The Visitation is still in Peter Davison’s first season as the Fifth Doctor, but by this point the new status quo is firmly established. This is a point in Doctor Who history when not only was I a regular watcher, but at around 10 years old, I actually still retain some memories of that original viewing.
I actually haven’t seen The Visitation since it originally aired and some scenes immediately jumped out at me. I retained a fondness for reluctant highwayman and verbose thespian Richard Mace and Michael Robbins portrayal of the character remains one of my favorite things about this story.
What I had not remembered was how much time this particular TARDIS crew spent squabbling with each other. Boy was that tedious.
In terms of story this is a pretty basic Doctor Who setup. The Doctor and co stumble upon an alien invasion (this time in England during the Black Death) and contrive to stop it. I was struck throughout though at how hapless Davison’s Doctor often seemed to be. Very much a victim of circumstances rather than driver of them. He was also strangely petulant and while let’s face it no one actually likes Adric seemed to be outright mean to him on more than one occasion.
There wasn’t a lot of tension in this story unfortunately, not least because the supposedly unstoppable android consistently failed to hit anything it was aiming at. But the design work here was great. The android for example was not only distinctive but effectively represented what we are told about Terrileptil culture.
Even better though is the design of the Terrileptil’s themselves. Unfortunately due to the limitations of the actual taping of the show they are very obviously men in suits, but purely in terms of design the reptile/fish hybri look is brilliant. And the animatronic elements of the mask make them more convincing than some of what came before.
The other event of note is of course the destruction of the sonic screwdriver. This was the last appearance of that device in classic Who and it didn’t reappear until the 1996 television movie. Given how it is used almost as a magic wand in modern Who, I do find it ironic that it was removed from the show because it was felt at the time that it was being used too much as an easy solution to all the Doctor’s problems.
I like the sonic screwdriver… but I kind of wish it was destroyed again.
Outside of that though the episode seems resolutely average. There’ nothing terrible here but also nothing you haven’t seen before in Doctor Who many many times.