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28 December 2013

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

Day 362: Frontier in Space, Episode Six

Dear diary,

I think I'm right in saying that this was the only time in the history of 'classic' Doctor Who that the appearance of the Daleks was intended to be a surprise. Of course, everyone knew that they'd be back in the next story (It's not exactly hard to figure out, they're in the title, again), but that's all part of the clever deception - while everyone is busy getting excited for next week and the return of the Doctor's most famous foes, no one is expecting them to arrive today!

And what an entrance they make! The Master appears atop a cliff, looking down on his enemy (and isn't it very much a great thing to see in his final story? An image like this was first teased way back during the Doctor's nightmare hallucinations in The Mind of Evil. I know it wasn't intentional, but still, a great coincidence), before declaring that while he may be unarmed, he's not unaccompanied! The Daleks look great as they trundle into view silhouetted against the sky, and I'm almost sorry that I knew they'd be in this episode.

I didn't realise that they'd be in the episode so much, though. I mean, sure, all they really do is turn up, remind the Master that he'd better not fail them, and then bugger off to awaken their army somewhere, but they're revealed much earlier than I was expecting - I figured that they'd be turning up for the last thirty seconds in the cliffhanger!

Unfortunately, when the end of the episode does roll around… it's a bit of a disappointment, isn't it? The Doctor and his friends escape from (yet another) prison cell - that makes it two breakouts for Jo alone in this episode! - get into a bit of a kerfuffle with the Master and his Ogron dummies, and then they all go their separate ways. I don't know a great deal about the next story, but I don't think we see a return for the Draconians or any of our human characters from this story, which somewhat renders the last six episodes a bit of a waste of time, with lots of running around between prison cells and not a whole lot else.

The biggest shame, though, is that in all the commotion, the Master slips away un-noticed. Usually, this would be a good thing. Curses! Foiled again! Off he skulks, ready to team up with another alien menace and be a thorn in the Doctor's side. On this occasion, it's a shame that we don't get much of a departure for him, since it's the last time Roger Delgado will be appearing in the programme. Not long after this, he was killed in a car accident while filming abroad, and when the Master next turns up in the series it will be in a new form and against a new Doctor. If I can quote myself from the entry on Terror of the Autons, Episode One;

“It's confession time. I've never actually watched a full story featuring Rodger Delgardo's incarnation of the Master. I know, ok? I know. Everyone bangs on about how he's the best version of the character, and how he's so menacing and suave and wonderful, but for me he's simply in the wrong era.”

That was true. I had a couple of people message me to say that it was impossible that I could have been a Doctor Who fan for a decade without watching a single Delgado story, but my general distaste for this period in the programme's history meant that I'd never had any real desire to check his stories out. Over the course of the last few months, I've now caught up with every single one of his episodes, and it does have to be said that I can see why people love him so much.

He really is the perfect foil to Jon Pertwee's incarnation, and I think that's why I'm so saddened that they never got the chance to film that epic final story that Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks had planned out. A final tale in which this pair were seen fighting to the death before the Master saves the Doctor's skin (either on purpose or by accident - who can tell?!) would have been the perfect way to see Delgado leave the world of Doctor Who.

That said, there's something oddly fitting about the fact that he slips away without anyone really noticing. This incarnation of the Master has always been slippery and good at getting away, and it is nice to see that happen one final time before the end of the era. It also means that we're reaching something of a clean break for the programme once again. The Master has gone (both in this incarnation and from the series for some time), Jo will be leaving in just a couple of weeks, and the Doctor is approaching the end of his current incarnation. It's the right time to say goodbye to this phase of the programme.

But not just yet…

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