12 January 2013

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

Day Twelve - The Edge of Destruction (The Edge of Destruction, Episode One)

Dear diary,

During the 1960s, the cliffhanger reprises at the start of each episode weren't always clips from the last episode. On some occasions, they were re-filmed at the start of the next for one reason or another - usually helpful if the scene carries right on from there.

It's a shame, then, that this isn't one of those episodes to re-film those few moments, as the story opens with the built-in-a-corner version of the TARDIS, before we're treated to the full set for the remainder of the instalment.

I didn't really get a chance to discuss it under An Unearthly Child, but I really do love the original TARDIS. It's so gorgeous, and so vast! Don't get me wrong, I love most of the TARDIS console rooms down the years (I think the Five Doctors version is my favourite, still, though), but this one has a size and atmosphere to it that just dissipates as the show goes on.

It's great to see it as the main setting for a whole episode (and another to come), and another great chance to see our four regulars given a chance to shine. I'd not noticed before doing this marathon that the first episode of all these first stories feature (more-or-less) just our TARDIS crew and no other characters. It's nice, since they're all so wonderful.

I warned a few days ago that there's likely be a few moans about Susan as I make my way though, but actually there's been a lot to praise over the last couple of stories. Here, Carole Ann Ford really uses the opportunity of such an unusual story to go completely over-the-top with her performance, but to some extent - it works.

All the regulars are reacting in a different way to this most unusual of scripts. To begin with, Ford plays it as though she's simply drunk, before resorting to hysterics further down the line. Perhaps my favourite performance though, is William Russell. He plays it as being so disconnected from everything right the way though, a bit baffled by everything going on around him.

There's one thing I'd told myself not to mention when it came to this episode; the infamous 'scissors scene'. It's something that gets commented upon time and time again when someone undertakes one of these marathons, and I simply didn't want to add my thoughts to the pile.

Bloody hell, though, it is a bit much, isn't it? As i watched, I realised I'd have to mention it - because it's really quite alarming. THe tension has already started to build in the story before we reach this point, but the way Ian turns around to find Susan stood beside the bed, scissors in hand ready to attack…

It doesn't help, either, that they're particularly long and sharp scissors! You could do some real damage with these things! There's another scene later on, where Susan holds the scissors ready to attack Barbara, which I think gets less of a look in when people talk about it, but both are quite dramatic. It's hard to believe that they allowed it on TV in 1964, and you definitely can't imagine it being allowed onto screens these days. Forget the Daleks, the scariest thing in the series so far is Susan wielding a sharp instrument!

Throughout the early days of Doctor Who, people always hunt for the magical moment that the character becomes the Doctor that we're most familiar with from the rest of the series. I've touched briefly this week on the fact that the character has already lightened up a lot since the first episode, but this one sees him very much back in his original role.

He's dark, and sinister, accusing Ian and Barbara of tampering with the ship, and (presumably) drugging them to keep them out of the way while he can figure out what the problem is.

For all that, though, there's a moment in this episode which, I feel, is the most key when it comes to the Doctor's evolution as a character, and it's the moment when Barbara tells him off. I feel it's worth quoting her speech here, as it's one of the very best we've seen in the series, and Jacqueline Hill gives perhaps her best performance to date to deliver it;

“How dare you? Do you realise, you stupid old man, that you'd have died in the Cave of Skulls if Ian hadn't made fire for you? And what about what we just went through with the Daleks? Not just for us, but you and Susan, too. And all because you tricked us. Accuse us? You ought to go down on your hands and knees and thank us!”

This is definitely one of the most surreal episodes that the show has ever given us, but it's one of the best, too, if only for the chance to see our team really sinking their teeth into things again.

8/10 
RSS Feed
News Key
News Home
General
The New Series
The Classic Series
Spinoffs
Merchandise
Site
Blog Entries
Reviews Key
Reviews Home
Books / Magazines
DVD / Blu-ray
Audio
Toys / Other
TV Episodes
Search
Become a DWO Site Time Lord / Cardinal