The Mystery of the Missing Doctors

The Mystery of the Missing Doctors

 

Funko Pops are the Beanie Babies of the early twenty-first century.

I say that as a statement of fact, not as a slight or insult. Created in 1993, Beanie Babies were a fad collectible from the late 1990s. They weren’t toys in the normal sense, and are collected more for their trading value and the overall cuteness factor. I have several of them, most of them celebrating milestones in my life because they were inexpensive and heartfelt gifts from friends and family. I cherish them because of those intended purposes.

Funko Pops are very similar. They’re difficult to play with, but they serve as inexpensive gifts for the pop culture fiend in your life. The line spans thousands of characters over a wide variety of franchises and licenses. From a collecting perspective, while they’re certainly not as advanced and playable as standard action figures, they do provide an easy way to celebrate particular fandoms.

I don’t collect a lot of Funko Pops. I don’t have any problem with people who do.

My main point of contention is with the Funko company itself, or rather with how they treat licenses that they create for.

 

Here it comes: Oh, god, he’s going to talk about Doctor Who again, isn’t he?

Yes, I am.

The franchise hardly needs any introduction. It’s a cultural touchstone that has existed for 56 years with fourteen actors in the title role. There are a lot of collectibles on the market to celebrate this franchise, among them Funko Pops.

But I feel like Funko is doing fans of this show (and their product line) a disservice with their offerings.

Funko Pops based on Doctor Who started hitting shelves in 2015. Thirty distinct Pops were released that year, focused mostly on the revival era of the franchise. At this point, the show was between Series 8 (during which Peter Capaldi debuted as the Twelfth Doctor) and Series 9 (during which Jenna Coleman departed). The revival Doctors were highly represented and the classic era got some love as well. The modern companions were fairly well represented as were the monsters. The TARDIS herself got two releases.

Twelve of the figures – forty percent of the year’s figures – were exclusives to geeky stores (Hot Topic, Barnes & Noble, GameStop, ThinkGeek, FYE) and major conventions (San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) and New York Comic Con (NYCC)). The SDCC Twelfth Doctor in the spacesuit commands over $200 alone on the secondary market.

2015 (Thirty releases, twelve exclusives)

  • Ninth Doctor (x2)
  • Tenth Doctor (x4)
  • Eleventh Doctor (x3)
  • Twelfth Doctor (x3)
  • Fourth Doctor (x2)
  • Sarah Jane Smith (The Hand of Fear)
  • K-9
  • Rose Tyler
  • Jack Harkness (x2)
  • River Song
  • Weeping Angel
  • Dalek (x3)
  • Cyberman
  • Adipose (x2)
  • The Silence
  • TARDIS (x2)

The line slowed down considerably in 2016. Six figures were released and all of them but one were Doctors. Only one was exclusive.

2016 (Six releases, one exclusive)

  • Twelfth Doctor
  • Eleventh Doctor (x2)
  • Tenth Doctor
  • War Doctor
  • Davros

The following year brought a major shift in the line as only three figures were released, and all of them were exclusives.

2017 (Three releases, all exclusives)

  • Clara Oswald (SDCC, later Hot Topic)
  • Rory Williams (Hot Topic)
  • First Doctor (NYCC, later Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million)

In 2018, Funko moved back to six releases. Half of the line was sent to exclusive markets, including to Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC).

2018 (Six releases, three exclusives)

  • Amy Pond (ECCC, later Hot Topic)
  • Thirteenth Doctor (SDCC, later BBC)
  • Vashta Nerada (NYCC, later Hot Topic)
  • Thirteenth Doctor
  • Clara Memorial TARDIS
  • Missy

Finally, 2019 brought five new figures, two of which were exclusives. This year’s lineup was exclusively targeted toward Series 11 of the revival era.

2019 (Five releases, two exclusives)

  • Thirteenth Doctor
  • Reconnaissance Dalek
  • The Kerblam Man
  • P’ting (SDCC)
  • Tzim-Sha (NYCC)

Funko has released 23 figures based on the Doctor, but only 8 Doctors overall. The product line is heavily weighted toward the revival era, with only two Doctors and two companions representing the first 42 years of the franchise’s existence. Technically, Davros could represent the lone enemy from the classic years, but he has also appeared in the revival era which blunts the impact of that figure’s representation.

The problem is that we are missing six Doctors for a complete lineup of the show’s regenerating hero.

Funko has had problems completing lines in the past: Back when they had the Star Trek license, they created Pops for The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Star Trek Beyond. They completed the Enterprise crew for Beyond, but fell short with Next Gen and The Original Series. Specifically, they left out Beverly Crusher and Katherine Pulaski (both women and doctors) and only Kirk, Spock, and Scotty made the cut from the original NCC-1701. The rest of the franchise – Deep Space NineVoyagerEnterprise, the other twelve movies – didn’t get any love at all.

It’s not the only franchise line to fall to the wayside, either.

It would be understandable if Funko didn’t have the money or resources to complete the Doctor Who line, but that doesn’t jive with how they treat other popular franchises. Consider the various chrome sets (Marvel, DC, Star Wars, etc), the flocked versions, the sparkly “Diamond” glitter versions, the Rainbow Batman set (commemorating Batman’s 75th anniversary and Detective Comics #241), the DC Comics Lantern figures (Wonder Woman, Superman, and others became members of various Lantern Corp for a spell, prompting new Funko Pop molds for collectors), and the new Star Wars Skywalker Saga sets (which are really just repainted leftovers).

It also doesn’t pass the smell test when considering how many are coming out this year alone – an entire Mortal Kombat line, Miami ViceThe Dark Crystal, more Star WarsFrozenOverwatch, and the list goes on – and how many are stacked up on store shelves in the meantime. Just like Beanie Babies, these things seemingly reproduce like tribbles.

The evidence is clear. After an impressive debut followed by lackluster follow-up and lack of representation for classic fans, it’s apparent that Funko is failing fans of Doctor Who.

 

So, what can they do to fix it?

The obvious solution is to create the figures, but given that the market is saturated and (subsequently) distribution is scattershot, big-box brick-and-mortar storefronts are not the best option. I wouldn’t recommend convention exclusives either, since that approach tends to overinflate the price for anyone who cannot make the trip to San Diego, New York, Seattle, or other major conventions. I got lucky when shopping for the First Doctor because I found one on eBay that was missing the NYCC sticker and had a dented box, but not everyone has that.

Funko has worked with widely accessible storefronts such as Hot Topic, GameStop, Entertainment Earth, and Amazon. One option is to sell the missing Doctors through one of those more focused retailers. Another option is to use the online Funko Shop to “pre-order” the figures and judge how many to make. Six months later, distribute the figures to the buyers with a few left over for stragglers (which can by sold via the first option).

If this proves profitable, it could open the way for more companions, more monsters, and more Doctor Who in the Funko line.

Either way, the hole in the collection is painfully obvious. Doctor Who shouldn’t go the way of Star Trek or other incomplete franchise lines. It is a cornerstone and gold standard for science fiction television, and each of the incarnations of the titular hero has a dedicated fan following.

Funko should respect that history and those fans. They should complete the timeline of the Doctor.

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Timestamp: Series Three Summary

Doctor Who: Series Three Summary

 

Tennant’s sophomore year is a winner.

The big arc for this series was the story of Martha Jones. She starts as a medical doctor and ends up saving the world, and I consider her one of the best companions in the history of the franchise. It’s easy to see her as the Rebound Rose, particularly since that’s how she feels for the entire run, but I think that her presence on the TARDIS is so much more important than that.

Martha is enamored with the Doctor, but she’s perpetually perplexed by the unrequited feelings. The Doctor doesn’t romantically love her, but I saw that he develops a different type of love for her over the span of adventures. Her journey starts as a thank you for saving the Doctor in Smith and Jones, but by the time that we reach Human Nature we see a different side of the Doctor. She’s gained his confidence and respect, and he trusts her with his life, even though guarding his identity will be one of the most trying things she’s ever done.

She faced abuse and racism because of the Doctor but she kept to her mission because she loved him. He loved her enough to place his life (and the fate of the universe) in her hands. It’s a good reminder that not all love is romantic and that platonic love can be a force far stronger than sexual attraction.

When we get to “the year that never happened,” he shows that trust and respect once again, and Martha comes through to save the universe one more time. Martha’s character grew even more when her family got involved with the Saxon campaign, providing her a choice between saving her loved ones or saving all of existence. It was a clever move from the Master, and a brilliant choice to present to Martha. The entire time, Martha remains Martha. She doesn’t change herself to win the Doctor’s love, and she has enough self-respect to walk away when she knows that her efforts are futile.

It’s a far better relationship than we saw with Rose, the woman who melted for the Tenth Doctor and changed course from the shop girl we met way back in Rose. I know that fans love her, and that’s their prerogative, but I felt that she became less of a companion and more of a groupie as she went on. Rose had an important role in helping the Ninth Doctor heal after the events of the Time War, but Martha definitively showed the Tenth Doctor that there was more to life than death.

 

I don’t want to take away from Donna Noble’s debut in The Runaway Bride. She was amazing and took no nonsense from the Doctor. I’m glad that we get to see her again.

 

Series Three comes in at an average of 4.3. That’s a tie for third with Series One, coming behind the Ninth classic seasons and the Eighth Doctor’s run.

 

The Runaway Bride – 4
Smith and Jones – 5
The Shakespeare Code – 5
Gridlock – 4
Daleks in Manhattan & Evolution of the Daleks – 4
The Lazarus Experiment – 4
42 – 4
Human Nature & The Family of Blood – 5
Blink – 5
The Infinite Quest – 2
Utopia & The Sound of Drums & Last of the Time Lords – 5

Series Three (Revival Era) Average Rating: 4.3/5

 

As the Doctor Who universe continues to grow, the path for the Timestamps Project gets a little wibbly-wobbly. Next on the agenda is the first series of the Sarah Jane Adventures. We get back to Doctor Who for a brief moment with Time Crash and Voyage of the Damned, but then dive into the second series of Torchwood before returning to Donna Noble in Series Four.

We also have a rapidly approaching holiday season on the horizon.

Allons-y!

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: Revenge of the Slitheen

 

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 #193: Utopia & The Sound of Drums & Last of the Time Lords

Doctor Who: Utopia
Doctor Who: The Sound of Drums
Doctor Who: Last of the Time Lords
(3 episodes, s03e11-e13, 2007)

 

From the end of the universe to the end of the world.

 

Utopia

The TARDIS materializes on the Cardiff Rift in the modern day in order to refuel. They only expect to be there for twenty seconds, during which Martha and the Doctor discuss a little problem with the Slitheen on the Rift, and the Doctor almost avoids picking up an immortal hitch-hiker. Something propels the TARDIS to the year 100 trillion, at the very end of the universe, and Captain Jack Harkness is hanging on through time and space for the ride.

In that far future, a human hunt is underway by the Futurekind. Professor Yana and his assistant Chantho regret the event in motion, but they cannot spare the guards to save the lost soul. They are on a quest for a place called Utopia. When asked for a status report, Yana is unable to focus due to the sound of drums in his head.

They also detect a new arrival as the TARDIS touches down.

The Doctor is apprehensive – almost scared – since this place is farther than any Time Lord has gone before. (Remember that there was a rule among Time Lords that they shouldn’t travel beyond a certain time.) As they leave the TARDIS, they find Jack’s dead body. Luckily, he springs back to life. The Doctor dissuades Jack from hitting on Martha as they exchange tense pleasantries. Jack notes the Doctor’s new face and asks after Rose, relieved to know that she’s still alive.

As they explore, Jack shares his story with Martha as the Doctor criticizes his method of time travel. Jack used his vortex manipulator to bounce from the battle with the Daleks to Earth in 1869. From there, he waited for the Doctor to arrive, eventually settling on the Rift. Martha frets about being left behind like Jack was, but the Doctor focuses them back on their task. They have found a city (or hive) and the Doctor muses on the decline of the universe as it dies around them. They then spot the hunted human and rush to his aid.

Jack draws his revolver and fires warning shots into the air. The horde stops long enough for the travelers to set their sights on the Silo, a safe space for humanity. The Silo is also home to Yana’s lab, and he is excited to learn that a doctor (of everything) has arrived. As the humans in the Silo offer aid, the Doctor asks them to bring his TARDIS to the camp.

As they walk through the refugee camp, the Doctor praises the indomitable spirit of humanity. They also figure out (by almost falling to the bottom) that the Silo is a literal missile silo, home to a rocket to take people to Utopia.

Professor Yana finds the Doctor and puts him to work as a consultant, but the Time Lord doesn’t recognize any of it. Meanwhile, Martha finds out that Jack is carrying the Doctor’s discarded hand, prompting a discussion of the Doctor’s status as the last of the Time Lords. Chantho is also the last of her kind, and Martha is downright obsessed with the Doctor’s new hand.

She’s never seen him regenerate, so this is all new to her.

Yana introduces the Doctor to Utopia: A signal from the depths that calls to the last of the humans scattered across the night. The Doctor is intrigued but also concerned as the professor has another attack of the drums. He also recognizes that the rocket will not be able to fly, and with a wave of his sonic screwdriver the circuits are complete.

Humanity is ready to fly.

As the Futurekind watch from beyond the gates, the humans board the rocket. Martha talks briefly with the young child they met on their arrival, unaware of a Futurekind spy nearby. Meanwhile, the Doctor praises Yana’s work which he recognizes a system of “food and string and staples.” Yana reveals that he will be staying behind with Chantho, and the drums intensify as he sees the TARDIS on a nearby monitor.

As the Doctor uses the TARDIS to help make final launch preparations, he seems to recognize the professor’s symptoms. Meanwhile, Martha bonds with Chantho (who begins each sentence with “chan” and ends it with “tho”) before aiding the professor with monitoring a coupling room. The room is flooded with Stet radiation, but it also controls the gravity footprint on the ship.

While work proceeds in the coupling room, the Futurekind spy sabotages the system. As radiation rises, Jack jumpstarts the override by passing the current through himself. It kills him momentarily, but his resurrection proves useful as they need someone to go in and finish the work.

As Jack enters the flooded chamber, the Doctor reveals that he’s known about the immortality since the battle with the Daleks. Jack, a single person, is a fixed point in time. That’s something that should never happen. Rose’s power as the Bad Wolf gave him that gift. The Doctor asks him if he wants to die, and Jack says that he doesn’t know.

While Martha and Chantho monitor Jack’s progress, Yana’s internal drumbeat intensifies again as he learns about traveling in time and space. The discussion between the Doctor and Jack reverberates through Yana.

The Gallifrey theme (“This is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home“) punctuates every step, but comes crashing to a stop as Yana produces a pocket watch. He’s had it since he was found as a child, and he’s never been able to open it.

Martha recognizes it. She goes to find the Doctor.

Jack finishes his work and the countdown commences. As they work, Martha tells the Doctor about the watch. The Doctor is shaken by this news because it means that he is not the last of his kind. But the perception filter is slipping. Familiar words and voices flit through Yana’s mind as the rocket lifts off, and he opens the watch.

Remember Boe’s last words: You are not alone. YANA.

Professor Yana is the Master.

He locks the Doctor’s team in the launch control room and opens the Silo to the Futurekind. The Doctor breaks out, but he’s too late to stop the Master from killing Chantho. The Master takes the disc regarding Utopia, puts the jar with the hand in the TARDIS, and disconnects the TARDIS from the laboratory. He takes a fatal gunshot from a mortally wounded Chantho before jumping into the capsule and locking the door.

The Doctor breaks into the lab and begs with him to let him in, but the Master takes the opportunity to regenerate. He taunts the Doctor with a voice that Martha recognizes, but despite the Doctor’s apology and attempt to stop him with the sonic screwdriver, the Master dematerializes with the TARDIS.

The travelers are stranded in the future and left to fight the invading Futurekind.

 

The Sound of Drums

The Doctor fixes the vortex manipulator and is able to jump the travelers to modern-day London. As Martha and Jack discuss how they’ll find the Master, they realize that they have arrived on the day after Election Day.

The Master has been elected Prime Minister, and his name is Harold Saxon.

On Saxon’s first day, he’s a little overwhelmed by the demands of the job, but he’s happy to have Martha’s sister Tish on his staff. His cabinet is dismayed by his odd behavior, particularly when he calls them all traitors.

He rewards their loyalty by killing them all with toxic gas.

Martha, Jack, and the Doctor retreat to Martha’s apartment to research Saxon. She’s stunned to realize that they’ve only been away for four days since she first met the Doctor, but the Master was able to use the TARDIS to change history for the duration of his campaign. All of it started after the downfall of Harriet Jones.

In a sense, the Doctor paved the way for the Master’s ascendancy.

Meanwhile, Vivien Rook of the Sunday Mirror tries to convince Lucy Saxon, Harold’s wife, that her husband is an imposter. She provides proof that his life is a forgery, starting only eighteen months before around the launch of the Archangel project. Lucy is faithful to her husband, however, and Rook ends up dead shortly thereafter by the hands of the Master’s death probes.

Lucy is beside herself that someone could put it all together, but Saxon reassures her that everything ends the next morning.

In Martha’s apartment, the Doctor reveals that he fused the TARDIS controls when the Master stole the capsule. It had no choice but to land eighteen months before their current location. The Doctor recognizes that Saxon’s campaign speeches were laced with the drumbeat, impregnating it in the minds of the electorate.

They watch as Saxon announces the arrival of the Toclafane, reassuring the viewers that this won’t be like the previous alien encounters – namely the destruction of Big Ben, the ghosts and Cybermen, and the Christmas Star – before cueing the Doctor that Martha’s apartment is boobytrapped (complete with a Magpie Electricals television set). They escape before it blows up, and Martha tries to warn her family that they are in danger. Saxon’s forces are faster, and her entire family is locked away while the travelers run.

The Master intercepts Martha’s call to her brother, and the Doctor takes the opportunity to talk with his friend and rival. The Doctor reveals the fate of Gallifrey. He also learns that the Master was resurrected by the Time Lords to fight in the Last Great Time War, but that he ran when the Dalek Emperor took the Cruciform and used a Chameleon Arch to become human.

The Master refuses the Doctor’s offer of help, showing the Doctor on television that he and his friends are now enemies of the state. He’s also dispatched Torchwood Three to the Himalayas on a wild goose chase. When he disconnects, the travelers have no choice but to run.

The Master is later contacted by one of the Toclafane – the spheres of death – demanding to know if the machine is ready. The Master says that it will be by the next morning, and despite the threat of the coming darkness from which the Toclafane must run, there’s nothing he can do to speed it up.

The Doctor, Martha, and Jack hide in an abandoned warehouse. While snacking on takeaway chips, they discuss the origins of the Master. The Doctor speaks highly of the known image of Gallifrey. At the age of eight, initiates are taken to look upon a gap in the fabric of reality known as the Untempered Schism, a window into the temporal vortex. It inspired the Doctor to run but it probably drove the Master mad.

Jack reveals that he works for Torchwood, but promises that he rebuilt it from the ashes of the old, corrupt regime. He downloads a video sent to Torchwood about the Archangel Network, a new phone service that the Master controls. The carrier wave is the sound of drums, whispering to the world to trust the Master. The Doctor devises perception filters for three TARDIS keys, one for each of them. He also reveals that Time Lords can detect other Time Lords, even through regenerations.

The team moves from the warehouse as Air Force One delivers President Arthur Winters to London. The President orders Saxon to cede control to UNIT and is dismayed by the Prime Minister’s childish antics. The President has arranged for first contact on the USS Valiant, a UNIT aircraft carrier. The travelers watch the goings-on from the side of the runway, and the Master is suspicious but overall unaware. Martha is upset to see her family paraded on the tarmac, and the Doctor reinforces that he wants to save the Master, not kill him. They use the vortex manipulator to travel to the Valiant, where they discover that it is an aircraft carrier in the sky.

As morning dawns, the Master prepares for the first contact meeting while eating jelly babies. The travelers find the TARDIS, but subdued lighting and the Cloister Bell alert the Doctor that something is wrong. It has been configured to be a paradox machine, set to go off at 8:02 AM.

But the Doctor has a plan.

They sneak into the meeting room, intent on putting a key around the Master’s neck and canceling his perception filter. The first contact begins, but the Toclafane specifically (by name) request to see the Master. Saxon reveals himself as the Master and assassinates the President. The Doctor is taken into custody before the Master kills Jack with a laser screwdriver.

The Master uses the Lazarus experiment and the Doctor’s genetic code (courtesy of the hand in a jar) to advance the Doctor a century in age. He then brings in Martha’s family for the main event.

A crack tears open in the sky above the carrier as six billion Toclafane emerge and start murdering humans without prejudice. Ten percent are killed immediately. Martha takes one last look at her friends and family before using the vortex manipulator to teleport away. She emerges on the planet below and runs into hiding, promising to return.

Until then, the Master has won.

So it came to pass that the human race fell and the Earth was no more. And I looked down upon my new dominion as Master of all. And I thought it good.

 

Last of the Time Lords

It’s been one year since the invasion of the Toclafane. The planet Earth has been quarantined as it enters its final extinction. Martha, still fighting the good fight, is traveling the world. She just returned home to find Professor Alison Docherty, and her liaison Tom Milligan believes the legend that she can save the world.

On the carrier Valiant, the Master is still riding high as lord of the planet. He treats the Doctor like a pet dog, Martha’s family like slaves, Jack an eternal prisoner, and his wife like an abused plaything. He also knows that the Doctor has worked out who the Toclafane are, and that the epiphany has broken his hearts.

The Doctor sends Francine a signal – the number three – which she passes along. Meanwhile, Martha and Tom come across a field of thousands of spaceships, ready to wage war with the universe. They are challenged by the Tocalafane, but Tom is a doctor and Martha still has her perception filter.

On the Valiant, the prisoners revolt at 3:00pm as planned. In the chaos, the Doctor gets ahold of the Master’s laser screwdriver but can’t operate it due to isomorphic controls keyed to the Master alone. Martha’s family is locked up, Jack is killed (again), and the Doctor is back to being taunted in a leather chair.

The taunting includes mentions of The Sea Devils, The Claws of Axos, and something about closing the rift at the Medusa Cascade.

Martha and Tom find Professor Docherty. She tunes into a broadcast from the Master during which he ages the Doctor through his entire lifespan regardless of regenerations. The now thousand-year-old form of the Doctor has withered into a being unable to fit his own clothes, but Martha finds hope in the fact that he still lives.

Docherty says that the Archangel Network is continuously broadcasting a fear signal to the planet, keeping the humans in line. Martha produces a disc with information about one Toclafane sphere that was destroyed in a lightning strike and using that data they experiment on a sphere.

The Master and Lucy visit the Doctor, contained in a birdcage suspended from the ceiling, and tell him that they will launch a fleet through a hole in the Braccatolian space. He will only stop when there is a new Gallifrey in the heavens, and that the Doctor should be proud. After all, he’s doing this for the Toclafane, which the Doctor loves very, very much.

The Toclafane that Martha experiments on is the orphan kid from the end of the universe. The whole race is built from the humans who were launched toward Utopia. The Master took Lucy there and discovered them, transformed into the spheres, regressing into children. There was no Utopia. Just death.

The TARDIS, the paradox machine, keeps the fabric of time in place while the Toclafane exist.

Docherty asks Martha if the legends are true. She shows them a gun developed by Torchwood and UNIT that supposedly halts regeneration and kills a Time Lord permanently. She needs one last chemical component, apparently housed at an old UNIT base. After Martha and Tom leave for a safehouse, Docherty transmits Martha’s location to the Master in exchange for information about the professor’s son.

As Martha tells the assembled survivors in the safehouse about the Doctor, the Master comes for Martha. He flushes her out by threatening the survivors around her. He destroys the anti-regeneration gun, kills Milligan when he defends her, and takes Martha back to the carrier to kill her in front of the Doctor.

At the moment of her execution, the moment when the fleet is due to launch, Martha starts to laugh. The gun was a ruse since the Doctor would never endorse her killing the Master. Instead, the weapon was the story of the Doctor. If the world thinks of one word at the same moment within the Archangel Network’s telepathic field, it would restore the world.

The word: “Doctor.”

The world turns against the Master and the Doctor is restored, having spent the year integrating himself into the network. The power of his restoration is so strong that the laser screwdriver is useless against him. The Doctor corners the Master and shatters his world with one phrase: “I forgive you.”

Which is better than the Master’s actual fear concerning the Doctor.

The Master rallies the Toclafane to protect the Paradox Machine, then teleports the two Time Lords to the planet below using Jack’s vortex manipulator. The Master threatens to detonate the Toclafane, each with a black hole converter capable of destroying the Earth.

Meanwhile, the humans on the Valiant defend the ship against the Toclafane assault. Just as Jack destroys the paradox device, the Doctor manages to teleport himself and the Master back to the Valiant. The previous year is reversed to the point just after the President of the United States was assassinated. Everyone on the Valiant will remember the year that never was, but the rest of the universe will not.

The Master is apprehended, but Francine threatens to kill him. The Doctor stops her and decides to keep the Master on the TARDIS. Unfortunately, the plan is destroyed when Lucy shoots the Master. He collapses in the Doctor’s arms, but faced with the prospect of being locked away forever in the TARDIS with the Doctor, he refuses to regenerate.

Once again, the Doctor is the last of the Time Lords. The drumming stops. The Master is dead.

The Doctor’s raw fury and sorrow resonate thanks to David Tennant’s wonderful acting talent.

Later, the Doctor cremates the Master’s remains, ensuring that no one can harvest the Time Lord’s DNA. Martha finds Docherty and forgives her, even though the professor has no idea what’s going on. Martha and Jack say their farewells – Jack loses his ability to use the vortex manipulator – and Jack inadvertently reveals his nickname from his home on the Boeshane Peninsula: The Face of Boe.

The looks of simultaneous shock and amusement on Martha’s and the Doctor’s faces are incredible.

The Doctor prepares to leave, complete with the hand in a jar. All that’s left is Martha Jones. Unfortunately for the Doctor, Martha takes her leave of the TARDIS. She can’t continue on with all those people left for her to care for. She gives the Doctor her phone number, reminding the Time Lord that she’s not second best, and finally reveals her unrequited feelings for him. She makes him promise to come running if she needs him, and steps out of the TARDIS one last time.

The Doctor dematerializes the TARDIS, alone once again, unaware that the Master’s signet ring has been taken by unknown forces. But the moment is broken when a ship crashes through the TARDIS walls.

Her name is Titanic.

 

This trilogy of episodes earns every bit of the high ratings, from the drama and the effects to the characters that bind the whole thing together. Oh, the look on Francine Jones’s face when she realized that she had been used this whole time to get to the Doctor and Martha.

In terms of the overall franchise, this is a return to classic form. This is the first three-part story since Survival (the last story of the classic era). If you count the Torchwood episodes, this is the first story with more than four parts since The Armageddon Factor (or Shada, had it been fully completed and aired).

We also get the first appearance in the revival era of the Doctor’s best friend and nemesis, the Master. The callbacks to the classic era are a welcome addition with lines from Roger Delgado (prominent through the Third Doctor’s era and last seen in Frontier in Space) and trademark laughter from Anthony Ainley (who took up the role in The Keeper of Traken and carried it all the way to Survival). It’s worth noting that Eric Roberts (the Master from the TV movie) gave his permission to include his voice, but Fox refused.

The Roger Delgado lines were doubled by Sir Derek Jacobi (Professor Yana), who previously appeared in Scream of the Shalka as an alternative version of the Master. After this performance and the 50th anniversary televised special, he also worked with Big Finish to tell the story of his Master during the Time War.

The Master’s heritage was also on display with John Simm’s costumes, from the black single-breasted suit, white shirt, and black tie ensemble (from Planet of Fire) to a Pertwee nod (black overcoat with red satin lining) and the trademark evil Time Lord black leather gloves. The young Master also wore an outift similar to the Time Lords in The War Games.

Doctor Who mythology also makes a couple of debuts here.

First, we get to see Gallifreyan children on screen. Sure, we’ve heard about time tots before – lest we forget the tales of röntgen-bricks in the nursery – but the youngest Gallifreyan we had ever seen was Susan, and she was 15 during An Unearthly Child.

We also get introduced to the concept that regenerations are far more controllable than we saw from Romana in Destiny of the Daleks. The Master bypasses the Doctor’s regenerations to artificially age him – this is certainly not a new trick for either the Doctor or the Master – and he also willingly halts the process after being shot by Lucy. We will see this crop up again in the future.

The Ninth Doctor’s dark line – “I win, how ’bout that?” – also echoes from beyond Dalek as the Master (supposedly) dies.

I previously mentioned the majestic Gallifrey theme, which can be found on YouTube, but Murray Gold was also on fire with the haunting “Martha’s Theme” and the purely energetic “All the Strange, Strange Creatures” throughout this story. The use of modern pop music (also as digetic music) was fun, including “Voodoo Child” by the Rogue Traders – “So here it comes/the sound of drums/Here come the drums here come the drums…” – and “I Can’t Decide” by the Scissor Sisters.

Basically pulling out all the stops, as they should for the last full-time adventure with Martha Jones, an exemplary hero and companion. She saved the day, and (in my eyes) is better than Rose Tyler ever was.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Series Three Summary

 

 

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 #192: The Infinite Quest

Doctor Who: The Infinite Quest
(13 episodes, Animated Special, 2007)

 

The Key to Time… er, the Infinite.

A being named Baltazar and his robotic parrot Caw are all set to destroy the planet Earth when the Doctor and Martha materialize the TARDIS on the ship’s bridge. Baltazar plans to engulf the planet in plasma fire to turn everything into diamonds, but the Doctor tries to distract him with a spoon. Baltazar destroys the spoon, unleashing a fungus within that eats the ship around them. The travelers hop in the TARDIS, after letting Caw free, and set course for Copacabana Beach.

Unfortunately, Caw saves Baltazar. Otherwise, we’d have no story, right?

Some time and distance later, Caw catches the TARDIS in flight and drops them on his home of Pheros. Caw brings news that, several years ago, he sold out Baltazar and sent him to jail. Baltazar has been set free and is now looking for a force from the Dark Times – a time when the Racnoss, the Nestene, and the Great Vampires ran rampant – called the Infinite.

Caw produces a data chip that will lead the Doctor to the Infinite by acquiring a series of them in order. He also gives Martha a brooch in honor of her compassion. The Doctor and Martha leave for the planet Boukon, revealing Baltazar as the TARDIS dematerializes. Caw placed a tracker on the TARDIS and Baltazar is ready to track them to the Infinite.

While on Boukon, Martha and the Doctor run into some oil pirates. Captain Kaliko dispatches a spider-like oil rig in Empire Strikes Back fashion and siphon the oil to fuel the poor since the market prices are too high. The captain and her (literal) skeleton crew deem the travelers to be Oil Corp spies and nearly throw them overboard, but they are saved by First Mate Swabb by offering to put them in the downed rig and setting it ablaze.

When made to walk the plank, the Doctor disables the ship with his sonic screwdriver. Swabb mutinies, himself a spy for Oil Corp, and sets the oil rigs on the retreating pirate ship. The ship crashes and Swabb threatens to transfer his consciousness into Martha’s body. Martha distracts him long enough for the captain and the Doctor to knock him overboard, and then the Doctor asks the captain for her earring (which is the next Infinite chip).

The captain jettisons herself overboard and lands near the TARDIS. The Doctor and Martha catch up and find her earring but not much else. Captain Kaliko has been murdered, and the travelers have no choice but to travel on.

I’m sure that will be relevant later.

The next stop is the planet Myarr. They land near an abandoned city and are swarmed by insects, but the Mantasphid bugs are driven away by the toad-like Ulysees Meregrass. There is a war being waged around them, and a sonic attack blasts a nearby tower made of dung. The Doctor and Martha find themselves before the queen of the Mantasphids. The queen rebuffs the Doctor’s attempts to negotiate, claiming that Meregrass has already won the position of adviser.

A robot crashes in, but Martha determines that the pilot of the robot is panicked. The Doctor uncovers the human pilot within and learns that the Mantasphids destroyed Pilot Kelvin’s home and family. The queen turns on Meregrass, denying his payment for arms smuggling, and another wave of attack ships swarms in to burn the bugs out.

The queen asks Meregrass for his advice, but Meregrass refuses. The Doctor works with Kelvin to surrender for the Mantasphid queen because all of them still have a right to live. After negotiating the surrender, the Doctor asks the queen to provide light for human farms to combat the oil shortage. They later find Meregrass’s slaughtered body, but can only take the Infinity chip and move on.

I’m sure that murder will also be relevant later.

They travel to Volag-Noc, a cold planet with a prison below the surface. The Doctor is imprisoned – he has 3,005 convictions and 6,000 in consideration, ranging from minor traffic violations to evading library fines and 18 counts of planetary demolition, resulting in a two billion year sentence – and finds an android cellmate in pain. Martha meets with the prison governor where she spots the Infinity chip next to the sonic screwdriver in his safe.

The Doctor removes his cellmate’s inhibitor chip and they blast out and make their way to the governor’s office. Turns out that the real governor is in the android body and the fake governor is a prior convict named Constantine Ethelred Gurney who has a score to settle. Meregrass sold him the means to swap faces with Governor Lok. Once back in place, Lok orders that all of the prisoners should be killed in order most effectively rehabilitate them. Gurney shoots Lok and loots the safe while the Doctor stops the kill order. The travelers pursue Gurney to the surface where Martha watches Baltazar and Caw swoop in for the final data chip.

Gurney fatally shoots Caw, who then admits his role in this affair to Martha. After the bird dies, Baltazar takes the travelers to the TARDIS and confesses to killing the previous chip holders. He reveals that his tracker was in the brooch that Caw gave to Martha, setting the tiny bird named Squawk free. He forces the Doctor to find the Infinite’s location and set the TARDIS on course before shooting the Time Lord and depositing him in the snow outside.

Baltazar takes Martha in the TARDIS as it closes in on the Infinite. Once they land, Baltazar forces Martha to search the hold where she finds the Doctor. At least, she thinks it’s the Doctor, but the real Time Lord arrives on Squawk and crash lands. Baltazar tries to turn Squawk and fails, and as Martha figures out that the false Doctor is her heart’s desire, the real Doctor comes to her rescue. The heart’s desire tries to sway the Doctor but it fails.

The ship once contained one of the Great Old Ones, but it has long since died. The echo of its power tempts those it encounters with their heart’s desire, but the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to shake the ship apart. The Doctor and Martha take off in the TARDIS while Squawk swoops Baltazar away to Volag-Noc.

The Doctor asks Martha for a destination and away they go.

 

This story is obviously set and televised during Series Three, so I’m covering it with the rest of the series.

The similarities to The Key to Time series are obvious, but that series was better overall. The characterizations were good and the animation on par with what we’ve seen previously – Real Time, Death Comes to Time, Scream of the Shalka, and Shada – but the story was rushed. Instead of being cohesive and driving, the elements of the plot became confusing in their rapid-fire approach.

This story would have been better served in a 90-minute or two-hour format.

On the plus side, this story does add an element introduced in the Virgin novels to the televised universe. The Great Old Ones, one of which died on the Infinite ship, were introduced in the 1990s with White Darkness, All-Consuming Fire, and Millennial Rites. Previous televised elements like The Great Intelligence, the Nestene Consciousness, the Gomagog, Fenric, the Celestial Toymaker, and the Black and White Guardians were retroactively added to their ranks in various forms, effectively canonizing the concept of the Great Old Ones in the television side of the house.

 

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: UtopiaDoctor Who: The Sound of DrumsDoctor Who: Last of the Time Lords

 

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 #191: Blink

Doctor Who: Blink
(1 episode, s03e10, 2007)

 

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually – from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey… stuff.”

Photography Sally Sparrow engages in a little light breaking and entering to capture images of fallen chandeliers and moss in fireplaces. The place is definitely run down and falling apart, but it holds a message written on the wall, shrouded by wallpaper: “Beware of the Weeping Angels.”

The message calls her by name and tells her to duck. When she does, a rock impacts the wall where her head once was. She only sees an angel statue outside the window, but the wall is signed: “Love from the Doctor, 1969.”

She returns to her friend Kathy Nightingale’s home to find numerous televisions all displaying a certain familiar man wearing glasses and warning people not to blink. Sally prepares a warm drink, meets Kathy’s brother Larry (who is nude), and tells Kathy about what she experienced.

Sparrow and Nightingale go back to the abandoned house the next morning to investigate. Sally notes that the Angel has moved. When the doorbell chimes, Sally finds a delivery man who calls her by name and hands her a letter addressed to her. Meanwhile, Kathy continues poking around, oblivious to the fact that the Angels are moving when she’s not looking. The deliveryman, Malcolm Wainwright, notes that the letter was sent by Katherine Wainwright, previously known as Kathy Nightingale, also known as the man’s grandmother. When a shocked Sally looks for Kathy, her friend has disappeared.

The Angel touched Kathy and transported her to 1920. The letter tells Sally the entire story, but she doesn’t believe it. She rushes upstairs to find a group of Angels, one of which is holding a key. She grabs the key and rushes after Malcolm, but the man has disappeared. Sally takes the letter to a local coffee shop and reads it with interest. After telling her life story, it directs her to a local DVD shop to talk with Larry.

Larry is watching the videos of the Doctor and Martha again. Sally tells him that Kathy has left town for a while and loves him, which throws Larry off a bit. They talk about the videos – an Easter egg or hidden extra on seventeen unrelated DVDs – and the mystery behind them. The video seems like half a conversation, and when Larry leaves the room for a moment, she actually fills in a couple of the blanks. Shaken, she gets the list of DVDs from Larry and takes the story to the police.

At the police station, she experiments by blinking around two Angels that are across the street. They vanish and reappear next to the window. She meets with DI Billy Shipton who shows her a collection of items related to the abandoned house, including several cars and a big blue locked police box. Billy asks her out for a drink and she gives him her phone number. When she leaves, Billy notices four Angels taking an interest in the TARDIS. He investigates and blinks.

Sally puts the pieces together about the key and the lock on the box, but when she returns both the TARDIS and Shipton have disappeared.

Shipton arrives in 1969 and meets the Doctor and Martha. The Doctor explains that the Angels feed on temporal energy generated by sending their targets back in time. He tracked Billy’s arrival using his makeshift timey-wimey detector – “It goes ding when there’s stuff.” – and gives him a mission to warn Sally Sparrow.

Billy calls Sally, summoning her to a hospital. She finds an elderly and dying man with a message from the Doctor: “Look at the list.” Billy gave up on being a police officer, instead getting into publication and then video publishing. He was the author of the DVD list and the developer of the Easter eggs. Sally stays with Billy until the rain stops, which is when the accidental time traveler dies.

Sally discovers that the list of DVDs is the exact contents of her personal video library. She summons Larry to the abandoned house with a DVD player and together they fill in the other half of the Doctor’s conversation.

Through the video, the Doctor tells Sally and Larry the story. Larry writes down the conversation as it happens, and that transcript is how the Doctor developed the video in the first place. He also explains who the Weeping Angels are – they are as old as the universe and quantum locked, frozen by the sight of any living creature – and that they have the phone box. Sally asks how to get the TARDIS back to the Doctor, but that’s where the transcript ends. The Doctor warns them not to blink.

But one has snuck up on them.

Sally and Larry work out a plan to escape the house, eventually finding that the basement is the only path open to them. The Angels have stored the TARDIS there, and Sally approaches the box with the key. The Angels cause the lights to flicker, gradually advancing on the pair as they work the lock. At the last moment, they get inside. A security hologram orders them to place the DVD in the TARDIS console as the Angels assault the time capsule. The TARDIS dematerializes around them, leaving the humans surrounded by the Angels, but since they are all staring at each other they are quantum locked.

Some time later, Sally and Larry are working at the DVD store. Sally has been documenting the experience and trying to figure out how the Doctor knew about the transcript. Larry goes on a grocery run as a car pulls up with the Doctor and Martha inside. Sally rushes outside, figuring out that this version is from an earlier point in his timeline, and delivers the information.

Hand in hand, Sally and Larry go back inside the shop – Sparrow and Nightingale’s – as we are treated to examples of just how many Weeping Angels surround us every day.

Don’t blink.

 

I’ll start with this being a fantastic episode. Spoilers for the end of this timestamp, but it earns the 5 in my book. It’s a suspenseful thriller with elements of the horror genre spread throughout. Even with it being an ontological paradox – the information travels in a causal loop with no defined beginning or end point – the time travel elements are believable. The enemies are a new threat and are also downright creepy: They don’t directly kill, but they do feed off of the victim’s temporal displacement, they are everywhere, and they are virtually unstoppable.

This episode’s position near the top of the charts is well deserved.

On the downside, we come to writer Steven Moffat. Many of the elements that will haunt the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who are in plain sight here, from the more juvenile antics of the Doctor – timey-wimey and devices that go ding – to the last-minute deus ex machina “clever” saves. Don’t get me wrong, those elements are fine in moderation (just like they were fine here), but as the Moffat era progressed, they became staples of the Doctor Who brand. There’s only so much of the same thing that is acceptable in a show inherently about change and evolution.

What I do know for certain is that the Weeping Angels were never better than in this story.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Infinite Quest

 

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 2019

Debrief: Dragon Con 2019
Atlanta, GA – August 29 through September 2, 2019

 

 

Dragon Con 2019 is in the books! I had a better time this year despite the larger crowd numbers. It’s hard to predict how the crowds are going to ebb and flow from year to year, but you could feel the 85,000 attendees like the pulse of the con this year.

We also did tons of good works this year for the Atlanta chapter of the American Heart Association. $110,000 is a lot of money, and I hope it goes a long way to helping a good charity with a good mission.Read More »

Timestamp #190: Human Nature & The Family of Blood

Doctor Who: Human Nature
Doctor Who: The Family of Blood
(2 episodes, s03e08-e09, 2007)

 

Martha Jones: The woman who waited.

The chase is on as the TARDIS door swings open and our heroes hit the deck before an energy beam slams into the console. The Doctor sets the TARDIS into motion but their enemy is following them courtesy of a stolen vortex manipulator. He tells Martha that, as long as they never saw her face, they can be safe. Their lives depend on a simple pocketwatch.

Dr. John Smith snaps awake from a nightmare as a maid named Martha delivers his breakfast. He tells her of a fanciful dream, one in which he is a time traveler named the Doctor. She reminds him that it is 1913 and that he is merely human. After he dresses, Dr. Smith goes about his lessons at Farringham School for the Boys as Martha works alongside fellow maid Jenny. Two unpleasant cadets sling not so subtle racism at Martha, but she dismisses it. Jenny notes that those boys may be running the country in a matter of years, but Martha quietly responds that they probably won’t. World War I is just on the horizon.

Dr. Smith later encounters Matron Joan Redfern, the school nurse, and they awkwardly hit it off. The encounter ends as Dr. Smith falls backward down the stairs. Matron Redfern tends to his injuries as Dr. Smith muses about his dreams and Martha tidies up. Smith talks about having two hearts – Redfern clinically dismisses that notion with a stethoscope – and shows the matron his Journal of Impossible Things. She’s wowed by his drawings and stories, but takes it anyway to read it later. She later discusses the mysterious doctor with Martha and emphasizes that she remember her place.

Later on, young Timothy Latimer is bullied by Hutchinson. The aggressor is irritated by Latimer’s knowledge of things he shouldn’t know, and Jeremy Baines defuses the situation by offering to fetch a beer from a secret stash in the woods. Martha and Jenny also share a drink outside the local pub – they’re not allowed inside due to their social status – as a green light flashes across the sky. Smith arrives and explains it away as a shooting star before retiring for the night. With Smith safely tucked away, Martha runs off to investigate, and Jenny tags along.

The light turns out to be a ship and Baines runs into it, quite literally. He’s able to get aboard just before Martha and Jenny arrive, and the ladies return home. Meanwhile, Baines talks with the ship’s occupants, the Family. He asks to see them but they refuse before attacking and taking his form. Baines returns to the dormitory without any beer, acting not quite like himself. The students call it a night while Latimer nervously polishes his boots.

The next morning, Martha checks in on the powered-down TARDIS while she remembers the events following their pursuit through time. The Doctor used a device known as the Chameleon Arch to become human, literally rewriting his DNA, and hide in 1913 to wait out the Family. He left her a set of twenty-three recorded instructions, including the last-resort directive to open the watch in an emergency. Martha tearfully wishes that he would return home.

Young Latimer visits Dr. Smith and finds the pocketwatch. He sees premonitions of what resides inside and takes the device, opening it and learning about Time Lords. Unfortunately, this alerts the Family to the Doctor’s presence. Baines (the Family’s Brother) telepathically calls back to the ship and orders the soldiers to be activated.

The soldiers take the form of scarecrows on a nearby farm. They assimilate Mr. Clark on the farm as the Family’s Father and Lucy Cartwright (a nearby girl in the wrong place at the wrong time) as the Family’s Daughter.

Smith is engaged in weapons training as Latimer deals with visions of the pending war. Latimer is dissuaded by the thought of killing African tribesmen with machine guns, and Hutchinson takes the opportunity to punish Latimer. Meanwhile, Redfern and Smith take a walk and talk about warfare. Smith saves a woman from death by falling piano with a cricket ball and a good arm. They walk the countryside and talk about Smith’s journal, and when they stop to fix one of the scarecrows, Smith talks about his childhood in Gallifrey, a place that he’s not quite sure about. Later that night, Smith and Redfern share a romantic moment that is interrupted by Martha, prompting his companion to seek solace in the TARDIS.

The Doctor didn’t leave instructions for what to do if he fell in love. Especially if it wasn’t with her.

Latimer has an encounter with the Family as the scarecrows assimilate Jenny as the new Mother. She returns to Martha’s side and learns some clues about the mysterious Doctor Smith, but Martha realizes that something is amiss. She runs to Smith, dodging the Mother’s laser fire, and discovers that the pocketwatch is missing. She fails to convince Smith of the truth, and after striking him, is dismissed from his service. She runs to the TARDIS (encountering Latimer en route) as the Family snoops about in Smith’s office.

Smith and Redfern attend a local dance as the Family track the schoolteacher down. Martha arrives with the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver and talks with Redfern, leaving the dancing duo speechless with the device from Smith’s dreams.

The Family arrives and vaporizes the doorman and the organizer of the party. They put the pieces together, but Smith still can’t recall anything. The Family wants a Time Lord, so they threaten Smith, Martha, and Redfern, but without the pocketwatch he is unable to do anything.

The standoff ends as Latimer cracks open the watch, distracting the Family. Martha takes the Mother’s weapon, forcing them to release Redfern and prompting Smith to evacuate the building. Martha is ambushed by a scarecrow but escapes. The Mother taps into Jenny’s memories and sends the Father to the west in search of whatever Martha walked to each day.

Smith rouses the school to defend against the Family’s invasion. The Sister gleefully sneaks inside to spy on the defense as Martha confronts Smith, urging him not to engage in violence. The headmaster demands an explanation but believes Smith and Redfern. Martha and Redfern search for the pocketwatch – Latimer listens to it as it whispers caution in his ear – as the headmaster and Mr. Phillips confront the Family outside the school’s gates. The Son taunts the headmaster with visions of the coming war, then sends him back inside for Smith after vaporizing Phillips.

The headmaster rallies his students, now his soldiers, to war. The Son does the same with his scarecrow army as the Father discovers the TARDIS.

Meanwhile, Martha baffles Redfern with her knowledge of medicine, something that a “girl of her color” shouldn’t know. Redfern leaves to tend to the students and plumbs the depth’s of Smith’s childhood history. She also plants the seed of pacifism in John Smith’s mind.

Latimer and Hutchinson share the younger boy’s visions of the future. Convinced that they survive the battle, Latimer runs but finds the Sister. He opens the pocketwatch and stuns the Sister with a vision of the Doctor at his most merciless, keying the Family into the need to find Latimer and the watch.

They begin the assault and the students mow down the scarecrow army with tears in their eyes, poignantly punctuated by the strains of “He Who Would Valiant Be.” The headmaster assesses the destruction – not a life was lost since they were all filled with straw – and is soon vaporized by the Sister. Smith orders a retreat as the Brother reanimates the scarecrow army and storms the school. Latimer distracts them again with the watch, saving his classmates from execution. The students and staff evacuate the school as the Father brings the TARDIS to the front doors.

Martha shows Smith the blue box and Redfern confirms what the schoolteacher wrote in his journal. Smith has a breakdown and runs into the woods, and Redfern offers them a place to hide as the Family spools up their next assault. The cottage belongs to the Cartwrights, whose daughter is now the Sister. The family is now dead. Latimer arrives soon after with the watch in hand, explaining that he was scared and that the watch asked him to wait. He’s seen the Doctor – “He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the center of time and can see the turn of the universe. And, he’s wonderful.” – but Smith refuses to take the watch.

The Family begins an assault on the village. Smith takes the watch, momentarily speaking in the Doctor’s voice, and listens in horror as Martha explains the plan. Smith doesn’t want to go but finds out that if the Family wins, they will be free to burn the universe. Redfern embraces the doctor, and together they share a vision of what could be if Smith remained: They marry, have children, and he dies happy.

But the Doctor could never have a life like that.

Moments later, Smith arrives at the Family’s ship and begs them to stop the bombardment. He offers them the watch and asks them to go, but the watch is empty. It was a ruse. The Doctor has returned, and he’s set their ship to self-destruct.

The Family and the Doctor escape from the ship in time. The Doctor, in his kindness, imprisons each member of the Family in a unique way for all eternity instead of executing them: The Father is wrapped in chains forged at the heart of a dwarf star; The Mother is enveloped in the event horizon of a collapsing galaxy; the Sister is trapped in every mirror in existence; and the Son is a scarecrow, protecting the fields of England.

They all get their wish in the end. They all get to live forever.

The Doctor returns to Redfern when all is said and done. The school is closed for the time being. He won’t change back for her, but he offers her the chance to travel with him. She declines since the wounds of loss are too deep. Especially since had the Doctor never come to her time, no one would have died.

The Doctor returns to the TARDIS and tells Martha that it’s time to move on. He thanks her for her sacrifice, and then together they bid farewell to Timothy Latimer. The Doctor gives Latimer the watch as a good luck charm before disappearing into time and space once more.

Years later, on the battlefield of World War I, Latimer checks his watch and tells Hutchinson that it is time. Latimer saves his former classmate from incoming fire, looks to the sky, and thanks the Doctor for his good luck. The Time Lord’s example continues to influence.

Farther into the future, a wheelchair-bound Latimer attends an Armistice Day ceremony and spots the Doctor and Martha, each wearing poppies. The silently acknowledge each other as the service continues.

 

This is one of the deeper stories in Doctor Who lore.

First, by taking the hero and title character out of the mix, the show takes an opportunity to look over the mythology with reverence to the history of the show. The Journal of Impossible Things contains the basics (the former eight faces of the Doctor, the TARDIS, the console room, and the sonic screwdriver) along with specifics from across the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s travels.

Second, it introduces a critical plot device of the biodata module. Carried in this story by the popular time travel trope of a pocketwatch (which we have seen before), it further plays with the ability to separate a Time Lord’s essence from his or her body, much as we saw with the Watcher at the Fourth Doctor’s regeneration. It also introduces the Chameleon Arch, which can literally rewrite a Time Lord’s DNA to any other form.

This brings up an interesting theoretical tangent: What of Susan? It will be definitively established in the future that Susan left Gallifrey with the First Doctor, and since off-worlders are generally prohibited on Gallifrey, we must assume that she’s at least Gallifreyan and potentially trained as a Time Lord. But the First Doctor was also comfortable leaving her behind on post-invasion Earth, circa 2164. Would he have left her behind, knowing that she could potentially regenerate in the presence of otherwise ignorant humans? Is it possible that he use the Chameleon Arch prior to their stop at 76 Totter’s Lane to change her into a less conspicuous human being?

We may never know, but it’s fun to speculate.

Third, I am quite impressed with Martha Jones. I mean, sure, she really wants the Doctor to love her, but her relationship with the Time Lord evidently goes much deeper than romantic love. She willingly sacrifices her mobility, her rights, and her freedom in order to save the Doctor and the universe at large. The amount of racism and discrimination levied toward her in this story is heartbreaking and far from acceptable, but Martha stands strong in the face of it. She withstands the assault on her character in service of the mission, her responsibility, and her love.

She does this because she loves the Doctor, but on a level (honestly, unbeknownst to her) far exceeding anything she ever expected. And the Doctor trusted that she could fulfill her mission.

Martha surpasses Rose with this story. She’s an independent, strong, and worthy companion, even if her emotions are a bit misguided.

Finally, in a beautiful nod to the origins of this franchise, the Doctor named his parents as Sydney and Verity. That statement was, in fact, true.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Blink

 

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.