First of all – NEW TITLE SEQUENCE. And very nice it is too. I think I prefer the new serif version of the logo, just about, but the main improvement is the inclusion of Patrick Troughton’s cheeky little face. My rewatch so far has told the tale of the slow transformation from an unfamiliar early iteration to the format I’m more familiar with, and – cosmetically speaking – this is one of the final pieces in the puzzle.
The serial itself is a lot of fun. In a bizarre precursor to Gridlock, The Macra occupy the same sort of narrative space here as they did when they made their unexpected return. In both stories, they’re a good visceral threat, but they play second fiddle to the real menace: the society that exists around them. This serial works so well because the world it builds is so intriguingly creepy, and easy to get lost in. It’s like a more menacing version of The Land of Oz, with its singing, dancing and ominous off-screen voices.
The Doctor continues to develop into everything I want him to be with each passing story. Here, he shows off his raw genius, solving problems with mental dexterity and sneakily tinkering around to manipulate the situation. There’s some great character stuff with the companions too – Jamie’s loyalty to The Doctor and the value he places in his friendship with Ben and Polly make it easy to see why he went on to be such and enduring and popular companion.
Ben steals the show, though – a great choice as the one to be brainwashed, as he’s always given the impression of someone who’s somewhat suggestible, and one who often obfuscates his intentions. Considering I’d not seen a single frame of him before this rewatch, he’s now become one of my favourite supporting characters, obtaining the status of “classic companion” that Vicki, Steven and Dodo never quite made.
As for Polly, well… erm, she got a new haircut at one point. It’s very nice. Other than that, she might as well not have been there. I hope when they ditch her (which surely must happen soon) they keep Ben, although I’m not getting my hopes up…