The Caves of Androzani
The Caves of Androzani was Peter Davison’s final regular appearance as the Doctor. It was also Graeme Harper’s first credited Doctor Who directorial gig. Widely praised by fans, Caves was voted the single best televised Doctor Who story in a 2009 poll conducted by Doctor Who Magazine.
As a regeneration story, it offered many unusual elements. Perhaps the most obvious was that it was written by Robert Holmes. Although the most prolific writer of the 1963 version of the program, this was his only regeneration story. Caveswas also the first regeneration story to allow for a brief scene with the incoming Doctor. Unlike any of his predecessors, the new Doctor was given the final words of the story — something that would happen for several following regeneration stories. It was also the first time the Doctor willingly and explicitly underwent a regeneration solely to save a companion. Furthermore, it was the first time since 1966’s The Tenth Planet that the Doctor regenerated before the end of the then-current series.
From a behind-the-scenes perspective, Harper’s direction was hailed by those involved with the production as highly innovative. Particularly noteworthy were Harper’s more free use of camera movement than usual at the time and his direction from the studio floor. Harper’s energetic and more personal directorial style sharply contrasted most who preceded him. Unlike Harper, most directors of the 1963 version of Doctor Who generally preferred to work in the booth and relay their messages to the actors and crew through the production assistant stationed on the floor. Peter Davison, in particular, found Harper’s more direct style much to his liking. He lamented he had waited until his last story to receive this bolder style of direction, and that he would’ve stayed on the series longer if this directorial style was present during more of his tenure.
Another unique aspect of the production was its use of Shakespearean soliloquy. Morgus, the principal villain of the piece, sometimes turned away from the characters and spoke his thoughts aloud, often appearing to break the fourth wall in the process by gazing into the camera. Though apparently the result of a mistaken impression about the script by actor John Normington, Harper kept the asides in, feeling they effectively ramped up the dramatic tension.
The TARDIS lands on Androzani Minor, one of twin planets in the Sirius star system. The Doctor and Peri decide to explore a set of tracks that lead into some nearby caves. The Doctor finds a spaceship has arrived, carrying a strange cargo. Deep in the caves, a soldier is killed by a monster. In another part of the caves, Peri catches her foot in an unknown, sticky substance. The Doctor pulls her free. He gets some on himself. Despite its sting, he is unconcerned. Peri asks why the Doctor wears a stick of celery; it is a safety precaution. He is allergic to certain gases in the praxis range of the spectrum; in their presence, celery turns purple. They discover a hoard of weapons and hear footsteps. Soldiers capture them and take them to their leader, General Chellak. As the two explain their innocence to Chellak and Major Salateen, there is a call from Trau Morgus, a business conglomerate leader on Androzani Major and CEO of the Sirius Conglomerate. Believing the two to be working for gunrunners Stotz and Krelper, he loses all interest in them and orders their deaths after seeing that Chellak’s “gunrunners” are not his own men over holographic communication.
Deep in the caves, the masked madman Sharaz Jek has monitored the broadcast between Morgus and Chellak. He is delighted at Peri’s beauty. In their cell the Doctor and Peri await their deaths. The Doctor notes Androzani Minor is the only source of a powerful drug called spectrox, produced by bats in the planet’s caves. Spectrox is highly valued by the people of nearby Androzani Major for its ability to extend life.
The spectrox mines are controlled by Morgus, but the operation is threatened by the masked Sharaz Jek and his army of androids, causing public tension on Androzani Major over limited supplies. Morgus has funded a military operation by Androzani Major’s government against Jek’s androids. He has also secretly backed a gunrunning group to deliver weapons to Jek to profit from the war.
The Doctor and Peri are brought to the execution squad, dressed in red to hide the blood of their impending wounds. General Chellak asks if they have any last words; the Doctor tells him the whole thing is a mockery of justice. The soldiers step forward and take aim. On command, they pump bullets into the Doctor and Peri.
Chellak has the soldiers check their weapons. As the bodies are cut free of the execution posts, Morgus switches off. He tells the President anyone without a valid work permit has been sent to Eastern labor camps to reduce crime. The President realizes Morgus has been closing plants in the West and opening them again in the East. If he accepts Morgus’ suggestion, the same people will be working for him without pay.
The Doctor and Peri are rescued by Sharaz Jek, who was watching them and has prepared android duplicates. They are taken to his base to become his companions in exile. Chellak and Salateen go to look at the bodies. When they turn out to be androids, Chellak realizes his career is at risk. He decides to not let anyone know about it. Jek asks the Doctor and Peri to stay with him so he can look after them. Meanwhile, Stotz is having trouble. Krelper wants to cut his losses and go. He nearly kills Krelper but lets him live for the moment.
At Jek’s base, the Doctor and Peri complain of rashes and cramps where they touched the sticky substance in the caves. Jek will not be seriously threatened for years. The people of Androzani Major will rise up. They can have all the spectrox they want when Jek has the head of Morgus at his feet. Meanwhile at Morgus’ headquarters, Morgus is surprised to hear from Timmin that the copper mine has exploded. This takes care of overproduction and makes the price of copper rise. Morgus wants every soldier to leave his place and stand in silence. Back at Jek’s base, the Doctor meets Salateen. He has been a prisoner here, too. Jek captured him months ago and replaced him with an android that looks like him. The real Salateen realizes Jek will kill him now he has them for company. He laughs at their dying. They are in the first stage of spectrox toxemia from exposure to unrefined spectrox. While there is an anti-toxin, it requires the milk of the queen bat. Due to the mining activity, all the bats have fled to deeper levels of the caves, where there is no oxygen.
Stotz contacts Jek and tells him his ship is in good shape and it wasn’t his fault that the androids didn’t show up. Before Jek leaves to meet with Stotz and the gunrunners, Peri asks why he wears a mask. Jek flies into a rage. When one of Androzani Minor’s mud bursts erupted, he had no warning and Morgus left him to die. Jek survived, horribly scalded. He leaves them guarded by his androids.
In the lower levels of the caves, Jek agrees to pay half the price for the spectrox. In Jek’s HQ, the Doctor reprograms the android outside the door. Peri, Salateen and he escape. Meanwhile, Stotz realizes he and the gun runners can walk past Jek’s androids, kill Jek and steal his spectrox. The Doctor, Peri and Salateen head into the lower levels of the caves to find the queen bat. An android fires at them. One shot hits the Doctor. Salateen fires back and destroys it. The Doctor wakes and discovers Peri has vanished. He goes to find her. Jek returns to his base, but flies into a rage that Peri has gone. The Doctor takes cover behind a rock as Stotz and the gun runners enter. One of the gun runners is attacked by a fierce magma beast. They open fire on the beast and kill another gun runner. It ignores them and approaches the rock where the Doctor is crouching.
The beast is distracted by the gun runners. It turns on them again. The Doctor escapes as the gun runners retreat. Meanwhile, Peri is taken with Salateen to General Chellak. She tells him what has happened. Stotz and the gun runners meet Jek. The Doctor meets Jek again. He tortures the Doctor and the Doctor finally tells him that Peri has been taken to Chellak. Stotz arrives. Jek tells him to take the Doctor to Androzani Major to see if he is a government spy. The Doctor is in the third stage of spectrox toxaemia and is feeling unwell, but Stotz doesn’t care; the Doctor will live long enough to be questioned. In the army base, Peri also isn’t feeling well, but General Chellak doesn’t care; she and the Doctor have been working with Jek. Chellak orders an assault on Jek’s base. Salateen agrees to tell Morgus about the assault and to throw Jek off guard when he broadcasts a message.
Jek discovers the real Salateen is free to walk around the planet, leaving Peri unguarded. Meanwhile, Stotz chains the Doctor in the bridge of his spaceship and calls Morgus. As Stotz discusses the situation with Morgus, the businessman sees the Doctor still alive. He
tells Stotz that Chellak faked the attack on Jek’s base. Morgus is worried the President will see his double dealings. He tells Stotz to remain in orbit and Stotz, furious, leaves the Doctor on his own. When Stotz is gone, the Doctor tries to escape. He pulls himself free of the wall and uses the power core in the center of the ship’s bridge to sear the chains from his hands. He is still very weary from the Spectrox but programs the spaceship to land or “crash” on Androzani Minor.
Meanwhile, Morgus, fearing deception, invites the President into his office and opens his private lift so the President can leave. The President doesn’t realize it’s just an empty shaft. Morgus pushes the President into the lift and he falls to his death. Morgus orders Timmin to have the lift maintenance engineer shot and makes his own plans to travel to Androzani Minor to put the situation right himself. Meanwhile, Jek has kidnapped Peri and taken her back to his HQ, where he finds the Doctor has gone. He is now insane and needs Peri’s beauty to forget the trouble that Morgus has put him in. Peri tells him the army will attack soon, but Jek already knows that – he has changed the recognition code for the belt buckle. General Chellak and his men are in for a shock…
The Doctor is in the center of the ship’s bridge. Suddenly an extreme tiredness overtakes him, and his vision becomes distorted. However, he manages to shake it off and return to clarity as he hears shouting at the door. It is Stotz, who has been alerted by the loud, rumbling noise from the landing procedure. He demands the Doctor unlocks the door, but the Doctor refuses. Stotz shouts for something to cut the door open with, and tries to coax the Doctor into open the door willingly, but the Doctor rebuffs him, telling him he rather should focus on finding something to hold on to, as their landing could easily be a rough one. Stotz’s men proceeds to cut a hole in the door open with a blowtorch, but the edges of the cutout is too hot for Stotz to reach the door controls, so instead he points his weapon at the Doctor and threatens to shoot him. The Doctor notices that it is hardly a persuasive argument, since he will die soon anyway unless he can cure his toxemia. Stotz gives him to the count of three to surrender, but the Doctor is unmoved by this, and he tells Stotz that he owes it to Peri to find the antidote as he got her into danger in the first place. “So you see,” shouts the Doctor defiantly as Stotz finishes his countdown, “I’m not gonna let you stop me now!”.
The ship’s rocket pods fire at the last moment, throwing Stotz’s aim off and allowing the Doctor to violently land the ship on the surface of Androzani Minor. Still experiencing the effects of the Spectrox poisoning, the Doctor escapes from the spaceship. Krelper and another gun runner chase after him. Meanwhile, General Chellak plans the real assault on Jek’s base, making him believe an attack lies elsewhere. As the gun runners prepare for battle, they discover their belt buckles are not working. An android guns down Salateen and the battle kills nearly all of the gunrunners. Meanwhile, Krelper and his cohort are still chasing the Doctor. He approaches a cliff and falls. As they are about to kill him, a mudburst begins and they run back to the ship. The Doctor gets to his feet and makes his way into the caves to save Peri.
Chellak and the gun runners have no choice but to push against the mudburst. Chellak sees Jek and chases him to his base. Once there, he struggles with Jek until he pulls his mask off. He is so horrified at Jek’s scalded face that Jek is able to push him outside into the path of the mudburst. Jek goes to Peri. She screams at the sight of Jek’s face and Jek himself lets out a cry of agony. The Doctor arrives, struggling to hold off the effects of the Spectrox poisoning and the regeneration that would rid him of the infection. Jek provides him with oxygen and directions to the lower parts of the caves, so he can find and milk the queen bat. As the Doctor departs to get the milk, Morgus arrives on the planet. He finds Timmin has betrayed him and taken his dirty dealings to the government, which means he is now deposed from power and isolated from his wealth.
Morgus quickly deals with Stotz to kill Krelper and his friend. They plot to secure Jek’s private stash of spectrox so they may disappear quietly to another planet. The two make their way to Jek’s base, lured by extractor fans that Jek is using to to keep the base temperature cool for Peri. Morgus orders Jek to give him the Spectrox.
Jek sees Morgus and forgets all about Peri and everything else. He pulls off his mask, showing Morgus his scalded face. As Morgus looks at Jek in shock, Jek throttles him. Stotz opens fire on Jek, but the Salateen android returns and kills him. With his last ounce of life, Jek pushes Morgus’ head into his extractor fans. Morgus dies in seconds and the extractor fans short circuit and burst into flames. Jek dies in the arms of the Salateen android, giving it his last orders to hold him. The Doctor arrives just after the battle, and escapes, but the Salateen android stays where it is as the fire destroys Jek’s base.
The Doctor takes the recovering Peri back to the surface and the TARDIS, but a mud burst is on its way. While he unlocks the TARDIS, the Doctor spills half the bat’s milk in the sand. He manages to open the door, get inside the TARDIS and de-materialize as the planet’s surface explodes in boiling mud.
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor feeds Peri all of the remaining bat’s milk, then collapses on the floor of the TARDIS, now so close to death that he is starting to doubt that regeneration is possible, saying aloud “Is this death?”. Peri recovers to find the Doctor lying in pain on the floor. The Doctor quickly explains he only had enough bat’s milk to cure Peri. He tells Peri that there’s nothing she can do, then says that he “might regenerate”, but he doesn’t know for certain that he will be able to, because the process “feels different this time”. A bright glow surrounds the Doctor as his image distorts; he begins hallucinating his previous companions urging him to live, telling him the universe still needs him. He is particularly affected by the vision of someone who died, and his final word is, “Adric?” A vision of the Master appears, laughing at the Doctor and telling him to die. The glow grows brighter and covers the Doctor. It fades to reveal the Doctor’s new incarnation, a man with a sharp gaze and curly blond hair atop his head. Peri moves toward the regenerated Doctor and addresses him by name. The Doctor, now sitting up and fully alert, challenges his now-detoxified assistant with the words, “You were expecting someone else?” Speechless, she trips up, “I, I, I…” . He sarcastically scolds her, “That’s three I’s in one breath. Makes you sound a rather egotistical young lady.” Peri asks, “What’s happened?” He grandly declares, “Change, my dear, and it seems not a moment too soon,” staring forward with a very proud grin.