Doctor Who #616: The Awakening Part 1

"Are you a member of the theatrical profession?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: The story is available on DVD. First aired Jan.19 1984.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands in 1984 Little Hodcombe, a village where Roundhead-era war games are spinning out of control.

REVIEW: As seems to be the tradition with two-parters, there's a great sense of place in The Awakening, in large part due to all the location filming. Little Hodcombe is a charming country village of the type seen in The Android Invasion, and there's a nice clash of the rural modern and the 17th century in the way an historical reenactment converges with a rift in time. It looks good, and has some nice direction to it too, the opening sequence, editing galloping horses with school teacher Jane Hampden looking for her friend Ben, is a particular standout, starting the show off with energy. Naturally, neither director Michael Owen Morris nor writer Eric Pringle ever worked on Doctor Who again. Sigh.

Part 1 plays like an archaeological mystery, full of trap doors and strange inscriptions in an old church full of mysteries. Foremost among those mysteries is an ominous crack in the wall, seemingly unrelated to the one in Amy Pond's bedroom, and yet, it's an interesting link if you choose to see it that way. Behind it is the Malus, a psychic alien creature that fell to Earth and apparently broke time (more on which in Part 2). We know at least two people have crossed over to 1984 from 1643, including a hunchback figure with half a face, and Will Chandler, a peasant boy with a pouty face, so who else? Could Sir George also be from the past, or is he just off his rocker, a charismatic who is taking his war games much too seriously, possibly under the influence of the Malus?

There's an indication that Will Chandler and Jane Hampden are side-lining the regular companions, an unfortunate trope of the Eric Saward era. While we focus on guest characters (Jane at least shows some fire as the only unaffected person in the village, and quick to slap what I would guess to be a former student of hers who's grown uppity), Turlough and Tegan are left to cower from stray pixels, run around the village and in Tegan's case, get crowned Queen of the May (that's a cute way to say she's a prisoner/sacrifice victim). Let's hope Part 2 gives them a more instrumental role. Tegan did come to visit her maternal grandfather who has since disappeared. So is he Aunt Vanessa's dad and Colin's granddad? If this were New Who, Tegan would be one of those Mary Sue characters around which everything revolves. After all, the TARDIS tracked her down twice and three of her family members have fallen prey to aliens. Could the Mara have tangled her timeline in coincidence? But it isn't the new series, so it all really is coincidence. Except in fanfic, I imagine.

VERSIONS: A scene deleted from the final episode (but included on the DVD) had Tegan come across Kamelion in a TARDIS corridor. He uses the other two TARDISeers voices and refuses to go to the control room where he'd "only be in the way". Looks like he was to be the new K9. There's also a cut moment where TnT find the TARDIS door open. Maybe the program makers wanted to suggest Kamelion had stepped out and been forgotten in Little Hodcombe.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A quaint little runaround with good production values and an interesting set-up. I find myself wishing the two-parters were longer based on their first halves.


Zundian said...

Oh dear, Moffat is actually on record as preferring the Fifth Doctor above all (Mawdryn Undead is his favorite story!) so I think you may be onto something with your Tegan theory.

Brave heart, Siskoid only six weeks left until it starts getting good again.

Siskoid said...

Six weeks? I make it out to be 8 by the time I get to Remembrance of the Daleks (give or take a Caves of Androzani). I'm not sure the 7th Doctor's first difficult year should count as "good".

Jeff R. said...

I'd go as early as Dragonfire at least.

Siskoid said...

That's just a four-day difference.

Bill Doughty said...

I've always wondered why Saward took the script editor's job in the first place, seeing as the series leads are always getting sidelined by the guest stars throughout his tenure. It's especially noticeable in Colin Baker's first season where he's so frequently upstaged by the mercenary (or just guy-in-leather-vest) of the week.

Siskoid said...

Yes, DVD extras often have him moan about hard difficult JNT made things for him too. I think we're seeing signs of someone trying to turn a show he doesn't like into one he does.


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