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29 March 2013

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

Day Eighty-Eight: Four Hundred Dawns (Galaxy 4, Episode One)

Dear diary,

A nice shiny new recon of Galaxy 4 came out a couple of weeks back, as a special feature on the new release of The Aztecs DVD, as a place to house the recently-recovered third episode. Unfortunately, the recon on the DVD isn't a full length one, and the rest of the episodes have been cut down. In the interests of doing this marathon properly, I've therefore decided to stick with the audio release of the story - though I did get a nice 5-minute clip of real footage in today's episode…

One of the things I like about the narrated audios is that they allow my mind to wander a little, and take one-or-two liberties with the visual representation of the story. Having come from eighty-seven consecutive days of watching early Doctor Who evolve in its style, anything I'm imagining here isn't wildly different to what I'm used to them achieving in the studio (the planet isn't some far-flung alien visa, for example, with the suns blazing in the sky as though they were made of pure CGI), I am able to forget about any odd technical glitches, such as any damage to the set, or a snippet of boom shadow.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Peter Purves describes the world onto which the TARDIS has landed: 'the ground here is black and smooth'. I've worked in studio TC3 at the BBC Television Centre (may she rest in peace), and so the description of a studio floor was enough to pull me right out of things for a moment! I might not imagine a vast, sprawling landscape, but I might have at least imagined some sand on the ground…

In all, this first episode is something of a come-down from the highs I've had with The Time Meddler. It feels like a hangover from Season Two (which, being made at the end of that production period, I guess it is), and not one of the better examples of the run. There's some nice enough elements, but the whole thing is just a little bland.

The standout has to be the TARDIS crew, who have very quickly settled in, and who I'm liking a lot. The opening scenes here, in which Vicki cuts Steven's hair while the Doctor operates the ship are somewhat reminiscent of the first episode of The Chase, and suggest a team that are settled in with each other.

One of the complaints that I've often read about this story is that it was re-written at the last minute to incorporate Steven instead of Ian and Barbara, and that therefore, many of Babs' lines were relocated to the new arrival. While that may feel like the case in one or two places here, it helps to bed in the idea that Steven is comfortable in the TARDIS, and gives the impression that some time has passed since we left them at the end of the last season. I'd be willing to suggest that they've had one or two adventures together since then.

Steven's sense of sarcasm, which I so praised yesterday, is still in evidence, too, when he discusses Vicki's hair-cutting skills. All in all? A team I'm really enjoying, and I hope it continues through the rest of the story.

The one other thing that I wasn't expecting was a line from Maaga, when she describes her crew as 'products. Inferior products. Grown for a purpose and nothing more.' As soon as she said it, I was reminded of the Flesh from Matt Smith's second season - there's certainly something of a parallel! Are some of the Drahvins grown from the stuff? Assuming nothing comes along to contradict it further down the line, I'm going to be taking this as part of my own personal cannon from now on…

Next Episode: Trap of Steel

Next Episode: Trap of Steel 

Don't forget to 'like' the 50 Year Diary Facebook page ! I'm sure I'll be using it to ask questions etc in relation to the marathon! 

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