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23 February 2014

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

Day 419: Revenge of the Cybermen, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Break out the party hats, and bring me a cake. As of today, I am officially half-way through The 50 Year Diary. Sort of. Maybe. Not quite.

Perhaps it would be better to say that I am officially half-way through televised Doctor Who for the purposes of this marathon? The 50 Year Diary will cover every episode from An Unearthly Child to The Time of the Doctor, which is 800 episodes in total. Revenge of the Cybermen falls perfectly in the middle of those two, coming in as the programme’s 400th episode.

I can’t decide whether it feels like way more than 400 episodes to reach this point, or if it feels like we shouldn’t even be anywhere near 400, but it’s exciting to think that I’m somewhere around the middle of the project. I’m not exactly sure, because (as you’ve no doubt noticed), the 400th episode doesn’t necessarily fall on the 400th day. I’ve taken a few side-steps to reach this point, you see. There was the experiment with Farewell, Great Macedon between Seasons One and Two, and the day out to hear Daleks: The Destroyers between Seasons Three and Four. Then those two Patrick Troughton stories arrived back in the archives from deepest Africa, and they had to be slotted in as well.

All those things pushed the number of Diary entries up. And there’s more to come! In the next half of the marathon, I plan to take time out to listen to one of the Fourth Doctor ‘Lost Stories’ (I know people weren’t overly keen on me doing so with Hartnell, but I’ve heard nothing but praise for The Foe from the Future so I’m adding it in), then we’ve got Dimensions in Time, Scream of the Shalka, the Doctor’s appearances in The Sarah Jane Adventures... At this stage, I honestly don’t know how many entries the Diary will run to. I’ve always known that it would be around the 800 mark, just based on the number of episodes, so it’s quite an achievement to be somewhere around the middle. I know I say it a lot, but I really am very surprised (and delighted!) to have made it this far. It’s just a shame that the story this landmark falls in isn’t one of my favourites...

Still, I’ve realised today what my problem is with this story. It’s got Dominators Syndrome, a condition in which – no matter what happens in the story – I simply cannot enjoy anything on the screen. These situations do crop up from time to time. The Dominators has been my most recent example for a while (although The Curse of Peladon was developing symptoms for a while), but the same has also been true of stories like The Highlanders. It means that in my mind, I’ve just completely switched off from the story, and it’s unlikely to pull me back in.

It’s a shame, because it means that I’m not even giving the episodes the attention they deserve. They’re playing out on the screen, I’mwatching them, but I’m just not taking them in. I’m not even really making any notes, just jotting down the occasional bit of dialogue that I find amusing or emotive, because I’m not engaging with the story enough to really care.

Another problem that this causes is that I find myself just being incredibly negative about everything. Yesterday, I spoke of how much I like the way that these Cyberman costumes are such a neat halfway between The Invasion and Earthshock, but today even that’s grown stale for me, and I’m focussing far more on the fact that I don’t like their voices in this one. Sometimes, during the 1960s, they could be quite hard to understand... but at least they sounded alien! These Cybermen sound like guys with buckets on their heads. Oh... wait...

Even the design of Nerva is irritating me this time around. I spent ages during The Ark in Space praising the way that the design of the beacon really held together and worked, but I’m just not liking it here. They’ve added a number of panels to the set – grey with little inset circles – to give the impression that we’ve visiting Nerva at an earlier point in its history. In theory, I quite like this idea. I love buildings being taken over and getting a new purpose, but so that you can still see bits of the history shining through into the new design. Sadly, I’m finding that the design modifications to the Nerva set make it look worse than the version we saw earlier in the season!

I’m guessing that the final episode will have a real fight to try and get me interested in the story again. It’s a shame, after so long without a story like this which really just doesn’t grab me in any way, that this season should limp out rather feebly as opposed to going out with a real bang.


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