The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Turlough to Valderon, a penal colony governed by a society that punishes potential criminals on the basis of crimes predicted by a “chronoscope”. As the Doctor becomes uneasy about this system of justice, Tegan is pulled aside by a medical researcher who reveals his identity: he is Adric, Nyssa’s son, and his mother has been missing for over a decade since her disappearance (and presumed death) at the Helheim research station. The disease whose cure she was searching for on Helheim still rages on, unabated – and thanks to her youthful appearance, Nyssa’s son is worried that he is seeing her before she started her family, thereby creating a paradox. Tegan reveals some (but not all) of this information to the Doctor, but before he can bundle his companions back into the TARDIS to leave, Tegan and Turlough are arrested and tried because the justice computer had calculated a high probability that they will kill a guard.
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Sarah Dougles (Sibor), Alistair Mackenzie (Galen), Anjella Mackintosh (Mahandra), Jez Fielder (Kartis)
Notes: The names of Nyssa’s husband and children were revealed in Circular Time (2007); Nyssa asked Tegan not to reveal her family to the Doctor in Cobwebs, the story that also saw her leave Helheim and rejoin the TARDIS crew. Nyssa’s youthful appearance was restored at the end of The Emerald Tiger.
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: Everybody talks about the Blinovitch Limitation Effect, but nobody does anything about it. This story makes the oft-mentioned, seldom-seen phenomenon, brought about by severe temporal paradoxes, a near-tangible thing and a major plot point. By comparison, Mawdryn Undead‘s meeting of two Brigadiers was small potatoes.
At the heart of the story, however, is the overdue examination of Nyssa, who is some 50 years older despite her recent rejuvenation, and why she would throw away her life’s work and a family to travel in the TARDIS again. Aside from some slightly soap-opera angst about her family growing up/old thinking she had died, that examination only goes skin deep. The initial reason was to chase down a cure for Richter’s Disease, but things quickly became less focused from there. And with the average reliability of the TARDIS, it’s not as if Nyssa could have demanded a more intensified search for that cure. But, perhaps more critically, she also never asked to be returned to her own time so she could continue her own search for it.
Though Prisoners Of Fate was recorded before the broadcast of The Name Of The Doctor revealed the Doctor’s flight from Gallifrey, its revelation of “the Doctor’s first TARDIS” actually fits in remarkably well with that television episode; the Type 50 may well be the TARDIS that Clara convinced the first Doctor not to take. The Type 50 becoming stranded on Valderon may have been the fate that the Great Intelligence intended for the Doctor.
The ambiguous ending of Prisoners Of Fate is a real tear-your-hair-out moment, even though dialogue earlier in the story warns you to brace for it. Be ready.