Monday, September 21, 2009

PPP3 - Carnival of Monsters 3

After a pair of less successful directorial efforts from Barry Letts (in the forms of The Enemy of the World and Terror of the Autons. We won't count Inferno because Letts predominantly worked off of Douglas Camfield's notes for that one), the producer of Doctor Who ably puts on his director's hat for this story.

Letts focuses a lot of attention on the Drashigs, and has sung their praises in the thirty-odd years since their onscreen appearance. I don't think they're as jaw droppingly good as Letts claims, but nor do I think that they're as bad as non-Drashig fans think. The scenes with them are effective in this episode, particularly in the shot where the Drashig slithers past The Doctor and Jo and moves away from the camera. The biggest failing of the Drashig is the confidence it gave Letts in his visual effects department in thinking that they could achieve anything - a confidence that would be betrayed by the time Invasion of the Dinosaurs came along in a year's time...

I'm also a big fan of Letts' tight closeups when any one of Pletrac, Kalik, and Orum are talking to each other. The more conspiratorial the conversation, the more striking the shot. Witness the quiet and intense chat Kalik and Orum have in this episode. Kalik is standing on a step a good foot and a half above Orum, then bends down to speak quietly with his intellectual subordinate. When Letts cuts to the closeup of the two, Michael Wisher (Kalik) appears from out the top of the screen, further emphasizing the unease that Orum must be feeling during the exchange.

Even the CSO, Barry Letts's calling card, doesn't seem overused in this (which can't be said for his other Pertwee era efforts). While CSO was in its infancy at this stage, Letts was a huge proponent of the technique and was always keen to use it as much as possible. I find nothing wrong with this. It may have, at times, looked dodgy, but if the production crews of the BBC hadn't been inundated with having to work on it in the early 1970s, they wouldn't have been nearly as proficient as they were by the decade's end.


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