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31 October 2013

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

Day 304: Colony in Space, Episode Five

Dear diary,

I've wait it before, but one of the things I'm really enjoying about the Third Doctor's era is the sense of continuity. More now than perhaps any time since Season One, it feels like we're watching an unfolding tale, as things come back into play from recent episodes. We've already seen it on a couple of occasions this season, when the Doctor steals the dematerialisation circuit from the Master's TARDIS, and it's used as a bargaining tool (briefly) in the following story. Today, we get reminded that the Doctor still has a key to that TARDIS, and when he tells Jo that's where they're heading, she comments that she's not seen 'the Master's horse box' around here anywhere, acting as a nice callback to Terror of the Autons, which was quite a while ago when this was originally broadcast - we're almost right the way through the season from that one!

It serves as a nice chance to top up Jo's knowledge of life in the TARDIS as it was for companions before the Third Doctor. It makes sense for her to assume that it always looks like a police box, because the Doctor's TARDIS did when they arrived on this planet. Still, it's good to see them drawing attention to it all the same. It's a level of detail that I'd never realised existed in these stories before now, and which only really becomes obvious when doing a marathon.

And what a TARDIS they've found themselves in! The simple action of moving the doors to a position other than left of the screen has been a way to indicate that we're in a TARDIS belonging to another person since the very first time we saw another TARDIS (right back in The Time Meddler), but it really does work. On top of that, we see the outside of the doors while we're inside the console room. At first, I wondered if we were seeing something we shouldn't, but no! It's actually been planned! Of course, it only works because the Master has disguised his machine as a much larger space ship, but it's still a bizarre thing to see - and it really sells the idea to me of this being a more advanced model!

Further in to the console room and it's all gone a bit wrong. I complained yesterday that the Master pretending he was an adjudicator made him look like some kind of middle-management figure, and a row of filing cabinets in the main room of his ship - filled with information about mining, no less! - doesn't really help to make him seem cool again. There's more hints of the obnoxiously 1970s design creeping into the set here, too. On the other hand, we get to see the printed roundel wall forming a major part of the Master's control room, so at least they're getting their money's worth from it before the retirement!

More importantly, though, it's the return of the Sonic Screwdriver! Hooray! After its brief appearance as a 'door handle' in Inferno, the device has been strangely absent from the Doctor's bag of tricks, so it's nice to have it back again. And this is the closest to the tool we all think of as being the Sonic than we've ever seen. Here, the Doctor uses it to study the alarm in the Master's TARDIS, and deduce that there's a convenient gap at the bottom for them to crawl under (he then proceeds to snap at Jo to keep 'flat to the floor' while he sort of shuffles though at whatever height he fancies).

You'll have no doubt have noticed that I'm focussing all my attentions today on a single scene from the episode, and not a lot else, and that's simply because I don't really have a lot else. The Doctor complained in the last story that he's some sort of yo-yo, and the same isn't far wrong for this story - the IMC ship is forced to leave the planet. They stay. A struggle ensues and they decide to leave. Following a scene out in space (with, it has to be said, a great planet model and some of the better CSO this story has to offer), they decide to head back down to the planet again.

Even the Doctor is at it, heading back and forth from the Master's TARDIS to the colony and the City - the whole story could do with a bit of a trim. I was hoping that the Master turning up might be enough to keep from boredom setting in, but sadly, it doesn't seem to be doing the trick…

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