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

Day 216: The Wheel in Space, Episode Six

Dear diary,

This is the part of the story where I should be complaining that, after all that, we get a total invasion of about eight Cybermen. And six of those don't even make it into the Wheel. You know what, though? I don't care! I've really enjoyed the ride for this story, and even the lack of Cyberman turning up as a really big invasion fleet isn't enough to dampen my spirits.

Being able to watch this Episode means that we get a chance to watch plenty of special effects. Indeed, I think this is the most obviously 'effects laden' episode we've seen since about as far back as The Ark. Oh sure things like The Web of Fear has it's web effect in the surviving episode, and The Underwater Menace has fish people bobbing about, but today we've got meteorites hurtling towards the Wheel! Jamie and Zoe making their way across space to the Silver Carrier! The crew of the Wheel blowing up the meteorites while our heroes dodge them… and that's all in the opening few minutes!

As the episode progresses we've got the Cybermen effects (the hypnotising thing we've already seen in Episode Three) and the Doctor electrocuting one of his foes, causing it to crumple up on the floor in a heap. You've then got the Cybermen's back up heading across to the Wheel, marching through space like a cold, unstoppable force!

Hm? Sorry? Oh, all right, then. Fine. Yes, the Cybermen heading over to the Wheel isn't the greatest of effects that the show has ever done, and I'll admit that it did let the ending down a little for me. Quite apart from the fact that they'd almost become transparent by the time they'd approached the Wheel, the Cyberman at the front insisted on walking along flapping his arms like a bird. It doesn't make for the most threatening thing we've ever seen them do. It's a shame, really, because a few seconds later he's trying to force open the doors to the loading bay, and that does work! It looks really effective! You can't have it all, I suppose.

The other effects in the episode - on the whole - are pretty good. The opening few scenes with Jamie and Zoe outside in space did put me in mind of a 1950's B-movie, but they did the job, and they didn't leave me disappointed - always a plus. We're now heading back to a period with a great many more surviving episodes (thanks to the animated release of The Invasion, I've only got five more episodes that I can't sit and watch from the rest of the decade), so I'm looking forward to keeping a tab on the effects in the series. Part of the fun in the early days was seeing how the team's confidence would build up, until they tried to do something that was just beyond their abilities.

I'm also pretty impressed with the design of the Wheel itself. I've been able to see it via the tele snaps right the way through the story, but today we get an especially good look at sections of it. The actual station itself, spinning in space, is as good as any ship ever designed for the programme, and it's nice to see some blueprints (of a sort) for it. As for the inside, the thing that really caught my attention was the bank of lava lamps! I shouldn't find them all that fascinating - I've got one in my flat, even! - by they do look fab in black and white, don't they? It doesn't hurt that they're much larger than your standard lava lamp, so they move in a slightly different way, too. I'm not at all sorry to admit that every scene they decorated the background of had me focussing largely on them as opposed to the Cybermen in front!

With the closing moments of the story, Zoe has slipped aboard the TARDIS and we're off into the third phase of the Second Doctor's era. I wasn't keen on her as a character when this story began, but I've warmed to her as the episodes have gone by (I think that's the intention, too. She's become more likeable and human as the story has progressed). I'm sure all her character will be stripped away over the next fortnight, but I'm looking forward to her joining the crew all the same.

Her first test as companion? Settle in and watch a repeat of The Evil of the Daleks. I've always found it odd that they wrote the repeat of a serial into the series itself, but even more odd, it's the story that introduces the previous companion! That must have been a bit jarring back in the day. I've always thought it might be better if they'd shown The Power of the Daleks instead - remind viewers of how the Second Doctor began. Actually, though, having watched through the series in this manner, I can see the logic behind choosing this one. It's got Jamie in, for a start, and Victoria is still fresh enough in the minds of the audience to make sense. Ben and Polly are our companions in Power, and they left the series a whole year ago - they're old news!

I had debated doing the serial again, to see if my opinion might have changed, but to be honest, I'm not thrilled by the prospect. I even considered spending tomorrow reading the Target novel of The Evil of the Daleks so I could at least claim that I'd tried. In the end, though, I'm keen to press forward with the series, so I'll be moving straight on to the next story, and trying something a little bit different

(And no, I'm not going to bring up the Doctor's 'sexual air supply'…)

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