Moving pictures! It’s nice to be able to watch Day of Armageddon for several reasons, not least because it gives us an opportunity to see Nicholas Courtney (Bret Vyon) and Adrienne Hill (Katarina) in action.
We open with the Doctor skulking around the jungle. At one point he’s on his hands and knees, which is a tad unusual (and undignified) for this Doctor. A little later he meets up with Steven, Katarina and Bret and is forced to admit that Bret is a decent sort after all.
The Doctor, naturally enough, takes control of the situation (or at least attempts to). But both Steven and Bret also have their points of view and it’s fair to say that the exchanges between the three of them are frank. Bret doesn’t hold back when attempting to bring the Doctor into line. “Sir! Will you shut up!” It’s a lovely scene which helps to strengthen Steven’s character (he’s had previous experience of the Daleks and so isn’t prepared to blindly follow the Doctor’s lead) as well as Bret’s.
Rather oddly, the Doctor tells Bret that the Daleks can be defeated if they look at their history books. “You must tell Earth to look back in the history of the year 2157, and that the Daleks are going to attack again. History will show how to deal with them.” Eh? Unless the Daleks plan to steal the Earth’s Core for a second time I’m not sure how that’s going to work.
Another plus point about having this episode back in the archives is that it’s a good showcase for Mavic Chen. Douglas Camfield obviously knew a good actor when he saw one, as he later cast Kevin Stoney as the not totally dissimilar Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion.
Indeed, there’s not a lot to choose between the two characters – both ally themselves with one of the Doctor’s bitterest enemies and both fail to spot all the warning signs that they’re becoming surplus to requirements. Also, both Chen and Vaughn have a mocking, sardonic sense of humour which marks them out from your run-of-the-mill villains. Chen wears a lot more make-up than Vaughn though ….
We get a good insight into Chen’s character during his discussion with one of the delegates, Zephon (Julian Sherrier). We’ve already seen the Daleks vow to dispose of all their allies as soon as their usefulness is at an end, but both Chen and Zephon obviously don’t believe this could happen to them.
When Chen suggests they join the meeting, Zephon retorts that “they will not start the meeting without me.” Chen’s insincere bowing and his amused attitude gives the very strong impression that he considers Zephon to be nothing more than a pawn in the game (Chen clearly views himself as something very different). Let’s check back in about ten episodes time to see how that works out for him.
The Doctor suggests that Bret steals Chen’s ship – with it, they could make their way back to Earth and warn the authorities. But first the Doctor elects to take Zephon’s place in the meeting (luckily, Zephon wears a big cloak, so after knocking him out it’s a simple disguise). All the delegates gather, but annoyingly we’re not told most of their names (which has been the cue for more than fifty years of debate!) Only one of them (apart from Chen) has a speaking role, Trantis (Roy Evans). It doesn’t seem right for Roy Evans not to be playing in a miner if he’s in Doctor Who ….
When the delegates arrive, each walks into the conference room in a very strange way – let’s be kind and say none of them were used to that level of gravity. As they don’t speak, they have to show their approval by banging on the table – each has a different way of banging, which is rather sweet. Chen has to be different of course, when the others are thumping the table he elects to clap his hands. Another sign that he sets himself apart from the others.
Chen proudly displays the core of the Time Destructor. It’s taken fifty years to mine enough taranium to make it work, so it’s precious beyond belief. When Zephon manages to escape and sound the alarm it’s a little surprising that neither the Daleks or the delegates bother to pick the Time Destructor up. Instead, all the delegates run around like headless chickens whilst the crafty old Doctor grabs it and makes his escape. This is another clumsy piece of plotting – the Daleks’ scheme depends on a device which the Doctor has very fortunately managed to acquire.
As the episode draws to a close, Bret is keen to take off. The Doctor hasn’t turned up, so Bret tells Steven and Katarina he’ll have to go without him. Will the Doctor make it in time? Hmm, I wonder.