Timestamp #192: The Infinite Quest

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

 

The Key to Time… er, the Infinite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m sure that will be relevant later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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Timestamp #191: Blink

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But one has snuck up on them.

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

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

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

Don’t blink.

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Infinite Quest

 

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

 

 

Debrief: Dragon Con 2019

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

 

 

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

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

Timestamp #190: Human Nature & The Family of Blood

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

 

Martha Jones: The woman who waited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the Doctor could never have a life like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Blink

 

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

 

 

Twitter Thoughts on “Reylo”

Twitter Thoughts on Reylo

 

Remember, I’m on Twitter as @womprat99. I sometimes muse there.

 

Timestamp #189: 42

Doctor Who: 42
(1 episode, s03e07, 2007)

 

Would you like to swing into a star?

As the TARDIS careens through time and space, the Doctor hooks Martha up with a superphone, calling it a privilege of her status as a frequent flyer. The TARDIS jolts to a stop on a crippled starship that only has forty-two minutes until it crashes into a nearby star.

The starship is automated and the entire crew is assembled with the Doctor and Martha, but the compartment where the TARDIS landed is too hot to pass through. Basically, the travelers have no choice but to help save the ship. The engines look like they were intentionally destroyed and the auxiliary engines are protected by password-locked blast doors. The sonic screwdriver is no use. Martha goes with crewman Riley Vashtee to figure out how to access the auxiliaries while the Doctor joins the rest of the team in the infirmary. The captain’s husband, Hal Korwin, is literally burning up. The Doctor sedates him and leaves Abi Lerner (the ship’s medical attendant) in charge to conduct bioscans while they get back to work on the engines.

Martha and Riley are moving quickly through their tasks (with a little help on happy primes from the Doctor) as the crew works out their plan. Martha calls home with her next question (“classical” music regarding The Beatles and Elvis Presley) but her mother is unimpressed with her urgent attitude. Meanwhile, Korwin wakes up and attacks Abi with sun-hot eyes while telling her to “burn with me.” All the Doctor’s group find is a vaporized shadow on the bulkhead. The test results puzzle the Doctor and Captain Kath McDonnell tells everyone to watch out for Korwin.

Unfortunately, the warning comes too late for crewman Erina Lessak.

As the Doctor and McDonnell discuss Korwin’s condition, Korwin finds Dev Ashton and infects him with whatever this condition is. Ashton then pursues Martha and Riley, cornering them in an airlock. Ashton attempts to jettison them, but the Doctor is able to stall him.

Meanwhile, Korwin finds McDonnell and tells her that it’s her fault. Scannell freezes Korwin, momentarily stopping Ashton, but the Doctor is too late to prevent Martha and Riley from being ejected toward the sun. The Doctor calls Scannell and demands a spacesuit, leaving McDonnell alone with the engines and her dead husband.

Martha implores Riley to have faith in the Doctor as they plummet toward the sun. Riley’s family is all but gone, and Martha takes a moment to call home and say goodbye. Her mother probes about the Doctor (while an agent of Harold Saxon monitors the call) as Martha asks about trivial life matters. Tearfully, Martha disconnects.

As the Doctor suits up, McDonnell traps and kills Ashton. The Doctor goes outside and magnetizes the hull, pulling the escape pod back to the ship. While he’s out there, he finally sees what’s threatening them: The sun is alive. When he comes back inside, he’s infected with the same affliction and understands what has happened. The crew bled the star dry for fuel and now it wants revenge. The Doctor demands to be placed in the same stasis chamber that killed Ashton in order to freeze the star out of him.

At the same time, Korwin comes back to life and interferes with the freezing process. While McDonnell goes to deal with Korwin, the Doctor orders Martha to dump the fuel pods. McDonnell lures Korwin to the airlock and blows them both out into the star.

Riley and Scannell finally reach the auxiliaries just as Martha orders them to dump the fuel. As the particles return to the star, they crewmen restore the engines and the Doctor is freed of the star-being’s influence. The ship is safe.

Riley and Scannell are left alone on the ship as the Doctor and Martha say their farewells. Martha shares a kiss with Riley as she closes the door, then sharing a moment with the Doctor as he gives her a key to the TARDIS. She calls home and her mother asks her to come by for dinner or tea. Martha asks what day it is, and Francine replies that it’s Election Day. After they disconnect, Francine hands her phone to Saxon’s agents.

Dark times lay ahead.

 

The pace and pressure were frantic throughout this episode as everyone just tried to stay alive. The Doctor’s mood swings during his possession by the star are a tribute to David Tennant’s acting skills. Malevolent and creepy one second, then frightened and apologetic the next. Simply beautiful.

The creeping menace of Saxon’s influence over Francine is also a nice touch, showing us a reverse on the Rose/Jackie relationship. While both mothers are concerned for their daughters, Jackie trusted the Doctor to a degree.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Human Nature and Doctor Who: The Family of Blood

 

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.