Released July 2013
‘The Final Phase’ carries with it a sense of finality in many ways, concluding events set out in ‘The Dalek Contract’ which hearken back to the earlier Laan stories, concluding the second run of The Fourth Doctor Adventures, and also concluding Mary Tamm’s direct contributions to the franchise as her final story recorded before her unfortunate passing. With Cuthbert’s plan for the Proxima system and his plan to control reality progressing to its final phase and with the Daleks beginning to reveal their true intentions while holding Romana and K9 prisoner as the opening of the Quantum Gateway begins, the scene is set for a bombastic finale after ‘The Dalek Contract’ played it rather safe.
The premise for this story is a great one, and the thought of the Quantum Gateway being a tear in the fabric of space and time but requiring enough energy to destroy the universe to open it is chillingly visual and dramatic. At the same time, while it’s inevitable that the Daleks have a secret plan and are simply acting subservient to Cuthbert in order to achieve their own means, it’s quite intriguing that they have been punching holes through the Gateway, creating porous gaps in the force field that allow dangerous particles from other dimensions to leak through and giving them the potential to destroy the universe once the force field comes down. Cuthbert, for his part, is not intent on changing the future but rather ensuring the known present comes to be since the Conglomerate was formed from seeds he planted in the past after accessing the Quantum Gateway. The revelation that he is a sort of temporal paradox and self-fulfilling prophecy in one is handled well, and his sneaking into the past before the Gateway is destroyed will assuredly allow for further confrontations with the Doctor in future tales.
Unfortunately, ‘The Final Phase’ suffers- just as ‘The Dalek Contract’ did- simply by having the Daleks involved without ever truly doing anything novel with them. The Daleks trying to steal and utilize temporal technology has been done several times before, and though it is plausible that they would try on several attempts to do so, the subtle changes are not enough by themselves to warrant an entirely new story. Cuthbert does certainly inject a new vitality into proceedings, but even Romana points out that he has been incredibly foolish by allowing the Doctor and her to get so close by pretending to know so little. There are several moments where ‘The Final Phase’ feels like it’s on the verge of turning into something truly special, but it never quite takes that step out of well-trodden territory to set itself apart, the Doctor’s probing of the Daleks to determine why they want control of all of time and space and discovering only conquest as an answer a prime example.
For some reason, the Fourth Doctor here is characterized more as the flippant version rather than the more successful serious version, and the script carries an odd and discordant tone as a result when taken as a whole. Tom Baker is absolutely magnificent during the Doctor’s confrontation with the Dalek Supreme, but this is hardly a standout story for the Fourth Doctor compared to past glories. Fortunately, given that this ends up being Mary Tamm’s final story, Romana is given a lot of work to do even if it’s not the most challenging material for her. It’s quite fitting that this should be the story in which Romana admits that she has come to enjoy her time with the Doctor and is not ready to let him out of her sight yet, and Tamm does well as always while portraying Romana’s intellect while deferring to the Doctor’s at certain key moments. Even as Cuthbert’s story avoids a firm resolution and stretches it out for future stories to potentially revisit, David Warner is truly excellent as expected, and ‘The Final Phase’ ends up being a functional and enjoyable ending to a solid run of stories comprising the second series of The Fourth Doctor Adventures.