Day Seven — January 7th 2021

The Brink of Disaster and The Roof of the World

The Brink of Disaster (The Edge of Destruction — Episode Two)

Do you know, if I could have any Doctor Who prop in my house, I’d be proper tempted by the Westminster Abbey clock that gets melted by the TARDIS in this story. It wouldn’t actually fit with our decor in any room, it seems somewhat impractical size-wise, and I’ve already got two antique clocks in my office — one of which doesn’t work and the other which I forget to wind up for weeks on end — but I think it’d be neat.

Unfortunately, it’d also be expensive. One sold at Christies in 2005 for $36,000, and another for almost $79,000 last year, and that’s if I can even find one in the first place!

But then I’ve been looking at it today and it would be really easy to have a new one laser cut, if you could work out the right bits to draw up as a vector file. Maybe I’ll make that my other goal for 2021. Watch all of Old Testament Doctor Who, and make one of these clocks. As New Year’s Resolutions go, they’re not bad ones.

Anyway! Enough about the clock! Back to The Edge of Destruction. I realised today what this episode is. It’s a play. A play on basically one set, with a cast of four characters. It’s not really written for television. Now I’ve noticed that I’m surprised no one has tried to stage it — to my knowledge. We’ve had stage adaptations of various Who stories from The Web of Fear to Genesis of the Daleks, but this one is made for the format!

I’m sorry to say, though, that it’s still not grabbing me. I think it’s quite clever that the solution being a stuck spring is why the Fault Locator couldn’t tell them anything was wrong, and Doctor Who gets to deliver a lovely speech about the birth of a universe, with some gorgeous lighting against the TARDIS Console, but there’s just not a lot going on to catch my interest.

And it makes me wonder what kids thought about it at the time. After seven weeks of adventure with the Daleks — which, admittedly, weren’t to my liking, but you can deny there was things happening — they suddenly get this! Ratings-wise they lost half a million viewers between the two episodes of the story, and I can certainly imagine why…

5/10

The Roof of the World (Marco Polo — Episode One)

Missing episodes! We’re all supposed to want the missing episodes back, aren’t we? Endless debates about where they could be, who might have them, and when they might come back to us. But I quite like the missing episodes! They’re interesting! There’s a thrill in having so many episodes that we don’t know everything about.

And truth be told, as Doctor Who fans we’re in a really lucky position with our missing episodes. Sure there’s almost 100 that we can’t watch any more, but we’ve got the soundtracks for them, the majority have tele-snaps, or a little bit of surviving footage here and there. We’ve got the full camera scripts, and the behind the scenes photographs. Missing episodes? They’re not missing at all! They’re just fragmented!

Because then you’ve got series like The Avengers, who really know how to do missing episodes. There’s episodes from the first year of The Avengers which don’t have the scripts in existence any more, no off-air recording of the soundtrack, and no tele-snaps. If you’re lucky, you might have a synopsis of the storyline. If not, you might just have the text from that week’s TV Times, and a handful of pictures from the production. Imagine how exciting it is when one of those shows up! It’s like they’ve made a brand new episode especially for you!

Anyway, Doctor Who’s missing episodes. There’s always the question of how to best approach them when doing a marathon, and I’ll be sticking with my tried-and-tested method; listening to the narrated soundtracks. I’ve never been a big fan of the recons — I find my attention wanders looking at the still images more than it does when I’m simply listening to the story. There’s animations for several of the missing ones now, too, but I’ll confess that they never really worked for me either, and I don’t own most of them. So soundtracks it is!

I bought all the the Lost TV Episodes collections when they first came out about ten years ago, and have the discs mixed in with the DVDs in my collection, so I always have them to hand. And even better in today’s case, because Marco Polo was released in a beautiful vinyl LP set last year, and this will be the first chance I’ve had to crack it open and give it a listen. I proper love the vinyl sets, and will happily buy any and every 60s story in this format. Bizarrely, my interest in them stops after The War Games, so I didn’t bother with Destiny of the Daleks, and I’ll be skipping the upcoming Horror of Fang Rock release too, even if it does look lovely.

But I want to shake things up a bit this time around, so I’m going to keep the Doctor Who Magazine tele-snap specials to hand as I watch through the episodes, so I’m getting an idea of how things look. I’ve never really paid a lot of attention to the tele-snaps, never having been a recon fan, so it’s a new experience for me on the missing episodes this time around.

So with all of that admin stuff out of the way, onto The Roof of the World itself. It feels like so much has happened in this episode, which makes it a real departure from the last few days. We’re introduced to two distinct settings, a whole host of characters who already feel fuller than the Thals did a few episodes ago, and we’re on board with the situation our heroes find themselves in.

It’s lovely to see Susan given another character her own age to play against, and she feels more rounded as a young girl here than she has since the very first episode. The say she and Ping-Cho gossip and laugh is brilliant, and I’m looking forward to spending the next few days in their company.

And then there’s the threat of the story itself — that Marco Polo is preventing Doctor Who from getting back into his TARDIS, and intends to present the ship as a gift to soeone else at the end of their journey. There’s something brilliant about the slow-burning tension of knowing that our heroes are moving closer to their fate every episode, but powerless to stop it.

Even Tegana, who will go on to become a bit of a panto villain as the story progresses, feels truly threatening here. It feels like such a step up from the last two stories.

My only criticism is… how disappointed must kids have been in 1964, having been teased with a giant footprint as the cliffhanger last week, to find it brushed away two minutes in by Ian announcing it’s just a human footprint that has melted?! I feel a bit let down now, and I’m a thirty-something listening to the tale almost 60 years later!

There’s an interesting TARDIS ‘first’ in this episode, too, and one which is usually attributed to The Keys of Marinus. It’s the first appearance in the series of a model TARDIS, which can just about be glimpsed in one of the tele-snaps for the episode. The frame is caught between shot transitions, but here on the left you can just about make out the tiny Police Box. Huge thanks to Clayton Hickman for giving the shot a bit of a spruce-up especially for this blog, so you don’t have to squint through the fuzziness any longer!

We don’t get a close enough shot of it to say if it’s the same box that does get used in Marinus, though I’d wager it’s likely. People want Marco Polo to turn up because it’s a good story with some lavish sets and costumes… I want it to show up so we can compare the models and find out for certain!

The model will show up again in at least one more episode of this serial, and I’d love to know if it happens more than that.

8/10

<Day Six | Day Eight >

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