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6×20 Become the Hunted
27 May 2002 (UK) / 24 May 2002 (US)
Regular Cast: Hugh Laurie as The Doctor, Lee Thompson Young as Leo, and introducing Scarlet Johanssen as Alice
Guest Starring: Scott Bakula as Korven, David Warner as Varnax
Roots: The Most Dangerous Game. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Stargate SG-1 (Episode: “Brief Candle”). The Princess Bride. Korven seems to be based in part of Lytton from Attack of the Cybermen. Castrovalva. The Doctor makes an oblique reference to Quantum Leap.
Goofs: Why is Korven suddenly able to pursue the Doctor on twenty-first century Earth when he was forbidden by the bounty hunter code in Time of the Hunter? Leo refers to present-day Earth as “his home”. But surely “his” home is the 1920s! How did Varnax survive the temporal implosion? If he’s been trapped on Earth since 1997, how did he contact Korven? Why is Varnax able to steal Korven’s life force now? Has he been able to do that all along?
Technobabble: Korven can time-travel via “Temporal osmic entanglement projection,” which is physically unpleasant. Varnax pulls The Doctor, Leo, Korven and Alice into a “Recursive Dimensional Emboitment”.
Fashion Victims: No amount of putting her in overalls and glasses is going to convince anyone that Scarlett Johanssen is nerdy and awkward.
Double Entendres: Varnax: You will accept the will of Varnax!
Leo: How many people have you killed?
Korven: Not as many as your friend.
Leo: That’s different. You do it for money.
Korven: I doubt that distinction matters much to the Doctor’s victims.
The Doctor: Tell me, Korven, when you look in the mirror, do you even know the man who looks back at you?
Alice: Okay, so you’re an immortal alien time-traveler, he’s a bounty hunter from another galaxy, that’s a port-a-potty that can go anywhere in time and space, and we’re being chased by a genocidal warlord from the dawn of time. Is that everything or are there little green men from Mars too?
The Doctor: They aren’t little.
Continuity: The TARDIS can lock on to Korven’s ship and follow it through space and time. Alice Jones is a barrista and amateur lapidary. She only works with ethically-sourced materials. She isn’t speaking with her parents. Leo likes jazz.
Korven’s species has a lifespan of over three hundred years. Korven is surprised that Humans don’t live that long. Korven was hired by Varnax to capture the Doctor because he needs the DNA of a long-lived time-traveler to restore himself. Before he dies, Korven reveals to the Doctor, Leo and Alice that he uses his profits from Bounty Hunting to smuggle refugees off of his conquered homeworld. The Doctor promises to help.
Varnax can drain the life-force out of time-travelers, which causes rapid aging and death. The Doctor blames Varnax for the destruction of his world, but does not remember why. A Recursive Dimensional Emboitment is a region of folded space-time similar to the interior of a TARDIS, where time and space loop back on themselves. If Varnax leaves the Emboitment without renewing his life force, he will die.
Links: This episode wraps up the “Bounty Hunter” arc which began in Night of the Hunter. This story continues on immediately from the cliffhanger which ended Wrath of the Hunter. Varnax was last seen in the season 2 opener The Mark of Varnax, Part 2. The Doctor’s memory gap regarding Varnax and the fate of his people is probably due to his erasing some of his memories to defeat the Vardans in Ghost in the Machine. The Martians, who “aren’t little” are probably a reference to The Ice Warriors (Life on Mars/Cold as Ice). Alice’s reference to the TARDIS as a “port-a-potty” echoes Lizzie in Connected (and Kelly in The Last Time Lord). The cliffhanger leads directly into the next episode, The Return of Varnax, Part 1. The Doctor will ultimately keep his promise to Korven in Gilded Cage.
Q.v.: Vampirism, The Family of Blood; Varnax, The Mark of Varnax, Part 1; The Proliferation of Time Travel, Dinosaurs in New Orleans; The New Immortals, Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition.
Unrecorded Adventures: Korven came close to catching The Doctor and Leo on Sopporon.
Location: San Francisco, Present day, and Varnax’s Emboitment.
Bottom Line: The reveal of Varnax is an unexpected twist, given that it had seemed like they were actually building to a reveal of the Daleks, particularly in Arachnophobia and the TARDIS returning to present-day San Francisco for the first time since Invasion, Part 2. Unfortunately, Varnax just isn’t as interesting a villain as the show wants him to be. Korven, on the other hand, is a much more interesting and fleshed-out character we were sorry to see go. Having Leo fill the traditional “damsel in distress” role for the first half of the story is refreshing and new, and Alice is a delight, but we can’t help wishing she’d been introduced in a different episode as this one has more than enough to do without introducing a new companion as well.
The format of this article is inspired by The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Marin Day and Keith Topping.