February 6: "The Death of Time" / "Flight Through Eternity"

(The Chase episodes 2 & 3)

"The Death of Time" is one of those episode titles that sounds good until you start to think about what it actually means.  Why is this the death of time?  Is it because the Daleks have a time machine?  You'd think that would mean the Daleks are rampaging through time killing everything, but instead they're chasing after the Doctor and friends and not really doing a great job there.  You'd think the Daleks would just go through and exterminate everyone, but instead they make a deal with the native Aridians to capture the travellers, while also using them as slave labor to dig up the TARDIS, which you'd think would be the last thing they would want to do since it gives their enemies easy access to their ship.  I mean, they do try to destroy it with their guns, but really, it would have been better to leave the thing buried.

The more interesting part of the episode is the gesture of examination of the Aridians' plight, as Terry Nation gives us a look at collaborators.  It's not dwelled on, of course, but it's interesting how the Doctor doesn't condemn their decision to hand them over to the Daleks, and in fact they only escape because a Mire Beast happens to knock down a wall and distract everyone long enough for the TARDIS crew to leave.  Which they do.

Morton Dill isn't taking the Daleks very seriously.
("Flight Through Eternity") ©BBC
"Flight From Eternity" gives us a couple locations this time around: New York 1966 and on board a ship 1872.  But first it starts out with a scene inside the Dalek time machine, with another use of a photographic blowup but also some motionless Dalek props (they're the ones without the base or the vertical "solar panel" slats).  For once the photograph isn't shot from an angle that reveals it to be a photo, but there's an extremely misjudged moment with what appears to be a Dalek reading to itself out loud before giving its report: "Er...one...er...forty...er..." it mumbles to itself.  This has to be considered an attempt at comedy, but it falls woefully flat.

The scene on top of the Empire State Building, on the other hand, is much more entertaining.  There are some subtle moments with the tour group at the beginning: I love the way the big tourist knocks that young woman out of the way just so he can get to the front, and as the tour guide talks about gazing "out across the panorama", he appears to be checking out said young woman (it's difficult to tell for certain, since unfortunately they've put a piece of stock footage in the middle of this line, but when we cut back he's plainly staring at her chest and has to bring himself back and start his sentence over again).  And then we're introduced to Morton Dill, who's playing a stereotypical hick from Alabama.  He's consequently the only person to see either the TARDIS and its occupants or the Dalek time machine with a Dalek.  I know Morton Dill bothers some people, but for me he fits into the tone of the scene and his belief that it's all a Hollywood trick is quite lovely.  And at one time I probably would have thought he was overacting, but that was before I met a guy who laughed and moved almost exactly the same way, so now Peter Purves' performance just reminds me of him instead.  I was quite pleased with the whole scene.

The next bit isn't as great though.  The TARDIS materializes on a sailing ship, Barbara gets accosted, and then they leave before the Daleks show up, at which point the entire crew abandons ship.  This might have more impact if the words "Mary Celeste" weren't plainly visible at the start, but then they insist on slow panning across the empty vessel (and showing the name plate again) before finally doing a slow zoom in on the name.  All right, maybe the words wouldn't have been as obvious on a '60s 405-line resolution television until the final zoom in (although I'm not convinced of this).  But then the next scene has Ian mention it in the dialogue, just in case you missed that!  And an ancient mystery is solved.  And the cliffhanger shows the Daleks still chasing the TARDIS through time and space -- not the most exciting cliffhanger by any means.