‘The Jupiter Conjuction’
Written by Eddie Robson, directed by Ken Bentley
Released May 2012
“So you trust me enough to be disappointed? … Charming.”
The Doctor lands the TARDIS on a comet circumventing an orbit between Jupiter and Earth in the far future. However, rather than finding a cold barren rock, the crew discover a bustling community built around a massive corporation using the fortuitous orbit as free hauling passage. But all is not well and the blame for a string of thefts is rather fortuitously laid at the Doctor’s feet. While the Doctor and Turlough struggle to extricate themselves from the law, Tegan and Nyssa find that there are strange creatures on the far side of the comet made entirely of gas. Tegan dubs them ‘cloud monsters’ but the Doctor recognizes them as one of the most mysterious and brilliant of alien races, the Jovians. They are said to be mainly peaceful, so just why have they constructed a cannon pointed at the Earth?
The Peter Davison era is a mixed bag to say the least. It is a period of intense optimism in the program’s history as it extricated itself from the 1970’s and the immense shadow of Tom Baker’s importance. But the scripts were often far too ambitious for the limitations of the budget and the short rehearsal and film time allotted often meant that the cast and production team were equally in the dark about just what the story was about. Added to this is the largest group of travelling companions at any one time since 1964 and you have a recipe for… a mixed bag. There are moments of brilliance to be sure, but all too often the end result does not hide the harried pace with which the episodes were produced. Even so, I am very fond of this period as it was a time of reinvention and it also portrayed the Doctor in an entirely new light for the first time in seven years!
The crowded TARDIS syndrome started as Davison arrived and the worry can be seen on the actor’s face when he regenerated into the gaze of three supporting cast members. The cultured and talented Nyssa, the brash Australian Tegan and the mischievous Adric from E-Space challenged writers to find new ways to write the line ‘what is it, Doctor?’ and also split it up between three people.
The death of Adric meant that there was more story to go around, but in short order a new companion was introduced, the red-headed assassin from Trion named Turlough. Personally I am a big fan of Turlough, but the writers seemed confused by him and often gave him nothing to do at all.
The Big Finish audio series of course makes good use of this TARDIS crew and through a cracking yarn not only gives each character something to do but also delivers some strong development as well! Turlough is absolutely hilarious as the devious companion who no one trusts at all (he turns traitor on the Doctor at one point and when another character accuses the Doctor and Turlough of mass murder, Tegan can’t bring herself to entirely rule it out). Tegan meanwhile is a frazzled mess as always but also dares all to save stranger and friend alike while Nyssa is her soulful self, both intelligent and compassionate. This could be one of the best outings for this quartet!
I had mentioned in previous posts that I could never put my finger on what Davison was doing in his portrayal of the Doctor but that in the Big Finish audios it is much more clear. The staggered breathless speech and confused air of the distracted genius really comes through in these stories and Davison is given some witty dialog to boot.
The Jupiter Conjunction is a fascinating and gripping drama with many twists and turns along the way while still managing to retain a tone and feel of mid 1980’s Who, even to the somewhat rubbish wrap-up at the end when it is still unclear just what is going on so characters provide huge info dumps to try and clear things up. This is unfortunate because there is so much potential along the way for this story to be a real stunner that is let down by some necessary exposition that shows the cracks. Nevertheless, it is strongly recommended for fans of the Davison era and even those with no knowledge of that period.
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