Doctor Who #73: The Death of Time

"My dear boy, we’re trying to beat the Daleks. Not start a jumble sale!"TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 2 of The Chase. First aired May 29 1965.

IN THIS ONE... The Daleks excavate the TARDIS and the crew jump aboard and leave as soon as they've escaped a giant octopus and some well-meaning fish people.

REVIEW: So every episode will start with some jazzy musical cues whether they're appropriate or not. I guess I can bear it. Not so easy to bear is the fact that every episode in the serial will be a non sequitur. So let's talk crimes committed by Terry Nation in THIS one... He's diversifying the Daleks, and I suppose that's a good thing, and won't cynically presume he's giving them new arm attachments only to cash in with the toy makers (oops, I guess I just did). I wonder if they'll also make a toy from the so-called "Special Needs Dalek" who needs to be told to SEE TO IT on an order because he's not that quick (and I'm sure the obvious order to cease firing when the TARDIS is gone is also directed at him). And then there's the planet Aridius, see, because it's an ARID desert! Since it used to be an ocean world, did they have to change the planet's name? If you're going to go all 50s B-movie on your naming conventions, at least have them make sense. If it always was Aridius, they were just asking for trouble...

I'm not going to lay it all at Nation's feet. There are some annoying technical problems in this episode as well. Oh, the cave-in effect is well done, and we haven't seen the Daleks in the desert before. The Aridians are somewhere between full-body make-up and costume, and that's fine. However, the raised "dunes" stage creates a visual problem. When I was a teenager, I worked for local access television, and it was drilled into me there that people's eyes on screen should generally be at three-quarters up the screen. And in well made tv and film, it generally is. No in The Death of Time though, where characters are frequently butting heads with the top of frame, well over the ¾ line, leading to an unwanted abundance of crotch and butt shots. The Mire Beast looked pretty cool in the previous episode, and isn't all bad here, but once in full lighting, you can tell it's a sagging rubber puppet. And what of the scene where it breaks through a wall? Barbara should clearly have been killed by those falling cinderblocks. I don't want her to die, you understand, but it just strains suspension of disbelief to intolerable levels. Also problematic are Vicki almost magically finding her way back to the Doctor, and the whole crew dodging Dalek blasts.

The chase is on, and the TARDIS leaves at episode's end for other pastures. The "vignette" plot structure means the Aridians are hastily sketched characters, who seem to have a plight - their underwater habitat turned to desert and now they have to bomb parts of their city to contain the surviving cephalopods - but that seems pretty incidental to the story, a way to eat up time because we're certainly not going to spend much more time with these creatures. When the TARDIS leaves, they're still struggling with both the Mire Beasts and the Daleks. Good luck with that! When the plot sucks, we usually take refuge in the characters and they ARE better drawn than in the last episode. Barbara is exhausted, but the Doctor is still up for some sight-seeing. Vicki, as it turns out, is terrible at screaming, so this must be before it was part of the audition process for companions. Ian takes ANOTHER cardigan off Barbara - always trying to undress her, eh? - and creates a makeshift pit trap. They've all built up a lot of good will, it's just unfortunate that the story doesn't seem to matter.

REWATCHABILITY: Low - It's a double-edged sword, isn't it? The vignette style means we never stay long in a story that's thin and forgettable, but it's thin and forgettable because we never stay long.

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