Eye of the Giant
Face of the Enemy
|Dates||May 9, 1970 -
Jun. 20, 1970
With Jon Pertwee, Nicholas Courtney, Caroline John, John Levene.
Written by Don Houghton. Script-editted by Terrance Dicks.
Directed by Douglas Camfield (and Barry Letts).
Produced by Barry Letts.
|Synopsis: Attempting to repair the TARDIS, the Doctor slips sideways in time and witnesses the global catastrophe that he was fighting to prevent.|
One of the All-Time Greats by Jeff Sims 10/1/97
Inferno is, in general, excellent, and well-plotted. It divides into three sections.
The cast are in top form. Since practically all except Pertwee play two roles, they get to show off their talents in a grand way. Nicholas Courtney has a field day playing the alternate "Brigade Leader"; vicious, stupid, and cowardly, he epitomises the evil society which created him. Caroline John is also good as the alternate "Section Leader" Liz, a woman thoroughly at home in her world, yet sensing that life should have offered her more.
A Review by David Masters 26/5/97
Whilst I quite like Inferno, I'm not really sure why its heralded as one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time by, it seems, an ever growing number of fans (other than more people really like this story than I do). It seems to me as a triumph of padding over plot. After all, my favourite part and, it seems, everyone else's, is the segment set in a parallel world, but wasn't this added to make the story last seven episodes at the suggestion of Terrence Dicks?
Imagine the story without it. Now wake up. Whilst the first episode is fine, the story never really gets going until the Doctor zaps off to this parallel world. In fact, apart from an early murder or two, nothing particularly exciting seems to happen in the normal world segment, everything interesting happens in the parallel world. As a result, after a suitably climactic episode six, episode seven drifts along to a comparatively rather dull and obvious finale.
My major gripe is the Primords, however. If a story has monsters, then for it to succeed, surely those monsters have to be realized effectively. Despite documentary evidence claiming the contrary, I cannot see how anyone, even the most impressionable of children, can have been in the least bit disturbed by their appearance. They look awful.
As I said, I quite like Inferno. It is rather like an extended episode of Doomwatch, and some parts of it are very well executed, but I really am dumbfounded by this stories recent elevation to the ranks of classic. I guess its just a matter of taste.
A Little Too Hot by Dennis McDermott 13/6/97
Inferno is a program that has been consistently rated one of the best in the Whovian canon, and after watching it I can understand why. I'm just not sure I agree with it.
This show has a lot going for it. The cast was wonderful in bringing a meaty story to life. It had a nice gimmick: an alternative world where the regulars had slightly different agendas. It also had a good premise: drilling a hole to the center of the earth, with untold power corked up inside it, could be devastating. And here lies the weakness of the story; it undermined its central premise with a subplot that even the simplest teenager wouldn't buy.
The "degenerates", or whatever the Doctor called them, added little to the show and took quite a bit away from it. Mostly, it took plausibility from it. Why on earth would there be green slime coming up from the bore (it isn't from the Earth's core; that hasn't been breached yet) and how could it transform humans into beastly monsters? Why is it that Slocum would scorch the wall behind him but not set his clothes on fire? (Or why did Stahlman's gloves stay white?) And why did Stahlman resist the effects of the slime for much longer than the others?
The short answer is that this part of the story only serves to sensationalize it, and was basically a cheap ploy to add complications to the plot. A better writer would have found other complications or simply have tightened the plot and made it a four-parter. That story alone would have been compelling.
Is Inferno a good, enjoyable story? Yes. Is it one of the best? No. I prefer the shorter, less ambitious stories of the later Pertwee era to this one.
A Superb Epic by Tom May 11/3/98
What's so good about Inferno? Well, where shall I start? Inferno is an engaging, gripping horror fable that simply exudes extreme heat. Episode 6 is a particularly tension-filled episode of the fiery and challenging piece of Television that is Inferno.
The acting is magnificent all-round, with Greg Sutton and Stahlmann the highlights character-wise. The Liberal Sutton (a fairly contentious issue, as although he is anti-Fascist, he does seem initially patronising to Petra Williams) is well-needed touch of light relief (only at times though, and his dialogue at times is excellent). Professor Stahlmann is a brilliantly rude and obsessed character, and gives the story it's intense edge. His bickering with the Doctor isn't padding, it's characterisation for the both of them. In the case of Stahlmann, I'm sure, if all the wonderful season five stories resurfaced, there'd be similarly created characters.
Liz Shaw is admirably played by Caroline John, and remains my second favourite companion (behind, of course the Second Romana), and was an all-too-brief change of style, companion-wise. Don't ask about her outrageous mini-skirt though! This is, in my opinion, Pertwee's finest performance as the Third Doctor by some distance. The Pertwee Era was definately a backwards step as a whole-- after season seven, things got predictable, and Doctor Who barely changed until Sir Tom appeared. The Doctor is curious here. It's the definitive Third Doctor performance, and, as such, deserves scrutiny. He is a strong campaigner here, against the ominous Operation Inferno, and, in the parallel world, nobody listens to his warnings apart from Sutton. Pertwee's Doctor is frequently desperate, stubborn, manic, angry and not often the boring conservative moraliser of seasons eight through eleven.
The plot is sprawling and superb, the scenes set on the Fascist Parallel World are better, but then again they are truly dramatic and unsurpassed. Politically, it's an Anti-Fascist statement (although I can only laugh at the Doctor's despriction of the Royal Family as "charming"), and the Fascist Brigadier is suitably a bully and a coward. The ending is first-rate, with the Doctor's knowing line "There's nothing quite like a nice happy ending," coming into it's own. It's a scary story for Doctor Who, and the climax to Part Three is chilling. I can't praise the soundtrack enough-- the avant-garde stock music is essential to the atmosphere of doom-- indeed, it wouldn't be the same without it.
A recommendation goes without saying, and to view Pertwee-Era Who at it's best watch this (and the rest of season seven) and the two witty Holmes stories The Time Warrior and Carnival of Monsters (both underrated).
A resounding 10/10.
Sideways in Time by Guy Thompson 9/12/98
The wonderful Inferno brought to a close what was probably the most consistently strong season of Doctor Who ever. Inferno, along with Pyramids of Mars and The War Games is one of my three favourite serials, and here's why...
Douglas Camfield has always been one of my favourite directors, and his work always looks and feels vastly superior to that of his contemporaries (look at his only Blake's Seven episode, Duel). He conveys a sense of tension that is maintained from virtually the first scene right to the end of episode seven (and, as with The Silurians, the length of this serial adds to the effect, rather than detracts from it).
The performances are of a high quality all round, the only slightly stagey moment being the fight scene between the Doctor and Stahlman at the drillhead, when the Doctor (or rather the stuntman in his place) takes some rather overly dramatic falls that even a newly regenerated seventh Doctor would have thought twice about.
I actually like the idea of the Primords, unlike some, and there presence adds an extra supernatural element to the story, and they look pretty horrific too. The whole story has an unusually dark quality that was rarely seen in the Pertwee years.
The most engaging part of the story is however, the parallel universe segment, as the Doctor slides sideways in time to another reality where events are even more progressed, and Stahlman is almost ready to penetrate the Earth's crust. All the characters are extremely convincing in their dual roles, especially the Brigadier (sorry, Brigade-leader) who goes from dictatorial figurehead, to a nervous wreck over the course of four episodes. The scenes when the parallel Earth comes to an end are truly harrowing as, for once, we see the Doctor unable to rescue the world, and he exterior shots of a dying world are genuinely powerful.
I cannot recommend this story enough, and urge all of you to get a copy. Now.
Think Sideways by Christopher Fare 14/1/99
This story has long been regarded as the highlight of the Pertwee era, and one of the best stories ever. Reviewing this story, I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing.
Don Houghton's scripts continue the high standard of writing prevalent throughout Season 7. In particular, it is Inferno's characters that are most successfully brought to life. The performances are uniformly excellent, with particular praise to Derek Newark as Greg Sutton, as well as Nicholas Courtney and Caroline John, who do an excellent job in differentiating between their "normal" selves and their ruthless parallels. Indeed, the whole cast does extremely well, as most have to portray two roles in the story.
The plot is very well constructed, with establishing section, the "main" part in the parallel universe, and the resolution in Episode 7. The level of tension achieved by directors Douglas Camfield and Barry Letts is incredible, the cliffhanger to episode 4 and the scenes as the parallel Earth nears it destruction being of particular note.
Another highlight of the story is its location filming. The oil refinery setting looks both very industrial and very grimy, especially in the sequences where the Doctor tries to evade the RSF guards. The use of a harsh red filter for the most part of episode 6 also helps to achieve a genuine sense of a world coming to a violent and premature end.
Perhaps the only letdown in the story is the realization of the primordial creatures, which leaves a little to be desired. Thankfully, they are an incidental plot point for most of the story, as they do not really endenger any suspense or terror.
Inferno is one of the very best Doctor Who stories, made unique by its combination of several disparate elements (believable science, a love story, and the concept of parallel universes) and the sheer professionalism of all concerned. The Pertwee era could really only go downhill from here -- and so it proved, with some exceptions.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 14/4/99
Inferno continues the strong tales that preceded it, drawing heavily upon Quatermass, which in itself played a pivotal role in setting up the Pertwee era. It could be argued that seven episodes was too long for this tale, which could have avoided the parallel universe plot and seen The Doctor resolve the situation,with the means available to him on the real world. The fact that the parallel universe storyline was tagged on just makes Inferno all the more enjoyable.
Indeed, it is for the parallel universe storyline that Inferno will always be remembered. And it is here, where the already excellent cast go one better, Stahlman typifies the somewhat stereotypical obsessed scientist, while Nicholas Courtney is clearly enjoying himself as the facist Brigade-Leader. Perhaps unusually for a companion Caroline John`s Liz Shaw is given more to do, but then Liz wasn`t your average companion. Even so, it was still a good way to depart the series. Jon Pertwee is at his best here being angry, desperate, stubborn and manic, showing a side to the character of the Third Doctor that would rarely be seen again.
If one thing lets Inferno down, then it is the Primords, whose appearance not only defies belief but also do nothing to further the plot. This is made up for however by the climax to part six, and the wonderful ending "So free will isn`t an illusion after all". A strong end to an equally strong season.
A drop of the real stuff by Ken Wrable 22/4/00
Inferno is a 24-carat classic, possibly the best Pertwee story, and definitely the best to come out of the period when the Doctor is exiled on Earth and working for UNIT. It's compelling viewing, almost unbearably tense, and contains hardly any discernible padding (bar a few too many argument scenes involving Stahlmann), which is unbelievable considering the story stretches over no fewer than seven episodes.
This story's got everything going for it: a great "curiosity killed the cat" scenario where the Earth's put in peril by mankind's careless meddling, an archetypal arrogant authority figure (Stahlmann, played superbly by Olaf Pooley), generous amounts of green slimy stuff (always a good sign), and some heroically hairy mutated monsters. The tone is exactly right for Dr Who with the comic moments adding to, rather than detracting from, the drama. The actors (notably Pertwee) all play it straight, and nobody descends into hamminess.
Central to keeping the momentum up is the twist of setting a good half of the story in a parallel dimension. This seems to be a fairly stock device elsewhere (see Star Trek and Red Dwarf, just for starters) but this is the only instance I can think of that the idea is used in Dr Who. The key to this section's success is that the alternative reality technique is employed not as the core idea of the story, but as a way of commenting on and exploring the possibilities of the situation developing in "our" dimension. Here, pretty much uniquely in the series' history, we are given a desperate situation that pans out in the worst possible way; the Doctor is powerless to help and we're actually presented with a depiction of the end of the world!
Of course, there's also a lot of fun to be had on the way, principally in observing the differences and similarities between the two versions of each of the main characters (the Doctor aside). Some are more or less the same (Greg Sutton), some have the same basic personality but have been conditioned differently by society (Liz Shaw), some are just thugs in the alternative world (Benton). Best of all is Nicholas Courtney's brilliant portrayal of the Brigade-Leader: undeniably the same character as the Brigadier, but with some added and very nasty psychological disorders.
There are several virtuoso production techniques used in Inferno that help sustain the tension throughout the story. Of these, I would highlight the soundtrack, which features an ominous and highly effective background rumbling noise in all the scenes set in the central control room and an extraordinarily eerie sustained dischord at the moments when people (especially Stahlmann) are falling victim to the green slime. The choice of locations used is also inspired, particularly the high gantries and walkways.
Last but not least, there are some truly great cliffhangers here. How about the end episode four, when the Doctor rips off his mask and passionately delivers his line about the Earth screaming out its rage while Stahlmann pulls a gun on him and the countdown in the background reaches zero just as the theme music kicks in. Or episode six, which features an ocean of lava about to engulf the shed where the alternative, and doomed, versions of our heroes are desperately trying to send the Doctor back to his own dimension. Gripping stuff, kids!
So, if you've previously dismissed the Pertwee era as cosy and patronising, watch Inferno and think again. This is as good as Dr Who gets.
A prime example of DW at its best by Brent Crosby 19/8/01
Whenever I put in my dusty copy of Inferno, one word always seems to come to mind; gripping!
I've always felt DW reaches its pinnacle when it's a well-written drama with believable characters surrounded by believable conflicts (see The Seeds of Doom, Genesis of the Daleks, Caves of Androzani)and less as a childrens Saturday afternoon satire. Thankfully that aspect was kept in place when the producers ditched the original (Operation: Mole-Bore) and revised titles (The Mo-Hole Project) for Inferno.
No director in Who has ever depicted the military setting as well as Doug Camfield, but to think that producer Barry Letts stepped in to complete "80 per cent" of the production due to Camfield's illness is nothing short of admirable. The transition looks remarkably unnoticeable, and if you didn't already see, Camfield is credited as director anyway. This is a testament to the class Letts exhibited during his tenure with the series.
The mood around the oil refinery is strikingly believable, and I love how the scenes set in the paralled world has that murky "Something is not quite right" aura. All the cast are in top-notch, and the action scenes of the Doctor battling the Primords are well handled, if not unintentionally humorous. Special praise should go out to Pertwee for his characterization of the Doctor during Episode 7: he comes across as an unheroic Doctor racing against time to save 'our' world from the destruction he has seen in the parallel one. His earlier selfishness to leave Earth subsides long enough to remind us that he isn't so 'alien' after all. And besides, when the script adds a love interest between Sutton and Williams - it's like icing on the cake!
What really gets my goosebumps going though is that the menacing music score wasn't created by an incidental musician, but rather taken from stock. The scripts are excellent, but for me it is the music that is central to the stories impact, preventing Inferno from blending with all the other run-of-the-mill UNIT stories during the Pertwee era. There are three seperate and pretty basic storylines going here; this world, the parallel world, and the Doctor's selfish need to escape Earth which links them together. But it is the jarring music that makes Inferno so memorable. For example, I believe it is the the eeriness of the music that prevents the Primords from being just entertainment value for the kids, and instead, a rather more frightening monster. The close-ups of Stahlman attacked by the slimy green ooze convincingly displays his paranoia. It puts the viewer in much closer proximity with this ego maniac. Captivating stuff!
Had writer Don Houghton commissioned more than two stories for Who, it would have been interesting to see if his talents could have had as big and important an impact on the series as, say, Terrence Dicks or Robert Holmes. His other writing contribution for Who is the underappreciated The Mind of Evil, as well as various television credits. He died in July 1991.
Inferno is classic Who because it heightens the "gripping" drama while providing some much-needed underlying humor to balance the story. Doctor Who rarely gets better than this.
Towering by Andrew Wixon 25/10/01
As Doctor Who fans we all know what padding is, in terms of a script, anyway. It's an elaborate escape plan that's partly successful but ultimately ends up with the characters back where they started. It's meaningless, non-plot-specific bickering in the TARDIS. It's hopelessly protracted corridor-jogging. It's any little excursion the characters embark upon which has no real bearing on the main plot or climax. Padding is bad. Padding doesn't help a story.
So what about Inferno, then? By those criteria Inferno is the most outrageously padded story in DW history. Nearly all of episodes three to six are utterly irrelevant to the main plot. The other dimension plot twist wasn't in the original script - it was just added to pad the story out to seven episodes in length. But just imagine Inferno without it. It'd be okay, another downbeat Season Seven Quatermass knock-off - as opposed to the extraordinary piece of TV we have today.
Inferno is extraordinary - even today, when its big surprise is the thing it's most famous for. It's one of those rare stories where every aspect of the production gels, where everyone is on form simultaneously and singing from the same pamphlet. Where does one begin? Well, it's a terrific, well-paced script, slowly cranking up the tension from the faint uneasiness of episodes one and two, to the jarring suspense of episodes three and four, and the positive pressure-cooker of the conclusion. Douglas Camfield's direction matches it shot for shot, and he's helped by the strange, discordant stock music. As far as acting goes, it'd be invidious to single anyone out. Virtually the entire cast carry off their dual roles with aplomb, but Nicholas Courtney in particular shows how good he really can be, and how wasted he was in so many later stories. The third Doctor finally appears in earnest, with his penchant for gadgetry and martial arts, and Jon Pertwee gives one of his finest performances - especially in the last episode, where the Doctor is disturbingly unbalanced.
There are so many great, memorable moments here - the jump-cut from Slocombe's wrench to Benton's hammer, the conversation between the Doctor and the Brigadier at the start of episode two, the Doctor's pursuit by the RSF, his interrogation, Benton's horrific accelerated mutation, the Doctor's 'terrible things are happening there' speech - but above all there's episode six, an excursion into pure nightmare as the world rips itself apart and for once the best the Doctor can do is save himself. Liz's shooting of the Brigade Leader caps it to perfection and the unresolved cliffhanger must have stayed with the 1970 audience throughout the following week. Inferno Episode Six is a strong contender for the Best Episode Ever title.
But then Inferno is a challenger for many titles. The Brigadier's best story. Best story of Season Seven. Arguably the best third Doctor story. A towering achievement by all concerned.
A Review by Daniel Spelner 29/1/02
Top-notch action story with UNIT and an ingenious twist. Season seven was marked for its realistic and mature style that Derrick Sherwin had implemented and Inferno brought the season to a close. Don Houghton's script involves a government drilling project, that is manned by the gruff impatient Professor Stahlman, which starts to go awry. The twist comes when the Doctor is transported to a parallel universe where UNIT are bewilderingly hostile towards him! This allows the UNIT regulars a chance to be cruelly severe and Nicholas Courtney together with Caroline John rise to the occasion giving cold, harsh portrayals of their usual selves. Throughout Inferno there is a "danger" prickling in the background of the whole seven episodes, thanks to the great Douglas Camfield who builds a sense of impending disaster, which is reinforced by an actuality that he always brought to his productions. This story demands attention and gets it.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 23/2/02
The first season of the 3rd Doctor finishes with a impressive tale about drilling and an alternative reality.
I was impressed with the drilling facility. A hive of activity accompanied by a constant background of mechanics. This alone added a great deal of tension and atmosphere to the story - it gave the impression of something massive burrowing down into the Earth's core. This fully backed up the central idea of the story, man's cleverness (the Mole-bore) against Nature (the Earth's innards).
Populating the Project were the usual collection of recognizable - Greg Sutton and Petra, and the eccentric - Stahlman and Gold. The characters were good, they had to be to last the 7 allotted episodes. UNIT were well portrayed too. The alternative Earth giving us a well-appreciated warped view of their characters. The Brigadier likes to shout in the normal universe, in the alternative - he becomes a dictator, and gets to shout even more! Benton comes out of the woodwork too, showing an heroic side. I rate this as his best story.
The Doctor is totally on his own here. Liz doesn't join him in his excursion into the parallel world. A lonesome Doctor (considering the amount of companions he always has) works brilliantly on his own. His is a lonely existence. His companions invariably leave under a cloud, he makes acquaintances from story to story, but never stays anywhere long enough to make really good friends.
The story works well split into 2 parts. The parallel Earth providing an effective interlude in the middle. Arguably the interlude works better than the main story.
Good story this, ending the season well. Season 7 will never be my favourite (much too serious for my liking), but I have been pleasantly surprised at just how effectively everything came together. 7/10
Simply the best by Tim Roll-Pickering 13/3/02
There is probably no harder review to write than that of the reviewer's favourite story of all and Inferno is my favourite tale. There's little to fault in the entire production, give or take a few shots of the Pimords that make them seem too comical, and the picture quality of the NTSC transfer, which is an understandable by product of the means by which the story has survived at all in colour. Otherwise this is three hours of strong storytelling enhanced by excellent direction, design and casting that never once drags but instead propels the viewer towards its dramatic conclusion.
Inferno works by taking two very strong ideas, neither of which has been substantially used in the series so far, and combining them in a highly effective character and action piece. It's surprising that Doctor Who has only extremely rarely ventured into the realm of parallel universes given how strongly they have featured in many other science fiction series. What is so striking about this story is the way it turns the entire UNIT format on its head and once more allows a story in which the Doctor accidentally arrives in a semi-mysterious world where he has to fight to establish his right to tackle the emerging danger before it's too late. However on this occasion it is too late and the destruction of the alternate Earth at the end of Episode 6 is one of the most chilling cliffhangers in the series' history.
The cast is exceptionally strong in this story, particularly given that many of them have to play dual roles with subtle differences. Nicholas Courtney's portrayal as the Brigade Leader is especially sadistic and an immense contrast from the Brigadier, whilst Caroline John gets thrust into the role of a soldier rather than a scientist and so gets more of the action than usual. Of the guest cast Olaf Pooley shines especially as both versions of Stahlman whilst Derek Newark gives both Greg Suttons a strong presence. The camera work is especially good in the way that familiar sequences from one Earth are shown to happen in a subtly different way on the other, such as the Doctor encountering a mutated Bromley as he desperately moves around the complex. Equally good is the shot of Slocum battering to death a technician with a wrench that cuts to Benton hammering a nail into the wall.
UNIT and its counterpart, the Republican Security Force, come across as particularly effective here, being portrayed as though they are real soldiers. Douglas Camfield's direction in the location sequences is as strong as ever and even in the later studio scenes his influence is felt. The design work is also strong, even with the Primords who are only let down by a couple of shots that look cheesy due to their teeth being too obvious. Otherwise the design work is strong and it is supported by some good lighting which can often otherwise ruin a story's atmosphere. Equally supportive is the soundtrack, with the drill noise ever present whilst the incidental music is highly memorable. More so than any other Doctor Who story, Inferno represents a triumphant combination of all the elements of production to complement one another and thus present a strong story that can be enjoyed again and again and again (or at least until the videotapes wear out - unsubtle DVD hint). 10/10
A Review by Benjamin Mann 8/5/02
Inferno incorporates one of the greatest pieces of television that Doctor Who has produced.
Inferno isn't a science fiction story of course. The scientific trappings are just there to help us suspend disbelief. There's no good scientific reason why drilling through the Earth's crust should destroy the whole world, much less create a green goo that causes people to mutate into monsters. The centre of the Earth (well, anything below the crust) is treated more like some sort of vengeful fire-god, growing more angry as the drill progresses, and then, when it violates his realm, destroying the world.
And it's the destruction of the parallel Earth that gives the story its power. It's done absolutely brilliantly. As the first four episodes progress, the perception of the drilling project changes gradually from interesting scientific project to menace to humanity. And when it finally penetrates, there's no messing about. It's quickly established that this is no normal disaster; it's the end of everything. The apocalypse. And we have two episodes to watch it happen. We have constant references to the heat, and the Primord attacks become more of a constant hazard, accompanied by a superb soundtrack. And when the main characters emerge into a red world, (the red filter is curiously absent in some scenes, but by now it doesn't really matter) and earthquakes start happening in earnest, we have probably the most incredibly tense episode of television that Doctor Who has ever done. It's capped by the end of episode 6, as we see all the main characters bar the Doctor about to be killed by a tide of lava.
This is powerful television. It has a rare opportunity, and makes brilliant use of it. Unfortunately, we then have episode 7. The production team try their best, in particular having the Doctor go briefly crazy, (a great idea, showing how much what he has witnessed has affected him,) but it still can't help being a massive anticlimax. It is difficult to see how this could have been avoided, perhaps it could have been shortened, with the sequence at the end of episode 6 happening later and not being a cliffhanger. Certainly it seems a mistake to almost overshadow the scene which symbolises the final destruction of Earth with something as normal as a "will the Doctor get killed? of course he won't" situation. It's still a brilliant scene of course, but perhaps it could have been even better.
Inferno does, quite simply, have a problem with ineffective episodes. Episode 7 is an anticlimax, and episodes 1 and 2, whilst being necessary for the setup of the latter ones, aren't really terribly exciting. I don't have too much of a problem with this however, they're still perfectly watchable and it's worth it to get to the parallel Earth episodes. But they are nevertheless a weakness. Also the "free will isn't an illusion" bit doesn't make any sense. Just because you can have different things happening, it doesn't follow that they are caused by human choices. (The scientific interpretation of course would be events at the quantum level. But I said this wasn't science fiction.)
As for the Primords, it's traditional to criticise their inclusion, but I think they're rather necessary. Certainly they're not all that well realised, (though Doctor Who has done a lot worse,) but without them we would have no real indication of the danger to the planet until the drill actually penetrated. And after that penetration, their presence is still important, providing a constant reminder of the catastrophe in progress, making sure it never becomes abstract. They are almost acting as the human component of the fire-god's vengeance. And as long as you don't actually want to laugh at them they can sometimes be quite effective, with their unusual ability to make things extremely hot, and backed up by excellent direction and music and the occasional unearthly scream. When one of them scorches the wall behind him, it's a great moment. Of course they don't burn their clothes. The clothes are a part of them. This isn't science fiction, remember.
But the other thing which makes Inferno great is the characters and acting. I don't think there's a single poor character in the whole of season 7, and certainly not in this story. Of the guest cast, the best is perhaps Greg Sutton, who absolutely shines in the parallel world, though Petra Williams does an excellent job of almost-but-not-quite cracking under the pressure. Stahlmann is something of a one-note character, but it is an interesting and well-portrayed note. However, the most interesting part is what the parallel universe does to the Brigadier and Liz. There's an interesting contrast here, while Liz has the intelligence to act independently of the conventions of her society, the Brigadier/Brigade Leader is revealed to be very much a product of his society. (This ties in nicely with their respective attitudes towards the Silurians, two stories earlier.) It's Nicholas Courtney's best performance in Who, as the disturbing parallels between his characters are made plain to see. Jon Pertwee is at his best as the Doctor too. Not only has he nobody to patronise or moralise to, but he gets some real acting to do, and certainly doesn't waste the opportunity.
I'd like to be able to say simply that Inferno is a wonderful story, but that's not strictly accurate. The parallel Earth segment of Inferno is a wonderful story. The other part is merely necessary and good.
Not So Hot by George Bruce 15/5/02
Don't get me wrong, despite the heading I actually like this story and probably like it more at the third viewing so I'm gradually warming to it (groan). My problem is that I find it difficult to understand why some people regard it as an all time classic. It certainly has its enjoyable aspects but, like a lot of Jon Pertwee's stories, it is rather overlong. For any story to be successful it needs a strong dramatic contrast at its heart whether it be one of ideas or characters or both. In Doctor Who, as in most drama, the most powerful dramatic contrast is that between good and evil and one of Dr Who's main stregnths in storytelling is that it has always had a strong moral element to it.
I get the impression with this story - and I'm sure it has been pointed out elsewhere - that it was realised that the story set on 'real earth' was dramatically weak because it did not include either a decent monster to represent evil or a sufficiently evil character. The Primords are more sad than anything else as they do not have the cold intelligence of the Daleks or Cybermen which gives their evil its distrubing edge. They are quite effective as monsters since they provoke a sense of body horror through our realisation that they are degenerate humans but their evil is not as scary as that willful evil which knows itself. Stahlman is misguided and pigheaded rather than evil though his strength is that he is quite a good portrayal of the scientist who deludes himself into that he believing that he is pursuing noble aims when, more likely, he is driven along by the desire for power and recognition. However, if the story had been put out as a four parter there is no doubt that it would have come across as rather weak because of the lack of a strong dramatic contrast.
It seems to me that the alternative earth section was inserted as a deliberate device to beef up the dramatic contrast in the story by introducing the strong element of evil which does not exist in the 'real earth' section. The alternative earth section is undoubtedly the most interesting and dramatically strong part of the whole story, especially the last two episodes where this world is falling apart and the 'strong' Brigade-leader comes apart at the seams to shows how weak he really is. Although this part of the story is interesting and strong in itself I feel that as a whole the story doesn't quite gel. The dramatic contrast centres around the Doctor encountering an evil society but the alternative Stahlman seems pretty much the same character as his 'real earth' twin. Perhaps if they had made him really evil, rather than just ill humoured, it would have helped accentuate the moral core of the story which is the usual Dr Who Faustian/Frankenstein theme of scientists tampering with the forces of nature out of personal greed and the dangers which can result. The stregnth of the alternative earth section in many ways only serves to point up the weakness of the 'real earth' section and can make it almost seem redundant. It's almost as if the good Doctor, bored with the dull story in which he has found himself, decides to get invoved in a similar - but more intersting - story elswhere.
The question remains as to whether or not the alternative earth section - whilst enjoyable in itself - works successfully as a dramatic device to weld together the two sections of the story. I tend to think that the answer is that it doesn't and that it's obvious that the alternative earth section was not a dramatic device designed to produce a strong dramatic contrast but an ad hoc measure intended to shore up the original story which the writers must have realised was going to be rather dull. I know some people might think that this kind of analysis (with the accent on the first two syllables) is a all a bit over the top and perhaps they are right. After all, at the end of the day it's only Dr Who and not Hamlet. As I've said before the dramatic contrast would have been heightened if the motives of the alternative Stahlman and his colleagues had been shown to be nasty and corrupt as a kind of revalation of the - in Jungian terms - Shadow side of the enterprise of their counterparts on 'real earth'. It seems to me that this would have produced a more satisfying dramatic contrast than the one we do get which is the general one between the two societies. Whilst this is quite effective in itself it seems to miss the moral centre of the story which revolves around the danger of tampering with the forces of nature for material gain.
Anyway, to end on a positive note, as an adventure story with an original plot element in a parallel earth and some good characters this story has much to recommend it. I just do not think that it is the absolute classic which some people think it is.
Perfect Ten by Matthew harris 17/6/02
In the entire canon of Doctor Who, there are precious few episodes I actively dislike, and they're all from the same period (Bannermen, and double Rani). However, there are also few episodes to which I'd give a Perfect 10. Genesis, of course. Caves, obviously. Curse Of Fenric, fait accompli.
Oh yes. Oh yes indeed.
10/10. Absolutely. I defy you - defy you - to watch it and not be chilled to your very core. The most mature story of the whole Third Doctor Era, and the crowning glory to the season of majesty that was the show's 7th and Pertwee's first. The tall silver-haired one never quite hit these heights again (though The Sea Devils and The Daemons came close, among others), but we should count ourselves lucky he hit these heights at all. Go on. Count yourself lucky. Count yourself. Thank you.
In my opinion, (and this will be a litle controversial, but I don't care about controversy, I'm British, me, we invented it) Inferno is the only one of the three seven-parters from that season that doesn't stretch the point somewhat. And I can't for the life of me work out why I think that. In fact, I can distinctly remember being a little disappointed between episodes two and three. That didn't last. Oh no. The first two, set in your actual universe, move a little slowly, but I certainly didn't notice once we were immersed in the parallel one.
Incidentally, it wasn't the parallel universe that was tacked on at Tel's behest, it was the Pimords. Inferno would have been nothing without the parallel universe, whereas it wouldn't've hurt it so badly to lose the hairy chaps. But I'd've missed them. You see... well, Dennis McDermot bemoaned the fact that it was something "that even the simplest teenager wouldn't buy." But that's not the point. Will drilling straight through the Earth's core destroy the planet? I'd be surprised. This is science fiction, it's not a soap opera. Not that they're especially realistic either... but anyway. The Primords. Of course there's no reason why there should be a green goo that makes people go blue and squeal like Cher circa 1998. But it's exciting, no? Personally I thought Benton's transformation to be one of the creepiest bits of Doctor Who I've seen. That and the part in episode 7 where the first Stahlman rubs his hands in the goo and starts roaring in gradually changing Cher-speak. By the way (again) are they really so badly realised? Think what they're supposed to be. Hairy men with sharp teeth, that's the general idea, yes? So what do the Primords look like? Something like hairy men with sharp teeth, I believe. This is Doctor Who we're talking about. They don't have the money for anything other than the bare description.
Primords aside, this story is really driven by the characters, since 80% of it is set in the same room with the same people. And they're not badly realised. Of the irregulars, Greg Sutton is my favourite character. He is patronising towards Petra at the start, but that doesn't happen again, and he's just so extraordinarily likeable and honest (both of him) that I forgive him any failings very fast. A lot of this credit has to go to Derek Newark for portraying him so well. Played by a lesser actor, Sutton may have become tiresome by the end. The love interest between him and the Petras is a nice touch also, and possibly a future echo of Don Houghton's credit as creator of a Scottish soap opera. And possibly not. Ms\Dr Williams is an interesting character too, basically the same person, but... but one's a Doctor, and Queen of the drilling project, and the other is Stahlman's ego-massager. Both act as the bearded\beardless one's dogsbody, but both are happy to be where they are, because they don't know anything better.
But it's the regulars that let this show come alive - with freshness! Much has been said about Nick Courtney as the Brigadier\Brigade Leader, and I cannot fault him for that. From cool and calculating (his delivery of the line "Then you won't feel the bullets when we shoot you" brrrrr...) to gibbering wreck (again, brilliant delivery of "We'll all be roasted..." (almost crying) "..alive..") in four episodes. He's basically the Brigadier, but in this reality he obviously made a decision towards psychotic illness.
Caroline John's Liz\Elizabeth is nigh-on perfect as well. Again, same person, different direction, different society. A product of this Fascist "Republic", she's in a similar situation to the Petras in that she's where she thinks she wants to be... but there's the nagging feeling that there's somewhere she wants to be more... but she doesn't know where it is. And she's wearing a miniskirt, as someone's just reminded me.
And of course the story is peppered with fabulous sequences such as the oft-mentioned cliifhangers to episodes 3, 4, and... brrrrrrrr.... 6. Or the chilling interrogation sequence. "Name. What is your name? ANSWER!" How well directed is that sequence? How well directed is the story as a whole? Douglas Camfield is in with a shot as "Bestest Doctor Who Director", along with Paul Joyce, Graeme Harper and Alan Wareing (I can't say he'll win, these things are always so political you just can't tell).
If there is a problem, it's been mention before quite a lot. Including in this review, actually. It's that takes 50 minutes of an average omnibus to get going. And then episode 7's in a bit of crappy situation: it has to follow the glory that went before. To be fair, it does it as well as can be expected, but nothing can follow - or indeed precede - glory and not look like a tit in retrospect. Look at the next story, Terror Of The Autons. Why can the Auton Leader talk? Why does the doll suddenly turn into an actual person? Who? Where? When?
Still. Since the only problem is an inevitable one, I feel in can be overlooked. And with that in mind I-cannot-reccomend-Inferno-enough. If you've not seen Inferno, find it and watch it. If you have, find it and watch it again. Oh, did I mention it was fabulous? Ten. Out of ten.
The never-ending Inferno by Mike Jenkins 19/6/02
This story truly is never ending. It seems we have to indulgently and euphorically dip into some other reality in order to realize that nuclear power might destroy our own. Er, what? Didn't we already know that anyway. It seems that for the most part, season seven is fondly remembered for its nostalgic aspects. This story is a fine example. Lacking drama or even discrete padding (Unlike Dr. Who and the Silurians, padding is obligatorily blatant in Inferno), Inferno will forever stand out as one of the most over-rated Pertwee adventures.
I've considered the possiblility that several cast members aquired some sort of skin condition while wearing the Primord make-up, explaining it's tacky appearance. That doesn't seem to make it any more excusable. And now let's continue on with weak performances. We've always know that deep down somewhere, Lethbridge is a just a less brutal version of Hitler. Relishing in the fact does not make excellent Dr. Who, in my opinion. There wasn't anything particularly original about the parallel world. Your typical 'if Hitler had won' scenario. Courtney's eyepatch and Caroline John's Miss Eisenhower hairdo comprimise the integrity of the enterprise altogether. Jon himself makes the best of a less then ideal situation. The story, at times, attempts to be a thought provoking piece of character driven drama, yet all the characters are either, cliched, uninteresting, or so poorly acted, we've forgotten about which character attribute Don Houghton is attempting to convey. Strong imagery and situations make for appealing moments but they are spread across over 150 minutes of overlong, overtly gritty material. It's not without its charm, but has an overwhelming degree of difficulty maintaining its average status.
A Review by Rob Matthews 26/6/02
For me, the purpose of Doctor Who as a fiction is to provide a sideways slant on things; society, politics, culture, commonly-held assumptions, whatever. Generally speaking it doesn't do this in a look-at-me-I'm-an-allegory way, doesn't even do it all that consciously most of the time, but its way of telling stories is closely akin to two particular genres - science fiction and magical realism. The approach these two take is an intellectual one (as opposed to the sensual approach of fantasy fiction), and despite their surreal or futuristic subject matter, what they're really about - what they can't help being about - is the here and now.
(Yes, the show and the books are primarily entertainment, but all entertainment is a reflection of its society and its time. It's naive to think that if something which is made to be fun can't be analysed in the same way as something that's deliberately 'serious')
So, 'Sideways' is the word here, and if you've seen Inferno you can probably spot where I'm going with this. Inferno is the only Doctor Who story to go sideways literally. The two main strands of the plot are not that closely interconnected. The general purpose of 'Earth2' is to show a world where the fascists won, and where the Doctor's friends have sinister counterparts. The specific purpose of 'Earth2' is to demonstrate how spectacularly wrong the drilling project is about to go.
For the former, and unlike Mike Jenkins, I do think it's worthwhile to explore the idea of a fascist version of the Brigadier - particularly in a season where the Brig's actions have been depicted as actually genocidal (in The Silurians). Better that the show edgily hints at the through line from xenophobic militarism to fascism than - as in later seasons -settling down for basically cosy adventures with the 'UNIT family'. This story is more attuned to the basic anti-authoritarianism of the series than the Pertwee era is in general. Which isn't to say that it would be wrong to show militarism in a positive way too - we do after all owe our freedom to military action and the enormous sacrifices of earlier generations. I guess my point is that the Doctor's collaboration with the military should be explored intelligently with its good and bad aspects depicted story by story, rather than having UNIT simply be there, like a useful bunch of companions in khakis, as they were later. But at the same time, Inferno is also a neat encapsulation of the conservatism of the Pertwee era too. Because it tells us that a bad, fascist world is one where England is a republic and the monarchy - the 'charming' monarchy at that! - is gone. Hard to square that with the Nazi sympathies of King Edward and the beliefs of our dear old Queen Mother, who would have been quite happy to join Chamberlain in appeasing Hitler. I have real trouble with this part of the production.
The thrust of the central narrative too is a strange mix of proto-ecological concern and a kind of Luddite superstition; tamper with nature and you'll be besieged by blue monsters. The Earth itself, 'bellowing out it's rage' when the crust is broken, is made to sound like a sleeping God vengeful at being awoken.
Inferno's other main flaw is the Primords, who are there purely to frighten kids. Their weirdly alchemical change from humans to beasts, thanks to the touch of a magical potion from deep inside the Earth, does little to boost the sf credentials of the story - although it is grist to the mill of a Paul Magrs or our own Robert Smith, who would argue that a coldly rational worldview was never in fact the show's forte (an argument only slightly undone by the negative reaction to them displayed by most fans - but probably all that's really missing is a bit of quasi-scientific-babble to make us accept them).
Despite all these problems -and I'm acutely irritated only by the monarchist one -, I like this story. At heart it is anti-fascist and you certainly can't disagree with that. It's true to the Doctor's character, showing him as desperate to get away from Earth, and pitting him against the villains entirely alone (even more so than in The Deadly Assassin the Doctor is on his own here - Liz Shaw2 takes a lot longer to come around than Spandrell and Engin). It's superbly directed, and that more than anything is what makes it a success. The sequence showing the Doctor's emergence into the alternative Earth is memorably frightening, like a bad dream or a Twilight Zone episode. Everything's the same yet everything's horribly different. It's a classic bit of Doctor Who. The entire 'Earth2' section of the narrative (not added at the last minute as fans persist in believing) exists purely to create that sense of absolutely suffocating tension when the Doctor returns to our Earth and can't get Stahlman to halt the drilling. It's a tremendous buildup to inform the drama of a single scene, and offhand I can't think of any Doctor story that accumulates a greater sense of tension. You're virtually yelling at the TV for them to stop. The constant sound of drilling is irritating, but it's meant to be - you have to believe that this is really happening and the constant oppressive noise helps put you in that place.
Mildly overrated this story may be, but I'll take it over any other Pertwee adventure. And I assuredly don't like it for nostalgic reasons - I was 22 when I first watched this one, and I'm someone who finds most of the Pertwee era unwatchably dull and repetitive. Inferno simply a gripping story well told, and it leaves you with plenty to think about. It's Doctor Who at its near-best.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 9/7/02
Season 7 of Doctor Who was a rewriting of the format. Earthbound adventures, a more adult tone, realistic settings, etc. This is an obvious and well known fact. And in the 4 stories of this season 7, we get variations and brand new twists of the new format, just show how flexible the earthbound setting could be.
Inferno deals with a previously unknown DW concept, the parallel universe. The Doctor, while experimenting with the TARDIS console, gets shot into a parallel Earth, where England has been overtaken by fascists. After failing to save the parallel Earth, he manages to come back to the "real" Earth, where, in typical DW fashion, The Doctor manages to barely save the day.
Like the other three 7 part stories in season 7, we get more shades of gray than black and white evil. Stahlman is obstinate, and narrow-minded, but not evil. It is his lack of reason that creates the crisis. Events spiral out of control on both Earths because of his obstinance -- magnified by the facist politics on the parallel Earth.
The free will theme finally comes home with the great speech that the Doctor makes in episode 7. It is hinted at, and shown by the flashbacks to the "real" Earth, shown to be a bit behind. The flashbacks also nice serve as a way to fill in missing information in small, non-info-dump doses.
The acting in the serial is top notch all around, with extra praise for Nick Courtney for the Brigadier/Brigade Leader contrast. Pertwee is rock solid, and Caroline John is brilliant as well. I am a big Liz Shaw fan, and I always felt disappointment that they didn't give the character a longer run.
Inferno hangs together well. The opinion as to whether or not the parallel Earth scenes are just padding is immaterial. For once, the ability to draw the story out in a longer format allows for the development of themes and character.
Infernno is one of the best stories in the show's run, well acted, well written and filled with great ideas and a solid theme.
A Review by Mike Morris 8/12/02
Hmm, lets see... some men turn into green hairy monsters, there's a lot of drilling, and some parallel universe shenanigans that don't contribute a hell of a lot to the plot. All this, spread over seven episodes, and a lot of people shouting at each other as opposed to anything really happening. Now come on, can we really claim that this is the stuff of greatness?
Well; yes, we can. It's not hugely controversial to say that Inferno really is one of the greatest Doctor Who stories. It's not a uniformly held view, but then, few enough views are. A few people say, more or less, that they can't see what makes this story special or why it's a cut above the rest. Fair enough; everyone's entitled to their own opinion and all that.
I don't think anyone would say that this story is utter rubbish, and forgive my lack of tolerance, but anyone who might say that is a fool. But what makes it so special? What makes it so wonderful?
Many things. Some of these are superficial, such as the compelling, taut direction of Douglas Camfield. Other elements, such as Nick Courtney's amazing performance as his other self, are functions of elements other than the script. In fact, there's nothing particularly new or imaginative in the script at all; Star Trek had already explored the 'mirror universe' idea, and the idea that the earth might be destroyed by a new power source is hardly spectacularly inventive either.
At the heart of what I think makes this story great, the following lines make a contribution.
'Krakatoa... the volcanic eruptions of 1738.'
'Some sort of retrogression of the body cells...'
'The earth will dissolve into a fury of molten lava and toxic gases, just as it was in the beginning.'
'Do you want to end your lives fighting like animals?'
'Then you won't feel the bullets when we shoot you.'
'The world's going up in flames, and they're still playing toy soldiers!'
And the obvious one; 'That's the sound of this planet screaming out its rage!'
Those lines all have something in common, aside from their beauty and the wonderful way they're delivered by a really excellent cast. They are all about regression to savagery; about people behaving like animals, giving in to primal instincts, about the power of the animal anger inside all of us. What makes Inferno work, from my point of view, is that it isn't about nasty aliens that want to destroy us because they're inhuman. It's about the inhumanity of human beings; it is very overtly about the nasty monster within all of us. It successfully turns this idea into a tale that works as a horror story, a political anecdote and a love story. And in doing so it produces something tense, claustrophobic, and downright compelling. And given that the previous year Patrick Troughton was fighting the Quarks, it is simply an amazing story. Although I would maintain that The Ambassadors of Death is, for its time, the best story of that season, it has dated in a way that Inferno never will. If Inferno aired today now no-one would bat an eyelid. It's that good.
Horror story first. It is, more than anything, a zombie story. Doctor Who never really did zombie stories as such, even though it frequently turned to the question of possession; in fact the closest it came was the creation of the Cybermen, who are a sci-fi equivalent of the living dead. But Inferno's Primords are hugely reminiscent of zombies, particularly in the earlier episodes when they are all half-transformed. One long-distance shot of a half-transformed soldier appearing over the horizon is very reminiscent of the famous shot of a zombie drunkenly lurching across a graveyard towards the camera in Night of the Living Dead. And it's just as disturbing.
Night of the Living Dead, by the way, is a fantastic film and everyone in the universe should watch it. Watch Dawn of the Dead while you're at it. Then watch another fantastic film, the recent Danny Boyle effort 28 Days Later. That's a variation on a zombie story too, but has even more in common with Inferno because it's also about rage and savagery. If you've seen it already, you may have noticed the similarities yourself. If you haven't, go and watch it now.
And, like 28 Days Later, Inferno is a disturbing because its creatures are savage and animal and not far removed from ourselves. Even though the fully transformed Primords look a bit crap, really, and have some terrible false teeth, they are incredibly effective monsters because of what they represent. Animal violence. Idiot savagery. Real horror, the horror of twenty-somethings looking for a fight at two in the morning. Fury and anger and stupidity and ignorance. One might even look at the thing that sustains them - heat - as a metaphor for rage. And the power of the earth's core is an extension of that metaphor. The idea that the planet is screaming out its rage is so powerful and terrifying, but it's really just an enlargement of the notion of untempered fury.
And then this is enlarged in the varying behaviour of the people themselves, which is where the parallel universe comes in.
The origin of the parallel universe is by now well known; a suggestion by Terrance Dicks to fill the story out to seven episodes. Be that as it may - and just because the script editor suggested it shouldn't demean it as an idea - the parallel universe stands up, not as a meaningless sidetrack, but as a very intelligent enlargement of the story's themes. It may contribute nothing to the plot, but it contributes a lot to the story's central idea; that everyone has their nasty side.
The parallel earth is every bit as savage as the Primords, and worse, it's savage in a relentlessly organised way. All that differentiates the Brigadier from a common thug is the fact that he carries out his torture according to procedure; as the Doctor says, 'you can't kill me without filling in all the forms.' One of the joys of the seven episode format is that there is room in Inferno for all sorts of scenes to reinforce this, such as where Platoon Under-Leader Benton organises his men into a neat little line while the world blows up around him.
And yet these are still recognisably the friendly faces of UNIT. Liz Shaw is still Liz Shaw, brunette or not (and by golly she looks great as a brunette), replete with thoughtfulness, sarcasm, and a superior wit. And while the Brigadier seems a world away from the Brigade Leader, the scene where he roars at Benton shows him being uncomfortably similar. Were it not for the half-smile at the end of that scene, he'd be almost indistinguishable from his evil counterpart. As the series would state much, much later and much less effectively; there is evil in all of us.
And there's good in all of us, too. The third major element of Inferno is the relationship between Greg Sutton and Petra Williams, the two characters who remain more or less constant in both universes. It's the least successful of the three storylines, although a lot of that is because the love story isn't something Doctor Who - or even sci-fi generally - is particularly good at. It's plausible here though, because of the extraordinary circumstances the two characters are under. And it's the only bit of sneaking optimism in the story, a counterpoint to the main thrust; it says quietly that sometimes throwing off our restraints can be a good thing. Sutton and Petra both constantly hide their true characters, Petra with her cold exterior and Sutton with his cringe-inducing laddish charm.
( - or rather, laddism's 1969 patronising and parochial older cousin -)
Neither character is hugely likeable initially, but both become the people with the most integrity and courage. Sutton starts off with that awful 'dash off a few letters' chat-up line (and what about that cravat?), but ends up willing to sacrifice his life for a man he's only just met and spitting out the fury that the audience feels. And then there's Petra, standing up to a man with a gun and at times coldly showing her contempt ('you go if you want to, Brigade Leader'). Their relationship is similar to the Han Solo / Princess Leia love story in The Empire Strikes Back, but played utterly straight. It's nowhere near as good, of course, because it doesn't feature Harrison Ford or Princess Leia. Also, the idea of a cold-woman-concealing-inner-warmth-and-frailty is cliched by now, with Petra turning to her man for support when the chips are down. It's all a touch sexist at times. But it's a love story that ends beautifully, the same ending on both worlds; two people admitting they want to be together. Sutton gives Petra a lift to London, and the two hold each other as the world dissolves into fire, but it's the same ending in different settings. It's what gives that last statement of the Doctor's ('Nothing like a good happy ending is there?') its poignancy.
Pertwee's magnificent here, by the way. There's all the usual pomposity, but it's counterbalanced here by fury and sadness. Episode Four's ripping cliffhanger aside, a lot of his finest moments come when he's saying very little. The quiet way he tells Liz about the parallel world is memorable ('terrible things are happening there, Liz... terrible things...), and so is the 'free will is not an illusion' scene, with two men regarding the Doctor with polite confusion as he ponders the fates of worlds. When he talks leisurely with the Brigadier in Episode Two about Krakatoa, the scene is far more effective than it has any right to be. Best of all though one of the final scenes with the Brigade Leader. 'Oh very philosophical, Doctor, thank you very much, I knew you tried!' says this nasty, cowardly man. Pertwee doesn't respond, but he doesn't have to; the contempt and disgust on his face is, in spite of a visually memorable story, the one image from Inferno I remember most.
In support is a guest cast giving their all, and the regulars absolutely on top of their game. Benton is a damn effective bad guy and Caroline John is as wonderful as always; why the hell did they get rid of Liz Shaw? All that aside, though, it's Nicholas Courtney who really steals the show. Given the buffoon that the Brigadier would later become, his performance as the Brigade Leader is simply breathtaking, partcularly when the character cracks and is revealed as the coward he is in later episodes. Famous for playing a military idiot who likes blowing things up, Nick Courtney should be best remembered for bringing to life one of Doctor Who's most frightening monsters.
Other great things; the direction, the use of stock footage, the orange camera filters, the noise of the drilling, the noise of the Primords, the amazing use of sound generally, the location filming, the way that Petra only realises she's doomed when Greg Sutton tries to lie to her, Stahlmann himself, the close-ups, the Doctor's interrogation, the cliffhangers, the bittersweet conclusion, and many more than I care to list.
There's something stolid about Inferno, something 'classic' about it. I tend to be sceptical about stories that are referred to as 'classic'. And I tend to be sceptical about anything with Pertwee in it as well (you're right, Watson, I don't really like The Daemons that much). All this is a roundabout way of saying that I'd probably be more negative if I could. But I can't.
So I'll have to say that Inferno is an astonishing achievement. In fact I'll go further, because we shouldn't forget that this was made on a shoestring in 1969. As such it stands out as, for its time, one of the greatest televised science fiction stories ever.
So, on balance, it's worth a look.