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11 August 2014

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

Day 588: Four to Doomsday, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I’ve often said - indeed, I think I’ve mentioned it before in The 50 Year Diary - that my favourite Doctor Who story ever is the Eighth Doctor’s final comic story, The Flood. It’s always been the one Cyberman tale which just works for me. The one in which the entire idea of their species just feels most clear, and I think it’s the most effective use of them that we’ve ever seen. I won’t go into detail on the specifics of that story (although I will implore you to pick up a copy if you’ve never read it), but the gist is that the Cybermen are poisoning the rain with a drug which heightens people’s emotions. If something’s funny, you’ll laugh until you drop. If something’s a little sad, you’ll cry until you’ve no more tears. They then proceed to use this to show how awful emotions are, and thus how becoming a Cyberman isn’t something terrifying and scary, but rather something wonderful - a salvation from emotions.

I’m somewhat surprised, then, to see that Monarch is using a similar argument to this - and others presented in The Flood about humans being weak with disease and war and famine - to justify the way that he operates here. He talks of chicken pox, and heart disease, and my personal favourite, the description of internal and external organs as being ‘the greatest tyranny in the universe’. Lovely stuff.

While I’m at it, I should probably take this opportunity to praise Stratford Johns’ performance in this story, too. As we move further in to the 1980s, the programme will see a lot more of John Nathan-Turner’s insistence on casting ‘big names’ partly for the publicity that they’d bring to the show, rather than what they could bring to the role. Often in this cases, it’s theless successful attempts of bringing people in that are talked about, but it’s important to remember that he did manage casting coups such as this one, and I’m really loving every moment of Johns’ time on screen. Certainly, you could never be bored by him!

I’m also enjoying Peter Davison’s performance in this story, too, but for entirely different reasons. As I said yesterday, this being his first story recorded, you can see him trying to figure out exactly what he wants to do with this part over the next few years. Instances of the Sonic being waved around like a Harry Potter wand are at their peak in this episode (and it still doesn’t look right to see him using the tool at all), and there’s a few moments in the dialogue which are either not suited to the Doctor that Davison will ultimately evolve in to, or that he’s just not comfortable saying yet. I have a feeling that the line ‘the devils!’ probably falls into the former category, while ‘of course! That’s it! He’s after the silicon!’ is firmly in the latter.

Still, it’s entertaining to watch him feel his way around the part in this early stage, and although it may seem as though I’m complaining, I’m really not. There’s something quite charming about all of this, and it’s nice to see a version of the Fifth Doctor who is slightly different to the way I usually think of him.

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