Episode 22: Inferno

We return to the Third Doctor to finish his first season with a bang!  The Doctor battles nuclear werewolves, evil counterparts, and evil scientists in this classic serial.

Podcast Contents Include

Editor’s Note: The following are my original notes for the podcast, slightly edited for readability. They’re very far from the full contents of the pod, though.  – Kari

SUMMARY

The Doctor goes to ANOTHER nuclear facility, this one powering a drill attempting to pierce the earth’s crust so that they can access a mythical magic gas that would provide essentially free energy for the world. (Bull butter.)

Stahlman, the scientist in charge of the project, is the obvious bad guy and is maniacal about getting through the crust ASAP regardless of safety. Hot green goo starts coming up during the drilling; a guy touches it and starts turning greenish-blue and growing hair, like some kind of Dracula in a low-budget foreign film. He kills someone and acts like an animal.

The Doctor tries to get the Tardis console to work with the power from the reactor, and argues with Stahlman when the power is taken away from him, then fixes it on the sly. During his second attempt to use the console it takes him to an alternate universe where the Brigadier DOESN’T have facial hair but an eyepatch and a scar, and where Liz has a dark bob and isn’t a scientist. Also fascists, they are all fascists.

In the evil mirror universe the drilling is further along and they pierce the earth’s core despite the Doctor’s attempts to stop them. This begins a chain reaction of lava or something that will inevitably destroy the world. The Doctor can’t save it but persuades some of the survivors of the Turkish Dracula Disease (which has become the Turkish Werewolf Disease) to help him get back to the other world to save THEM.

He gets back and averts the disaster (barely). Then he tries to use the Tardis console again to escape, but ends up in the garbage dump. WHAT IS DIGNITY

CHARACTERS

  1. The Doctor, as usual, is great in this one. He’s arrogant and rude to Stahlman, who deserves it, but it bites him in the butt when Stahlman reacts by pulling his power. He’s still trying to use the Tardis to escape Earth, so he hasn’t given up on that.
  2. The Doctor does say that he has heard the weird sound the creatures make early on at the eruption of Krakatoa, but this doesn’t really ever get explained. Probably for the best.
  3. He gets to make some great faces in this one, particularly when he kind of has a bad “splinching” experience early on trying to use the Tardis.
  4. Liz is great in this one and it’s a real bummer that this is her last serial. Though the real Liz spends a lot of her time running a couple spurious errands for the Doctor intended to get her out of the way, Caroline John also gets to play Evil Liz, who has a short, dark haircut and is in the fascist military of her world. She’s still scientific minded, though, and studied physics in college–she comes to believe what the Doctor says and is good enough to help him get back to the other world to save it, knowing she and all her world is doomed.
  5. Briggie also really shines in this episode. He’s his stuffy, mostly-harmless-seeming self in the normal world, showing the Doctor a picture of himself without a mustache which comes back later when his evil self is mustacheless. Evil Briggie is a great villainous type–he’s still brave and stalwart and does not flinch when he has to defend the others against the Turkish werewolves. However, he’s super fashy and shouty and also looks exactly like Arnold Rimmer. He also tries to force the Doctor to take him and Liz with when he goes back to the real world, likely because he doesn’t trust that the Doctor is telling the truth about the other world being destroyed if they go.
  6. Benton! Is a character here at last. He’s kind of just a UNIT mook, but he has a name and he does some stuff, and his evil counterpart is brutally turned into a Turkish werewolf.
  7. Bessie exists in the alternate universe. Is she any different, I really couldn’t tell.
  8. The Tardis console is still dismembered and unfed but she still tries, poor girl. At least she’s in a garage now and not that HIDEOUS room of grandma’s awfullest knicknacks.

THE OTHERS

  1. Stahlman, the very obvious villain, who is obvious. He’s hellbent on getting the drill through the crust. Why is never really explained other than that it’s his project. He’s even worse in the evil world, and beardless there just like Briggie. Both versions turn into Turkish werewolves and die.
  2. Petra, the assistant director of the drilling project, a pretty blonde girl who is extremely competent, professional and loyal to Stahlman. When Sutton hits on her she enforces her boundaries with no equivocation, but after that he starts treating her with respect and she ‘s into him. The evilverse Sutton also hits on her, she enforces her boundaries there too and they also are super into each other.
  3. Sutton, an oil guy brought in on the project who wears a horrible ascot and hits on Petra. I thought he was just going to be a pig and that the story would be OK with it, but he isn’t. He helps out at one point and then tells Petra there is SOMETHING she can do for him… and we all went OH NO, but he follows it up by 1. call me by my first name, and 2. help me convince Stahlman about safer drilling procedures. His evil version is actually also good and helps the Doctor escape to save the other world.
  4. Sir Keith, the bureaucrat who’s barely in the show. He tries to reign Stahlman in but isn’t successful; his evil world version dies before we see him.
  5. The Turkish Draculas, who then evolve into Turkish Werewolves. They are hilarious, with greenish-blue faces and loads of hair. They’re bestial so they’re not really characters, just menaces. It’s not really explained what the hell is going on with them and it’s also just assumed they can’t be fixed or cured.

THE SETTING

  1. Earth of the 1970s, specifically a nuclear facility drilling down through the earth’s crust.
  2. The lab is a garage now, MUCH better than the hideous granny knicknack room.
  3. THE EVIL WORLD. We don’t see a ton of it, but it’s clearly fascist. There are some nice nods immediately that tip us off we’re in a different world, with barrels being in different places. It has a dictator–who is it? UNIT goose-steps in it, and is if anything slightly less quick to shoot people here. People have fashier titles too. Love that!
  4. The Tardis console ends up on a trash heap. 😦

THE PRODUCTION

  1. Caroline John’s last episode. We’ve talked about it a little before but what happened?
  2. Venusian Karate, what prompted that? It’s pretty hilarious looking but it works and it’s not as overtly violent as… most of the rest of the show at this point honestly! Is it inspired by anything real?
  3. I see a lot of Third in Eight–from the outfit to the actiony orientation to the VIBE to even the doctor Companion.
  4. The science is hilariously garbage on this, and mostly that’s OK, the magic slime doesn’t bug me. But people at a nuclear facility find an object that’s hot and don’t reach for a Geiger counter? Really??? They don’t check ANYTHING for radioactivity, not even once!
  5. Generally I’m noticing a pattern here too, there’s a “science” facility powered by nuclear stuff and something goes wrong, sometimes because Man Should Not Meddle (this one) and sometimes because Man Sucks (Ambassadors of Death) and sometimes we Dug Too Deep (this one and Silurians). Is that going to keep being a thing? Is that the show now?

General

Other stories considered as season finale

Project Mohole

Cast and crew interviews

Caroline John/Liz Shaw retrospectives

Jon Pertwee as radio announcer cut scene from British broadcast

Pertwee Intelligence agent meeting Churchill and Ian Fleming

Reviews

When the World Screamed by Arthur Conan Doyle

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