25 July 2014

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

Day 571: Warrior’s Gate, Episode Three

Dear diary,

It was this cliffhanger that I could recall from a previous viewing of Warrior’s Gate - though curiously, three quarters of the way in, it’s still the only thing that I can remember from last time round. It’s not a surprise that this one stuck in the memory, though, because it’s brilliant. The Doctor sits around the table with the Tharills and goes on to berate them for their way of life. Just as a group of attackers burst into the room and the axe falls... we see time shift to much later, and the Doctor finds himself sat at the table in the other gate, surrounded by people who’re specifically looking for him. I can’t quite get my head around all of the specifics (for instance, is this the same room in two time zones? That’s the implication, but they’re in two different locations. I assumed that the mirror was the barrier between E-space and N-space, but then why don’t you emerge from the mirror in the same place?), but that doesn’t really matter, because it’s a brilliant cliffhanger all the same.

As I’ve said, though, nothing else in the story really seems to be sticking for me. It feels at once very dull and also very complex. There’s lots of ideas floating around in this one that probably should be capturing my imagination, but they just... aren’t. I decided to take a look at some of the behind the scenes story for this one, in the hope that it may help to get me more involved, but I can’t say that it’s done much good. Apart from the various squabbles over who wrote what, it seems to boil down to the director, Paul Joyce, the writer, Steve Gallagher, and Christopher Bidmead pointing out how clever they were when putting this one together. If anything, it may have put me off the story even more.

Once again, that’s not to say that the story is completely irredeemable in my eyes. There’s things in today’s episode - as with the previous two - which help to make things a little bit easier for me. Today, it’s the addition of the black and white ‘landscapes’ that the Doctor and friends find themselves in. It all adds to the slightly surreal quality of the story, and while I was originally not a fan of them looking so much like photographs the actors had been overlaid on, I think that actually works in their favour: it simply heightens the oddity of the whole thing.

I think that’s the thing that I’m likely to take away from Warrior’s Gate this time around - this is Doctor Who at its most art house. Looking in to the behind the scenes struggles, what comes across very clearly is that Joyce was trying to treat the production as though it were a film (for better or - in regards to the time they had in the studio - for worse), and that really comes across in the finished production. It could be even more interesting to me, if things like the void weren’t quite so obviously CSO. I don’t know what I’d rather, but... something. The story could grab me more given the time and the budget that Joyce seems to think it has, but as things stand, it’s really not doing it for me, sadly.

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