Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 284: Inferno, Episode Six
I'm really pleased to see that aside from this story, Don Houghton also wrote The Mind of Evil for Season Eight. As I've noted, I'm less familiar with this period of Doctor Who history than I was with the 1960s, so as we start saying goodbye to writers like David Whitaker, it's nice to know that there's new people like Houghton and Robert Holmes stepping in, ready to take up the reigns.
Today's episode, much like the rest of the story, is absolutely filled with brilliant dialogue. Once again, my notes seem to comprise every third line from the script, and I've had to carefully pick and choose which ones are worth my attention when I come to write this entry up. I think it's fair to say that there is a standout winner from today, and it's the Doctor' comment upon seeing Sutton's reaction to the TARDIS console - 'What did you expect? Some kind of space rocket with Batman at the controls?' I hope they have Batman in the parallel universe.
It's fitting that we should get to see so much of the console in this story, especially towards the end of today's episode. Inferno marks the last appearance of the console built way back in 1963 for An Unearthly Child. I've never really tracked the evolution of the machine as I've gone along, but looking at it in some of the shots today, you can clearly see that it's full of bits and pieces I've seen before. Even if I've not been making a point of picking up on it, there's been a kind of subconscious thread linking these first three Doctors together in the form of this console.
I'm sure I commented on it right at the start of Season One, but that original design for the TARDIS real did hit the ground running. I know that Doctor Who never had the budget to constantly update and renew the design (though I think it gets a few makeovers before Pertwee hands in the keys to the police box), but there's a reason they stuck to this basic template for the entire classic run. As much as I love the current console room, I really do like this one. I must make a point of visiting the Doctor Who Experience again to see the replica of this console - they added it only a few days after my last visit!
I'm really pleased that I've enjoyed today's episode as much as this. Having really loved the addition of the parallel world a few days ago when it first turned up, the last few instalments haven't quite gripped me in the same way. Now that we're ready to transfer back to Earth A, I'm finding myself reluctant to say goodbye to this reality! It's been another great example of the Doctor changing people just by being in their presence, and it's nice that he was there in their final moments. I was expecting the episode to conclude with the Doctor vanishing again, so I'm hoping these few characters don't get let down by having to stick around for a few minutes at the start of the next episode.
By the same token, I'm really glad that the Doctor's only headed 'home' for the last 25 minutes of the story. I worried that we'd have to spend a few episodes watching him try to convince Stahlman that they needed to stop the drilling, and that we'd simply end up with a rehash of the last few days. With such a tight timeframe to finish up in, I'm hopeful that the tension will really carry through for the last little push.
Just briefly - it's a return to my monitoring of the Sonic Screwdriver. It turned up earlier in the story being used as a door handle to the Doctor's temporary lab, and now we see that Liz has her own (technically, she was seen using one the other day, but I wasn't sure if it might have been the same device. Now I know he's got one in the parallel world, the one in her bag must be a copy for Liz!) It's still not referred to as being a Sonic Screwdriver, though we get confirmation that the Doctor invented it - a rose by any other name? I'm wondering if Liz might be helping the Doctor to refine the design of it. She is a scientist, after all, and he's been tinkering with it for two whole seasons, now. We're drawing closer and closer to the point where it will become the all-purpose tool we know it as today, so I'm loving the idea that it might have taken a companion's touch to get it to the final stage!