Sunday, January 10, 2010

5R4 - Full Circle 4

Few death scenes in Doctor Who have affected me as much as Varsh's in Episode Four. It is one of my earlier memories of the show, and it is the first one that made me sad then, and still makes me sad today.

You might think it's because Adric's last link to his homeland, his brother, has just died, leaving Adric with nothing to stay on Alzarius for (this is in keeping with Who tradition: kill the potential new companion's entire family so that he/she has no choice but travel in the TARDIS. Believe me, this won't be the last we'll see of this in Season 18). It could be because, with Varsh dying on not Adric, we lost the better brother, and were forced to accept the silver medal, Adric, into the TARDIS instead of his older, better-acted brother.

No, it's the moment where Varsh decides to stay and fend off one too many Marshmen, have his oxygen cylinder run out, and then scream "Adriiiiic!" in a way that contained both the right amounts of urgency and panic. Richard Willis did a superb job with Varsh, but his final scream chilled me as an 11-year-old, and I still found myself deeply saddened when watching it today. Willis gives it all during that scene, and whether it was his decision to raise the intensity for that scene, or that of first time Who director Peter Grimwade, it is a commendable scene, and one of the highlights of a truly splendid Doctor Who story.

Top kudos, though, for this and most stories of Season 18, go to Tom Baker. In watching Baker's final season, I'm becoming increasingly convinced that it could be his finest work in Doctor Who. There's a scene in Episode Three where he chastises the Deciders for allowing the failed experimentation the Marshchild to occur where he simply dominates the screen. Look how long he pauses after his wonderful line "Not an alibi, Deciders!" (which follows an even more wonderful line, in response to the Deciders disgust with the Marshmen, "Easy enough to destroy. Have you ever tried to create one?"). Baker stands there, having silenced the room (and the audience) for three full seconds before carrying on. It would be easy to laugh off Baker's later years in Doctor Who as a flurry of lines like "Would you like a jelly baby?" and other such verbal and physical sleight-of-hand, but Season 18 strips everything that was the bluster of the Fourth Doctor down and concentrates on what is a fantastic series of performances from the programme's lead actor.

And, finally, it is the very last scene in this episode that officially triggered my personal ascent from keen fan to obsessive watcher. Up until that point in my brief time watching the show, every four- or six-part story had a beginning, a middle, and an end, ready to start anew the next week. Even in the Key to Time arc of Season 16, each story had a definite conclusion. But I remember, as an 11-year old, watching all the story threads wrap up, but the last niggling holdout was the fact that The Doctor and Romana were still trapped in E-Space. I thought to myself, "They're kind of running out of time to flip the switch and get out of E-Space so that next week's episode can start". But there, as The Doctor and Romana both stared off into the distance, wondering how to get out of their predicament, the credits crashed in, and the week long wait until the next story became excruciating. Here was a series that was so wide in scope and imagination that the stories that were being told were no longer capable of being confined to a mere four episodes. Doctor Who became bigger in my eyes at that exact moment. I had taken my first step into a larger world...


Post a Comment