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27 February 2014

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

Day 423: Terror of the Zygons, Episode Three

Dear diary,

This story just keeps on being dark, doesn’t it? I was going to make a point a few days ago about the sinister nurse: she’s so obviously a Zygon, and I was going to say that it was another example of Doctor Who taking a figure that’s usually respected and trusted by children, and turning them into something sinister and frightening (as with the policeman during Terror of the Autons). What I wasn’t prepared for was the sequence in todays story, where shortly after being chased through the woods in its natural form, a Zygon takes back on the shape of the nurse, and then clubs a soldier round the head with a large rock to make her escape.

You don’t see anything, really, and the actual impact is rather muted. It’s not stated whether the soldier was killed in the attack (although, in my mind, being hit round the back of the head with a rock that size wouldn’t leave you much chance), but it’s still pretty sinister. For all my moaning yesterday about the pitchfork scene being a bit too much for Saturday tea times, I must admit to rather enjoying this darker tone for the programme. It’s fantastically watchable, and once again Camfield’s direction is helping to push things that extra mile.

I’m perhaps most impressed by his work with the model spaceship at the end of the episode. It looks good enough in shots at the bottom of the lake, and I love the way the sand kicks up around the base of the vessel as it prepares to take off, but then I did that natural Doctor Who fan thing of preparing myself for the worst. I assumed that one of two things would happen: either we’d not actually see the ship emerging from the loch, or we’d see it and it would look rubbish. In actual fact, it’s... well, I’m not going to lie and say that it was great, because it wasn’t. It was a lot better than I was expecting, and i have to admit that I was really impressed by it, but the longer we spend looking at it, there more I couldn’t get any real sense of scale, so it just ended up looking like a model being pulled out of water. As it flies off, then, it still looks quite impressive, but having already lost my sense of scale, it did bring things down a bit for me.

And I’m still not all that sire about the Skarasen. We get another shotof it lifting a claw, today, which works quite well, and then as it walks away we get to see the tail swishing about from side to side - an unexpected treat and one which works incredibly well. There’s just something about the face of the creature that’s throwing me off, and I don’t know what it is.

Elsewhere, all the human characters are continuing to impress me. I love all of the stuff up at the castle, and the sinister way in which the Duke behaves. He complains that Sarah Jane is smarter than she looks when she stumbles into the secret passage behind the bookcase, but you do have to wonder why he left her alone in the room if there was even the tiniest chance that this could happen! Do the Zygons underestimate us that much?

That same tunnel also provides me with my favourite moment from today’s episode, where the Doctor excitedly heads off into the passageway to see what he can find. We linger on the darkness of the opening, as he’s warned to be careful... and then we simply hear hims scream. Perhaps the most effective part is that we then don’t get to see what’s happened to him - simply that two Zygons emerge into the room. We’re left to speculate as to what situation the Doctor is left in, and I’m wondering if we might get some doubts as to how ‘real’ he may be, when he emerges in the next episode...


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