that this serial doesn’t answer is why the Black Guardian chooses Turlough of all people to kill the Doctor. Yes, he has an effective carrot to dangle before the devious schoolboy but there is nothing about Turlough that screams cold blooded murderer. There had to be better choices out there. Heck, Turlough’s one actual attempt to kill the Doctor is the rather dumb idea to bash the Doctor on the head with a rock.
I did like seeing the Brigadier again but I didn’t feel like this role was written for him. I know that it had originally been another companion but what I mean is, other than the fact they brought the Brig back, this story would have worked just as well with any other previous companion. Having the Brig be retired and teaching is fine, but I never felt that he truly was the Brig, if that makes sense. I also didn’t like how he told Ibbotson that he had a disgusting body. That just doesn’t feel like something the Brig would say to a teenage boy.
The two time periods, with the Doctor, Turlough, and Brig 1 in 1983 and Tegan, Nyssa, and Brig 2 in 1977 was a good use of time travel and timey wimey fun. I wished they had kept it up a bit longer instead of getting everyone aboard the spaceship. The fact that they wrapped it up in a mystery where the Brigadier didn’t remember the Doctor or their adventures together added a nice layer to the time travel and to the story.
What I liked about Mawdryn is that he wasn’t your typical Doctor Who villain. He isn’t out to take over the planet or the universe nor does he want to kill the Doctor. Yes, he needs the Doctor to die but Mawdryn would have used any Time Lord. He doesn’t have a grudge against the Doctor.
Instead, Mawdryn and his fellow undead are thieves who stole technology to try and become Time Lords. They failed in that while they gained immortality it came with excruciating pain. They were exiled onto a spaceship and doomed to wander the cosmos forever. The only way they can die is by having a Time Lord feed them his or her regenerations.
Mawdryn and the others aren’t really bad people. Yes, they were arrogant and tried to become something they weren’t but I’d say they paid for that quite enough with centuries of agony.
Having Tegan, the Brigadier, and Nyssa believe Mawdryn was a regenerated Doctor was a good idea but they didn’t do much with it. I did like that Tegan was the first to truly believe that this walking horror show wasn’t really the Doctor.
I originally watched this story on Britbox. I then later bought the Black Guardian DVD. This story, along with Terminus, comes with new special effects. You don’t have to use them but they are there.
I decided to see what these new effects would look like and overall I thought they were rather good. Mawdryn’s ship looks better, and we get a nice shot of the TARDIS floating in space and dematerializing before the ship hits it. The psychedelic effects behind the Black Guardian have been replaced with effects that are darker and makes him look shrouded in mists. It is a big improvement. The scene where he materializes in the bust looks much better and creepier as well.
The main threat of Mawdryn is wrapped up but Turlough becomes a companion on the TARDIS, still under orders to kill the Doctor.
This was a good opening chapter in the Black Guardian trilogy and a good story in its own right.