For someone who had such enthusiasm for being a part of Doctor Who, he certainly got the short end of the stick when it came to the quality of scripts for his era.
And while many may agree that “Timelash” is a bit of nadir for the era, I can’t help but wonder if “Mission to Magnus” had made it onto our screens if it might have competed for that dubious honor of the worst sixth Doctor story — and possibly one of the worst stories in the show’s long history.
On paper, these elements should have added up to a stronger story – the return of the Ice Warriors, meeting the Doctor’s childhood bully. One of my big issues with Eric Saward’s script-editing during the 45-minute episode of Doctor Who era is that the scripts showed no sense of pacing. A large portion of episode one would involve some distraction to keep the Doctor and Peri from joining the main action of the story for an extended period of time. That continues here with the Doctor’s childhood bully serving as nothing more than a distraction to keep the TARDIS from arriving on the scene too early.
But there are larger flaws with this story that just the pacing. I can’t help but think that giving us a story about a female-rule society written by a man isn’t going to necessarily pay huge dividends. (See also TNG’s “Angel One” that aired about the time this was written). Instead of exploring the idea and really delving into it, it’s played off for laughs and ends up feeling like something taken from the original Star Trek‘s “The Apple.”
Then there’s the horrifically poor pseudo-science and a complete lack of dramatic tension. I listened to this one while jogging and it made my run feel longer.
And yet, there in the midst of all this is Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant giving it their all. Thanks to Big Finish, we’ve seen just how tragically underserved this Doctor/companion team was by their on-screen stories. Maybe by adapting this one for their Lost Stories range, they wanted to remind us of how good other entries from Big Finish really are.