Doctor Who – Mission to Magnus Review

… Uh-oh. You know when you remember something being bad, then when you return to it it’s somehow worse than you remembered? Well.. That. Mission to Magnus, despite being written in the 80s, is somehow more sexist than Prison in Space, written in the 60s, and has a really gratingly bad child actor to boot. How did this nearly get made as part of the original Season 23? As a fan of the Ice Warriors I imagine appearing in this story would’ve been worse than what actually happened to them, and what actually happened is they weren’t brought back on screen for decades. Let’s take a look then…

Synopsis:

The Doctor and Peri face enemies at every turn on the planet Magnus. There’s the Time Lord bully Anzor, who made the Doctor’s life hell during his time at the Academy. There’s also Rana Zandusia, the matriarchal ruler of the planet, who seeks to prise the secret of time travel from these alien visitors. Also on Magnus is the slug-like Sil, still bitter from his defeat on the planet Varos and seeking to make his fortune from the most potentially destructive ends. And, deep within the planet, there is something else. Another old enemy of the Doctor’s. And the future is looking decidedly colder…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

That’s a nice cover at least…

Erm…. Well…. Er, the… cover is nice? Did I already mention that? Oh right…

The Bad:

Jeez, where to begin? I guess with the super old-fashioned sexist nature of the script. So the planet Magnus is full of only women, with the males dying of a mysterious virus when they come of age. They keep a certain number of male children deep in caves away from exposure for breeding purposes, but in general they look down on men. Half way through the story some men from the planet Salva arrive and say they have a cure and generally treat the women as sex objects to the laughter of everyone around but the women in question. … I mean, what on Earth? This is proper 50s/60s sci-fi stuff, not 80s! Their leader, Rana Zandusia, is played perfectly by Maggie Steed, as in she knew she was in some super old fashioned “scary women of the Amazon” cheese-fest and pitched her female leader correctly…

It didn’t end there either, thanks to a couple of guest cast members. Anzor (Malcolm Rennie) is The Doctor’s old school bully, to the point where The Doctor actually cowers in fear when he appears on the vid screen at the start of the story in a tremendously awful moment, and when he’s on Magnus he constantly berates Zandusia and the other woman in proper “women should be put in their place” talk and claiming they keep nattering on and such… God, it was bad. Then Sil (Nabil Shaban) returns from Varos, but he also registers his disgust about those “things you call women”. I never liked Sil at the best of times (weird tongue-waggling laugh aside) so this didn’t help matters… It’s such a poorly conceived idea in general, let alone when it was proposed (and accepted).

The other really obviously bad point, and I hate ragging on children, is Vion (played by William Townsend). If you thought child actors who just read lines but don’t know how to act are bad on TV, imagine that but without even the “aww, cute kid’s trying hard” visual. Any scene he was in immediately took me out of what I was listening to.

The tiny scan of the CD booklet artwork again. Come on somebody who isn’t a download only guy, give us a proper scan!

Is there anything left? I mean, I kind of liked the idea of Zandusia and Sil accidentally moving into the future in the TARDIS only to see the devastation caused by the Ice Warriors, and having to “wait for time to catch up” in order to leave, that added a sort of drama in knowing the Ice Warriors’ usual plan of freezing the planet will succeed, but at the same time them gaining the knowledge of how to pilot the TARDIS was a bit wonky, and this isn’t really how time works as we know it in the series, so… Consider it somewhere in the middle, which is good for this story…

Ice Warriors were dull and simple, Sil’s money-making scheme was even more straight forward and silly than usual, and The Doctor and Peri did very little other than hide, see something unfolding, briefly get involved, then leave again. In the final scene Vion is on the surface and worried about dying, so the Salva males tell him not to panic as they have a cure for the virus, then The Doctor retorts that the knocking the planet about off of its axis and back (that’s how the Ice Warriors’ plan was achieved and stopped, believe it or not…) would have killed the virus off. Why did he write two endings to the planet’s curse and use both of them? It was really odd…

As I said in the “Creed of the Kromon” review, Vengeance on Varos must have been a literal one off for Philip Martin, everything else he’s written has been poor-to-frankly awful…

The Continuity:

Not sure where this artwork came from but… yep, Sil, Peri and some Ice Warriors, works for me!

As mentioned, Sil first appeared in Sixth Doctor TV story “Vengeance on Varos” and would appear again in the Trial of a Time Lord season, specifically the chunk called “Mindwarp”. He would also appear in the Sixth Doctor audio “Antidote to Oblivion”… all of these were written by Phillip Martin, so he obviously has a tight grip on the character (which he can keep, frankly…)

At the time this was originally going to air, it would’ve been the fifth Ice Warrior story, after the two Second Doctor serials “The Ice Warriors” and “The Seeds of Death”, and the two Third Doctor Peladon stories (“The Curse of Peladon” and “The Monster of Peladon”). The race had several layers added to them in their Third Doctor appearances, but the ones in this script are reverted back to generic conquering aliens…

In terms of the old fashioned matriarchal society idea, the First Doctor serial “Galaxy 4” and the Second Doctor Lost Story “Prison in Space” used it, but to be fair to them, they were both written in the 60s and yet somehow aren’t as bad as this…

Overall Thoughts:

An odd police line-up, especially if the suspected perp wasn’t an Ice Warrior…

Man oh man Mission to Magnus is poor. Unlike a lot of the Lost Stories, which are either “it’s a shame they weren’t made” or “I could’ve seen that fitting in the era, if nothing else”, this is definitely “thank God that wasn’t made”. The Sixth Doctor’s TV era is already full of… scripts of questionable quality, to put it politely, it didn’t need a second “Twin Dilemma”…

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