Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 228: The Invasion, Episode Two
It doesn't matter how much praise I had yesterday for the animated version of Episode One - it's lovely to be back into moving images again today because we're back in the world of Douglas Camfield! I've made my thoughts on his work perfectly clear enough times since the start of the diary, and it's nice to see that he doesn't disappoint here in his last contribution to the black and white era of the programme.
I'm not sure that there's anyone else who could have taken the helm on this story, to be honest. In many ways it's The Web of Fear brought out onto a bigger canvas, so Camfield is right at home. I think he's at his best during the early scenes of the Doctor and Jamie trying to shake off their pursuers - it looks far better than Doctor Who of this era has any right to, and I'd love to see these film sequences remastered for High Definition. It helps that these scenes take place against a backdrop of late 1960s London - a period I've stated my affection for more than once - and yet they're made to look very different to any of the programme's previous excursions to the big city.
The Dalek Invasion of Earth gave us lots of scenes taking place around the capitol's landmarks (Indeed, this story will tick another off the list before it's through), The War Machines took place in some rather nice-looking upmarket areas as well as the warehouses of Covent garden, The Faceless Ones dropped us into the alien environment of Gatwick airport, and the previously mentioned The Web of Fear trapped us in the claustrophobic tunnels of the Underground. The scenes in today's episode puts us in the grimy industrial streets, and they feel just right for this story - they're hard edged and pose a great backdrop for the threats looming over our heroes.
It's tricky to watch these moments now, knowing that one of the men rounding up the Doctor and Jamie is the future Sargent Benton - it stops them from seeming too shady. It's a testament to the way that Camfield has directed the sequences that you still get the impression things are about to go very wrong for the Doctor, despite knowing that UNIT is around the corner. It's also apt that when we get the first shot of a proper UNIT soldier, inside their aircraft base (speaking of which - how posh is that? They never got that kind of funding in the 1970s…), the attention is drawn to the patch on his arm, as though it's supposed to mean something to us. An audience at the time wouldn't have known quite how important UNIT were about to become for the programme, but it feels like a significant moment, all this time on.
It's lovely to see Nicholas Courtney back as the Brigadier, too. I can quote the scene where he meets with the Doctor again verbatim, and often think of it whenever I see the Brig turning up on screen in any story. I'm never sure why, but it's always seems fitting. I think the thing that surprises me the most about all this is just how glad I am to see UNIT coming together and in a story that's not all that far removed from what's hovering on the horizon. I've made no secret of how much I've always disliked the Pertwee era, but as we move closer and closer towards it, and I can see the elements falling into place, I'm actively looking forward to it. It's a distillation of all the things I'm enjoying in the Troughton era, but with an added dash of colour. It's lovely to be feeling this way - as I'd expected to start stalling in my marathon around about now, in an attempt to delay my arrival to the 1970s.
I could draw attention to the Brigadier's comment that it's been 'four years' since the incident with the Yeti, considering that it will pose a stumbling block for UNIT dating further down the line, but that feels too much like causing problems for myself. There'll be plenty of time to discuss that later. For now, I'm just sitting back and enjoying a story which seems to take the best that Doctor Who has to offer and merges it all together brilliantly.