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9 November 2013

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

Day 313: Day of the Daleks, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Over the last week or so, people have been getting in touch with me about this story. I've had messages on Twitter, via the 50 Year Diary's Facebook page, and even one text from a concerned friend. All of this correspondence centred around one key issue - ensuring that I watch Day of the Daleks as the original version. I remember the hype surrounding this story's release a few years ago. 2|entertain released a teaser at one stage that said something about a title which would bring an exciting new dimension to the Doctor Who DVD range. Guesses varied from a rerelease of certain stories post-converted into 3D to a release of Dimensions in Time on DVD (I'd buy it. And before anyone else asks, yes it will be getting an entry when the time comes!)

Two years have passed since this story's DVD release, and time doesn't appear to have been all that good to it, because all the messages I received told me to make sure that I steer clear of the 'Special Edition' version of the story, because it's basically pants.

To tell the truth, I'd not even considered watching it any other way than the original broadcast version. I'm not in any way desperate to make this a 'pure' marathon that sticks only to the original versions of the stories (and I'd made a mental note to watch at least one story with new effects switched on), but I'd not even thought about seeing this version in its new, 21st century glory. Of course, once everyone started getting in touch to make sure, it completely settled it. I'd have to watch the special edition.

I've held off until now. Episodes One and Two have been watched via 'disc one', and thus have been the regular versions of the episodes. Today, though, I decided to switch things up a little, and go for the enhanced version. I think I decided that it wasn't for me about thirty seconds into the cliffhanger reprise, when the Dalek-revealing cliffhanger I praised yesterday was smothered by some overpowering CGI materialisation effects. It was probably the perfect example that just because you can add CGI to something doesn't necessarily mean that you should.

After that, I can't really say that the differences really made an impact on me. The sparks and bolts during the trike chase (I know the Third Doctor's a man of action but a trike? Really?) were a nice touch, and certainly made it look a bit more action-packed than the original version, but it didn't really mean all that much to me. As you'll have no-doubt ascertained from that last sentence, I have been back to watch the original version so I could compare the differences, but I only skipped through to key moments.

One thing that I thought looked better in the Special Edition was the Doctor's mind scan. In the original, we get a few still photos of the Doctors flashed up on the screen, and in one instance on a Hartnell photo, you can see where they've failed to frame it properly. That same image also comes across as having a bit too much contrast on - which is an issue I seem to recall that photo having in an early issue of Doctor Who Magazine, too! Obviously the BBC Photo Library didn't have many good-quality copies!

The Special Edition replaces it with clips of the Doctors taken from other episodes instead, and they make a bit more of an impact for me. It's the first time, really, that we've had any kind of flashback like this so blatantly, and I think the moving images made it seem all the more special for me. I wasn't expecting to see the older Doctors, but worried when they flashed up on screen that I might get a nostalgic pang, and long for the days when I could accompany the Doctor down into the Underground or to the Cave of Skulls.

If anything, though, I'm rather liking Pertwee again in this story. I can't describe it (and believe me I've been putting off the writing of today's entry in the vague hope that I'll suddenly find a way!), but Jon Pertwee here looks better than he ever has as the Doctor. There's something about his style in this story, with the shirt slightly undone and looking a bit tired that really works for the character, and it helps to sell the threat of the situation just that little bit more.

That's good! Of course there's a big threat! It's the return of the Daleks - the Doctor's arch enemy! - after almost five years away from the programme! And yet… they're hardly in it. We've had a couple of minutes of Daleks huddled around in a small room (with a single brief excursion to the tunnel), and that's it. I'm hoping they're going to be a big part of Episode Four, or something will have really gone amiss…

The voices surprised me today. I'd completely forgotten that Nick Briggs had re-recorded them for the Special Edition, and about half way through their brief appearance today, I worried that I might have been mistaken yesterday and that they had remembered a ring modulator! So ingrained in my mind is Briggs' Dalek voice that it just feels natural when you hear it!

It's back to the regular edition to round out the story tomorrow, but I'm glad I've taken this little side-step into an alternate reality. I love that the DVD range has been able to include little curiosities like this within the releases, as they help to make the story of Doctor Who just that little bit richer. I think I'll be sticking with the originals from now on, though…

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