Introducing Who’s the Doctor: Talking Outside the Box

 

Introducing Who’s the Doctor: Talking Outside the Box!

We are proud to announce a new Doctor Who review project, brought to you by RetroBlasting. Hosted by Gary Mitchel, Michael French, and Michael Falkner, this journey will review every televised story in a video series on the RetroBlasting YouTube channel. Each video will dive deep into the story itself, aspects of filming and production, and behind the scenes history.

Gary Mitchel is a writer, reviewer, geek blogger, gamer, sf/fantasy fan, comics reader, podcaster and International Man of Mystery (who’s too dangerous for the entire country of Canada). He is best known from RevolutionSF and the Dragon Con American Science Fiction Classics Track, and is a Doctor Who fan from the Tom Baker era thanks to the beauty of PBS. Some people have stated that he is “hilarious,” and Gary swears that said people are not related to him.

Michael French is the co-founder of RetroBlasting, a video channel that analyzes and deconstructs cartoons and toys of the 80’s which is now in its 6th year with nearly 50,000 subscribers. He maintains a large archive of vintage toys and often restores them to preserve our collective history. He is a newcomer to Doctor Who and has gravitated toward all things Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen.

Michael Falkner is a writer and podcaster who runs the Timestamps Project here on Creative Criticality. He got his start on The ScapeCast, and is a host of The Weekly Podioplex on The Chronic Rift Network.

Our artwork is provided by Denise Lhamon, host of The Weekly Podioplex and artist and cover designer at Accessories Not Included.

 

Who’s the Doctor can be found all across social media:

 

Our premiere comes in two parts: An introductory episode in which we discuss our mission and what we hope to achieve, and our first review with the Fourth Doctor’s first story, Robot.

 

Intros and Inspirations:

 

Robot:

 

We hope you enjoy what we’re doing here. If you do, please spread the word to all of your friends in Doctor Who fandom. Be sure to subscribe to RetroBlasting as well for their fun and professional programming.

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Timestamp #171: Bad Wolf & The Parting of the Ways

Doctor Who: Bad Wolf
Doctor Who: The Parting of the Ways
(2 episodes, s01e12-13, 2005)

 

Going out in a blaze of glory.

Following on a century after the adventure on Satellite Five, the Doctor finds himself falling out of a transmat and into a house. Specifically, the Big Brother house on Channel 44000. The Doctor is not amused. Elsewhere, Rose wakes up in a dark studio and is helped to her feet just in time to compete on The Weakest Link. Finally, Captain Jack wakes up on a table where two androids give him a wardrobe makeover in the vein of What Not to Wear.

The Doctor starts looking for a way out of the house, making friends with a fellow resident named Lynda. He remembers that they had just left Raxacoricofallapatorius and then visited Kyoto, Japan in 1336. Their transit was intercepted by a transmat beam, but no ordinary transmat could penetrate the the TARDIS. The Doctor faces the camera and vows to get out, find his companions, and then find those responsible.

Rose plays The Weakest Link – we get a reference to something called Torchwood – and is observed by the engineers in the control room. She realizes that they’re not playing a game when Fitch, the weakest link in the round, is disintegrated. Another player tries to run, but the rules are “play or die,” so the runner is vaporized. A similar fate plays out in the Big Brother house as one of the housemates is evicted by disintegration. The Doctor is immediately motivated by this twist and disables the camera.

Oh, and Jack? He avoids a literal face change by producing a blaster (from where, you don’t want to know) and destroying the androids.

Rose finds out that the company running the games is the Bad Wolf Corporation, and she connects the dots over her adventures with the Doctor: Gwyneth told her about it in Cardiff 1869; it was the call sign for Henry van Statten‘s helicopter; it was the nuclear power plant project on the Cardiff Rift; it was tagged on the TARDIS in 2006; and it was a news channel on Satellite Five in the 2001st century.

Meanwhile, the Doctor forces his eviction from the house, but the disintegration is overridden. He uses his sonic screwdriver to open the door and rescues Lynda from her captivity. He discovers that they are back on Satellite Five, and as he and Lynda look for a way out, she reveals who is in charge. The Bad Wolf logo gives the Doctor pause. He gets it too.

The programmers reveal the security problem to a woman hardwired to the system, but the Controller dismisses them before alerting them to an incoming solar flare.

Jack builds a gun out of the robots and their defabricator beam and goes in search of the Doctor. The Doctor, to his horror, realizes that when he shut down the satellite before, the human race stopped instead of building the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. Jack reunites with the Doctor as Rose fights for her life in the last round of the game. As Rose loses the game and faces disintegration, the Doctor breaks in, but he is too late to stop Rose from being vaporized. The enraged Doctor, Lynda, and Jack are arrested by station security, but quickly escape and make their way to Floor 500 with a lot of firepower.

Jack seals the doors as the Doctor interrogates the programmers (after tossing them his gun). The TARDIS is located nearby, and Jack finds something startling within. The Controller calls for the Doctor, revealing that the solar flare is blocking her masters from reading her mind. The masters have been hiding in the shadows and shaping the Earth for centuries. They also fear the Doctor.

The flare passes, the Controller resumes her trance, and Jack reveals that the disintegrator beam is really a transmat. The Controller is transmatted away, landing in the same place as Rose. Rose is chased by a familiar visage and the Controller is exterminated. The Doctor traces the signal to a fleet of saucers.

The masters are the Daleks. There are half a million in the fleet, and they have survived the Time War.

The Daleks open a channel to the Doctor, demanding his surrender in exchange for Rose’s life. The Doctor defiantly counters: Without a plan, he promises to save Rose Tyler and eliminate the Daleks. The Daleks respond by declaring war on the Doctor.

And here we go.

The Daleks demand that Rose predict the Doctor’s actions, but she refuses. They open fire on the TARDIS but the Doctor materializes it around Rose and her Dalek guard. Jack makes short work of the Dalek and the Doctor sets to analyzing the remains. He explains the Time War to Jack – “I thought that was a legend!” – and then confronts the Daleks under the protection of a force field. He discovers that the Daleks survived thanks to the Emperor Dalek and a crippled starship that tumbled through time in the war’s aftermath. The Daleks know the Doctor as The Oncoming Storm, and they fear him, but the Emperor Dalek explains how he rebuilt the Daleks out of the corpses of humanity. These Daleks are of mixed DNA, but the Emperor considers them pure.

These Daleks are more of a cult than an empire, driven mad by their own flesh. The stink of their humanity. The hate of their own existence.

The travelers retreat to the TARDIS and the Doctor takes them back to the satellite. Once there, he begins his defense of the planet below. As the fleet advances on Earth, the Doctor begins to rewire the satellite – a giant transmitter – so he can broadcast a delta wave. You know, something that tends to barbecue any brains in its way. That would normally take three days, but he has to get it done in twenty-two minutes.

As Rose helps the Doctor, Jack rallies the remaining programmers and citizens to defend the satellite. A select few join the captain’s cause while the rest are warned to stay quiet and remain below Floor 494. Rose and the Doctor also have a fantastic discussion on the morality and the nature of time travel, one that inspires the Doctor to cross his own timeline in order to speed up the process. It ends up being a trick though, as the Doctor remotely sends the TARDIS and Rose away to protect her.

A holographic message informs her that he’s fulfilling his promise to keep her safe. It will take her home and then die on a street corner. Before the message fades, it tells her to have a fantastic life. The TARDIS lands and Mickey finds Rose, wrapping her in his arms in consolation.

The Doctor continues to work, but the Emperor reveals that the delta wave cannot be refined in time to prevent it from killing everything in Earth’s orbit. The Doctor has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He confronts the Emperor about the Bad Wolf message, but the Dalek knows nothing about it. Something else is driving events.

Back in her century, Rose doesn’t know how to go on, even with Mickey and Jackie trying to console her. Near the TARDIS, she finds the words Bad Wolf written everywhere, and she assumes that it’s a link back to the Doctor. She and Mickey enter the time capsule and Rose decides to communicate with the heart of the TARDIS. Her efforts to open the console fail, and Jackie tries to help her move on, but Rose reveals the truth about her father’s death. The revelation spurs Jackie to borrow a tow truck to provide enough force.

In the future, the Daleks arrive at Earth and begin their assault on the satellite. The defenders make a valiant effort, including using the Anne Droid from The Weakest Link, but the Daleks make short work of them. They massacre the gathered citizens in the floors below the defenders, and they decimate the Earth’s surface. Jack’s last line of defense makes some headway, but the Daleks find Lynda from her position as defense coordinator. Soon enough, Jack is the last man standing between the Daleks and the Doctor, but then he is exterminated as well.

The tow truck gambit works and Rose is exposed to the heart of the TARDIS. The time capsule propels itself forward in time as Rose absorbs the energy in the console. On the satellite, the Doctor finishes his work, but he cannot push the button despite his bluster. He cannot commit another mass genocide. As he faces his execution, the TARDIS materializes and reveals a super-powered Rose.

She looked into the TARDIS. The TARDIS looked into her. She is the Bad Wolf. She created her own message throughout time and space. She can see all of it at once.

With her power, she turns the Daleks to dust. All of them. Once the threat is removed, she restores Jack to life, but refuses the Doctor’s request to relinquish her powers. When the pain becomes too much, the Doctor kisses her and absorbs the power. The Doctor returns the energy to the TARDIS before leaving with Rose, stranding Jack on the satellite.

As the TARDIS flies through the vortex, the Doctor watches his hand glow and laments the adventures he meant to experience with Rose. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have time. He explains that this life is at an end. He is about to regenerate, but he won’t be the same afterward. He tells Rose that she was fantastic.

You know what? So was he.

And then he regenerates.

 

This is the big culmination of everything we have learned since Rose. The opening was deliberately confusing and a great introduction to the building tension leading to the big reveal at the end of Bad Wolf. The second half, Time War Round Two, was an impressive balance of the Ninth Doctor’s redemptive arc and the Tyler family drama.

This finale doesn’t let up for a second, but it still finds time for the character moments. At the risk of overplaying the meme, it was absolutely fantastic.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Series One and Ninth Doctor 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 #170: Boom Town

Doctor Who: Boom Town
(1 episode, s01e11, 2005)

 

Second chances all around.

Six months after the attempted Slitheen invasion, a scientist is pleading with Mayor Margaret Blaine to stop construction of a nuclear power plant lest it destroy the city. With a little bit of gassy rumbling we know who she really is, and she shows the scientist moments later as she unzips her head and devours him.

Mickey arrives in Cardiff by train and finds the TARDIS. He meets Jack and then reunites with Rose to deliver her passport. Rose explains that they are using the Cardiff Rift to recharge the TARDIS. One lesson about the chameleon circuit and the history of the TARDIS later, they head into the city for a little fun.

Mayor Blaine introduces the nuclear power plant – the Blaidd Drwg project – at a press conference. Afterward, she encounters a reporter named Cathy Salt who challenges the mayor about random deaths and the dangers of the plant. Cathy is nearly killed by the mayor in the ladies room, but the revelation that the reporter is pregnant stays the Slitheen’s hand. While at lunch, the Doctor spots a newspaper with the mayor’s photo on the front page. His day is ruined by the news that the Slitheen still lives. The team converges on City Hall with a divide-and-conquer strategy. The Doctor flushes the mayor out and the team corners her. While on the run, she assembles a transmat device from her jewelry, but the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to negate the effect.

The travelers and Mayor Blaine look over the model of the plant, revealing that it is hiding a tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator – a pan-dimensional surfboard, of sorts – to escape the explosion that will destroy the planet. The Doctor finally connects the dots on the Bad Wolf label (Blaidd Drwg in Welsh) that is following them through time. That’s a mystery for another day, since he also learns that if he takes Blaine – better known as Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen – back to Raxacoricofallapatorius, she will be executed. She uses that to her psychological advantage as they wait for the TARDIS to recharge.

Mickey and Rose use the interlude to catch up, especially considering that Rose didn’t really call him to bring a passport. They leave for a night on the town while the Doctor and Jack have a conversation with Blon. The Slitheen makes a last request: A final meal at her favorite restaurant. Jack offers a pair of bracelets that will shock her if she tries to escape, so while he tries to wire the extrapolator to the TARDIS console, the Doctor and Blon dine. She tries to kill the Doctor multiple times, but he deflects each attempt. She details her pending execution in attempt to dissuade him, but the Doctor notes that if he shows her mercy then she’ll just start again. She decries him as a vengeful god – we’re back to the literal deus ex machina theme – and then the night goes sideways.

Meanwhile, Rose and Mickey walk around the bay, and Mickey reveals that he’s tried to move on. Rose tries to deal with the news, but ends up confronting Mickey over it. Mickey is distraught because Rose is gone all the time, and even though it will tear him apart, he promises to wait for her. Rose, rightly, is chagrined.

That’s one thing that I have really enjoyed about this series of episodes: It has addressed those who are left behind.

But, let’s get back to the sideways: The night is shaken apart by an earthquake.

The energy from the extrapolator is using the energy from the TARDIS to tear open the Cardiff Rift. Everyone returns to the TARDIS and Blon takes Rose hostage. The Slitheen reveals that this was her plan, relying on an advanced technology to find the extrapolator and destroy the planet through the Rift. Unfortunately for her, the heart of the TARDIS is opened beneath the console. Blon is transfixed by the beauty within the living machine, and with heartfelt thanks, she disappears. After the TARDIS is shut down and the crisis is averted, the Doctor finds an egg inside the skin suit. The TARDIS telepathically communicated with Blon and granted her a second chance by helping her revert to her youngest form.

Rose tries to say goodbye to Mickey, but he sees her and leaves before she finds him. With that, the travelers set course for a hatchery on Raxacoricofallapatorius.

 

The mythological ties are strong in this one, reaching all the way back to 1963. Between the discussion of how the TARDIS ended up stuck as a police box and the concept of the Heart of the TARDIS – alluded to in the third story, The Edge of Destruction, physically seen in Terminus, and discussed in the television movie – it’s apparent that writer and producer Russell T. Davies did his homework for this episode.

This story also continues the series thread of redemption for the Doctor. He wants to do the right thing in taking a serious criminal home to answer for their atrocities, but knowing that she faces execution is a huge wrinkle. This is a Doctor who has a lot of blood on his hands, and it’s apparent that he doesn’t want any more. After all, he was overjoyed last week that “just this once” everybody got to survive an encounter with him.

As previously mentioned, this series has also been simply fantastic at exploring the lives of those left behind, especially Jackie and Mickey. Doctor Who usually focuses on the adventure in the TARDIS, but if the companions leave family behind when the Doctor throws the switch, there is plenty of drama to explore. It makes the scenarios that much more humanly believable.

Finally, the Bad Wolf is coming to a head. The Doctor and Rose have been seeing the meme following them from place to place – notably, all of which have been on Earth this series (except for the off-screen adventures that Rose effuses about, breaking the guideline of “show, don’t tell“) – but the Doctor sets the idea aside for another day. It’s the bigger issue at hand, but not the most pressing in the face of Earth’s pending doom.

Something tells me that we’ll learn more during the next adventure.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Bad Wolf and Doctor Who: The Parting of the Ways

 

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 #169: The Empty Child & The Doctor Dances

Doctor Who: The Empty Child
Doctor Who: The Doctor Dances
(2 episodes, s01e09-10, 2005)

 

“You’ve never been bored? Never had a long night? Never had a lot of cabinets to put up?”

Rose and the Doctor are chasing a metal cylinder through space and time – they’re under mauve alert, which is apparently misunderstood by humans to be closer to red, complete with “all that dancing and misunderstanding” – before landing in London, 1941. They’re a couple of months behind the crash landing of the cylinder, and as the Doctor jimmies the lock on a door, Rose chases a kid in a gas mask who is calling for his mother.

The Doctor finds himself in a makeshift cabaret, and after the singer finishes her number – It Had to Be You – the Doctor uses the microphone to ask if anything has fallen from the sky recently. All he gets in return is laughter and an air raid siren. It is World War II after all, right in the middle of the London Blitz. Speaking of, Rose finds herself dangling from a rope under a barrage balloon, witness to a flight of bombers coming straight at her.

The Doctor returns to the TARDIS, comically telling a stray cat that one day he’ll find a companion who won’t run away. The phone in the TARDIS door rings, an event that shouldn’t happen because that phone has never worked, and he’s warned by a strange woman not to answer it. When he does, a boy’s voice asks if anyone has seen his mommy. He hangs up and pursues the woman, who he finds raiding a kitchen after the occupants have run for their bomb shelter.

On a balcony, an RAF officer named Jack uses a futuristic set of binoculars to spot Rose as she drifts through the skies of London. He notes her remarkable posterior, flirts with another soldier, and humorously rescues her with a light beam. In the house, the woman invites a group of homeless children to join her for an abandoned but warm dinner. They’re joined by the Doctor who deduces that they are homeless, however they should have been evacuated some time ago. The woman is Nancy, and she finds them food since they were all returned to London under various circumstances. The Doctor remarks that it’s either “Marxism in action or a West End musical.” When he asks about the cylinder, their dinner is interrupted by the creepy child in a gas mask looking for his mommy. Nancy tells him that the child is empty, and anyone he touches ends up just as empty. The voice – “Are you my mommy?” – penetrates the house, and the Doctor notes a scar on the boy’s hand before opening the door to reveal an empty stoop.

Rose awakens to meet Captain Jack Harkness, an American volunteer with the Number 133 Squadron RAF who also has psychic paper, nanogenes to heal Rose’s rope burn, and a cloaked ship. He believes that Rose is a fellow Time Agent and invites her for a drink and Moonlight Serenade on the top of the ship. He offers something that the Time Agency might want to buy if she has the ability to negotiate, and she suggests that they should talk to her “companion.” The item is a fully equipped Chula warship, the last of its kind, but it will be destroyed in two hours by a German bomb. Jack scans for alien tech in order to locate Rose’s companion.

The Doctor pursues Nancy to her hideout and surprises her as she unloads the tins of food she stole from the house. He makes the connection between the cylinder and the empty child: A bomb that wasn’t a bomb landed near Limehouse Green station a month before, and in order for them to bypass the soldiers guarding it, they need to go see “the doctor.” They end up near Albion Hospital, and the Doctor discovers that Nancy’s brother Jamie died in an air raid, driving her to take care of those unable to defend themselves.

The Doctor enters the hospital and finds the wards filled with people in gas masks. The doctor in question, Doctor Constantine, shows the Doctor that each victim has identical injuries to their skulls and chest cavities, and the gas masks are fused to their faces. They all have identical scars, as does Constantine, and they all came from touching the single victim of the bombing. They also are not dead, as Constantine demonstrates by rapping his cane on a pail, causing all of the bodies to sit up for a moment. Constantine offers the Doctor advice: The army plans to destroy the hospital to stop the tide of the infection, and he directs the Doctor to Room 802 before evolving into one of the masked undead.

Ye gods, that was downright creepy. Points to you, Doctor Who.

The Doctor meets Rose and Jack as they arrive at the hospital, and the Doctor finds out that Jack in conning them: He threw the cylinder at them, pursued them to London, and tried to convince them that it was valuable. Quite the cheeky and scurrilous cad, no?

Nancy returns to the abandoned house but is ambushed by the masked child, who is actually her brother Jamie. When he discovers Nancy and advances on her, the bodies in the ward also awaken and converge on the time travelers. The Doctor steps up and scolds the lot, telling them crossly to go to their rooms. He’s surprised when they retreat, glad that they weren’t his last words.

The Doctor talks to Jack about the con, which Jack remarks is a great scam for a time and place like the London Blitz or Pompeii. The Doctor notes that cylinder, which Jack claims was a burned-out medical transport, is the source of this virus. They proceed upstairs to Room 802 – Jack opens the door with his 51st-century sonic blaster, and the site of the factory where it was built is now a banana grove – to find what’s left from the first victim, Jamie.

At the all-clear signal, Nancy is captured by the family who own the house, but she talks her way out of the charges by noting how much food they have in a period of rationing, and demands wire cutters, a torch, food, and a visit to the bathroom before she leaves. She returns to her hideout to find the assembled children. They want to stay with her because she keeps them safe, but she points out that the empty child is coming after her, not them. Nancy leaves them and heads to the bombsite.

As Jamie returns to Room 802, the time traveling trio run from a horde of masked people – the banana and sonic device jokes are a hoot – before ending up in a storeroom. As the Doctor looks for a way out, Jack vanishes. He calls them from his ship using Om-Com technology, a transmission that can communicate over any speaker. The infected also use this technology and jump into the transmission, but Jack jams with Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade. The Doctor starts to work on breaking them out, asking why Rose trusts Jack so much. Rose says that Jack reminds her of the Doctor, but with more “dating and dancing.” The Doctor is offended at the notion that he doesn’t dance, and when Rose offers him the chance, he notes that her hands have been healed. They start to dance when they are transmatted to Jack’s ship, which the Doctor recognizes as a Chula spacecraft. The nanogenes heal his hand, which was burned when the TARDIS console sparked, and he asks to go to the bombsite. Jack reveals that he was once a Time Agent, but he left the Agency when they stole two years of his memories.

The bombsite’s commander, Algy, apprehends Nancy when she infiltrates the area. They lock her up next to an officer named Jenkins, who has been infected, and after they leave Nancy watches in horror as the man painfully transforms. As the time traveling trio approach the site, Jack recognizes Algy and shoots down Rose’s plan to distract the commander since she’s “not his type.” Unfortunately, Algy is in the middle of transformation, and the Doctor recognizes that the virus has gone airborne. They find Nancy, who is singing lullabies to the transformed Jenkins to keep him docile, and free her before examining the cylinder.

Jack tries to open the cylinder but trips an alarm instead. As the masked horde descend on the bombsite, the Doctor sends Rose to reassemble the barbed wire with his sonic screwdriver. Rose comforts Nancy by explaining time travel and the bright future ahead when the Allies win the war. The return as Jack opens the cylinder, and the Doctor reveals that it contained nanogenes. Programmed to heal any wound, the first thing they found was a dead child wearing a gas mask, so they used that as the template to heal everyone they could find. All of them are now hysterical four-year-olds turned powerful Chula warriors awaiting orders, ready to tear the world apart to save their mommys. Jack is suitably chagrined.

The Doctor discovers that Nancy is not Jamie’s brother, but is instead his mother. That’s the reason that he keeps chasing her, and the Doctor implores her to reveal the truth to the boy. She embraces the boy and tells him the truth, and the nanogenes use the moment to analyze her DNA and restore Jamie to his former self.

In the interim, Jack as transmatted to his ship and returns just in time to stop the incoming bomb, the Schlechter Wolf, before rocketing away. After Jack departs, the Doctor forces the nanogenes to fix everyone – “Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!” – and pins the results on Doctor Constantine’s expert medical knowledge. After everyone leaves the bombsite, he sets the cylinder to self-destruct, and they return to the TARDIS. Sadly, Rose learns the truth about Jack’s fate.

As Jack races through space, he is unable to jettison the bomb before it explodes, so he settles in with a martini to meet his death. He turns to see the open doors of the TARDIS and he scrambles aboard. The Doctor welcomes him aboard, and as the TARDIS head to the next adventure, the Doctor and Rose dance through the cosmos.

 

This story marks the return of Steven Moffat to the franchise and his trademark pace and tropes are on full display, from the romantic angle between the main characters to his fourth-quarter twists in the story. His script was delightfully creepy and scary, and the direction and production only helped to amplify it. The twist at the end – Nancy is the mother, not the sister – is quite touching.

Captain Jack Harkness is a fan favorite, especially in our household. We’ve seen so much of John Barrowman over the years at Dragon Con – take that as you will, knowing his convention performances – so dialing back a decade or so to his first Doctor Who appearance was fun.

Finally, I simply adore how the Ninth Doctor has evolved. He wants to be analytical about this mystery, and the action pace sets him back on his heels. He virtually explodes as all the pieces come together, and his joy at being able to save everyone is both palpable and exhilarating.

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Boom Town

 

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 #168: Father’s Day

Doctor Who: Father’s Day
(1 episode, s01e08, 2005)

 

Time can correct itself, but the consequences are deadly.

Rose reminisces about her father, Peter Alan Tyler, who died in November of 1987. She asks the Doctor if they can travel to see him and the Time Lord agrees with a caveat: “Be careful what you wish for.” They watch their wedding, where her father nervously messes up Jackie’s name during the vows, and then travel to the day of his death so he won’t die alone.

They stand on the roadside as Peter Tyler drives up – “Bad Wolf” is scrawled on a poster on a wall – but Rose cannot stand the sight of the hit and run accident. She asks the Doctor for another chance, an event that crosses their own timelines, and saves her father from death. They accompany Pete back to Tyler flat where Rose joyfully looks at her father’s belongings before being upbraided by the Doctor for changing the timeline. He demands the TARDIS key back and leaves, unaware of the eyes in the sky that kill three people in rapid succession.

Pete tries to console Rose over her boyfriend troubles, but she rebuffs his advice before escorting him to the Hoskins-Clark wedding. Meanwhile, the Doctor arrives at the TARDIS to find it an empty (and normal) police box. He runs after Rose, who is currently riding in a car (and getting Rickrolled like we all did back in the day) before hearing an anachronistic song on the radio. She picks up a message on her superphone – “Watson, come here, I need you.” – and narrowly avoids being hit twice by the same driver who nearly killed her father before.

They arrive at the church to meet Jackie and baby Rose, and a spat between Rose’s parents reveals her father’s infidelity. Nearby, a young Mickey watches everyone on the playground disappear before running to the church. The Doctor arrives just in time to save Rose and most of the wedding guests from dragon-like creatures. Everyone hides in the church – the older something is, the stronger it is against the rupture in time – and the Doctor reveals that the creatures are there to sterilize the wound by consuming those involved.

The Doctor watches as the hit-and-run driver makes another loop in time and Pete puts the pieces together. They tearfully embrace and talk about time travel as the creatures try to enter the church. The Doctor continues his rounds in the church, meeting the bride, groom, and their unborn child. Witness to their ordinary lives and potentially happy future, something he has never had, he promises to save them.

Jackie looks after Mickey as the Doctor watches baby Rose. The Time Lord is still angry about the paradox, for which he has no solution, and prevents Rose from comforting her younger self lest it add to the problem. Rose apologizes, the Doctor forgives her, and they realize that the TARDIS is (literally) the key to the problem. The Doctor uses an ’80s mobile phone battery and his sonic screwdriver to charge the key as Rose tries to console her father with false memories, but Pete knows that what she’s telling him is a lie. The TARDIS begins to materialize around the key and it becomes a race against time to save everyone in the church.

Unfortunately, Jackie picks that moment to confront Pete over Rose. The baby gets handed to Rose in the altercation and a creature materializes in the church from the new twist in the timelines. The Doctor tries to protect everyone but he is eaten by the creature, which then flies into the materializing TARDIS and stops the process cold. All avenues for success appear to be cut off. Rose mourns the Doctor as the world grows darker, and Pete makes a fateful decision about the looping hit-and-run driver.

Pete shows Rose to Jackie, who finally understands who the Doctor’s companion is, and says farewell to the daughter he barely knew. He grabs the vase that was broken in the correct timeline, leaves the church, and steps in front of the car. His sacrifice restores the Doctor and the timeline, and presents Rose one last chance to comfort her father before he dies.

History has changed slightly, but the fixed point in time – Pete’s death – has been restored. With this deeper understanding of the nature of space and time, Rose solemnly accompanies the Doctor back to the restored TARDIS.

 

This is a muddled story, and would otherwise be average (or less) as a result, but the confusion and unease that it inspires adds to the atmosphere. We don’t know why Pete Tyler’s death is a fixed (unmovable) point in time, but the mysteries surrounding it in this base-under-siege story infuse the poignancy with a degree of anxiety. It also adds more dimension to Rose and her awakening to the universe beyond her front door.

The Doctor still has some anger issues related to the Last Great Time War, but he’s also healing as we can see from his impassioned argument against fixing parts of personal timelines. He could stop the genocide, but the results could be catastrophic.

This isn’t one of my favorite stories, but it does the job well.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Empty Child and Doctor Who: The Doctor Dances

 

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 #167: The Long Game

Doctor Who: The Long Game
(1 episode, s01e07, 2005)

 

All the Editor-in-Chief asks is for an open mind.

The TARDIS arrives on Satellite 5, in orbit around Earth during the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, in the year 200,000. Rose and Doctor do their best to wow Adam, and the new companion responds by fainting in a most unimpressive way.

The trio stumble into a marketplace as the Doctor muses about the fine manners and cuisine among the 96 billion members of the human race. Unfortunately, every vendor is selling junk food. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to steal money from an automatic teller machine, sends Rose and Adam off for food, and meets a pair of journalists who tell him all about the station-wide news station that is Satellite 5.

The Doctor stealing money seems a bit off at first, but makes sense when you think about the non-materialistic and otherwise detached nature of the character. The Seventh Doctor broke a payphone once for cash, and there have been a few instances of the Doctor carrying various coins from across time and space to exchange for goods and services. I get the impression that the Doctor doesn’t care about their intrinsic value.

By the way, someone called the Face of Boe is headline news on BadWolfTV.

Adam is overwhelmed by his trip in time and space, so Rose offers him the use of her supercharged mobile phone. He calls home and leaves a message, but takes advantage of a distraction to pocket the phone. They rendezvous with the Doctor as he uses his psychic paper to pose as an inspecting manager. The trio watch as the journalists interface with a computer, using one of them as the central processor through a hole in her forehead. Adam is amazed by the technology but the Doctor feels that trouble is afoot.

The interface is monitored by a central security agency and a man known as the Editor. The determine that one of the journalists is a spy and promote her to Floor 500 (where the walls are supposedly made of gold). The revelation that once you go to Floor 500 you never come back piques the Doctor’s interest. Meanwhile, Adam takes some time on his own to decompress and Rose gives him a TARDIS key.

Oh, and Suki? She reaches Floor 500, which is freezing cold and covered in ice, finds a bunch of corpses, and is interrogated by the Editor as a member of the Freedom Fifteen anarchist underground group. She points a gun at the Editor, revealing that the Freedom Foundation has been monitoring the satellite and its corrupted signals. She’s then killed by the Editor in Chief, a creature living in the overhead of Floor 500.

The Doctor asks Cathica, the lead journalist on the current floor, about the station. She picks up that he’s not management, but helps him understand the nature of current events. The Doctor states that the Empire is stunted in attitudes and technology, and should have evolved far beyond this point by now. Something has been holding them back for the last 91 years.

Adam accesses a station terminal on the observation deck and learns all about the technology of the future. He tries to relay the information to his home via the supercharged mobile phone, but ends up getting routed to Floor 16 instead. He bluffs his way through an interview, uses the money that the Doctor got for him, and ends up having a chip installed to interface with the station.

The Doctor continues his investigation by accessing the station mainframe. The Editor continues to research the Doctor and Rose, but can’t find any information so he promotes them to Floor 500. Meanwhile, the Doctor, Rose, and Cathica determine that all of the station’s cooling is being directed into Floor 500.

The Doctor and Rose take the lift to Floor 500 and discover Suki’s dead body enslaved to the computer systems. They’re confronted by the Editor and are restrained by guards before meeting the Editor-in-Chief, a creature known as the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe. Or, Max for short. By manipulating the news, controlling the economy, locking the borders, and fostering a climate of fear, they have kept the human race controlled as slaves. Those who suspect the truth are detected by the chips in their heads and are eliminated. The Editor is funded by the banks and the satellite keeps the Jagrafess alive through the cold.

Cathica makes her way to Floor 500 and watches the interrogation. Meanwhile, Adam interfaces with the computer (transmitting the signal home through the mobile phone) and inadvertently offers the Editor all of the information in his head. The Editor plans to use the TARDIS (thanks to the key Adam has) and the information about the Doctor to take further control.

Cathica uses the interface on Floor 500 to override the Editor’s control and disrupt the Jagrafess’s life support system. The Doctor and Rose escape, and Suki prevents the Editor from leaving as the Jagrafess explodes from overheating. The Doctor leaves Cathica to put the human race back on track as he and Rose take Adam home. The Doctor destroys the answering machine, dresses down Adam, and leaves him with his new forehead port and the fear of being dissected if he is discovered.

As the TARDIS leaves, Adam’s mother comes home and celebrates his return after six months away. With an inadvertent snap of her fingers, she activates the port in Adam’s head and recoils in horror.

 

This story reminds me of Paradise Towers, The Sun Makers, and pretty much any other time Doctor Who has made a statement about totalitarian regimes that enslave their populaces and filter their knowledge. Remember, despite what certain fan circles tell you, Doctor Who has been political from the beginning: The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon dealt with two different political issues in the 1970s United Kingdom; The Green Death was overt about environmentalism; and The Mutants tackled colonialism. That just scratches the surface, and as we know, starting all the way back at The Daleks, we’ve had a recurring and iconic enemy that consistently pushes the point home about the evils of ethnic cleansing and cultural supremacy.

It’s the basis of science fiction: Metaphor that tells us about the human condition and how to be better people.

Here, the message is neither subtle nor particularly engaging, but it’s not one that irritates the viewer with a mallet bonking them on the head. It’s up front. Transparent and overt.

We also get the first (and only) televised companion to be kicked out of the TARDIS for bad behavior. We’ve seen companions left behind for their safety or well-being, but Adam was evicted (rightfully so) for greed, avarice, and most nearly mucking up the timeline. Amusingly, the Doctor left a future artifact behind with Adam’s head-port, but the impact of that may be minimal.

I also assume that the Doctor retrieved the superphone during the trip from Satellite 5 to Adam’s house.

 

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Father’s Day

 

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 #166: Dalek

Doctor Who: Dalek
(1 episode, s01e06, 2005)

 

Spoiler: This is one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who, and the context of the Timestamps Project has only made it better.

The TARDIS materializes in a dark room filled with displays after following a strange distress signal. As the lights come up, the Doctor recognizes the space as an alien museum. He and Rose spot moon dust, asteroid fragments, a Raxacoricofallapatorian arm, and the head of a Mondasian Cyberman, but after the Doctor touches a display case an alarm sounds and the travelers are surrounded by armed guards.

A helicopter arrives – callsign Bad Wolf One – and delivers Henry van Statten, the owner of the collection. He’s a power-hungry billionaire who flaunts his influence and easily disposes of employees who disagree with him. He looks over some new acquisitions with assistant Adam Mitchell and learns from the Doctor how to operate one of the more delicate artifacts before casually tossing it aside.

He’s a frustrating pain in the ass.

Van Statten invites the Doctor to see the one living specimen in the collection, a creature dubbed Metaltron. The billionaire has been torturing the creature in order to make it speak, but so far it has remained silent. The Doctor enters the vault and introduces himself, but is shocked when the creature repeats the name in a familiar voice.

Metaltron is a Dalek.

The Dalek tries to exterminate the Doctor, forcing the Time Lord to run for the sealed door, but the gun stalk does not work. Surprised, the Doctor turns hostile and confronts the Dalek. In turn, the Dalek asks for orders. The Doctor tells it that orders are not coming and that all of the Daleks are dead. The Doctor killed them all, along with the Time Lords, in the mutually assured destruction of the Great Time War.

As the last of their respective species, the Dalek concludes that they are the same. The Doctor hesitates for a moment but finally agrees and attempts to destroy the Dalek. He is removed from the room and escorted to an upper level by van Statten and Diana Goddard. The trip is filled with discussion of how the Dalek fell through time to Earth and was eventually retrieved by van Statten. The billionaire takes the Doctor to an examination room and forcibly scans the Time Lord, all the while gloating over his accomplishments due to alien technology. The Doctor pleads with van Statten for his release, but it does not come.

Elsewhere, Adam shows Rose his collection of artifacts. After some discussion on the nature of the universe and a little flirting, they turn on the cameras and watch as the Dalek is tortured. Rose and Adam rush to stop them, eventually interviewing the Dalek. It tells Rose that it is in pain, prompting Rose to reach out and touch the armor casing in sympathy. The Dalek absorbs part of her DNA and powers up, breaks free of its chains, and kills a tech with its sucker arm.

As the alarm sounds, van Statten releases the Doctor, but they are too late to stop the Dalek from breaking free of the vault. It recharges from the base’s power grid, downloads the internet, and regenerates its armor. It rampages through the base and slaughters the soldiers. All the while, van Statten worries about keeping the Dalek in pristine condition.

The Doctor and Goddard plan a method to stop it as Rose and Adam run up a flight of stairs to escape. Unfortunately, Daleks have learned how to navigate stairs by flying. This was impressive when I first saw this episode in 2008, but after having seen Remembrance of the Daleks, it became a fantastic callback.

Rose and Adam continue to run while the Doctor opens van Statten’s eyes to the horror they have released: The Dalek will cleanse the planet because no other being is pure enough to survive. Rose and Adam find safety behind more soldiers. The Dalek arrives, looks straight at Rose, and then exterminates the entire squad using the fire sprinklers to conduct shots like electricity from the gun stalk. The Doctor, van Statten, and Goddard watch in alarm before planning an escape route. The Dalek addresses the Doctor directly, explaining how the DNA of a time traveler regenerated it and lamenting the inability to receive commands. Without commands, it defaults to base programming: Exterminate everything. The Dalek and the Doctor go back and forth, igniting the Doctor’s fury, but the Time Lord is knocked back on his heels by the Dalek’s response: “You would make a good Dalek.”

Yes, this shell-shocked Doctor certainly would.

Adam and Rose run for safety, but van Statten is forced to seal the vault before Rose can escape. It’s just her and the Dalek alone, and the Dalek supposedly kills Rose. Fortunately for her, the Dalek cannot because it feels her fear through the DNA link, and the logical conflict is driving it insane.

Believing that Rose is dead, the Doctor directs his fury at van Statten. The Doctor promised to protect her, and now he has failed. When Adam arrives, the Dalek addresses the Doctor, reveals the deceit, and demands to be freed lest it truly kill her. The Doctor relents and raises the blast door before looking for a weapon to fight with.

The Dalek and Rose take the elevator to van Statten’s office. The Dalek confronts the billionaire over the torture sessions and nearly kills him, but Rose stops extermination in exchange for the Dalek’s freedom. She walks it toward the exit, but it unexpectedly stops and blasts a hole in the ceiling. Channeling the human DNA coursing through its body, it stands in the resulting beam of light and opens its shell exposing the organic Dalek to the sun. The Doctor arrives with a large gun, but Rose stands between the two mortal enemies as a bridge of peace.

She talks the Doctor down, forcing both of them to face their mortality. Both of them have started down a road of healing by contact with Rose, but the Dalek cannot accept what it is becoming because of the impurity. The drive of being a Dalek is just too strong, and it asks her to order its destruction. At first Rose refuses, but after the Dalek pleads with her for merciful relief she relents. The Dalek rises, generates a force field around itself, and self-destructs.

The last of the Daleks is dead.

In the aftermath, Goddard has van Statten taken away and mind-wiped. The Doctor and Rose head back to the TARDIS, and while Rose offers a bit of hope – if the Dalek survived, maybe another Time Lord did as well – Adam arrives looking for a way out. Rose asks if he can join them, and the Doctor tells her that Adam is her responsibility.

The three of them board the TARDIS and head off to the next adventure.

 

This entire season so far has been centered on a damaged Doctor. We have seen clues along the way, including haunted sadness, anger, and even deflection, but this is where his actions come to roost. The beauty of this episode, and the big reason why it is one of my favorites, is because it takes our hero through the paces: The Doctor’s anger pushes him back into darkness before pulling him back to face who he has become. He has to diagnose his injuries before he can allow them to heal.

The bridge between these stalemated warriors is Rose. Her compassion is something that the Dalek doesn’t have and the Doctor has forgotten how to use. The awakening forces both warriors to effectively lay down their arms, even to the point of humbling the Time Lord with the power of the people he has traveled for most of his lives.

The parallels with veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the horrors of war are powerful. The arc of redemption compounds that power, and the representation that anyone can be the catalyst of that change, even a nineteen-year old department store employee, makes it that much more special.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Long Game

 

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.