Spearhead From Space

I settled down to watch this serial exactly how it was intended to be seen – in full 1080p HD on a 50 inch LCD screen. It was apt in many ways – seeing this beautiful Bluray version blew me away. It was like watching a film, although admittedly a really cheap film. It’s how I imagine the step up from monochrome to colour must have felt for those lucky/rich enough to have colour sets when this serial first aired.

It certainly emphasised just how much of a difference there is between this serial and everything that came before it. I must admit, I approached my viewing with a little trepidation. I’ve loved the first six seasons, but the very premise of the show is being
shifted. It’s a coincidence that this occurred at the start of a new decade and with the first use of colour technology, but it’s a very handy separation for eras of the show – the version of Doctor Who I’ve been watching for the last nine months is dead. I’ll miss it, but long live the new direction.

Because it has to be said that this is a very strong start for Jon Pertwee. His post-regeneration scenes are a tour de force, showcasing every component of his repertoire as a performer, and setting the template for the majority of all future regeneration stories. Any sadness at the loss of Troughton was placated by the demonstration that the role is still in an expert pair of hands.

And of course, it’s great to have the Brigadier back. I loved him coming to terms with the fact that his friend has a completely different face now, having thoroughly reviewed the evidence. I’m really looking forward to seeing how their relationship develops as they become full time colleagues – I hope we get to see a bit of them interacting between crises.

It’s a promising start by Liz Shaw too. She’s certainly quite cold compared to past companions, and not a great deal of use as an entry point for the audience. But I like the new dynamic of having someone who’s fulfilling all the usually companion-esque duties in a surly, reluctant and almost sarcastic manner.

Now, this is a story I had seen before, although not in HD, and not since moving to Ealing several years ago. I was really looking forward to seeing the location footage from 45 years ago, but it’s so different now that it’s virtually unrecognisable. I figured out that the main department store the Autons break out of is now M&S, due to the parade of shops opposite still being present today. But the rest of it could have been absolutely anywhere for all I know. I’ll have to stick to Men Behaving Badly and A Bit of Fry & Laurie for my spotting-locations-near-my-house needs.

But anyway. It was interesting to note that the Autons were used in a very similar way here to how they would be in Rose – a constant threat in the background, but by no means the main feature in the story. This was all about introducing the new Doctor and his role at UNIT, but I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get huge pitched battles of soldiers fighting Autons, like they did with the Yeti and Cybermen. The iconic shop dummy scene isn’t until towards the end of episode four, and the whole threat is dealt with unsatisfyingly quickly, the second that The Doctor starts being proactive.

But still, that serial was such a good introduction to the new era, thanks largely to the constantly creepy atmosphere. The vivid colour and unusual direction necessary for this particular story brought the threat closer to home than ever before. So many unsettling aspects, not least the plasticy faces of the Nestene’s henchmen, Channing’s death stare and the cliffhanger to episode three with General Scobie opening the door to his own doppelganger.

And finally, the graphics and aesthetics. The closing credits are now on cards, rather than a scroll, and consequently it takes twice as long. There are a couple of noticeable edits to the theme tune as a result, in order to extend it. Lovely font though, and the sheer number of different colours in the new patterns seems like they’re (justifiably) showing off. And I adore the new logo – it’s my favourite of all time, and it’s clear to see why they kept going back to it when the show was off air.

Next up, this blog goes weekly for a while, as the rest of this season consists of seven-parters. Unless it’s for special occasions, I tend to prefer a tight four-parter, so we’ll see how this goes…

RATING: 8

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