Back in the Main Range a few years ago there was a trilogy of stories where The Sixth Doctor met back up with an older Peri, the one that lived as a Queen alongside Brian Blessed (truly a fate worse than death…) This new plot thread was then dropped without a conclusion to the whole Peri thing… Until now! This “Doctor and Peri” set picks up that thread and, at least so far, gives us a continuation of the new “era”, even though I doubt it gives it any finality just yet. The first two stories are… rather by-the-numbers in two completely different settings, so let’s take a look!
Synopsis (of “The Headless Ones”):
When a distress call from an unknown source threatens to rip the TARDIS from the vortex, the Doctor and Peri arrive in nineteenth-century Africa hoping to find the cause of the disturbance. Instead, they meet a British expedition searching for a long lost tribe: the B’lemyae… better known to the locals as the Headless Ones.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
While neither story will wow you, I will say that I enjoyed “The Headless Ones” more out of the two. It’s your classic Victorians wondering around a jungle looking for a lost tribe stuff, and that’s pretty much it, but it does have a female explorer named Amanda Latimer (Deirdre Mullins) at the heart of the story, having to put up with some rather unpleasant “of the era” males like Lord Oliver Erpington (Hugh Skinner), so it’s… sort of a bit different, maybe? The lost tribe in question turns out to be descendants of a crashed alien spaceship and walk around with no heads and a face on their torso, which is definitely different! Lord Oliver wants to use them in his Africa-based show performed in front of the Queen in order to plan an “accident” that will result in the death of Victoria so a strong male monarch can rule in her place. Yep, that’s his actual plan! Pretty odd, to put it bluntly. Peri uses her Queen negotiation skills at a few points with a local human tribe’s monarch, so they did at least use the post-Trial setting for something. In the end Lord Oliver starts killing natives without a thought and then he himself killed, and the Headless Tribe were actually innocent now because “don’t judge a headless book by its cover” or what have you. It’s… fine, if you’re in the mood for this setting.
Well, nice work on the headless one, if nothing else!
The second episode, “Like”, I did not like… ha-ha, great stuff. It’s set in a future world where people have to use social media all the time and more likes get you more privileges you receive, and dislikes actually physically hurt you. It’s the kind of “where our society is headed” story frankly done much better in shows like Black Mirror. The thing that annoyed me most about this story that in between scenes we get some really, really bad “funny adverts” for futuristic technology. They were not only embarrassingly plain and predictable, but often annoyingly loud in your ears, so it was bad all round. The actual story sees Peri become a viral hit and The Doctor getting increasingly annoyed as he was here to see if he can negotiate for a homeless race to live on the planet, not get “likes”. Eventually The Doctor uses the viral marketing idea to his advantage and he creates a sketch series with Peri and one of the aliens in order to endear them to the local people, therefore having them accepted enough that the stuffy politicians have no choice. It was just… not very good. Not to my ears anyway, you may love the comedy or find something unique in the setting, but I personally have seen it done before and better, and the comedy just didn’t land.
Not much, beyond this taking place after the trilogy that started with “The Widow’s Assassin” and ended with “The Rani Elite”. There was a funny reference to the Sixth Doctor’s infamous choking of Peri in his first ever TV story, “The Twin Dilemma” that was frankly the highlight of “Like” to me…
“The Headless Ones” is a perfectly fine, by-the-numbers jungle-set Victorian story if you’re in the mood for one, but it really brings nothing new to the table. “Like” is a poor man’s version of a Black Mirror story with some cringe-worthy fake ads that left me pretty cold, even if the actual acting was fine and the story was… basic, but serviceable. Not the best start to this four-story box set overall then…
The Headless Ones: