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9 August 2014

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

Day 586: Four to Doomsday, Episode One

Dear diary,

We’re at a proper milestone, with this episode. I’ve already had five days since Tom Baker fell from the satellite dish and relinquished the role of the Doctor, but because Season Nineteen was filmed wildly out of order, this is the first episode of Doctor Who since 1974 to be made without Tom Baker involved. It’s hard, looking back on it from thirty-something years later, to really appreciate how much of an impact that must have been at the time. The mid-to-late 1970s were often seen as the ‘golden age’ of the programme, and certainly viewing figures have at various times lately been higher than ever… but I fear that it was starting to get a little stale. Season Eighteen managed to breathe a bit of new life in to the programme, but now we’ve got an entire cast made up of people who haven’t been here longer than about a year. This is where the 1980s begin.

And it’s apparent right from the off that things are slightly different here. Whereas Tom Baker would swan on to a set and simply own everything in there, Peter Davison commands an entirely different presence. He’s the youngest Doctor that we’d had up to this point (by quite some margin), and it shows. There’s something entirely wonderful about the way he reacts to all the various technological equipment on the space ship - he’s much more an excited youngster than we’ve seen before. There’s one particular shot (you’ll know it if you watch the episode) where he looks so thrilled to be exploring this location that he could burst - and you can’t help but smile along with him.

You also can’t help but feel that he’s slightly glad to be out of the TARDIS for a few minutes and away from the chorus of companions he’s currently got around him. In the same way that State of Decay felt like a mum and dad looking after the youngest son, the Fifth Doctor here seems to be trying his hardest to keep up with all his ‘kids’, and making sure that none of them feel left out. I love that he takes the time to show Nyssa the machinery, knowing that it would be of interest to her, and that he takes Tegan with him to meet the masters of this place. Poor Adric has sort of slipped out of being the cute kid now, though, and been recast as the sulky teenager, almost throwing a strop when he’s told to stay behind with Nyssa.

It’s nice to see the Doctor and Tegan getting a chance to bond. She’s had a mad few hours, really: preparing for the first day at a new job, a car breakdown, the murder of her aunt, and alien world, a radio telescope, another alien world, a man changing his face and personality right in front of her… Yikes! People complain that she can be a bit gobby - I think we’re lucky that she hasn’t had a breakdown yet! I also love that the story opens with the Doctor trying to get her back to her rightful place and time. It feels like the right kind of acknowledgement of where she’s come from, and the fact that unlike Adric, she hasn’t chosen to join in with this adventure.

Good job that she’s the one he picks to come along, mind, because she proves to have all the talents they could possibly need for this one! She just happens to be a fantastic artist (and very quick, too!), drawing up images of modern fashion trends, and then she just happens to speak the right aboriginal dialogue to communicate with the people on this ship! Adric tells her she needs to study maths and get a better job - but with talents like hers, I’d imagine she could walk into a job with relative ease!

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