Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Thirty-Nine: A Change of Identity (The Reign of Terror, Episode Three)
There's something of a conception of the First Doctor as being a bit of a fuddy-duddy. He's often thought of as a bit of a bumbling, kindly grandfather figure, who's not quite the Doctor, but fills the same role. It's not helped by the regular occurrence of 'Billy Fluffs', either.
Here, though, the First Doctor is absolutely fantastic. The way he handles himself in the clothes shop, and the way he them presents himself to the jailer, it's an image of a man who's in full control. It's easy enough, when looking at these scenes, to imagine the 'old man' stuff is little more than an act - a way to disguise a devilishly intelligent man, who knows how to manipulate the situation to get what he wants.
Of course, it all seems to have backfired come the final scene, in which the ring that the Doctor has bartered away comes back to haunt him.
It's also nice to see the series starting to make use of its new ability to shoot in TV Centre itself. Though a few episodes I've already been through were made there, this is the first time, really, that the full implications of this can be seen on the screen. An early scene of a busy French street, into which the Doctor enters is fantastic - it's grander than I'm used to seeing on the show, and really does help to make this story feel bigger than usual.
The shots of William Russell's scenes, still shot on film (he was, presumably, still in Spain!) continue to look like something from a production other than Doctor Who. In this episode, he makes an escape from his prison cell, and the more I watch it, the more I lament that fact that more of the show doesn't look like this. The film really does give these scenes a rich texture that's sadly lacking in other places. Mind you, they still remind me of early Eastern European cinema!
I'd not considered it when writing yesterday's entry, but a lot of that feel may come from the director himself. I'd forgotten that Henric Hirsch had directed the story, and was from Hungary. There could well be intention behind the style, rather than it simply being a side-effect of shooting these scenes early on. It's almost a shame that we'll be loosing this style.
Oh, and all right. I didn't want to mention it too much yesterday, but let's be honest; Susan is rubbish in this story, isn't she? I'm wondering, now, if this may be where my entire dislike for Susan had come from. All the way through this marathon, I've been pleasantly surprised by how much I've taken to her - but here…!
All she's done so far is whine and moan… here, she nearly ruins their only chance of escape by complaining instead about her headache and her bad back and how tired she is… I'm hoping this is all leading somewhere, or there's no reason to be kicking up such a fuss! If she'd not been on holiday back during The Aztecs, I'd think they were getting ready to pack her off on one now!
Tomorrow is going to be interesting; I'll finally reach one of the new animated episodes! I've been excited to see them for quite some time, so I'm sure it's going to be a sleepless night, tonight. It's like Christmas Eve - I'm waiting for Santa to come!
Next Episode: The Tyrant of France