“Can it be possible then, that this is the end?”
Broadcast Date: 15th February 1964
Picking straight up from the last episode, it’s Ian strangling the Doctor! Some of the poorest acting, directing and editing of the series gives us the solving of the cliffhanger here. Ian lets out a wail and falls unconscious, as Susan previously did (last episode). The story is beginning to verge on confusion, but repetitive points from the companions (such as a pain in the back of the neck) keeps the audience thinking about the plot, another clever device from Whitaker.
There is a great sense of continuity between this serial and the previous two, this part relying a lot on ‘An Unearthly Child’, the further I travel into this episode, the more complicated it becomes for the average viewer, this is definitely not a starting point for anybody, but for those who have seen the previous ten instalments it is fantastic. This is also the episode where the Doctor can jump from one mood to another instantaneously, a trait that makes the character who he is in today’s series.
Hartnell is constantly making error after error, this two parter could be a drinking game for ‘count the Hartnellisms’, but these really don’t get in the way of his brilliant performance throughout the fifty minute serial.
The level of threat becomes enormous, something I certainly never expected from a small, somewhat unloved serial, and it becomes absolutely brilliant. I find myself loving every little bit of this episode, the characters especially. The plot is clever, each character gets their own plot development to work out and the Doctor discovers his ship is alive.
|That darn Gallfreyan workmanship again!|
Such a clever plot device is having the ship warning the crew and it’s made all the better by the fact this episode almost never came to pass, yet sets up one of the biggest parts of the Doctor Who mythology. Now we get the Doctor confiding in Ian, telling us there’s only five minutes of life left. I enjoy seeing the two confer, keeping secrets from the girls in order to protect them. “Will you face [the end] with me?” is a wonderfully worried line from the Doctor himself.
Another poor, distracting, explosion occurs but this gives way to one of the most powerful performances in Doctor Who’s long history. The Doctor has to give a monologue about where they are and what is happening, which he does without fault or error, making it even more brilliant. Everything upto this point is just dazzling and I almost love the fact all this trouble has been caused by a spring under the fast return switch not working. This has often been criticised yet I love the simplicity of it, although I’m not sure about ‘Fast return’ written in black felt pen above the button, probably just there for old Billy Hartnell’s sake, bless him.
|A trusted Barbara is a happy Barbara|
Whitaker has surprisingly given six minutes at the end of the episode after the danger has passed for the characters to wind down. A great change of pace in comparison to the majority of other Doctor Who stories, but it’s obviously needed here, as the Doctor has to make peace with Ian and, more importantly, Barbara. Some terrible scenes for the two of them (but wonderful for the audience) tore them apart and it isn’t easy to repair that, but all is solved by the Doctor having to adapt to his companions rather than his stubborn nature, apologising to Barbara.
Another time pass and a final beautiful scene between the Doctor and Barbara concludes one of the best Doctor Who serials with the first Doctor and brings a close to the first ‘trilogy’ of stories the show has to offer it’s audience. But the journey is just beginning…