7 December 2013

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

Day 341: The Enemy of the World, Episode One (Revisited)

Dear diary,

Will Brooks sits in front of the control panel at Doctor Who Online. It may sound impressive and futuristic, but it's really held together by sticky tape and a couple of old washing up liquid bottles. Satisfied, he hits the 'publish' button for The Three Doctors Episode Four, and prepares to get on with the rest of the evening, having completed his daily dose of Doctor Who. It's then, as he grabs his coat and prepares to leave, that he finds himself caught up in something more unusual than he's used to. The hairs stand up on the back of his arms, a ringing enters his head, and he feels himself start to fade away and out of existence. Nearby, people report his final words carried on the wind - whatever's happening is making him giddy, apparently.

Well would you look at that. It would seem that - somehow - I've been scooped up by the Time Lords when they returned Patrick Troughton to his proper place in the timeline (the late 1960s on BBC1, as it happens). I seem to have ended up a little earlier in the time stream than he came from, which places me smack-bang in the middle of Season Five. You can see where I'm going with this, can't you? Go on, keep up the charade with me for the next twelve days - it's the 12th of July 2013. There's still a sun in the sky. You've no idea that Peter Capaldi will be taking on the guise of the Doctor. The revelations and thrills of the 50th anniversary special are still a distant dream…

It all seemed so perfect. Here I was, finally undertaking a proper Doctor Who marathon. After years of telling myself that I'd do it one day, I'd suddenly found myself not simply watching all of the series in order, but blogging about it daily on one of the web's biggest websites devoted to the subject, with a fair number of people reading along and being incredibly kind about the whole thing. Better than that: I was approaching the end of the William Hartnell era. I'd come too far now, there was no going back. And then things got even better. Not only would I be making my way through the Patrick Troughton years - home to the Doctor I'd always considered my favourite - but suddenly there was a lot more of it than ever before. The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear back in the archives where they belong, and just in time for me to enjoy them for the very first time!

And then it all went a bit… wrong. I made my way through Season Four, and ventured off to The Tomb of the Cybermen. I ventured to Tibet and fought off the Ice Warriors. There was no time left. I'd reached The Enemy of the World… and it still wasn't available. I delayed viewing that day for as long as possible, just in case, and then grudgingly hit the 'play' button for the narrated soundtrack. Thankfully, the first episode was - frankly - brilliant, and there was no time to muse on it, I was too busy being caught up with hovercrafts, and helicopters, and doubles of the Doctor. There were Mexican accents galore, plenty of action, and more happening in 25 minutes that I could have ever dreamed of.

Following Patrick Troughton's brief return in The Three Doctors with the recently returned episodes was on the cards from the moment it became apparent that the announcement was to hit in October. Timing-wise, it gave me a good excuse to slip them in to the marathon without having to wait until the very end. There was no way I'd ever have held off watching these two stories for another 18 months - I'd enjoyed them too much the first time around. It also gives me a great opportunity to keep tracking how different Troughton's performance is between his own era and the return in 1972.

In my initial write up of this episode, I stated:

“I spent a while listening to these scenes thankful that this episode didn't exist in the archives, because it all sounded pretty good, and there was no way that the visuals would live up to the same standard… but then the tele snaps make the scene look just as epic as I'd hoped.”

Thankfully, seeing the scene in question (The Doctor and his companions being chased by gun-wielding strangers before being picked up in a helicopter and flown off over the ocean) makes it even better than it looked via the telesnaps. It's some of the finest direction work that we've had in the series so far and I'm somewhat surprised, as Barry Letts' directorial work in the current era hasn't really been making all that much of an impact on me. There's one particular shot taken fromthe helicopter as it flies out to sea that's very impressive, and it looks almost too good to be wasted on something like Doctor Who.

What the moving visuals give the story most though is the little interactions between the Doctor and his companions, especially Jamie. You'll no doubt recall that by the middle of Season Six, I'd rather had enough of Jamie. He seemed to have out-stayed his welcome in the series, and I was increasingly ready to see the show move on to something new. Dropping back down here in the middle of their time together makes it all seem fantastic again, though. There's a beautiful moment on the beach where the Doctor tells his companions that a hovercraft is a ship that can travel on the land and Jamie replies that he's too old for 'fairy tales'.

On audio, it's just a nice little bit of interplay, in which the Doctor introduces two companions from history to a futuristic machine. Seen in the recovered episode, Jamie gives the Doctor a little push on the shoulder as he delivers his line, and the pair grin widely throughout the exchange. They really come across as two best friends travelling through time and space together. Something else I've seen mentioned a lot since the episode was released is how much of a flirt the Doctor's being with Astrid - and it's true! Troughton, you old dog!

And as if all of this wasn't fantastic enough, it gives me an excuse to start saying 'Allo Bruce! What are you doing here, eh?' again.

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