Ah, the Doctor Who of old. As someone who comes from this lively little island of Britain, Doctor Who has been something of a cultural staple for me. As a youngster my exposure to the old Dr Who was short – I stopped watching the reruns, unable to take the horrible production values seriously. Now, as something of a massive dr Who fanboy, I’ve decided to go back and give the old series another look.
The Arc of Infinity is a story from Peter Davidson’s run as the Fifth Doctor, and probably by all accounts my least favourite. Whilst Davidson certainly brings sensibilities that make his Doctor a distinct and worthy one to the Who mythos, I can’t get away from the fact that he’s a bit boring. He’s noble and sober, stern at times but also softly spoken. Not without humour, but certainly lacking much of what makes your Bakers and McCoys and Smiths so damn entertaining.
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Arc of Infinity sees him and his companion, Nyssa, targeted by a villain from an anti-matter universe. The villain’s identity is not revealed until the latter part of the story, which is odd since every blurb I find of the episode has the villain’s name plastered all over it. When this shady figures tries to connect with the Doctor, in order to bring himself into our universe, the Time Lords get understandably knotty about the whole thing. Their plan? Kill the Doctor. This does present a compelling grey morale choice for the characters: is such action worth taking in order to save the universe from getting a hole punched in it? The problem here is that it feels contrived that the Time Lords would decide so quickly to murder a man they all – well, almost all - admit to be innocent.
The titular Arc of Infinity, too, is poorly established. It’s handwaved aside with a few moments of vague technobabble and then used as a central macguffin to drive the plot forward. Lazy writing, really, but not something I am unfamiliar with as a fan of Dr Who. Aside from this point, however, the story is very enjoyable. Mainly it serves as a kind of mystery, as to which of the Time Lord High Council are the traitors, and despite one twist that promises interesting things, the eventual conclusion can be seen coming a mile off. Despitebeing predictable, the mystery element still very much entertaining and there are a few characters that serve to make interesting.
On the whole, the characterisation is good. Certainly, our evil villain is given a very sympathetic angle when the inevitable villainous breakdown occurs, and the Castellan of the High Council is another who stands out. This is pretty standard Dr Who fare all round, but there is a sense that this isn’t a story with clear cut bad guys or good guy. More towards the end when questions are being answered.
Production values are terrible, but that enjoyably terrible old Dr Who style. Really, if you don’t find something amusing or charming about them, then you’re not going to be watching old Dr Who. Really, if you’ve watched old style Dr Who you know the drill by now. This is a decent serial, with good characterisation and a decent pace despite its five episode length. There’s little here to mark it as a great, but nonetheless enjoyable.