At last we meet the villain of the piece, whom we have only seen from behind in the previous episodes. He’s credited as “The Master,” but in order to keep him separate from the later character, this is always retro-clarified as “The Master of the Land of Fiction.” He was the writer of a serial called “The Adventures of Captain Jack Harkaway” for many years in the pages of a boys’ action magazine called Ensign, devoting five million words to the character across a quarter of a century before this place scooped him up in 1926 to work for it. The Doctor only barely remembers Jack Harkaway. Not many of us in this world still remember Sexton Blake, Fantomas, or Bulldog Drummond, who may have been Harkaway’s competition on the earth of Doctor Who.
As predicted, our son’s favorite moment of the whole serial was meeting the writer’s own little fictional character, a superhero from a “strip cartoon” in the Hourly Telepress in the year 2000 called the Karkus. A couple of months ago in the real world, the twelfth Doctor met a superhero called the Ghost and displayed complete ignorance about superheroes, while some “fans” complained that the show was lowering itself to parody – slash – celebrate all the Marvel movies and DC TV shows around. Well, the Karkus is proof that it’s always been thus. The Karkus is clearly inspired by TV’s Batman and all of his many sixties imitators, and the Doctor knew as much about the Karkus in a 1968 story as he did Spider-Man in a 2016 one. Greek myths and English satires yes, funnybooks no. Refreshing to hear that there is one subject he’s not an expert on, as another fictional character might opine.
Anyway, while this episode does end with a worrying cliffhanger in which the White Isaac Asimov Robots close Jamie and Zoe in the pages of a giant book, the scenes of Zoe using some martial arts to throw the hapless Karkus around like a rag doll had our son in stitches. He really enjoyed that. Sorry to say that I just can’t imagine Victoria being so successful.