Thursday, April 16, 2009

F4 - The Day of Darkness

The conclusion to one of the flat-out best stories in Doctor Who's history is also one of its most downbeat. The only victory the TARDIS crew achieves is in escaping. Barbara, who tried so hard to abolish human sacrifice in the Aztec culture, failed in her attempt, as she must have surely realized would happen. She also loses the faith of Autloc, who stood by her through thick and thin for most of the story, only to run off into the wilderness to become a hermit. It is almost tragic to watch Barbara's world collapse around her in a pile of wasted good intentions, and Jacqueline Hill portrays this well-meaning futility extraordinarily well.

Susan also loses some of her innocence, narrowly ducking out of an arranged marriage with The Perfect Victim, only to be punished for the offence with a public torturing (which she also barely avoids). Ian also faces a life and death situation in his inevitable fight with Ixta, which he wins (although it must have been tough for the writers to come up with a way that definitely gives Ian the victory, kills Ixta, but doesn't make out Ian as being directly responsible).

The Doctor perhaps loses the most of all in Cameca. The two don't have a long farewell scene, but the seeds for their sorrow are planted in the scene where The Doctor is making a pulley to help open the door to the tomb and, thus, get back to the TARDIS. Cameca realizes then and there that The Doctor is not long for her world, as the viewer does, but it doesn't lessen the impact of their gradual separation throughout the episode.

There haven't been many more poignant scenes than the final scene in the tomb. The Doctor comforts Barbara, explaining to her that even though she deceived Autloc and caused him to lose his faith, she helped him in finding a new faith in himself. After Barbara goes into the TARDIS, The Doctor leaves behind Cameca's medallion with a look of fond reminiscence, but then turns back and reluctantly places the medallion back in his pocket. The look on his face suggests that he's almost annoyed that he became involved with such a relationship, or that he let himself become involved. William Hartnell again plays this scene superbly, and the pain one senses from The Doctor in this scene leads one to believe that, after this experience, he would resign himself to leave his emotions at the door in future adventures. And he did - we wouldn't see another Doctor romance for many, many years to come.


Anonymous said...

THAT's what happened--I'd forgotten all of that. Maybe I was crying too much--I tend to cry for Who, and that doesn't make me any less of a man, so there.

I like how you draw the parallel between this romantic entanglement of the Doctor's and the ones in the new series much, much later. Very well observed.

Anonymous said...

The Aztecs is truly a classic and the Aztec people are one of the most alien races seen in Doctor Who, ironically!

Anonymous said...

Yes! Yes! To 36's comment above about alien Aztecs. One true triumph of early Who is that they manage to make the historicals at least as alien as the bug-eyed monsters in rubber suits.

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