15 January 2014

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

Day 380: Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Episode Two

Dear diary,

For all that I said yesterday about the episode really suiting the black-and-white look (the cliffhanger reprise today simply serves to prove my point - the shot of the Doctor and Sarah peering out from the back of their transport doesn’t look half as effective and moody in colour), I am glad to be back to colour now. The blue outfit that Pertwee wears in this story is my favourite of all his ‘colourful’ costumes, and I’m still holding out hope that one day we may see an action figure in this scheme.

There’s a lot more going on in this episode than I remembered. For a start, Sarah Jane is now well and truly cemented in as the new companion, and the Doctor even announces that she’s ‘currently acting as’ his assistant, to ensure that she won’t be evacuated from the city while he’s off building his dinosaur stun-gun. For me, the highlight is watching her speculate on where the dinosaurs come from. It’s great to see her character being given a mind of her own, and I love the way that the Doctor simply watches on as she debunks her own theories. He’s several paces ahead (though still no closer to the truth), but he’s enjoying watching her settle into this lifestyle as much as I am. I’m keen to see how they act together at the start of the next story - although he has an opportunity to get rid of her here, they’re still technically only together because she happened to stow away in the TARDIS. I want to see at what point the Doctor starts to treat her as a traditional ‘companion’.

You’ve also got Mike switching over to the dark side! Because it’s been so many years since I last saw this story, I’d completely forgotten just how early you discover that he’s working with the ‘bad guys’. I spent much of today’s episode making notes to the effect that ‘once you know Mike is working with them it seems so obvious’, but then I think it’s supposed to be! I’m glad to see that he references the events of The Green Death, and even states that he had to take some time off after them, during which he got himself caught up in all of this. It feels like a real evolution of the character to have him being affected by things that happened some time ago, and it’s helping to make this feel lilt the early Pertwee years, in which the stories all tied back to each other, if only very slightly.

It’s also nice to see that you’ve got the full UNIT team back together again here. I worried that now Jo has left the programme, it could feel like UNIT wasn’t quite the same anymore. The early season with Liz, for example, was missing Mike. It’s only after Jo has joined that we get the so-called UNIT ‘family’, and now one of the key members is gone. Thankfully, though, the others are on top form, and they’re even being played more for comedy than usual. ‘That’s yer actual pterodactyl’ may well be my favourite Benton line ever, and there’s an amusing scene in which the Doctor keeps getting interrupted by various members of the team - much to his growing frustration.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s nice to see this format can still keep going strong, even with all the changes that are occurring around the programme at this time. I think there’s almost a loose link between these final few Pertwee UNIT tales - The Green Death, this one, and Planet of the Spiders, as the group is slowly broken up. Jo left in the last one, Mike will be leaving (technically) with this one, and the Doctor is off in the next. It’s almost as though they’re trying to dismantle the era piece-by-piece, so that it’s not too much of a shock in a season or two’s time, when UNIT simply aren’t there anymore.

 

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