Timestamp #164: The Unquiet Dead

Doctor Who: The Unquiet Dead
(1 episode, s01e03, 2005)

 

An undead Christmas carol, being a quest for redemption stymied by a bait and switch.

In the Sneed and Company funeral parlor, Mr. Redpath grieves over the casket of his grandmother. He takes a moment alone, leaving him open to attack as the corpse reanimates with a blue glow and snaps the man’s neck. The undertaker rushes in but cannot stop the undead from walking into the snowy night and wailing. Sneed summons his servant girl, Gwyneth, and makes a plan to deal with the walking dead.

Meanwhile, while hurtling through time and space, the TARDIS shimmies as the Doctor and Rose try to pilot the capsule to Naples, 1860. The TARDIS materializes and Rose gets a wardrobe change – avoiding a riot over her modern clothing – before taking part in Christmas. The Doctor calls her beautiful in her new attire, all things considered: She is human after all, and not particularly attractive to this incarnation.

Gwyneth uses her clairvoyant abilities to track the corpse to her last living desire, which was to see a Charles Dickens reading. At the theater, despite being jaded and weary, Dickens still decides to put on the reading of A Christmas Carol. His performance is interrupted by the zombie, and the screams attract the Doctor. The blue glow exits the corpse, leaving it to fall lifeless as the gas screams and swoops into a nearby lantern. Rose, however, is kidnapped by the undertaker as Sneed and Gwyneth recover the body, and the Doctor gives chase – with considerable fanboy charm – alongside Dickens in the writer’s carriage.

Rose awakens in the funeral parlor, as do more corpses with the blue gas from a nearby flame. The Doctor and Dickens arrive, determine that something is living in the gas pipes, and rescue Rose from the dead. The Doctor interviews the corpses and reveals that they are dying because the Rift is failing. The vapors are released and the corpses are lifeless once more.

The Rift, eh?

Moments later, the Doctor and Dickens interrogate Sneed as Gwyneth uses her powers to pour perfect cups of tea. The Rift is a growing crack in spacetime and the entities have traveled from across the universe. Dickens investigates the corpses and the Doctor fills in the gaps: When a body decomposes, it releases gas and leaves space for these gaseous beings to inhabit. Dickens is dismayed that his view of the world is wrong, but the Doctor assures him that it’s just limited and expanding by the minute.

Rose makes friends with Gwyneth over their similar occupations and upbringings, but Gwyneth sees the full scope of Rose’s past/future in her mind. Gwyneth exposes her clairvoyance to Rose – she mentions the Bad Wolf – and the Doctor surmises that her power is growing due to the expanding Rift. Gwyneth is the key, and the Doctor suggests a séance.

Surrounded by the key players (including a skeptical Dickens) Gwyneth summons the creatures. They descend on the round table, identifying themselves as the Gelth, a species whose bodies were destroyed in the Last Great Time War. They want to take over corpses to live again, and want to use the power of the Rift to let them through to Cardiff. Rose is repulsed by the idea, but the Doctor (quite aggressively) wants to help. Gwyneth stands up for herself and tips the scale, eager to assist the Gelth.

Rose is sure that the plan will fail because the dead aren’t walking in the future, but the Doctor reminds her that time is constantly in flux. Gwyneth channels her powers and opens the Rift, but the Gelth have tricked everyone by hiding their true numbers. As billions of Gelth swarm through the Rift, Sneed is killed and converted, and the march begins to destroy humanity and live in their corpses.

Dickens flees the funeral parlor as Rose and the Doctor are trapped in a corner. The Doctor apologizes to Rose for her pending death, but Rose is willing to accept it because she wanted to come. They choose to go down fighting, but are rescued by Dickens who snuffs the lanterns but leaves the gas running. The natural gas displaces the Gelth and forces them out of the corpses, leaving the Doctor open to convince Gwyneth to send them back. Unfortunately, she cannot, but she can hold them long enough to burn them as she strikes a match and ignites the gas. The Doctor mourns her sacrifice, another victim in the Time War, with two words: I’m sorry.

The Doctor explains that Gwyneth was dead from the moment she stepped into the arch. Rose doesn’t understand, but Dickens does via Shakespeare: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Rose realizes that a mere servant girl, someone with no more power than she, has just anonymously saved the world.

As the Doctor and Rose prepare to leave, a newly rejuvenated Dickens lays out his plans for family and the future, plotting to warn the world through his works, which the Doctor assures him will last forever. Dickens watches in wonder as the TARDIS dematerializes, then walks the streets with a wish for the world of a merry Christmas.

 

The theme of the damaged and haunted Doctor continues here with his drive to make things right after (presumably) destroying his entire species. Here, he even goes against his companion to “save” the Gelth because they’re victims of the Time War and he feels personally responsible for their supposed genocide. The great part is that he learns from this mistake; there is no easy route to absolution, and in his emotionally-clouded desperation, the Doctor is prone to being fooled.

Rose continues to be the gateway to his redemption as she sees that Gwyneth, a servant girl who is realistically no different than her, can save the world. One person can make a difference no matter who they are, and the Doctor seems inspired (though saddened) by this revelation.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Aliens of London and Doctor Who: World War Three

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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Timestamp #163: The End of the World

Doctor Who: The End of the World
(1 episode, s01e02, 2005)

 

A trip to the end of the Earth is the gateway to a Time Lord’s scarred psyche.

Picking up immediately after the thwarted Nestene invasion, Rose and the Doctor determine where to go for their first trip together. The 22nd Century? Nah, that’s too boring. The New Roman Empire in the year 12005? Rose gives that a pass. A space station orbiting Earth five billion years in Rose’s future, the very day when the Earth dies after a solar expansion? That’s the ticket to adventure!

Rose is forlorn at the death of her homeworld, but the planet has long since been empty and in the possession of the National Trust as a sort of amusement for the rich and powerful. The travelers are confronted by one of the station’s stewards, and the Doctor uses his psychic paper to pose as a formal invitation to the proceedings. They are soon joined by the Moxx of Balhoon, the Face of Boe, living humanoid trees from the Forest of Cheem, and Adherents of the Repeated Meme. They are also joined the last remaining human, the Lady Cassandra O’Brien, a piece of stretched skin on a frame.

The guests exchange gifts, and Lady Cassandra offers the last ostrich egg and a jukebox (which she calls an iPod before playing “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell). The events are overwhelming for Rose and she flees from the gathering. Meanwhile, the silver spheres brought by the Adherents of the Repeated Meme hatch into mechanical spiders and the humanoid trees determine the truth about the Doctor’s origins.

Rose has a conversation with a station worker which illuminates her position so far from home with a stranger. When she leaves, the spiders attack the worker as they swarm through the station’s system, and Rose finds her way to an observation room. The Doctor offers a friendly ear as she talks through the overwhelming events. She also confronts him over the TARDIS and the translation matrix being in her brain without consent, and demands to know who he truly is. The Doctor stares at the viewport with the look of a haunted military veteran. As Rose pulls out her cell phone, he changes the topic by adjusting it so she can call home across time and space. She phones her mother, but the moment is disrupted by a tremor in the station. Moments later, the station’s steward is killed by the spiders.

The Doctor and Rose investigate the disruption, but Rose leaves as Jabe – the leader of the delegation from the Forest of Cheem – joins the Doctor in the maintenance corridors. Rose, in the meantime, speaks to Cassandra, but is disgusted by the portable face’s racist rhetoric. Rose declares herself as the last true human, insulting the Lady. As she storms off, the Adherents find her and knock her out.

Jabe talks with the Doctor, offering her condolences over his situation as the last of the Time Lords. He is visibly moved before he opens the ventilation system and (with Jabe’s help) captures a spider. As the Earth nears death, Lady Cassandra spins up “Toxic” by Britney Spears on the jukebox. Rose wakes up in the observation room with a lowering window filter, exposing her to the lethal rays of the sun. The Doctor finds her and eventually overrides the filter, but the door is jammed.

The Doctor and Jabe rejoin the assembled guests, and the Doctor uses the spider to trace the invasion to the Adherents. The Doctor discovers that the Adherents are merely remote controlled robots, and that the true villain is Lady Cassandra. She’s seeking the ransom on the assembled guests to fund her cosmetic operations, and the ransom can be paid whether they are alive or dead. Cassandra transmats away and the Doctor springs into action. He and Jabe return to the ventilation room, and the living tree sacrifices herself so that the Doctor reset the system.

Several of the guests died before the shields could be restored, but the station is able to defend itself just before the Earth is consumed. Rose is freed from her captivity as the station begins automatic repairs, and the Doctor pays his condolences to the Forest delegates. A furious Doctor finds Cassandra’s transmat device and brings her back to the observation room. He confronts the skin piece, and despite Rose’s requests for mercy, he watches coldly as she dries out and explodes.

Later, Rose watches through the window and muses that no one cared about the Earth’s death. The Doctor takes her home, telling her that people think things will last forever, but of course they won’t. He then tells her about being the last of the Time Lords, a man who watched his planet burn away in war. Rose offers companionship and to buy him chips.

 

This story, after hinting at the destruction of Gallifrey, really highlights the Ninth Doctor’s position as a haunted war veteran who is trying to reconcile what he did with who he is at heart. He shares a seat with Rose and listens to her concerns, but later shows no mercy in allowing someone who hurt innocents to die at their own hand. This Doctor is a troubled incarnation, and watching this hero work through his demons while still trying to do good, almost seeking redemption for his sins, is amazing.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Unquiet Dead

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #162: Rose

Doctor Who: Rose
(1 episode, s01e01, 2005)

 

Doctor Who evolves again.

The beginning of the Third Doctor’s era in 1970 was a major turning point for the franchise, signaling a shift in production (black and white to color) and tone (cerebral plots to more action-driven stories). It happened again to a smaller degree in 1982 as the Fifth Doctor literally unraveled his predecessor’s scarf and tied off the loose ends in a trilogy of Master stories. In 1996, the television movie signaled another paradigm shift after a seven year hiatus, and nine years later Doctor Who did again upon starting up in the twenty-first century.

This story and era starts with the global view, zooming in on the hectic life of Rose Tyler, a young woman who works at Henrik’s department store. She goes to work, has lunch with her boyfriend Mickey Smith, and almost leaves the store with the lottery money. She takes it to Chief Electrician Wilson’s office, but instead of completing her task, she finds an empty office, an army of mobile mannequins, and a strange man named the Doctor.

Together, the Ninth Doctor and Rose run from the Autons – it’s been, what, thirty-four years since we saw them last? –  and Rose is pushed out of the store as the Doctor detonates a bomb that destroys the upper floor of the building. Rose returns home, not noticing the rickety blue police box across the street and trying to avoid the hovering affections of Mickey and her mother Jackie. Mickey leaves with a mannequin arm that came from the store as Rose goes to bed.

The next morning, Rose is visited by the Doctor, who has been tracing a plastic signal. The Time Lord is unfazed by Jackie’s flirtations, and he’s impressed by his face, presumably the first time he’s seen it since regeneration. He and Rose are attacked by the mannequin hand (which crawled back to the Tyler residence) and immediately leave; the Doctor is intent on solving the mystery and Rose is intent on understanding what’s going on.

The Doctor leaves Rose outside his TARDIS, and as she walks away she sees the capsule dematerialize. She goes to Mickey’s place and searches the internet for any sign of the Doctor. She stumbles onto a website dedicated to the mystery of the Time Lord, run by a man named Clive. She and Mickey drive to Clive’s home and Rose learns about how the same man appears throughout time. The Doctor is a legend woven throughout history, and when disaster comes, he’s there with the storm of death behind him.

Outside, Mickey encounters a moving trash bin that replaces him with a plastic duplicate. When Rose returns, the pair goes to lunch. Auton-Mickey interrogates Rose about the Doctor, and the Time Lord arrives just in time to save her from the doppelganger’s rampage. The Doctor enters the TARDIS, and Rose joins him moments later after processing her “bigger on the inside” moment.

The TARDIS is gorgeous, reflecting a coral pattern in the console room. Rose learns about the Doctor as the Time Lord connects the Auton’s head to the console in an attempt to trace the signal. The TARDIS moves to the edge of the River Thames, shocking Rose even further, but her confusion turns to anger over the Doctor’s dismissal of the real Mickey’s fate. The pair try to trace the transmitter for the Nestene Consciousness, the controlling source of the Autons, and Rose narrows it down to the London Eye. They descend underground with a vial of anti-plastic to end the threat.

They enter the Nestene base where the Doctor confronts the Consciousness. Rose leaves the Doctor when she sees the real Mickey, who was kept alive to maintain the copy. The Doctor challenges the Consciousness under something called the Shadow Accords, trying to reason with it when he is captured by two mannequins. The Consciousness detects the TARDIS, a superior technology, and confront the Doctor over the death of Gallifrey in the Time War. It begins the invasion ahead of schedule.

In the Queen’s Arcade mall, the people are terrorized by rampaging mannequins. Jackie is chased, Clive is killed, and the streets are overrun. Underground, Rose and Mickey run for the TARDIS but are locked out. Rose comes to the Doctor’s rescue, attacking the Autons and knocking the anti-plastic into the Consciousness. The transmission stops, sending the Autons into confusion as the base explodes. Rose, Mickey, and the Doctor escape in the TARDIS as the Consciousness is apparently destroyed.

When the TARDIS lands, Mickey runs in confusion and fear. The Doctor invites Rose to travel with him – Mickey is too afraid of the alien – but she turns him down. Rose watches as the TARDIS dematerializes, but as she and Mickey walk away, the Doctor returns to tell her that it’s also a time machine. That wins her over: She kisses Mickey goodbye and runs for the TARDIS.

 

The show has changed, and just like with the Seventh Series, it was necessary for survival. Production values jumped, plot structures shifted, and episode lengths shortened, but the mythology is still the same. The franchise also adapted to modern technology, bringing the internet and mobile phones to bear when they haven’t really been addressed to date.

As a companion, Rose Tyler fulfills her role of gateway to the world of the Doctor. The Ninth Doctor himself offers a view into the world of a weary war veteran who is worn and nearly broken from the horrors he’s witnessed (or even taken part in personally).

There’s a lot of potential from this point forward, and this is a strong showing that hardly needs the regeneration handicap to score well.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The End of the World

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp Special #11: Shada (Eighth Doctor)

Doctor Who: Shada (Eighth Doctor)
(6 episodes, 2003)

 

A new look on a once unfinished classic.

The story opens on Gallifrey with the Eighth Doctor paying a visit to Romana and K9. Romana has been elected Lord President and has not regenerated since taking her second incarnation, and the Doctor has intentionally breached the transduction barriers to steal his former companion away for an adventure from their past. He talks of their travels together four of his regenerations ago – collecting the Key to Time, defacing da Vinci’s artwork, and punting on the River Cam – and Romana mentions their bout in stasis during their trip to Cambridge. It seems that neither Romana nor K9 remember the visit to Professor Chronotis, and together they believe that they landed in Cambridge, sailed the river, were put in stasis, and then immediately set course for Brighton.

It was only because of a vision… a dream… that the Doctor even thought of this point in his history, and now he wants answers.

Across the universe, the Institute for Advanced Scientific Studies drifts through space under quarantine. The station has suffered an accident, and scientists Skagra and Caldera discuss the situation and a familiar sphere. Skagra demonstrates the sphere’s ability to consume minds, much to Caldera’s horror.

On Earth, Chris Parsons visits Professor Chronotis (who is housing the TARDIS in his office) to borrow books on carbon dating. Parsons picks up a book with mysterious writing, gathers the carbon dating references, and departs in a hurry. Chris travels to his lab to meet a woman named Claire, and when he analyzes it, he calls Claire right away to seek her advice.

Elsewhere, the Doctor and Romana wander the university’s grounds on their way to the professor’s office. Romana hears a babbling of voices as Skagra and his sphere lurk in the shadows. They also meet Mr. Wilkin, who still remembers the Doctor and the honorary degree in 1960. Wilkin remembers the Doctor’s three visits (1964, 1960, and 1955), but has no recollection of the fourth visit thanks to the events of The Five Doctors. The Time Lords arrive in Chronotis’s office, and this time it is no surprise that the professor is also a Time Lord. The Doctor tells the professor that they came at his summons, but the professor says that he didn’t send the signal. After a little prodding, the professor remembers that he summoned the Time Lords to help find the missing book.

Skagra, having spoken to Wilkin, follows his previous actions: He hitches a ride with a stranger (in a Ford Prefect in honor of Shada writer Douglas Adams), assaults the stranger with the sphere, and steals the car. The event echoes to our Time Lord trio as they hear voices.

The professor explains that the missing book is The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey, dating from the era of Rassilon. The Doctor is beside himself: The book is one of the powerful artifacts, and the professor stole it from the Panopticon Archives upon his retirement. As Time Lords past and present continue to search the professor’s library, Skagra absorbs massive amounts of data about the Doctor, continuing the same path as before.

Skagra’s ship is beautiful in this incarnation, and he’s not wearing the sun hat and flowing silver cape from 1979-80 which is a plus. Also, despite it being pompous, I did like the expanded mythology of the Time Lord Academy and their induction oath: “I swear to protect the ancient Law of Gallifrey with all my might and brain. I will to the end of my days, with justice and with honor, temper my actions and my thoughts.”

Carrying on, the Doctor and Romana briefly discuss Salyavin, a Gallifreyan criminal and one of the Doctor’s heroes. When the Doctor asks Chronotis about Salyavin, the professor scrounges up Chris Parsons’s identity from his spotty memory. The Doctor goes to find Parsons while Romana stays with the professor.

In the laboratory, Claire (who no longer resembles Sarah Jane like she did in the original Shada) and Chris are analyzing the book. As they puzzle over it, Skagra returns to Cambridge and pesters Wilkin for directions to the professor’s office. The professor runs out of milk (after brewing his tenth pot of tea), and as Romana looks in the TARDIS for some, Skagra arrives in contemporary clothes and demands the book. When Chronotis refuses to yield, Skagra’s sphere attacks.

Chris returns to the professor’s office as Romana and K9 (after a brief discussion of milk in the console room) examine Chronotis. The professor has had part of his mind extracted, resulting in severe mental trauma. Romana sends Chris into the TARDIS for a medical kit while she tends to the professor, placing him on life support with the kit Chris retrieves.

After the Doctor arrives at the lab, he and Claire analyze the book and determine that it is 20,000 years old. Meanwhile, in his ship, Skagra analyzes the professor’s mental data. After it doesn’t pan out, he pursues the Doctor. In office, K9 and Romana tend to the professor. Sadly, he is in a vegetative state, but he does send a message in Gallifreyan morse code (via his heartsbeat) warning them of the spheres, Skagra, and Shada before dying.

Skagra intercepts the Doctor and the book. The Doctor is pursued through Cambridge by the sphere, losing the book in the chase. Skagra retrieves the book, but the Doctor is captured by the sphere and it starts to drain his mind. This version of the chase loses the situational humor and impact of the original version, which is just as well given the limited visual effects of the animation.

Romana arrives in the TARDIS and rescues the Doctor. They return to the professor’s offices just after the retired Time Lord disappears – no regeneration or anything, which makes the Doctor think that Chronotis was on his last life – and the Doctor vows vengeance. K9 scans for the sphere as the Time Lords and Chris wait in the TARDIS.

Claire heads to the professor’s offices with a printout just as the TARDIS dematerializes in pursuit of the sphere. The capsule arrives in the field where Skagra’s ship is located – K9 is displeased about navigating the pasture – and Skagra welcomes the group aboard before taking them prisoner. Skagra reveals that he was only interested in the professor’s mind, not his life, and he demands that the Doctor decode the book. When the Doctor stalls and delays, the sphere attacks him. In their cell, Romana, K9, and Chris look for a way out. They can find nothing, and K9 cannot blast out. The robotic dog does detect the voices, including a new addition in the Doctor’s voice. Romana is transmatted from the cell and forced by Skagra to pilot the TARDIS.

Claire, in search of the professor, finds Wilkin and explains that the book is absorbing energy. She returns to the office while Wilkin looks for Chronotis, and as she looks about, she inadvertently sets off an explosion that results in a time vortex filling the space.

The Doctor awakens on the ship and reveals to the vessel’s computer that since he was playing dumb, the sphere only copied his mind. He convinces the ship that he is dead to secure freedom for him and his companions, and it replies by shutting off the air supply.  When Chris and K9 are transmatted into the corridor, the ship promptly restores life support. Just as it was in the original, this moment was a cheap cliffhanger.

Following the original story closely, the TARDIS travels and Skagra reveals that he is after the criminal Salyavin. Thus, he needs Time Lord technology to find him. They materialize on the Krarg carrier ship, and Romana discovers that only a Time Lord can decipher the book. Back on Earth, the Doctor pilots Skagra’s ship into space, setting the course for Think Tank, and it dematerializes just like a TARDIS as he boosts the power. There’s also a Krarg on the ship.

Claire awakens inside the professor’s office to discover Professor Chronotis. The office is a TARDIS, Claire has activated it, and the capsule restored him in the accidental temporal convergence. Oh, and the book… yeah, the book is revealed to be the key to Shada, a Time Lord prison.

Back on the carrier, Skagra plows through the Doctor’s memories but is unable to crack the code. As the Doctor’s ship arrives at the Think Tank, he and Chris board the ship while K9 holds the Krarg at bay. On the carrier, Skagra and Romana retreat to the Doctor’s TARDIS. As Skagra turns the pages and continues his study, the TARDIS operates, and he deduces that turning the last page will unlock the code.

The Doctor and Chris discover the aged members of the Think Tank, and the Doctor connects Chris to the machine. This restores the Think Tank members, and the lead scientist, Caldera, explains the group’s history with Skagra. The evil scientist intends to use his intellect to dominate humanity by merging everything into himself, but needs Salyavin to do so. The Doctor is interrupted by K9, who has no choice but to release the Krarg, and the crystalline creature attacks the group. In the process it destroys the central computer column. In the smoke, the Doctor, K9, and Chris escape to Skagra’s ship and escape just in time. Sadly, the Think Tank members die as their ship explodes. The Doctor feels guilty, but K9 assuages him by reporting that only the Doctor and Chris were still alive when the Krarg attacked.

The professor’s TARDIS is wedged between two irrational time interfaces, and Chronotis and Claire attempt to fix the capsule (with a sonic screwdriver!). The retired Time Lord telepathically focuses on Claire’s mind and transfers his knowledge into her. Meanwhile, Skagra’s ship arrives at the carrier, and in the attempt to rescue Romana, the Doctor, Chris, and K9 end up inside the professor’s newly repaired TARDIS. While everyone catches up, Skagra pilots the Doctor’s TARDIS to Shada using the book and start searching for Salyavin. The Doctor and Chronotis soon follow in the professor’s TARDIS, and when they arrive, they leave Chris and Claire in the time capsule while they search for Skagra.

Skagra starts the revival process in the prison, but Salyavin’s not there. The other two Time Lords arrive and Chronotis reveals that he is Salyavin. Chris and Claire come to the same conclusion and leave the TARDIS to confront him.

Skagra drains Salyavin’s mind, and not even K9 can slow it down. The sphere deposits fragments of all the minds it holds into the Krarg army, starting Skagra’s plan of the universal mind. The sphere attacks Chris and adds him to the collective. K9 builds a wall of ricocheting laser blasts, and the Doctor uses the distraction to escort Romana, Claire, and K9 to the professor’s TARDIS. As the Doctor attempts to find a solution, Romana reminds him that all of the captured minds are in the melting pot, including the Doctor’s.

Romana is wearing a TARDIS key around her neck like a choker. How interesting.

Skagra takes his legion to the Doctor’s TARDIS, preparing to dispatch them throughout the universe. The Doctor, Romana, and Claire use the professor’s TARDIS to generate a force field as they pursue Skagra, capturing the phone box in the time vortex. The Doctor attempts to pass across to his TARDIS, but the force field fades, threatening to toss the Doctor into the vortex. The professor’s TARDIS ends up a shambles, but the Doctor is dumped into his workshop. He formulates a plan, including a helmet with familiar markings and the Second Doctor‘s hat.

Both TARDISes arrive on the carrier ship as the Doctor struggles for control of the joint mind. The Krargs self-destruct, restoring Chris’s mind, and Romana teams with K9 to destroy the Krarg generators. Seeing that he has lost, Skagra retreats to his ship, but the computer incarcerates him after deciding to serve the Doctor. The heroes travel to Shada and restore Salyavin’s mind to his body. The Doctor tries to decide Salyavin’s fate, deducing that Salyavin covered his escape by erasing the memory of Shada from the collective Time Lord memory, including stealing the key. Romana uses her executive authority to sentence Salyavin to Earth, acting once again as Professor Chronotis.

The TARDISes return to Earth. The return of the professor’s offices stumps Wilkin, who has summoned a policeman to report the “stolen room,” as the professor entertains his guests to tea. The Doctor and Romana depart, stymieing the policeman as the TARDIS dematerializes.

 

My feelings on Shada in its entirety are complicated. When I first covered the story, I gave it a solid four out of five rating, calling it an enjoyable romp. Even here, the story remains solid, and it is only amplified  by including Paul McGann, bringing back K9, and advancing the story of Romana following her last appearance in E-Space. Romana’s story is even more special as she has finally surpassed her mentor in nearly every way.

But, while it’s entirely possible to do so, I have a hard time acknowledging it as part of the continuity. I would love to, but this makes the story of Shada so much more complicated than it needs to be. I mean, look at it on the real world timeline:

  • 1979-80 – Shada is intended to serve as the Season 17 finale, but a production strike stops the completion of the story.
  • 1983 – The Five Doctors premieres, in which each incarnation of the Doctor is pulled from (and replaced within) their respective timelines except the Fourth Doctor because Tom Baker didn’t want to participate. Using footage from the unfinished Shada, the Fourth Doctor and Romana are removed from the story during the river punting scene.
  • 1992 – Shada premieres, completed with narration by Tom Baker (sort of in character) over the missing segments. A reasonable viewer could conclude that the events of Shada took place regardless of The Five Doctors: The Doctor and Romana arrived in Cambridge, got abducted by President Borusa, were returned, and then completed the Skagra/Salyavin mission without a hitch.
  • 2003 – This version of Shada premieres. It acknowledges that the Fourth Doctor and Romana arrived in Cambridge, but after their abduction by Borusa, they immediately left Cambridge for Brighton. Presumably, since Skagra couldn’t get access to the Time Lords – assuming that he didn’t have the fortitude to invade Gallifrey and none of the other traveling Time Lords in Doctor Who mythology were available to be brain-sucked by the sphere – the ability to open Shada was lost and the threat was stopped. But, the Eighth Doctor found the hole in his memories and responded to the (what seems to be a fixed constant) call from Chronotis/Salyavin to find the Shada key and stop Skagra, so that means that the threat is still serious enough.

So, why not just stick with the assumption from 1992, especially considering that Shada was finally completed with animation in 2017?

To me, that makes this version an alternate telling of events.

The highlights were having more Paul McGann and furthering the Romana/K9 story. I was a bit put off by the animation and its limits, particularly in the chase sequences and some of the narrative shortcuts that were more powerful visual sequences in the original. Overall, though, it’s still a good tale.

 

With this post – excluding future revisits to Power of the Daleks, The Enemy of the World, The Web of Fear, and Shada thanks to their recovery and reconstruction – the Timestamps Project has covered the entirety of the classic era of Doctor Who. This leg of the journey has taken approximately four and a half years to complete, but the adventure is far from over.

It’s time to revisit the modern era with the understanding of the classic era in my mind.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Rose

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

Pop Culture Download: September 23, 2018

Pop Culture Download: September 23, 2018

 

(…and, really, since August 26. Let’s play catch-up!)

On the Docket

Veronica Mars is returning, this time to Hulu. – [TVLine]

CBS exec Les Moonves steps down after even more sexual assault allegations. – [New Yorker]

Burt Reynolds has died at the age of 82. – [THR]

Captain Marvel is on the cover of Entertainment Weekly… – [EW]

…with an interview… – [EW]

…and word that more female-centric Marvel films are coming… – [EW]

…and exclusive photographs/stills… – [EW]

…and a trailer! – [YouTube]

Star Trek: Discovery is bridging the first and second seasons with a project called Short Treks. – [StarTrek.com]

Disney CEO Bob Iger sat down with The Hollywood Reporter for a chat about Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and the Mouse House. – [THR]

Keith DeCandido continues the 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch: The Wolverine, LoganKick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2, and Iron Man. – [Tor]

Read More »

Timestamp Special #10: Scream of the Shalka

Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka
(6 episodes, 2003)

 

I wouldn’t trade Christopher Eccleston for the world, but this is an interesting case of what could have been for the Ninth Doctor.

After a rather upbeat opening sequence, the adventure begins a meteor strike near a volcano. Two nearby observers follow the meteor, their curiosity paid out with death. Elsewhere, the TARDIS materializes and a rather cross (and gothic) Ninth Doctor takes a look around. He’s there against his will and locked out of the TARDIS, so he has no choice but to explore.

He pops into local pub and meets Alison Cheney, a woman who is less scared than her peers to speak about whatever is going on in the area. The Doctor leaves, and Alison reassures someone in the shadows that they’re all being good. As the Doctor encounters a homeless woman and a lava statue, the Earth opens near Alison’s feet and swallows the TARDIS. Before the woman can shed any light on the mystery, a mysterious force kills her.

The Doctor is furious, and he tracks Alison to the home that she shares with her boyfriend Joe. The Time Lord questions her and discovers that the ground is the key. Alison shares what she knows while Joe denies everything: The aliens want the humans above ground to remain as quiet as possible. Within minutes, the floor bursts open and creatures scream into the room. The Doctor reflects the screams back at the creature, using the sound as a diversionary weapon to stage an escape. In a storage closet nearby, they improvise an explosion that destroys two of the creatures and stops the rumbling underground.

The Doctor attempts to leave, but his TARDIS is still missing, so he calls in UNIT. The Doctor explains that the creatures seem to be interested in the special volcanic rock and provides the UNIT commander with a map in exchange for their help in retrieving the TARDIS. They all descend into the caves, and the Doctor separates himself from the UNIT detachment to find the aliens without military interference.

Underground, the aliens attempt to take the TARDIS by force, but they find the Master standing at the console and are soon ejected from the capsule. So, they take another approach: They kidnap Alison. The Doctor arrives shortly thereafter and encounters Prime, war chief of the Shalka confederacy and leader of the aliens. Prime considers the humans to be primitive and subject to domination, and she calls the Doctor on his ploy to act dumb by taking advantage of his attachment to humanity, tipping his hand and forcing him to comply.

He leads Prime into the TARDIS and deactivates the Master, who turns out to be nothing more than an android security system almost like Antimony. Prime sees the Doctor as a primitive and kicks him out of the TARDIS, leading to a touching one-on-one between the Time Lord and Alison. Later, Prime forces the Doctor into a space-time wormhole (converted to a black hole for waste removal) that they have created. As he plummets into it, he uses his mobile phone to summon the TARDIS and eject the Shalka, who have since reactivated the Master-bot. Meanwhile, the Shalka have (mysteriously) returned Alison to the surface, but with a wound on her forehead and severe headache.

The Doctor overrides the Master-bot, whom he has programmed to always leave the Doctor’s young, human female friends behind, and materializes the TARDIS in the UNIT commander’s office. There he learns that Alison has survived and that UNIT has captured a Shalka after it was immobilized by pure oxygen. The Doctor takes the opportunity to analyze the Shalka, linking the rampant cases of laryngitis to the Shalka’s mental control. He also learns that the refugees from the town never made it to their shelters.

In the woods, all of the refugees are reunited and Alison discovers that her head wound is really a small Shalka under her skin. That Shalka forces the refugees (and similarly, around the world) to march. The Doctor and UNIT troops arrive in the TARDIS and confront Alison’s group, and the Doctor extracts the Shalka and stops the local conflict. When he recovers, he develops a plan with UNIT and explains the sore throats, which are the Shalka using the humans to emit subsonic screams in Earth’s atmosphere while they change the planet to suit their needs.

The Doctor and Alison (to Joe’s annoyance) leave to stop the threat. The Master, who cannot leave the TARDIS, stays behind as the Doctor and Alison confront Prime in the Shalka lair. They are confined, break free, and confront the Shalka as the Doctor swallows the mini-Shalka that was in Alison’s head. He bonds with it long enough understand their screams and engage in a sonic duel with the Shalka. He tricks Prime into standing near the wormhole, which he shifts to black hole-mode long enough to send Prime on a one-way trip to her doom.

With consent, he regurgitates the Shalka and reconnects it with Alison so she can shut down the slaves and Shalka worldwide. She succeeds, but he stops her just before the Shalka can be used to completely heal the planet because she cannot be allowed to wield that much power. After a brief exploration of the Doctor’s faults against his philosophies, the Time Lord invites her for tea on the TARDIS.

Alison and the Master-bot chat about how the Doctor would love to invite her to be his first living companion in a long time, but the Time Lord will not ask. His last companion was killed on the adventure that led to the Master’s consciousness being embedded in an android and the Doctor entering a self-imposed exile.

The Doctor escorts Alison back to Joe and UNIT, intent on saying goodbye. Alison decides to travel with the Doctor, and Joe reluctantly gives her his blessing.

And off they go.

 

This Doctor is very quippy and aggressive, bridging the Ninth and Tenth Doctors that we know from the revival era. He’s also reluctant to act and ready to die if need be, making me wonder what happened near the end of the Eighth Doctor’s life to drive him to this point. That does drive one question, though: Who or what locked the Doctor out of the TARDIS? Was it the Master-bot, was it the TARDIS in an

I would love to see more of this alternate Doctor.

Richard E. Grant (The Doctor) last appeared in The Curse of Fatal Death, and will appear again in the future. Similarly, we’ll see Sophie Okonedo (Alison), Derek Jacobi (The Master-bot), and David Tennant (uncredited as the Caretaker) again.

 

Before we get back on the regular timeline, we have one last stop to make with the Eighth Doctor.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Shada (Eighth Doctor)

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

Debrief: Dragon Con 2018

Debrief: Dragon Con 2018
Atlanta, GA – August 30 through September 3, 2018

 

 

Dragon Con 2018 is in the books and, as always, it was a fantastic show. Crowds were a little lower this year, coming in at an estimated 80,000 against the anticipated 85,000. The vibe seemed a little off this year, but it still provided a chance to catch up with some friends and family.Read More »