The Doctor and his new companion Peri become embroiled in a drug war between on the twin planets of Androzani. When they encounter the disfigured terrorist known as Sharaz Jek, they learn that they have each been poisoned – and will surely die unless they can obtain a rare antidote!
The Doctor and Peri are blindfolded and put before a firing squad. The squad take aim and fire. A tense and shocking cliffhanger to Part One, which ups the shock factor in Part Two we see both the Doctor and Peri die from multiple hits!
The villainous businessman Trau Morgus assassinates the President by throwing him down a lift shaft.
The Doctor, succumbing to spectrox toxaemia, regenerates whilst haunted by visions of his former companions and his archenemy the Master, who urges him to die.
The Doctor takes control of a mercenary spacecraft and crashes it onto the surface of Androzani Minor in a bid to save Peri, even though he knows that he may well die in the process…
Veteran writer Robert Holmes returned to the show to script ‘Androzani’ after an absence of nearly five years. He was originally commissioned to write the twentieth anniversary story ‘The Six Doctors’, but struggled with the shopping list of characters and plotlines he was given to include, resulting in him instead penning ‘Androzani’, which would be Peter Davison’s final regular appearance as the Doctor.
After three years of wearing a decorative vegetable, the Doctor reveals to Peri to the answer to the question that had plagued fandom for three agonisingly tense years – why celery?! Simply put, the Fifth Doctor is allergic to certain gases in the “Praxis” range, which would turn the celery purple if it came into contact with them. The Doctor would then eat the celery. There, are we satisfied?
In 2009, Doctor Who Magazine readers voted ‘The Caves of Androzani’ as the best Doctor Who story ever made. It’s easy to see why.
The Doctor: “Androzani Major was becoming quite developed last time I passed this way.”
Peri: “When was that?”
The Doctor: “…I don’t remember. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the future.”
Sharaz Jek: “We shall become the best of companions.”
The Doctor: “What do you say, Peri? We can go on nature walks, have picnics and jolly evenings round the campfire.”
Stotz: “You better turn this ship around Doctor!”
The Doctor: “Why?”
Stotz: “Because I’ll kill you if you don’t!”
The Doctor: “Not a very convincing argument actually, Stotz, because I’m going to die soon anyway, unless of course —“
Stotz: “I’ll give you to the count of three!”
The Doctor: “Unless of course I can find the antidote… I owe it to my young friend to try because I got her into this —“
The Doctor: “So you see —“
The Doctor: “I’m not going to let you stop me now!”
Time to time, there comes a Doctor Who story that just ticks every box. ‘The Caves of Androzani’ is just such a story. The script from Robert Holmes is perfectly tense and deliciously dark yet revelling in the type of black humour Holmes was famous for.
Elsewhere Graeme Harper’s direction is inventive and well-paced throughout; the guest cast members each turn in phenomenal performances (especially the late, great Christopher Gable as the unstable Sharaz Jek); the music, design work and effects complement each other well; and the regeneration scene ranks as one of the best the series has ever attempted.
But above all, ‘Caves’ ranks as one of the greatest stories because of Peter Davison. The feckless, innocent minded Fifth Doctor is pushed to his utter limits like never before, and what keeps everything so engrossing is Davison’s amazing, ultra-confident performance.
Just watch him in the aforementioned cliffhanger to Part Three, as he faces down mercenary Stotz and his men whilst crash-landing their spaceship and you’ll see an actor pushing himself to the max, determined to give the most realistic and heart-wrenching performance he can.
‘The Caves of Androzani’ is consistently clever, packed with morally ambiguous characters, adult themes and shock moments that stick in the mind long after watching. It’s dark, seedy, and grim – the complete opposite of the Fifth Doctor, resulting in a Fifth Doctor story that truly tests our hero to his limits and beyond.
What’s your favourite Fifth Doctor story? Let us know below…