7 January 2013

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

Day Seven - The Escape (The Daleks, Episode Three)

Dear diary,

A complaint that I often see levelled at the classic series is that it's pacing is just far too slow and plodding. I tried to get my girlfriend to watch an episode once, and she'd practically fallen asleep before the end of Part One.

Now, I've got a bit more of a tolerance for the pace of 60s telly. I'd say around half my DVD collection is stuff from the 50s/60s, so I'm used to watching telly at that pace on a day-to-day basis. Except for Doctor Who.

For some reason, I always seem to sit and watch a classic Who story in a single sitting. You know what? It really doesn't do it justice. Frankly, I'm shocked that I've reached the end of Episode Three of The Daleks, and I'm still thoroughly enjoying it. It's been a while since I last saw it, but I seem to remember being more than a little bored with it by this point.

Taking things an episode a day, though, I'm really enjoying the way that the story is building. Each episode is slowly introducing us to another element. In the first episode, we've got the jungle and the city, then the Daleks show up in part two. At the start of this episode, we're introduced to the Thals, and more of them arrive during these 25 minutes.

This particular instalment also sees us given lots of backstory to both our guest races for the tale. We're given something of a history lesson via Susan and Alydon, and start to understand more about them.

What's interesting is how easily you forget the Daleks' story while watching. I know them as the scourge of the galaxy, feared by everyone and main enemy of the Doctor. While watching along, though, you quickly forget all of that, and find yourself swept up in the thrust of the story.

Aside from the introduction of new elements, the story itself is moving along at a comfortable pace for me. We've had the regulars locked up in a cell for the best part of two episodes, but the end of this one (as the title suggests) sees them making a break from their prison, via the inside of a Dalek casing.

And it all feels just right. The speed at which the Doctor and Ian deduce how Daleks work, before closely studying one bringing them food, is spot on - just long enough for it not to be easy for them, but not so long that you tire of their deductions. The same is true of the story involving the radiation sickness. In some respects, it feels like they've been sick for ages, but actually it's only been the last 45 minutes or so.

There's lots of little things to love in this episode, like the iris on the Daleks' eyes moving. I'd not noticed it before in this story, but it's quite unsettling when it contracts in during the Daleks' speech about giving the TARDIS team sleep, food, and false hope.

Then there's the first almost-mention of the Daleks' most famous catchphrase - when one suggests that the solution for the prisoners breaking the camera is 'extermination, then?'.

I also want to draw attention to Carole Ann Ford in this one. I mentioned earlier in the week that I'm not a great Susan fan, and it bugged me yesterday when she scoffs at the suggestion there could be something inside the Dalek casing, but it has to be said - she's great here.

She's very much the focus of this episode, meeting Alydon outside the TARDIS at the start, and being the go-between for him and the Daleks, while also being present in the cell for the rest of the narrative. She's obviously had a very busy evening in the studio this week!

But it pays off. The moment when she explains to the Daleks that she's signed their message 'Susan' because it's her name is the best performance we've had from her since the very first episode. She's really relishing having a lot to do.

And then a cliffhanger that wills me forward. I'm looking forward to the next episode, but I'm happy to wait until tomorrow. This is starting to feel like a vital part of my evening, now…

Next Episode - The Ambush

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