by Mark Greig
As Peter Davison's penultimate adventure, 'Planet of Fire' has to write out two companions, introduce another and seemingly kill off the Master for good. But all anyone remembers is Peri's bikini.
John Nathan-Turner clearly had two things on his mind when he came up with the idea of "American" student Perpugilliam 'Peri' Brown. First, he thought that adding an American companion to the show would broaden its appeal in the US. And second, she's a beautiful woman in very revealing clothing. I think we all know who he was trying to appeal to there. This is by no means the first time the show has resorted to blatant titillation to attract views (remember Leela), but that leering close up of Peri in her peach bikini is the lowest JNT ever sunk in his desperate grab for viewers.
In terms of performance, Nicola Bryant is mostly abysmal in her debut performance. Her accent, never the most convincing at the best of times, is all over the place, sometimes coming and going mid-word (the guy playing her step-dad isn’t much better). The script doesn't ask much of Peri, just lots of running and screaming. It is depressing to see the female companion revert back to the helpless damsel.
This would be Mark Strickson final story as Turlough and his departure is the same sort of non-event a lot of companion exits turn out to be. No tears, no regrets, if you didn’t know any better you’d think he was just popping down the shops for a pint of milk. Even the Doctor doesn’t seem all that broken up that he is losing yet another companion. At least we get to finally learn his mysterious backstory, although it isn't all that interesting.
The plot, when it is not about a bunch of boring blokes in robes dithering about stuff no one cares about, involves a miniature Master using Kamelion by remote control to get himself back to normal size, and is just too damn silly for a story this serious. The Master accidentally making himself so small that he now fits inside a shoe box is something that would've worked well as a comedy two-parter, but as a straight-faced drama it loses all credibility the second they open the box and reveal Thumbelina. How is anyone supposed to take his threats seriously when he's no bigger than a Mars bar?
And as for Kamelion - oh, who honestly cares?
Notes and Quotes
--'Planet of Fire' was shot almost entirely on location in Lanzarote. This wouldn't have been an issue if the story wasn't set in Lanzarote and a planet that looks exactly like Lanzarote. Having one location double as two different locations makes it seem as if the characters haven't travelled anywhere at all.
--Anthony Ainley's Master looks so much better in a suit than that awful penguin outfit they force him into all the time.
--This story loses points for completely wasting Peter Wyngarde. What kind of idiot casts Peter ‘flipping’ Wyngarde and gives him nothing interesting to do?!!!
--At the end of the story it appears that the Doctor allows the Master to die, doing nothing as his favourite enemy is immolated. A rare moment of cold ruthlessness by the Doctor that is, disappointingly, shrugged off in the next season and forgotten about completely.
Kamelion-Master: "I am the Master!"
Peri: "I'm Perpugilliam Brown, and I can shout just as loud as you can!"
Turlough: "I don't want to go, Doctor. I've learnt a lot from you."
The Master: "Doctor, help me! I'll give you anything in creation! Would you show no mercy to your own--"
Two out of four miniature Masters.
Mark Greig is too old for this shit. More Mark Greig.