Timestamp #215: Amy’s Choice

Doctor Who: Amy’s Choice
(1 episode, s05e07, 2010)

Timestamp 215 Amy's Choice

Life is but a dream.

In quiet Upper Leadworth, a very pregnant Amy is mixing up a cake in the kitchen when she has a false labor alarm. Rory finds her eating the batter when the Doctor arrives. It’s been five years since they last saw each other and the Doctor is surprised to see Amy with child.

They take a tour of the quiet village, but when they stop to rest on a bench, a bird’s song puts them to sleep.

They awaken in the TARDIS, back to their normal selves, but all having shared the same dream. The console is also wonky. Another bout of birdsong forces all of them back to the bench. They all question what’s going on and the Doctor tells them to trust nothing. This is going to be a tricky one.

The trio awakens in the TARDIS and the Doctor gets cross with the console. Amy asks about the TARDIS manual, but the Doctor has long since ejected it into a supernova because he disagreed with it. The team discusses the situation until the TARDIS stops moving and goes dark.

Then they’re back in Leadworth. The Doctor rules out virtual reality, but focuses on Rory’s newfound medical degree before deciding to visit the local retirement home. He notices something suspicious about the residents, including Mrs. Poggit, before the birds send them all back to the TARDIS.

Once there, they meet a mysterious, noncorporeal man named the Dream Lord. He is testing them, revealing that there are two worlds. One is real, one is fake, and each holds a deadly danger. They must figure out which is real.

The birds send them back to Leadworth where the Dream Lord poses as a doctor. He poses a challenge: “If you die in a dream, you wake up in reality, healthy recovery in next to no time; ask me what happens if you die in reality.” The Dream Lord disappears, as have the senior citizens, leaving the travelers to explore the village for clues.

When the Doctor mocks the pastoral village, Amy fakes labor pains to scare him. She reminds him that he should never make fun of her world. They spot Mrs. Poggit, but as the Doctor starts to observe her, the birds sing again.

The TARDIS is getting colder. Amy and Rory go in search of blankets while the Doctor pokes at the console. Amy and Rory have another tense conversation about their pending nuptuals before returning to the Doctor and helping with the console. The scanner activates to reveal their pending danger: A cold star approximately forty minutes away. The Doctor is at a loss for an explanation and Rory is upset about the Time Lord being the hero, but the Dream Lord’s taunting and the sound of birds sends them back to Leadworth.

The pastoral scene is broken by piles of dust where children used to play. The Doctor believes that they were disintegrated by Mrs. Poggit, and after a quick discussion with the Dream Lord — there’s only one person who hates the Doctor as much as the Dream Lord does — they encounter a herd of alien-infested senior citizens. The aliens are the Eknodines, aliens who lost their homeworld and now want to take over Earth by eliminating humanity.

Amy and Rory run while the Doctor tries to reason with the Eknodines. The Dream Lord tries to send the Doctor back to the TARDIS, which would leave him completely helpless. The Doctor locks himself in a butcher’s freezer before the trio drifts off.

Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rory disagree over which world is real. While Amy fashions blanket ponchos for everyone, the Dream Lord arrives and takes Rory and the Doctor back to Leadworth. Rory hauls a comatose Amy upstairs to defend her against the horde while the Doctor escapes the freezer and hijacks a bus to save the villagers.

The Dream Lord taunts Amy, asking which man she would choose, reminding her that the Doctor doesn’t completely trust her. After all, she doesn’t even know his name. The Dream Lord travels to Leadworth and taunts the Doctor, telling him that it’s time to make a decision. The Doctor arrives at Amy and Rory’s house just as Amy returns to this reality. He climbs to the second floor through the window, but Rory is soon hit with the Eknodine gas and turned to dust.

Distraught that the Doctor cannot save Rory, Amy declares that Leadworth is the dream because she Rory’s not here. She storms outside, begging for the Eknodine to kill her, but they won’t because they know what she’s trying to do. She takes the van’s keys from the Doctor and rams them both into the house.

All three of them awaken in the TARDIS, covered in frost. The Dream Lord congratulates them on their victory by restoring power to the TARDIS and steering them away from the cold star. He then vanishes, but the Doctor is unconvinced. He decides to blow up the TARDIS, calling the Dream Lord’s bluff because the Doctor knows who he is.

In a bright flash of light, everyone wakes up on the TARDIS. The Doctor presents a speck of psychic pollen from the candle meadows of Karass don Slava, which apparently induced the dream state by warming up in the time rotor and feeding on the Doctor’s darker instincts. The Dream Lord was a manifestation of that energy.

The Doctor works on a new course while Amy tells Rory that she didn’t know which reality was the dream. All she knew was that she couldn’t live without him. As they share a passionate kiss, the Doctor leaves their destination as Amy’s choice.

When the Doctor looks at his reflection, he sees the Dream Lord staring back. When he checks again, the reflection is gone.


This is a wacky story that plays around with the Doctor’s darker instincts. This time, instead of the Doctor having to confront and overcome this darkness in himself, he has to face an external foe. Which, we saw before in The Trial of a Time Lord with the Valeyard.

What this story has working for it is the spark that I wanted to see between Amy and Rory. I believed their love in this episode, which is a big step up over the last few adventures.

What this story lacks is a way for the viewer to figure out the mystery. The ground rules are easy: Two scenarios, one of which is real. But the hidden twist is a piece of information that only the Doctor has, making him critical to the story rather than a companion on the adventure. These stories are certainly much more fun when the audience can play along at home.

We also get a repeated theme from the last adventure with orphaned aliens looking for a new home.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth and Doctor Who: Cold Blood

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

Timestamp #214: The Vampires of Venice

Doctor Who: The Vampires of Venice
(1 episode, s05e06, 2010)

Timestamp 214 Vampires of Venice

There’s something fishy in the waters of Venice.

Meanwhile in the TARDIS, Part II

The Doctor gets Amy back into the TARDIS where she continues trying to seduce him. While he tries to work the console, proclaiming to be a mix between Gandalf and Yoda, Amy points out just how much a a typical guy he is.

The Doctor tells her that he just can’t see it anymore. He’s lost the wonder. Everything is just… stuff. He wants Amy to help open his eyes to the wonders again.

Amy takes this as a clue that she’s not the first companion. When she asks how many of them were girls, the Doctor dances around the question, so Amy brings up the visual records with a little trick. The TARDIS obliges, showing her only the women who have traveled with the Doctor.

The Doctor decides to go find Rory, who is at his bachelor party.

The Vampires of Venice

In Venice, 1580, Guido presents his teenage daughter Isabella to Rosanna Calvierri and her son, Francesco. Isabella is seeking entrance to Rosanna’s school, and when it is granted, Rosanna takes the young woman promptly.

As Guido leaves the room, Isabella is inspected before Francesco reveals himself as a vampire.

Four centuries in the future, Rory is enjoying his bachelor party until the Doctor pops out of a cake instead of the expected stripper. The Doctor reveals that Amy tried to kiss him, but it’s okay because she is a great kisser.

It sounded better in his head, you know.

Some time later, the Doctor is working on the TARDIS console as he offers relationship advice to the young couple. He also offers to take them to any location so they can get away together. He decides on Venice, a bit perturbed that Rory understands the “bigger on the inside” concept.

He goes on for a spell about the founding and history of Venice, including a note to avoid Casanova, before running into a guard who asks for traveling credentials in an attempt to stop the plague. The travelers use the psychic paper to bypass the checkpoint – Rory is apparently the Doctor’s eunuch – before running into Guido and learning about Isabella’s plight.

In the school’s courtyard, Francesco tries to convince his mother that they have more than enough converts, but she’s not convinced at all. He later trawls the streets looking for another victim. The subsequent screams draw Amy and Rory. After spotting the vampire fangs, Amy gives chase.

The Doctor breaks into the school and encounters a group of female vampires, impressed by their lack of reflections. They ask who he is and he shows them a library card, so they vamp out to chase him away. He runs into Amy and Rory. Amy and the Doctor are excited about the vampires, but Rory is appalled.

Amy and the Doctor strategize with Guido on how to get into the school undercover. The Doctor and Rory argue that Amy shouldn’t be the one to go in, but she spins an elaborate cover story. Rory does not like the idea of the Doctor posing as her fiancé, so Amy and Rory pose as siblings to gain Rosanna’s favor. One flash of the psychic paper later and Amy’s matriculated.

She soon finds Isabella and learns about being strapped to a chair for a procedure that she cannot remember. All she knows is that the sunlight now burns her skin. As Amy looks for a way in for her traveling companions, Guido (in Rory’s stag party shirt) takes the Doctor and an apprehensive Rory to meet her.

They talk about Amy’s relationship with the Doctor while the Time Lord shows off his huge UV light. Rory challenges the Doctor about his attitude that makes people take risks to impress him. They also discover a corpse that it completely drained of all fluids before being ambushed.

Amy gets captured and taken to Rosanna where she is confronted about the psychic paper. Amy is strapped down and bitten by Rosanna. The headmistress explains that they drink the girls dry and replace their blood with that of their own kind. Amy kicks Rosanna, exposing a perception filter and the vampire’s true nature.

Yep, they’re aliens.

Isabella rescues Amy and the travelers escape into the sunlight. The Doctor tries to go back for Isabella but is attacked by an electric shock. As the morning continues on, Isabella is forced into the canal behind the school where she is eaten alive by the males of the species who are hiding beneath the water’s surface.

Rosanna returns to her throne room to find the Doctor waiting for her. He has deduced she is from Saturnyne. She’s using a perception filter to appear human and they share a common identity as alien refugees. Rosanna’s planet was consumed by the cracks in time, and while fleeing the Silence, they ended up on Earth. Rosanna asks for the Doctor’s help in rebuilding her species, but he only wants to know what happened to Isabella. Rosanna disavows Isabella, remarking only that all traitors must be killed. As the Time Lord is escorted out, he shouts that he will stop her. If only because she didn’t know Isabella’s name.

With a malfunctioning perception filter, Rosanna assembles her girls in the courtyard and prepares to wage war. Meanwhile, the Doctor reunites with Guido and his traveling companions and hashes out Rosanna’s plan. He deduces that she plans to sink Venice and give rise to a new Saturnyne.

The “vampires” pick that moment to assault Guido’s home, forcing the heroes to flee. Guido commandeers the UV light and locks himself inside, luring the girls to his gunpowder stash which he uses to destroy the invaders at the expense of his own life.

As Rosanna begins her plan, the Doctor forces Amy to return to the TARDIS. Rory thanks the Doctor and pursues her as the Time Lord returns to the school and tries to stop Rosanna’s machine. He finds it deadlock sealed, but even the news that her daughters are dead doesn’t dissuade the headmistress.

Rory and Amy find a detour in Francesco. Rory fights him while Amy uses her compact mirror to disintegrate the alien in a burst of sunlight. Amy kisses Rory in celebration before they both rush off to help the Doctor.

The Time Lord is miffed about Rory’s change of heart, but he soon leaves them in charge of dismantling the throne as he ascends the bell tower after Rosanna. He ascends to the spire and stops the weather machine before finding Rosanna on the canal’s edge.

The matriarch’s perception filter has failed, locking her in her human form. She prepares to dive to her death, and as the Doctor rushes to stop her, she tells him that he’ll have to live with the death of her species on his conscience. She then jumps into the water and is consumed.

The Doctor, Amy, and Rory return to the TARDIS. Seeing Amy’s excitement and her apprehension about the wedding, Rory offers to break off their engagement. Amy replies that he should travel with them, and the Doctor agrees.

As they are about to leave, silence falls around the Doctor, an omen of the darkness still surrounding them.


This is a tough story to consider. On the one hand, the story is quite average with a small connection to the ongoing thread about the Doctor being the last of his kind. This story would have played well in the Tennant era which leaned heavily on the Doctor pledging to prevent another such genocide. It also plays well here, both as a counterbalance to Matt Smith’s portrayal of a younger, hip, almost laissez-faire Doctor and as a fulfillment of his promise to never be cowardly or cruel, and to never give up or give in.

On the other hand, we have some great (and tough to handle) character development with this twisted triangle. As much as I despise the attempted seduction of the Doctor by Amy, it opens the door to some dramatic friction. Amy’s attracted to the Doctor, but the Doctor isn’t interested in her. Rory loves Amy and she seems to love him, but she’s not quite ready to settle down. The Doctor’s interests reside with unraveling the mysteries surrounding these two while helping them to find each other.

But the biggest source of friction is how poorly Amy treats Rory. She seems irritated that the Doctor brought him in, but seems excited to be with Rory on a wedding-gift vacation. It all comes back to the Doctor, however, because they are there purely because of time travel and Amy immediately gravitates back to the adventure instead of guiding and mentoring her future husband.

Let’s be frank: Rory needs reassurance about their relationship and Amy is either ignorant or reluctant to provide it. She’s not holding up her end of the Pond-Williams team and effectively leaving Rory alone in the storm roiling around them.

I wish that she would treat Rory better because I really love the chemistry between Karen Gillan and Matt Smith, but that amazing connectivity is blunted by Amy’s disregard for Rory, who seems to be a really sharp and grounded character.

I loved a lot of the mythology touches throughout the episode, from the First Doctor library card to the Doctor’s continued fear of heights. A closer look at the library card reveals that it was issued to “Dr. J. Smith”, continuing the John Smith alias into the Hartnell era, and was registered to 76 Totter’s Lane in Shoreditch, London. The story also swerved into meta territory with the jokes about Casanova, which touches on both David Tennant and guest star Helen McCrory.

We also cannot forget that the Doctor has plenty of experience with vampires and blood-drinkers, including State of DecayThe Curse of Fenric, and Smith and Jones.

I bounced back and forth for a while on the score for this one, but finally settled on my modus operandi of rounding up.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Amy’s Choice

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

Timestamp #213: The Time of Angels & Flesh and Stone

Doctor Who: The Time of Angels
Doctor Who: Flesh and Stone
(2 episodes, s05e04-05, 2010)

Timestamp 213 Time of Angels Flesh and Stone

Not blinking just got a lot more complicated.

The Time of Angels

A uniformed man spins blindly in a field, his face graced by a lipstick kiss. When a man in an evening suit wipes the lipstick smear, he realizes that the man is hallucinating and River Song is on the starship. Sure enough, she’s fired up a torch and is burning a black box with it.

Twelve thousand years in the future, the Doctor and Amy are exploring the Delirium Archive, final resting place of the Headless Monks. He finds the message engraved on the box in Old High Gallifreyan – “Hello, Sweetie.” – and steals the box. Using the box, he tunes into where River is running from the guards just in time to head a set of coordinates. River blasts herself into space and the Doctor materializes the TARDIS in time to catch her.

She tells him to follow the Byzantium, the ship she just departed.

As the TARDIS gives chase, River suggests using the “blue stablizers”. The capsule stops shaking, the wheezing sound disappears (apparently, the Doctor leave the brakes on all the time), and the landing is soft. After a haphazard environment check, River steps outside to find that the target ship has crashed.

Amy wants to know what’s going on and pressures the Doctor to show her the planet. Reluctantly, he agrees, and Amy Pond meets Professor River Song. There’s also a thing in the crashed ship. A thing that can never die.

River glances through her diary to figure out where she and the Doctor are in their respective timelines as her associates, a group of four soldiers, materialize on the surface. As they enter the ship and nearby temple, she reveals that they’re facing the Weeping Angels.

The Doctor and River explain the Angels to Amy and Father Octavian, the leader of the soldiers. It turns out that he’s the bishop, his troops are clerics, and by the 51st century, the church has moved on. They spot one of the Angels on a security feed. The catacombs are flooded with radiation, a banquet to the Angels, and plans are made without Amy.

River offers the Doctor a book about the Angels, which he reads and declares to be wrong. Meanwhile, Amy keeps watching the clip of the Angel and notices that it keeps shifting positions. She tries to turn off the monitor, but it keeps turning back on again. As this happens, the Doctor reads the part about how an image of an Angel becomes itself an Angel, and he races to save Amy. Unfortunately, the room and monitor have deadlocked. She tries to disable the monitor again as the Doctor reads another part of the book: The eyes are the doorways to the soul. Amy spots a glitch in the clip and turns off the monitor in that moment, thus avoiding the image. The room is opened again, and while everything seems fine, Amy has a problem with her eye.

The deacons blow an entrance into the temple, revealing a vast area full of crumbling statues. It’s the perfect place to hide for an Angel. As the Doctor moves on, Octavian warns River to not let him figure out where they are in his timeline and why she’s imprisoned. Meanwhile, Clerics Christian and Angelo investigate a nearby exit from the chamber.

Amy keeps rubbing her eye, releasing a stream of gray dust. River catches up to her and they muse about the Doctor and his relationship with her. Amy is convinced that they are married.

Oh, and Clerics Christian and Angelo? They are soon killed by the Angel.

The Doctor, River, and Amy run to the sound of gunfire. They find a young cleric named Bob (a sacred name) and, even with Father Octavian berating the youth, the Doctor insists that his fear will keep him alert. They team moves into the maze, and the Doctor remembers the Aplans who built the crypt. He remembers dinner with the chief architect, then asks River about the last line in the book: It’s an ominous prophecy: “What happens when ideas have thoughts of their own? What happens when dreams no longer need dreamers? When these things have come to pass, the time will be upon us. The Time of Angels.”

River notes that something is wrong and the Doctor realizes that he’s made a terrible mistake. The Aplans have two heads, yet all of these statues have only one. The Doctor runs a quick experiment and reveals that every statue in the maze is a Weeping Angel. They’re slow due to a lack of energy to feed on, but they’re all coming for the team, and the radiation from the Byzantium is powering them up.

Cleric Bob, on the other hand, is already dead, having been called to his doom by the voices of his former squadmates. He tells the tale to Father Octavian over the radio, a puppet of the Angels who have reanimated a copy of his consciousness to communicate.

The team continues on to the Byzantium, but Amy is turning to stone. The Doctor tells her that it’s the Angels playing with her mind, which has been infiltrated by the Angel in the monitor, and when she won’t move he bites her hand. When the team reaches the crash site, their lights start failing and the Angels approach.

River reminds the Doctor that this kind of crunch time is when the Doctor works his best, and as Bob tries to anger the Doctor, he remarks that there’s one thing that they’ve failed to realize. There’s one thing that you never put in a trap.

The Doctor.

He borrows a gun from Octavian, warning them all to jump at his signal. He shoots the gravity globe above them, plunging everything into darkness.

Flesh and Stone

The Doctor tells everyone to look up as the lights come back up. When they jumped, they fell into the Byzantium‘s artificial gravity and landed on the ship’s hull. The Doctor opens an airlock and the team enters the ship. As the Doctor works on a solution further into the ship, the Angels pursue.

The Doctor tells them that he needs to turn off the lights for a moment, and Octavian asks River if she trusts the Time Lord. She does.

The lights go out and Octavian’s men light up the corridor with gunfire, keeping the Angels at bay as the doors slide open and give the team access to the rest of the ship. The Angels continue their pursuit, much to Octavian’s dismay, and the Doctor continues to work. He realizes that the ship’s mission required a sustainable oxygen supply, and he reveals a cybernetic forest onboard.

He’s also intrigued at the reason why Amy continues to count down from ten.

As the Clerics probe the forest, the Doctor has another conversation with Angel Bob. Bob reveals that the Angels are feasting and that they’ve inhabited Amy through her eyes. They’re making her count to scare the survivors. The Angels are laughing because the “Doctor in the TARDIS hasn’t noticed” the overarching threat. He turns to see the crack from Amy’s wall, now in the hull of the Byzantium. The Doctor scans the crack as the Angels infiltrate the room and everyone else leaves. Unfortunately, the Angels snag the Doctor by his jacket.

The Angels are distracted by the crack, which is pure time energy, allowing the Doctor time to escape. As he runs to catch up with the group, Amy counts to four and collapses. The Doctor runs through everything as Amy counts to three, realizing that there’s an Angel in her mind. The Quantum Lock that they use – freezing when spotted – is not only a defense mechanism but a means of reproduction. At zero, it will pop out of Amy’s head and kill her.

The Doctor has Amy close her eyes, which stops the countdown and stabilizes her. Amy can’t open her eyes, so the Doctor sets a course to help cure her. The Doctor, River, and Octavian leave Amy with the Clerics, and the Doctor asks her to trust him and remember what he told her when she was a little girl.

His appearance is slightly different here. There’s a significant jump in time for that one moment.

En route to the flight deck, the Doctor learns that River is in Octavian’s custody and that she’s a prison in the Stormcage Containment Facility. If this mission succeeds, she’ll earn credit toward a pardon. While River tries to open the door to the primary flight deck, the Doctor considers the anomalies he has recently noticed, from the duckless duck pond in Leadworth and Amy’s inability to remember the Dalek invasion of Earth to the lack of any mention of the CyberKing in Victorian London in the history books. River’s scanner reveals that a temporal explosion will occur on June 26, 2010 and cause the cracks. It will happen in Amy’s time.

Back at Amy’s location, the Angels start disrupting the lights by breaking the cybernetic trees, but a bright burst of light apparently scares the Angels away. Amy glances at the light and notes that it is the same shape as the crack in her wall. As the Clerics investigate the light, all memory of them is erased, and Amy notes this with Marco, the last remaining Cleric.

River opens the door, but Octavian waits for the Doctor to go through. Unfortunately, he’s immediately trapped by an Angel. Realizing that there’s no way out for him, Octavian reveals that River is in prison for murder and that the Doctor cannot trust her. The Doctor reluctantly leaves Father Octavian, hearing his neck snap as he ducks into the flight deck where River is working on a teleport.

Marco leaves Amy to scout the light and disappears from time. The Doctor makes contact with her and turns her communicator into a homing beacon tied to his sonic screwdriver. She has to move before the time energy in the crack catches up with her and erases her from existence. Step by step, she makes her way toward the Doctor, but she trips over a root and falls. The Angels, running from the crack, find Amy but do not attack because they think that she can see them. They realize that she’s effectively blind and converge on her, but River saves her in the nick of time with the teleport.

As the ships runs low on power, the door to the forest opens to reveal all of the Angels snarling at the survivors. The Angel Bob demands that that the Doctor throw himself into the crack in order to save them, but the Doctor has other plans. As the artificial gravity fails, the Angels fall backward into the crack, erasing the lot of them. The crack seals behind them.

Pretty much just like Doomsday.

Later on, the Doctor and Amy sit on a beach and muse about the crack and her newfound status as a time traveler. The Doctor discusses River’s prison sentence with her, but she won’t reveal who she killed. She promises, however, that he’ll see her again when the Pandorica opens. The Doctor dismisses it as a fairy tale, and as Amy bids her farewell, River is transported to the prison ship that has just arrived.

Once they’re back on the TARDIS, Amy requests that the Doctor take her home. Not to stop traveling, of course, but to show him what she’s running from. In her bedroom, five minutes after they first left, she tells the Doctor about her engagement to Rory. She also makes advances on the Doctor, but he vehemently refuses. He also realizes that everything wrong with the universe is tied to her.

The date of the temporal explosion is Amy’s wedding day.

The Doctor pushes Amy back into the TARDIS and takes off.


The last time that we saw River Song was at her death. All we knew was that the Doctor would come to trust her enough to tell her his true name. So, the Doctor’s adversarial attitude toward River is understandable, especially considering how she flaunts her knowledge of him, placing him at a severe disadvantage.

The development of the River/Doctor relationship and mythology is fun to watch, as is the interplay between Amy and River. Those two are peas in a pod. We also get some hints of the future with River being incarcerated for killing the best man that she knew and his future/her past meeting at the Pandorica.

Steven Moffat loves his foreshadowing.

One of the biggest mistakes in this story comes with the Weeping Angels. I love the creeping horror they bring to this story, and I do like the expansion of their powers from an image being an extension of their selves to being able to possess someone through the quantum lock defense.

The mistake comes from allowing them to move on camera. One of Blink‘s biggest selling points was using the camera’s point-of-view as an observer, and it held true here until that single moment in the forest with Amy. In that moment, the Angels lost their power with me. They became just another Doctor Who monster.

The second big mistake in this story is the treatment of Amy. From The Beast Below until now, she’s been a competent and intelligent companion. In the last few minutes of this story, however, her integrity plummeted as she pushed for sex with the Doctor. With her wedding dress hanging mere feet from her bed, she actually contemplated cheating on her fiancé.

It’s an unfortunate and anger-inducing development for her. Steven Moffat later walked it back, but the scene was a terrible idea from the start.

Now, there is some nice consistency across the franchise with this story, from the Doctor being miffed that someone else can drive the TARDIS better than him (The Ribos Operation) to the Doctor showing affection to his companions before leaving them for a few moments (The War Games/Colony in Space).

Overall, this is a really good suspense thriller that covers a lot of ground in the ongoing universe building. The thing that really knocks this from being fantastic is the downturn for Amy’s character.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Vampires of Venice

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

The 2020 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

The 2020 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Promotional image via The LEGO Group

One of the holiday season traditions in my household is the LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar. These annual boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on Star Wars staples. We’ve seen a winter Chewbacca, a rebel pilot snowman, a Santa Porg, a “gonk” power droid decorated like a present, and the AT-AT and R2-D2 pair with reindeer antlers.

It’s whimsical and it’s fun. It makes us laugh.

This year’s box was tied to the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, which was so much fun to watch (but was definitely not canon). This year’s box also included The Rise of Skywalker in the mix of Star Wars favorites. A couple of my favorite builds this year were Vader’s Castle (for the ingenuity) and D-O (for the cute factor).

As you can see, the day-to-day images are posted on my Instagram account. Feel free to follow me there for whimsical observations, tons of pictures of my dogs, and this annual tradition. I compiled last year’s photos into a single blog post.

I hope this holiday season finds you and yours well. Stay warm, stay safe, and I’ll see you next year.

Timestamp #212: Victory of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Victory of the Daleks
(1 episode, s05e03, 2010)

Timestamp 212 Victory of the Daleks

Subversively, this story is literally what it says on the tin.

The time is World War II. Winston Churchill enters the Cabinet War Rooms and asks about the status of incoming enemy planes. When advised that they are out of conventional range, he decides to roll out his secret weapon. He pushes a miniature Dalek forward on the map board.

The TARDIS materializes soon afterward and is immediately surrounded by soldiers. The Doctor and Amy are greeted by Churchill, responding to his summons. The TARDIS is a month late, but that’s okay even though the time capsule is a bit inaccurate.

Churchill is amazed that the Doctor has changed faces again (even though we’ve never met him before). Amy is amazed at being in the nerve center of London’s war effort. They go to the roof and gaze upon the city, stunned by the sight of history and appalled at the revelation that Churchill is using Daleks to fight the Germans. The Doctor is brought face-to-face with an Army-green, Union Jack-sporting, obedient Dalek, known here as an Ironside.

The Doctor tries to convince Churchill to back down from employing the weapons, but Churchill is convinced that the machines will win the war. Churchill believes that they were invented by Professor Edwin Bracewell, and when the Doctor asks Amy to recall the events of the 2009 Dalek invasion, she tells the Doctor that she has no idea what he’s talking about.

Churchill is not swayed – “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would give a favorable reference to the Devil. These machines are our salvation.” – so, when the all-clear alarm sounds, the Doctor decides to visit Bracewell. He asks Bracewell how he developed them, and the professor explains that the ideas just come to him. A Dalek serves tea, spurring the Doctor into anger. He tries to provoke the Dalek into attacking him, channeling his anger and fury into the effort, but is unsuccessful at first. When he reveals himself as the Doctor, the Daleks finally drop the charade.

They transmit the Doctor’s identity to a saucer on the far side of the Moon. Two soldiers attempt to stop the Daleks but are promptly exterminated. Bracewell tries to reason with them but has his hand shot off, revealing that the professor is an android that they created. The Daleks declare victory and transmat to their ship. The Doctor’s testimony is now powering some kind of progenitor.

The Doctor leaves Amy with Churchill and takes the TARDIS to the Dalek ship, claiming to have a self-destruct sequence on a dead man’s switch. It’s really a Jammy Dodger, but it fools the Daleks for the time being. The Daleks reveal that one ship survived their last encounter with the Doctor and the ship located a progenitor device containing pure Dalek DNA. The three Daleks on the ship were created from Davros’ cells, so the progenitor would not recognize them since they are not pure Daleks. As a backup, however, if it detected the Doctor nearby, it would activate.

Forcing a stalemate, the Daleks remotely switch on the lights in London, turning it into a giant target for the German air forces. They all watch as a new Dalek paradigm is born with multi-color Daleks born from pure DNA. Soon after birth, the new Daleks use maximum extermination against the inferior Daleks. When they turn on the Doctor, he brandishes his Jammy Dodger again.

Amy and Churchill realize that they have a way to help. They visit Bracewell, who is threatening suicide since he believes that his entire life is a lie. Amy talks him out of it and convinces him to help save London. Bracewell theorizes that he could send a weapon into space with his gravity bubble technology. Churchill scrambles three Spitfires – Jubilee, Flintlock, and Danny Boy – to assist just as the Daleks figure out the Jammy Dodger ruse.

The Daleks take out Jubilee and Flintlock. The Doctor is forced back into the TARDIS, which proves advantageous as he is able to disrupt the Dalek ship’s shields long enough for the Spitfire to destroy the transmission dish. With London safe, the Doctor dispatches Danny Boy to destroy the ship, but the Daleks reveal that Bracewell is a bomb ready to destroy the planet if the Doctor does not let them survive.

The Doctor reluctantly lets them leave, but they activate the bomb’s timer on their way out. The Doctor returns to Earth and reveals the bomb. The Doctor realizes that the professor’s human memories, particularly the emotions behind them, have the power to stop the countdown. Unfortunately, it fails.

Amy tries another tactic: She asks if he’s ever fancied someone that he shouldn’t. She asks him to remember the pain of a woman named Dorabella and how beautiful she was. The emotion disables the oblivion continuum bomb, but the Doctor is too late to stop the Daleks from leaving.

The Doctor is distraught even in victory. Meanwhile, Bracewell has lost his access to new futuristic ideas and the Doctor has stripped it out of the headquarters. The Doctor hugs Churchill and Amy bids him farewell, but demands the TARDIS key back before they go. Churchill, it seems, has sticky fingers.

Before they leave, the Doctor and Amy visit Bracewell. The professor is certain that they’ve come to deactivate him, but they have no intention of doing so. They recommend that he go find Dorabella or some of the places in his memories, and as they leave, Bracewell starts packing.

Off to the TARDIS go the Doctor and Pond, but the Doctor is still perplexed at how Amy cannot recall the Battle of Canary Wharf or the War in the Medusa Cascade. Regardless, they board the TARDIS and depart, leaving behind the menacing crack in the wall.


I really appreciate the double meaning of this story’s title. On the one hand, it plays well off the allied propaganda from World War II, but on the other hand, the title is quite literal: In a rare move for the franchise, the Daleks actually win by achieving a major goal.

These new Daleks, which will become known as the Paradigm Daleks, are vastly different than the Skaro Daleks (1963-1975), the Renegade-Imperial Civil War Daleks (1975-2005), and the Time War Daleks (2005-2010). They also (at this point) also retcon (establish a retroactive continuity) about the Daleks, effectively erasing the Daleks from the Time War forward except for the Doctor’s memories. What’s not entirely clear is where the Ironsides Daleks come from. Are they part of the army from the human-Dalek hybrids (which tie back to the Imperial Daleks, and therefore, Davros), or are they survivors of the New Dalek Empire? It is implied that they were part of the War in the Medusa Cascade, but it’s not definitive.

The effect is quite literal as Steven Moffat destroys the Dalek legacy created by Russell T Davies. I know that many fans despise the redesign, but I don’t mind them that much. They are definitely more chunky than every other previous Dalek design, but the most garish design factor is the rainbow coloring. In the classic era, Daleks stuck to the standards of grays, blacks, whites, golds, and light blues. In the first five years of the modern era, they went to grays, blacks, and bronzes.

The Skittles variety is a major culture shock.

It’s also worth noting here that this is not the first time that the Doctor has considered exchanging the Earth for the complete destruction of his worst enemy (The Parting of the Ways), which also links to the Doctor’s fury at the first time the Ninth Doctor encountered one of them (Dalek).

Lastly, the Daleks didn’t seem to recognize the Doctor with his eleventh face. In The Power of the Daleks, the Doctor mentioned that they always manage to recognize him. The recognition files seem to not work in certain cases, like the Renegade Daleks being dumbfounded over the Sixth Doctor (Revelation of the Daleks) and the Cult of Skaro not recognizing the Tenth Doctor (Doomsday). So, this matches with previous events, but the connection is not entirely clear.

Moving to the more humorous, the absurdity of Royal Air Force Spitfires engaged in space combat made me laugh. I also loved how dedicated the Ironside Daleks were to the ruse, from serving tea to waiting so very long for the Doctor to arrive. Quite frankly, they deserve their victory despite the ramifications for the universe going forward.

One thing is certainly clear: The Daleks just got less scrappy and a whole lot more menacing again.

(Thanks to The Doctor Who Site for their visual reference guide to the different Dalek types.)

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Time of Angels and Doctor Who: Flesh and Stone

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

Timestamp #211: The Beast Below

Doctor Who: The Beast Below
(1 episode, s05e02, 2010)

Timestamp 211 The Beast Below

It’s no disc on four elephants on a turtle, but it’s still home.

Behind-the scenes: Because Series Five started a franchise trend of related mini-episodes and prequels for certain stories, I’ll start including them where appropriate.

Meanwhile in the TARDIS, Part I

Shortly after departing Leadworth, Amy bombards the Doctor with a stream of non-stop questions. How does the TARDIS retain its air supply? Why did he label a time machine “police box”? Where are the other windows which are on the exterior of the TARDIS? What is a police box and is the Doctor a policeman? Has he seen his haircut? Does he ever need to change the bulb on top the TARDIS?

She also considers the bow tie to be a cry for help.

The Doctor answers most of the questions, which Amy follows with one more question: Is the Doctor an alien? He tells her that she’s the alien and that this is what he really looks like. He also opens the doors and shows her the depths of space.

When she says that they look more like a Hollywood special effects display, he throws her into the dark.

The Beast Below

On the Starship UK, children sit in class waiting to be graded by their instructor, a Smiler. A boy named Timmy doesn’t want to join, but when he does, he gets graded as a failure. Students who have a zero grade aren’t allowed to take the Vator lift with their classmates. Not wanting to take the stairs to the London deck, he sneaks onto the other elevator car, but this car takes him to Level 0 and a bottomless chasm into which the Smiler tosses him with an evil sneer.

Back at the TARDIS, Amy is floating in space with the Doctor holding her by a single ankle. He has extended the air shield so they can breathe while watching the cosmos. He spots the Starship UK, a refuge for humanity after the Earth was burned by solar flares, and sets a course.

While Amy watches the monitor, the Doctor appears on the screen and beckons her to join him. She’s surprised, but exits the TARDIS and wanders the starship in her nightgown. The Doctor takes a glass of water and sets it on the deck, proclaims that he’s looking for an escaped fish, and tells Amy to keep an eye open for secrets, shadows, and lives lived in fear.

As they wander, a cloaked figure calls a man named Hawthorne, who then relays the information about the Doctor’s presence to a woman surrounded by glasses of water. Meanwhile, the Doctor explains that they’re looking for a girl named Mandy, points out the Smilers as peculiar, and leaves Amy to pursue Mandy (Timmy’s friend) while he tries to stay out of trouble.

Amy finds Mandy, who tells her that they’re path is blocked by a hole at Magpie Electricals. Amy tries to pick the lock guarding the hole while talking to Mandy about herself. When Amy takes a peek inside, a nearby Smiler turns to the evil face as Amy finds a tentacle with a stinger on the end. When she leaves the tent, she’s surrounded by cloaked figures who gas her.

The Doctor descends into the engine room and finds the mysterious cloaked woman and a glass of water. When pressed, he explains that an engine the size of that needed to propel the ship would cause ripples in the water, but the surface is still. Additionally, there are no couplings in the electrical boxes and no engine whatsoever. The woman, Liz Ten, asks for his help before providing him with Amy’s whereabouts and vanishing.

Amy regains consciousness in a booth where her name (Amelia Jessica Pond), age (1,306), and marital status (unknown) are displayed before she’s offered the truth about the starship and two options: Protest or Forget. Should only one percent of the population protest, the project will be discontinued with consequences for all. She views the video and presses Forget, but then sees a video from herself begging her to find the Doctor and get off the ship immediately.

The Doctor opens the booth with Mandy on his heels and reveals that her recent memories were erased. They discuss the similarities between Time Lords and humans, as well as the remnants of his people. The Doctor decides to bring down the government by slamming the Protest button. The deck opens to the chasm below and he and Amy are dropped into a slimy pit full of biological refuse.

It turns out that it’s a mouth, as pipes have been surgically implanted they can use the normal path to escape, but the mouth is closed. To prevent being swallowed, the Doctor triggers the vomit reflex and the pair land in an overspill pipe. They find a Forget button, but when they refuse to press it, two Smilers approach menacingly. A maskless Liz Ten bursts in with Mandy and shoots the robots, but when they start repairing themselves, the group moves on.

Liz Ten muses about the Doctor and his history with royalty, revealing that she is Elizabeth the Tenth, the Queen. They spot more of the roots (the tentacles) behind barriers and retreat to Liz’s quarters. The Doctor muses to Amy that they shouldn’t be here. They are interrupted by the cloaked figures, Winders who are half-human and half-Smiler, and taken to the dungeons (the Tower) to meet with Hawthorne.

In the Tower, they find evidence that the starship is being propelled by a large, captive creature that is being tortured to keep them moving. Liz Ten demands that they release the creature with her authority, but Hawthorne doesn’t budge. The Doctor shows her the mask that she wears, noting that it’s an antique, and proving that her body clock has been slowed. She’s been on the throne for hundreds of years, forced over time to either Forget or Abdicate.

She watches a pre-recorded video of herself explaining that they lacked the resources to build a suitable ship, but they found the last of the star whales and decided to ride it to safety. Despite being heartbreaking, the choice saved them all. To abdicate would mean destroying the ship and killing humanity to save the creature.

This is what Amy chose to forget, a choice that makes the Doctor furious.

The Doctor is faced with three options: Leave the star whale in captivity, kill all of humanity, or turn the creature into a vegetable to save them all. The Doctor starts setting up option three while Amy sees Mandy reunited with Timmy (who doesn’t recognize her) and then caress one the tentacles like a pet.

Amy decides to force Liz to abdicate, but instead of destroying the ship, the vessel speeds up. Amy recognized that the creature had volunteered to save the children of humanity, comparing the star whale to the Doctor. Later, the Doctor gazes out at the stars as Amy arrives with Liz’s mask. There will be no more secrets on Starship UK, and the Doctor and Amy make amends to each other.

They return to the TARDIS, and Amy starts to reveal the reason that she needs to get back tomorrow morning, but they are interrupted by the console phone. On the other end is British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, asking for help as the shadow of a Dalek is cast on the wall of his office.

The Doctor sets a course, leaving the star whale and her wards to sail the stars, unaware of a glowing crack on the hull similar to the one that graced Amy’s wall at home.


We see an evolution of the Doctor in his first outing in this incarnation. Growing from the trauma of the Time War, we finally see hints of acceptance and resolve to never be cowardly or cruel, to never give up, and to never give in. In fact, when the resolution to this story seems to be the mental death of a magnificent creature to save everyone, he is ready to sacrifice the name of Doctor as a result.

In a similar story twist as The Doctor Dances, doing the thing that was supposed to end the world actually saves it. It was so good to see Amy take command of the situation based on what she’s observed. Smart companions are a winner with me. It’s also an extension of The Runaway Bride as a companion pleads with the Doctor to find another solution. In this case, the companion is successful.

Steven Moffat does take a serious shortcut here with easy entry points for the franchise: This story echoes The End of the World with a new Doctor taking a new companion to the distant future where they muse about the fall of Earth, the future of humanity, and talk about mothers while standing in front of large windows staring into space. Is it cheap? Sure, but it works.

We’ve also seen the hijacked brain story and clockwork androids before in the revival era.

I did love the rapid fire rush through the history of the Doctor and the monarchy, from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II and even a bit more of the story about a marriage to Queen Elizabeth I. I also got a kick out of some current events getting a nod with a discussion of Scottish independence, and I’m amused by the Doctor’s personality as he tries to be hip and modern. It’s very much “How do you do, fellow kids?”.

All of these things combined made for an exciting adventure that showcases the strength and abilities of Amy as a companion.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Victory of the Daleks

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

Timestamp #210: The Eleventh Hour

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour
(1 episode, s05e01, 2010)

Timestamp 210 The Eleventh Hour

Is this planet protected?

Before we get there, where were we? Oh, yeah…

“Geronimoooooooooooo!”

The TARDIS flies end-over-tea-kettle as the newly regenerated Eleventh Doctor hangs on for dear life. He nearly misses Big Ben before crawling back inside.

In 1996, a young girl named Amelia Pond prays to Santa Claus on Easter about a crack in her wall. When she asks for help to fix it, the TARDIS crash lands on her garden shed. Amelia ventures out to investigate and is surprised when the Doctor pops out of the time capsule with a grappling hook, having just climbed up from the library and now craving an apple.

He has a momentary spasm and breathes out a stream of golden regeneration energy. Despite still “cooking”, he promises to look at the crack in the wall. But first, food.

Apples? No good.

Yogurt? Same result.

Bacon? Nope.

Beans? They’re evil.

Bread and butter? Better as a frisbee.

Carrots? Not even one.

Fish fingers and custard? Perfection.

While the Doctor enjoys his new delicacy, he asks Amelia about her family. She has no parents, but lives with her Aunt Sharon. Her aunt is away and, as the Doctor notes, she’s quite the brave girl.

The Doctor ventures upstairs to look at that crack. Funny thing about that crack is that it would exist even if the wall was removed. It also has a voice, one which repeats “Prisoner Zero has escaped.”

He promises that everything is going to be fine before opening the crack with the sonic screwdriver. What he finds on the other end is a giant eyeball that sends him a message on the psychic paper before sealing the crack again. The Doctor muses about Prisoner Zero escaping through the crack into Amelia’s house, but before he can find it out of the corner of his eye, the Cloister Bell sounds. The Doctor rushes to the TARDIS to stabilize the engines. promising that he’ll just hop five minutes into the future to fix the issue and will be right back.

Amelia doesn’t believe him. Everyone says that they’ll be back, but they don’t come back.

As the TARDIS vanishes, Amelia runs up to her room and packs a bag. She runs downstairs (past the door that wasn’t open a second ago) and waits in the garden for the Doctor to return.

The TARDIS returns, with smoke pouring out of it in the broad daylight. The Doctor rushes in to find Amelia and Prisoner Zero, but instead takes a cricket bat to the face.

At a nearby hospital, nurse Rory Williams summons his supervisor, Dr. Ramsden, to inform her that every patient in the coma ward is asking for her. They all call out in unison: “Doctor!” He also shows her evidence that the coma patients have been walking about the village. She tells him to take some time away, starting now.

The Doctor wakes up chained to a radiator and facing a police officer. He asks the officer about Amelia Pond, but the officer tells him that she moved away six months ago. The officer calls for backup while the Doctor asks her to count the number of rooms on the floor. The officer counts five rooms, but the Doctor proves that there are six. The extra room is guarded by a perception filter, and the officer goes to check it out while the Doctor protests.

He asks her to find his screwdriver, which has now entered the room and jumped up on the table. Prisoner Zero stalks her around the room, but the Doctor tells her not to look at it. Unfortunately, she looks it in the eye and rushes out. The Doctor works on the handcuffs with the sonic screwdriver while the officer reveals that she’s really a “kiss-o-gram”.

The door opens to reveal a man with a dog. The same man is in the coma ward at the hospital. As the Doctor and the woman stall for time, a voice announces that the house is surrounded and will incinerate the house if Prisoner Zero doesn’t surrender.

The Doctor and the woman run for the TARDIS, but the time capsule is still rebuilding. The Doctor spots the garden shed and realizes that he’s not five minutes in Amelia’s future. In fact, he’s twelve years late, and the woman is Amy Pond.

As they move through the village, they find that everything with a speaker is repeating the same message: “Prisoner Zero will vacate the human residence, or the human residence will be incinerated.” They rush into the nearest house, which belongs to Amy’s friend Jeff Angelo and his grandmother. There they discover that the message is being broadcast worldwide in every human language. The Doctor also finds out that Amy has been drawing the Doctor – the raggedy man – since she was a child.

The Doctor deduces that they have about twenty minutes before the Atraxi arrive and destroy the world. Sure enough, there’s a fleet of giant eyeballs in orbit.

The Doctor is not amused when he finds out that he’s effectively trapped in Leadworth. He also notes that he’s still cooking and not yet ready to tackle this emergency. Regardless, as he looks at the villagers all watching the sky change through their mobile phones, he notices Rory taking pictures of Prisoner Zero instead of the sky.

He also proves to Amy that he is the Doctor by handing her the apple with a smiling face that she gave him moments before he left her over a decade (or half an hour, depending on your point of view) prior.

With Amy on his side, the Doctor is introduced to Rory. He learns that Prisoner Zero is using coma patients – its kind needs a psychic link with a dormant mind – and signals the Atraxi with the sonic screwdriver. Unfortunately, the Doctor overloads and destroys the screwdriver before the Atraxi notice, so he’s forced think of another way to solve the problem in the next seventeen minutes.

Meanwhile, Prisoner Zero heads back to the hospital and kills Dr. Ramsden as she tries to rouse the coma patient.

The Doctor returns to Jeff’s house and takes his laptop to break into a conference call among the world’s top scientists. He proves his intellect by producing multiple scientific theories – including the “real” proof of Fermat’s theorem, which is the formula for faster-than-light travel – and a joke, then uses Rory’s phone to write a “slightly intelligent” virus that will turn every digital display in the world to “zero” at the same time. Basically, causing a worldwide inconvenience.

He uploads the virus to the internet, gives Jeff’s grandmother astronomer Patrick Moore’s phone number, and then advises Jeff to erase his internet history before the world notices him.

The Doctor rushes to join Amy and Rory at the hospital. Amy has used her kiss-o-gram police uniform to get past security, but encounters Prisoner Zero in the guise of a mother and twin daughters. The Doctor comes to rescue in a fire engine, breaking the ladder through a window and climbing into the coma ward.

The Doctor faces off against Prisoner Zero, learning that the cracks are spread throughout the universe. The Pandorica will open and silence will fall. Sounds ominous.

The clocks on the wall click to zeroes, sending a message worldwide to the Atraxi that Prisoner Zero is at the source of the computer virus, which is Rory’s phone. The Doctor reveals that he’s uploaded Rory’s photos of the coma patients, so Prisoner Zero shifts into the Doctor’s form with young Amelia through the psychic link with Amy.

The real Amy falls unconscious, and the Doctor speaks to her about the room with the perception filter, asking her to dream about it. When she does, Prisoner Zero’s true form is revealed and the prisoner is captured.

The Doctor then summons the Atraxi, telling them that they violated the Shadow Proclamation by threatening to burn a Level Five planet. He changes clothes, stealing them from the hospital like two of his predecessors, then heads to the roof.

The Doctor confronts the Atraxi as he finishes dressing, asking them a simple question: Is this world a threat?

The answer is no.

Are the people of the world guilty of any crimes under Atraxi law?

No.

Is this world protected?

Yes.

By whom? Oh, hey… it’s the Doctor.

He warns them to run, so they do. After the Atraxi leave, the TARDIS key glows and the Doctor rushes back to his blue box. When he enters he finds a whole new console room. He takes off to break the new time machine in, leaving Amy and Rory in the garden.

He returns as Amy dreams of being abandoned in the garden as a girl. The problem is that he’s been gone two years. She’s been dealing with abandonment issues for fourteen years. Despite that, he asks Amy to join him in the TARDIS to explore time and space.

She declines at first, so he shows her the console room. It’s a bit of a haphazard mess, but it’s still bigger on the inside. Despite still being in her nightie – there are plenty of clothes in the wardrobe – the Girl Who Waited agrees to go with him so long as the Doctor gets her back tomorrow “for stuff”.

Time being relative on the TARDIS, that shouldn’t be a problem, but the Doctor has a long history of missing the target.

The Doctor tells her that he needs a companion because he’s lonely. He also has a new sonic screwdriver (grown or built by the TARDIS, even) and is a Madman With a Box. With the ominous crack appearing on the scopes, the new pair bid farewell to Leadworth and hello to everything.

Oh, and that “stuff” for tomorrow? Yeah… Amy’s getting married. Presumably to Rory.


I love how whimsical young Amelia is, and I especially love how she maintains that whimsy into adulthood. All too often, kids have that wonder and eccentricity beat out of them by the systemic rigors of school, work, and growing up. But in Leadworth, thankfully, that’s simply not the way.

It’s obviously a defense mechanism for her, possibly to shield separation and abandonment anxieties based on how easily she spools out the line about how everyone says that they’ll be back, but they don’t come back. That led to one of the most heartbreaking moments in this entire episode as young Amelia Pond sat on her luggage in the cold garden and waited for her Raggedy Man to return.

The symbolism is not lost on me: Amelia prays (the Doctor is often referred to as a sort of god figure emerging from the TARDIS, a literal deus ex machina) to Santa Claus (a figure known for bestowing gifts and charity upon the deserving, much like the Doctor among those he meets) on Easter (a religious holiday centered on rebirth and resurrection). The fact that she asks for a policeman is just icing on the cake.

The scene that I come back to quite frequently is the “Hello. I’m the Doctor” sequence. The holographic projections of the previous ten (known) incarnations of the Doctor set the stage perfectly, almost like poetry, for Matt Smith to snug up his bow tie and set himself in the name.

I love seeing which images the producers select for scenes like this, but the Doctors flash by very fast. The creatures, on the other hand, include Cybermen, Daleks, a Pyrovile, the Empress of the Racnoss, the Ood,  the Hath, the Sontarans, the Sea Devils, the Sycorax, a Reaper, and a victim of the Vashta Nerada.

Finally, the new title theme was a bit off-putting at first, but I know from experience that it will grow on me. It’s quite the change from the variations from 2005 through 2009.

Even though the rules for the Timestamps Project allow for a +1 handicap for regeneration episodes, this story hardly needs it.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Beast Below

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

Timestamp: Tenth Doctor Specials and Tenth Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor Specials and Tenth Doctor Summary

The Tenth Doctor Specials were a great but short run.

The grouping ran from December 2008 to January 2010 – effectively, the year of 2009 – and helped to create David Tennant’s farewell tour. It was accompanied by the Doctor Who Prom (which included a mini-episode called Music of the Spheres) and The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith.

It was unique for exploring the darker side of the Tenth Doctor, following from the bittersweet victory of Journey’s End and evolving on what started in The Runaway Bride and the concept of the Time Lord’s unrestrained power.

In some fan circles, these episodes are looked down upon because they are so different in spirit from the zany friendly nature of the previous three series. I feel that they perform a great service in terms of a war veteran who is trying to make amends for the things he’s done while trying desperately to avoid any further destruction.

That’s where we are with The Next Doctor and Planet of the Dead. The Doctor has just lost Donna and closed the loop with Rose, and that cuts him to the quick. By the time we reach The Waters of Mars, he’s been traveling for a while without a companion, which we have seen established before as a really bad thing for him. Without the balance of a companion, the Doctor believes that he can solve anything with his power as the last of the Time Lords.

All of this culminates in his temper tantrum at the time of his fatal radiation exposure in The End of Time. He wants to do so much more. In fact, he needs to. It is a primal, emotional necessity to make up for whatever he did in the Time War. He still does the right thing in saving Wilf, and then turns his need on its head by using his remaining time to help those he loves.

In that, the Doctor is redeemed for his flirtations with darkness Time Lord Victorious, and presumably for his role in the Time War. He’s done so much good that maybe, just maybe, he can finally rest.

From that perspective, I love this set of stories with the exceptions that I have previously noted. Particularly with the portrayal of the Master in The End of Time.


The Tenth Doctor Specials collection comes in at an average of 4.4. That’s fourth all-time for the Timestamps Project, coming in behind the classic Ninth Series, the new era’s Series Four, and the Eighth Doctor’s run. It’s just ahead of both Series One and Series Three.

The Next Doctor – 4
Planet of the Dead – 5
The Waters of Mars – 5
Dreamland – 3
The End of Time – 5

Series One (Revival Era) Average Rating: 4.4/5


Timestamp Tenth Doctor

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, the Ninth a hopeful healing veteran…

…and the Tenth Doctor is a bargaining humanitarian.

The Tenth Doctor continues the work of the Ninth on Kübler-Ross model of grief. The Ninth worked through Denial and Anger, while the Tenth Doctor picked up with Bargaining and worked into Depression (with added bits of Anger since, let’s face it, this model is not perfectly linear).

He tried to stop the bad things from happening, always looking for a way out. But when those bad things finally happened, he was so very sorry. As mentioned before, he was always looking to even the score for watching Gallifrey burn, and he wanted to do so much more before his death.

We can only hope that the Eleventh Doctor finds Acceptance.

I started watching Doctor Who with the Ninth Doctor back in 2008, but the Tenth was always “my” Doctor. Watching these stories again with the full context of the franchise behind me has been a joy.


Series 2 – 4.1
Series 3 – 4.3
Series 4 – 4.6
Specials – 4.4

Ninth Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 4.34

Ranking (by score)
1 – Eighth (4.50)
2 – Tenth (4.34)
3 – Ninth (4.30)
4 – Third (4.00)
5 – Second (3.67)
6 – Fourth (3.67)
7 – Seventh (3.54)
8 – First (3.41)
9 – Fifth (3.20)
10 – Sixth (2.73)

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

I’ve mentioned this before: Those top seven spaces on the character ranking are really, really, really close. I have been tempted to make them a a tie for first place since I would gladly watch any of those stories at any time, but that would be taking the easy way out. It’s far more challenging to actually rank them.


Next up, we change Doctors and showrunners.

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour

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

Timestamp #209: The End of Time

Doctor Who: The End of Time
(Christmas Special, 2009)
(New Year Special, 2010)

“It is said that in the final days of planet Earth, everyone had bad dreams…” Everyone forgot these terrible dreams, except one man.

London is gearing up for Christmas, and Wilfred Mott is no exception. However, when he sees flashes of the Master laughing maniacally, he seeks the sanctuary of a nearby church. In the stained glass, he spots an image of the TARDIS. A mysterious woman tells him that it’s called the mystery of the blue box, driven by a sainted physician who smote a demon and vanished. She muses that he may be coming back, but when Wilf tells her that it would make his Christmas, she vanishes.

And the Master laughs.

The TARDIS materializes on the Ood Sphere, a full century after the Doctor and Donna freed the Ood. The Doctor struts into the snowy landscape in a tropical get-up, trying to get a laugh from Ood Sigma with a remote car lock on the time capsule. It doesn’t work. Neither does the Doctor’s boasting that he named a galaxy Alison, saw the Phosphorous Carousel of the Great Magellan Gestalt, and married Queen Elizabeth I.

The Doctor is troubled by the rapid nature of the Ood evolution. The Ood are troubled as well, though their burden is bad dreams of a return. The Doctor joins their vision and sees the laughing Master. The Doctor protests since the Master is dead, sharing his memories of The Year That Never Was, but is troubled as he sees visions of Wilf, Lucy Saxon, and a mysterious couple.

He recounts the tale of the Master’s demise and funeral, but the Ood note how he missed a woman picking up the Master’s ring. There’s also a shadow falling over creation. The end of time is coming.

The Doctor runs for the TARDIS. Lucy Saxon is set free from her jail cell in Christmas Eve. As the Doctor flies the TARDIS apart, Lucy is introduced to Miss Trefusis, the woman who retrieved the ring, and a group of fanatical disciples of the Master. The ring is placed into a vessel among potions and the biological signature from Lucy’s lips. The disciples surrender their life energy as the Master rematerializes in a burst of energy. The drumbeat echoes in his head as he muses to Lucy, but Lucy stymies his plans by throwing a potion of her own into the mix.

The prison explodes.

The Doctor arrives a day too late.

But someone survived the inferno, and that unknown couple celebrates. They are Joshua Naismith and his daughter Abigail, and they give orders to prepare the gate.

Meanwhile, Wilf joins a group of friends for drinks, but ends up giving them informational packets to keep an eye our for the Doctor. When they question him, he reminds them of their bad dreams and that the Doctor can help them.

In a junkyard, two men pick up meals from a food truck. A third man in a hoodie arrives and reveals himself as the Master. He devours a hamburger with the other two men, and after he’s identified as Harold Saxon, he chases them back to the food truck while phasing in and out. The food truck has been destroyed, and the two men are consumed next.

The Doctor stands over the junkyard, which the Master senses. The Master begins pounding a drumbeat on a steel drum. The Doctor runs to find him but arrives just in time to watch the manic Time Lord jump away with superhuman power. The Doctor pleads with him, asking to help him before he burns up his lifeforce, but the Master disappears.

Wilf arrives right away with his Silver Cloak network, and the Doctor is beside himself as they fawn over him. The Doctor returns to town with Wilf and they sit down over tea. The Doctor wonders why they keep meeting, musing about the prophecy of his own death. Even upon regeneration, he says, each incarnation dies as the next carries on.

They spot Donna, and while the Doctor reinforces that she can never remember him, he’s pleased that she’s moved on. She’s engaged to Shaun Temple, but Wilf knows that she knows that something is missing in her life.

Wilf asks about his companions and the Doctor tells him that he’s traveling alone. Sadly, he notes, without a companion he’s made some bad choices. The Doctor starts crying, burdened by the guilt of his recent actions which also devastates Wilf. He asks if Donna could make him smile again, but by now she is gone. The Doctor moves on as fate places all of the players on the field.

The Doctor finds the Master. The Master generates some kind of electrical blasts and pours energy into the Doctor, forcing the Time Lord to the ground. The Doctor realizes that the Master’s body has been torn wide open, enabling him to weaponize his life force at the expense of his own time. It’s a resurrection gone wrong and the Master is insane.

The Master remembers back to their childhood, where they would play on pastures of red grass, stretching across the slopes of Mount Perdition. The Doctor talks of the prophecy and the Master of his drumbeat. The Master shares the sound with the Doctor, forcing the Doctor to recoil in fear. The Master rockets away and the Doctor gives chase. The Master stops and asks what is calling him. Then a helicopter arrives, shoots at the Doctor, and abducts the Master. The Doctor is left unconscious in the junkyard.

Christmas arrives. Donna has given Wilf a copy of Naismith’s book, Fighting the Future, which troubles Wilf. Donna has no idea why she picked it out. It just felt right. Shaun arrives and Wilf tries to watch the Queen’s address, but it is preempted by a message that only he can see. The mysterious woman warns that, even though he fought in the war and never took a life, he will need to take up arms. He should also not warn the Doctor of this.

He goes to his bedroom and retrieves his service revolver. He looks up as the Doctor tosses a rock at his window, and goes out to talk to him. The Doctor is trying to connect the dots and finally does when Wilf shows him Naismith’s book. When Donna comes calling, the Doctor and Wilf take off in the TARDIS, leaving Sylvia yelling at the wind and Donna amused.

It’s Wilf’s first trip in the TARDIS. He thought it would be cleaner.

Meanwhile, the Naismiths celebrate the arrival of the Master. Wrapped in a straitjacket, the Time Lord is introduced to the Immortality Gate, which Naismith found after the fall of Torchwood. The gate’s power supply includes two booths connected to a nuclear device so that it has to be manned all the time. Naismith wants immortality for his daughter, who is aware of the disciples of Saxon.

Naismith has moles in his staff. Two of his scientists, Addams and Rossiter, are undercover Vinvocci disguised as humans. They want to take the gate for themselves.

The Doctor and Wilf arrive, and the Doctor pushes the TARDIS one second out of sync to hide it. They sneak into the Naismith complex and find the Vinvocci as the Master repairs the gate and brings it online. As the Master is restrained, the Doctor questions what is going on.

The Vinvocci are a salvage team and the gate is a medical device that repairs entire planets using a genetic template. They are also not the Zocci and take offense to being compared to cacti. With this knowledge, the Doctor rushes upstairs as the Master jumps into the gate. The Master’s genetic template is transmitted across the planet into every human being.

The Doctor and Wilf jump into the control booths. The radiation shielding protects Wilf from the transmission, leaving the Doctor free to work. Meanwhile, the planet is panicking.

Everyone begins transforming into the Master and Donna has witnessed it since she’s immune due to the metacrisis. Unfortunately, she’s begun to remember all of it as the Master celebrates the rise of the Master race.

And that unknown narrator who has been chronicling the story? He’s happy, because the return of the Time Lords and Gallifrey is at hand. He’s also the current Lord President.

In Doctor Who fashion, this story is taking place in two distinct temporal zones. On the last day of the Time War, the High Council tells the Lord President that the Doctor still has the Moment. Once he uses it, Gallifrey will fall as the Daleks are destroyed. One adviser suggests that it might be for the best since billions are dying and being resurrected over and over, but the President vaporizes her for the suggestion.

He will not surrender.

He learns that the Doctor and the Master will survive the Time War and will end up on Earth, so the President sets his sights there.

On Earth, the Doctor and Wilf are restrained as the Master checks in with himself around the world. The Master is surprised as Donna calls, demanding to know why she hasn’t changed. Wilf warns her to run as the Master pursues, but when Donna is cornered, the Doctor-Donna power is unleashed. The Masters and Donna all collapse.

The Master ungags the Doctor. The Doctor offers to let the Master travel with him, but the Master is concerned about the drumbeat in his head. Wilf asks about it, and the Master shares the story of how he was forced to look into the Untempered Schism. That was when it began.

The Lord President learns of this story at the same time, correlating the rhythm of four with the heartbeat of a Time Lord.

The Doctor realizes that the Master is still dying even with the Gate’s influence, but the Master is otherwise obsessed. The drumbeat is now amplified billions of times and coming from the end of time. The prophecy concerns him.

When the Master order Wilf to be executed, the guard turns out to be Rossiter. The Master is knocked unconscious and Wilf and the Doctor are rescued by Rossiter, Addams, and a teleport to the orbiting Vinvocci ship.

Once freed from his restraints, the Doctor rushes to save them from a planet of missiles aimed toward the skies. Oh, and a starstruck Wilf who has never been to space.

The Doctor’s solution? He turns the entire ship off by destroying the ship’s systems. It has stranded them in orbit, but Wilf has faith in the Doctor. As the Doctor begins to rebuild the ship’s systems, the mysterious woman appears to Wilf again and orders him to give his gun to the Doctor.

As the Masters listen for the drumbeats – which are now revealed to have been planted by the Lord President at the end of the Time War – the High Council sends a White-Point Star through the link. The size of a diamond, it is small enough to break the temporal lock, and when it lands in London with a giant crater, the Master laughs hysterically.

Wilf talks with the Doctor as the Time Lord works on the ship. He recounts his memories of the war and learns that the Doctor is 906 years old. He supposes that the Doctor sees humans as insects, but the Doctor admits that he really sees them as giants. The Doctor refuses the gun, but tells Wilf that he would be proud to be his son.

The Doctor wonders if Time Lords live too long, but realizes that killing the Master would only mean that he starts down that dark path. While he’s made some bad choices and taken lives, he won’t kill the Master to save himself, even if Wilf pleads with him.

The Master sends an open broadcast to the Doctor, revealing the existence of the White-Point Star. The Doctor realizes with fear that the Time Lords are returning, and he takes the gun and rushes to the control room.

On Earth, the Master uses the White-Point Star to establish a link and open a pathway. Contact is made, and the High Council chooses life over the fall of Gallifrey.

Wilf is confused. He thought that the Time Lords were wise and peaceful, but that’s how the Doctor chooses to remember them. In reality, the horrors of the Time War had changed them, irrevocably corrupting them and making them far more dangerous than any of his enemies.

The Doctor restores power to the ship and takes control. With an old Earth saying, a word of great power and wisdom and consolation to soul in times of need, he drives the ship toward the planet: “Allons-y!”

Using the ship’s salvage lasers, Wilf and Rossiter destroy the planet’s missiles as the ship races to England. When they arrive, the Doctor dives from the ship, falling through the glass dome into the chamber below at the President’s feet in a battered mess.

That’s right. The Time Lords have arrived.

The President greets the renegades as “Lord Doctor” and “Lord Master”, noting the paradox of having been saved by Gallifrey’s most infamous child. When the Master tries to change the Time Lords into himself, the President reverses the effect worldwide and demands that humanity kneel before him.

Then Gallifrey materializes in Earth’s orbit, bearing down on the planet and causing it to quake. Shaun goes in search of Donna as everyone panics in the street. Wilf finds his way to the surface and enters the Gate’s control chamber.

The Master is excited that the Time Lords have returned, but the Doctor reminds him that he wasn’t there in the final days. All of the other horrors born in the last days of the Time War, which he had sealed away in the Time Lock, would also be released. The Daleks would be joined by the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, and the Could’ve Been King with his Army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres. Hell has come to Earth, and the Time Lords, who had planned to deal with these horrors with the Ultimate Sanction – an ascension above the physical form while creation tears itself apart – would be enacted here.

All of this chaos was happening at the same time as Dalek Caan breaking through the time lock to rescue Davros. Apparently, while it was primarily a battle between the Daleks and the Time Lords, the Time War engulfed the entire universe in both space and time.

The Doctor draws Wilf’s gun on the President, then on the Master. Both are the ends of the link, but the Doctor cannot kill either. Finally, he spots the mysterious woman in the President’s retinue. She was one of the two advisers who disagreed with the President and was forced to hide her face like a Weeping Angel. Her tear-streaked gaze focuses on the White-Point Star, and when the Doctor shoots it, Gallifrey returns to its rightful place on the last day of the Time War.

The President, now revealed as Rassilon, threatens to take the Doctor with him, but the Master unleashes his energy in fury. Rassilon falls to his knees as Gallifrey, the Time Lords, and the Master vanish.

The planet and her people are safe once again, and the Doctor is certain that he’s dodged the prophecy.

But someone knocks four times.

Wilf is still in the control booth, and the only way out is if someone replaces him and takes the brunt of the nuclear blast of 500,000 rads as the energy source goes into overload. Wilf offers to sacrifice himself, but the Doctor cannot allow that. Even in his anger because he could do so much more!

The Doctor pushes his own darkness aside because he knows the right answer and enters the booth. Wilf is saved as the energy pours into the Doctor. The Time Lord collapses in pain, and once the energy release is complete, the Doctor exits the now dead booth.

Wilf thinks that the Doctor made it out okay, but the Doctor shows him the injuries from his skydive. His regeneration has begun. The Tenth Doctor is dying.

All Wilf can offer is a hug.

Shaun and Sylvia tend to Donna as the Doctor drops Wilf at the house. The whine of the TARDIS awakens her, and she seems to be no worse for wear. The Doctor promises that he’ll see Wilf one more time, but he has a reward to find.

Here we find the Tenth Doctor seeking redemption for the dark things he’s done since losing Donna.

First, he saves Martha and Mickey from a Sontaran sniper. It turns out that they’re married now. To each other.

Next, he saves Luke Smith from being struck by a car. With a glance, he says farewell to Sarah Jane. She knows what’s coming next.

Next up? An intergalactic bar where he introduces a despondent Captain Jack Harkness to Midshipman Alonso Frame. You know what happens next.

After that, he buys a book from Verity Newman. Her great-grandmother was Joan Redfern, the woman who fell in love with John Smith. He asks if Joan was happy in the end. She was. Silently, so was he.

He returns to Wilf at Donna’s successful wedding. He offers a winning lottery ticket bought with a pound from Sylvia’s late husband. Once they cash it in, all of the family’s financial troubles will be history. The Doctor leaves with a final look at Wilfred, the man whose life he saved at the expense of his own. Wilfred cries, realizing that he’ll never see the Doctor again. It’s one salute that the Doctor doesn’t mind.

Finally, we come to New Years Day 2005. From the shadows, he talks to Rose Tyler at the Powell Estate, promising her that she’s going to have a really great year. When she meets the Ninth Doctor in a few months, she certainly will.

With that, he struggles back to the TARDIS, guided by Ood Sigma. Sigma tells him that the universe will sing him to sleep, and while this song is ending, the story never ends. The Doctor musters his strength as the Ood sing “Vale Decem” in chorus.

He enters the TARDIS, discards his coat, and looks upon his glowing hand as the TARDIS reaches orbit. He laments, “I don’t want to go,” and then erupts in violent regeneration energy.

The explosion rips through the TARDIS, toppling the coral supports, tearing apart the console, and blowing out the windows.

“Geronimoooooooooooo!”


You know, I actually feel sorry for the Master. When Professor Yana regenerated into this version of the Master, I was pleased. Professor Yana was a little crazed due to his identity crisis but also a whole lotta evil. The Harold Saxon Master was diabolical and slightly insane due to the constant drumbeat in his head. When the Master was defeated and killed by Lucy Saxon, I thought it was a good ending for the character, even with the knowledge that the Master never dies.

This resurrection gone wrong takes the character in an entirely wrong direction. I can understand the increased mania, since we’ve seen regenerations gone wrong before, and I loved the dynamic of the Doctor trying to save the Master from self-destruction, but the flight and speed superpowers were way over the top. It shifts a nefarious nemesis into a parody, and thankfully the powers were limited.

What’s really intriguing is the Gallifery connection. We know Rassilon, from his origins as a founder of Time Lord civilization to the manifestation of his quest for power in The Five Doctors, and we know just how aloof and disdainful the Time Lords are in general. So, it really makes sense that they would willingly torture one of their own to save their civilization.

The Doctor knew it, too. Throughout the classic era, the Doctor wore his displeasure on his sleeves. Whatever happened in the Time War – whatever mighty burden the Doctor carries in the aftermath – was powerful enough to change his anger into rose-colored nostalgia.

Shifting gear, Wilf is just too precious. He is the perfect embodiment of Doctor Who, from his wide-eyed wonder upon going to space (having dreamed about it since Partners in Crime) to his delicate balance of self-sacrifice, love, and understanding that darkness is necessary to balance the light. He claims that he’s lived his life to its natural conclusion, but he has so much more to give the world in his honesty and sincerity. One of my favorite character notes is that he was a veteran, but he never killed anyone in the war and sees that as a badge of honor.

I am really going to miss him.

His moment in the “final reward” farewell tour was touching. It was also a fitting ending to Donna’s story as she gained so much happiness after losing so much. I was also pleased with the emotion and scope of the farewell tour, from Sarah Jane and Captain Jack – that scene was also a farewell to Russell T. Davies as well, given all of the creature cameos in those short minutes – to Rose and even Mickey the Idiot. The nod to the franchise’s origins with Verity Newman was a very nice touch.

The scene with Martha and Mickey was pretty cool, but their marriage comes out of pretty much nowhere. Last we knew from The Last of the Time Lords, Reset, and The Sontaran Stratagem, Martha was engaged to Tom Milligan. You know, the pediatrician working in Africa who was a resistance leader in The Year That Never Was? But somewhere between The Sontaran Stratagem and The End of Time, she hot-swapped Tom for Mickey.

The final farewell with Rose was a perfect place to end the tour, promising her a fantastic year to come from the shadows. She obviously disregarded the whole meeting as one with a New Year’s drunk, but the promise is heartwarming.

Then we come to the part where Murray Gold hits it out of the park. “Vale Decem,” which premiered at the end of The Waters of Mars, is a near-perfect farewell for the Tenth Doctor. It combines the Doctor’s theme with a Latin love letter that literally says “Farewell Ten”, and since the Doctor’s theme is the base melody and the Doctor can hear the song, it can be assumed that the Doctor’s theme exists in the “real world” of the Doctor Who universe.

Finally, the regeneration. It is heartbreaking from both the in-universe and production aspects. The Tenth Doctor was the most popular incarnation of the character since the Fourth Doctor, greatly owed to each of them being an entry point for the franchise. You never forget your first Doctor, after all. But from production, the regeneration was the coda to an era of the show which heralded the resurrection of the franchise.

In the phoenix flames of rebirth, the title character destroys the console room (which was iconic for years) and ends the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who.

And, yeah, that regeneration makes a lot of sense. He’s been holding this process back for who knows how long. Effectively, he’s been dying the entire time. The explosive destruction should be expected.

The end result on this story? It is a fun adventure when the tempo picks up, but I remember the first time that I watched it. I had only seen the series from Rose forward, and with very little knowledge about the show’s history or the Time War, the story was confusing and convoluted. It made a lot more sense on this watch thanks to my detailed trip through Doctor Who, but I wonder how much I would have enjoyed this a decade ago if Russell T. Davies had addressed more about the Time War in the course of his run.

That mystery will continue for several seasons.

Based on the rules of the Timestamps Project, regeneration episodes get a +1 handicap since they tend to be a little rough. Without that bump, this story would have settled at a high 3 or low 4, primarily from the Super Master effect.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Specials and Tenth Doctor Summary

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

Timestamp #208: Dreamland

Doctor Who: Dreamland
(Animated Special, 2009)

“Always count your steps, Seruba Velak. You never know when you might need to escape in a box.”

One ship is pursued across the sky by two others. In a hail of laser fire, it crashes into the New Mexico desert, outside Roswell, on June 13, 1947.

Eleven years later, the Doctor arrives at a diner in Dry Springs, Nevada. He meets Cassie Rice, a customer named Jimmy, and a mysterious artifact that lights up under sonic screwdriver. While Cassie and Jimmy marvel over the technology, a man in a black suit arrives and demands it. He assaults them for it, and they make haste for the ranch where Jimmy works.

When they arrive, they find a large Viperox battle drone which has been eating the cattle. A helicopter arrives with soldiers on board, and after they blow up the Viperox, they tell the Doctor that he’s wanted at Area 51.

Also known as Dreamland.

Accompanied by Jimmy and Cassie, the Doctor is taken below ground to meet Colonel Stark. He tells them that he plans to wipe their minds, straps them to some operating tables, taunts them for a few minutes, and turns on the amnesia gas. The Doctor wriggles free, turns off the gas, and helps his companions escape through the ventilation shafts.

As alarms echo through the facility, the trio takes flight, ending up in Lab 51. Inside the lab, they discover an alien behind a glass partition. Force to run again, the team takes a lift to a hangar where they are immediately captured.

The Doctor’s entourage are shepherded toward the alien craft that crashed in Roswell. Using his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor hijacks the ship and takes it for a spin. Pursued by Air Force fighters, he crashes the ship in the desert. They take refuge in a ghost town called Solitude.

Meanwhile, Colonel Stark is confronted by a Viperox named Lord Azlok, demanding that he not disappoint the Viperox forces. Azlok is also very interested in the Doctor and his skills.

The Doctor and his companions find a Viperox that pulls Jimmy underground. Lord Azlok interrogates Jimmy and meets the Doctor, whom he pegs as an alien because of his two heartbeats. Cassie frees Jimmy and stages a diversion, and although the Doctor is upset that he didn’t figure out the master plan, they discover it soon enough. Lord Azlok brought the Viperox Queen to Earth, and she’s laying eggs Aliens-style to hatch an invasion force.

The trio runs again, this time taking an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom mining cart ride into the blinding desert. There, they meet four men in black suits. The head Man in Black, Mr. Dread, demands the the ionic fusion bar from the diner. When the Doctor stalls, the MiBs reveal themselves as robots. They are saved by Jimmy’s grandfather, Night Eagle, and a hail of arrows.

Night Eagle reveals that he found another of the gray aliens from the crashed ship and kept him safe. Rivesh Mantilax wants to go home, but first he needs to find Seruba Velak, his wife and the alien in the base. His wife was an ambassador who was trying to build an alliance against the Viperox, but was attacked by hired mercenaries.

Colonel Stark arrives and takes everyone into custody. Back at Area 51, the Doctor discovers that Stark has allied with Azlok. They watch as the gray aliens are reunited, then discuss how Rivesh was developing a genetic weapon to destroy the Viperox. Joined by Mr. Dread, Stark reveals his plan to use the ionic fusion bar as a weapon to destroy the Soviet Union.

The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to disable Mr. Dread, then runs to the roof with the alien weapon. On the edge of the roof, held at gunpoint by Stark, the Doctor pleads for the colonel’s help. Stark listens to reason, but his plan to arrest Azlok is interrupted by the Viperox leader himself and the promise to tear Earth to shreds.

Down below, Cassie finds Rivesh has been critically injured by Azlok. Once freed, Seruba says that she can save her husband, but only with her ship. Stark takes the group to the Area 51 Vault where all of the ship’s contents were stored in the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. While the Doctor and Seruba start searching, he sends Cassie and Jimmy to retrieve the TARDIS.

As the sun sets, the Viperox emerge from the desert and start their rampage while Seruba finds the component and the Doctor finds a swarm of hungry Skorpius Flies.

Stark deploys his army against the Viperox while Seruba and the Doctor play hide-and-go-seek with the flies. The army is no match for the invasion, and as Stark’s operations center is overrun by Azlok, the Doctor is reunited with the TARDIS. Jimmy, Cassie, and Seruba step aboard and they travel to Rivesh’s side. Once Rivesh is revived, the Doctor asks him to activate the device but to stop before destroying the Viperox. The Doctor connects the device into the TARDIS console and it broadcasts a signal that drives the Viperox off the planet entirely.

The Doctor let them live because, one day, they are destined to evolve into something better.

The Doctor entrusts the device to Colonel Stark for the protection of Earth. They bid farewell to Seruba and Rivesh, and the Doctor takes off as Cassie and Jimmy hold hands.


Admittedly, it is a function of its form, but this story moved like a squirrel binging energy drinks. This piece was originally planned as seven six-minute episodes for the BBC’s Red Button service. As a result, we got a story that has a plot climax every five or six minutes.

It was kind of tiring.

I could point out the technical inaccuracies, but the fact that this was a cartoon developed for a charity event gives the writers a considerable amount of grace in my eyes. Some of the errors are animation shortcuts, others concern United States history, but overall they are inconsequential to the plot on the whole.

So, I’ll revel in the character and cast lists.

Like, the return of Georgia Moffett – daughter of Peter Davison and wife of David Tennant – who we last heard (and saw) in The Doctor’s Daughter and who I really enjoy seeing/hearing on the show.

Or Lisa Bowerman as Seruba Velak. Big Finish fans know Lisa Bowerman as Bernice Summerfield, and classic era fans might remember her as Karra from Survival.

Or the first Native American companion (however briefly) in Doctor Who, Jimmy Stalkingwolf, portrayed by Canadian born English actor and singer Tim Howar. It would have been nice to a Native American actor in either this role or Night Eagle’s role, but I’ll take this advancement as progress. I mean, we’ve come quite the distance from An Unearthly Child when the First Doctor referred to “Red Indians” as having “savage minds”.

Or… How about Doctor Who getting David Warner as Lord Azlok. Emmy-award winning film, television, and theatre actor David Warner from The OmenTime After TimeTime BanditsTronTitanicStar Trek V: The Final FrontierStar Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryStar Trek: The Next Generation, and so much more.

I mean… wow. Just, wow.

Of course, we first heard of Dreamland from Prisoner of the Judoon, which is where we first saw the ship designs seen in this tale. We get plenty of continuity from the Doctor abhorring salutes (previously The Sontaran Stratagem and Planet of the Dead) and outright despising the nickname “Doc” (referencing The Time MeddlerThe Five DoctorsThe Twin DilemmaThe Ultimate Foe, and more I’m sure).

I also enjoyed seeing Doctor Who outright embrace the Roswell mythos, from the “grays” of typical close encounter accounts to the legendary Men in Black.

Production-wise, this marked the first six-part story on television since The Armageddon Factor and the first six-part story produced since Shada, which was finally completed in 2017 (but not yet reviewed in that form on this site… although there’s always hope).

But, all of that awesomeness considered, I keep coming back to that over-caffeinated squirrel of story pacing. Like I said, it was tiring, and it really pulled me away from the adventure because I was trying to keep up with what was going on with otherwise thinly developed characters.

And that is truly a shame for a tale with so many other groundbreaking elements.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The End of Time

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