Number : Season 15, serial 5 of 6.
Which One : Who – does Greek mythology.
Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
Leela : Louise Jamison
K9 : John Leeson (voice)
Jackson : James Maxwell
Herrick : Alan Lake
Orfe : Jonathan Newth
Tala : Imogen Bickford-Smith
Rask : James Marcus
Tarn : Godfrey James
Idmon : Jimmy Gardner
Idas : Norman Tipton
Klimt : Jay Neill
Ankh : Frank Jarvis
Lakh : Richard Shaw
Naia : Stacey Tendeter
Oracle : Christine Pollon
Written By : Bob Baker & Dave Martin
Produced By : Graeme Williams
First UK Broadcast : 7–28 January 1978.
Length : 4 x 25 minute episodes.
Plot : The Doctor lands the Tardis, on a ship called the R1C – the last of the Minyans, on a quest to retrieve a gold databank of the race’s collective past
Whats good : Jason & The Argonauts inspired. Leela puts in a strong turn. Minyan/Timelord backstory. Minyan cool armour/weapons look. Some of the visuals work.
Whats bad : Pacing. The introduction of P7E is late and under-developed. P7E characters come too late to develop anything interesting.
Review With Spoilers : Underworld is the fifth serial of season 15 and marks a foray; by Who. Into a story – inspired by the events of Greek-myth and legend.
The relationship between the gods (Time Lords) and the humans (The Minyans), is echoed here. With the Time Lord’s bestowing – upon the Minyan, the gift of Time Lord tech – and the ability to regenerate.
The result of this shared-history, was to prove catastrophic – as the Minyans destroyed their own race; with the new technology and the Time Lords withdrew – lesson learned. Vowing, never to interfere with another race’s development. As a result, the – ‘no interference’ – Law Of Time, was created.
Following the destruction of Minyas. The Minyans set out in two ships – the P7E with the record banks of the Minyan race – and the R1C to accompany it. The P7E was lost and the R1C has spent the last 10,000 years, attempting to track it; when the Doctor makes – an appearance in the Tardis.
When the R1C eventually finds the P7E, it has coalesed into a planetoid and the surviving Minyan crew; have evolved into a dictatorship society – within caves.
It’s an epic setup, to a serial, which largely fails to deliver on the grandiose ideas – it instills. For instance, the Minyan/Time Lord back-story – bar the exposition, is left largely unexplored.
The Doctor is easily able to ingratiate himself, with the R1C crew. Without hardly any reprise or recrimination; for his races past misdemeanours – to the Minyans.
Perhaps an episode, where the Doctor was caught on the run – between the 2 differing R1C and P7E Minyan societies; might have been more appropriate to the plot (and entertaining).
“The gods use us for their sport. We should have wiped them out when we had the chance!” Herrick
Still, the Jason & The Argonauts angle, is clever and well-played, throughout. Including the Doctor, referring to Captain Jackson as “Jason”. The data memory banks of the Minyan’s ship, being made of gold (as in ‘gold fleece’).
Other references, include the “Minyan” race (related to the Minoans), the search for “P7E” (Persephone), and character names such as Orfe – “Orpheus”, Herrick – “Heracles” and Tala – “Talaus”.
Underworld‘s pacing sags badly, after the action-packed first act. In which, the R1C negotiates the edge of the known universe and a gaseous nebula; looking for the P7E.
Which builds some tension and purpose – only to lose it, when proceedings slowdown in the second half, to introduce the P7E world, society and characters. For a very Who-formularic -repressed society – turn.
Also, it’s a largely uninspired turn, from the main villain. Which is the P7E computer, called the ‘Oracle’; which has become despotic and rules over the P7E society – with ritual sacrifices.
Still, some of the action-scenes in Underworld are fairly brisk. With the R1C crew, battling the P7E society; with their wrist/shield lazers. There is also nifty use of CSO overlay, to some very stark and odd-looking backdrops, for the P7E planetoid tunnel-scapes.
It’s a mixed bag, episode-wise (and concept-wise). But it largely manages, to deliver a reasonable Who nod; to Greek legend. However, other Who episodes have melded the legend, inspiration, with the sci-fi element together; way better than this.
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