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Classic Who: Warrior's Gate

Fourth Doctor: Warrior's Gate
Ah, now this one was very exciting! Much more the sort of thing I expected when I first heard about E-space: surreal, dream-like settings, in which the normal rules of time and space are suspended, and nothing is quite what it seems. Not that this story takes place in E-space at all, of course, but instead in a gateway between E-space, N-space and the domain of the Tharils - which, as far as I could tell, was something quite different again. But still, it was very good.

The story is detailed and complex enough to keep the attention engaged very effectively, delivering clues to and revelations about what is going on at just the right rate to keep you intrigued without getting frustrated. I liked the Gothic atmosphere of the Tharils' gateway, and the strangely detached characterisation of the Tharils themselves, which suited their isolation from the normal Universe and its non-time-sensitive inhabitants. I also thought the crew of the slave ship were well-characterised: especially the captain's desperate self-delusions about his ability to retain control of the situation and rescue his crew.

The real business of the story, though, has to be the departure of Romana - and although I thought this seemed perfectly plausible after the fact, it struck me as being portrayed in a rather rushed and abrupt fashion on screen. It does make sense that she would leave at this stage, because she's been voicing her dismay about having to go back to Gallifrey ever since the end of Meglos; so with the prospect of the TARDIS being flipped back into normal space by the slaver-ship's ill-advised backblast, she is bound to start thinking pretty hard about whether she wants to be on board or not. But this isn't mentioned at all at the point when she tells the Doctor she is leaving, or indeed anywhere in this story. It also makes sense that she would relish the prospect of helping the Tharils to rescue the rest of their enslaved people via the use of time technology, as she has a bit of a habit of eagerly rushing to do this for anyone who asks - cf. The City of Death and The Leisure Hive. But again, the fact that this is how she intends to spend her time from now on isn't revealed until after she's announced that she is leaving, and the TARDIS has already gone.

In fact, the only preparation we get for her departure is a couple of scenes in which it's demonstrated that she has now become every bit as authoritative and resourceful as the Doctor: one where she refuses to stay on TARDIS when ordered, and instead turns round and tells Adric to stay behind instead, and another in which she has already disabled the slave ship's backblast by earthing its power cable to a ladder before the Doctor has finished telling her to do so. At the moment when she suddenly states that she's leaving, then, it makes some sense, but not as much as it might - and it seems downright odd for the Doctor to effectively just go *shrug* "Sure!" after all they've been through together. Or maybe we're meant to realise that they have such empathy with one another that he already fully understands the reasons for her departure, and (unlike the viewer) doesn't need her to explain to him about how she doesn't want to go back to Gallifrey and would prefer to stay and help the Tharils? Anyway, although I would have liked him to show slightly more emotion at the point of her departure, I did appreciate the moving delivery of his response to Adric's question about whether she would be all right after she had gone: "All right? She'll be superb." That did seem like a fitting send-off, and it was absolutely right to let the final episode end with that line.

Handing over K-9 seemed a bit arbitrary, too - especially since we'd seen the Doctor collect the memory wafer he would need to fix him from one of the Gundans earlier in the story, but simply never get round to using it. But then again, change is all-too-obviously in the air. K-9 just wouldn't really have suited Peter Davison's Doctor, and if that's what's on the horizon, it seems apt that he should at least get to remain with Romana instead. And as for Adric - well, actually, he still remains surprisingly un-annoying... but my heart did sink when I saw the Doctor left with him after Romana had gone. After all that she's been to him, that's one helluva climb-down.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 1st, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
Apparently the design for the Tharils was based on this
Jul. 1st, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
Ah, which makes Romana Beauty! That's kind sweet...
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 1st, 2008 09:33 pm (UTC)
Ack, I don't think I can. I'd get all nervous about people's responses if I started cross-posting my reviews, and would probably stop writing them before long because of the pressure. I think I write better when I feel I've got the freedom to express my personal angles (e.g. looking out for Classical references, squeeing over Tom Baker, watching all this systematically for the first time) because my primary audience already basically know what I'm like and what I'm into. People are welcome to come and find me, but I don't really want to actively put myself out there.
Jul. 2nd, 2008 12:29 am (UTC)
I liked that epsiode a lot but i agree completely about the departures. There was a real feel of a "time for a change so over the side they go" without particular logic to it. I suspect the author wanted to write a story and was asked to write in that Romana and K9 left but as that wasn't HIS story he shoe-horned them without particular care. That's just speculation though.

Thanks for these write ups -- it's fascinating to get other people's perspective. I'm sure you must be running out soon.
Jul. 2nd, 2008 08:32 am (UTC)
Yes, I think you're right about why the departures are so abrupt. It makes a poor contrast with Sarah Jane's departure in The Hand of Fear, which I thought was beautifully handled - although it is much on a par with Leela's, of course.

I'll be hitting Logopolis very soon, which will be a moment for great sadness. But I'll still have six other Doctors' worth of material to watch! So I don't think I'm going to stop writing these any time soon. :-)
Jul. 3rd, 2008 10:56 am (UTC)
I can still recall the shock of Logopolis the first time around. It was so unsettling because I was very used to the Tom Baker years even though I was only ten (I think) when it changed.
Jul. 2nd, 2008 02:12 pm (UTC)
I also thought the crew of the slave ship were well-characterised

Yes -- for all that this is a high-concept story, it's also very much an actor's serial. The script gives the actors space to be their character -- I always particularly liked the guy who's carrying the big detector box around. Everyone's doing what they have to do to keep their job and no more (as noted here). But they're also INTERGALACTIC SLAVE TRADERS.

And the cliffhangers are great too. "Doctor! This *is* a surprise."
Jul. 2nd, 2008 04:49 pm (UTC)
Yes, I liked the Detector Box Guy as well! He and one of the other crew members (whose name I never caught, but he had a roundish face and close-cropped greying hair) are good examples of actors who don't have a particularly big role, but manage to convey the sense of a real, rounded person all the same. The captain is more prominent, so it's not surprising he comes across well, while the two chaps in beanies are comic relief, really. But the subtle, yet distinctive, portrayal of the more minor members of the crew is a real index of how good the characterisation is here.
Jul. 2nd, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
Much more the sort of thing I expected when I first heard about E-space

I think the problem is that you approached the E-Space Trilogy as "The E-Space Trilogy", so to speak -- which is only natural, since that's how it's now always regarded -- rather than as three Doctor Who stories which happen to form a loose trilogy. On original broadcast we had no idea about this trilogy idea (well, I didn't; I've no idea if anyone else did), so I really liked the gradual revelation in Full Circle that we were in another universe. True, they didn't really do much with it -- although it is a plot point in Logopolis -- but since I didn't originally watch it with any foreknowledge, I didn't have my expectations raised like you did.

a gateway between E-space, N-space and the domain of the Tharils - which, as far as I could tell, was something quite different again.

Um, I don't think so, but I admit it's not very clear. I was under the impression that the Tharils' empire was in E-Space, or possibly spanned both universes, and the gateway was just a convenient travel interchange for them!
Jul. 2nd, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC)
I don't think it was my prior knowledge that there was an 'E-Space Trilogy' that set me up for disappointment - only my prior knowledge that E-Space was some kind of alternate Universe. It just didn't seem terribly alternate when we first met it in Full Circle, or indeed in State of Decay. I was expecting something much more different from the normal Universe - perhaps a slightly less hostile version of the anti-matter Universe in Planet of Evil. For that reason, I'd have been disappointed by what I saw in Full Circle whether or not I knew that further stories set in the same Universe were still to come.

I'm really not sure about the Tharils' domain, but I think something was said at some point about the gateway being a three-way interchange (though I may just be getting mixed up with the reference to Threefold Man from The Stolen Earth!). Certainly, the place behind the mirror with all the black-and-white backgrounds doesn't seem like E-Space or N-Space, while the Doctor said at one point that what was behind the mirror wasn't any use to ordinary beings - particularly Rorvik and his crew, since that's who he's addressing at the time. So I had interpreted that world as the Tharil domain, which, like them, doesn't really exist in ordinary time and space, but intersects with (certainly) E-Space and (possibly) N-Space at various points in time and space (such as the gateway and its mirrors).
Jul. 2nd, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
Hmm, you may be right about the Tharil domain, but I must admit I never saw it that way before!

But about the E-space thing, my point is that because I had no prior knowledge, the revelation that this was a different universe came *after* I'd already seen quite a bit of the story, so i had no expectations of what E-space would be like. It was like what I was seeing. :)
Jul. 6th, 2008 05:37 pm (UTC)
I remember Warrior's Gate as being completely incomprehensible when I watched it first. I often found it hard to keep track of what was going on in Dr Who at the best of times, but this I couldn't even get going with. Apparently the consensus now is that this is A Good Thing, and that Warrior's Gate is a Classic. I ought to watch it again somehow!
Jul. 6th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it does definitely require close attention. In fact, I had to watch the last episode twice to work out how the TARDIS had been able to flip out of the void and back into N-Space (rather than E-Space) at the end, as it's only referenced very briefly in one passing line by Adric. But it's worth the effort, I think; and it also has enough style and character-interest to mean that even if you don't know quite why a particular thing is happening, it's still fun and interesting all the same.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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