Pop Culture Download: April 29, 2018

Pop Culture Download: April 29, 2018


On the Docket

The classic Doctor Who serial Genesis of the Daleks will be screened in movie theaters on June 11. – [Entertainment Weekly]

Julie Newmar, Catwoman on the 1996 Batman television series, has experienced a non-fatal heart attack. – [13th Dimension]

The inside story of how Lost in Space was remade. – [THR]

Bob Dorough, the creator of Schoolhouse Rock, has died at the age of 94. – [CNN]

Paramount has plans for two more Star Trek films. – [TrekCore]

One of those new Star Trek films will be directed by S.J. Clarkson, the first female director of a Star Trek film. – [Variety]

The next Star Wars animated series has been announced. Star Wars: Resistance will be spearheaded by franchise favorite Dave Filoni and will be set in the sequel trilogy era. – [StarWars.com]


Keith DeCandido continues the 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch with nap-time, also known as Elektra. – [Tor]

Read More »


Timestamp #149: Paradise Towers

Doctor Who: Paradise Towers
(4 episodes, s24e05-e08, 1987)


“Nothing’s just rubbish if you have an inquiring mind.”

On one hand, we have the typical ’80s grunge-apocalypse sci-fi with a woman on the run. On the other hand, Mel and a swimming pool paradise. The TARDIS arrives at the former, though Mel and the Doctor would rather have the latter after jettisoning the time capsule’s swimming pool to solve a small leaking problem.

Caretaker 345/12 (subsection 3) – I’m going to call him “Dave” because his business pseudonym is far too complicated – reports that he’s investigating possible “wallscrawlers” on Potassium Street. He finds blood and a scrap of fabric similar to the clothes the woman was wearing. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Mel are accosted by a group called the Red Kangs. They are different than the Blue Kangs and the Yellow Kangs – the latter of which there exists only one, presumably the girl from the opening – and they love the Doctor but dislike Mel. The two lead Reds introduce themselves as Fire Escape and Bin Liner.

A Blue Kang follows Dave and reports via telephone that the Yellow Kangs are dead. To reinforce it, a cleaning robot drives by with a yellow-clad foot sticking out of the top. Moving back to the Red Kangs, the Doctor explains that he and Mel are visitors who have just arrived. Fire Escape tells him that there are no visitors by law and that the tower’s inhabitants consist of the Kangs, the old ones, the Caretakers, and another faction that Bin Liner doesn’t want her talking about. The concept of “boys” is completely foreign to the group. Mention of the pool in the sky earns the travelers a one-way ticket to captivity.

Elsewhere, Dave is killed by cleaning robots and the Chief Caretaker orders that all red wallscrawlers in Fountain of Happiness Square are apprehended. The Doctor is apprehended by the Caretakers and Mel ends up in the apartment of Tilda and Tabby, two women living in an ’80s sitcom. They identify as Rezzies and offer Mel tea and cakes.

The Doctor and his escorts, including the Deputy Chief Caretaker, rest for a moment. The Doctor examines the graffiti and interprets a Kang being attacked by an automaton. The Deputy Chief dismisses the idea, but they soon find themselves on the run from a cleaning robot matching the art on the walls.

Tilda and Tabby tell Mel of a great war in which the youth and elderly were sent to the Towers and those who could fight were never seen again, but their story is interrupted by Pex, a refugee from The Terminator, who apparently breaks down the apartment door on the regular in order to “put the world of Paradise Towers to rights.” Mel departs to continue her quest for the pool and Pex (“pecs”) joins her as a protector and guide.

The Doctor is brought before the Chief Caretaker, is mistaken as the original architect of Paradise Towers – someone who will restore the Towers to their utopian glory – and is ordered to be executed.

Seriously now… tell me straight… what in the world am I watching right now?

The Doctor’s execution is delayed as the Chief Caretaker investigates Dave’s death. Meanwhile, Pex shows off for Mel and the Red Kangs discover that No Exit, one of their own, has been “taken to the cleaners.” The Doctor muses over the cleaners as he awaits his fate, eventually securing a copy of the Caretaker rulebook and using it to work his way out of captivity.

What an excellent way to use the authoritarian blind obedience to his advantage.

Mel and the Doctor wander the Towers in search of one another. Mel learns that Pex’s memory of his past is faulty and the Doctor learns something from a particular piece of wall art. Back in the ’80s sitcom nightmare, Tilda and Tabby (who are dining on rats) are visited by Maddie with news of Dave’s death.

The Doctor breaks a telephone and gathers the money within before being chased by cleaning robots (whom he tricks into fighting each other) and falls into the Red Kang headquarters. Mel and Pex are similarly taken by the Blue Kangs. The Doctor uses his money to buy a soda from a vending machine, a move that startles the Reds before amazing them.

The Chief Caretaker (“Daddy”) visits a machine (“my pet”) and chastises it for consuming a Red Kang without his permission. The machine replies that it is hungry. Meanwhile, the Blues tell Mel that Pex is a coward – a deserter? – and Mel is allowed to leave him with the Blues.

That was a bit heartless, Mel.

Mel ends up back with Tilda and Tabby as the Chief Caretaker orders his army to teach the Kangs a lesson for their defiance. The ladies take Mel captive – Mel screams… goodness, does she scream – as the Caretakers begin their assault on the Red stronghold. The Doctor buys the Reds time as they escape the Caretakers, and Mel’s predicament gets more interesting as the ladies are eaten by the robot and Pex rescues our carrot-juice aficionado.

The Doctor is captured by the Caretakers and taken back to the Chief. The Chief interrogates the Doctor, but the Time Lord quickly turns the tables and uncovers the Chief’s involvement in the murders. The Q&A is interrupted by the Deputy who bears news of more deaths, prompting the Chief to leave. Soon enough, the Reds break in and rescue the Doctor, leaving the Caretakers bundled neatly on the floor. They end up back in the Red stronghold, sipping sodas and watching an infomercial on Paradise Towers. He draws the conclusion that the architect, Kroagnon, built Miracle City. The place would be the architect’s oasis, but he was forced out and those who moved in were killed. There was no evidence to link the architect to the murders, so he went free.

Mel and Pex decide to continue to the pool, noting that the basement is restricted to tenants on penalty of death, but they end up trapped in a wayward elevator and dumped into the lair of evil. They escape and end up on the pool deck. The Doctor follows similar logic end convinces both Blue and Red Kangs to accompany him to the basement. Once there, they witness the mastermind robot declare itself to be Kroagnon and encase the Chief in a container before attacking the Doctor. The Doctor and the Kangs escape, but after they leave the Chief is freed, but his mind is now that of Kroagnon. The hybrid goes on a killing spree.

Oh my, the Chief-Kroagnon’s performance is cringe-worthy.

On the pool deck, Pex and Mel rest for a moment, unaware of the cleaning robot hiding underwater. Mel goes in the water, gets attacked, and screams. (We all know how well she can scream!) Pex calls for help to an empty room, and Mel grabs his gun and disables the robot. Shortly afterward, the Doctor appears with his team, and the whole lot are met by the remaining Rezzies who petition for help.

The team hears the story of the hybrid’s crusade and they agree to help. They are surprised when the Deputy Chief arrives and asks to help them, bringing his knowledge of a secret stash of explosives. The Doctor formulates a plan to trap Kroagnon, including a lure to draw the hybrid out. Pex volunteers to help as the Rezzies and Kangs start destroying the cleaners.

Why the Kangs couldn’t aim well enough before now to kill the cleaners with a single shot is an exercise left to the viewer.

The Kangs give Pex gifts in appreciation, and Pex gives Mel his pistol before beginning his task. Pex brings the architect too soon, but he musters enough bravery to execute the plan and destroy Kroagnon by sacrificing himself. Fast-forwarding to the wrap-up, the Kangs memorialize Pex for his sacrifice and induct the Doctor in the newly united Kang faction. The travelers say their farewells and depart, revealing one last wallscrawl as the TARDIS vanishes from sight: Pex Lives.


This story seemed like a parody of Doctor Who. The idea is sound, with a utopia that has fallen into anarchy embodied through factions. They each have basic rules for survival, and all of them must unite under a single banner to defeat a common foe. The problem is in the execution, which was dreadful, laughable, and (dare I say it?) boring.

One thing that brings the serial up is the deep immersion into this microcosm. The Kang gang member names, the factions, and the entirety of the world is never fully explained, and we are expected to accompany the Doctor and Mel as they figure it out and defeat the enemy. The big downside is that it’s so immersive that trying to interpret the vernacular overwhelms the story.

The larger highlight is the Doctor. I love his zaniness and sense of exploration, and the rising undercurrent of darkness is a complex dimension that is both endearing and intriguing. He is the bright spot in this pile of rubbish.


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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermen



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

Pop Culture Download: April 22, 2018

Pop Culture Download: April 22, 2018


On the Docket

Harry Anderson, probably best known as Judge Harry Stone on Night Court, has died at the age of 65. – [KCTV5]

Billy Mitchell, formerly known as the Donkey Kong world record holder, has been stripped of his title and scores after evidence of cheating surfaced. – [Variety]

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is being revived/remade on Amazon Prime. – [YouTube]

Asian-American theater pioneer Soon-Tek Oh has died at the age of 85. – [Variety]

A bitter court dispute is stopping any further films in the Mad Max series. – [Sydney Morning Herald]

Legendary NPR newscaster Carl Kassell has died at the age of 84. – [NPR]

Former First Lady Barbara Bush has died at the age of 92. – [NYT]

Star Wars: Episode IX has hired Victoria Mahoney as the second unit director. She is the first woman in Star Wars film history to serve as second unit director and in a directing role. – [THR]

Verne Troyer, probably best known as Mini-Me in the Austin Powers films, has died at age 49. – [CNN]

Starz has canceled Ash vs. The Evil Dead after three seasons. – [Variety]

Keith DeCandido continues the 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch with the oft-maligned big budget debut of Daredevil. – [Tor]

Read More »

WHOlanta 2018

WHOlanta 2018
Atlanta, GA – May 4-6, 2018



[Post updated on May 1st to reflect schedule and guest changes.]

WHOlanta is an annual convention celebrating Doctor Who, British media, and speculative fiction. It is a fan-run convention and has been around since 2005 as TimeGate. Past guests have included Katy Manning, Michelle Gomez, Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Sophie Aldred, Mary Tamm, Camille Coduri, John Levene, Colin Spaull and Caitlin Blackwood, script editors Terrance Dicks and Andrew Cartmel, composer Dominic Glynn, film editor Louis Robinson, writer Jamie Mathieson, and many more.

This year’s guests include Louise Jameson, Rachel Talalay, Richard Starkings, Kelly Yates, and PixelWho.

I will be volunteering mostly as a panelist for the OtherWorlds Track. The convention runs from May 4-6, and you can find more info at their official site.

(As always, the schedule is subject to change and isn’t completely official until the convention is over. Even then, it’s still a bit suspect.)


So where can you find me during the con?


Friday, May 4

6:00p – Opening Ceremony and WHOlanta 101
Main Programming
Grand Salon

7:00p – Sorting Hat: Welcome to OtherWorlds
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

It all started with, “Princess Leia is a Slytherin.” Meet the OtherWorlds team and help them sort characters from fandoms past & present into their Hogwarts house.


I’m not on any Friday panels yet, so I’ll be seeing the sights, picking up some pre-ordered swag, and generally wandering about.


Saturday, May 5

12:00p – Sorting the CW DC Heroes: Wearing Green Doesn’t Make Arrow a Slytherin!
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Jump in the Waverider, pull up your hood, and help us put the Sorting Hat on your favorite DC television heroes.

1:00p – The Last Jedi: What Did the Fans Want?
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Star Wars Episode 7 asked some questions. Episode 8 seems to have forgotten to answer some of them. The old characters got a lot of screen time, but was it too much? What were we expecting, and did we get any of it?

2:00p – I Want My MP3s: The Current State of Digital Media
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Net Neutrality falls. Star Trek is pay to watch. Netflix wins a Golden Globe. E-books in myriad formats & movies on your phone. How does a geek navigate these digital changes?

4:00p – The 80s Effect: Stranger Things & the New Nostalgia
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

In the 1980s, geek culture exploded like Harrison Ford’s bank account. The 80s are showcased in current media like Super 8, Stranger Things, and Ready Player One. Why is that decade cool again?

6:00p – Discovery: To Canon or Not to Canon?
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Star Trek is good about continuity, right? No? Maybe that’s not why we watch. Is Discovery good enough a show to forgive any continuity problems?

7:00p – JLA: Another Misstep or a Step in the Right Direction?
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Finally, a Super Friends movie! Was it worth the wait? Where does it fall on the DC movie spectrum? Did it make you demand Justice at Dawn, or did it fill you with Wonder?

8:00p – Marvel Infinity Wars Has Some Serious Stones
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Avengers. Spider-Man. Guardians. Wakanda. Thanos. Infinity Stones. <keyboard drop>

9:00p – Always Looking to the Horizon: New Generations in Star Wars
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

In Star Wars movies, young people sweep away the old, for good or ill, out of ambition or from the calling. From Padme & Anakin, through Luke & Leia, to Rey & Ben, the children shall lead them.

11:00p – Late Night Nerd Fight: Spaceship TV Shows
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Eight spaceship television shows go into the bracket, but only one survives. You get to help decide. We have no wormholes, but you might get trapped in a well, actually.


Sunday, May 6

1:00p – Podcasting: Something to Say
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Why do we podcast? What drives us to keep putting out episode after episode? How did we get started?

4:00p – Deep Space Nine: Boldly Orbiting Bajor for 25 Years
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

Commander Sisko punched an omnipotent being in the face, setting the tone for the fourth Star Trek TV series with, “I’m not Picard.” Head to the Promenade, order a Raktajino, and celebrate this unique take on Trek with us!

5:00p – Sorting Hat: Wrapping up OtherWorlds
OtherWorlds Programming
Grand Salon H

The show is almost over, but fandom is eternal. Close out the OtherWorlds track by bringing your favorite character from the weekend to be sorted into their Hogwarts house.

6:00p – Closing Ceremony
Main Programming
Grand Salon



Timestamp #148: Time and the Rani

Doctor Who: Time and the Rani
(4 episodes, s24e01-e04, 1987)


TARDIS under attack!

In a rare pre-credits sequence, a rather well-done for the era computer-generated TARDIS topples tail over teakettle, leaving the Sixth Doctor and Mel unconscious on the floor of the console room. On Lakertya, the planet below, a native watches the TARDIS hurtle to the ground in a rainbow of energy. Within moments, the doors open from the outside to reveal the Rani and her henchmen. The Rani orders that Mel is left behind as the creatures take a freshly regenerating Seventh Doctor to her laboratory.

Roll credits. Fancy computer generated credits. With a new theme and a winking Doctor.

I’m not adverse to them. I like them better than the dark theme from the Twenty-Third Series, but man, oh man, are they so very ’80s.

In the Rani’s lab, we see Albert Einstein being loaded into a stasis chamber by two Lakertyans. The Rani has kidnapped many genius scientists from Earth history, and now she has the Doctor to play with. The newly regenerated Time Lord snaps awake with a burst of energy and a babble of speech, eventually confronting the Rani. He threatens to smash some equipment with his umbrella, forcing the Rani’s hairy companion to shoot him with a laser web device.

Sylvester McCoy’s energy and acting are refreshing. I found myself grinning during this whole sequence.

One of the Lakertyans, Ikona, enters the TARDIS and retrieves the unconscious Mel. His female counterpart, scared off by the Rani’s anger, is soon killed in explosive fashion, but not before meeting Mel. Ikona warns Mel that if she runs, she will find more of the same explosive traps. He also believes that Mel is allied with the Rani and takes her for ransom. He drags her through the typical Doctor Who quarry, but she ends up rescuing him from a trap and earning her freedom. They continue to run, trying to evade the Tetraps (the Rani’s hairy foot-soldiers).

In the lab, the Rani drugs the Doctor so he won’t remember waking up before, and when he comes around again, she is (poorly) disguised as Mel. The Rani attempts to convince the Doctor to repair some broken equipment in (what she calls) his lab. He exhibits some Sixth Doctor tendencies and an ability to play the spoons, but the tech confounds him. The Rani convinces him to return to the TARDIS for some tools.

Upon returning to the TARDIS, the Doctor decides to change clothes. He tries on a Napoleon outfit, a British guard uniform, an arcane schoolteacher getup, the Fourth Doctor‘s burgundy attire with the wrong scarf, the Third Doctor‘s brown coat and ruffles, the Fifth Doctor‘s ensemble, and the Second Doctor‘s fur coat before settling on his trademark style.

Note: The suspenders should be underneath the sweater.

The Doctor nearly recognizes the Rani under her disguise, but after she slaps him he goes off to find the radiation wave meter.

Elsewhere, Mel runs from the Tetrap but trips one of the exploding bubble traps. The bubble bounces all across the landscape – understandably, Mel is screaming the entire time (and goodness, can she scream) – before safely landing in a lake. Ikona frees her and they continue to run, but they are soon ambushed. As Mel screams, Ikona finds a hidden rifle to defend them. They end up at the Rani’s tower.

The Doctor continues to work on the Rani’s equipment, but he is obsessed with what lies beyond a sealed door. Prior to this, the Rani had stated that the Lakertyans weren’t an advanced species, so the Doctor is puzzled when the Rani suggests that the Lakertyans can patch a broken mineral plate in the device. She leaves to find the necessary gear, locking the Doctor in the lab.

Mel and Ikona encounter Faroon, another Lakertyan, and they mourn the death of Sarn, the female Lakertyan… Faroon’s daughter. Faroon leaves deliver the bad news to Beyus, Sarn’s father, and Mel and Ikona follow. Ikona distracts the Tetrap guard long enough for Mel to sneak in. Meanwhile, the Tetrap guard mistakenly apprehends the Rani (who is still dressed like Mel).

Mel finds the lab and assaults the Doctor, unaware that the Time Lord has regenerated. After a brief altercation, they verify each other’s identities. Mel knows about regeneration, but she’s still astounded by the change. The pair are rescued from the lab by Faroon and Beyus and taken to the stasis chamber where they discover the sleeping scientists and a chamber set aside for the Doctor.

The Rani is freed and, after berating her minion, heads for her TARDIS. Her time capsule is a small pyramid, and the inside is futuristic and gorgeous. She fixes the mineral plate and returns to her lab, prompting the Doctor to send Mel with Faroon and Beyus. The Doctor uncovers the Rani’s ruse and discovers her plan: She is channeling the scientists’ minds into a single artificial brain in an attempt to harvest strange matter from a nearby asteroid.

Okay, given that only strange matter can affect strange matter, therefore requiring the brain to develop a lightweight substitute with the same qualities, why not just use the substitute for the nefarious scheme? Perhaps a difference in purity or something?

Anyway, the Doctor escapes and finds refuge in the pit where the Rani keeps the Tetraps. She searches the pit and departs, locking the grate behind her and leaving the Doctor surrounded by the beasts. Luckily, Beyus arrives to feed the Tetraps and helps the Doctor escape. Unable to find the Doctor inside the complex, the Rani extends her search outside. She returns as the Doctor sabotages her machinery, and she sounds the alarm as the Doctor escapes the facility. Meanwhile, Mel is captured by the Tetraps and taken to the Rani.

Goodness, can she scream.

The Doctor meets Ikona, and together they trick a Tetrap into one of the explosive traps. Ikona takes the Time Lord to the Center of Leisure where his people are kept happy and indolent despite their servitude. The Doctor doesn’t understand why Beyus told him to visit the center, but he does question the strange sphere in the center of the room. The device’s purpose is made clear as the Rani punishes the Lakertyans by releasing killer insects. As they run, Faroon tells the Doctor that Mel is being held hostage, and the ransom is the missing piece from the machine. The Doctor makes the trade, but the exchanged hostage is a hologram. The real Mel is pressed into service as Beyus’s assistant.

This section of the story was the weakest part and an unnecessary tangent.

The Doctor is captured as he and Ikona try to sneak back into the laboratory. The Doctor is loaded into his stasis chamber and his intelligence is networked into the artificial brain – Mel responds by screaming, because goodness, can she scream – but the Doctor’s inputs are nothing more than bad puns and nonsense. While the Rani sorts out the issues, she dispatches the army of Tetraps to exact “selective retribution” on the dissident Lakertyans. After she disconnects the Doctor, Mel and the Doctor trap her in the stasis chamber. Unfortunately, the Doctor’s intelligence provided the brain with the answer: Loyhargil.

The answer is the Holy Grail? Seriously, anagram it.

The explosion of the strange matter will create a shell of chronons (discrete particles of time?) around the planet, causing the brain to expand, fill the sphere, and become a Time Manipulator. Using that, the Rani can travel through time and alter history, adding order to the entropy of evolution throughout the universe. She also mentions that she alone will survive the supernova, a fact that upsets her Tetrap assistant. The Rani synthesizes her grail and heads for her TARDIS.

The Doctor and Mel escape the lab one more time to reunite with Ikona and help him spur the Lakertyans into full rebellion. The travelers then return to the lab and free the scientists, prompting Beyus to sacrifice his life to destroy the brain and delay the launch just long enough to miss the asteroid and foil the Rani’s plans. The Rani retreats to her TARDIS, but her escape is shortlived as the Tetraps, collectively stowed away in the time capsule, “invite” her to join them on their homeworld.

The Doctor and Mel return to their TARDIS, saying their farewells to the liberated Lakertyans and escorting the scientists aboard for their return home. The Lakertyans have learned that they must solve their own problems if they are to survive.


Starting with the story, it was average at best. Regeneration stories are often rough since they involve new actors (and sometimes new production teams), but this one seemed even more troubled than most. It wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t good either. Continuity-wise, I really wish that the BBC could have made amends with Colin Baker, but I understand his reasoning for not returning. It’s obviously Sylvester McCoy with a dodgy wig behind the regeneration effect. That doesn’t bother me as much as the Rani’s random mole. I don’t recall seeing it in her previous appearance, and it was only visible for a short time here.

What buoyed this up for me was Sylvester McCoy’s energy and acting, which were refreshing. Because of that, I have high hopes for what’s to come.


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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Paradise Towers



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

Pop Culture Download: April 15, 2018

Pop Culture Download: April 15, 2018


On the Docket

Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels, Marvel’s Inhumans) has been tapped as Captain Christopher Pike of the USS Enterprise for Star Trek: Discovery‘s second season. – [StarTrek.com]

Stand-up comedian and star of One Mississippi Tig Notaro is joining Star Trek: Discovery as Denise Reno, chief engineer of the USS Hiawatha. – [Deadline]

Arrow‘s Season Seven: Willa Holland is out and Colton Haynes is back in. – [THR]

Nat Geo is adapting Hidden Figures as a television series. – [Variety]

Black Panther will be released to digital on May 8 and physical media on May 15. – [IGN]

TV everyman Tim O’Connor (Buck Rogers, Peyton Place, Twilight Zone) has died at the age of 90. – [THR]

Iconic Full Metal Jacket drill instructor R. Lee Ermey has died at 74. – [THR]

Keith DeCandido continues the 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch with the third (and often possibly worst) Sam Raimi Spider-Man film. – [Tor]

Read More »

Timestamp Special #6: A Fix with Sontarans

Doctor Who: A Fix with Sontarans
(1 episode, 1985)


It’s one last brief stop with Colin Baker before jumping back on the canon timeline.

Starting with a little bit of history, this is a segment of the popular British television show Jim’ll Fix It. The premise is that children write in with their wishes and Jimmy Saville, the show’s creator and host, finds a way to make those dreams come true. For this ten-minute spot, eight-year-old Gareth Jenkins wrote a letter asking to meet Colin Baker and visit the TARDIS. He also included a picture of him in a Sixth Doctor costume that his mother or grandmother made for him.

It’s been pretty evident during my reviews of the Sixth Doctor’s run that I wasn’t fond of the character – a fact that has earned me a certain amount of flak from fans, including those who think that I’m attacking Colin Baker instead of the character, which is far from reality – but my fan heart is warmed by this. I have a philosophy to not the criticize fans based on what they love, and I’m over the moon that young Mr. Jenkins idolized this Doctor so much.

In order to make Gareth’s dream come true, Jimmy Saville presented an adventure with two Doctor Who alumni. That’s pretty cool.

The story opens with the Doctor dancing around the TARDIS console in a valiant effort to tech the tech when an inadvertent button push teleports Tegan Jovanka into the console room. Tegan’s unimpressed with the Doctor’s new face and unhappy about the abduction, but she agrees to help remove two Sontarans and their vitrox bomb from the ship.

On a clever note, Tegan asks what a Sontaran is because she’s never met one.

The Doctor asks Tegan to push the blue button, but since there are so many of them, she accidentally activates the matter transfer stream again. This time the new passenger is a human boy named Gareth Jenkins. The boy is dressed exactly like the Doctor and offers to help in any way he can. Together, they set a trap as the Sontarans storm the console room.

Group Marshall Nathan (Turner? Am I reading too much into this?) demands introductions and is surprised to learn that Gareth is aboard. In the year 2001, their invasion of Earth is stopped by a brave and wise military leader of the same name, and the Sontarans decide that if they kill him now they can succeed later on. As they raise their weapons, Gareth springs the trap and the Sontarans literally melt to death.


The Doctor asks Gareth how he knew where all of the controls were, and the boy answers, “Well, I’ve seen you fly the TARDIS on telly.” After that, Jimmy Saville appears on the scanner screen for a moment before boarding the TARDIS. The Doctor presents Gareth Jenkins with a Jim’ll Fix It medal for his participation, along with a bonus: A Sontaran meson gun.


It was heartwarming and fun, even if the Sixth Doctor was a little acidic with Tegan. That last bit makes sense since this episode was aired on 23 February 1985, right in the middle of the Twenty-Second Series.


As our journey with the Sixth Doctor comes to a close, we’ll rejoin the time stream on our next adventure.


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



UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Time and the Rani


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


Pop Culture Download: April 8, 2018

Pop Culture Download: April 8, 2018


On the Docket

Black Panther is now the third-highest grossing film in domestic history, sailing past the once unsinkable Titanic. – [THR]

A new trailer has been released for Solo: A Star Wars Story. – [YouTube]

A League of Their Own is being optioned for television by Amazon Studios. – [THR]

Keith DeCandido continues the 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch with the second Sam Raimi Spider-Man film. – [Tor]

Read More »

Timestamp Special #5: Real Time

Doctor Who: Real Time
(6 episodes, 2002)

It seems appropriate to visit the one visual Big Finish Sixth Doctor tale after saying farewell to Colin Baker’s live-action television portrayal.

After a brief reprise of the Third Doctor‘s opening credits, we are reintroduced to the Cybermen as they search the rooms surrounding a large ball called the Chronosphere. Two humans emerge after the patrols pass and send a “doctor” (who was connected inside the sphere) to the past, potentially destroying their timeline.

On a starship called the Cassius, an officer named Kruger talks to Professor Osborne on the state of the planet below. Two teams have disappeared in two days, but their disappearance has stymied the search teams. During the debrief, the professor and his team are engulfed by a wave of temporal energy and disappear, exactly on schedule with the last two events. They also witness a Cyberman as they vanish.

On the planet, the TARDIS overlooks a camp and pyramid-shaped temple. Evelyn Smythe and a third survey team are digging into the mystery with the help of the Doctor (as requested by the authority called Central) because of the Cyberman sighting. Evelyn and Doctor Reece Goddard discuss the Doctor before settling in for a chat about the history of Cybermen.

Inside the temple, the survey team and the Doctor are studying the hieroglyphs printed on the walls of a large chamber. This version of the Sixth Doctor is more conservatively dressed and far less pompous, and he helps the team unlock a few secrets of the building’s architecture. Together, they decide to open a sealed door and examine the wall beyond. The team leader, Nicola Savage, is adamant and eager to find her missing colleagues, but the Doctor and the rest of the team are hesitant and cautious. As they argue, the door opens on its own accord and exposes an extra-dimensional space beyond. The Doctor warns the team not to mess with the membrane covering the entrance, but the scientists don’t listen and they Savage is pulled through. After the lights go out, half-converted Cybermen (including Savage) emerge and threaten to assimilate the rest of the team.

Evelyn and the administrative team in the camp muse about the subcutaneous bio-trackers that keep tabs on everyone on the survey team – except Evelyn, the Doctor, and the allergic Goddard – and how Savage’s signal has blipped off then on. Their discussion and debate are interrupted by the Doctor and the partial Cybermen. The Cybermen cannot recognize the Doctor in his sixth form until Evelyn inadvertently reveals him, and they demand that he follow them into the portal to meet the Cyber Controller and turn over the TARDIS. The portal itself leads to the Chronosphere chamber from the story’s opening.

The Doctor puzzles over Cyber Savage’s ultimatum: She plans to kill the survey team if the Doctor doesn’t comply, but the Doctor notes that the threat is impotent since he sees a handful of lives as insignificant against the survival of the universe. He also deduces that the Cyber Controller didn’t build the temple, but instead is using it after the previous occupants have long since gone.

Cyber Savage reveals a critical key to the audience: The Cyber Controller is interested in an heir to its power, and the Doctor (along with his knowledge of time travel) is the perfect candidate. That’s an interesting idea. Anyway, Administrator Isherwood offers to betray the Doctor by making a duplicate key, and the Cybermen agree with the plan. The Doctor doesn’t think it will work, and he confirms it by watching the Cybermen struggle with basic logic as they try to carry the TARDIS into the temple. They are usually more intuitive than that.

After consulting with the Cyber Controller, Cyber Savage provides the Doctor with the history of the situation and a demand to provide sanctuary from the impending temporal wave inside the TARDIS. The Doctor also figures out the plan to assimilate him and travel back to the origins of the temple. The Doctor confronts Isherwood over his plans for the TARDIS, then develops a plan to prevent the Cyber Controller from communicating with Cyber Savage. Evelyn and Goddard enter the ruins with scientist Carey, but there are two problems: First, Carey has an implant so he can be tracked; Second, Evelyn has potential knowledge of TARDIS operation. The Doctor has no choice but to go after them, but the Cybermen catch them first and take them to the Cyber Controller. Carey is assimilated in a most gruesome fashion, and Evelyn is faced with a future as the new Controller.

Cyber Savage stands in the Doctor’s way as he tries to pass through the portal, prompting the Doctor to debate her with empathy. Cyber Savage responds with force and logic, driving the Doctor to relent. Cyber Savage uses this to her advantage later by tricking the Doctor by manipulating his empathy for her prior humanity.

Meanwhile, Goddard confronts Isherwood and his plan to take time travel for his own uses. On the other side of the portal, Evelyn discusses empathy with the Cyber Controller and makes some headway through logic and reason.

The Doctor figures out Cyber Savage’s deception before she succeeds in securing the TARDIS, and the Time Lord uses the distraction to confront Goddard. The Cybermen have ignored him so far, and the Doctor wants to know why. Goddard is a Cyberman from the future (sort of), and his technology is based on Time Lord knowledge, which the Doctor will inevitably yield.

Nice twist!

In 1927, the Cybermen unleashed a virus on Earth that transformed humans into cybernetic hybrids. Goddard was one of the few who survived and joined a rebellion to reclaim the planet, and his research has brought him to this point. The ability to travel in time has allowed the Cybermen to completely conquer the universe and Goddard (who was the doctor in the time sphere) us trying to stop the origins of the Cyber-verse using a counter-virus.

The downside: This creates a time paradox.

The Doctor tries to stop Goddard, but the hybrid knocks him out. The scientists see this happen, but Cyber Savage cannot see Goddard. Unable to explain the event, Cyber Savage kills Renchard while torturing him for the truth and then takes Isherwood to the portal. Goddard and the Doctor follow, but the Doctor is ambushed by a Cyberman. Goddard kills it with the counter-virus and they proceed, but the transition through the portal destroys most of the counter-virus. Once through the portal, the Doctor makes a few changes to the hieroglyphs.

I love the point/counterpoint of the clashing moralities between the Doctor and Goddard.

As Evelyn’s assimilation begins, the Cyber Controller demonstrates to Ishwerwood how the portal negatively affects the organics under the cyber armor. The Controller finds the Doctor and begins to reason out the existence of Goddard, and a slip of the tongue from Isherwood leads to a change in the Cyberman algorithms, making the young scientist is visible to the enemy. The Cyber Controller finds the virus and questions the Doctor’s morality around it, calling back to Article Seven of the Time Lord Constitution and the laws against genocide.

Goddard assures the Cybermen that he will use the counter-virus even if the Doctor will not, and the Doctor negotiates with the Cyber Controller over the TARDIS as Cyber Savage analyzes the counter-virus. Cyber Savage finds that the counter-virus will only help them and sends Isherwood and Goddard for assimilation.

In the assimilation chamber, Evelyn’s transformation stops as the overseeing Cyberman has a human epiphany of emotions. After the Cyberman leaves, the Cyber Controller notes the irregularity and reactivates the chamber. The Cyberman engages Cyber Savage, and the Doctor and Goddard use the distraction to gain the upper hand. Goddard kills Cyber Savage, then delivers a coup de grâce to Isherwood as the former administrator shares a secret with him.

The Doctor finds Evelyn and frees her from the conversion chamber, but Goddard arrives and reveals the secret: Evelyn is carrying the original virus, engineered from the counter-virus and completing the paradox that the Doctor warned of. Goddard defeats the Cyber Controller and opens the faceplate, revealing Evelyn’s face beneath as the being dies and the temporal wave washes over them both.

The Doctor and Evelyn reach the TARDIS, the former unaware of the terrible burden the latter carries. Evelyn is weary and a deeply respectful Doctor takes care of her as he sets course for a cliffhanger: The TARDIS hurtles toward Charles Lindbergh‘s historic flight in 1927 and the birth of the Cyber-verse.

This was a decent story with some great twists, and it operated almost like the reconstructions of the First and Second Doctor‘s eras. The downsides are numerous, including far too many close-ups on random bits, such as the cat brooch (which emotes as the Doctor does) and Cyber Savage’s cyber-crotch. It was also far gorier than previous stories and maintained the Fifth and Sixth Doctor era tradition of large body counts.

That said, the big positive is a better representation of the Sixth Doctor himself. This Doctor shucked the cynicism and abusive attitude while maintaining his standoffishness. He has really grown up, and I would have liked to see this Doctor for a season on the actual show.

Next up, our journeys with the Sixth Doctor come to a close with another non-canon tale.

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

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: A Fix with Sontarans

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

Pop Culture Download: April 1, 2018

Pop Culture Download: April 1, 2018


On the Docket

The 2018 Hugo Award Finalists have been announced. The winners will be announced on Sunday, August 19. – [Tor]

Powerhouse television producer Steven Bochco has died at the age of 74. – [THR]

Funko is introducing a horror/occult line of cereal, including Freddy Krueger, Elvira, and Beetlejuice. – [Bloody Disgusting]

Colin Trevorrow has been tapped for a third Jurassic World film. – [Variety]

Keith DeCandido continues his 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch with the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man film. – [Tor]

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