Tuesday, May 19, 2009

S1 - The Watcher

The departure of Ian and Barbara, who, it must be said, had a fair chunk of screen time during their day, chimes in a new era of Doctor Who. We meet the new male companion/action-man-because-William-Hartnell-is-too-old-and-fragile-to-participate-in-such-scenes in the guise of Steven Taylor, who was introduced in the last episode, but gets his proper debut here. I've always liked Peter Purves's performance in the role (the little we get to see of him, given the state of the BBC Archives), and he gets a good start in this episode, sharing a nice chemistry with Maureen O'Brien as Vicki.

Purves's arrival coincides with a new maturity from Vicki, who, now thrust into the position of senior companion, leads a wary Steven around 11th century England. And with Vicki now experiencing a new found independence, at long last, William Hartnell gets the spotlight to himself for large chunks of the episode. This could be my favourite single Hartnell episode in existence. I love his speech in the TARDIS where he points out various aspects of the console room to a disbelieving Steven (including "a chair with a panda on it" - brilliant).

But his best scene is perhaps the one where he has a cup of mead with Edith, casually inquiring about the goings on in the area to try and determine what period of history the TARDIS has landed in. Commentators often remark of a moment in the new series episode Boom Town where Christopher Eccleston's mood goes from jovial to stern in the blink of an eye in a bravura bit of acting. Hartnell has a similar scene in The Watcher, where one moment he's giggling to himself about his success at pinpointing the current time/place that he's in, and then, with remarkable ease, his mood turns pensive and dour, chucking the remainder of his mead into the bushes, then urgently calling Edith out to ask her where the monastery is when he hears the "monks chanting" slow down, as if it was being played off a record.

This is totally Hartnell's show now, and he was also beginning to realize it himself (about which more, later...).


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you love this serial as much as I do. We get great stuff from Hartnell, including my favorite Billy Fluff ever: (the one about preferring walking to climbing--brilliant); Steven and Vicki get a whole lot to do; we get the lovely portrayal of the Monk. Just a wonderful serial--thanks for not ripping it to shreds. :-)

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