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25 December 2013

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

Day 359: Frontier in Space, Episode Three

Dear diary,

One of the problems with doing this marathon now is that - even for stories like this one where I know relatively little about the plot - I do have a fair idea of what's going to be happening. I know, for example, that this is the last Roger Delgado story, and that therefore the Master will be turning up at some point. The fact that he didn't arrive in Episode One means that we've got a Colony in Space situation, where he'll turn up half way through pretending to be someone he's not.

It means that I've spent this episode wondering when he'll appear. We're introduced at one point to the Lunar Penal Colony's governor, and I wondered for a moment if it may turn out to be our favourite nasty Time Lord. When this turned out not to be the case but a few minutes later we're given build up to the introduction of a new character coming to take the Doctor and Jo away… well, there wasn't much of a surprise for me.

And yet, the whole scene is written, directed, and played as though it should be a surprise. 'The Commissioner, Madam…' a secretary announces, before Delgado strides into the room wearing another elaborate costume (though quite a nice one). I'm wondering - how much of a surprise was it first time around, when the master turned up in a story like this? Obviously, Season Eight doesn't really leave much guesswork needed (I wonder who the evil brains behind the plan could be this week…?), but in stories like this one, or Colony in Space, was it in any way surprising to have the Master show up?

For the first time in this marathon (and partly inspired by the spoilerific iTunes descriptions for The Enemy of the World last week), I've been moved to take a look at the Radio Times billings for this story. I've only looked at the first three - in case I spoil myself for the rest of the tale - but they don't really leave much to the imagination. Take, for example, the listings for today's episode;

“Imprisoned on the Moon, the Doctor plans his escape. Immediately, his life is endangered by treachery from within. Meanwhile, an old enemy reappears in a new role.”

Coming fresh from watching the episode, this seems to give away loads. It tells us that the Doctor will be sent to a Moon Prison. It tells us that his escape will be impeded by someone else working from the inside, and it does hint at someone like the Master coming back. Actually, though, I think it's vague enough to not really spoil the episode. As soon as the Doctor and his new friend entered the airlock, I deduced that the cliffhanger would be the air being drained out from it (I didn't see the empty air canisters coming, though. I figured they would be the get-out clause tomorrow…), so it's pretty standard Doctor Who fare.

More annoying is that the listings go on to list “The Master…………Roger Delgado” in the credits for the day! They really didn't want to keep his return a surprise, did they? I'm interested to know, though, do any of my readers recall being surprised by him turning up at all? Not necessarily for this story, but at any point during this era? It would be nice to know how it felt the first time around…

(And, incidentally, a very Merry Christmas to all of you at home!)

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