War of God is driven by the differences between the TARDIS crew. Steven’s caution is contrasted with the Doctor’s pleasure at a perfect landing and the opportunity to meet Preslin, a foremost apothecary in 16th Century Paris. Throughout, while Steven dithers, trying to avoid getting involved, the Doctor, for all his words, seems keen to do whatever he can to help Preslin. In the end, reluctantly or not, both have been drawn into the intrigues and trouble brewing between Catholics and Protestants.
As a climax to Doctor Who‘s longest serial to date, Destruction of Time is an sombre, hollow experience. The first part of the episode wraps up the Mavic Chen story – unlike earlier episodes where hetook a high-handed approach to his Dalek allies, this time the scene is full of menace, as his hubris gives way to madness, and he is exterminated – denying Sara the opportunity to execute justice for her brother and the Solar System.
An exercise in putting the audience on edge, The Abandoned Planet postpones any grand showdowns, largely removing both the Doctor and the Daleks for the majority of its running time. Even the Varga Plants have vanished. Instead, the focus is on Steven and Sara’s nervous expedition into the deserted Dalek ‘city of the dead’ in search both of the Doctor and the Time Destructor. The focus is also on Chen, whose ‘arrogance and greed have a further use’ to the Daleks.
The reveal that the bandaged creature in the mummy’s tomb is actually the Monk is a great, if very obvious, pay-off to the previous cliffhanger – and Butterworth’s ‘monky-business’ is huge fun, especially when he turns a corner of the pyramid and walks straight into a Dalek patrol. His desperate improvisation (and Beatles hair) is practically the second Doctor a year early. Our last glimpse of him, stranded on a planet of ice, is suitably sequel hunting. It’s a shame that never happened, however given the similarities in characterisation it’s hard to see him working as such a good foil against Troughton. But up against Hartnell – here at his most imperious when he’s negotiating for the release of the Dalek hostages – he’s perfect.
Hartnell sounds very hoarse – like he’s picked up a winter cold – or maybe it’s the sand in Ancient Eygpt. While the Doctor pootles about fixing the TARDIS lock, Steven sees another time machine arriving – he assumes it’s the Monk, but in reality it’s the Daleks. After a few weeks of respite, the peril is increasing again.
A new year begins, and the Daleks are back – while the Doctor and friends were enjoying their Christmas bubbly, the Daleks were fitting the Taranium Core to their Time Destructor. As their allies wait nervously to see the results, they gossip between themselves. There’s a nice reminder that only the Daleks and their mysterious rivals have conquered the dimension of time:
- Doctor Who‘s first Christmas episode begins with the police in festive mood – and the TARDIS arriving in various TV and film locations
- If it wasn’t obvious this was a comedy episode we’re not left in any doubt for long: ‘I’ve got a complaint’ – ‘Well the doctor’s just round the corner’ followed by some tiresome business about a stolen greenhouse, and Steven entering dressed as a policeman with a Scouse accent
- ‘I’m a citizen of the universe – and a gentleman to boot,’ is one of the great Doctor quotes, and Hartnell delivers it with obvious delight
- Funniest moment:
- Doctor: What’s all this funny accent?
- Steven: Everyone else is doing it
- Having escaped Z Cars‘ finest, there’s a brief reminder of the Dalek plot before the TARDIS arrives in Silent Movie Hollywood for a lot of running about
- A very silly, and not especially funny episode which probably only made sense as part of the Christmas Day 1965 BBC1 line-up. It’s fine, but I expect Verity Lambert and Dennis Spooner would have made more of it
Next episode: Volcano
This is the scariest story I have ever heard. It was told to me by another boy, back in the mid nineties. We were on a school camping trip near Crickhowell in central Wales. The campsite is in the grounds of an old chapel, on a triangle of grass, turned to mud by the Welsh weather and the walking boots of two dozen boys. A small brook surrounds the chapel on two sides, and the road – a single track, with huge earth banks either side – forms the third. Two school minibuses are parked just off road, inside the single gate to the chapel. A few trees run down towards the brook. On the other side, a hill rises steeply. It is planted thickly with trees – not so thick that it’s not perfect for playing kidnappers, but thick enough that if you wander too far into the woods you can lose track of the chapel – only the downward slope points you back in the right general direction. At the back of the chapel, four huge logs form a square bench around a camp fire, and that’s where We’d had a supper of sausages, beans and hot, strong tea, brewed inside the chapel in its rudimentary kitchen with its huge steel water tank. Continue reading
Whenever you admit to a fondness for horror films, inevitably someone asks you the question, ‘what’s the scariest film you’ve seen?’ That’s a question I always struggle to answer. As a child, when you’re most susceptible to being actually frightened by films, most responsible parents (certainly mine) won’t let you watch horror movies. As an adult, I can’t remember at any point actually being afraid because of a film. Yes, of course I jump at the jumpy moments. And I’ve been grossed out in the cinema – most of all by the brain-eating scene in Hannibal, and the de-gloving in Gerald’s Game. But terrified? No. Continue reading
Just a brief post today, to encourage anyone who is able to get down to Brighton during the Fringe to go and see My Gay Best Friend written and performed by Nigel Fairs and Louise Jameson.
The venue, Upstairs at Three and Ten, is intimate, and the performances make use of this to connect directly with the audience. We are the silent third in a play that explores how difficult it can be to actually talk to each other. Both Rachel (Jameson) and Gavin (Fairs) have chosen to lock themselves up in different ways in closets – both literally and metaphorically – hinting at upsetting events in their own pasts, but preferring to talk round everything but the point, often in hilariously coarse language
But then there’s a moment about two thirds of the way through that is suddenly shocking in its directness: a revelation that changes the tone of the play just as it changed the relationship between Rachel and Gavin. From this point on, the humour is coloured by sorrow and regret. And although you’re likely to leave the theatre smiling, you might also be mindful not to leave conversations too late.
I loved it, and I hope it gets a deserved run nationally later this year. In the meantime, you can see it at Upstairs at Three and Ten every Sunday at 18:45 until 27th May.