03 Jul 2003Inferno, by Paul Clarke
24 Mar 2006Inferno, by Adam Kintopf
23 Apr 2007Inferno, by Ed Martin
23 Apr 2007Inferno, by Robert Tymec
23 Apr 2007Inferno, by Bob Brodman

Season Seven is one of my favourite seasons in Doctor Who’s entire history. This is probably clear from my glowing reviews of ‘Spearhead From Space’, ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’ and ‘The Ambassadors of Death’. Despite the high quality of those three stories however, they are still, incredibly, surpassed for a season finale, which is in my opinion the single greatest Doctor Who story of the Pertwee era. 

‘Inferno’ is of course best known for the parallel universe plotline, which I’ll come to shortly. However, the first two episodes, before the Doctor makes his trip sideways in time, are more than captivating enough in their own right. There is a sense of doom throughout this story right from the very beginning, which is almost palpable. This is due largely to the direction and the chilling incidental music, which continues to be a notable feature of the era. The location work of the installation is very moodily shot, and is nicely complemented by the tension in the studio scenes, as the thoroughly unpleasant Professor Stahlman clashes personalities with those around him, his obsession with his project his only concern. The appearance of the green slime, in ominous close-up shot, form output pipe two signals a homegrown menace straight out of Doomwatch, and it is immediately obvious that whatever it is it doesn’t bode well. The transformation of Slocum into a Primord confirms this. Despite the increasingly silly appearance of the Primords in later episodes, the partially transformed victims of the slime are much more successful; Slocum’s ghastly complexion here is rather effective, as he utters chilling snarls from between spittle-flecked clenched jaws. The effectiveness of these creatures lies in what they represent; they are unrelentingly aggressive, mindless brutes, their strength enhanced by their transformation, oblivious to pain, and almost bullet-proof. Not only that, but their touch brings transformation into one of their number, an immediate sentence of loss of intelligence and descent into savagery. Even in later episodes, when their full transformation is achieved via rather poor “werewolf” make-up, the storyline and direction manage to paper over their visual shortcomings and emphasize how dangerous they are rather than how ridiculous they look. 

The parallel universe aspect of the story works on several levels. Firstly of course, it is fascinating to see dark reflections of the Brigadier and Liz, as the Doctor finds himself trapped in a fascist version of Britain. Caroline John gets to show off her acting skills, presenting a cold version of her usual character who gradually comes to trust the Doctor in the face of certain death, and ultimately shows a noble side, using her last few hours of life to help the Doctor save himself and the Earth of his universe. Nicholas Courtney however, positively steals the show. When one actor is usually only seen playing the same part, it is difficult to forget that they can in fact play other roles; the Brigade-Leader may be a twisted version of the Brigadier, but they are worlds apart in more ways than one. The Brigade-Leader is also a soldier, but he is a brutal, sadistic bully, taking obvious pleasure in interrogating the Doctor and always ready to shoot anyone who stands in his way. More than that, he is ultimately exposed as a coward, concerned purely with his own survival, a fact that is nicely emphasized by comparison with Section Leader Shaw, Greg Sutton, and Doctor Williams, towards the end of episode six. It has been suggested that it is after seeing how his friend could have been, that the Doctor’s friendship with the Brigadier, strained by the events of ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’ earlier in the season, becomes really strong. This certainly seems to be the case. 

Of course, the real genius of the parallel universe plotline is that it allows us to see what happens when the Doctor loses. From the beginning of episode five, when the Doctor announces that it is too late to stop the forces that have been unleashed, we know that he isn’t joking; this is not “our” Earth, but a different one, and as such we don’t know, as we usually do, that the Doctor will find someway to save it. Episodes five and six are amongst the most relentless and dramatic episodes of the entire series, as carnage is unleashed and the world starts to die. The acting is superb, as each character realizes that they are doomed, and the direction reflects this, the fiery sky outside casting a deathly pall over events. The model shot explosions are well realized, and radio reports of widespread destruction caused by earthquakes give a real sense of widespread destruction. The cliffhanger to episode six is horrifying, and as the episode seven reprise fades away, the viewer is left with the chilling realization that the parallel Earth is beyond help. This results in a marvellous final episode as the Doctor frantically tries to make sure that same fate does not befall “his” Earth.

Pertwee is at his finest here, giving a powerful, intense performance. My favourite moment is when he yells out “It’s the sound of the planet screaming out its rage”. After the dramatic climax, during which the Doctor literally saves the world, the final scene gently calms things down, reaffirming the Doctor’s friendship with the Brigadier right at the end, and also his relationship with Liz, ironically the last time that it is seen on screen. The guest cast is almost universally excellent, with particular mention worthy of Olaf Pooley as Professor Stahlman, and Christopher Benjamin as Sir Keith Gold. I must also mention John Levene; this is the first time Benton makes a real impact in a Doctor Who story, following his debut in ‘The Invasion’ in the previous season. Considering how likeable the character is, Levene’s performance as the thuggish Platoon Under Leader Benton is just as good as Nicholas Courtney’s as the Brigade-Leader. Overall, ‘Inferno’ is a triumphant end to a fine season, and a highlight of the era. My only criticism is that, due to behind the scenes decisions by the production team, Liz never gets a proper leaving scene outside of the novels.

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‘Inferno’ is considered one of the more memorable Jon Pertwee stories, in large part for its notable parallel-world gimmick. And yes, it is just a gimmick – the plot device is effective in its shock value, no doubt (yanking the rug out from us three episodes in!), but for all the story’s serious tone, it mainly just gives the UNIT regulars an opportunity to dress up and play the baddies for once. The ‘sideways slide’ actually has very little to do with the episode’s true plot – really, the sudden power cut to the TARDIS console could have been caused by anything, and happened in any story. And not only is the ‘slide’ a gimmick, it’s a red herring as well! It doesn’t explain what the green glop is, or how it turns people into Primords; all it does is show the Doctor what will happen if he doesn’t stop the Inferno drilling, which he was already trying to do anyway. (Ultimately, what’s causing the phenomenon is never really explained, and once the project is finally halted, the Doctor seems to lose whatever interest he might have had in the mystery.)

That said, ‘Inferno’ is still quite watchable, making up for what it lacks in brains with a serious and scary style, and an unusual realism. Like many Pertwee-era stories, this one is long, and yet for the most part it doesn’t feel it. The most notable and successful of the story’s elements has nothing to do with parallel universes – it’s the sound of the Inferno drill itself. Doctor Who is famous for over-extending itself – throughout its history, it’s tried to actually show us things like spacecrafts landing and giant monsters attacking, despite having just a tenth of the budget necessary to pull the effects off well (if that). And who am I kidding, this is certainly part of classic Who’s charm and evergreen appeal. Yet, it is extremely interesting to see the production team exercising the rare piece of aesthetic sleight of hand. And how well it works! The drill’s incessant, god-awful grinding, with the characters having to raise their voices to be heard above it, does more to convince us that there’s a giant machine just off-screen than any tightly shot model ever could. Sure, we don’t get to see the drill – we really don’t need to.

The Primord plotline is played very straight, and the fact that most of the characters are unaware of the mutations until late in the story adds an element of danger and menace. The episode’s horror elements, while subtle, are still quite effective. The Dog-faced Boy costumes are ultimately rather silly-looking, but in the early episodes the Primords (influenced possibly by Night of the Living Dead, but actually looking forward to later vicious-zombie movies) are quite scary and believable, especially given that the world in which they are an aberration feels so real to begin with. And personally, I find something quite sickening about how the mutating humans uncontrollably rub the green slime onto their faces – Olaf Pooley really seems to be relishing his ‘serving,’ and the effect is practically obscene. (Stahlman is a marvelous villain – in a series legendary for bad guys who want to take over the universe, this kind of petty monomaniac is refreshing and totally believable. He doesn’t have delusions of grandeur, exactly – he’s just the boss from hell.)

As for the parallel-continuum aspect, it’s of course fun in its way. Caroline John probably comes off the best – there’s something recognizably Liz Shaw-like inside her, but for the most part she’s frighteningly hard and steely. Nicholas Courtney has perhaps too much fun as the Brigade Leader – there’s a semi-foreign accent that comes and goes, and the shouting and crying are not much more than ordinary Who ham. But there are things to like about his performance as well – he and John play off each other beautifully in the interrogation sequence (“Name?”), and his posture as the Brigade Leader shows that it wasn’t just in the eighties that this actor started to pack on the pounds. (In other words, it reveals how much of Courtney’s trim bearing as the Brigadier is actually physical acting.)

As for the Doctor himself, Pertwee is like-ably crabby throughout; his up-yours responses to Stahlman’s pig-headedness are particularly well played. I’d forgotten just how serious the Third Doctor is – and, for as much as I do enjoy the ‘cosmic wisecracker’ approach taken by Tom Baker and some of the other actors, it’s nice to see a Doctor who can tell the Brigadier that he was at Krakatoa in 1883, and not play it for laughs. It’s kind of a spooky moment when Pertwee says he was there; we believe him, and for a moment we see the Doctor as others must see him – as a figure of bizarre mystery, full of tales which fly in the face of common sense, and yet which have the air of truth nonetheless.

All told, an entertaining story, well worth watching.

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Season seven is just extraordinary, especially when you consider how uncomfortable with the exiled-to-Earth format Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts were, and how difficult seven parters are to work with. Theoretically then this should have been a disaster, such were the odds against it; instead, rather than being merely good, it’s possibly the strongest season of them all, pound-for-pound. And after three great stories the season is concluded with Inferno, arguably the programme’s most daring and uncompromising story. There’s a danger that if I start gushing like I want to I’ll just tie myself up in knots with rhetoric and run out of things to say, so to get started I’ll keep it simple: Inferno is, quite simply, awe-inspiring. There’s just no other word.

Like a handful of stories before it Inferno has its own specially designed titles that run after the main title sequence, and they really serve to remind me that while I might have watched it all in one go original viewers would have seen twenty-five minutes a week; in that circumstance these titles, where the credits appear over rolling lava, would have seemed dramatic and exciting. To me, as usual, they began to grate a bit after the sixth time I’d seen them. But these don’t affect the episodes themselves.

What’s immediately obvious is how fresh and lively Jon Pertwee is in his first season; by season eleven the strains of the format he loved slipping away (not to mention the death of one of his best friends) were all too obvious in his performance, but in his early years he fully justifies his iconic status. He is aided here by some great location shooting from the programme’s best ever director, the outstanding Douglas Camfield; his illness meant that a large part of the story was actually helmed by Barry Letts, but Camfield’s work on the location scenes helps to propel the story throughout its length.

Even before the plot has been introduced to the viewer there’s a real feeling of portent, a calm before a storm; Olaf Pooley as Stahlman and Christopher Benjamin as Sir Keith both put in great performances as two philanthropists with very different methods – he might have named Stahlman’s Gas after himself, but there’s no suggestion that Stahlman’s ultimate motive of genuinely providing endless energy is ever questionable. Shelia Dunn isn’t quite so good (that’s nepotism for you, just ask Francis Ford Coppola) but she still puts in a serviceable performance.

Because this is a Camfield episode we don’t have any of Dudley Simpson’s music, and while Simpson’s scores for the rest of season seven are in general very good it does make a refreshing change to have Delia Derbyshire’s atmospheric electronic music on the soundtrack. The swirling, dreamlike sounds seem more appropriate to the programme’s more space-age episodes and seem a little odd in the studio scenes, but on location they add to what is one of the most atmospheric episodes of all. The example I can think of is Slocum’s murder of the technician with the hammer; the sudden cut to Sergeant Benton can be in part credited to Martyn Day, who was also responsible for the superb second cliffhanger to The Mind Robber.

The semi-converted humans (in other words, Primords without the full make-up) are scary, mainly due to the sheer mania in the eyes of Walter Randall and Ian Fairbairn. Derek Newark is also good as Greg Sutton: although his first scene belts the audience with a massive infodump it’s still unusual to have an essentially villainless piece (the Brigade Leader is a villain in one sense, but is unusual in that he has no part in creating the events and merely reacts to them like everyone else) that is about an extreme natural disaster brought on by well-intentioned but naïve people. Greg’s get-yer-coat-love attitude to Petra is less effective though as the moral centre (in this case the “I’m not just a pretty face” kind) is laid on very thickly.

The Doctor’s remote control door-opener seems very twee now that they’re a staple of middle-class garages, but his first scene with Liz is a good one; she’s a much underrated companion (she certainly wipes the floor with Jo) and the production team’s usual excuse that exposition requires someone for the Doctor to talk down to doesn’t bear out on screen. That and she’s got the best legs of any Cambridge academic I can mention. Together Caroline John and Jon Pertwee bring poignancy to the scene (with the Doctor being trapped) and also darkness, with the Doctor’s ominous line “a terrible thing, a murder without a motive.” Slocum’s subsequent attack on Bromley is effective again for being left unseen, as the scene cuts away at a crucial moment.

The trip-out void scene where the TARDIS malfunctions is well done but very dated, although it retains a certain sense of the grotesque. The drill emergency is dramatic as it happens in the background, and the details are relayed through the characters – moments like this serve to advance the characters as much as they do the plot.

There is a very tense scene as the transforming Slocum is found, and the violence as he strangles Wyatt is actually quite brutal. The scorched wall is an engaging effect, and the effect he has on Wyatt and Bromley is nicely mysterious. The Doctor discussing the Krakatoa eruption on top of the silo is atmospheric in both visual and conceptual senses, and shows Camfield’s skill in using location and camera work to add an extra layer to what is already a well-written piece by Don Houghton. It is followed by a well-made chase sequence over the silos that ends with a good stunt fall from Derek Ware, although Pertwee’s vertigo is all too obvious on his face.

The computer is still giving out warnings – the episode’s slow pace doesn’t detract from the quality, but adds to the tension. Lines like “you, sir, are a nit-wit” demonstrate that the Doctor definitely works better as an aloof eccentric rather than the down-with-the-kids version of David Tennant. Stahlman softens up around Petra: he comes across as a pathetic, tragic figure who drives his project hard in order to compensate for basic loneliness, so that his eventual death in part seven retains a certain poignancy even though it comes after the shattering events of the sixth episode.

The Doctor’s transportation into the parallel universe requires a completely new set of introductions as late as the third episode, which helps fill this story’s impressive running time. The alternate Earth is very strongly defined; the fascist state is hardly original, but it is at least utterly convincing here and far more effective than the bit of everything approach favoured by Rise Of The Cybermen.

There’s more great action scenes in the third episode, a combination of the aforementioned location work, good stunts and Pertwee’s skilful driving. The Doctor defeating the mutating Bromley with a fire extinguisher feels like a lucky strike though, and a certain degree of logical reasoning has been omitted here. It’s all blown away though by what is possibly the best stunt in the show’s history, where Private Wyatt falls from the top of the silo, a height of nearly ninety feet. The only problem is that it’s obviously a jump rather than a fall, but it’s hardly something that detracts. 

Caroline John puts in a good performance as the alternate Liz, although her wig looks a bit silly. Nicholas Courtney’s eye patch is nicely iconic now, and in fact all of the regulars put in good performances as their alternate selves, even given John Levene’s relative inexperience. The only minor problem is Pooley, who isn’t in any way different to his counterpart. The Doctor hits a realistic impasse in trying to explain his situation to the security forces, which takes some time but is skilfully done and never allows the tension to flag. 

Things really heat up (no pun intended) in the fourth episode, but as yet the situation is not hopeless; there’s still a feeling of possibility which makes the alternative Earth’s fate all the more devastating. The relationship between Petra and Greg is improved slightly by the tenser situation of the parallel universe, and Liz’s softening is very well played.

The interrogation scene is well played out, with the Brigade Leader’s mock questions (he has the answers he wants in his own imagination) and good camera work which belies Camfield’s absence. The fascists’ fractured relationships with each other are great to see, as antagonists that hate each other as much as the sympathy characters are always more interesting. Suddenly back in “our” universe, it seems peculiar to see everyone again as they normally are, so earnestly are the parallel versions drawn.

Things crank up yet further when the crust is finally penetrated; the assertion that the world is doomed and nothing can save it is nothing new, but the fact that this actually happens makes Inferno one of the Doctor Who’s most daring and risky episodes. The characters begin to soften (apart from the Brigade Leader, as the narrative still requires a villain to bring the other characters together) to the extent that we almost forget about the regular version of them, and care about these new ones just as much.

With a growing sense of desperation and the omnipresent rumbling adding to the ambience, this story does more than just engage the viewer: it actively draws them into its Kafkaesque setting and makes them feel like they stand to lose as well, which is something that I can only say about the very best episodes.

“Greg, I’m frightened!” The trouble with being so serious though is that the touchy-feely approach to romance (never something the show did well, on the rare occasions it attempted it at all) simply doesn’t come off and the characters lose some of their dynamism as a consequence, albeit only temporarily. A similar problem affects the Primords when we see them in full make-up for the first time: they aren’t particularly convincing and while they aren’t any worse than the average monster this story is so uncompromising that it doesn’t make any allowance for anything less than absolute perfection. Benton’s transformation is a well-done scene, although I don’t quite know why it has to be followed with Sir Keith’s car accident. It only serves to demonstrate Stahlman’s ruthlessness, which has already been recorded.

The red tint on the location scenes helps create a sense of a planet tearing itself apart, still demonstrating Camfield’s skill long after he stopped tackling the studio scenes. The characters become more sympathetic the closer they come to the ultimate sacrifice; this story is about humanity surviving under immense pressure, and there is something genuinely life-affirming amidst the doom. Unfortunately, the fight at the end of the episode between Greg and the Brigade Leader is poor, as Barry Letts lacks Camfield’s magic touch in the studio when it comes to action. The cliffhanger though is devastating, and the cliffhangers have actually been rather lacking this story. The reprise improves it if anything, cutting away at the crucial moment. We never get to see the alternative Earth destroyed, and the Doctor’s quietly heartbroken line of “terrible things are happening there” is far more evocative than the most expensive special effects.

If episode seven has a problem though it’s that it goes over the same ground that the fourth episode does, complete with yet another chase over the silos with a character who’s already been killed off once in the story, and has been brought back to be killed again. Filler, anyone? However, it should be noted that part four was several weeks previously from the point of view of the original audience, and the Doctor’s excited notion that “the pattern can be changed” keeps the levels of dynamism on a high. I’m so drained after the sixth episode though that I almost don’t feel the defuse-the-bomb style ending – is that a good thing?

The only major problem with this story is its ending, with the slapstick scene of the Doctor materialising himself in a rubbish tip clashing badly with the grim tone of the rest of the story; his joviality seems inappropriate to the grim tone of the story and the horrors he has witnessed. However, it doesn’t hit the story as a whole particularly badly.

Inferno is a top five story, there’s no doubt about that. It is ambitious in a way that few other episodes are, and while ambition always creates a risk of undershooting this manages to achieve its lofty aims through a sense of grim, brutal realism and is never compromised by illusion-shattering comedy. Put simply, it’s astonishing television.

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In my opinion, a classic in the truest sense of the word.

In many other "classic" Doctor Who stories, the term oftentimes gets attached to that particular tale partly because it is relavant to mythos of the series. For example, "Deadly Assassin" is a great story and it also features the first time we spend an entire adventure on Gallifrey. Or, in the case of "Genesis of the Daleks", it's not such a good story that is still considered by many to be a classic because it reveals the origins of the Doctor's greatest foe. Both these stories deal with very pivotal moments in the show's history and this helps them to earn their "classic" status. 

Not so the case with "Inferno". This is just a really great story. Period. And that's what makes it even more impressive than a lot of other classics. It doesn't depend on being momentous in some sort of way, it just depends on being so damned good in its own right that you have to label it a classic. 

Season Seven, to me, was what the Pertwee era should've been about for its entire five years. Most of the stuff that was produced after this season that featured the Third Doctor doesn't usually rank all that highly in my book (with a few notable exceptions, of course). But even as we look at earlier episodes in this season, we see that the stories are still "trying to find their feet" sometimes. It's still magnificent stuff, overall, but with the occasional gaping flaw rearing its head. But by "Inferno", all the creases have been smoothed out and we can truly present a masterpiece of first season Pertwee. With all the elements that made this such a good season acting in perfect harmony with one another. 

Firstly, we still have a nice rebellious Pertwee - something that gets really watered down as Season Eight begins. But in Inferno, he's still got a bit of that Troughton anarchism that we loved so much. Except that, in this case, he's a lot more irritable and outspoken than Troughton was. His verbal sparring with Stahlman ("It's not your liver, it's your disposition!") is in excellent form and gets us to see very quickly where this story is headed. Project Inferno is being run by a self-obcessed madman. And if it doesn't stop soon, there's bound to be trouble. That anti-establishment mentality flares up even more, of course, as the Doctor "slips sideways" and must deal with the parallel-reality fascist regime ("Read any good prison reports lately?"). This is the stuff of Pertwee that I love. And it's best displayed in this compelling little yarn. 

Next we have a great villain. Why is he so great? Cause, in many ways, he's really not all that villainous. No plans to dominate or destroy the Earth. His real intent is to help it. What he doesn't realise is that he's being blinded by his obsession and huberous and can't see that his desire to help the Earth will actually lead to its destruction. A very unique, "Malcolm Hulkesque" approach to creating the story's antagonist (even though the great Malcolm didn't write it). And very realistic. At the risk of getting a bit philosophical (and even a tad "corny") most villains aren't truly evil, just painfully misguided. This "villain who isn't truly a villain" concept was a great feature in most of Season Seven, but is brought to its ultimate culmination in the character of Stahlman. 

Counterpointing this character was the equally-well-realised Sir Keith. A bit ineffectual against Stalman's stubborness, but this is part what helps propel the plot. The fights between them present more excellent foreshadowing too.

Of course, the biggest appeal of this story is its portrayal of a parallel reality. Not only do the regulars like Brigadier, Liz Shaw and Benton get to toy with their portrayals a bit - but the guest actors also get to strut their stuff. Differences in the two sets of characters are sometimes harsh (Brigadier and Liz Shaw) and sometimes subtle (Greg Sutton and Petra) and that makes the telling of the story all the more impressive. It's not like that silly episode of Classic Trek where they explore the same premise and everyone is just over-the-top evil. Some excellent work goes into the crafting of these two universes. The production team goes to great lengths to make these two realities similar or dissimilar in all that right places. 

Probably the most impressive aspect of this story is that, even with its seven episodes, there's barely a sense of "sag" going on like there are in so many other of the longer Who stories. In episode six as they run back and forth to the reactor - we get a bit of a sense of padding. Otherwise, the story remains compelling throughout. Even the chase sequence as the Doctor first enters the parallel reality goes on for a bit, but ends before it starts reaching "Planet of Spiders" proportions!

Of course, the Primords in their full form are quite silly-looking (but still quite scary in concept). This is the only other real flaw to this story. But, as many other have mentioned in their reviews, until the final transformation, they are quite horrific. Particularly with the sound effects added to the grunts they made. Some truly chilling and downright disturbing stuff. Particularly the rooftop chases. 

Of course, our greatest moment of triumph in this tale is the very classic "So, free will isn't an illusion after all" line that is delivered upon seeing that Sir Keith is still alive in the Doctor's world. You wouldn't think such a line could have such power behind it but, after seeing what the Doctor has gone through to see its truth being revealed, it packs a very beautiful "punch" just before the story ends. 

Finally, Inferno shines so brightly in my memory because it is not just a very exciting adventure story - it's also a very compelling drama. With vivid characterisations, intense seriousness and even a bit of romance. It shows, very firmly, that even with men running around in silly werewolf outfits, the show can take itself very seriously. In doing so, it touches an adult audience as effectively as it does the wild imaginations of youth. Possibly, one of the most "mature" stories ever produced. Which is just one more magnificent trait that compels me to slap on that "classic" label on without batting an eyelash!

This is, easily, Who at its best.

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This one is the classic Doctor Who story where the nature of time travel and “slipping side-ways to parallel universes are explored in a new and interesting way. The regular cast enthusiastically does a great job with their alter-egos on the alternative earth and points out the question about how different we’d be if our situation was very different. The story does the rare feat of sustaining itself over all 7 episodes. As each episode ends I find my self wanting to see the next one right away. 

This probably works as well as it does because the episodes set on the parallel earth works effectively as a story within the story. Inferno reminds me of the excellent Quatermass serials. The basic premise is that there is a project to drill all of the way through the earth’s crust but that would unleash unforeseen dangers. One danger is the green ooze that transforms people into monsters. The 2^nd is that penetrating the crust will cause volcanic eruptions that would destroy the world. It works dramatically as a moral story warning us not to tread on where we do not understand the consequences of our actions. 

That there can be serious consequences to our actions was a new and important idea that wasn’t dealt with by society prior to the 1970s.

It seems kind of odd to me when I realized that I have no problem with green ooze turning people into monsters but that drilling through the crust could destroy the earth seems silly. H.G. Wells believed that a science fiction story can contain a small number of places where the audience would need to suspend their beliefs without an explanation. For example the audience will accept that there are alien worlds and that they can be visited with a time and space machine without the need to explain how the machine works or evidence that life exists on other worlds. However Wells understood that you can’t expect the audience to do this too often so you need to explain them with science or technobabble. So I accept without an explanation that there is an ooze that we don’t know about that if touched turns people into monsters. 

It’s silly but I don’t need an explanation for this plot devise. However a hole in the ground resulting in the volcanic destruction of the entire earth needs an explanation because I know that it just isn’t possible. 

If it was the case, then instead of nuclear bombs, we could use drills as a doomsday devise. Who needs to develop expensive WMDs when all that you need is oil drilling equipment to hold the world hostage. But if you get passed this then you’ll enjoy a wonderfully crafted story.

One highlight is that they do an excellent job of building tension throughout all 7 episodes. The pace is masterful and allows the story to get more exciting as it goes on. I got the feeling that literally anything bad can happen in the final scenes on the doomed parallel earth. The contrast between the solution on the Orwellian alternate world and the solution on our world makes a strong point about the evils of fascism.

The visuals on the DVD hold up pretty well and the story seemed fresh to me. The monsters aren’t great looking but they are a small part of the story and they sufficiently show that the infected people aren’t quite human any more.

Inferno has long been cited by many fans as being one of the best examples of Doctor Who. In my opinion it is a top 20 story and probably the best of the Pertwee years. In addition I would highly recommend this as a good story for a newbie to classic Doctor Who.

*** ½ out of four

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