The Doctor and Peri find themselves on Androzani Major, a world embroiled in a bloody war over the drug spectrox, which prolongs the human life span. While exploring some seemingly uninhabited caves, the Doctor and Peri fall into a foreign substance which has the immediate effect of causing an unpleasant rash, and are then captured by a platoon of soldiers who accuse them of smuggling weapons. While awaiting summary execution for this crime, the Doctor and Peri are then rescued – or perhaps kidnapped – by Sharaz Jek, a disfigured madman who hoards the planet’s supply of spectrox and oversees the real weapons smugglers. The soldiers, Jek, the gun-runners and a treacherous corporate mogul with an eye on the presidency are all battling for control of the spectrox supply, and none of them will let anything stand in their way – especially not two innocent bystanders who are dying anyway.
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Christopher Gable (Sharaz Jek), John Normington (Morgus), Robert Glenister (Salateen), Maurice Roeves (Stotz), Roy Holder (Krelper), Martin Cochrane (Chellak), Barbara Kinghorn (Timmin), David Neal (President), Ian Staples (Soldier), Colin Taylor (Magma creature), Keith Harvey, Andrew Smith, Stephen Smith (Androids), Anthony Ainley (The Master), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Gerald Flood (voice of Kamelion)
Broadcast from March 8 through 16, 1984
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: This dark, doom-laden adventure is one of the all-time best Doctor Who stories – in fact, many fans rank it as the best, hands down. The tension and atmosphere are heightened by the fact that the Doctor will regenerate at the end, meaning that anything could happen in the meantime. And perhaps most terrifying of all, there are no sympathetic parties in the story. The closest we come to anyone even being helpful is the real Salateen, who brings Peri back to the military base – but even he doesn’t give a damn about her beyond whether or not she lives long enough to help the military find Sharaz Jek. The suspense of all three cliffhangers is greater than usual, and no doubt the script was written to take advantage of the fact that the audience would be aware of the inevitable ending.
The acting is of an almost atypically fantastic quality, though John Normington as Morgus occasionally sends me into giggles when he turns right into the camera and drops hints of his suspicions and paranoia to the audience! Christopher Gable must very nearly top the list of villains in the 1980s, his voice and eyes alone conveying a great deal of menace. Maurice Roeves also steals the show as mad gun-runner Stotz. I remember, when Roeves was billed as a Romulan Commander in the credits of 1993’s The Chase episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I was telling everyone I knew what a great actor he was based on this Doctor Who story – yet all he was allowed to do in Star Trek was sit on a viewscreen and exchange peaceful platitudes with Picard.
Given the enormous weight of nostalgia and emotion that loaded down Tom Baker’s regeneration into Peter Davison, the regeneration scene in part four of Androzani had an enormous example to live up to – but it surpassed the finale of Logopolis by a huge margin, and for my money, it’s the definitive regeneration scene of the entire series.
If you see no other adventure from Peter Davison’s period as the Doctor, see this one.