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7 November 2013

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

Day 311: The Day of the Daleks, Episode One

Dear diary,

One of the things that I keep banging on about in relation to this marathon is the idea that it makes me experience Doctor Who in a set order. When I look at the DVDs on my shelf, I can see that there's Dalek stories pretty regularly for the first four years, then a gap followed by another four years of solid Dalek tales, and then they come intermittently for the rest of the 20th century series. They're all just 'facts'. Watching everything in order from the start means that I get to really experience those gaps… and that makes them seem all the more bizarre.

The gap between The Evil of the Daleks and this story is around four and a half years. That's just about equal to the distance between the first broadcast of Planet of the Dead and the publication of today's entry. That feels like a huge amount of time! From my point of view in the marathon, I last saw a full Dalek story in late June, and so much has happened since then.

I think I've always just found it strange that after so long away from the series, the Daleks suddenly come trundling back in once again, and finally establish themselves as a key part of the Doctor Who formula. Over the last four seasons, they've proven that the Daleks aren't entirely necessary for Doctor Who to survive any more, but now that they've turned up once again they're forever ingrained as a key factor. Maybe the same would happen if they'd brought back the Voord in the early 1970s? Maybe not.

Over the course of the 1960s stories, I found myself falling for the Daleks. I'd never really been a fan before, but suddenly I could completely understand their appeal. Making their return here and now sadly reminds me why I was never fond of them in the first place - the Daleks in the colour stories always tend to look a bit tatty. In some ways, I shouldn't be all that surprised. Parts of the Dalek props used here have been turning up ever since the first Dalek story in 1963, so they've been through a lot since then, but all the same it's a bit of a let down. Such a song and dance was made about their return to the series that I'd rather hoped they would look fantastic, at least in their first colour appearance.

Still, it's probably not fair for me to really judge them yet. In traditional Dalek style, they don't properly arrive until the cliffhanger for Episode One (though we do get a brief glimpse of the gold version about half-way through the episode). Everything else on display, I'm rather enjoying. The Doctor still comes across as a bit pompous (the cheese scene is often cited as an example of this characteristic), but he's back to being somewhat nicer to Jo. She gets to have some fun scenes with Benton and Yates, and Nick Courtney has plenty of chances to do his 'exasperated' acting.

In some ways, it feels like we're back to the kind of story that I enjoyed so much in Season Seven. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but it probably doesn't hurt that the Doctor's got the console out of the TARDIS again and there's a scene of time displacement not all that dissimilar to the one from the opening episode of The Ambassadors of Death. It does lead me to wonder, though… When do UNIT settle down into a HQ?

I've always thought of UNIT as having their HQ in an old country house. It's where they're based in The Three Doctors, for example, and the same lab set turns up in Planet of the Spiders and Robot. I'm sure I've read somewhere that the house in Pyramids of Mars is the same one (or becomes the foundations to the UNIT version at least). When they appear under St Pancras for Spearhead, I assumed that it was because they were still new and waiting for a permanent location. The rest of that season sees the Doctor setting up shop on a temporary basis wherever they happened to be that week. Season Eight then gives us several very different looking settings for them to work from. And now today we seem to be set inside a castle of some sort, judging from the architecture! It looks quite nice and all (though the Doctor's still painting his doors with that horrible green paint), but it just seems odd.

I'm glad to have the pepper pots back, no matter how beaten up they might seem. I'm hoping that the next few episodes will help me rekindle my love for them - and for the series as a whole…


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