Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Richard Martin (1) & Frank Cox (2)
So it turns out that Chris Morris is actually a precognitive documentary filmmaker. Who’d have thunk it? I half expect the news tomorrow to carry a warning telling us to watch out for a peadofile disgised as a school. Up until this point, the Doctor has clearly though that all humans have the cognitive capacity that the Metro would have us believe that these men have, but that was about to change*.
In some ways this forgotten classic could well be the most important Doctor Who story. For a start it’s the first story in which the Doctor actually shows affection, rather than just acceptance, towards of any of his human companions. Secondly it marks the end of the show’s beginning, as it were, transitioning from something that had been commissioned for 13 weeks, to a full year. And thirdly, it introduces the TARDIS as a character in her own right. Yup, despite his seeming distrust of computer, the Doctor’s only constant companion throughout the entire length of the show if an AI.
The fact that it contains anything worth commenting about is pretty remarkable given that
it was written as no budget filler in order to make up the allotted 13 episodes commissioned. It would probably be obvious that this was the case, given that the entire story is set in the TARDIS and the only actors in it are the crew themselves, but just to make sure you know, its mentioned in the liner notes in the DVD.
Despite this, writer David Whitaker delivered a great tense bottle episode filled with backstabbing and mistrust that is genuinely engaging to watch. Much later on in the series script editor Christopher Bidmead seemed to have a fetish for aweful seemingly endless runs of episodes that were all set completely within the TARDIS, and nothing fucking happens (we’ll get to that though), but this story proves that it is possible to tell a great tale while not going outside for who whole episodes.
Hartnell gives a stupendous performance as the Doctor here, turning on a dime between menacing and frail, and ultimately showing a good degree of kindness. At one point he roofies the entire crew, but you still forgive him in the end. The rest of the cast all give good performances too, each of them having at least one point of being sinister, and the rest of the time seeming like victims.
Ultimately though, everyone was just being a dick, but that’s okay, because it brought them closer together. Cos that’s the way it works, see.
Next up, Yetti, no, wait, that’s not for a few years yet. Susan just isn’t able to recognise a human footprint.
*Yeah, the links between my tangents and Doctor Who are becoming increasingly less substantial. What of it?