Doctor Who Audio Drama Review: The Mutant Phase

With Christmas behind us, we’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to Main Range #15, The Mutant Phase, starring the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton). Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!

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At an unknown time in the future, a starship is conducting a survey when it is attacked by a swarm of over a hundred billion strange creatures, flying so tightly that they appear to be a single organism. The ship is knocked off course; its commander, Ganatus, and scientist Ptolem find that they are near–and possibly crashing on–the planet Skaro, home of the Daleks.

Elsewhere–or rather, elsewhen–and aboard the TARDIS, Nyssa repairs the proximity alarm, only for it to go off. The Fifth Doctor tries to evade, but finds that they have been captured by a time corridor in the vortex. They escape by “bouncing off” the corridor; in the process, the Doctor notices a strange ripple in time, a “bump” in the timestream. They land in a cornfield in Kansas. Emerging from the TARDIS, Nyssa is stung by a large wasp, but defers getting any treatment. They are then interrupted by what seems to be a spaceship passing overhead; another soon follows. They find a body in a field, which has been shot; it bears marks of technological implants, which have since be removed. The Doctor determines that the year is 2157 (actually 2158, as it turns out, but who’s counting?), and immediately insists that they leave. Meanwhile, Ptolem and Ganatus are also on Earth–but not in the same time period–and report that the Doctor has been located in 2158. Ptolem advises waiting, however; the Doctor won’t stay long, if history is correct.

Returning to the TARDIS, the Doctor and Nyssa are intercepted by a strange man, one with implants like those that had been removed from the body. The man–or Roboman, rather–calls for backup. A spaceship arrives, and the Doctor recognizes it: It is a Dalek saucer. A Dalek emerges, showing signs of battle damage, but doesn’t recognize the Doctor. They break for the TARDIS and escape; the Doctor tells Nyssa, who didn’t recognize the Daleks, about his history with them–he knows them, but in this time period, they do not yet know him. He previously encountered them on Earth, a few years after 2157, during the end of the Dalek invasion of Earth. But now they have another problem: having dematerialized, they are caught in the time corridor again. They can’t escape via time; but they can alter their spacial coordinates, landing somewhere afield of wherever the corridor takes them–and it’s as well, because wherever they land, there will be Daleks there. No one else has the ability to create these time corridors.

Ganatus reports to the Daleks that the Doctor has not arrived in the right place. The Daleks intend to find him.

Upon landing, the Doctor and Nyssa find themselves underground. They are taken in by two humans, Dolores and Albert, who offhandedly mention the “Thals”, piquing the Doctor’s interest–after all, the Thals are the other race from Skaro, and ancient enemies of the Daleks and their predecessors, the Kaleds. Albert admits the Thals have helped the humans on Earth, of whom there are only a few left; but he doesn’t know much about them, and indeed, they appear to be mostly serving their own interests. However, thirty years prior to this time, there was a disaster on Earth, which led to the depopulation of the planet. Dolores takes the Doctor to see a scientist, Professor Hendryk, while Albert tends Nyssa’s arm.

The Daleks have decided to return to Skaro. However, one of them loses control, and breaks open, revealing that it has further mutated and is now deadly to the other Daleks. The Daleks try to kill it, but Ptolem stops them, and takes it for study, placing it in containment.

Albert slips away briefly, and Nyssa finds him reporting their presence to someone–the Daleks, she assumes. Her arm still untreated, she goes to find the Doctor. The Doctor, meanwhile, meets with Hendryk and compares notes. Hendryk does not know about the Daleks–revealing that their invasion was centuries ago–and shows him one of the mutated creatures, similar to the one being viewed by Ptolem and Ganatus in the future, but dead. He describes how a swarm of them came to Earth and drew all the life out of the planet, but then died suddenly and without any known cause.

On Skaro, a crisis is happening. The numbers of mutated Daleks are increasing rapidly, and they are assaulting the Dalek defenses. Soon they will break through. A squad is dispatched through the time corridor to Earth to claim the Doctor, whose presence has been located.Ptolem and Ganatus are sent with the squad. Nyssa, meanwhile, finds Dolores, who doesn’t comprehend about Albert; but she takes her to the Doctor and Hendryk. They immediately head for the TARDIS. Albert finds them, and turns them over to the Daleks. Albert and Hendryk are killed by the Daleks; the Daleks also kill Dolores and threaten Nyssa, persuading the Doctor to surrender.

Ptolem and Ganatus, it turns out, are Thals, and have allied with the Daleks to eliminate the mutant creatures. They tell the Doctor about the mutants, into which the Daleks are developing; the creatures have the potential to end all life, everywhere. Only on Earth, thirty years ago, did they ever die out, and no one knows why. It’s the Thal base where they are analyzing the captive mutant; and they and the Daleks want the Doctor to help them. However, the creature escapes, destroying the base and everyone in it. The Doctor, Nyssa, Ptolem, Ganatus, and the last few Daleks escape into the TARDIS. The TARDIS, with everyone in it, rides the time corridor to Skaro…

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The Doctor is taken before the Dalek Emperor, who insists on his help. After much debate, he concludes that, as bad as the Daleks are, the mutant creatures are worse; and he agrees to help. Meanwhile, Ptolem examines Nyssa’s arm, and finds a strange thing: Insect eggs in the wound, which share some DNA with the mutant creatures. He extracts them, and treats her wound, and takes the eggs for research. He reaches the same conclusion the Daleks have reached: the mutant phase originated in 2158 on Earth. It spread from the first affected Dalek, because the Daleks routinely undergo genetic extraction, which is used to breed the next generation of Daleks. The Daleks need the Doctor because they lack the power to go back far enough to change the events of 2158.

It is the final moments for Skaro. The creatures are breaking into the Dalek city. The Doctor, Nyssa, Ptolem, and Ganatus flee in the TARDIS, back to 2158, as the Emperor destroys Skaro rather than let it fall to the creatures. Unexpectedly, Ganatus collapses. In flight, the Doctor tries to sleep, and Nyssa does some research. However, Ptolem has a secret–and unknown to him, Ganatus does too…Nyssa determines from records what killed the mutants on Earth, but before she can discuss it with the Doctor, Ganatus awakens, and the cloister bell sounds. The time corridor is collapsing around them…the Doctor breaks them free of the corridor, and lands, and finds that they are in the exact spot where the TARDIS landed the first time, in Kansas, 2158. They watch on the monitor as their earlier selves are accosted by first the Roboman, then the damaged Dalek. The earlier version of the TARDIS had dispersed itself via the Hostile Action Displacement System; realizing their earlier selves are about to walk in on them, the Doctor dematerializes, allowing the earlier TARDIS to return, preserving events. Nyssa explains that a pesticide, GK-50, killed off the creatures in the future. The wasp that stung her had been made aggressive by exposure to genetically modified crops; the same wasps also penetrated the damaged Dalek’s casing, making it patient zero for the mutated DNA. It must be stopped. They go after it; but first, they synthesize some GK-50, although Ptolem doubts it will work this early in the mutation’s history. As they leave, the Doctor and Nyssa feel a temporal distortion–the beginning of a dangerous paradox.

Ganatus grabs the injector of GK-50 and threatens to kill the Doctor with it. He reveals that he is not Ganatus anymore; the Emperor, on Skaro, implanted him with its own memories, essentially making him a copy of the Emperor. He forces the Doctor to track down the damaged Dalek, and thus ensure Dalek survival and victory; the Doctor refuses. They are captured by a patrol, and taken to the local Dalek base.

Ptolem tells Nyssa of his own secret. He has secretly developed a retrovirus that will wipe out all Daleks. If deployed here and now, in two generations no Daleks will exist. Nyssa begs him not to use it; this moment in history is already damaged and fragile, and any major change to history here can destroy everything. He is adamant, however.

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Against all odds, the copied Emperor gets the local Daleks to give him a hearing, and tries to warn them about the Doctor’s future interference with the Dalek Invasion (apparently not aware, however, that this is a later version of the Doctor, and exterminating him here will not prevent the presence of the First Doctor in that future year). However, the Doctor tells him that he is the reason for the paradox that may come to pass; by coming back in time, he will ensure the Daleks get the pesticide too early for it to be of any use, and thus he will doom them, setting his own course. If he had not come, the Daleks would have detected the wasp DNA in the damaged Dalek on their own, and extracted it, thus preventing the rise of the mutated creatures. Ptolem tries to use his retrovirus, but the Emperor makes the first move, destroying the pesticide. A wave of time distortion immediately passes through as the paradox is resolved, and suddenly, Ptolem and the Emperor vanish–events in their proper order would never have caused them to come here, after all. The Doctor and Nyssa escape in the TARDIS.

Safely back in the vortex, and free of the time corridor, the Doctor explains the outcome to Nyssa. He muses that the universe is safe because the Daleks, for once, followed his advice–and maybe that means there’s hope for them.

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This is a noteworthy story, largely because it didn’t originate with Big Finish. Rather, the core story comes from an audio drama of the same title, produced by Audio Visuals, which in many ways was the (admittedly unofficial) predecessor to Big Finish Productions. Nicholas Briggs wrote both versions. It has been adapted to some degree to fit in with the main range–notably, Nyssa mentions the events of The Land of the Dead. This story is also considered to be part of the Dalek Empire arc, the third story in that series. With all of that said, you wouldn’t know there was any difference; it’s done in similar fashion to the preceding audios, and fits well with regard to continuity. As with previous Fifth Doctor/Nyssa audios, it must occur between Time-Flight and Arc of Infinity, as Nyssa is the only companion present.

There’s a good deal of obfuscation here with regard to the time periods involved, mostly for the sake of suspense; but it has the effect of making it hard to keep track. Three time periods are actually involved: 2158 (mistakenly cited by the Doctor as 2157, but later corrected), nine years before the events of The Dalek Invasion of Earth; 4253, in which the future scenes on Earth take place, and which occurs thirty years after the sudden death of the mutant phase creature on Earth; and an unidentified point in the further future, in which all the Skaro scenes take place. The story is utterly self-contained, in that its events only occur because the Daleks force the Doctor to become involved, and the events resolve themselves–indeed, vanish completely from history–when the Doctor is removed from the equation at the end. Along the way, we get some good throwbacks to The Dalek Invasion of Earth; the Robomen appear again, and we get a mention of the Dalek plan to drill out the Earth’s core and install a hyperdrive. This story occurs largely in America (accompanied by some truly atrocious Midwestern accents), which makes it clear that the invasion really was worldwide, a fact that one could overlook in Dalek Invasion.

Nyssa is well-played here as always; I like her character, given that she really doesn’t have any obvious weaknesses. I’ve often said that she’s an intellectual match for the Doctor, and she shows it here, in repairing the TARDIS and researching the pesticide. She’s no match for the Doctor’s pride, unfortunately; he’s more than a little patronising to her, refusing to trust her with certain information, and reacting badly to her repairs on the TARDIS. The Doctor is at his most frustrating here, although I don’t mean that as a complaint; it’s vital to the story, in that he’s intentionally concealing information from those who should not have it. It’s clear here that he feels like events are getting away from him–and indeed, they are; it’s only at the last second that things are set right. Otherwise, characterization is not so great here; Hendryk is a Russian caricature, Ganatus is really nobody at all until the Emperor manifests in him, Ptolem is interesting but nothing new, and everyone else…well, mostly they get killed before they can be anything, really. Truly, the most interesting character here is the Dalek Emperor; we learn that he is the same Emperor that ordered the Dalek Invasion of Earth, two thousand years prior, reinforcing the idea that Daleks are very long-lived. He’s also implied to be the same Emperor seen in The Evil of the Daleks, although I am not sure where that story fits into chronology. Most interestingly of all, he deviates from usual Dalek behavior when he accepts the Doctor’s word and destroys the pesticide; it’s a far cry from the Emperor seen in The Parting of the Ways, which believed itself a god. I could get used to this portrayal; I suppose I’ll have to listen to Dalek Empire to continue his story.

Some other references: The Hostile Action Displacement System (HADS) first appeared in The Krotons; strangely, the version seen here is more akin to the Hostile Action Dispersal System seen in NuWho, which cause the TARDIS to disperse into the local area rather than actually relocate. Nyssa refers to Adric’s death, as seen in Earthshock. Strangely, the First Doctor is not directly referenced, but the Doctor mentions him tongue-in-cheek when he comments that he and the Emperor have both had a face-lift.

Overall, it’s a great story, and my only dislike is that it was hard to follow the times and locations involved. Of course, that’s by design; but still, it’s annoying at best. It’s a great additioin to the main range, and sets the groundwork for much of the Dalek Empire series. For fans of the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa, it’s a must-listen.

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Next time: On Thursday we’ll continue our look at the Fiftieth Anniversary series, Destiny of the Doctor; and on Monday, we’ll get a look at the Eighth Doctor’s first Main Range appearance in Storm Warning! See you there.

All audio dramas in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; link to this story’s purchase page is below.  This and many other selections may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.

The Mutant Phase

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Cybermen Vs. Daleks: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Two Finale

We’re back, continuing our New Doctor Who rewatch! This week, we’re wrapping up Series Two with the final three episodes. We’ll examine the two-part Series Two finale, Army of Ghosts and Doomsday, in which we say goodbye (for now) to Rose Tyler; but first, we’ll examine one of Doctor Who’s most hated episodes, Fear Her. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not watched these episodes!

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TARDISode 11 sets up the story with a clip from a sensationalist crime-tip show called Crime Crackers. It gives a quick overview about a case of several missing children, and also gives us the name of the street on which the story takes place, Dame Kelly Holmes Close. It closes with a glimpse of the monster in the closet of the main character.

It’s 2012, and London is hosting the summer Olympic games! In less than a day, the Olympic torch will pass through the neighborhood of Dame Kelly Holmes Close on its way to the stadium. The residents are preparing, but all is not well; several children have gone missing, all very suddenly. Rose and the Doctor arrive to see the games, but are distracted by missing-child flyers.

A girl named Chloe Webber lives on the street with her mother; her father is out of the picture, ostensibly long dead. Chloe loves to draw, but she has a secret: When she draws someone, they disappear, transported into her drawing. Rose, meanwhile, is attacked by an odd creature, resembling a large pencil scribble; the Doctor stops the creature, and determines that it isn’t real, but resulted from a strange residual energy. It’s not of Earth—and it leads them to Chloe. They talk with her and her mother, and the Doctor hypnotizes Chloe; he learns that she is being inhabited by an alien creature called an Isolus, which gives her her strange power. The Isolus are a long-lived swarm race; they are empathic, and thrive on their bonds with one another. This one, a juvenile, was separated from the swarm, and crashed its pod ship on Earth; it bonded with Chloe, craving emotional contact. It chose Chloe because they were both very lonely. It’s not evil, only hostile; and even so, it’s simply a defensive mechanism as carried out by a scared child. There’s a problem, however. Chloe’s loneliness is a result of years of abuse at the hands of her now-absent father; and she has drawn him on her closet wall—and the drawing has come to malevolent life.

The Doctor discovers that the pod ship can heal itself with enough heat and empathic connection. He returns to the TARDIS and puts together a device to locate it. However, the Isolus, clinging to Chloe, fears to leave; it makes her draw the Doctor, and he and the TARDIS vanish, breaking the device in the process. Rose is left to solve the crisis alone.

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She deduces that the pod, when it crashed six days earlier, was attracted to the nearest heat source—a patch of fresh pavement. She digs in the spot, and finds the pod. She returns to Chloe, but the Isolus is trying to draw the whole world—six billion people—so it will never be lonely. She sees the drawing of the Doctor, which has changed—he is showing her the Olympic torch, which is passing by at that time. Rose throws the pod into the torch, which is not only representative of heat, but also the emotional attention and connection of everyone watching—and it restores itself. The Isolus leaves Chloe and returns to the pod, releasing everyone in the drawings.

One thread remains unresolved. The malevolent drawing in the closet, no longer restrained, is now coming to kill Chloe. Rose is instrumental in helping Chloe to use the last of her power to banish it.

Still, the Doctor is missing. Rose thinks he is lost forever—until she sees him on television, reclaiming the dropped torch, and lighting the Olympic flame.

Although I wouldn’t call it a favorite episode, I’ve struggled to understand what it is that makes this episode so reviled. It seems very average to me. It’s hampered a little by the fact that it lacks a cohesive villain; Chloe and the Isolus are lonely and damaged children, but they aren’t evil—the harm they cause is more selfish, and more of a defensive mechanism. I suspected that the dislike was due to the absurdity of the episode; but there are far more absurd stories out there (like, for example, Love and Monsters, which I covered last week). The episode does concern child abuse as a secondary theme, which I will admit does not translate well to television entertainment (and rightly so); but it’s downplayed somewhat here. In fact, it could have been omitted entirely without harming the story; the subplot with the drawing in the closet was unnecessary at best, and awkward at worst. (The drawing and its behavior is a bit overdone, but that makes sense in context—it’s not what really happened to Chloe, it’s her childhood perception of it.) But again, this is nothing new—many episodes try to do too much in the allotted time, many of them better received than this.

This is another episode, like Father’s Day, where the Doctor actually loses, and it’s up to the companion to save him. Those stories don’t come often, but they’re always interesting to me; the Doctor’s life, phenomenal as it is, truly hangs by a thread sometimes. Here, Rose wins the battle, but it’s more or less by chance; it hangs on the fact that the torch procession was passing by at that moment, which is a little too much coincidence perhaps. I did have to wonder why Chloe removed the Doctor and the TARDIS, but not Rose; as Rose was the one who invaded her bedroom earlier, I would think she would see Rose as an equal threat.

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In the real world, David Tennant of course did not appear at the Olympics in 2012, or carry the torch; however, Matt Smith (as the Eleventh Doctor) did, giving a bit of poetic finality to this appearance. In universe, the Doctor makes a Star Trek reference to the Vulcan hand sign; when he hypnotizes Chloe, he does it in a way that mimics the Vulcan mind meld. We get a few continuity references: the Doctor refers to the nuns from New Earth, and says he’s not a cat person. He mentions the Shadow Proclamation, as he has done a few times before, notably in Rose. He refers to his lost family, stating that he was a dad once; the last such reference was in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. The year 2012 was last visited in Dalek and its sequel, The Long Game; failed companion Adam Mitchell hails from that year.

This episode, I will admit, is logically weak, for reasons that I cited above. It is an engaging story, in my opinion; it’s made all the more emotionally weighty by the realization that our villains are really just scared, lonely children. It could benefit from some tightening, however, and from trimming out the closet-drawing plotline. Otherwise, it’s not too bad—the low point of the series, perhaps, but still acceptable.

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TARDISode 12 is a brief recap of the Torchwood references throughout the series. It is presented as a journalist submitting a story to his editor; at the end, the journalist is taken away by Torchwood agents and committed as insane.

In Army of Ghosts, the Doctor and Rose return to 2007 to visit Jackie Tyler; but they are shocked when Jackie reveals the presence of a visible ghost, ostensibly that of her father. The ghosts are all over the world, and appear at the same times every day, remaining for a few minutes at a time. It’s been going on for months, to the point that people accept the ghosts as normal now.

Strange things are happening elsewhere in the city, as well. At the Canary Wharf skyscraper—called “Torchwood Tower” by its insiders—a strange sphere resides in a sealed lab, under analysis by scientist Rajesh Singh. It has no mass, no radiation, and all scans fail to detect it—it’s as if it doesn’t exist. It does display some kind of barrier that prevents touch. Elsewhere in the tower, it is revealed that Torchwood is responsible for the presence of the ghosts; under leader Yvonne Hartman’s direction, a large machine with two levers is used to make them appear and disappear in an event called a “ghost shift”. Two of her workers, Gareth and Adeola, are clandestinely seeing each other; on one of their rendezvous, they go to a plastic-sheeted area under construction. Adeola vanishes, confronted by a Cyberman. Later, she and Gareth return to their desks, now wearing Bluetooth devices on both ears.

Jackie confronts Rose about her potential future, and they argue. The Doctor assembles a device; and at the next ghost shift, he traps one of the ghosts briefly for analysis. He traces the disturbance to Torchwood; but Torchwood has also located him, and recognized the TARDIS. The Doctor and Rose—with Jackie unwittingly still aboard—take the TARDIS to Torchwood tower, where the Doctor is promptly taken prisoner. He passes Jackie off as Rose, leaving Rose on the TARDIS, which is moved to a basement. Hartman claims the Doctor and the TARDIS as property of Torchwood; their motto is, “if it’s alien, it’s ours.” She also claims credit for destroying the Sycorax, using alien technology.

Adeola leads another worker to be taken by the Cybermen. Meanwhile, Hartman explains about Torchwood’s existence, and takes the Doctor and Jackie to view the sphere. Several times, beginning here, the Doctor wears 3D glasses, though he doesn’t explain it yet. He explains that the sphere is a voidship, which travels through the void outside the universes; the Elementals once called the void the Howling, and others have called it Hell. He recommends sending it back where it came from, but how? Hartman explains that it came through at a point now housed in the building’s upper floors, behind the mechanism seen earlier; she shows him. She says the ghosts came after it, and they have been experimenting since. The Doctor cautions them to stop the ghost shifts, as it may destroy the universe with a little more strain; finally Hartman breaks and cancels the next shift. However, Adeola and the other converted workers restart the countdown.

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Rose—the real Rose, that is—sneaks into the sphere lab, but is caught. However, she gets a shock: Singh’s lab assistant on hand is Mickey Smith! He explains that the Cybermen were nearly defeated in his world, but that they suddenly vanished, only to be detected here. With the sphere having opened the breach, not only can the Cybermen pass through, but also, his world’s version of Torchwood developed a technology to pass through—and Mickey is here on reconnaissance. He believes the sphere is occupied by Cybermen, and prepares to blast them—just as the sphere starts to open.

Upstairs, the ghost shift starts. The Doctor realizes what has happened, and stops the earpods on the workers; they collapse, already dead. But the shift is already under way, at higher power than ever before. The ghosts appear fully, all over the world, and are revealed to be Cybermen. They begin to attack.

Downstairs, the sphere opens, revealing a terrible sight: a strange machine, and four Daleks. Their leader gives the command to exterminate the humans.

TARDISode 13, the final entry for the series, shows a new broadcast about the Cybermen incursion. It is interrupted…by Daleks.

As Doomsday opens, the Daleks are about to kill Singh, Mickey, and Rose, when Rose reveals her knowledge of the Daleks and the Time War, causing them to stop. The Dalek leader decides to keep her alive, but kills Singh after extracting information from him. It refers to the machine as the Genesis Ark.

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The Cybermen have likewise captured Jackie, Hartman, and the Doctor. They broadcast a message demanding surrender, stating they will upgrade everyone on Earth; but a battle is breaking out between the British Army and the Cybermen in London. The Cyberleader notices the presence of the Daleks, and sends a few Cybermen to investigate. The Doctor watches the confrontation—which represents the height of attitude on the part of both Cybermen and Daleks, incidentally—and realizes the stakes have just risen. Declining an alliance, the Daleks determine to destroy the Cybermen as well as the humans; they kill the advance Cybermen. Seeing Rose’s reactions, they press her for information, and she identifies the Doctor, which scares the Daleks (as much as they ever feel fear, anyway).

Jackie and Hartman are taken for conversion. Hartman is converted, but before Jackie can be upgraded, a group of soldiers appear and take out the Cybermen in the breach room. The group is led by Jake, formerly of the Preachers, from the alternate universe. Jackie gets free and escapes. Jake fills the Doctor in on the transport devices they use, and recent history. Pete Tyler arrives, and takes the Doctor back across to his world’s Torchwood Tower, where he explains further: though Britain is enjoying a golden age, temperatures are rising catastrophically, which they have determined is due to the breach. He enlists the Doctor’s help in defeating the Cybermen (and the Daleks too, though Pete doesn’t know them) and closing the breach. He explains that in his world, it’s been three years, where here it was only about one year. They then return.

The Daleks reveal that the Genesis Ark is of Gallifreyan origin, and that it contains “the future”. They try to get Rose to touch it—thus providing time energy to open it—but are unsuccessful. The Doctor arrives, and banters with them, identifying them as the Cult of Skaro, a Dalek “think-tank” of sorts that disappeared from the Time War. Now he knows how they escaped, in the voidship.When they threaten him, he uses his Sonic Screwdriver to destroy the doors of the lab and let the team from Pete’s world in to fight the Daleks. Mickey is bumped into the Ark; as he has also been a time-traveler, this is enough to open it. It levitates into the sky, and it is revealed that it is bigger on the inside; it disgorges millions of Daleks who were imprisoned inside. The Daleks and Cybermen begin to battle each other.

Jackie reconnects with them, and sees Pete for the first time, instantly upsetting his determination not to connect with her. Pete wants to escape back to his world, considering the situation lost; but the Doctor reveals that his glasses show a sort of trace of the void on everyone who has traveled into it. He can use the machine to suck those traces—and everyone who carries them—back into the void, eliminating both Daleks and Cybermen; but the humans must get clear first. He sends Jackie and Rose with the others, against Rose’s will—she knows that when the breach closes, she will never see the Doctor again. He himself may be pulled in, too. She instantly teleports back, and begins to help him with the machine. Meanwhile, the converted Hartman guards the door, her sense of duty overpowering her conversion. (It’s not shown what happens to her afterward, but presumably she is pulled through—she never traveled through the void, but her cyber body would have been brought through with the advance guard.)

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The Doctor puts magnetic clamps on the walls to cling to; then he and Rose activate the levers. Daleks and Cybermen are pulled in. Rose’s lever breaks free, however, and she is forced to grab it and lock it in place. She loses her grip and is pulled in; but Pete teleports across at the last second, grabs her, and teleports back out. She is left trapped in the alternate universe as the breach seals.

Months later, in Pete’s world, Rose sees the Doctor in a dream. She follows his directions to a beach in Norway called Darlig Ulv Stranden, which translates to “Bad Wolf Bay”. She sees the image of the Doctor there; he is using a rapidly-closing crack in the universal wall to contact her, burning up a supernova to do so. He tells her goodbye, and she admits to loving him; he is about to say the same, but vanishes before he can get the words out.

In the TARDIS, he takes a moment to mourn the end of their time together; but he is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a woman in a wedding dress. “What?!” is all he can say.

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This series finale rivals The Parting of the Ways in many ways. While we don’t see the Doctor regenerate, we do so a total change in supporting characters. Rose departs (quite against her will, I might say), taking with her Jackie, Mickey, and Pete, all of whom had reached semi-regular status. We’ll see some of them again in cameo form, but their traveling days are over, so to speak. Interestingly, both of the Tenth Doctor’s future regular companions appear here, in one form or another; Freema Agyeman, who will play Martha Jones, plays Torchwood staffer Adeola Oshodi, who will later be retconned as Martha’s cousin. Catherine Tate makes her first appearance as Donna Noble, though her name is not yet revealed. This story also provides the resolution of the season-long Torchwood arc, ending with the downfall of Torchwood One. That destruction, later called the Battle of Canary Wharf, leads to the rise of Torchwood Three in Cardiff, which features in the spinoff Torchwood, and features the return of Captain Jack Harkness. (In related news, keep an eye out for Big Finish’s upcoming “Torchwood: Before the Fall” audio set, which is set at Torchwood One prior to this story. Personally, I’d love to see Yvonne Hartman square off against Kate Lethbridge-Stewart of UNIT—Big Finish, get on this!)

I find it interesting to observe how series finales go in Doctor Who. The classic series, with its more episodic/serialized format, rarely used season-long story arcs, and when it did it was often not well received (Trial of a Time Lord, anyone?). The revived series does use such arcs, but I can’t help feeling that it lives with the memory of cancellation; therefore every series arc neatly wraps up all of its threads. It doesn’t always end happily, as is evident here; and sometimes some of those threads are picked back out by later specials (I’m looking at you, Time of the Doctor, with your crack in the wall); but every series finale constitutes a point where, were the series as a whole to end, we could be mostly satisfied. This one is no exception; again, as far as we know, the Daleks and Cybermen have all been wiped out, and the Doctor is alone, with Torchwood visibly destroyed, and with no companions with whom he has unresolved business. The appearance of Donna at the end doesn’t negate that resolution; it just gives us a tag on which to hang the next series, should the next series come.

I won’t go into references to this series’ episodes, as we’ve discussed them as they came up. However, there are some references to previous episodes. The cutting-through-plastic by the Cybermen is a nod to The Tomb of the Cybermen. The Time War gets a significant reference, and the Fall of Arcadia is first mentioned here; it will be expanded upon in The Day of the Doctor. The Void, under one name or another, will be mentioned in several future episodes (Daleks in Manhattan, The Next Doctor, The Big Band) and several audios. The Elementals were last referenced in Enlightenment; they call the Void “the Howling”, which may be a reference to the “Howling Halls” mentioned in Love and Monsters. Rose mentions the Gelth, last seen in The Unquiet Dead. We get a flashback glimpse of a planet we haven’t seen before, as Rose is talking to Jackie—that adventure was never recorded. Harriet Jones is mentioned, having maintained her rise to power in Pete’s world. The Doctor mentions being at Pete and Jackie’s wedding; but if this is a reference to Father’s Day, it’s incorrect, as that was someone else’s wedding. We get the first appearance of the Doctor’s “Allons-y!” catchphrase, which appears many times in the future. While the rift at Torchwood Tower is not the same as the one at Cardiff, the idea of opening and closing it at will is carried over into the Torchwood series.

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There’s little to complain about here. This episode will have echoes through several upcoming series of Doctor Who, and through Torchwood as well. Overall, it’s a strong, emotional exit for Rose and company, and it adds depth to the Doctor, as he deals with the loss of Rose through the next few companions. Otherwise, at this point, the future is unknown, and the sky is the limit—and we have a wedding to catch.

Next time: The 2007 Christmas Special, The Runaway Bride! See you there.

All episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.

TARDISode 11

Fear Her

TARDISode 12

Army of Ghosts

TARDISode 13

Doomsday

Doctor Who Audio Drama Review: The Apocalypse Element

We’re back, with another Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to The Apocalypse Element, number eleven in the main range of audios—and for once, it lives up to its name! The Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe have their work cut out for them this time…with a little help from a long-lost old friend. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn’t listened to this audio!

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The Time Lords aren’t the only race to develop time travel. In fact, twenty such races—and by default, twenty of the most powerful civilizations in the universe—are gathering on the planet Archetryx for a conference regarding time travel and its limitations. Archetryx’s monitors get a strange reading before the conference, but there is an explanation: the Monans, whose time vessels are even more highly powered than the Time Lords’ TARDISes, have arrived, and their ship’s powerful engines created a disturbance in Archetryx’s temporal defense shields. It’s done more than that, however; it has dragged in a straggler, the TARDIS occupied by the Sixth Doctor and his companion, Evelyn Smythe.

They shouldn’t be there, but they are saved from trouble by Coordinator Vansell of the Gallifreyan Celestial Intervention Agency, who declares them part of the Lord President’s entourage. Nevertheless, there’s no time to rest, because strange things are still happening.

Twenty years ago, the nearby planetoid of Etra Prime—the oldest planetoid in the known universe, coincidentally—vanished from time and space. It took with it five hundred scientists, mostly from Gallifrey, including the newly-elected Lord President Romanadvoratrelundar, Romana for short. A year later, three hundred of them reappeared on Archetryx, dead and distorted by time. To avert an accusation and a war, Archetryx agreed to host this conference, which has now come to fruition. Romana, however, is still to be found. Now, the Archetryxans detect that Etra Prime has returned—and it is on a collision course with Archetryx! And worse…it becomes clear that the Daleks are behind it.

The Doctor begins to investigate, at the behest of the current Lord President, who was raised to the post when Romana failed to return; he is also loyal to Romana, and tries to uphold her decisions. The Doctor quickly finds that the Daleks have agents among the Archetryxans, operating under mind control. They kill themselves, but not before the sensors and shields are sabotaged, letting the Daleks into the complex. Another spy also destroys an exterior wall, allowing them in, and unintentionally trapping Evelyn. Vansell, accompanied by the Archetryxan Monitor Vorna, rescue her, but can’t stop the Daleks. However, rather than attack directly, the Daleks steal the Monan time ship. It is not dimensionally transcendent like a TARDIS, and so only a few Daleks fit inside; the rest move deeper into the building and self-destruct, blocking all the delegates from escaping.

The Doctor goes to the gravity wells in the facility to effect repairs and raise the shields. He is attacked by Daleks—but not their machines. The mutants have left their casings in the zero-G environment of the wells, and are attacking personally.

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Inside Etra Prime, Romana has been a slave for twenty years. The years have weighed on her, but she retains her identity and sanity by force of will. She and another slave, a Monan engineer named Vrint, are pulled out to cannibalize the Monan ship; they are instructed to use its engines to build a temporal centrifuge. Etra Prime contains a ridiculously rare element, which, when refined, has fantastic power over space and time; the Daleks call it the Apocalypse Element. As they work they overhear the Daleks’ plans. Later, they finish the centrifuge, but sabotage it; they then use a nearby transmat to escape to Archetryx. The transmat is destroyed in Dalek crossfire. Romana takes with her a strange crystal; it a communicator of sorts, used by the Daleks to telepathically communicate with their spies, so as to avoid detection of conventional signals. It is a rare item, and the Daleks want it back, as it has another purpose—and is vital to their plan.

The Doctor escapes the Dalek mutants, and rendezvoused with Evelyn; she helps him escape, but it’s only temporary, as he must go back in. Meanwhile, the Daleks are stealing technological secrets from the various time machines (though, presumably, the TARDISes have sufficient security to resist entry). The Black Dalek leading the force also tells the delegates that attacks have been launched on their homeworlds. Evelyn volunteers to help clear the way to the ships. Vorna goes with her, and Romana joins the Doctor. The delegates also attack the Daleks. The Doctor gives back the crystal, and the Daleks evacuate, clearing the way; the delegates escape. The Doctor, Evelyn, Vorna, and an Archetryxan security agent named Trinkett escape in the TARDIS immediately before Etra Prime crashes into Archetryx, destroying both worlds and killing everyone remaining behind.

The President and Vansell arrive on Gallifrey before the Doctor. Immediately they learn of a Monan ship seeking refuge there; the President and security Captain Reldath are suspicious, but Vansell, hungry for the Monan’s time travel secrets, persuades them to allow them in. It is a ruse; the Daleks, possessing their own version of a chameleon circuit, have created an illusion of the Monan ship to hide their own ships. Now inside the transduction barriers, they invade Gallifrey.

Romana, whose presidential codes have never been revoked (unlike the Doctor’s), links to the TARDIS telepathic circuits to gain entrance to the Gallifreyan citadel. The Daleks have taken the TARDIS cradle area under the citadel, and have harvested the eyes of a dead soldier to defeat the retina scans on all the security doors. Being forced to get by the Daleks, the Doctor prepares to try his luck; but Romana offers them her presidential codes if they will spare them. It is a ruse, but they fall for it; they need the codes to take down the barriers and allow invasion en masse. She links with them telepathically to transmit the codes; but instead, she unloads twenty years of pain and hatred into their minds, stunning them and allowing her and her companions to escape. They force her out of the link, but she senses enough of their plan to get an inkling of their plans for the Element…

Reaching security control, the Doctor has Vansell erase every Gallifreyan retinal print from the Matrix, and install Evelyn’s human retinal print instead. As she is the only human around, she is now the only key to any door—and the Daleks do not have her, nor can they risk killing her. The Doctor sends her with Vansell to rally the guards. He then seals the bulkheads on the TARDIS cradles, trapping the Daleks there. Evelyn and Vansell meet up with Trinkett and Reldath, but are cut off as the Daleks burn through the wall of the cradles.

The Black Dalek learns that the Element is ready, and sends a Dalek with it to the center of the Seriphia galaxy—four times the size of the Milky Way, and heavily populated—to prepare to ignite it. The Black Dalek demands the help of the Time Lords, as the Element, once ignited, can only be controlled via time distortion—essentially, a bubble time continuum around its field of effect. Otherwise, it will quickly consume the entire universe in a massive chain reaction, ending everything. The President thinks it is bluffing—and so the Black Dalek ignites the Element in Seriphia. Now the Time Lords are forced to act to contain it.

The Doctor and his group make their way to the Eye of Harmony (or rather, its main interface in the Panipticon. He sends Evelyn and Vansell to collect power boosters, which he will need to create enough power from the Eye to contain the Element.

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The Daleks discover the Element is proceeding far faster than they predicted. They realize that they must work with the Time Lords to be able to contain it, or they will be destroyed too. They strike an uneasy bargain with the Lord President, allowing them to land at the Citadel. Evelyn and Vansell get the boosters, but Evelyn is wounded by a Dalek and temporarily paralyzed; she sends Vansell ahead, trusting that the Daleks won’t kill her, as they need her eyes. However, this undoes the president’s plan; with her in custody, the Daleks don’t need his cooperation to get inside, and they kill him. With Evelyn’s forced cooperation, the Daleks already in the citadel shut down the transduction barriers, allowing the fleet to land, and marking the fall of Gallifrey.

The Doctor and Romana use the boosters with the Eye, but it is not enough. The Black Dalek, however, via one of the communication crystals, adds the combined mental might of all the Daleks on Gallifrey to the Eye. The combined power is enough, and the Element is contained; moreover, the containment field has been modified to accelerate time within. This not only burns out the Element, but also leads to the creation of a new galaxy from the rubble—billions of stars and planets, all unoccupied…and all ripe for occupation by the Daleks. The sacrifice of the Daleks on Gallifrey, it seems, was not as altruistic as it appeared. A new Dalek Empire will soon be born.

With the president dead, Romana—who was never removed from office—is now Lady President. Evelyn’s retinal print is removed and replaced with Gallifreyan prints; but the Doctor suggests that traces of it may remain. Romana promises help to any survivors of Archetryx and the Monan homeworld, but there is nothing to be done for the dead of Seriphia. She also promises intervention against the Daleks in that galaxy, and promises to strengthen Gallifrey for the future.

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This story was a roller coaster from start to finish. As the DisContinuity Guide states, “there’s a lot going on here.” It’s most notable for two events that have major impact on continuity (and also on the future of Big Finish’s spinoffs): the return of Romana (subsequent to her original return from E-Space in the VNAs), and the establishment of the Dalek Empire. Romana will feature heavily in the Gallifrey audios, and the Dalek Empire in, well, Dalek Empire. There are some other references worth noting, as well; Evelyn’s temporary paralysis at the hands (plungers? blasters?) of the Daleks echoes a similar wounding of Ian Chesterton in The Daleks. The Daleks hollowed out a planet for a weapon in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Reldath appeared previously in The Sirens of Time. Evelyn mentions having a specialty in creating feedback loops, previously noted in The Spectre of Lanyon Moor. The Doctor mentions his presidency, most recently seen in The Five Doctors, and also in The Deadly Assassin and The Invasion of Time (coincidentally also involving a successful-but-temporary invasion of Gallifrey), but he has since been removed from office. Most interestingly, this story accounts for the use of a human retinal print in the television movie; some trace of Evelyn’s print remains. (Though occupying a human body, the Master could not open the Eye, as his eyes had been changed by his possession of the body, and possibly by remnants of the Cheetah virus from Survival.) These Daleks appear to be post-Davros-arc Daleks that did not originate with his Imperial faction, as they are led by a Black Dalek and refer to Skaro.

The Sixth Doctor is truly at his best here; the action in this story is much more like what we’d see under, say, the Tenth Doctor, with a frantic pace and lots of yelling. Evelyn takes a bit of a backseat, but that’s to be expected in a story that showcases Romana; of course Romana gets the lion’s share of the attention here, although I don’t mean to compare the two as companions. Evelyn can hold her own easily in that regard. Romana is a hard character compared to her previous appearances; she’s been shaped by her years of slavery. Twenty years may be a blink of the eye to a Time Lord, but it’s still a lot of torture and hard labor.

We’ve seen universe-threatening forces before, and the phrase “destroy the universe!” gets thrown around quite a lot. This time, though, it truly comes across as serious. The Apocalypse Element is frightening in a way that most threats can only dream about; it says something that even the Daleks are frightened of what they’ve unleashed. While they weren’t being altruistic in helping the Time Lords, the fact that they would ally themselves at all speaks volumes. The Part Three cliffhanger is quite the wicked trap: Either lower the barriers and lose Gallifrey, or keep them up and lose the universe.

I’ve been trying for some time to date Dalek stories in one specific sense: do they possess time travel or not? In this story, they are mentioned as having it, but not until near the end. Is this the moment when they acquire it? It’s curiously vague on this point. Still, they have the chance to steal technological secrets from a variety of time vessels, so I think this is a likely candidate—unless I’m contradicted later, of course. It is very like the Daleks to steal and modify the technology rather than develop it on their own. This is borne out by the fact that no Davros story in the classic area—again, unless it happens in audios I have yet to hear—involves Dalek time travel. Related: They DO possess dimensional transcendent technology, but interestingly, I think they stole that from the Time Lords at some point in the past—the Genesis Ark in Series Two would seem to indicate as much.

The Monans represent a disturbing implication. Many times in the new television series, the Doctor states that his TARDIS—being the last one—is the most powerful ship in existence. This makes sense, as it draws from the Eye of Harmony. However, the Monan ships are said to be far more powerful. That fact alone should give us pause—what is more powerful in terms of raw power than the Eye of Harmony? I’m interested to see if the Monans appear again in the audios.

My final verdict: This is a great story, one of the highlights of the early Main Range. Ordinarily I try to find some flaws, but I don’t see any here. Check it out!

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Next time: On Thursday we’ll continue the Destiny of the Doctor series with the Second Doctor’s contribution, Shadow of Death; and then we’ll return to the main range for The Fires of Vulcan, with the Seventh Doctor and Mel! See you there.

All audios in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; link to this story is below.  This and other selections may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.

The Apocalypse Element

Parting of the Ways: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series One Finale

We’re back with our new Doctor Who rewatch! Today we’re finishing up Series One, with the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler; if you’d like to catch up, here are the entries for Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four. As a reminder, each series in the new show tends to have considerably more stories than the classic seasons; therefore we’re splitting each series into parts for the sake of length. Today we’re looking at the series one finale, episodes twelve and thirteen. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has never seen these episodes!

The episode is titled Bad Wolf, and we open cold on the Doctor, Rose and Jack. They awaken to find themselves with slight amnesia, and find they have been incorporated as contestants in several futuristic game shows. (The shows are intentional takes on shows that were popular at the time of broadcast, notably Big Brother (here featuring the Doctor), The Weakest Link (Rose), and What Not To Wear (Jack). They are mostly unchanged, with the exception of robotic versions of their real-world hosts—which, coincidentally, are voiced by said hosts.) They are stunned, but quickly recover, only to find that losing contestants don’t go home—they are vaporized.

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Their intrusion isn’t unnoticed. The staff that are controlling the broadcasts have taken note of their presence, and presented their findings to the Controller—a human woman who is wired into the system to control the data. She has been there since she was five years old, and knows no other life; she only sees the data, not the individuals. She tells the staff to continue working as though nothing had changed; and she cuts off access to the nearby Archive Six.

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After some adventures in their respective shows, the Doctor and Jack escape, taking another contestant—Lynda—with them. The Doctor suddenly realizes where they are: They have returned to Satellite Five, and it is the year 200,100, one hundred years after his previous visit. The satellite is now called the Gamestation; it no longer broadcasts news, but now broadcasts more than 40,000 channels of high-stakes entertainment. They try to find Rose, but are too late; losing her competition, she is disintegrated. Enraged, the Doctor and Jack head for Floor 500. There they confront the broadcast staff, and the Controller, just as a solar flare temporarily takes down the broadcast.

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Under the protective silence of the flare, the Controller addresses the Doctor directly. She tells him that she serves hidden masters, but she cannot tell him who they are—they have programmed her not to reveal their name. She states that they manipulate and oppress humanity for their own ends, growing in power in the darkness of space. She tells him that they fear him, and so she has brought him here to destroy them. (How she did it is not explained, however. She somehow managed to locate the TARDIS and pluck it and its occupants from flight, all without any obvious means of time travel.) The solar flare prevents them from reading her thoughts, allowing her to privately pass this message. However, the flare ends before she can tell him where to find her masters.

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Jack breaks into Archive Six, and finds the TARDIS there. He uses the equipment aboard to determine that the contestants aren’t being killed; they’re secretly being transmatted away, meaning that Rose is still alive. The Controller breaks her secrecy to reveal the coordinates to the Doctor, and is immediately transmatted away to her masters, who kill her for her betrayal. Rose, too, is there, and discovers the terrible truth: The masters are Daleks.

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The Doctor locates the coordinates at the edge of the solar system, but nothing is seen there. He cuts off the cloaking wave that the station is broadcasting along with its signal, and a fleet of two hundred Dalek warships is revealed. Each contains a few thousand Daleks, bringing their total force to nearly half a million. The Daleks contact the Doctor, and threaten him to stand down or they will kill Rose; he refuses, and says he is coming to rescue her and destroy them.

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The Parting of the Ways picks up immediately, with the Doctor and Jack racing to the scene in the TARDIS. They use the extrapolator from Boom Town to create a shield around the TARDIS, which allows them to materialize around Rose, then step out and speak to the Daleks with impunity. They discover that the Daleks are led by the Dalek Emperor, who somehow survived the destruction of the last day of the Time War and fell through time to come here. He has since built up his forces over a few centuries by using human dead to create new Daleks. He now considers himself the Dalek god.

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The Doctor and the others escape and return to the station to stage a defense. He organizes a perimeter defense under Jack and some of the station’s crew; behind the lines, he begins to establish a Delta wave, a form of energy burst that will fry the brains of every Dalek. However, the emperor contacts him and reveals that it will be indiscriminate; it will also kill every human in its range, including those on Earth. The Doctor is willing to sacrifice Earth to destroy the Daleks; he states that humanity on its far-flung colonies will survive, but the Daleks must die here. The Daleks compare him again to them, calling him the Great Exterminator, which rankles him.

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Rose and Jack are also willing to die. However, the Doctor tricks Rose into leaving in the TARDIS using an emergency program. She is returned to her home time, with Mickey and Jackie. On the station, the battle begins; the Daleks invade and slaughter everyone they can find, until only Jack and the Doctor are left. They also begin killing vast swaths of the population of Earth (offscreen, thankfully).

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In 2006, Rose admits defeat. However, she suddenly realizes she is seeing Bad Wolf graffiti everywhere. She takes it as a warning, and tries to get the TARDIS to move. Remembering her experience with Blon, she reasons that she can open the heart of the TARDIS to somehow spur it to action; and with Mickey’s help (and a yellow truck) she does. The heart invades her body, and takes her over; she becomes a powerful entity that takes the Bad Wolf name, and forces the TARDIS back to the station. She arrives just as Jack is killed, leaving only the Doctor. He is horrified; she has absorbed the power of the vortex, which is too much for anyone to survive.

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The entity destroys the Daleks, turning them all to dust. It scatters the Bad Wolf words through time and space, creating all the references that led them here—thus, creating itself. It restores life to Jack (and much more, as we’ll later see). Then, before Rose can be consumed by the power, the Doctor kisses her, drawing it into himself, and releasing it back into the TARDIS. It will be his final act.

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Jack arrives just in time to see the TARDIS leave, stranding him here. Inside, the Doctor tells Rose the damage is too much even for him, and he will die. He explains about regeneration, when he will change to a new face. He says his goodbyes…and transforms into the Tenth Doctor.

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This remains one of my favorite series finales, if not my absolute favorite. As humorous and (sometimes) off-balance as the series could be, it takes itself seriously here, even while making jokes about reality television. All season the Doctor has been venting his emotions as if he can’t control them at all; here, we see it come together, and get an idea of how truly fearsome he can be. And yet, even with that, it’s Rose who is truly to be feared, as she recklessly absorbs the vortex and becomes the Bad Wolf. For all the Doctor’s anger, it’s his sense of self-sacrifice that saves the day, as he dies to save her.parting-of-the-ways-7

I had previously mentioned that Satellite Five had a ridiculously low number of channels for the future. That’s overcompensated here, with over 44,000. The game show parodies were cleverly done, with puns and inside jokes, even if they seem dated now. There’s a reference to Torchwood here, as the Great Cobalt Pyramid is said to stand on its ruins. And of course, there’s the obvious Bad Wolf reference, in the name of the consortium that runs the station (secretly under the Daleks, of course).

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The Doctor, Rose, and Jack mention having come from Raxicoricofallapatorius (having dropped off egg-Blon as promised), then having had one more adventure, in 1338 Kyoto, from which they narrowly escaped. Thus there is no time for additional adventures involving the three of them—sorry, fanfic writers. It was good while it lasted. Jack’s sexuality is played up again, though not as jokingly as in previous episodes; I also do not want to know where he was hiding his gun, though.

Doctor Who TV series starring Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Billie Piper, Karen Gillan, Freema Agyeman, Catherine Tate, Alex Kingston, Jenna Coleman, Paul Kasey, Nicholas Briggs, Arthur Darvill, Noel Clarke, John Barrowman - dvdbash.com

Doctor Who TV series starring Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Billie Piper, Karen Gillan, Freema Agyeman, Catherine Tate, Alex Kingston, Jenna Coleman, Paul Kasey, Nicholas Briggs, Arthur Darvill, Noel Clarke, John Barrowman – dvdbash.com

The Daleks have an established history of using human children as “controllers”, dating back to Day of the Daleks; this isn’t quite the same, but close, and again, their subject betrays them. We also get a connection with the transmats leaving dust behind; this happened previously in The Twin Dilemma. The Face of Boe is mentioned again, in the trivia questions. A control panel on the Dalek ship is the same as one dating all the way back to The Chase–a small but interesting connection. The Doctor tells the Daleks that their legends call him the oncoming storm; this name will recur several times in the new series, but actually dates to a Draconian phrase in the VNA novel, Love and War. (Another VNA reference is seen in the trivia questions; the planet Lucifer gets a mention, having originated in the novel Lucifer Rising.) Most interestingly, Jack recognizes the Daleks and their ships; this makes for interesting questions about the Time War. Some are answered in part two, when he explains that they were the most feared race in the universe, but suddenly vanished; the Doctor explains that they left to fight a bigger war, the Time War, which Jack implies was just a legend.

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The line “And for my next trick”, seen in part two, is later reused in The Day of the Doctor. The Daleks here are post-war Daleks, making them very powerful indeed, and it’s probably that had Rose not intervened, they would have won. The Doctor faces the same choice—kill innocents to destroy the Daleks—that he faced in the war, but here he makes the other decision, and stays his hand.

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The Dalek emperor is the same as in the war, but appears to not be the same as any others we have seen mentioned. The concept first appeared in The Evil of the Daleks, all the way back to the Second Doctor; Davros also called himself the emperor. As with Davros’s Imperial Daleks, the Daleks seen here are bred from human stock, and thus inherit some of the characteristics of humanity, in this case religious inclination. That part doesn’t surprise me; the only oddity is that the Emperor, who is a pure Dalek of Skaro origins (presumably), buys into it. It’s very curious, but then, we’ll see this sort of leader-worship again, if not so explicitly. As to the human stock: This issue will also reappear in the Eighth Doctor Adventures audio drama, Blood of the Daleks, where it is initiated by the human Professor Martez.

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This is an incredibly bloodthirsty story. Every incidental character dies, including all the humans on the station and all the Daleks. Though it happens offscreen, the Daleks are stated to be killing off large portions of Earth’s population. As well, Jack and the Doctor both die, though both live again (Jack by resurrection, the Doctor by regeneration). Only Rose, Jackie, and Mickey survive (and, I suppose, any background characters in the 2006 scenes, though they hardly bear mentioning). Jack is the fifth companion character to die onscreen, joining classic companions Katarina, Sara Kingdom, Adric, and Kamelion. (Apparently it doesn’t pay to have the letter K in your name…)

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The Doctor tricks Rose into leaving in the TARDIS, by activating an emergency program. The Eleventh Doctor will later do the same to Clara Oswald in The Time of the Doctor, complete with a similar holographic interface. Clara will take equally extreme actions to return to him, as she clings to the outside of the TARDIS while in the vortex.

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For the second time in this series, a Dalek compares the Doctor to the Daleks; the Emperor calls him the Great Exterminator. He doesn’t care for the comparison. The emperor states that this act of extermination will make the Doctor like him; however, the joke’s on him—he already did it once, although we haven’t yet had the specifics revealed to us. As I mentioned, he makes the opposite choice here, and chooses not to kill.

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The Bad Wolf entity is fascinating. It’s set up as a parallel to the Dalek Emperor, in that both established themselves as a kind of god. However, where the Emperor merely boasted of godhood, the Bad Wolf demonstrated it, by displaying a ridiculous amount of power. Being possessed of control over time, it creates itself, by scattering the “Bad Wolf” words throughout time in such a way as to lead Rose and the Doctor here, to this moment. (This makes the entire series, to me, reminiscent of the episode Turn Left, where the point is that a myriad small choices lead up to momentous things–Doctor Who’s take on the butterfly effect, if you will.) The entity also kills the Daleks by reducing them to dust; and it brings life by command, reviving Jack from death. This will have consequences, of course, as later episodes (and the Torchwood spinoff) will show that he is now immortal, and a sort of mobile fixed point in time. At the end, the Doctor leaves him here; and it will later be revealed that this was because he finds Jack’s new nature abhorrent, offensive to his time sense, although he still respects him personally.

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This is, as far as I’ve seen, the first mention of regeneration in the new series. The Doctor explains it briefly to Rose before it happens; and really, he’s explaining it to the fans, as well. New fans who missed out on the classic series would likely have no idea that he can change; and as it had already been announced that he would be leaving, it no doubt left some viewers wondering about the future of the show. This regeneration would have resolved that uncertainty, as we see the Tenth Doctor for the first time. Also, this is the first new-style regeneration, with the now-characteristic energy explosion, although we have since learned it dates back to the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration into the War Doctor. I do find it interesting that Rose seemed to maintain the vortex energy better than the Doctor; she holds it for some time before it begins to kill her, but the Doctor appears to be mortally hurt by it after just a moment—after all, he releases it back to the TARDIS almost instantly after taking it in.

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And so, with that, we say goodbye to the Ninth Doctor, and hello to the Tenth. It’s been a fun ride, and far too short. Still, without the Ninth Doctor, we never would have had the good things to come; and we wouldn’t be eagerly awaiting Series Ten today. For that, though Christopher Eccleston’s time in the TARDIS was short, we thank him.

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Next time: The Christmas Invasion! And possibly the beginning of Series Two. See you there!

All episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.

Bad Wolf

The Parting of the Ways

Doctor Who Audio Drama Review: The Genocide Machine

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to The Genocide Machine, the seventh in the Main Range of audios. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this serial!

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We have a significant milestone in this serial: The Daleks appear for the first time in a Big Finish audio drama. It’s a good matchup as well, as we’re following the Seventh Doctor and Ace. While doing some sorting in the TARDIS library, Ace finds some books from the library at Kar-Charrat, which is widely regarded as one of the wonders of the universe, and is said to hold all the knowledge of every civilized world. It’s a fanciful claim, but the Doctor takes it seriously enough; and he determines to return the books and own up to having unintentionally removed them—it’s not a lending library, after all. Meanwhile, on Kar-Charrat an expedition of four individuals led by Bev Tarrant is exploring a ziggurat of more than a thousand years in age, hidden in the rain forest and the perpetual rain. The expedition—actually a mission of theft, aiming to steal the entire ziggurat—is cut down by mysterious assailant. As Bev, the only survivor, crawls away, odd voices note that her now-dead partner Rappell no longer needs his body—but someone else does.

The Doctor and Ace arrive, but the library appears to be in ruins. The Doctor explains that this is Time Lord technology at work; he was here with others at the time of construction. The Time Lords created not only a defensive grid, but also a time barrier that projects an impenetrable illusion of the way the library will look more than three thousand years in the future. Only one who is time-sensitive—like the Time Lords—or specially identified in the system can pass through it. He brings Ace through, and introduces her to the head librarian, Elgin, and his assistant Cataloguer, Prink. The return of the books prompts a momentary scandal; but Elgin relents, and shows them around.

The library has a new achievement. It now contains a “wetworks”, a huge array of water tanks that use the fluids as a complex form of memory storage. In this way, they have vastly increased their information capacity. The information can be retrieved via direct download to the brain. Elgin mentions that no one has access to the library—it is for storing information, not sharing it. This frustrates Ace, and she leaves to return to the TARDIS. Elgin tells the Doctor that the non-sharing policy has prompted a response from numerous races—including a semi-robotic race called the Daleks. This alarms the Doctor, and he begins to interrogate Elgin, discovering that the Daleks did attack once, but failed to penetrate the defenses.

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Outside the time barrier, Acemeets the wounded Bev Tarrant. The duo are then captured by the Daleks, and—unknown to Bev—Ace is copied into a human-form Dalek operative. As Ace has been given a security tag for the library, the duplicate is able to return and infiltrate the library. At the same time, the Doctor takes Elgin out to find Ace, deeming the situation unsafe in case the Daleks are still around. He finds her—or rather, the duplicate—and Tarrant, and has them taken to the library’s medical bay. He then has Elgin take him to the nearby ziggurat, which has piqued his curiosity.

Near the ziggurat, they find the remains of Tarrant’s crew, with some oddities about their corpses. Elgin tells him some unsettling stories about supposed phantoms in the jungle, dating from earliest colonization. They then find that the ziggurat has been opened from the inside. Putting things together, the Doctor realizes it’s not an ancient artifact, but rather, is a Dalek hibernation unit—and its inhabitants have now awoken! He finds a cloning chamber in the corner, and realizes that the Ace he sent to the medical bay is a Dalek operative.

“Ace” lowers the defense grid, and the Supreme Dalek orders its ship in orbit to send in attack troops. Their plan, it seems, is to seize control of the wetworks facility and its store of data. The Daleks kill everyone in the library except a few key individuals; they save Tarrant for use in luring out the Doctor if necessary, and send the real Ace to join her at the library. They require the Doctor for his Time Lord brain; without him, their download of the data in the wetworks will take far longer, delaying their invasion—in fact, a test run, without the Doctor, sends the test Dalek into madness.

The Doctor and Elgin try to return to the TARDIS, but are intercepted and captured by the Dalek Supreme. They are returned to the library; the Daleks explain that they plan to create a Dalek that can contain the data store, creating a mobile repository of information that can be used to conquer first the galaxy, then the universe. For this, they require a Time Lord brain. The ziggurat—and others like it around the region of space—was a trap set to spring at first detection of a time capsule of any type.

The Doctor is plugged into the system, and the experiment succeeds—the second test Dalek acquires the data. However, the strain appears to kill the Doctor. The Dalek Supreme returns to his ship to destroy the library.

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Ace and Tarrant are intercepted by the body of Tarrant’s partner, Rappell, which is now animated by…something. The entity says that it is a native of Kar-Charrat; its species is water-based, not just living in the water, but composed of water, which is what allows it to inhabit the body. It and its kind are fighting for survival, as the wetworks represents imprisonment and death to them. Meanwhile, they have saved the Doctor, by temporarily uploading his mind into the wetworks. They explain everything to him, and return him to his body, on condition that he keeps his promise to save them.

Meanwhile, Daleks are dying mysteriously. The test Dalek, due to its newfound knowledge, deduces the truth about the natives, who are the source of the Kar-Charrat phantom stories. It realizes that the natives can infiltrate Dalek casings and drown the mutants inside. It insists the natives are non-hostile except in self-defense; but the Supreme Dalek can’t accept this, and orders their extermination. The Dalek Supreme reports to the Dalek Emperor on Skaro, and is ordered to continue the plan, including destruction of the planet.

Back in his body, the Doctor castigates Elgin for the genocide that the wetworks poses to the natives. He then gathers Elgin, Prink, Ace, and Tarrant and takes them to the TARDIS, planning to destroy the wetworks and free the natives. Along the way, the duplicate Ace arrives and captures Elgin, prompting Prink to attack her. She kills Prink, but is killed in turn by the natives.

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Inside the library, Ace bluffs her way past the Daleks by pretending to be the duplicate. The Dalek Supreme orders the destruction of the library, but is attacked by the test Dalek, who now sees no purpose in the destruction. During the conflict, Ace plants Nitro-9 explosives on the wetworks, and the Doctor sets up a final download which will remove the data load from the natives in the system. As the explosives detonate—and the Doctor and Ace escape in the TARDIS—the natives drown the remaining Daleks; after a final report to the Emperor, the Dalek Supreme self-destructs.

The library is now the ruin it always appeared to be. Elgin, repentant of his mistake, chooses to stay and await the next visit from the Time Lords, hoping to recover some of the lost knowledge from the ruins. Tarrant returns to her own ship. The Doctor and Ace depart the planet in the TARDIS; but they know that the Daleks have only been set back, not deterred.

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In addition to its placement in the Main Range, this serial is the first in the Dalek Empire series. It has been tentatively dated to 4256; however, in light of a later story which also involves Bev Tarrant (The Judas Gift), it has been retconned to 5256. This places it after the Classic Series’ Earth Empire period, though the remains of the Empire seem to still be in place. However, this does create a bit of a continuity problem, as the Dalek Empire series at least partly concerns the invasion of Mutter’s Spiral, which dates to 4162. (I’ll delve more into that upon reaching those audios, whenever that may be.) Bev will go on to appear in other stories as well, especially in the Bernice Summerfield series.

This audio is fairly straightforward, with little humor and no particular tricks regarding continuity. It does make indirect reference to several classic stories involving the Daleks, and even, in a sense, to some New Series stories. There is a Dalek Supreme, as mentioned in several stories, and a Dalek Emperor (which does not appear to be Davros as in the final seasons of the Classic Series, but is an actual Dalek, presumably of the type witnessed in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End). There is also a Special Weapons Dalek, which previously has only been seen in connection with Davros’s Imperial Daleks. The Daleks also mention using time corridors, as in several Classic episodes, and do not seem to possess actual time machines or capsules. The human-form Dalek is a nice touch, and one that would later be picked up in the new series (The Time of the Doctor, et al), though I do not know if it was adapted from this story.

The acting is top-notch, as usual. Elgin is a bit stereotypical with regard to his librarian status; he is obsessed with the accumulation of knowledge to the exclusion of everything else. Real librarians would probably be offended. Otherwise the casting is fantastic. There’s an understated running joke in which Prink—voiced by Nicholas Briggs—rarely says anything; every time he is addressed, he is interrupted just before answering. The natives of Kar-Charrat, while credible enough, are an odd creation; the concept would be reused in The Waters of Mars as a villain, although I do not know if it was adapted from this story or developed independently. They certainly are capable, as we’ve seen before that a Dalek can be completely submerged without harm (The Dalek Invasion of Earth), but they are capable of penetrating the inner shell surrounding the mutant itself.

Overall, this is a solid story, without much to distinguish it, but still good. It’s reminiscent in its environment and adversaries of Planet of the Daleks and Death to the Daleks. Mostly it is valuable for setting the stage for the Dalek Empire series, which we will explore later. I would recommend it anyway, on the strength of the Seventh Doctor and Ace; and I would doubly recommend it for anyone who wishes to go on to that series.

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Next time: We join the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller in Phobos; and we’ll return to the Main Range with Red Dawn! See you there.

All audios in this series are available for purchase at Big Finish; this and many others can be found on Spotify and Google Play.

Doctor Who Audio Drama Review: Blood of the Daleks

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re taking a brief break from the Main Range, and listening to Blood of the Daleks, Part One and Part Two, the first in season one of the Eighth Doctor Adventures range of audios. It’s an exciting and popular part of the Big Finish library, and I’ve been looking forward to it. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!

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We don’t have a solid date for this story. We can establish that humans are in one of their interstellar colony periods, and sufficiently far enough ahead that the Daleks have been mostly forgotten by the inhabitants of the colony in question, Red Rocket Rising (who names these places?!). We will also see that the Daleks are fighting a war, but we don’t know which one; we can reasonably guess that it’s not the Time War, as the Doctor would certainly have been aware of it and included it in his list of guesses. (I am fully prepared to be proven wrong by later releases, however.) The Eighth Doctor is traveling alone, his most recent companion (not one that I’m familiar with yet) having departed. He is stunned when a young woman appears suddenly in his TARDIS while in mid-flight.

The woman’s name is Lucie Miller; at nineteen years old, she was on her way to her first day of her first job when she found herself in the TARDIS. After some argument, the Doctor tries to return her to 2005, but is unable to; there’s a shield of some sort in the time vortex. Literally bouncing off, the TARDIS lands on Red Rocket Rising—and finds a planet in the wake of a disaster.

Having suffered an asteroid impact, the planet’s two suns are now obscured with ionized dust, and the planet is crashing into an unnatural winter. The Doctor and Lucie fight their way through a mob of survivors, then encounter the acting president of the planet, Eileen Klint. She tells them that several exodus ships already took survivors away, but there are no more ships; and unknown to her, the ships were shot down by the Daleks near the planet. Klint is now desperately broadcasting a distress signal; and while the Doctor is nearby, she receives an answer…from the Daleks.

The Doctor meets Asha Gryvern, a young woman who was the assistant to one Professor Martez, now deceased. Martez had found a crashed Dalek ship, and salvaged machines and information from it, and had taken the notion of advancing human evolution in that direction. Using first the dead, and then the living, he transformed humans into a new breed of Dalek mutants. Although the details were not known to the leadership, he was tried and sentenced to death. However, as the Doctor deduces, he evaded death by transferring his mind into Asha’s body. Now, his new Daleks are nearly ready.

Meanwhile, the Doctor catches Lucie in a mistake: she knows he is a Time Lord, though he has never said it. He questions her, and she admits that the Time Lords took her from Earth and dropped her with him; she is in “witness protection”, as he puts it, because she has seen something important. She does not recall what it is, however, as her memories have been blocked.

As the Daleks land and appear to be there to help the survivors, the Doctor and Lucie meet a paranoid old man named Tom Cardwell. It becomes clear, however, that Cardwell knows something no one else does: The true nature of the Daleks. He survived a Dalek attack, and remembers. He allies himself with Lucie to attempt to thwart the Daleks’ plans; because, of course, they are not there to help. Instead, they are there to hunt down the new Daleks, and then wipe out the humans. They reveal that they were responsible for the destruction of the exodus ships, and for the asteroid crash in the first place, as even then they were aware of Martez’s work, and wanted to destroy it. They cannot tolerate an impure line of Daleks.

As the Daleks go to battle with each other, the Doctor convinces Martez that his work is a crime and an abomination. Appalled at himself, he halts the production process, leading his Daleks to kill him. The Doctor, Tom, Lucie, and Eileen then work to prevent the Dalek flagship from crashing, which would have destroyed everyone. The Daleks successfully wipe each other out, with assistance from an impromptu resistance movement led by Cardwell. As the humans begin to pull themselves together, the Doctor and Lucie leave—in fact, the Time Lords won’t let him leave without her. At last appearance, Klint receives another answer to her distress call; though it is cut off, it is seen that the new responders are from a nearby planet called “Tel—“ Presumably, this is Telos, the second home of the Cybermen…and Red Rocket Rising’s problems have only just begun.

Somewhere, sometime, a woman calling herself a Headhunter is contacted by a Mr. Hulbert. She takes a commission, under which, anywhere in time and space, she will find Lucie Miller. It seems the Doctor and Lucie’s troubles have also only just begun.

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Much as the new television series differs from the classic series, these Eighth Doctor Adventures differ from the Main Range. The Main Range stories are set in a serial format like the classic series, usually spanning four half-hour episodes (approximately anyway); these adventures are closer to an hour, with two episodes. They seem to be very fast-paced, which is a great decision in light of the excellent banter between the Eighth Doctor and, well, anyone else. Paul McGann is fantastic as always; even aside from the fact that he was the final televised Doctor for many years, his performance truly justifies the fact that he was the “current” Doctor for so long. It’s interesting to note that this release was made after the revived series had been on television for some time; possibly the Eighth Doctor Adventures benefit a bit from the perspective available in the revived series.

Lucie is a tempestuous companion here at the outset, especially given that she doesn’t want to be there. She’s very much like Donna Noble in terms of her arrival on the TARDIS and her attitude, so much so that I suspect she is a partial inspiration for Donna, who had yet to be added to the series. Sheridan Smith is not an actress I was familiar with prior to this audio, but she seems excellent at the role, and I hope for good things in future audios. The other characters were also well-played, although it seems unlikely that someone as oblivious as Eileen Klint would rise to such political levels in the real world (though, given the state of the US presidential election, I shouldn’t assume that, I suppose). Asha/Martez, as well, is a bit stereotypical—the Doctor even unfavorably compares him to Davros, though not by name—but then, it would be hard to have a non-stereotypical villain at this point.

I found it interesting that the Doctor is anxious to destroy Martez’s Daleks here. He specifically references Genesis of the Daleks and his missed opportunity to destroy the nascent original Daleks; and he regrets the decision. It’s a huge change from the Fourth Doctor’s “Have I the right?!” and, I think, reflects his growth toward the man who will one day become the War Doctor.

There are a few good lines to be had. Most notably, Lucie gets in a meta joke about the Doctor’s hair not being real; it’s a reference to the wig McGann wore in the television movie. He is still wearing his original costume, or a variation of it; she references his velvet coat. Their dialog in general is very good; Lucie, though the same age as Rose Tyler at her first appearance, is much more lively and animated than Rose, and much less given to introspection. It’s a good look for her.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this story. I read in several places that it’s a good jumping-on point for the audios, and I would agree with that assessment. I’d recommend it to anyone, and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.

Next time: Back to the Main Range with The Fearmonger! See you there.

All audios reviewed in this series can be purchased here from Big Finish Productions; link to this story is below.  This and many other audio dramas are also available on Spotify and Google Play.

Blood of the Daleks, part one

Blood of the Daleks, part two

Final Thoughts: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch

Heads up, folks; this is a long one.  The alternative was to split it up over a few days and a few posts, but we all have things to do, so we’ll just put it all up at once.  Here we go!

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Eight months ago, give or take, I started something that was, for me, pretty ambitious. I decided to watch all of the classic series of Doctor Who. It was a lot to take on; I’m not good at following through and completing a series, even if it’s all available for streaming at once. I can’t count the shows I’ve attempted and then quit halfway. But Doctor Who is different, I told myself; it’s the show of my childhood, and besides, I had already seen the entire revived series to that point (or almost anyway; I held off on a bit of Series 8 for my girlfriend to catch up, and likewise with Series 9). So I decided to give it a try.

Where it all began.

Where it all began.

Now here we are, eight months, twenty-six seasons and one movie later, and it’s over. I missed a collective total of about thirty minutes, I think; there was a single episode (not a serial, just one part) I couldn’t locate, plus about seven minutes missing from another. Of course many of the early episodes are only available in reconstructions, but I was able to find recons for all of those missing episodes. So, I wanted to put together a final thoughts post for the series, and see what people think. I appreciate all the comments (and karma) from the previous posts; this fandom is great, no matter what anyone outside it may say, and the discussion is what I was after most of all. I’ve learned a lot about the series just from the conversations that have resulted, and it’s convinced me to give Big Finish and the various novels a try, as well. If this gets a little long—and who am I kidding, I know myself, of course it will—I’ll split it into parts, but I’ll post them as quickly as I can. (If you’re reading this on my blog, some of what I’ve just said may not make sense; I’ve posted these reviews on Reddit.com’s /r/Gallifrey subreddit, as well, and some things are specific to that site.) With that, let’s get started!

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My very first observation as I started this rewatch is that the series has changed immensely since William Hartnell was the First Doctor. I suppose I expected that, given that the show is fifty-three years old; but I wasn’t expecting it to have changed in the ways I saw. It’s gone from being a somewhat-educational children’s show to being a family show with adult overtones; but it’s more than that. The Doctor we first met was not a nice guy, nor likeable. He really wasn’t even the hero of his own show—that would be Ian Chesterton. (All respect to Barbara and Susan, but it was the 1960s—women weren’t often the heroes of anything on television. They were great, and I liked them, but they existed to support Ian, mostly.) The Doctor was there, basically, to put Ian and Barbara and Susan into a bad situation every week, and occasionally offer a solution. Nowadays that would never fly—he’s the Oncoming Storm, the Madman with a Box, Time’s Champion, even the Time Lord Victorious. He’s the star of his show, now.benpolly

It might be tempting to say that that change happened with the revival, but it was happening long before that. I’ve theorized as I watched—well, it’s not so much a cohesive theory as just an observation—that there’s a visible pattern of growth to the Doctor as the series goes on. Every incarnation adds to his character, makes him something new—he doesn’t just change, he increases. The First Doctor was hardly the Doctor at all for most of his life. He became the Doctor, I believe, in The War Machines. I’ve talked about this a few times before, and I can’t claim total credit for the idea—sorry, I’ve lost the link to the original post that inspired the idea—but my headcanon is that the Doctor didn’t consider himself to be the Doctor until he met Ian and Barbara. (The short version is that Ian mistakenly calls him Doctor, and he lets it stand so he won’t have to tell them his real name; eventually he sees noble qualities in Ian that he wants for himself, and takes the name on as a promise to himself to live up to that example. Then, later, his name leads to the use of the term for a healer—it’s a bit of a paradox, but hey, this is Doctor Who, paradoxes are what we do here.) I think the turning point onscreen is when he faces down the War Machine in the street, willing to sacrifice himself if necessary to save the others—but confident that he can meet the challenge.

The War Games

And then, not long after, he regenerates. Patrick Troughton is the Doctor right from the start, there’s no doubt about it. For him, growth means learning not to let things go to his head. He’s just learned all this confidence and taken on this self-assigned responsibility; now he has to be humble. And the Second Doctor is definitely humble. He does all the things that a class clown does: He’s self-effacing, he uses humor to redirect attention, he’s always evaluating everything and everyone. He moves from passive to active: He’s not just a wanderer in time anymore; instead, he’s getting involved, making things happen. And he cares, far more than the first Doctor ever did. My first memory of the Second Doctor—before I started this rewatch—is from The Mind Robber, with the Doctor running through the Land of Fiction, frantically searching for Jamie and Zoe because he’s so utterly worried about what might happen to them. He comes across as sullen, sometimes, simply because he worries so much.

Doctor Who the seventies

And then, he gets caught. The runaway gets dragged back home to an as-yet-unnamed Gallifrey. His companions get their memories removed—what a waste!—and get sent home, and he is forced to regenerate again. In Patrick Troughton’s place, we get John Pertwee, the Third Doctor. Further, he’s banished to Earth; the newly-named Time Lords pull out parts of his TARDIS and parts of his mind so as to keep him there. He’s immediately scooped up by UNIT, so he’s not homeless or purposeless; but his wandering days are over for now. This Doctor is the responsible one, but it chafes him to be that way. He wants to be free, but he has to learn patience. In the meantime, he’s calm, dignified (mostly), and smooth. He’s cared for his companions before, but this is where he learns to love humanity in general; when he first lands, he looks down on them. He knows he’s smarter, knows they’re not on his level. But by the time he gains his freedom back, he doesn’t look down on them anymore—in fact, his opinions are reversed; in Planet of the Spiders, he’s happy with his friends and companions, and looking down on himself for his own foolishness. It’s humility, but a different kind of humility from that of the Second Doctor: He knows he’s not infallible.

The Android Invasion 1

All of that seems to go right out the window when Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor comes on the scene. Several times I’ve called this his adolescent phase. He’s the rebellious teenager here. He’s no longer content to meet his responsibilities; he wants to get out and see the universe. He spends a lot of episodes trying to run from duty, whether it be to UNIT, the Time Lords, the White Guardian, or his companions. He works on his TARDIS the way some teenagers soup up their cars. He gets so rebellious that he has to have a nanny, essentially, to keep him on track, and so Romana joins him. He’s changeable and moody and high-strung and unpredictable. He’s faced with huge decisions and freely admits he isn’t ready to make them. Genesis of the Daleks shows his immaturity (where rather than make the right decision, he more or less blunders into it); it’s not until The Armageddon Factor, when he dismisses the Key to Time, that he begins to grow out of it. And then, near his death, he gets Adric, and becomes something of a mentor to him. I feel like that relationship is what leads him to subconsciously choose the pattern of his next incarnation. He dies doing what he never could have done at the beginning: being a real hero, sacrificing himself for not just those close to him, but the universe at large.

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Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor takes that mentoring aspect and cranks it up to eleven. Young though he appears to be, he’s the fatherly type; he treats his companions less like friends and more like family, or like his own children. Adric’s death in Earthshock breaks him, and he becomes a little harder afterward; but instead of giving him a dark side, that hardness just makes him try that much harder to be the protector, the mentor, the leader. This is the phase of his life where he becomes, as Ohila will later say to the Eighth Doctor, the good man. He finds something of an equal in Nyssa (though it’s never a romantic relationship), but she ultimately leaves out of goodness—she chooses to stay behind on Terminus to help the survivors of Lazar’s Disease. He takes Turlough under his wing, and saves him; he tries to do the same with Kamelion, but fails. It hurts him quite a bit when Tegan leaves; he tries to make it up with Peri, and ends up dying to save her.

Trial 13

I want to say that Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor came as a reaction to something about the Fifth Doctor. I want to say that, but I can’t. I labored over the question of why he should be the way he was—at first at least—but I just couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer. It just seems that when you’re changing personalities with every regeneration, every once in a while you get a dud. It’s almost a reset, a throwback to Tom Baker, but with the bad qualities exaggerated and the good minimized. How often do you get a Doctor that tries to kill a companion? Not often. That, at least, is how he starts out. But if this were elementary school, I’d give the Sixth Doctor the award for “Most Improvement”. The change between the beginning of his (admittedly short) era and the end is just amazing. While he never stops being arrogant, it goes from unapologetic and vicious to self-aware and, well, able to laugh at himself. While he started out thinking of himself as being supremely capable in any circumstance, he really wasn’t—think of all the times he was outwitted by his circumstances, or the times he tried and failed to fix the TARDIS. Yet, by the end, when he learns not to focus on himself as much, he really IS capable—it’s almost like a bit of humility unlocked his abilities.

And then he’s unceremoniously dumped by the BBC. Oh. Well, that’s not good.

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Sylvester McCoy, as the Seventh Doctor, didn’t get the benefit of any buildup whatsoever. He had to step into the role and be the Doctor with no in-universe preparation. He met that challenge; no other Doctor has so immediately been the Doctor. From the minute he wakes up in the Rani’s lab, he commands the role, and never looks back. That’s literal as well as figurative; he’s the only Doctor never to be involved in any capacity in a multi-Doctor story, at least in the classic series. As far as the classic series is concerned—and with its end approaching—he is the pinnacle of the character: Capable, smart, mysterious, caring, wise, powerful, cunning. He meets his match in Ace, who is likewise the pinnacle of what a companion should be: Energetic, realistic, versatile, adaptable, happy, devoted, and above all else, human. With them, we get some of the best stories—and we get the difficult task of closing out the series for cancellation. Somehow, it all comes together perfectly.

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It’s unfortunate that the Seventh Doctor dies as he does—in gunfire and pain—but one thing that was NOT unfortunate was Paul McGann’s selection as the Eighth Doctor. This Doctor is the hinge on which the classic series turns, paving the way for the new series; and as such, he’s a little of both. He’s a survivor, but also a lover, at least to some degree. He puts thought into what it means to BE the Doctor—and he takes a stand accordingly. He dies trying to balance those aspects of himself, fighting destiny all the way to the end—and in his ashes is born the War Doctor. We’ll talk more about him somewhere much further down the road.

old and new dw

I made a point as I watched of looking for similarities and connections between the classic series and the revived series. Many of those, I pointed out as I came to them. It was interesting to see how plot points reappeared, and how relationships and personalities in one series mirrored those in the other. I suppose it’s inevitable that a five-decade series would repeat itself, but it’s uncanny sometimes; clearly the writers didn’t plagiarize, but they hit the same notes just the same. It never feels repetitive, somehow; instead, it just goes to make these characters feel like real people, with real personalities that stay consistent from one appearance to another. That’s no small feat, considering that there have been dozens (if not hundreds) of writers, and that it was almost certainly unintentional.

ninth doctor 2

One specific connection I looked for was the various ways in which later Doctors drew inspiration from earlier Doctors. I didn’t research the subject; I know some modern actors have spoken about how they designed their portrayal, and in at least one instance (Ten with Five from Time Crash) it’s actually canon; but I didn’t look into that. These are just my guesses and opinions based on what I saw of the characters. With that said, Nine doesn’t owe much to anyone—or rather, he’s a little bit of everyone. That makes perfect sense, considering he’s a brand-new Doctor, fresh off the Time War, and in a sense the first of his line. He had to carry the weight of the revival single-handedly, and so it made sense for him to show a little something from everyone—the harshness of Hartnell, the energy of Troughton, the severity of Pertwee, the willfulness of Tom Baker, the paternalism (sometimes) of Davison, the mercurial whims of Colin Baker, the determination of McCoy, and the responsibility of McGann. His costume didn’t even relate directly to anyone; it was something new, although we would eventually find that it relates to the War Doctor.

time crash

Ten, of course, owes much to Five; that much is official within the series. He gets his wit from Four, but his attitude toward his companions is all five—in fact, his companions themselves have a lot in common with Five’s companions. Rose is his Adric (though it eventually went to romance more than mentoring); Donna is his Nyssa; Martha is his Tegan, right down to the “I can’t do this anymore” departure; and Wilfred is his Turlough. Astrid Peth, in her one appearance, is his Kamelion—the one he tried to save, but failed; or you could make the same observation about Lady Christina de Souza, as she was both hero and villain.

eleventh doctor 1

Eleven owes his characterization to the Second Doctor, but also—oddly—to the Sixth. Bear with me. He shares Two’s general humor, many of his mannerisms, his flawless loyalty to his companions, and his calm self-assurance (which admittedly is the ONLY thing calm about him). At the same time, he has a proud and arrogant streak that is pure Six; sometimes he’s even as fickle as Six. He also has a scene at his tomb that parallels Six’s scene at his ostensible tomb in Revelation of the Daleks, though Eleven’s attitude about his impending death is much more mature than Six’s (and understandably so). Having a few audios with Six under my belt now, I see the way that character grew offscreen, and I can’t help thinking that Eleven is what Six might have been if he had had to face the Time War.

twelve and one

Then there’s Twelve. I’ve been vocal in various comments sections about my disappointment with the Twelfth Doctor thus far. I have the utmost respect for Peter Capaldi; his acting chops are second to none. What I don’t like is the direction the character has taken, mostly due to Clara Oswald. With that said, it was harder to nail down influences for him; but I feel like he mostly owes himself to the First and Third Doctors. He shares One’s disdain for his companions, or in his case, companion; I don’t mean that he hates Clara, but there is a lot of rivalry there, and also some looking down on her when he feels she’s inadequate. (It’s only fair, I guess; she does the same to him.) He also has One’s arrogance and willfulness, though it’s not as pronounced as, say, Six. He shares Three’s flair and fashion sense (sometimes anyway), love for tinkering, chafing at restrictions (Three toward the Time Lords, Twelve toward Clara), and sense of responsibility toward Clara and toward UNIT.

Doctors banner

We fans of the show are fond of declaring a certain Doctor to be “MY Doctor”, and that’s fine; I’ve done it too. Now that I’ve seen them all, I thought I would try to rank them according to my preferences. This ranking isn’t any kind of evaluation of their qualities; it’s strictly a ranking of who I liked, most to least, though I may make a comment or two along the way. I’m including the new series Doctors as well, because it’s a short list, and I feel like it’s best judged with everyone included.

  1. Tenth Doctor—David Tennant. I didn’t expect him to unseat Tom Baker, but what can I say.
  2. Seventh Doctor—Sylvester McCoy. I was surprised at just how good he was. The series ended in good hands.
  3. Fourth Doctor—Tom Baker. I grew up watching him, and he was always the standard for the Doctor, in my opinion. I was surprised and a little disappointed to see him slip in my personal rating.
  4. Eleventh Doctor—Matt Smith. He gets a lot of controversy among fans, but I thought he was great.
  5. Third Doctor—John Pertwee. Just a great performance all around.
  6. Fifth Doctor—Peter Davison. I wanted to be more impressed with him, and he wasn’t bad; but he wasn’t as good as I expected at first.
  7. Ninth Doctor—Christopher Eccleston. Great guy, great Doctor, but all too soon gone.
  8. Second Doctor—Patrick Troughton. I liked him, but for reasons I can’t pin down, I had trouble following a lot of his episodes.
  9. Eighth Doctor—Paul McGann. Just not enough material to rank him higher, though what we have is pretty good.
  10. First Doctor—William Hartnell. It was a different time; the First Doctor is easy to respect, but hard to love.
  11. Sixth Doctor—Colin Baker. Such a victim of bad writing and bad politics. I really feel like he would have done much better with more time.
  12. War Doctor—John Hurt. Great performance, but very little screen time.
  13. Twelfth Doctor—Peter Capaldi. Yes, I know, placing him last is controversial. I hope he’ll improve with a new companion. I have high hopes for him next series.

tenth doctor 1

So, there you have it—if I can call anyone “my Doctor”, it’s David Tennant.

Not a perfect list, but closest I could get.  From top left:  Susan, Barbara, Ian, Vicki, Steven, Dodo, Polly, Ben, Jamie, Victoria, Zoe, the Brigadier, Liz, Jo, Sarah Jane, Harry, Leela, K9, Romana I, Romana II, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan, Turlough, Peri, Mel, Ace, Grace, Rose, Jack, Mickey, Martha, Astrid, Donna, Jackson Lake, Lady Christina, Adelaide Brook, Wilfred, Amy, Rory, River, and I really don't know who that last one is.

Not a perfect list, but closest I could get. From top left: Susan, Barbara, Ian, Vicki, Steven, Dodo, Polly, Ben, Jamie, Victoria, Zoe, the Brigadier, Liz, Jo, Sarah Jane, Harry, Leela, K9, Romana I, Romana II, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan, Turlough, Peri, Mel, Ace, Grace, Rose, Jack, Mickey, Martha, Astrid, Donna, Jackson Lake, Lady Christina, Adelaide Brook, Wilfred, Amy, Rory, River, and I’m unsure, but I think that last one is supposed to be the personified TARDIS.

Finally, companions. As this list is considerably longer, rather than talk first about the various companions, I’ll just put this in ranking order, and make comments along the way. If you’ve read this far, congratulations! But this last part is likely to be the longest—the Doctor has had a lot of companions. As with my Doctor ranking, I’m including NuWho companions as well. I’ve mostly followed the Wikipedia list, but with a few exceptions for totally arbitrary reasons: I’ve left out Mike Yates and Sergeant Benton because they only appear with the Brigadier for the most part, and lumping them together with him doesn’t really change his ranking. I’ve included Chang Lee even though he was technically a companion of the Master, because he ultimately sided with the Doctor and was mostly inseparable from Grace Holloway. I’ve listed the two versions of Romana separately because the performances were very different; by the same logic, I’ve combined the two K9s into one entry. I didn’t include Jackson Lake because he (for all practical purposes) functions as a separate Doctor, complete with companion of his own; or Adelaide Brook, because she more or less traveled under duress, and clearly did not want to be with the Doctor. I also have left off incoming companion Bill, since we don’t know anything about her yet. In every case, I’ve tried to give the most complete name that I can; in some cases a surname wasn’t given onscreen, but has arisen in other materials. I’m using the versions that can be found on the TARDIS wiki. In total, using this ranking, there are 46 companions; 15 are male, 29 are female, and 2 are robotic. So, without further adieu, here’s my companion ranking.

  1. Ian Chesterton—First Doctor. I have a lot of respect for Ian. He’s a good man, even before the Doctor proves himself to be one as well; and he set the pattern for many companions to come. I would love to see William Russell reprise the role in a few episodes of Class, as Ian is hinted to be on the Board of Governors for Coal Hill School.
  2. Dorothy Gale “Ace” McShane—Seventh Doctor. I earlier described her as the pinnacle of what a companion should be, and I stand be that. She was fantastic in every regard.
  3. Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart—Second, Third Doctors, plus several cameos. Possibly the most loyal of all companions, in the sense that his loyalty existed in spite of having a clear view of just how crazy the Doctor could be. Every single appearance onscreen is great. Has a wit that cuts like a knife.
  4. Jamie McCrimmon—Second Doctor. More episodes under his belt than any other companion, and I’m still angry that he had his memory wiped. He’s the only companion to ever be present for a Doctor’s entire run (with the exception of Clara, if Series Ten goes as planned).
  5. Donna Noble—Tenth Doctor. Hands down, my favorite NuWho companion, and just as tragic at the end as Jamie. She was the one true equal in personality that the Tenth Doctor ever met.
  6. Nyssa of Traken—Fifth Doctor. If Donna was Ten’s equal, Nyssa was Five’s. They both essentially give up their life with the Doctor for the sake of saving people, though Donna doesn’t know it. Nyssa was the loyal, stable one while Adric and Tegan—and later, Turlough and Tegan—were fighting it out.
  7. K9—Fourth Doctor, and a cameo with Ten. A companion’s companion, literally, in that he ended up with Leela, Romana, and Sarah Jane in various incarnations. I loved K9 as a kid, and still do; his obliviousness and bluntness plays perfectly against Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor.
  8. Elizabeth “Liz” Shaw—Third Doctor. She didn’t get enough credit, and didn’t stay long enough. She was a much better match for Three than Jo Grant ever was, though he would never have been able to be paternal toward Liz like he was to Jo.
  9. Wilfred Mott—Tenth Doctor. Wins the award for “most lovable companion.” He summarizes how the rest of the universe relates to the Doctor—they want to trust him, but they can’t keep up with him, and in the end, they just want to survive and live a good life.
  10. Leela—Fourth Doctor. It always bothered me that the Doctor treated her rather badly, when she didn’t deserve it. Still, their relationship wasn’t all bad, and she was loyal and strong to a fault.
  11. Sarah Jane Smith—Third and Fourth Doctors, plus a cameo and two spinoffs. If I had only had her classic run to look at, I would have ranked her lower; she’s fairly whiny and weak. She gets a great redemption, though, in School Reunion and in The Sarah Jane Adventures.
  12. Dorothea “Dodo” Chaplet—First Doctor. Likeable, fun, and energetic. Her tenure felt very short to me.
  13. River Song—Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors, with suggestions that she met them all. River generates a lot of controversy, but I always liked her, even when she was being infuriating.
  14. Romana II—Fourth Doctor. Lalla Ward is the definitive Romana. Once the character and the Doctor learned to get along, they made a great team (and of course their real-life relationship added some chemistry, both good and bad).
  15. Vislor Turlough—Fifth Doctor. He’s another who gets some criticism, but I liked him once he stopped acting like a spoiled child and started standing up for himself.
  16. Jack Harkness (just as a companion, not based on his Torchwood performance)—Ninth and Tenth Doctors. Jack has a unique gift for grasping the situation instantly and adapting to it. A good man to have in a fight, and of course he’s charming as can be. Early Jack is almost more interesting than his Torchwood portrayal.
  17. Martha Jones—Tenth Doctor. There’s only one Martha, and I’m so glad she didn’t end up in a relationship with the Doctor. She turned out much better for walking away.
  18. Susan Foreman—First Doctor, plus a cameo. Susan gets a bad reputation because she was poorly written, but I always felt like the character had so much potential. I want to see her come back and get a regeneration scene while Carol Ann Ford is still with us.
  19. Zoe Heriot—Second Doctor. Zoe gets credit for matching so well with Jamie. They were a great duo, and together they perfectly balanced the Second Doctor. I wish she had stayed longer.
  20. Victoria Waterfield—Second Doctor. This was always going to be a difficult role to play; she was essentially a teenager with PTSD. Nevertheless, the role was executed well.
  21. Jo Grant—Third Doctor. I gave Jo a lot of flak in my reviews, but she turned out fine; I was just feeling burned by the loss of Liz Shaw. In the end, she made a great choice and picked a great cause when she left the Doctor. She grew on me over time, but I admit to thinking she was stupid at first.
  22. Harry Sullivan—Fourth Doctor. Harry is one of those incidental companions who never chose this life; he’s just along for the ride. He absolutely makes the most of it, though, and isn’t scarred by it at all—kind of a rare thing among companions.
  23. Adric—Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Not the first death in series history, but the most traumatic. He had a great arc, with considerable growth…and then, dead. Just like that.
  24. Romana I—Fourth Doctor. I liked Mary Tamm’s performance, and though I also liked Lalla Ward, I was sorry to see Romana regenerate. She was excellent at reining in the Fourth Doctor.
  25. Mel Bush—Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Mel was the best thing to happen to Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor. After the doom and depression of Peri’s final appearances, Mel was a breath of fresh air, and it clearly made a difference to the Doctor. Her performance was good enough that the transition to Ace felt like a handshake between friends rather than a change of watch.
  26. Tegan Jovanka—Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Tegan loosened up considerably after leaving her job; it was a great direction for her character. Unlike many companions before her, she didn’t leave because she missed home, or found other involvements; she left because of the horror of what life with the Doctor could entail. I compared her to Martha Jones in that regard, and I still think it’s a fair comparison.
  27. Grace Holloway—Eighth Doctor. Such a short performance, and unfortunately we’re not likely to get her back in any capacity. She may not have been a good long-term match for the Eighth Doctor, but she was certainly what he needed at the time.
  28. Chang Lee—Eighth Doctor. An excellent counterpoint to Grace. Had the show persisted, I could have seen him becoming another Adric. A good kid in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  29. Mickey Smith—Tenth Doctor, though also present around the Ninth. Often rejected from lists of companions, but I feel that’s unfair to him. He had a difficult path to walk, watching Rose reject him in favor of the Doctor, and yet still focusing on the bigger picture of saving the world (two worlds, actually!). He ended up with Martha, and I can’t imagine a better ending for him.
  30. Rory Williams—Eleventh Doctor. It’s difficult to tie yourself to a person with a very strong personality, but there’s no question about his love for Amy. I felt a great deal of sympathy for him. He could teach the Doctor a thing or two about being a good man.
  31. Craig Owens—Eleventh Doctor. And now, here’s an everyman! It may be a bit stereotypical, but Craig played the part perfectly. I’m not sorry he only had a few appearances; making him a regular would have ruined him, and that’s a fate I don’t want to think about.
  32. Amy Pond—Eleventh Doctor. I wanted to hate Amy for a long time. She ordered the Doctor and Rory around constantly, and just made life miserable. Then we got Clara, and I realized I never knew how good we had it with Amy. She’s by no means a bad character or a bad person, but she’s headstrong to the point of death, possibly literally. She did improve with time, though.
  33. Astrid Peth—Tenth Doctor. Earlier I called her Ten’s Kamelion, because of her short term and her death. Also like Kamelion, she had been manipulated by a worse villain, but she absolutely made good on it.
  34. Vicki Pallister—First Doctor. Vicki was quiet and unassuming, and basically just there—and for her, those were good things. She made no demands, just quietly worked and helped and served. I really appreciated her for that.
  35. Steven Taylor—First Doctor. I recall commenting that Steven was the victim of having his parts written initially for someone else. As a result, his character was all over the place. It’s a pity; he had the makings of greatness, but he just never had the chance to shine, being caught in the middle of things.
  36. Barbara Wright—First Doctor. I only ranked her low because she was the victim of her time. A female character in 1963 was pretty much doomed to do a lot of screaming and make a lot of bad decisions. Her heart was in the right place, though, and she had some good moments.
  37. Lady Christina de Souza—Tenth Doctor. We’re reaching the point where characters just don’t have enough material to rank them higher (well, with a few upcoming exceptions). Lady Christina deserved a redemption story arc, but she never got the chance to get it.
  38. Rose Tyler—Ninth and Tenth Doctors. I’ve been very hard on Rose over the years, mostly because of her love affair with the Doctor. While I’m not of the camp that says the Doctor should be asexual and anti-romantic, seeing this eighteen-year-old child fawning over him was just sad. She had a lot of good moments, but mostly they were the ones that didn’t involve the Doctor. We do owe her something for being the first companion of the revived series, but I feel like she squandered it.
  39. Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown—Fifth and Sixth Doctors. Poor Peri. She started out happy and hopeful, and then the Doctor tried to kill her. She never recovered from it. For the rest of her tenure, she’s a trauma victim; she’s paranoid, easily frightened, distrustful, and whiny. I hated that for her. It was almost a relief to see her go.
  40. Ben Jackson—First and Second Doctors. I’m ranking Ben and Polly (you never get them separately) low chiefly because I don’t remember a lot about them. They came and went fairly quickly, and though they were present for some good stories, they didn’t make much impact on me. Otherwise there’s nothing wrong about them.
  41. Polly Wright—First and Second Doctors. Polly didn’t even get a last name onscreen, which tells you more about her character than I could say in a paragraph. She was definitely underused.
  42. Clara Oswald—Tenth, Eleventh, War, and Twelfth Doctors, with cameos with all of them. Yes, I’m ranking her low. She’s the only companion ever to inspire me to rage. I will give her credit for her early appearances with Eleven; from Asylum of the Daleks to The Name of the Doctor, she was fantastic and compelling. The “Impossible Girl” storyline was great, and had a great resolution, introducing the War Doctor as well. After that, she took over the show and turned the Doctor into her lapdog. I’ve ranted extensively about this in other places, so I’ll let it go for now.
  43. Katarina—First Doctor. Just too short a term to say much about her. She was in over her head to begin with. However, she did make a noble sacrifice in the end, thus becoming the first companion death.
  44. Sara Kingdom—First Doctor. Has the dubious distinction of being the second companion to die in the same episode as another. She could have been a good character, given enough time; and she was the first enemy to then become a companion.
  45. Adam Mitchell—Ninth Doctor. I kept him on the list because the idea of an evil companion is fascinating, but let’s be honest, he’s slimy and despicable.
  46. Kamelion—Fifth Doctor. Ranked last for his severe underuse. It’s not his fault; it’s hard to use a prop when no one knows how it works. Unfortunately he came and went with barely a blip on the radar, although The King’s Demons is a good—if insane—story.

The last thing I wanted to mention are my favorite serials for each Doctor (or the first seven, anyway—not enough material for choice with McGann, really). Someone had asked about this; I tried to get into it season by season, but really ran out of time in most cases. Anyway, for better or worse, here were my favorites for each Doctor, and a bit about why:

  • First Doctor: The Space Museum. I know, it’s an odd choice, especially when I’ve talked so much about The War Machines. But favorites aren’t just based on seminal moments in the series; they’re based on how enjoyable they were. This serial gets a lot of flak for various reasons, but it was fun to watch, and it created a few ideas that have shown up again in surprising places, like the idea of a mind probe device, or the idea of being out of sync with time. And Hartnell is at his funniest here, which is awesome.
  • Second Doctor: Oh, man, so many good choices. Patrick Troughton really is the Doctor who defined the role. But when all is said and done, I’d choose The Tomb of the Cybermen. It’s full of iconic scenes and moments, and brought the Cybermen back from what seemed like the dead after the end of The Tenth Planet. In some ways, Cybermen have always been scarier than Daleks; all a Dalek can do is exterminate you, but the Cybermen can make you one of them, and steal away your humanity.
  • Third Doctor: Inferno. Again, probably an uncommon choice, but hear me out. Here you get the Doctor in extremis; he’s alone, in a hostile world, racing the clock, feeling the burden of not one but two worlds, with no TARDIS, no companions, no UNIT—and he wins. Yet, even as he wins, he loses some people he would rather have saved, and it’s clear he’s not perfect, and he can’t do everything. Also, it’s a bit downplayed, but there’s some suggestion that the Leader in the inferno world is the Doctor, or rather, what he would have become had he accepted one of the forms the Time Lords offered him in The War Games.
  • Fourth Doctor: Again, so many choices! But I’m going with The Face of Evil. Not only did it introduce Leela, but it also showed us just what happens if the Doctor has to go up against himself (or rather, the computerized version he left behind). It’s an irresistible plot, and one that would be mined again under the Eleventh Doctor (Nightmare in Silver). This is one from my childhood, too, so there’s some sentimentality there as well.
  • Fifth Doctor: I’m tempted to say The Visitation just based on the awesome Richard Mace, but the rest of the story wasn’t that strong; and it cost us the sonic screwdriver. So, I’ll go with Kinda. There’s not much to hate about it; the Mara are a great and unique villain; Tegan is fantastic here; and it is dealt with chiefly due to the relationship between the Doctor and his companions, which is the essence of what the Fifth Doctor is about. I didn’t enjoy Snakedance quite as much, but it was also a great complement to this story.
  • Sixth Doctor: No, I’m not going to say Trial of a Time Lord; that would be cheating. If it were going to be that season, I’d break it down into its parts. Actually, in general I do prefer that season over the preceding one; but for an individual story, I’m going with Revelation of the Daleks. It’s the first place where the Sixth Doctor really started to come into his own, and Davros is one of my favorite villains.
  • Seventh Doctor: Battlefield. No hard decision here. Yes, I know it was rated low, but this is my list, so there. It’s the seventh Doctor at the top of his game; UNIT and the Brigadier still at the top of theirs; an actual battle scene, which is something we rarely ever got in UNIT stories for some reason; a great take on the King Arthur legends; Ace being fantastic; and Bessie, who we all know is my one true love. Just kidding. Still cool to see the car again, though.

So, there it is. Twenty-six seasons, one movie, eight Doctors, thirty-two companions (classic series), one hundred sixty stories, and one blue box—classic Doctor Who in its entirety. There’s far more that could be said, and has been; after all these years, there’s no bottom to this well. Still, this rewatch has given my thoughts on these decades of stories; now, what are yours? This has always been about discussion, and I love seeing everyone’s thoughts and reactions. Feel free to comment!

Season 26 feature

Some future plans: I’ve already begun an occasional series of reviews of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas, and I intend to continue it. It won’t have anything near the regularity of this series; it will just be as I manage to listen to the audios. That series is open-ended; I don’t have a goal in mind, as Big Finish is constantly adding new material. Nor will it be in any particular order; as they add materials for all Doctors, it’s not practical to take them in numeric order as I did with the television series. As I can get my hands on the novels, I may do the same with them; but that series is likely to be even more infrequent than the audios. I have given some thought to continuing with a rewatch of the revived series, and I may do that; but I don’t want to get it mixed up with /r/Gallifrey’s official rewatch series, so I may wait a bit and title it differently. If I do continue, I won’t do an entire season in a single post; there’s just too many stories per season for that. I’ll probably do about three episodes per post.

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Thanks for reading! I’m glad this series was well received, and I look forward to everyone’s comments.

 

All seasons and episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below. Note that these links are not the individual serial links I have previously posted, but rather, links to the entire collected seasons, arranged by era. For convenience, I have included links to the revived series as well.

The First Doctor, William Hartnell, 1963-1966

The Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, 1966-1969

The Third Doctor, John Pertwee, 1970-1974

The Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, 1974-1980

The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, 1981-1984

The Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, 1984-1986

The Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, 1986-1989

The Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, 1996, 2013

No episodes dedicated solely to the War Doctor have been produced.

The Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, 2005

The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, 2006-2010

The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, 2011-2014

The Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi, 2014-Present

Interlude: Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.

You thought it was over, but you couldn’t be more wrong: Dr. Who is back! And yes, I mean “Dr.”, not “Doctor”. Today we’re looking at the second of two “Dr. Who” feature films, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., featuring Peter Cushing as Dr. Who! Let’s get started!

Peter Cushing

Peter Cushing as “Dr. Who”–NOT “Doctor Who”

Previously I reviewed the first movie in the series, Dr. Who and the Daleks, based on the 1963-1964 television serial, The Daleks. You can find my review here. That film, released in 1965, saw Doctor Who adapted for the big screen, and featured Peter Cushing in the title role as the slightly-mad scientist Dr. Who (Who being his actual surname, as he is human, not alien). He was the inventor of a time-space ship in the shape of a police box, called Tardis (no acronym), and was accompanied by his granddaughters Susan and Barbara, as well as Barbara’s somewhat incompetent boyfriend Ian, to the planet Skaro, where he met the Daleks. Taken captive, he and his companions are forced to overcome their captors and aid the native Thals in overthrowing them for good. It’s an odd mirror of the television series; as it was intended to be a series of movies, with less time for backstory, there is none of the embryonic lore that was even then present in the television series. I had commented that it fit in well with the Disney live-action movies of the day, and I still think so; that doesn’t make it bad, but it is certainly different from its television progenitor.

Dalek invasion 1

The following year, this sequel, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., was released, based on the serial titled The Dalek Invasion of Earth. That serial was a bit shorter than the original (six episodes instead of seven), and a bit faster-paced; it showed a slightly more advanced breed of Daleks, as they no longer require the transmission of electricity through the floor; in fact, they can function while fully submerged in water. This upgrade is also seen in the film version; the sight of the Dalek rising from the river remains one of the most dramatic moments in early series history. Rumors have persisted for years that a third Dalek movie was planned, based on The Chase, but if so, it was never produced.

WILF!  I mean, TOM!

WILF! I mean, TOM!

Things have changed a bit this time. Ian and Barbara are no longer present (coincidentally, by the time the movie was released, their television counterparts had left the Doctor and returned home); they are replaced by Dr. Who’s niece Louise, and Tom Campbell, a policeman with the misfortune of wandering into Tardis while dealing with a burglary. Modern Whovians will recognize Tom: He’s played by a young Bernard Cribbins, who would much later play Donna Noble’s wonderfully worrisome grandfather, Wilfred Mott. While the Doctor doesn’t exactly kidnap Tom willfully, the effect is the same; he leaves with Tom aboard so as to avoid being caught in the middle of the events outside. Much more politely than the television Doctor, he later puts Tom back right where he found him—or earlier, actually, allowing him to anticipate the burglary.

Almost Robomen!

Almost Robomen!

No Thals are present this time around; we stay on Earth for the duration, but we do leap forward to—as the title says—the year 2150 A.D. The plot isn’t too dissimilar to the television version: Tardis is immediately blocked off by a pile of rubble, and its crew fall in with, alternately, the human resistance and the Daleks’ mind-controlled Robomen. After quite a bit of back and forth, and a scene where the Doctor and Tom are nearly made into Robomen themselves, the group ends up at a mine where the Daleks are attempting something ambitious: They want to destroy and remove the Earth’s metallic core, and install machinery that will allow them to pilot the planet through the cosmos, giving them a mobile base for their war of conquest. It varies a little from the television version, in that the Daleks there are defeated simply by the explosion at the mine (presumably leaving other Dalek cells around the world to be dealt with), whereas here they are destroyed by the Earth’s magnetism when the bomb is detonated out of place. This version is less plausible, of course, but it makes for some interesting visuals onscreen, as Daleks are pulled in and crushed like aluminum cans.

Don't fall, Susan!

Don’t fall, Susan!

The Dalek Invasion of Earth had the distinction of being the first time in the series’ history that a main cast member left the show, as Susan left the TARDIS, or rather, was left behind by the Doctor. It’s a great scene, giving us his famous “one day I shall come back” speech. In this version, Susan looks to be about twelve at most, and there’s none of that. Really, she’s a bit unnecessary throughout the movie; but then, so is Barbara—the bulk of the action is carried out by the resistance fighters and Tom. Even the Doctor seems almost to be making a cameo in his own film; he’s definitely less involved here than he was in the previous film. None of that is to say that the movie is bad or unenjoyable; it wasn’t uncommon in the First Doctor era for him to be less involved than his companions, as they serve as audience surrogates.

Dalek invasion 5

Once again, we get the same colorful and explosive (literally) visuals as the first film; the Daleks, again, are clearly ranked by color. They differ from their small-screen counterparts in that they don’t fire bullets or lasers, but rather, a gas weapon of some sort. Everything is a bit bigger here, and that’s understandable. The Daleks still are susceptible to being literally pushed around, unfortunately; while I think this version are a bit more menacing than the television version of the era, it breaks the immersion completely to see them blow up upon being shoved down a ramp by a bunch of humans. If it was that easy, then how did they conquer anything in the first place?

"You've been doing the Tardis up a bit!  I don't like it!"  ~Patrick Troughton

“You’ve been doing the Tardis up a bit! I don’t like it!” ~Patrick Troughton

This movie assumes you’ve seen the first one. It does give some hasty explanation of what’s going on—the nature of Tardis, especially, plus a brief recap of the first film—but it’s very rushed and short on detail. There are references to things such as the Daleks’ previous dependence on electricity, but there’s little explanation.

dalek invasion 7

So, what did I think? Last time, I spoke a bit about the nature of canon, and whether this film can count as canon. I won’t get into that again; my argument there applies here as well. My impression of the movie is that, like its predecessor, it’s a lot of fun to watch—assuming, that is, that you go into it with an open mind. It’s not Doctor Who, and it never will be. It isn’t supposed to be. It’s Dr. Who—and it stands well on its own two feet. It’s very dated, of course, but then, it should be. It’s free of the difficulties that the series often faces with regard to its nature—is it a family show? Is it more for adults? What’s appropriate to show? This is a movie you’d watch with your children and not think twice. At the same time, it’s still based on Doctor Who, and still grapples with the same concepts of time, change, justice, hope, desperation—those things never change, and they’ll always be worth our time.

High entertainment? No. Still worth it? Totally.

dalek invasion 8

So, take a break from saving the universe. It’ll still be there. Series Ten is a long way away. Sit back, grab a drink, and watch some Daleks get shoved around. Have some fun with this film—let the television series be serious. Spend a few hours with Dr. Who. You might be entertained, but you won’t be disappointed.

Note:  Unfortunately I was unable to locate streaming sources for Dr. Who and the Daleks or Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., however both are available for purchase on DVD from Amazon.com, bundled together as The Dalek Collection.

 

The Long Goodbye: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Twenty-Five

We’re back, with another season of our Classic Doctor Who rewatch! It won’t be long now, as we approach the end of the classic series. Only one more season to go after this! (Three more posts, however; I intend to do a post for the 1996 TV movie, and also a wrap-up post.) This week in Season Twenty-Five, we begin to say our goodbyes to some old friends—or rather, some old enemies. Let’s get started!

The Doctor, Ace, and a Special Weapons Dalek

The Doctor, Ace, and a Special Weapons Dalek

We get right to it with Remembrance of the Daleks. It’s the final appearance of the Daleks in the classic series, and also the final installment of the “Davros arc” of Dalek stories which began with Destiny of the Daleks way back in Season Seventeen. It does something unusual for the classic series: It begins with a cold open, showing us the Dalek ship approaching Earth. The story immediately takes us full circle, all the way back to the beginning, by landing the Doctor in late November 1963 at Coal Hill School and Totter’s Lane, right back where it all began. Specifically, it’s November 29th and 30th, 1963, just six days after the First Doctor kidnapped Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright—and six days after the real-world premier of Doctor Who. Interestingly, there’s a bit of meta-reference there; at one point we hear a radio announcer mention a new episode of the “science-fiction series Doc-“ only to be cut off by a scene change. In fact, this episode is full of references to the show’s history, making it a “remembrance” not just of the Daleks, but of the entire series:

  • Ace sees a French Revolution text in Coal Hill School, like the one Susan read in An Unearthly Child;
  • The Doctor references his time as Lord President;
  • The Daleks (Imperials, to be precise) have control again of Skaro; the Daleks use a transmat;
  • The Doctor builds a jamming device and refers to having done so on Spiridon;
  • The Doctor makes veiled references to the as-yet-nonexistent UNIT;
  • The renegade Daleks use a human child in their battle computer, a trick they learned in the Movellan War;
  • Several people make references to, and describe, the First Doctor;
  • The Doctor refers to the events of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, which is still almost 200 years in the future.

For fun, there’s even a reference—from our perspective—to NuWho, as the headmaster of Coal Hill thinks the Doctor is there to apply for a job as the Caretaker.

Get 'em, Ace!

Get ’em, Ace!

This is the earliest occurrence, to my knowledge, of the Daleks making incursion on Earth, or at least until time travel shenanigans get rolling in the Time War. They do possess time travel at this point, however, as both factions clearly used it to get to 1963 (and in fact it figures into the plot—both factions want to take the Hand of Omega back to their own time). The Hand of Omega—the stellar manipulator used by Omega to create the Eye of Harmony—is the macguffin, or rather (as TVTropes puts it) the magnetic plot device of this story. It’s intelligent to some degree, able to parse and obey voice commands; that’s not unreasonable, as we’ll see that feature again in other Time Lord technology this very season, and we already know it’s true of TARDISes and of the Moment. The First Doctor took it with him—stole it, really—when he fled Gallifrey, and after carrying it for awhile, he intended to bury it on Earth before Ian and Barbara changed his plans. Here, he returns and actually completes his burial, but it’s short-lived. (The cemetery looks to be the same as the one seen in Death in Heaven, but I have no way to verify.) The Daleks want it for various purposes: the Renegades want it to defeat the Imperials, and Davros’s Imperial faction wants it to destroy the Time Lords and supplant them. In the end, the Doctor lets Davros get away with it, but with a deception: he has programmed it to destroy Skaro’s sun, then return to Gallifrey. Skaro is destroyed, and the Daleks are—for now—defeated. (Of course it will be rebuilt, as referenced in both the TV movie and several places in NuWho.)

Davros, you make for a goofy emperor.

Davros, you make for a goofy emperor.

There’s a famous scene of Ace damaging an Imperial Dalek with a bat that has been charged up by the Hand of Omega. The bat is used thereafter to kill the mutant inside, and to destroy the transmat device. In the course of all this, it becomes clear that the Imperial Daleks have been cybernetically augmented. Davros himself is not revealed until late in the story, when it becomes evident that he is, in fact, the Dalek Emperor, with a unique casing for his degraded body. We also get a brief appearance by an Imperial Special Weapons Dalek. This season is also the actual beginning of the previously-mentioned Cartmel Masterplan, and to that end, the Doctor lets slip at the end that he may have been involved in the creation of the Hand of Omega. Overall, it’s a great send-off for the Daleks.

The Kandy Man.

The Kandy Man.

The Happiness Patrol takes us back into the future—specifically, the 24th century, on the human-colonized planet of Terra Alpha. The premise is simple, but farfetched: unhappiness is illegal and enforceable by death. Still, we’ve seen a lot of untenable dystopias, so we’ll let it slide. Allegedly the story is an allegory for the leadership of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, but I don’t know enough about her term to comment on that. I do see that it’s essentially a rebellion story, with the overthrow of a corrupt and hyper-legalistic government, which is something that Doctor Who does well. It’s somewhat rare in that, usually, the Doctor supports the removal of a tyrant, but not the overthrow of the entire form of government; here he does exactly that. Someone commented recently that this story and Paradise Towers are essentially the same, and there are definitely similarities: the closed environment, the maniacal dictator, the killer robot(s), the rebellion movement, and so on. Personally, I think The Happiness Patrol wore it better.

Helen A and the Stigorax. Hard to tell, I know, but Helen is the one on the right.

Helen A and the Stigorax. Hard to tell, I know, but Helen is the one on the right.

The tyrant in question, Helen A, uses the sadistic Kandy Man robot to enforce her will and carry out executions. (I use the term “robot” loosely, as he appears to be actually made of confections.) It’s a goofy villain, but very malicious. She also has and uses a vicious pet, the Stigorax, to hunt down escapees; the Doctor refers to having encountered one on 25th-century Earth, though we have not seen this onscreen. He also refers back to Invasion of the Dinosaurs, saying that the Brigadier had encountered a Tyrannosaurus and Pterodactyls.

I've seen that girl in the poster somewhere...

I’ve seen that girl in the poster somewhere…

Earth itself is a bit of a backwater at this point, and not a nice place to live, as stated by the census taker Trevor Sigma. That’s to be expected in a time of rapid expansion; one would expect power centers to shift extensively throughout the galaxy. Trevor Sigma himself is a bit silly, a very Douglas Adams-like parody of a civil servant (unfortunately not actually written by Adams). Oh yes, and the TARDIS gets painted pink. ‘Nuff said.

Season 25 7

It’s back to Earth for Silver Nemesis, specifically to Windsor, England, 1988. (There are also some scenes in the year 1638, and in South America.) Having said goodbye to the Daleks, we now say goodbye to the Cybermen, with their final classic appearance. We also introduce a secondary villain: The time-travelling Lady Peinforte, who comes forward in time using black magic (and, unbeknownst to everyone at this point, a bit of a nudge from a more ancient evil—but that’s next season!). Peinforte, the Cybermen, a group of Nazis—this story has everything!—and the Doctor and Ace all converge on Windsor in search of something rare: a crashed comet and its cargo of the living, deadly, Time-Lord-created metal known as Validium. The Doctor and Peinforte have some history with it; she found it in her own time and made it into a statue of great power, and the Doctor put that statue on the comet and sent it away. The Cybermen want it for how it can augment their own power; they intend to use it eliminate humanity and turn Earth into a new Mondas (unsurprising, as this story takes place just two years after the destruction of Mondas at the hands of the First Doctor). In the end, the Cybermen are defeated by the Validium due to the Doctor’s cunning; Lady Peinforte dies when she merges with the statue.

Well, this is awkward.

Well, this is awkward.

There are several random but noteworthy things about this serial. It’s the 25th anniversary special, and the only anniversary special thus far to NOT be a multi-doctor story; hence the “silver” in the title has a double meaning. Also as a result, it was set on November 22 and following days, 1988, and also began its initial broadcast on November 23, 1988, the literal 25th anniversary of the series. It’s the first introduction of the phrase “Doctor Who?” as a question; the question is given some importance (and of course not answered), but that thread will not come to fruition until NuWho under the Eleventh Doctor. There’s a painting of Ace in Windsor Castle, but the Doctor says the events that spawned it have not yet happened (and as far as I know, never happen onscreen). The Doctor claims to know the queen, but doesn’t actually recognize her. He carries a fob watch, with some apparent link to the TARDIS, as it notifies him of moments of peril; however it doesn’t seem to be the same as the fob watch that works with a chameleon arch. I have mentioned before that a later version of the Cybermen should have had the Seventh Doctor in their footage of past encounters; that is due to this serial. Of course they couldn’t, in a real-world sense, as this story had not yet been filmed. Still, at this point they recognize the Doctor, and understand that his face has changed, even though this is a very early encounter for them. Stranger still: These cybermen are definitely a more modern variant, despite being refugees from the destruction of Mondas. And last, there’s a funny moment when the Doctor and Ace encounter two thugs tied up in a tree (courtesy of Lady Peinforte); he asks who did this to them, and they retort “Social workers!” Or maybe it’s only funny to me, as I’m a social worker for my day job. I guess you had to be there.

The Gods of Ragnarok in their true forms.

The Gods of Ragnarok in their true forms.

We close up with The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, the serial which held the record for longest title (six words) until NuWho’s The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe (seven). It’s set on the planet Segonax, at the Psychic Circus. The date is unknown to us, but not to the Doctor, as he comments that the robot he sees at the outset is common to that part (and by extension, time) of the galaxy. We are introduced to a new villain (villains?), the Gods of Ragnarok. The Doctor states he has fought them all through time, but again, it’s not something we’ve witnessed. Here, they masquerade as the audience of the circus, and secretly control the performers to increase both the spectacle and the number of deaths—for secretly, they feed on entertainment.Season 25 10

Sylvester McCoy, already an accomplished performer, learned a number of new performance tricks for this serial, as it gave him a chance to showcase his skills. He had a close call in Part Four, as well; during the scene of the arena explosion, the crew over-rigged the explosives, causing his clothes to actually catch fire. However, he walked away calmly despite the risk, as he knew there would only be one take—proving Sylvester McCoy is cooler than I will ever be. The character called Mags is secretly a werewolf; like Lady Peinforte in the previous serial, this is another link in the slowly-building arc that will be resolved with next season’s The Curse of Fenric. As well, the character of Whizz Kid was written as a parody of Doctor Who fans, much like Osgood in The Day of the Doctor (but much less kindly).

Back to the beginning.

Back to the beginning.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad season. It was clear that the lion’s share of the effort went into the Dalek and Cyberman serials; the other two aren’t as interesting, in my opinion. Still, they’re not bad, and I couldn’t find much fault with them. I found The Happiness Patrol to be the weakest serial of the season, partly because its premise was difficult to believe, and partly because of all the candy. Both the Daleks and the Cybermen got a decent send-off, and I really enjoyed the return to Totter’s Lane and Coal Hill. Only one of the three major recurring villains—Daleks, Cybermen, and the Master—remains to be seen off, and we’ll get to him next season in the very last serial of the classic series. Ace continues to be a great companion, and the Doctor continues to be intriguing even as his character darkens a bit (though not as dark as I had been led to believe). There is some melancholy to be had, as we know we’re nearing the end; I don’t know how much the production team knew at the time, but of course they were constantly living in the shadow of cancellation, and it shows. Still, overall, it’s an enjoyable season.

Next time: We say goodbye to UNIT, the Master, and that mysterious villain we’ve been building up to: the ancient evil of Fenric! And, oh yeah, we wrap up the classic series. Just little things, you know. See you there.

All episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.

Remembrance of the Daleks (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

The Happiness Patrol

Silver Nemesis

The Greatest Show In The Galaxy

Sixth Sense: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Twenty-Two

We’re back, with a brand new Doctor! Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor is on the scene in season twenty-two of our Classic Doctor Who rewatch. Let’s get started!

The Doctor gets violent.

The Doctor gets violent.

We’ve reached the point of maximum controversy in classic Doctor Who history. Season twenty-two was heavily criticized for a number of reasons, which I think contributed heavily to the general low opinion of the Sixth Doctor’s era. A few important changes occurred this season; and though they were later rolled back, the damage was done. First, this season changed from the standard “4 episodes/25 minutes” format (or at least, most commonly four episodes) to “2 episodes/45 minutes”. The series experimented with this format once in the previous season, but now made it the standard; it was not well received at the time, although of course in the modern series 45-minute episodes have always been standard. Second, this season ramped up the violence, which was badly received given the longstanding nature of the series as a family show. The first serial in particular, Attack of the Cybermen, was held up by executives as an example, and used in their arguments for cancellation of the series.

Season 22 2

Peri and the Cryons.

Attack is set on Telos, sometime after Tomb of the Cybermen, and on Earth, contemporary with the broadcast. The Telos portions aren’t precisely dated, but estimated to be around 2530, about 65 years after Tomb. From the Doctor and Peri’s perspective, it’s shortly after their previous adventure on Jaconda (The Twin Dilemma), probably within a day or so. In the course of (shoddily) repairing the Chameleon Circuit, the Doctor returns to 76 Totter’s Lane for the first time onscreen since An Unearthly Child; this will happen again with the Seventh Doctor, and several times in the revived series (and of course the new spinoff, Class, is set at Coal Hill School, in the vicinity of Totter’s Lane). The circuit will, in fact, change the TARDIS’s appearance a few times, but it will be broken again by the next series (the actual breaking occurs offscreen). Here he encounters the Cybermen of the future, who have stolen a timeship; they want to go back and destroy the Earth in 1985, one year prior to Mondas’s destruction waaaaay back in The Tenth Planet, but they can’t control their ship very well. With the Doctor in range, they want the TARDIS instead. Covertly aiding them in this venture are the Cryons, the original inhabitants of Telos; if they succeed, the Cybermen will never have come to Telos, and the Cryons can keep their world. The Cryons are not true villains; they’ll take any solution to the Cyberman problem, and so they readily switch sides and work with the Doctor. They bring with them an unstable mineral that spontaneously explodes in warm temperatures.

Terror is a bad look for Peri.

Terror is a bad look for Peri.

Peri is very scared of the Doctor here, and continues to behave as such for a long time to come. It’s very sad; she never really seems to recover from her assault at his hands in the previous story. She states that the Doctor’s memory isn’t right; and indeed it isn’t, as he calls her by various companion names. We also get a return of the treacherous Lytton from Resurrection of the Daleks, who has since been living as a petty criminal on Earth; he takes advantage of the Cyberman incursion to get himself offworld and back to the future, but in the end gets himself cyber-converted and killed. He’s not a shallow villain at all, and the serial treats him well; he’s opportunistic, but secretly also undermines the Cybermen. In this story we also see—for what I think is the first time; if I’m wrong, please let me know—partially converted humans. This will be more common in NuWho and Torchwood.

Sil, the Governor, and the Doctor.

Sil, the Governor, and the Doctor.

I had seen Vengeance on Varos before, and somehow had it in my head that it was a Fifth Doctor story. It’s one of the better Sixth Doctor serials, though, and I enjoyed it the second time around. After a series of breakdowns (mostly attributable to the Doctor’s clumsy incompentence), the TARDIS is forced to land on Varos, a world that is the only source of Zeiton-7, a valuable mineral required to repair the TARDIS. Peri says that she’s from 300 years before the time of the Varosians, placing it probably in the 23rd century; a straight 300 years would be 2285. The Doctor and Peri stumble into a political/commercial struggle, as the alien Mentor Sil, a representative of the Galaton Mining Corporation, seeks to take control of Varos and obtain the Zeiton-7 for vastly under-market prices. (“Mentor” is the name of Sil’s species.) The planet’s Governor opposes him, but not without consequence; the world’s barbaric government-as-entertainment system brings punishment to him for every unpopular decision. We get an early glimpse of such punishment with the torture of the rebel Jondar at the beginning; it’s very reminiscent of the torture of the Ninth Doctor in Dalek.

Can't you just picture these two laughing on a balcony?!

Can’t you just picture these two laughing on a balcony?!

This serial contains a couple of interesting characters in the private citizens Arak and Etta. They serve as a sort of Greek chorus for the story, never interacting with anyone but each other, and providing commentary. I jokingly called them the Statler and Waldorf (of Muppet Show fame) of this story.

Gallifreyan Class Reunion?

Gallifreyan Class Reunion?

The Mark of the Rani introduces another controversial character: the Time Lady called the Rani. She’s a classmate of the Doctor and the Master, and in fact her second appearance in a few seasons will reveal that she’s the same age as the Doctor. (Given her mostly-evil personality and her status as a renegade, it makes one wonder what the Academy was teaching those years!) She rules a world, making her in one fell swoop more successful than the Master; and indeed, he comes to ask her for assistance. The Rani is a bit campy, and there’s been much argument among fans over the years as to whether she should ever come back; in fact, every Time Lady of any significance in NuWho has had some early debate as to whether she would prove to be the Rani.

The Rani's very cool TARDIS.

The Rani’s very cool TARDIS.

This story, set in Killingsworth, England, in the early 1820s, is the first since The Gunfighters to feature an actual historical figure, in this case Lord Ravensworth and George Stephenson. (The King’s Demons came close, with King John, but it wasn’t actually him being portrayed; rather it was Kamelion impersonating him.) All other historicals since then have been historical in settings and events only. It’s a fairly straightforward story; the Master wants revenge on the Doctor through changing Earth’s history, and the Rani wants to further her own projects on her planet. To do this she requires a chemical that is produced in human brains; the process of procuring it causes the titular mark, and also disastrous side effects of personality. The Doctor thwarts them both, as he usually does. It’s not a bad story, but it has its silly moments; as a fellow fan pointed out, the mines that turn people into trees are pretty ridiculous. A couple of TARDIS oddities: The Doctor’s TARDIS key fits the Rani’s TARDIS, which is odd; however, it seems that her TARDIS may be the same model as his (with a heretofore-unseen desktop theme), so it’s not totally impossible. As well, she has a remote control for recall of her TARDIS, of which the Doctor is jealous. (More on that in the next serial.)

Doctor, meet Doctor.

Doctor, meet Doctor.

Just two seasons after The Five Doctors, we get another ratings boost, I mean, multi-Doctor story, with The Two Doctors. The Doctors in questions are the Sixth and the Second; in fact there’s a nice tribute to the Second Doctor’s era in the opening scene, as it begins in black-and-white and fades to color. Jamie is the companion present with the Second Doctor; Victoria gets a mention, but she has temporarily left the TARDIS to pursue a learning opportunity. As the original TARDIS console room is long gone, the prop used here is the most recently-replaced prop, from the Fifth Doctor’s first two seasons; the budget would not allow a rebuilding of the original prop. Still, it’s different enough for a bit of a retro look.

Now here's a fashion statement for you!

Now here’s a fashion statement for you!

This story is set on Earth and the alien space station Camera in 1985; the villains lack time travel, therefore the two locations must be at the same point in time. This helps explain why it’s the Sixth Doctor who feels the effect of the Second Doctor’s torture and potential death; he’s the only Doctor who—by chance—is present in the same time period when it happens. Given an actual death and enough time, the others would have felt the effects and ceased to exist, as well. This is similar to how the Eleventh Doctor onsite at the moment is the one who feels pain when the Great Intelligence enters his time stream in The Name of the Doctor. Also, there’s an interesting bit early on where the Doctor talks about not having synchronized yet. It seems this is a rare glimpse of what it’s like when he has had a multi-doctor encounter, with unsynchronized time streams, and therefore lost memories, but now the memories begin to sync up for his later self. Although we know this happens, we’ve never really seen it happen.

Companion, meet companion.

Companion, meet companion.

The Doctor makes an actual kill in this story, which is very rare; often people die during his involvement, but he kills with his own hands in this story. He gives cyanide to the Androgum Shockeye. In fact there’s a high body count in general in this serial, as only the two Doctors, Peri, Jamie, and one civilian survive. It was for that violence that the serial was criticized, but there’s an actual plot hole as well; the Sontarans want the Doctor’s Time Lord symbiotic nuclei because it gives the Time Lords enough molecular stability to travel through time, but that ignores the fact that many others of various species have been seen to travel safely through time. In fact, NuWho will give the lie to this idea completely by having Strax, a Sontaran, travel through time (or at least it’s implied that he does so on multiple occasions). Oh, and that TARDIS remote of the Rani’s, of which the Doctor was jealous? The Second Doctor has one. Why the Sixth Doctor would not remember this—or even still own the device!—is a mystery.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Wells.  It's always like this, I promise.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Wells. It’s always like this, I promise.

Timelash gives us an homage to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, in that Wells is a character in the story, and clearly is posited to have drawn inspiration from this adventure. It’s set on the planet Karfel in the far future; the date is totally unknown, but, continuing the homage, A History of the Universe places it in 802,701, the same year as the Morlock scenes in Wells’ novel. There are also scenes in Scotland, 1885; this is the other end of the titular Timelash, a sort of spacetime tunnel. It’s the exceedingly rare case of a historical figure in a non-historical story; something similar will happen with Queen Nefertiti in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.

An old familiar face on the wall...

An old familiar face on the wall…

This story is a strange thing: it’s a sequel to a story that never happened. That is, it makes frequent reference back to a visit to Karfel by the Third Doctor and Jo Grant, but that story was never recorded. Therefore it relies heavily on info-dumps and references. It’s not a good plot device; this story ranks consistently very low, often just above the universally-reviled The Twin Dilemma. It’s another take on the Loch Ness Monster story, as the Borad is banished back in time; it doesn’t actually conflict with the series’ previous take on the legend, as the Borad (in a spinoff story) dies prior to the arrival on earth of the Skarasen. On the plus side, the Sixth Doctor, in his better moments here, is much like the Tenth; and the TARDIS has safety belts! Detachable ones, at any rate. We’ll only ever see these again with the junk TARDIS in The Doctor’s Wife.

Fake Davros, real Dalek.

Fake Davros, real Dalek.

We end with what will prove to be the penultimate Dalek story of the original series. Revelation of the Daleks picks up sometime after Resurrection of the Daleks, therefore after the 38th century at least; the actual date is unknown, though some conflicting estimates have been made for the entire “Davros cycle” of stories. We do know that Davros, having survived the Movellan virus, has had time to build a new army of Daleks, the so-called “Imperial” Daleks, using the population of nearly-dead individuals housed in the Tranquil Repose cryogenic facility. Also we know that the mainstream Daleks—hereafter called “Renegade” Daleks by Davros—have reoccupied Skaro, as I proposed waaaaaaay back in their very first appearance in The Daleks, most likely reabsorbing or destroying the remnant of more primitive Daleks that had long occupied the Dalek city there. (Remember that the scenes on Skaro in Destiny of the Daleks didn’t represent an invasion force, but rather, an expedition to find Davros; they likely never approached the city, which is separate from the Kaled bunker where Davros was buried.)

Davros can fly?!

Davros can fly?!

For the first time, we see a Dalek—and Davros as well, with his chair—levitate unassisted. From this point on, it will be a standard feature for the Imperial Daleks, and for all Daleks in the new series. Another reference for the future: we see Daleks in the sewers under Tranquil Repose, which I suspect may have inspired the Dalek sewer scenes in The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar. We see as well that Davros somehow knows the Sixth Doctor’s face, although he’s never met him before; oddly, the renegade Daleks don’t. It works in the Doctor’s favor though, as the renegades arrest Davros, but let the Doctor go free.

Glass Dalek?  It's a bold strategy, Cotton.

Glass Dalek? It’s a bold strategy, Cotton.

The Doctor sees his face on a statue here, implying that he is buried there at some future point in his own life. It’s the Sixth Doctor’s face, and he takes it to mean that he will never regenerate; given that his regenerations are at stake all throughout the next season, it makes for a neat bit of foreshadowing. Of more interest to me is his reaction; he’s clearly very afraid to die, and doesn’t handle it well. There’s a clear contrast with the way he reacts to his tomb as the Eleventh Doctor; I think the difference is simply one of age, maturity, and resignation. As Eleven, he knows he’s on his last life and therefore death is, to some degree, imminent; as Six, he knows he has a lot of life ahead of him, and he rebels against dying.Season 22 16

I’ll speak more about this in my wrapup post at the end of my rewatch; but overall I’m not thrilled with this season for the Sixth Doctor. It’s clear that the character and the actor are fighting an uphill battle with the writing staff. I understand that each Doctor must be different, but choosing to make this one effectively spoiled and self-centered essentially handicaps the character. In addition, I think I could have overlooked some of that if there had been a good companion; but Peri is just incredibly whiny. Even as she does, at last, start to warm up to the Doctor again, she seems able to do nothing for herself. Nicola Bryant and Colin Baker play their roles impeccably; but the characters leave a lot to be desired. This is disheartening, to me; I WANT to like the Sixth Doctor. There is some hope on the horizon, however, with my viewing being a bit ahead of my posts, I can say that he does get better next season. We’ll be back then, with the Doctor’s latest trial…see you there.

All episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.

Attack of the Cybermen

Vengeance on Varos

The Mark of the Rani

The Two Doctors

Timelash

Revelation of the Daleks (note:  this video is missing about seven minutes in part 1)