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24 March 2014

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

Day 448: Doctor Who and the Pescatons, Episode Two

Dear diary,

The beauty of listening to an audio story again is that I can put it on through my headphones and listen to it as I make my way home from the shops. And with the weather we're currently experiencing, it seems only right that I should listen to a tale of fish aliens looking for a wet new home while I try not to be completely soaked to the core by the rain. Maybe there's a Pescaton attack on the way? Was that a meteor I just saw falling into that river?

I suppose after all my comparisons yesterday between this story and Pemberton’s earlier script for the series in Fury From the Deep, I really should have seen this resolution coming. Of course the Pescatons were going to be defeated by the use of sound - it seems so obvious in retrospect. What seems less obvious is that the Doctor would come to this resolution while playing his paccalo, which as he tells us here, he always does when he’s nervous. Just like he did when he realised that Morbius may still be alive, or Sutekh may break free of his eternal bonds.

It’s not the only thing that’s somewhat out of character for the Doctor here. We end the story with him effectively committing genocide, and ensuring that the Pescaton civilisation is eradicated forever. Whatever happened to all that ‘do I have the right?’ stuff on Skaro last month? He reminds us (repeatedly) in this episode that Pescatons are creatures of pure evil - which means it’s ok for your hero to wipe them all out! - but it just feels very… odd.

Still, I’m more interested in the Doctor’s earlier trip to Pesca. When is this supposed to have happened? The assumption is that the Fourth Doctor made the trip, though that’s only because we’re listening to Tom Baker relate the tale to us. I suppose it could take place at the same time he makes his trip to the world of the Sevateem (I don’t know a great deal about that excursion, yet, but I imagine I will do in a few weeks’ time), but it could just as easily be an earlier Doctor who does those parts of the story. Sure, Zor seems to recognise the Doctor, but… oh, come on. You’re not really going to apply much logic to this one, are you?

On the whole… Hm. It’s a bit of an odd one, this, isn’t it? On the one hand, i can see it making quite a good story for TV (there’s some lovely moments, such as the cliffhanger for Part One), but on the other, it feels too much like a rehash of old ideas, mostly from Pemeberton’s other contribution to the series! And, at the end of Part Two, I’m not sure why they bothered to have Elisabeth Sladen even come down to the studios - she’s only got about six lines!

Day 448 EXTRA: *Exploration Earth: The Time Machine*

Dear diary,

Hello! It’s me! Again! Yeah, I know, I’ve already done my episode for today. There were shark aliens, and meteorites, and the Doctor played his piccolo to save the day. You know, like he does never. But you’ll never guess what! The best thing happened. I got to school, and we were learning all about the creation of the Earth, and to demonstrate the various stages of this, we were allowed to go on an adventure with the Doctor and Sarah Jane!

Oh, ok. What really happened is that I mentioned to Nick that I’d just listened to Doctor Who and the Pescatons, and he suggested that I’d have to do Evacuation Earth: The Time Machine next or there’d be uproar among fans of The 50 Year Diary that I just wan’t taking this experiment seriously. To be honest, I’d completely forgotten that this story even existed, but now that I’d been reminded… well, I had to do it somewhere. Since I’ve been taking a little sojourn into non-televised media between seasons, I thought I might slip this one in today and create a bumper entry - rather than spend another day kicking around on audio.

Produced for a BBC Schools series on the radio, this is probably the closest the programme has come in a long time to fulfilling it’s initial remit to both entertain and educate its audience. In the story, the TARDIS is dragged right back to the very formation of the Earth, and the Doctor takes Sarah on a journey through the evolution of her planet. It’s very clearly being made as an educational programme for children, and it features plenty of the dialogue you’d expect to hear in a schools-based programme (after Terror of the Zygons the other week, I watched Elisabeth Sladen’s episode of Merry Go Round which is on the DVD as a special feature. This is done in very much the same style, and they both remind me of the kinds of programmes we used to watch at school back in the 1990s - there’s a certain feel to these educational programmes).

That said, they’ve opted to use the characters of the Doctor and Sarah to tell the story of the Earth’s creation, and as Madame de Pompadour tells us, you can’t have the Doctor without the monsters. To that end, during their exploration of the planet’s history, our heroes keep running into Megron, High Lord of Chaos. Megron serves to introduce a bit of threat to the proceedings, but mostly he just pops up and booms at the Doctor for being near the Earth, and then gets shirty when the Doctor tries to teach us all a little something about geography and science.

I’ve been watching this little interlude in the form of some animations on YouTube by ‘adamsbullock’ (I watched his animation for The Feast of Steven, too, back in the day), and they’ve certainly made the story come to life a bit more. I’d have probably given up and switched off otherwise! It also helps to fill in some visual areas that would have been completely lost on me - when the TARDIS has come to a standstill at the start of the planet’s formation, the Doctor explains that there is absolutely no oxygen outside the ship… but he can still take Sarah Jane out to show her! Here, step into this handy capsule by the TARDIS door!

Oh, I’m not being fair, really. This isn’t supposed to be an episode of Doctor Who in the traditional sense, so it’s not fair for me to rate it amongst everything else (and that’s why it’s not received a day of its own on the Diary). It was created as a means to educate a young audience about the formation of the Earth, and in that respect I think it succeeds. It certainly gave my knowledge a bit of a brushing up! It should really be filed away with things like the Doctor Who Discovers books as an odd, educational, side-step.

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