12 October 2013
 a

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

Day 285: Inferno, Episode Seven

Dear diary,

Is it just me, or is the Doctor’s return to his regular universe all a bit… sudden? I said yesterday that I was surprised he didn’t leave them behind during the cliffhanger, but today…! We get the reprise, the Doctor shouts that he can’t try to get the console working because there isn’t enough power yet. Petra screams out for Greg as they all turn and watch the lava flow towards the open door…

And then the Doctor wakes up. Back in his regular universe. There’s none of the odd sparkly effect to indicate that he’s moving between dimensions, no shot of him fading away complete with car and console. It’s a bit jarring, and I’m not sure if it leaves me feeling like I’ve been wrenched out of the parallel universe in a good way that makes it seem as though it’s suddenly ‘ended’ or if it’s just left me feeling a bit out of place. I would have at least expected the screen to white out…

Still, the story doesn’t give you enough time to really focus on it, and there’s a lot packed into these final 25 minutes. It helps to really keep the pace up, and rounds out the tale nicely. I was really worried that when the Doctor returned, we’d be stuck with a ‘cuddly’ Brigadier to highlight the differences between him and the Brigade Leader, but he’s as much of an obstacle to the Doctor as anyone in the other world. Having watched time run out for the planet once in this story, it feels almost inconceivable that no one is really listening to the Doctor’s warnings, but you can see why everyone thinks he’s simply unwell – the Doctor comes across as a complete lunatic here. When he bursts into the control room of the drilling project and starts to smash up the equipment, you can almost agree with the Brigadier when the order is given to take the Time Lord away.

It feels like a theme that’s been running through this entire season – the Doctor and the Brigadier locking horns. The final scene, in which the Doctor announces that he’s had enough of the man before attempting to take off with the TARDIS console (again!) could well serve as a good coda to this era – I’m guessing that we’ll start to see a real change in their approaches with each other from now on.

That scene also makes for a fairly good farewell to Liz Shaw. It’s never really bothered me before that she simply disappears between Seasons Seven and Eight, but having spent a month in her company, I’ve been completely won over. It was suggested to me before I started on this season that I should swap the running order of The Ambassadors of Death and this story, as it made her departure more natural. I can’t say I can see how that would have been the case, and the fact that some of the Doctor’s final words to her today are ‘Goodbye, Liz. I shall miss you’ makes this feel like just the right way to watch the stories. I’m also pleased that we get such a lovely shot of the pair hugging once the drill has been stopped, and the Earth has been saved. The final image of the story – and the season – is one of Liz laughing, which seems entirely appropriate.

I’m pleased to report that – as you’ll no doubt have noticed over the last few weeks – I’ve been completely surprised by the start of the Pertwee era. I’ve spent such a long time not looking forward to this part of the marathon, but it’s really good! I’m past the three-seven-part-stories-in-a-row phase that seemed like such a stumbling block before (and, indeed, that’s the end of seven-part stories completely! A form for the programme since the second story, it’s all six-parters and less from here on out, with the exception of Trial of a Time Lord, depending how you look at it), and now that I’m sold on Jon Pertwee’s performance in a way I never have been I think I’m really excited for the next phase of the programme. Here’s hoping it’s as good as this season has generally been…

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