The Ultimate Treasure
The Caves of Androzani
|Dates||Mar. 8, 1984 -
Mar. 16, 1984
With Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant.
Written by Robert Holmes. Script-edited by Eric Saward.
Directed by Graeme Harper. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.
|Synopsis:The Doctor and Peri become entangled in a power struggle between rival powers over control of a youth restorative.|
Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Dennis McDermott 24/3/97
This episode has been mentioned as Peter Davison's best work, and perhaps one of the best episodes ever, with considerable justification. Nearly everything in this episode works.
It starts with a superb story. Caught in a civil war fought primarily between a greedy monopolistic capitalist and a evil genius scientist the former had wronged, and dying from a toxemia to boot, the Doctor is forced to improvise just to get himself and Peri out of the situation. The story is suspenseful, with a number of twists to keep us interested. (My favorite being when Timmin informs Morgus that he'd been "outted".) It also has one of the best climaxes of any Doctor Who story, even without the excellent regeneration scene. But the story works at a deeper level also: it is warning us against the superficialness of the main characters... the greed of Morgus and the vanity of Sharaz Jek.
In addtion, this acting excels in this story: I can't think of any weak performances in it.
This is not to say it is perfect: the scene when the Doctor has to get the bat's milk (sounds like he needs to concoct some witch's brew) is a bit slow. But that's a minor defect. This is a highly recommendable story.
A Review by Cody Salis 25/10/97
An interesting story from beginning to end. First of all, the effects are excellent, especially the mudbursts that came in the last quarter of the story. Just prior to the regeneration sequence, a mudburst goes off just after the TARDIS dematerializes. Talk about a close shave!
The regeneration sequence is one of the best. Usually when the Doctor changes his form, we see a light and then it gets bright and the new actor is briefly seen. However in this regeneration, the Doctor's body is drawn into that purple light. And seconds later the explosion and a new Doctor (Colin Baker) appear before our eyes.
Sharaz Jek is unjustifiably labelled as a villain. Yes, he kidnapped the Doctor and Peri, but who helped the Doctor get the antidote to Spectrox Toxemia? And Jek told the Doctor where the Queen Bat would be in the lower caves, and then helped keep Peri alive until the Doctor returned. Jek strongly reminded me of The Phantom of the Opera, especially considering the mask and the horrendous features behind it. Jek in my view is a villain made into a hero when he helps the Doctor and finally has his revenge on Morgus and Stoz.
Stotz and his team of gunrunners were the best of the villains. Even when the mudbursts started, Stotz was determined to defeat both the Doctor and Jek.
Peter Davison did an excellent job on his final story for his era. You realize that he is really leaving the show when he says his final lines in the TARDIS. I liked this story and would highly recommend it on a rainy day.
The Greatest Story Ever Told by Matt Michael 24/4/98
As my title suggests, I'm of the opinion that The Caves of Androzani is Who's finest hour, its last gasp of greatness before the declining years of Baker and McCoy.
There are several reasons for this-- firstly, of course, it's Davison's final story, but unlike other regeneration serials it stands as a classic in its own right. The script is also Robert Holmes' best-- it may include elements of previous stories (such as The Power of Kroll and The Talons of Weng-Chiang), but it is filled with great characters. True, most are merely cyphers-- Morgus represents the inhumanity of the corporations (a favourite Holmes theme), and Stotz the sadism of the gun-running trade, however they merely provide the backdrop for the Doctor's desperate fight against death. The direction is some of the best ever done for the series-- Graeme Harper's fresh, innovative style results in some lovely touches-- such as Morgus's asides to the camera. Nicola Bryant is impressive as Peri-- I wish that the relationship between her and the fifth Doctor had been developed as she is certainly his best companion. Perhaps the only downside is the magma beast, and that's not nearly as bad as its reputation.
And, of course, it's Davison's best shot at the Doctor-- finally allowed to play it the way he wanted with doses of flippant humour combined with an overriding concern for his friend-- if only he'd always been allowed to do it his way. In fact, I am tempted to say that this is the definitive portrayal of the Doctor-- sacrificing himself not in some bold but distant universe-saving showdown, but alone for his friend. The cliff-hanger of Part Three is the best scene in the series-- the Doctor's single-minded determination to survive lends him the mania usually reserved for the villains-- "I owe it to my friend to try because I got her into this, so you see I'm not going to let you stop me now!" What I particularly adore about this story is that it is not about overthrowing tyranny-- Androzani is as corrupt after the Doctor and Peri leave as it was when they arrived-- but about survival. From Sharaz Jek and the troopers to Stotz and even Morgus, everyone is involved in a struggle to live.
And the regeneration itself is certainly the most emotional, if not the most technically accomplished, of all. Davison is remarkable in these final scenes, as he carries Peri to the TARDIS and forces her to drink the bat's milk before collapsing. It is fitting that the fifth Doctor's last word should be "Adric".
The Caves of Androzani is a masterpiece of style and substance complimenting one another to create a story as near to perfection as the series had managed for years. 10/10
Spectacular Who by Michael Hickerson 12/5/98
The Davison years were my first introduction to Who, and thus, hold a special place in my heart. However, for my first five or so years of being a fan, for some reason or another I kept missing the final story of the era. So, when I finally did get to see it, I was anxious, exciting, and had expectatons so high I never expected they would be met.
They were. And the best part is, they were exceeded.
After years of trying and coming very close, the Davison years end on perfection. Everything in this story is truly spectacular, from Robert Holmes's triumphant return to Who to Graeme Harper's inspired direction to the wonderful performances by each member of the cast, it all works out to be spectacular Who.
The story isn't one of simple black and white, good and evil: it's one with shades of gray. Holmes gives us his usual three-dimensional characters, all of whom are linked together in blood. Morgus's mechanization to seize power through his stash of Spectrox as well as his playing both side of the struggle to insure his supply and keep in power. His scenes are some of the most truly chilling in all of Who.
Morgus is briliantly counterpointed by the defromed but ultimatley human, Sherez Jek. Jek spends much of the story attempting to woo Peri as he attempts to rid himself of the Doctor's invovlement and seek his revenge on Morgus. It's a brilliant counterpoint and shows one of Holmes's stronger duos.
The story is a brilliant one, but it's added to some brilliant direction. Graeme Harper makes the caves sets seem truly alien as well as setting up some brilliant wipes and dissolves between screens.
But what really captures my interest in the story is Davison's finest performance as the Doctor. After watching the fifth Doctor go through the turmoils of re-generation, the discovery of who is, and his maturing, we get a calm, self-assured, resisilent Doctor here. He has a grim determination tempered with the fifth Doctor's humanity and optimism. Davison delivers the goods in his performance, making it one of the all time best in Doctor Who.
Everything comes together so well that it's perfect. Truly Doctor Who at it's finest.
(In 500 Words or Less): I Love The Caves of Androzani because... by Eddie Robson 27/5/98
There are so many great things about this story, it's hard to know where to start. Firstly, there are three people who make it so special: Robert Holmes, Graeme Harper and Peter Davison.
Holmes, returning to the fold, combines all the elements that made his best stories so good. It's full of those much-vaunted double-acts; Morgus and Timmin, Chellak and Salateen, Stotz and Krelper. There are only ten speaking parts, but they all benefit from the depth which Holmes creates in just a couple of lines, and are all done justice by an exceptionally good cast.
However, it's a little different from your average Holmes. Indeed, it's different from most other Who stories in that the Doctor doesn't fight the villains. The Androzani system is rotten to the core, the closest thing to a sympathetic character being Sharaz Jek, but the Doctor is too busy trying to save his life, and of course Peri's. However, he acts as a catalyst; if he'd never turned up, Morgus wouldn't have got so paranoid, Jek wouldn't have started taking risks and Salateen wouldn't have escaped. It would have remained the stalemate from which only the bad guys were profiting.
The fact that the Doctor has no time to consider anything but his impending death makes this a superb regeneration story. Death is everywhere in this story. There are the Androzani colonists, addicted to spectrox; the army, wasting lives on their futile war; the creatures who live in the caves are all dying; and the fact that, except Peri and Timmin, everyone dies at the end.
Suitably, Harper directs it at a cracking pace, playing to the show's strengths (such as showing as little of the Magma Beast as possible). There are loads of great set pieces, though I would have ended Part One not on the shot of the machine guns, but a few seconds later, showing the two bodies go slack. But that might have been too gruesome for a family audience. Harper's also one of the few Who directors to make use of crossfades.
Peter Davison, however, steals the show. His performance in this story is possibly the best ever portrayal of the Doctor, going from coolly mocking Chellak and Jek to telling Stotz that he would rather die than hand over control of the ship. (Incidentally, this is the best cliff-hanger ever.) The final images are breathtaking. The squabbling villains murder each other as the cave system is swept with fire. Jek's final order to the android Salateen, "Hold me". The mud bursts as the TARDIS departs. And, of course, the regeneration sequence.
One small fault; why doesn't the Doctor drink his half of the bat's milk as soon as he gets it, saving the other half for Peri? Maybe he wants to make damned sure she survives, and if she needed it all then so be it. But this is a small criticism of a Who story which I never, ever tire of watching. One of the very best.
Only OK by Ari Lipsey 11/6/98
I actually did some research for this review. I scowered the Internet (for about 10 minutes, then I got bored) and looked for some deep criticism on The Caves of Androzani. Couldn't find any. So this may be a first, and I do realize I tend to be over critical of Doctor Who, but The Caves of Androzani is far from flawless.
Something tells me that if Robert Holmes had not wrote this, somebody would have pointed out by now that the first three episodes consist of the Doctor and Peri getting captured by one party, then another and another, to explain different strands of the plot. This is hardly a new device, in fact it's probably closer to Who cliche. I never found Peter Davison all that interesting, and although his performance in this story is quite admirable, I don't think I can take him sitting on his ass for the majority of the story.
The third episode is perhaps the worst. The Doctor is captured by Stotz, and we spend twenty minutes flying to Androzani Major and back. The Doctor is tied up, and Stotz leaves him alone in the control room (I would have done the same thing-- really!) Of course the Doctor's going to meddle! Shouldn't one of the gunrunners have kept an eye on him? Perhaps the most frustrating thing is nothing happens. The ship just flies around in space, and I think this was done to give the Doctor time for the spectrox toxemia to take effect in preparation for the ending. Or it was just used to take up the time of a third episode. The story probably only has enough plot for three episodes, but the Doctor does four, so we are subjected to this overlong ship sequence.
The characters are very interesting, since there is no force of good, or force of evil. They all have their own agendas. Chellak wants to win a war for pride, Jek wants revenge, Morgus and Stotz are greedy, and even Timmin has dreams of her own.
The performances are pretty much well done. Of course there's Sharaz Jek, played extremly well by Christopher Gable. I also really liked Salateen (Robert Glenister), especially when he tells the Doctor and Peri they're dying.
For those who sit through the first three episodes, you're treated to wonderfully done final episode full of emotion and suspense (I should point out there is a bit too much violence). The regeneration scene is the best one done to date, including the TV movie.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 20/12/98
There isn`t a lot to find fault with here, as The Caves of Androzani is a masterpiece of Doctor Who. Robert Holmes provides a script that tries to redefine the Fifth Doctor`s character -- certainly there are new traits here -- his heroic qualities (something reused to equal effect by Paul McGann) in particular are very much in evidence.
The story itself is one of ultimate tragedy, amidst gun-running, double crossing and the like (and wouldn`t be out of place in an over the top soap opera). That said, it does add an extra frission to the already tense atmosphere. The only problems with the script are minor: The Doctor gets captured and escapes too often (e.g. more than once), Peri is given virtually nothing to do ,the Magma creature is unconvincing and the reappearance of the android Salateen isn`t explained at the story`s climax.
Of the supporting cast, Sharaz Jek is by far the most interesting, and the counterpoint between the characters of Jek and Morgus is evidence enough of this, largely due to Christopher Gable and John Normington`s excellent portrayals.
The Caves of Androzani is The Doctor`s tale however, and Peter Davison`s breathtaking performance here shows what could have been done with the Fifth Doctor had Davison stayed on for another year. And it is for this reason alone that The Caves of Androzani is worth it`s weight in gold. Coupled with a competent if somewhat overdone regeneration (every companion from his era and the enemy he faced most often), this is Doctor Who at it`s best. Yes, The Caves of Androzani is overrated, but it isn`t hard to see why.
A Review by Daniel Spelner 18/4/00
After an absence of six years Robert Holmes returned to the show with a script that underlined, in no uncertain terms, that he was the 'grand-master' of Doctor Who. Holmes incorporates gun-running, personal animosities, dramatic characters, expert plot twists, desperation, heroism, greed, hatred and, of course, a vein of sly wit in this exceptional piece of BBC drama. Seldom was Dr Who approached with such belief, enthusiasm and earnestly by its directors as that which Graeme Harper brings to this amazing production. His dynamic, stylish direction lifts the whole script beyond expectations, and he obtains highly-charged performances from the guest cast. Most prominent being Christopher Gable's impassioned, haunted Sharaz Jek, whose sterling performance combines both fear and pity. This story also brings the Davison era to a close. Peter Davison, by this time, played the leading part with certitude, chivalry and valor - he was, indeed, the Doctor. A truly momentous grand finale.
The Ebay Batch Part 4 by Robert Thomas 13/4/01
Well, a right bunch of classics in this batch aren't there. Fair to say a real mixed bunch and I'm still not all the way through. On with the review.
I hadn't seen this story for a few years. I got Claws Of Axos for Christmas, opened the box and inside was Caves. Needless to say I viewed it before my parents returned it and enjoyed it. Viewed years later it still stands up well.
I think we as fans tend to take how good this story is for granted. Yes some people have mentioned that its over-hyped (Will the Discontinuity Guide team please stand up?) but Caves deserves to take its place alongside the greats of Doctor Who. Having only seen it once before I remembered most, but of course little details slip from the memory. It does everything right, everyone putting in 100% effort from Robert Holmes to the production team to the actors. Watching it after so long I was able to re-enjoy those moments we all know and love and rediscover those little details such as The Doctor avoiding the mud slide, witty dialogue and plot elements that I had forgotten.
Out of season 21 this is where we see the most of The Doctor that Peter Davison wanted to play. Saving the best performance until last is fine, but I think there is no fan that wouldn't have wanted another season or at least a story from him. His dialogue is some of the best he was ever given and as things get even more desperate during the story his performance gets better. He makes the cliffhanger to part 3 which is one of my personal favorites. His sacrifice to save Peri is one of the moments that characterize not just his, but THE Doctor. That part of his personality that is there no matter which regeneration he is in. Of course mention must also go to Peri, Jek and Stotz for excellent performances.
To sum up a classic story with Peter getting a good send off and Colin a good entrance. One of the classics and its in a straight dog fight with The War Games over which is the nest regeneration story.
A Review by Alan Thomas 5/5/01
Well, what can I say that hasn't been said already about The Caves Of Androzani? It's wonderful. It's fantastic. It's got the best structure, acting, direction, story, pacing, atmosphere, effects, drama, cliffhangers, regeneration, conclusion, characterisation, and power than any other story from Dr Who history. It's perfect. Peter Davison gives his best performance as the Doctor, and we're sad to see him go. In typical Robert Holmes style, all the characters are killed off. Exceptions: Timmon and Peri, with the latter coming very close to it. Usually, the Doctor would be in this list, but this time he isn't.
Christopher Gable is superb as Holmes' greatest creation, Sharaz Jek. The rest of the cast are also magnificent.
Also of note is the fact that this is the last well-written Dr Who story by Robert Holmes. Many would say the series died after this, and it never recovered. It may be an accurate statement.
Davison's death is the only truly dramatic death scene for the Doctor that we ever had. He sacrifices his life to save Peri's life, and his last words are very moving, particularly as his very last word is "Adric." The regeneration scene is superb, and the cameos by all the 5th Doctor's previous companions are a touch of genius. The Master's presence also helps to emphasise the drama. When Colin Baker emerges, he summarises his Doctor's personality with a few short lines. A great ending to a great era, and a great start to a flawed one.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 27/9/01
They say that Doctor Who would not be Doctor Who without the Monsters. I’ve always felt this to be a sweeping, generalizing statement – it kind of discounts so much that is great about Doctor Who, and focuses on a lot that is frankly embarrassing. If Doctor Who was about the Monsters then this story will be remembered for the Magma Beast, and that is indeed a travesty.
There are, however, different Monsters on show here. There's Sharaz Jek, the ultimate Dr Who Villain – a bitter, twisted, vengeful monster. There’s Morgus – a scheming, egotistical, callous monster. There’s Stotz – a money-grabbing, low-life monster. Monsters, villains, baddies – call them what you will – they form the great trinity of nastiness and evil in this epic adventure.
The Doctor has never been played better by Peter Davison, ironic considering this to be his last story. His teaming with Peri works brilliantly. His vulnerability, so lauded previously, turns to heroism in the great tradition of the meek. Davisons’ Doctors’ greatest hour and a half. Again ironically he has little control over events – they move around him, he and Peri simply being in the way. The battle is between the 3 villains mentioned previously. The Jek/Morgus/Stotz Triangle is what drives the story.
Of the 3 it is Jek who lingers longest in the memory. He creeps around in the background for the first part, a shadow. When he does appear he is even more engrossing. The bitterness bubbling under the surface all the time, ready to erupt at any moment. Many villains have graced the long History of Dr Who. For me Jek is the best of them all. Christopher Gable is quite magnificent throughout. His attraction to Peri hints at his humanity, contrasting well to his twisted soul. Nobody has ever done Phantom of the Opera this well.
The story is resplendent with supporting Characters – all very good. Krelper, Chellak, Salateen. I can find no weak link at all.
I never tire of watching Caves of Androzani. Classic it certainly is. Never has a story been better directed, better acted or better realized. The atmosphere of tension you can cut with a knife. The music perfectly compliments the action providing an eerie background, the script is rich with Shakespearean overtones, seething with drama, rich with expectancy.
It’s the ultimate example of Doctor Who at its glorious best. 10/10
A Review by Gareth McG 21/1/02
Peter Davison was my first ever hero. I loved his gentle nature and his style. I was only six years old when the Fifth Doctor died, young enough to believe that the Doctor was a real person and that he really had died. It really felt as if I'd lost a very close friend. It was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my youth. The regeneration is the only moment from the programme that I remember vividly. The confusion and uncertainty evident on the Doctor's face as he was passing away was too much for me to take at that age. Along with the companions I too was willing him to survive and for a moment I thought we might carry him through. I could never forgive the Master for lacing the already uncertain Doctor's mind with all those negative thoughts and making him succumb to death. For once evil had won out over good and it was horribly painful.
When I heard that The Caves of Androzani was being released on DVD I just had to have it to relive one of the most poignant moments of my childhood. Eighteen years later I found this story as gripping, if not more so, as when I watched it as a kid. It's an extremely grim tale. The energy and non-stop action make for compulsive viewing while the sets - from the desolate, desert landscape of Androzani to the dark, gloomy caves - are top notch. Once the Doctor realises that he and Peri are slowly dying his demeanour changes from being cool and detached to being utterly desperate in this race against time. Davison's is surely the only portrayal of the Doctor caring enough to put his life on the line for his friend and Peri truly is his "friend". Robert Holmes, with his excellent use of android clones, keeps us guessing all the way and Davison survives several hairy moments when we all know that any one of them could ultimately turn out to be his last.
You could often go an entire season without having as many good characters as are in this story. For the most part we feel some affection for them because it is a society plagued by distrust and paranoia. Sharez Jek is a tragic character. His bitterness is understandable. Narrowly escaping being burnt to death by Morgus, his body is so badly scorched that he has to wear a head-to-toe costume to hide it. He is resigned to living life as a recluse convinced that no one, other than his pre-programmed androids, could ever need or want him because of his ghastly appearance. He is starved of not only love but of human company. Evil is his only means of survival. Peri, while obviously frightened and intimidated by Jek, is sympathetic towards his position and does all that she can to lighten his burden and transmit some sort of feeling towards him. She is like a girl who wants to dump a boyfriend but in the nicest possible way. Jek, appreciative of this, shows his compassionate side in a desperate attempt to save her. All he wants in his moments before dying is for someone to hold him, even if it's just by an android.
Chellak, to a lesser degree, is another tragic character. Forever unsure of himself, he wants to be seen to be doing the right thing, even if that means killing innocent people. However he does not seem right for the job being far too indecisive, often letting his conscience get the better of him and being easily led by those more cunning around him. Salateen and Krelper are similarly decent people but they are doing a job and must obey orders. Despite all his self-serving principles one even feels sorry for Morgus when his kingdom collapses around him. It is power in a corrupt society that has driven him and suddenly he has nothing. Stotz, brilliantly played by Maurice Roeves, is perhaps the most interesting character in this story. He is a cunning military hard man completely devoid of compassion, almost like another regeneration of the Master and seems to kill for no reason at all. He is utterly ruthless without having any means to an end and smiles with glee as he is shooting his victims.
Asides from the dreadful looking Magma Creature, which is of course part and parcel of the attraction of Doctor Who, this is an almost faultless story. The regeneration sequence remains a rather emotional moment for me but one that fills me with pride rather than sadness nowadays. That Davison should go out in such a stylish, unselfish manner is truly fitting for his portrayal. Doctor Who could never be the same again.
Holmes has recovered from his dark ages by Mike Jenkins 28/1/02
One of the top five of Davison's era easily. Peri is much better characterized here then in here debut story. All the cast are superb and the magma monster is wonderful. From Morgus to Sharez Jek and everyone else in between. Even Colin Baker's few moments in the final part of the story are simply wonderful. You can tell that Peri never expected this. Some compainions join the doctor willingly (such as Leela), some inadvertently (such as Tegan) others are just thrown into it like Peri. I don't care what anyone says. Peri worked better with the Fifth Doctor. Colin's quint essential companion was Mel because her fiesty personality kept his garishness down. The production is flawless, achieving a degree of realism we don't usually see this side of glossiness. What makes the story shine all the more is it is surrounded by two fairley average adventures which allow us to appreciate how wonderful it is all the more. I have never really been a fan of the make up. Sharez Jek looks like something out of A Clockwork Orange and Morgus looks like an ex-Lynard Skynard member but this is a mere quibble and isn't Holmes' fault at all. A classic and that's pretty much all there is to it.
The Ultimate Who story? BWAH-HA-HA! by David Barnes 6/2/02
I recently bought this story on DVD even though I already had it on video. Now, this review is on the story itself not the DVD (although all the DVDs I have seen have all been brilliant, in terms of extras and menus etc.).
I don't know why everyone raves on about this story. I have heard it called "the ultimate Davison story" (my favourite is Time-Flight) and "the ultimate Dr Who story". The ultimate Dr Who story? I don't think so.
The plot, I think, is quite thin. This seems to be another story in which the Doctor and his companion/s don't really need to be there. Let's follow in the footsteps of the Dr and Peri for a moment:
Episode 1: The Dr and Peri arrive and after a while, get captured by General Chellak's troops. They are said to be spies and are to be shot. Yes, that's it. That's all they do.
Episode 2: They get taken to Sharaz Jek's little underground house (he switches them for two androids). Sharaz really likes the look of Peri. Later, both the Doc and Peri realise that they have caught a disease. Both escape with another bloke who dosn't like to blink. They get seperated and Peri is taken away by Blinky. The Doctor hides from a big monster wearing a cape.
Episode 3: Peri gets taken to Chellek and near the end of the episode is reclaimed by Sharaz Jek. Well, that's her out of the plot for 25 minutes. The Doctor walks away from the Magma Monster and meets up with Jek and a bunch of gun-runners. The Doctor is menaced by them and some androids. He is taken by the gun-runners to a big space ship that is going to Androzani Major. Near the end, he takes control of the spaceship (because the gun runners leave him chained, un-guarded, in the control room) and does a kamikase mission back to Minor.
Episode 4: Peri lies around Jek's house doing nothing. The Doctor successfully lands the ship and runs away. He gets shot at and so runs away. He gets caught by a mudburst and so runs away. He meets up with Jek. All this takes 20 minutes. Then, in the last five minutes, the Doctor goes into some catacombs, gets some milk of the queen bat, goes back to Jek's place, gets Peri, carries her all the way to the TARDIS and cures Peri. Peri spends some time showing off her cleavage and the shock of this makes the Doctor regenerate (only joking! He dies of the disease because he gives the whole phial to Peri).
Did you notice that neither influence any events? They talk to a few characters but that's it! They have nothing to do with all the political stuff going on with Morgus, Morgus's death, Stotz's death, Jek's death and all the other characters death's. This is only my view but I like the Doctor and co. to actually do something in their stories.
The acting is very good, with the man who plays Salateen being particulary good. The Magma Monster and the androids look a bit dodgy but no dodgier than the Mandrels or Timelash androids.
The regeneration is good, and episode three's cliffhanger is one of my favourites. But the lack of plot gets in the way of my enjoyment of the story. I prefer The Awakening, Planet of Fire and even Warriors of the Deep from this season!
I seem to be the only person who dosn't really like this story much but there's always one isn't there? 6/10
A Review by Terrence Keenan 9/5/02
Caves is one of the few stories that fandom has little arguments about, as it has been placed in classic status since it first came on the air back in March of 1984.
But does it stand up?
Hard to say.
The most striking aspect of Caves is the direction by Graeme Harper, who uses all sorts of visual tricks: oblique angles, moody lighting, quick cuts and even a dissolve montage in episode 1. Even small stylistic touches, such as having Morgus say lines directly into the camera as an aside give this serial a much different feel.
The performances are variable, ranging from Peter Davison's brilliant Doctor to Christopher Gable's OTT (rightly so) Sharaz Jek to John Normington's understated, and frankly annoying, Morgus. Nicola Bryant is all right, but doesn't do much except for scream and get lusted over -- signs of an appalling trend.
As mentioned, Peter Davison puts on a bravura performance. He gets to be heroic and imperfect all at once. We also get to see Davison have some great Doctor flippant moments, rarely seen during his era. We also get hints of how much better his era might have been had they given him only one companion, rather than saddle him with many. His interaction with Peri is wonderful.
The story itself doesn't make much sense. Robert Holmes's sense of solid plot is missing here, although it seems he's taking nods from The Phantom of the Opera (Jek) and Yojimbo (revenge drama). If anything, Caves seems to be shown as an allegory of how dangerous the Doctor's curiosity can be, as it results in regeneration. Five minutes into the story, the Doctor and Peri are arrested for gun-running and infected by raw Spectrox. All because the Doc wants to follow some track in the sand that he finds right outside the TARDIS doors.
In the end, Caves is definitely style over substance, but a very
worthy tale and defnintely Davison's best by a long shot. The worst part
of watching caves is that it shows what the Davison era could have been
rather than what it turned out to be.
'Is this wise?', I ask myself.... oh well.
Right... Greatest Doctor Who Ever... Graeme Harper is a directorial genius... Peter Davison gives best performance ever... Bob Holmes returns to the show he molded in his image to show the newbies how it's done... and soon... yadda yadda yadda...
Time for a history lesson. This was my favorite Davison story a long time ago, but for purely spiteful reasons. I didn't like the 5th Doctor at first, or his super serious stories, and, well, the Wet Vet got whacked in this one, so by default, it was my favorite of his. Also, at the time, the title sounded more "proper" (The X of Y) and I did recognize that Holmes name as writer. Coming back to Davison's run later, and appreciating it more, Caves was still considered a good one, but odd. It felt like it was made for another Doctor - Mad Tom comes to mind - and it sticks out from the rest of his run for a variety of reasons.
The first one is that John Nathan Turner had fuck-all to do with this one. He left it to Eric Saward to figure it all out, while he played with Colin's ghastly coat, rubbish twins and even more rubbish slugs. Saward, who had bonded with Bob Holmes during the anniversary story misadventures, gave Holmes the regeneration slot serial as a consolation prize and let him get on with it. Graeme Harper got the director's chair and shot Caves the way he wanted to, got a damn near perfect support cast in and turned Davison loose.
Reason number two is the script, and it's creator Bob Holmes. He's coming from a place of knowledge of what the show can do, and where the emphasis needs to be. So, what we get on screen is a tale where the world works because of the small details and that it borrows from a few well-known sources: Jacobean Revenge Drama, The Power of Kroll, The Phantom of the Opera. The dialogue works because it sounds more natural than anything Saward edited/rewrote during his run so far. (In fact, you can tell the few bits Saward put in because they are in Saward-speak, and jar with the rest of the script.) Most of the stories from this era of Who are either "High Concept Shopping List" creations, or creating a world and then trying to figure out what kind of story belongs there. Holmes has his story, and creates the necessary world for it.
Reason number 3 is Graeme Harper. His camera is quite fluid. Caves is shot with a single camera that moves, dives, dips and strolls around the claustrophobic sets. The few moments that we do get a static camera, it's for a reason and for a specific angle. Harper's camera placement is impeccable. Compare this with Terminus, or Warriors of the Deep; those two stories look static and stilted and dreadfully slow. Only Doug Camfield had such a strongsense of pace in his Who stories.
Beyond the technicals though, Caves is wonderful drama, full stop. Events escalate on Androzani Minor to the point where we get one of the best cliffhangers ever: "I'm not going to let you stop me now!" Caves has become a full-on, runaway freight train, and the performances by the cast help enormously. The 5th Doctor finally gets an edge, and Davison runs with this. Nicola Bryant is just wonderful: great chemistry with Davison and shows a bit of a sarcastic side. The guests are all strong, with John Normington's Morgus stealing the show with his asides and slightly odd pacing. Christopher Gable manages to give Sharaz Jek menace and empathy. Maurice Roeves does an excellent job as complete bastard Stotz, the gunrunner.
The Caves of Androzani lives up to the hype and conventional fanboy wisdom. Like all the best Who, it works as proper drama first, and then as a Who story afterward. It works because Holmes and Harper took the ball and ran with it, because Saward knew to stay out of the way, and Nathan Turner out of the mix so he wouldn't bollocks it up.
PS: This isn't my favorite Davison story anymore. Kinda and Snakedance are.
A Review of the DVD (UK Version) by Jason Boulter 16/6/02
Firstly, the story itself. Caves has had so many reviews written in its time (just check this site out), that it is difficult to say anything new. Most reviews hail the story, quite rightly, as one of the very best from the TV shows run. Drama, action, comedy and tear-jerker, there's a little bit of something for everyone, all perfectly proportioned against each other. Caves is also hailed as perhaps the turning point for the show, ultimately leading to it's inevitable death, and in my opinion, is certainly of a better quality than anything the next three seasons had to offer. But having said all that, plus the fact that it features my favourite Doctor and companion, surprisingly, it is not one of my favourites.
There's something about Caves that prevents it from having the infinitely rewatchable capacity that other favourites of mine, (City of Death, Seeds of Death, Talons etc.) have. From the Davison era I'd name both Earthshock and Resurrection as being preferable, even though I'd agree they both fall way behind in terms of script quality, acting and general story strength. It's a bit like my opinion of ER - brilliant show, excellently made, wrote, cast, directed, scripted - just not to my taste.
Technically, the DVD is outstanding. Basics such as picture and sound are superbly mastered and the fixing of the 'wobble' on episode one really makes you aware of how bad the original was in comparison. The true test of quality and interest in DVD extras for myself, is their 'rewatchableness' and Caves really comes through on this. The interviews and newspieces concerning Davison's departure are interesting enough as is the Sharez Jek featurette - which demonstrates how arduous a task the make up must have been, and is perhaps wasted on screen due to it's momentary glance. The behind the scenes features can often be remarkable boring (I think someone once said, the most fascinating experience in your life is your first day on a film set, whilst the most boring experience in your life is the second day) but the regeneration feature is superb and brings out tiny details that I had never noticed before.
Commentaries are generally my favourite part of a DVD, and the perfect commentary features a blend of production details and 'how we did that' information, thoughts and opinions of the creators on their work, with anecdotes and humour. Caves delivers all of these with style, Davison and Harper enjoying a good rapport and banter, leaving Bryant perhaps a little on the sidelines. Other Who and general DVD commentaries betray the obvious fact that the commentators have very little memories about what's happening and uncertainty about what to say. It's clear that Davison particularly has prepared and rewatched the story before recording the commentary, and his enthusiasm and interest really brings it alive.
A must-purchase disc.
Ultimate and Unique by Andrew Wixon 19/6/02
About nine months ago I sat down and started to watch my DW collection in order. Without going into too much detail, it's been a fascinating trip, and one of the most enjoyable things about it is the way that certain stories have leapt out and grabbed me, quality-wise. The Aztecs was one, Ark in Space another: on both occasions, I could for the first time see what all the fuss was about. And on both occasions, it made me wonder how I'd react when I finally got to Caves of Androzani.
Caves has an awesome reputation - number three in the last DWM megapoll, best of all time in a recent poll in SFX magazine. But it's not a story I'd ever really been able to like. Certainly it was well made, well acted and directed, but there are many other stories you could say exactly the same thing about. Would I see the light on this occasion too?
Well - yes. This is, in more way than one, the ultimate Davison DW story. It's also unique, not just in his era, but in the history of the series. I've said before that there are many aspects of the Saward/Davison era that I don't think suit Doctor Who. The Doctor is too passive, too meek and mild. The companions are frequently too busy being bolshy/treacherous/petulant/androids to do their part in carrying the story. The stories lack moral focus and clarity.
It took the genius of Robert Holmes to write a story that holds true to almost all of these things but is still as classic a piece of Doctor Who as anything produced when he was script-editor in the mid 1970s. He is helped, of course, by the fact that he only had to worry about a single companion (a companion who, despite her origins as a tacky piece of marketing, is considerably more like a 'classic' Who girl than anyone since Sarah).
This story takes place in an astonishingly harsh and cynical universe: there isn't a single really sympathetic guest character, everyone is driven by greed or pride or revenge. And as there aren't any good guys to help, it seems entirely reasonable for the Doctor's sole goal to be to leave as soon as possible and not actively want to sort it all out. But the Doctor is still absolutely vital and central to the story: it's his presence, unwittingly or not, that allows Salateen to escape and draws Morgus to Androzani Minor, thus enabling the climactic showdown to occur. And for the first time in an age, the Doctor seems like the Doctor again - maybe it's the direness of the situation he's in (and it's shocking to see him as beaten and broken and seemingly helpless as he is by mid-episode three), but in desperation he displays the steel and focus and authority that had been missing since... well, the end of Logopolis. Davison, of course, revels in this - even before this viewing the climax of episode three and 'I'm not going to let you stop me now!!!' always sent a shiver down my spine.
The story is lifted to another level by superb set designs, Harper's relentless, pressure-cooker direction, and some fantastic guest performances - Morgus, Stotz and of course Sharaz Jek shine. But it's all in the script. If only Bob Holmes had come home two years earlier... but alas, it wasn't to be, and we're left with this: the best Doctor Who story Peter Davison ever appeared in. And, unfortunately, the best Doctor Who story Colin Baker ever appeared in, too...
Nightmares... by Joe Ford 10/9/02
The Caves of Androzani is not your typical Doctor Who story. Not exactly a bold statement but nonetheless one that needed to be said. I would go as far to say if a Doctor Who movie was made I would want it to be a lot like this, fast paced, exciting, intelligent, thoughtful, gripping and terrifying. Of course the Magma beast would be a fantastic CGI creature and not the only production let down as it is here but you can't have everything. I can't think of anything film I've seen in the last four years that have got me as excited as episode four of this story.
This (and The Talons of Weng Chiang) is the best piece of writing Robert Holmes has ever produced for the series, It was obvious after years and years away from the show he wanted to show these new writers this old hack still has some life in him. Unfortunately Robert Holmes on a slack day (The Deadly Assasin) is still utterly wonderful so when he REALLY tries, he knocks all the writers of the past four years so far out of competition it is a little saddening for them. Everything about this story is just flawless. The dialogue. The characters. The plot. The ideas. Everything. What is especially impressive however is how Holmes sets things up early in the story that are forgotten but later turn out to be huge twists (the Doctor and Peri fall into the Spectrox nest within minutes, the deviousness of Krau Timmin watching Morgus, the android Salateen who is introduced quickly)... this is clearly the work of a skilled plotter and Holmes' ability to pull everything together satisfactorily is second to none.
Even Peter Davison seems determined not to drag this one down (he has said he loved this story because he finally got to do some ACTING, that's great Peter but you could have acted in some of your other stories too!) because he is for the first (and unfortunately last) time absolutely brilliant. I can see so many shades of the other Doctors in his performance here, Hartnell's authority, Troughton's humour, Pertwee's arrogance and Baker's hero and yet he manages to wrap them all up with that friendliness and naivete (which really bugged me before!) into something truly special. His mocking of Chellak, his face-offs with Sharaz Jek, his desperation in the last episode to save Peri is just perfect. The injustice that this was his last story adds yet another bad aftertaste to my opinion of his era but don't mistake my words. For this one story Peter Davison gives one of the best performances of the big man EVER. Quite a statement, from me.
As for Nicola Bryant? Despite some accent slips she is just brilliant, capatilising on her first appearance in Planet of Fire instead of disapearing into the mists of companion history as they usually do after their first story. Lucky cow, first a Lanzarote shoot, then this masterpiece and then a year and a half with Colin Baker (taking part in such gems as Vengeance on Varos, The Two Doctors and Revelation of the Daleks). Has any companion actress been this lucky? Unlike other stories I was genuinely desperate to see Peri okay at the end of the story, the danger presented is so REAL I was rooting for the Doctor on the edge of my seat.
Morgus and Sharaz Jek are perhaps the best Holmes duo ever. They both have a compelling backstory and drive the story in wildly unpredictable ways. Everybody chooses Chris Gable's Jek as the most impressive character in the story (understandably as he is a fantastic smypathetic villain) but I would single out John Nomingtons Morgus who creeps out of the shadows as one of the most effective Who baddies ever. He is devious, insidious, a real nasty character who will stop at nothing to get the power and money he thinks he deserves and Normington plays up the love-to-hate image so well, not a hint of humour, just a terrifying brain manipulating all the events we see unfolding. His surprise at Timmin's betrayal in part four is priceless.
The other characters are all belivable and perfectly acted and how often can you claim that about a Doctor Who story? I love both Salateens, especially the android who creeps me out everytime I watch this. Stotz is just horrible but I suppose that's the point and his crew are just nasty enough to not be stereotypes.
But despite all these wonderful strengths it is the production that shines the most. Stand up Mr Graeme Harper for you imaginative, near cinematic direction of this story. A few moments impress me so much...
Was this a one of fluke? No, because we would get the equally good Revelation, Remembrance and Curse of Fenric but for all those who say JNT didn't hit as many highs as the other producers, well I can't think of any other producer that hit much higher than this. So there.
A Review by Andrew Hunter 11/12/02
In his swansong as the Doctor, Peter Davison is trapped in a chaotic battle of evil versus evil, whilst he and his companion are slowly dying...
The opening scene is a very short shot of a planet in space. This looks believable enough, considering the length of the shot. More great special effects follow later on in the story - especially a clip of a ship turning in space. The ship looks real and has a formidable feel about it.
Immediately after this opening scene, we are introduced to the planet of Androzani Minor. Sharaz Jek - a "masked renegade" - is holding stores of spectrox, which is an important substance to humans. The supplies are running out but Jek isn't giving them out freely. A federate army is attempting to kill Jek and obtain the substance, but Jek's lethal androids are lurking in dark and menacing caverns.
As a result, Caves of Androzani is a very black story. When the Tardis first arrives, the planet is isolated, barren and misty. There are no signs of life - no animals or birds. Most of the story is set deep underground, giving a more claustrophobic and brooding feel. Corrupt men contribute to the blackness. One of the best examples is Stotz, a soldier who is attempting to get the spectrox. Stotz is hard as nails and shows very little compassion. He shoots and threatens his own men without mercy. He holds the Doctor captive and intends to torture him. He kills other factions in the caverns with ease. Stotz develops well in the story and makes a brilliant supporting villain.
Whereas Stotz is in the thick of the action, the powerful Trau Morgus is kept safe in his comfortable building, forcing orders upon his workers. Morgus is shown to be cold and calculated, especially when he kills a "higher authority" by pushing him down a lift. When he reports the incident, he says it's terrible, but there is no feeling in his tone. John Normington is very well cast as Morgus, who portrays him as always having a cold stare and never smiling. We learn that it is him who caused Sharaz Jek's shadowy existence. He and Jek were in the caves on a mission. Morgus deliberately gave Jek faulty equipment, allowing an accident to occur without warning Jek. Jek was severely scalded, as Morgus left him for dead, but he survived.
In consequence, Jek is seen as a vengeful, crazed mad man, who is forced to wear a mask. In Jek's first appearances, the camera focuses on his hands and legs, as creepy music accompanies this. This makes Jek mysterious and menacing, as we wonder what his face looks like. Part of his face is reflected on a monitor showing Peri, as he whispers "beautiful..."
These feelings for Peri become stronger, as he captures her and the Doctor. His intention is to keep her with him forever. Peri does not want this at all and is even scared by Jek. The Doctor shows his powerful force by holding Peri behind him, as he faces Jek.
The list of problems grows for the Doctor, as he discovers that he and Peri have been infected and are slowly dying. The symptoms are shown extremely well by the characters, who look very sick and worn down. For most of the first episode, they are held captive, with the odds stacked strongly against the Doctor. Fortunately for Peri, the Doctor finds a cure - the Queen bat's milk - and treats her. There is not enough for both of them, as the Doctor regenerates: bringing about the end of a colourful and exciting era.
Of all the Doctor Who stories, Caves of Androzani doesn't look too dated by today's standards. There is plenty of violence and corruption, good special effects and an extremely hostile atmosphere - a more adult story which could easily fit in with today's television programs.
Strong direction, weaker script by Tim Roll-Pickering 19/5/03
Few Doctor Who stories have generated more words than The Caves of Androzani. Many of the obvious points have been made many times. As the Doctor points out at the start, the title should really be The Blow-Holes of Androzani whilst the magma beast is clearly padding designed to ensure that Season 21 had more monsters in it than its immediate predecessor. There is a lot of criticism that can indeed be made of this story that does not often receive much more than the occasional lip-service in a typical adulation of the story. But it must be acknowledged that in several areas there is much about the story that can often result in a story being crucified by the fans. The magma beast is an extremely unconvincing and poorly designed monster, though surprisingly the contemporary trailers did focus heavily on the creature. The location scenes are shot in a sandpit and are not particularly inspiring, whilst the sets are dull and drab, with many flat floors in the the caves and the lift shaft in Morgus' office has the lift set built in so that in Part Three it is clearly still there when Morgus assassinates the President. There's precious little humour in the story and the result is another venture into the cold dark universe that Doctor Who drifted towards throughout the Davison era. The plot rehashes significant elements from The Power of Kroll whilst we are also introduced to yet another 'most valuable substance in the universe' in this case spectrox. A key part of the plot is the fact that Sharaz Jek has been scarred so badly that no-one can bear to look at him, yet when he does take his mask off for the cameras the effect is not particularly harsh. Furthermore the story relies heavily on lust and falls back on the cliche of a woman only being worth what she looks when Jek falls in love with Peri merely through seeing her on a monitor screen. Robert Holmes had not written for the series since The Power of Kroll, despite several attempts to bring him back, but this script does not compare well with other offerings from the Davison years and lacks many of the elements that normally enhance a Holmes script, such as the humorous double acts or the parodying of bureaucracy. At both script and design level this story is, quite frankly, nothing spectacular.
What enhances the story, however, is the direction. Graeme Harper was an excellent choice to direct this story, resulting in it being made in a very strong and gritty manner. There are many scenes where good camerawork enhances the atmosphere no end, whilst the cliffhangers are handled well. The end of Part Two may suffer from the all too clear shot of the magma beast exposing the weaknesses of the design but otherwise it drives home just how much danger there is, whilst Part One is an excellent example of the 'How on earth do they get out of that one?' style as we see the bullets being relentlessly fired in the direction of the Doctor and Peri. But Part Three's cliffhanger is the true delight. In just a few short moments it sums up the determination of the Doctor to reach Peri and the antidote and his level of guilt over the situation as he shouts down Stotz's attempts to threaten him. It is clearly Harper's direction which has given this story its reputation, but a story cannot stand alone on this.
The cast are mixed, ranging from John Normington who gives a strong performance as Morgus, aided immensely by the various asides to the camera as Morgus considers matters, to the unmemorable contributions of Martin Cochrane (Chellak) and Robert Glenister (Salateen). It is significant that in this story the closest to a 'good guy' other than the Doctor and Peri is probably the magma beast, which merely attacks intruders. Everyone else is in one way or another extremely morally dubious, ranging from the President who is openly driven by his determination to stay in power, to Jek who is driven by his determination to destroy Morgus, to Chellak who is driven by his determination to win the war amidst so much criticism from Androzani Major. As in other stories in Season 21 there is a huge body count and apart from the Doctor and companion(s) only one other speaking character is still alive at the end. Here even the Doctor does not emerge unscathed...
Peter Davison gives one of his best ever performances for his final story, filling the Doctor with passion and determination that rise as the stakes get progressively higher. His concern for Peri is strong and this makes it clear just why he waits until reaching the TARDIS before giving either of them the bat's milk cure. And then we get the final scene in which he has his final confrontation with the Master but finally wins through by living and regenerating, bursting forth in his new form. The final brief scene with Colin Baker offers a tantalising vision of the future and given the fast pace of the story there has been no time to mourn the death of Davison's Doctor. But he departs in a fitting style, even though there are many weaknesses in the story. The Caves of Androzani is certainly memorable, but it is by no means amongst the all time greats of Doctor Who. 7/10