Aired 3 – 12 January 1983
The mantra going into the twentieth season of Doctor Who was that every story would feature a returning villain from the past, the intent being to imbue the anniversary year with a sense of celebration and nostalgia. Fittingly, the tenth anniversary villain from ‘The Three Doctors,’ Omega, is the first to be revisited as the exiled Time Lord continues his quest to cross back into the real universe from his exile with the help of the Doctor’s body.
Omega is inherently one of the most fascinating villains ever conceived, one who is intricately linked with Gallifrey’s past and Time Lords’ powers and abilities. However, ‘Arc of Infinity’ relies too much on his initial appearance ten years earlier, using only one line of dialogue to begin to hint at Omega’s true motivations and psyche. As a standalone story, it simply does not flesh out the villain enough or even begin to explain how the Doctor and Omega know each other or how Omega has reached his current state. With the Doctor’s appearance, Omega is at least afforded some degree of sympathy through Davison’s mannerisms and acting prowess, but the sheer potential that Omega brings with him as a dramatic character is hardly utilized effectively here.
Naturally, with the history of Gallifrey and the Time Lords involved, ‘Arc of Infinity’ spends a sizable amount of time on Gallifrey itself. This, again, is a setting rife with potential drama, but the script seems unable to actually do anything interesting with the Time Lords. Gallifrey had been established as a sort of academic bureaucracy in ‘The Deadly Assassin,’ but here the more monotonous and dull aspects of such a culture are brought to the forefront, hardly giving the finest impression of arguably the universe’s most powerful race. Aside from Colin Baker’s pompous Maxil, no Time Lord is able to distinguish himself from the rest and little characterization is afforded anyone, making the identity of Omega’s mole rather obvious as Hedin is the only one acting slightly differently. Unfortunately, the script is unable to compensate for the lack of mystery with intriguing insight into what has led Hedin to make his decision, instead simply using him as a means to an end rather than as a fully-developed person.
The other subplot of Tegan rejoining the TARDIS after the Doctor and Nyssa left without her with little explanation at the end of ‘Time-Flight’ hardly fares better. While investigating the disappearance of her cousin who was hitchhiking in Amsterdam, Tegan is put in the rare position of coming back after departing regardless of the reason for doing so. Regrettably, the script does not take the opportunity to showcase any sort of change in Tegan that may have occurred in the interim or to highlight what life after the TARDIS is like on Earth. Peter Davison’s early time in the TARDIS has been marked by taking characters precariously close to exploring internal drama, but Tegan’s story here is yet another example of a route left unsatisfyingly unexplored.
A story in which the Doctor answers a summons to Gallifrey, seemingly gets murdered, and then murders a legendary Gallifreyan figure is an outline that practically writes a blockbuster story by itself. Instead, ‘Arc of Infinity’ fails to capitalize on the potential of either of its storylines as contemporary Earth and Gallifrey become linked, missed opportunities to develop the characters and clunky dialogue and direction keeping it from becoming the bombastic start to the twentieth season it was so clearly intended to be.