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23 September 2014

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

Day 631: Warriors of the Deep, Episode One

Dear diary,

I think it’s fair to say hat Warriors of the Deep has a bit of a reputation. It polled 226 out of 239 in the recent Doctor Who Magazine poll (though, in fairness, two other Davison stories - Time-Flight and The King’s Demons - polled lower than this one did), is frequently referred to on various Doctor Who forums as ‘Warriors on the Cheap’, and has even been held up by me in this very marathon as an example of things going a little bit wrong at times. I doubt this story is anyone’s absolute number one (oh, who am I kidding? Of course it’s someone’s number one!), and it’s certainly not a story that I’d be reaching for when I fancy seeing some Doctor Who… but I’m not entirely sure why. I’ve seen it before, and it was the only one of the ‘Beneath the Surface’ DVD set I watched when I picked them up, but I have no strong memories of it at all. I know the Myrka is a fairly poorly done effect, because it’s something that’s drummed into our collective fan subconscious, as is the fact that the story is over-lit, and, and, and… oh, what I’m really saying is that I know this story is supposed to be a bit naff, but I’ve been really looking forward to watching it and seeing what I think.

And you know what I’m finding to be the worst thing about it so far? Peter Davison’s haircut. Of all the Doctors, he’s the one who’s hair alters the most in my mind. Yeah, yeah, I know that Jon Pertwee allowed his to grow out more and more with every passing season, that Troughton went from wig to his own hair, and that Colin Baker returns in Season Twenty-Three with that thing on his head, but they all happen gradually, either as time goes on, or between seasons. Right from the start, owing to the way that Season Nineteen was produced, the Fifth Doctor’s hairstyles have been all over the place. This is the shortest that it’s ever looked… and I simply don’t like it. My favourite Fifth Doctor style is the long floppy hair he sports through most of Season Twenty, and to go from that straight in to this! Maybe it was less noticeable at the time, with a bit of a break between The Five Doctors and this story, but it sticks out like a sore thumb to me watching in order day after day!

I also have to admit that I rather like the design of the Sea Base that we’ve got here… though with a few caveats. It’s multi-level, which is something that always scores well with me, and the opening shot in which we follow a character from the upper platform down some stairs and to the main control area below is fantastic. It’s also got a real ‘kit’ feel to it - especially in the corridors - where you get the impression that it’s all been mass-produced and brought down to the sea bed to be installed. Where it gets let down, though, is the lighting. I’ve mentioned before that this story is an example of over-lighting in the 1980s, and it’s telling that the setting here looks much better once the yellow alert is sounded, and all the lights get turned down a few notches! It’s also rather nice when the Doctor and his companions are exploring initially, and they get to wander around in ares of low lighting. It makes things look that bit more sinister, and that bit more real. I’ve head it said that when writing the story, Johnny Byrne was envisioning a rusty old submarine sort of setting, and I think that would have looked lovely with some of the more crafted lighting we get here.

While I’m on the subject of sets, I’d like to just mention the ‘new’ TARDIS console room. It was actually installed during yesterday’s episode, but I was too busy enjoying the party atmosphere to mention it! I’ve often thought of the 1983 - 1988 TARDIS as being my favourite version of the classic console room (although it switches places with the original 1963 design on a fairly regular basis), and it does feel like a breath of fresh air when it’s added to the programme. Something about the console that Davison has been using for the last two seasons has felt somewhat out of place with the more glossy look the programme has had since John Nathan-Turner took over. This new console room feels very 1980s, and I can’t help but love it. A few years ago, I commissioned a replica of this set in scale with the 5” Character Options figures (though I’ve sadly since sold it on - a house move no longer allowing the space!), and there was no debate in choosing which version of the room I was going to have made. The only thing that’s been bothering me here is that I now know that almost all the buttons on this console are just stuck on and not useable (I’ve tried pressing them at the Doctor Who Experience enough times…), and I’m trying to figure out if that’s a more recent development, or if Peter Davison is actually able to use them on screen here! 

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