Monday, September 26, 2005

'Spearhead From Space' episodes I - II

4 episodes

Oooh - colour! Suddenly, Doctor Who takes a great leap forward - new Doctor, new decade, new titles, new theme arrangement, the first story after the Doctor has finally been given a background and a context, the first story with a wholesale changeover for the core cast - and it's all in full glorious colour for the first time. Immediately, 'The War Games' seems a very long time ago... Incidentally, it's also the first non-'The...' story I've seen since 'Planet of Giants' eighteen days ago!!

Other than the totally fresh feel all the above gives the start of 'Spearhead From Space', the most noticeable thing is how fantastically glossy and 'expensive' it looks - this was the rarest of things, a Doctor Who episode shot entirely (out of necessity) on film and on location, so it automatically looks bigger and better than those shot on sets using videotape. It all helps reinforce the notion that you're watching something of a new dawn for the programme. Otherwise, the most surprising thing about part 1 is how much it holds back from rushing into the plot, or indeed introducing us to the new incarnation of the Doctor. Jon Pertwee's debut in the role sees him spend almost all of his early scenes either unconscious or otherwise less than talkative, firstly following his regeneration and secondly after he is shot (!) by a UNIT soldier. Consequently his doctors and a sceptical Brigadier learn very little about this mysterious figure and we surprisingly learn very little about his characterisation until this first half has all but elapsed. There is a rather grown-up atmosphere to proceedings, too - from the slicker look (the Brigadier's press conference at the beginning has an almost documentary feel) to a more mature 'companion' in Liz Shaw, plus we get blood on the cracked windscreen when a UNIT soldier crashes his Jeep early on, and the Autons are extremely creepy, with waxy skin, hollow eyes and stilted movements. There is humour too, though - the Doctor's antics in hospital with his shoes, the shower and his stolen outfit and 'borrowed' car, for instance. All in all, Pertwee shines as the new incumbent, while he is matched by an excellent Nicholas Courtney, slipping effortlessly back into the role of the Brigadier, and there is a promising start for Caroline John as Liz Shaw plus excellent support turns from Hugh Burden's Channing (staring eyes, looks like he's listening to the voices in his head), John Woodnutt's Hibbert (deeply conflicted) Neil Wilson's Seeley (shifty West Country yokel in Essex) and more.

Looking forward to the adventure proper in the remaining two episodes!

Episodes watched: 147
Episodes still to watch: 575

Damn - so much effort to catch up, and then I only watch one episode yesterday and two today, my worst sequence yet... Nine behind again!

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