by Mark Greig
The Fourth Doctor's end is almost at hand, but before we say goodbye to Tom, it's time to bid a sad farewell to Romana.
While her final departure scene is almost as abrupt as Leela's was (although it makes a lot more sense), 'Warrior’s Gate' still makes for a great farewell story for both the Time Lady almost known as Fred and Lalla Ward. It is also my favourite story of this entire season. If Chris Bidmead had knocked out a few more stories like this I might’ve looked back on his time as script-editor with fondness rather than bored indifference.
The first thing that catches your eye about this story is the amazing direction by Paul Joyce and an uncredited Graeme Harper. The opening tracking shot through the corridors of the slaver's ship was clearly inspired by Alien, while design of the castle and the look of Tharils are clearly influenced by Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête. Unfortunately, Joyce clashed with producer John Nathan-Turner resulting in Joyce never directing the show again. Which is a shame because 'Warrior's Gate' is a great showcase for what can be done on a limited budget.
Joyce's direction is backed up by a fantastic script by Stephen Gallagher. Admittedly, it does come dangerously close to ponderous and pretentious at times, but it makes a refreshing change to the usual base under siege alien invasion or How to Overthrow Evil Tyrants in Five Easy Steps (And Have Fun While Doing It) stories we usually get subjected to.
One of the things I like so much about Gallagher's script is how well the villains are characterized. I just love how jaded and indifferent the slaver crew are. Unlike their increasingly frustrated captain, the crew are completely ambivalent to the severity of their situation, going about as if their car has a flat tire. They're more concerned about what's for lunch than how they're going to escape the void.
Notes and Quotes
--This story introduces Dwarf star alloy, which would later reappear in the Eleventh Doctor episode 'Day of the Moon'.
--The Tharil Empire used to exist in E-Space, raiding N-Space for human slaves, but the humans created the Gundans, who breached the Gate and destroyed the Empire. Now humans use enslaved Tharils to navigate hyperspace, effectively traveling in time. A Tharil can walk the wind (navigate the vortex) unharmed.
--Adric continues to be a complete waste of space. He doesn't do anything in this story, just wander around with the same gormless expression on his face, the one that makes it clear that his head is even emptier than the void everyone is trapped in.
Rorvik: "Run Doctor! Scurry off back to your blue box. You're like all the rest. Lizards when there's a man's work to be done. I'm sick of your kind. Faint-hearted, do-nothing, lily-livered deadweights. This is the end for all of you. I'm finally getting something done!"
The Doctor: "One good solid hope's worth a cart-load of certainties."
Adric: "Will Romana be all right?"
The Doctor: "All right? She'll be superb!"
The Doctor: "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it."
The Doctor: "You're a machine, aren't you? I usually get on so well with machines."
Romana: "Because he was running."
Four out of four flat tires.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.