Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Sixteen - Five Hundred Eyes (Marco Polo, Episode Three)
This episode brings up some interesting questions about the TARDIS. A cold night, followed by a hot day causes condensation to form on the inside, to the extent that it's described as 'streaming down the walls'. Point One; surely the TARDIS should have a circuit that stops that? Is it one of the broken ones? It'll ruin all of the Doctor's furniture. Maybe that's why the console room is so bare by the 1980s?
Point Two (a more serious one, promise), is that this clearly treats the inside of the TARDIS to be situated within the four walls of the police box. Now, I know there's a couple of different schools of thought on this, but I've always been of the opinion that when you cross the threshold, you're transported to another part of space and time. Maybe even another dimension.
Couldn't tell you when I became sure of that, but it's been in my head for as long as I can remember. What's everyone else's thoughts on the subject? Is it a huge space fitting inside the (comparatively) smaller box, or a portal to somewhere else? Leave a comment or Twitter me with your thoughts - I'm genuinely interested to see what people think.
I'm pleased to say that I'm still really enjoying this story. Perhaps its reputation as one of Doctor Who's best is justly deserved? I'm not entirely sure what it is that's sucking me in. The story is good enough, I suppose, though it still feels like they need to insert a number of things just to fill out the journey (more on which in a minute), but I think it's just the characters.
There was a point, when the Doctor, Susan and Ping-Cho are exploring the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes, when it feels just right that Ping-Cho is with them. She almost feels like a part of the team. Equally, it seems right that Marco and Ian should pair off together to hunt for the missing Barbara, too. It's a real testament to the story that these guest characters have only been a part of the narrative for a few days, but they already feel fully formed.
As for what I'd call 'padding'… the tale of Aladdin is very odd - a few minutes of the story given over to be told another story. It's almost like story time at school, where you all get to sit cross-legged on the floor, and listen to a fairytale. It feels oddly out of place - especially given that a fair bit of time early in the episode is given over to setting up that Ping-Cho is going to be telling it.
It does, however, give us a chance to see Susan and the Doctor at their most relaxed. From the images in the recon, you can see Susan laying up against her grandfather, clearly they've known each other for a long time. I'm not sure why people go to such great lengths to deny that they're family - the image says it all! The Doctor is her grandfather, and that's exactly the relationship they share on screen.
The episode is still taking its duties to educate the audience very seriously - we're given a lesson via Ian about how condensation is formed (a great use of him as a science teacher. It really is a fantastic role for the series' early set up), and then later on as he tells Susan (in a completely un-forced way. Or not.) “Do you know that we still use the word Ḥashshāshīn in English today?”
It's nice to see the series using this story as a chance to fulfil one of its initial briefs. It's not something that will last forever, and I'm looking forward to seeing how long it does before it gets fazed out in favour of 'Monster of the Week'…
I'll avoid saying too much about Susan's reactions at the cliff hanger (“THEY MOVED!”), but the rest of the episode is working very well for me!