Saturday, April 2, 2022

Season 16: Episode 9 (yes!)

Episode 9: Under the Loch

After some R&R time on Avalon, Penelope decides to pay a visit to her former companion Dorian, now living in the “M.I.7.” alternate reality, working with its own earthbound Doctor and a young Kate Lethbridge-Stewart for Her Majesty’s most secret service – just when the team is investigating some weird happenings in the depths of Loch Ness. Sea Devils, anyone?

A few notes about this episode:

It took place in an alternate 1980, with its own alternate (and earthbound) Doctor acting as a super-agent for the M.I.7. (think of UNIT, Torchwood and UNCLE all rolled into one). Both had featured prominently in the two final episodes of season 12 and this alternate reality was the one where Penelope had dropped her former companion after their own, bittersweet parting of the ways at the end of season 13.

The overall story bore deliberate similarities to that of Doctor Who and the Silurians, but with a much shorter and simpler plot.

Of course, my use of the Sea Devils was not entirely unrelated to their imminent TV return but it also allowed me to explicitly introduce in play a notion which had only been implicit so far – the fact that Silurians and Sea Devils are NOT native to Lady Penelope’s own continuum. So far, these two species had never been featured (or even mentioned) in our past fifteen seasons – and for a good reason. In Penelope’s home reality (which also differs from the continuum of the TV show in other, more obvious ways), Silurians and Sea Devils simply do not exist - so the so-called “M.I.7.” reality, with its strong Third Doctor vibe, was the ideal setting to introduce these creatures in play.

Aside from the emotional aspect of Penelope’s and Dorian’s reunion, one of the strongest moments of this episode was a very tense (albeit purely verbal) confrontation between Penelope and the new incarnation of the alternate, earthbound Doctor, who now insists on being called “the Major” – think of the Third Doctor, but with a personality resembling a particularly unpleasant caricature of the Brigadier (who, incidentally, was prematurely killed off in this specific alternate reality). I had anticipated some tension between this character and the usually more pacifist Penelope – but it actually went beyond my expectations, making the entire episode even more focused and emotionally charged.

So, Dorian is back in the TARDIS – at least for a few adventures. Both he and Penelope have changed since their last encounter but they instantly “clicked back” as soon as they got reunited. The presence of Penelope’s new travelling companion, the very reasonable and responsible Xara, will undoubtedly add an interesting element to the mix!  

Next stop: the forests of Cheem, in a very, very far future, to honor a promise made a few seasons ago between Dorian and one of Jabe’s cousins…

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