Vengeance On Varos: Doctor Who: Season 22
Vengeance On Varos SYNOPSIS:
The mining planet of Varos is in the grip of the elite officers in the payment of the Galatron Mining corporation giving low prices for valuable Zeiton 7 ore. Subjugated citizens only pleasure are the videoed tortures of prisoners in the punishment dome, that are also exported. The TARDIS arrives so the Doctor can re-fuel the TARDIS elements with Zeiton 7 ore.
Galatron's representative Sil bargains for lower prices on Zeiton 7 so he and the Chief Officer can continue to reap the real profits to the detriment of the people. The Governor is powerless, citizens votes can literally kill or empower him but want the Governor accede to Sil's demands to stave off starvation. The Doctor and Peri survive the hazards of the Punishment dome and join forces with rebels Jondar and Areta.
The Doctor promises to reveal the truth of Galatron's extortion while the captured Peri tries to convince the Governor the system can be changed but she is handed to scarred scientist Quillam for transmutation experiments. The Doctor must escape the punishment dome with his new allies and break the power of the Chief officer and his elite so the Governor can negotiate the real price of Zeiton Seven with Sil or Galatron competitors.
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Vengeance On Varos DETAILS:
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Vengeance On Varos CAST & CREW
Colin Baker (Sixth Doctor)
Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown)
Nabil Shaban — Sil
Martin Jarvis — The Governor
Forbes Collins — Chief Officer
Nicolas Chagrin — Quillam
Stephen Yardley — Arak
Sheila Reid — Etta
Jason Connery — Jondar
Geraldine Alexander — Areta
Graham Cull — Bax
Owen Teale — Maldak
Keith Skinner — Rondel
Hugh Martin — Priest
Production Staff for Serial 6V:
Writer - Phillip Martin
Director - Ron Jones
Script editor - Eric Saward
Producer John Nathan-Turner
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Vengeance On Varos REVIEWS
From the frosty heights and depths of Telos to the airless breadths of Varos.
Yes Vengeance on Varos, the one Grob's been waiting for: but actually I quite enjoyed it. It's well written by Phillip Martin, moodily directed by Ron Jones and well acted…ok except for Jondar played by Jason Connery…he's terrible!! It seems his father the great Sean Connery was frugal with passing on his natural charisma, as his son has none! A block of wood would've done better and his girlfriend Areta is not up to scratch either.
Vengeance on Varos is a nicely drawn out tale of a mining society that has become dependent on violent reality TV as both a source of entertainment and as an export…funnily enough 15 years before we got such dross as Big Brother. In fact I wish the big brother housemates were actually put under as much torture as these guys. Not only that, it's unknowingly selling off it's most valuable export - Zeiton 7- dirt cheap thanks to the mining conglomerate that provides it with the equipment and helps exploit the planet and society.
Obviously the population are not provided the stock prices by Galatron Mining. The fact none of the population, as represented by household viewers Arak and Etta,(well played by the former Severin of Genesis Of The Daleks & whoever the woman is ) seem to care about this while living in their little houses shows that ignorance is sometimes bliss, something today's society reflects…ah well let's switch the channel and see what else is on. But better turn this back into a review rather than a social commentary. Also Vengeance on Varos manages to parody the escalating violence on the show itself, that has been going up recently in Resurrection Of The Daleks, Caves Of Androzani and Attack of the Cybermen which was the most bloody and pointless.
There is violence in Vengeance on Varos as well, although it's painfully obvious to anyone that the Doctor is not responsible for throwing those guys in the acid bath, one falls in accidentally in the struggle and the other is pulled in by his comrade. Speaking of which, what Grey suited citizen of Varos wouldn't liven up to seeing a bloke dashing about in a rainbow clown outfit with a big bosomed girl in a tight leotard and short little shorts?
Colin Baker is on the improve in Vengeance On Varos and much more the Doctor, he's toned down shouting as a means of trying to be authoritative as Grob pointed out in Attack although still has uncharacteristic bursts of mood, the Doctor wouldn't just sit down, mope and give up because the TARDIS' power source has nearly dried up, he'd do ANYTHING from getting the ship recalled to Gallifrey to going straight to the mines of Varos to get a re-fill…which is the only too convenient thing that they just happen to be within spitting distance of Varos when the TARDIS goes wrong. The other argument is the Doctor is too violent in this...hmmm the other Baker planted a grenade on a prince, Davison shot a silurian at point blank range - the Dr. has always been violent and at times not just in defense most have used guns at some point.
Unfortunately even though the Doctor & Peri's bickering has slightly diminished but not enough to be acceptable and another Twin Dilemma tradition rears it's head as they are both confined to the ship for the whole of part one, well the Australian 25 minute version of part one. Least they start to work as more of a team and Peri is shown initiative when captured and left to deal with and try to convince the Governor of Varos that his planets being exploited, Nicola Bryant gives a great performance in everything but the Tardis scene at the beginning. I'd rather have them show up and dive into the mystery straight away like the old days but that’s what happens when the episodes are 45 minutes long…AND made in the 80's!!
Apart from that the actors are all on top form, Martin Jarvis is great as the weary, manipulated Governor who is stuck serving a system that doesn't work. Forbes Collins is perfect as the brutish Chief Officer, happy to serve an age old tradition where he ends up reaping benefits as a side effect of assuming that office, Nicholas Chagrin is good as the masked, scarred Quillam, who seemed much more sinister and able to act with the mask on than off. Then of course there's Sil, slimy repellent and downright alien, believably alien, especially due to the costume, Nabil Shaban did an excellent job - found him creepy. The music does flatten the atmosphere rather than enhance it but reckon Vengeance on Varos is a better serving than most of season 22, no classic but no total cock up either. 7.5/10 (with Grob bias element into account 8.9/10)
I have no sympathy for Colin Baker - either as an actor and how he was treated, nor towards the character he portrayed. Colin Baker may having been PLAYING the part of Doctor Who, but he was at no times ACTUALLY Doctor Who. He just relishes in the nastiness of his portrayal and it just makes the character too unlikeable. And although he wasn't actually responsible for that death in the "acid bath scene", he did manage to kill Quillum with the poisonous thorn trap as well as shooting a guard with a gun.
Peri is totally underused in Vengeance On Varos. All she does is moan and whine at the Doctor. And what about that hideous outfit she has to wear? Sure I like a bit of boobie bounty as much as the next guy but can you seriously see ANYONE wearing this rubbish? Its designed only with the perv factor in mind from (ironically) the show's openly gay producer. Here is a thought; how about concentrating on making the series' two leading characters actually believable and interesting for a change? How about giving them some depth? How about making them ENJOY each others company for once before someone at the BBC decides to rest the show for eighteen months?
But getting back to my point about the characters enjoying each others company I cannot work out why Peri and the Doctor didn't part company when they had opportunity to do so in the previous story. All they do now is fight. And bicker. And argue. And snipe. And its boring. And crap. And dull. And repetitive. And it takes place in one of the longest Tardis scenes EVER!!!!! God people, get out of the Tardis and DO SOMETHING!!!!
Another plot fuck up in Vengeance On Varos is this whole Zeiton 7 thing. If its a mineral that powers the TARDIS why don't we see a hole heap of Time Lords on Varos then? If Time Lords are the only people that can use it doesn't that make it VALUABLE yet the people of Varos haven't worked that out???!!! And how did the Time Lords get the Zeiton 7 in the first place to power their Tardises? Varos and Gallifey are in two totally different galaxies. So the Time Lords got there HOW?? And did they know about Zeiton 7 powering their Tardises before or after getting there? Go figure.
Finally there are the Vengeance On Varos supporting characters; Quillum, Jondar, Areta, the Chief Officer, the Governor - all are dull, boring, badly acted and not worth our time. And Sil is........... Sil is just utter rubbish. He looks cheap and he looks fake. Nabil Shaban's acting is embarrassing and its a toss up as to who is making me want to change channels - the appalling Doctor or the idiotic Sil.
To the production team's credit they do try to make the sets look a little darker but as a result it shows up what a mistake Colin Baker's outfit really is. He doesn't blend in with the background and as a result just stands out like an irritating sore thumb. Sure, you want the Doctor to be at the centre of the story but this is just taking the piss.
Anyway, as with the previous two stories and with more to come, the main problems with Vengeance On Varos lie with the incoherent script, cheap production levels and an unlikeable lead character continually fighting with his very bland assistant. Yep; its a zero out of ten.
Imagine if they'd gone with Vengeance On Varos as his introduction instead of Twin Dilemma. What a different first impression we would have got. The story was written (originally it was written for Davison and Peri - and in draft form for Davison/Nyssa/Tegan), so they could have used it... they just could have gone through the regeneration stuff in place of the "well, we've got no fuel, and we're buggered now" stuff. Rather than getting a maniacal prick of a Doctor, we'd have gotten more of a rogue clown... bit violent, but still with a strong sense of right and wrong.
And we'd certainly have gotten a much better story too.
Vengeance on Varos works well as a very dark satire. The concept of people voting for punishment is probably ahead of it's time - but something that when watched now is kind of eerie... how close are we to being there? And it's the bit that's kind of added on here that makes it work the most - Arak and Etta. The way they sit back and watch it all unfold - getting carried away with the punishments and the adventure of the reality of it all, is kind of creepy... and real! And the punishment challenges that we go through make for a good solid sci fi tale.
What maybe doesn't quite ring true is that we don't really know who's driving all the nastiness. The Varosians seem quite likable. The Governor is misunderstood and being held to ransom by the nasty Sil and all the guards seem to be all too willing to let the rebels go. OK, the chief officer is a mongrel - but you can see he's in cahoots with Sil from the start - so his nastiness has nothing to do with Varosian politics. All we can guess is that the people of Varos are generally all miners - as Zeiton 7 (great name) seems to be their only product... OK, that and torture... and TV! As the Governor is being taken to the cleaners by their main customer, the miners (who are also the main TV viewers and voters) get screwed in the process and can vent their grievances through the voting... so nobody has to be nasty... it's just politics!
Vengeance On Varos makes for a fast moving and intriguing story, with the only dumb bit really being the Doctor throwing his hands in the air when the TARDIS runs out of power (didn't they have an infinite source of power? I guess not any more - we now go to Cardiff to refuel!) and saying it's all no use, not bothering to try and find a fix... as if the Doctor would do that!
And apparently the Doctor cooks dinner every night?
As the Governor, Martin Jarvis is excellent (apparently this is his 3rd appearance in Who) - he has a real warmth to him and you just know that he's not the nasty tyrant that some think he is. You can see clearly that he doesn't like the system, and the pain of all the voting shows in every scene - yet he still commands some authority. And Nabil Shabin's Sil is obviously very effective... pretty annoying at times, but still effective... so much so that for the first time in years kids in schools were mimicking something from Dr Who that wasn't Daleks or Cybermen!
The rest of the cast are fine - especially Arak and Etta... although Mr and Mrs Jondar aren't really that good - Jason Connery's obviously improved a bit over the years cos he's pretty stilted here... but not as bad as his wife who's very bland. And Colin Baker is much improved - not fantastic as he's obviously a little more violent or callous (particularly with the acid bath scene), and his corny jokes are very... corny... (needs more than water Peri eh?), but he's got a lot more heart and drive in this... and Peri's coming along OK too - although her quick recovery from being turned into a bird isn't managed well - all of a sudden it's "I was a bird, but I'm alright now"... it was only 3 minutes ago!
Production wise everything's pretty good. Lighting's nice and grim, and you get the feeling that the whole country is just a big TV studio! They certainly get the best use out of that corridor, as the purple zone, the end zone and all the other torture zones all come across really well.
Vengeance On Varos is a vast improvement - if only this could have been Baker's first, then we might look at his era a bit differently. I can only wonder how Grob justifies his zero on this one!