Saturday, June 13, 2009

DD1 - The Tenth Planet 1

Doctor Who's first attempt at depicting the near future is a fun and interesting romp that manifests itself as a bunch of multicultural stereotypes living and working in an underground military base in Antarctica. Into this, The Doctor, Ben, and Polly find themselves thrust in a type of story that would become much more common during the upcoming Patrick Troughton era - a small, isolated base under attack from an alien menace.

Fans of the programme have often stated that Troughton's Doctor was a much more scheming individual than any of his other incarnations; the seeds for that are planted here. Before Mondas, the eponymous tenth planet, makes its appearance, The Doctor correctly predicts its arrival to the staff of the Snowcap base in order to try and establish his credentials to them. The Doctor has not only foreseen the return, but he is aware of how Mondas began. It adds another level of mystery to The Doctor's character and his unseen travels before we met up with him in a junkyard in 1963. Was he there when Mondas moved out of its orbit? Did he even, perhaps, have a hand in it?

Such a great episode, this is, highlighted by one of the most memorable scenes in the show's history - the first appearance of the Cybermen. After a good few tries at duplicating the success of the Daleks, Doctor Who strikes gold (or should I say silver) again with the Cybermen. Of course, they look ridiculous by today's standards, and their subsequent updates would be more effective, I think, but it is the way that they are filmed that immediately rises them above the limitations of their costumes. The first time we see them are shadowy creatures coming from afar through the snow, almost blending into their surroundings. After they chop down a couple guards, we see a bit more - they look like robots, with bits of metal covering up various parts of their body, including something giant atop their heads. The first close up, though, is of a human hand, which then tilts up to that blank, soulless face. Another punch-the-air moment in the history of Doctor Who.

Unlike Daleks, who are often introduced in closeup, Cybermen have always looked best when slowly advancing from far away. This trick has been deployed more than a few times in the show's history (including in the most recent Cybermen episode The Next Doctor), but it has never been more effective than in the closing moments of The Tenth Planet, Episode One.


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