It seems as though their adventure is over, and following a pleasant interlude at the Thal encampment, the time travelers are eager to be on their way. As they’re preparing to leave, the Doctor asks Ian to return the fluid link; the Ship is inoperable without it. Suddenly, Ian remembers: the Daleks took it when they searched him. The fluid link is still in the Dalek city. The realization is clear: they must go back…
I said once before that it’s sometimes difficult to approach early Doctor Who without bringing along some baggage. There’s an expectation—fairly or unfairly—that the Doctor will immediately do the Right Thing. Except, uh, when he doesn’t, and regardless of everything that’s happened before (including kidnapping Ian and Barbara, as well as tricking them into going into the city), the Doctor’s insistence that the Thals accompany them to the Dalek city to recover the TARDIS’ fluid link is the first time I’ve felt genuinely disappointed in the Doctor.
Nevertheless, The Expedition is, in many respects, about courage and bravery, and focuses on important questions about what these concepts mean to different people, especially the Thals. Alydon, for example, confronts his unease at suddenly finding himself leader following Temmosus’ death—not an easy task in the most ideal circumstances—but he must also go against hundreds of years of Thal culture that teaches that violence of any kind and in any circumstance is wrong. He is understandably shocked at his own violent reaction when Ian threatens to take Dyoni, whom Alydon loves, to the Daleks, even when he knows that Ian would really betray them. His confidence, therefore, is shaken to the point where his only recourse is to sit forlornly in the forest in quite contemplation of the disturbing reality that’s he’s come face to face with: that he must abandon some of the ideals he considers sacrosanct in order to ensure the safety of his people.
Then, of course, there’s Antodus, whose brother Ganatatus is, by any definition of the word, brave and stalwart, almost to a fault. Antodus, on the other hand, is genuinely terrified, both at the ordeals he and the others must endure, but also, obstinately, at having to live in Ganatus’ shadow and the expectation that comes with being his brother. Sometimes in situations such as these, just putting one foot in front of the other is an exercise in courage, and it seems that Antodus is having difficulty holding onto whatever remaining courage he had to begin with. He’s just tired, that much is clear, and he wants to go home.
Finally, there’s Barbara who has come a long, long way since sitting in Ian’s car outside 76, Totters Lane, and, indeed, from her terrifying ordeal being guided through the barren and antiseptic corridors of the city only to be confront by a Dalek (to say nothing of suffering from radiation sickness). These experiences represent something of a turning point for Barbara: she still desperately wants to return home, but there’s a definite change. Barbara is more confident and sure of herself in a way that comes from pure experience. Nevertheless, it still takes a certain fortitude and stalwart-ness to keep going, which Barbara does admirably as their party makes its way through the swampy marshland near the Lake of Mutations that is home to a strange bestiary of dangerous animal life.
The reality of just how dangerous the lake is soon becomes tragically clear as Elyon the Thal approaches the lake’s edge to replenish the water supply. As he concentrates on his work, the water begins to ripple, bubble, and churn, before resolving itself into a vast, swirling maelstrom as the Thal looks on in sheer terror…
Daniel is the owner and Managing Editor of Time and The – !. He's been a fan of Doctor Who since watching Tom Baker regenerate into Peter Davison on his local PBS station as a kid. He launched Time and The – ! in 2011 after having the bright (?) idea to watch every Doctor Who story from the beginning and blog about it. (Yeah, he's way behind.)