Production Code: 6V
1 - 19/01/1985 17:20
2 - 26/01/1985 17:20
The Doctor visits the planet Varos to obtain supplies of a rare ore called zeiton 7, vital to the functioning of the TARDIS. Varos was once a colony for the criminally insane and the descendants of the original guards still rule, while the poverty-stricken people are kept entertained by screenings of public torture from the Punishment Dome.
Their Governor has been trying to negotiate a better export price for zeiton ore from Sil, an envoy of the Galatron Mining Corporation, whose reptilian body is supported and kept cool by a mobile water tank.
The Doctor and Peri meet two rebels, Jondar and Areta. Peri and Areta are captured and almost reshaped into beast-like creatures by Quillam, the Dome's sadistic commandant, but the Doctor saves them and tells the Governor the true value of zeiton 7.
Quillam and Varos's Chief Officer, who are in the pay of the Corporation, try to kill the Doctor and the Governor but are themselves despatched. Sil plans an invasion of Varos by a force from his home world, Thoros-Beta, but the Corporation veto this and instruct him to buy the zeiton ore at any price.
The Doctor wanders into a No-Options Kill Centre in the Punishment Dome and suffers an hallucination, believing himself to be dying of thirst in a desert. Eventually he collapses motionless to the floor. The Governor, supervising a video recording of his ordeal, waits for a moment and then tells Bax, the vision mixer: 'And cut it - now!' Sil laughs evilly as the screens in the control room go blank.
Varosian citizens Arak and Etta are left at a loss to know what to do as, following an announcement by the Governor that there are to be no more transmissions from the Punishment Dome, the screen in their apartment fills with static.
The society dominated by TV is reminiscent of Nigel Kneale's The Year of the Sex Olympics.
The acid bath scene echoes Scream and Scream Again.
Stephen King's The Running Man.
A Clockwork Orange.
The Doctor : [Speaking of Sil] "I think he needs more than water, Peri, eh?"
Arak : "No more executions, torture, nothing"
Etta : "It's all changed. We're free."
Arak : "Are we?"
Etta : "Yes."
Arak : "What shall we do?"
Etta : "Dunno."
Arak : "When did they last show something worth watching?"
Etta : "Last week."
Arak : "That was a repeat."
Some time has elapsed since Attack of the Cybermen, during which the Doctor has set about some TARDIS repairs, although this has led to three electrical fires, a total blackout, and a near collision with a storm of asteroids.
He also got lost twice in the TARDIS corridors, wiped the memory of the flight computer [presumably the Doctor keeps back ups], and jettisoned three quarters of the storage hold [after this and Castrovalva, how much of the TARDIS is there left?].
The TARDIS' latest fault occurs when the transitional elements stop generating 'orbital energy', leaving the TARDIS midway between Cetes and Scalpor. Zeiton 7 is needed to repair the transpower system, although subsequent dialogue seems to indicate that zeiton 7 is little more than a 'fuel' for a range of space and time craft. Zeiton 7 is a very rare metal, at first believed to exist only on Varos, although Sil receives a report that traces of Zeiton-7 have been found on the asteroid Biosculptor.
[In addition, there are almost certainly deposits on or near Gallifrey.] Peri finds a huge Type 40 TARDIS manual in a workshop. She suggests that the fault might be the comparator (see Planet of Fire).
Varos is a former prison planet for the criminally insane, ostensibly ruled by the descendants of the officers. Despite the poverty of the populace, it has been politically stable for over 200 years. Its zeiton-7 is bought at a ludicrously low price by the exploitative Galatron Mining Corporation. The Varosians are kept subdued by the endless images of (real) torture and execution that fill their screens.
Galatron negotiators, such as Sil from the planet Thoros Beta, exploit the ongoing political vacuum caused by the succession of Governors who are appointed and eventually killed. Galatron's chief rivals are Amorb. Varos property is owned or policed by a body known as Comtech.
Varos [almost three centuries in Peri's future, so probably between 2285 and 2320].
Jason Connery, son of James Bond star Sean Connery and the lead in the HTV/Goldcrest series Robin of Sherwood, appears here as Jondar.
Well known actor Martin Jarvis makes his third Doctor Who appearance as the Governor of Varos - previously he had been Hilio in season two's The Web Planet and Butler in season eleven's Invasion of the Dinosaurs.
The Doctor at one point in this story deliberately pushes two guards into an acid bath. (In a struggle with the Doctor, one of the guards accidentally falls into the acid bath and pulls the other in after him.)
The cuffs lock around the Governor's wrists at different moments in the first two votes that we see.
How can the TARDIS so suddenly run out of something so vital?
Why are the cannibals wearing nappies?
Both the desert and the water are illusions, but the desert parches whereas the water doesn't quench.
Cast & Crew
The Doctor - Colin Baker
Peri - Nicola Bryant
Arak - Stephen Yardley
Areta - Geraldine Alexander
Bax - Graham Cull
Chief Officer - Forbes Collins
Etta - Sheila Reid
Governor - Martin Jarvis
Jondar - Jason Connery
Maldak - Owen Teale
Priest - Hugh Martin
Quillam - Nicolas Chagrin
Rondel - Keith Skinner
Sil - Nabil Shaban
Director - Ron Jones