Timestamp #172: Born Again & The Christmas Invasion

Doctor Who: Born Again
(1 episode, Children in Need, 2005)

Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion
(1 episode, Christmas Special, 2005)

 

New teeth. New hand. New Doctor.

 

Born Again

After a brief recap of Bad Wolf and the Ninth Doctor’s farewell, we meet the Tenth Doctor. He plots a course for Barcelona – the planet where dogs have no noses – before taking stock of his new looks, all the while ignoring Rose’s confusion and apprehension. She’s skeptical of this new face, not recognizing him because regeneration is a whole new deck of cards for her.

After discounting nanogenes, Gelth, and the Slitheen, the Doctor assures her that he is still himself by recounting the day they met. Rose is still not convinced, and the Doctor offers her the choice to go home. He changes course to London on Christmas Eve, but soon suffers a bout of irrationality as the regeneration goes wrong. It’s so bad that even the Cloister Bell begins to sound as they TARDIS barrels through the vortex, almost out of control.

 

The Christmas Invasion

On Earth, Jackie trims the Christmas tree as Mickey works in the garage. The sound of the TARDIS brings them both running just in time to see the police box materialize in mid-air, bounce off a few buildings, and skid to a stop. The Doctor pops out of the box to meet Jackie and Mickey, collapsing just after he wishes them a Merry Christmas. Jackie and Mickey look on in confusion as Rose explains that this is now the Doctor.

The Doctor ends up resting in the Tyler home, sport a new set of pajamas that belong to Howard, Jackie’s current boyfriend who stashes random fruit in his pockets. Rose is examining the Doctor using a (shall we say) borrowed stethoscope and Jackie is amazed that he has two hearts. As they leave the room to wait for him to recover, the Doctor breathes out a wisp of regeneration energy. They watch newly elected Prime Minister Harriet Jones as she headlines a press conference on the unmanned Martian probe Guinevere One, launched by the British Rocket Group. That probe is soon lost to a giant island-like spacecraft.

Rose goes out with Mickey to do a little Chirstmas shopping, but their date is interrupted by a group of masked Santas wielding brass instruments as weapons. Our two lovebirds run and grab a taxi back to the flat, assuming that the Santas are chasing them to get to the Doctor. When they get there, they find a new Christmas tree that was recently delivered, and it tries to kill them. Rose, Jackie, and Mickey take refuge with the sleeping Doctor as the tree tears the place apart. Just as the tree bursts into the bedroom, Rose whispers “Help me” into the Doctor’s ear, and the Time Lord snaps into action to destroy the threat. He then points his sonic screwdriver at the Santas on the street below, forcing them to transmat away.

The Doctor is bursting with regeneration energy, and that energy could power the alien spacecraft for a long time. The incoming spaceship detected the energy as the Doctor continued to bleed it off, and the Santas were scavenger-like “pilot fish” leading the way for the larger predator. As he collapses again, the Doctor warns that something is coming and tries to ask for an unknown food item. His condition continues to deteriorate as the humans watch a news conference by the probe’s lead scientist, Daniel Llewellyn. The first images beamed back by the probe show a snarling alien face, a visage that spurs the world into action. Llewellyn is escorted to the Tower of London by UNIT where he meets Harriett and her aide Alex. Llewellyn is shocked to know that both the United Kingdom and United Nations are familiar with extraterrestrials, and analyst Sally Jacobs reveals that the signal came from an incoming ship.

The inhabitants of that ship contact Earth, but no one can understand them. UNIT applies a translation program while Rose (watching from Mickey’s hacked access to UNIT systems) laments the lack of the TARDIS translation circuits. The crisis builds as the translation program works and Jackie watches over the Doctor, and Harriett asks Major Blake of UNIT about Torchwood’s ability to handle the invasion.

Apparently, Harriet Jones shouldn’t know about Torchwood.

The translation program decrypts the transmission: The Sycorax are coming for Earth and its resources, and they demand a total surrender. Harriet refuses the demands, and the Sycorax respond with a signal that reprograms select humans on the planet to act like drones. The drones, now spread all around the world, all climb to high points like tops of buildings and prepare to unwittingly jump to their deaths. UNIT records show a genetic link among those affected, and they all share a blood type: A-positive. Guinevere One had a sample of humanity aboard – music, literature, and so on – including a vial of A-positive blood, and the Sycorax have used it to their advantage.

Harriet Jones continues to work the Torchwood angle as she broadcasts a plea to the Doctor, wherever he may be, to help them in their hour of need. Rose sees this broadcast and weeps for the dying Doctor, and her grief is broken as the incoming ship creates a sonic wave upon entering the atmosphere that shatters glass across the city. Soon enough, the island in the sky is hovering overhead. Rose rushes to the bedroom and moves the Doctor to the TARDIS as a last resort. Meanwhile, the Sycorax transport Harriet, Major Blake, Alex, and Llewellyn to their ship and demand their surrender. When Llewellyn begs for mercy, the Sycorax leader kills him and Major Blake. Harriet is faced with a terrible choice: One-third of the population dies or one half is sold into slavery.

Rose, Jackie, and Mickey get the Doctor to the TARDIS, and as they fiddle with the scanner, the Sycorax detect the advanced technology. After Jackie left to fetch a tote of food, the Sycorax teleport the TARDIS to their ship. Rose and Mickey are taken hostage, and a dropped container of tea drips onto the components below. The steam and smoke from the dripping tea rouse the Doctor as Rose is called forward to speak for humanity.

She attempts to bluff her way through a declaration, but fails miserably.

Lucky for her, the Doctor arrives in time to save everyone. The cup of tea, or rather the vapors from it, are exactly what he needed. Tannins are apparently good for the mind.

A brief round of introductions (and a lament about not being a redhead this time around) later, the Doctor springs into action. He quickly deduces how the Sycorax are controlling the humans below, and he decides to press the big red button. Instead of killing everyone, it releases the control. Blood control acts like hypnosis, and the instinct to live is too powerful for hypnotic suggestions of suicide. He tries to sway the Sycorax with The Lion King before challenging them to ritual combat for control of the planet.

The sword fight commences, eventually leading to the decks outside. Moments later, the Doctor’s hand is cut off, tumbling away ala The Empire Strikes Back, but the Time Lord uses the rest of this regeneration cycle to regrow his hand. Declaring it to be a fighting hand, he defeats the Sycorax leader and demands that the ship leave immediately. When the Sycorax leader attempts to double-cross the Doctor, the Doctor dumps him off the edge. This incarnation doesn’t believe in second chances for betrayal.

That’s a bit of an interesting twist, since the Doctor has only survived because of redemption.

The humans, the Doctor, and the TARDIS are returned to the planet’s surface as the spacecraft departs in a hurry. They celebrate as the Doctor warns Harriet that the planet is being noticed. They should expect more visitors. The Prime Minister receives word that Torchwood is ready, and she orders them to fire. Moments later, a beam of energy lances upward and destroys the Sycorax ship.

The Doctor is downright furious, and rightfully so. This has echoes to Doctor Who and the Silurians.

Harriet defends her actions, pointing out that the Doctor isn’t always there. He threatens to bring her down with six words, which he whispers to Alex: “Don’t you think she looks tired?”

Harriet Jones, Prime Minister, demands to know what the Doctor said before muttering an apology as he walks away.

The Doctor retreats to the TARDIS to pick out a new wardrobe – a pinstripe suit and trenchcoat ensemble – before joining Rose and her family for Christmas dinner, and the Time Lord watches the news as Harriet is faced with a vote of no confidence. They go outside in the freshly falling snow, which just happens to be ash from the ship. The Doctor prepares to leave and invites Rose to join him. He consoles Jackie and Mickey before preparing for their next adventure.

 

This episode begins a new tradition for the franchise in regular Christmas specials. The last time an episode was aired on December 25th was A Feast for Steven, the seventh part of The Daleks’ Master Plan, aired thirty-nine years prior. This story was different since is was specially produced for the holiday.

While it lacks in substance, it does have quite a few things going for it: The dramatic tension on the UNIT side is good, and the callbacks to elements of the franchise’s history keep the story grounded in its overarching identity. I mean, everything else that has been mentioned aside, the wardrobe scene is a veritable Who’s Who of Doctor Who history:

Sadly, all of that is not quite enough to overpower the long stretches of maudlin Rose and a comatose Doctor. Tennant’s superior acting kicks things into gear, but that energy doesn’t arrive until late in the game.

Until then, it’s a rather boring slog that takes full advantage of the Project’s regeneration handicap. Thankfully, it gets better in the future.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: New Earth

 

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

 

 

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Timestamp: Series One and Ninth Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: Series One and Ninth Doctor Summary

 

The return to the TARDIS was, to quote the Doctor, absolutely fantastic.

There are always rumblings in fandom about the differences between the twenty-six classic years and the TV movie/revival years. Sometimes you get statements that the classics are unwatchable and sometimes you get statements that the revival era Doctors don’t hold a candle to the mythology and precedent of the classics.

I believe that the former, personal preferences aside, can be easily disproved with continued projects like Earth Station Who, The Watch-A-Thon of Rassilon, Next Stop Everywhere, Who’s The Doctor: Talking Outside the Box, and the Timestamps Project… to name but a few.

The latter? I wholeheartedly disagree!

Sure, the Ninth Doctor is a break with the ideal of the Doctor doing whatever it takes to defeat evil and save lives. Across the classic years, the Doctor lamented loss of life when there was another way to solve the problem, and that’s the ticket here. Something happened in an all-out war between the Time Lords and the Daleks, an event that has been brewing since the two sides met all the way back at the beginning of the journey, and the only solution was to extinguish the fire permanently.

That extreme measure was traumatic, especially for a being of peace and love like the Doctor, and it shows in the arc of the Ninth Doctor’s life. The Doctor goes on a journey from Rose to The Parting of the Ways, trying to heal from post-traumatic stress as the sole survivor, and learning to live again in a changed universe. Rose Tyler was key in that therapy with her innocence, wonder, and empathy, and watching the Doctor rebuild in this manner was a fascinating character study.

It was a reconstruction of the franchise, and a regeneration of the character from the roots up. The power and performance from Christopher Eccleston make me wish that we had more stories with him in the lead role, but his conflicts with the BBC are an understandable reason to not come back. No one should be expected to live in a toxic situation if they don’t need to be there.

As I noted in the later entries from this series, I also really enjoyed seeing what happens to those left behind. Rose is the center of the universe for both Jackie Tyler and Mickey Smith, and her selfish decision to remove herself from those equations severely rocked their worlds. It’s great drama and great television.

So where do we stand now? Series One comes in at an average of 4.3, which is third all-time for the Timestamps Project. It comes in behind the Ninth Series and the Eighth Doctor’s run, and just ahead of the Eleventh Series.

 

Rose – 5
The End of the World – 4
The Unquiet Dead – 4
Aliens of London and World War Three – 4
Dalek – 5
The Long Game – 3
Father’s Day – 4
The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances – 5
Boom Town – 4
Bad Wolf and The Parting of the Ways – 5

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

 

 

 

Following tradition…

The First Doctor was a wise grandfather, the Second a sly jester, the Third a secret agent scientist, the Fourth an inquisitive idealist, the Fifth an honorable humanitarian, the Sixth a squandered cynic, the Seventh a curious schemer, the Eighth a classical romantic…

…and the Ninth Doctor is a hopeful healing veteran.

 

Series 1 – 4.3

Ninth Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 4.30

 

Ranking (by score)
1 – Eighth (4.50)
2 – Ninth (4.30)
3 – Third (4.00)
4 – Second (3.67)
5 – Fourth (3.67)
6 – Seventh (3.54)
7 – First (3.41)
8 – Fifth (3.20)
9 – Sixth (2.73)

Ranking (by character)
1 – Second Doctor
2 – Ninth Doctor
3 – Eighth Doctor
4 – Third Doctor
5 – Fourth Doctor
6 – Seventh Doctor
7 – First Doctor
8 – Fifth Doctor
9 – Sixth Doctor

I should note that those top six spaces (on both lists) are really, really, really close. I was tempted to make it a tie for first place since I would gladly watch any of those stories at the drop of Tom Baker’s fedora, but it’s far more challenging to actually rank them.

 

Next up, it’s my Doctor.

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Born Again and Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion

 

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.

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.

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.