Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 282, Inferno, Episode Four
One of the things I loved about yesterday’s episode was that we weren’t simply plunged right into the parallel world. We get a few minutes in the regular setting first, with the Brigadier and Liz hunting for their absent colleague. It means that we get a little bit of time to re-establish the situation, before everything gets turned on its head. We get to see Sir Keith making threatening a trip to the ministry and make his formal complaints, and generally catch up with the rest of events.
It means that when we get to the parallel world and discover that their version of Sir Keith was killed in a (highly suspicious) car accident en route to the ministry, it chimes with us – because we know that’s where our chap is now heading. I have to admit that I’d assumed we’d be stuck in this alternate universe for a while now, right up until the Doctor crosses back over to ours. It came as a bit of a surprise, then, when the screen blurred and we entered back into the sparkly void between realities.
If anything, it was slightly odd. Even after such a relatively short period of time, I’ve gotten used to Liz with her dark hair, so when we emerge back into a real close up of the Liz we’ve known since the start of the season, it didn’t look quite right. It’s a shame that the return to our regular world ends up as a bit of a rehash from yesterday. Sir Keith pops up to remind us that he’s not dead and that he’s got a car outside to take him to London. Liz and the Brigadier hunt around for the Doctor. Nothing all that much happens, and before you know it, we’re back in the Republic.
It’s funny just how much I’ve been drawn into this parallel world, but I think it’s a testament to just how well realised it is, and how fantastic the performances are. Nick Courtney is so easy to love that I have to make a conscious decision to not praise him every day, but he’s especially good toward the cliffhanger today, when he orders the Doctor around and then pulls a gun on him. The one thing that perhaps lets it down a little is that he spends a few minutes strutting around in front of his soldiers as the tension is being ramped up, and it’s perhaps a bit too casual. The Brigade Leader has a carefree side!
I am very impressed by the handling of today’s cliffhanger in general. The presence of a definite ‘end’ point for the action (in this case a countdown) is usually a troubling sign – I’m thinking specifically of Vengeance on Varos, where they move slowly towards the image of a dying Doctor on the monitor before the voice comes though ‘and cut it… now!’, before we linger a few more seconds! It robs that cliffhanger of all the tension, and I worried the same might happen here. As it is, we get the final number of the countdown spoken over the image of the closing credits. Anything could be happening in that control room!
Speaking of the control room – how great is that set? For a start, it’s huge, and split into several areas. You get the impression when characters move from all the contros to the drilling room that they really have covered a lot of ground. It’s great to see so many supporting artists in there, too, all decked out in their lab coats and going about their business. There’s a shot in today’s episode where Pertwee walks over to one of the control panels to play with a few settings, and there’s loads of other people around him getting on with their job. It makes the place seem real, with a lot going on, and it’s as though every member of ‘staff’ has a role to play.
We used to get a similar format quite often in the Troughton Era, where the action revolves around one ‘main’ set with a few smaller ones dotted around (I think the best example is probably in The Moonbase, where I praised the set for reasons very similar to those I’ve mentioned today.)