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3 January 2014

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

Day 368: Planet of the Daleks, Episode Six

Dear diary,

Crikey, this episode has been something of a roller coaster for the Daleks. For a start, they look brilliant. Certainly better than I can remember them looking for a very long time. There's some shots early on where they chase the Doctor and his Thal friends through the corridors of the city and they move so smoothly. They swing round corners and glide down the corridors - they look genuinely quite menacing during these moments!

But then we get to see repeated shots of them trying to break their way through the barricade by bumping in to it. Over and over again. They're not even backing up enough to take a good run (glide?) up to it, they're just moving back and forth a few inches as they nudge the barrier forward a bit, in the hope that they'll break through at some stage. Why don't they shoot their way through? Surely their fund can do some damage to the assorted junk in their path?

Oh, but the shots of the Dalek army in the cavern being flooded by the onslaught of molten ice! It looks fab as the waves crash through and knock the little Dalek models all over the place. Oh, sure, the dimensions of the models aren't quite right, and the way they're positioned means that the army doesn't look as impressive as it could, but who can fail to love the shot of the Dalek domes poking out from the setting ice? It looks great, and when we get nice long shots of them starting to come to life just a few minutes earlier, that looks pretty good, too!

Except they had to go and ruin it. The models are passable in a nice long shot, but then we get a close up of them as they work their way down a miniature corridor, and the wall is blasted out by the ice. This shot gives us a good clear look at all the wrong dimensions of the models and completely ruins the effect for me. It doesn't help that it moves mere moments after we've seen some full-size Dalek props reduced to smouldering husks, so the fact that a big chunk of wall smacking into one leaves it completely un-marked really irritates me.

There's a couple of instances where Daleks are shot by their own kind in this episode, and on both occasions we get to see smoke billowing from under the victim's dome. It looks great (I can' help myself, I love a good smoke effect), and I was glad when it happened for the second time that we could get a better close up for it.

Yet when the Dalek Supreme arrives on the planet all black and gold and taking control, the dome wobbles about horribly if it tries to turn around. Or move forward. Or speak. Basically, the dome on that particular prop looks a bit rubbish any time it's on screen, really.

So yes. Plenty of ups and downs for the pepper pots today, but that's ok, because I'm more interested today in our two regulars. I'm really finding myself softening to Pertwee as we move further and further through his era, and his speech at the end of todays episode where he asks the Thals to make sure they don't glorify war when they return to Sakro is perhaps my favourite moment yet. It's beautifully played in every line, and credit where credit is due, it's one of the best things that Terry Nation has ever written for the series.

And then there's Jo. Dear, dear, Jo. I said yesterday that they seemed to be setting her up for a departure with Latep in today's episode (and speculated that he would die. Well, a 50% success rate isn't that bad…), and we get what can only be described as a 'classic' companion departure scene, in which she's asked to stay behind (or, in this case, head to Skaro) with one of the story's guest cast.

But there's still another six weeks on Katy Manning's contract, so we get to watch a rather moving scene in which she politely says that she won't be leaving with this other character, but will instead be heading back to the TARDIS with the Doctor. Things aren't all about whizzing off into time and space some more, though. She tells Latep that she's got a world and a life of her own, and then tells the Doctor that Earth is the only planet she has any interest in visiting right now. Jo's getting home-sick, and she doesn't have all that long to wait before she's back there…


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