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7 April 2014

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

Day 462: The Face of Evil, Episode Two

Dear diary,

Because I have a vague idea about the background to this story, I know that the Doctor arrived on this planet at some point in the past, and that the computer has taken on elements of his persona. I’m not sure if I’ve seen a clip of it, or simply a still screen capture, but I know there’s a scene at some point where the Doctor’s face appears on large screens shouting at him. What I didn’t know is that the computer spoke in the Doctor’s voice. I first noticed it during yesterday’s episode (Baker has such a distinctive voice, it would be pretty hard to hide it!), but it really starts to make an impact when the Doctor begins a conversation with - in effect - himself.

‘You. Me. We. Us…’ There’s something really un-nerving about the whole exchange, and the fact we simply focus in on the empty helmet as we hear the voice seems to just make things all the more effective. The Doctor piecing things together as he goes is pretty interesting too, and I can’t wait for him to figure out the rest of his previous visit to this world. I’m also surprised to see the invisible creatures revealed to be giant versions of the Doctor’s face! It’s such a bizarre concept, that should be really rather rubbish… but it works! I think it’s because it was so bonkers and unexpected that it makes such an impact. I even had to skip back a few seconds on the DVD, just to check that I wasn’t imagining it. Mind you, if they’re just giant floating Doctor heads… then how did they make to footprints we saw in the last episode?

Considering he takes on so many different parts throughout this episode, it’s perhaps useful to see that Baker is really at the top of his game. He’s made very few mis-steps since taking over the role, but I think we’re now entering the phase where he’s really at his peak. From the serious moments to the comedic ones (I love his tennis commentary as people argue over his life!), he’s rarely been better than this. He doesn’t even come across as acting - he simply is the Doctor.

The only slight downside to this comes during his trial against the Horda pit. Watching the programme as an adult, I’m well aware that the Doctor will find a way to make his escape. There’s no way that he’s going to die here and now, and he’s not in any real threat because I know he’s got another four-and-a-half seasons to go yet. But even putting that out of mind for a moment, Baker’s performance as the Doctor is so self-assured by this point, that I think much of the tension is drained from the scene. Right from the moment where he first steps onto the platform, you just know that he’s going to be able to hit the rope and get away. It was nice to see Leela dive in, though, in an attempt to save him. She’s only known him a few hours, but he’s already made such an impact on her.

I’ve really very little to add today. I’m simply enjoying the story, and I’m really interested to see where we go from here. Although I’ve enjoyed the overwhelming majority of stories so far in this marathon, it’s not often that I find it hard to ration myself to the one episode a day. I’m used to this pace, and I find it really suits me. Were I watching any quicker, I fear that I’d have burnt out a long time ago. This story is one of those one’s where I’m actually willing tomorrow to hurry up and get here, because I can’t wait to sit down for another episode. You can’t get much higher praise than that!

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