24 July 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 205: Fury From the Deep, Episode One

Dear diary,

I can easily take Victoria’s complaint that the TARDIS is always landing them on Earth - since she joined the team at the end of the last season, they’ve only visited two alien planets, and only one of those was the result of the TARDIS taking them there. What’s harder to buy is Jamie’s assertion that they always end up in England - is he forgetting their trip to Australia and Europe two stories ago? And the trip to Tibet earlier in the season? And where was the glacier in The Ice Warriors? In my mind it’s somewhere other than the UK, but I’m not sure if it was ever actually stated on screen…

The only explanation I can think of is that our three friends here have spent plenty of time having adventures that we haven’t seen. Certainly, the way they joke and play on the beach at the start of this story (in a scene hugely reminiscent of the opening to The Enemy of the World) gives the impression of a group of people that are very comfortable and happy together, while the stories that we’ve seen with them haven’t spread out over a great deal of time. It feels like an age since stories like Marco Polo or The Romans, when the TARDIS crew would spend months on end hanging out in a particular time or place.

What’s also pretty fun is the way that our regulars arrive in this location - with the TARDIS materialising in mid-air, and then gently coming to rest on the ocean waves. ‘The TARDIS is quite capable of floating,’ the Doctor explains, though it has to be said that it’s a bit unusual as an idea. The soundtrack makes the whole scene seem a little muddled, with the sound of the ship’s engines taking a really long time to dies down, but their row to the shore in a little boat taking only a matter of seconds. Still, it’s something a bit different, which is always good.

As for the story itself… it’s another one of these tales that’s very much at home being produced in this era. I’m always put in mind of Gary Russell’s comment in the Second Time Around feature on The Dominators DVD - North Sea gas was everywhere in the news in this era, and here’s a story that brings the Doctor’s adventures right into your home. I’ve always thought of the seaweed creature as being a bit of an odd choice for a Doctor Who monster, though actually it’s the kind of thing that the programme does very well - taking something perfectly ordinary and turning it into something that should be feared. I think this is most in evidence when Maggie Harris throws some out on her patio, and it begins to write and pulse: small clumps of the stuff like this will be littered all over when kids visit the beach, and it too could start to move

Of course, the big thing to note about today’s episode? It’s the first appearance of the Sonic Screwdriver! Hooray! I’ve been counting down to this one for some time now (and tracking the Doctor’s train of thought as he starts to develop the device), and I’m pleased to say that this is everything that I could possibly want from its first use in the show. It’s not being used to break the Doctor and his companions out of a cell, or to shoot energy beams at an alien, or hold open a heavy stone door - this Sonic Screwdriver does exactly what it says on the tin - it’s used to unscrew the front of a little box with soundwaves.

I like the idea that the Doctor has been developing this for a little while throughout Season Five (there’s another reason to imagine some unseen adventures for this trio - it gives him more time to work), and even though he claims here that the Sonic ‘never fails’, he’s clearly quite new to the tool, and Jamie obviously hasn’t seen it before (‘Neat, isn’t it?’, the Doctor adds). We’ll be seeing plenty more of the device over the next few years (well, the next few decades), but it’s nice to see it here in an extremely basic form - a ‘mark one’ of all the Sonics to come…

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