Saturday, 21 August 2010

Blast from the Past: Vengeance on Varos

The Sixth Doctor’s era was a very rough time for Doctor Who, where the stories coming in seemed to be getting worse and worse. A few weeks after the original transmission of this story, the BBC decided to put the show on hiatus, as it was considered too expensive to make and becoming far too horrific for children to watch. ‘Vengeance on Varos’ almost certainly contributed to this decision, as it is an extremely gothic and even disturbing tale…

Having said this, it is by far one of the strongest stories to emerge from Colin Baker’s time on the show, and the production team’s execution (of the executions) should be complimented. The darker lighting of the sets add to the gothic tone of the story, and make a nice change to the brightly-lit studios which often ruined tense scenes in previous episodes. The design of the base also fits the story well, where the dark colour schemes and constant surveillance give it a prison-like feel.

Nabil Shaban’s character of Sil has a very convincing prosthetic costume, which allows a believable alien character to be created, and as a result enhances the disturbing feel of the story. The political system on the planet is soon revealed to be corrupt, with powerful figures (including Sil) manipulating the Governor into no-win situations. The idea of voting to save or kill political leaders based on a television performance is a very powerful one, and shows how a television obsessed society could go too far.

If there is one scene that is always criticised by fans (and there is!), then it is the fight sequence between the Doctor and two prison guards, which ends up with both of them boiling in a pool of acid. Critics often claim that the Doctor murderously and deliberately throws them into the acid with the rage of an assassin (well… that is exaggerated). The deaths were of no particular fault to the Doctor, however his comical comments made afterwards have no place in this tragic scene.

‘Vengeance on Varos’ is a slightly controversial adventure in Doctor Who, where some viewers welcome the darker tones of the storytelling, whilst others argue that it is not right for the family show. While it may not be considered a ‘classic’ story, it is still a thrilling tale with some extremely powerful themes and images throughout. The corrupt society that we see in this story has some parallels to our own world, where television shows begin to change the way we see the world, and sometimes for the worst.

Tomorrow: Survival


JGLewis said...

Well it had to be some good, RTD nicked it for Bad Wolf :P

Blink said...

Very true, and Moffat nicked the voting idea in The Beast Below.