March 16th is a significant day in the history of Doctor Who with FOUR momentous moments!
The Caves of Androzani: Part 4
First Broadcast March 16th, 1984 @ 6.40pm (7.8m viewers)
It is always a significant moment when a leading actor leaves Doctor Who but on this occasion all the planets aligned to deliver a spectacular story which is often regarded as one of the greats. In 2009, it was voted the best ever by readers of Doctor Who magazine but slipped to 4th place in another vote four years later. Where it ranks is for others to speculate but few can argue that it is a perfect storm of talented contributors. Written by Doctor Who veteran Robert Holmes, his first script in five years, it brought a layered drama aimed largely at the adult members of the audience. Director Graeme Harper proved to be a perfect selection to handle the script, his energy, and dynamism being reflected in the unraveling narrative. Harper must also be credited for the strong ensemble cast, highlighted by the casting of Christoper Gable as the spectacular Sharaz Jek. All these elements, the script, the direction, the cast, the design, all mesh perfectly together and deliver a truly epic 25-minute thrill ride culminating with the most dramatic conclusion.
There is a brutal reality to Androzani Minor, the darkness of the environment mirroring the dark tale, populated with individuals motivated by greed and driven by the longevity offered by Spectrox. Aspects of the story occur as if by accident and not by design, all the characters having to react to a chain of events, hence the script’s original title ‘Chain Reaction’. As an example, the action which triggered the regeneration happens in the first episode and is probably missed by the casual viewer, with Peri stepping in a sticky substance which the Doctor wipes off, accidentally infecting himself. For once it seems that the Doctor is not in control of the unfolding events, he is at his most vulnerable with his random wanderings throughout the universe finally proving his undoing. Other individuals also meet untimely ends as their intentions prove their undoing.
Firstly, Salateen is gunned down before Chellak unmasks the hideous features of Jek and also meets his end as a result of the mud burst. Morgus has also been deposed, losing his position of office and his corrupt dealings being found out, his greed coming back to haunt him but still nothing compared to how his betrayal of Jek would seal his fate. Sharaz Jek is an incredible character, disfigured physically but also mentally and emotionally, obsessed with Peri’s beauty as his own had been taken away from him. However, he does, at least, get his revenge, killing Morgus before himself succumbing to Stotz’s bullets. Such is the cruel and vicious violence of the story that only the android Salateen remains standing, with Peri and Timmin on Androzani Major the others to survive the events. The Doctor survives too but he would not be the same man.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)
What is often overlooked is that the Doctor sacrifices himself to save the life of his companion Peri, who he’d only met in the previous televised story. This self-sacrifice is the Doctor at his most noble, determined to protect planets and populations but equally those assigned to his care, motivated by the fact that this incarnation had relatively recently had to endure the torment of losing another companion, Adric. Such is The Doctor’s determination to save Peri he even manages to fight off the regeneration in Part 3, spending the duration of this final installment in a race against time to save her, not knowing if he will survive the tale himself. As he collapses to the floor of the TARDIS, relieved to have saved his companion, he ponders his own future, questioning if it is the feeling of death which is absorbing his body and doesn’t know if he can regenerate from this situation. The fight does not end with the saving of Peri as the Doctor is haunted by ghosts of companions now lost, each of whom reminds him that he must endure and survive too. Davison’s line of “It feels different this time” also deliberately leads into the disturbed beginnings of his Sixth incarnation. All of this culminates in a huge crescendo, only then can the viewer catch their breath as they are faced with the prospect of a new Time Lord in the TARDIS.
The Doctor – Peter Davison
Peri – Nicola Bryant
The Doctor – Colin Baker
The Master – Anthony Ainley
Sharaz Jek – Christopher Gable
Morgus – John Normington
Chellak – Martin Cochrane
Director – Graeme Harper
Producer – John Nathan-Turner
Writer – Robert Holmes
Also first aired On This Day…
- Fury from the Deep: Episode 1
- Death to the Daleks: Part 4
- Earthshock: Part 4
- The King’s Demon: Part 2
- Timelash: Part 2