Tuesday, 24 May 2011

1x09 The Expedition

“What victory are we going to show these people when most of them have been killed, eh? A fluid link. Is this what you’re going to hold up to them and say ‘thank you very much, this is what you fought and died for’”.

Broadcast Date: 18th January 1964

After the now-obvious reprieve from last week, this episode opens with a fantastic model shot of the Skaro City followed by a very poor static shot of the Dalek’s speaking. This scene lasts a minute or two and is really badly directed and scripted, just there to recap for the audience incase their minds don’t stretch back seven days.

There’s the first of many in-jokes added here by the production team. Hartnell being poor with his lines, often got Ian Chesterton’s surname wrong, Ian puts him right here, but this isn’t the last time we’ll get to hear Hartnell muck up a character name.

This is all fun and happy, but then we’re deep into heavy dialogue as our characters face a huge moral dilemma about whether or not it’s their right to send the Thals into war with the Daleks.

I hate to say it, as I like Christopher Barry and he directed some of the most well known Doctor Who serials, but this episode is incredible with how bad the directing is. There are so many camera angles that are still and held for far too long with no character movement. Fair enough this may well have happened in other 1960s Who, especially with the cameras being used in the day, but the previous episodes never had this problem and certainly never felt like we’d been looking at our characters doing sod all for ages with no cut away shot. I’m sorry Mr Barry, but this problem carries through so much of this episode I can’t wait for some action in the plot so we don’t have to witness any more characters prit-sticked to the spot.

One of many 'static' shots from Barry

Night falls on Skaro and we get a scene with two characters that aren’t regulars. I love it when this happens as it gives us a glimpse into what this alien planet is like and how our loved TARDIS cast affect the natives by intruding on their affairs.

We learn some more affairs here, mutations in the swamps, the Daleks want to drop another atomic bomb but now I have to give a small apology to Chris Barry. A scene opens up and the camera is the Dalek’s eyestalk. This is a great little change of shot and works, but then I have to retract by apology as it returns to being poor and uninteresting direction. Oh but look, I’ve spotted a Thal at 13:50 who looks like a William Hartnell stunt double! He’s standing still though. So are the other ten Thals. Such a surprise given how I’ve moaned about this previously in the episode.

A dash of irony as the Daleks pull up a camera view of the Thals in the jungle, commenting on how the quality is poor. Glad I’m not the only person to notice this!

There’s not a lot of praise to be added to this episode. The direction is awful, the plot doesn’t go very far at all, although we do get some great speeches in the early stages of the episode. Cusick strikes gold with his sets again though, as now we’ve travelled into the swamps. Oh but now that horrible plastic Thal coat has returned.

A good use of sound effects in the jungles emerges as does a fantastic swamp creature, I’m disappointed how little it’s used as it looks so brilliant. A big sense of Britishness strikes in these scenes as Ian and Barbara try to cross the swamps; scenes like this are what make Who work. But then comes a cliffhanger that is so abrupt it feels like a letdown. The episode just stops with no warning.

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