2 January 2014
 a

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

Day 367: Planet of the Daleks, Episode Five

Dear diary,

Something that’s been troubling me a little throughout this story (‘Troubling’ is probably too strong, but you know what I mean) is how the jungle set can look so good… but not quite be perfect. It’s highlighted in today’s episode when the Doctor lures a pair of Daleks down into the molten ice. The whole scene (shot on location) is filled with smoke. It adds a real atmosphere to the image, and makes the location look that bit more alien. Smoke effects is what I’ve felt the jungle is lacking for some time now – when the Daleks fire on the ship in Episode Two, the smoke lingers for a minute and makes the set look that bit more real.

It’s not really a complaint, though, because on the whole I’m rather liking the design on display in this story. The jungle – lack of atmosphere aside – is nicely done, and while you never forget that it’s a set, you do get a real impression of size. I’m sure they’re just using a few small areas of the studio shot creatively from a number of different angles (maybe they move the odd plant from time to time), but I’m not spotting a lot of re-use. It really feels like they’re in a large jungle.

The downside to this is that when we arrive at Plain of Stones, it feels like the jungle ends and is replaced by a vast expanse of… well… nothing. We suddenly hit a barren rocky wilderness. It still looks quite nice, especially when we head out onto location (which – by rights – it shouldn’t. We’re in a quarry. It’s wet. It’s muddy. I wince every time we see a shot of Jon Pertwee’s shoes caked in mud and have flashbacks to the days of Cross Country at school in Decembers gone by…), but I’m not sure that I understand the geography of this planet. A tropical jungle… surrounding an ice volcano. Which could erupt at any time, but doesn’t seem to impact on the jungle. Not that it matters, because eventually, the jungle just stops, and then there’s nothing but mud for miles and miles around (seriously, I used to hate Cross Country. At one point, you had to make your way through a pig farm. By the time you’d hobbled back up the lane to the school for double French, you absolutely stunk…)

The design in the rest of the story looks pretty good, too. I’ve never been all that fond of the Doctor’s purple get-up for this tale. It’s always seemed that bit too garish for me, and I’ve never been able to understand quite why people were always clamouring for a Third Doctor action figure in this outfit. Seeing it in action, though, it looks really good, and I’ve fallen for it completely. It even matched the Spiridon’s furry purple coats! Speaking of which, it’s a lovely touch when Wester dies, that he loses his invisibility. It adds something extra to the culture, and it’s good to actually see this mysterious figure in an episode where he’s been back and forth in my mind – unable to decide whether he’s working for the Daleks, or against the Daleks, or a bit of both.

I’m also starting to think that if I didn’t know Jo was leaving us in the next story, I might be expecting her to nip off at the end of this one. She’s been growing closer and closer to Latep for a while now, and the moment she declares that she’s going with him today because he can’t go alone really feels like they’re setting them up to depart together. I can only assume he’ll be dead by the end of tomorrow’s episode.

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