Inferno: Doctor Who: Season 7
Inferno is the nickname given to a project that is to penetrate the Earth's crust to find the pockets of Stahlman's gas so named after the Projects creator Professor Stahlman. As the project moves closer to penetration zero Stahlman is becoming more obsessive about his work and others interfering. UNIT has been called in to investigate the murder of a technician.
The Doctor is already on site at the project providing advice and using the drill's nuclear power source to get the Tardis console working again. Due to Stahlman's haste with the drilling some technicians have come into contact with a green substance that turns them into more primitive versions of humans. During a crucial test run the Professor cuts the power to the Doctors experiment causing the Doctor to be sent sideways in time.
There the Doctor finds himself in a parallel world where all his friends are now part of a brutal fascist regime and the drilling project is a slave labour camp. Arrested and interrogated the Doctor attempts to warn the Brigade Leader and Stahlman who on this Earth has been mildly infected by the green ooze of the dangers of the drilling project which is far in advance to the that on his version of Earth.
Once penetration of the Earth's crust is reached the parallel Earth begins to be torn apart and people are turning into Primords. The Doctor must persuade his remaining few allies to help him get back to his version of Earth and stop this happening again if he can. However the Brigade Leader has ideas of escaping with the Doctor to the safe version of Earth that will endanger all of time and space.
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Inferno CAST & CREW
Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor)
Caroline John (Liz Shaw / Section Leader Elizabeth Shaw)
Nicholas Courtney — Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart / Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart
John Levene — Sergeant Benton / Platoon Under Leader Benton
Olaf Pooley — Professor Stahlman
Christopher Benjamin — Sir Keith Gold
Sheila Dunn — Petra Williams
Derek Newark — Greg Sutton
Ian Fairbairn — Bromley
Walter Randall — Harry Slocum
Derek Ware — Private Wyatt
David Simeon — Private Latimer
Roy Scammell — RAF Sentry
Keith James — Patterson
Dave Carter, Pat Gorman, Walter Henry, Philip Ryan, Peter Thompson — Primords
Production Staff for Serial DDD:
Writer - Don Houghton
Director - Douglas Camfield & Barry Letts
Script editor - Terrance Dicks
Producer - Barry Letts
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As seven parters go, Inferno has to be the most fast paced and quick moving of the lot. Finally they got it right with the very last one. The usual dropping off in pace is avoided by the cleverest piece of padding ever in Dr Who, the story within a story of suddenly changing the whole flow of it by the end of episode 2 into almost a completely different 4 part story! It rattles along quite nicely with UNIT assigned to watch over the final stages of Project Inferno drilling toward the Earth's crust for a new energy source and mysterious deaths and transformations happening when humans into contact with the planets ooze.
Anyone who thinks Pertwee is just the comphey and lovable heroic Doctor, take a look. Here he's more concerned with draining power off the project to get the Tardis up and running, he's rebellious, rude, arrogant and almost callous at times to everyone and although knowing humans shouldn't drill into the crust he only provides the cursory warnings. Then bam, off to the oldest trick in the book where only American sci fi shows had dared to venture. A mistake with his experiment sends him sideways in time to a parallel world populated by evil fascist versions of his friends and colleagues.
Where the Earth is close to destruction due to the advanced drilling and he's basically on the run for 4 parts while trying to gain enough allies to help him get back. Plus he faces his own personal nightmare seeing his favourite planet about to be destroyed and is powerless to do anything but escape. Funny how he suddenly got more caring toward his Earth friends after this...
Not only this but due to Douglas Camfield being in the director's chair we get action set pieces aplenty, with the Doctor forced to use his aikido to get out of trouble (this the first time we see it Grob) the mood is sombre and dark, all the regulars relish the chance to act as their evil counterparts, Efficient Section Leader Elizabeth Shaw, nasty Brigade Leader and brutal platoon Leader Benton are awesome. Professor Stahlman doesn't seem to change much between dimensions, but credit goes to him for being one of the most stubborn, irascible and downright ruthlessly misguided scientist in the series. Greg Sutton doesn't change much either but is annoyingly heroic and Petra, Stahlman's secretary is excellent too. Inferno is gritty, creepy and the setting in a gas refinery is perfect.
Ok so I didn't like the full Primord transformations, if they just had kept everyone in their earlier human form just looking primitive it would have been better but you can't have everything. The final touch is the haunting minimalist music. One of Petwee's best Another 10/10
The other drawback is poor Liz doesn't get a farewell scene and this is her final story, what a greatly underrated companion!
Greg Sutton is as boring as you can get, Petra Williams only flounces about in a short skirt and throws her hair back when she gets annoyed cos Greg wants to flop his chop out and rap it repeatedly on the top of her head, Sir Keith Gold is a typical civil servant - only nicer, and Stahlman is.....what the hell is Stahlman anyway? Could you imagine ANY managing director of a huge major project like this behaving in this way? He'd be sacked and thrown out the door by security! All this guy does is yell and be impatient. Or be impatient and yell, depending on the day. At one stage in the story he actually clenches his fists and goes "Ooow!!" like a 1950's foiled villain. Imagine this guy over breakfast;Wife: "More toast, dear?"Stahlman: "Ooow!" (clench fists) "I want another coffee!! Another coffee, damn you!"I actually worked for someone like this (I can't mention the name cos this is going on the web, but for all your real estate printing needs, see the temperamental faggot in Docklands!) and its just laughable. Stahlman should be in a punch and judy show where the kids can boo and hiss him. The guy is a nutcase. Pertwee was cast to play the role just like Jon Pertwee which he does. And depending on who you believe, Pertwee was either a caring, father like figure who liked to sweep everyone up in his cape and carry them along for the ride or.................he was a rude, impatient, miserable old git who only looked out for himself and thought everyone else was a stupid git. So, can you guess which side of Pertwee we got in Inferno?
Otherwise, the story looks good and it moves along at a good pace. Dunno about the actual representation of a drilling station though. Looks more like another brewery although I guess that's what south England is made up of; breweries and quarries. Meanwhile, after the Bee Gees (good joke there by the way) attack the drilling plant in the alternate world and everyone is killed, melted or shot, the hand of Barry Letts descends and everyone gets a good sound smacking. And then Liz is told to piss off cos the viewers at home can't identify with her. So they bring in a scatterbrained airhead instead. And then everyone is happy. 7/10
Inferno does flow very quickly for a 7 parter - could probably be condensed to 6, but 7 does work fine. All the cliff hangers and resolutions are great too… maybe something that the new Who people could learn something from.
There's a lot to like about Inferno. They've avoided the alien invasion story once again, and although it's using the other cliché (crazy science guy), the idea of the earth's core being able to turn people into crazy monkey people is a very good one… as is the idea of the parallel universe… kind of. Actually, the best thing about the parallel universe is probably the fact that it gave Caroline John and Nic Courtney the chance to shine. Both were excellent here - although the Brigade leader was a bit over the top towards the end… and his fight with Sutton was awful… but that's more the writing than the performances.
Actually, while the writing in Inferno is very strong, there are a couple of cringey moments in the general banter… most of which involve Sutton. I don't know if all his lines were written in capitals and italics, or if he just wanted to over do everything… he was crap! And I'm sure the lovely Petra (will we be getting screen shots of those legs from Grob???) couldn't stand him in the real world… but after they got together in the parallel world, all of a sudden she liked him here too. OK, I'm probably getting a bit picky here - as plot wise and for the most part all characters, this is a very tight script!
One thing that did kind of let the story down a tiny bit was the support Primords. The early ones were great (despite their comical death sounds!), and Stahlman was great (both as the Stahlmans and the Primords), but when they gathered as a group at the end of Part 5, with their dodgy teeth and pillows in their shirts, they looked pretty stupid and not as scary as the one crazy one on the loose… sometimes less is more, and maybe this time just a couple of menacing green things would have been better!
All up though a great way to end a great season… and a nice little comic ending too!
And was it just me, or at the start of part 2 where the first primord was up against the wall, did anyone else think he'd shat on the wall?