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27 March 2013

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

Day Eighty-Six: A Battle of Wits (The Time Meddler, Episode Three)

Dear diary,

I don't know if I just didn't notice it during The Crusade and the end of Planet of Giants, or if Douglas Camfield has suddenly stepped up a gear in his direction, but this episode continues to make The Time Meddler the absolute best direction that we've had in Doctor Who to date.

The scene where the Doctor confronts the Monk, with a stick to his back, is simply gorgeous, and the close-ups of the characters feel oddly out of place - the framing of them and the way that the camera cuts from shot, to shot, to shot… it's all far better than I've grown used to. It also has an interesting effect on the Doctor - Hartnell has never looked better in the role than he does here.

There's a shot, as the Monk steps outside for the second time, having been taunted by a ghostly knock to the door, when the Doctor steps up behind him, and fixes him in the back with the end of a branch. The way the Doctor stands, the way he acts, the way he speaks to the Monk… Hartnell performs the scene in a way quite unlike any other performance he's given, and it all really works.

And then there's that final shot, as Vicki and Steven crawl through a concealed door in the crypt and emerge out into the Monk's TARDIS. The way that the camera pulls backwards, the doors opening as the pair step inside. Frankly, there's something a little bit magical about that moment.

The problem is that I know it's coming! The cliffhanger to this episode is one of the more well-known from the programme's original run. It's a justly famous cliffhanger - it's fantastic! - but it means that the impact is slightly lessened for me. Imagine sitting down in 1965, having watched Doctor Who for just under two years, following it from the beginning, and then reaching this moment.

Everything you thought you knew is suddenly being re-written! I wondered just a few days ago at the Doctor's comment that he built the TARDIS. Even as late as that, there's still some indication that the ship is his, and it's the only one in the universe. Now we know otherwise.

I must admit, based on how much I'm enjoying this story so far, I was really worried about this cliffhanger. I was worried that it would just pass me by without feeling at all special, in the way that it rightly should do. Thankfully, a combination of the direction, Maureen O'Brien's performance and the way that the whole thing is handled really comes together to make give the scene a real impact, even if you do know what's coming.

Next Episode: Checkmate

Next Episode: Checkmate 
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