Mission to Magnus
by Philip Martin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Well, I can't say I wasn't warned. I went into this story with low expectations and it mostly met them.
The first and most obvious defect is the tired "Planet of the Women"/"Battle of the Sexes" setup. I'm not entirely sure what writer Philip Martin was driving at with this - I think he's actually trying to send up both male chauvinists and radical feminists by creating obnoxious straw-man versions of both, but it just doesn't work. (Even a line that I rather liked, where Peri remarks that she comes from a world where women have almost achieved equality with men, loses some of its satirical bite from the fact that it refers to our world a generation ago.)
Having been warned about the obnoxious gender issues upfront, I tried to look beyond them to see what else the story had to offer. Sadly, there isn't much.
Let's start with Anzor, a Time Lord envoy whom the Magnusians hope to persuade to help them in their war against the neighboring planet Salvak. Apparently, Anzor used to bully the Doctor when they were at school together, and so the Doctor spends a lot of time cowering and cringing in his presence. Yeah, the Doctor, who can face Daleks and Cybermen without blinking, is afraid of a pompous and not very bright Time Lord. Okay. This might actually be interesting, if we actually ever learned something about Anzor or his relationship with the Doctor that makes him so uniquely terrifying, but he's actually packed off pretty quickly.
Before I pack him off for purposes of this review, I'd like to note two more things about Anzor. 1. He's a raging sexist, and makes no secret of it, which really makes you wonder how dumb the Time Lords must have been to send him to Magnus. (Speaking of this, isn't Flavia possibly still President of Gallifrey at this moment? I don't see Anzor as getting on well under her administration.) 2. Why is Anzor even there, anyway? There really doesn't seem to be anything about the conflict between Magnus and Salvak that would interest non-interfering Gallifrey. I get the impression that even the agents of the Celestial Intervention Agency don't get out of bed for anything short of a major disruption to the Web of Time.
Moving on from that, there's a laundry list of smaller complaints, like the absurd science. The script seems to be a little vague on whether the Ice Warriors are setting off nuclear bombs to change Magnus's orbit or it's axial tilt, which kind of makes a difference. Either way, even if we grant that the changes could be made with a bunch of carefully placed nuclear explosions, there's no way that they would happen as fast as is portrayed in the audio. Nor would the Doctor be able to neatly reverse them by setting off a second set of bombs, unless the Ice Warriors had carefully placed them so as to reverse the effects of their first set of bombs.
I could go on, but I think I've made the point. There are some bright spots: Nabil Shaban as Sil may be largely extraneous to the plot, but he still makes me smile with every line of dialogue. Once again, I love the 80s style soundtrack.
Just about everyone involved in this story has clearly given it their all and really tried to meticulously recreate a piece of 1980s Doctor Who
. I wish I could find more to praise in this particular effort, but I really can't. View all my reviews >>