Recap: Doctor Who S21 E6 "The Caves of Androzani"
The Doctor: "Androzani Major was becoming quite developed last time I passed this way."
Peri: "When was that?"
The Doctor: "...I don't remember. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the future."
— The Fifth Doctor, reminiscing on how hard it is to try and keep his travels straight.
The final story of the classic series to feature Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, and the first time Graeme Harper directed an episode of Doctor Who
, opting to go beyond the traditional approach to studio filming. Rather than be a director who would go through the motions of filming with generic stage direction that felt static and stilted, he got direct with the actors and used a bold and groundbreaking dynamic style of filming. Davison lamented that if more of his tenure had included Harper's directing approach, he might have stayed on the series longer.
Landing on the planet of Androzani Minor, the Doctor and new companion Peri go out of the TARDIS to wander around a very, very exotic alien planet. They quickly (and more or less in this order) find themselves under attack from random people, contract a nasty rash by stepping into a cobweb, get captured, jailed, and then shot. note
Luckily, as it turns out, the Doctor and Peri that were shot were actually android duplicates
rather than the real thing. The real Doctor and Peri, on the other hand, now find themselves the eternal "guests" of the mysterious Sharaz Jek, who hangs out in the lower caverns wearing a black-and-white jumpsuit and a trippy The Phantom of the Opera
-style mask. Jek has rather... unsavory intentions
for Peri. Also, there's a dragon-like thing roaming about, but that's neither here nor there.
Peri and the Doctor compare their rashes and increasing dizziness; a more senior "guest" of Jek's sees this, and smugly tells them that they are now suffering a slow and painful death at the hands of "spectrox toxaemia". It's said to be incredibly lethal. Before a cure can be found, the Doctor and Peri are separated — with the Doctor being shot at (and getting a head wound) and kidnapped by Stotz and his gang (for interrogation at Androzani Major). He's blindfolded and handcuffed to a wall, but manages to escape by burning his handcuffs off (and burning himself a bit, too), takes over the space ship and tries to manually crash land it while snarking at his captors. He's also still dying. The gang literally lasers a hole through the cockpit door, and the Doctor scrambles out of the ship, barely able to stand anymore but running with all his might.
Meanwhile, the story takes an unexpected nose dive into Psychological Horror
and political intrigue. Jek falls madly in love with an increasingly unconscious Peri, but she's terrified when she sees his burned face underneath the mask, and he goes into a Villainous BSOD
. The local president, who's 85 but looks 50 thanks to the local spice
, is caught up in an arms race conflict full of corruption. He's deposed by his lackey by creative use of an elevator shaft, and the lackey is quickly deposed by his smug secretary lady using the regular legal system. It all results in death. Lots and lots of death
The Doctor returns to Jek's place and (using his respiratory bypass system
) goes off into deep, nearly airless caves to retrieve the cure for his and Peri's cobweb-related condition: space bat milk. Sadly
, we don't get to see Peter Davison milking a bat. Luckily, he manages to carry her out in time for redeemed-villain Jek to die a Heroic Sacrifice
. The Doctor carries an unconscious Peri along the alien landscape until he trips just before reaching the TARDIS — dropping Peri and one of the two doses of antidote. He crawls in, locks the door, drags himself to the console and gets the TARDIS to vworp away half a second before the ground underneath her explodes.
The Doctor gives Peri the remaining antidote — actually worried that he might die from the poisoning rather than regenerate. As we all know
, though, this is not the case
, and as visions of his companions and the Master surround him, he turns into the Sixth Doctor
. This new chap, with curly blond hair atop his head, gives his sardonic wit a whirl and insults Peri with a condescending remark. Six believes this regeneration is for the better and gives the camera a big, confident, full of himself smile.
- And Another Thing: Used for a Kick the Dog moment; after pushing the President into an empty elevator shaft, Morgus announces that he's flying to Androzani Minor on a peace mission to end this horrible carnage. Oh, and he wants the lift maintenance engineer shot.
- Anti-Villain: Sharaz Jek.
- Aside Comment: Morgus addresses the camera directly on occasion. This was a result of the actor misinterpreting the stage directions, but it recalls the Jacobean theatrical tradition of the Aside Comment, and so gives the character an air of Shakespearean villainy.
- Also the Sixth Doctor for his "Change my dear, and it seems not a moment too soon."
- Badass Bandolier: The gunrunners wear bandoliers of gas grenades.
- Badass Boast: "I'm not going to let you stop me now!" Doubly badass, as the scene subtly implies the Doctor is saying it to both Stotz (who's trying to retake control of the shuttle from him) and himself, as his regeneration process seemingly begins.
- Bad Boss: Stotz is awful to his gunrunner underlings, holding a knife to one's throat and almost force-feeds him a suicide pill.
- Bastard Understudy: Morgus is overthrown by his secretary! Particularly ironic because Morgus suspects everyone but her of plotting against him, even when they're not.
- BBC Quarry: The surface of Androzani Minor.
- Beneath the Earth
- Between My Legs: One of the gunrunners stands menacingly over a resting Stotz to intimidate him. He's not impressed, and quickly turns the tables on him physically and psychologically.
- Blatant Lies: The Doctor looks through the bars of their detention cell and sees the firing squad assembling outside.
Peri: Anything interesting?
- Bond Villain Stupidity: Justified — Sharez desires the Doctor's intellectual stimulation as well as Peri's beauty, but makes it clear that he will kill the Doctor if he can't bend him to his will.
- Bridal Carry: A dying Peri is carryed by first Jek (in a Villainous Breakdown) and then the Doctor (back to the TARDIS).
- Chair Reveal: We don't see Morgus until he turns to break the fourth wall.
Morgus: The spineless cretins!
- The Chew Toy: Surprisingly, the Doctor. He gets poisoned, almost shot in the head by an android, nearly gets his arms pulled off, handcuffed, blindfolded, singed a bit, slapped by Sharaz Jek among other things, and then dies.
- Cliff Hanger: The endings of Part One and Part Three are considered among the best in the show's history.
- Convection Schmonvection: Averted; Jek's terrible injuries were caused by his taking shelter from a mud burst in a baking chamber. Stotz cuts a hole in the cockpit door to stop the Doctor, but the edges of the hole are too hot for him to reach through and open it.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Morgus is shown deliberately manipulating the supply of product to increase profits, and won't stop at sabotage or even murder to get his way. And that's just in the ordinary course of business, before getting to what he's up to on Androzani Minor.
Secretary: The world will be forever in your debt, Trau Morgus!
Morgus: Yes....quite so.
- What he's getting up to involves shutting down factories on one side of Androzani Major, arresting the people made jobless and homeless by this and having them moved to labor camps on the other that he just happens to own.
- Corrupt Politician: The President of the (equally corrupt) Presidium.
- Coming In Hot
Doctor: Stotz, we'll be touching down in a couple of minutes, or more likely crashing down. (buckling up) You see I'm a bit out of practise with manual landings so if I were you, I'd find something firm to hang on to!
- Conveniently-Placed Sharp Thing: The Doctor is chained to the wall in the spaceship control cabin. He's able to break free of the wall, and finds a vertical glowing energy thingy he can use to cut the chain, through trying to do so while standing with your back to it is rather painful.
- Cow Tools: Sharaz Jek has lots of them, one of which he uses to kill Morgus.
- Crapsack World: This story consists entirely of insane and/or absolutely horrible people fighting each other to the death for entirely selfish reasons, with the Doctor and Peri helplessly caught in the crossfire and the Doctor dying as a result.
- Cyber Cyclops / Mecha-Mooks: Sharaz Jek's androids.
- Deadly Gas: Stotz is providing Sharaz Jek with gas weapons, among other things, which prove to be a major advantage over the army. Androids aren't affected by gas and the army's gas-suits are inefficient.
- Death by Materialism: Stotz and his gang follow Jek through the caves while he's apparently fetching spectrox for them, hoping to find where the spectrox is stored and raid it. However, Jek expected this and led them to where the monster was. Two soldiers were killed.
Krelper: You tricked us into that!
Jek: No, you were led by your own cupidity. Greed, heedless of caution, lures many a man to his death.
- This proves Morgus final downfall, when he tries to steal Jek's entire supply of spetrox (admittedly Morgus hadn't got much choice by that point, having lost all his power and money). He fails to realise that Jek hates him so much he'd give his own life to kill Morgus.
- Decapitation Presentation: Sharez Jek wants only one thing to call off his war, the head of Morgus brought to him.
- The Determinator:
- The Doctor breaks free of metal restraints, steals a spaceship, outruns armed and angry mercenaries, climbs deep into caves with no oxygen and back, and carries Peri to the TARDIS while in the paralysis stage of his disease. And all of this while (apparently) holding back the regeneration process.
- Also Sharaz Jek during the final confrontation.
"Morgus! You think bullets could stop me now?!" (They don't)
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Sharaz Jek dies in the arms of one of his androids; The Doctor dies in Peri's arms.
- Distressed Dude: Like his Third and Fourth incarnations, the Fifth Doctor gets kidnapped in this story, and chained and blindfolded.
- Downer Ending: The Fifth Doctor and most of the cast ends up dead, but to cap it all of as he dies the last image to go through the Doctor's head is The Master looming over him, cackling triumphantly.
- An Alternate Character Interpretation raised by the novelisation is that the Doctor actually is on the verge of final, irreversible death until he sees the Master, which is what inspires him to regenerate and live — the refusal to let the Master (and by extension his enemies / the evil he opposes in general) have the last laugh.
- Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: The Doctor snarks every powerful, gun-toting and/or homicidal character he comes across, but Sharez Jek makes it clear he doesn't appreciate this.
- Dramatic Unmask: Sharaz Jek unmasks himself during the final confrontation with Morgus, to show Morgus (and the audience) the extent of his injuries.
- Elaborate Underground Base: Just how did Sharaz Jek furnish his place, anyway?
- Elevator Failure: Morgus shoves the President down the empty elevator shaft of his private lift.
- Establishing Character Moment:
The Sixth Doctor: Three Iís in one breath? Makes you sound a rather egotistical young lady.
- Even Evil Has Standards
- The corrupt President is becoming disenchanted with Morgus and makes little effort to hide it, leaving Morgus to believe (incorrectly) that the President is moving against him.
- Jek acts rather guilty when Peri asks where the Doctor has got to, having let Stotz take him away. He quickly reverts to blaming it all on Morgus though.
- Evil Is Hammy: Sharaz Jek and Morgus are almost Shakespearean in their furious ranting and scheming asides, respectively.
- Evil Laugh: Sharez Jek and the Master naturally, but the imprisoned Salateen gives a disturbing laugh when informing the Doctor and Peri that they're dying of spetrox poisoning.
Salateen: Oh I'm sorry, you probably can't see the funny side of it.
- Evil Versus Evil: The only relatively sane and decent character is Chellak, and even he's willing to send a guy to certain death just to cover up an embarrassment.
- Famous Last Words: The firing squad
General Chellak: Do you have any last declaration?
Doctor: Nothing special. We're innocent, we've had no trial, we've had no opportunity to defend ourselves; in short, this is a mockery of justice.
General Chellak: Do you have any last declaration?
- Fate Worse Than Death:
- Sharaz Jek plans to keep Peri with him forever. The Doctor assumes this means it will seem like forever, but Jek means it literally, thanks to his control of the only source of spectrox.
- According to actor Peter Davison, death would be preferable to turning into Colin Baker. We assume he's joking, given the two actors are friends.
- Find the Cure: The Doctor's half of the plot, from the point when he discovers that he and Peri are dying of spectrox poisoning. Fortunately, there is a cure, it's just very hard to get at.
- Firing in the Air a Lot: The soldiers who hear their colleague scream as the monster kills him run back shooting their guns in the air. Given that it's difficult to kill, they may have been hoping to scare it off.
- Floating Advice Reminder: As the Doctor lies dying, his companions' heads float around encouraging him to regenerate... and then the Master's head shows up and tells him to give up and die:
Tegan: "What was it you always told me Doctor? "Brave heart?" You'll survive, Doctor."
Turlough: "You must survive. Too many of your enemies would delight in your death, Doctor."
Kamelion: "Turlough speaks the truth, Doctor."
Nyssa: "You're needed. You mustn't die, Doctor."
Adric: "You know that, Doctor!"
The Doctor: "Adric?"
The Master: "No my dear Doctor, you must die! Die Doctor! DIE DOCTOR!"
- Foreshadowing: Shortly before that, the Doctor notes that it "feels different this time." Perhaps a warning of a regeneration about to go awry and foist upon us the horrors of Six's characterization?
- Future Imperfect
Morgus: As they used to say on Earth, every cloud has a strontium lining.
- Gadgeteer Genius: For once, the Doctor's not the only one - Sharaz Jek has his android creations.
- Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Averted; all the soldiers wear mining helmets.
- Heroic Sacrifice: The Doctor stumbles and spills half of the antidote as he's about to enter the TARDIS, so he gives it to Peri.
- Homage: The whole story is one to Dune (apart from that Jek, who's got an obvious Phantom of the Opera thing going on). Androzani is an export platform for a life-extending mineral, currently being feuded over by the head of the mining conglomerate (read: Baron Harkkonen) and President (i.e. Padishah Emperor). The color-coded Army uniforms seem to be inspired by Star Trek.
- Holographic Terminal: The communicator in Morgus' office, in a creative variation on the usual Video Phone.
- How the Mighty Have Fallen: Jek gives a long rant on the subject, and after Morgus loses all his power and assets Stotz makes a point of reminding him that he's just a man with a gun now.
- Human Aliens: Averted with the people of the Androzani system, who are descendants of human colonists. However, utilised in-story with the Doctor's presence, as his different biology is enough to fool the guard androids to hesitate attacking him (as they're programmed to guard against humans).
- Human Shield: Salateen uses Peri as one while shooting at an android; because she's wearing one of the belt buckles that send a signal cancelling the android's kill command.
- Humiliation Conga: Morgus loses all his wealth and power during the final episode, in quick succession.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Subverted with General Chellak's aide Salateen — the reason he's so efficient and cold-blooded is because he's one of Sharaz Jek's androids. That said, the real Salateen is still a very savvy lieutenant.
- Hypocritical Humor: The Doctor complains of Jek being a raving egotist, because he claimed the Doctor's mind was almost equal to his own.
- Iconic Item: We finally get an explanation for why the Doctor wears a stick of celery.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Sharaz Jek's intentions towards Peri are... not benign. And, although it's not explicitly stated, this does not go unnoticed by either Peri or the Doctor; in every scene the three characters are in together, the Doctor makes a point of putting himself between Peri and Jek.
- I'll Kill You!: The Doctor isn't impressed — as he points out to Stotz, he's dying anyway.
- Immune to Bullets: The Magma Creature isn't fazed by bullets when it attacks the soldiers and the gunrunners, although it's dead by the time the Doctor comes across it again.
- Improperly Placed Firearms: Ingrams IN SPACE!!
- Infrared Xray Camera: Salateen hides Peri in the general's private quarters while the general talks to his android replicant. Unfortunately the android can see through walls.
- Instant Death Bullet: Mostly played straight but averted by Sharaz Jek, who survives on determination long enough to settle Morgus before succumbing to his injures.
- Instant Sedation: Used by Sharaz Jek when he abducts Peri from Chellak's quarters.
- In the Hood: The Doctor and Peri have their faces covered by the Red Cloth before execution. As a result, only one man realises they've just shot two android replicants, and he's quickly reassigned to a dangerous mission by the General to cover for this cock-up.
- It's the Only Way: The Doctor has an idea that Jek's android guards won't kill anything that's not human. He tests this theory by opening the door and waiting to see if they shoot him.
- I Was Quite The Looker: Played for Drama with Jek, who goes into various How the Mighty Have Fallen rants.
- I Will Protect Her: This is essentially the Doctor's key motivation for the bulk of the story — he's not interested in the civil war or the smuggling or whatever, he just wants to get Peri cured, out of Sharaz Jek's hands and off the planet ASAP.
- I Will Tear Your Arms Off: Sharaz Jek threatens to have the Doctor's arms slowly ripped out by andriods if he doesn't tell him what he wants to know. Unusually for this trope, the androids start making good on this threat before the Doctor gives in.
- Kangaroo Court: The Doctor and Peri don't even get that. Once Morgus confirms the 'captured gunrunners' are not Stotz and his gang, he orders them shot. When General Chellak protests that they could provide valuable information, Morgus overrules him.
- Kill 'em All: Literally, only two characters survive this story - Peri and a single secondary character. The android copy of Salateen may have survived as well, although it's debatable whether it counts. At least the Doctor could get better.
- There's also the man Morgus sends out to sabotage something, who's never seen again, though knowing Morgus he was probably killed to tie up loose ends. The novelisation does indeed make a point of having Morgus make an order to have that guy taken care of.
- Even the random monster is dead by the end.
- Lured Into a Trap: Jek isn't bothered when Salateen escapes with the device that tells the androids not to fire on him, as he simply programs his remaining devices to work on a different frequency. Unfortunately Salateen also knows the location of his base, and the army overwhelms his androids by sheer force of numbers.
- The Mad Hatter:
Sharaz Jek: You think I'm mad?
Sharaz Jek: I am mad.
- Mad Scientist: Jek — even his enemies acknowledge the brilliance of his androids.
- Magic Antidote: Peri goes from death's door to practically back to normal within seconds of being given the antidote.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: Everyone shown onscreen in the serial dies (The Doctor, of course, gets better) with the exception of Peri and Morgus' secretary. They are, not coincidentally, the two only female characters in the serial.
- People in Rubber Suits: The ridiculously fake monster, which as usual is overlit instead of being kept in shadow.
- Male Gaze: The Doctor's moving death scene is somewhat undermined by the excellent view the audience have of Peri's cleavage.
- Miscarriage of Justice: The Doctor and Peri are found standing among a stash of weaponry being smuggled to Sharaz Jek, so are hastily sentenced to death by firing squad. Chellak acknowledges they may be innocent, but has to carry out his orders.
- Mistaken for Spies: The Doctor's unexplained presence on Androzani Minor leads Morgus to assume he's a spy for the President, leading to several fatal mistakes on Morgus' part.
- Noble Demon: Sharaz Jek treats his prisoners like guests and doesn't do harm to people who haven't wronged him first.
- No Blood for Phlebotinum: The conflict over spectrox, "the most valuable substance in the universe".
- No Seat Belts: Averted with the Doctor's crashlanding, enabling him to recover and flee before Stotz and his men can get to their feet.
- Not Quite Dead
- Not That Kind of Doctor: Averted. Sharaz used to be a doctor, before everything that happened to him.
- Nothing Is Scarier: YMMV, but Sharaz Jek's scarred face is significantly more horrifying when we only see people's reaction to it. Unfortunately we do get a direct look in the end.
- Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: The graphics for Sharaz Jek's computer are generated by a BBC Micro.
- Redemption Equals Death: Sharaz Jek starts showing a better side to his nature when Peri enters the final stage of her illness, nursing her and offering the Doctor as much help as he can to obtain the cure. He's dead by the end of the episode.
- Red Shirt: The army troopers. Their uniforms are even coloured like Star Trek — Yellow for the General, blue for his aide, red for the enlisted men.
- Ridiculously Human Robots: Jek's robotic doubles are amazingly articulate when it comes to expressing emotions. The only real give away is that they don't blink as much as a human would
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Sharaz Jek has started the whole war simply to get revenge on Morgus.
- Secret Underground Passage: Jek has secret passages to the cells where Chellak is holding Peri and the Doctor. Justified as he used to own the place (it's a former spectrox refinery which the army took on their first assault; presumably Jek installed the hidden cameras and tunnels in advance so he'd know everything the army was up to).
- Security Cling: Peri throws herself into the Doctor's arms with a terrified squeal in response to Jek Suddenly Shouting.
- Sighted Guns Are Low Tech / Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Lots of shooting modified Ingrams and Sten guns from the hip.
- Spanner in the Works: The Doctor's role in the story is limited to attempting to get him and Peri out alive. His mere presence, however, inadvertently causes the entire messed-up Androzani society to implode. The Doctor brings down a corrupt government and ends a bloody civil war by accident.
- Sherlock Scan: The Doctor analyses the markings on the planet's surface and concludes that an interplanetary spacecraft landed to unload some cargo.
- Shot at Dawn: Death under the Red Cloth (not that they bother waiting til dawn, being underground).
- Sinister Surveillance: Jek first spies Peri via the cameras he's got hidden in General Chellak's headquarters.
- Spice of Life: Spectrox
- Stalker with a Crush: Sharaz Jek, sorta, without the Stalking bit, technically.
- However he plans on keeping Peri there and sends androids to bring her back.
- Uriah Gambit: Ensign Cas is sent on a deep penetration mission as the only witness to Chellak cocking up the execution of the Doctor and Peri. "Very few return."
- War for Fun and Profit: The war keeps the price of spectrox up, and Morgus can access the only source by secretly selling guns to Sharez Jek, who is unaware of his participation.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Doctor and Sharaz Jek both qualify.
- The X of Y
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Morgus tried to kill Sharez Jek by sabotaging his mud burst detectors rather than share the profits with him. He plans to steal the spectrox supply with the help of Stotz, who says his mooks will also expect a cut. Morgus acknowledges that the mooks can carry more out, leaving more to be split "between us". Stotz adds, "You mean...us."
- Zerg Rush: Even though he leads the army into a trap, Sharaz Jek is overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers.