Short Story: Chasing Humanity

A few years ago, Big Finish Productions–which produces the many wonderful Doctor Who and other audio dramas I review over at The Time Lord Archives–unexpectedly lost one of its own to illness: Paul Spragg, a man who wore enough hats that just giving him a proper title is all but impossible.  In tribute to him, Big Finish conducts an annual competition in which participants contribute short stories in the classic era of Doctor Who (that is, between the First Doctor and the Eighth Doctor’s appearance in The Night of the Doctor).  The winning entry is then produced as a “Short Trip” audio drama.  (For a great example, you can download last year’s winning entry, Joshua Wanisko’s Forever Fallen, here.)  I didn’t become aware of the contest in time to participate last year; but this year I made a submission, and…

…I didn’t win.  Oh well.  There were hundreds of entries, so that’s no surprise.  Still, I was surprised to have received a response; the contest rules make it clear that there will be no correspondence (unless, of course, you’re the winner).  I’ve jokingly said that it’s the most polite rejection letter I’ve ever received.  There’s some truth to that, though–and as the letter indicated, the story was well received.

At any rate, the winner has not been announced yet, so I can’t shed any light on that.  You’ll find out at the same time I do, if you’re interested in Big Finish’s work (which I highly recommend).  What I can do is post my entry here, for your reading pleasure (I hope!).  I’ve also posted it on The Time Lord Archives.  This Third Doctor story is titled Chasing Humanity, and takes place during season nine of the classic television series, between The Sea Devils and The Mutants.  (I feel I should mention that the Third Doctor was a rare choice among the entries; according to Big Finish, most entries were for the Seventh and Eighth Doctors, with only a scattering of the others.)  For those who keep track of such things, it’s about 5700 words in this draft.

Third Doctor and Jo Grant

Chasing Humanity

It was only a hotel lobby; but from the way the Doctor looked at it, one would think it was a battlefield. His lips were a thin line, and his eyes, though alert as ever, were narrowed. Jo Grant caught the look, and took his arm. “Come on, Doctor, it’s not that bad. At least try to enjoy yourself!” She paused and looked around. “I should think this symposium would be your type of thing. What was it the Brigadier said?” She lowered her voice and assumed a haughty accent. “It’s the peak of military technology at stake here, Doctor! Who better to send than you, my scientific advisor?”

The Doctor arched an eyebrow at her. “Very talented, Jo. You’ve missed your calling; it’s a pity you were born too late for vaudeville.” His scowl deepened, and he started into the room, drawing her in his wake.

Jo sniffed. “Well then. If that’s the way you’re going to be, perhaps the Brigadier was right. He also said that it would do you good to get out and, you know, interact with people. Spend a little less time in the laboratory.”

“The Brigadier employs me specifically for what I do in the laboratory.” He steered her around the worst of the crowd.

“Yes, and that’s exactly why we’re here. You have a lecture to make regarding that work.” Specifically, he was to speak on the progress made in the field of emotional manipulation in the wake of last year’s tragedy at Stangmoor Prison. The lecture was to concern the efficacy of suppression of emotions in battlefield soldiers. However, that was tomorrow night; and Jo wasn’t sure how she was going to make it through the next twenty-four hours with the Doctor.

“Yes, well…” the Doctor muttered. “I suppose we’ll have some dinner, then. Where is Sergeant Benton?”

“He’s checking in with security and discussing the security arrangements for the symposium. Doctor, this is unlike you–you already knew where he was. Won’t you at least try to relax?”

The Doctor, of course, did no such thing. At dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, he became increasingly more dour, and even grew short with the waitstaff. The situation was not helped by an encounter with one nervous waitress; glancing around as she crossed the room, she failed to see the Doctor, and stumbled, dumping a tray of canapes into his lap. Fortunately, there was no great mess; but the Doctor’s unkind glare sent the mortified waitress scurrying back to the kitchens the moment the wreckage was collected.

The Doctor’s mood brightened, however, when they were joined by a short, bearded man in a tweed jacket. “Doctor! So good to see you here! I was quite surprised to see your name on the agenda–care if I join you?”

“Absolutely! Come, sit down!” Suddenly the Doctor was effusive. “Geoffrey, this is my assistant, Miss Jo Grant. Jo, this is Doctor Geoffrey Chambers. Geoffrey is a geologist with Oxford. We met some time ago, when he took a temporary assignment with UNIT in the wake of Project Inferno.”

“Yes, quite interesting, it was,” Chambers said. “I understand that Ms. Shaw has returned to Cambridge since then? A pity; I was hoping to see her here. Ah, well, we can’t have it all, I suppose… Miss Grant, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance! I will say, if you can keep up with this man, you are an extraordinary individual. So tell me, Doctor, what can we look forward to from your presentation?”

***

In the kitchen, the waitress dropped her tray into a dish bin, and ran out the back door to the alley behind the hotel, ignoring the shouts of the head chef. Shaking, she leaned against the wall, catching her breath. That had been a close call; and she began to wonder, not for the first time, if she could really make this work. Humans were never quite what she expected… still, there was little to be done about it, and less in the way of options. She lifted the hem of her blouse, exposing a square, yellow box on a tight belt around her waist. She regarded the box, which had a thin crack across its surface; she made a minute adjustment to a slide switch on the top, and then covered it again. Setting her nerves, she returned to the kitchen.

***

Jo was beginning to think that not even the chatty Doctor Chambers could lift the Doctor’s spirits for long. As dinner progressed, his scowl, and its attendant rudeness, returned; until finally Jo kicked him beneath the table. “Doctor!” she hissed. “Show a little dignity, please!”

The Doctor set down his napkin and pushed back from the table. “Jo, my dear, I am the very image of dignity. It’s this function that is undignified by its very nature!” He stood up. “Geoffrey, it’s been a pleasure, and I hope to catch up with you again during our stay. In the meantime, if you’ll excuse me…”

Whatever Chambers might have said was interrupted by an odd sight: the waitress who had dropped her tray came running out of the kitchen and past their table, heading for the door. “Well,” Jo commented, “at least I’M not the only one having a bad night.”

***

The chef met the waitress as she came in the door. “I’m so sorry,” she murmured, “I don’t know what happened to me out there, but it won’t happen again, I swear.”

“Just see that it doesn’t,” he said. “We are not some diner on the corner, you know. We have a reputation to maintain! I’ll not have you making us all look foolish, and especially in front of these military types. If we weren’t in the middle of this conference, you would be out the door already! Do you understand?”

She nodded and started to walk away. He scowled and grabbed her hand. “Don’t walk away when I’m talking to you! You still have work to do!”

She yanked back her hand. “No, I don’t. It’s six o’clock, and my shift is over. Just leave me alone!” She turned and ran out into the dining room; as the door swung shut, the chef saw her narrowly miss bumping into the same man on whom she had dumped the canapes. Scowling again, he shook his fist in her direction… and then winced. He opened his hand, and saw that the palm was red and covered in blisters. Now, how had that happened?

***

Sergeant Benton was no happier than Jo to share the Doctor’s company; but as the lone representative of UNIT’s armed service, the role of bodyguard fell to him. Not, of course, that there should be a need for a bodyguard here; but UNIT was not in the habit of taking chances. The trio sat in the audience of a lecture on new techniques in small arms production, as near the exit as the Doctor could manage. The Doctor spent the bulk of the lecture muttering irritated remarks about the subject matter, while Benton and Jo exchanged longsuffering looks behind his back. Only when the Doctor’s comments began to draw the attention of others in the audience was Benton able to get him to subside.

“Sergeant Benton, if we must endure this interminable lecture, we should at least be treated to accurate interpretations of the data!” the Doctor insisted, not for the first time. “If I wanted to engage in half-baked theories, I would find a coffee shop and take up the social sciences. This is supposed to be a scientific symposium!”

“Doctor, please,” Benton said, and raised a hand to forestall interruption. “Your mind might be centuries ahead of us mere mortals, but bear with us while we get there. You’ll have your chance tomorrow night, won’t you?” The Doctor gave him a withering look, but Benton pressed on. “People are starting to stare. The Brigadier won’t be happy with me if I let you get yourself ejected from a seminar. So, please, settle down and just… be in the audience, alright?”

The Doctor drew in a long breath, gave a half-hearted smile, and then nodded. “You’re right, Sergeant, of course. I will attempt to…rein in my temper. Such as it–” He stopped, and cocked his head. “Hmm?”

“What?” Jo spoke up from his other side.

“Shh.” He raised a finger. “Listen.”

Behind them, two security guards stood at the door, one to each side. Over the low drone of the lecture, voices could be heard from their walkie-talkies. “There’s something going on in the kitchens,” Benton murmured for Jo’s benefit. “They’re being cautious about what they say, but it sounds serious.” At that moment, one of the guards turned and rushed out the door.

“Well,” Jo said, “I hope everything will be alri–oh, no,” she said. Benton pulled his gaze back from the door, and saw what Jo was seeing: a speculative look of interest on the Doctor’s face. “No, Doctor! It’s not our problem!”

“Jo is right, Doctor,” Benton said. “Let security handle it, whatever it is.”

“Handle what?” the Doctor said. “I, for one,” he said, standing up, “could do with a bit of refreshment. Care to join me?” He pushed past Jo and strode out the door. Jo and Benton exchanged looks of resignation, and followed.

***

A circle of the conference’s security guards stood near the ovens in the kitchen. A second circle–more of an arc, really–surrounded them, composed of the kitchen staff, and a third arc –the wait staff– stood near the opposite walls. The atmosphere was one of confusion, dismay, and distress. The Doctor strode in as though he owned the place, cape flaring dramatically, and slipped deftly through the outer arcs to the inner circle. “Gentleman,” he said, “what do we know so far?”

As one, the guards looked at him incredulously; and then something curious happened, something which Jo was coming to regard as standard procedure for the Doctor: as one, they nodded, and began to explain. She had seen this happen on several occasions, and it never ceased to amaze her; the Doctor would step into a situation armed with nothing but an air of confidence, and people simply… accepted him, as though he belonged there. It was not new, but it remained exceptional.

One guard took the lead. “This is,” he said, gesturing down at the body on the floor, “or rather, it was, the head chef, a Mister Richard Farley. He was perfectly fine, as far as anyone can tell, right up to the moment he fell out on this spot. No one saw anything, and nothing strange has been reported. One of the other chefs made some attempt to revive him, but there was nothing to be done.”

“A heart attack?” Jo suggested.

The guard was about to answer, but the Doctor beat him to it. “No, I don’t think so.” He knelt down and turned the body over.

Jo gave an involuntary gasp. “But… he’s… he’s burned!” Every visible inch of skin was covered in mottled red burns.

“Yes,” the Doctor murmured. “Third degree burns, at that. But there’s something curious about it. Sergeant, what do you notice about this man’s condition?”

Benton knelt down beside him to examine the body. He frowned at the extent of the damage– and then his eyes widened. “His clothes aren’t charred. These burns are fresh, and some of them have to have bled, but–”

“Yes,” the Doctor agreed. “If he had these burns prior to his shift, well, he wouldn’t be here. And he wasn’t dressed after the burns, either; if he had been, there would be much more in the way of bloodstains. No, he was wearing these clothes when it happened– but they aren’t burned at all.” He straightened and returned to the guard. “And you say that no one saw this happen?”

“That’s right,” the guard said. “He’d been working, giving orders, just like always; and then suddenly, he was dead on the floor.” He shrugged. “We assumed it was an equipment accident.”

“An equipment–” Benton began, and then stopped. “There’s no way that this could have been the result of any of the equipment in this kitchen.”

“Then what do you think it was?” the guard said. His tone had gone cool. “Listen, this hotel is full of representatives from every military and scientific establishment in Europe. We will not allow any kind of scandal to interrupt the conference. In a few days, we can go back and revisit the situation, but for now, this is an accident. And that is what we’re going to tell the police when they arrive.”

The Doctor gave him an even stare. “I see.” At that moment a commotion could be heard in the lobby. “Well, then, we’ll leave you to it. It sounds like they’re arriving now. Jo, Sergeant, come along.” He turned and strode out through the dining room, carefully taking the entrance furthest from the incoming policemen.

“Are we just going to let it go?” Jo said, tugging him to a halt in the corridor. “Doctor! You know that was no accident!”

“Of course it wasn’t,” the Doctor agreed. “The question is, what was it?”

“Well…” She faltered. “I don’t know. But you have an idea, don’t you?”

“Not yet,” he said. “But there is a detail we’ve overlooked. Or rather, we didn’t have time to address it. Come and see.” He led them back toward the dining room, stopping in the doorway. From here, there was a clear view into the section of kitchen where the waitstaff still stood, now gathered in a huddle. “Look at them. Do you notice anything strange about them?”

Jo got it this time. “They’re all red in the face! Like they were–”

“Sunburned, yes,” the Doctor said. “But it’s late, and the sun has been down for a few hours. And why would all of the staff, who don’t come and go together, have the same burns? Except, of course, for the head chef, who certainly got the worst of it. No,” the Doctor declared, “there’s more at work here, and I want to know what it is.”

***

The next morning’s breakfast brought no answers; but it provided more questions. “The kitchen staff is short this morning,” Jo said as she joined the Doctor and Benton at the table. “Four workers called in. Doctor, what do you make of that?”

“I’m not ready to make assumptions yet,” the Doctor replied. “Though I suspect–”

“Doctor,” Benton interrupted. “People get sick all the time. Maybe it’s a virus. We should probably wash our hands once in awhile, but I don’t see how this could connect to what happened last night. Or even more likely, they just called in because of the trauma.” He glanced at Jo, who shrugged.

“It makes sense to me,” she said. “Though I trust the Doctor’s hunches, when he has them.”

“Well, it’s not going to matter this morning,” Benton said before the Doctor could recover the conversation. “Doctor, you’re due to participate in a panel discussion in ten minutes. Look, I know you aren’t happy about it, but the Brigadier said–”

“No, no, it’s quite alright,” the Doctor said. “I’m looking forward to it, actually. Besides, the tedium will give me time to mull over our situation.” He smiled at them, and got up and left the table.

“Was that sarcasm?” Benton said. “Or was he being serious?”

Jo tossed her napkin onto the table. “Oh, who can tell with him?”

***

An hour into the panel discussion, Jo struggled to stay awake. She found these events more difficult than the lectures; at least those gave interesting new information. This was just debate, and she could get her fill of that in the UNIT offices. The Doctor seemed to be enjoying his part; but here in the audience, the heat and the droning were making her drowsy. Finally, she whispered to Benton and excused herself, and headed for the washroom to freshen up.

***

In the kitchen, the waitress’s hands shook as she listened to her coworkers talking about the death of the head chef. It simply wasn’t going to work, she feared. If the local authorities turned their investigative eyes on this place, soon enough they would begin to look into the staff, and then… well, her cover was good enough to get her the job, but she doubted it would stand up to real scrutiny. Perhaps it was time to move on.

The problem was that she would need a new form. It would be best to change now, before slipping out of the hotel; if anyone saw one of the staff leaving when she should be working, they might become suspicious, and she wanted no trail to lead to her. She might not have committed a crime, but she certainly would be a person of interest. That presented a problem, however; it had taken her weeks to prepare this form, using composite features from several individuals. There was no time for that now; she would have to simply copy someone. Well, there was no time like the present–even her world had that cliché–and so she excused herself and headed to the washroom.

***

The washroom door opened as Jo reached for it on her way out. “Oh, sorry,” she said, “I didn’t see you there–” The rest of her words were cut off. The door closed on the sounds of a brief struggle, and then there was silence.

***

Doctor Geoffrey Chambers stepped out of a conference room and into the lobby. If only there had been time to say goodbye to his friend, the Doctor…ah, but here was an answer! “Oh, Miss Grant, it’s so good to see you!” he called out, and stopped the young woman with a touch. She gave him a glance that, had he noticed it, would have been taken as bewilderment; but she stopped. He paid no mind, and kept talking. “I was hoping to say goodbye to the Doctor, but I see from the schedule that he’s occupied at the moment. I wonder if you could convey my greetings to him? You see, I have to leave early– my daughter is, well, expecting– I received a call that the baby is on the way… she’ll be expecting me at the hospital eventually, you see–”

The young woman was caught off guard by the torrent of speech, but she managed a nod. “I’ll– I’ll let him know, yes.”

He gave her an effusive smile, and then unexpectedly embraced her. “Splendid!” Abruptly, he realized what he was doing, and pulled back. “Oh… er… well, you must forgive me and my scattered brain today. It’s been quite the pleasure to meet you, Miss Grant! Do take care of the Doctor, please. Ah, if you’ll excuse me, I must gather my things.” He turned and made his way to the elevators.

Jo gave the man a final, long look, and then turned to complete her own exit. She made it ten paces before she was interrupted again, this time by the Doctor and Benton as they exited the panel discussion. “Ah, Jo, there you are!” Benton said. “Ready for lunch?”

“Lunch? Oh… I, ah…” she stammered, but the Doctor took her arm. “Oh, well, that won’t be… necessary…” she trailed off as he started toward the dining room.

“Nonsense, Jo,” he said, “we’ll all do better with a good meal. And then we can begin to look into last night’s events.” At his side, Jo stiffened, but he didn’t seem to notice. She glanced away, but Benton was on her other side. There was nothing for it but to go along.

Jo said little during the meal, and only picked at her food. Finally the Doctor stood up, and Benton followed suit; Jo did likewise. At the door of the dining room, the Doctor stopped her. “Jo, are you feeling alright? You look unwell.”

A way out! Suppressing a smile of relief, Jo glanced up at him and quickly shook her head. “I– I think I’d better go lie down. Headache,” she added by way of apology.

“Oh, alright,” Benton said, “We’ll take a look around and try to piece together what we can about last night–” Jo gave him a startled look before she could stop herself–”but first, we’ll walk you to your room. Right, Doctor?”

“Oh, no, that won’t be–”

“Absolutely, Sergeant!” the Doctor overrode her. “Truth be told, Jo, I must admit I was rather rude to you last night. If you’ll allow me, I’ll make it up to you in courtesy now.” He was already starting toward the elevators. Irritated, she followed, with Benton bringing up the rear.

***

The Doctor and Benton saw Jo into her room, and heard the lock click before turning away. “She’s acting odd, isn’t she?” Benton said as they made their way down the hall.

“Quite. But she isn’t the only one acting strangely in this hotel… nevertheless, she should feel better after a nap.” They rounded the corner toward the elevators. “I would think– eh, what’s this?”

Ahead, a small crowd consisting of the concierge, two security guards, and a housekeeper had gathered around an open door. A third guard poked his head out of the doorway as the Doctor and Benton approached. “Call for a doctor!” he instructed the concierge.

“I’m a doctor,” the Doctor interjected as they reached the crowd. “What’s going on?” The concierge gave him an odd look–too much good fortune, perhaps, that a doctor would already be on hand–but he allowed them in. “The front desk received a call from this room, asking for help,” he said. “He sounded as though he was in pain.”

“Indeed he was,” the Doctor said as he knelt. There, on the floor, lay Doctor Geoffrey Chambers, who was covered head to foot in severe burns, burns which left his suit and tie untouched. Unlike the unfortunate head chef, he was still breathing.

“Geoffrey,” the Doctor said gently, then more forcefully: “Doctor Chambers! Can you hear me?”

Chambers’ eyes opened, revealing bloodshot whites and darting irises. “D-Doctor? Is that you? Oh, what’s happened to me?”

“Lie still, Geoffrey. We’ll get an ambulance.” He motioned to the concierge, who nodded and went for the room phone. “Geoffrey, I need you to tell me what happened to you. How did you get these burns?”

“They… they just… erupted, all over me. Very quick. So… painful. Doctor, I… I’m dying. And my… grandchild… I won’t see…”

The man was slipping away. “Geoffrey,” the Doctor said, “who have you seen in the last hour? Who did you see last?”

Chambers looked puzzled. “Why… the last… it was your lovely assistant, Miss… Miss Grant.” He exhaled then, a final breath that lasted too long, and was gone.

The Doctor exchanged a dark look with Benton. “The ambulance can see to Doctor Chambers. Sergeant, I think we’d better get back to Jo. Come on!” They leaped to their feet and ran from the room, leaving the startled staff behind.

“What’s going on, Doctor?” Benton said as they ran. “And why Jo?”

“Because,” the Doctor said as they reached Jo’s door, “I fear Miss Grant is not herself at the moment. Listen, I don’t have time to explain it now; we’ll save it for later.” He pulled a short, silver rod–his sonic screwdriver–from his pocket, and aimed its circular head at the door. The screwdriver buzzed, and the lock clicked open. Benton threw the door open, and they burst inside.

Jo was nowhere to be seen. The window on the far side of the room stood open, curtains blowing in the breeze from the alley below. They ran to the window and leaned out. Two window ledges over, a fire escape snaked down the back of the building; Jo Grant was making her way down the iron stairs. Already she was nearly at the bottom. “Sergeant Benton,” the Doctor said, “go downstairs and find Jo, the real Jo. If I’m right, you’ll find her somewhere in the building, unconscious. I’ll retrieve the imposter. Go!” Not waiting for an answer, he climbed out the window.

***

Benton searched the lower floors with military efficiency. Storerooms, offices, conference rooms, lecture hall– all proved empty. He stopped by the front desk, fists on his hips, and looked around, pondering. If she was nowhere to be found down here, that meant searching the guest rooms… which would take time and manpower that he didn’t have. There had to be something he’d overlooked.

A thought occurred to him. Deliberately, he set aside his own thoughts, and tried to put himself in Jo’s shoes. She had to have been taken during the panel discussion, when she left the room… where would she have gone? When he realized the obvious answer, he kicked himself, and then turned and ran for the ladies’ room. Fifteen seconds later, in a locked stall at the back, he found a very disgruntled Jo Grant, wearing a waitress uniform and just beginning to awaken. Her face, he noticed, was red with what appeared to be a sunburn.

***

By the time the Doctor reached the bottom of the fire escape, the woman who wore Jo’s face had reached the open end of the alley. He pounded after her, calling out Jo’s name– for he didn’t know what else to call her– but to no avail. She gave him a single look, and turned left onto the crowded sidewalk.

He was in better shape than his appearance would suggest, and he narrowed the gap; but it wasn’t going to be enough. Soon she would reach a more crowded public plaza ahead, and there he would lose her. He poured on as much speed as he could muster– and then skidded to a halt. Just ahead of her, a fire hydrant stood on the sidewalk. It was a dirty trick, perhaps, but any port in a storm…

At the carefully-aimed buzzing of the sonic screwdriver, the cap popped off of the hydrant; and then, as the woman passed, the valve spun. A torrent of water knocked her from her feet, leaving her dazed in the street.

The Doctor caught up as she began to pick herself up. He shut off the water, and turned his attention to her… and saw that ripples were spreading across her skin, like waves in a pond. “Careful now,” he said, “let me help you.” He pulled off his cape and draped it over her, careful not to touch her directly, and then helped her to her feet. “Come on, let’s get you back to the hotel.”

“No!” She started to pull away, but his grip on her arm through the cape stopped her.

“My dear,” he said, “I assure you I am not trying to harm you–but in a matter of moments, everyone on this street will see you in your true form. I can’t say I know what that will be, but I suggest you may want to prevent that outcome. If you’ll come with me, I can help you.”

She looked as though she still intended to bolt– until another ripple ran across her form. Finally she nodded, and started walking with him.

***

The ripples were coming faster as the Doctor and the woman entered the lobby. Benton and Jo waited in chairs near the dining room; they leaped to their feet as the bedraggled duo entered. “Doctor!” Jo shouted. “What– What’s going on here? Who is she?”

“Patience, Jo, we haven’t time to talk just yet. If the two of you will come with me…” Still leading the soaked imposter, he escorted them into the kitchen, and quickly sent the staff out. “A minute or two, that’s all I need,” he said, “and you can all get back to work.”

When they were alone, the Doctor stepped back from the woman. “Jo, Sergeant Benton, allow me to introduce Lorana Sitel, of the Charidzi people. Lorana, you should turn it off now, I think. You’re safe here.” The woman nodded, and reached to a box hanging from her– or rather, Jo’s– belt. Her form rippled again, and changed, flowing like water from head to foot. Where a perfect duplicate of Jo Grant had stood, there was now a much taller figure, taller than Benton or the Doctor, slender and willowy, with a high forehead and a bald skull. Her skin glinted in shades of blue and silver, and– most strikingly– she had four eyes, two on each side of her face, each pair aligned vertically. Her fingers were long and bore more joints than human fingers, but had no nails. She still wore Jo’s clothes, but ill-fittingly on her long frame.

“A… shapeshifter?” Benton murmured.

“Quite. Lorana, would you care to explain why you’re here on Earth? If it isn’t too painful, please,” he added gently.

She nodded. “My planet is a lot like your Earth. We have some technology that exceeds yours, but culturally, we’re not that different.” Her voice–which was similar to that she had used in her waitress form, but with a reedy lilt–became wistful. “I am nothing special. On my planet, I was perfectly happy. I was… what would you call it… a travel agent? I arranged holidays for people. I had a husband, and two children. My life was quiet.” She paused. “And then, my family were lost. They were coming to visit me for a meal one day while I worked, and their vehicle lost control and struck another. The other driver survived… my family did not. I was suddenly alone.”

“The Charidzi,” the Doctor said, “have an empathic power. They sense the emotions of others. It’s not as invasive as telepathy, but it can still be overwhelming at times. It may sound strange, but as a result, sympathy is not a strong trait for the Charidzi. After all, it’s hard to be sympathetic when you feel every pain, every awkwardness, every moment of judgment.”

“I couldn’t take it,” Lorana said. “I couldn’t stand watching them all look at me, and feel the things they were feeling, and not be able to stop it. So, I left. I scheduled a trip for myself, to several planets. And when I reached yours, I decided it would be a good place to disappear.”

“But, what about the deaths?” Jo said.

“The Charidzi are not biological shapeshifters,” the Doctor said. “It is not a natural ability, but a technological one. It takes advantages of some unique genetic traits, and allows them to change form.” He indicated the device Lorana still held. “The power source of that device emits an unusual form of radiation, which also is found in the light of the Charidzi sun. The Charidzi are quite immune to its effects; their bodies soak it up without harm. Humans are not so fortunate. And as you can see, Lorana’s device is damaged. She was not aware of the risk, of course; it’s quite harmless to her Charidzi DNA, even in human form. Unfortunately, she’s been emitting a low dose of radiation to everyone around her.”

“The sunburned faces,” Jo said.

“Yes, Jo, including your own. But this type of radiation can be communicated through touch, as well, assuming the one doing the touching has absorbed enough of it. Lorana, I am going to guess that you touched the head chef last night, didn’t you?”

“He touched me,” she said. “He grabbed my hand after I dropped my tray on you. I’m… I’m sorry about that.”

“No matter there,” the Doctor said. “Unfortunately you had no way to know what would happen to him. Nor did you know what would happen to Professor Chambers. I am going to guess that he accosted you when you were trying to get away. And the reason you were fleeing is because you feared suspicion in the wake of the first death. Am I right so far?” She nodded.

“I didn’t know,” she murmured. “I never meant to hurt anyone. I came here to not be hurt. When I’m in human form, my empathic sense is dulled. It seemed safe.”

“And so it is.” The Doctor straightened. “The question, though, is what to do with you now? We can’t have you running around exposing people to radiation. As it turns out, I too am not of this world; and I imagine my people could get you home. But that would be to return you to veritable torture. A dilemma, eh?”

“Doctor,” Jo said. “There could be another way.”

***

Jo and Benton sat in the audience, listening to the Doctor’s lecture. “What do you think, Jo?” Benton said quietly. “Did we make the right choice? More importantly, I suppose: Did Lorana?”

Jo gave it a moment’s thought. “I think she did. And I think we did too.”

“Well,” Benton said, “now that the Doctor repaired her transformation device, she won’t have to worry about hurting anyone. On the other hand, I suppose she’ll have to learn to be human.”

“Well, she was already on her way to that,” Jo said. “Besides, that’s not such a bad goal, is it? To be human?”

“Not at all.” Benton pointed to the stage. “When do you think our resident alien will understand that?”

“Sergeant Benton,” Jo said, “if there is one thing the Doctor will never be, it is human.” She said it with a smile, though.

Onstage, the Doctor was beginning to wrap up his presentation. “While the research indicates that full emotional suppression is possible,” he said, “I feel obligated to recommend against its use, in soldiers, or in any other profession. In addition to the long-term risks that I’ve already noted, I’ll simply say in conclusion that emotions are a vital part of what makes a person human. Of course too much, in the wrong place and time, can be a hazard–as some of you may well know.” For a moment, he caught Jo’s eye. “We must of course have every aspect of ourselves in its proper context. But, regardless of the effect on our performance, to eliminate our emotions would make us something less than we are– and far less than what we should be.”

In the audience, Jo turned to Benton with a smile. “Maybe,” she said, “he’s learning something after all.”

Third Doctor party

Monsters and Mutants: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Nine

We’re back, with another season of classic Doctor Who!  In Season 9, the Doctor has settled into his exile on Earth, and so has companion Jo Grant.  With the Master behind bars, what lies ahead?  Let’s get to it!

day of the daleks

New Doctor, Old Enemy

 

The season opener starts off strong when, after four years of absence, the Daleks return in Day of the Daleks.  The story centers on a Dalek conquest of Earth, but it’s not the same one seen in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.  That complicates things, as this invasion is said to begin near the end of the twentieth century, but is seen to still be in place in the twenty-third century—thus it encompasses the invasion we already know.  It’s an early example of how time can be rewritten (and not always for the better!) as it is the Daleks’ use of time travel that causes this invasion, thereby changing the timeline.  In the end, the Doctor’s intervention causes it to be changed back.  It was interesting to see time travel used as a major plot point, which is rare; usually it just gets the participants to the scene of the action.

Ogrons

Introducing the Ogrons!

 

Theis story introduces the Ogrons, ogre-like slaves of the Daleks, who fulfill the same function as the Robomen in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.  They will get at least a few more mentions, if not appearances.  UNIT, meanwhile, is still performing a security role, again at a peace conference, where once again the Chinese delegation is the source of the trouble; this has little direct bearing on the plot, but it is the target for the Daleks, who want to destabilize the world and plunge it into war.

day of the daleks 1

Same Doctor, New Face

 

Judging by the Daleks’ words, this is (from their perspective) the first time they reveal to the Doctor that they possess time travel, meaning that The Chase and other past time travel stories are yet in their future.  It’s also their first encounter with the Third Doctor.

curse of peladon

Welcome to Peladon

 

The Curse of Peladon introduces the planet Peladon, which will appear once more on the show and several times in spinoff media.  It’s another temporary reprieve from exile for the Doctor; he believes at first that he has repaired the TARDIS, but at the end he speculates (probably correctly, though it’s not confirmed) that the Time Lords have actually arranged this trip for their purposes.  Peladon is a prospective member of the Galactic Federation, and the story is set sometime in the mid-3000s.  There’s little consensus on the date, but the TARDIS wiki places it in 3885, which seems as good a guess as any.

curse of peladon 1

Arcturus, Alpha Centauri, and the Ice Warrior(s)

 

The Ice Warriors make an appearance here, but surprisingly, they prove not to be the villains, having renounced their warlike ways. That honor goes to Arcturus, another delegate at the conference, and to Hepesh, a native of Peladon.  Arcturus uses a life support system which is very reminiscent of Max Capricorn’s cyborg body in Voyage of the Damned.  Unfortunately that story occurs some 1800 years prior to this; therefore the technologies are probably not related.

SEa Devil

Not your father’s Silurian!

 

Returning to Earth, the Doctor encounters the Master again in The Sea Devils.  He’s the only prisoner of a very unique prison, conveniently situated on an island.  Continuing a trend, he forms a sort of uneasy alliance—slavery, really—with the so-called Sea Devils, a race of aquatic Silurians.  This lends some weight to my own theory that NuWho Silurians are a racial variant of the classic series Silurians, as they look considerably different; the Sea Devils look even more different, and have some different abilities.  Also true to form, this alliance falls apart and becomes a problem for the Master, though he manages to escape custody at the end.  As for the Sea Devils…it’s beginning to seem that every encounter with any variant of Silurians ends with failed negotiations, and also often with mass destruction.

reverse the polarity

Two interesting things about this serial: for one, this is the only time that the Third Doctor, during his own era, ever utters the now-iconic line “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow”.  He does occasionally use shortened versions, but the complete line will only occur once more, during the Fifth Doctor-era The Five Doctors.  Secondly, this is another of the exceedingly rare times when the TARDIS does not feature in the story in any capacity.  Four of those incidents (Doctor Who and the Silurians, The Mind of Evil, The Daemons, The Sea Devils) occur in the Third Doctor era.  One (Mission to the Unknown, also the only Doctor-free story to date) occurs in the First Doctor era; two (The Sontaran Experiment, Genesis of the Daleks) in the Fourth; and one (Midnight) in the Tenth.

The Marshal of Solos

The Marshal of Solos

 

In The Mutants, the Time Lords again send the Doctor and Jo on a mission, this time to the planet Solos in “the thirtieth century” as stated by the Doctor (A History of the Universe places it in 2990, but with little evidence).  It’s a good, straightforward story, with the familiar theme of oppression of an indigenous population.  There’s a twist, though; the humanoid Solonians are actually a multistage lifeform, like a butterfly.  Their life cycle has been stunted, leaving them in their monstrous, mutant-like “pupa” form; thanks to the Doctor, they will achieve their full potential and expel the invading humans from their world.  Altogether, it’s a very NuWho plot, though with the pacing that is common to the classic series.  I grudgingly admitted that Jo proves herself useful in this story, first bluffing the humans’ Marshal to manipulate him and help the Doctor, and later disarming a guard.  I don’t have to like it, though!

evolved solonian

A transformed Solonian

 

Together with the The Curse of Peladon, this story gives us some hints about the course of future history, especially for humanity.  On their own, the two stories don’t say much, but when added to events referenced later in NuWho, a picture starts to emerge.  It’s never stated onscreen, but the Earth Empire represented in this story by the Marshal appears to be synonymous with the First Great and Bountiful Human Empire (never called as such, but other empires in the series make it clear).  If our chronology is correct, it collapses and is replaced with the Galactic Federation previously mentioned.  Then, a century or two later, the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire arises from the remains of the Federation.  (The third and fourth empires are much further removed in time.)  We don’t know the duration of the second empire, but it’s possible that it is still the political entity in power in the 51st and 52nd centuries, when Jack Harkness and River Song lived significant portions of their lives.

Kronos

Kronos, the Chronovore

 

The Master closes out the season with a bang in The Time Monster.  Once again, he seeks an alliance that proves dangerous to him.  This time, it’s with a creature from outside time itself, the chronovore (literally “time eater” or “time devourer”) Kronos.  Seeing this creature, I couldn’t help wondering if the series will eventually draw a connection between the chronovores and the Weeping Angels; after all, they’re both winged creatures that feed on time, if by different mechanisms.  The chronovere Kronos is credited with the destruction of Atlantis; it’s the third such explanation we’ve been given, but this time, we get to see it begin.  The Doctor does successfully take his TARDIS to Atlantis, but that doesn’t mean he’s free of exile yet; having just left a space loop with the Master’s TARDIS, it seems he tracks the Master to Atlantis, using the Master’s TARDIS as a landing beacon.

New Tardis Interior Season 9

You’ve changed the desktop theme!  I don’t like it.

 

This is a trippy episode, with such things as time-and-space loops; the TARDISes materializing inside each other; Jo hearing the Doctor’s thoughts (a scene reminiscent of Clara’s trip into the Eleventh Doctor’s timeline); the first naming (I think) of the Time Vortex as such; and the first mention of the TARDIS’s telepathic circuits, which return in a big way in Listen with the Twelfth Doctor.  The TARDIS gets a new interior and console, and a new time rotor (slightly different for the Master’s TARDIS), though it will soon be changed again, as this set will degrade in storage between seasons.  There’s also an early mention of the TARDIS possibly being alive, though the Doctor is a little vague about it.  The Doctor builds a device to track problems in time, which is suspiciously similar to the Tenth Doctor’s “timey-wimey detector”.  And finally, to answer an often-asked question:  Yes, the Doctor does sleep!  He’s seen to be sleeping at the beginning of the story.

WhoKilledKennedy

This entry is getting long, but one more thing. In a weird case of perfect timing, while watching this season I had the opportunity to read a well-known Doctor Who novel titled Who Killed Kennedy (and yes, the lack of a question mark is intentional).  I don’t often get to read prose spinoff material; mostly I find myself reading about it; so this was a rare treat.  It was timely, though, as the book takes an outsider’s view of the events of this very season, as well as the preceding two seasons.  The ostensible narrator of the book, a reporter named James Stevens, even makes an unnamed appearance in The Mind of Evil, in the background of the Keller Machine demonstration at Stangmoor Prison.  It gives a different perspective of the events of the series, and goes a long way toward answering the question of how these things can happen without public reaction.  (As a bonus, it gives considerable “screen time” to a former companion, Dodo Chaplet, and also gives another appearance of Liz Shaw—what’s not to love?)  I highly recommend the book, which is available as an ebook for free by clicking this link.

Next time: Ten years of Doctor Who, and a visit from some old friends!  See you there.

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

Day of the Daleks  (for episode 4,

use this link)

The Curse of Peladon

The Sea Devils

The Mutants

The Time Monster

Enter the Master: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Eight

The Masters

Faces of Evil:  The Master

Every good hero needs a nemesis. The Doctor gets his (or one of them, anyway) in Season 8 of Classic Doctor Who; and that’s where we are this week.  Finally, at long last, we meet the Master!

Autons_attack

Not your father’s Autons.  I would be terrified too.

I’m going to continue with the (somewhat-unsupported) idea that these Third Doctor stories mostly take place near their broadcast dates. With that logic, the Doctor has been exiled to Earth for about a year when this season opens, in Terror of the Autons.  (While we can’t get a specific date, we do know it is at least three months after the events of Inferno.)  Here at the beginning, the Doctor receives a visit from another Time Lord (inconspicuously dressed, conspicuously floating in midair), who warns him that an old acquaintance, the Time Lord known as the Master, has come to Earth—and is up to no good.  The Master is eventually seen to be in league with the Nestene Consciousness and its servant Autons, who want to destroy the humans and claim their world.  (What the Master gets out of this is, strangely, not completely clear.  He seems to just want genocide.  My head canon is that he’s here specifically because of the Doctor, but that’s extrapolating from information about their past together that is not revealed until MUCH later.)  It ends badly, as so many of the Master’s alliances do, and he is forced to join forces with the Doctor to stop the Nestene (thus giving us an early hint of the two Time Lords’ weird love-hate relationship).  Unfortunately the Autons and Nestene won’t appear again until NuWho’s 2005 debut, Rose.

Jo Grant

The face of a woman who has no idea why she’s here.  Jo Grant, one of my least favorite companions.

We get a new companion here as well, in new assistant Jo Grant. I will say up front that I’m not fond of Jo; I’m still not over the loss of Liz Shaw, and to be honest, Jo is kind of an idiot.  I know she improves with time, but I can’t help disliking her here at the outset.  I’ve always felt like she was placed by the production team just to be eye candy—and we’ll be stuck with her for the next few seasons.  One more thing:  the episode centers heavily on a large radio telescope, used to summon the full might of the Nestene.  The Doctor and the Master don’t have a great history with radio telescopes; the Fourth Doctor will later fall to his death from one, in Logopolis.

mind of evil

The Doctor and the Master meet inside Stangmoor Prison in The Mind of Evil.

We get a rare thing in the second serial, The Mind of Evil:  a TARDIS-free episode.  Only eight times in the entire series does an entire story occur without any sight of the TARDIS (or, to be fair, its console—see last season).  The most recent such—and the only one in NuWho—is the popular Midnight.  It’s also a rarity behind the scenes—though we have it all now, at one point this was considered the “most missing” Pertwee story, with no broadcast copies extant.  It has since been recovered.

fear machine

The fear-consuming machine.

The Doctor is afraid of fire, due to the events in Inferno.  Fortunately, later he will overcome it (for an example, see The Waters of Mars, or better yet, 42).  UNIT is still in its formative years, and seems to be suffering a bit of an identity crisis; it seems to be pulled between a security role and a scientific role.  Science must lead!  And especially here, where the Master employs a parasite disguised as a machine that feeds on fear, with that plot serving as cover for a missile theft; the missile, in turn, will be used to disrupt a peace conference and cause a world war.  Of course, the Doctor will prevent that outcome.  I had trouble following this serial; it’s a good story, with multiple layers, so maybe it’s just me.  Highlights:  The Master recovers his dematerialization circuit (confiscated by the Doctor in the previous serial), freeing him to travel in his TARDIS; and the Brigadier…well, let’s just say he takes a lot of crap from the Doctor.  He deserves an award, or maybe just a drink.

claws of axos

The Claws of Axos

I had always heard of The Claws of Axos, and wanted to see it.  It’s another failed alliance for the Master; the Axons are clearly calling the shots here.  It’s odd to see him on the back foot from the outset though—usually it takes time for things to fall apart.  The Axons are a selfish, resource-driven, hive mind; they’re a pretty good villain, and I’m surprised they’ve never made a reappearance, though they do get mentioned a few times.  For the third serial in a row, the Doctor and the Master must cooperate, though not willingly this time, as the Doctor tricks the Master into repairing the TARDIS.  The Time Lords don’t intervene to stop this repair; however, they do prevent the Doctor from escaping his exile, as they rig the TARDIS to always return to Earth, and also remove vital knowledge from the Doctor’s mind.  Still, it’s the first use of the complete TARDIS since The War Games.

doctor master tardis

Adversaries in the TARDIS.

 

A few things: First, how is the Master always able to enter the Doctor’s TARDIS?  That seems like a security flaw.  We know that as of the 1996 movie, the Doctor hides a spare key outside the door, but that had by no means been established yet.  (The Doctor is able to enter the Master’s TARDIS, however, using a key stolen from a henchman in Terror of the Autons.)  Second, I feel as though this is the period of the Doctor’s life where he’s really learning and developing a relationship with the TARDIS.  His first two incarnations were really very ignorant of its capabilities, and you could tell there was a steep learning curve.  But now, with all the tinkering and rebuilding, he’s becoming much more familiar with it, and much more attached to it.  It’s no longer just a machine to him.  And finally, the Doctor really should have been prosecuted for letting the Master escape!

Colony in space

Altruistic aliens.

 

Colony in Space continues the TARDIS theme:  at the unspoken behest of the Time Lords, the Doctor and Jo travel to the planet Uxarieus in the year 2472.  There they deal with the Master’s theft of information on an Uxariean doomsday weapon, which can destroy stars.  (On an unrelated note, this story is almost contemporary with The Tomb of the Cybermen, occurring only about fifteen years before that story.)  While present, they deal with a clash between human colonists and the outrageously-evil Interplanetary Mining Corporation, which is suggested in later media to be the descendant of the Isiggri Mining Corporation from The Space Pirates.  The IMC will appear again in later stories.  As often happens, the humans, not the monsters, are the real villains here; it’s the Uxarieans who eventually end the crisis in a flash of self-sacrifice, destroying themselves with the weapon.  In resolving the conflict among the humans, the Doctor does what he does best—leads them to be the best they can be.  It’s something I love about this show, and I’m always happy to see it.

daemons8

Azal of Daemos.

 

We conclude on a dark note, with The Daemons.  It’s the finale of the season-long Master story arc, and ends with his capture by UNIT.  In the meantime, he attempts to summon and use an ancient demon called Azal, but it’s not what it seems:  the creature is an extraterrestrial from the planet Daemos.  It is, however, powerful, and claims responsibility first for all the demonic mythologies of Earth and second for the destruction of Atlantis.  There are clear connections here with NuWho’s The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, although the beast seen there is not definitively stated to be of Daemos.

osgood 3

A little family resemblance, I think.

 

A new minor character is introduced here: technician Osgood (first name revealed in prose sources to be Tom) of UNIT, not to be confused with Osgood from The Moonbase.  He’s somewhat noteworthy in that Steven Moffatt has said in interviews that he intended NuWho’s Osgood (The Day of the Doctor, et al) to be Tom Osgood’s daughter, though he intentionally left it ambiguous onscreen.  Finally, much to my chagrin, Jo Grant is responsible for the defeat of Azal, in that her altruistic choice to sacrifice herself for the Doctor is more than the beast can handle, and causes its death.  I really want to hate her, but things like this make it hard!

Season 8 cast

Season 8 cast.

 

Overall, I was pleased with this introductory season for the Master. He’s without a doubt my favorite Doctor Who villain, and Roger Delgado nails the part, setting the standard for years to come.  He’s evil, and formidable, but also imperfect and—to at least a small degree—sympathetic.  Although I know eventually the death of Roger Delgado will tragically force a change in the part, I’m still anxious to see where it goes from here.

day-of-the-daleks-promo

The Daleks return!

 

Next time, we’ll see the return of an old enemy: after four years, the Daleks return! See you there.

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

Terror of the Autons

The Mind of Evil

The Claws of Axos

Colony in Space

The Daemons

Alien Worlds Abound: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Six

Medusa Cascade

For a show that purports to be about “all of space and time”, Doctor Who spends a hugely disproportionate amount of time on Earth (a phenomenon which will dominate the seasons ahead of us under the Third Doctor). That’s not the case, though, in Season Six; we see more alien worlds than in any previous season.  Let’s get started!

The Dominators

The Dominators, seen here at the height of 1960s fashion.

 

The season opens with The Dominators, an alien invasion story with a twist:  the world getting invaded is not Earth.  Rather, it’s the planet Dulkis.  For the first time since I started tracking the dates of the serials, I was unable to find any; this story has the unusual combination of being set on another world and being a mostly self-contained story, and nothing inside the evidence indicates the date.  I’m guessing from the technology that it’s the relatively near future, but I have no evidence to back up that claim.  There’s an interesting moment in episode two, where the Dominators examine Jamie and conclude that he is vulnerable because he has only one heart.  They don’t examine the Doctor, assuming he is the same.  Later, the Dulcians are revealed to have two hearts.  I can’t help wondering if this scene inspired the later revelation that the Time Lords also have two hearts.  The Sonic Screwdriver makes a second appearance here, and in dramatic fashion, burning through the wall like a large torch (but remember, it’s a scientific instrument, not a water gun!).  The Dominators struck me as particularly calloused villains.  They really have no interest in the planet or its people, and enslaving them is an afterthought; they only want to blow up the planet for fuel.  We don’t often see that degree of callousness in the series.  This is also our first good look at Zoe as a member of the crew; she’s disconcertingly childlike in appearance, and seeing her spout advanced technical knowledge is jarring.  I like her as a character though.

The Mind Robber

Jamie and Zoe vs. the White Robots

 

I had seen serial two, The Mind Robber, before, but with no context.  It doesn’t occur on Earth, but rather, in the mysterious Land of Fiction, which may or may not be a planet at all.  I remember being confused at first by the references to “the Master”, as the Time Lord by that name doesn’t appear until the Third Doctor’s era; of course they are referring to the master of the land of fiction instead.  This serial shares similar themes, in my opinion, with The Celestial Toymaker and the much later Amy’s Choice.  Like the preceding serial, I could find no projected dates; the only clue we have is that it includes a circa-2000s comic book character, the Karkus, but that is little help in placing the story.  The Minotaur seen here becomes something of a motif, with variations showing up later under the third, fourth, and eleventh Doctors.  As well, there’s a “Captain Jack Harkaway” in the stories written by the Master; maybe a partial inspiration for Captain Jack Harkness?  I had to laugh at one point; the Doctor gets thrown around in a fight with the Karkus, who then gets manhandled by tiny little Zoe.  No Venusian Aikido yet!

The Invasion

Cybermen in London.  Why does no one ever remember these invasions?!

 

The Invasion is a partial reconstruction, which is increasingly rare this season, and will soon end altogether.  The quality of the version I saw was particularly bad, but fortunately it had subtitles.  It’s a Cybermen story, with a new appearance that will remain unchanged for a few years.  We don’t know much about these Cybermen; they are presumably descendants of the Mondasian Cybermen, but they claim to originate from “Planet 14”, presumably the fourteenth planet of the Solar System (Mondas was tenth).  I suspect the original intent was that Planet 14 be synonymous with Telos, but internal chronology and later media contradict this.  The Doctor has met them on that planet at some point, but this is never seen, and must have happened off camera.  The Cybermen meet UNIT in this episode—the agency’s proper introduction in the series—and Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart returns, this time with his familiar rank of Brigadier.  (“It’s Brigadier now, I’ve gone up in the world.”)  The best date I could locate is summer of 1979 (incidentally, the year I was born), which seems fairly consistent with the technology in view.  The Cybermen have a Cybercontroller here, but it is a stationary unit, not a mobile Cyberman.  Zoe knows ALGOL, which must have been a positively ancient computer language by her time.  The TARDIS is seen to be able to turn invisible; I would have thought that was a function of the broken chameleon circuit, but apparently not.  The suspense in the story is excellent; the Cybermen don’t appear onscreen until the end of episode four (of eight).  Notably, this was Terrance Dicks’ first credit on the show.

Krotons_title

The Krotons

 

Yet another undateable story appears with The Krotons.  It occurs on the unnamed planet of the Gonds, and seems to be in the future, but without any verifying context.  I like the crystalline Krotons, and would like to see them get a new and updated appearance in NuWho.  They look primitive here, in keeping with the production values of the time, but that could be explained away by the primitive circumstances under which they revive themselves on the Gond planet; it could be said that at the height of their power, they look and sound different.  The story exemplifies something I love about Doctor Who:  stories that aren’t just black and white, good and evil, but rather, involve conflict among various factions with conflicting interests.  Here you have the Doctor and his companions, several factions among the Gonds (who agree on the threat of the Krotons, but not on what to do about it) and the Krotons themselves.  They aren’t all good or evil; they just disagree.  It’s so much more believable this way.  The ending reminds me of the scenes in Rose with the Nestene Consciousness.  Also, the concept of the HADS (Hostile Action Displacement System) in the TARDIS is introduced, and is later used by the Eleventh Doctor.  Such a simple and elegant solution to attacks.

the seeds of death

“Them?  Oh, they’re with me.”

 

We return to Earth for The Seeds of Death (not to be confused with the later The Seeds of Doom).  We can’t be precise about the date, but there is enough evidence to place it in the mid-21st Century, before the year 2050. A History of the Universe places it somewhat arbitrarily in 2044, and I find that to be a fair guess.  It introduces the concept of T Mat (“Travel Mat”, later transmat) teleportation, which is more common in NuWho, especially as used by the Daleks.  It’s been in existence for a few years on Earth, just long enough to be both common and regulated.  This is the second appearance of the Ice Warriors of Mars and their sonic weapons…sure would be nice if the Doctor had a sonic—wait, sorry, I can’t make that joke anymore.  Anyway.  This story occurs before The Ice Warriors, therefore they are not familiar with the Doctor.  However, it appears that these Ice Warriors are contemporary, whereas the previous group were ancient, having been frozen in the ice for millennia.  There’s a space museum (another minor recurring theme by now?) on the moon, and a staff member named Osgood, whom I would like to think is a relative of the Osgood of NuWho.  It’s not made clear whether the moon base here is the same as the one from the serial of that name.  In a rare moment of deviation from character, the Doctor directly kills one Ice Warrior and is responsible for the death of at least one more.  The moon landing seen in episode three is a bit farfetched, but then, the serial was broadcast some months before the real moon landing.

The Space Pirates

A face not even a mother could love

I had difficulty getting into The Space Pirates, which is a pity, because it was actually a great story; I just felt it was poorly done.  Date is hard to establish, but it appears to be in the very early days of Earth’s colonization of space (an onscreen reference indicates 1992, but that is contradicted by dialog indicating at least fifty years of deep space travel). A History places it in 2119, 150 years after the broadcast date.  This is the final reconstruction!  All further serials are available in their entirety.  It goes out with a bang, though; only episode two (of six) is complete.  To me, this is a clear early example of the TARDIS taking the Doctor where he needs to go rather than where he wants to go; after all, it’s pretty unlikely that the TARDIS would randomly materialize on a tiny, unmanned beacon in space.

The War Games

A Time Lord’s last adventure

 

 

We end with The War Games.  This is it:  The final serial of the Second Doctor’s era.  It’s difficult but not impossible to date; it appears at first to date to WWI, but of course that is an illusion.  A History says this, which I think is best quoted rather than paraphrased:  “It is stated that humanity has been killing itself for ‘half a million years’ before this story takes place, which (coincidentally) ties up with the date 309,906 established for the [Fourth] Doctor’s first Trial (or “Malfeasance Tribunal”) in The Deadly Assassin [which, in my opinion, looks to be a VERY good serial indeed!].  There are a lot of firsts and lasts here:  First appearance of the Time Lords en masse and under that name; first appearance of Time Lord hypercubes (telepathic communication cubes, as later seen in The Doctor’s Wife); first appearance of the SIDRAT time travel machines, which are much like scaled-down TARDISES; first appearance of Gallifrey, though not with that name.  It’s also the last appearance of Jamie and Zoe (with the exception of reunion episodes); last adventure of the Second Doctor; and last black and white episode.

Tardis docking bay

Our first view of Gallifrey–the TARDIS docking bay.  Note the open TARDISes on the right wall.

 

This serial is weighty in the canon of Doctor Who, and it’s hard to do it justice. A few observations presented themselves, though.  The SIDRATs provide an explanation for the long-perplexing problem of why the Doctor can’t control the TARDIS remotely:  any time ship that has a malleable interior (as the TARDIS does) and remote control capabilities will be inherently unstable.  No explanation is given as to why that should be, but there you have it.  Also, the Time Lords seem to be able to (mostly!) recognize each other on site in spite of regenerations; the Doctor had not been to Gallifrey since his first body, but he is instantly recognized by the War Chief.  We see some uncamouflaged TARDISes in the docking bay on Gallifrey, and it’s worth noting that they are rectangular rather than spherical as seen in The Name of the Doctor; probably a later model, as the Doctor’s TARDIS was found in a maintenance bay and outdated.  I didn’t realize that it was established this early that Time Lords can control the appearance of their regenerating bodies; it seems odd that it’s such a crapshoot for the Doctor later on, but then, that probably is because of the absence of the Time Lords.

Second Doctor the war games

The Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton (RIP)

 

I find the Second Doctor’s tenure to be fascinating, because by definition it must be the shortest era of any Doctor with the possible exception of Nine. Jamie is with the Doctor consistently throughout his entire era, start to finish, and ages only a very little.  Therefore even if there are a few unseen adventures, there cannot be vast swaths of time unaccounted for. And yet, so much foundational material was delivered in that short time!  All in all, I’ve enjoyed the second Doctor’s run much more than the first (who wasn’t bad himself).

Second Doctor Regeneration

Regeneration

Next time: The Third Doctor arrives on Earth!  These entries should become shorter, as well, as the upcoming seasons contain fewer stories.  See you there!

All episodes can be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.  Due to the BBC’s early policy of junking tapes, some episodes exist only as reconstructions.

The Dominators

The Mind Robber

The Invasion

The Krotons

The Seeds of Death

The Space Pirates

The War Games