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8 September 2014

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

Day 616: Mawdryn Undead, Episode One

Dear diary,

It’s always felt really odd that the Brigadier comes back in the middle of the Fifth Doctor’s tenure, having been absent from the programme since Terror of the Zygons a full seven-and-a-ha;f years earlier. Doctor Who is a very different beast now to the one the Brig left, and he’s a very different man. For a start… he’s a teacher! Oh, I know, the story was originally planned to be bringing back William Russell as Ian - a call back to the original TARDIS team in the programme’s twentieth anniversary year - but it’s never quite sat right with me that the Brigadier simply turns up here with no fanfare, and in such a different setting.

This is usually the point where I’d ask if people even really knew who he was at the time, and if this had an impact when the episode first appeared, but I’m largely getting the impression from comments on this era over the last month or so that yes, of course it would have had an impact! A slightly different question for a you all today, then: had the Brigadier become, by this point, the legendary character we think of him as now? Or was that partly fuelled by the fact that he pops up a few times in the 1980s?

I’ve also only thought today that the Brigadier’s love of vintage cars could well be inspired by the time he spent with the Third Doctor - I certainly don’t remember him having all that much of an interest in them back then, so I’m adding that to my own personal ‘head cannon’ from now on!

We’ve also got the introduction of Turlough to the TARDIS crew… in what must be one of the strangest introductions ever. He’s brought in as a schoolboy, and set up as a troublemaker right from the very start. But then there’s all these references to him not liking Earth, and wanting to go ‘home’ - but it’s not been explicitly stated yet that he’s an alien, and I think I’m right in saying that we don’t find out the truth about his background until his final story - towards the end of the next season! It’s very unusual way to bring a new character in to the programme. I do love that he’s been taken under the employ of the Black Guardian and forced to kill the Doctor, though. I’ve always felt that this little ‘arc’ plays out over too many episodes, and I vaguely recall things getting a bit silly by the end, but at this stage, with the boy holding a rock over the Doctor’s head, it’s something new and exciting.

There’s not really a great deal else that I want to say for this first episode - it’s quite an unusual start to a new story, with everything moving a bit slower than I’d expect. Having just come from a story in which Tegan had become possessed and started terrorising people by the time the first cliffhanger rolled around, this is positively leisurely. That said, I would like to call out Davison for praise again, because I really love the Doctor that he’s settled in to playing. The moment when he runs in to the TARDIS - straight past Turlough, who’s fiddling with the controls - and then takes a moment before looking up to really take in the boy has to be one of my favourite scenes ever. I hooted at that one for ages. It’s also very reminiscent of the way he encounters the Tenth Doctor in Time Crash (I know, I know, I bang on about that seven-minute scene over and over, but I’ve spent so long thinking that the Fifth Doctor was a bit out of character in it that I love seeing all the little moments which clearly influence it!).

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