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

Doctor Who Audio Drama Review: Vengeance of the Stones

We’re back, with another Doctor Who audio drama review! We’re continuing our look at the eleven-volume Fiftieth Anniversary series, Destiny of the Doctor, produced by Big Finish in conjunction with AudioGO. Today we’re listening to the Third Doctor’s contribution to the series:  Vengeance of the Stones, written by Andrew Smith and read by Richard Franklin (aka Mike Yates of UNIT) and Trevor Littledale. Let’s get started!

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

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I’m going to ask in advance that you take it easy on me with any misspellings or other manglings of names of the aliens and objects involved. My usual sources came up dry when I tried to research before writing this post; although entries exist for this story, they’re badly in need of completion.

Offscreen, there’s an indeterminate gap between Inferno, Liz Shaw’s final story as companion, and Terror of the Autons, Jo Grant’s first. This story falls squarely into that gap, as the Doctor has no companion (unless you count the Brigadier). It’s also narratively significant, in that it gives us the Doctor’s first encounter with Lieutenant (later Captain) Mike Yates, and recounts how Mike joined UNIT. It opens with the disappearance of an RAF fighter and its pilot on a training mission over the coast of Scotland. As the story told by the pilot’s trainer is rather…unusual…UNIT is called in, and the Doctor comes along for the ride (literally, as he brings his roadster Bessie with him). There they meet local army lieutenant Mike Yates, who is seconded to UNIT for the duration due to his knowledge of the area; it’s the region in which he grew up. Mike leads them to investigate the many stone circles in the area; in doing so, they find the missing pilot—but shortly thereafter, the pilot enters one of the circles, and dies, apparently due to an energy discharge.

Stumped for leads, the Doctor chooses to take another plane and retrace the pilot’s flight plan under similar circumstances; unknown to him, the Brigadier follows behind in a helicopter. The Brigadier’s caution is rewarded; the Doctor sees many of the stone circles light up with power, and then a massive ball of power is released, streaking into space—and wrecking his jet in the process. He crashes safely into the ocean, and is rescued.

After some further investigation, Mike returns to one of the circles. He is immediately incapacitated, and is taken prisoner. His captors are aliens from a planet named Theris; only a few of them remain. In the course of painfully interrogating him, they reveal that they came to Earth a few thousand years earlier on a survey mission for natural resources; they were attacked by the local barbarians, and several of their number were killed. The remaining aliens were forced into stasis for the sake of their survival; but recent roadwork disturbed their stasis pods, awakening them. Now they want revenge for what they considered an act of war. It was they who built the stone circles, as data collection and transmission points; they have an affinity for igneous rock. They can harness the power of such rock using the Therocite stone that is native to their own world.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and the Brigadier are searching the area of Mike’s disappearance. They discover a dilapidated shed; but oddly, they feel a strong urge to ignore it. The Doctor determines that the shed has a perception filter, which diverts attention; he pushes through it and opens the shed, and finds the now-gutted remains of the missing jet. Applying the same logic regarding the perception filter, they search the area again, and notice a house that they previously couldn’t see. They take a squad of soldiers in, and find Mike being interrogated. Despite the Doctor’s attempts at diplomacy, a battle erupts, and one of the aliens is killed; their leader teleports them and Mike out of the house.

Before moving on, the Doctor receives a message via a telephone recording…and it appears to be from his future self. (Context tells us that it is the Eleventh Doctor, but the Third Doctor would not know which incarnation it is.) He learns that, despite the Brigadier’s desire to end the encounter by force, the Doctor must somehow save the therocite from destruction—and he must not tell the Brigadier ahead of time, as that would force his hand.

The Doctor determines that, given the affinity for rock, the teleport took the aliens to one of the circles. UNIT quickly locates them, and the Doctor and the Brigadier race to the scene. They discover that the vengeful aliens now only wish to kill everyone on Earth; they have already sent a distress signal to their homeworld. However, the Doctor informs them that, sadly, their world has ceased to exist during their long sleep. In the end, he is forced to stop their plan by grounding out the therocite, and returning its power to the Earth from which it was taken; the last of the aliens dies in the encounter.

Mike Yates is requested by the Brigadier to join UNIT full-time, and granted a promotion to Captain in the process. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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It was interesting to me to get Mike’s origin story; he’s arguably the least involved of the major UNIT characters in the Third Doctor’s era, but still a decent guy. Too bad about the betrayal later on (if you’ve watched that era of the classic series, you know exactly what I mean). Still, I love an origin story, and this one is not bad. As well, Richard Franklin proves to be a competent reader; although it’s not as convincing as Frazer Hines, he does an admirable job capturing the Third Doctor’s voice and mannerisms. I found myself wishing a bit that Liz Shaw had been along for the ride; but then, she’s one of my favorite companions.

The only thing about this story that felt out of place was the Doctor’s flight in one of the military jets. I suppose it’s within his skill set—he later pilots a microplane, and also the Fifth Doctor would later pilot a spaceship (admittedly to a crash, but that was intentional), so it’s not unbelievable—but it seems far-fetched that the Brigadier would allow it. I expected from the title that this story would be something akin to The Stones of Blood, but it isn’t, although those stories do have some common elements. Stones of Blood was by no means the best of its season, but was definitely intriguing, as the stones themselves were alive. Here, there’s none of that; but the stones are just as dangerous.

This story rehashes some themes that became common in the classic era, and especially with the Third Doctor. For one, the Doctor tries to negotiate and save the villains, but UNIT pulls the trigger, resulting in extermination; the Silurians would understand, and probably try to kill us for it. For another, there’s the recurring theme—more common with later Doctors—of a planet that was destroyed while its last survivors slept. For a third, there’s the very common situation in which an alien force misunderstands humans, and vice versa, resulting in bloodshed.

As I’ve noted with a few previous dramas, there’s nothing groundbreaking here. It’s a plot that would have been perfectly acceptable onscreen in its corresponding era, and doesn’t do anything particularly revolutionary. But, again, that’s not a flaw. It’s well done, and that’s what matters, especially in the Third Doctor era. If the First Doctor is your cranky old grandfather, and the Second is your mad uncle, the Third is your paternalistic, friendly uncle; and thus a little familiarity goes a long way. In that sense, this story excels. (I guess that metaphor would make the Fourth Doctor the crazy cousin that no one brings up in polite company…?)

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Next time: We return to the main range for The Shadow of the Scourge; and the Fourth Doctor and Romana deal with the networked insanity to be found in the Babblesphere! See you there.

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

Vengeance of the Stones

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Doctors banner

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

End of an Era: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Twenty-Six

At long last, we’ve done it! We’ve reached the end (or almost, anyway) of our Classic Doctor Who rewatch! I say “almost”, because my plan is to include the 1996 television movie with this rewatch, and also to make a “final thoughts” post (or possibly two, if it gets too long). Today, however, we’re looking at the twenty-sixth and final season, with Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor. Let’s get started!

Let this be our last battlefield!

Let this be our last battlefield!

It’s goodbyes all around, as we open with Battlefield, and say goodbye to UNIT. It’s Carbury, England, in the year 1997 (coincidentally, the year I graduated high school), and strange happenings are afoot. It’s Doctor Who’s take on the King Arthur legends, but oddly, it doesn’t deal much with Arthur at all; he’s seen to be in stasis, and then at the end, it’s revealed that he was dead all along, and his prophesied return was just hype. Instead, we deal with Morgaine and Mordred, plus a number of knights in their services, and a summoned demon called the Destroyer. Helping the Doctor and Ace is the loyal knight Ancelyn (I really hope I’m spelling these correctly…); and the Doctor, as it turns out, is Merlin. Of course there’s a catch: He himself doesn’t remember being Merlin, as—it’s suggested—those events are still in his future, and even in a different regeneration.

Gotcha!

Gotcha!

There are some great moments: Ace pulling Excalibur and playing Lady of the Lake; Bessie making a reappearance; and Morgaine meeting Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart for the first time, at the business end of his gun. Oh, did I mention him? Yes, the Brigadier makes his final classic appearance here! He’s retired now, from both UNIT and his teaching career, and happily married to his second wife, Doris (not Kate’s mother); but he is recalled by the new head of UNIT in Britain, Brigadier Winifred Bambera, who is NOT prepared to deal with the Doctor. (Nicholas Courtney will reprise the role in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode Enemy of the Bane; and after Courtney’s—and the character’s—death, he’ll be revived in Cyberman form in Death in Heaven, for one final salute.)

Season 26 3

The Doctor’s darker side begins to show here, as he is quite ruthless regarding Morgaine and her troops. He makes frequent references to his past, and even to his future. The serial contains the final scene in the TARDIS interior; the console room is darkened during the scene. Behind the scenes, this was because the wall flats had been accidentally junked after last season; the walls seen here were hasty, cheap replacements, and the lights were dimmed to hide the reality. This scene gives us the “across the boundaries separating one universe from another” line, which was used in the “freezing Gallifrey” scene in The Day of the Doctor. On Earth, the Doctor uses his and Liz Shaw’s now-outdated UNIT ID cards to get himself and Ace inside the perimeter; but it doesn’t work as planned, leading to the Brigadier’s recall.

Goodbye, Brigadier!  And RIP Nicholas Courtney.

Goodbye, Brigadier! And RIP Nicholas Courtney.

For reasons unknown to me, this serial is the lowest rated (in original run) of the entire classic series. It’s quite a shame; I thought it was a great story, and a lot of fun to watch. It was a little sad to watch the Brigadier’s final appearance; but it was good to see that UNIT is in good hands.

What an odd house.

What an odd house.

An oddity of this season, and something not seen since the Third Doctor, is that nearly the entire season occurs on Earth. For Ghost Light, we travel back to 1883, to Ace’s hometown of Perivale, and specifically to the large house called Gabriel Chase. We learn that, in her own time, Ace burned this house to the ground, due to an evil presence she felt there. That presence proves to be an incorporeal alien called Light, who, when defeated by the Doctor, dissipates into the house. It’s the story of three aliens from the same mission, each of which has very different plans for the Earth and its inhabitants. It’s a bit of a protest against the idea of evolution, as all three aliens react to the concept in different ways. In the end, Ace must face down some of the literal ghosts of her past.

Even the ghost wonders what he's doing in this story.

Even the ghost wonders what he’s doing in this story.

This serial was the low point of the season for me, and I found it a little hard to maintain my interest. To be fair, it’s the only serial I didn’t care for this season. In tone and subject matter, it’s very reminiscent of the NuWho episode The Unquiet Dead. Interestingly, it’s the final serial to be produced; the order of the season was reshuffled during production. As a result, the following serial has Ace mentioning “an old house in Perivale”; this was supposed to be foreshadowing, but was negated by the switch.

Wow, you guys don't look so good.

Wow, you guys don’t look so good.

We’ve been building up to it for three years, and now we get some answers in The Curse of Fenric. The Doctor and Ace arrive at Maiden’s Point, a secret military base in Northumberland, in May 1943. It’s hard to believe now, but this is the first (and only classic) serial to be set in World War II; it will be followed by several NuWho stories, including The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, Victory of the Daleks, and Let’s Kill Hitler! The enemy is Fenric, an ancient evil who is established in spinoff media to be a Great Old One, one of several beings from a previous universe (similar to the Animus from The Web Planet and, possibly, the Celestial Toymaker). The Doctor fought Fenric in the third century, and using a chess gambit, imprisoned him in the Shadow Dimensions (interfacing with our world via an oriental flask). Here, at long last, he escapes and challenges the Doctor again; and he doesn’t come alone. He brings with him the Haemovores, vampires from a terrible alternate future of humanity, who are led by the Ancient One, a hideously mutated and powerful Haemovore from the future.

Bad touch! Bad touch!

Bad touch! Bad touch!

Fenric, as it turns out, has been manipulating the Doctor’s path via the people around him. It was Fenric who caused Ace to be transported to Iceworld, and who enabled Lady Peinforte to time-travel in Silver Nemesis. (The chessboard in that episode was also intended as foreshadowing.) Those individuals, plus several others present in this story, are “Wolves of Fenric”—descendants of an individual who was touched by Fenric’s curse, and thus they can now be manipulated by him. Ace, in fact, establishes her own timeline here by saving the life of a woman named Kathleen and her baby, Audrey…who turn out to be Ace’s grandmother and mother, respectively. Fenric’s manipulation is matched by the Doctor, however; the Doctor let’s his darker side show when he insults Ace to break her faith in him, allowing the conflict to come to a resolution. Though he makes it up to her later, it was a cold trick to play on her, especially given that he couldn’t have known it would work out as it did, with the Ancient One turning on Fenric and destroying them both.

Uhh...anyone want to help us out here?

Uhh…anyone want to help us out here?

The backdrop for all of this is the creation of the ULTIMA machine, a codebreaking machine loosely based on the real-life Enigma machine, the German enciphering device broken in large part by Alan Turing. It’s a decent idea; however, a part of the plot is that the Soviets intend to steal the machine from the British. That makes little sense to me, as the British and the Soviets were allies during the war. Still, we can handwave it, given that this is a fictional universe. In the end, there’s much more that could be said—it’s a complex plot and a convoluted serial—but we’ll move on. I will say that I greatly enjoyed this story, and was sorry to see it end.

Season 26 10

Finally, we come to Survival, the last and final serial of classic Doctor Who. It’s an apt name, I’ve always thought, as the series went into “survival mode” after this, living on in novels and comics and—later—audio dramas. It’s the final appearance of the last of the three great perennial enemies of the Doctor: The Master. (We’ve already said goodbye to the Daleks and the Cybermen in season twenty-five.) For this serial, we return to Perivale, but in the present day (1989, that is); I think it’s fitting that the series should end with a contemporary story, as that’s how it began. (Or I should say, almost contemporary; it was broadcast in November and December of that year, but the visible setting appears to be late summer/early fall.) Interestingly, the serial itself doesn’t state that it’s 1989, though context makes it likely; confirmation of the date is found in the New Adventures novel, First Frontier.

A colder, more deadly Master.

A colder, more deadly Master.

The Master, it seems, is trapped on an unnamed planet; his TARDIS is nowhere to be seen, so presumably it has been lost. It’s a unique world; it has the power to transform its inhabitants into feral, catlike Cheetah people, and in very short order. The Master himself is infected with this transformation, visible in his now-catlike eyes and fangs. He is able to send Cheetah individuals to Earth, but can’t leave himself. Once there, they hunt and abduct humans as prey, teleporting them back to the Cheetah world. He seeks the Doctor for assistance in escaping; if successful, he will carry the planet’s contagion everywhere he goes. The planet is tied to its people; their violence is reflected in the planet’s geological violence. The situation is complicated when Ace, too, is infected. She is freed when the Doctor returns her to Earth, along with some of her kidnapped friends. The Master, too, escapes, but is intercepted by the Doctor and transported back to the planet, where they fight their final battle. In the end, the planet breaks apart, and the Doctor escapes, leaving the Master ostensibly to die.

Season 26 13

Of course, we know that he doesn’t die; he’ll be seen again as early as the television movie. That film uses the cat-eye motif as a symbolic connection to the end of the series, as the Master himself is free of the contagion by then. (In fact, he frees himself of it, and gains a new body, in the aforementioned First Frontier.) However, this is Anthony Ainley’s last on-screen appearance in the role, as he does not appear in the movie.

Goodbye, Doctor, and goodbye, Ace.

Goodbye, Doctor, and goodbye, Ace.

There are some great moments in this episode. Ace, commenting on the Master’s connection to the Doctor, asks the Doctor, “Do you know any nice people? You know, ordinary people, not power-crazed nutters trying to take over the galaxy?!” (Which, in my opinion, pretty much sums up all of the Doctor’s old relationships…) All the Doctor can say is “I don’t think he’s trying to take over the galaxy this time…” There’s a great moment where the Doctor asks Ace where she wants to go, and she simply says “Home”…then, seeing his crestfallen face, she adds “You know, the TARDIS!” And of course, there’s the famous final monologue, which I’ve included below. It was written by Andrew Cartmel, and dubbed over the final scene; notably, it was recorded on November 23rd, 1989, 26 years to the day after the premiere of Doctor Who. I can’t think of a better way to go out.

“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea’s asleep and the rivers dream, people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea’s getting cold! Come on, Ace — we’ve got work to do!”

"That's my fetish!"

“That’s my fetish!”

This story, naturally, has some “lasts”, in addition to those I’ve already mentioned. It’s the final of only three serials to be filmed entirely on Outside Broadcast Video (the others being The Sontaran Experiment and The Curse of Fenric) and the final of five to be filmed entirely on location (the two previously mentioned, and Spearhead from Space and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy). It’s the last to use the most recent opening and theme; the last to use the TARDIS prop that had been in use most recently; and the last to feature the Doctor’s face in the opening until NuWho’s The Snowmen, with Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor. Notably, one of the supporting cast Lisa Bowerman (playing the Cheetah person Karra) will go on to voice Bernice Summerfield, a popular companion and spinoff character in the audios. Overall, it’s a great story, with a great and menacing take on the Master; despite being the televised equivalent of a furry convention, it’s a great way to end the classic run.

Next time: The Wilderness Years, and the 1996 television movie, in which we meet Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor! See you there.

Dimensions in Time 1

Bonus: I took a few minutes and watched the 1993 Children In Need special, Dimensions in Time. It’s twelve minutes of glorious nonsense, and I won’t dwell long on it, since it’s almost universally deemed to be non-canon. Taken in that vein, it’s a nice little coda to the series; it features all of the Doctors (with Hartnell and Troughton appearing only in still cameos, as they were both deceased by this time) and a laundry list of companions: Susan Foreman, Victoria Waterfield, Liz Shaw, Mike Yates, Sarah Jane Smith, Leela, Nyssa, Peri Brown, Mel Bush, K9 Mark I, Romana II, and the Brigadier. It’s rather short; its two parts run five and seven minutes respectively, with about five minutes of framing broadcast that featured John Pertwee. Its villain is the Rani, who brings her own companion, named Cyrian. Her plan involves pulling the various Doctors and companions from their timelines; as a result, the Doctors and companions keep randomly switching places, creating some odd pairings. The Rani’s “menagerie” includes a Cyberman and a Time Lord; the Daleks would have appeared, but the scenes were deleted due to a dispute with Terry Nation’s estate. There are some references back, including the “Doctor Who?” and “When I say run, RUN!” running jokes, and an appearance by Bessie. The special was a crossover with the show EastEnders, which I have often heard of but have never seen, therefore those jokes were lost on me. (Interestingly, it’s that show that most strongly makes this special non-canon, as Army of Ghosts makes it clear that EastEnders is a television show in the DW universe.) There was a phone-in voting element to determine the outcome of the story; scenes were filmed for the losing option as well, but never used. Overall, however, it must have been a success, as it raised 101,000 pounds in one night.

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

Battlefield (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

Ghost Light

The Curse of Fenric (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

Survival (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Dimensions in Time

The Past is the Present: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Twenty

It’s been a hectic few weeks behind the scenes, but today, we’re back, with our Classic Doctor Who rewatch, season twenty! Let’s get started!

Omega, looking less than his best today.

I should mention at the outset that this is an anniversary season—twenty years, to be precise—and thus it’s a little different. This season is filled with appearances by villains and other references from the past seasons and incarnations of the Doctor, culminating with the very first official anniversary special, The Five Doctors. (The Three Doctors, while definitely an anniversary story, was technically not a special; it was a normal part of its season.) In our season opener, Arc of Infinity, it’s the villain and former Time Lord Omega, last seen in The Three Doctors—and once presumed dead. Here he returns, in a plan to retake our universe and punish the Time Lords—and he needs the Doctor to do it.

Welcome back, Tegan...were you gone?

Welcome back, Tegan…were you gone?

The plan is simple, but difficult. Omega wants to cross back into our universe, but as he remains in an antimatter state, he needs the body and biodata of a Time Lord to do so. In vengeance for his previous defeat, he chooses the Doctor as his target; but it quickly becomes clear that someone high in the Gallifreyan hierarchy is also involved, as only a Councilor can access the Matrix to retrieve the biodata. That someone, in the end, proves to be Councilor Hedin, who has been taken in by hero-worship of Omega, and wants to restore him, not believing the danger he represents. In the meantime, the High Council’s solution is simple and draconian: They will execute the Doctor. Without him, Omega cannot cross over.

I feel like I should know that face...

I feel like I should know that face…

By sheer coincidence—or perhaps not, given that Earth was the setting for The Three Doctors—Omega also has made contact with Earth in 1983 Amsterdam, and has hidden his (antimatter?!) TARDIS there. How he obtained such a TARDIS is never known, but it is clearly a more advanced model than the Doctor’s Type 40. Tegan Jovanka, having recently left the TARDIS and lost her job, stumbles into the situation and is captured by Omega for use as bait. In this manner she eventually rejoins the TARDIS crew. Omega is returned to his own universe, and the Doctor is permitted to go on his way.

Borusa: Man of Way Too Many Faces

Borusa: Man of Way Too Many Faces

Some observations: Borusa has regenerated again—he seems to go through them faster than the Doctor!—and has been named Lord President in the Doctor’s absence. There are also a new Castellan and a new Chancellery Guard Commander (played by a pre-Doctor Colin Baker!), replacing Andred. Neither Andred nor Leela are seen, though it is mentioned that they have married. Gallifrey seems to have relaxed its no-aliens policy, which I like to attribute to Leela. The High Council is considerably smaller in this era than it will be seen to be during the Time War (The End of Time); however it may be that, like the Senate and House in America, not every member must be present to be in session. The Doctor says to Maxil, “If I’m to die, I want to prepare myself mentally. For that I need to be alone.” This bit of dialogue could be taken as distant foreshadowing of the concept of a confession dial. And last, Peter Davison joins Hartnell, Troughton, and Baker in the tradition of playing both the Doctor and a villain in the same episode; he plays Omega’s short-lived form after transference, which shares the Doctor’s biodata.

Let's go in the snake-headed cavern.  What could possibly go wrong?

Let’s go in the snake-headed cavern. What could possibly go wrong?

Snakedance takes us to the planet Manussa in the year 3426, though it takes some mental gymnastics to work out evidence that the date is in Earth years; the planet is a former Earth colony, but with a convoluted history of its own, with two separate empires in its past. One of those empires is the Sumaran Empire, ruled by another past enemy: the Mara. That being exerts its influence over Tegan here, causing her to pilot the TARDIS to Manussa, and then taking control of her to bring itself back to the corporeal world. On Deva Loka, it seemed to lack the strength to control more than one person; here it suffers no such restriction, and quickly spreads its influence. It cannot be beaten with mirrors this time, and must be destroyed by the Doctor, who requires the aid of an old mystic named Dojjen.

The Mara returns!

The Mara returns!

The Doctor’s behavior here is uncharacteristically frantic and excitable; it’s very similar to the Eleventh Doctor. At one point he’s stuck in a cell; too bad he doesn’t have some kind of sonic device to use as a lockpick…nah, that’s just crazy talk. (Never thought I’d get to use THAT joke again. Even Nyssa jokes about it!) Having rejoined the TARDIS, Tegan shares a room with Nyssa, which is odd given the TARDIS’s internal volume; they seem to just like the company. Overall this story is well-written, and along with its prequel Kinda, it has traditionally been well-liked and enjoyed high ratings. It’s not my personal favorite Fifth Doctor story (after some thought, that would probably be The Visitation), but it’s high on the list.

Welcome back, Brigadier!

Welcome back, Brigadier!

Mawdryn Undead takes us back to Earth, and brings back a familiar face: Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. With that reference, though, the serial touches off the infamous UNIT dating controversy. To put it briefly—and I won’t go into all the details here—if the dates given in this serial are accurate, then none of the previously-given chronology for the UNIT stories (and by extension, all the way back to The Abominable Snowmen) can add up properly. We could easily have an entire post about this controversy; therefore I’ll just give the dates as noted in the story, and I’ll say that I just simply consider them incorrect (specifically, too early by several years). I take the vast majority of UNIT stories to be roughly contemporary with their broadcast dates, which this serial would not allow. To me, discarding the dates here is the easiest and simplest solution.

Turlough and the Black Guardian

Turlough and the Black Guardian

The story begins in 1983; its flashback scenes are set in 1977. It’s the beginning of the Black Guardian Trilogy, which sees the return of that villain, who wants to fulfill his long-ago promise to destroy the Doctor for his defeat in the Key to Time incident. The Black Guardian enlists the aid of a teenage schoolboy named Vislor Turlough, who has a secret of his own: he’s not from Earth. His true origin will not be revealed until next season. Turlough happens to be a student at Brendon Public School, where the now-retired Brigadier teaches mathematics. In exchange for a promise of freedom from Earth, Turlough willingly helps the Black Guardian in this and the next two stories, but balks at killing the Doctor; he’s not evil, just young and desperate. The Brigadier can’t remember his previous involvement with the Doctor at first; he believes this to be the result of a nervous breakdown in 1977, but in reality, it’s the Blinovitch Limitation Effect. Put another way, his past and present selves encounter each other, and upon physical contact, they short out the time differential between them; the resultant discharge of energy temporarily affects his memory. He is eventually set right by the Doctor.

I hate to be THAT GUY, Mawdryn, but your brain is showing.

I hate to be THAT GUY, Mawdryn, but your brain is showing.

The subplot from which the serial takes is title is that of Mawdryn, a scientist of a race which attempted to steal regeneration technology from the Time Lords. It backfired miserably, leaving him and his fellow scientists constantly dying, but never dead. They, too aren’t evil, only pitiable; they want the Doctor to willingly give up his regeneration energy—all his remaining lives, in the first hint that regeneration energy is even a thing—to allow them to die. When his companions are affected, he agrees to do so; but the Brigadiers’ discharge of temporal energy at the right moment powers Mawdryn’s machine and saves him the trouble. Afterward, Turlough joins the crew.

A simple schoolboy problem gone catastrophically wrong.

A simple schoolboy problem gone catastrophically wrong.

I don’t often talk about behind-the scenes situations, but in this story, the production team inteneded for Ian Chesterton to make an appearance. William Russell proved unavailable, unfortunately; however, we got the Brigadier instead, so I am not complaining. But, what a missed opportunity! Ian has long been one of my favorite companions.

I don't even know what this thing is.  It was a weird and dull story.

I don’t even know what this thing is. It was a weird and dull story.

Part two of the Black Guardian Trilogy, Terminus, takes us to the 35th century and the station of Terminus, parked at the approximate center of the universe. The TARDIS is sent there via sabotage by Turlough, who is still under the power of the Black Guardian. Terminus is allegedly a hospital facility for the sufferers of Lazar’s Disease, which has plagued the known universe. However, secretly it kills the sufferers. It used to have the ability to travel in time; it inadvertently created the universe when it traveled back too far and a hydrogen engine exploded, triggering the Big Bang. Tragically, that is NOT the story at hand here, and is only tangentially relevant; the Doctor must prevent a second such explosion which would destroy the universe. (The Doctor himself will be responsible for a “reboot” of the Big Bang in The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang.)

Not sure if they're reacting to Nyssa's exit, or to this dry story.

Not sure if they’re reacting to Nyssa’s exit, or to this dry story.

The Guardian again fails to kill the Doctor, and grows more impatient with Turlough. Nyssa opts to leave the TARDIS here; she is first infected with Lazar’s Disease, then cured, and subsequently she chooses to stay behind and help the other sufferers. The Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough travel on without her.

A sailing ship.  In space.  It's gonna be one of those stories, folks.

A sailing ship. In space. It’s gonna be one of those stories, folks.

Enlightenment wraps up the Black Guardian Trilogy, and sees the reappearance of the White Guardian for the first time since The Ribos Operation. It returns us to the Sol system, but not to Earth; rather it takes place on a collection of anachronistic ships in space, which are piloted by the Eternals. These beings are immortal, incorporeal (except by choice) and above mortal beings, but are not on the level of gods; they require a living being in order to think for themselves. In this, their only televised appearance, they race through the solar system in search of Enlightenment—true knowledge—which is guarded by the Black and White Guardians. One of them—Wrack, captain of the Buccaneer—is in league with the Black Guardian to cheat and win the race; Wrack will gain ultimate power, and the Black Guardian gains a final opportunity to destroy the Doctor. The tables are turned on him when the Doctor causes the death of Wrack, and Turlough uses the gem of enlightenment to destroy the Black Guardian (temporarily—as the White Guardian points out, he must always return).

The Guardians, watching over the cosmic egg cup--I mean, Enlightenment.

The Guardians, watching over the cosmic egg cup–I mean, Enlightenment.

To me this serial was the low point of the season, and I didn’t care for it. However, it sees Turlough, now free of the Black Guardian, join the TARDIS crew in truth, though he still has his own secrets. It adequately wraps up the Black Guardian arc, but felt flat as a story.

The Master and Kamelion.

The Master and Kamelion.

The King’s Demons is the true season finale, as the following story is a special which was released much later. It’s a historical, dealing with the signing of the Magna Carta, which happens offscreen. It sees the return of the Master, who brings with him a new companion, the robot Kamelion. Kamelion has the ability to impersonate anyone; the Master intends to impersonate King John and see him discredited, therefore preventing the signing, which will weaken human history. Okay, it’s kind of a weak plot for the Master. At any rate, Kamelion also has the weakness of being controllable by anyone with sufficient telepathic strength. As a result, at the end, he is freed by the Doctor and joins the crew; but he will only appear once more, spending the rest of his time hiding in the TARDIS to prevent being taken captive again.

En garde!

En garde!

The Doctor again shows off his swordsmanship, following in the footsteps of the Third and Fourth Doctors; while no other classic Doctor will do so, the Tenth Doctor will revive the tradition in The Christmas Invasion. The fight against the disguised Master was completed without stuntmen; Peter Davison and Anthony Ainley did all the sparring themselves. Again, the Master’s identity is concealed with a double anagram; the character is called “Sir Gilles Estram”, an anagram for Master, while the actor was credited as “James Stoker”, an anagram for “Master’s Joke”.

"Hey, Doctor."  "Yeah?"  "You think they'll figure out my identity this time?"  "Not a chance, Estram, not a chance."

“Hey, Doctor.” “Yeah?” “You think they’ll figure out my identity this time?” “Not a chance, Estram, not a chance.”

This is an odd choice for season finale. In addition to being a fairly weak (but enjoyable) story for the Master, it’s also a two-parter, the only one of the season. On the other hand, part one is the 600th episode of the series; and it’s possible it may have been planned with the knowledge that there would be a special before next season.

That's a wax figure of Tom Baker in the background.

That’s a wax figure of Tom Baker in the background.

For the twentieth anniversary special, we return to Gallifrey for The Five Doctors. It truly is an anniversary special, being broadcast (at least, in America, though oddly not in the UK) on 11/23/83, twenty years to the day after the show’s premiere. (British viewers would have to wait two days for their broadcast.) It’s also the first Children in Need fundraising special for Doctor Who, though the revived series has greatly expanded this tradition. Though it’s called The Five Doctors, in fact only four appeared in new footage; Tom Baker declined to appear so soon after the end of his tenure, a decision he has since stated he regrets. Fortunately, footage from the unused Shada was present, and reworked to give him a bit of coverage in which he and Romana II were caught in a time eddy, much as the First Doctor was in The Three Doctors. Also, sadly, William Hartnell had since passed away, and therefore his part was played by lookalike Richard Hurndall (who, unfortunately, has also died in the intervening years). A number of companions appear as well: Susan (now visibly older), Sarah Jane, Romana II, Tegan, Turlough, K9 Mark III (never before seen on the show, but seen in the failed pilot for K9 and Company) and the Brigadier, as well as (in illusionary form) Jamie, Zoe, Mike Yates, and Liz Shaw. K9’s appearance sets the stage for his appearance in NuWho’s School Reunion. The Third Doctor and Second Doctor appear to be snatched from near the end of their lives; the Second Doctor is visiting a UNIT reunion and reminiscing with the Brigadier, and the Third Doctor knows Sarah Jane and is somehow aware of the Fourth Doctor despite never having met him. All of the above characters are collected by the Time Scoop and taken to the Death Zone on Gallifrey, a relic of Gallifrey’s bloodthirsty past, which contains the tomb of Time Lord founder Rassilon.

The Master, summoned!

The Master, summoned! (Could not find a clearer picture.  He is strangely absent from most of the pictures I found for this serial.)

The High Council summons the Master to rescue the Doctor, and promises him a new regeneration cycle as a reward. This is the first indication that they can grant such cycles. He takes them quite seriously, but most likely does not receive the regenerations here, although we know he will receive such a cycle in the Time War. It’s also an early indication that the Master’s relationship with the Doctor is deep and complex; he muses to the Council that “a cosmos without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about.” He is instrumental in helping the Doctor, but in typical Master fashion—that is, through trickery and deception—and he escapes at the end. For once, he’s NOT the villain.

Rassilon!  The man, the myth, the legend, the corpse!

Rassilon! The man, the myth, the legend, the corpse!

The Villain, as it turns out, is Borusa. Nearing the end of his life, he seeks immortality, which it is said that Rassilon discovered. He uses the Doctor’s various lives to clear the way to Rassilon’s Tower and tomb, and there encounters the mind of the fabled Time Lord himself; however, it proves to have all been a trap, when he accepts immortality only to find himself a living relief carved on Rassilon’s sarcophagus. Immortality, it seems, is too dangerous for anyone. The Doctor—in all his forms—quickly declines immortality, and leaves via the time scoop (though an unused ending would have had them all, with their companions, crowding into the TARDIS—I would have liked to see that!). Meanwhile, the Fifth Doctor becomes Lord President by default—and nimbly frees himself from the office, going on the run from his people once again. “After all, that’s how it all started.”

Things I enjoyed this season: Snakedance was a pleasure to watch, though it required a lot of attention. (I’m watching these serials in between tasks at work, so sometimes that is a challenge.) Tegan makes a wonderfully haughty villain, given that her usual personality alternates between mousy and whiny. Mwdryn Undead was great as well, and it was wonderful to see the Brigadier again. The dating of the story may have been clumsy, but the execution was great; any story that directly relies on time travel has the potential to be unworkable, but this one worked out well. I didn’t care for the rest of the Black Guardian Trilogy; a dozen times I was thinking “oh come on, the Doctor MUST know what Turlough is doing by now, even Tegan sees it!” The King’s Demons was a lot of fun, and while I’ve complained a bit that it’s not a very worthy plot for the Master, it was also nice to see something on a smaller scale. I liked Kamelion, and think the character deserves more development than he gets; it’s unfortunate that the prop was so difficult to use, limiting his appearances. And The Five Doctors was great all around. I suppose I may be easy to please, but I’ve enjoyed every multi-doctor story I’ve ever encountered, and this was no exception. Of course I wish that Tom Baker had appeared; but I think they covered it well, and not clumsily. The interaction between the various Doctors and their mismatched companions was something I would love to see more of (attention BBC: Please write a thirteen-Doctor story while these people are still alive! Get on it!).

Next season: Deaths everywhere, and the Doctor too! See you there.

All episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; Links are Below

Arc of Infinity

Snakedance

Mawdryn Undead (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

Terminus

Enlightenment

The Kings Demons

The Five Doctors

Goodbye to Three: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Eleven

It’s that time again! This week in our classic Doctor Who rewatch, we say goodbye to another version of the Doctor, as the Third Doctor becomes the Fourth.  Let’s get started!

The Time Warrior 1

Come on guys, just hug it out.

 

Having said farewell to three-season companion Jo Grant (now Jo Jones), the Doctor begins the season back at UNIT and working alone in The Time Warrior.  It begins as a UNIT story, but ends up as a pseudohistorical, taking place in the late twelfth to late thirteenth centuries.  Based on several suggestions in different, sources, it appears to be no earlier than 1190 AD, and no later than 1273 AD.  The serial introduces both a new companion and a new foe:  On the one hand, the Doctor faces off for the first time against the Sontarans, the warrior race best known in NuWho for disgraced nurse (and fan favorite) Strax.  On the other hand, he has the help of fan-favorite companion Sarah Jane Smith, who bluffs her way into the middle of this case.  The Sontaran in question, Linx, is stranded in the past, and using a knockoff version of time travel to kidnap modern scientists and make them repair his fallen ship.  Meanwhile, he’s also giving advanced weapons to the locals, thus threatening to upset the course of history.  When he accidentally scoops up Sarah Jane as well, the Doctor follows to put an end to his plan.

The Time Warrior 2

Sarah Jane and the Doctor

 

It’s a bit jarring to me to see Sarah Jane so young—by her own admission, she’s twenty-three years old at this time. My most recent experiences with her are in NuWho, and also in occasional episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures, where of course she’s decades older.  Still, as companions go—and after three years with Jo—she’s a breath of fresh air, though she doesn’t know yet what to make of the Doctor.  Also notable in this episode:  For the first time, the Doctor’s homeworld is given a name.  That name, as we all know, is Gallifrey—and the rest, as they say, is history.  Interestingly, it was first named in print shortly before this serial was released, but both uses seem to have resulted from the same decision rather than one prompting the other.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs 1

Not the most convincing dinosaurs, but we’ll take it.

Sarah and the Doctor return to 1970s London in Invasion of the Dinosaurs.  They land in the middle of a crisis: Dinosaurs have been appearing at random and causing havoc, resulting in martial law (enforced partly by UNIT) and the evacuation of the city.  It’s all part of the plan, though, for the secret conspiracy known as Operation Golden Age; they want to regress Earth through time to a pre-human state, saving only their own selected group of people (who secretly believe they are on sleeper ships to a new planet) to repopulate.  I wasn’t impressed with that plan; it’s both ambitious and pointless, as the level of work involved to let modern humans survive in a prehistoric world would prohibit the creation of the utopia they seek.  But, what do I know?

Mike Yates

The face of a sad betrayal.

 

 

Mike Yates makes his penultimate appearance here, and it’s a whopper: haunted by his experiences in The Green Death, he betrays UNIT and, indeed, the world, by aiding the conspirators.  However, due to the factors that led to his damaged state of mind, he is allowed to exit quietly on a medical discharge rather than criminal charges.  We’ll see him one more time, in the season finale.  On the technology front, the Doctor’s second car, known among fans as the Whomobile, makes its first appearance; this hovercraft-like vehicle was actually the property of Jon Pertwee, and left the show with him.  It’s a very James Bond type of vehicle, and I wish it had appeared more often; we’ll only see it twice, both in this season.

wqhomobile

The Whomobile

 

There are environmental themes here, as in The Green Death; but here, the message seems to be that environmental causes can be taken too far.  We also see time-travel as a theme again; the Doctor, as a Time Lord, demonstrates some immunity to manipulation of time, as he is not frozen by the time field.  This is consistent with how the First Doctor wasn’t visibly affected by the Time Destructor in The Daleks’ Master Plan, though at that time it wasn’t clear whether he suffered any aging or not.  One more thing:  London has the politest looters in history apparently.  Not a single thing was damaged!

Death to the Daleks 1

That title wasn’t joking!

 

Giving in to the Doctor’s persuasion at the end of Invasion of the Dinosaurs (a very NuWho thing for him to do, much more common with Ten and Eleven), Sarah Jane consents to travel with him in Death to the Daleks.  They travel to the planet Exxilon in approximately the year 2600 AD.  It’s a vague date, but we do believe it occurs after the early wars between Earth and the Daleks—that is, after most of the Dalek stories we’ve seen so far.  (They should possess time travel, but we don’t see it in use here.)  Here, a living city drains the power of every ship in range, including the TARDIS.  It’s a similar thought to the setting of NuWho’s The Doctor’s Wife, though unlike House, this city doesn’t consumer TARDISes, just their power.  Interestingly, it drains the power from the Daleks’ weapons, but not their machines in general; this is handwaved by the statement that they operate using psychokinetic power—telekinesis—but this seems odd given that their clearly-electric vocalizers and headlamps still work.  At any rate, this version doesn’t seem to last long in Dalek history, as later iterations use more conventional sources of power.

Exxilon city

The Exxilons and their city

 

This story is a bit of a base-under-siege in reverse; here, it’s the Doctor, his allies, and even the Daleks that are doing the besieging. Along the way, he helps the native Exxilons, who long ago lost most of their civilization and culture.  The city produces numerous traps; notably, it creates artificial “antibodies” for security, a concept that will be later reused in NuWho for both the Tesselecta (Let’s Kill Hitler, et al.) and the Daleks themselves (Into the Dalek).

Thalira and her court

Thalira and her court

 

We revisit old friends in The Monster of Peladon.  This is the last television story to take place on Peladon, and the last to feature the Ice Warriors until NuWho series seven’s Cold War, but both would appear in various spinoff media.  It is fifty years after the Doctor’s last trip to Peladon, placing it in 3935 by that reckoning.  The planet is now a Galactic Federation member in good standing, and the Federation is at war with Galaxy 5 (not clearly defined here, but a later novel establishes it as a terrorist organization).  The Federation needs Peladon’s trisilicate mineral for the war effort, prompting the plot here.  Peladon is now in the hands of Thalira, the daughter of the previous King Peladon; and Alpha Centauri is still around, though promoted to the post of Federation ambassador to Peladon.  (Why they need embassies to their member worlds is beyond me.)

Ice Warriors 1

Farewell, Ice Warriors.  We’ll meet again in a few decades.

 

In the previous story, the Ice Warriors were mistakenly thought to be the villains; here, they actually are. To be fair, the group in question don’t represent the Ice Warriors as a whole; the bulk of the race is still holding to its pacifist ways, as mentioned before.  This splinter group, however, can cause enough damage on its own.  There are minor themes of sexual equality here, as well, as Sarah tries to persuade the queen to stand up to the men in her court; she utters the famous line, “There’s nothing only about being a girl.

Great_One

Spiders and Time Lords and caves, oh my!

 

And now, we come to the end for the Third Doctor. In Planet of the Spiders, having returned to Earth, he is summoned by Mike Yates to the Buddhist monastery where Yates has been recovering.  Yates has become aware of something odd about a cult-like group that meets in the basement; and he is right.  The cult summons an entity that they cannot control:  an intelligent spider from the planet Metebelis III.  Unknown to the Doctor, it’s his fault:  his theft of the blue crystal on his recent visit to the planet has prompted the spiders to take action.

gyrocopter

A gyrocopter.  Because of course it is.

 

Random, but noteworthy in this serial: The Brigadier first mentions Doris, the woman he will eventually marry (his second wife, and stepmother to Kate).  Mike Yates makes his final appearance, and redeems himself, though he is not reinstated.  The Doctor again spends some time in a coma, but recovers quickly.  The Metebelis crystal is returned by Jo to the Doctor via the mail; it will appear again with the Eleventh Doctor in Hide, where it enhances Emma Grayling’s powers much as it does here with the Eight Legs (though not fatally).  We get a chase scene between Bessie and the Whomobile!  Oddly, the Doctor isn’t driving either one; he’s piloting a gyrocopter.  This serial is weird, what can I say.  It’s also the final appearance of the Whomobile.

K'anpo Rimpoche

K’anpo, post-regeneration.  A decent Time Lord if ever there was one.

 

Finally, the regeneration. It’s called regeneration for the first time here; the term is still with us today.  Like the Tenth Doctor after him, the Doctor absorbs a lethal amount of radiation, but takes some time to die.  He’s preceded in regeneration by K’anpo Rimpoche, the abbot of the monastery, who reveals himself to be a Time Lord known to the Doctor as the Hermit; he was once the Doctor’s teacher, his guru, in the Doctor’s youth on Gallifrey.  He’s a consummate regenerator, choosing his own appearance and even projecting it as a separate entity beforehand; the Doctor will learn something of this trick himself.  His presence here makes this the only dual-regeneration episode (involving the Doctor at least) in the series’ history.  K’anpo also aids the Doctor by triggering his regeneration inside UNIT headquarters; this is most likely the first instance of the transfer of regeneration energy, though we don’t actually see the energy here.  The Doctor himself will do the same in his later life, for River Song, for the TARDIS itself, and—shockingly—for Davros, the creator of the Daleks.  It seems to work well, here, as the regeneration is unusually smooth and calm.

Third-doctor-regenerates

A little change will do you good.

 

Next time: Back to my own childhood, as we meet the Fourth Doctor!  See you there.

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

The Time Warrior

Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Death To The Daleks (parts 1, 2, and 4; for part 3, click here)

The Monster of Peladon

Planet of the Spiders

End of Exile: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Ten

three doctors 1

Welcome back to the Classic Doctor Who rewatch!  We start off with a bang this week, with the first-ever anniversary special: The Three Doctors, celebrating the show’s tenth anniversary.  It’s also the first multi-Doctor story, as the first three Doctors—William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and Jon Pertwee—all appear.  In this story, Pertwee’s Third Doctor is faced with a difficult conundrum as a strange creature appears, causing the disappearance of a hunter and several things—and, ultimately, UNIT H! itself.  Meanwhile, the Time Lords have problems of their own, as power is drained from their world into a black hole.  Sensing that the two problems are related, they pluck Troughton’s Second Doctor from his timeline and send him to assist his later self, causing great consternation for the Brigadier.  When that proves insufficient, Hartnell’s First Doctor is sent to join them, but due to lack of power, he can’t arrive in the flesh—rather, he is limited to appearances onscreen and via telepathy, giving advice.  One by one they travel into the black hole, and find themselves in a universe of antimatter, held together by a new adversary—the ancient, vengeful Time Lord called Omega.

Three Doctors 2

Omega and the Doctors

 

In addition to its firsts, this serial also represents a significant “last”: It is Hartnell’s last appearance as the Doctor, and indeed in any role.  Already ill, he would succumb to arteriosclerosis two years later.  His character would appear again in a future anniversary special, but played by a surrogate.  I would note that this serial settles the question of whether he really is the First Doctor, as the Time Lords here refer to him as the “earliest” Doctor.  The question will arise again later with the Fourth Doctor’s The Brain of Morbius, but for now, the truth is clear.

three doctors 3

Benton has his doubts about the new set.

 

We get a new TARDIS interior, as the previous set—used only once—warped in storage, and was not favored by the production team anyway. As well, the Sonic Screwdriver is first used as a diagnostic tool, a trick common in the new series.  Jelly Babies—the favored snack of the Fourth Doctor—make an early appearance.  Also presaging NuWho conventions, the Doctor upgrades the Brigadier’s radio; it’s reminiscent of the “universal roaming” he will later install on the cell phones of multiple companions.

three doctors 4

Unusually among multi-Doctor stories, all the participants arrive with knowledge of what’s going on, thanks to the Time Lords. Spinoff media has implied that they also retain more memories than is typical in such cases.  Though I won’t spoil the rather clever ending, I will say that Omega—though apparently dead here—will appear again, in Arc of Infinity.  The most immediately important outcome, however, is this:  for his efforts here, the Time Lords repair the TARDIS, restore the Doctor’s memory, and lift his exile.  At last, he is free to travel again.

carnival of monsters

Carnival indeed!

 

In Carnival of Monsters, with Jo in tow, he takes the TARDIS on a sort of shakedown cruise, to the planet Inter Minor.  Dating this serial is practically impossible, and most of my sources don’t even try.  However, it bears some resemblance to the Galactic Federation period I have previously mentioned, following the end of the Earth Empire, which would place it anytime after about the 41st century.  The Doctor and Jo find themselves trapped in a miniscope, a sort of technological peepshow device with the ability to miniaturize its contents and inhabitants.  It isn’t spelled out, but some sort of time travel is involved, as the creatures and individuals in the miniscope are pulled from various time periods.  Interestingly, one chamber of the miniscope contains a Cyberman, possibly more than one; this is their only actual appearance in the Third Doctor era (though they appear in reference a few times).  In the course of escaping, the Doctor reveals that the sonic screwdriver can’t open non-electronic locks, an oversight that is later corrected.  He also first mentions the planet Metebelis III, travel to which will become a running theme for the rest of his tenure.  I had seen this serial before, and found it to be entertaining, but light.

frontier in space

The travels continue in Frontier in Space.  This six-episode serial is paired with the next, creating a twelve-episode arc.  It’s noteworthy for being the final appearance of Roger Delgado as the Master; though scheduled to make another appearance, sadly Delgado would die in a vehicle accident a few months later.  Interestingly, had he not died, his character might have been eliminated; he had contracted to be written out in his next appearance.  His death changed that, and the character was later brought back for the first of many experiences in The Deadly Assassin.  To this day, his portrayal of the Master is considered by many fans to be the definitive version, and he is fondly remembered.

The Master final appearance

RIP Roger Delgado

 

The Master is seen to be employing a group of Ogrons to disrupt relations between Earth and Draconia (the frontier in the title is the “neutral zone” between those two powers) in the year 2450. (For once we can be precise, as the year is seen onscreen in a display of time coordinates.)  He nearly succeeds; but it is not until near the end of the serial that his true masters in this venture are revealed:  the Daleks.  It’s a complex setup for this era of the show; and though it isn’t stated, I find it likely that the Time Lords influenced the Doctor’s arrival at this place and time, for the purpose of defusing the situation.

third doctor sonic.jpg

New sonic and TARDIS key.

 

Noteworthy in this story: A new sonic screwdriver, more utilitarian than the last, is introduced, and will be used until its destruction under the Fifth Doctor.  It can’t remove bolts, another oversight that will later be corrected (and indeed, contradicts what we’ve seen in The Underwater Menace).  The Doctor references a previous trip to Draconia, but that trip has not been seen onscreen.  He is shot in the head by the Master before the end of the serial, but survives without regeneration; he will begin the next serial still wounded.  The scene of the Master, having imprisoned the Doctor, relaxing while reading The War of the Worlds gets a small echo in the 1996 movie,  when the Doctor, having charge of the Master’s remains, relaxes and reads The Time Machine. The Master escapes at the end, but we don’t know to where; it will be some time before we see him again.

planet of the daleks 1

Old friends and enemies.

 

Planet of the Daleks picks up immediately.  Injured, the Doctor manages to send a telepathic signal to the Time Lords before falling into a healing coma; they assume control of the TARDIS from afar and direct it to the planet Spiridon in the same time period.  Later, the Doctor will reveal that he pointed the Time Lords to that world, having become aware that the Daleks are staging there for a conquest.  While the Doctor rests, Jo exits the TARDIS to explore, and is infected by a Spiridonian illness, then captured.

Invisible_Dalek

Invisible Daleks?!

 

In another sense, this story serves as a sequel to the first appearance of the Daleks, season one’s The Daleks.  The Daleks’ ancestral enemy, the Thals, make their first appearance since that story; having advanced technologically, they have followed the Daleks to Spiridon in an attempt to stop them.  The native population, though subjugated by the Daleks, are also involved, and seeking their freedom.  They have something valuable to the Daleks:  invisibility technology.  (Fortunately, the Daleks seem to have lost the technology in their defeat here, as it never resurfaces.)  The Daleks have also developed gravity disks that allow them to hover; this technology will later be incorporated into their casings.  Despite the obvious advances, there is evidence that this story is still fairly early in Dalek history; they do not appear to possess time travel, and their alleged “largest army in history” is only ten thousand units.

planet-of-the-daleks-3

There are a lot of parallels between this story and The Daleks, which should come as no surprise, as this is Terry Nation’s first contribution to the series in several years.  As well, given that the Third Doctor era served as a soft reboot of the series, this serial does the same for the Daleks (their previous appearance, Day of the Daleks, was regarded by cast and crew as something of a disappointment).  Here, we also get a hint that Jo may be leaving soon, as she tells the Doctor rather sadly that the only planet she wants to see is Earth.

Green Death

We wrap up with The Green Death, thus bookending the season with UNIT stories.  The Doctor and Jo return to Earth and deal with an environmental crisis at the Welsh town of Llanfairfach; hear, a coal mine-turned-petroleum plant has been dumping chemicals which are toxic to humans, and which also produce large, mutated maggots.  There are strong environmentalist themes here; Jo even falls for an environmentalist scientist, Cliff Jones, whom she will marry.  As such, she decides to leave both the Doctor and UNIT.  Meanwhile, the Doctor at last travels—alone—to Metebelis III, and brings back a blue crystal which will later be the source of much grief.  The villain here is another supercomputer with megalomania, similar to WOTAN in The War Machines, and with similar aspirations; this computer, called BOSS, later brainwashes Mike Yates of UNIT, causing ongoing disaster that will not be resolved until next season.  For a laugh, we get to see the Doctor in drag, a la Mrs. Doubtfire, if less convincingly.

green death 1

Goodbye, Jo.

 

It’s a quiet ending to a busy season, both for the audience and for the Doctor, as Jo’s exit leaves him saddened. I imagine that audiences at the time must have wondered what would become of the Doctor; after all, Jo was one of the few threads binding him to Earth.  We’ll find out next season.  See you there.

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

The Three Doctors (for episode 4, click here)

Carnival of Monsters

Frontier in Space

Planet of the Daleks (episode 1; for episodes 2-6, click here)

The Green Death

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

Down To Earth: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Seven

The Doctor is back, and here to stay, in season seven of Classic Doctor Who!  This season, and this rewatch, are short, at only four serials.  Let’s get to it!

Dr Who: Spearhead From Space

New year, new decade, new crew, new Who

 

The season opens with Spearhead from Space, one of the more well-known serials in Doctor Who history.  Making the leap from the 1960s to the ‘70s, and from black and white to color, it served as a soft reboot to the series, a good jumping-on point for new fans as well as a change of pace for those who had been with the show from the beginning.  I, of course, wasn’t there at the time, but even today, it amazes me how much difference in my perceptions a little color makes; this serial was filmed and released just months after the final Second Doctor serial, but to me it looks and feels SO MUCH different, so much newer.

Doctor Who the seventies

The Seventies were a weird time, what can I say

 

This episode and the next several—up until Season 10’s The Three Doctors—all occur in basically chronological order, and contemporary with their broadcasts, courtesy of the Doctor’s exile by the Time Lords to Earth.  Pinning down exact dates is a little harder, but at the same time, not really necessary.  Sometimes suggested dates vary more than I think is appropriate, and I may mention those discrepancies from time to time; but I’ll mostly leave the dates unaddressed for the next few seasons, as they can be assumed to be in their broadcast years.

Autons 1

Say what you like, but the Autons were menacing.

 

Spearhead introduces another familiar and popular Who villain:  The Nestene Consciousness (just called Nestene here, without the “consciousness”), and its servants the Autons. These plastic constructs will be faced more than once in this era, and again by the Ninth Doctor in his first appearance, and by the Eleventh Doctor at the Pandorica.  I personally find these early Autons to be far more menacing than their later appearances, though the Consciousness itself seems more bestial.  On the other side, the Brigadier and UNIT return, beginning a long run of regular appearances, and bringing with it new companion Liz Shaw, one of my favorites.  She’s not a companion in the standard sense, as she never gets to travel in (or even enter) the TARDIS, but she’s the equivalent for this stranded era.  I prefer her to her eventual replacement, Jo Grant; she was more than a match for the Doctor in a day when that kind of pairing was unheard of.

pertwee

The face says it all.  But I’m still going to go on for a thousand more words.

 

The Doctor himself is a new man again, and not entirely pleased with this version of himself. He becomes a UNIT employee (or more likely, contractor) here, a position he never really gives up, as Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor comments in The Day of the Doctor.  If Smith owes much to Patrick Troughton, I submit that Peter Capaldi, the Twelfth Doctor, owes as much to John Pertwee, from his clothes to his appearance to his “attack eyebrows”—there’s even a joke here about Pertwee using his eyebrows to communicate!  It’s an homage that is fine by me, as you could do far worse than imitation here.  He’s noted for the first time to have two hearts; also, edgy for the seventies, he has a tattoo!  The question-mark tattoo on his forearm is suggested to have been placed by the Time Lords to mark his criminal status.  A final note, that didn’t seem to fit elsewhere, but is worth mentioning:  The TARDIS key is seen to be biometric, apparently replacing the 21-position lock mechanism first mentioned by Susan.  It’s not a perfect system, but will be revisited often.

Doctor Who and the Silurians

Homo Reptilia (the most incorrect name ever), aka the Silurians (also incorrect, but who’s counting)

 

Still more new and later-recurring enemies arise (literally!) in Doctor Who and the Silurians.  It’s the only serial to ever include “Doctor Who” in the title, and that was by error; a miscommunication among the production staff caused it to be retained from the script to the screen. The titular Silurians appear for the first time here, and will reappear a few more times in both old and new series before becoming a fixture in the person of Madame Vastra in Series (not Season) Seven.  These early Silurians look much more piscine than their anthropomorphic NuWho counterparts, but I feel like that can be handwaved by the idea of racial variations within their species (note that the faces seen here appear to be their actual faces, not the masks sometimes worn in NuWho).  The series must necessarily take place over the course of several days, perhaps a week, though it’s a little hard to tell from the editing of the episodes.

bessie1

Hello, Bessie!

 

Another Classic Who icon appears here for the first time: Bessie, the Doctor’s yellow roadster.  The fact that the Doctor is trapped on Earth can’t slow him down; the car is a staple of the Third Doctor Era.  I’d like to see it make a reappearance in NuWho, just for nostalgia’s sake.

old and new silurians

Silurians, past and present

 

I felt that much of the Series 5 Silurian story The Hungry Earth/In Cold Blood mirrors this serial, whether intentionally or not.  You have human subterranean activity awakening the Silurians from their long sleep, causing them to come to the surface; a Silurian gets injured and captured by a human; a younger Silurian advocates conquest or reclamation of the Earth, while an older Silurian recommends a peaceful solution.  (The primary difference, of course, is that in this version, the Silurians are destroyed at the end, creating the first crack of disagreement between the Brigadier and the Doctor.)  It’s a good plot, but it was odd to realize how much had been done before.

TARDIS console

The heart of the ship, without the ship

 

It seems that keeping the Doctor Earthbound was more restrictive than the writing staff imagined, because it doesn’t take long for him to return to space (sans TARDIS) in The Ambassadors of Death.  The serial gives us an accelerated version of the early space era; despite being in the early ‘70s, there are manned missions to Mars in progress.  It’s not a continuity problem here, but it becomes a bit of one in NuWho’s Day of the Moon, which establishes the 1969 moon landing as canon.  This story introduces the idea that the TARDIS console can be removed and function independently of the rest of the ship, which—in addition to the upcoming serials—will figure prominently in the Eleventh Doctor story The Doctor’s Wife, where the Doctor is forced to construct a partial TARDIS.  It gives the lie to the Doctor’s past statements that the console houses the power source, as it will soon be seen to need external power.  (Or maybe not?  It’s possible the Time Lords simply disconnected the ship’s power, or its link to the not-yet-established Eye of Harmony.  There’s just not enough evidence to tell yet.)

spacesuit

Can’t you just see a shadowy skull in that?!

 

This story is a so-far-unusual one for Doctor Who, a story of captured-but-well-meaning aliens who are then exploited. The concept will be revisited often in the future.  The spacesuits worn by the aliens were very reminiscent of the ones inhabited by the Vashta Nerada in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.  This is probably Liz Shaw’s weakest appearance; she comes across as something of a pushover here.  Very disappointing when put against her usual image. One more interesting note:  The serial used a new “split” introduction, with a short teaser of plot (and I mean short, just seconds long) between two parts of the opening.  It remains to be seen whether that will be repeated; it certainly doesn’t appear again this season.

Inferno earth

Same faces, different lives–the Doctor with Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart and Section Leader Liz Shaw of “Inferno Earth”

 

I’m a sucker for parallel-universe stories, and we get our first in season finale Inferno.  The Doctor travels to a parallel Earth’s Republic of Great Britain, but not the same one as later visited by the Tenth Doctor, given that this one is destroyed in a volcanic cataclysm at the end.  It reminded me of the Stargate SG-1 episode There But For The Grace of God, in that it requires the combining of efforts—and the sacrifice of team members—to get the misplaced person home so he can prevent the same tragedy in his own world.  The framing story is nothing new:  People becoming transformed (in this case into feral “Primords”, prehistoric semi-human creatures) by a dangerous environmental factor, in this case dredged up at a mantle-drilling project.  The Doctor, once transported to the alternate world, sees the outcome if the project isn’t stopped, and must save his own world from the same fate.  Along the way, we get to see Liz use the redesigned Sonic Screwdriver—small consolation for what proves to be her final appearance, but it’s something.  (Unfortunately there’s no closeup of the new prop at this point.)

Liz using sonic screwdriver

Goodbye, Liz.  It’s been a pleasure. Uh, leave the screwdriver when you go, please.

 

In closing, I think it’s worth mentioning that the Doctor isn’t guaranteed to be the same man we know him to be. Like anyone, he has choices to make, and those choices could make him a very different person.  It’s been noted that the Leader of the Republic of Great Britain—seen only in a photo—is one of the faces offered to the Doctor by the Time Lords at his regeneration.  Some novels have established that in fact, the Leader IS the Doctor, or rather, his counterpart in that universe.  If so, I think it gives us a point of deviation between that universe and ours; we can guess that after choosing that face, the Time Lords sent the Doctor back to a point somewhat earlier, where, in the absence of UNIT’s lucky presence (in Spearhead from Space), he reacted quite differently, and took actions that led to the establishing of the Republic and himself as its leader.  Interestingly, it’s not really established that this world is “evil” or dark (like the Mirror Universe in Star Trek), though it is seen to be more martial and severe.  The Doctor is simply unable to save it.

Leader

The Leader and the Brigade Leader

 

Next time: Enter the Master!  See you there.

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

Spearhead From Space

Doctor Who And The Silurians

The Ambassadors Of Death

Inferno