Planet of Fire – Episode 4
First broadcast March 2nd, 1984 @ 6.40pm (7m viewers)
This episode accomplishes a huge amount in the context of Doctor Who’s continuing drama. It sees the departure of companion Turlough, the merciful termination of failed robot prop Kamelion, the supposed demise of the Master and introduction of new travelling companion Peri. The story itself is interesting, if flawed because of all the necessary things the script needed to achieve, but is fondly remembered due to the excellent location filming in Lanzarote. Director Fiona Cumming had been on holiday and was so taken by the volcanic landscape she suggested it as a potential location to Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner. The unique environment is far more successful at being a believable alien world than traditional British quarries, so much so it was revisited in 2014 for scenes featured in Peter Capaldi adventure ‘Kill the Moon’.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)
Won’t you show mercy to your own…
The implied destruction of the Master was a decision made based on the expiration of actor Anthony Ainley’s contract, however, the character would return the following year in ‘The Mark of the Rani’ but given the Doctor’s shaken reaction to events, it was clearly intended to be his last appearance. It is also a curious sequence because the Doctor simply stands and watches, leading to one of the most hotly debated lines in the programme’s history. Director Fiona Cumming claims as a part of the DVD special features that the conclusion of that sentence is “brother”, told to her by Producer JNT, a conclusion reached by some fans also. However, there are an infinite number of possibilities as to what the Master was truly intending to say, ‘colleague’, ‘President’ or ‘self’ for example, providing the ambiguity that fuels the debate.
Turlough had been a curious addition to the TARDIS crew, first appearing in ‘Mawdryn Undead’ when the character made a bargain with the Black Guardian and was tasked to kill the Doctor. Whilst this is certainly a fresh direction, the failure to effectively resolve that plot left the character undeveloped. As a result, there was no explanation as to why Turlough wanted to escape Earth and alluded to his alien origins. It is therefore only in his final story that this backstory is explained, even down to the peculiar solicitor referred to by the Headmaster in that debut story. This story really sees Turlough come into his own, sadly just as he departs the show. A similar positive treatment was also attempted for robot Kamelion which had been so problematic in it’s first appearance that the only other broadcast appearance was in this story which wrote it out, destroyed by the Doctor at it’s own request. One scene was filmed for ‘The Awakening’ featuring Kamelion but was cut due to time constraints. It is unlikely that such a robot prop would be effective to the production of the modern show let alone in 1984 but credit to them for attempting to feature a fresh, metallic companion. The episode concludes with the Doctor agreeing to take Peri for some travels around the universe, yet the next televised adventure would prove far more pivotal in shaping the future of the programme.
Also first aired On This Day…
- The Web of Fear: Episode 5
- Death to the Daleks: Part 2
- Black Orchid: Part 2
- Enlightenment: Part 2
- The Two Doctors: Part 3