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1 August 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 213: The Wheel in Space, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Stupidly, I'd forgotten that the start of today's episode would give us a chance to actually watch the cliffhanger for Episode Two - there I was pouring over the telesnaps! Yesterday, I praised the fact that we'd not had a full Cyberman reveal yet, but having actually watched the cliffhanger now, it's pretty clear just what is inside the eggs before it bursts out. To be honest, though, I think it works even better! It's still not quite a full reveal, but it's still very unusual - both for the series and for the Cybermen, and I think that the sheer oddity of the whole sequence would have kept talk in the playground rife all week long.

Now that the Cybermen have properly hatched (what? it's as good-a term as any!), we get to see plenty of them in today's episode: and don't they look fab? It's not a massive change in design to the one that we've been used to since The Moonbase, but it looks really effective here. We get a couple of shots with a pair of Cybermen sat facing their computer banks, and every time we cut back to it, I seem to find myself smiling. It just looks so good. Admittedly, it's not quite as effective once the shot starts to move in on one of the creatures, but it's not long before we're back to the better angle.

Director Tristan de Vere Cole didn't helm any other Doctor Who stories, so there's nothing else that we can compare him against, but based on his work here, I get the feeling that The Wheel in Space might have looked pretty good throughout. The standout moment in today's episode has to be the Doctor idly musing that while his memory has been lost, there's still something floating around at the back of his mind. 'Some warning,' he mumbles, 'some menace…'. The close up of his face then fades into that of a Cyberman accepting orders at the computer terminal - it's simple but very effective, and not something that we often get in the series.

It's not just a pair of silver giants turning up for the action today, though. They've brought the Cybermats back with them, and I'm still finding myself utterly entranced by them. As I said during The Tomb of the Cybermen, I've always somewhat written off the Cybermats as being a bit rubbish, but they're actually a pretty effective 'monster'. There's a shot late in this episode where four of the creatures surround a man, all advancing on him as their tails wag… and it looks really good! I'd not go so far as to say that it was scary, but it's certainly a great moment in the story, and does help to up the creatures in my estimations.

We've also got the first appearance in the series of the Cyberplanner, although it's not described as such. It looks pretty effective when it appears full-screen against a black background, issuing orders to the more conventional Cybermen. Also - it has a voice I can understand. I don't know if it's just me being out of practice with the Cybermen (it's been a little while since they last turned up - certainly it's the longest stretch we've had without them since they first appeared), but when they started giving out instructions to the two crew members during the episode's cliffhanger, I didn't have a clue what was going on.

The Cybermen aren't the only cold, emotionless, logical creatures to play a big part in this story - we've still got Zoe hanging around on the Wheel. I have to admit that I am warming to her today, but much of that seems to be the rather sweet way that she doesn't realise the Doctor and Jamie gently teasing her. Maybe it's simply that she's got a pretty thick skin: some of the comments made about her earlier in the episode (directly to her face) would certainly be constituted as workplace bullying. Just some of the ways she's described today are 'all brain and no heart', 'just like a robot', and 'a proper little brainchild'. Compared to this, Jamie's tease that she's 'a right wee space detective' seems quite innocent (although it has led to the theme song from Captain Zep, Space Detective playing round in my head on a loop ever since).

While the Doctor seems initially hostile towards Zoe, he soon warms to her. I think he's sizing her up as a possible replacement for Victoria - letting her work out the answers for herself wherever possible and leading her in the right direction by suggesting that there may be more to the solution than simply analysing the facts. This episode is home to another of Troughton's famous lines - his 'logic' speech to Zoe. I think Jamie is starting to come around to the idea of her, too, as he seems to be thawing out a little as the episode goes on.

It's nice to see that - even with the Doctor now awake - Jamie is given plenty to do in this story. He's mistaken as being a saboteur when he vandalises the Wheel's laser (admittedly, it doesn't look great when someone walks in on you purposely putting your only form of defence out of order!), and he's quick to help the Doctor along with his investigations, which are all conducted from his hospital bed. I think we're starting to see the early stages of the team most people declare to be the 'best' of the Troughton line-ups, and it's nice to think that we're headed in the right direction…

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