Friday, 27 June 2014

The Oxaqua Incident

The Oxaqua Incident is packed with twists, turns and incident (so to speak), so much so that it has to start in media res. On the planet Oxaqua, the Doctor, Turlough and Tegan are already involved in helping Obedee of the Basks negotiate with Ghum of the Theigs, who appears to be a terrorist intent on blowing up the Bask city because they built a dam. But all is not what it seems, as first hinted at here:

"Can't you make a deal with him?"
"A deal?" said Obedee indignantly. "With a Theig? Just look at him!"
The Doctor was forced to admit that Ghum was not the most visually appealing being he had encountered in his journeys through space and time. Short, with a pointed head twice the length of his body, Ghum's eyes were perhaps his most distressing feature. Attached to thin tentacles on either side of his head, they moved independently of one another, ceaselessly roaming the immediate area surrounding him.

This story is about how you should not judge by appearances, a Doctor Who staple trope since at least as far back as Galaxy 4. As soon as the Doctor persuades Ghum to hand over his bomb's detonator, Obedee is revealed to be the real baddy as he orders the execution of Ghum, and the Doctor and friends too even though they just helped him.

With a fast-paced plot to keep moving, there is no room for the development of subtle characterisation. Obedee orders an overly elaborate and unnecessarily slow-moving form of death to demonstrate how evil he really is in as few words as possible - they are to be squashed by a "metal slab" and stabbed by spikes when acid burns through the wires holding the slab above them.

They are rescued by other Theigs, one of whom uses a "Lazooka" to blast their way in to the room. Naturally they arrive only in the nick of time.

The metal slab slammed down inches from Turlough's still tethered hand.

Now it is time for a chase sequence, which isn't as exciting when written down as it might be on TV. However it is illustrated by the, um, illustration on that page.

In this picture I do like the touch of Ghum's eye looking around at their pursuers while the other eye is looking at where he is going. I may have googly eyes but I can't do that. They hide in a building when they get shot at by "Beam Guns", which I think must be a kind of pewpewpew gun.

A beam of white hot light knifed through the wall into the gloom. The floor caught fire, and then the roof fell in.
"Unh!" said Turlough, brushing the thick white dust from his clothes. "Where are we?" he looked around him. In the dark-ness  he could just make out the figure of the Doctor helping Tegan to her feet.
"We're in the cellar of that house," explained Ghum. "When the roof fell, so did the floor."

This is an effective, minimalist way of conveying the action, when the story does not have time for a detailed description of the roof and floor collapsing on and under them. It seems as though they are trapped, but Ghum is able to use his pointy head to make a tunnel, burrowing like a bunny. That makes me wonder if Theigs are also cat noms?

They escape out of the town into a desert, then Ghum separates from the others because he has a plan. Obviously because he has by now demonstrated the ability to tunnel using his head, he uses it again to leave them.

Obedee and his henchmannys catch up to the Doctor, Turlough and Tegan. The Doctor sees "many tiny little hurricanes that were being whipped up by the wind."

"You shouldn't have built that dam," said the Doctor. "You've upset nature's delicate balance. I've seen these mini tornadoes before. They can sand-blast the flesh from your bones in seconds!"

Obedee is caught by a hurricane and says "AAAAIIEEEH!" By which he means

The Doctor, Turlough and Tegan are saved when the sand suddenly becomes "cold and wet." Ghum has blown up the Bask dam and everything is now - apparently - all right.

Whatever was left of Obedee was never found. Without him to stir up trouble the Basks were only too willing to draw up a new Co-existence Code with the Theigs.

So all's well as ends better. It's back to the Tardis for a truly terrible jokey ending to an otherwise pretty good story.

"Ghum," repeated Turlough, "he cut it a bit fine when he flooded the desert."
"Well, you know what they say on Capu 2."
"What do they say on Capu 2?" asked Tegan.
"Skirri bip hoom da lunce."
"What does that mean?"
"I've no idea, but they're always saying it on Capu 2."
Tegan's laughter rose above the gentle hum of the Tardis.


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