"Doctor Who" Inferno: Episode 7 (TV Episode 1970) Poster

(TV Series)

(1970)

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10/10
Caroline John R.I.P.
ShadeGrenade22 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The sad death of actress Caroline John has just been announced. She is best remembered for her portrayal of 'Liz Shaw', the Cambridge scientist seconded to U.N.I.T. - the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce - in the seventh season ( the first to star Jon Pertwee ) of 'Dr.Who' in 1970. After years of 'screamers' such as 'Susan', 'Polly', and 'Victoria', Liz was a big step forward - she was intelligent, independent and resourceful. Indeed she wouldn't have looked out of place in 'Doomwatch', the B.B.C.'s other big sci-fi drama of the time. Liz's tenure in the show was brief - incoming producer Barry Letts did not think she was right for the show as she was almost as intelligent as the Doctor himself, and Pertwee tended to favour companions he could act as a father figure too. So Liz did not make it to Season Eight. Episode seven of 'Inferno' was her last appearance ( apart from a cameo in the 1983 special 'The Five Doctors' ), discounting fan-made spin-offs.

A top secret drilling project - codenamed 'Inferno' - to penetrate the earth's crust is under way. Its director, 'Professor Stahlman' ( Olaf Pooley ) is obsessed with finding a new fuel supply. The Doctor realises it is potentially dangerous, but his warnings go unheeded. In an attempt to get the Tardis operational again, he is flung sideways into a parallel universe where the same drilling project is under way, but at a more advanced stage. The Doctor meets alternative versions of his friends, including Liz. As penetration zero is reached, the Earth begins to die. The Doctor cannot help the people of this world, but can help his own - provided he gets back there in time. Episode 6 concluded with one of the all-time classic 'Who' cliffhangers as a wall of molten lava hurtles towards the hut containing the Tardis. The Doctor wakes up back in his own world, and sets about trying to prevent a similar catastrophe from enfolding there. He is given unexpected help by the Professor himself, who has become infected by the ooze coming from the Earth's bowels and regresses into a savage creature called ( according to the closing titles and 'Radio Times' listings ) a Primord. With Stahlman dead, the drill is shut down.

As noted earlier, John is a breath of fresh air. 'Inferno' is probably her finest hour as it gives her the chance to play two different versions of her character, one good, the other evil, and she does so brilliantly. The evil one is eventually persuaded by the Doctor to sacrifice her life in order to save another universe - some feat. It is indeed a pity that she was not retained beyond this story. It would have been nice to see Liz travelling in the Tardis the following season. The decision to dispense with John was probably the only major decision of the Letts era I profoundly disagreed with.
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9/10
The end of Liz and Pertwee's standout season
Paul Evans24 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Inferno has been magical up until now.

The Doctor's back on Earth having escaped the parallel universe, but he's unconscious. Stahlman is pushing ahead with penetration zero, clearly affected, but the Doctor isn't on hand. A semi conscious Doctor babbles about output pipe 2 and tells Liz to reverse the systems. Liz dashes to the control room and orders it. The Doctor explains to Liz and the Brig where he's been, the Primords arrive before penetration zero.....

When the Doctor explains to Liz and the Brig what happened in the parallel worlds it was brilliantly delivered, he's such a great actor.

In truth I think episode 6 was the peak, but part 7 is another great episode.

Watching Inferno, I've been reminded of 1984 drama threads, the bleakness of it, but the story is very similar to Conan Doyle's When the world screamed.

I was so gutted that this was the last appearance of Liz, she was a fantastic companion, and featured in some superb episodes. The series was intelligent, she was cutting, the format worked so well. I love Katy Manning, so much, but Jo Grant was not a patch on Liz, the series seemed to go backwards after Inferno, so many dull and repetitive stories would follow.

The series has been outstanding, and Inferno has been its peak, fantastic overall.
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10/10
Hot stuff!
Christopher Evans21 September 2014
Review of all 7 episodes:

Inferno has a tremendous reputation and that is very well deserved, it is fabulous in almost every way. The brilliance of the story, script and acting is clear throughout and particularly in the famous portion of the story which involves an alternative reality with fascist versions of the Brigadier, Liz, Benton and guest characters. This highly entertaining aspect of the story brings out fantastic performances from Nicholas Courtney and Caroline John as villainous versions of their regular characters. When this alternative reality is brought in, it is Doctor Who at its truly magnificent best.

The story involves a scientific project lead by Professor Stahlman to drill through the earth's crust which runs into trouble due to Stahlman's refusal to slow down or take precautions and due to a mysterious green substance coming from underground which causes physical and mental changes to those who touch it. The Doctor throws in a whole new dimension - literally - when he accidentally causes the TARDIS console to transport him to a parallel universe where the same scenario is occurring but in a fascist Britain.

The entire script is superb, intelligent and believable with great dialogue delivered perfectly by the whole cast. Pertwee, Courtney and Caroline John are at their very best throughout whilst John Levene not only fully establishes Benton as an extremely good regular character he also plays the fascist version of Benton with gusto. There are great realistic guest characters played to perfection. Olaf Pooley (Stahlman), Christopher Benjamin (Sir Keith), Sheila Dunn (Petra Williams) and Derek Newark (Greg Sutton) could not be better. The story has a nice gritty, grown up science fiction feel but also has bags of action, stunts, thrills and fun.

The plot thread where people touch a substance emanating from beneath the Earth's crust and turn into werewolf-like creatures known as 'primords' is the least impressive aspect of the story in my opinion and even that is very entertaining. At first I disliked the primords subplot but after repeated viewings I realised it makes more sense than it first appeared. The substance affects the people physically and mentally at different rates depending on how much they touch. It drives them to seek extreme heat and to try to achieve the penetration of the earth's crust. They use the knowledge they had before being affected to help them. It is actually a fun idea providing a lot of thrills but the make-up effects were limited by the age and budget. That does not detract from the quality of this really fantastic story which I would put easily in my top 15 or 20 stories of all time. It is a true classic.

The vast majority of this 7 parter is truly special and it deserves the huge praise it receives.

My Ratings: All 7 Episodes - 10/10
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S7: Inferno: The ambition and tension in the narrative helps cover for weak monsters and a slight feeling of the familiar about it all (SPOILERS)
bob the moo14 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Not through any fault of Jon Pertwee, but it had been a few months since I last watched a Doctor Who serial and I thought to change that recently, returning to where I left of and starting the serial Inferno. The plot sees the Doctor involving himself in a project to drill deep into the earth; a project which, wouldn't you know, is beset by problems and very recently has seen a maintenance man go rouge and commit a murder. UNIT gets involved and soon it is clear that something more than a single murder is afoot – although the Doctor and Liz are perhaps not a great help as they are busy messing around with his TARDIS.

Inferno has much to recommend about it because its foundation is on interesting ideas and a certain amount of darkness in what it does. The plot sees some form of infecting force released from the drilling operations and soon those involved are struggling to recognize the extent of the threat, or to adequately deal with it. This builds quite nicely for a few episodes, albeit with the usual characters of arrogant project leader, voice-of-reason-underling and so on. What makes the serial more memorable is that by accident the Doctor finds himself in an alternative dimension where everything is the same but terribly different. I'm not 100% but I am pretty sure this is the first time that Doctor Who did this with Earth, although they have stepped outside of normal time I think. By doing this the serial becomes more interesting because we have changes to characters and changes to dynamics, throwing what you expect off a bit. It also allows for darker events to happen because, although real in the context, the viewers are invested in the other dimension – not this one, so can take losing them in a firey hell if it makes for good television.

Watching with modern eyes it is perhaps more familiar as an idea since we have seen it done many times, however for the BBC viewers I guess it was very much an engaging and interesting idea. It was to me too, but I did find it hard to shake the constant thought of how much things like Star Trek had influenced the writing. After all, the evil doppelganger thing was done in the mid-late sixties in the episode Mirror, Mirror – a thought that wasn't helped by the Doctor suddenly doing a sort of Vulcan nerve pinch on anyone within arm's reach. I do not know the history or the detail, but for me it was a distracting comparison. Still, it worked. The "alt" characters are played well, giving some humor but pleasingly not played for laughs – Lethbridge-Stewart does have menace to him.

The monsters are not particularly memorable – to the point that I really do not even recall if they have a name. Their connection to all the events is never really made clear; they seem to exist as just a thing that happens as opposed to an instigator or anything else – although perhaps this was the point. I felt they looked like a werewolf costume had been washed with a brand new green blanket, but as a manifestation of the threat, they did the job well enough. The cast are pretty good. Pertwee is in good dramatic flourish and has good action to work within. Courtney is good in both his roles and, although simple, John seems to do better with a clearer character to work with (ie not just a "dolly- bird in a mini-skirt" who is a scientist because that's what the script says!).

Inferno is not perfect as it has flaws and some things that bugged me about it, but it is engaging throughout the serial and does have a good dark edge to it once it flips to the alt-dimension.
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7/10
Caroline John's Final Full Appearance in Doctor Who
BridgeGuy3 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Noteworthy not outstanding, Inferno's final episode brings the story to a formal end. Caroline John makes her final appearance as Liz Shaw, which is probably the most significant event in this 24 minutes of TV.

Inferno should remain one of the best rated classic Who stories, but that has to be for the drama of the first six parts, the mad careerist scientist demolishing all in his path (including if/as he sees fit his own planet!) executed with serious panache, plus the huge treat of the alternate world where the actors can run riot...

In this conclusion the usual world is a tame place after the alternate one, and the drilling is stopped pitifully easily. Caroline John has no farewell scene; she just plays Liz masterfully for the fourth story in a row. TV is a tough sector!!
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