Tuesday, November 3, 2009

4P1 - The Deadly Assassin 1

Never before had The Doctor appeared in a story without a companion until The Deadly Assassin. Never before had a story been set entirely on The Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey until The Deadly Assassin, nor was there one that explored the machinations of Gallifreyan society. Never before in Doctor Who history has there been a story as grand in scale, scope, and drama, as The Deadly Assassin.

This story is so monumental that the opening, scrolling monologue, which would seem far too bombastic and overblown in any other story or even any other television series, fits here perfectly and prepares the audience for the spectacle that they are about to watch over the next four weeks.

But first thing's first - Episode One, in which the idea of a companion-less Doctor is immediately disproved as being effective once we see how much Tom Baker talks to himself in the first scene. Thankfully, Baker's Doctor is eccentric enough to get away with it, but it shows the necessity of the companion role in Doctor Who.

This is probably the best looking Doctor Who episode ever made. The sets by Roger Murray-Leach are massive, and they belie the comparatively small budget which was used to create them. It's no surprise that the costumes for the Time Lords created for this story have been used for every subsequent Gallifrey-based story since, as James Acheson's designs are ornate and colourful without being gaudy. And the direction by David Maloney is simply superb. His composite shot of the Panoptican full of Time Lords is beautiful. This episode is a glimpse at what Doctor Who would look like with a big budget.

As a kid, my first experience with The Deadly Assassin was the final few minutes of Episode One and it's staggering cliffhanger. I never saw the rest of the story until years later, leaving the idea in my head for the longest time that sometime, somewhere, The Doctor went rogue and shot the President of Gallifrey. Memorable then, memorable now.


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