Review of Doctor Who ‘Inferno’ (Series 7)

Neela Debnath

Doctor 6 final 300x225 Review of Doctor Who ‘Inferno’ (Series 7)In the run up to the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’ in November 2013, Neela Debnath, with the help of BBC DVD, will be writing a review focusing on one story from each of the previous 31 series of the show. Each review will offer readers a snapshot from every series of ‘Doctor Who’ and celebrate the longest-running science fiction television programme in the world.

Inferno was the last story of series 7 and featured Jon Pertwee’s Doctor battling against werewolf-like creatures and visiting a parallel world.

The era of the third Doctor began in 1970 with the serial Spearhead from Space and also marked the start of his imposed exile on earth. The last time the audience saw Patrick Troughton’s second Doctor was in The War Games where he was banished to earth and forced to regenerate by the Time Lords as punishment for stealing the Tardis. The last part of The War Games was the last episode to be filmed in black-and-white before the show moved into colour.

At the end of  The War Games the Doctor’s companions Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) and Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury) had their minds wiped and were returned back to the points in time and space where they first met the Doctor. Although there is no Tardis apart from a console, the Doctor does have an assistant of sorts in the form of Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Caroline John). She is a newly-recruited Unit scientist who helps him with his experiments to fix the console.

In this part in the series, the Doctor is continuing his exile on earth and is to trying to fix his ship so that he can return to travelling through time. The serial is about project Inferno which involved drilling through the earth’s crust to access Stahlman’s Gas, a limitless source of cheap energy for the whole country. Unfortunately, something goes wrong and green goo starts seeping from pipes and if touched turns a person into a hairy, murderous creature. The Doctor realises what is happening and tries to stop the project but initially no one heeds his warnings.

On top of this, while the Doctor is trying to repair the Tardis console he is transported to a parallel universe which is slightly ahead of the one he has left. While he is there, he witnesses what will happen if the drilling reaches the earth’s crust before returning to his own time at the last moment.

It appears that the Pertwee era is unique due to the fact that the Doctor is initially quite grounded because of his broken ship. His tenure is very much characterised by Unit, his vintage yellow car named Bessie and his sonic screwdriver. This series breaks from conventional Doctor Who where he goes from world to world, time period to time period on an endless journey.

As a Doctor, Pertwee is far more active than his predecessors, making use of his Venusian karate moves and his guile to outwit others. He has been described as a dandy from outer space and he is far more outlandish in his choice of attire than William Hartnell and Troughton. Opting for a red cape, a frilly white shirt adorned with ruffles and a ring, he looks like he has raided a theatre wardrobe but it all seems to match his persona. Compared to Troughton he is less comic and slapstick instead he is more contemplative.

Consisting of seven episodes it is a lengthy serial however, it is an intriguing story, particularly with the introduction of the parallel world. The dystopian totalitarian regime has been inspired by George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and there is a poster with the phrase ‘Unity is strength’ on it which is just like one of the slogans in Orwell’s novel. There is also a brilliant interrogation scene where the Doctor’s identity is questioned. All of these things in the serial work beautifully together to create this other world. Generally, parallel universes are always interesting because of the human desire to imagine what could have been if certain events had happened differently or had not happened at all.

The parallel worlds also mean that the actors get to show their range. In the parallel world Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) is an eye-patch wearing, military man lacking any of the amiability of his counterpart in the other world. Liz in the dystopian world is far harsher than her other version because of the society she has been brought up in. There is a tinge of sadness to this character when the Doctor explains the life of her counterpart and her lost potential due to the regime. All of the cast give great performances in their dual roles, in particular the fledgling romance between Petra Williams (Sheila Dunn) and Greg Sutton (Derek Newark).

To sum up, Inferno is a great serial and writer Don Houghton has literally given it another dimension with the use of a parallel world. It is a fully realised world and gives the actors an opportunity to demonstrate their acting abilities. The only real criticisms are the creatures that look like green Wookies and the fact that the green goo is never really explained. These things aside, it is a good serial that plays with alternate worlds.

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DVD & image credit: BBC

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  • ClawsOfAxos

    If this is the quality of reviewing on offer, I don’t think I’ll be bothering to read the rest. 

  • Martin_Kinsella

    Awful review, isn’t it. Any regular on roobarbs or the anorakzone could do far better.

  • badjabadjabadja

    “Inferno was the last story of series 7″
    Er, no: it was the last story of season 7, broadcast in 1970.  Series 7 is due to air in the Autumn 2012.  Not a good sign when a review starts with such an elementary error that could have been corrected with a few seconds checking Wikipedia.

  • ClawsOfAxos

    The prose is so extraordinarily dull that it is hard to read more than a few sentences without your eyes skidding off the page. But you have to be impressed by the way it’s padded out with explanations such as “conventional Doctor Who where he goes from world to world, time period to time period on an endless journey”, as if anyone reading this article would be unaware of the basic premise of the series.

    And the last paragraph: “To sum up, Inferno is a great serial…” followed immediately by the most underwhelming summing-up I’ve read in a long time “These things aside, it is a good serial that plays with alternate worlds.”

    If your mastery of description extends to “It is a great serial” and “It is a good serial” perhaps you should take up some other occupation than writing.

  • TheIrritatingPenguin

    Yes, I agree…

  • TheIrritatingPenguin

    Such a basic error will mean that it won’t be taken that seriously…

  • David Bull

    But “Inferno” WAS the last story of Season 7. What the hell are you on about?

  • badjabadjabadja

    Yes, I know ‘Season’/'Series’ is often used interchangeably, but in Doctor Who:
    Seasons 1 -26 aired between 1963 and 1989
    Series 1 -6 aired between 2005 and 2011

    By referring to ‘Series 7′ rather than ‘Season 7′ this article erroneously draws people looking for information on the new Series 7 due to air 2012 – 2013.

  • David Bull

    Actually I should have said “series”, being from the UK. I think “season” is more of an Americanism. It’s a badly written article though

  • Pingback: Review of Doctor Who ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ (Series 14) | Neela Debnath | Independent Arts Blogs

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