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17 February 2014

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

Day 413: Genesis of the Daleks, Episode Three

Dear diary,

You can forget your Davroses and your Daleks. Your Sontarans and your Giant Spiders. Forget all about Ice Warriors and Dinosaurs, because the scariest thing that we’ve seen in Doctor Who during these last few seasons comes early on in today’s episode, when Sarah Jane has to jump a small gap between the scaffolding platform and the rocket.

It sounds like I’m being facetious, there, but genuinely, that’s the scariest that I’ve found Doctor Who in a very long time. It’s not the jump that’s actually worrying - it’s the way that Sarah reacts to it. She is clearly scared of heights. She’s just made her way, with difficulty, up that scaffold. She’s one of only two survivors. Her captors aren’t far behind, and their armed with guns, then then she has to go and look down, and realise just how easily she could fall. People talk about Lis Sladen being a fantastic actress, and I think the way she shakes while preparing to jump is one of the finest performances that we’ve ever had in the programme. There’s no debating it - that’s genuine fear.

And yet it comes in the episode containing perhaps the most infamous part of this story - the Giant Clam. I’ve been in Doctor Who fandom long enough to know that - supposedly - the only blemish on this story’s otherwise perfect six episodes is the presence of a Giant Clam chewing on Harry’s leg. I think I’m right in saying that the clam appears in another scene later on, too, which is even more ridiculous. I can’t say I was all that bothered by it, to be honest. It comes as one of those typically Terry Nation action-adventure-serial moments, where there needs to be some threat to the Doctor and Harry’s journey through the tunnels.

I’m surprised just how much of a team the Doctor and Harry are, to be honest. People always talk of the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane, and though they will get their time in the spotlight in the next season-and-a-half, it’s feeling increasingly as though Harry is the Doctor’s favourite. They’re separated off together for much of The Ark in Space, and they’ve been firmly in each other’s company for the three episodes of this story, too. I love the way that they bounce off each other, with Tom and Ian really gelling together. I’m drawing closer to the end of Harry’s travels in time and space now than I am to the beginning of them, and that’s a great shame, because he works so well as a companion. I’m hoping he’s given a few more chances to shine before the season is out.

There was a moment in today’s episode, when the Doctor’s exploring ways to sabotage the Thal rocket and the guard begins to come round again, where I wondered if we might get our first Pertwee-style fight scene for the new Doctor. He engaged in armed combat with Styre during the last story, but I thought we may be in for a bit of Venusian Akido here. This is a very talk-y story, though, with a lot of focus being placed on the dialogue. That the Doctor and Harry made it through to the Kaled leaders to have a proper conversation with them really surprised me - I fully expected them to go through some more chasing, capture, and escape. Indeed, there’s a moment when Ronson is told that they’ve made it to the dome and into a meeting with the leads where I fully expected that to be a trick, a way to force him into slipping up and admitting his guilt. I rather like that the Doctor’s approach to stopping the creation of the Daleks is to talk to the people with the power rather than simply go in and fight his way through - it really is something that sets him apart from other heroes.

 

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