Doctor Who: The Awakening
(2 episodes, s21e05-e06, 1984)
A new adventure starts by showing us that “it’s just a joke” often isn’t.
A schoolteacher named Jane Hampden is being harassed by English civil war re-enactors. She thinks they’ve taken things too far, but Sir George and his band blow off her concerns because she just doesn’t get it.
You know, despite all the anger in fandom over the Thirteenth Doctor, it’s pretty obvious that Doctor Who has been pretty progressive for quite a long time.
The Doctor is taking Tegan on a special trip to visit her grandfather, but the TARDIS is acting strangely. When they materialize, they find a man in a crumbling structure, but the man runs away. Based on the man’s clothing, the travelers have arrived in the 17th century, but the TARDIS coordinates read as 1984. As our heroes explore, smoke pours from a crack a wall. They don’t see it, and neither do they see the re-enactors who round them up and take them to Sir George.
Sir George’s retinue informs Tegan that her grandfather is missing, and she angrily storms out. After having her purse stolen, she sees flashing lights and the ethereal image of an old man before being rescued by Turlough. After the Doctor sneaks away, Sir George sends his men to find the travelers based on Tegan’s grandfather. After all, “something strange but wonderful” is coming to the village.
The Doctor pursues a man carrying Tegan’s purse back to the church, and in short order, Tegan, Turlough, and the Doctor join forces with Will Chandler, a supposed 17th-century peasant. As the Doctor convinces Will of the truth of his temporal dislocation, Tegan and Turlough return to the TARDIS and see the flashing blue lights again. They are soon captured while searching for the Doctor, and Tegan is forced to adopt the role of Queen of the May.
Will and the Doctor discover a hidden passage from the church to the manor, conveniently decorated with the face of something called Malus. They join up with Jane, who is being pursued, and hide from Sir George’s forces. While in hiding, they find a sample of tincalvic, a metal mined by the Tereleptils on the planet Raaga for the people of Hakol. Hakol is a place where psychic energy is harnessed, and the metal is part of a spacecraft or probe. As they return to the church, they discover a large face emerging from the crack in the wall, and after surviving a psychic projection from the Malus, they escape to the tunnel.
En route, the Doctor talks to Jane about the Malus, which is feeding off the psychic energy of the war games. The Doctor fails to convince Sir George to stop the war games, and Sir George orders Colonel Woolsey to execute the Doctor’s team. Woolsey disobeys by switching sides and collaborating with the Doctor to stop the threat. Meanwhile, Turlough encounters Andrew Verney, the man who discovered the Malus and was imprisoned by Sir George to keep it secret.
So, the Doctor places himself on the front lines of the Queen of the May celebration, and Woolsley delivers a mockup of Tegan to draw off the soldiers. Verney and Turlough break out of their cell, while the Doctor collects Will, and everyone converges on the church to battle the Disney Imagineer façade that is the Malus.
The Malus fights back by draining all the psychic energy from the villagers to battle the Doctor, but the energy is wasted when a random redshirt runs in and is decapitated by projected soldiers. Sir George, completely under the thrall of the Malus, confronts the Doctor. The Doctor logics his way into Sir George’s head and the battle between good and evil disarms the leader. In a surprise move, Will pushes the helpless man into the gaping maw of the Malus. The Doctor says cold-blooded murder is okay, but we all know that it’s really not.
The Doctor shepherds the whole lot to the TARDIS and takes off just in time as the church collapses around the self-destructing Malus. The Doctor makes arrangements to put everyone back in their proper places, and Tegan convinces everyone to convince the Doctor to stay in the village for a while. After all, they came to visit her grandfather, and Mr. Verney is right there.
Nothing says family reunion like running for your lives, right?
This one was a compressed evil alien versus the village scenario, and it was just okay. The team is working well together (which is good) but the narrative took a lot of shortcuts to fit the two episode limit (which is bad). I usually don’t mind the special effects, but the face of Malus was particularly laughable. What wasn’t funny was the Doctor excusing cold-blooded murder. That’s not in character at all.
Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”
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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.