Thursday, February 11, 2010

6H1 - Enlightenment 1

My very first impression of Enlightenment is this: doesn't the 1980s console room look brilliant with the lights turned down? The red light roundels might veer a little bit towards mood lighting, but, for the first time in a long time, there's actual, genuine atmosphere in the scenes set within the TARDIS. Peter Brachacki's original set design for the TARDIS interior was intended to create a massive contrast between the contents of a scrapyard (or, indeed, anything found in 1960s England) and the inside of an alien spaceship.

The TARDIS interior continued to look spectacular in black and white throughout the 1960s because of the raw, stark image it conveyed, especially compared to the lush historical settings that were the basis of some of the early Hartnell stories. But as the 1970s became the 1980s, and studio lighting became flatter and more economical, the inadequacies of the original design became more and more glaringly obvious. Once, there were chairs, ornate clocks, and other relics in the console room that indicated the breadth of The Doctor's travels over the centuries. Now? Just a lonely, empty hat stand in the corner, and even it's been painted white to better match its surroundings.

But not in Enlightenment. There's a table and chairs set up for Tegan and Turlough to play chess, and the TARDIS looks like an interesting place to be for once. The low lighting also enhances a really creepy moment when the mysterious Marriner appears on the TARDIS scanner, apparently clinging to the light on the roof, ethereally staring at Tegan through the darkness.

Everything about Episode One is setting up the mood for the rest of the story. It appears to be set on an Edwardian racing yacht, but we never see the outside. We never have en establishing shot of the outside of the ship, nor do we ever see out of a porthole or window. It's a very claustrophobic episode in which nothing, or no one, are as they seem. If this was a new series episode, the Episode One cliffhanger would have happened at the end of the pre-credit sequence, robbing us of all the brilliant mood and set-up that this episode brings us. An excellent first installment.


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