Having been lured in by the fluttering eyelashes and lip-licking salaciousness of Episode One and then rebuffed by the cold shoulder and sharp retort of Episode Two, just where would Episode Three leave me?
The answer came in the first few minutes with the Fifth Doctor’s masterful monologue on the evolution of Mars and its inhabitants following the climatic events at the end of Episode One. As in the previous episode, Davison sounds a little hoarse, but this strained-sounding aspect to his voice just serves to add pathos to the tragic tale that he has to tell.
After a brief, heartily enjoyable and thoroughly necessary immersion in historical Martian politics, we’re back in the present day and the episode continues to build on the promise of both its introduction and the first episode of the story. The characters and motivations are believable, the twists are genuinely surprising, and there are some great lines, such as when the Doctor asks his naïve and new-born companion Amy, “Is that you being funny?” to which she retorts, “I don’t know.” For indeed, she has yet to really understand just who and what she is, making her a fascinating addition to the TARDIS crew. A second good moment comes when the Doctor uses a prison visit to indirectly interrogate an old foe. “Doctor?” asks the foe, “You will die!” to which the Time Lord’s retort is, “Yes, I suppose that one day I probably will.”
Amidst the rich dialogue and good plotting, the episode only really falls down in its execution; as in Episode Two, sometimes the background noise is just a little too loud, and this episode’s battle sequences are subsequently rather hard to follow. Huge swathes of soldiers may be attacking and many may be falling, but all we have to go on are the large amounts of noise that make it impossible to tell just who’s winning and just who’s losing. This remains a minor criticism however, as the high standard of the writing and the largely good quality of the actors involved means that the episode maintains a high level of entertainment throughout.