Episode Two opens with an ambitious effects sequence, which sees the TARDIS deliberately placed in the path of a spinning asteroid. The Doctor succinctly sums this up. “Oh, you know, K9, sometimes I think I’m wasted just rushing around the universe saving planets from destruction. With a talent like mine, I might have been a great slow bowler.”
With the Doctor and K9 stuck in the TARDIS, this leaves Romana, still onboard the ship, free to quiz Seth and Teka. She learns that the Nimon lives in the Power Complex (“that fits”) one of a number of witty lines which possibly may have gone a little unnoticed due to the broad performances elsewhere.
We meet the Nimon. Season 17 really wasn’t a vintage year for monsters, was it? Following Erato and the Mandrels, the Nimon are another disappointment. With a combination of stack heels, an obviously stuck-on head and weird movement, it’s hard to see the Nimon striking fear into anybody. It’s interesting to learn that the Nimon heads were supposed to look artificial (with their real faces being visible beneath) but this isn’t something that ever comes across during the story – they just look like cheap, ill-fitting masks.
Whilst Romana, Seth, Teka and the others are delivered up to the Nimon, the Doctor eventually arrives on Skonnos and has a chat with Soldeed.
DOCTOR: Having a little trouble with the neutrino converter?
SOLDEED: Neutrino converter?
DOCTOR: Neutrino converter.
SOLDEED: What do you know about such matters?
DOCTOR: Oh, I’ve seen similar things here and there.
SOLDEED: Oh, come now, Doctor. This is my invention.
DOCTOR: How very odd, how very extraordinary, then, you don’t know what a neutrino conversion is. Did you know that someone’s building a black hole on your doorstep?
It’s remarkable for Tom Baker to come up against a fellow actor who makes him look fairly normal, but Crowden’s idiosyncratic performance left Baker with two options – either attempt to match him or play it straight. Tom decides to play it straight, which was a wise move (leaving the field open for Crowden to indulge himself). Soldeed’s manic cackling as the Doctor enters the Power Complex is a joy to behold, a weird joy, but a joy nonetheless.
What’s interesting about this scene is the way it shines a light on Soldeed’s self delusion. He later claims to Sorak that making the Doctor venture into the Power Complex was all part of his great plan, when it was plainly nothing of the sort. Soldeed might nominally be the power on Skonnos, but he’s continually buffeted by events outside of his control (with the result that every time something unexpected happens, he desperately attempts to reconcile it into his worldview). This character trait makes Soldeed a much more interesting character than if he’d simply been just another single-minded maniac, utterly convinced of his own omnipotence. Soldeed’s increasing self-doubt is a nice touch.
Before the Doctor enters the Power Complex, he dashes about desperately looking for an alternative. This gives rise to one of my favourite moments in the story, as he spies a group of councillors standing about. “Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I’d like to say one thing and let me make it perfectly clear, I stand before you desperate to find the exit. Can anybody help me?” A wonderful Tom moment.
Meanwhile Romana and others come face to face with the terrifying Nimon. Roarrrrrr!!!!!