Wednesday, June 3, 2009

X1 - The Steel Sky

Right from the very first shot of this episode, one can't help but be impressed by the high production values this serial enjoyed at the time. The first shot, on film, is an uninterrupted single shot (barring one quick closeup) totaling almost two minutes in length that tracks across an impressive jungle set, complete with a plethora of exotic animals, then stops for a quickly (and well realized) TARDIS materialization. The jungle set looks just as impressive in the confines of the BBC TV studios, as well, and some convincing camera shots do a fantastic job in convincing the viewer that there is, indeed, a steel sky above the jungle that the TARDIS crew has landed in.

The main set for the ark control room is equally vast and impressive, has some very convincing backdrops to convey the fact that the ship is much larger than the limits of the studio, and contains a large video screen along the back wall. I'm always more impressed with visual effects that look like effects invented after the fact, and the realization of the material seen on that video screen look a lot like CSO, invented four years later. It's all done through inlaid video and such, but it doesn't look half impressive, especially in the shots where the screen is seen at an angle.

The Monoids have always been derided for their appearance, as well, but I don't think it's fair to do so. I think the single eye of the Monoid looks kind of creepy, myself, and, sure, they could have chosen a better hairstyle than the Beatle mops that all the Monoids wear, but I'll take the Monoids over some clanking giant fiberglass ants any day. Kudos must go to director Michael Imison for this episode - as impressive a directorial and technical debut if ever there was one.


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