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28 May 2014

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

Day 513: The Androids of Tara, Episode One

Dear diary,

When I first started out on The 50 Year Diary (what seems like a lifetime ago!), people were very keen to give me tips and advice about how to do a marathon. Some people were very helpful, and spoke from experience in doing their own watches through the history of Doctor Who. Others were simply chiming in with the way ‘they’ would do it, and point out why my way was wrong. The thing that cropped up the most during that first season was the suggestion that I should really be working in ‘half marks’. I think it stemmed from a single entry early on in which I commented on how I’d spent a while deliberating over the score to give an episode. I couldn’t decide between a six or a seven, and it took most of the day to make up my mind. People kept on suggesting that I really should have just given a ‘6.5’, and be done with it.

Personally, I’m against that. I think that once you start adding half marks, the rating system goes out the window a little bit! I’m rating the stories out of ten… giving myself double the options for scores within that seems like a bit of a cheat! The thing is, I’ve never once regretted that decision. Oh, there’s been one or two stories where I’ve struggled with the score, but on the whole it’s become second nature. Like a gut instinct, I get to the end of typing up my entry and simply type the score - sometimes without thinking. Occasionally, I’m even surprised by the score I’m giving, but if I think about it, I can pinpoint exactly why awarded the score I have.

Today’s episode has been one of those ones which has left me a little bit stumped as to how I’m supposed to rate it. As the closing credit rolled, I found myself declaring to the empty room that I’d really enjoyed this episode, and that it was probably my favourite episode from the entire Key to Time season so far. To be perfectly honest, I was surprised by that fact, but simply because I can remember so little about this story from my previous viewing. I then told myself that it was very definitely a ‘7/10’, and that’s when my troubles started. I thought about the other episodes this season. Both The Ribos Operation and The Stones of Blood had received the same score for an episode apiece, but I’d enjoyed this one more than either of those. Ok, then, this must be an ‘8/10’. Except… it isn’t an ‘8/10’. I can’t describe it - I just know the rating in my mind. I’ve spent a couple of hours deliberating about it and I’ve decided that, no, this is a ‘7/10’ episode, but a very high ‘7/10’!

So, with that said, it will come as no surprise to you that I’ve rather enjoyed this one. It already has a different feel to it compared to the first three tales this season, and I really love the way that Romana sets out, declaring that she’ll have found this week’s segment in under an hour. What I liked so much about it was the fact that I actually scoffed out loud at the suggestion. The three segments they’ve retried so far have all come at the end of an adventure lasting the equivalent of four episodes, so there’s no way she’d be able to find it so quickly. But then, almost before I’d finished that train of thought, she’s located the segment, and turned it back into the actual piece of key. Oh. That was easy. Easy… and surprising! Of course it gets taken away almost immediately, but it still came as a rather nice way of shaking up the format.

No discussion of this episode would be complete without mentioning that fan favourite monster: the Taran Wood Beast. The creature is something of a joke within fandom, and perhaps for good reason. Even I have to concede that it’s not the programme’s finest hour as a poor artiste jumps around the woods in an ill-fitting gorilla costume. That said, some of the shots leading up to the reveal of the creature are nicely done, and actually build up some degree of tension! If only I didn’t know what was coming afterwards! Still, the beast only appears for a couple of minutes and then he’s gone, so at least we can be thankful for small mercies!

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