Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Ten - The Ordeal (The Daleks, Episode Six)
Well, the good news is that yesterday seems to have been a bit of a blip. I've found myself enjoying today's instalment much more again. It's not all been plain sailing - I started the episode with a heavy heart, worried that I'd not be able to get the momentum back for the rest of this story, but actually (and this isn't a sentence I expected to ever say), watching a group of people make their way through a system of caves is rather good.
I think it's helped that unlike yesterday's episode, in which most of the running time was spent with characters telling us what's going on, or what has been going on, or what will be going on, today has seen our two distinct groups take action.
Before I talk about the stuff in the caves, I'm going to focus a bit on the Doctor and his little 'team'. The Doctor here is far closer to the man we've come to love over the years, taking a gleeful delight in breaking the Daleks' equipment when he thinks he's putting them out of action. I love the way he happily smashes away at their power supplies with the end of his walking stick.
I'm less keen on the idea that they can hide in the heart of the petrified jungle and make a (fairly detailed, it would seem) map of the Dalek city. A few episodes ago, they had to be right on the edge of the jungle before they could see it, and it was at least an hour's trek away. Equally, I'm sure that the Daleks' sensors could only reach the edge of the jungle. Have they boosted their power or something, and I've just missed it?
Either way, the shot of the Daleks surrounding the Doctor and Susan is fantastic, and should, I think, be more iconic that it is. There's also a fantastic scene where the pair are forced to sit cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by the Daleks. It's well shot, and helps to make the creatures seem especially menacing.
On the whole, there's a lot of rather good direction in this episode. Some of the shots during the cave sequences is very well done - there's a great shot of one of the Thals jumping the ravine, with the camera positioned behind him, so you can see all the way down to Ian in the distance, and across a ravine.
I praised the set design yesterday, commenting that it didn't look as though it was filmed in a tight studio. There's lots of good stuff on display here, too, with several shots framed specially to make the tunnels look long and thin. They feel dangerous, too, and we're shown just how tricky they can be to traverse at several points throughout the story.
Antodus, a Thal who's feeling more than a little out of his depth, has irritated me a lot of the way through the episode. He's spent most of it complaining that he can't go on with the adventure, and looking for excuses to turn around and run away back to the other Thals in the jungle. Actually, though, he's the person I'd be if I were on this adventure. Maybe that's why he bothers me?
Still, we end the episode with him dangling from a cliff, so perhaps he'll have less to whine about tomorrow?
Next Episode - The Rescue