Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Eye of the Scorpion

This story features the Doctor and Peri in a fun romp in ancient Egypt. Originally, writer Iain McLaughlin, wanted to do a story based on a real historical female Pharaoh, but found needing to stick closely to history didn't make for a good story. So, instead he went for a more sci-fi historical fiction tale of a would be female Pharaoh.

The plot centers around the politics of the ascension of Erimem becoming the new Pharaoh. There's some nice political wrangling over this, along with the sci-fi element of some sort of alien entity manipulating the "bad guys". Of course the Doctor and Peri show up (seemingly at random in the beginning) and start saving poor Erimem from repeated assassination attempts. The reveal for who or what actually caused the TARDIS to arrive here in ancient Egypt is a clever "timey whimey" explanation that would make Steven Moffat proud.

The two principal villains of the story are interesting foils for each other. Mercenary leader Yanis is a lot of fun screaming and lusting for battle. It's particularly funny every time he screams for his inept sidekick. Horemshep, on the other hand, is fun as the devious, power mad priest, scheming Erimem's demise and trying to keep Yanis' stab first and ask questions later attitude in check.The story does a good job keeping you guessing about the nature of the alien who is quietly controlling all of the bad guys. 

A real highlight of the story is when the Doctor is poisoned at the end of episode one and spends the entire episode unconscious. This leaves Peri to carry the episode, and Nicola Bryant pulls it off with aplomb. It's here that the relationship between Peri and Erimem is established. They quickly form a sibling like relationship with Peri as the older sister. It's really quite sweet, and gives Peri a more interesting role than just asking the Doctor questions. I always like the idea of historical companions as it's interesting to see their reactions to the future - even if it's just their future in our present. Caroline Morris is great as Erimem, as she gives Erimem a sense of strength and intelligence to offset her naivety. I find her a much more effective a companion than the hapless Jamie. The chemistry between Peri and Erimem is engaging from the start and it's little wonder Gary Russel decided to have her join the TARDIS as a companion. It's also a lovely surprise at the end of the story when she leaves with them. When the Doctor announces early on that he remembers the name of all the Pharaohs who ruled Egypt and makes it clear that Erimem isn't (or wasn't) one of them, you keep wondering what will befall the character to prevent her from ruling. I doubt many anticipated her becoming a companion to the Doctor would end up being the explanation!

All in all, I like this story. It's not one of my favorites, but it's certainly a fun time. I suppose part of me kept waiting for Sutekh or the Osirians to show up or be name checked at some point. There are some nice twists, and the 5th Doctor is well characterized in this story. For all the talk of Colin Baker's Doctor being galvanized by Big Finish, I tend to prefer Davison's performance in Big Finish to the TV version as well. He's a much funnier, quirkier, and in command Doctor than he was on TV. It's also nice for him to end up with a couple of companions who (gasp!) get along with each other. There's a lot of fun to be had with this new TARDIS team.

Rating: Good

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