Okay, it’s no secret that the Master is in this story – he’s emblazoned on the cover in all his decaying glory – but he’s only a small part of a convoluted tale that is part Avengers (the Steed/Mrs Peel variety, that is), and part Hammer Horror. Alan Barnes’ very witty script doesn’t waste a line; while you’re groaning at some of the jokes and references – Not the Nine O’Clock News gets a nice nod – clues are scattered as to what’s going on, and there’s some clever use of wordplay with regard to the central alien and its abilities. Inevitably there’s some quite ripe dialogue but only very occasionally does it feel off.
The story’s attracted a terrific cast: Rachel Stirling and Michael Cochrane make good foils for both Tom Baker and Louise Jameson, and the byplay between the two leads, on the times they’re together, captures the essence of the period. After the slight excesses of the Dalek story, Baker is back on an even keel: this is definitely the same man who shortly will encounter the Fendahl.
For those who’ve felt that the stories are a bit short, there’s good news: this and The Oseidon Adventure form a four-part story, and the only real downside about that is that it will mark the end of the reunion of Baker and Jameson. But hopefully, just for now…
Verdict: A strong opening for the season finale. 8/10