Earth: Final Conflict
Scene from If You Could Read My Mind
Television Review
Earth: Final Conflict
If You Could Read My Mind
Episode A15, first broadcast in the USA 16th February 1998

E:FC kicks into high gear...

The Taelon commonality (the 'link' all the aliens share that allows them to commune directly with each other) has been invaded, and Da'an and Zo'or are determined to find out by whom. The obvious suspect is the recently arrived Katya Pitrenko, a Russian psychic appearing at a nearby conference who is able to read thoughts, soon telling Boone she knows his secret and that he is in grave danger.
At last, the persistence of regular viewers is rewarded with this intriguing episode which opens up more questions, but also has some at least partial answers about the Taelon purpose. What is good to see is the recurrence of some old foes. Corr, the man Sandoval hired to kill Boone's wife, makes a reappearance (although he doesn't receive his just desserts for this crime, which is a shame), and Zo'or, revelling in his new position as Companion to the UN, looks to have an agenda of his own to take care of, which may not be in the best interests of the Taelons or humans. There is also more background revealed about Ma'el's first contact mission to Earth, as shown in The Secret of Strandhill.
It is good to see Earth: Final Conflict finally starting to move forward through its story arc; the character interplay, especially that between Da'an and Boone is developing particularly well. Drama, mystery and intrigue at its best. Hopefully, this show won't go the way of The X-Files where there are hints but never any explanation of what is actually going on. (9/10)
Paul Spragg


Doctor Who
Doctor Who: The Horror of Fang Rock Cover
Merchandise Review
Doctor Who
Horror of Fang Rock
BBC Home Video
Price: £11.99. Out 6th July

An isolated lighthouse plays home to one of the series' triumphs

On paper The Horror of Fang Rock appears to be an ideal strategy for a fiasco. Observe: four episodes hastily written to replace another script, with a premise foisted upon the writer by the production team. Set completely in a lighthouse, so the director additionally has to contend with limited and problematic curved sets. What's more, regulars Tom Baker and Louise Jameson reportedly disliked both the script and each other.
That's what it looks like on paper.
The fact that Fang Rock is a near-masterpiece is undoubtedly down to the raw talent and knuckle-down determination of all involved. Terrance Dicks' script isn't world-shattering, but he takes the turn-of-the-century lighthouse scenario and milks the inherent isolation and claustrophobia for all they're worth. He wisely also gives his marooned characters a juicy backstory involving insider information and sets them at each other's throats, while the spectacularly aloof Doctor (Tom Baker in foul temper) grants their squabbling no concession in his fight against a shape-shifting alien.
Experienced director Paddy Russell shoots with great economy, lending the story its confidence and moodiness by refusing to once compromise its integrity. The acting throughout is of a high standard, with experienced performers elevating their roles above cliche. Louise Jameson has expressed disappointment with the insipid way Leela was originally written, but the on-screen result - whoever we have to thank for it - is one of her strongest characterizations.
The story isn't perfect, of course. The action starts to become cramped in the latter episodes, as the script marks time before the climax and auxiliary characters are picked off more to liven things up than anything else. The effects are passable at best (the Rutan alien) and risible at worst (an Airfix ship striking the rocks).
The Horror of Fang Rock is further evidence of Doctor Who's time-honoured ability to produce magic in the face of dramatic limitations and production difficulties. It plays to the series' strengths of character, and is crafted by people who cared. It succeeds beyond expectation. (9/10)
Peter Griffiths

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