Monday, May 18, 2009

R6 - The Planet of Decision

The Mechanoid that rescued The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki at the end of the previous episode turns out to not be the saviour that the TARDIS crew had hoped it would be. The Mechanoids are an odd sort. Invented by Terry Nation to give the Daleks' a natural enemy (as well as another species to include in his proposed American TV series that he had hoped to sell to the world in 1965), it's not surprising that the Mechanoids didn't take off. They're huge and unwieldy, their only abilities seem to involving spinning and flapping their metallic pincers, and their dialogue is often obscured by a strange voice effects that renders most of what they say almost impossible to understand.

The battle between the two species at the climax of the episode is well shot on film, and culminates in the total destruction of the Machanoid's city. This story really raises a lot of questions about The Doctor's lifestyle and choice of planets which he visits (even though, as this stage in the show's history, he has little to no control over the places he goes to). Almost every innocent place that the TARDIS has landed has been irrevocably altered by The Doctor arriving there. Several Aridians were exterminated by the Daleks, who directly followed the TARDIS to Aridus; the crew of the Marie Celeste are forced off their ship by the Daleks, who, again, are only there because the TARDIS landed there just prior to the Daleks' arrival, and now the entire city on Mechanus, as well as its inhabitants, is destroyed by the battle involving the Daleks. Joan Redfern, in The Family of Blood, was right - if The Doctor hadn't arrived on any of these planets, would anybody have died?

The last ten minutes is given over to the departure of Ian and Barbara via the Daleks' time machine, and what a few scenes they are. Despite William Hartnell's famous "cinders floating in Spain" fluff, these concluding scenes between The Doctor and the two Earth school teachers are intense. I love the fact that the actual final scene between the four friends happens inside the Daleks' time capsule and is never seen by the viewer. All we see are a very sombre Doctor and Vicki leaving the capsule, having just said their goodbyes to two people who have become dear friends. I would love to have been in on that final conversation.

Once Ian and Barbara make it back to Earth, and their safe return is witnessed by The Doctor and Vicki on the soon-to-be-forgotten Time Space Visualizer, another of Hartnell's best performances is seen. His delivery of the line "I shall miss them. Yes, I shall miss them." is so beautifully underplayed that it speaks volumes of The Doctor's respect for Ian and Barbara.

After a few weeks of various giggles and shouts of "hmm hmm!", Hartnell reminds us all why he's still a top notch Doctor, despite some less than favourable character traits. This episode also signifies the beginning of the long end of the Hartnell era, as all of The Doctor's original companions have now left, soon to be followed by the programme's first producer, Verity Lambert. And then the changes would come thick and fast over the next few weeks...


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