Time Crash made a not terribly convincing claim that Fifth Doctor's era, more than any other, informed the Tenth's. But between the earlier Fallen Angels and this, it's remarkable how perfectly Five drops into Davies Era style plots. Everything, right down to his muttered sarky comments under his breath (his temporary, quarrelsome, companions being like travelling with "two Tegans," indeed!) sits nicely with a tale very un-80s in its pace, style and subject matter.
Dealing with the Racnoss, their inherent savagery, and the question of the 'innocence' of baby Racnoss this is a fitting counterpoint to The Runaway Bride. Unlike the Tom starring Night of the Vashta Nerada, this also feels credibly like the two Racnoss stories are divided by the Doctor's Time War experiences and that the later set story flows naturally from the events in the prequel.
With the Doctor falling into the middle of the Racnoss/Gallifrey War, the unspoken parallels with the Time War and Eight’s attitude to it are obvious. Even though the Racnoss swarm across the cosmos, consuming every species in their path, and the Time Lords are fighting to commit one genocide to prevent tens of thousands, the way the war has hardened them rankles at the Doctor. And while Mr. "No Second Chances" drowned the newly hatched Racnoss with little regret, here Five back flips through hoops to give them third, fourth and fifth chances. The civil war between the former Emperor and the current Empress, and the backstabbing and double crosses driving it, is a pretty deft way of allowing the Doctor to make these appeals to their better nature without innocent victims being sacrificed by the Doctor's moral experiments -- it's just other Racnoss that keep getting killed with each new betrayal.
It's all quite Titus Andronicus, with over the top raging and macabre revenges. The big red fangy spider things aren't given to subtlety and Adjoa Andoh is plainly having such fun as the cacklingly nasty Empress that I have to wonder if she put plastic fangs in for the recording.
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