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The Caves of Androzani

Production Code: 6R

First Transmitted

1 - 08/03/1984 18:40

2 - 09/03/1984 18:40

3 - 15/03/1984 18:40

4 - 16/03/1984 18:40

Plot

The TARDIS arrives on Androzani Minor, the source of a life-prolonging drug refined from a substance called spectrox. Production of the drug is controlled by Sharaz Jek, a facially deformed madman in self imposed exile, who blames Morgus, a powerful industrialist on Androzani Major, for all his misfortunes.

Jek is fighting government troops sent to liberate the drug. His weaponry is being supplied by gun-runners secretly employed by Morgus, who receives payment from Jek in refined spectrox. This gives Morgus a monopoly of the drug on Major.

Jek becomes infatuated with Peri, and saves her and the Doctor from being executed on Morgus's orders by government troops led by General Chellak. The two travellers escape after learning that they have contracted spectrox toxaemia, a fatal condition to which there is only one antidote - the milk from a queen bat, which the Doctor must obtain from the deep caves on Minor. Morgus, seeing his power base slipping away, travels to Minor.

In a climactic battle, Morgus, Jek and all the soldiers are killed. With moments to spare, the Doctor carries Peri back to the TARDIS, where he gives her all the milk that he has managed to collect. She recovers, but the Doctor has to regenerate to save his own life.

Episode Endings

The Doctor and Peri are brought before a military firing squad. General Chellak gives the order to fire, and the soldiers pump bullets into them.

The Doctor takes cover as Stotz and his band of gun runners are attacked by a ferocious magma beast. The creature then turns and approaches the rock behind which he is crouching...

The Doctor has been confined on the gun runners' ship but manages to break free and take over the controls, piloting it back toward Androzani Minor. Stotz and his men try to regain access to the bridge by cutting through the door. The planet looms large on the ship's view screen and the Doctor tells Stotz: 'I'm not going to let you stop me now!'

The Doctor collapses to the floor of the TARDIS control room and regenerates. The bewildered Peri wants to know what has happened. 'Change, my dear,' explains the new Doctor. 'And it seems not a moment too soon.'

Roots

Beauty and the Beast.

The Phantom of the Opera.

House of Wax and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Jek's obsession for Peri and his disfigured features).

Japanese revenge sagas (Jek's obsessional desire to kill Morgus).

Jacobean tragedy (Morgus' soliloquies to camera) and citizen comedy, especially Volpone.

Philip K. Dicks' The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

Blake's 7 (Traitor).

The Shape of Things to Come (1978).

The Projected Man.

Dallas.

D.O.A.

Dune.

The Dispossessed.

Never Say Never Again (laser chain cutting).

Dialogue Triumphs

Peri : "Doctor, why do you wear a stick of celery in your lapel?"

The Doctor : "Does it offend you?"

Peri : "No, just curious."

The Doctor : "Safety precaution. I'm allergic to certain gases in the praxis range of the spectrum."

Peri : "Well how does the celery help?"

The Doctor : "If the gas is present, the celery turns purple."

Peri : "And then what do you do?"

The Doctor : "I eat the celery. If nothing else I'm sure it's good for my teeth."

Sharaz Jek : "We shall become the best of companions"

The Doctor : "What do you say, Peri. We can go on nature walks, have picnics and jolly evenings round the camp fire."

Sharaz Jek : "Don't mock me, Doctor. Beauty I must have, but you are dispensible."

The Doctor : "Thank you."

Sharaz Jek : "You have the mouth of a prattling jackanapes... But your eyes... they tell a different story."

Sharaz Jek : "Do you think bullets could stop me now? You stinking offal Morgus, look at me!"

Continuity

The Doctor's celery is finally explained: 'I'm allergic to certain gases in the Praxis range... if the gas is present the celery turns purple.'

Morgus is (or was, before being deposed by Timmin) 'the richest man in the Five Planets', chairman of the Sirius Conglomerate and a descendant of the first colonists [something which seems to be, as in The Robots of Death , a symbol of quasi-nobility]. Spectrox is the 'most valuable substance in the universe'. The raw substance contains a toxic chemical similar to mustard nitrogen. Once refined, it halts the ageing process and offers 'at least twice the normal life span'.

Spectrox toxaemia causes cramp, spasms, slow paralysis of the thoracic spinal nerve and finally thermal death. The cure (which contains an anti-vesicant) is the milk of the queen bat discovered by one Professor Jackij.

Location

Androzani Major and Minor.

Links

Untelevised

Untelevised Adventures: The Doctor has been 'this way before' and says that Androzani Minor 'hasn't changed'.

Trivia

There are brief, specially recorded cameos for all the fifth Doctor's companions and the Master seen during the regeneration sequence in Part Four.

The closing credits to Part Four feature the face of new Doctor Colin Baker, and list him before Peter Davison.

One of the soldier extras was played by Steve Wickham, later to head the Doctor Who Appreciation Society.

Goofs

Krau Timmin's handheld computer is clearly a TV remote control.

In the android's view of the Doctor, his hearts are clearly outside his coat.

In episode three, when the Doctor rips one of the handles off the ship's wall, and it flies across the room, if you slow the sequnce down you can still see the handle attached to the chain, dangling from the Doctor's wrist.

The sound of the machine guns firing interferes with the image on screen.

Peri falls into a spectrox nest and bounces.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Peter Davison

The Doctor - Colin Baker

Adric - Matthew Waterhouse

Nyssa - Sarah Sutton

Peri - Nicola Bryant

Tegan - Janet Fielding

Turlough - Mark Strickson

Chellak - Martin Cochrane

Krelper - Roy Holder

Morgus - John Normington

President - David Neal

Salateen - Robert Glenister

Sharaz Jek - Christopher Gable

Soldier - Ian Staples

Stotz - Maurice Roeves

The Master - Anthony Ainley

Timmin - Barbara Kinghorn

Voice of Kamelion - Gerald Flood

Crew

Director - Graeme Harper

Assistant Floor Manager - Sue Hedden

Costumes - Andrew Rose

Designer - John Hurst

Film Cameraman - John Walker

Film Editor - Roger Guertin

Incidental Music - Roger Limb

Make-Up - John Nethercot

Make-Up - Shirley Stallard

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Juley Harding

Production Associate - June Collins

Script Editor - Eric Saward

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Don Babbage

Studio Sound - Scott Talbott

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Peter Howell

Visual Effects - Jim Francis

Visual Effects - Stuart Brisdon

Writer - Robert Holmes

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'It's not your lucky day either, is it?' A triumph of style over substance, The Caves of Androzani is brilliant but over-rated. Its unique place in Doctor Who mythology is assured, however, by a story in which the only survivors of a male blood bath are Peri and Timmin. Peter Davison's performance is astonishing. The fifth Doctor's final word is 'Adric'. Colin Baker is the first Doctor to get a line at the end of his regeneration scene ('Change my dear, and it seems not a moment too soon').

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

'The Caves of Androzani [is] surely the best set of four episodes since John Nathan-Turner took over the reigns of producer... The script, the acting, the direction (oh, that direction!) were all so perfect, that one wonders why there are so many people in the world who want to criticise the show.' So wrote Antony Dexter in Shada 18, dated July 1984, and many would agree with his sentiments. The Caves of Androzani is certainly one of the best Doctor Who stories ever made, if not the best. It is one of those rare cases of a production in which everything - scripting, direction, casting, acting, design, music, effects - seems to have gone almost exactly right, leading to an end product that is as close to perfection as the series ever got.

'More "scenes" stick in the memory from this one story than [from all the] others this season put together,' continued Dexter. 'The wonderful death of the President, the opening long-shot of the Doctor and Peri, the final fight of Jek, Morgus and Stotz, each dying so dramatically, and of course that splendid regeneration - easily the most interesting so far. So many good scenes, but my favourite was the one that most surprised me. One minute that sly but not unlikeable Salateen is bravely leading his troops, declaring their safety in the face of the enemy, the next minute, he's been blasted half way down the cave. Such shocks are few and far between these days, and whenever they do crop up, it's a rare director who [resists the temptation] to glorify it - but here Harper just skipped over it, making the whole death casual - like some third rate extra had died. And that in turn made the whole incident far more effective than a long gaze at the dying body could ever have done.'

The story revolves around the characters of Sharaz Jek and Morgus, two people diametrically opposed to each other in every way. Initially it seems that perhaps Jek is the villain, and yet Morgus is far more calculating and cold, and it appears that the former has been driven insane by the perceived duplicity of the latter and by his subsequent enforced exile. The casting of these two roles was key to the success of the story and Graeme Harper, making his directorial debut on the series, got it exactly right.

As Tim Westmacott wrote in Zygon Issue 1, dated August 1984: 'Christopher Gable and John Normington deserve great praise for bringing to life respectively an emotional character concealed in a leather mask and an unemotional one [for] whom a single raised eyebrow would indicate almost total loss of self-control. Jek was the archetypal Phantom of the Opera monster. [He appears] at first to be a callous murderer but gradually the layers are peeled away to reveal a pathetic individual who more than anything [wants] the company of people... Morgus, on the other hand, evoked no sympathy... As boss of the Sirius Conglomerate and controller of "the most valuable substance in the universe", he was only interested in profit.'

The gun runner characters are also interesting, and presented with a degree of gritty realism unusual for this period of the series' history. Maurice Roeves's Stotz, their cold and cruel leader, is particularly impressive. The scene in which he leaves his fellows in their ship, only to return a few moments later to gun them all down in cold blood, just so that he will not have to share the promised wealth of spectrox with them, is greatly shocking in its abruptness.

There is, unfortunately, one element of the production that is less than fully effective - the realisation of the magma monster. This creature, we are told, lives in the caves beneath the surface of Androzani Minor and emerges every so often to kill a few soldiers. When we get to see it, it is little more than a man-sized walking dragon with stubby arms. Not exactly a terrifying prospect, and Harper's valiant attempts to keep it in the shadows and reveal it only in quick cutaways are only partly successful in disguising its deficiencies. It is a pity, with hindsight, that this creature could not have been dropped from the story altogether, as it really adds nothing to the plot and makes for a rather lame conclusion to Part Two.

This is doubly disappointing given that the cliffhanger endings to Parts One and Three rank among the best in the series' history, and are all the more impressive for the fact that they involve no cheating whatsoever on the part of the writer or director. When the Doctor and Peri face the firing squad at the end of Part One, what we see happen is what actually does happen - there is no cutting away at the last minute or re-editing at the beginning of the following episode. Likewise, the ending to Part Three is incredibly dramatic, with the music, sound effects and acting - particularly from Peter Davison - all building up to a nerve-shattering climax.

Keith Topping, reviewing the story in DWB No. 95, dated November 1991, wrote: 'It probably isn't the masterpiece that it is often made out to be, but it carries a quality that few stories... can match and its slickness is also its salvation.' The Caves of Androzani is indeed slick. It is also entertaining and frightening and confronts some adult themes and issues with a frankness generally absent from most Doctor Who of this era.

To cap it all, the story ends with one of the best regeneration sequences in the series' history, ushering in the new Doctor. 'The last few seconds are notable,' observed Christopher Denyer in TARDIS Volume 9 Number 1 in 1984. 'In three curt lines, Colin Baker gives a strong indication of his Doctor's personality, and it bodes well for the future. The era of the fifth Doctor ended with a truly excellent, gripping adventure, and the era of the sixth Doctor has begun in fine style.'

< Planet of FireFifth DoctorThe Twin Dilemma >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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