Timestamp #219: The Pandorica Opens & The Big Bang

Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens
Doctor Who: The Big Bang
(2 episodes, s05e12-e13, 2010)

Timestamp 219 The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang

A roller coaster ride that closes the narrative circle. Mostly.

The Pandorica Opens

France, 1890: Vincent van Gogh finishes a painting and lapses into a screaming fit. Doctor Gachet and Madame Vernet attempt to calm him, but Vernet takes a moment to criticize the painting as one of the artist’s worst.

London, 1941: In the Cabinet War Rooms, Professor Bracewell delivers a rolled up canvas to Winston Churchill. It is the painting, found behind the wall in a French attic. Bracewell tells Churchill to deliver the message.

Stormcage Containment Facility, 5145: A guard answers the phone and hands it to River Song. After speaking to Churchill, River whammies the guard with her hallucinogenic lipstick and escapes from the prison. She breaks into the Royal Collection and swipes the painting. Liz 10 catches her, but after she looks at the artwork, River is free to go.

The Maldovarium, 5145: River meets with black marketeer Dorium Maldovar and exchanges a Callisto Pulse in exchange for a vortex manipulator, fresh from the wrist of a Time Agent.

The TARDIS, in the temporal vortex: Amy looks at the wedding ring as the Doctor lands on Planet One. There they find the first words in recorded history carved into the diamond cliffs: “Hello, Sweetie.” The accompanying coordinates take them to Roman Britain in the 2nd century where they are met by a soldier whose face is smeared with lipstick. They are escorted to Cleopatra, who is really River in disguise. She presents the travelers with the painting.

It is a mixture of Starry Night and the destruction of the TARDIS. It is titled The Pandorica Opens.

River, Amy, and the Doctor discuss the painting, which the Doctor considers a fairy tale, but they all ride to Stonehenge where it is presumed to reside. Amy notes that River warned them about this on the Byzantium, but River responds that she will. That hasn’t happened for her yet. River finds evidence of energy weapons at the site. They open a tomb beneath Stonehenge, missing the active Cyberman head nearby, in search of the mightiest warrior of all time contained within the Pandorica.

Behind a giant door they find a giant box. It is the Pandorica. Amy notes that the story of the Pandorica is similar to her favorite story, that of Pandora’s Box, and the Doctor draws attention to the coincidence. As River and the Doctor examine the box, Amy keeps an eye on the crypt.

Amy wonders how Vincent could know of this and the Doctor notes that the pillars of the crypt are transmitters. They’ve been broadcasting into all of time and space, and River traces the signals to Earth’s orbit. There are at least ten thousand starships in orbit, and every one of them belongs to the Doctor’s enemies.

It’s a veritable Who’s Who of Doctor Who universe villains, including the Daleks, the Drahvins, the Cybermen, the Autons and the Nestene Consciousness, the Silurians, the Draconians, the Sontarans, the Zygons, the Terileptils, the Chelonians (an enemy from the Virgin novels), the Slitheen, the Roboforms, the Sycorax, the Hoix, the Weevils and the Blowfish (crossing over from Torchwood), the Judoon, the Uvodni, the Atraxi, and the Haemogoths (from the novel The Forgotten Army).

Everything that ever hated the Doctor is coming to Earth on this night. River begs him to run but the Doctor has other plans. He enlists the help of the Roman army with River and her futuristic technology. She is greeted by a single mysterious volunteer.

The Doctor continues his work at the Pandorica. After extending the force fields of the box to buy them thirty minutes, he and Amy discuss the engagement ring. The Doctor explains that it belongs to a friend, and hopes that the traces it left behind can spark memories within that friend. He asks if Amy is bothered that her life doesn’t make a lot of sense, but before she can respond they are interrupted by laser blasts from a dismembered Cyberman arm. They nearly escape from the arm, but it shocks the Doctor as Amy grapples with the Cyberman head. She nearly gets the upper hand but it shoots her with a dart and threatens her with assimilation. On cue, the headless body (a Cybus Industries model) marches into view, reattaches the head, and chases the drugged companion.

Amy ends up in a side chamber. The door opens as a sword impales the Cyberman. The sword belongs to none other than Rory. He’s dressed as a Roman soldier and she still doesn’t remember him. The Doctor considers the Cyberman and the Pandorica, eventually coming around to the fact that Rory is alive again and unerased from time.

Rory is fuzzy on how he got to this point, but he still cares for Amy. They’re distracted by the ships descending from orbit and the sudden awakening of the Pandorica. The site and the Roman army are surrounded. The Doctor ascends to the surface, stands on a rock, and addresses his enemies over a communicator. His enemies face him as he threatens them with his rage. He has possession of the Pandorica and it’s opening, and though they have plenty of weapons, he has nothing to lose. He reminds them of all the times he has defeated them in the past and encourages them to do the smart thing and let someone else try first.

The fleet withdraws, granting the Doctor an additional hour. Meanwhile, River tries to pilot the TARDIS to the crypt but it won’t play nice. It takes her to Earth, specifically Amy’s house, on June 26, 2010. A crack appears on the scanner as River heads outside and a voice echoes in the console room: “Silence will fall.”

Amy wakes up but still doesn’t remember Rory. The Doctor cannot explain his presence, but listens while Rory talks about his memories while the Doctor ponders the explosion of the TARDIS. He returns Rory’s ring and dismisses Rory’s return (for now, anyway) as a miracle.

Landing patterns from alien ships have scarred the yard at Amy’s house. Inside the house, River finds a book on Roman Britain and a copy of The Legend of Pandora’s Box. She also finds a picture of Rory and Amy, but Rory is dressed like a centurion in the photograph. River contacts the Doctor and tells him that the Roman army is made of duplicates. The duplicates believe that they are alive, and River says it must be a trap.

On the surface, Amy starts to remember Rory. At Amy’s house, the TARDIS begins to shake and will not respond to River’s commands. The console room echoes with the warning again: “Silence will fall.”

The Pandorica starts transmitting a signal as it cracks open. The soldiers all stop moving and converge on the crypt, their hands raised like Auton hand-blasters. Rory fights his transformation and warns Amy to run, but she remembers him. The Autons seize the Doctor and declare that the Pandorica is ready. The Doctor’s enemies materialize in the room and force the Time Lord into the box.

All of reality is threatened by the cracks in time. The enemies of the Doctor have banded together to save the universe from destruction by his hand. They used Amy’s memories to trap him.

Unable to control himself, Rory fatally shoots Amy. As she dies, he grieves as he fights for control.

River opens the doors of the TARDIS to find a stone wall. She’s trapped as the TARDIS explodes.

The universe dies as every star goes supernova at once. The Earth is left alone in a black void.

Silence falls.

The Big Bang

Leadworth, 1996: It’s the night that Amelia Pond prays to Santa Claus on Easter to fix the crack in her wall. She hears a noise, but her garden is empty. She notes the moon in the sky and later paints the sky for her psychiatrist. She remembers stars in the sky, but no one else can. In fact, the sky is empty except for the moon.

That night, Amy sees a man in a fez slip a pamphlet through the mail slot. It advertises that Pandorica exhibit at the National Museum with a note: “Come along, Pond.” She visits the museum with her aunt, passing exhibits of antique Daleks and penguins in the Arctic. A note on the Pandorica tells her to stick around, so she hides from her aunt until the museum closes. She returns to the Pandorica and it opens to reveal Amy Pond.

Things just got complicated.

Stonehenge, 102 AD: The Auton duplicate of Rory Williams cradles Amy’s corpse. He cracks a joke and wishes that she’d laugh, but his mourning is interrupted by the vortex manipulated arrival of the Doctor. He’s wearing a fez and brandishing a mop, and he leaves instructions for Rory to open the Pandorica with his sonic screwdriver. He vanishes again.

The present-version Doctor emerges from the Pandorica. Deducing that he will set up the chain of events that have led to his release, he and Rory note the stone remains of the allied aliens. They are echoes in time of entire species that have been erased from existence. The Doctor and Rory find Amy and load her into the Pandorica. A punch to the jaw tells the Doctor that Rory has moved beyond his programming, and the Time Lord leaves a telepathic message in Amy’s head. The Pandorica will restore her to life in order to keep her imprisoned.

The Doctor picks up River’s vortex manipulator and offers Rory the opportunity to travel back to the future. Instead, Rory decides to stand watch over the Pandorica for the next 2,000 years. When Amy awakens in 1996, she sees the video presentation about the Pandorica and the lone centurion who stood guard no matter where the box went. The centurion was presumed dead in 1941.

As the Doctor appears in the museum, one of the Daleks awakens and threatens the Amys. As the Doctor finds a fez and looks for a way to stop the Dalek, a security guard appears and stops the threat with an Auton cannon. That security guard is none other than Rory the Centurion.

While Amy and Rory catch up with a whole lot of smooching, the Doctor analyzes the Dalek and realizes that it came to life when the Pandorica’s light touched it. As it revives again, the Doctor ushers everyone out and starts his chain reaction of events. His bouncing around in time comes to a halt as an older version of himself appears, leaves him a message, and dies without regeneration.

The younger version of Amy also vanishes. Time is still collapsing.

As the travelers rush to the roof, the Dalek opens the Pandorica and casts its light on the statues in the museum. On the roof, our heroes note that the sun has risen. Unfortunately, the sun is really the explosion of the TARDIS. Fortunately, the signal it is generating includes River’s last words, which tells the Doctor that the TARDIS placed her in a time loop to keep her alive. The Doctor jumps to the TARDIS and pulls her to safety in 1996.

River questions the Doctor’s fashion sense. Amy pulls the fez off his head and throws it. River shoots it, blasting it into atoms. Then the Dalek arrives and drives the team back into the museum. The Doctor questions how the Dalek could exist, then develops a plan to cast the Pandorica’s light across all of time and existence by using the TARDIS explosion as an infinite power source.

His plotting is cut short as the Dalek shoots the Doctor. The Doctor falls and teleports away. In her anger, River makes the Dalek beg for mercy (three times over) before killing it in a single shot. When the team heads back to the Pandorica, the Doctor has crawled inside and wired the vortex manipulator to transport the box to the heart of the exploding TARDIS. Rory and Amy thought he was dead, but River tells them about Rule Number One: The Doctor lies.

The downside to the Doctor’s plan is that he’ll be trapped on the wrong side of Big Bang #2. While the rest of existence will be reset, he will never have existed. He asks to talk to Amy one last time before he leaves. He explains that her parents didn’t die but rather were consumed by the crack in time. It has been eating away at her life for a long time, making her the girl whose life didn’t make sense. If she can remember them when the Big Bang happens, they stand a chance of being restored.

With that, the Doctor seals the Pandorica and launches it into the heart of the TARDIS with a transmitted “Geronimo”.

As the universe heals, the Doctor wakes up on the floor of the TARDIS console room. He watches as his timestream unravels and stumbles on the fact that Amy can still hear him. He returns to the Byzantium and has that mysterious conversation with Amy that seemed out of place. He asks her to remember what he told her when she was seven.

He rewinds back to Amy’s house on the night that she waited for him as a girl. He finds her asleep in the garden and takes her up to her bed. He tells her the story of a daft old man who “borrowed” a magic box that was ancient and new and the bluest blue ever. He realizes that the crack in her wall cannot close properly until he’s on the other side. He steps through, avoiding the rest of the rewind of his lives, and the crack seals. Amelia wakes up briefly, then goes back to sleep. The stars are back in the sky.

In 2010, Amy wakes up on her wedding day. Her gaze drifts across the dolls she made of the Doctor to her wedding dress. She’s startled by her mother and breakfast, rushes downstairs to hug her father, then calls Rory to ask him if he remembers something big.

At the wedding reception, Amy spots River outside just before her father’s speech. Rory notes that Amy is crying, then hands her a gift that someone left for them. It’s River’s TARDIS journal, but it is blank. She looks around the room, spotting things that remind her of the Doctor, and has a revelation as a single tear splashes onto the journal.

She interrupts her father’s speech to tell the assembled crowd about her raggedy man imaginary friend. Her belief in him rises as the wind swirls through the ballroom and the TARDIS materializes. She vaults over the table and knocks on the door. The Doctor emerges, congratulates Mr. and Mrs. Pond, promises to leave the kissing to Rory, and moves the TARDIS off the dance floor.

After a night of dancing and celebration, the Doctor heads outside and meets River Song. He returns her journal and the vortex manipulator, then questions her identity as they muse about marriage. River vanishes into time and the Doctor enters the TARDIS. Before he can leave, Amy and Rory barge in and demand to know why he’s taking off so soon. He tells them that the mystery of the exploding TARDIS still remains before taking a phone call about an Egyptian goddess loose on the Orient Express in space.

As he signs off with the member of royalty on the line, Amy and Rory bid farewell to their wedding guests. The Doctor fires up the TARDIS and the trio vanishes into the temporal vortex.


This finale brings a whole lot of guns to the fight. From wrapping up the season-long story arc to laying the foundations for the next big adventure while handing the audience nods to the entire history of Doctor Who, including the prose side of the house. The Doctor is in fine form as he unravels this mystery with Amy as she reclaims her life. River (doing her best Han Solo and Indiana Jones) and Rory carry the action while adding heart through their relationships with our other heroes.

The climax of the story plays the typical franchise trope of a universe reset where the protagonists remember everything, but the twist here is that Amy and Rory have to work for it. What’s even more interesting is that the Doctor is ready to make the ultimate sacrifice (without the prospect of regeneration) to save the universe. It’s times like these when we see just how much of a hero the Doctor truly is.

I loved seeing the references to the enemies of the Who-niverse, but one that really stood out was the Cyberman. Given the big C on its chest, the one in this story was obviously a Cybus Industries model from Pete’s World. We last saw them in The Next Doctor, survivors of the Battle of Canary Wharf, and it can be inferred that at least one of them was transported to 102 A.D. to face the Doctor. But the Mondasian Cybermen still exist, right? We haven’t seen them since Silver Nemesis but it stands to reason that they still exist in this universe. That means that they should be the majority of the Cyberman fleet in orbit, right? Would this universe’s Cybermen accept the Pete’s World Cybermen into their ranks without issue?

I think I miss the normal universe Cybermen. Just a little.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


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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 #218: The Lodger

Doctor Who: The Lodger
(1 episode, s05e11, 2010)

Timestamp 218 The Lodger

The Odd Couple and Three’s Company meet a blender.

The TARDIS lands in Colchester, which is far from the intended destination of the Fifth Moon of Sinda Callista. The Doctor is somehow shoved out of the TARDIS as it dematerializes with Amy still inside.

The next day, a young man passes a house where an old man is calling for help. He climbs the staircase and the door closes. Downstairs, Craig Owens and his friend Sophie question a spot of rot on the ceiling and ponder their activities for the night. Sophie gets called away to console her friend and Craig buckles down for a night alone with “pizza, booze, and telly.”

Craig berates himself for not expressing his true feelings for Sophie. The doorbell rings and Craig, noticing that Sophie has forgotten her keys, thinks that this is his big chance. Unfortunately for him, it’s the Doctor answering the advertisement for a roommate with a three thousand pound deposit.

The Doctor invites himself inside and analyzes the spot of rot before taking a look at his new room. After a quick check of psychic paper references, the Doctor starts making dinner as Craig talks about his feelings and lays the ground rules. Meanwhile, the TARDIS continues to phase in and out despite Amy’s best efforts.

That night, the Doctor contacts Amy through an scrambled earpiece that he’s wearing. They reason that the TARDIS cannot land due to the upstairs tenant’s actions, but the Doctor is unsure about what to do. After all, he can’t disclose who he is so he has to act like a normal human.

As another victim stumbles into the house, the Doctor and Amy note a localized time loop. The Doctor pops out for a few items to build a scanner. The next morning, the Doctor takes his time in the shower so Craig checks on the upstairs tenant. The Doctor rushes to the rescue with a towel and electronic toothbrush, but Craig is already safe. The Doctor meets Sophie and agrees to play football while hinting at Craig’s feelings.

It turns out that the Doctor, despite not knowing what football is at first, is a natural. Which does not please Craig at all.

The team celebrates their win and “The Oncoming Storm” agrees to play again in the future. Another localized time loop heralds another victim claimed by the upstairs tenant. The Doctor expresses a need to work faster on his scanner before Amy and the TARDIS are lost to the time vortex forever.

Craig and Sophie have a date night. While Craig tries to tell Sophie how he feels, the Doctor tries to figure out how to turn on a normal screwdriver. Sophie invites the Time Lord to join them, and the Doctor uses reverse psychology to inspire Sophie to aim higher in life than a call center job. Craig bids Sophie goodnight without making his move.

The Doctor fires up his scanner while Amy researches the history of the residence. Meanwhile, Craig fiddles with the spot of rot and ends up poisoned. The Doctor whips up a remedy and Craig sleeps while the Doctor substitutes for him at the call center. He rushes to work to find that the Doctor has pretty much taken over, so he heads back home. Also, Sophie plans to leave.

The Doctor returns to the house and gets some valuable intelligence from a cat. Craig confronts him over the last three days, so the Doctor gives him the telepathic primer on who he is and what he’s doing there. The Doctor knew to come to this house based on a note from Amy that she hasn’t written yet.

The cat reveals that the upstairs tenant has a time engine and is using humans to fuel it. Sophie is the current victim but the Doctor and Craig save her. They discover that the house never had a second story. The top floor is an alien spaceship shrouded in a perception filter and the artificial intelligence in charge chooses the Doctor as a suitable pilot.

Craig saves the Doctor by grabbing the activation control. He survives by focusing on what’s keeping him here, and when he reveals his feelings, Sophie joins him on the controls. They kiss as the ship initiates an emergency shutdown and implodes as Sophie, Craig, and the Doctor rush out.

The house is restored, the spot of rot is gone, and Craig and Sophie are hitting it off in grand fashion. The Doctor tries to sneak away, but the lovebirds catch him and offer him a permanent set of keys. As he wanders off, a crack in time manifests behind the fridge.

As the Doctor pilots the TARDIS back in time so Amy can leave her note, Amy searches his jacket for a red pen. Instead, she finds Rory’s wedding ring.


This companion-lite episode truly is filler. Don’t get me wrong, the episode is very funny and offers the not oft-repeated trope of the Doctor using native technology to solve the problem, but the stride forward in the Steven Moffat orchestrated story arc could have been made at the end of Vincent and the Doctor.

This episode does make a few callbacks, from the Van Gogh nods to the previous adventure to singing in the shower, Verdi’s La donna è mobile, The Oncoming Storm (a purely revival era construct seen thus far in The Parting of the WaysThe Girl in the FireplaceJourney’s End, and Amy’s Choice), a fondness for cats last seen in the Sixth Doctor‘s persona, a surprising talent for sports, and a look-alike for the Eighth Doctor’s console room.

But, yeah, overall this is a humorous throwaway to lead us into the finale.

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


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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 #217: Vincent and the Doctor

Doctor Who: Vincent and the Doctor
(1 episode, s05e10, 2010)

Timestamp 217 Vincent and the Doctor

Demons take their toll.

The Doctor and Amy visit the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The Doctor is being very nice to Amy to distract her from something she doesn’t quite remember. While Doctor Henry Black leads a tour of the Vincent van Gogh exhibit, the Doctor spots something evil in The Church at Auvers. The Doctor gets the exact date that the painting was created, compliments the doctor on his bow tie, and drags Amy to the TARDIS.

The TARDIS materializes in Auvers-sur-Oise where the travelers find van Gogh at a café. Apparently the artist is a cheapskate drunkard whose talent is ill-regarded. Amy defuses the situation by offering to buy a bottle of wine and share it with him. When the Doctor introduces himself, van Gogh mistakes him for a medical professional sent by his brother to help. They trade small talk until a woman’s scream draws them to a young woman’s murder scene. The distraught mother throws stones at van Gogh, calling him a madman and driving the trio away. They all retire to van Gogh’s residence for the night.

Vincent thinks that no one sees any value in his work, but Amy is starstruck. Vincent believes that there is so much more than what the normal eye can see, and having travelled throughout all of time and space, the Doctor says that he doesn’t need to be told. Some time later, Vincent is high on coffee and the Doctor offers to make some tea before they hear Amy scream. They investigate and are attacked by a creature that only Vincent can see.

He later sketches the beast for the Doctor, who then takes the picture back to the TARDIS, all the while stalked by the creature. He feeds the image into a portable device, but doesn’t have any luck until he takes it outside and captures the creature’s reflection. Identified as a Krafayis, the beast chases the Doctor through town.

Once he loses the Krafayis, the Doctor is shockingly reunited with Amy and they return to van Gogh’s home. After a gracious gift of sunflowers, the Doctor tells his companions about the Krafayis and they plot to paint the church in order to lure the creature.

After some waiting, the Doctor checks on Vincent. The artist is lying in bed, sobbing, distraught that the Doctor and Amy are prepared to leave him. The Doctor tries to console him but Vincent turns violent. The Doctor and Amy realize that van Gogh’s suicide is only months away, but as they prepare to execute the plan themselves, Vincent is ready to go.

As they walk to the church, Vincent asks Amy why she’s sad. Amy denies being sad, but Vincent notes that she’s crying, almost as if she’s recently lost someone. They watch the funeral procession for the girl, then carry on to the church where Vincent begins to work. When Vincent spots the Krafayis, the Doctor takes the identification device, his sonic, and a bit of confidence into the church.

Despite being told to stay behind, Amy rushes into the church as the Doctor is attacked. They hide together in a confessional, but since the Krafayis has fantastic hearing, it finds them in short order. Vincent distracts the creature and they all escape. The Krafayis chases them into another chamber, and while the Doctor and Amy hold the door, Vincent rushes off with a plan of his own. The Doctor tries to talk to the Krafayis, but it’s not interested in discussion. As the Krafayis circles the room, the Doctor realizes that it is blind. When it charges, Vincent inadvertently impales it with his easel.

As the Krafayis lays dying, Vincent is sorry and the Doctor comforts it. Vincent realizes the parallels between the creature and himself, and the Doctor remarks that sometimes winning is no fun at all.

The trio later lay under the stars as Vincent muses about the Starry Night. The next morning, the Doctor and Amy say farewell. Vincent admits that, despite his experiences over the last couple of days, he won’t do well on his own. Before they leave, the Doctor invites Vincent to join him for a short trip.

They return to the TARDIS, now covered in handbills, and Vincent has one extraordinary bigger-on-the-inside moment. They take him to the modern day and the Musée d’Orsay where Vincent is astounded by the art all around him.

The truly beautiful moment is when he enters the exhibit of his own works. Speechless, he takes it all in as the Doctor asks Doctor Black about his opinion of van Gogh. The words tear Vincent’s emotions open as he realizes his impact on history. The Doctor comforts Vincent, and the artist thanks Doctor Black for the moment.

They return Vincent to his own time. Vincent teases Amy about marriage, but Amy claims not to be the marrying kind. The TARDIS dematerializes as a happy Vincent walks away. The travelers return to the Musée d’Orsay, but they find that nothing has changed.

Vincent van Gogh still committed suicide. His portfolio is still the same.

Well, almost the same. The church no longer houses the Krafayis, and the famous sunflower painting is dedicated to someone special.

“For Amy, Vincent.”


For Doctor Who‘s first real venture into the topic of mental health, they hit the mark on many levels for every main character.

For Amy, we see the theme of repressed memories. She lost her fiancé to the mysterious crack on the last adventure, and the Doctor’s been spending his time trying to balance that big bad thing with a handful of good things, including Arcadia and the Trojan Gardens. This trip adds to that pile of good things by introducing Amy to Vincent van Gogh, over whom she fangirls like she’s never fangirled before.

The discussion about her mourning Rory is poetic, particularly with the idea that Vincent can see her pain. She doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but you can tell that it’s gnawing at her. That’s going to take its toll.

For the Doctor, we see the reminder that he cannot fix or solve everything. The Krafayis seemed like a terrible menace, but in the end we discovered that it was afraid because it was blind and abandoned. Similarly, his admirable efforts with both Vincent and Amy did not solve their problems. It reminds me of Doctor Who and the Silurians.

For Vincent, we get a beautiful story about personal demons, as well as the reminder that one good day doesn’t solve mental illness. The former is obvious: Vincent confronts his illness, eschews the Doctor’s ham-handed attempts to rouse him from bed, then confronts the Krafayis. Defeating that demon cost him with both sorrow and the departure of his new friends, and no amount of good things could stop the bad thing that lay on Vincent’s path.

Thus, we get the moral of the story in an excellent quote from the Doctor:

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things.

Mental illness and trauma can’t just be wished away. Even if the Doctor couldn’t quite wrap his head around the idea, Doctor Who did an admirable job in exploring it in a tearjerker of an episode.

There are some smaller notes to look at as well. I was amused about the Doctor’s impatience with the normal passage of time. I was also amused by the recurring revival-era theme of historical figures being infatuated by the travelers (The Shakespeare CodeThe Girl in the Fireplace). Finally, I loved the sequence with van Gogh’s Starry Night, particularly how it placed us into his headspace to build the art.

Oh, yeah… I also learned how to say “van Gogh” in multiple regional ways. Special thanks to the Grammarphobia blog for their advice.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Lodger

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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 #216: The Hungry Earth & Cold Blood

Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth
Doctor Who: Cold Blood
(2 episodes, s05e08-09, 2010)

Timestamp 216 Hungry Earth Cold Blood

Time travel can be cruel.

The Hungry Earth

In the year 2020, a team led by Dr. Nasreen Chaudhry is engaged in the deepest drilling project in history. This is taking place in Cwmtaff, Wales, and they’re seeking minerals that have appeared recently but haven’t been seen on Earth of over twenty million years.

Mo Northover, the night watchman at the site, heads to work only to be greeted by an earthquake. When his security monitors cut out, he investigates and finds a hole in the floor of the storage area. When it seals up, he reaches through the seal and is dragged inside.

The Doctor, Amy, and Rory land in Cwmtaff shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, they were aiming for Rio de Janeiro. The Doctor is fascinated by the local flora, and Amy spots a version of Amy and Rory from ten years in the future. The Doctor is intrigued by the ground feeling wrong, so he sets out for the nearby mining operation. Rory returns Amy’s ring to the TARDIS and encounters Ambrose and Elliot, Mo Northover’s family. They mistake him for a police officer and ask him to investigate the supposed vandalism of their family plot. One of her deceased relatives has been taken, coffin, body, and all.

The Doctor and Amy arrive at the mining facility where they meet Dr. Chaudhry and Ambrose’s father, Tony Mack. Suddenly, the floor starts to give way and Amy partially falls into one of the holes. The Doctor orders the drilling to stop while he holds on to Amy’s hand. Unfortunately, she slips beneath the surface. The Doctor determines that the earth was bio-programmed to attack when it perceives a threat. He also hears evidence that another drill is at work underground. The minerals and grass were warnings to stay away, and while the team was drilling down, something else was drilling up.

Something is coming now and has erected a forcefield dome over the village.

Rory and Elliot investigate the gravesite. Elliot presumes that the coffin was taken from underneath. They find the Doctor when the dome goes up, and Rory is distraught to learn about Amy’s fate. Ambrose also learns about her husband’s fate as the team move to a nearby church and set up a security network around the village to monitor whatever is coming.

The Doctor also makes inroads with Elliot by trusting the dyslexic boy to make a map of the village.

The attack begins with the dome cutting off all light from the outside world. The electricity is knocked out, disabling the security network. Elliot, who had left to find his headphones, is chased and captured by a reptilian being. The group rushes outside to find him and Ambrose finds his headphones. She is attacked by the being, and when Tony tries to save her, the creature stings him with a venomous tongue. The Doctor sends Ambrose, Tony, and Rory back to the church while he hunts the being with special infrared sunglasses.

He knows who they are.

He and Rory set a trap and capture it, prompting the rest of the intruders to retreat.

Amy awakens in a transparent coffin-like box. She is soon knocked unconscious by gas. Meanwhile, the Doctor talks to his prisoner, identifying her as a Silurian. Her name is Alaya, and he admits that he’s tried to broker peace between humanity and her species numerous times, but has failed mostly due to humanity being uncompromising. Alaya is set on war with humanity, so the Doctor returns to the church to declare his intent to go to the Silurian tribe’s home and negotiate directly with them.

When Tony suggests dissecting Alaya, the Doctor refuses. If they want their loved ones back safely, Alaya must be unharmed. Nasreen asks to go with him, and he refuses at first but finally relents. Her “bigger on the inside” moment in the TARDIS is short-lived, however, when the Silurians drag the ship beneath the surface.

Amy wakes up on a surgical table. Mo is on the table beside hers and warns her that she will be dissected while still alive. Elsewhere, Nasreen and the Doctor find an underground Silurian civilization stretching for miles.

Cold Blood

A Silurian tells the story of how he remembers when he met the Doctor 1000 years ago and the losses that the Time Lord suffered because of the failed attempt to negotiate peace.

The Doctor and Nasreen investigate the Silurian city and trip a security alarm. They are greeted by Silurian warriors who knock them unconscious. Luckily, the security alarm stops the physician from dissecting Amy and she’s able to pickpocket a device to set her and Mo free. They find Elliot in some kind of pod with monitors attached. Amy convinces Mo to keep moving, promising that they’ll get him out.

The Doctor and Nasreen are strapped to surgical tables and decontaminated, causing the Doctor to yell in pain. The process is overseen by Commander Restac, a Silurian who is related to the missing Alaya. The Doctor convinces them to stop the decontamination process since it will kill him. He then discusses terms with Restac as he learns that the drill was destroying the oxygen pockets above the city. Restac decides that instead of negotiating, she’ll execute the intruders instead.

Amy and Mo find two warriors in suspended animation. They take their weapons and stumble across an army. In the church above, Ambrose learns about the poison running through Tony’s veins and starts to treat him. She demands an antidote from Alaya and attacks her with a stun gun. Rory tries to prevent Alaya from dying, but he is unsuccessful. Ambrose is remorseful.

The Doctor tells Nasreen about the history of the Silurians. Restac is surprised, but furious after she learns how humans have killed her kind in the past. When they reach the courtroom, Amy and Mo arrive but are soon disarmed. Restac dismisses Malohkeh and prepares to execute the prisoners. She contacts the humans above to negotiate for Alaya. When she’s unsuccessful, she threatens to execute Amy, but is stopped by Eldane.

Eldane is the Silurian leader, awakened by Malohkeh to stop Restac’s brash actions. The prisoners are freed and the Doctor negotiates a peace, asking the humans above to come down with Alaya. While the Doctor negotiates this temporal tipping point and appoints Nasreen and Amy as ambassadors, Ambrose encourages Tony to reactivate the drill on a timer in case things go wrong.

Mo is reunited with Elliot and the Doctor learns that Malohkeh has been researching humans for a long time. The Doctor apologizes to Elliot, and as they return to the negotiating table, Malohkeh investigates the opening of the cryo-storage facilities. Restac has been awakening the warriors. When Malohkeh discovers this, Restac kills him.

The humans arrive and share their bad news. The Doctor tries to patch things but Ambrose is defiant. At that moment, Restac arrives and finds out what happened. Ambrose reveals that the drill is set and Restac orders her troops to open fire. The humans run with Eldane and end up cornered in a laboratory. The venom in Tony’s blood is reprogramming his DNA, the Doctor and Nasreen develop a plan to destroy the drill, and Eldane decides to use a toxic fumigation to stop Restac’s coup.

The Doctor asks Eldane to set his hibernation chambers to awaken everyone in 1000 years, and then asks the humans to spread the word as religion or rumor. Tony decides to stay behind when he learns the Silurians can cure his wound. Nasreen also opts to remain with Tony, thanking the Doctor for helping her fulfill her dream of seeing the Earth. They will awaken with the Silurians in 1000 years. Everyone else runs for the TARDIS.

When they reach the TARDIS, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory spot another crack in time. The Doctor reaches into the crack and pulls back a piece of shrapnel from the temporal explosion. Restac crawls onto the scene and takes aim on the Doctor, but Rory jumps in front of the blast and dies.

Amy is frantic but the Doctor has no choice but to leave. The crack absorbs Rory and as the Doctor starts the TARDIS into motion, he pleads with Amy to remember Rory before he’s erased from time. She tries, but the TARDIS is jostled as it lands and her concentration is broken. Everyone on the TARDIS rushes outside just in time to see the drill destroyed.

The Doctor tells Ambrose to make up for her actions by raising Elliot to be the best of humanity. The Doctor and Amy return to the TARDIS, and Amy waves at future Amy across the way. She thought she spotted someone else but cannot be sure. As Amy enters the TARDIS, the Doctor takes a look at the shrapnel he pulled from the crack.

It’s a piece of the TARDIS.


This story took the whole ride, from humor and lightheartedness as the Doctor screws up yet another beach trip, to the excitement of revisiting a classic enemy, to the absolute tragedy of killing a companion.

Not just killing a companion, but erasing them from all existence. It was brutal and Amy’s reaction was gut-wrenching. Rory joins Katarina, Sara Kingdom, Adric, Kamelion, K-9, Astrid Peth, Adelaide Brooke, and River Song in an elite and morbid club. Of course, we had to know it was coming as soon as the Doctor emphasizes that the negotiations were a temporal tipping point instead of a fixed point. It also gives a bit of hope that Rory will return somehow.

(Yes, I know he will.)

The return of the Silurians was a welcome touch, especially since we haven’t seen them since 1984, as was the direct nod to the Doctor’s previous attempts to negotiate peace between them and humans. With Doctor Who and the SiluriansThe Sea Devils, and Warriors of the Deep, the Doctor has tried (and failed) to broker peace.

The costuming was superb, echoing back to the armor and net-like garb of previous Silurian appearances. Even more impressive was actress Neve McIntosh and her double-duty performance as both Alaya and Restac. Both characters were unique in appearance and (most importantly) personality. She was magnificent.

The Matt Smith era also continues its tradition of recycling plot points and calling back to franchise touchpoints: the earth was also hungry in Frontios; mining and drilling were critical in both Inferno and The Green Death; the Master used an energy barrier to cutoff a village in The Dæmons; Rory unknowingly duplicated Jenny’s sacrifice in The Doctor’s Daughter; the gravity bubble returned from Victory of the Daleks; the Silurians used the heat ray weapons from Warriors of the Deep; and the Fifth Doctor also called celery an “excellent restorative” in The Caves of Androzani.

The message of this story is also important. We should all aspire to be the best humanity has to offer.

Also, spread the word. As of last year, the Silurians will return in the next millennium.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Vincent and the Doctor

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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 #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 #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.