Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Douglas Camfield
The attempt to escape Desperus takes an unexpected toll on The Doctor and other travelers. Mavic Chen assigns a new agent to take down Bret Vyon and The Doctor.
“A lust for more power than he already has–Universal Power!”
This episode has quite the body count. One would think Robert Holmes wrote it, if there were more humor. However, the death that is most notable in this episode is that of Katarina. She has the distinction of being the first companion to die. Not only does this raise the stakes of the story, it also ushers in a new philosophy to the show. It is no longer about observation and curiosity. Our heroes are involved in whatever story they find themselves in, and they can be killed.
There were many possibilities for Katarina, a primitive who genuinely believed she was dead and found herself in this odd afterlife on her way to the place of perfection. Katarina’s travels were cut short when she was captured by one of the prisoners on Desperus. In an attempt to use her as a hostage to barter passage to freedom, Kirkson pulled her to the airlock. Katarina hit the controls, and both bodies were ejected into space. The story isn’t clear if Katarina knew what she was doing. She may have been saving the rest of the crew, she may have just hit buttons thinking they would open the door for her. It would have been an interesting journey to see her develop from Trojan handmaiden to full-fledged companion, but not that is not to be.
The other major death in this episode is that of Bret Vyon, killed at the hands of Sara Kingdom. Kingdom is assigned by Mavic Chen to track down the Teranium core. He tells her Vyon is a traitor. Kingdom is cold, almost emotionless, and very good at her job. Bret is looking for an ally, realizing that Chen’s part in the conspiracy means those close to Chen may also be involved. Bret is forced to kill someone he trusted when he finds out that this friend was also a traitor. Sara gets the upper-hand on him. With Bret Vyon dead, The Doctor and Steven are on their own.
Back on Kemble, The Daleks are dealing with the rumblings of Trantis of the Tenth Galaxy, who believes Chen is positioning himself for power and that the Daleks do not see his duplicity. He is wrong, of course. The Daleks know Chen’s motives quite well. But this squabbling among the delegates shows that the alliance is very fragile. One member is already dead. The rest will soon follow.
The story is growing darker as we progress. The penal planet of Desperus was almost primal in its portrayal. Four deaths marked this episode, and that doesn’t include the failure of The Dalek ship to capture The Doctor on Desperus, resulting in the deaths of the Dalek crew. Terry Nation seems to be indulging his darker side here. The show is still in transition, but it would seem the new production crew wishes to take it into darker territory.