Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Twenty-Four: The Snows of Terror (The Keys of Marinus, Episode Four)
It seems fitting, in a week where I've had to cancel a trip home because the UK is being coated with a spell of bad weather, that I should be sitting down to watch The Snows of Terror. It's almost as though the show is sympathising with me. Or taunting me. It's definitely one or the other.
The good news is that I've enjoyed this episode much more than I did the last one. Looking back, I wondered if I'd been too harsh on yesterday's episode, but I really was just bored throughout. It seems a good opportunity for me to explain - briefly - my process for rating the episodes.
Having watched my daily 25 minutes, I type my entry up in 'Day One', a diary application for the Mac. The first thing I do is assign the episode a score. This is based purely on my gut reaction. How much have I enjoyed that day's episode? What does it feel like, score-wise? I then write my entry and transfer it over to Doctor Who Online, for you to see.
Up until the point that I hit 'save' on the DWO entry, I allow myself to change the score. Sometimes it changes during the writing of the day's entry, as I assess just what I've liked and not liked from the episode. Sometimes it changes as I input it to the website, and I muse over things.
After that, though, it's stuck. So The Screaming Jungle looks like it's going to be something of a blot on *The Keys of Marinus*…
Truth be told, I'm a little surprised that I've enjoyed today's episode as much as I have. In many respects, it's been something of a 'best of' compilation for the show. We've a snowy mountain (like the opening of Marco Polo), and several scenes set within cave, including a cavern that our heroes have to cross (That'll be like The Daleks, then!). With many elements calling back to things I've seen recently, I'd worried that I might just get a bit bored.
Thankfully, though, there's plenty here to keep me going. I love Vasor, and he's easily one of the nastiest characters we've encountered so far. The way he lusts after Barbara as Ian discovers he's not all that he makes out to be is fantastic, and genuinely creepy. Then the way he leaves them trapped in the cave, disconnecting the rope bridge… fantastic.
It's nice to see him get his comeuppance in the end, though it's great to have a character so richly drawn for a single episode appearance.
Then we've got the guards of the Key, all dolled up like medieval knights. It might help that I've spent the afternoon watching episodes of William Russell's Adventures of Sir Lancelot, but I really enjoyed the design… up until they start moving about. You'd hope that they'd be lumbering and slow, but they come across as a bunch of extras in armor.
It's never more noticeable than when three of them assemble on a ledge, the fourth member of the party having just fallen to his death with a half-arsed scream. They really don't look all that imposing. That said, their first appearance, surrounding the block of ice always makes me think of artist Daryl Joyce's rendition of the scene - which captured my imagination long before I first saw this story.
Something key about the last two episodes, though perhaps more prominently here, given that I've enjoyed this once far more, is how little you notice the absence of the Doctor. I've now not seen him for several days, but I'd quite happily go on watching our current team of travellers together, if the episodes are as fun as this one. As the 1960s go on, cast absences won't always be handled so well, so it's nice to see them getting it right at least to start with.
Next Episode: Sentence of Death