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11 October 2014

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

Day 649: The Caves of Androzani, Episode Three

Dear diary,

There’s a special feature on the DVD for The War Games all about regeneration in Doctor Who. It’s one of those features that you’d watch once and that’s it - I’ve been a fan of the programme long enough, and I know all there is to know about a topic like regeneration. Except, I’m not all that familiar with The Caves of Androzani, I’d never watched it properly before, and thus I’d never noticed that the Doctor doesn’t start his regeneration by laying on the floor of the TARDIS console room, with Peri leaning over him… he starts it here. It’s Clayton Hickman who points it out in the documentary:

”You get a fore-shadowing of his regeneration at the end of Part Three. Just when he’s trying to steal that spaceship, he starts looking at the stars, and you get the sort of Quantel-y regeneration thing coming towards him and he fights it off! So you’ve got a whole episode of Peter Davison surviving just so he can save Peri. It’s not flagged up - there’s no fan fare - it’s just him refusing to die until he’s saved his friend. That’s Davison all over.”

I have to admit that I really love this. Once it’s been pointed out, you can’t un-see it, and it does add a whole new layer to the Fifth Doctor’s departure. I’m also loving just how much this Doctor is being put through the wringer before he’s allowed to bow out. I’ve already touched on it in the last couple of days, but here we’ve got the Doctor being smacked by Sharaz Jek, abused by the gun runners, still in a lot of pain from the slow death of his infection, and now he’s crashing in to a planet! It’s fair to say that he’s really going out in style!

On the whole, I’m finding a lot to really love in The Caves of Androzani (and much of that does continue to come down to Robert Holmes’ way with scripts), but I can’t let it go by without mentioning the Magma Beast that provided the cliffhanger from yesterday’s episode in to today’s. I’ve seen it pointed out as the one flaw in an otherwise perfect story, and it has to be said that it really isn’t good, is it? Even Grahame Harper’s direction isn’t able to save it. I’m sort of surprised that it doesn’t get picked up on more ‘worst monster’ lists, with things like the Myrka, the Nimon, and the Gastropods.

And while it’s not a fault of the story, I feel the need to make note of how awful the subtitles on this DVD are. Not the ‘Information Text’ ones, but just the regular programme subtitles. I’ve taken to keeping them on while watching episodes, because they come in handy when working out how to spell a character’s name, or hearing some of the less audible parts of the dialogue. On the whole they never bear talking about because they simply do a good job of transcribing what’s happening on screen… but they’re appalling on this story, and have been since Episode One. There’s several lines that have been missed out completely or altered (changing the meaning in at least one case!), and in today’s episode they twice manage to get the planets ‘Major’ and ‘Minor’ the wrong way round! A shame, because the quality is usually rather higher!

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