The Outliers is a classic Second Doctor “base under siege” story, but with a modern, “makes you think” twist in the final part. It’s a good story, though it does have a rather leisurely pace (though that does kind of make it seem all the more genuine of the era…) Let’s take a more detailed look then!
The TARDIS takes the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie to a flooded underground town on an alien world. The streets are empty. The houses are bare. Not a trace of life.
The miners working here are vanishing. And it isn’t long before the time-travellers are suspected of being responsible for the disappearances. But even the authorities haven’t fully realised the scale of the problem.
There’s something else on this world. Something dragging people away. And it won’t stop until it’s taken them all.
Note: Full Spoilers From Here On Out!
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Frazer Hines) – The Doctor starts off delighted at a weird settlement they’ve found themselves at, but (as he probably should have guessed!) that joy is short-lived…
Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) – Jamie is starting to get the hang of time travel, though the idea of an entire settlement underground is one that’s hard for most to fathom, let alone someone from his time!
Polly Wright (Anneke Wills) – Polly once again finds herself helplessly walking around a dangerous place, though by now she’s probably used to it…
Ben Jackson (Elliot Chapman) – Ben, despite being in an underground settlement, gets to play sailor again, just like back home! … well, apart from the sea monsters…
Dr Richard Tipple (Alistair Petrie) – Your classic overly ambitious and by-the-book project leader. He kept the fact that miners were vanishing beneath the waves at an alarming rate to himself, it would only get in the way of progress, after all…
Dr Goro (Debbie Chazen) – One of the lead researchers on the mining project, she ends up as a de facto companion by the end… because three wasn’t enough apparently!
Another great cover, though makes me wonder what The Doctor is seeing out of the corner of his eye…
The story over the first three parts seems pretty straightforward. The base full of people doing some mining comes under attack by an alien force, in this case some water life that evolved in the water source they’re using. The twist comes in Part 4 when the lifeforms capture The Doctor and companions and we see that they only captured and unfortunately killed the other humans because they were experimenting on them out of curiosity (I’m not saying that’s a valid excuse, for the record!). Towards the end however, the ruthless Dr. Tipple releases a gas that very nearly kills them all, which is obviously a more heinous crime than the creatures had committed. It’s a nice twist that the human were “under siege” ended up being worse than the monsters who were doing the attacking.
The setting was really unique, with a “street” full of unused basic identical build-a-house houses surrounded top, bottom and all sides by mined rock. Then the last part mostly takes place inside a giant simple-celled organism, which was great in the head (but would have been rather hard to create at the time!)
It’s quite slow in places, particularly Parts 2 and 3. Part 4 is extremely busy and full to twists, it could have done taking place over the last two parts instead, just to up the pace a bit. It’s not horrible or anything, but it does slow down a bit.
Once again we had The Doctor absent for an entire episode, as if Patrick Troughton was taking a break, like what happened occasionally in the TV series… but this isn’t the TV series, and in fact The Doctor is voiced by Frazer Hines, who also voices Jamie, so he wasn’t even taking a break during recording! I mean, I guess with three companions it served a purpose to put attention on them, but it does annoy me sometimes…
I have to say that most of the characters were rather stock and dull, luckily the regulars were on fine form and the story was good, so you didn’t really notice…
During Part 4 every starts seeing visions of the future, with Ben seeing himself as an older man with Polly in an orphanage in India, a reference to the Sarah Jane Adventures episode “Death of the Doctor”, where that is revealed to be their eventual fate. He also mentions seeing Polly in a hotel room in 1986, the same year the Cybermen invaded in the TV story “The Tenth Planet”, though them in a hotel room during this time is a reference to the short story “Mondas Passing”.
A good story, with an exciting Part 4 that really could have done being told across parts 3 and 4 just to speed up the pace a tad. Still, a good story is a good story, and it’s worth sticking with to hear the ending. A good entry into the series, though maybe not one I’ll be in a hurry to re-listen to.