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30 December 2013

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

Day 364: Planet of the Daleks, Episode Two

Dear diary,

If ever you needed an example of how watching through the series in order from the beginning impacts your reaction to it, today was the day to see it. It came as we watched a Dalek glide through a door and into a room where six other Daleks are stood waiting. It’s a simple scene. It’s stagey. The direction isn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary or special, but I immediately spat out my (metaphorical) drink as I found myself loudly exclaiming ‘Bloody hell! Look at all those Daleks!’

I know, I know, you’re doing the maths now. Six waiting Daleks plus one gliding around. That equals seven. It’s not really a huge number of the pepperpots, but coming after The Day of the Daleks, in which we had an Earth invasion force of three, and several 1960s stories where I grew used to the cardboard cutouts filling in the background of the shots, this is a veritable infestation of the creatures.

And as if that weren’t enough to excite me as a Doctor Who fan (and one who’s growing love for the Daleks has only come about as a result of watching them through in order - go back and track the evolution of my love if you fancy), we end the episode with a great cliffhanger: ‘Somewhere on this planet, there are 10,000 Daleks!’

Crikey, that’s an exciting thought. I don’t even have the faintest clue how they’re going to show us 10,000 Daleks (have they bought a job lot of the toys?), but just the prospect of it really makes be desperate to continue on with the story. Assuming that it’s pulled off well (and, being used to Doctor Who, the jury is still out), then it could be another big tick on the list of things that you want to see in a big Dalek story. More and more I wish we could have forgotten all about Day and moved right onto this one.

I’ve been very full of praise lately for Katy Manning. Rightly so - she’s being given plenty to sink her teeth into before bowing out of the series in the next story, and the production team seem to be getting their money’s worth by giving her long periods of episodes to herself lately. All this love for Jo, though, means that poor Pertwee is being a little overlooked.

But not today! He’s on fine form here, and it’s the first time in a while that we’ve had one of those iconic lines of dialogue (as ever, I’m using ‘iconic’ to mean a line that I know of having never seen the story, but often hear repeated);

Courage isn’t just a matter of not being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to anyway.

It’s a lovely moment, and it’s another chance to see this Doctor’s softer side. It’s also a rare opportunity to see him in a more vulnerable position, believing that Jo has been killed by Dalek scouts. The whole thing is beautifully played, especially the moment when the Doctor seems to really let it sink in that she’s ‘dead’. Listening to Jo’s tape recorded notes from Episode One, the camera lingers on Pertwee’s face. He tries to explain it to a Thal in the cell with him, firmly telling us that the Daleks ‘murdered’ her. It’s quite brutal to hear it phrased like this - for all the killing that the Daleks have done since 1963, I’ve never before thought of it as being ‘murder’.

As if that wasn’t a strong enough moment, we get a few seconds of silence before Katy Manning’s voice continues to play out from the tape recorder, and it’s actually heartbreaking. It’s almost a shame that actors don’t take weeks off from the series at this point, because it loses some of its impact cutting so quickly back to her. One things clear, though, we’re being set up for the prospect that Jo won’t be around forever…

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