I have a sentimental soft spot for this one as it was an eagerly awaited Christmas present back in 1992, along with ‘The Aztecs’ and ‘Tom Baker Years’ videos. Rewatched all of them many times and even decades later they stand up to repeated viewings (well, not ‘the Tom Baker years’ what with DVD commentaries being so much more in-depth (!)).
Nicholas Courtney may not have been quite able to ‘get’ the complex plot but it doesn’t stop him being hugely engaging – if not for ‘Battlefield’ which was an even better vehicle for him, this would be tied with ‘Inferno’ as my favourite appearance for the Brig.
David Collings is incapable of a bad performance and for much of the story he is wonderfully sinister without ever being particularly evil – indeed the idea that there are no bad guys except for the Black Guardian is a great idea. This approach is brave in many ways but further evidence of just how eclectic JNT’s tenure was (of course some stuff would be pretty awful on the flip side).
The Nyssa-Tegan relationship has its last hurrah here, except for a few moving seconds in the next story, and the references to another personal favourite (Castrovalva) are welcome without being alienating to more casual viewers.
Turlough hits the ground running here, and while Strickson can be just a little hammy, he is still utterly enjoyable and a much-needed reminder that male companions can be useful (sorry Adric!).
As with anything from so long ago, one could argue that the soundtrack is dated – perhaps true, but even so it complements a story from an era where much exciting work was being done.
A final note – I seem to gather that Paddy Kingsland’s music is quite controversial. Well between this story, and all the other relevant stories from Seasons 18 to 21 I have many happy memories of DW where the ‘magic moments’ on-screen and the musical accompaniment are so seamless that I couldn’t imagine any improvement from even the most ‘illustrious’ composers out there.