A man at a new drilling station, nicknamed the Inferno, touches some green ooze coming out of an outflow pipe. It burns him and his skin starts to turn green. Sir Keith has sent for an oil expert Greg Sutton because he wants an expert on site. Inferno is run by the ambitious Stahlman. The man, Slocum, goes crazy and attacks a plant worker, killing him. The murder weapon is still warm and, when found, was red hot. The Doctor and UNIT have come to Inferno; the Doctor wants to follow the penetration of the Earth's crust; Inferno is trying to reach a new source of gas for energy. The Doctor has also brought the TARDIS console as he needs power to continue breaking the Time Lord punishment.Sutton meets the Doctor, Petra and Stahlman - the latter is infuriated by all the experts and Sir Keith. The Doctor starts a test run with the console; meanwhile, Slocum, who has turned green and hairy, kills another plant worker and ups the power, with adverse effects on the TARDIS console. For a brief moment the Doctor is transported to a limbo place in space-time; he is brought back when Liz cuts the power. There is an alarm at the drill head. The Doctor, the Brig. and Benton rush to the power room and are confronted by Slocum.
A UNIT soldier shoots Slocum, and the Doctor is able to turn down the power. Sutton talks to Petra; he wants her to convince Stahlman to implement safety precautions at Inferno. The technician and the UNIT soldier, Wyett, are both effected by Slocum and vanish. The Doctor sees Wyatt and gives chase. Wyatt, too, has turned green and homicidal. He falls from a height trying to kill the Doctor. Sir Keith shows Sutton, Stahlman and the Doctor a sample of the green ooze, which is red hot. The Doctor ventures that it won't cool and he thinks he has seen something similar at Krakatowa. Liz draws the Doctor's attention to the main computer, which is giving off danger warnings. Stahlman refuses to listen to the Brig, the Doctor or anyone else with regard to Inferno, his mind obsessed by drilling. Stahlman puts the jar of ooze away and is contaminated. Stahlman cuts the power to the hut where the Doctor was working on the TARDIS console; he notices his hand is turning green. He then removes a circuit from the computer; he is caught by the Doctor, but manages to conceal the circuit when confronted. The Doctor has surrepticiously switched the power back on to the TARDIS. Liz and the Brig. return to see the Doctor and Bessie dematerialise.
Stahkman refuses to reconnect the power source, which means the Doctor is trapped wherever he is; he has also stepped up the pace of the drilling. Sir Keith intends to return to London and talk to the Minister to stop Stahlman. The Doctor materialises in the hut but notices small changes - the door won't open automatically and a poster displays a man with the phrase "Unity is Strength" underneath. Outside, soldiers begin shooting at him. He escapes in Bessie and then hides; spotted, he runs and is attacked by two of the infected men one seems to be knocked out by a fire extinguisher. The Doctor is captured when he sees Liz, only she is in a uniform and her hair has changed; she blows a whistle and points a gun at him. The Doctor is taken to see the Brigadier, only he has an eye-patch and is Brigade Leader. The Doctor realises he has crossed into a parallel universe. Here, Liz isn't a scientist, she is a section leader, and Britain is a fascist state; they also have an Inferno project and a Stahlman, but Sir Keith was killed in a car crash on his way to London. The Doctor notices the computer isn't working and ir ironic towards Stahlman. He is led away for interrogation, believed to be a spy. This Stahlman is also infected by the ooze. The Doctor explains what he has seen at his Inferno and considered more and more a spy by the Brigade Leader. The Inferno starts to develop an emergency situation; the Doctor uses his Venusian karate to get past Benton and run to the control room. As he tries to find the microcircuit for the computer, Benton holds a rifle to his head. Either the Doctor goes now or he will be shot then and there.
Liz stops Benton and allows the Doctor to repair the computer. The Doctor meets Sutton; the former suggests what can be done to avert the situation. Liz begins to wonder, especially when the Doctor explains Liz is a scientist and discovers that this Liz read Physics at University before becoming a Section Leader. Sutton is a rebellious man, who thinks Stahlman is mad and the Inferno dangerous, but is informed that the Party can easily dispense with him. The Doctor is interrogated again. Stahlman wants the Doctor liquidated. Liz comes to the cell and talks to the Doctor, convinced he is a cracpot free speach activist. Back in our universe, Liz worries about the Doctor; the Brig. tries to comfort her. Stahlman is continuing with Inferno unabated; Sir Keith prepares to leave for London. Back in the other universe, the Doctor's cellmate is infected; it kills a guard and the Doctor takes the opportunity to escape. He hops into the back of a jeep and finds some protective clothing, which he uses as a disguise to re-enter the Inferno, where the final drilling countdown has begun. He tries to stop the drilling; Stahlman points a gun at him.
The countdown reaches zero, the crust is penetrated and the station shudders from an explosion. Stahlman enters the drillhead, followed by Sutton and the Doctor in order to stop the emergency. Stahlman attacks them and then locks off the drillhead. The Doctor tells Sutton, Liz, Petra and Brigade Leader that this is the end of their world. More and more infected "men" turn up. Only the fire extinguishers are effective. The Doctor explains his world again; he mentions the TARDIS could send him back and save his world. He uses the console storage energy to dematerialise and arrives a few seconds ahead in the future. He wants power for the console but the Brigade Leader will only help if the Doctor takes them with him. At the control centre, more of the creatures emerge from the drillhead. (In the real world, Sir Keith is involved in a car accident.) Petra, Sutton and Liz agree to help the Doctor get back, just as the creatures begin to smash their way through a door in to the group.
They break out of the room, using a fire extinguisher; Sutton goes for the ooolent, whilst the Doctor repairs the master switch to the power. They make it to the power room. The Earth continues to convulse. The wiring is set up to connect the nuclear power store to the console. The Brigade Leader plans to force the Doctor to take them or else he will kill him. Sutton hopes the Doctor will be succesful in the real world. The power doesn't switch on and explosions get closer and closer. However, Petra manages to rewire and the Doctor sets to leave. The Brigade Leader threatens him but the Doctor cannot take anyone otherwise the time paradox would be disasterous. Liz shoots the Brigade Leader, the Earth cracks open but the Doctor can't dematerialise as the console is acting too erratic. A wall of magma approaches the hut.
The Doctor arrives in the hut, with the console and Bessie. Liz finds him and Benton fetches the Brig. Inferno is three hours from penetrating the crust and Stahlman still refuses to liste; he is growing more and more ill from the infection. There is an alarm at the drillhead. The Doctor begins to come to slightly and says all systems must be reversed. He passes out again. The crisis is averted by Petra, following the Doctor's instructions. The Doctor comes to and is pleased to see the real Liz and Brigadier; he explains the parallel world. Sir Keith enters the hut; the Doctor realises that not everything is running similarly, there are an infinite number of universes and thus free will is not an illusion. The Doctor tries to stop the drilling but everyone thinks he is ill. Stahlman closes the drillhead. The Doctor knocks out his guards with more Venusian karate and runs into the infected techician, who he disables with a fire extinguisher. Stahlman has turned into a creature now and enters the control room but the Doctor disables him too with a fire extinguisher. The Inferno is ordered shut down but it continues drilling because the controls have been smashed. The Doctor stops the drilling with 35 seconds remaining. Sir Keith gives orders to shut down Inferno. The Doctor gets angry at the Brig and takes off with the console, only to land a few hundred yards away in a rubbish tip. He comes back and asks his dear friend for help in retrieving the console.
The excellent season seven ends on a cracking note with this Don Houghton story. It has some familiar elements: parallel worlds, where things are the same but not quite the same anyway; a Big Brother, Orwellian society; apocalyptic disaster befalling the entire Earth; and some hints of Gaia. The creatures don't really seem to serve any role - what is the ooze and why do people transform into green, hairy, homicidal monsters anyway? - other than to highten the dangers for the Doctor and the others in both worlds. In fact, the monsters have been criticised by other fans as silly and unnecessary, although I have imagined if the story would work without the monster threat, a threat similar to horror films with zombies, in the sense that there is a wall of monsters threatening a trapped band of humans who will change if attacked.
The great twist is we see the parallel world destroyed which hightens the urgency when the Doctor returns and we see similar things happening. (Some scenes are redone with different costume and slightly modified dialogue, which is a nice touch!) This is the first time the show made use of parallel worlds, picking up on the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics.
The regulars and supporting cast are a pleasure. Courtney swivelling around in his chair to reveal himself as the eye-patch wearing Brigade Leader is one of many fine moments. And we get attached to the parallel world characters and feel sorry for their horrible end - it is such fun to see actors play such double roles.
Her blue mini-skirt
Her cropped, dark wig, military uniform (with short skirt) and boots - very sassy, in a kinky way!
Caroline John left the show here to raise a family. That was of course lovely for her but a bit of a shame for us; it could have been nice to develop her character a bit more. Producer Barry Letts later recounted that they deliberately introduced the scientific Liz to get away from the rather chauvinist girly type, however this was fine if you knew something about science or sci-fi; they were going to write her out anyway so viewers could get a handle on what was being discussed. The result was the introduction in season eight of one of my absolute favourite companions: Jo Grant. Terrance Dicks also recounted that having the Doctor saving his girl companions was almost the sacred formula of all action drama - e.g. the heroine tied to the circular saw by a moustached, top hat and cloak wearing villain. It may be a sacred formula if you want to keep on portraying girls as unable to do anything, so that doesn't wash from the gender equality perspective.
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