CRRRRS 490 Doctor Who: Arc of Infinity

By Roy Mathur, on 2023-06-12, at 22:55:10--23:33:26 BST, for Captain Roy's Rusty Rocket Radio Show, Listen

Revisit Journal

In 489 I said that I did a preshow check, then ditched the headphones because everything sounded alright. It wasn't alright. It was recorded in one channel only, but I fixed it in post. Wear headphones, Roy, wear headphones.

I also have a strong sense of deja vu from the supposedly new material from a scratch file that I used to pad out 489. In fact, I've had deja vu of deja vu recently, so...

Stupidity and mindwarping aside, welcome to 1983 and season 20 of classic Doctor Who.


Fifth Doctor: Peter Davison
Companion(s): Nyssa: Sarah Sutton, Tegan: Janet Fielding
Notable Cast: Colin Baker: Commander Maxil and Sixth Doctor, Blake's 7's Bayban (1980), Michael Gough: Councillor Hedin, The Celestial Toymaker (1966), Alfred in Batman films (1989--1997), and was married to Doctor Who companion actress Anneke Wills who played Polly; his adopted daughter's name was also Polly
Director: Ron Jones: also Black Orchid, Time-Flight, Frontios, Vengeance on Varos, Mindwarp
Writer: Johnny Byrne: also The Keeper of Traken, Warriors of the Deep, Space: 1999
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Locations: On location in Amsterdam and BBC Television Centre, Shepherd's Bush (1982)
Broadcast: Season 20, serial 1, story 123, following Time-Flight covered in 487, 4 x c. 25 minute episodes, first broadcast 3--12 January 1983
Media: Target novelisation by Terrance Dicks (1983), VHS (1994), DVD with Time-Flight (2007), DVD Doctor Who DVD Files Issue 108 (2013)


Renee and Renato's Save Your Love's romantic saccharine was at number one.

What Happens

A Time Lord, under the command of an antimatter creature, hacks the Matrix for the Doctor's genetic code.

The Doctor repairs the viewscreen's audio in the TARDIS, encounters an astronomical anomaly; an incursion from the antimatter universe called the Arc of Infinity, and is then forcibly pulled to Gallifrey.

In Amsterdam a couple of broke young backpackers spend the night in a crypt under a fountain. Heralded by the sound of a TARDIS and blazing lights, a sinister reptilian alien appears (an Ergon), shoots one of the men, while the other escapes.

The High Council of Gallifrey seize the TARDIS and execute the Doctor to prevent his body being uses as a vessel for the creature to escape the antimatter universe. However, the Doctor is not dead, but imprisoned in the Matrix by the creature, who turns out to be the legendary Time Lord Omega.

Tegan arrives in Amsterdam and looks for her missing cousin, one of the backpackers, with the help of the man who escaped. They return to the crypt and are taken hostage by the creaure as leverage against the Doctor. To prevent harm to Tegan the Doctor agrees to help.

We discover that the Doctor's old friend, Councillor Hedin, is the traitor in thrall to Omega. The Castellan (security chief) kills Councillor Hedin, but Omega manipulates the Arc of Infinity with a fusion booster, powered by hydrogen extracted from the fountain above the crypt, to complete his metamorphosis into a genetic duplicate of the Doctor. Unfortunately, the fusion booster was destroyed by the Doctor, interrupting the process, and as Omega flees his body begins to break down.

The Doctor chases, corners, and shoots Omega with the Ergon's device. Omega falls to the ground seemingly dead, then disappears.

Tegan says she has been fired from her job as an airline stewardess and wants to rejoin the Doctor.

What I Thought

Omega! Our favourite insane supervillain is back. Omega, one of the first Time Lords, a stellar engineer who manipulated stars with the Hand of Omega to provide power for time travel, but became trapped in the antimatter universe when a supernova collapsed into black hole (later called the Eye of Harmony). I like Omega.

The Omega costume used by Ian Collier is as excellent as Stephen Thorne's Omega in The Three Doctors, however it is very different. The 1973 costume is grand, imperious, hard and shiny; a conqueror in exile. This one, especially the helmet, is squishy, organic, an insectoid pupa, and also machine-like with its rhythmic lights. The simlarity to a pupa must have been intentional as we see it going squashy and pulsating as the gestation approaches the final genetic metamorphosis within the shell.

Conversely, the creature design for Omega's Ergon created by psychosynthesis is... well, it's not terrible and you can see the fleeting resemblance to his own look, but the head is too small for its body. It resembles a chicken skull atop a stiff, upright, skinny dragon.

Omega's escape from the antimatter universe is filled with poignancy. We are definitely supposed to empathise with his simple joy watching a barrel organ with dancing automatons and a child's smile. It is heartbreaking because we know, even as he is living again, he is starting to die. He's a villain, but his ending is hard to stomach. Well, I say "ending"...

Peter Davison makes a better bad guy playing Omega than he does the good guy Doctor. Or maybe it's easier playing a badun?

Less depressingly, thank god, during the adventure we hear that Leela is happy on Gallifrey.

The Doctor smiles when Tegan says she'll be traveling with him again, but then the smile fades. Is that intentional? Does the Doctor really want Tegan along for the ride? Or did the camera linger for longer than Davison could hold a smile? It seemed to me grudging rather than welcoming. At least Nyssa is glad to see her back.

Colin Baker's ruthlessness and eagerness to shoot the Doctor is very obviously a reference to his role as the maniacal Bayban the Butcher in Blake's 7. That role seemed to have forever type-cast him as a nasty bugger. I think he was going for Prussian and manages it... with a bit of camp thrown in.

We see a lot of Amsterdam, the Citadel on Gallifrey, the gloriously pompous Time Lord costumes, a senior lady Time Lord; Chancellor Thalia (Elspet Gray), Colin Baker as Commander Maxil in a plumed helmet that he only ever seems to carry, the welcome return of Omega, one of the best villains in Who, and welcome Tegan also back to the team. Though rather overly complex---I'm not a hundred percent certain about getting the sequence of the synopsis correct---it's an eventful beginning to the new season.


The prop component the Doctor repairs in the TARDIS's viewscreen circuitry is a Walkman knockoff. I stake all my geekly credentials on this fantastically fascinating fact.

The Ergon was played by Malcolm Harvey, who also had uncredited parts in Full Circle (Tardis.Fandom.Com; Doctor Who Magazine 327) and as a guard and a passenger in Blake's 7 (IMDB).

Do You Remember Calippo?

I'm slurping an orange flavoured Calippo ice lolly to deal with the heat.