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23 March 2013

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

Day Eighty-Two: The Death of Doctor Who (The Chase, Episode Five)

Dear diary,

If I thought it was a shame that they ruined the reveal of Bizarro Doctor yesterday by mixing between shots of Edmund Warwick and William Hartnell, then nothing could have prepared me for today. I still maintain that even though Warwick isn't a great likeness for Hartnell, I could probably suspend my belief enough to accept him as the robot Doctor during this episode.

As it is, by swapping between the two actors for that role… I sort of lost track. Partly because there was more than one occasion when I wasn't sure if it was meant to be the Doctor or Robodoc, and partly because I wasn't trying all that hard to keep track.

Hartnell plays the role of the robot perfectly when he encounters Barbara in the cave - he's sinister and menacing, and it's genuinely un-nerving to see the Doctor being played in this manner. In some ways, it's not all that far removed from the way that he was playing the Doctor in An Unearthly Child. Having since watched him soften into the giggling chap more prominent in the second season, this is really effective.

The issue is, then, that a few moments later, when the Warwick-Doctor pins Barbara down with his cane, it would be a lot more effective to see Hartnell playing the part. Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty dramatic moment as it is, but it could be so much more!

I think it;s in evidence during the confrontation between the real Doctor and his robot double - both halves of the conversation played by Hartnell himself. The effect works much better here, even if you do get the impression of Ian and Barbara watching a game of tennis…

Otherwise, this is just another fairly run-of-the-mill episode of Doctor Who. The design is quite nice (I love the mechanic city), if not outstanding, and the regulars all go about their business as usual. It's odd to see an Episode Five carried almost entirely by our four regular characters, but I think they get away with it - I didn't get the impression that the episode was lagging particularly.

It's interesting to note that the Daleks here aren't played for laughs as they have been elsewhere in the story. Once they've arrived in the jungle, they just go about there business of trying to capture the TARDIS crew (even if they're not very good at it!). In some ways, this is a bit of a shame: they're just sort of there, as opposed to being an interesting part of the narrative.

What I do love, though - and it's happened a few times in this story - is that they refer to the Doctor and his friends as 'the humans'. No attempt is made to correct them. The Daleks at this stage don't know that the Doctor is an alien, and so the programme keeps to that logic! It's a minor thing, but it really works for me. I can't remember if there's a specific point where they discover that he's not quite your average Earthman…

Next Episode: The Planet of Decision

Next Episode: The Planet of Decision 
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