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16 July 2014

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

Day 562: Full Circle, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m enjoying the story of the Doctor and the Marsh Child in this episode. Almost as if picking up the cue from The Leisure Hive, that the Doctor can be friends with the slightly strange looking aliens, we’ve got him off exploring on his own and encountering a specimen of this slightly unusual new race. His reaction to seeing one up close? Much like the Third Doctor when first meeting a Silurian, he simply greets it in a friendly manner, and continues on to persuade it that everything is ok.

We then go on to have something of a game of cat and mouse between the pair, as the Doctor continues his explorations further into his new surroundings and into the Star Liner, with the Marsh Child following not far behind, close enough to see and experience everything that’s going on, while remaining far enough behind to be cautious. It’s rare that an alien species in this programme is given ‘children’ among their ranks - it’s more often than not simply a fully gown race (of warriors, usually), so it’s creating a fascinating new way of seeing these creatures. I’m really hoping that the Doctor’s friendship with this particular Marsh Child will come in handy later on, when I’m sure the grown ups of the race won’t be quite as timid.

As far as the design of the Marsh Men goes, I think it’s probably one of the best we’ve had for a while in the programme. The thing that slightly lets it down - as is so often the case - has to be the way the costume works. As the creatures walk around and explore the environment (a small thing, but I love the way that they’re free to step in deep pools of water or mud - usually fears of damaging an expensive new costume would prevent such natural movement and interaction), their effectiveness is somewhat diminished by the way the latex costumes ‘bunch’ around the crotch. I’ve also not quite decided if the masks look too ‘plastic-y’, or just the right amount of ‘alien’.

These aren’t massive criticisms, though, because on the whole I’m very impressed by the design, and the way that they’re being used. Certainly, they’ve fared better than the other monster to appear in this episode - those spiders. I’m always a bit on edge when I know there’s spiders abound, and I’ve never made it this far into Full Circle probably for fear of reaching this point of the story. They’re even less effective than the ones from Planet of the Spiders, though! That old BBC rule about not making spiders look too realistic on screen has come to my rescue once again, because the actual sequence - in which these arachnids burst from the centre of fruit, including one right onto Romana’s face! - could be quite scary if the props didn’t look quite so… battery operated. The glowing eyes make them look cute, if anything!

I do feel a bit for Lalla Ward in this episode, it has to be said. While Tom’s off exploring a beautiful new world (has Ward even set foot on location yet in this story?), she’s stuck inside, dealing with a group of children. Obviously someone was paying attention to how well she worked when paired with the young sacrifices during The Horns of Nimon. The biggest issue that this causes comes when asked to portray the TARDIS being carried away by the Marsh Men. For a few minutes, the episode dips in to being exactly what everyone always thought Doctor Who was like - with the camera jerking to the side, and a delay before the group of actors hurl themselves unconvincingly across the set. We’ve had some great examples of this type of acting in the series before… but this isn’t one of them.

Still, she hasn’t got as raw a deal as poor K9. The campaign of hatred against the poor mutt continues today, with his entire head being knocked off by a particularly mean Marsh Man with a stick! Romana laments that they always seem to be repairing K9, and it’s no wonder when the current production team seem so intent on damaging him as much as possible (were they simply hoping to destroy the prop so much that they could simply claim not to be able to use it any more?). As if that wasn’t bad enough, even the incidental music in this story is mocking the poor creature, playing up the comedy when he’s unable to follow the Marsh Men across a small dip in the ground. At least he gets the best line in the entire episode today, though, when the Doctor points out that the creatures they’re watching have stopped moving, and K9 replies ‘the observation is correct’.

I’m going to miss the sarcastic thing when he goes…

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