Doctor Who – Colony of Fear Review

So here we have it: the final Sixth Doctor main range story, and while it would be more fitting if it were with Evelyn that’s no longer possible, so a new story set during the period where it was just The Doctor and Constance together will have to do! Colony of Fear is a perfectly fine “base under siege” story, though with some fun twists and some odd continuity! Let’s take a look!

Synopsis:

Sometimes the TARDIS takes the Doctor to where he needs to go…

Answering a distress call from the out-world of Triketha, the Doctor and Constance Clarke discover human colonists battling against an onslaught of giant, malevolent insects. The insects’ sting induces a coma, and it is only a matter of time before all the colonists succumb.

The Doctor is curious as to the origins of the insects, which appeared from nowhere, and offers his assistance to the colony’s governor. But is this the Doctor’s first visit to Triketha, or has he been here before? The Doctor must confront a past that he has no memory of and take responsibility for the consequences of his actions.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

Colony of Fear is, simply put, a good old fashioned “base under siege” story, like so many stories from the Second Doctor era (which is appropriate! I’ll get to that in a second…) The Doctor and Constance arrive and find a human colony under attack from a swarm of giant wasp-like creatures, creatures that The Doctor soon finds out are sentient and able to communicate telepathically. An unusual twist is that these aren’t the original inhabitants of the planet that the humans are colonising, instead they’re from off-world, accidentally deposited on the planet when the ship containing them and other specimens crashed. The Doctor, sharp-shooter Dresha (Rachel Atkins) and colony head honcho Mollis (Nicholas Asbury) discover the ship and find its captain frozen is suspended animation. At the same time head scientist Edwin (Leighton Pugh) reveals to Constance back at the colony that his son was kidnapped by a man who appeared in a blue police box five years ago…

The pilot of the creature menagerie is named Tarlos (Andrew James Spooner) and it turns out he travelled with the Second Doctor during the infamous fan-created-to-plug-continuity-holes “Season 6B” where The Doctor was working for the Celestial Intervention Agency and after they were done had his memory wiped. As the story progresses we find out that Tarlos was Edwin’s son from five years ago who willingly travelled with The Doctor but when their adventures were done instead of being dropped off a few minutes after he left he was dropped off on another planet entirely and 48 years in the past to boot. So he grew up capturing dangerous animals and eventually made his was back home five years after he left, but a lot longer for him, all because he was afraid he was dying and wanted to see his father again. Such an odd plot, but fun, as at first it seems Tarlos would be something of a villain, but soon he sounds like he’s enjoying himself being around The Doctor again, while our heroic Time Lord is just frustrated at not knowing his own past.

That was the big highlight of the story. The rest involved the colonists mutating into the Tyraxians (the wasp creatures) due to their sting, which is what Tarlos was worried about after having been stung himself (though it turns out the effect of cryo-sleep stopped that); and The Doctor, Constance, Tarlos and Edwin planting bombs in the colony’s power reactor and blowing all the creatures to hell. For a few seconds it seemed like Tarlos and Edwin sacrificed themselves to do it, though the former never gave up hope The Doctor would save them, which he did… by going back on his own timeline by 10 minutes, something he said he shouldn’t have done but felt he “owed it to him”. The story was fine, but not exactly memorable if it weren’t for the odd twist, as otherwise it was more hive-mind creatures and body-shock transforming horror, which aren’t new concepts for Who! (not that much is by this point, but I digress)

The Bad:

Another fine cover, it’s a shame the range is ending just when we get some proper knockout stuff!

As I said, not much beyond the fact that a lot of the story felt very samey to other stories. The hive-mind insectoids, the transforming colonists, the scramble in some vents and the big explosion finale, if it weren’t for the Tarlos twist it would be a perfectly serviceable but also forgettable story…

The Continuity:

As mentioned, Tarlos is a companion from the much debated “Season 6B”, set after the Second Doctor’s last on-screen appearance in “The War Games” but before “Spearhead From Space” introduced us to the Third Doctor. The idea becoming necessary in “The Five Doctors” special, when the Second Doctor claimed that his companions Jamie and Zoe couldn’t possibly remember him “because the Time Lords erased their memories”, which is what happened mere moments before his final lines, then it was made even more clear in “The Two Doctors” when the Second Doctor and Jamie mention being on a mission for the Time Lords, who were never mentioned by name during the Second Doctor’s run and in fact he was on the run from them until, yes, the final episode of “The War Games”. Writer Simon Guerrier tried to undo the 6B theory by making the “Two Doctors” appearance canon within the regular Season 6 in the audio story “The Black Hole”, but that still leaves the “Five Doctors” line unexplained, plus some other stories mentioning or being set during that time…

As for Sixth Doctor continuity? Oh yeah! Good point! Really, it’s only Constance mentioning not knowing her husband’s fate during WWII, something that is revealed in the story “Quicksilver”. It’s quite strange going backwards with Constance given her eventual fate is still left undecided…

Overall Thoughts:

Colony of Fear would be one of those perfectly fine but unmemorable stories if it weren’t for the Season 6B twist with Tarlos. It gave the story that little extra bit of intrigue and made you care more about a character that would otherwise have been a regular, run-of-the-mill member of the cast. A fun note to end the Sixth Doctor’s main range run… well, of solo stories, anyway…

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