Number : Season 22, serial 2 of 6.
Which One : The degeneration of video society.
Cast : The Doctor : Colin baker
Peri : Nicola Bryant
Sil : Nabil Shaban
The Governor : Martin Jarvis
Chief Officer : Forbes Collins
Quillam : Nicolas Chagrin
Arak : Stephen Yardley
Etta : Sheila Reid
Jondar : Jason Connery
Areta : Geraldine Alexander
Bax : Graham Cull
Maldak : Owen Teale
Rondel : Keith Skinner
Priest : Hugh Martin
Written By : Phillip Martin
Produced By : JNT
First UK Broadcast : 19–26 January 1985.
Length : 2 x 45 minute episodes.
Plot : The Tardis requires repairs and the only place that the Doctor can source the required metal (Zeiton-7) from; is planet Varos. However, the Varosians are operating their own violent form of a deadly interactive TV Talent show – and the Doctor is forced to take part, in the grim proceedings.
Whats good : A comment on the degradation of society, through video violence de-sensitization.
Whats bad : That the above message is somewhat lost, as it revels in the violence; a little too much.
Review With Spoilers : Vengeance On Varos is one of the few Colin Baker stories, to make a serious statement on society. Chiefly, the moral degradation of a society, hooked on interactive – televised violence.
The Varosians, vote for and watch elaborately planned executions; which are transmitted live, from the aptly named ‘Punishment Dome’. Pressing yes/no buttons – depending on whether, they are enjoying the gory spectacles; or not.
The problem with this stance though, from the script’s point of view, is; the serious message gets a little lost, in between – all of the nasty uber-violence on offer.
A phantom hallucination makes The Doctor believe he is dying of thirst. He is then nearly dispatched, in an acid bath. Instead, happily dispatching two guards instead. The Doctor is then sent to the gallows, where a noose is tied around the Doctor’s neck; and the lever pulled.
The Doctor also tricks some guards, into entering an area filled with poisonous vines and proceeds to kill them; by dropping some from the ceiling, tied to a bit of string.
In between all of this, we are supposed to be exploring how a society can get hooked on the sci-fi equivilent of the 80’s video nasty. But the message is lost – in between all of the bouts of cheap violence.
“When did they last show something worth watching, eh? When did we last see a decent execution?” Arak
Its not a Baker classic by any means – and it falls into its own trap, of glorifying – rather than abhorring the violent subtexts – it seeks to highlight and pillar.
However, in an age (now) where TV is ruled by a slew of cheap and nasty voting participation reality shows. Some entering, the slightly more extreme spectrums, such as I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here or Big Brother. Where contestants are forced, to undertake horrible tasks; following a public vote. Maybe Vengeance On Varos fits better in the modern age, than the era – it was inspired by and written for.
Sil – the sluglike alien is quite gloriously realised, in all his slimey, wet, rubbery glory. But what really makes his character memorably horrible, is the snivelling way in which the actor; Nabil Shaban – plays him.
Especially his perverted tongue-lolling evil laugh. It’s interesting, that companion Peri is particularly put out by Sil’s appearance and manner. As Peri’s ultimate fate is entwined with Sil – in the future episode Mindwarp.
For now though, we are left with a story that tries hard to say something, about media-encouraged violence in society but is too busy purporting its own brand of gratuitous violence; to make it’s mark.
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