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Roderick Donald

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11 May 2013

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

Day 131: The War Machines, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Five or six years ago, probably around the time that The War Machines was released on DVD, I remember creating a custom War machine figure, in scale with the Character Options figure range. It was before they'd made any of the classic Doctors, so I probably paired it up on the shelf with a Tenth Doctor toy. It wasn't very good, as customs go. I seem to recall that it was made from a Coco Pops box, coated in tin-foil.

The whole reason that I'd even bothered to make one is the same reason that I wonder fairly regularly when we're going to get an official War Machine figure from Character - they're freaking awesome!

The thing that often gets forgotten with the War Machines, or at least it's often forgotten by me, is the sheer size of the things. The Daleks at this point in the series' history are quite short. That has a charm of its own, but then you're faced up against one of these machines and it's huge! It's a good foot or so taller than many members of the cast, and that really helps to sell it as something of a threat.

The other thing of note with them is the amount of detail included. It's seen clearest on the segment of Blue Peter included on the DVD, in which Christopher Trace examines one of the machines up close. It's all fairly basic by today's standards, but it's still pretty impressive when immersed in this part of the programme's history. There's flashing banks of computers on the side of the creature, some kind of optical 'eye' built into the front, two guns coming out of the sides and the big metal 'fists', too, which get put to a fair bit of use in this episode.

The one thing that I'd always failed to notice, though, is the face. Oh yes, the War Machine has a face. It's right at the top of the thing, with the number on the machine forming the nose, and the long, dark box posing as the mouth. Once you've seen it, it's impossible to un-see. As if that wasn't enough, they then cut back to WOTAN, and he's got a face, too! Ah, I've ruined a great design for myself, now.

Seriously, though, Character Options. I'm waiting to give you my money. Make a War Machine! Give them little number stickers like you did with the Voc Robots! I'd form a little army of them on my shelf!

I can only imagine the impact that these things had on the viewers back in the day. A large chunk of the episode is given over to demonstrating just how powerful the machine is, first as it terrorises Ben again in a cliffhanger reprise, and then as it takes on the army by itself for the last third of the story. We've never seen a fight sequence quite like this in the show, so it really makes an impact.

The only downside to having such a long sequence is that we see several things over and over again. This is partly a result of the episode being patched back together to cover a few missing parts (though I'm not sure I'd have noticed them so much had I not foolishly watched a documentary on how it was done!), and partly the result of them jus twanging to show it off.

There's a great moment in the warehouse when the War Machine crashes through a pile of crates and sends them scattering as it just powers on. Unfortunately, by the time it's reached the street outside, it seems to go out of its way to knock over smaller piles of boxes almost to show that it can. It's the equivalent of a teen who's lost a fight kicking over a bin as he retreats. Y'know, just to prove that he's still 'hard'.

I think you can just about forgive it, though, because the fight really is fantastic in places. It also leads to one of the best cliffhangers that we've seen so far, when the army retreats to safety, and the Doctor stands tall, looking fantastic in his hat and cloak, squaring up to the machine. The camera pulls into a close-up on William Hartnell, and it's possibly the best he's ever looked. A shame that the picture seems a tad over-exposed, here, but it's still a great moment.

The War Machines is still very much Ben's story at this stage. Polly gets plenty to do in this episode, under the control of WOTAN, and Anneke Wills gets a chance to show us what she can do (The moment that she realises she's let Ben escape because he was her friend is lovely), but she's still only just involved. Ben's the one performing all of the companion role at this stage, and it's still fantastic to see. Just as Steven came along and washed Ian clean from my mind, I have a sneaking suspicion that Ben may do the same to our space pilot!

It's also nice to see Dodo getting a brief mention. It's only in passing, and it comes again as the Doctor worries about Ben and Polly, but it's nice to see that she's not been completely forgotten just yet.

8/10 
10 May 2013

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

Day 130: The War Machines, Episode Two

Dear diary,

When you think of companion pairings with the Doctor, there are two which only exist as an 'and'. You've got Ian and Barbara, and now Ben and Polly. Now, I've seen plenty of Ian and Bab's adventures before I embarked on this marathon, so those two have always had quite distinct personalities in my mind. Ben and Polly though have always seemed fused together in my mind - you can't have one without the other.

If I did have to pick the one that's more prominent, though, I think I'd go for Polly. I think it's simply because unlike Michael Craze, who plays Ben, Anneke Wills (Polly) is still with us. She's quite prominent in the Doctor Who world, providing linking narration for some of the soundtracks, turning up in Big Finish plays (and not always as Polly - in the days before the Companion Chronicles range allowed us new adventures with the first few Doctors, Wills played Lady Louisa Pollard, mother of Eighth Doctor companion Charley), on DVD commentaries and on special features. She makes hundreds of appearances at Doctor Who conventions, and is all-round a lovely person.

I've only met her the once, when running a signing with Terry Molloy about five years ago. A woman arrived at the desk to ask if she could cut in and say hello to her 'old friend' Terry. Imagine our surprise when we realised that it was Polly Wright! Still, the fact that she's so ubiquitous within Who means that she's always felt like the half of the 'and' pairing that's stronger.

So it's surprising to watch today's episode, in which Polly has little to do but general secretary things, and it's Ben who fulfills the role of the Doctor's companion more actively. He's sent off to scour the part of the city where the tramp has been killed, and to see if he can find anything out that may help them discover what's really going on. He even gets to take centre stage for the cliffhanger, as a War Machine advances on him.

It's good, too, because Ben's actually great, isn't he? Craze's accent if fantastic and refreshing (Dodo's was a bit of a shock to begin with, but it was firmly RP by the end), and I'm hoping they don't tune it down. It's also interesting to see Ben treating the Doctor with respect simply because he's an older gentleman, and that's what Ben has always been taught to do. I'm really pleased that he's breaking himself out of the 'Ben and Polly' mould so early, with a great opportunity to shine.

It's following Ben out to the warehouse in Covent garden that gives us today's opportunity to see how strange this story is. Forget alien planets, or the Wild West, this is where the series is most alien to me. Right in the heart of central London in the swinging sixties. There's a scene early on in the episode when the Doctor gets into a taxi with his companions, and it's bizarre. It's not what the show does at this point, so I really don't know how to take it! It's looking great, though.

Oh, but Dodo. Poor, poor Dodo. I knew that this was her last episode, and that she ends up turfed from the story with little more than a cursory wave of the hand, but how desperate does the Doctor sound to get rid of her? When he tells Ben that Dodo is feeling 'a little under the weather', the sailor hopes that she'll be ok. The Doctor cuts him off, though, proclaiming that she'll be fine, and he's more worried about Polly, anyway. There we are, then. I guess he's made his decision!

Jackie Lane doesn't even get much of a chance to do much in her goodbye. Apart from trying to tempt the Doctor off in the wrong direction, and some general 'hypnotised' acting, that's her lot, and she's off to the country. A real shame. Dodo's only been a short-term companion by comparison to some of the other's we've has, but it's a pity not to see her given a proper send off.

But the city is under attack, and Doctor Who is still required (see? It is his name in this point of the programme! Doctor Who is required)!

8/10 
9 May 2013

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

Day 129: The War Machines, Episode One

Dear diary,

The War Machines is one of those strange Doctor Who stories that I always think of being very fond of, but don't think I've actually ever watched all the way through. If I have seen it right to the end, then I doubt that I was paying proper attention to it. I was probably using it for background noise.

And yet, this one has always had an effect on me. Whenever I go to London, I always keep an eye out for the BT tower, and i think my fascination with it comes partly from this story. The rest of my interest comes from a general love of the 1960s as a decade. It's easy enough to look back on it with rose-tinted glasses, but there's a lot about that age that I really love, and it gets summed up perfectly by Tony Benn in a special feature about the tower on this DVD: 'confidence was so high, people really did believe that they could do anything'.

1960s London, in particular, is a magical place. People talk of 'Swinging London', and it's really an image that's stuck, fifty years on. It's a decade that's symbolised by freedom and fashion. I think that's why I've got a bit of an affinity towards this story, because The War Machines takes Doctor Who - another icon of the 60's, along with the Beatles - and places it right in the heart of the city, just as the decade is about to explode. England won the World Cup mere weeks after this story went out.

Right from the start, when the Doctor and Dodo step out of the TARDIS and onto a London street, it feels vibrant and new. I said yesterday that the arrival of Jenna-Louise Coleman to the new series had given it a new lease of life, and this story seems to be doing the same thing for Season Three. Steven has gone, and by the end of this story, Dodo will have departed, too. We're off onto a new phase of the programme.

Ben and Polly signify this perfectly - the pair of them light up the screen from the moment they start sharing it. It's telling that I'd forgotten Polly was ever Professor Brett's assistant in this story, I thought she came ready made as a companion pair with Ben at the nightclub. It adds something to it, though, seeing them meet for the first time, knowing that they're about to share a number of adventures in time and space.

Dodo doesn't fare quite so well, sadly. She's good fun to begin with, having a laugh with the Doctor (there's a really wonderful moment early on, when the Doctor has set off for the tower, and she chases after him up the street. As she catches up with him, they link arms and smile at each other. Never has the idea of Dodo as a replacement granddaughter felt more suitable), and being excited to be back in her own time and place.

There's an element of Rose Tyler to her, here. In The End of the World, having returned to Earth to be reassured by the Doctor that everything is ok, all Rose can think about is how much she wants some chips. It's nice! It's normal! All those adventures, out among the stars, they're fantastic. There's nothing like getting back home, though. It's that same feeling you get after a long holiday away. Dodo really did just stumble into the TARDIS the last time it landed here (is that why the Doctor made that 'out of order' sign?), and she's seen so much since then, but now she's back. Lovely.

In some ways, it feels obvious that she'll be leaving in this story. She's back home in her own time, her own city… There's a couple of obvious replacements hanging out with her down at the Inferno club. It's a shame I know she's not going to get the exit she deserves. And it looks like she's not going to get a chance to shine too much as a character before she goes, either. She spends parts of this episode complaining about a headache, before being taken under the control of Wotan, and sent off to do his bidding. A shame, yes, but it's good fun to watch. We've never had a companion hypnotised like this before, and Jackie Lane is making the most of it, doing it brilliantly.

…Hm? Sorry? What? Oh, no, it's ok. We don't have to talk about that bit of the story. It's fine.

Oh, all right, then. You know the bit. “Doctor Who is required”. It's a moment that causes a fair bit of controversy among fans who scream as loud as possible that his name isn't 'Doctor Who' (it doesn't half wind up my other half when I tell her that's his name). The thing is, at this point in the programme, it is his name! There's no getting away from it!

For as long as Gerry Davies is sitting in the script editor's chair, the lead character in this programme is called 'Doctor Who', and there's nothing we can do about it. I can't say it particularly bothers me, but I'm interested to know what others think. Leave a comment, or a tweet, or pop over to the 50 Year Diary Facebook page and let me know what you think.

Is it his name? At least for now? Does it drive you mad when people call him 'Doctor Who'? I'm genuinely interested to know!

Is it his name? At least for now? Does it drive you mad when people call him 'Doctor Who'? I'm genuinely interested to know! 
8 May 2013

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

Day 128: The Savages, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Susan and David fell in love, sharing special moments in the heat of a Dalek conquest. Ian and Barbara spent almost two years trying to get back home, and finally managed it in a fully-functional Dalek time machine. Vicki remained in ancient Troy to convince her love that she hadn't betrayed him.

Katarina sacrificed herself to give her friends a chance at escape. Brett Vyon was wrongly shot down in cold blood by his own sister in the pursuit of justice, and she then met her fate when brought up against the might of the Daleks' Time Destructor.

Steven Taylor… was pretty much booted off the TARDIS when the Doctor saw an opportunity to get rid of him. Ah. Something's not right, there. When I started this story, I said that one of the two things I knew about it was that Steven departed in Episode Four. Had I not known that, though, and had just been watching through blindly… I don't think I'd have known this was his final tale. There's nothing wrong with the reasons for his departure: The Savages have seen enough from him to want him as their leader, and the Doctor concurs. But it comes from nowhere, and looking at the tele snaps, Steven himself even looks confused by the way things are unfolding.

Every time a companion has left the series so far (or, at least, in the case of the 'regular' companions, for which there;s no debate over), I've praised how well it's been handled. There's always plenty of little hints in the story that the time has come, and when we reach the end it only feels natural that they should be on the wrong side of the TARDIS doors when it departs. What this story needed was a few instances of Steven musing that there was a 'better way' to rule this planet, and a solution that would allow the two peoples of the world to live in peace.

We needed a few more moments of his imparting wisdom to the Savages, really stepping up and showing them that he knew what he was doing. As it is, we know he'll probably make a pretty good job of things, because we've been following his journey for some time now, but they've only known him for a few days! It's a shame to see the age of 'sudden departures' coming into play here (and even more prominently in the next story), knowing that it will stretch out across a good deal more companion exits in the future.

Before listening to this episode, I heard a Peter Purves interview online. I think it had been cobbled together from a number of sources, but it was pretty well done, and I certainly enjoyed it. In the interview, Peter made a statement that I've heard him say on a number of occasions before now - that he'd like the Doctor to return to the world of the Savages, and find that Steven has become a total despot. The more I think about it, the more I really like the idea, and I think it could work. It's almost needed as a counter balance to the sudden departure - Steven just doesn't know what he's doing, so he makes things worse. I'd love to hear something like this… maybe Peter needs to pitch the idea to Big Finish?

I'll speak about this episode as a whole in a moment, but first I want to just take a moment to think over how fantastic Steven has been in the series. For years and years, now, I've always simply listed Ian as being my favourite First Doctor companion. Having done his stories in order, followed by Stevens, though, I think it's fair to say that my allegiance has switched. I think it has something to do with the length of time that both characters have stayed with the TARDIS. By the end of Ian and Barbara's time in the series, I was just sick of them. I'd stopped enjoying their adventures, and I think it had a negative effect on the Second Series for me.

Steven has stuck around for just about half as long as those two did, and he leaves now with me wanting to see a bit more from him. I'm not really ready for him to go. Even if it's just another story or two, to round out the season, I'm keen to have more from him. That, I think, is the secret. Get the companion out before i tire of them. A similar thing happened with Amy Pond - while I was never overly keen on her from the beginning, by the time that Season Seven rolled around I'd just had enough. I didn't care about the character. Now that we've embarked on this second half of the series, with Janna-Louise lighting up the screen every week, it feels fresh and new. Fantastic.

On the whole, I think The Savages has been something of a surprise. It's never been a story that people often speak about, but rather just lump it in as part of the 'missing' episodes. It hasn't got the reputation of something like Marco Polo or The Web of Fear to pull it out from the crowd. Having just had a look at the DWM 'Mighty 200' poll from 2009, in which readers were asked to rate all the stories up to that point, The Savages came in at #162. Out of 200! Even Love & Monsters came in nine places higher, and a large proportion of fandom seems to hate that story!

I have to wonder if it simply is a case that people just don't know about this story. That's pretty much the boat I was in, knowing it was there at the end of Season Three, but not really knowing what it was about. In many ways, it's Doctor Who by numbers: and there's lots of similarities to other tales throughout (I've compared it to bits of The Keys of Marinus, The Space Museum, The Celestial Toymaker, and The Gunfighters over the last few days), and there's bits of it that will crop up so many times in the future of the programme (mostly the look of the TARDIS stood in the quarry) that it feels a bit like we've seen it all before… but everything here is done really very well!

I'm so desperately keen to give this episode an '8'. I've really enjoyed it on the whole, and the scene of people trashing the lab must have looked fantastic, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Letting Steven go so suddenly and with no warning is too unforgivable. I'll be lowering the score a little, but moving The Savages right up my list of 'stories I'd love to see recovered soon please'. Seems like a fair trade-off to me.

7/10 
7 May 2013

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

Day 127: The Savages, Episode Three

Dear diary,

You can sort of tell that we’re reaching the tail-end of William Hartnell’s time in the role, now. In the first couple of years, ‘holiday spotting’ was something that each character went through for maybe two episodes a season. Usually, it was a case of seeing which regular had the least screen-time, and spent it away from the others. Now, the Doctor is taking more and more time away from the screen. He is in this episode, but he doesn’t really do a whole lot more than groan a bit.

I made a similar point during The Gunfighters, that the Doctor seemed to be carrying less and less of the action – and obviously The Celestial Toymaker sees him invisible for a large chunk of the time. There’s a real sense of the Doctor (and Hartnell) starting to slow up, which is a real shame. After the heights he’s hit at points recently (I’m thinking mostly of how fantastic he looks during some of The Time Meddler and Masterplan) I’m sad to see him being whittled down.

It means that we’ve got today, as in The Celestial Toymaker, a chance to think about replacing him. There we had the suggestion that he may come back as a different actor, here it’s seeing how another actor may take on the part, while still playing it in the style of Hartnell himself. Frederick Jaeger does a great job of impersonating the Doctor: I was stood giggling to myself for a while as it happened. It really is spot-on as impressions go, and it works quite well. It’s an interesting idea for the transference, though are we to assume that this doesn’t happen when they transfer the Savages? It’s only because the Doctor is a time traveller, or at least a ‘higher’ life form?

Fun as it is to see here on this occasion, I can’t imagine anyone playing the part as Hartnell’s Doctor for any sustained period of time. It’s a very good impression, but it’s just not him. The biggest shame is that, after today, we’ve only got another thirteen episodes before he leaves, so I want to soak up as much Hartnell as I can before then – to misquote the Tenth Doctor, I don’t want him to go!

Still, Hartnell not being in the episode much means that Peter Purves and Jackie Lane are left to carry the majority of the episode. The Wife in Space blog once made a point that they ‘should have called the show Ian’. At this stage, they might as well be calling it Steven. It wouldn't last all that long (I know he's off in the next episode, even if this story has yet to signpost it!), but it's good enough, 'cos I'm still really liking Steven as a companion.

I was worrying yesterday that things were about to take a sharp downturn, with not enough plot to sustain the remaining 50-minute running time of the story. Thankfully, that's not yet happened, and it's been averted by clever use of… Episode Three Syndrome!?! I'm sure I've spoken about this before, but I always think that three episodes is the optimum length for most of 20th-century Doctor Who. There's more than a few of the four-part stories that could stand to lose about an episode's worth of material from the latter half.

I tend to call it 'Episode Three Syndrome' - that feeling that you need to fill twenty-five minutes of screen time before the climax, so you mostly have the characters running up and down corridors, getting captured and escaping, and ending the episode in more-or-less the same position that they started in.

Here, all of that happens. Steven and Dodo are pursued by the guards all the way to the cave homes of the Savages, who help to shelter them, and lead them down a tunnel in an attempt to hide. They're followed all the way, though, until a guard has them cornered… and they escape! They hurry back to the city to free the Doctor, who is still begin held in the lab. They retrieve him, take him out into the corridor, where they're then gassed and are under threat from a deadly gas.

Most of this could probably have come at the start of Episode Four in a (very) condensed form: Steven and Dodo are helped by a Savage to enter the city, they rescue the Doctor, but then get gassed. It really works, though. It allows us to see more of the Savages as a people and helps to give them more depth. It's also a good thing that the tele snaps make their caves look impressive. We've seen Christopher barry directing in caves before, and he's always done a good job of it, but this looks much better than I'm used to.

And then all the stuff in the corridor at the end looks fantastic, too. I've already praised the design of this corridor in previous entries, but it looks great with the smoke billowing down it. The scene is then enhanced by William Hartnell's performance. I know I've said all he really does is stumble around and groan a lot, but looking at the tele snaps… how un-nerving does he look? There's one particular shot (It's the fourth one from the end of page 65 in the new DWM special, for anyone following along at home), where he's stood between Steven and Dodo, and he's completely out of it.

It almost looks as though he's had a stroke, and it's a state that we've never seen the Doctor in before. It'd unsettling, and really helps to sell the threat of the transference to us. Forget the Daleks, this is what you should be scared of. Anything that can do this to the Doctor is not good…

7/10 
6 May 2013

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

Day 126: The Savages, Episode Two

Dear diary,

Worryingly, I’m about to compare this story to The Space Museum. Yes! I can feel your collective shudder as you read that. What I mean is that there’s several elements common to both of these stories. Not particularly in-depth ones, but a few all the same. The main thing is that you’ve a group of ‘leaders’ (The Moroks/The Elders) and a group of people ready to rise up against them (The Xerons/The Savages). Were Vicki here, she’d have incited a rebellion by now. I’m guessing that’s going to be Steven or Dodo’s role before too long.

Then there’s the Doctor being strapped down and prepared for an experiment. In The Space Museum, it works as a threat because we’ve already seen the outcome – the Doctor and his friends frozen in the glass display cases. Here, the threat comes from having just watched the experiment performed on Nanina, and having seen the after-effects of the experiment on Wylda, who’s left to ‘recover’ outside the city.

There's also the fact that there's no easily identifiable 'monsters' in either of these two stories. In both cases, we're very much presented with a side of 'good' and 'bad', but there's no rubber suits on display, and no monster-of-the-week to latch onto. In some ways, it feels like this could be a historical story - there just happens to be a laboratory of advanced equipment and some light guns dropped in.

Thankfully, I’m enjoying this story more than I did The Space Museum. Today is a bit of a step down from yesterday (but then we’ve yet to have two 9/10 days in a row in this marathon, so it doesn’t come as a massive surprise), but it’s still kept me interested.

One of the things that I’m really enjoying is the look of this tale. Regular readers will know that I tend to experience the missing episodes by listening to the narrated soundtracks (recons tend to let my mind wander too much), so often my idea of what a story looks like is based on any surviving episodes, half-remembered photos from the tales, or simply what my head decides to come up with. The Myth Makers, for example was entirely in my mind, with the exception of the horse, which I can remember from plenty of promo images.

This time around, though, I’m supplementing the soundtracks by having a look through the recent First Doctor tele-snap special from the guys at DWM. I’m not sticking slavishly to following along the images in time with the soundtrack, it’s more of a case where I listen to the episode and have a glance over them. Occasionally, I've nipped over to the BBC's Doctor Who website, where they're available at a larger size.

And some of them are gorgeous! That corridor down to the lab is stunning (and there’s plenty of photos of it, too. I keep waiting for one to show it up as being awful, but it hasn’t happened yet. Hooray!). The design of the savages is pretty great, too. They’re one of those images from Doctor Who that I was always aware of but didn’t really know anything about them. When the story began, I figured that they were the Elders. Here they are, though, and they look fantastic. Bizarre, yes. Unsettling, perhaps. But great!

(Actually, in some ways, I'm a bit saddened that they aren't the Elders. In my mind, these strange, ancient men were savages who lived on a barren planet - most of the photos show them in the shrubbery - and that the story was going to involve them. Now I've experienced half the tale, I really love the idea of these people tracking the Doctor across time and space using primitive technology! Ah well.)

The tele-snaps also show plenty of the location filming from Doctor Who’s first alien quarry planet. From what we can see, it looks pretty impressive, and it actually works! It's on display better in the first episode than it is here today, but I'm really taken aback by it - Doctor Who's quarry planets are the stuff comedians have joked about for years, but they've nailed it on the first attempt!

The images don’t really give much of an indication of how the piece will have been directed, but thinking back over Chris Barry’s previous work, I can’t remember being floored by it. I’m choosing to imagine it as directed by Douggie Camfield instead – his camera work in those corridors would be gorgeous! That's not to say that Christopher Barry wouldn't have done a great job with it - but since I've got the free-reign to imagine…!

My worry now is where the story may go from here. It’s been quite a strong start, and the cliffhanger is pretty good as well (it’s always of interest when the Doctor is incapacitated like this, and separated from his companions – and, therefore, from help!). The danger is that rebellion seems the next logical step for the story, but I don’t know wether that’ll be enough to fill the next 50 minutes. The Space Museum didn’t really hold a great deal of interest for me once the rebellion started, so I’m concerned for the future of this one…

7/10 
5 May 2013

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

Day 125: The Savages, Episode One

Dear diary,

The recently released Doctor Who Magazine special, which reprints a number of First Doctor-era teles naps (which I’m using to supplement the narrated soundtrack for this story) features an introduction for this story by Jonathan Morris, which describes The Savages as having 'the dubious distinction of being the lest-known Doctor Who story’. You know what? He’s not wrong.

There’s several eras of Doctor Who with which I’m not all that familiar. I can rattle off the order of stories pretty well for the most part, but Seasons Fifteen and Seventeen often get a bit muddled in my mind, for example. Ditto the latter few bits of the Hartnell era. I know now that it runs Savages / War Machines / Smugglers / Tenth Planet, but for a long time, this one and The Smugglers were pretty interchangeable in my mind. They both begin with ‘S’, they come at the tail end of the First Doctor’s tenure, and they don’t exist at all. Easily forgotten.

Add to that the fact that I don’t really know anything about this story - it features some people in heavy ‘old age’ make up, and Steven departs, that’s all I could tell you – and it doesn’t really shoot very high on my list of most anticipated stories. Which is a shame, really, because this first episode is brilliant!

I love it when this happens. I’ve sat down to listen to the first episode, not really knowing what to expect from the story, and I’ve been gripped from the word ‘go’. There’s a lot of the feeling of a Season One story in here – the Doctor and his companions arrive on a strange alien world which may not be where they think it is. The Doctor goes to explore (a concept that I praised quite a lot during An Unearthly Child and The Daleks), before they’re captured by the natives.

Once inside their city, the trio are treated like royalty. In many ways, it put me in mind of Morpheton from The Keys of Marinus, and despite what you might be thinking… that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Enough time has passed since then for me to quite enjoy it feeling similar in tone.

Crucially, though, there’s an added extra level to the proceedings here. The Elders of this civilisation aren’t just reacting to the arrival of the Doctor and his companions – they’ve been actively waiting for it: Plotting the TARDIS’ journey across time and space, and predicting his arrival (Interesting, since the ship until now has seemed fairly random in its landings. Is there a greater pattern to them that we perhaps can’t see?). It even leads to a great title being given to the Doctor - ‘You are known to us as the Traveller From Beyond Time’ – which helps to mythologise him even more to these people. It’s an interesting twist in the format, and one which really helped to drag me in pretty quick. I’ll be interested to see where they’re going with this, and if we discover any more about the way they’ve followed the Doctor’s adventures up to now (maybe they can pick up BBC transmissions, and his arrival was signposted by that week’s Radio Times?)

Steven and Dodo are paired away from the Doctor again, here. Surely they must be the companion team that spend the least amount of time actually with the Doctor? They’re relatively close-knit during The Ark, but spend only about ten minutes of The Celestial Toymaker together, and not a great deal more in The Gunfighters. Here, they’ve been separated as soon as we’re done with the cliffhanger reprise, and only briefly reunited later on.

It’s probably a good thing, then that they get plenty to do anyway. It’s through this pair that we first get our real exposure to the titular savages, and its via their tour of the city that we really get to see that there’s something sinister going on that’s neatly tucked away behind all this gloss and happiness. The best way I could think of describing it when Peter Purves’ narration talks of a guard slipping out of a concealed door was the ‘Utilidors’ at Disneyland – a hidden network of tunnels and staff areas tucked away from prying eyes for the use of the staff and accessed through secret doors dotted right across the park.

I’m hoping that the rest of the story continues in this vein – the Hartnell tale that I – probably – know the least about, and it could turn out to be the surprise hit of the run!

9/10 
4 May 2013

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

Day 124: The O.K. Corral (The Gunfighters, Episode Four)

Dear diary,

The big draw of this episode, of course, was always going to be the gunfight. I don't know all that much about the 'Wild' West, but I know enough to understand that in a Western film, the O.K. Corral is associated with a big fight. I also understand enough about Doctor Who in this period to know that it'll either be a triumph or a real letdown.

Thankfully, it comes out as the former. It doesn't hurt that it's all been done on film, and therefor instantly looks better than it could have done in Riverside studios. The real star of the gunfight surely has to be Doc Holliday, who really comes into his own here. Throughout the story, he's been used as a kind of comic relief. From pulling the Doctor's tooth in Episode One, through to being 'held up' by Dodo in yesterday's episode, he's never really carried too much of a threat.

And yet we keep having characters turn up to seek revenge against him for being a cold killer. The story opens with the Clantons out to get him, and Johnny Ringo joins in at the halfway point. We've seen the Doc kill before now and he spent some time at the start of the tale manipulating people into thinking that our Doctor was him, so that people could shoot first and he'd slip away scott-free.

Here, though, we finally get to see some of his true personality. During the gunfight, he's cooler than Johnny Ringo! We even get to see that demonstrated when he kills the man. The whole sequence is well played, and really tense - it's everything that you'd expect from a Western gunfight. It's almost a shame that the Doctor doesn't keep Holliday's 'Wanted' poster, though. I like the idea that he'd have kept it hung up in the TARDIS somewhere.

Speaking of the Doctor, I've yet to mention just how good he looks in this story. His costume has always been about right for this era, but it's surprising how much the addition of a stetson and a Sheriff's badge makes it look spot-on. It could have been designed especially for this story and it wouldn't look out of place. It's also surprising how comfortable the Doctor looks in the Old West. There's a moment in the Sheriff's office where he's leaning against a pillar and he looks more cool and relaxed than I think we've ever seen him.

On the whole, it's fair to say that this story easily defies its long-standing reputation as 'The Worst Doctor Who Story Ever'. With the exception of Episode Two (which may have just been an off-day for me), I've been hooked right the way through. There's been a perfect mix of comedy and drama, and it really does surprise me that it took them until last year's A Town Called Mercy to return to this type of setting - it suits the programme so well! It's the kind of place I can imagine the series going in the 1980's very easily, and I'm a bit saddened that it never happened!

Perhaps most notably, though, this is the last time in the classic run that the series uses individual titles for each episode! I have to admit that I've never really thought all that much of them: it was just something that the programme did for the first couple of years, and then dropped out of doing. Having actually watched all these episodes like this… I've realised how much I like having the individual titles! It adds something fun to the end of the episodes, and I'm going to be missing those 'Next Episode' captions.

But for today, we do have a 'Next Episode' caption, so for the last ('official') time…

Next Episode: Dr. Who and the Savages

Next Episode: Dr. Who and the Savages 
3 May 2013

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

Day 123: Johnny Ringo (The Gunfighters, Episode Three)

Dear diary,

One of the things that often seems to be cited for people disliking The Gunfighters is the singing narration. I can't say it's really been bothering me too much (if anything, it adds a certain amount of character, and certainly makes the story stand out!), but today's episode is starting to try my patience with the idea - there's an awful lot of recapping everything we've just watched.

This episode is also home to the best use of the singing narration, though. It comes once we've seen Charlie the barman shot, and the narration plays out over a shot of his lifeless body slumped across the bar. The camera pulls back slowly from the image, toward the top of the stairs. It really leaves Charlie's death to linger, in a way that many in the series don't.

His death, along with that of Warren at the end, and one of Doc Holliday's 'old friends' off screen really paint a picture of the Wild West being a dangerous place - just as dangerous as any alien planet that the TARDIS might land on. It's great to see this, and I have to admit that I'm enjoying the period more than I thought I would - I've never been the biggest fan of Westerns (there's nothing wrong with them, I've just never been all that keen), but this one is really drawing me in.

It helps, I think, that the sets are so nice. I think I'm right in saying that this was the first time a Western of this scale was mounted as a fully studio-bound production in the UK, but I don't think you can tell. The style of the piece certainly feels like a stereotypical Western, and all the right boxes are being ticked. The only thing I could take issue with is that the hotel the Doc, Kate, and Dodo stay at has a corridor set that's near identical to one from a Fawlty Towers story. That doesn't half lower the tension.

Praise also has to be given to the man this episode takes its name from - Johnny Ringo. He's, again, fairly stereotypical as a 'bad' cowboy, dressed head-to-toe in black, strolling into the Last Chance Saloon and lighting his cigarette over one of the lamps. He says very few words to begin with, but it's enough to leave Charlie quivering in his presence… and then he shoots him dead anyway.

He's arrived in the tale at just the right moment, in time to perk things up for me a bit when things were in danger of dragging on. He brings with him a new backstory for Kate, and a new angle towards the various vendettas against Doc Holliday. The next episode's title gives a good indication as to what's coming, but I must confess that, as has often been the case with historicals of late, I've not got much knowledge of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Frankly, anything could happen and I'd be none the wiser.

Next Episode: The O.K. Corral

Next Episode: The O.K. Corral 
2 May 2013

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

Day 122: Don't Shoot the Pianist (The Gunfighters, Episode Two)

Dear diary,

I think The Gunfighters is going to be one of those odd ones where I don't quite know what to make of it. Yesterday's episode was pretty good, and I enjoyed it, but today… I just couldn't really get into it. In the end, I watched the first 15 minutes a bit half-heartedly, went away for an hour or so before dragging myself back to finish the episode off. I don't know what happened, but it did the trick - I was really caught up in the last ten minutes of the story!

There's still an awful lot to like about all of this - Peter Purves is still on top form playing up the comedy in the situation. His American accent may not be great, but it's fun enough to listen to, and it's a darn sight better than many of the others that we've got on display. It's a shame that Dodo isn't being given much to do, though. She spends most of this episode locked up in her hotel room asking questions to further the plot quicker.

Actually, while I've briefly mentioned it… why have they got hotel rooms? The TARDIS is parked just up the street, and at the point yesterday that they decided to book them there was nothing preventing them from returning to the ship. It also came before the Doctor decided that this could be something of a holiday, so it's not as though they'd made an active choice to stay outside the ship. Not that it really matters, of course, but it just seems like an odd excuse to give Dodo her hiding place.

I'm growing to quite like the guest cast in all this, too. Doc Holliday was good enough yesterday during the scene where he pulled the Doctor's tooth (are Time Lord teeth just like human ones? I guess they must be…), but he continues to be great here. Praise especially to the moment he comes down the stairs of the Last Chance Saloon, admits that he's the Doc, and shoots a cowboy. It's moments like that one that helped to bring me back into it toward the end of the episode.

Wyatt Earp is making less of an impression on me (and it doesn't help that every time he turns up on screen, I can't help but wonder why his 'Alien Attax' card is so much more common than the others. I must have about ten of him!), but he's providing a nice sounding board for Hartnell. There's some great dialogue for the Doctor again today ('People keep giving me guns, and I do wish they wouldn't!'), and Hartnell gets to pull a priceless facial expression over the closing credits.

For now, I'm willing to say that I still disagree with the 'worst story ever' moniker (really, Jeremy? Worse that The Space Museum? Really?), but I'm hoping that the second half is as engaging as the latter part of today's episode - I don't want this to be one of those tales that becomes a struggle to enjoy.

Next Episode: Johnny Ringo

Next Episode: Johnny Ringo 
1 May 2013

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

Day 121: A Holiday for the Doctor (The Gunfighters, Episode One)

Dear diary,

“To the pain that is a toothache,
the Doctor's not immune,
Now there'll be blood upon the sawdust,
at the Last Chance Saloon”

Ah, The Gunfighters. The worst Doctor Who story of all time. That's the common thinking, isn't it? The story was pretty much declared as the worst in the mid-70s (based on low viewing figures, I believe) and that label has kind of stuck over the years. As with much of Season Three, I've never seen it, so I'll be making my mind up as I go along over the next few days.

It has to be said, if we're basing things on this first episode alone, we're far from scraping rock bottom. We're firmly back in comedy territory now, and it works. It's hard to believe that this is the same show that only a handful of episodes back gave us something dark like The Massacre - we've swung wildly in another direction here.

There's humour to be found almost from the off, with Steven and Dodo thrilled by where they've landed. It's nice to see that, actually, as it's become rare of late. Often, the format this year has been 'Where are we Doctor? Oh really? Let's get on with the adventure, then!'. The reaction here puts me in mind of Barbara's happiness at meeting Marco Polo, or finding herself in an Aztec temple - it helps to make the companions seem real.

Dodo's pretty quick to go an raid the TARDIS wardrobe again (though Steven's gone for something pretty outlandish today, too), and it seems more-and-more as though that's her gimmick. She models the outfits available to the discerning time/space traveller. It seems an odd thing to say, but I like that they actively have to go and change once they realise where they are - it, again, makes it feel like they're exploring rather than just being dumped down somewhere and heading off to take part in the story.

In the End of the Line documentary on this DVD, Peter Purves comments that he “hated [The Gunfighters] so much” when they were making it (though he's changed his mind since then). It seems strange, because he's on fine form here. Steven tries so hard to fit in as a rough, tough cowboy, but he's constantly undermined when he trips over his spurs, or the step to the Saloon. Purves is given a chance to be really quite funny here, and that's nice to see.

The same can be said for Jackie Lane - this might be the best we've seen from her so far. I think it's fair to say that Dodo is even more useless than you remember while playing the Toymaker's games in The Celestial Toymaker, so it's nice to see her given more of a chance to shine here. The song that Steven and Dodo perform at the end of the episode (one of the things people often complain about in relation to the story) is fantastically fun, and the pair are working really well together.

Hartnell's being given plenty of comedy here, too, and it's fun to watch him during his encounter at the dentist. It's not been all that long since I spent a few days dealing with a dreadful toothache, so I can quite easily sympathise with the Doctor's pain. My notes for the episode are filled with little bits from that dentist scene that I could quote at you, but let's just say that I really enjoyed it.

One quote I can't let pass without mention though is his comment to Steven and Dodo in regards to their cover stories: “You can't walk in to a Western town and say you're from Outer Space!” - Love it.

Next Episode: Don't Shoot the Pianist

Next Episode: Don't Shoot the Pianist 
30 April 2013

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

Day 120: The Final Test (The Celestial Toymaker, Episode Four)

Dear diary,

Well! How stunning! The shot of the TARDIS atop the pedestal, all lit from behind by fierce beams of lights, the electrified floor that glimmered beneath a thin layer of dry ice, the jagged triangles formed of a dark, black quartz, with numbers set into them… That's surely the best that anything in Doctor Who has looked up to now!

Hm? Sorry, what? No, no. That's definitely what those 'TARDIS hopscotch' scenes looked like. They did. Promise. You must be thinking of something else. Yeah, that's it.

…Oh, alright. I'll admit it. I cheated. At the time of writing… I've not watched The Final Test. No, I've not given up on the experiment. The Celestial Toymaker hasn't beaten me into submission. The truth of the matter is that I came home today, got ready to cue up the episode and then… well… I didn't. I did the washing up instead. With the soundtrack plugged in. I listened to it, instead. Don't worry, I'm going to go and have a look at the episode in a moment, but I wanted to see how it fared without my being influenced by the visuals, before I actually saw them.

I enjoyed it more than I did the previous episode, but I wonder if that's down to me forcing myself to imagine the most fantastic set I possibly could for today. In many ways, there's nothing different in today's episode compared to anything from the last three. The escape from the Toymaker's realm was quite well done, but it came a bit out of nowhere, and almost seemed a little bit… easy for my liking.

Still, I've found plenty to enjoy in the episode. Cyril really is good fun, and there are mannerisms in his voice that remind me somewhat of Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. Elsewhere, the music throughout the story has been quite good, and it's no exception here.

But now comes the hard part. The Lost in Time DVD is cued up in the drive, and it's time to see what this episode actually looked like. I'll be back in a bit…

(You can imagine some kind of musical interlude here, if you like. Or just a fade to black before I return)

I'm somewhat intrigued. My intention was to watch a few key bits from the episode - a bit of the hopscotch game, a little of the Doctor and the Toymaker in the Trilogic room and the ending of the episode - just enough to give me a fair idea of how the episode looked. Thing is… I ended up watching it all! The full 25 minutes! And you know what the weirdest thing is? I think seeing it has improved my score by at least a couple of marks…

Let's get the negative out of the way first. It really does look pretty cheap. The hopscotch game certainly isn't as grand on screen as it was in my head, but even so, it's better than I remembered it being. For a start, there were actual raised platforms. In my head, I'd convinced myself that the episode itself featured just triangles marked out on the floor in tape. Perhaps the worst room has to be the one the Doctor has been stuck in all this time. The Dolls House is pretty grand (and much larger than I'd imagined! I assumed that they dolls grew to human size, but I get the impression from this that they must have always been so!), but the room is very bare. The tiny screen set into the wall is a particular disappointment - especially after the large back-projections seen back in The Daleks' Master Plan.

But then there's several things that are improved by seeing the episode for real. The performances of Michael Gough as the Toymaker, and Peter Stephens as Cyril are fantastic - they're really the things that drew me into the episode and kept me watching for the full running time. I mused the other day that I didn't really get the fascination with bringing the Toymaker back to the series in later years, but the chance to pit Michael Gough against another Doctor is pretty tempting.

If you'd told me a few days ago that I'd end up doing one episode of The Celestial Toymaker twice in one evening, I'd have assumed that I'd be calling it quits with the experiment, the blog, and Doctor Who as a whole. I'm stunned.

(It was looking like a 5/10 based solely on the audio)

Next Episode: A Holiday for the Doctor

Next Episode: A Holiday for the Doctor 
29 April 2013

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

Day 119: The Dancing Floor (The Celestial Toymaker, Episode Three)

Dear diary,

What on Earth must Dodo think she's walked in to? She took to the Ark and the Monoids and the idea of time/space travel pretty easily (I think she was mostly distracted by the TARDIS wardrobe), but now… The Celestial Toymaker is quite unlike anything that the programme has ever attempted before, and it's an odd introduction for her to life in the TARDIS so early in her journey.

In some ways, this seems to be Season Three's 'sideways' story (in the same way that The Edge of Destruction wasn't really a futuristic story, and the first episode of The Space Museum was an interesting idea in stepping sideways in time, before it became a tedious, cardigan-eating bore), but even when you think of it as being in the same bed as those two stories, it's something of a curiosity.

The first two episodes have just about skirted by on leaving me baffled by the time the end credits rolled. They weren't the most accomplished episodes in Doctor Who history, but they were just about passable. Eventually though - and really, that means 'today' - it wears a bit thin. It has helped that, because I'm not watching a recon, I can imagine these episodes looking however I want to. My only frame of reference is a dimly-remembered few bits of the fourth episode, but I've somewhat pushed those to the back of my mind while listening. Indeed, now I'm not sure how much of my memory of that episode is me remembering and how much is me making it up in my head.

The other thing that I keep coming back to (and you'll have to forgive me for bringing this up a third day running, but frankly I'm too bemused by this story to really write a great deal more) is that it could be a really dark and sinister piece. Between yesterday's episode and today's, I re-watched The End of the Line on the DVD for The Gunfighters. It's a documentary about the production of Doctor Who's Third Season (and, really, one of the best in the entire range - I've seen it three or four times already this year, and I'd not be surprised to find myself sticking it back on once I've finished with the season), and it goes into the rather torturous gestation of this tale.

The short version is that because this season saw the production team in a state of turbulence (three different producers and a few different script editors before the year is out), this story somewhat fell through the cracks, caught between two teams with very different ideas. It's the first script to be written by Brian Hayles, and a story is told in the documentary is that, having gotten about half-way through, Hayles called the production team and told them he didn't think he could continue with the script - because he was scaring himself writing it. Donald Tosh goes on to talk of how the story originally was all to do with playing with people's minds and manipulating them: and there's still a few elements of that in here.

It's clearest in Episode One, when Steven sees images of himself displayed on a screen. The Doctor tells him it's only displaying the images to him, and that it's drawing them from Steven's own mind. It would perhaps be interesting - and especially from a budget-saving point of view - to have the guest characters in this story drawn from Steven's mind, too. So we could have a Dhravin appear at one point, or a Dalek. Even a Monoid. That might be interesting enough. Imagine Steven and Dodo entering the Dancing Floor to find a group of Daleks sat there, guarding the TARDIS and dancing around. I'm sure Terry Nation would have vetoed it, but it's an interesting thought.

Then there's the idea that the contestants Steven and Dodo actually are playing against are people like them - who've become trapped here in the Toymaker's realm and are now playing for their freedom. It's an interesting idea, and while it starts to get explored here (with Steven and Dodo debating what they actually are). it never goes quite far enough for my liking.

The Toymaker himself is growing in potential for a character, too. There's a point here when he could be very sinister: telling two of his 'dolls' that if they fail him, he will break them. He demonstrates by smashing a plate, but it would be so much more effective had he broken another failed pawn.

And tomorrow, I move back into the world of the existing episode, so any opportunity to imagine how good this could look will be out the window, and I'll get a real eye-opener to the world of the Toymaker…

Next Episode: The Final Test

Next Episode: The Final Test 
28 April 2013

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

Day 118: The Hall of Dolls (The Celestial Toymaker, Episode Two)

Dear diary,

This isn't, perhaps, going to be a popular statement… but I can see why The Celestial Toymaker spent so long being considered as one of the greats. Oi! Come back! Don't close the tab! Hear me out!

In the days when you can't see the story, or hear it (heck, even the novelisation wasn't released until June 1986, a little over twenty years from broadcast), this must have sounded brilliant. Take this episode, for example. If I were to describe it to you as Steven and Dodo having to choose the right chair, by using dolls to test them out, but six of the chairs have horrible consequences…

Oh, all right. It still sounds naff. But it shouldn't, because there's some quite creepy moments in here. One of the dolls gets cut clean in half when it's placed on a chair. Another is electrocuted as Dodo throws it up onto the chair. It doesn't sound great when you can hear it on the soundtrack, and it probably didn't look great to watch, but the idea of it… that's pretty solid.

Otherwise, I'm still not sure what to make of this story. This particular episode is usually the one that people hold up as being appalling because of the use of the 'n-word'. Obviously, it's not something that's comfortable to have in here, but it's a fact of the matter that it appeared this way at the time, 47 years ago, and that we've moved on from it. A friend made a good point the other day, though. Were this episode to be returned to the BBC's archives, what would they do about it? On the soundtrack it's covered by Purves' narration (indeed, I didn't even realise until later on that it had been spoken over), but the episode itself may not have that option. I'm guessing that the Restoration Team would just cover it cleverly in some way.

But setting that aside, I think I'm still more baffled by this story than I am actively bored by it. Today's episode was listened to while I did the washing up, and I spent most of the time wondering what on Earth they were thinking by making a story like this. It's really unlike anything that we've seen in the series, and it's not something that we'll ever really see again.

And then I got to thinking about the fact that people are always so keen to bring the Celestial Toymaker back. He's in one of the novels, a few of the Big Finish audios (played, superbly, by David Bailie. If you've not heard his performance then you really need to. Off to the Big Finish website with you!), the first of the Eighth Doctor's DWM comic strips. There was even a planned return to the programme in the 1980s (again, available from Big Finish now).

I couldn't get my head around why people were so keen to bring him back, but I think it is simply the fact that the idea behind him is a solid one. He's a God. A powerful God who gets terribly bored and draws people like the Doctor to his realm to entertain him. Done well (and this story perhaps isn't the best example of that), he could be a very good character.

And so we move to Episode Three. I'm still a little surprised by my own reaction to the story - as I said yesterday, I'd been dreading this one. Tomorrow's my last opportunity to picture the Toymaker's realm entirely in my mind as opposed to what I can see in the surviving final part, so hopefully it'll give me plenty of imagery that can only work well away from this serial's budget…

Next Episode: The Dancing Floor

Next Episode: The Dancing Floor 
27 April 2013

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

Day 117: The Celestial Toyroom (The Celestial Toymaker, Episode One)

Dear diary,

Ohh, I've been dreading this one. So far (with the occasional blip here or there), Season Three has been doing pretty well. The boredom that had started to seep in with Season Two has dissipated, and I'm really enjoying the programme at the moment. But then there's The Celestial Toymaker. For a long long time, this story had a golden reputation. People would fall over themselves to take credit for it.

But then the fourth episode was found.

Overnight, people changed their stories to pin the credit on somebody else. Anybody else. As long as it wasn't them. I'm guessing you can understand why I've not been too keen to reach this one. Thing is, though, I've not seen the fourth episode. I know some of the various criticisms that get levelled at it, but I've yet to witness them first-hand. And it actually seems to be doing the trick.

By the time this episode ended, by which time I'd expected to be sobbing and wondering if it was too late to drop out of this diary, I was more intrigued than anything else. I'm not sure I've actually got a clue what's really going on (it didn't help that the moment the rules of Steven and Dodo's game were announced happened to coincide with me reaching the self-service till in Asda), but I think I've enjoyed it.

One of the things that gets said a lot about the fourth episode is that the story simply looks cheap. Here, again, is the benefit of listening to this one as an audio - I don't know! It could look great! There's a moment in this one, where the Toymaker tells the Doctor and his companions that they can go back to the TARDIS if they want. Peter Purves' narration then explains a screen showing them hundreds of TARDISes.

That's how he described it, yet my mind automatically went for lots and lots of police boxes revolving around them. We already know that they're in an octagonal room with no features, so what if the walls of the room are suddenly lined with facsimiles of the ship? In my mind, that scene looked great.

They seem to be trying to inject a lot of tension into this story, too. Early on, the Doctor warns Steven and Dodo that nothing here is 'just for fun', and we later find out that the Doctor has visited the Toymaker's realm before. We're told that he didn't stay long enough on that occasion to play any of the games, but it's interesting to find a place like this that the Doctor actively knows of - and a place that he's scared of. It really helps to sell the threat to us, and isn't something we've seen before.

Even the ending of the episode sounds quite sinister, with the lights dimming, claps of thunder, and the clowns being reduced to lifeless mannequins which then shrink back down to the size of dolls. The narration describes Dodo as shuddering as she leaves the room, and in my mind at least, it's a pretty creepy scene.

Ah, Dodo. She really is just a companion, now, There's no attempt to suggest that she's new to all this TARDIS travel stuff. Right at the start of the episode (or to be more exact, at the very end of the last episode), she emerges from the wardrobe again, thrilled with her latest discovery. It's 'fab', apparently. When they think they've arrived in an empty place, she's keen to move on to somewhere more exciting. It really is a shame that she's not being given more of a character so far.

Still, it's a much better start than I'd feared to this story - even if it is all in my head so far. Here's hoping things don't go too awry before the last episode rolls around!

Next Episode: The Hall of Dolls

Next Episode: The Hall of Dolls 
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