Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Forty-Four: Oh, Son! My Son! (Farewell Great Macedon, Episode Two)
A few years ago, while we were writing some text for the Doctor Who roleplaying game, my co-writer and I came across something of a sticking point. It was centered around Susan. Basically; What is her name?
I mean, 'Susan' seems pretty obvious. She's always referred to as 'Susan', even by her grandfather. No, more specifically, the debate centered around her surname. She's always referred to as 'Susan Foreman' (Indeed, that's the name she uses to introduce herself in this episode), but we didn't think that really was her name.
We'd both assumed that during An Unearthly Child, when Ian and Barbara discuss her as 'Susan Foreman', it was because she'd made the name up to enroll at Coal Hill. The TARDIS is parked at I.M. Foreman's junkyard, after all, so pairing the two together on the paperwork should avoid any awkward questions (unless, of course, two curious teachers come a-knocking on your police box).
I'm only brining it up because it really made me think when she used the name in this story. What's everyone else's thoughts? Is that her name? Really? Really?
Anyway; In other news, I'm really enjoying this one. I mused yesterday that it reminded me of John Lucarotti's stories, and that's a comparison that only grows stronger with this episode. The story is rich with history, but it doesn't feel as thick and impenetrable as it did during The Reign of Terror. It may help that I've only recently seen the section on Alexander the Great in Andrew Marr's History of the World, so some of these events and references are fresh in my mind, but it just feels more educational that all that French Revolution stuff.
Plus, who can fail to love an episode in which Barbara 'fangirls' over a historical figure? I said during The Aztecs how much I loved her role as a history teacher being put to use. The same is true, here, and there's a lovely description of her 'suddenly realising - remembering! - what was about to happen'. Granted, there's a strong chance this line was added during Nigel Robinson's adaptation for the story for Big Finish (it's a part of the narration, rather than the dialogue), but it really encapsulates everything I'm loving about the story.
It's an interesting approach to take, really. You've got the Doctor reminding his companions that they can't get involved with changing events, and Barbara telling us outright that Alexander will die at some point during his visit to Babylon. Where as we'd usually be playing the game of 'will he die?', we're now left with a game of 'when will he die?'. It's an interesting way of doing the story, and I'm keen to see it evolve.
Next Episode: A Man Must Die