This is definitely one of those Root-for-the-Good-Guy-Hate-the-Bad-Guy stories, meaning there's not a whole lot of depth here. But when the Master is involved, you really shouldn't be looking for any, anyway. Anthony Ainley's version of the Master, though not portrayed by the great actor, is in fine, devious form You can tell that he's planned and manipulated events for years for this moment. The fact that this new Doctor wins more by fortune than because he's more clever than the Master adds a good dose of suspense missing from the series for years. Jeff Coburn does a great job portraying the evil Time Lord, and you can really see his Doctor's persona when he finally takes over the part fully inside the Matrix. (5/10)
Apollyon is the first story from Jeffrey Coburn's turn as the Doctor. Usually, the new actor gets a chance to fit into the part, but in this case, Jeff didn't.
The first episode is Jeff's only chance to play the Doctor. For the remainder of the story, except for the finale of Part Four, Jeff has to play The Master!
Jeff actually makes a rather good villain. He lowers his tone of voice when speaking as The Master (to make himself sound more evil), and, because of the fact that The Doctor has never been assumed to be the actual enemy before, Apollyon is given a strange, but interesting change.
To finish off with, Apollyon is one of those stories that can't be used without creating a bit of confusion. In the storyline, nobody would suspect, after a recent regeneration, that The Master is actually The Doctor, but, with a new actor playing the Doctor, who is only to be made to play somebody else after just one episode, can be quite confusing for the general public (it certainly was for me)!
A fairly interesting story!
- - - - -
The newly-regenerated Doctor is rushed to hospital, where his doctor, Adon, turns out to be the Master. Using a nifty alien brain swapping gadget, the Master steals the Doctor's body and heads for Gallifrey with Mark and Dara. The Master intends to take over Gallifrey (there's a power vacuum as he killed the last President) locate the Great Key and start his plan to conquer the universe from scratch. Luckily, the Master can't act for toffee and Mark is already suspicious enough that when ‘the Master' arrives on Gallifrey claiming to really be the Doctor, he gives the guy a chance. The Master breaks into the Matrix and starts deleting everything except the info he needs, and the Doctor dives into the Matrix after him. The Time Lords decide to switch off the Matrix and kill them both, and the Master and the Doctor are forced to escape back to their proper bodies. The Time Lords decide to publicly blame recent events on the Doctor rather than reveal the Master fooled them. The Doctor and the Master make their respective departures from Gallifrey.
Colin Baker always wanted to do a story like this – a bodyswap with the Master involving regeneration. Of course he wanted it at the end of his reign, not the beginning, but it's a decent idea to base a story on, unlike Countdown to Armageddon. Bar the Presidential Induction and the regeneration reprise (including riffs on Robot, The Twin Dilemma, Castrovalva and the TV Movie), Apollyon is original and enjoyable. However, the constant references to Apollyon baffle, as though the authors were trying to shoehorn the title to the already established plot.
Like Meglos, however, Apollyon plays its hand too quickly: the Master explains the entire plot before the end of part one, and that's another three episodes for everyone else to work out what the audience knows. Maybe if it was more of a mystery was made about why the new Doctor was acting so strange, it would work better. The story fits badly onto the end of Countdown to Armageddon – no one seems to have noticed the Master's firework display, or that the man calling himself the Doctor looks completely different and no mention is made of the Watcher. The Master's claims to have engineered this situation sit at odds with his mindless fury at the end of Countdown, where he clearly kills the Doctor out of spite rather than a cunning plan. The scenes on Gallifrey seem to occur months after the Antithesis attack, and the TARDIS is working much better than it should. This poor continuity renders the first Earth-based half of Apollyon a total waste of time, involving countless locking up, escapes, eccentric scenes with disbelieving everyday joes, until events move back to Gallifrey and becomes a different runaround.
The story is ultimately mediocre, but lifted by the arrival of Jeffrey Coburn as the Doctor. A “proper” actor (ie, one who doesn't JUST appear in fan audios), Coburn shows off right away as an intriguing Master, calm, sinister and philosophical, and also an endearing Doctor. David Segal playing the Master as the Doctor might delay culture shock, but it's as baffling as Mestor being played by Peter Davison in The Twin Dilemma. It's telling that a poor gag about the Master's beard is made excruciating by Segal and mildly amusing by Coburn, who manages to be both childlike and very tired simultaneously. Peter Hinchman's Mark continues to play a kind of humorless Captain Jack, and the scene where he has “the Master” at gunpoint is tense as we know the Doctor has no way of proving his identity. Dara, however, manages to be as contrary and irritating as ever – truly, she deserves her first alien planet to be as dull as Gallifrey. She also reveals a knowledge of other languages when it is convenient to explain that Adon is Hebrew for Master... one of the worst moments in the script. Also, the Master's insistence on continuing his plan to create a new black hole totally loses credibility when he abandons it on the second try.
The DWADs also confirm with this story their desire to parallel the Doctors on screen. After Vincent Savage's Pertwee-esque Doctor, we got Segal's copy of Tom Baker. While it would be crude to call Coburn's Doctor a copy of Peter Davison's, there is a clear link – the indestructible Hero of the previous incarnation has become a younger, less certain and far more vulnerable character not guaranteed to win every day. However, this is not the seachange as on TV, as Segal's Doctor screwed up plenty of times in his last season, only narrowly winning by luck. This new Doctor at least doesn't need his ego stroked over it, so the regeneration has fixed one thing. Speaking of regeneration, there's no narrative reason WHY the Doctor should be ‘as weak as a newborn lamb' after the change, especially with the Watcher there (unlike the TV version, there is no entropy to effect the process).
The sound design works rather well, however the final scenes in the Matrix make it almost impossible to understand what the two foes are saying, and the fact that the large cast seems to consist mainly of Sheri Devine and David Segal makes the shortcomings all the more obvious. Context, however, is everything, and after the appalling Countdown to Armageddon, Apollyon is a massive step forward.
Personal Appreciation: ***
Pretty decent, considering the compost of sequel fodder they had to deal with.
The new Doctor (the eleventh, according to the cover of his Handbook) is six foot tall with dark hair. He doesn't get much of a chance to shine, except he's very flippant and child-like (though not childish). Prone to delusions, memory loss and violent paranoid fits at first, having his mind shoved into the Master's body does him a lot of mental good. Encountering a magician's outfit early after his regeneration triggers a craze for illusion which sticks with this Doctor right to the end. Trouble is he's utterly useless at it. He doesn't pretend to know what he's doing like his former self, thus becoming more endearing. He's far from surprised at the Time Lord's treachery, and is good at thinking on his feet, though he's still pretty forgetful and flighty. He's never had a body with a beard before (which could be relevant if you have a take on The Brain of Morbius) and a long time ago was on the High Council.
Mark is pretty good in a crisis, immediately accepting the idea of regeneration (though it seems he's researched the Time Lords during his soldiering days), and is good at coming up with explanations for wandering around a hospital with a lunatic and a teenage girl at a moment's notice. He's understandably sick to death of Dara's whining. He longs for his tricorder (dear God...) and is prepared to piss off the most powerful race in the universe – even when they intend to send him home, which is a big thing for Mark – rather than risk the Doctor being executed.
Dara is prone to panicking, despair, self-pity and wonder lust, bravery and righteous indignation at the drop of a hat. She briefly studied Hebrew for her class and knows a few random words. She's already thinking of the Doctor as a surrogate uncle. She hates being called Miss Hamilton. She's been to South Wales.
The Master is a lot calmer and more collected than before, supporting his claims that he's actually an evil mastermind. Being in the Doctor's body brings out his quieter, contemplative side and he shows how deeply rooted his arrogance is, dissing humans for being short-lived morons without even wanting to cause offence. He can still hypnotize other Time Lords and has a supply of false masks – yet, he often seems to ‘uncloak' when in his own body. He is not as good as actor as he thinks he is, and still has the strange desire to use incredibly obvious pseudonyms and make suspiciously inappropriate comments (calling Dara by her last name when he shouldn't know it) and compulsively compliments himself at every opportunity. His TARDIS is a Type 73 and can impersonate a room in a hospital. He has experienced regeneration exactly thirteen times. He hates the Doctor's scarf.
God the title sequence is terrible... couldn't they have a proper animation for the face?
Much as I disliked the Segal Doctor, it feels a bit slack to rewrite his “heroic sacrifice” as just playing into the Master's hands again. I mean, it was a pretty pathetic send off in the first place, and then they remove the only positive aspect (he saved the universe). At the end of a copy-cat existence, it makes Segal's incarnation look even MORE wasted.
The Master's plan rests on the Doctor regenerating... but he didn't know the Doctor would survive the fall. Why not just kill him right away and then disguise himself as someone else and claim to be the regenerated Doctor? Why does he need companions to prove he is the Doctor when he's wearing the body with the right DNA?
How come the concussed, delusional Doctor realizes that Adon is the Master but no fully-sentient Time Lords don't twig?
How is Adon pronounced? Ar-don? Ar-darn? Ar-den? Ad-on? No one seems to know, even though the gag is there is a PROPER pronunciation that everyone forgets...
In Countdown to Armageddon, the TCE is blown up. But the Master has it back safe and sound. Did he build a new one? Is it a homage to Castrovalva where the Mater has a fully-functioning TCE after it falls with the Doctor to the ground? Is it just a goof?
After all the trouble to capture the opening music from Castrovalva and the previous story's use of Season 18 music, it seems odd that it drops it altogether for Warriors of the Deep.
This story at last reveals why the Master doesn't have companions – he's a total jerk, even when trying to be nice. He honestly thinks everyone else is a pitiful stupid creature who dies before they get anything interesting done. His ability not to snap Dara's neck (something even goodguy Mark wants to do) proves he has serious control over his emotions.
Why do I get the feeling room 3G is some cunning production code reference? Or is it that Mark and Dara are locked in The West Wing?
The chameleon circuit sounds exactly like a Scorpio teleport in Blake's 7.
**** it, Sheri Devine can scream. SHUT UP, **** YOU! SHUT UP! And not just when you're screaming...
I love the Master fixing the controls in the TARDIS the Doctor has ‘repaired' while simultaneously the Doctor sabotages the Master's TARDIS by ‘fixing' the same set of controls. Where was that wit and humor when we needed it last story, huh?!
Why use material direct from The Invasion of Time instead of recreating it? It means Gold Usher's voice changes entirely when not reciting the inauguration speech!
Apollyon is mentioned Revelation 9:11. It sounds like a tasteless sequel to End of Days only with more terrorists and explosions.
The Time Lords seem quite happy to go to public ceremonies – despite the fact the last one triggered tornadoes that ate half the population.
Preposterous Plot Points:
How many parts does David Segal play in this?? In the first episode alone, the Doctor, the Master, an Indian paramedic, Dr Adon, the hospital worker that gets tied up in a scarf and dumped in a closet, the Cockney porter, the Time Lord Cardinal who stabs the Doctor in the back...
Why is the Master so desperate to get the Great Key after last time? Why doesn't he use the same method as before to find it? Why does he give up so suddenly? And surely he's talking crap that he let the Doctor go, or why would he be so annoyed that his plan is working?
How are the Time Lords able to survive when they're all such stuck-up ****** who not only refuse to accept the truth but hide it? How long before they ‘adjust' the truth about things like light bulbs and toilets, causing civilization to collapse? I tell you, these two stories make you cheer every time the end of the Time War is mentioned and these useless ******** were nuked!
Gratuitous use of the title:
MASTER: Thus... rides... Apollyon!
Witty deadpan quip of the day --
PHAROS PROJECT GUARD: Jeez. That's the last time we let any tour groups in here.
Dara earns a perceptive insult from the Master --
DARA: It's bigger on the inside than it is on the out!
MASTER: Transcendental quantum physics, actually.
DARA: Transde... wha?
MASTER: It's far beyond your rudimentary comprehension. Just say “it's bigger on the inside than it is on the out.”
Jeff Coburn makes the most of his first proper scenes –
DARA: Don't you recognize us?
DOCTOR: Well, of course I recognize you! What do you think I am? You're... (SNAPS FINGERS) Tasha. No?
DARA: (DISAPPOINTED) Oh, Doctor!
DOCTOR: No, don't tell me... Melissa? Vicki?
DOCTOR: No, that's not it...
DOCTOR: Wait a minute, wait a minute. Don't tell me YOU'RE Tasha?!
MARK: Doctor, we've got to get you out of here.
DOCTOR: What are you in such a hurry for? That's the problem with you young people, rush, rush, rush.
DARA: Doctor, you're not well!
DOCTOR: Acks! What makes you an expert in Time Lord physiology, hmm? Unless... You're one of them! Aren't you? You're both in on it! You're out to get me! Who sent you?
DARA: Mark, what's wrong with him? This isn't like him!
MARK: It must be his regeneration... We've got to get him back to the TARDIS!
DOCTOR: TARDIS? You know where my TARDIS is?
DOCTOR: Well, why didn't you say so? Lead on! Forward into the unknown darkness!
MASTER: Dr Adon is indisposed for the time being.
DOCTOR: How much time?
MASTER: Oh... all of it.
The punchline to a scene that would be brilliant on TV, but not on audio --
DOCTOR: That never happens to David Copperfield!
The Doctor on his new face --
DOCTOR: NO! What crime have I committed?!
Another reason to slap Dara down --
DARA: Yeah, and I'm the Queen of England!
The new Doctor's closing statement on this eight-part epic --
DOCTOR: Time Lords may KEEP time well, but their history is as cracked as anyone else's.
ROYCE: If you had kept your place on Gallifrey, Doctor...
DOCTOR: ...things would have turned out differently. Yes, yes, Chancellor, but who's to say they would have turned out BETTER? You know, the Master did make one interesting point: when History has finally made its judgement, I wonder just who the villain will really turn out to be?
It may spit on the continuity between stories, but the Master finally lives up to his hype --
DOCTOR: Come to gloat, have you?
MASTER: Gloat? That would be beneath me. Actually I find I rather pity you.
DOCTOR: I wasn't aware you were capable of that emotion.
MASTER: I pity that a man with your intelligence would so easily... so WILLINGLY... play directly into my hands. It was almost no challenge at all.
DOCTOR: You give yourself too much credit.
MASTER: Quite the contrary my dear Doctor, all this time it seems I've given too much to YOU. From Gwondi to Arkonis to Pharos to here... Each time I have anticipated you. I knew that, perhaps, given your penchant for sheer blind luck, you might be able to prevent me from obtaining the Black Abyss. For the time being. So I had an alternative plan ready, waiting for you to walk right into, which you didn't hesitate to in the slightest to do.
DOCTOR: Like the fly to the spider...
MASTER: Even that little “accident” with the mind energy unit.
DOCTOR: Accident?! Of course... it did seem a little TOO convenient... You knew I'd follow you here!
MASTER: And occupy the attention of the Time Lords long enough so I could obtain what I wanted and escape. So it seems that you, or rather you body, will give me that which you stole from me: the Great Key.
DOCTOR: A little difficult, wouldn't you say, since no President has ever found it? That information is only given to the Cha—
MASTER: To the Chancellor? Yes, I know... I leave nothing to chance. Not even your (or should I say, my?) companions.
DOCTOR: They're no threat to you!
MASTER: Most likely, but I have no further use for them. You'll be happy to know I have arranged for them to be transported home. After their minds have been erased, of course.
MASTER: Fear not, Doctor. No lasting harm shall befall them. Unfortunately, I don't think the same can be said for you.
The Doctor mentions the events of The Keeper of Traken, further muddying the question of whether this is supposed to be an Unbound Doctor or a Future one.
What Could Have Been Done To Improve It:
- Cut the scene where the Doctor and the Master swap bodies, so there's some mystery and shock.
- Trim all the stuff at the hospital and the bloke from the Scotland Yard. Or maybe have the Master/Doctor have to help UNIT defeat an alien menace before he can sod off to Gallifrey? The possibilities are endless.
- A better subplot for Dara on Gallifrey or, dare I even to dream, ditch her entirely?
- An explanation for why the Master gives up on his scheme (maybe he finally realizes how nuts it is).
The Party Line:
This is definitely one of those Root-for-the-Good-Guy-Hate-the-Bad-Guy stories, meaning there's not a whole lot of depth here. But when the Master is involved, you really shouldn't be looking for any, anyway. Anthony Ainley's version of the Master, though not portrayed by the great actor, is in fine, devious form You can tell that he's planned and manipulated events for years for this moment. The fact that this new Doctor wins more by fortune than because he's more clever than the Master adds a good dose of suspense missing from the series for years. Jeff Coburn does a great job portraying the evil Time Lord, and you can really see his Doctor's persona when he finally takes over the part fully inside the Matrix.
The Awful Truth:
A vast improvement on the story it follows, its flaws are seemingly in built. Coburn portrays the Master better than Segal, just as he plays the new Doctor better as well. You do have to take a bit to get used to his soft voice, though. The plot rambles along for an excuse for some good character moments. A pretty good start to the new era, all told.
Last updated: Friday, March 7, 2008