Official Plot Synopsis:
Exiled to Earth as punishment for stealing the Tardis many centuries ago, Dr. Who has taken residence in a plush London hotel. Not too far away, top medical brains are huddled around a newspaper. During a medical, Dr. Cartwrightt passes out at the sight of a wierd symbol on the time traveller's chest - the symbol of terror of the viscious Blenhim master race - Dr. Who tries to bring him out of his coma and back to consciousness with thought-transference equipment...
The premise, for a start, is worth mentioning – that some humans are descended from alien refugees; race memory; the Doctor telling a story via flashback; the Doctor using mental projection to bring someone out of a coma (an idea TV Comic would later desperately reuse). The idea of an exiled Doctor with a tattoo was embraced by fandom with the idea Time Lords are ‘branded’ when exiled (which is why the Third Doctor has a tattoo but the Second and Fourth don’t), while Patrick Troughton’s character in The Omen had a similar mark of terror on his skin (666). Despite their name and their cliched posturing, the Blenhim look threatening with their ninja-like identity-covering cloaks, mindless violence and extremist attacks on the galaxy. It’s probably some racist slur against Arabs, but the Blenhims work on a primal level... and tragically nothing else.
Subtext? What subtext?!
Episode One pretty much sums it up...
The burn the Doctor receives in the flashback is much bigger than the one he shows off in the story. Did it shrink and heal yet somehow remain perfectly formed?
Just why is there a carpark of odd transports under the Blenhim rally stadium? Do they all drive their on their own? Why do they leave cloaks around for anyone to wear? Don’t they have some kind of password or security? Why does the Doctor call their reign of terror "treachery"? Who are they betraying? How does the Doctor know his challenge is part of Blenhim Law? How exactly does their rule by right of challenge thing work – the real Leader thinks using X-ray vision to graffiti the Doctor’s flesh is good enough to leave him supreme ruler of the empire, while the Doctor just smashes one of their totems with a laser beam from a ring. How does either approach make them the winner? Why do they fear the Doctor as the new leader when they know he just has a laser ring – they could cut his hand off, for a start. How the hell can every ship in a solar system ‘flying east’ all lead to them being destroyed? What happens to the old Leader when the Doctor betrays them? How does the Doctor get out of the stadium not only alive, but killing all the Blenhims there? And if the Blenhims have conquered their neighboring planets, why do they have a meeting involving some film being played? Don’t they have some kind of mail system to update each other?
The Doctor gets one of Voldemort's earlier and less popular logos...
Since a completely different nasty humanoid-with-strange-mask race called themselves The Master Race in the final Hartnell comic strip adventure, wouldn’t it have been better to make it a sequel? Or give him a companion? If they don’t use John and Gillian because it’s ‘TV canon’ now, why not Jamie? And isn’t it stupid to have the Doctor wielding a Cyberman laser-ring from an unseen adventure in ANOTHER unseen adventure?
Words of Wisdom:
"He’s been shocked into a sleeping state!" – The Doctor’s tutorial on Comas 101.
"I, your leader, have important news regarding our plans to dominate all planets this galaxy. At this moment, our missiles are being launched against all planets who have refused to accept us as their masters. The Blenhim reign of terror has begun." – The Blenhim Leader proves that first impressions count if you don’t want to come across as Hugh Grant put in charge of the Taliban.
"Dr. Who’s story of his encounter with the Blenhims is certainly making Cartright restless! All it needs is for some dramatic revelation to crop up and I’m sure it’ll shake him out of his coma!" – Random Scientist agrees with the plot summary in the text box beside him.
"I shall prove beyond doubt to those assembled here that I have abilities far above ordinary wretches like yourself!" – The Blenhim Leader shows off his prodigious PR skills. And eyeball laser beams.
"...and that’s how I destroyed the Blenhim Master race." – The Doctor finishes his story. Methinks the Time Lords have been WAY too lenient to the guy.
- The Doctor begins his flashback, and his mind fills with images of the Blenhim army. Next week, the Doctor's sinister memories are revealed!
- Cartwright starts screaming in terror as the flashback continues.
- The Blenhim Leader vows to prove his authority and then dismember the Doctor for challenging it. Don't miss the contest for power next week! A terrible death awaits the loser!
- The recovered Cartwright thanks the Doctor for putting his mind at ease. "No point fearing a race that is no longer there, eh?" the Doctor notes. An action-packed new Dr. Who adventure begins next week: The Brotherhood!
At the End of the Day:
Despite finally categorically accepting the fact the Doctor is not an ‘Earthman’, The Mark of Terror has the dumbest of dumb set up ideas – the Doctor sells his story to a newspaper (who believe he’s a time traveler despite the fact he has no proof whatsoever) and goes for a medical with some scientists. Even if, maybe, the Doctor is just famous for his previous TV Comic exploits (one of which ended up with most of America voting him President), and the Doctor doesn’t give a damn about hiding his identity any more, it’s still stupid to look at and stupid to read. Would it have been so difficult to think up another way to have the Doctor take off his shirt? Couldn’t he have been run over or something, taken to hospital, checked over and then the guy passes out? The idea that medical scientists have thought transfer machinery at all, let alone ready just in case it might be needed is stupid and, as the Doctor notes, any notes they have on him would be useless since they want to know how HUMANS react to time travel. If they’re interested in him as an alien, then Cartwright is in for a nasty experience, since he is revealed (along with his entire family) to be half-human. The whole thing is ultimately a desperate excuse to tell a story that was written for the pre-exile Doctor, and not an original story at that as the Doctor picks a fight with some gullible aliens and pulls the old ‘send their entire fleet to their doom because of their unwavering obedience’ used in The Seeds of Doom and countless other stories. The Mark of Terror has nothing beyond its unusual structure to notice.