Gotta clean the house and get to the airport, so for today I'm just gonna dig up another of my old Doctor Who reviews.

Originally posted on Brontoforumus, 2008-03-08.

Latest Netflix selection (Netflick? Netflik?) is Vengeance on Varos. I decided I should probably check out something with the Sixth Doctor just so I could say I had, and this is apparently generally viewed as his best serial.

It is pretty good, and manages that elusive trick of still being topical 24 years later. There's some 1984 in there, a bit of Fahrenheit 451, and a little Running Man; Varos is a world where the government keeps its citizens in line by plopping them in front of reality TV, and the particular brand of reality TV revolves around the execution of rebels. Varos's figurehead leader is an ineffectual governor who is physically punished every time the people vote against one of his policies; the true villain is an alien slug who sounds like Cobra Commander and who is ripping off the oblivious citizens on Varos by grossly underpaying them for their fuel source.

Hell of a lot going on there: the complacent citizens, the reality TV, the struggle for energy sources, the government figurehead being manipulated by a military-industrial complex. On top of that, the pacing is tight (though a bit off from what I've come to expect from classic Who, as this was after the shift from 25-minute to 45-minute episodes). The makeup's good, but the sets are pretty drab; lots of identical metal corridors in this one.

The other problem is that the Doctor and companion Peri are really just window-dressing in the story -- they're far less interesting than the supporting cast, and the story would have worked fine without them but for the Doctor's off-world knowledge of the value of Zeiton-7 ore. I didn't really get a bead on the Sixth Doctor's personality beyond "generic", and Peri was little more than a pair of jiggling breasts -- though I'm not going to spend too much time griping about that.

It's the best I've seen in awhile. If you're doing what I'm doing and Netflixing old eps on DVD, I'd call this a must-see; if you're looking to buy, I'd say it's worth the $12 Amazon's charging for it. (Update 2013-01-29: It's now also available in a $20 Special Edition and streaming for $2 an episode or free with Prime.)