Thursday, 28 August 2008

The Reign of Terror

The first season concludes with another historical, this time from the pen of Dennis Spooner. After the events of The Sensorites, the Doctor promises to put Ian and Barbara off the ship at the earliest opportunity. However, instead of London in 1963, the regulars are plunged into the darkest years of the French Revolution, where they are embroiled in the chaos and fear of the time.

Although Spooner doesn’t have the same knack for writing lyrical dialogue as Lucarotti and the script isn’t as thoroughly researched, this is still a great adventure for the regulars. In particular, the Doctor is at his most active yet. We see him donning disguises, knocking people out and, for the first time, getting his companions out of trouble. Hartnell relishes these scenes, from his brisk strolling down the road to Paris, to the look he gives when he is nearly found out. Jacqueline Hill is again on strong form. I love her flirtation with the Doctor in the first scene, and her strength remains undiminished throughout.

A good sense of time is established by the script, perhaps because this is the first story that depicts actual historical events. Although there is a good deal of humour, particularly the Doctor’s escapades and the drunken gaoler, the horror of the era is not forgotten. Robespierre is shot in the jaw and, although we don’t see the event, we hear it and see the aftermath, which is handled expertly by director Henric Hirsch. Also, the scene where the Doctor knocks out the foreman makes us wonder for a few seconds whether the Doctor has actually killed him.

Barry Newberry’s sets are again brilliant, aided by some effective lighting. The gaol set is 100% convincing and at no point do we think that any of the sets are not the real thing. The costume design is also excellent. The burning house is a tad unconvincing though- the model is too small for it to look like anything but an out-of-control birthday cake.

There are a couple of under-par performances, however. The child in the first two episodes is awful and James Cairncross's performance as Lemaitre starts off well, but is poor in the last episode. Donald Morley is excellent as Jules Renan and Tony Wall makes an instant impression in Napoleon’s brief cameo (it is nice to see him portrayed as being of average height, which he was in real life). Unfortunately, I cannot judge Keith Anderson's performance as Robespierre as he mainly appears in Episode 4. Vocally, he seems fine, though.

Overall, this is a fine end to a fine season. One down, 29 to go!

NEXT: Planet of Giants

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The Sensorites

The Sensorites is one story that seems to be very much overlooked, which is strange, as this story introduces many features which would become intrinsic to Doctor Who. For the first time, the story is set in the future. For the first time, there are scenes set on a spaceship. And for the first time, we have aliens portrayed as having a real culture, rather than being just ‘monsters’. Most importantly, the Doctor is not merely observing events or helping himself and his companions, for the first time he takes a truly active role in the events. In fact this is a very important story in the development of the programme.

The story is one of two races who do not trust one another. The fear of the titular aliens is very well realised in the first two episodes, with the dimply lit spaceship set. The shock appearance of the first Sensorite must have been truly frightening at the time. There is also a fantastic bit of direction and acting in this scene, where the camera follows Ian’s face and we see his reaction to the Sensorite. However, the Sensorites are portrayed increasingly sympathetically- their fear of loud noises and darkness is put across well by the actors and makes the audience see them not as monsters, but as people. The realisation of the Sensorites is very effective and the simplicity of the design is inspired, as they can appear as terrifying faceless apparitions at one point and meek bearded old men at another.

The human supporting cast are excellent, with the exception of Lorne Cossette as Maitland- thankfully he remains on the ship after the action transfers to the Sense Sphere. Stephen Dartnell deserves special mention for his performance as John. There are none of the histrionics and eye-rolling you would expect, had this been any other 60s science fiction programme. Ilona Rodgers as Carol is also solid, and her scenes with John are very poignant. The survivors of the previous expedition are interestingly depicted as half-crazed colonialists who still maintain the trappings of military discipline.

The regulars do their usual sterling work. Carole Ann Ford is easily the weakest performer of the quartet, but she is totally convincing here. Barbara is fast becoming one of my favourite companions, even though she has less to do here. And we come to the most interesting development in the character dynamics of Doctor Who. Ian is incapacitated for a time, and it and it is the Doctor, not Ian, who is the most physically active character in the story. We see him explore the aqueduct, find the cause of the poisoning and concoct a cure for the plague.

There are a few nit-picks. The Hartnell era has a reputation for fluffed lines which is unfair, but is fully justified here, as many characters are guilty of it. (Mind you, molybdenum is a bit hard to say!) Also, while I can accept that the Sensorites can survive in space without a pressure suit, it is implied that sound travels through space (of course, the Sensorites could be sending a radio transmission of the sound). We all take it for granted that everyone in the Universe speaks English, but writing messages to aliens in it is a bit much. This was also a problem in The Daleks, by the way!

However, this is a better story than The Daleks and therefore the best science-fiction story in the first season. As said, is very important in the development of the character of the Doctor- although, again, he is compelled to stay because the TARDIS is incapacitated, this is the Doctor as hero and enabler who has endured as a character until the present day.

NEXT: The Reign of Terror

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Aztecs

Lucarotti returns with another top flight historical. Here, he takes us to Mexico in the 15th century for a look at one of the most fascinating cultures the world has produced. Barbara is mistaken for the reincarnation of the priest Yetaxa and she tries to use that power to stop the practice that is a stain on the culture of the Aztecs- the practice of human sacrifice. Ian must fight for his life against the warrior Ixta and the Doctor… but we’ll come back to that!

The dichotomy of Aztec culture is shown in the two figures of Autloc, High Priest of Knowledge and Tlotoxtl, High Priest of Sacrifice, but neither is painted in broad strokes. Autloc is wise and open minded, but he was born to a culture where the sunrise must be paid for in blood. Tlotoxtl comes off as a Mesoamerican Richard III at first and he realises that it is the sacrifice which gives him his power, but he is nevertheless sincere. He truly believes in the blood sacrifice in an attitude which combines self-deception and pragmatism. Lucarotti and the production team deserve credit for being as fair as they can be to Aztec culture. They are shown to be skilled artisans and engineers. They show respect for their elderly. The victims of sacrifice are rightly shown to be willing, and treated with great honour.

There is some great material for the regulars. Susan is sidelined somewhat but although Ian continues in the action man role, Lucarotti manages to make this role interesting- he bests Ixta with his thumb, using his brain, not his fists. However, it is the Doctor and Barbara who are at their best here. The Doctor’s ‘romance’ with Cameca is beautifully handled- the look on Hartnell’s face when the doctor realises he’s engaged is priceless, but the story treats Cameca with the respect she deserves. However, this is very much Barbara’s story, and Hill is captivating throughout.

The attitude of Barbara is very interesting- she is not only motivated by her disgust of human sacrifice, but out of a desire to save the Aztecs. Maybe if they stop the sacrifices, Cortés will not destroy them (which of course assumes that Cortés really was a far better person than, say, Pizarro. It also ignores the smallpox aspect, but I digress). The characters, and the script never treat the Aztecs as mere savages, but as people. Lucarotti again manages to blend beautiful dialogue and great characterisation. Very importantly, the rule of not changing history is established, and, while we feel Barbara’s anger, we understand why things must be as they are, and why the sacrifice goes on, even as the TARDIS dematerialises.

Barry Newberry’s design work is excellent- although the backdrops never really convince us that we are on the top of a tall pyramid, the sets themselves are fantastic. The direction is very good, but the fight scenes are a bit lacking- perhaps if Waris Hussein had directed, he could have worked the same magic as he did on 100,000 B.C.

None of this distracted me when I was watching it, however. One of the things that grabbed me about this and Marco Polo is that they work as good historical drama full stop, not just as a Doctor Who story. Everything comes together in yet another gem from the Hartnell era.

NEXT: The Sensorites

Sunday, 17 August 2008

The Keys of Marinus

Throughout most of the Hartnell era, each episode was given its own unique title, rather than the umbrella name grouping serials together. This was particularly appropriate to this story, as each of the middle four episodes has its own setting, and a new supporting cast. Upon landing on the planet Marinus, the regulars are compelled to go on a quest to find the titular keys by George Coulouris’s Arbitan (The quest idea would, of course, be returned to by the programme years later). This leads them to various locations around the planet (it is refreshing to have an alien planet that is not monocultural). However, some parts work better than others. "The Velvet Web" depicts a place where the perception of reality is controlled by the sinister Morpho Brains. The regulars believe they are living in the lap of luxury when they are in fact hallucinating. The Doctor picks up a tin mug and admires it, believing it to be a piece of scientific equipment. Susan’s beautiful new dress is a collection of rags. The direction in this episode is excellent- Gorrie’s use of shots effectively shows the contrast between reality and illusion without special effects.

"The Screaming Jungle" has some quite interesting concepts behind it, especially the scary idea of the jungle itself. However, the episode is almost an exercise in how not to plot a drama, and the episode teeters on the balance between success and failure.

"The Snows of Terror" is entirely forgettable. As in The Daleks, there’s a very small chasm to be traversed (indeed it could well be the same set redressed). Even in a plot this simple, there are holes- why didn’t Ian take the keys and the transporter bracelets when he went to get the girls from the cave. A jarring aspect of the plot is that there is the real feeling that Barbara is in danger of being raped by the trapper- a danger that no companion would be subjected to nowadays.

"Sentence of Death" consists mainly of Ian’s trial on a false charge of murder. Courtroom drama is probably the most constricting genre of all, as there can be little variation as to dramatic structure and the layout of the set. It is performance, cinematography and direction that decide success, and this episode managed it, a success that continues to the final episode.

The Voords are usually billed as the ‘monsters’ of the story, but they only appear in the first and last episodes. These too are weak. George Coulouris (who was in Citizen Kane for God’s sake!) is very flat in this and Arbitan’s death is one of the worst directed scenes I have ever seen. It is as if John Gorrie simply said ‘Go in and stab him in a half hearted manner’! The Voords themselves are well designed (even though their ‘aerials’ make them look like evil Teletubbies’!) but the special effects for their submarines bring to mind the fleas of Michael Bentine’s It’s a Square World.

It is also notable that this is the first story where the TARDIS crew act as friends, not co-travellers. The bonds between them were seen to increase over the course of Marco Polo, but are finally established here- The Doctor waiting outside Ian’s cell after the verdict has been passed is truly touching. Jacqueline Hill deserves special mention for her work in ‘The Velvet Web’- Barbara is the real hero here, and we are with her all the way. The only supporting player who really stands out is Fiona Walker. The rest are good but not exceptional (although I now have a crush on Katherine Schofield!)

The story also illustrated Terry Nation’s strengths and weaknesses as a writer. He is good at ideas and basic storylines, but constantly resorts to cliché in the finer plot details. There is also some very weak dialogue and indeed, no quotable lines of dialogue until the very end. With scripts like this, it’s no wonder Gorrie’s work as director is so variable.

So it is with a cliché that I shall conclude: The whole is considerably less than the sum of its parts.

NEXT: The Aztecs

Friday, 15 August 2008

Marco Polo

So, sadly, it’s off with the DVD player and on with the iPod for Marco Polo (legally converted for my own personal use from the CD version I paid money for, back off BPI!!!) I had never listened to this story before, originally intending to spread it over a few days. Three hours later, the battery on my iPod was nearly empty, but I was left there looking into the middle distance with Marco. This story has had near universal acclaim, but there must be people who like Doctor Who, but aren’t willing to listen to an audio only historical. Believe the hype. You may not love it for the same reasons that others will, but fall in love with it you will. From the Roof of the World to the Khan’s palace, this story will keep you gripped from beginning to end, an epic that covers the span of several weeks. With the visuals missing, the primary credit for this has to be John Lucarotti, one of the finest writers the programme ever had. Although he takes us on what is basically a travelogue of 13th Century Cathay, the story is anchored by Lucarotti’s use of character. It would be useful to compare it with the other 7 episode story of the season, The Daleks. Both use the incapacitation and subsequent inaccessibility of the TARDIS, to justify the regulars not just taking off again. Both have times when they are ready to depart, but are stopped at the last minute. However, we accept these in Marco Polo, because they are consequences of character interaction- when Susan stops to say goodbye to Ping-Cho, the viewer doesn’t mentally wish her to forget it and leave, as we have seen a beautifully written and performed friendship develop between the two girls, and we feel Susan’s need to say farewell to her new friend, in spite of the urgency.

The supporting characters all appear to be excellently realised. Marco himself is fascinating, a man who is essentially decent and likeable and yet, in spite of the plotting around him, he himself is the greatest obstacle to the Doctor and his companions. The use of Marco Polo’s diary as a narrative device is inspired- he, in effect, is the audience for those events which are too routine to be dramatised and, like the audience, he puts his own colour on proceedings. Derren Nesbitt makes a superbly laconic and frightening Tegana. Zienia Merton’s Ping-Cho is delightful, an innocent girl uprooted who finds a kindred spirit in Susan. Kublai Khan himself is a wonderful character; we totally accept him as a likable old man and the as the most powerful man on Earth.

Tristram Cary’s approach to the music is brilliant. A lesser composer would have made an ‘Oriental’ pastiche, but Cary creates an ambient score that gives more of a sense of setting than situation. A gong is used effectively for scene changes.

There are so many wonderful locations- the Cave of Five Hundred Eyes, the Summer Palace, Lop and the Gobi Desert (if there’s one place on land that could have been transported from another planet, it’s the Gobi). But we will never see them. Not one second of footage escaped the junking. To attempt to compensate for that, I watched the telesnap reconstruction on the Edge of Destruction DVD. The set and costume design appears to have been fantastic, making this story’s loss seem even worse.

There are no reasonable criticisms that can be made- there are flaws, but you would have to be actually looking for them, as only a couple stick out. There are very few historical and geographical inaccuracies (Lucarotti’s scripts were very well researched). I found Marco’s comment about the TARDIS making Kublai Khan greater than Hannibal and Alexander odd, considering that he ruled an empire several times larger than the Macedonian and Carthaginian empires combined. The only conqueror who would have fitted the bill would have been Kublai’s grandfather Genghis. There is also the inevitable question of white actors playing non-white characters. This is sensitively done on the whole and even the accents which are sometimes used are not offensively caricatured. Interestingly, some actors affect an accent and others don’t, but as the Mongol Empire was vast and free of racial prejudice by all accounts, a variety of accents might actually be appropriate. Ironically, the only non-white actor playing a major role is Zienia Merton and, as Ping-Cho came from Samarkand, one of the most cosmopolitan regions in the Empire, she could safely have been played by a white actress!

Marco Polo is exciting, haunting, frightening, funny, educational, beautiful. It is everything one could ask for in a Doctor Who story- with not a spaceship, monster or alien planet in sight!

NEXT: The Keys of Marinus

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Edge of Destruction

The ‘bottle episode’ it’s called. Use only the regular sets and regular actors and save a lot of money. They can be turn out to be exquisite character pieces that can define the basic appeal of a programme for both the audience and its creators. They can also be speed-written tosh used to pad out the schedule. Or, as in this case, it can be utterly bonkers.

The first scene is almost like a Beckett play with characters being slightly out of synch with the audience and we get the impression that there are whole chunks of the conversation we haven’t heard. Indeed, after the very interesting visual dynamism of some of the earlier episodes, this is the ‘televised theatre’ that we often hear references to when talking about 60s British Television. That is not to say that there isn’t arresting imagery- the melting clock is a great shock moment. However, this is primarily the actors’ show. Russell and Hill convey the confusion of the characters very well (possibly because they were pretty baffled themselves!) but, sadly, this reflects badly on Carole Ann Ford. Martin and Cox seem to enjoy putting her in tableaux, which become a tad unconvincing as a dramatic device after the nth iteration. Hartnell, however, continues to impress- his delight at viewing the birth of a solar system is infectious and he holds out interest from the start.

Now let’s turn to the script. The best way I can describe its structure is in the direction George Martin gave to the orchestra for “A Day in the Life”- here is the start note, here is the end note, anything in between is up to you. There are no plot holes because there is no plot, only a story. Why do the doors keep opening? Is the TARDIS possessed? Is Susan possessed? Is David Whitaker? Then there’s that dénouement based on a faulty spring- I suppose it is the privilege of a script editor not to edit his own script, but still….

The directors and the cast fight valiantly to realise the script, and it’s not surprising there are misfires. ‘Can it be that this is the end?’ declaims the Doctor, looking at the camera. Watching it now, I half expected the rest of the cast to look in the same direction, wondering whom he was talking to. Does this sound garbled? Try watching it.

This is not to say that this is a bad story. The whole is less than the sum of its parts because the parts have been fitted together poorly (with some, possibly, back to front or in the wrong order) but there is too much good stuff here to totally dismiss the story. So let me just say again: it’s bonkers.

But bonkers is better than boring any day.

NEXT: Marco Polo

Friday, 8 August 2008

The Daleks

Here it is, the serial that made Doctor Who a phenomenon, and kept Terry Nation in foie gras for life. Daleks are so much a part of the mental furniture of the British public that it seems hard to appreciate the impact of seeing one for the first time. However, just because this is their first appearance doesn’t mean that the operators are clumsy or the voices less harsh- they move over the smooth surface of their city with nary a wobble in sight, and their voices have changed little since then. They remain a classic of design and execution. However, there are differences from the Daleks we know and love. These Daleks are self-interested and, although they have a ‘dislike of the unlike’ they are not yet omnicidal maniacs. In fact their prime motivation is fear, rather than hate, which makes them more human- one scene fades out on them chattering rather than triumphally chanting. However they have no compunction about breaking promises made to the Thals and, indeed, to irradiate Skaro so they can be the only intelligent life form.

This story is called The Daleks on the DVD cover, and that’s what I’m putting as the title of this post, but it must be remembered that that is not the original title, and the story is just as much about the Thals as about the Daleks. The neutronic war between them has resulted in mutation in both races, resulting in the beautiful (in a very Home Counties way) Thals and the deformed Daleks (this is as good a place to point out that, in only its second story, Doctor Who has taken inspiration from H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, with the Thals as the Eloi and the Daleks as the Morlocks). The Thals have become pacifist farmers and it is, of course, the job of the regulars to reawaken their fighting spirit. Nation is skilful (did I really just type that?) in not making the Thals into mere ciphers. When Temmosus, Alydon, and Ganatus appear, I was prepared for the old pacifist leader who would die and the headstrong one who would lead the Thals to war. However, there is actual characterisation here (although no character can actually be called complex). Although Temmosus dies in a way I could have predicted, there isn’t a headstrong and violent successor to take his place because pacifism has been a form of cultural conditioning, not something forced on the people. It takes Ian’s goading of more primal urges to get Alydon to punch him, and even then, Alydon feels shame. There is also no attempt to portray pacifism as being equivalent to cowardice- Antodus, Ganatus’s brother does come across as being a bit wet, but his ultimate fate shows that he was merely subject to the fear that we all possess. The performances by the Thal actors are actually rather good, although it is a bit odd seeing Virginia Wetherell in this, as the only other thing I have seen her in is A Clockwork Orange.

Lest we forget, this is also the series that really solidified the character of the Doctor as we know him. At the start, he is totally unwilling to take the feelings of his companions into consideration as he sabotages the TARDIS in order to explore. He has no interest in helping the Thals in their struggles. By the end of the story, his outrage at the Daleks’ plan of genocide makes him into the Thal’s ally- for the first time, this mysterious old man is not acting out of self interest, but out of a sense of moral duty. Hartnell’s skill as an actor makes this transformation totally believable. William Russell makes the stock figure of the square-jawed hero more interesting than it has any right to be, and Jaqueline Hill is utterly captivating. The growing attraction between Barbara and Alydon seems totally genuine amongst all this to-ing and fro-ing.

Which brings me onto Terry Nation. I will try to avoid reference to future stories, but sometimes it is unavoidable. To-ing and fro-ing is something Nation does often, and there is a fair bit of it here. There is also the old ‘now-we-have-the- McGuffin-we-can-get-back-oh-bugger-I-dropped-it’ which he would use again in Genesis of the Daleks (and possibly others- I’ll let you know). Maybe it’s because he wasn’t ‘Terry Nation: Creator of the Daleks’ yet that these scenes actually work in story terms. Nation’s dialogue makes me appreciate that there is a fine line between the archetypal and the clichéd- some of the pronouncements by the Thals come very close, but, again, it works as part of the drama, artless and clunky though it is. However, padding is still evident- I fail to see why showing the characters jumping over a (rather small) chasm needed to take up the best part of an episode. A bit of pruning could have made the story more effective.

As far as the execution of the script goes, Martin and Barry do very well with what they have. The cliff-hanger to “The Dead Planet” is justly famous and is aided by Hill being as marvellous as ever. Tristram Cary’s musique concrete score is very effective and the ‘cinematography’ make the very best of the small, yet very creative sets.

Overall? Not in the same league as the brilliant opening story, but a good story

NEXT: The Edge of Destruction

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

100,000 B.C.

And so, we land in the middle Palaeolithic for the first of many adventures in time and space- and we are confronted with one of the most alien societies that the programme has ever depicted. This is the most uncompromising depiction of early Homo sapiens that had been seen up to this point. These are not bumbling cartoon cavemen or Victor Mature in animal skins. These are people with broken and blackened teeth, filthy and unkempt, who dominate their world, but still do not master it. They can keep the tiger at bay, but it will attack when the fire goes out. This is a society before morality because it is before the safety that is needed for ethics to develop.

The writing on "An Unearthly Child" was sound, but it is here that Coburn really excels. The story is simple- the tribe must rediscover the secret of fire or die- but Coburn uses it to probe interesting anthropological questions. The tribe have language, a vital key to skills being passed on, but have not yet learned to work as a community, that Kal is not stronger than the whole tribe. The vocabulary of the tribe is small, but Coburn and Hussein avoid the trap of having them speak in Tarzanese, and Coburn turns the paucity of their lexicon into some beautiful dialogue. Ian’s concern over the injured Za is seen as being like the only type of tenderness known to the tribe- that of a mother to a child. Coburn also deserves praise for not allowing the regulars to teach the tribe the meaning of love or mercy. Even though Ian saves Za’s life, Za shows no gratitude as it is a feeling that is simply not part of the tribe.

The performances of the supporting cast is excellent, considering that, to us, the tribe seem barely more than animals. We actually want Za to make fire and Derek Newark ably gets our support, if not our sympathy. The regulars are good too, with Ian establishing himself as the square-jawed hero. Hartnell continues to astonish as the Doctor, who is a very different figure to that which he would become. He is curious, but not interventionist and would like to get back to the TARDIS as soon as possible- it is very strongly implied that he would rather kill Za than help him. In the hands of a lesser actor, the Doctor would come out as cowardly, but what we get is determined pragmatism, and the start of a bond with Ian and Barbara.

Although not as striking as in "An Unearthly Child", Hussein’s direction is still excellent. The fight between Kal and Za constantly cuts to reaction shots from the regulars, which increases the effect of the brutality without depicting too much explicit violence. The black and white ‘cinematography’ is, again excellent, making the viewer forget that the cave is only polystyrene and making the ‘skulls of fire’ shot suitably spooky.

This brings me to a very important observation- there is no way this would have been made as a Doctor Who story today. Za is viciously mauled by a wild animal, and we see the bloody gashes in his chest. In the fight between Kal and Za, the loser is brained with a boulder. There are no sympathetic characters, because sympathy hasn't emerged as a human characteristic. It’s really grim television, and it’s sad to see how ‘kids TV’ could be more adult than so-called adult TV today.

A truly brilliant story that deserves greater acclaim.

NEXT: The Daleks

"An Unearthly Child"

The first episode has been almost universally acclaimed, and I have to agree with this. From the beautiful establishing shot of the TARDIS at the beginning, it gripped me and didn’t let me go, which brings me to my first observation- how visually dynamic it is. The recollections of what Susan said in class are accomplished by flashbacks which consist of POV shots, something that I don’t recall ever happening later (but maybe I’ll be proved wrong). The shot of Barbara bursting into the TARDIS is done simply but extremely effectively- she almost runs into us in her (and our) surprise. And, of course, the taking off of the TARDIS is a marvellous combination of the ‘howlaround’ effect and shocked faces- we literally don’t know what is happening to them.

Waris Hussein directs with superb skill. His shot choices are perfect and the way he got the performances to gel together from the beginning is amazing. The performances are first-rate- the script doesn’t establish the characters of Ian and Barbara that much, but Russell and Hill easily fill in the gaps- we not only know very quickly what types of people they are, but get to care about them before the end of the episode. And then there’s William Hartnell. Physically, he doesn’t do much in this episode- he doesn’t even appear until half-way through the episode- and yet this strange and sometimes rather scary old man captivates us from the second he appears on screen. His performance is subtle, yet somehow gives the impression of a larger-than-life, hugely intelligent and somehow alien character.

The script for this episode is very taut and almost naturalistic- the only bits that could possibly seem false are the aforementioned recollections of what Susan said in class, but the way they are shot more than compensates for it. However, when there is a need for it, the writing is beautiful, notably in the famous ‘travellers in the fourth dimension’ speech.

I would talk about the set design, but in this episode, there’s only one set that matters, and it’s easy to see why the TARDIS interior changed very little between 1963 and 1989.

Finally, I don’t know how appropriate the word ‘cinematography’ is to something shot with multiple cameras in a TV studio with the director calling the shots in a booth, but the stark black and white photography is stunning. The entirety of the episode seems to take place after dark and the use of shadow is very evocative, which makes the cut from Barbara in the junkyard to Barbara in the brightly lit TARDIS all the more effective.

In summary, this would be an astonishing piece of television even if it wasn’t the first episode of Doctor Who.

NEXT: 100,000 B.C.
Doctor Who is off the air for a bit.

I will therefore be watching every single story and posting my thoughts.

When I get to the point where I started watching Doctor Who when broadcast (Season 18) I shall try and describe what I felt at the time.

This will not be daily, and Series 5/ Season 31 will probably have started before I finish, but I resolve to get through them all.