Wednesday, May 27, 2009

V5 - Counter Plot

It seems odd for me to discuss sound in Doctor Who when I'm talking about one of the few episodes of The Daleks' Master Plan that can actually be watched. But it was in this episode that I finally noticed the importance of sound design in Doctor Who, and how it has almost been non-existent prior to this story.

Every location in this episode has a constant sound effect in the background - Dalek control, Mavic Chen's room, the teleport control room, the teleport room itself, the planet Mira. It aids the telling of a story so much more when there's a constant, yet subtle, reminder that the scene you're watching is in a totally different place than the scene that came before it. It also subconsciously affects the pacing. There were far too many quiet or silent scenes in the first two seasons of Doctor Who, and some episodes felt very slow as a result. Not here - the pace cracks along. Credit, too, must go to the audio mixer. Each episode was recorded almost as live back in those days, so to be constantly switching between one constant audio track to another, as well as throwing in cues from Tristram Cary's superb score for these episodes, required some expert skill and precision.

What has also kept this story so interesting through five episodes are the various subplots that occur during the course of the story. Most of them have to do with power struggles - Mavic Chen trying to eliminate his competition in the alliance with the Daleks by tricking and framing the other galactic leaders, then trying to become ruler over the Daleks themselves. One little tangent which is sadly undeveloped after this episode is the short appearance by Maurice Browning as Chen's right hand man, Karlton. Karlton seems to be the only person who can (and the only person who Chen seems to allow to) talk back at Chen when Chen is confiding in Karlton with his thoughts and plans. Karlton's very last line leads one to believe that he's setting up his own plan to overthrow Chen himself, but nothing comes of it. This is a bit of a shame, as I could watch Browning all day in this episode, and he has one of the most distinctive voices in Doctor Who history. The scenes between he and Kevin Stoney are superb.

I could go on about how fantastic this story is, and probably will over the course of the next seven episodes. Terrific stuff.


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