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10 August 2014

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

Day 587: Four to Doomsday, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I think the thing that’s impressing me the most about Four to Doomsday has to be the sets. They’re stunning! For starters, they’re a nice design in an of themselves, but then they’re also massive. There was a sense of this in yesterday’s episode, too, right from the moment that the TARDIS arrives in the laboratory. There’s just a real sense of scale to the area, with the camera pulling back at times so that we can really take this all in. There’s stairs, and a sense of the ship going on far beyond what we can see before us. Even when we go into corridors (the same corridor sets do get reused as different locations here, but there’s a few of them), they feel somewhat more special than the ones we’re used to seeing. I praised the corridors on location in The Sun Makers because you could see them going on for miles - here you don’t need to see that, because you simply get the impression that they do.

I think my favourite set of all has to be the ‘greenhouse’ one that you see today - lots of trees and other assorted plants poking out and again really feeling massive. I had to check if this story had been given one of the larger studios in Television Centre, because I’m not used to seeing sets looking quite so large. Often, you’ll get a set which is impressive (the throne room in State of Decay, for example, or the Decider’s chamber from Full Circle), but then several smaller sets to help free up the space they need. Here, though, every set seems to be on a grand scale, and it’s absolutely fascinating me!

Such impressive scenery isn’t quite enough to stop me from noticing that Peter Davison hasn’t quite figured out how he wants to play this role yet, however. That’s not necessarily a criticism, by all accounts he was basically put into his costume and pointed towards the studio, but it does make things feel ever-so-slightly off kilter here. It’s perhaps at the most unusual when he’s asked to use the Sonic Screwdriver. I’m so used to the idea of the 1980s Doctors not using this device (we’re only a few stories away from its destruction), that it simply feels wrong to see him waving it around like a wand here to take out the CCTV cameras that insist on following them around. I’m keen to see how long it takes for Davison to settle in to the role from here, so that’s likely to be the think I’ll be keeping an eye on across this first season, at least.

Because the Doctor still isn’t quite 100%, it means that he’s still relying very heavily on his companions, and the script uses this to a great advantage. I spoke yesterday of the way the Doctor tries to keep all of the ‘kids’ entertained, letting Nyssa explore the technical equipment while taking Tegan to meet a new alien species. Here’s he finally finds a use for Adric, too, asking for his assistance when it comes to mathematics. He’s not entirely dependant on them, though, and I rather love that Tegan’s knowledge of ancient history isn’t as great as all the other talents she’s suddenly acquired throughout the story!

The cliffhangers in this story deserve a mention too, while I’m at it. The one yesterday, in which the two drawings Tegan had made earlier in the episode have come to life and are revealed to be the frog creatures we’d met earlier in the episode, was a great one: perfectly Doctor Who with a sense of being somewhat bizarre and whimsical. Today’s is also very well done, as Bigon opens his chest to reveal his android interior. When he lifts up his face, it’s perhaps not quite as effective as they’d like it to be, but it’s a nice twist on the 1970s way of showing off androids.

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