Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 103: The Feast of Steven (The Daleks' Master Plan, Episode Seven)
*clears throat * IT'S CHRIIIISSSTTTTMMMAAAAASSSSSSSS! What? It's tradition, isn't it? No? Oh hush, it's my blog. And it's Christmas! Spread the cheer! And isn't it nice of the weather to keep the winter feeling going right the way through until now, just so it would feel more like Christmas. Yeah, let's enjoy the snow as I crank up the heating and mutter 'Bah Humbug' under my breath…
But look! Hooray! Santa has been! And what's that he's left for me under the tree? (By 'under the tree', I mean 'on the computer'. I did suggest getting the Christmas tree back out, but Ellie wasn't having any of it.) It's a copy of The Feast of Steven that's been animated! That's right, I've been enjoying today's special Christmas episode in the form of Adamsbullock's version.
It's another very different style of animation, quite far removed from what I've seen for either The Reign of Terror or Mission to the Unknown. Far more stylised, and with a much simpler tone to it. Outside the police station, for example, the background is painted in with only a few tones and a couple of windows. And yet, it works really well! I don't know if I'd be able to do the entire Daleks' Master Plan in this style, but for the slightly bizarre Christmas episode, it's absolutely perfect.
Truth be told, by the end I'd grown quite accustomed to the animated Hartnell. It's going to be a bit of a shock to go back to the real, human version. Maybe for the next few audio episodes I'll imagine everyone else as real, with this version of Hartnell alongside them. It'll keep me amused at least!
As for the episode itself… it's a bit of a game of two halves really. All the stuff at the police station was great fun, and I really rather enjoyed that. I seem to recall reading somewhere that the original intention was to have the cast of Z Cars take the roles of the police officers, which would have been great fun and really helped add to the Christmas feel - plus, it has to be said, the idea of Brian Blessed squaring up to Hartnell excites me far more than it should!
There's plenty of comedy in this section of the episode, and it's played nicely: lots of fun banter between the policemen as they wait outside the TARDIS, and especially after the Doctor has stepped outside for the very first time. Then there's the business with the man inside the station ('haven't I seen your face before? Of course! The marketplace at Jaffa!') and Steven coming to take the Doctor away by pretending that he's a bit mad.
Yeah, the first section of the episode is great fun, and I really enjoyed it. But then we arrive in Hollywood and… oh dear. It's a good job I didn't listen to this episode as part of the narrated soundtrack with my headphones in. Whoever was in charge of sound for this segment should be shot. It's so noisy! Every character is shouting, and they're all doing it at once! There were moments when I couldn't understand what was actually being said.
(Incidentally, I did scroll through the audio once I'd finished watching the animation, just in case it had been made better on the narrated soundtrack. One section of screeching was more than enough for me, so I didn't push it any further.)
Something I did wonder about, and it's happened a few times over the last few episodes, is Sara's name. Which way do people tend to pronounce it? I've always said it as 'Sa-ra', as does the Doctor here, and as it's clearly written. Peter Purves (both in the episodes and on the narration) seems to refer to her as 'Sarah' more commonly. Which do people tend to go for? Is 'Sara' the majority vote?
Now, I mused yesterday that things felt like they were building to the end of a six-part story and getting ready to move off onto a new adventure, but that I'd need to watch through more before coming to a decision on that one. Well, I think I've already reached one. The Feast of Steven is not the seventh episode of a twelve-part serial called The Daleks' Master Plan. Frankly, it's not! The only link we have to that story is the Doctor double checking that they still have the terrarium core, to which Sara replies 'Oh, I'd forgotten about the Daleks.'
That's less of a link than the Steven Moffat era has between stories that are a part of the story arc! The six episodes from The Nightmare Begins to Coronas of the Sun are definitely a story, and the episodes that follow this one may be a follow-up to that story, but from where I'm standing now, somewhere around the middle-point, this certainly feels like an individual one-episode story all on its own. I'll review this situation once I finish the next five episodes, but it's looking likely that I'll think of them as separate stories from now on. The campaign to change it starts here!
Next Episode: Volcano