Season 14: The Hand of Fear and The Deadly Assassin

Looking back, this was my favorite classic Who season of all. I watched all of it except the opening story, The Masque of Mandragora, which I removed from my queue at the last moment.

Story 2: The Hand of Fear

At the BBC Quarry (an actual quarry this time), a mysterious stone hand takes control of Sarah Jane, who takes it to a nuclear power plant so that it can feed on radiation and regenerate into a silicon-based life form, who then sets out to reclaim the leadership of an ancient silicon-based civilization. I enjoyed this Shakespearean drama with talking rocks.

Silicon Based Lifeforms

I have a problem with this neat-looking crystalline design, though. The whole point of the idea of silicon-based life is that silicon, like carbon, has four valence electrons, which allow carbon to form the incredibly complex molecules of life. While in reality it’s highly unlikely that a silicon-based life form could exist, if one did, it would be composed of complex compounds, which would be unrecognizable as silicon. The equivalent to this design would be to expect a carbon-based life form to be covered in coal or diamonds. Classic Star Trek presented its own design in the Horta, which appears to be a formless lump. According to the Memory Beta article, Hortas have cilia underneath, which they use to move. Memory Alpha:

In the MMORPG Star Trek Online, in the mission “Mine Enemy”, a Horta kills Tal Shiar officers and burns the words “NO KILL I, NO KILL I” into a cave floor with acid. If the player observes this, he or she will get the accolade: NO KILL I. The mission reward is a Horta hatchling pet that follows the player when activated from the inventory.

I suddenly want to play that game.

Season 14 is regarded as having continued the “gothic” element from Season 13, but this time I like it. Desiring a change of surroundings, the Doctor has moved back to the Victorian-looking “original” TARDIS console room – meaning it’s from when he originally stole the TARDIS, as he was already using the other one by the time the show started in 1963.

This is Sarah Jane’s final story, and I was surprised by her exit. I know she later told Rose to stay with the Doctor because “some things are worth having your heart broken for,” but she doesn’t seem to be heartbroken; she first says she wants to leave because she’s finally fed up with it all, and then has to leave because the Doctor has been called to go to Gallifrey alone. It’s not nearly as emotional as I expected. I look forward to School Reunion.

Story 3: The Deadly Assassin

One of the many now regrettably lost treasures of Gallifrey: its impeccable fashion sense

This is the only classic Who story with no companion. It opens with an expositional crawl, like the old sci-fi serials which inspired Star Wars.  The Doctor tries to prevent the assassination of the president of Gallifrey, but is drawn into a trap that results in him being framed for it.

Happily, I’ve unintentionally ended up watching each and every appearance of Gallifrey in the classic series, except for the brief appearance in Colony in Space, and the low-rated entire 23rd season, The Trial of a Time Lord. I believe The Deadly Assassin marks the Doctor’s first return to Gallifrey since The War Games. I love seeing what Gallifrey looked like – the costumes, the architecture, the landscape (later), the writing, and the technology.

A Gallifreyan video camera. IT’S SO DIESELPUNK.

Timelords duel in the Matrix

The second half of the story takes the Doctor into the Matrix, which, 23 years before The Matrix, was the Time Lords’ computer network and database of all knowledge, including the minds of deceased Time Lords. It functions something like a working model of the universe, allowing predictions about the future to be made based on the available information.

This story sees the return of the Master, now in a horribly decrepit form, somewhat similar in appearance to Star Wars’s Emperor Palpatine (who appeared a few years later). He has run out of regenerations, having used all twelve, and is desperate for a new body. (Twelve regenerations, for a total of thirteen incarnations, is now thought to have been an artificial limit imposed by the Time Lords, although the revival series maintains that the Doctor still has a limited amount of regeneration energy, even though the Time Lords are gone.)

The Master and his TARDIS

Repeat viewings will tell, but I think this is one of my favorite episodes from the classic series. It’s well-paced, and a good introduction to Gallifrey.

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