Friday, December 4, 2009

5D2 - The Androids of Tara 2

Cyril Shaps makes his fourth and final appearance in Doctor Who, playing the Archimandrite, easily his most dignified role in Who after some rather panicky outings in The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Ambassadors of Death, and Planet of the Spiders. Fine performances all, but one thing that I've always noticed about Shaps is this: he rarely looks at the people he's talking to. Watch him in this episode when he's talking to Grendel and how he barely makes eye contact with Peter Jeffries.

It says something about my appreciation of Doctor Who when I notice something like this, when a normal person would have at least made one remark about the Archimandrite's extraordinarily colourful costume. But the truth is, the Archimandrite is just one of the more splendidly dressed characters in this story, and the coronation scene is a fine example of costume designer Doreen James's fine work. Truth be told, there's a few stock costumes amongst the crowd shots, but the eclectic look of Tara means that none of these costumes stand out as being conspicuous.

Grendel's guards also look impressive, both with their costumes and helmets, but also with their crossbows that fire deadly laser bolts. The video effects seen in Doctor Who have taken a remarkable leap forward during the Graham Williams era (just look at the magnificent laser effects in Underworld as proof of that), and the flying bolts in this story are notable for two reasons: they are clearly meant to mimic the lasers seen in the relatively recent film Star Wars, and it will also be the last time such a tricky laser effect will be seen in the series for eight years...

Two episodes in, and this story is just so innocent and delightful, and a real joy to watch.


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