David Brider (davidbrider) wrote,
David Brider

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WhoWatch: The Dead Planet

So, The Quest resumes. The Quest being the continuing attempt to watch every Doctor Who episode, start to finish, in chronological order, ideally no less than one episode a day. But I'm going to stick with it even if there end up being unfeasibly long gaps between episodes.

So, today we're on The Dead Planet, or serial B, episode 1. Which is an eclectic mix of the good and the bad. The bad, specifically, is that as episodes go it's not very eventful. The TARDIS lands, the Doctor & co. go out to explore the planet, they end up deciding to visit the strange city they've seen, and when they split up one of their number, namely Barbara, gets menaced by a mysterious something (that looks incredibly like a sink plunger. I do wonder what audiences at the time made of that?). By the '80s, that amount of story would have been compressed into a tidy 10 minutes (the food machine stuff would have been the first to go, I suspect), and nowadays it would just about take up the pre-credits sequence.

The good outweighs that, IMO. For a start, there's a lovely sense of menace as the original "team TARDIS" explore the jungle on Skaro - the fact that it's all in black and white probably helps to disguise any of the sets shortcomings. Also, whether it's part of Nation's original script or Whitaker's editing I don't know (I suspect the latter), we're given a good chance to get to know the characters better. Much has been made of the Doctor as anti-hero in the early days of the programme, and this is a particularly good example of that. He's a devious little so-and-so when he wants to be, prepared to do anything for a chance to explore the Dalek city, even sabotaging the TARDIS (which might have backfired disastrously - for all he knows, mercury might not even exist on Skaro and they'd be stuck there for good...). Ian, on the other hand, is more than prepared to stand up to him and point out that the Doctor owes it to him and Barbara not to get them into any more trouble and to get them back to 1963 England asap.

It's actually kind of interesting to compare and contrast this with An Unearthly Child, as both episodes serve as kind of introductions to the series and the regulars, with both also featuring no credited speaking cast except the regulars. But whereas in An Unearthly Child, Ian and Barbara are the explorers venturing into new territory, here all four of them are out of their depths in this world of petrified plants, metallic creatures, and alien cities.

One other negative, though - that scene where the TARDIS nearly takes off but the Doctor scurries under the console and sabotages the fluid link...whilst the other three are on the other side of the console looking pretty much exactly in his direction..? Why does nobody say - after Susan's checked the fault locator and the Doctor's revealed that the problem was exactly under the console where he'd been standing mere seconds before - that that looked mighty suspicious? Arewe genuinely meant to think they didn't notice him tinkering under the console? Did they think he was tying his shoe laces? Dearie me.
Tags: whowatch 2011

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