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Omega Serial 6E:
Arc Of Infinity

Working Titles: The Time Of Neman, The Time Of Omega.

Starring: Peter Davison (The Fifth Doctor, Omega), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka).

Plot
The Doctor's bio-data extract is stolen from the Matrix on Gallifrey. Then, when a being from an anti-matter universe begins to genetically bond with the Doctor, the High Council orders his execution. It is left to Nyssa to uncover the identity of a traitor on the High Council, and to unveil the enemy manipulating the Doctor -- an entity who has long thirsted for revenge against both the Doctor and the Time Lords themselves.

Production
Script editor Eric Saward had enjoyed Johnny Byrne's first Doctor Who serial, The Keeper Of Traken, and invited Byrne to submit ideas for Season Twenty without realising that Traken had been heavily rewritten by former script editor Christopher Bidmead. It was thought that Byrne might contribute the opening story for the season, and as a result he would have to incorporate certain elements into any submission. First, the character of Tegan had been left behind on Earth by the Doctor at the end of the Season Nineteen finale, Time-Flight. This had always been planned as simply a cliffhanger to maintain viewer interest during the nine-month break between seasons, and so Byrne would have to reunite Tegan with the Doctor and Nyssa.

Second, producer John Nathan-Turner wanted to take Doctor Who overseas for just the second time in its history. In 1979, City Of Death had been filmed on location in Paris; the venue Nathan-Turner had in mind was Amsterdam, already one of the locales used by the BBC soap opera Triangle. In order to justify the trip, then, Byrne was asked to make the Dutch city a key aspect of his storyline. It was further suggested that he should reintroduce Tegan in his second episode, having her be in Amsterdam on holiday and accidentally coming across some form of criminal activity which would require the Doctor's attention (such activity not being drug smuggling, theft of diamonds or Old Dutch Masters, or anything political).

Despite operating under such tight restraints, in December 1981 Byrne devised an outline entitled The Time Of Neman. It saw the Doctor suffering nightmares about his regeneration, which were actually a precursor to the arrival in our universe of an entity called the Avatar, who takes on the Doctor's form and goes to Amsterdam. Operating there as Neman (a name recycled from Traken), the Avatar begins to take control of human minds, seeking to create a form in which it will be able to permanently maintain its existence.

Nathan-Turner and Saward had immediate concerns about Neman, most notably the fact that the Amsterdam location was essentially incidental to the plot. It was also felt that the importance of the Doctor's dreams harkened too closely to elements of Christopher Bailey's Snakedance, planned for the second slot of Season Twenty. Further, aware of the success he had enjoyed in bringing back the Master in Traken, Nathan-Turner wanted his season opener to feature another old enemy in place of Byrne's Avatar. Amongst his suggestions was Omega, last featured in the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors, who had been mentioned to Nathan-Turner by his unofficial fan adviser, Ian Levine. Saward also wanted to include a story set on Gallifrey in Season Twenty.

Acting on this feedback, Byrne redrafted his plot as The Time Of Omega, which was commissioned on January 13th, 1982; it was shortly retitled Arc Of Infinity. Even with Byrne's changes -- such as introducing a fusion booster which only functioned below sea level -- his Amsterdam material was still not felt to be as integral as the production team would have liked. One late change made to Byrne's scripts was the decision to identify the Lord President of the High Council as Borusa, the Doctor's former teacher who had previously appeared in The Deadly Assassin and The Invasion Of Time.

Although Arc Of Infinity was planned as the first story of the new season, it was decided early on to record it second after Snakedance in order to take advantage of the better weather in May and June. Ultimately, the Amsterdam shoot was scheduled for May 3rd to 7th. The director assigned to Serial 6E was Ron Jones, who had last worked on Time-Flight. On top of handling the highly-publicised foreign filming, Jones had an additional responsibility in that Byrne had left the climactic episode four chase scene largely unscripted, because it was impossible for him to forecast weather and crowd conditions. As a result, Jones had to basically create these scenes himself as he went along, with such elements as the raising bridge coming at the spur of the moment. Crowd control also proved an issue, with Dutch viewers recognising Peter Davison from his role as Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great And Small. Indeed, in one scene recorded on May 4th of the Doctor and Nyssa in a telephone booth, Nathan-Turner is visible in the background trying to shoo onlookers away.

The Amsterdam material completed, production moved back to the studio for a two-day block from Monday, May 17th. Joining the cast at this point was Colin Baker, playing Maxil. Baker had been suggested to Jones by assistant floor manager Lynn Richards on the basis of his role in the Blake's 7 episode City At The Edge Of The World; others under consideration for the part included Tim Woodward and future Remington Steele and James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan. Although happy to take on the part of Maxil, Baker thereafter lamented to his wife that it meant he would never be able to play the Doctor.

Arc Of Infinity concluded with a three-day studio block beginning on Monday, May 31st. In order to preserve the surprise of Omega's identity, it was decided to bill the character as "The Renegade" on episode one and two. As was done with Season Nineteen, Season Twenty would be aired two nights a week. Although the Wednesday broadcast would be maintained, however, it was decided to shift the other weekly telecast from Mondays to Tuesdays. The only exception was the season premiere, which aired on Monday, January 3rd, 1983.

Details
Original Transmission Details
Episode Date Time Duration Viewers Audience App.
1 3rd January 1983 6.46pm 24'37" 7.2m (74th) 69%
2 5th January 1983 6.47pm 24'42" 7.3m (66th) 70%
3 11th January 1983 6.52pm 24'37" 6.9m (89th) 67%
4 12th January 1983 6.46pm 24'28" 7.2m (82nd) 66%

Principal Crew
Producer John Nathan-Turner
Script Editor Eric Saward
Writer Johnny Byrne
Director Ron Jones
Designer Marjorie Pratt
Costume Dee Robson
Incidental Music Roger Limb

Principal Guest Cast: Colin Baker (Commander Maxil), Andrew Boxer (Robin Stuart), Ian Collier (Omega), Alistair Cumming (Colin Frazer), Neil Dagliesh (Damon), Michael Gough (Councillor Hedin), Elspet Gray (Chancellor Thalia), Max Harvey (Cardinal Zorac), Paul Jerricho (The Castellan), Leonard Sachs (Lord President Borusa).

Novelisation: Arc Of Infinity by Terrance Dicks (book 80), July 1983; photomontage cover; rerelease cover by Alister Pearson (1992).

Video Release: Arc Of Infinity, episodic format, March 1994; PAL (BBC Video cat.# 5199) and NTSC (Warners cat.# E1296) formats available; cover by Pete Wallbank.

Rankings: 102nd (61.99%, Doctor Who Dynamic Rankings website, 22nd June 1999); 117th (60.83%, DWM 1997 Annual Survey).

Sources


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