A drilling project at a power plant, being driven by a madman who won’t listen, goes off the rails and green slime appears and starts turning innocent power plant workers into violent Wolfman Jacks. In the meantime, The Doctor tries to jump start the TARDIS console from the nuclear reactor and is sent into a parallel universe where normailty is an alternate, military led republic with some familiar faces behaving very badly. The Doctor must get back to his own universe and save the Earth from destruction at the hands of drilling project related disaster.
The fourth and final story of season 7 is another 7-part extravaganza. Its a bit of an ecological warning tale, with the ravaging of the planet by scientists trying to find new ways to get more powerful energy sources. A bit like modern day fracking, but with a walloper in a three piece wool suit refusing to listen to The Man From The Ministry ™ and instead putting the entire planet at risk to get the results he wants. UNIT are there to provide security at the power plant but it appears The Doctor has other ideas, attempting to get the TARDIS up and running with power from the experiments. When it all goes wrong and the TARDIS console is transported along with the Doctor to an austere military State in an alternative reality, it gives a great chance for the cast to have a break from their usual UNIT characters and show a very different side to them. A staple in the science fiction genre, this is a well thought out alternative universe; no Spock with a beard and no slightly dubious Mexican accents.
“Inferno” is a great story done well, with some great guest cast, notably Christopher Benjamin (later to return as Henry Gordon Jago) as Sir Keith Gold, Olaf Pooley as Professor Stahlman and Derek Newark as rig expert Sutton and Sheila Dunn as Petra. Pertwee is also in great form, cutting a fine dash in his cape. Nick Courtney is as wonderful as always as the Brigadier, but also gets to excel as the nasty Brigade Leader. Caroline John also does a top turn as the alternative Liz.
There is a fair bit to get stuck into here with the two storylines; the imminent drilling disaster and the alternative universe both need time for a decent set up but, once again, a great story is stretched out over 7 episodes, making it feel overly long. With season 7 otherwise being such a solid base for the way the show changed/worked, it would be interesting to have seen how it would have played out with 6 four parters rather than the seamless “Spearhead From Space” and then three 7-parters that all feel a bit long.
My only other complaint? Not entirely sure how Green Wolfmen seemed to be the natural finishing point for people infected by the escaping ooze and on top of fairly mad cheap werewolf make up, there are a couple of unlikely looks to camera by said Wolfmen which seem a bit incongruous, along with a few lingering shots of them snarling and snuffling and shuffling about, attempting to HAMMER home the monstrousness.
“Inferno” ticks a lot of boxes; great ensemble cast, solid story, regular cast getting to have a go at playing evil versions of themselves and a good take on a classic science fiction plot device. Dubious green wolfmen aside and 1 (or 2) episodes too many, this is Classic Who doing what it does best. A solid 8/10.
Written and edited by Gavin Dunbar