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30 November 2013

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

Day 334: The Time Monster, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Dear diary,

There’s a bit in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode Death of the Doctor in which Sarah Jane and Jo Grant are strapped into the Shansheeth’s ‘Memory Weave’ machine, and forced to remember the TARDIS so that the machine can make a replica of the key and give the vultures access to time and space. The memories take the form of a series of washed-out flashback clips of the TARDIS – inside and out – from over the years. One of those clips is the blue box being towed from a trench by UNIT soldiers. I’ve seen that episode a few times over the last few years (and I’m holding off to watch it again once I reach the Eleventh Doctor’s era in this marathon), but I’ve always thought that it looked pretty darn awesome… I just didn’t know which story the footage was taken from.

I’d love to say that I’ve been watching out for the scene as I've made my way through Jo's tenure on the programme, but I'd be lying. To be honest, I'd completely forgotten about it until the second it made an appearance today. Oh, but how good does it look?! It's not just the bit where the soldiers have to heave the box upright in the trench, but the following shot where it stands there, surrounded by smoke and destruction as the Doctor and Jo depart in it. There's a real sense of just how indestructible this machine is, and it's by far the most atmospheric moment of the story so far.

And then we're off! Into time and space, with our two Time Lords continuing to play a game of 'one upping' each other, which nicely continues the theme started with the Doctors machine of odds and ends from the other day. It was only when discussing the episode with a friend earlier that I realised - this is pretty much the same plot as Volcano, one of the episodes in The Daleks' Master Plan. In that one, it's the Doctor and the Monk who spend the running time trying to get the better of each other through a series of little tricks.

That episode didn't fare too well with me (indeed, it was the lowest-rated part from that entire story), but looking back over my notes for the day it seems that it's because there was no weight to the confrontation. The pair spent the time laughing (I think the planet had an atmosphere that was basically laughing gas, didn't it?), the Monk stole the Doctor's TARDIS lock, and the Doctor fixed the problem in about thirty seconds. At least in this story, the Master and the Doctor play off each other rather brilliantly with their sparring, and then we're left on a cliffhanger - it just makes everything feel like a bigger deal than it might otherwise do.

It means we also get to have a good look at the new TARDIS redesign! This particular version of the console room only turns up in this one story, and while I knew it was the Master's new look, I must confess that I'd forgotten the Doctor's ship would receive the same makeover. It feels like a bit of a letdown, because I realised the second we entered the Master's machine - the doors for the Doctor's version are clearly present on the other side of the set. I know that the door style is somewhat traditional (I think I'm right in saying that they're even the same doors that William Russell and Jacqueline Hill burst through in An Unearthly Child), but it's nowhere near as cool as the version on the Master's TARDIS, where the whole door section moves forward once they've closed! I think it's fair to say that this isn't my favourite version of the TARDIS console room ever, but it's at least interesting enough as a one off experiment!

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