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

Day 279: Inferno, Episode One

Dear diary,

'This isn't an oil rig,' Petra points out early in this episode. What they're drilling for isn't anything like North Sea gas, we're later told. And yet… I'm watching Fury From the Deep! There's the drilling project, a mysterious substance from the deep, a person in charge who's adamant that the project can't be shut down (there it was because Robson didn't want to ruin his record for continuous drilling, while here Professor Stahlman doesn't want any delays to the schedule.) As if there were any doubt left, we get the first appearance of the Sonic Screwdriver in a Third Doctor story*!

And yet, whereas Fury From the Deep bored me at the time, being made up of so many elements that we'd seen too recently, here it feels like greeting some old friends, and I'm actually excited by them! That's not to say that Inferno isn't showing signs of repetition - there's a number of elements present in this episode that seem to be cropping up a lot during Season Seven, but I don't think I've had time to grow weary of them yet.

I think what's interested me the most about all this is the way that the Doctor and the brigadier interact with each other. During Doctor Who and the Silurians, I praised the way that they didn't exactly see eye-to-eye over how to deal with the threat. They were a bit more chummy in the last story (though only just), but they still don't seem to be the best of friends here. While I think they do respect each other, they're more 'colleagues' than 'friends'.

The way the Doctor strolls into the Brigadier's makeshift office suggests that the pair haven't seen each other for a little while. The same scene goes on to confirm that while Liz may 'have the misfortune of working for [UNIT]', the Doctor is a 'free agent'. The implication at the end of Spearhead From Space was very much that the Doctor was going to be employed on a permanent basis to the organisation - he even got Bessie as a company car! - but here we get to find out a little more about their arrangement.

I rather like the idea that he's not simply tied to working for the Brigadier, and that he's simply using UNIT as an excuse to get access into this drilling project. It gives the Doctor a kind of selfish edge that we've not seen much of since right back in the early days of Season One. There was a flash of it at the very start of Pertwee's tenure, when he tries to take off in the TARDIS during the Nestene invasion, but I thought that had all died down by now.

I'm also finding more and more that I love his outfit. I've never really thought all that much about the Third Doctor's costume - it's always been a lot of different coloured velvet jackets and capes for me - but it really does suit him in this season. There's a point when it's described as 'fancy dress', but he does cut a very definite figure amongst all the other people in the control room. I'm hoping that I'll keep being drawn to it when we start seeing all the variants creep in.

It's becoming apparent that Pertwee seems to have a particular clause in his contract, though. Every story of the season has given him an opportunity to gurn away, and today's episode is no exception. Having said that, the scene where he's thrown into the 'limbo' and the image distorts as he seemingly cries with pain is really effective - it's putting him into another situation we're not used to seeing, and making the threat seem very apparent. Forget the werewolves running around and killing people - it's the Doctor's own experiments which are causing the danger right now…

*Yeah, yeah, I know he doesn't call it the Sonic Screwdriver (he actually says 'it's only a door handle'), but we all know that it is…

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