Written by:
Steve Gallagher
Directed by: Mary Ridge
Starring: Peter Davison
Year: 1983
Video Availability (NTSC Version): Try Amazon

Always the weak link in the Black Guardian trilogy, when you've seen parallel timelines and pirate spaceships being piloted by Eternals then even the creation of the entire universe seems mundane somehow. Yet while Steve Gallagher's usual esoteric, fragmented narrative is plundered into a chronological guns 'n' corridors tale, there's still much to enjoy here.

Of course, one of the major problems having Turlough as a companion is that the writers have to keep giving him reasons for not killing the Doctor until that plot strand is resolved. So here we have him spending most of the story in a tunnel with his nose up Janet Fielding's behind. There are worse ways to spend an evening. While the endless Tardis scenes in the Davison era are perhaps criticised with some justification, I like the opening ones here, where Turlough tells it like it is to Tegan. With the cold and sappy Adric and Nyssa Tegan was the audience identification figure, but by this stage she's become, by her own earlier admission, "a mouth on legs." Turlough deceives, patronises, vexes and slyly insults Tegan, pretty much at the same time. "You're so typical of your planet, reduced to shouting if you can't have your own way." Incidentally, did you hear that click on the door of Nyssa's room when Tegan shuts it? That's one of the reasons why the Tardis scenes are so maligned - you can't take it seriously as a spacecraft when it sounds like it was made in MFI.

There's an overreliance on video effects at this point in the series' history which don't always look very convincing. In fact, when you could see the same effects backing up Adam and the Ants on Top of the Pops then it does now look a little tatty. Speaking of Adam and the Ants, they were Sarah Sutton's favourite band at the time, and this is as much her last story as that was an incredibly contrived link. As she doesn't get much more to do than simper like a sap (so what's new?) we'll return to her later.

For a doom-laden story such as this, then there are elements working against it. I generally like the early 80s electronic scores, but here an orchestral one might have worked better. The sets aren't grimy, more just Red Dwarf season one grey, while all the lipgloss and 80s frizzmullets date this "futuristic" environment terribly. I won't deny it, I used to hate Terminus the first couple of times I saw it, and the majority of that, as shallow as it was, was down to Liza Goddard's appearance. She comes into the story wearing a frilly cape and a balloon space helmet, possibly in a homage to The Moonbase, and Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" was originally called "Silly Plastic Rayguns" after this story. Actually, that's not true at all. What is true is that I knew someone who worked as an extra on crap kid's programme Woof! when she made a guest appearance. After he politely said "hello" she blanked him and then called security. Nice woman. And while usually I would, here her diabolical hair, make-up and costume - not to mention "acting" - conspire to kick out any sense of credibility or worth this serial ever aspired to. Warrior's Gate this ain't, and while I do like the story to an extent, it's one you have to work at to enjoy, rather than the entertainment being readily available. Being able to look past the full product of the make-up counter at Lewis's helps.

As an opening episode this one is a little slow to get going, and while I praised the Tardis scenes in this one, it is over twelve minutes in before we get out of the ship. That said, I still feel it's more the twice-weekly format of the Davison years that caused many to liken it to a soap opera, rather than the standing around the rotor chatting dynamics. The scene with the Lazars grabbing Tegan is a possible reference to Night of the Living Dead, while Peter is again much more dominant than he's given credit, albeit in a much subtler way. The cliffhanger is awfully melodramatic, delivered by an awful actor (Dominic Guard), but the first glimpse of film in the tunnels looks great. If only they'd shot the whole thing on the same format.
* * * ˝

There is a tendency to think of all the JN-T Doctors being swamped in their own programme. Peter's surrounded by dodgy companions (save Turlough) and cheesy production values, along with weak guest casts. If only he'd got tanked up like The Drunk, or chucked the teddy out the pram like Billy, then maybe he'd have got his own way a bit more. That said, he thought Nyssa was an ideal companion so what did he know?

Bit of a slow one this. Nothing wrong with a suspenseful build-up of course, but this seems unnaturally paced, with artificial narrative blocks placed in the way of genuine plot advancement. A robot is introduced to the story, which gives Jeremy from Rentaghost a keen bit of extra work. We also meet a group of unwashed goths wearing plastic armour. "Valgard, we're all dying." Yeah, you are - on your arses, along with Sutton. Speaking of Sutton, this story could well be subtitled "Nyssa's Nips". Never mind the controversial skirt-ripping sequence, here we're treating to multiple camera-down-the-top cleavage shots of her tweakers. What a gay producer and a female director were doing scraping up such blatant hetero titillation in Who is beyond me, though at least it makes her performance more bearable I guess. Though there's no way she could push Valgard over like that - it's just ridiculous and unconvincing, as much a part of real violence as Jenna's "slow fighting" in Blake's 7. "What is this horrendous place?" it's an acting class - get back there and learn a few things, you dozy mare!

When I first saw this I seem to remember the Garm being revealed as a sophisticated android or a man in a suit. But it turns out that he really is just a great big f***-off dog, waiting for his Bonio while he prowls around the ship. The fact that this is such a po-faced, humourless story makes it all the stranger, because in a McCoy or Williams tale he'd probably be right at home. Here you're just thinking "what the…?" Roger Limb's score is already getting repetitive by this stage, and while I hate to keep slagging the music in Who, a huge majority of it does sound appalling nowadays. (Not Terminus though - just a bit distracting here, that's all). Not a great 25 minutes in the history of Doctor Who, but again, not all that bad…
* * *

This entire episode seems to be based around characters moving out of a position they've previously been in. That's right - it's all about ex-position! Whether it's some am-dram bint telling Nyssa about "The only thing they care about is Hydromil, the drug that keeps them alive" or those guard thingies bouncing plot points off one another, it's a writer's nightmare of information above naturalistic dialogue.

Turlough has a pang of conscience talk with Tegan on some steps, asking her if she could kill anyone. However, her empathic "no" does seem a bit rich considering she blew away all those Cybermen last season. And as if to celebrate the Pertwee era, Peter even spends much of this third episode having an aerial fight with a guard. I still can't get over the Garm, either - it's just a giant 8-foot dog covered in foam rubber, innit? Weird...
* * ˝

I realise I've not actually discussed the central plot of Terminus yet. (In fact, I haven't done much more than rip the piss out of it to be honest). I mean, you don't really want me to discuss the plot, do you? A spaceship's fuel causes the creation of the universe? A gang of Leper, sorry, Lazar victims are on the ship so Nyssa can stay behind and heal them? If Garm is the dog, then that's the bollocks.

More slow fighting and sidelined characters, with Turlough and Tegan back down the tunnels and Nyssa tied to a pole. Then there's a bloody big dog having to pull back a level to stop the destruction of the entire universe. From a strict scripting point of view this is a sloppy mess, and badly required some more work from Saward. In a sense you can forgive this due to time constraints and so on, and you realistically can't expect an entire season to be expertly script-edited across the board. While season twenty does show a worrying underlying tendency towards melodrama (as we shall explore more in the next story), it's a Hell of a lot more consistent than its reputation would attest, and more like "real" Who than the action adventure season that followed. This is thoughtful, contemplative Who. Okay, in the case of Terminus it ain't very good, but it is commendable.

And that's my stance on Terminus, really. It's as near to a two-star story as Mawdryn was to a four-star one, but it just manages to climb to a lofty level of vague mediocrity. I can understand why some fans see it as below-par, but I can't understand how it's so often slated as a turkey.

Okay, I've gotta mention the plank. She's atrocious, but her sitting astride Dominic Guard in her underwear is just blatant sexism on behalf of the production team. "Just before you leave, love, get 'em out for the lads." The infamous skirt drop scene (which happened two episodes ago and I originally missed it typing this up) is also a worry, though possibly the least offensive of all the many, many gratuitous flesh shots on show. Note how her disease has been cured for this skin flick instalment?

Is her parting "I'm Adam Ant" line an in-joke? Personally though I'm glad to see her go, even if the Doctor looks pained at her leaving. Frankly she was a dreadful actress and never gave a decent performance in the lead role, save for Snakedance. With Janet improving at this point and Strickson's extreme charisma entering the mix, we're on the way for an improvement in the central roles. On that subject, the Doctor's answer to Nyssa's suggestion it will be nice to see Tegan again ("Yes, well…") is priceless.

Finally, as I am the Anorak then I thought I'd better live up to my name and calculate just how much screentime Nyssa actually gets in this story. It struck me as not that much considering this was her bow out, and indeed, in episode three she's in it for a little over two minutes. Taking away the title sequences and reprises then Terminus runs to 89'28m - Nyssa's in it for 18'53 of them, just over 20% of the story. And how annorakky is that?BR>
* * *

Clearly not a Doctor Who great, yet with an undeserved reputation as being poorer than it actually is. While it flirts with a below average rating, I'm going to be kind…
* * *