Time Lord Tees

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29 July 2014

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

Day 575: The Keeper of Traken, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I’m so used to thinking of this story as the first part of a ‘Master trilogy’, that it’s easy to forget that he doesn’t actually show up until this point in the story! We’ve heard his voice right the way though, and there’s been hands flicking switches for a while, but it’s not until the end of this episode that he finally swings around to reveal himself to the audience (and I can’t help thinking that he has the look of an excited puppy in doing so!), and announce his true identity - even if the Doctor doesn’t know it yet.

My wonder is, though... did this have impact when it first went out? The Master here is only a slightly modified version of the one seen in The Deadly Assassin (am I right in thinking that one story goes that they found the cloak from that story in the skip just as they were preparing for this one, and salvaged it in time?), but that last appearance was ages ago. That story went out around October/November 1976, whereas The Keeper of Traken didn’t make it to screen until early 1981! You’re looking just over four years between appearances, and a lot has changed in the programme since then! Graham Williams has come and gone, as have Leela, Romana, and K9... did the audience at the time sit up in their chairs here thinking ‘bloody hell, it’s the Master!?!?’ or was it just an excited puppy in a tatty, skip-bound cloak?

Oh, I’m just nit-picking really, because it is a very good cliffhanger when you’re watching through in order like this. The mysterious bad guy who has been wreaking all this havoc on Traken and causing problems for the Doctor is none other than the Master! And he finally reveals himself to us just as Kassia takes the seat of the Keeper, and is instantly replaced with the Melkur sitting on the throne! It really is a very striking way to end the episode, and the fact that the Doctor has felt more hopeless in this story than many others makes it feel like the Master is a very real threat to him again.

I’m a little puzzled by exactly what this ‘Source’ is that he’s gained control of, mind. As far as I can tell (bear with me): it’s the power source for the Keeper. A kind of technology that needs to be guided by a living mind (the Keeper), and has the ability to keep everything in check throughout the Traken Union (is this a series of planets? That’s how I understand it, though it could simply be a number of countries on the one world of Traken). Being connected to the Source grants the Keeper an unusually long life, because... well... because it does. Hence, when a Keeper dies, they’re unable to hold back forces of chaos any longer, and thus storms begin to brew etc etc. In some ways, it’s the struggle between the Black and the White Guardian in miniature. If I’ve got that right, then it’s a great target for the Master, and fairly reminiscent of his plan in The Deadly Assassin, without all that boring Time Lord Stuff.

I think what’s throwing me is the mashing of a fairy tale world, all groves and stone corridors, with people dressed in crushed velvet, and the world of science fiction, with lots of machinery and intelligent creations like the Source itself. It’s throwing me even more that they can create technology as powerful as this seems to be, but not an adequate way of mankind the transition more stable between two Keepers. I know Nyssa goes on to have an ability with science once she’s a regular member of the TARDIS crew, and I’m wondering if it may feel less of a clash once she’s away from the trappings of her home world?

28 July 2014

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

Day 574: The Keeper of Traken, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I’m somewhat surprised just how well-rounded this world feels to me, considering that this is only the second episode of the story. While we’re spending our time mainly among the nobility of the planet, when they dispense the crowds outside the Grove it feels as though they really are all heading back to lives of their own off- screen somewhere. The procedures and rituals of these people don’t feel as though they’ve simply been made up to serve a purpose in the story as and when needed, and all of the Consuls are rounded enough to have existed in harmony for a long time before the Doctor and Adric arrived.

I wonder if this is down to all the flashbacks that we were given in the last episode? Although they were brief, it means that we’ve had a sense of Kassia - for example - since she was a child, through her marriage, and into the present day. When she falls under the influence of Melkur, we can understand why it is, and you actually feel for her, when she’s forced to turn against even her own husband. In fact, the only aspic of the story which doesn’t seem to fit right for me so far is the idea that Nyssa is their daughter. She just doesn’t seem to fit in with that world as nicely as other elements do.

Also surprising is the Doctor and Tremas teaming up together for such a large part of the story. I’ve seen The Keeper of Traken before, but probably not since it first came out on DVD seven years or so ago, so I’d forgotten a lot of the things that are happening here. I’ve grown so used to Anthony Ainley in the role of the Master that it feels unusual to see him working so much in favour of the Doctor in this story. And yet... when he first appeared yesterday, I couldn’t see past him being the Master. The white hair and beard simply looked like a disguise to a man who was clearly the Doctor’s nemesis. Now, though, I’m not seeing it any more. He doesn’t look like the Master any more - he looks like Tremas, and it’s almost a stretch to think of him in the other role. I’m not sure if that’s down to the script or the performance. Possibly, it’s a little bit of both.

It’s also nice to see Adric being paired off with Nyssa here. It really feels like all the elements of the Peter Davison years are starting to slot in to place, and frankly, the series hasn’t looked so youthful since the 1960s! I’ve grown used to the idea of the Doctor traveling with grown ups of varying degrees over the last few years, and it’s really not since the days of Jamie and Victoria that we last had a pair of regular characters who were little more than children. They’ve got their own adventure here, proving them to be capable enough, and it really feels like the winds of change blowing through. Just as Tom Baker has started to look older than ever, things are really being shaken up. I did feel a bit sorry for Adric today, though. For the first few scenes, every time it looks like the poor boy is about to speak, something gets in the way and cuts him off! I was starting to wonder if they were paying him by the word... 

27 July 2014

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

Day 573: The Keeper of Traken, Episode One

Dear diary,

Perhaps more than any other story of this period, The Keeper of Traken suffers when you know about Doctor Who. There’s so many things in this first episode alone that simply don’t work as well when you know what the next few years of the programme are going to be like, and indeed when you know what happens in this story. It suffers because I know the Melkur is a TARDIS. It suffers because I know that the TARDIS is housing the decaying Master. It suffers because I can’t look at Tremas without knowing that he’ll be embodying the Master for encounters with the next three Doctors, and because I can’t look at Nyssa (who is oddly underused in this initial episode), without knowing that she’ll go on to travel with the Doctor for the next season-and-a-half.

For all that, though, knowing these things flags up a few interesting new angles to enjoy with the story. When the Keeper warns the Doctor to think carefully before accepting the mission to help him on Traken, he tells the Time Lord that there is great danger in the task, and that it could cause obliteration to even the Doctor. In hindsight, this can be read as a warning of the impending regeneration, and the fact that this story really kicks off the chain of events that will lead the Doctor to the Pharos Project, and his death. Equally, it’s great to see the way the Doctor behaves here, too, responding to the Keeper’s assertion that the passing of ages have taken their toll on him by claiming to know the feeling.

It’s often said that Season Eighteen has something of a funereal feel to it, and while the whole style has felt more foreboding than ever before recently, this is really where it kicks in. Tom Baker hasn’t looked his best of late - unwell and with hair that’s had to be artificially permed - but this is where he really starts looking old. It’s almost as though the departure of Romana and the return to N- space has taken it all out of him, and he knows that he’s marching towards the end. I think that’s likely to be the thing that keeps me entertained over these next couple of stories. This tale, Logopolis, and Castrovalva are described as being a loose trilogy of adventures, and I’m looking forward to seeing that in action as I move forward. The tone of this first episode certainly seems to be setting us up well for what’s to come...

As for the episode itself... it’s another slightly unusual one, with lots being told in the form of flashbacks, as the Keeper brings the Doctor up to speed with all the events on Traken that have lead to their current situation. I love his initial arrival in the TARDIS, and the Doctor’s solomn reaction to it - it’s almost like the appearance of the Ood in The Waters of Mars, where the Doctor knows he’s being summoned to his final adventures - but it does make for a slightly different feel to the tale. The Doctor and Adric crouch round the old man as he tells us his story, and once the adventure properly gets underway, it’s not long before our heroes find themselves captured and facing inquisition.

It’s great to see them together, though, and I’d forgotten just how much I enjoyed the pairing of the Doctor and Adric on their own. Our favourite Time Lord has agains taken on a more professorial role, teaching the young boy, and it’s perhaps closer to the kind of relationship the First Doctor had with Susan than we’ve seen in a long time. He’s got the irascibility down pat, too. It always seemed to be a shame that they had so few stories together (they barely encounter each other in State of Decay or Warrior’s Gate, so I’m looking forward to enjoying the pairing while I can.

26 July 2014

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

Day 572: Warrior’s Gate, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I was really impressed, at the end of Meglos, when Romana announced that they’d had a call from Gallifrey, and were required to head there immediately. It was probably the ear lies that any companion departure to date had been foreshadowed so far in advance of it actually occurring. When Full Circle opened with Romana in a funk because she didn’t want to give up her life with the Doctor, it was even better. It felt like the beginning of the end for the Fourth Doctor, and it was nice to have it all being worked in so early. I’ve often seen the 1980s eras of Doctor Who criticised for being a bit like a soap opera, but I thought that this was an example of the format being used very well.

Equally, I knew that Romana didn’t end up returning to Gallifrey (at least, not during the lifetime of the original TV series. She ends up as president in the books and the audios), I was well aware that she left the TARDIS to stay here with the Tharrils: but I never knew why. The more this story went on, the more I started to piece it together. K9 could only be accurately repaired by passing through the mirror... but he wouldn’t be able to pass back again. Would the same happen to Romana? More likely, I thought, she’d opt to remain behind to simply avoid being recalled to Gallifrey. She’s well aware that the Time Lords can send out a recall signal and drag the TARDIS back there whenever they like, but there’s less chance of them getting hold of her in E-space.

As it happens, the actual departure... just happens. It’s gone from being a great example of foreshadowing and setting up to being the absolute epitome of the quick companion departure. They save the day. They’re safely back at the TARDIS. Then Romana casually states that she’s not tagging along for the ride, and the Doctor responds by giving her K9 and buggering off. It’s the most amicable divorce I’ve ever seen. But it feels all wrong.

In theory, it shouldn’t - it’s the perfect way to cap off this season’s running theme of the Doctor setting up new societies at the end of each adventure, by giving this one his beloved companion to help. And Romana too. It should feel like a fairly brilliant way for Romana to depart the series, and all the little hints throughout this episode that she’s becoming more and more like the Doctor (at one point, she even quotes him verbatim) should be part of her journey to staying behind in E-space, but it just lacks any emotion or drama in those final moments. The TARDIS door has shut, and the Doctor has gone.

It’s a pity, in many ways. I’d always been a bit weary of the Romana period of the programme - I said as much when she first appeared way back during The Ribos Operation. Almost three whole seasons of the Doctor travelling with an intellectual equal didn’t really appeal to me all that much, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised as the stories have rolled by. Romana has worked well in both incarnations, and it’s coincided with Tom Baker finding the joy in playing this role again, too. It feels like a shame to end three seasons of travel in such a brief exchange.

Still, I can’t deny that it’s also a sign of exciting developments afoot. You can carve up the Tom Baker years in several ways - producers, script editors, seasons, episodes - but one way has always been ‘companions’. It feels like he has three main eras of companion throughout his tenure. There’s ‘the Sarah Jane years’, which can also be further broken down into ‘with and without Harry’, ‘the Leela years’, and ‘the Romana years’. It might jus the me, but I find it easy to forget that there’s two adventures at the end of his run which feature none of these major companions, and instead seem devoted to setting up his next incarnation’s team. Adric has joined us with the E-space trilogy, Nyssa will be showing up tomorrow, and then Tegan in his final story. The departure of Romana may have been rushed and a bit of a let down, but it’s a sign that the Fourth Doctor is almost done, and there’s a new era just around the corner...

25 July 2014

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

Day 571: Warrior’s Gate, Episode Three

Dear diary,

It was this cliffhanger that I could recall from a previous viewing of Warrior’s Gate - though curiously, three quarters of the way in, it’s still the only thing that I can remember from last time round. It’s not a surprise that this one stuck in the memory, though, because it’s brilliant. The Doctor sits around the table with the Tharills and goes on to berate them for their way of life. Just as a group of attackers burst into the room and the axe falls... we see time shift to much later, and the Doctor finds himself sat at the table in the other gate, surrounded by people who’re specifically looking for him. I can’t quite get my head around all of the specifics (for instance, is this the same room in two time zones? That’s the implication, but they’re in two different locations. I assumed that the mirror was the barrier between E-space and N-space, but then why don’t you emerge from the mirror in the same place?), but that doesn’t really matter, because it’s a brilliant cliffhanger all the same.

As I’ve said, though, nothing else in the story really seems to be sticking for me. It feels at once very dull and also very complex. There’s lots of ideas floating around in this one that probably should be capturing my imagination, but they just... aren’t. I decided to take a look at some of the behind the scenes story for this one, in the hope that it may help to get me more involved, but I can’t say that it’s done much good. Apart from the various squabbles over who wrote what, it seems to boil down to the director, Paul Joyce, the writer, Steve Gallagher, and Christopher Bidmead pointing out how clever they were when putting this one together. If anything, it may have put me off the story even more.

Once again, that’s not to say that the story is completely irredeemable in my eyes. There’s things in today’s episode - as with the previous two - which help to make things a little bit easier for me. Today, it’s the addition of the black and white ‘landscapes’ that the Doctor and friends find themselves in. It all adds to the slightly surreal quality of the story, and while I was originally not a fan of them looking so much like photographs the actors had been overlaid on, I think that actually works in their favour: it simply heightens the oddity of the whole thing.

I think that’s the thing that I’m likely to take away from Warrior’s Gate this time around - this is Doctor Who at its most art house. Looking in to the behind the scenes struggles, what comes across very clearly is that Joyce was trying to treat the production as though it were a film (for better or - in regards to the time they had in the studio - for worse), and that really comes across in the finished production. It could be even more interesting to me, if things like the void weren’t quite so obviously CSO. I don’t know what I’d rather, but... something. The story could grab me more given the time and the budget that Joyce seems to think it has, but as things stand, it’s really not doing it for me, sadly.

24 July 2014

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

Day 570: Warrior’s Gate, Episode Two

Dear diary,

When I said during yesterday’s episode that I hoped we’d get more of the slightly surreal stuff today, I didn’t mean quite like this. We’re now half way through this story, and I still don’t really know what’s going on. There’s a broken-down space ship, a gateway to an unusual abandoned medieval world, and a supposedly empty void between two universes. But after 50 minutes, not a lot has actually happened yet. There’s lots of roaming around and any bouts of action - like Romana being strapped in to the broken ship to see where they’re going - seem to be over with very quickly. Before you know it, Romana has been left behind, and the crew have gone for another wander through nothing.

As, presumably, Adric has, too. He goes off exploring with K9, and we’re told that the only way to navigate in this place is through the use of a mass detector (the crew of the spaceship have one that they’re using to get around, and K9 serves the purpose for Adric). That’s fine, but following the attack of time winds in the last episode, K9 isn’t functioning at full capacity. Ok, not a problem, because Adric is able to take one of the dog’s antenna, and move further away to help correct the problem. At this point, K9 heads off to find the Doctor... where he arrives with both ears in tact! We see Adric wandering in the void briefly, but I can’t tell if he’s still got an ear. Was a scene cut out at all? Is it just an error in production?

I’m not usually one for spotting production errors. I stumbled across a website recently that looks at them in detail throughout classic Doctor Who episodes, and I couldn’t help but think that it all seemed just a bit... petty. Errors were being pointed out that were so minor it’s unlikely that most people would spot them on their tenth viewing of an episode. I’m not the type who usually even notices a boom mic in shot, or the shadow of a crew member, but this episode seems to be making them more obvious to me.

Aside from the K9 ear problem, there’s a scene early in today’s episode where the Doctor tricks the two Gundan robots into taking their axes to each other, and solving his problem of trying to avoid them. It’s quite a fun moment in the story, and a very ‘Doctor’ solution to the troubles, but it’s somewhat let down by the fact that one of the robots drops their axe... with a sharp point of it landing square in the Doctor’s back! If he’s lucky, it wouldn’t do any major damage to him, but it’d leave a rather nasty scar if nothing else! I can only assume that they were too pressed for time to take another shot, because this seems like a fairly obvious flaw.

I’ve been very negative today about Warrior’s Gate, but there are some things in here that I’m enjoying. The duo of crew members aboard the space ship (the ones who remain behind when the others go out hunting for this gateway) are raising lots of smiles, be it from their dry reactions to everything else happening, or during their attempts to wake a hibernation Tharril here. I think they’re probably my favourite bit of the story so far. There’s also the scene where Romana first steps out of the TARDIS and takes great delight at really confusing everyone around her - that caused a few laughs, too. On the whole, though, I’m just not sure that I get this story...

23 July 2014

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

Day 569: Warrior’s Gate, Episode One

Dear diary,

Warrior’s Gate. I know I’ve seen it (or at least some of it - I have a distinct memory of the Doctor sitting in one of the chairs at that table in the main hall, and possibly an axe falling towards him, I think...), but I really couldn’t tell you anything about it. Yes, it’s one of those stories that I’ve watched before but not paid attention to. Either that, or it just simply failed to stick in my mind to any real degree.

I’m guessing that it’s probably not that latter option, though, because right from the start of this episode, the story is wildly different to anything that Doctor Who has ever given us before. We open with a wonderfully long shot, which guides us through several rooms of a spaceship. It makes this set feel genuinely huge, even though it probably isn’t. Even when we finally do move to a new shot, it’s all done with fades, and all the subsequent parts of the opening follow the same pattern of having the cameras glide around the set, showing us everything and creating an almost dream-like quality. There’s a lovely film called Russian Ark, which is all filmed in one single, continuous shot, and this is very reminiscent of that*, creating a lovely - slightly surreal - dream-like start to the story.

That’s quite a fitting way to start the story, really, because it’s a story set in the nowhere between our universe and E-Space. In theory, there’s no time here, no up or down... it seems only right that we should start the first episode of such a story by being given something so unlike the programme’s usual stock. It’s really quite a nice place to set a story, but it’s a pity that everything happening in this nowhere is just a bit... dull. There’s nothing that’s really grabbing me once those initial shots are out of the way.

Romana spends the whole episode trapped inside the console room trying to repair broken equipment... which she also had to do for the first episode of Meglos (where she was also repairing K9, though there her stay in the ship was extended by a time loop), and she spends a vast amount of time during Full Circle stuck in the TARDIS, too. No wonder she’s off before the end of this story! Elsewhere, we’ve got a space ship filled with not especially stand-out characters, and they’re bickering about broken equipment, too. There’s a slight bit of interest injected by the fact that their ‘navigator’ seems to be slightly more unusual, but I’m finding it hard to connect with any of their scenes, either.

Thankfully, what does appeal to me are all the scenes later on in the episode, when our lion man (and, latterly, the Doctor) make their way through a ruined archway into some kind of abandoned castle. It’s back to being slightly surreal again, unlike the cookie-cutter scenes elsewhere, and it’s piqued my interest enough to salvage the episode a little. I’m hoping that the rest of the story will spend more time exploring this location, and continuing down the path of the slightly unusual elements of the story...

*While I’m mentioning it, Russian Ark really is worth checking out, if you get a chance. It’s all in - surprise, surprise - Russian, but there are subtitles. It’s a time travel story, and it’s all filmed in the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. It runs about an hour and a half in one continuous take, and it’s such an unusual experience, but somewhat magical and enchanting. Certainly, if you enjoy that kind of thing, it’s very much worth tracking the film down. 

22 July 2014

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

Day 568: State of Decay, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Um... Ok, well, let’s start with the positives. Despite what the general opinion among several friends seems to be, I rather like the shot of the Great Vampire’s hand reaching up through the ground. What I mean to say is that during that initial shot of it doing so, it actually look quite effective. Certainly, it’s not a bad shot. It does rather fall to pieces once our three villains are CSO’s in front of a less well realised example of the scene, but that initial moment of breaking through the earth is rather good, so there.

No, I’m more put off by the Doctor’s X-Ray of the area (which seems to somewhat miss the way that an X-Ray works, but ho-hum), revealing what appears to be a poor quality rubber bat model representing the greatest and most powerful foe that the famous Time Lords have ever encountered. For some reason, in my head, I had the Great Vampire down as being a lot more Nosferatu-esque in design. Perhaps fittingly now that John Nathan-Turner is in the producer’s chair, ‘the memory cheats’.

Overall, I think that the model work in this episode is probably one of the weakest points. The shot of the tower breaking apart as one of the ships takes off isn’t the best model shot that the programme has ever given us, and it took me right out of the entire climax. I don’t think it helps that everything moves a little bit too quickly for my liking. The Doctor rounds up the rebels and prepares to lead an attack on the tower! He figures out what he needs to fro to destroy the Vampire, and rushes off to do it! A battle ensues, and there’s slaughter! Romana is being sacrificed, with bats coming to feast on her blood! And yet, there’s no tension in any of this. Despite sitting through three very enjoyable episodes, I’ve just no connection to anything that’s happening here. A pity.

That’s not to say that the episode is a complete washout, though. There’s a lovely exchange as the time of arising begins, where a guard tells his master that he cannot go back up there, or everyone will die. The simple response - ‘Then die! That is the purpose of guards...’ - is absolutely wonderful, and I think it may be chalked up as one of my favourite lines from all of Doctor Who. Then there’s the three who rule being aged to death as the Doctor watched on. There’s a slightly dodgy shot when they fade between two states, but it’s very effective when we keep cutting back to them looking older and older until they’re gone.

It’s also a fairly good episode for K9. After a few stories in which he’s blown up, has his head knocked off, kicked about, and just generally abused, we actually have a character apologising to the dog for not putting enough faith in him! There’s something oddly heart warming about that. As if that wasn’t enough, we even get to see him trundle over the lip of the TARDIS prop! Has that happened before? I can’t recall it any time recently...

I was much more taken with the ‘making of’ feature about this story on the DVD - it’s one of the better examples of these from the entire range. It gives a potted history of the production, which was originally planned to be part of Season Fifteen before a BBC adaptation of Dracula put paid to that, and has some interesting input from both Terrance Dicks and Christopher Bidmead. I think it’s fair to say that there’s not a great deal of love lost between the pair! There’s also a lot of great discussion about the design of the story, and a look at some of the influences which inspired the style of the tower in particular.

As is rapidly becoming traditional for my Episode Four write ups this season, I’m keeping an eye on the Doctor’s actions at the end of a story. He’s at it again, you know, setting up a new society and leaving them to get on with it with very little information to go by. His advice today is that if the newly-liberated proletariat of this world use their recently salvaged technology well, then they can be a high technological society in no time. I think he’s being perhaps a little facetious there, but it does keep in with this seemingly running theme of the Doctor setting up new societies at the moment!

In contrast to some of the others, though, I can’t find an obvious way that this could go all that wrong for these people. There’s not a great deal of them, so working out some kind of democracy should be relatively simple. They’re the ones who toil and work, so they’ll be able to arrange food and keep themselves going. The only thing that the Lords ever seemed to do for them was to protect them from ‘the Wasting’, but since that’s not really an issue any more, I think we could be looking at a fairly happy future for this lot!

21 July 2014

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

Day 567: State of Decay, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I know I’ve banged on about it during the other two episodes of this serial, but I really do love that Adric has a story more-or-less separate from that of the Doctor and Romana for the most part here. It’s not until almost the very end of today’s episode that Romana actually finds Adric, and the Doctor has yet to see him! It means that there’s an interesting new vibe to the series, which can only be described as ‘parents and child’.

This is best exemplified during the Doctor and Romana’s daring escape from the tower, when they reach the door, freedom in their grasp... and then they stop because they can’t simply leave Adric behind now that they know he’s there (even though he shouldn’t be - as far as they were concerned, they’d ‘sent him to bed’ at the end of the last story). It’s rather lovely, and the way that they bicker about who’ll go and get the kid and who’ll go and get on with the proper adventure is brilliant. It’s a bit of a shame that this TARDIS team will only have one more story together, before it’s changed again.

I’m also enjoying all the new Gallifreyan lore that’s being introduced here. It seems quite soon after we had a lot of information about the very early days of the Time Lords in Shada, though I suppose that won’t have mattered at all on original transmission, but I really do enjoy delving into the dark and mysterious past of this ancient race from time to time. I especially love that we first get the Doctor musing that there are vampire legends on almost every civilised world, before going on to give us the tale of these creatures in the form of a legend, a fairy story that was told on Gallifrey. It also means that we get to hear him speak again of the old hermit who used to live in the mountains not far from his home (he lived a very sheltered life), who was first mentioned in The Time Monster, and played a fairly significant role during Planet of the Spiders. You have to wonder if this simply comes down to the script being written by Terrance Dicks, who would have over-seen those stories at the time.

From there, we go on to the Doctor getting the true record of the tale from the TARDIS. There’s something rather brilliant about the idea that the information is so old and out of date that the main databanks on the ship don’t contain it, and he has to get out some more antiquated equipment before he can have his theory backed up. I think this is the only disappointment that comes from all of this - his theory is completely backed up. In a story which has very cleverly played with the way that language changes over time (in the names of the crew members evolving and changing while they’ve been on this world), I’d have liked to see the official story of the great war against the vampires be slightly different from the subsequent retelling to a young Doctor in the form of a story. That feels like a bit of a missed opportunity when you consider the richness in other areas of this serial.

My slight worry for this next episode is that it may feel like a bit of a let down after all this build-up. The Record of Rassilon makes a point about how these creatures are damned near impossible to kill, and how they’re some of the most powerful beings to ever exist, and yet the Doctor and friends only have 25 minutes or so to kill not only the last of them, but the most powerful one, too! Considering that they’ve saved the reveal of this demon for the final episode, you have to hope that he’ll live up to the hype...

20 July 2014

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

Day 566: State of Decay, Episode Two

Dear diary,

There’s something in the format of this story which feels very different to usual. The Doctor and Romana making their way around the spaceship as they explore is the kind of thing that would usually make up an Episode One of a story, but here it’s the focal point of this second episode, while they also get their first confrontation with the villains of the piece, and start swapping information with them that feels as though it’s coming too early in the story. That might sound like I’m complaining, but I’m really not - it’s nice to have a story which is a bit different the the norm. Despite having seen this story once before, there’s an awful lot of it that I’ve forgotten, and the fact that Adric still hasn’t encountered the Doctor and Romana since leaving Alzarius surprises me: I thought that they’d have all met up by now.

What’s appealing most to me about this story, though, is the world in which it’s all set. It’s been a little while since Doctor Who has given us a medieval society like this one, and every aspect of it is beautifully realised. Even though K9 has told us that there’s a fair amount of technology in this settlement, it really feels striking and unusual when Ivo takes out a walkie talkie, because we’ve just spent plenty of time being led to believe that our favourite tin dog has been mistaken (we’d forgive him this time - he had his head knocked off last week).

Today is the episode with bits that I most vividly recall from the story - all those shots of the Doctor and Romana while out and about exploring the ship. Scenes of them climbing up and down ladders, and arriving in the nose-cone of the rocket ship. That scene where they arrive above the engines and theres all the bodies around them is seared into my mind - and yet I only realised that once the scene came on and I was able to recite it word for word. There’s something quite magical about all this, and I love that the set designers have managed to make the futuristic parts of the ship look just as lush and beautiful as the more ‘historical’ trappings in places like the throne room.

If The Leisure Hive was a new style for Doctor Who, then this is the team taking it one step further - painting the series as the ‘dark fairy tale’ that Steven Moffat has also used to describe it. Something about this run of stories simply screams ‘autumn evenings’ to me, and while I didn’t especially watch them at that time, these episodes evoke a feeling of coming home from school on a late October afternoon, playing in the garden until nightfall, and then settling in to watch an episode of Doctor Who just like this one. It’s scary - not in the way that the Doctor being torn apart a few weeks ago was, or Romana having a spider leap on her face, but simply through the way that it feels - the sheer atmosphere of the thing.

I think it’s this, perhaps more than the story itself, that I’m really connecting with at the moment. A wonderful sense of nostalgia that warms me inside. This is Doctor Who tailored to be something I’d enjoy, and I’m thoroughly loving everything about it. While the graham Williams era dabbled with dropping the Doctor and Romana into a fairy tale, with The Ribos Operation or - more obviously - The Androids of Tara, something didn’t feel right about it. There it was simply the trappings of a slightly diff adventure series (no matter how much I may have enjoyed the stories themselves).

Here, it feels only right that our heroes should be called ‘lord’ and ‘lady’, and they suit the place perfectly. I’m pleased that Adric has still to join the Doctor and Romana not just because it means they all get their own strands of the story, but because he’s spoil the wonderful dynamic we’ve got going on this week - just before we lose her from the series - Romana has never felt more right by the Doctor’s side. The Doctor and Romana, and more importantly, Tom and Lalla, have never quite fitted the series as well as they do here, steeped in the story, and the feel of the whole piece. Who could ask for more?

19 July 2014

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

Day 565: State of Decay, Episode One

Dear diary,

It’s perhaps not a particularly popular statement, but I’m really rather liking Adric! Over the years, he’s often been described as being (at least, during the creation of the character) a bit of an ‘Artful Dodger’, but I’ve never really gotten that. Now, though, actually properly watching Full Circle and today’s episode, you can see that in full swing. He obviously tries to steal the River Fruits during the last story, and later nicks some equipment for the Doctor, and here he tries to take hold of some food to keep himself going, too. I quite like this side to the character, but I don’t think it’ll stick around for very long, because I can’t remember it happening much come Season Nineteen.

I love that he’s not actually encountered the Doctor and Romana yet, either. His decision to stay aboard the TARDIS at the end of the last story was almost ‘Steven Taylor-esque’ - i.e., you didn’t actually realise he’d done it. You see him in the TARDIS, and obviously thinking about something, but it’s not until today that you realise exactly what he’s done. It’s great that he’s yet to meet his new travelling companions again, and I’m looking really forward to that happening. I also had a good laugh at his bamboozling of K9 in order to get out of the ship!

State of Decay is the only story from the E-Space trilogy which I’d ever seen in full before starting out on this marathon, and it’s usually the story that I’m thinking of when I say that I like this season. It’s also the first real example of this season doing something that I’d probably describe as being ‘lush’, with lots of rich textures and fabrics, and almost a return to the kind of Gothic styling of the Phillip Hinchcliffe era, but given a bit of a 1980s ‘new romantic’ twist. We’ll see similar trappings in the next two stories, as well, but it looks very different here, and makes the whole thing look rather more expensive than usual...

Watching it like this, though, immediately after Full Circle, you start to realise that there’s more links between the stories in this trilogy than simply being set in E-Space. Both feature a marooned space vessel, and technology that the people of this planet don’t quite understand (while the crew of the Star Liner knew how everything worked, more or less, they didn’t know what to do with it). There’s a trio of people who make the decisions and rule over everyone else, and there’s a real sense that things take took much time - whether that be the Deciders not actually, um, deciding, or the rebels here spending time to plan and plot their next move. There’s even a point where someone complains that nothing here has changed for a thousand generations, and it feels even more linked back to the previous tale.

Because I’ve seen this story before, I know what the big twist to the story is, but I’m wondering if that will be enough to make it stand out from the last one? There’s a danger that my enjoyment of Full Circle could end up rubbing off and damaging how well this one fares with me.

18 July 2014

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

Day 564: Full Circle, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Something that I’ve not yet drawn attention to is just how lovely the direction of this story is. It’s Peter Grimwade’s first attempt at directing for the series, and I’m pleased to know that he’ll be cropping up for another three stories over the next few seasons. There’s a certain filmic look to Full Circle that feels very out-of-keeping with the way that Doctor Who is usually shot, but works well to create something very unique to this story. The making of documentary on the DVD seems to present the fact that everyone was very keen on Grimwade, and I think that shows, because he’s really getting the best out of everybody.

I think my favourite shots would have to be the various ones of the Marsh Men entering the ship, as the mist swirls around them. There’s several of these shots that are all effectively the same action, but each one is subtly different enough to not get repetitive. The contrast, when the creatures are rushing to escape the Star Liner, is just as well shot, and I think that’s the image that I’ll be remembering for this story in the future. That’s far from being the only scene in this episode to stand out, though, and I’m captivated by shots of Romana stalking around like a vampire (ironic, perhaps, considering the next story), or the Doctor holding K9’s severed head up to his face in an attempt to scare off the monsters coming for him.

It’s a real example of everything pulling together in a final episode to really work. It’s a shame that Andrew Smith never returned to the series, though, because I’ve really enjoyed his work on this one. I know that he’s come back into the fold to pen a few titles for Big Finish over the last few years, so I think I’ll be seeking them out once I’m done with the marathon, because Full Circle has definitely whet my appetite for more.

Over the last few stories, I’ve been trying to shoehorn in a story arc that leaves the Doctor and Romana a little careless in their adventures of late. Effectively, I’m trying to find the bad in every story’s ending. To begin with, I didn’t really think I’d found one in this tale. The Doctor has given them the way off the planet, set them up to move forward with their lives and give them back the power that they never really knew they’d lost… it all seemed to work out rather well. But then the more I thought about it, the more I realised that, no, that’s not the case at all. There’s a stronger theme developing here than I’d even really realised.

All these stories are ending with the Doctor effectively setting up a new civilisation, and then running away before he even really stops to give it a second thought. In The Leisure Hive, he gets rid of the warmongering Pangol, and then reworks their machines to rejuvenate there race - or at least to give them a bit longer to live, depending on how much work he’d done. Either way, whether the Fomasi ambassador is really to be trusted or not, it’s the ‘birth of a new Argolis’. Then, in Meglos, with their power source (and/or god) gone, the people of Tigella head out from their underground city to reclaim the surface and start fresh (completely fresh, since none of their technology will work any more!)

Then in today’s episode, the Doctor gives them a very brief run down of what everything on the control panel does (which they clearly don’t understand), and then tells them to simply follow the manuals. As the TARDIS departs, they watch the Star Liner head off into the stars… but where do they think they’ll go? They don’t really know what to expect from E-Space, and the people on the ship don’t really know what they’re doing, either. I’d not be surprised if the entire vessel exploded mere moments after the end credits rolled. I’m going to be keeping an even closer eye on this from now on, because it seems to be playing into an idea that’s cropped up a lot in the Eleventh Doctor’s era - the Doctor has simply gotten too ‘big’. He seems to have decided that it’s his place to swan in, sort out some problems then point them in another direction, before heading off somewhere new once he’s bored, and I’m hoping that it will have consequences for him before he regenerates… 

17 July 2014

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

Day 563: Full Circle, Episode Three

Dear diary,

There’s that lovely scene in Planet of Evil, where Tom really gets to go for it with his angry acting. Although he’d inhabited the part well right from the word ‘go’ in Robot, that scene was probably the moment that he really ‘became’ the Doctor for me, and I don’t think he’s ever turned in a better performance than he does there. Imagine my delight, then, when this episode contains what is in essence a counterpoint to that scene, in which he turns his anger against the Deciders.

He starts off almost along the lines of his over-the-top ‘what’s it for’ anger from The Pirate Planet, but even at this stage, there’s something in the back of his voice which just sounds different. There’s real fury in his performance, and the longer that his tirade against the Deciders goes on, the better he gets. It really must be the highpoint of his performance in the later half of his tenure, and I was totally spellbound by it. A few minutes where he simply proves that he’s the perfect man for this part. Despite a dip in his performance around season fifteen, it really feels as though he’s picked back up again lately, and this is absolute proof of it. Wonderful stuff - and it’s largely down to this scene that today’s episode has performed as well in my ratings as it has.

It’s not the sole reason, though. As the cliffhanger sting played out today I declared loudly to the room that this was certainly an ‘8/10’ episode, having spent yesterday’s episode hovering over giving that score before settling for a 7. There’s just lots and lots about Full Circle that’s really connecting with me, and I’m really enjoying being swept along with the story.

I’ve decided that the Marsh Men, despite my reservations yesterday about the realisation of certain bits of costume, are great. It’s a design that feels completely alien, and it realised better than the Fomasi, the Nimon, or the Mandrels have been in recent serials. I’d go so far as to say that they’re the best monster design we’ve had since probably as far back as The Robots of Death. So much care has been put in to them, and the way Romana’s infection so perfectly evokes the style of the creatures is magnificent.

Then there’s the scene in which the Marsh Child wakes up to find itself strapped to an operating table, and goes absolutely mad. Ripping free of the bonds, it kills the scientist about to experiment upon it, and smashes up the entire set. There’s real gusto in the performance, too, and you get the sense that this was a ‘one take or nothing’ kind of scene. That a few moments later, the death of this same monster is able to really case some emotion really helps to raise the stakes even further.

The nice design isn’t only confined to these aliens, because I really like the look of the world they’re inhabiting, too. I’ve already praised the location work before now, but the sets of the Starliner are really rather brilliant, too. I started off yesterday making a note about how nice the corridors of the place are, with the light filling in from all around, but actually I think the ‘trial room’ (for want of a better description) is rather brilliant, too. The height of it, and the sense that it fills a large chunk of the studio really help to make it something that bit special. In many ways, it feels as though we’ve finally struck the nice balance between the cluttered, realistic sets of the Graham Williams years, and the new style imposed by John Nathan-Turner in The Leisure Hive. It’s the best set we’ve had in a while, and I’m really rather impressed with that.

Quite aside from all of this, there’s the story itself. Full Circle seemed to be heading down that familiar route of ‘decedents of a crashed space ship’ that we had in The Face of Evil (and that I think I’m right in saying gets subverted in the next story, too). All of a sudden, though, there’s more to it than that - these may not be so simply the decedents of the original crew, and there may be more ties between them and the monsters they fear than they’d like to suspect. I also love the realisation that while they could take the entire Star Liner apart and rebuild it perfectly, there’s no one around who knows how to actually fly the thing. I honestly didn’t see that coming, so shared the Doctor’s sense of shock at discovering the news.

This one is turning out to be a real success, and while I was so sure of an ‘8/10’ score today, I did briefly hover over the number nine on the keyboard. here’s hoping that the final episode can tie it all together well, because I want this one to sit quite high in my list of favourite stories at this rate.

16 July 2014

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

Day 562: Full Circle, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m enjoying the story of the Doctor and the Marsh Child in this episode. Almost as if picking up the cue from The Leisure Hive, that the Doctor can be friends with the slightly strange looking aliens, we’ve got him off exploring on his own and encountering a specimen of this slightly unusual new race. His reaction to seeing one up close? Much like the Third Doctor when first meeting a Silurian, he simply greets it in a friendly manner, and continues on to persuade it that everything is ok.

We then go on to have something of a game of cat and mouse between the pair, as the Doctor continues his explorations further into his new surroundings and into the Star Liner, with the Marsh Child following not far behind, close enough to see and experience everything that’s going on, while remaining far enough behind to be cautious. It’s rare that an alien species in this programme is given ‘children’ among their ranks - it’s more often than not simply a fully gown race (of warriors, usually), so it’s creating a fascinating new way of seeing these creatures. I’m really hoping that the Doctor’s friendship with this particular Marsh Child will come in handy later on, when I’m sure the grown ups of the race won’t be quite as timid.

As far as the design of the Marsh Men goes, I think it’s probably one of the best we’ve had for a while in the programme. The thing that slightly lets it down - as is so often the case - has to be the way the costume works. As the creatures walk around and explore the environment (a small thing, but I love the way that they’re free to step in deep pools of water or mud - usually fears of damaging an expensive new costume would prevent such natural movement and interaction), their effectiveness is somewhat diminished by the way the latex costumes ‘bunch’ around the crotch. I’ve also not quite decided if the masks look too ‘plastic-y’, or just the right amount of ‘alien’.

These aren’t massive criticisms, though, because on the whole I’m very impressed by the design, and the way that they’re being used. Certainly, they’ve fared better than the other monster to appear in this episode - those spiders. I’m always a bit on edge when I know there’s spiders abound, and I’ve never made it this far into Full Circle probably for fear of reaching this point of the story. They’re even less effective than the ones from Planet of the Spiders, though! That old BBC rule about not making spiders look too realistic on screen has come to my rescue once again, because the actual sequence - in which these arachnids burst from the centre of fruit, including one right onto Romana’s face! - could be quite scary if the props didn’t look quite so… battery operated. The glowing eyes make them look cute, if anything!

I do feel a bit for Lalla Ward in this episode, it has to be said. While Tom’s off exploring a beautiful new world (has Ward even set foot on location yet in this story?), she’s stuck inside, dealing with a group of children. Obviously someone was paying attention to how well she worked when paired with the young sacrifices during The Horns of Nimon. The biggest issue that this causes comes when asked to portray the TARDIS being carried away by the Marsh Men. For a few minutes, the episode dips in to being exactly what everyone always thought Doctor Who was like - with the camera jerking to the side, and a delay before the group of actors hurl themselves unconvincingly across the set. We’ve had some great examples of this type of acting in the series before… but this isn’t one of them.

Still, she hasn’t got as raw a deal as poor K9. The campaign of hatred against the poor mutt continues today, with his entire head being knocked off by a particularly mean Marsh Man with a stick! Romana laments that they always seem to be repairing K9, and it’s no wonder when the current production team seem so intent on damaging him as much as possible (were they simply hoping to destroy the prop so much that they could simply claim not to be able to use it any more?). As if that wasn’t bad enough, even the incidental music in this story is mocking the poor creature, playing up the comedy when he’s unable to follow the Marsh Men across a small dip in the ground. At least he gets the best line in the entire episode today, though, when the Doctor points out that the creatures they’re watching have stopped moving, and K9 replies ‘the observation is correct’.

I’m going to miss the sarcastic thing when he goes…

15 July 2014

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

Day 561: Full Circle, Episode One

Dear diary,

Robot isn’t really representative of Philip Hinchcliffe’s era of Doctor Who. Horror of Fang Rock doesn’t really sum up the Graham Williams period, and Spearhead From Space (indeed, Season Seven as a whole, in many respects) isn’t the kind of programme that we’d see for the next four years under Barry Letts. The same is true, in some regards, with Season Eighteen, and the stories we’ve had so far. Oh, sure, The Leisure Hive feels at times as though the 1980s is slapping you in the face, but it’s not until this story that you suddenly get to see what Doctor Who is going to be for the next few years.

Most obviously, it’s the introduction of Adric, who’ll be travelling with the Doctor for much of the next two seasons. Adric has become something of a by-word to mean ‘a bad character’ in Doctor Who, but it has to be said that he’s off to a fairly good start here. Granted, Matthew Waterhouse isn’t giving the best performance that we’ve ever seen, but he’s certainly not giving the worst, either! I think it helps that so much of this episode is given over to him, too. The Doctor and Romana are absent for long stretches of the story, while we follow the exploits of Adric and his ‘tribe’ (for want of a better word).

Perhaps less obviously, this episode is stuffed full of continuity references. The Doctor and Romana have been called back to Gallifrey: but it means that there’s a chance to name check Leela and Andred (who were last seen - and mentioned - at the end of Season Fifteen, years ago!), plus the Key to Time, Romana pointing out that the Doctor once tried to fight the Time Lords, and his sad admission that he lost… I rather like some of these references, and watching the series at the pace of an episode a day means that these events weren’t all that long ago for me, but it does feel a little bit like the start of the series playing to the fan base perhaps a little more than the general audience. Odd bits of continuity being dropped in are fine - to the average viewer, there’s no difference between them and the Doctor referencing an adventure with Leonardo, but when they come as thick and fast as they do here, you start to feel as though you might be missing out on something, perhaps…

Still, that’s only a minor point in what has been a fairly enjoyable episode. It feels like ages since we last had an alien world represented by a real location (there’s a quarry in Destiny of the Daleks, but before that you have to reach back to The Power of Kroll. The series really was very studio-bound during Season Seventeen, unless it was gallivanting around modern-day Europe), and it’s a lovely one, to boot. It genuinely feels expansive when characters are running around and swimming, and right off the bat there’s a sense that these characters, even the supporting artistes, are part of a very believable world.

The location looks especially nice once the Mist Fall has started, too, with the trees and the rivers all shrouded in the fog. I’m hoping that we don’t move exclusively inside now that the star liner has been introduced - there’s opportunities for some very nice directing in locations like this. It’s perhaps a shame, then, that so much time is spent inside the TARDIS again here. I love the ship, don’t get me wrong, but after a whole episode and a bit with the Doctor and Romana trapped in there during the last story, I’d much rather they got outside and started to explore! 

14 July 2014

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

Day 560: Meglos, Episode Four

Dear diary,

This must be one of the quickest adventures that the Doctor has ever been caught up in. Once he’s left the TARDIS, he wanders through the jungle for a bit, gets arrested upon entering the city, is sentenced to death, and it’s only after this - in this final episode - that he actually gets stuck in and does something… and even then it’s simply ‘alter the settings on the alien cactus’ computer! Had he not been mistaken for Meglos and locked away in a cell for a bit at the end of the story, he’d have been away even quicker! At one stage during pre-production, The Lodger was planned to have Meglos turn up as a villain, and the Doctor wouldn’t remember him. It’s not hard to see why when watching this story - he was only a part of the Doctor’s life for a single afternoon!

It’s not only the Doctor’s adventure that’s running a bit short this time around, though, but the story itself. This episode features a cliffhanger reprise of almost three minutes in length - and it’s not the longest episode in the world, anyway! There’s less than 20 minutes of ‘new’ adventure in this episode, and I think that’s all helping to give the impression of things feeling a little… light.

My biggest concern, though… does the Doctor actually solve the problem? I mean… he stops Meglos from blowing up Tigella, sure, but what about all the people living there? Once the Conscience of Marinus - sorry, I mean the Dodecahedron - had been stolen, things in their city were beginning to fail, and the whole place was going to collapse in a meter of hours! As far as I can see, the Doctor doesn’t actually take it back to them at the end of the story, it’s left to be destroyed along with Meglos’ world.

There’s a suggestion in the final scene that they’ll be moving up to the surface again, and thus they won’t need the power of the Dodecahedron any more, but… well, the surface is dangerous! It’s full of carnivorous plants, and as far as I could see, all the Tigellan’s weapons were power-based. What happens when the batteries run flat? They’re going to have a bloody difficult job trying to start a new life when everything they’ve ever known has suddenly been wiped out! Not to mention the vast numbers of religious folk who’ve had their god stolen away, and are likely to now be left without a sense of purpose…

If I’m honest, this is really just me trying to force a bad outcome on to events - all part of my desire for the Doctor’s lack of care to catch up with him by the time he regenerates at the end of the season. Chances are, they can get along just fine, but… well… it’s something to think about, certainly. It’s been ages since I’ve been able to piece together an obscure and probably non-existent running theme like this through the series, so I’m rather keen to see it continue. What’s that the Eighth Doctor says about human seeing patterns that aren’t there…? 

13 July 2014

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

Day 559: Meglos, Episode Three

Dear diary,

This is the second time, after Creature from the Pit, that Romana has been left to distract a group of bandits while the Doctor gets on with the real story. As in the previous example, it’s absolutely brilliant, and possibly the best example of Lalla Ward in character - it’s just so fun to watch! I laughed for ages at her description of leading them in circles being down to the planet having an ‘anti-clockwise rotation’ (and the fact that they bought it), and then laughed even harder when she latter comments that such a rotation makes it very hard to navigate. Despite my reservations when we first moved over to this incarnation of Romana, I’ve grown to really enjoy both the character, and Ward’s performance.

While we’re on the subject of performances, it’s been a while since I’ve praised Tom Baker. He’s given so much to do in this story - flicking back and forth between being the evil cactus and the not-evil Doctor, and he’s managing to excel in both cases. There’s occasions throughout the entire seven-year run of Tom Baker’s Doctor where you can just see him being galvanised by a new script, and I think that Meglos may be one such occasion. The chance to play a slightly different role to his usual one seems to have given him a boost of energy, and he’s actually managing to make the plant seem quite menacing. I’m also loving the whole ‘fighting with the Earthling’ scenes, where some rather smart effects give the impression of the pair splitting apart. I may yet get to discover why he needed an Earthling brought to him after all…!

I suppose that since I’ve discussed two of the regulars, I’d better make a mention of the third. Poor K9, he’s really going through the mill this season, isn’t he? Throughout the last couple of years, he’s usually simply been left in the TARDIS when they want him out of the way for a story, but now it’s as if the production team are actively taking out their frustrations on the poor dog! In The Leisure Hive, he gets trundled into the sea and blown up as early as possible, so that he’s out of the way by the time we reach Argolis (even though it’s the kind of location he could easily manoeuvre in!), and today he’s had his batteries run down, before one of our bandits drops him on the floor and gives him a good kick! No wonder he’s leaving before long - it’s become a broken home!

Though she’s not a regular any more, I’m going to mention Jacqueline Hill while I’m at it - because I’m surprised how much she’s not all that important to the story. Oh, don’t get me wrong, she’s one of the leading guest stars, and she’s just condemned the Doctor to his death, but I always assumed that she would be the guest character for Meglos, simply because within the world of Doctor Who, she has such a reputation. I wonder if she turned up to rehearsals on the first day and reminded everyone that she was one of the original companions? I hope so. Still, there’s a certain irony, considering that Barbara’s stand-out story was The Aztecs - in which she sets herself up as a god in an attempt to put a stop to religious sacrifice - that in this story, one of the cliffhangers sees her condemning the Doctor to sacrifice in order to appease her god! I like to imagine that Jacqueline had a good chuckle about that when she first read the script…

12 July 2014

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

Day 558: Meglos, Episode Two

Dear diary,

Ere, listen! I’ve had this great idea for a new setting for a Doctor Who story! It’s set, right, in a jungle, yeah? Only this jungle isn’t your standard ‘Amazon Rainforest’ nonsense, because the plants in this jungle, right, are - wait for it - more like animal life than plant life. So, right, like, Doctor Who and his assistant have to make their way through all these carnivorous plants and things before they can make it to safety!

I joke, of course, but the programme really does give us an awful lot of jungles, doesn’t it? I’m not entirely sure why, but can only conclude that it’s down to them knowing they can produce something half decent in the studio, and the fact that a jungle represents an ‘exotic’ location. And, in all fairness, they’ve at least done something interesting with the concept this time around - or more interesting than usual. Whereas before we’ve simply had somewhat mindless killer plants attacking our heroes through general instinct (that’s the case with most Terry Nation stories), or because they’re being controlled by someone (as with the Wolf Weeds in last season’s Creature from the Pit), here, the main villain is actually a very intelligent plant. People mock Meglos, but I quite like that idea.

I’ve also quite liked him taking on the form of the Doctor throughout this episode. The fact that his awkwardness and abrupt nature can pass so well - even to me - as the Doctor is great, and I found myself listening to several lines of dialogue, wondering why they’re never included among the Doctor’s most famous ones, before remembering that it’s not really the Doctor speaking at all, but rather our fine cactus friend. The only thing I’m wondering, though… why did Meglos need a human being to transform in to? He didn’t seem to have any trouble in replicating the Doctor’s appearance based only of data from a screen (he’s even managed to get the coat right, and he only saw the collar of that briefly in a still image). Did he need to take the form of something less… spiky… before he could properly change himself? If so, then why did it have to be an Earthling? In the first Episode, that’s described as being really far away… it just seems like an awful lot of trouble…

Meglos must also rank as being one of the stories that takes the Doctor and Romana the longest period of time to reach the action. Sure, the time loop they’ve been caught in is a direct result of everything happening down on the planet, and they’ve sent a message down to them, too, but really, the Doctor’s only just met everyone as this episode closes, and Romana has been captured in the final moments, too! Still, I’m less interested in when they’re getting caught up in the action now and more about when the Doctor first came here. He tells a guard that it was ’50 years’ in their time, but how about for him?

Zastor describes the Doctor as being ‘a little older, little wiser’ when they first meet (or, at least, when he first meets the Meglos-Doctor, which amounts to the same thing, really), but that doesn’t really give us an awful lot to go on. I’d like to assume that it’s in the same gap from Robot, where the Doctor nipped off and caused all that trouble on Leela’s home world. There’s no mention of any travelling companion having been with him on the previous occasion (and Zastor’s unfamiliarity with Romana rules it out as being during the Doctor’s travels with her), but I suppose it could have happened between The Hand of Fear and The Face of Evil, or later between The Invasion of Time and The Ribos Operation. It doesn’t actually matter, of course, but as a fan, it’s one of those insignificant little things I like to wonder about idly between episodes! 

11 July 2014

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

Day 557: Meglos, Episode One

Dear diary,

As with Season Seventeen, lots of this year’s stories were recorded out of order. As a result, Meglos didn’t enter production until some months after The Leisure Hive, and once Tom Baker had been through a bout of ill health, and the difference between him from yesterday’s episode to today’s is palpable. People talk of the fact that the Doctor looks a lot more frail this series than he has at any other point during this incarnation, and I was expecting to see that in action during the first story of the season, but there it was only really caused by swamping the man in such a large costume, with big coats, scarves, and hats. Today’s episode sees him without any jackets or coats on, and he simply looks gaunt. It’s quite striking, and knowing that this Doctor is headed for his death, it’s also a little bit saddening.

And as if to add to his woes - the Doctor and Romana don’t even get to leave the TARDIS in this episode! They spend the first half trying to fix K9, and the second half getting caught up in a time loop, played over and over again! It does mean, though, that we get a slightly different arrival for them into the narrative properly (or, at least, we will have), in that the Doctor has ‘called ahead’ to someone on this story’s planet of choice, and actively asked if they can pop in to say hello. In many ways, it’s the perfect thing to do having destroyed the Randomiser in the last episode, but they seem to have arrived in this part of space… at random. Oh well, it’s a nice idea all the same.

There are only two things that I know about Meglos: The villain is a cactus, and it features the return of Jacqueline Hill to the programme for the first time since Ian and Barbara headed back to 1965 in a Dalek time machine during the chase. From my point of view in The 50 Year Diary, that took place on March 24th last year - so it’s been a while since I’ve seen her! I’m not sure, though, that I’d have recognised her here were it not for knowing who she is. Fifteen years older, and with a rather elaborate headpiece on, she’d not quite the person I knew back in the early days of the programme.

And yet, when I first got in to Doctor Who, I used to be fascinated by the idea of this story! Somehow, in my mind, I’d simply discovered that Jacqueline Hill made her return in this tale, and figured it meant a return for Barbara after all this time. How she’d ended up on a distant world didn’t really matter to me, it was just an exciting thought that companions did that at all in the classic series. Obviously, she’s not actually playing Barbara, but this story makes her part of a very exclusive group of actors who’ve had the chance to play other characters after their stint as a companion.

The only other examples that I can think of are Jean Marsh (returning to play Morgaine in Battlefield some 23 years after being killed off in The Daleks’ Master Plan), John Leeson (although he doesn’t really count, because he played a character in The Power of Kroll at the same time as being K9), and Billie Piper (playing The Moment in The Day of the Doctor, although this is also debatable, because the device has specifically taken on her form). Extend out to the audios, and there’s lots of examples, including Anneke Wills in the role of Charlotte Pollard’s mother, and Daphne Ashbrook joining UNIT. As far as TV appearances as new characters go, it’s very rare.

It’s really nice to see her, though. I’ve said before while working through that even though I was somewhat sick of Ian and Barbara by the time they finally departed from the Doctor’s travels, I’m now at a point where I’m very keen to go back and see a few of the old serials again. I’d love to watch The Keys of Marinus or The Dalek Invasion of Earth - so hopefully having Jacqueline around for a few days will help to give me my ‘1960s fix’…! 

10 July 2014

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

Day 556: The Leisure Hive, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Oh dear. This one has all sort of fallen apart for me at the very end here. I like that Pangol has reached a point where he’s completely lost it and is ready to seize control of the planet - he’s so much of a stroppy toddler throwing a tantrum here - even though I’ve really disliked him throughout, it feels like this is what everything has been building towards. But after three episodes that move at a fairly leisurely pace, all of a sudden, everything happens at once, and the resolution seems to boil down to the Doctor happening to plug the Randomiser into the alien machine, which means that it cloned him instead of Pangol (?) and then reduced Pangol to a baby (jQuery152043949232366867363_1405198236843) who is then pawned off to others while Mena heads off to have some peace talks with the Fomasi.

My biggest problem with this sequence, though, is that while Pangol continues to get madder and madder, the Argolins simply stand around and don’t do anything! Even when Romana bursts in and points out that he’s gone crazy, they just… mill about. They don’t seem to be working for Pangol, because they make no attempt to stop Romana, they’re simply in her way by not doing anything. I found it just a bit frustrating.

I’m also wondering about the surviving Fomasi. We saw earlier that they can only communicate in language other than their native clicks and whistles when they’ve got a translating device on them, which speaks in the flat tone of Brock… so how do we know that this Fomasi is really the ambassador? Isn’t it just as likely that they shoved him onto the exploding space ship, took off their ‘West Lake’ badges, swiped back the translator, and then proceeded to kill all the surviving Argolins mere minutes after the Doctor and Romana have left? They’ve destroyed their main obstacle in the form of the warmongering Pangol, and the Fomasi could now claim that the Argolins started this second war, because Romana points out on a number of occasions that Pangols actions are declarations of conflict…

It’s a rather bleak way of looking at it, but I think I quite like it. It’s that idea again of the Doctor getting a bit too complacent (an idea I was keen on during The Invasion of Time), and being a bit careless as a result. I’m going to keep an eye on that throughout the season and see if I can find a theme of it - I might get my wish of him taking a fall under these circumstances after all! 

9 July 2014

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

Day 555: The Leisure Hive, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I can’t decide whether I’d be enjoying this episode so much without the sense of ‘new’ that pervades it. The plot isn’t particularly grabbing me, I’m still not entirely sure just what’s going on, and a lot of it seems to be a bit… dull. I think that if it were just another story from Season Seventeen, with that same design style, and the Doctor wandering around in what I’d still term to be his ‘usual’ attire, then I’d have probably been scoring a fair bit lower by now.

That said, I think today’s episode has been my favourite of the bunch - now you see where my uncertainty is coming from! The shock of everything looking a bit different has broadly worn off now, because I’ve had a few days of it in the new style, but there’s a few things in today’s episode which really stand out for me.

For a start, there’s the Doctor in his ‘old age’ form. In the ‘making of’ special feature on this DVD, Christopher Bidmead tells a story that Tom Baker wasn’t keen to keep this look up, and wanted to be reverted to his regular appearance as early as possible into this third episode. Supposedly, they talked him out of it by pointing out that the resolution to massive cliffhangers always comes really early on into the next episode (you can take the cliffhanger at the end of Episode One of this story as a great case-in-point of that), and that the real impact this time comes from keeping the Doctor ‘aged up’ for as long as possible.

All the same, I didn’t realise that he spends this entire episode (and, therefore, some of the next, presumably) in this form! Not what I expected at all. It’s quite good make-up, too - or it’s certainly working for me (I’ve seen it described as very poor elsewhere), and it’s quite nice to see Baker modifying his performance a little, too, to make a point of the fact that he’s now 1200 years old.

Then you’ve got the reveal of the Fomasi properly… and it’s a friendly one! The costumes for these creatures are another thing that’s come in for a bit of stick over the years, but I actually really like them. It helps that they’ve spent much the first two-thirds of the story only being seen in close ups or in shadows, haloing to build up a bit of suspense about how they actually looked. That one is finally shown in full, and he’s helping out heroes is just great, and it feels like an age since we’ve had anything like that happen. Still, large green aliens, who hide themselves inside human skin-suits? Had Russell T Davies been watching this one before the Slitheen were created?!

8 July 2014

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

Day 554: The Leisure Hive, Episode Two

Dear diary,

It’s really quite strange how this story comes along, and it’s as through the programme has suddenly realised ‘it’s the 1980s’. There’s so much about the design of the sets in this one, and the use of colour both in those sets and in the costumes of the guest cast which just feels like 1980s Doctor Who to me. Even in the music, it’s everything that says ‘the 1980s’ to me, and I think that’s what’s making the change between Season Seventeen and Season Eighteen feel all the more striking - the fact that it’s found its new groove this easily. I think, really, it comes down to the fact that what I think of as ‘1980s Doctor Who’ is really simply ‘John Nathan-Turner’s Doctor Who’, so I shouldn’t really be all that surprised.

You can also very much feel the hand of new script editor Christopher H Bidmead beginning to steer the programme here, because I’m not entirely sure what this ‘new science’ on Argolis is actually for. Oh, I get that it’s being modified and used here to try and de-age people (though that’s only a real possibility once Romana gets involved), but I don’t quite understand how the whole ‘tearing off limbs’ aspect comes in to play, or the stuff about the giant projected image… It’s interesting that, really, this is the same time experiment as seen in City of Death, moving objects or living creatures back and forth through their own personal time stream, but whereas it was perfectly clear to understand during that story (even if it was ‘technobabble’), here I’m completely lost. Season Eighteen is often thought of as the ‘scientific’ era of the programme, and it’s not hard to see why!

Something else I want to draw attention to today, because there’s a real risk that I’ll never get around to it otherwise, is the Doctor’s new costume. Now, putting my cards on the table early, I love the Season Eighteen look. The big greatcoat, the burgundy scarf, the hat, the boots (although they won’t actually turn up until later on), there’s something about it that just really chimes with me, and I think it’s the most successful of all the 1980s ‘uniform’ outfits for the Doctors.

Yet, I’m surprised to see how much variance is being thrown into the costume even at this early stage. I’ve always thought of this style being less ‘flexible’ for Baker, and that he couldn’t alter the look as much as he has done with all his other outfits, but already we’ve seen him in the full ensemble, complete with hat and Norfolk jacket (which I’ve never actually realised he had under that greatcoat!), but we get to see him in various stages of dress as these two episodes progress, taking off coats/jackets/scarves as he sees fit.

Wandering around the place without his scarf is something that - again - I’ve never really thought happened as often as it has, and I love that the scarf is being used so interestingly in this story. In yesterday’s episode, he tied it to a plastic statue of an Argolin and it gave Romana a shock when she followed the scarf to be presented with the unexpected ‘body’ at the end… so it’s great to see the same happen to the Doctor in this episode, only here to body is that of a dead man, and the Doctor has been arrested for his murder.

Then you reach the cliffhanger, and the Doctor’s had a whole new look again - aged up by 500 years! He’s really going through it in the cliffhangers to this story…! 

7 July 2014

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

Day 553: The Leisure Hive, Episode One

Dear diary,

Hooray! It’s my birthday! And what better way to celebrate than with the start of a whole new season of Doctor Who, complete with new producer and swanky new titles. I told myself before pressing play on this story that I’d not fall in to the trap that everyone else does when discussing this story, by mentioning that it’s all change and a different show… but, well, it’s all change and a different show!

People tend to hail the transition between Shada (or The Horns of Nimon) and The Leisure Hive as being as big as the transition between The War Games and Spearhead From Space, but I’ve never really been able to appreciate it before now. When I can pick a DVD of pretty much any Doctor Who story off the shelf at any time, and watch the programme in any old order, things just divide up differently. In the past, the difference between this story and anything from Season Seventeen is only as great as the difference between, say, The Web Planet and The Curse of Fenric, or The Green Death and The TV Movie. Doctor Who has been many different things throughout tits life, so the changes just come and go with whatever story you happen to be watching at the time - in short, we’re used to watching ‘classic’ Doctor Who these days in a very different way to the original audience on first broadcast.

But the only ‘classic’ Doctor Who that I’ve watched since the start of 2013 has been the episodes in order from An Unearthly Child onwards, I’ve not seen any of the John Nathan-Turner era since 2012. Although I’d told myself not to bring up all the differences between what had gone before and this story, they really do hit you in the face like a ton of bricks as soon as the opening titles begin. I’ve gotten so used to that ‘time tunnel’ effect (which has been with me in one format or another since only a few days into this year!) that it really does feel like a shake to the system when the star field bursts on to the screen with a whole new arrangement of the theme music. I’ve seen it described (both positively and negatively) as JN-T making a huge announcement that he’s arrived in the producer’s chair, and it has to be said that it does make a very bold statement. This is a new kind of Doctor Who, and that means the rules have changed.

We then move from this striking new titles sequence into… one of the longest tracking shots in Doctor Who history, as the camera pans along the beach, taking in deck chairs and beach huts for about a minute and a half. Eventually, we pan past the TARDIS to find the Doctor slumped snoozing, but it feels oddly juxtaposed to such energetic new titles. The fact that The Leisure Hive opens on Brighton beach is a fact that most people tend to know even if they don’t know much else about the story, but I’ve never noticed how isolated that scene is. It serves to set up the idea of the Doctor and Romana heading off on holiday quite nicely, but it feels as out-of-step with those titles as it does with much of what’s to come through the rest of the episode.

It doesn’t help that the sequence ends with the camera pulling away from the beach, with the shot slowly forming into an oval and drifting away among the stars of the title sequence. It’s a very odd way to transition between scenes (possibly the weirdest that we’ve seen in the show so far), but along with other slightly unusual transitions (wipes and fades among them), it further helps to spell out that you’re watching a very different type of programme.

It’s also a programme that feels scarier than it has in a while. Creatures like the Krargs, the Nimon, and the Mandrels are there to entertain the younger members of the audience, but their almost part of the joke - you know that they can’t really harm our heroes. This episode ends, though, with the Doctor’s limbs being pulled off, and the camera rushing in to Tom Baker’s screaming mouth. Considering the pains the episode went to earlier to show us a character being killed rather painfully in this exact manner, this really does feel like a universe a lot more dangerous than the one the Doctor’s been travelling in for the last few years. 

6 July 2014

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

Day 552: Shada, Episode Six

Dear diary,

I couldn’t remember what happened in this final episode, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be happy with the ending or not. Certainly, it seemed as though the story could have been wrapped up during the final stages of yesterday’s episode, so I worried that today would feel like spreading the story a little bit too thin. Actually, there’s a great deal to enjoy: the Doctor having to make his way through the Vortex from one ship to the other is a great idea (and something I can’t believe they’ve never done with the Master’s TARDIS!), the closing scenes with lots of humour to close the season (and the Graham Williams era), and the fact that the Doctor has to do battle with all these creatures purely through using his mind. If anything, this part of the story feels like it could do with one further draft, just to up the tension, but it’s certainly not a bad ending to the story at all.

I’m surprised just how much footage exists for each of the episodes in the tale, including this one, although you do become somewhat accustomed to seeing certain sets over and over again! I’ve been very impressed with the animation that’s used to fill the gaps in between, though. By this final episode, I’d even stopped noticing the discrepancies between the real Tom Baker’s voice and the impersonator used for the new segments - I don’t know if the performance gets better or if I simply got used to it, though I suspect it’s a combination of the two. It’s been nice to see the story completed, at any rate. And now, I’m going to imagine that Professor Chronotis goes off on various adventures with Chris and Clare at his side. I think they’d end up having TV Comic style trips through time and space, in the professor’s TARDIS!

There’s always a big question mark around Shada, and it’s that consideration that maybe it wouldn’t be quite so well loved if it didn’t have that status as the mythical ‘lost’ story of the Tom Baker era. It’s something I’ve long wondered when people bang on about how great this story is, and I’ve always put that partly down to the fact that it’s got such a reputation from being unfinished. I think, though, having now watched it properly in context with everything that came before it, I’m willing to say that there’s a lot in here to really love. It sort of runs out of steam towards the end, but on the whole I’ve really liked it. I think, had the production made it through to the end, it would probably be held up with City of Death as a tent-pole ‘classic’ of Season Seventeen.

With the end of this story, we say goodbye to the Graham Williams era of Doctor Who history. Three years that don’t, perhaps, have the best reputation among fandom, but which certainly seems to have produced some pretty decent stories. Looking back to the end of The Talong of Weng-Chiang, with the Williams era about to begin, I commented:

”I’m really interested to see how my feelings develop as we move forward into the Williams era. From where I stand now, at the end of Season Fourteen, I’m simply expecting it to be ‘cheap’. That’s the only thing that I think I really know about the period to come, and after stories like The Talons of Weng-Chiang*, and* The Robots of Death*, that may come as something of a shock to the system…”*

I think, in places, the series has looked cheap over the last few years, but that’s certainly not as prevalent as I was expecting it to be. Stories like The Androids of Tara, The Ribos Operation, or The Creature from the Pit all feature great settings that are realised as well as anything in the previous few years of the show. As far as the era has gone as a whole… it’s been a bit bumpy. Since Graham Williams took over the producer’s chair 70-something episodes ago, none have received higher than an ‘8/10’ (although there have been 13 of those, more than half of which in this last season, and the rest during Season Fifteen), and the era has attracted three ‘3/10’ (all for The Pirate Planet) and a few ‘4/10’, too.

The overall average score for the Graham Williams era is 6.32/10, which makes it better than a straight average, but it’s far from being the highest-rated era of the programme to date. In fact, it’s a score which makes Seasons Fifteen - Seventeen the lowest rated era of the programme so far (coming in just marginally lower than the Verity Lambert years, which averaged 6.33). That’s not to say that I’ve not enjoyed it, though. There’s a lot I like in Season Fifteen, and a lot I like in Season Seventeen, I think it really is that Key to Time season in the middle that just didn’t quite gel with me.

And now, we move on toe Season Eighteen and the start of the John Nathan-Turner years of the programme. Everything to come is going to be increasingly ‘marmite’, and while I’ve enjoyed it in the past, I’m wondering how much that will hold true now that I’ve seen everything that happened before 

5 July 2014

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

Day 551: Shada, Episode Five

Dear diary,

I’ve been somewhat pathetically looking forward to this episode, simply because I wanted to see what the Time Lord prison planet looked like. For some reason, the design used for the Big Finish webcast version of the story (it’s a gigantic ‘disc’ with the Seal of Rassilon on the top, surrounded by jagged rocks almost as though it’s being held by them) has always stuck in my mind as one of the most striking visual shots from the history of Doctor Who. Put simply, I love it. It was with bated breath, therefore, that I waited to see what the prison would look like in this version of the story.

It’s presented (as I suspected it might me) with footage from the original model sessions for the story, back in the 1970s. It’s… different, certainly, and I’m not sure if I like it or not. On the one hand, it looks very functional as a prison - it’s very much a structure with a cold and stark purpose. On the other hand… it’s lacking the flair of the Big Finish version. Still, I suppose that if the prison is supposed to be a secret from the Time Lords of this era, then having it look like a giant copy of their most famous symbol doesn’t exactly hide it very well…

If anything, I think I’m just slightly disappointed that it’s such a simple model that they use for the prison. I was blown away by the explosion of the Think Tank, with bits of debris flying off in all direction (including directly towards the camera!), and the remains of the ship burning away as the explosion clears, so it feels a bit plain when we finally reach this supposedly mythical lost prison world.

I still really love the idea of Shada itself, though. It makes perfect sense to me that the Time Lords would have a secret prison, which can only be accessed by following a specific set of instructions involving one of their ancient relics. For a race that purports to be non-interventionist, the Time Lords have always taken a particularly strong role when it comes to their place in the universe. Put simply, they decide what’s wrong and what’s right, and thus I love the idea that they’ve got a place to lock up individuals that they deem to be too dangerous in the grand scheme of things. I like to imagine that if they could still remember the existence of the place, then Genesis of the Daleks would have simply been boiled down to Davros being plucked from his Time Stream and locked away here.

But that’s partly my problem with the scenes set in Shada here. Although it’s great fun to see a Dalek, Cyberman, Zygon, and Wirrn (and… a Roman Auton from The Pandorica Opens?), they don’t really feel right to be locked away in this place. In the scene these monsters first appear, Skagra describes the prison as being thep lace Time Lords put the criminals ‘they want to forget’. It strikes me that locking up a few odd members of these various species is just a bit… odd? Unless these happen to be extremists even within their own cultures, it just feels a bit like an anti-climax for this mythical ancient prison.

Still, I love the reveal that this ancient and famous Time Lord villain Salyavin is really Professor Chronotis in an earlier life! I’ve been somewhat saddened over the past few days that I was aware of this particular plot twist, because I’s love to see if I was shocked when the reveal finally comes. All the clues are certainly in place here (and even laid on a little too thick, in some cases!), but it’s great fin to see the characters starting to piece it all together as they go. I’ve also always found it a shame that Salyavin - the lynch pin to this whole evil plan, and a character who just happens to be one of the Doctor’s close friends in disguise - only gets mentioned for the very first time here, and not even in relation to the story itself.

Romana mentions the man in an earlier episode, seemingly from nowhere, and then he just happens to be vital to everything that’s going on. Were this the modern era, it’s a great example of where planting seeds in earlier stories would come in handy, so that the name is already there in the back of your mind, and it feels like a greater surprise when he suddenly pops up a year or two later (instead of just an episode or two!) 

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