The one with the Conglomerate

Frequently voted one of if not the best Doctor Who story of all time, The Caves of Androzani is again one of those stories that I must have watched but have little memory of. As I mention elsewhere (here) I drifted away from Who in the 1980s so it is about time I re-visited this story (courtesy of Revisitations 1 which I only bought for The Movie!). So here goes prepare for regeneration, caves and of course a quarry!

The Conglomerate

Early on we realise that one of the main protagonists is the Sirius Conglomerate; I was immediately put in mind of one of the recurring villains of the AudioVisuals releases also called the Conglomerate. Coincidence maybe but I wonder to what extent this may have influenced Nick Briggs in his early writing. Just a passing thought!

The story

We have evil corporations, mines, soldiers, gun runners, some monsters, and evil villain in the form of Sharaz Jek. We also have Spectrox a substance that prolongs life / youth and even a young Robert Glenister. All this with Androids and a quarry!

For Peri and the Doctor this is a tale of getting poisoned with pure Spectrox and trying to get the cure (bat milk) from the lower caves, culminating in the final scenes where the Doctor gives a delirious Peri the only dose saving her but triggering his regeneration. Peri sadly spends most of the story becoming more and more ill and also more and more a fascination of the disfigured Sharaz Jek

For the locals this is a tale of presidential murder, violence, execution and a grim sequence of events culminating in the deaths of nearly every participant.

We have also a great one-off villain in the form of Sharaz Jek who while reminiscent of Magnus Greel (Talons of Weng-Chiang – see here) is for me more convincing.

The best ever?

The story moves on well with few flaws – the rubbish costume for the monster is a poor piece of production and more use of shadow and smoke would have removed the need for this. I also worry that with only one container of bat milk the Doctor could have taken it in the cave then found some more. He also carries Peri all the way to the TARDIS before administering the milk – given she was dying I would have done it sooner though less dramatically.

For me the revelation is how good Davidson was in the role, and how much he clearly could have given the role longer (though Big Finish has come to his rescue here). The gritty performance may have been in part conditioned by his knowing it was the end but even so full marks.

The best ever? Not sure, a few of the modern tales are as well acted and have more subtle scripts (and some are just over the top). One of the best maybe? Yes I would give it that!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Aidan says:

    A great review. Sometimes the most praised stories would fail to live up to their billing but I do think Caves is moving, dramatic and superbly acted. As individual villains go, Sharaz Jek is definitely amongst the very best in the show’s history being both brilliantly acted and wonderfully costumed.


    1. HelmStone says:

      Thanks for the feedback – I was really pleased by how much I liked this and now realise that my having drifted away from the show in the 1980s just gives me more to catch up with!


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