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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
rc of Infinity” occurs right after “Time-Flight” in the “Who” timeline, and any story following that one would have to look good by comparison.
“Arc,” the first tale in the show’s 20th season, is still far from Peter Davison’s best, but there are so many intriguing elements banging into each other that it always manages to rise up above its pedestrian script. The story reintroduces Omega, the insane Time Lord who engineered time travel for his people. He was last seen back in ‘73 in “The Three Doctors” and, at the time, appeared to have been destroyed -- but not so! He still lives in a universe of anti-matter and is again plotting a return to our universe, but he needs the bio-data of another Time Lord to accomplish this feat.
Guess Who the lucky wiener is?
The Doctor and Nyssa travel to the Time Lord planet, Gallifrey, where the High Council sentences the Doctor to death, as it’s the only way to keep the situation at bay. On Earth, there exists something of a portal between the two universes, and in a ridiculous coincidence, Tegan – who was left on Earth in “Time-Flight” – and her cousin become bargaining chips in Omega’s plans.
“Arc of Infinity” takes place in two locales: Gallifrey and…Amsterdam? Why Amsterdam? Well, the story gives a half-hearted explanation, but the truth is that producer John Nathan-Turner simply wanted to shoot overseas (i.e. take a paid vacation). It’s one of four stories in the classic series that did this and, as such, makes it somewhat unique. Suddenly, the show’s clearly not shot in Great Britain! The bulk of the Amsterdam shoot occurs in a lengthy chase scene through the streets in Episode Four, and, let’s just say that it’ll never be used as a travelogue. But whoa, whoa, whoa! “Arc” has a few other tricks up its sleeve. Above all else, Colin Baker – who would go on to become the sixth Doctor before long – plays Maxil, the head of, um, the Time Lord Police. (Don’t ask. Just accept.) Baker’s performance is so insanely over the top that it almost makes the story knowing he’ll be the next Doctor. Almost. Know who else plays here? Michael “Alfred from ‘Batman’” Gough pops up as one of the High Council.
Is your geek spine tingling yet? If not, then listen to the commentary. “Arc of Infinity” is the only “Who” DVD to feature two Doctors on the same yak track: Davison and Baker are joined by Fielding and Sutton and they deliver the most entertaining commentary I’ve ever heard on a “Who” DVD. You won’t hear four actors discussing the brilliance of their work; instead, the affair approaches near MST3K-like proportions. Fielding rips the story a new one every chance she gets. When Omega’s anti-matter emu slave (the Ergon, “Arc’s” low point) appears, she all but loses it. The reliably witty Baker has a field day riffing on the stupid hat he was forced to deal with, as well as basking in an ongoing gag about actor Paul Jerricho, who plays the Castellan. Davison struggles to give the story its proper due, but finds himself continually overwhelmed by the lunacy of his co-commentators. Sutton barely gets a word in edgewise, but it hardly matters. As the story comes to a close, Baker extends an invite to Davison to join him on a commentary for one of his stories someday. (If this were to happen, it should be on “The Twin Dilemma.”) This disc is worth buying for the track alone, and its inclusion turns a ho-hum story into a classic DVD.
Special Features: In addition to the aforementioned commentary, the disc features the option of replacing the dodgier effects with some subtly updated CGI work (though, unfortunately, it doesn’t extend to the Ergon). “Anti-Matter from Amsterdam,” a 35-minute doc about the making of the story, is hosted by Sophie “Ace” Aldred. “The Omega Factor” is a 15-minute doc exploring the renegade Time Lord. Some deleted scenes and a piece called “Under the Arc Lights” would be of interest only to the most rabid, but there’s also a photo gallery, continuity announcements (“Coming up next!”), DVD-ROM content, and a trailer for the upcoming April 1, 2008, release of “The Time Warrior.” Lastly, there’s an isolated music option for anyone who wants to watch the story with only the music.