Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 283: Inferno, Episode Five
The first half of today's episode is fairly talk-y, with little action. In the past, episodes like this have come in for both praise and criticism during this marathon, and I'm not entirely where this one sits. On the one hand, it's beautifully done. The way that the volcanic noises carry on in the background for so long that they just disappear into the back of your mind is fantastic - every now and then the noise creeps up a little, and you find yourself caught up in the methodic rhythm. It really helps to sell the idea that we've passed the point of no return and that there's no hope for saving this world.
I'm so pleased that they're using the parallel world format to tell an interesting story. It's not simply about meeting up with 'evil' versions of all our regular characters (although the lack of moustache on the Brigade Leader, and the absence of Professor Stahlman's beard suggests that facial hair in alternate dimensions of the Doctor Who universe works in the opposite way to those in the Star Trek franchise!), but rather a chance for the production team to blow up the Earth - really! - without actually endangering the programme's future.
I think I've worked out (roughly) where things will be headed from here, so I'm treating all the guest cast as though they're on borrowed time. What's going to be interesting is to see how much of what happens on this world also occurs in the regular one. For the sake of ease, I'm going to call the regular World 'Earth A' and the Republic 'Earth B'. 'The Petra of Earth B is a lot colder than the one we saw on Earth A, even if they do share similar traits, just emphasised in different ways. Despite that, in the moment of crisis, she's turned to Sutton for comfort. WIll we see that happening once the Doctor gets back to Earth A? Will the technicians all end up being transformed into monsters in our world? Will Sir Keith make it out alive? The only thing I assume it's fair to say is that Benton won't be turning into a Primord in both realities, though.
It's nice to see the Doctor demonstrating the TARDIS console to Liz and the Brigade Leader by pulling the same 'moving a few seconds into the future' trick that was seen back at the start of The Ambassadors of Death. More and more, I'm finding little moments like this that help Season Seven to feel as though it's one big story. In some ways, it's the closest in tone to the 21st century version of the series that we've seen from the classic show so far - taking seemingly insignificant moments and seeding them throughout the entire series.
To that end, it's almost a shame that we don't get a few more of these little references. I wondered back in Doctor Who and the Silurians (to myself, rather than in my entry - it felt like a silly thing to say then, but perfectly right for now!) if it would have been fun to see Masters among the government officials on display at Madame Tussaud's. Equally, I thought the same about Sir James in the last story, and I think having Stahlman there could have been fun for this tale, too. It would be equally nice to have the mentions in this story about the government being so desperate for Stahlman's project to succeed be because of the loss of the Wenley Moor facility. Suddenly, with that one blown up, there's going to be more pressure on the National Grid!