Friday, May 8, 2009

N6 - The Centre

Okay, after six episodes, I have finally pinpointed what has been severely reducing my potential enjoyment of this story. I've already pointed out how bold (yet annoying) the production team was when creating the different species for this story in that each group - Zarbi, Menoptra, Venom Grubs, Optera - each had their own unique alien characteristics. From a distance, too, they never looked too much like they were portrayed by human actors in suits.

And that's the key - from a distance. In order to preserve the mystery of these aliens, their facial make-up/masks are rarely shown in close-up over the course of the story, as a view of the actors' mouths and eyes would destroy the illusion. While I appreciate that fact, it does hamper the production massively in that any scenes with the aliens must be shot in medium to long shot only. There are so many infuriatingly long scenes contained to one wide shot with 4 or 5 actors in the frame, especially in Episode 6, The Centre.

It can't be explained as an artistic choice by director Richard Martin, as he used many effective close-ups for scenes with The Doctor and his friends. When resorted to the wide shots, the direction fails. The viewer loses that intimate connection with the characters, and, thus, is taken out of the story, and when a story is already almost entirely populated by alien characters that are hard to relate to, to further separate them from the viewer is almost catastrophic.

That, and the Optera are total crap.

This has been a bold experiment, especially for something made in 1965, but it must ultimately judged as a failure. I'm sure the record viewing audience (and it was quite sizable) at the time must have been entertained, but I wonder what they would think of it if they could see it now. As John Nathan-Turner famously, and often, said, "The memory cheats...."


Anonymous said...

I'm inclined toward your Optera theory more than your directing style hypothesis. It's actually a very interesting story--which makes the rubbish effects all the more painful. The novelization was probably brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Actually the info text for the DVD of this serial shows that the sizable audience weren't very impressed and mostly made bitchy comments in their feedback about how the whole thing was silly and the writers seemed to have run out of ideas. It seems this is the point where Doctor Who jumped the shark in the popular audience's eyes...

Anonymous said...

I love the idea that Doctor Who might have jumped the shark in 1965. It's all been downhill since then!

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