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Leather-bound Phantom of the Mope-era wages an android war against bat-shit crazy Space Bezos

Doc and Peri have arrived on Androzani Minor but, as they’re about a billion years too late for the tide, they’ll have to put any seaside plans on hold for now. A bit of bants and investigation on the surface quickly lead the TARDIS duo into the titular caves of that there Androzani. No need to bring a basket or a chequered cloth though, as we learn it’s going to be no picnic down there, what with human factions at war with each other and a dragon-like creature happily munching on anyone who fails to outrun its stumpy legs.

Why would the humans be waging war near a dragon, I hear you ask? For spectrox, of course! Space guano that can be turned into the elixir of life. The raw stuff’s a bit nasty though, so one side has been using androids to gather it for processing. Unfortunately, Doc and Peri accidentally touched a load of it before anyone told them not to, and, well, now they’re slowly dying. Oops. And if that wasn’t enough to deal with, we also have the Phantom of the Opera and Eldon Tyrell waiting in the wings to ruin everyone’s fun.

Here's what we think of C136 The Caves of Androzani

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

5.0

Jim | @jimmythewho

4.5

Here's what we think of C136 The Caves of Androzani

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

5.0

Jim | @jimmythewho

4.5

Here's what you think 13 Responses to “C136 The Caves of Androzani”
  1. Neil | @neilandrozani & @neiljamesactor

    A great deal of fans cite Caves as their favourite classic – and I’m one of them!

    The script is incredible. I believe every aspect and motivation of every character. Holmes creates a torrid ‘hate triangle’ between Jek, Morgus and Chellack that is simply wonderful. Everyone’s a villain and the grit and violence are palpable. Morgus is a poisonous bastard and his Shakespearian asides to camera shouldn’t work, but they do because the actor is so strong. Sharaz Jek is a tragic character and is absolutely electric to watch.

    There’s a pace and flair to the direction that leaps from the screen.

    The cliff-hangers are superb, the score is unsettling and pretty much everyone dies!

    Yes, the magma creature is a bit shit, and Morgus controls his empire with an 80’s TV remote control, but I really don’t mind because this is a joyous example of acting, writing and direction all complimenting each other. And it’s so damn exciting!!!

    Finally, we have an outstanding performance from Peter Davison who goes out on such a high. The cliff-hanger to episode 3 is pure drama and he sells it completely. The Doc is vulnerable and helpless from the word go but his heroism never falters. All he wants to do is save the life of Peri at any cost, because it’s the right thing to do. His whole character comes down to this simple task, and it’s so powerful. Plus, I’ll always find it funny that his final ever word is: ‘Adric?’

    Rating – 5.0

  2. Brent Johnson | @whoman234 & @whoandcompany

    Hey guys! I’m currently catching up on the podcast with The Ribos Operation, but I thought I’d leave a mini for Androzani. This was my 2nd ever regeneration and a damn near perfect story. It features some of the best cliffhangers in Who history and fantastic acting by Davison and Christopher Gable. How awesome would it have been to have David Bowie as Sharaz Jek as originally planned! My only beefs – the Shakespearean asides to the camera by Morgus and the subpar acting of Peri but none of that deters my rating of a solid 5.0! Thanks for all the hard work you do! Cheers, Brent Johnson

  3. Andy Parkinson | @caffreys71

    Hi Guys,

    Caves is a complex story involving corporate greed that certainly resonates even today with a side of Phantom of the Opera thrown in.

    Likes

    • The whole cast do an excellent job – It’s Davison’s best outing as the Doctor, Nicola Bryant is fabulous as Peri especially in her interactions with Sharaz Jek who is excellently played by Christopher Gable giving true tortured believability to his ‘Phantom’. John Normington gives Morgus just the right amount of corporate bastardery and Maurice Roeves plays Stotz wonderfully as a gritty, murderous mercenary.
    • The cliff-hangers – especially episodes 1 and 3
    • The androids look great
    • Timmin betraying Morgus

    Beefs

    • That controller that Morgus has – it’s a TV remote control! Could they not afford to make a prop?? You can see the volume, colour and brightness buttons for goodness sake!!
    • That Magma beast – for the love of god why do we need yet another awfully realised monster?
    • Morgus breaking the fourth wall – why only him? It totally takes me out of the moment.

    The Caves of Androzani is often lauded as one of the best stories in all of classic who, however it’s one I’ve never particularly enjoyed. After a couple of rewatches for this review I might have to change that opinion. It’s well acted and the sets and locations generally work well. The story ticks along nicely and you can see the excellence of Robert Holmes’ writing.
    I award this 4.5 unseen scenes of the Doctor milking a queen bat out of 5

  4. Steven from Canada | @SAndreyechen

    This is one that well exceeded the hype.

    The Doctor and Peri land on a planet and become entangled in a problem too big for the Doctor to solve. Hopefully they will have learned their lesson and dress for the occasion next time.

    This story captures the darkness that many Davison stories have brought but in a much more refined way. It is mature rather than simply edgy.

    Every character outside of the Tardis crew is nasty. Each character is unlikable but in a good way, and they all get their comeuppance in the end.

    Speaking of which Peri was a joy and has certainly cemented herself as a fantastic companion. It is a shame that there aren’t anymore episodes with Peri and the 5th Doctor but that’s what Big Finish is for.

    It is somewhat fitting that the kindest of the Doctors is faced with a story that features the worst of humanity and in which his good nature is punished.

    The ending visions of his companions feels much more fitting to the sappy slideshows previous doctors have faced at their deaths.

    Over this last three seasons I have grown to love Peter Davison’s Doctor and I was surprised as to how much (I’ll leave the rest for the retrospective). This is certainly a Doctor I am going to revisit once I’ve completed my first watch through (I’ve only got 5 seasons of classic who, the TV movie and all of new who to watch for the first time, how long could that take lol)

    This story (much deservedly) earns 5 kilos out of 5. If I could I’d rate it higher but that’s not how fractions work.

    Steven From Canada

  5. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks

    ‘I owe it to my young friend to try because I got her into this…So you see I’m not going to let you stop me now!’

    Rather than dying trying to save the universe as with Tom, Davison’s final story is a rather more low key affair. The Doctor and Peri get involved in someone’s little private war whilst being poisoned by a toxic bat guano. Now that doesn’t necessarily sound great but this story is widely considered one of the greatest classic Doctor Who serials. And yes it is. Robert Holmes returns to writing for Doctor Who after quite a while (last one was Power of Kroll) and smashes it. Graeme Harper’s directing is amazing, he is the only director to have done both classic and modern Who. And Roger Limb’s music is creepy and atmospheric.

    We have two of the best cliffhangers with the shock tactics of ep 1 and the pure drama of ep 3. The ‘about to be executed’ cliffhanger has been done before but it’s always cut before the fatal blow or there’s just a single shot, not a hail of them. And the intensity of Davison’s performance and Harper’s direction sells the end of ep 3 perfectly. Did you notice that the Doctor was about to regenerate at the end of ep 3? He holds it off so he can save Peri. And this is probably the best regeneration sequence with the Doctor dreaming of his companions and the Master. So good.

    5/5

    ‘Feels different this time’

    Cheers

    Kieren

  6. Ed Corbet

    Doc arrives on Androzani minor, which he has visited before or will later visit; he isn’t sure and being Doc, immediately walks-in on an arms-deal.

    Doc tries multiple times to charm his way out of situations in ways that would have worked before he regenerated, but now he just aggravates anyone he tries it on. What he does achieve though, is because he can’t explain where he came from, everyone assumes he must be a spy and their enemies are on to them, so paranoia leads them to move against each other.

    There are some dense moments; Doc tests that androids only kill humans by walking out in front of one to see if it shoots him. That is up-there with testing the air is breathable by removing your helmet. Morgus takes a belt-plate from a corpse to protect him from Jek’s androids, even though the fact the owner is dead shows it doesn’t work.

    The Jek-Mask design looked great, but I don’t think we should have seen his face; Peri and Chellak do such a great job of selling how horrific he appears when they see his face, that the make-up couldn’t live up to it while still keeping it PG-friendly.

    The Fifth Doctor says goodbye as he saves Peri instead of himself. Holmes is smart enough to hint throughout that Doc isn’t sure he can regenerate from spectrox-poisoning, making his sacrifice significant as he genuinely believes he might die.

    One of the best classic Who stories ever.

    4.8

  7. Kristaps Paddock

    We’ve finally arrived at one of the top five Classic Who serials, and it’s one that I have, and can, and will rewatch over and over again. I rarely take note of acting in Who, but this cast acts their faces off, taking the story seriously and bringing the force of talent to make us take it seriously too. Everyone knows that the role of Sharaz Jek was offered to Bowie, Jagger, and even Tim Curry, but frankly, I’m glad they didn’t accept because they would have overshadowed Davison, just when the pieces all finally fell into place for him, and Christopher Gable was more than up to this role. The sets are great, the story is great. In all, it earns a full five melty-face villains out of five.

  8. Derek Moore

    My dearest Whovians,

    Oh wow, we have reached an amazing milestone, the end of the era of the 5th Doctor, and how it went out with a bang, er, space ship crash, er, dead man on the floor. First, some minor nitpicks. Slightly too much violence, but not nearly as much as Resurrection of the Daleks or about 50% of the Davison serials. And Sheroz Jack is way too rapey with Peri to be anything but creepy. Now, onto the amazing things: EVERYTHING ELSE!

    The Doctor is on a dogged, decimating, delightful journey to save one exactly one life, as he knows as soon as he collects the anti-toxin that he is doomed. It feels like a precursor to modern Who, a character driven race for life with action and some good science thrown in. It also feels like a throwback to the action packed 3rd Doctor serials, a great bridge between past and future. Damn, Davison should have revoked his resignation and agreed to stay on for awhile longer if the quality kept improving like this.

    Rating: 6 out of 5 (ok, 5 out of 5 if being strict) desperate, delightful, departing Doctors. To quote my favorite Whovians and podcast, amazeballs!

    Sincerely,

    Derek Moore

  9. Caleb from Australia

    Hey hey hello!

    The Caves of Androzani is Doctor Who at its best – its most refined and carefully crafted. Everyone is on peak-form across both sides of the camera, delivering one of the best Doctor Who serials of all time.

    In his final on-screen performance, Peter Davison brings a great amount of characterisation to his role. Not so much as to completely change his iteration of the Doctor, but to further his range­.

    Nicola Bryant continues to bring a fiery edge to her portrayal of Peri, almost always willing to jump into action while never descending to the sole-role of a damsel-in-distress.

    Sharaz Jek is an extraordinary villain, and couldn’t be better depicted than by Christopher Gable. His manner and appearance are totally unique, with a presence that can cut through the firmest of foes.

    Robert Holmes continues to impress, fleshing out worlds and their political-endeavours with the acutest of detail, while maintaining my utmost attention throughout.

    Robert Limb’s score instills a thick, viscous atmosphere across the entire story – enhancing its every, beautiful element.

    Graeme Harper directs some of the most iconic scenes in the entire show. He gives every shot a sense of gravitas and purpose, leaving no scraps by the time the credits roll – his artistic eye composing and pacing each scene with such splendour and refinement.

    I would go on to list why every element of this story is such an achievement, but I will try my hardest to maintain my composure.

    A solid 5/5.

    Caleb from Australia.

  10. GP Haynes

    Hello again!

    Here is my mini review for “ The Caves of Androzani”

    Well Peter Davison departs on a reasonably strong episode in this entertaining and sometimes amusing story.

    It seems in this part of the galaxy, “Spectrox” is the most valuable substance as it extends life, and of course only a select group of people have access to it and everyone else, it seems, is fighting for it.

    And then we have another Villain ( or is he? ) Jek, a man disfigured and mutilated, who lives underground, and craves beauty which leads to the kidnapping of Peri.

    The main theme for me watching this is this: Humans pursuit of longevity and good looks, which, given when this first aired, perfectly fit the 80s culture at the time.

    This was when plastic surgery, Botox, teeth do-overs and other enhancements were gaining massively in popularity.

    Production for the most part was very good and we even have some model spaceships ( Enjoy Leon! )

    There are some hilarious moments when Morgus looks back at the camera ( seemingly breaking the fourth wall ), which reminded me of some cheesy, crappy American day time soap ( Bold and the Beautiful? ) where self-important characters do the same all the time. But his assassination of the President? Pure evil genius Jek plays the tortured soul well and Peri was adequate.

    But the low points? For once I did not enjoy all the shooting, the execution of the Doc and Peri ( Android versions ) with automatic weapons I found distasteful, and similarly in the last episode, Stotz’s casual shooting of his colleagues was also very off-putting.

    But the Doc was great ( and clever ) and it’s a shame Davison really hit his stride so late in his run.

    Overall somewhat flawed, but Davison was fantastic

    Rating: 4.1 Queen Milk Bats

    Cheers!

    GP Haynes

    Australia

  11. Peter Zunitch

    Davison, Phenomenal. Bryant, Through the roof. Jek, Emmy level perfect schizophrenic anti-hero. Morgus, perfect anti-villain. Salateen, what uncanny valley. Chellak Fantastic. Stotz wonderfully enjoyable. Trimmin, you go girl! Background cast and characters, really well done. Jackish doesn’t even appear in the show, and even he’s an amazing character.

    Sets, locations, effects music, all great. Writing, premise, action, pacing, great, great, great. Suspense, drama, intrigue, twists, all handled with splendor. As for the directing, it was great. However, the editing, well, that was great too. The whole production induces anxiety, concern and tension, making you think these characters might just actually die. Thus effortlessly clearing the hardest hurdle in making Dr. Who.

    Nuances like the casual banter and the, “As a teen I said WTF but now it’s so dynamic” inner monologue delivered right to the camera are simple perfection. The plot twists and turns. Then we turn it 15 with the ship hijacking scene. Even the regeneration sequence, perfect on all points.

    So what wasn’t better than good, the Magma creature. I would have accepted it in Troughton’s era, maybe even Pertwee, but here it should have remained in the shadows. Speaking of which, wasn’t the lighting great? Anything else? Well Davison is more reactive than he is clever, but honestly it’s a non-issue here.

    In my opinion this not only beats City of Death’s running the streets and all other who serials for absolute best Dr. Who ever, but it ultimately approaches a perfect creation. 99.7 out of 5.

  12. Tanz Sixfingers | @tanz6fingers & @tanzsixfingers (insta)

    Greetings Leon and Jim!

    The Caves of Androzani is a well written and acted story. The special effects and use of miniatures is fine (for the time period), but the monster was a bit naff. Peter Davison said that it is his favorite story, and that he wished he had gotten more of this quality, especially of Graeme Harper’s innovative directorial style. Apparently, it is also one of the top 5 classic Who stories in fan polls, and in 2009, it topped the list in a survey by Doctor Who Magazine.

    Although it’s entirely fitting with his character, I think his sacrifice would have been more poignant if he had done it for Tegan instead of Peri, whom he had basically just met.

    I found it interesting that the Doctor and Peri were poisoned in Part One, and the whole of their actions center on this, instead of them being poisoned at the very end. Remember in Planet of the Spiders, the Third Doctor is poisoned in the last part, and there was no build up or foreshadowing of his regeneration at the onset of the story.

    Spectrox reminds me of vraxoin, the highly addictive and dangerous drug in Nightmare of Eden. You would think we would see more of these substances appear in stories.

    Sharoz Jek breaks the Fourth Wall with his comments and musings at times.

    This is the third serial this season where android duplicates were used, although they were used more effectively than in the Resurrection of the Daleks.

    This is also the third serial this season where nearly everybody dies, except Timmin, the President’s secretary. Even the Doctor didn’t make it out without regenerating…

    My rating: 4.6 out of 5.

  13. Tracey from America | @yecartniatnouf

    I really hope you rethought your vacation to the Caves of Androzani. These caves seem to have all the danger: WWE armadillo, low oxygen caves, poison bat nests, slick President, devious businessman, even more devious business woman, fiendish mercenary, warped revenge-seeker, mud bursts, and deadly androids!
    Maybe this planet should have been in the ghost monument race?

    The red cloth. I love the world-building here. This funeral tradition is so well known to everyone it is only explained as: “Of course we’ll give you the red cloth treatment.”

    The characters waste no time giving you an idea who they are, though none of them are good people. We have:

    Trau President- jovial, charismatic, slick
    Trau Morgus- self absorbed, slimy, uncaring
    Sharez Jek- creepy, criminal, android builder
    Stotz- scrappy, possibly mad leader of a bunch of riffraff
    Krau Timmin- observant, calculating, well-timed

    There’s something incredibly poetic about the actions of many of the characters. Especially the Morgus and Jek- they’re like comic book archnemeses. And everyone is so suspicious they suspect their own shadow. They are tormenting themselves.

    By contrast the Doctor is so quiet talking to Peri about death. So hushed. Almost intimate. I don’t want to lose this guy!

    I am torn regarding the character Sharez Jek. He’s a compelling creepy villain. But I wish they hadn’t made him physically disfigured, AND directly related that to his being evil. It’s a problematic trope.

    I’m just going to ignore the regeneration and keep thinking of Doctor Five until the next episode.

    Rating: “Then I eat the celery!”

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