Timestamp #225: A Good Man Goes to War

Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War
(1 episode, s06e07, 2011)

Timestamp 225 A Good Man Goes to War

Demons run when a good man goes to war.

Prequel: Brain Trafficking

Dorium Maldovar meets with three cloaked figures. He tells them that his agents have procured the exact security software they have requested, extracted from memory – the literal brain – of a Judoon trooper. He exchanges it for a bag of sentient money.

Dorium doesn’t understand why they are doing all this to imprison one child, and he’s astonished at the child’s identity and relationship to the Doctor. He warns them: “God help us if you’ve made him angry”.

A Good Man Goes to Wars

On the Demons Run base, Amy consoles her new daughter, Melody Pond. She promises that help is on the way and is distraught that she has been unable to care for Melody since she was born.

Elsewhere in the cosmos, Rory and the Doctor have been hunting for Amy. They lay waste to an entire Cyberman fleet, news of which reaches the troops on Demons Run. Soldiers “The Fat One” and “The Thin One” – together, the Thin-Fat Gay-Married Anglican Marines – converse briefly with Cleric Lorna Bucket, a woman who has once met the Doctor in the Gamma Forests. Lorna sews to pass the time and was the only Cleric to show empathy for Amy’s plight. While The Thin One and Lorna discuss the Doctor, The Fat One is led away by the Headless Monks, the cloaked figures who met with Maldovar, and asked to make a donation into an appropriately head-sized box.

In London, circa 1888 AD, a Silurian named Vastra returns home after dispatching Jack the Ripper by her blade. Her maid Jenny informs her that the TARDIS has appeared in the drawing room, and Vastra knows that it is time to repay an old debt.

At the Battle of Zaruthstra in 4037 AD, Command Harcourt and Madame President Eleanor are ready to leave an infirm child as they retreat, but the child is saved by an unlikely nurse. A Sontaran named Strax tends to the child, then leaves as the TARDIS arrives.

At Stormcage, as River is breaking back into her cell, she meets Rory in his Centurion garb. She’s just returned from a birthday celebration with the Doctor in 1814 and Rory is summoning her to Demons Run. River explains that the Battle of Demons Run is when the Doctor will finally know who she is and that she cannot be there until the very end. During this event, the Doctor will rise higher than ever before, but will fall so much further.

At the Maldovarium, the Eyepatch Lady confronts Maldovar. She is known as Madame Kovarian, and Maldovar explains that the Doctor is raising an army. He also explains the origin of her base’s name: “Demons run when a good man goes to war.” When Kovarian leaves, the TARDIS arrives for Maldovar.

Back on Demons Run, while Colonel Manton rallies his troops, Lorna tries to present Amy with a prayer leaf. It’s a fabric token embroidered with Melody’s name in Lorna’s native language. They discuss the Doctor’s status as a legend and how each of them met the Time Lord. Amy accepts the gift and the apology.

Lorna returns to the colonel’s rally just in time for Manton to reveal the true face of the Headless Monks. Of course, the Doctor is masquerading as one of the monks, and as everyone in the crowd draws arms against him, the lights go out and the Doctor vanishes. The Clerics and the monks start shooting each other until Manton reestablishes control over the assembly by having all of the Clerics disarm themselves. Meanwhile, Vastra and Jenny have taken the control room in order to monitor the situation.

The assembled troops are suddenly surrounded as an army of Silurians and Judoon materialize. Commander Strax holds Manton at gunpoint. Manton claims that his fleet will come to help if Demons Run falls, but the Doctor counters: The fleet won’t know to come if Demons Run can’t call for help. The Doctor uses the Dalek-upgraded Spitfires, courtesy of Winston Churchill, to disable the communications tower.

Madame Kovarian readies her ship with young Melody in tow, but she’s thwarted by Rory with help from Henry and Toby Avery. Kovarian and Manton are brought before a barely restrained Doctor. He wants Manton to order his troops to “run away” so that he’ll be remembered by it for all time. Kovarian eventually yields and orders Manton to give the word.

Rory, with help from a sonic screwdriver, frees Amy from her cell. They both weep over their baby and the reunion. The Doctor soon joins them and their reunion is complete with a bout of humor. The Doctor speaks baby after all, and Melody has a lot to say.

Madame Vastra reports that the Clerics are leaving without any bloodshed. When she gloats that the Doctor has never risen higher, Rory remembers River’s warning.

The group gathers in the hangar. The Doctor doesn’t want to leave until he figures out why the base was used in the first place. The Doctor also produces his baby cot so Melody can settle down for a nap. Vastra calls the Doctor away, but before he goes he explains how Amy was split between the Ganger avatar and Demons Run. As the Doctor leaves, Strax brings in Lorna as a prisoner.

In the control room, the Doctor finds out that Melody has a mixture of human and Time Lord DNA. Presumably, it happened as a result of conception while exposed to the Untempered Schism, just like how the Time Lords began. Vastra is concerned that their victory was too easy.

In the hangar, Lorna claims that she’s a friend who only wanted to meet the Doctor. She also claims that he’s a great warrior, hence his name. Unfortunately, they soon fall under siege from the Headless Monks. While Vastra and Maldovar return to the hangar, Kovarian contacts the Doctor as he thinks back to the child in the astronaut suit from 1969. Kovarian explains that the child represents hope in their endless, bitter war against the Doctor.

A force field snaps into existence around the TARDIS and the hangar is sealed. The Headless Monks advance with their attack prayer and Amy retreats to safety while everyone else prepares for battle. Maldovar tries to reason with the monks, but he is cut down.

As the battle is met, the Doctor connects the dots. Kovarian has replaced Melody with a Ganger. The child is still lost. The Doctor arrives moments too late. The monks have been defeated, but Lorna and Strax have paid the price. The Doctor and Jenny try to comfort Amy. He also speaks briefly with Lorna before she dies, promising that he remembers her just like he remembers everyone he meets.

The Doctor is ready to give up on his quest against the Silence, but channels his anger toward the newly-arrived River Song. He wants to know where she was, but River says that she could not have turned the tide of the battle. She warns him that his name, which means healer across the universe, could become just like the people of the Gamma Forests know him: Mighty Warrior.

Demons run when a good man goes to war
Night will fall and drown the sun
When a good man goes to war

Friendship dies and true love lies
Night will fall and the dark will rise
When a good man goes to war

Demons run, but count the cost
The battle’s won, but the child is lost

The Doctor demands to know who she is and she leads him to the baby cot. The answer is inscribed on the cot in Gallifreyan and the Doctor’s mood shifts dramatically. He rushes to the TARDIS, asking River to get everyone home safely, before flying away to find Melody.

Amy demands to know where he’s gone and who she is. River shows her the prayer leaf and explains that Melody Pond in the language of the Gamma Forests translates to River Song. “The only water in the forest is the river.”

River Song is Amy and Rory’s daughter.

The Battle of Demons Run: Two Days Later

Strax awakens two days after the Battle of Demons Run, having been healed by alien technology. Vastra and Jenny tell him that they are the last to leave and invite him to join them in London. After all, Jenny has been ostracized from her family for her sexual orientation, Vastra is presumably the last of her kind, and Strax is all alone. There could be a future for them all together.

Strax refuses at first, but once he learns that London will involve crime-solving and plenty of adventure, he agrees to accompany them.


This story serves multiple purposes and it serves them well. Primarily, it ties off the thread of Amy’s abduction and opens the story of a war against the Doctor with Melody at its core. Second, it presents a cliffhanger to close out the first half of the season and tease the direction of the second half. Third, it offers a springboard for the team of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax.

That team is an intriguing combination of a Silurian, a human servant, and the unlikely Sontaran nurse. All three are outcasts of some sort, and that characteristic provides the glue to bind them. Strax provides a wonderful parallel to Rory through their mutual professions and Vastra offers a connection to the Doctor, the man who saved her at some point in his on-again-off-again guardianship of her species.

We get a beautiful inadvertent tie back to The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang with the Cybermen. In that Timestamp, I mused about the status of the Cybus and Mondasian Cybermen at this point in the franchise. The Cybermen in that story were Cybus models, survivors of the Battle of Canary Wharf, and had either built or assimilated into a fleet. The Mondasian Cybermen, last seen in Silver Nemesis, still had to exist but I had wondered if the two could co-exist.

Obviously, they can to some degree, as the Cybermen seen in this story were obviously Mondasian – they didn’t have the Cybus C on their chests – but have evolved (or assimilated into) the more bulky Cybus body time. I’m excited to see their return.

The other blink-and-you’ll-miss-it note surrounds River Song. On the surface, it seems like the River that Rory visits in Stormcage is the same River that arrives after the Battle of Demons Run, but the context clues point in a different direction. River at Stormcage had to consult her diary, which means that Demons Run has already happened for her. The River at Stormcage was from a later point in her timeline and she knows what happens to the Doctor. A minor addition is a reminder that River once remarked how the Doctor could make whole armies turn and run.

In a smaller callback, we see the Church again, previously met in The Time of Angels.

All told, this was a great story, a wonderful springboard, and a terrific cliffhanger.

Since the Timestamps Project is proceeding (for the most part) in airdate order, the next stop on this journey is a return to Torchwood. At some point, the streams will cross for a brief period as Doctor Who continues Series Six.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The New World

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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 #224: The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People

Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh
Doctor Who: The Almost People
(2 episodes, s06e05-06, 2011)

Timestamp 224 The Rebel Flesh The Almost People

Send in the clones.

The Rebel Flesh

In a dark and creepy island fortress, workers Jennifer, Buzzer, and Jimmy enter a room with a large vat. While wearing protective suits, they analyze the acid within. Buzzer teases Jennifer who knocks him into the vat. They seem nonplussed as Buzzer melts away, but moments later they encounter him in the corridor.

Buzzer claims that he could file for worker’s compensation for the accident. After all, these bodies cost money.

On the TARDIS, Amy and Rory play darts while the Doctor obsesses over Amy’s ambiguous scan. The Doctor offers to drop the duo for fish and chips, but they refuse to go without him. The TARDIS takes a hit from a solar tsunami, and while they think they’re about to crash, the time capsule lands with a soft thud. They’ve arrived at the mysterious island, which turns out to be a 13th-century monastery. However, it’s in a more modern era since the tones of Dusty Springfield are echoing through the complex.

They spot some mysterious piping and some old acid on the handrails. The Doctor sets off an intruder alarm and the trio runs into a chamber where they meet the security team. Duplicates of the same team are resting in harnesses on the wall. The Doctor convinces the foreman, Miranda Cleaves, that he’s a meteorological supervisor and requests to see their most critical system.

Enter the Flesh. It’s a fully programmable matter that can replicate any living organism. The workers’ duplicates are called Gangers, and they are controlled by the minds in the harnesses. The Doctor analyzes the vat of Flesh, noting that it’s scanning him. Meanwhile, Miranda orders Jennifer into the empty harness as a new Ganger is to be made of her. Within moments, a fully functioning clone is made. All the while, another powerful solar storm is bearing down on the island.

Since the facility runs on solar power, the storm will potentially overload and destroy the island. The Doctor attempts to protect everyone but is knocked unconscious along with everyone on the island. The TARDIS is trapped in the wash from a broken acid pipe and sinks into the ground.

As everyone recovers, Rory finds Jennifer in a state of shock and comforts her. Miranda claims that the Gangers should have disincorporated when the power went out, but the group soon discovers that the storm has given them independence and self-sustaining power. The team is shocked, but the Doctor suggests that they’ve given birth to a new form of life.

During the discussion, Jennifer falls ill and rushes to the restroom. Rory joins her, but they both soon discover that Jennifer is a Ganger. The Doctor also discovers that Miranda is a Ganger when she handles a hot bowl but isn’t burned. These Gangers are in flux, not quite Flesh and not quite formed.

As Miranda runs from the room, the Doctor, Amy, and Dicken run out to find Rory. The Doctor looks at Amy before insisting that the Gangers aren’t violent, but rather scared and angry, and he needs to talk to them. Many of the paths through the monastery are blocked by leaking acid puddles. The Doctor goes to retrieve the TARDIS, Amy goes off alone to find Rory, and Jimmy returns to the dining hall before sending Buzzer and Dicken off to retrieve the acid suits. Unfortunately, the Gangers have gotten to them first.

Rory and Jennifer share a moment as she claims to be just as real as the human who created her, phasing into human form as she emphatically states it. Rory comforts her and gains her trust.

The Doctor finds the TARDIS mostly submerged in the acid-soaked ground, losing his boots in the process. He also scans the vat of Flesh, and when he leaves a mouth forms that says, “Trust me…”

Amy finds herself in a dead-end corridor filled with gas. She sees the Eye-Patch Lady again, then runs into Rory and Jennifer. Rory declares that no one will touch Jennifer. Elsewhere, the Doctor finds the Gangers and the acid suits, and he tries to convince them that they should work with the humans. The discussion is watched from afar by the real Miranda.

Everyone comes together in an attempt to heal the rift, but Miranda has other plans. She crashes the discussion and the Buzzer Ganger ends up dead. The Gangers return to the acid room and both sides declare war. The Doctor suggests that the humans take refuge in the chapel with the Flesh vat since it is highly defensible. Meanwhile, the real Jennifer is trying to find everyone but is attacked. Rory follows her screams as the chapel is sealed.

As the Gangers advance on the chapel, Amy and the Doctor meets someone they did not expect: The Doctor’s Ganger.

The Almost People

The Doctor’s Ganger starts trying to adapt to the Time Lord’s previous regenerations. It shifts through various voices of previous incarnations before settling down as the humans try to barricade the door against the Gangers. The twin Doctors spring into action as Amy notes that the real Doctor has replacement boots from the human workers. The Doctors remind Amy (once again) to breathe before finding an escape route just as the Gangers melt the door.

The Doctors’ team moves through the tunnels but are soon assaulted by a “chokey gas” produced by the interaction of the acid and the monastery’s stone construction. Miranda leads everyone to an evacuation tunnel to escape the gas, eventually reaching the top of the evac tower.

The Gangers muse about their existence and revolution while the Ganger Miranda nurses a growing headache. Reluctantly, Ganger Miranda signs on to Ganger Jennifer’s idea that will finish off the humans.

In the evac tower, Amy questions which Doctor is real, but they both claim to be. Amy definitely sides with the non-Ganger Doctor and the Ganger Doctor wonders if he should be called “John Smith” instead. The Doctors restore power to the evac transmitter and Miranda tries to make contact with the mainland. The Gangers overhear the message, including the request that the Gangers are destroyed when the rescue craft arrive. The Doctors are not pleased by this request.

The Doctor books a phone call for the morning but doesn’t explain why. Meanwhile, Amy spots the Eyepatch Lady again but doesn’t understand why. She finally tells the Doctor about her visions, but the Doctor dismisses it. The Ganger Doctor leaves the room and Amy follows with an apology for questioning his existence. She admits to seeing the Doctor’s death, and the Ganger Doctor snaps, assaulting Amy in the process, because he can hear the single question that Gangers ask when they die: “Why?”

The now-calmed Ganger tries to apologize to Amy but she wants no part of it. The Ganger Doctor explains that the Flesh is growing and wants revenge for all the Gangers that have been decommissioned. The Doctor also heard this, but less faintly than his doppelgänger. Miranda asks the Ganger Doctor to sit down away from Amy.

Rory encounters two Jennifers and tries to distinguish between them. The two women fight and one falls into acid, melting away. Rory presumes that the human Jennifer won the battle because she’s limping and has an acid burn. The pair are spotted on the security cameras and the Doctor sends the Ganger Doctor (with Buzzer) to retrieve them, asking Amy to trust them. Meanwhile, Jennifer uses Rory to turn off the acid cooling systems – something she couldn’t do because it wouldn’t recognize her as human – which will destroy the tower when the acid erupts.

As Jennifer shows Rory a pile of discarded, melted, but still living Gangers, the Ganger Doctor is ambushed by his escort when they find Jennifer’s corpse. Buzzer then finds the Jennifer who was accompanying Rory, herself a Ganger who kills Buzzer.

The human Miranda suffers the same headache as her Ganger, which is likely a blood clot that will slowly kill her. As the humans try to find a way out, the Gangers intercept a message from the rescue team and redirect them, correctly guessing the code word. The humans find Rory and follow him to what he believes is an evacuation route. When Jennifer traps the humans in the acid vat room, the Gangers (including the Ganger Doctor) take a furious Rory away with them.

And then the phone rings.

The Doctor has booked a holo-call with Jimmy’s son. It’s the boy’s birthday, and the Doctor wants Jimmy to experience humanity. When Jimmy runs from the room, overwhelmed by emotion, the other Gangers begin to have a change of heart as well. Jimmy races to save the humans, but he’s too late to save the real Jimmy from being killed by the acid. As Jimmy dies, he asks his Ganger to become him and go home.

Everyone returns to the dining hall where Ganger Jimmy talks to his new son. The Doctor promises that Jimmy is coming home today, then puts a plan in motion to get everyone out. They are pursued by the Ganger Jennifer as she takes a monstrous form, and Dicken sacrifices himself to lock the Ganger out.

The Doctor accurately guessed where the TARDIS will fall through the soil. The survivors pile into the ship, and the Doctor reveals that he and his Ganger swapped shoes to prove that the two were not so different. Amy is shocked and ashamed, and she tells the Doctor that she didn’t think he could be twice the man she thought he was. He replies with a whispered message to Amy, telling her to push, but “only when she tells you to”.

The Doctor gives his Ganger the sonic screwdriver, a device that will destabilize the Flesh. The Gangers Miranda and Doctor open the door and defeat Jennifer at the cost of their own lives.

The survivors board the TARDIS. Exposure to the engines stabilizes the remaining Gangers so they’ll remain true human beings. The Doctor also gives Miranda a cure for her blood clot. Jimmy returns home to his son, and the other survivors are taken to the company’s headquarters to lobby for rights for the Flesh.

The Doctor tells Amy to breathe.

Amy goes into labor. Rory is obviously confused since Amy’s not pregnant.

Back inside the TARDIS, the Doctor orders Rory to stand away from Amy. He does so, and the Doctor explains that the trip to the monastery was not unintentional. He needed to see how the Flesh worked so he could stop the signal…

…to Amy.

He promises her that they will find her. Then he uses the sonic screwdriver to disincorporate her. Amy was Flesh all along.

The real Amy wakes up in a medical capsule, obviously pregnant and dressed in a white hospital gown. A panel slides away above her to reveal the Eyepatch Lady, who tells her to push. Amy screams as her contractions begin.


The return to the creature feature style of Doctor Who is welcome, particularly when it takes on elements of The Thing. I mean, how do you fight a bad guy when the bad guy can look like any of the good guys? More importantly, what distinguishes the bad guys from the good guys when they’re fighting what is essentially a war over race? I absolutely love the allegories, some of which are painfully relevant today, especially when Amy is set back on her heels for problematic viewpoints by the Doctor’s trickery. It’s also important to note the details: Someone you care about can have problematic views, and it is a conscious decision to help them overcome them and forgive them for not seeing the bigger picture beyond their privileges.

The key here is that they have to want to change. The humans wanted to grow and evolve when confronted with their wrongheadedness.

The whole thing is both subtle and beautiful.

The other beautifully played element here is how the Doctor orchestrated the entire trip. He offers to leave the companions behind, gently lands the TARDIS during a brutal storm, analyzes the Flesh as the Gangers are conceived, and repeatedly tells Amy to breathe. Amy’s status as a Ganger was a surprise, but everything leading up to that revelation was telegraphed in minute details. In contrast to other stories where the Doctor has the solution but the story has offered none of it to the viewer, this is a well-crafted tale that provides threads and weaves them along the way without pointing at them with a giant neon sign.

The Doctor has displayed an uncanny knowledge of when his companions aren’t quite right in the past, particularly Rose in New Earth and Martha in The Poison Sky.

The callbacks to franchise mythology were nice touches, from the use of John Smith and a discussion on Cybermats to the Ganger Doctor channeling previous regenerations to stabilize himself. We got bits from An Unearthly ChildThe Sea DevilsThe Robots of Death, and The Girl in the Fireplace before the Ganger short-circuited a bit and spat out “Reverse the jelly baby of the neutron flow” and “Would you like a Doctor?”.

All told, this was a wonderful monster/base defense story with some notable twists. It was also a lot of fun.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War

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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 #223: The Doctor’s Wife

Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Wife
(1 episode, s06e04, 2011)

Timestamp 223 The Doctors Wife

“Where’s my thief!?”

A woman named Idris is led to a platform by “Auntie”, “Uncle”, and “Nephew”, the last of which is an Ood who drains her mind in preparation for a Time Lord’s arrival.

On the TARDIS, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory are surprised by a knock on the door. Even though they are in deep space, the shave-and-a-haircut routine reveals an emergency hypercube message for the Doctor, presumably sent by another Time Lord named the Corsair. They follow the signal contained within, dumping excess TARDIS rooms for fuel, and break through to another universe.

Almost immediately, the TARDIS goes dark. The matrix – the heart and soul of the TARDIS – has vanished. While the Doctor puzzles over where it would go, Idris awakens with an exhale of golden regeneration energy.

The travelers exit the TARDIS into a junkyard. Luckily, there’s plenty of rift energy so refueling should be easy. On the other hand, the Doctor is accosted by Idris, who presents as an insane woman calling the Time Lord her “thief”. After taking care of Idris, the Doctor turns his attention to the green-eyed Ood. After fixing the Ood’s sphere, it broadcasts a series of interwoven distress messages from various Time Lords. As Auntie and Uncle take Idris back to the House, the Doctor expresses his intrigue at the possible presence of his own people.

In the House, the asteroid is revealed to be sentient. The asteroid tells the Doctor that many TARDISes and Time Lords have come and gone, but there are no others now. The travelers explore a bit. Amy points out that the Doctor is seeking forgiveness from his people. The Doctor sends the companions back to the TARDIS in search of his sonic screwdriver. Once they arrive, the doors lock as a green mist swirls about the phone box. Meanwhile, the Doctor had his sonic the entire time. Cheeky devil.

The Doctor discovers a collection of Time Lord distress signal cubes. He realizes that Auntie and Uncle have been mended over time by the asteroid with parts of the various Time Lords, including the ouroboros-tattooed arm of the Corsair.

Knowing that Idris foretold the Doctor’s discovery, he confronts her. There he finds out that she holds the matrix. She is the personification of the TARDIS. The Doctor releases her and together they determine that House feeds on TARDISes, which it can only do if it removes the matrices first. The Doctor tries to retrieve Amy and Rory from the TARDIS, but the phone box dematerializes with the chiming of the Cloister Bell and heads back to N-Space. Unfortunately for the companions, the House has hijacked the TARDIS.

In the junkyard, Uncle and Auntie collapse as they lose their source of life. Idris herself only has a short time to live but encourages the Doctor to explore the TARDIS junkyard for a way home. When the Doctor asks what he should call her, Idris tells him (much to his chagrin) that he named her “Sexy”.

House asks why he shouldn’t just kill the humans. Rory stalls for time by suggesting that they could provide entertainment. House agrees, prompting them to run for their lives through the corridors in a series of nightmare scenarios.

As the Doctor assembles a TARDIS from spare parts, he and Idris argue. The discussion ranges from how police box doors open outward (“Pull to Open”, which actually refers to the phone compartment), how the TARDIS always takes the Doctor where he needs to go, the Time Lord’s fascination with “strays”, and how the TARDIS wanted to travel so she stole the Doctor to take her on an adventure.

With a kiss to the time rotor, the patchwork TARDIS console room dematerializes and gives chase. Idris sends “the pretty one” a set of telepathic directions to one of her old console rooms. Rory leads Amy to the archived desktop of the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s console room. There they lower the TARDIS’s shields but are pursued by Nephew. Just in time, the patchwork console materializes in the archived console room and vaporizes the Ood, marking another one that the Doctor failed to save.

After introductions are made, Idris collapses and House muses about ways to kill the Doctor and his companions. The Doctor gives House instructions on how to get the TARDIS back to N-Space, but when House starts deleting rooms for the journey, it inadvertently invokes a failsafe that protects living things from being deleted with the rooms. As the travelers materialize in the real console room, House suggests that they should fear him since he’s killed Time Lords before and won’t hesitate to do it again.

The Doctor replies that House should fear him. He’s killed all of them.

The Doctor stalls for time as he points out the concept of trapping the matrix in a human body. The goal was to get the matrix as far as possible from the console room, but House has brought the matrix home. With her last breath, Idris releases the matrix. It swirls about and reintegrates with the TARDIS, overriding and consuming House.

As a last gift, the TARDIS speaks through Idris. She remembers the word that she’s been searching for – “alive” – and tells him the one thing she’s never been able to say: “Hello, Doctor. It’s so very very nice to meet you.” In a bright flash of light, Idris disappears, offering her final words of “I love you” to her companion.

Some time later, the Doctor installs a firewall around the matrix. Rory tells him that Idris’s final words to him were, “The only water in the forest is the river,” which she believed that they needed to know for the future. Amy and Rory ask for a new bedroom – preferably one with a double bed instead of bunk beds – since theirs was deleted. He tells them how to get there, then spends some time with the TARDIS console. He asks the ship where she wants to go, even if it’s the Eye of Orion for a little rest and relaxation.

The levers flip on their own accord. The TARDIS sets a course. Adventure awaits.


What a beautiful ride.

When I first saw this episode back in 2011, I was confused by it. The fast pace coupled with rapid-fire references lost me. This time around, however, I relished the experience. The story is well-written and plays off of each of the main characters so nicely, from the Doctor’s desire to be forgiven for his actions in the Last Great Time War to Amy and Rory’s love. The latter of which was actually sold quite well here despite my skepticism of it last season.

The core of this story is the Doctor’s relationship to the TARDIS, which is played beautifully by giving a voice to a consciousness that exists simultaneously across all time and space. The relationship is pretty much that of a married couple, and the TARDIS’s finally expressed love for her companion is one born of their mutual adventures. I love that the TARDIS has archived past console rooms – which presumably means that a blank room is simply formatted with the “desktop” file from previous iterations – and that the TARDIS already knows what rooms are coming up next.

Amusingly, Neil Gaiman has requested that the archive scene feature a classic-era console room, but the budget wasn’t available for that. So, the production team left the coral console room standing for this story. This episode was supposed to air during Series Five but was pushed to this point in time so there was quite a long production lead for it.

The Doctor’s TARDIS also is pretty explicit about the nature of other time capsules. The Time Lords have previously treated them as nothing more than machines or vehicles, but Idris refers to her dead siblings as sisters. That matches well with nautical traditions of referring to all ships as female, but also gives us insight into the culture of the TARDISes overall.

This story featured the Doctor piloting a TARDIS other than his own for the first time on screen – at this point in time, Shada had not yet been completed – and that patchwork ship was the creation of 12-year-old Susannah Leah for a Blue Peter contest, complete with safety straps on the console (hello, Timelash!). The Doctor previously traveled with only the TARDIS console in Inferno. This story was also the first one since Horror of Fang Rock to kill every character except the Doctor and the companions.

Neil Gaiman reached way back for some of the elements here. We first (and last) saw the hypercube in The War Games, last saw the TARDIS’s telepathic circuits used to mess with the companions in The Edge of Destruction, and found the Doctor rebuilding the TARDIS in both The Claws of Axos and The Horns of Nimon. Lest we forget the concept of jettisoning rooms on the TARDIS, which we’ve seen on at least three occasions (Logopolis, Castrovalva, and Paradise Towers), or the idea of tricking the villain into fixing the TARDIS (ala Frontios).

It’s obvious that he’s a fan of the show and has done his homework.

He also deliberately provided the first confirmation in the franchise mythology that Time Lords can change gender during regeneration. I covered many of the reasons why this was a brilliant and easily defensible concept when Jodie Whittaker was announced as the Thirteenth Doctor, and I still stand by it. Gaiman’s choice of the ouroboros – the snake eating its own tail, a symbol for eternity – for the Corsair’s personal emblem was a great representation of both Time Lord culture and the nature of Doctor Who.

This story is just amazing as a franchise game-changer and ode to the show’s history. To call it fantastic is an understatement, but it’s the highest choice I have.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Rebel Flesh and Doctor Who: The Almost People

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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 #222: The Curse of the Black Spot

Doctor Who: The Curse of the Black Spot
(1 episode, s06e03, 2011)

Timestamp 222 The Curse of the Black Spot

Yo ho ho… or does nobody actually say that?

Prequel

Captain Henry Avery writes in his journal onboard the seagoing vessel Fancy. The ship has been stranded for eight days due to a lack of wind, so all they can do is wait for the wind to return. Unfortunately, they are tasked by an enemy who comes from the still ocean and takes members of the fearful crew. Captain Avery feels an evil presence watching him and longs for the wind to return, but he fears that they are all doomed to die.

The Curse of the Black Spot

On a bleak ocean, sailors quietly return to their ship. A man with a minor cut is taken to Captain Henry Avery, who declares that the man is doomed based on the black spot on his palm. As a song rises outside the captain’s cabin, the doomed man is sent out. He screams and vanishes.

When the crew investigate, noting that the disappearance is the same as all the others, they discover some stowaways: The Doctor, Amy, and Rory. They picked up a distress call from the Fancy, but decide to dispose of the new arrivals. After all, this ship has been stranded in the doldrums for eight days.

Amy is sent below while Rory and the Doctor are prepared to walk the plank. Amy finds a sword and basic pirate garb which she uses to come to the rescue. A battle ensues and Amy nicks one of the crewmen. The captain explains that one drop of blood marks a man for death as Rory tries to catch a wayward sword and gets injured.

The song rises again and Rory begins to act strangely. The ocean glows as a spectral woman rises from the water and glides across the deck. He song beckons the wounded crewman, but when he touches the woman he disintegrates. Amy tries to stop her from taking Rory and is blasted across the deck, and everyone takes refuge below decks.

The captain calls the being a siren, declaring the Fancy to be cursed. Another crewman is injured, this time by a leech, and the siren manifests and takes the crewman. The Doctor analyzes the remains with his sonic screwdriver and concludes that the siren travels by using water as a portal.

The survivors takes refuge in the gunroom, away from the water, where they discover another stowaway. This one is the captain’s son, who wanted to join the crew and be a sailor like his father. Toby also has the black spot despite not being injured, but he is ill. The captain drapes his protective medallion around Toby’s neck and sets off with the Doctor to visit the TARDIS.

The remaining crewman decide to mutiny. In the process, they reveal their true nature as pirates to Toby. Toby demands that they stay loyal to Captain Avery, wounding the boatswain in the process. Mulligan, the other rebellious sailor, takes off on his own.

In the TARDIS, things go awry and the time capsule ends up taking off on its own, shrouded in a similar light as the siren’s portals. The Doctor and the captain encounter Mulligan during their escape. Mulligan burns his hand and is taken by the siren, but there is no water in the room. The Doctor determines that water is not the key, but treasure is. Specifically, the reflection on polished metal.

The Doctor and the captain rush back to the gunroom to retrieve the medallion. The Doctor then sets to breaking every reflective surface on the ship, including throwing the treasure overboard. Everyone hides out in the gunroom to wait out the doldrums.

Captain Avery and Toby have a heart to heart discussion while Amy has another vision of the mysterious woman with the eyepatch. The captain joins the Doctor on deck for a muse. The Doctor then returns to the cabin where Amy almost breaks the news of her visions but is interrupted by a sudden storm.

While the group prepares to get underway, Toby inadvertently sends the remaining treasure to the deck. The reflection summons the siren which then takes Toby. In the confusion, Rory falls overboard and the Doctor deliberately releases the siren to take him. The Doctor then persuades the captain, Amy, and Rory to prick their fingers and summon the siren. In short order, they all vanish.

They awaken on the deck of an alien spacecraft. It is trapped in a temporal rift intersecting with the Fancy. The reflections are the portals bridging the two vessels, and the alien spacecraft was the source of the distress call. The trio explores the ship and determine that the crew was killed by human bacteria. They discover the taken crewmen, Rory, and the TARDIS in the sickbay. The humans are all attached to life support systems and are being monitored by the siren. The Doctor figures out that the siren is a virtual doctor that has been looking after the injured.

Amy pleads with the program to release Rory and the intelligence signs him over to her care. Unfortunately, this leaves Rory in a precarious position. If he doesn’t leave, he will spend eternity on the ship, but if he goes with Amy he will die from drowning. The Doctor tells Avery that the same holds true for Toby. The boy has typhoid fever and will die within months of leaving the ship.

Rory tells Amy how to perform CPR, which she uses to resuscitate him after disconnecting him from the machines. Meanwhile, Captain Avery decides to take command of the spacecraft and look after his son and crew among the stars.

The TARDIS flies through the vortex. Amy and Rory go to bed after their harrowing adventure. The Doctor still puzzles over Amy’s medical scan.

Is she pregnant or is she not?


On the one hand, this story reaches back to the origins of the franchise. Back in The Smugglers, Captain Samuel Pike and a band of former Fancy crewmen were searching for Captain Avery’s treasure when they encountered the First Doctor. The humorous part is the coincidence of it all. Episode writer Steve Thompson had no idea of the character’s history. He merely looked through his son’s book about pirates, found the story of the real-world Henry Avery, and went to work.

The episode is also notable for its low body count. In fact, none of the guest roles were killed off and there was no real villain of the story. I also enjoyed the War of the Worlds twist with the ship being stranded because the crew was killed by exposure to human microbes. Science fiction doesn’t use that plot device very often even though it should be a real concern between alien biomes.

There’s another nod to the classic era in this story, specifically Inferno and the green mark that preceded mutation.

It was quite fun to see Hugh Bonneville in a different role than what I’m used to from him (Downton Abbey, Paddington, and Tomorrow Never Dies, specifically) and while I thought that I recognized Lily Cole, the only thing on her IMDb profile that I’ve seen is Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

On the other hand, the story itself was not particularly engaging. While the frantic storytelling nature worked well in the previous story, it felt like it was merely connecting the dots because the pacing just wasn’t right for a monster thriller. Worse, the ending in the TARDIS felt tacked on, giving the story the impression of a filler episode. A good part of that may be due to moving this episode and The Doctor’s Wife (next up) from the season’s back half, a decision that was made before this episode’s production was completed in order to serve the mid-season finale.

Which is really a shame because the atmosphere was otherwise perfect for a monster thriller with the claustrophobic nature of being trapped in a sailing ship’s tight quarters and on dead calm waters in the dead of night. Add that to the true magic of the narrative, which evolved from suspense to wonder upon the revelation of the alien ship.

I just wish that the pacing hadn’t killed it.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Wife

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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 #221: The Impossible Astronaut & Day of the Moon

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut
Doctor Who: Day of the Moon
(2 episodes, s06e01-02, 2011)

Timestamp 221 The Impossible Astronaut

Welcome to the Silence.

Prequel

In the White House, President Nixon answers the telephone in the Oval Office. The line only clicks until he asks, “Is it you again?” A child’s voice tells him to look behind him for a threat that is everywhere but no one can see. When asked, the child says that the spaceman told her about them. President Nixon refuses to believe them.

He hangs up the phone and leans back. A mysterious alien stares at him, but neither the President nor his aide seem to notice.

The Impossible Astronaut

In the 17th century, Charles II storms into the painter Matilda’s room and demands to see the Doctor. Standing before a painting of the Time Lord, who is depicted wearing nothing but a strategically placed red cloth, Matilda replies, “Doctor who?”

She nearly gets away with it except for a sneeze from her skirts. The Doctor is naked, hiding under Matilda, with the explanation that the situation is really not as bad as it looks.

In 2011, Amy tells Rory about the incident as detailed in a history book. It, along with other incidents such as a World War II POW camp and a Laurel and Hardy film, seem to be signals to the Ponds. A TARDIS-blue envelope containing unsigned invitation arrives in the mail and they follow it to Utah.

They are greeted by the Doctor, wearing a Stetson that is soon shot off by River Song (who also got an invitation). They convene in a roadside diner and catch up. The Doctor tells them that he’s been running faster than ever before, but that it’s time to stop. They’re going to have a picnic and then he’s headed to space in 1969.

On the shores of Lake Silencio, the team shares wine, cheese, and fruit. Rory spots one of the creatures from the White House but after she looks away, she forgets about it. The discussion is interrupted by an old man arriving in a truck and waving to the Doctor. The Doctor looks to the lake and spots an astronaut in a full Apollo spacesuit. He tells his companions that, whatever happens, they are not to interfere, then walks to meet the astronaut.

He seems to know what is coming, but his companions are shocked when the astronaut shoots him with an energy weapon. The Doctor begins to regenerate, but the astronaut takes aim and fires again. The mysterious visitor retreats into the lake as the companions mourn the Doctor’s death. The old man brings a gas can, confirming the Time Lord’s identity and death, and River knows that they have to cremate the body.

After the service, the man introduces himself as Canton Everett Delaware III. He received an envelope as well, and he tells the assembled that he won’t see them again but that they will see him. Delaware leaves and the companions return to the diner. River notes that the envelopes are numbered so this was all planned in advance. The Doctor arrives shortly afterward, having held the first envelope, and it is determined that he is an earlier version of himself. He was invited the same as the others.

They all take a trip in the TARDIS to 1969. The team is upset with the Doctor and the companions try to reason through the puzzle, but they have no idea why the future Doctor recruited them all. They also cannot ask the Doctor himself, who nearly turns the TARDIS around when they won’t tell him the truth. After all, River is a convicted murderer and the Doctor does not trust mysterious summonses. Amy asks him to trust the team, swearing that she’s not lying about being under duress. The Doctor places his life in her hands.

Delaware is a former FBI agent who is summoned to the White House by President Nixon. The two men are in a meeting about the mysterious phone calls when the TARDIS materializes in stealth mode. The Doctor pops out of the phone box just in time to hear the recording and is spotted by the men. The President calls the Secret Service as the Doctor demands that River make the TARDIS visible.

In short order, the travelers are held at gunpoint but the Doctor persuades Delaware and Nixon to give him five minutes. As the Doctor helps the Americans to track the call to Florida – home of NASA and the spacemen – Amy spots the alien again. When she looks away, she forgets. She visits the restroom and spots the alien again. While she keeps an eye on it, another woman emerges from a toilet cubicle and is eventually killed after spotting it. Amy snaps a picture of the alien and rushes out to her Secret Service companion, promptly forgetting the encounter.

The phone rings again. On the other end, the child says that the spaceman is there and that she needs help. The travelers jet off in the TARDIS – Delaware tags along by accident – and find the call’s origin at the intersections of Jefferson, Adams, and Hamilton Streets, clues provided by the child.

The travelers find stolen NASA technology and alien residue leading into a tunnel network. River investigates and finds a group of the aliens. She rushes out, forgets the encounter, and decides to take another look. The Doctor asks Rory to follow her. As they investigate, they find a maintenance hatch that River picks open while they discuss her relationship with the Doctor. The two are a traveling different directions in time: Her past is his future.

They open the hatch and find a control room similar to the one hidden away in the house with Craig Owens. It sounds an alarm and Rory spots the creatures but forgets them. River learns that there are tunnels like the one they’re in all over Earth and that they’ve been here for thousands of years. Behind Rory, electricity crackles and something approaches.

Amy, Delaware, and Amy hear the child cry for help and they pursue. Amy reveals that she’s pregnant, Delaware is knocked unconscious, and the astronaut approaches them. Amy draws Delaware’s gun and shoots the astronaut, intent on saving the Doctor’s life, only realizing too late that the suit contains the young girl from the telephone.

Day of the Moon

Three months later, Amy is being chased through the Utah desert. Her pursuers, including Delaware, corner her on a cliff. Amy tries to help him remember their escape from the aliens in the warehouse, but he shoots her. She has a series of hashmarks on her arms.

Delaware travels to Area 51 to ask the Doctor, now his prisoner, about the marks. Meanwhile, River is in New York City with a similar set marks. When she spots one of the aliens, she adds a mark to her arm. Delaware arrives shortly thereafter and corners her, but she dives off the building.

Rory is also cornered and shot at the Glen Canyon Dam, and he and Amy are taken to Area 51 in body bags and placed with the Doctor in a cell constructed of dwarf star alloy. The room is impervious to signals and, once sealed, provides the perfect opportunity for Amy, Rory, and the Doctor to stage their escape. To seal the deal, the TARDIS is parked directly behind the Doctor in stealth mode. The travelers and Delaware board the TARDIS, catch River in mid-air, and materialize at Cape Kennedy and the site of Apollo 11’s historic launch.

The Doctor injects everyone with nano-recorders while they discuss the last three months. The marks were from each time one of the creatures were spotted, and it should be easier to find them with the recording devices. They test it with a holographic image extrapolated from Amy’s photograph, and also discover that even the image of the creatures induces the memory loss.

Later, Delaware and Amy arrive at Graystark Hall. They meet Dr. Renfrew and learn that the facility will close in 1967. Oddly, it is now 1969. The walls are also covered in messages to get out, but Renfrew has no idea how they keep appearing. Amy investigates the facility while Delaware meets with Renfrew. She discovers a message she left on her nano-recorder demanding that she get out. She sees her reflection, noting that her arms and face are covered in hashmarks. She looks up to see a bunch of the creatures hanging like bats, but moments later she’s leaving the room without any recollection.

The Doctor installs some type of transmitter in the Apollo spacecraft. He’s taken into custody but soon released under orders from Nixon in a rather humorous exchange. The Doctor asks Nixon to record everything that happens in the Oval Office.

Amy continues on, soon spotting a door with a sliding observation port. A woman with an eyepatch spots her through the slot, but the room beyond is a child’s bedroom. The woman is nowhere to be found. Amy finds photos of herself holding a newborn, then is met by the child in the spacesuit and two of the creatures.

Delaware and Renfrew are interrupted by one of the creatures. Delaware records a brief exchange with it then shoots the creature before running toward the sound of Amy’s screams. Rory, River, and the Doctor join him to find an empty spacesuit and Amy’s recorder. It’s a live transmission from wherever Amy is being held.

Renfrew summons the group to his office to tend to the wounded creature. It identifies itself as the Silence, which the Doctor recalls from the events of last year. They have been on the planet since the Stone Age. The travelers return to the warehouse while Delaware emerges from the dwarf star box after several days with President Nixon. The spacesuit is a perfect life support capsule, which explains how the child survived a gunshot. The Doctor also speculates that Apollo 11 traveled to the Moon because the Silence needed a spacesuit. After all, they don’t make their own technology.

Delaware tends to the wounded Silence in the dwarf star box and uses Amy’s phone to record a threatening message from the being. He transmits it to the Doctor. Meanwhile, the Doctor traces the nano-recorder signal to the console room in the tunnel system. Inside that room, Amy awakens to a room full of Silence, and the TARDIS arrives soon after. The Doctor recognizes the room as he brings a television in and orders River to keep the Silence covered while Rory frees Amy.

Here’s the twist: The Doctor has rigged Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit to transmit a message as soon as he touches the lunar surface. It is the threat from the wounded Silence, telling everyone in the sound of its voice to kill the Silence on site.

The whole planet is watching. The whole planet responds. Today is the day that the human race throws the Silence off the planet.

The Silence respond by attacking the travelers. Everyone runs for the TARDIS as River covers their escape, successfully killing every one of the creatures. The TARDIS takes off as Amy and Rory share an intimate moment, landing in the Oval Office so the Doctor can say farewell to Nixon and Delaware.

The Doctor evades Nixon’s queries about his future with the promise that the president will never be forgotten. After the Doctor leaves, Nixon almost grants Delaware’s request to be married… until he figures out that Delaware is homosexual.

The Doctor leaves River at Stormcage. He offers to take her along, but she declines. They share a passionate kiss, which ends up being the first for the Doctor… which makes it the last for her. As the TARDIS takes flight again, the Doctor asks about Amy’s pregnancy, which is news to Rory.

Amy assures her husband that she’s not pregnant. The Doctor runs a scan on Amy without her knowledge, but is concerned since the Amy is simultaneously pregnant and not pregnant.

Six months later, a homeless man on the streets of New York City finds the child from the spacesuit. The child coughs repeatedly, claiming that she’s dying. She soon solves that problem, however, as she begins to regenerate.


This story’s power comes from its frantic and almost disordered plot. It has the potential to confuse the viewer because it requires nearly complete concentration to keep track of the various narrative threads. That frenetic pace ties in beautifully with the nature of the Silence, from missing large pieces of the plot to having them filled in only when it was necessary.

Another potential pitfall is the Steven Moffat habit of being super clever for the sake of being so. This story could have easily done that, but the rewards were substantial enough to make it feel like a significant return on investment. We have a few threads laid down for the season, including eyepatch lady, the yes/no pregnancy, and the regenerating child.

(Of course, having seen all of this before, I know what’s coming. I’ll take a River Song approach and avoid spoilers for anyone reading this who hasn’t seen it.)

And, you know, the parallels with 1988’s They Live just make me smile. I do love that film.

I still have reservations about Amy and her treatment of Rory. She’s open with the Doctor about her pregnancy, but she’s willing to hide it from Rory while still claiming to love him. Her actions speak more of abuse than love. On the other hand, we see the tragedy of the Doctor/River relationship. They work so well together, but the crossing paths nature is heartbreaking at times.

The stories take time out to pay tribute to Elisabeth Sladen. She died four days before the initial broadcast of the first part of this story, and I’d expect nothing less from Doctor Who for one the most popular companions ever.

I loved the symmetry in casting the Delawares. William Morgan Sheppard, the older Delaware, is the real-life father of Mark Sheppard, the younger Delaware. This isn’t the first time that they’ve played older and younger versions of a character, and they have also portrayed father and son pairs. I love seeing both of them on screen from their copious amount of work in film and television.

I also loved seeing the Valley of the Gods and Lake Powell (“Lake Silencio”) on screen again. I grew up in Utah, so the landscape is easily recognizable. The Southern Utah deserts have been popular filming locations for decades. In terms of internal mythology, we last visited Utah in Dalek, though we didn’t see anything of the world outside at that point.

One thing that really intrigues me is the idea that multiple Doctors are in the same location at the same time. The Eleventh Doctor’s three-month-long incarceration at Area 51 coincides with the Tenth Doctor being stranded in Blink and the Second and Third Doctor’s adventures with UNIT (for reference, The Invasion, Spearhead from Space, Doctor Who and the Silurians, and The Ambassadors of Death). Neil Armstrong’s historic moonwalk also coincides with Blink and The Ambassadors of Death. It adds credence to the idea that we saw in Rose that the Doctor can be in so many places and times at once.

Last but not least, I laughed about River chastising the Doctor about using his sonic screwdriver in battle. The callback to The Doctor Dances was great, as was hanging a lampshade on the tendency to use the sonic as a magic wand instead of a scientific instrument.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Curse of the Black Spot

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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 #220: A Christmas Carol

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol
(Christmas Special, 2010)

Timestamp 220 A Christmas Carol

Three spirits, a Christmas miracle, and a sonic shark.

A passenger liner is plummeting toward the surface of an unknown turbulent planet. The captain cancels Christmas as she attempts to save the ship, and as she detects a distress signal from the honeymoon suite, Amy and Rory race in wearing their fun costumes of a kiss-o-gram cop and a centurion.

The distress signal they sent summons the Doctor who signals the ship with a simple text: “Come along, Pond.”

On the surface is a village in the throes of a Christmas Eve celebration. The planet and the artificial storm when the cruiseliner is trapped are owned by Karzan Sardick, a wealthy and heartless man who acts as a loanshark through a business he inherited. To secure the the loans, he cryogenically freezes family members of the borrowers as collateral.

As one family begs for their family to be thawed for a day, the Doctor arrives via chimney. Sardick has denied the cruiseliner permission to be rescued, and the Doctor’s attention bounces from the poor family to the storm machine and the frozen girl. Sardick says that the girl is not important, but the Doctor replies that he has never met anyone who wasn’t important.

The machine’s controls are isomorphic and coded to Sardick alone. The Doctor tries to appeal to his better nature, but Sardick ejects the family and the Doctor with a bout of violence. When Sardick refrains from striking the young boy as the family leaves, the Doctor sees a crack in Sardick’s façade.

The Doctor touches base with the Ponds before being warned to seek cover for the night. After all, the fish that swim through the clouds are particularly fervent tonight. The Doctor is inspired by a Christmas carol playing on the loudspeakers and launches a plan to save the cruiseliner.

Sardick awakens to find his dream projected on the wall of his study. When he was twelve, he wanted to film one of the sky fish, but his father punished him by striking the boy and sealing his window. The Doctor plumbs the depths of this memory, then boards the TARDIS and travels back in time to Sardick’s boyhood, right into the film being projected.

Acting as young Sardick’s babysitter, the Doctor decides to make the boy’s dream come true. Using the sonic screwdriver, the Doctor lures a sky fish in through the window while he and Sardick hide in the wardrobe. The boy is interested in seeing the fish because he missed his chance by being sick at school on the day his class got to see them. When the sky fish nibbles on the line, the Doctor leaves the wardrobe to investigate. He surmises that the fish travels on electrical currents generated in the atmosphere’s high water content. His investigation is cut short by a large shark that eats the little fish and chases the Doctor back into the wardrobe.

On the one hand, the Doctor is pleased because he has a better understanding of the clouds and can analyze the readings (once he retrieves his sonic screwdriver from the shark). On the other hand, the shark rams the wardrobe and pins its occupants against the wall. The Doctor bravely dives into the shark and retrieves half the sonic, but he and young Sardick lament the fact that the shark is dying after being out of the clouds for so long.

As a life support measure, the boy takes the Doctor to the vault where all of the collateral is kept. He travels forward briefly to get the code to the door from the older Sardick, then enters the vault with the boy in the past. The shark has followed them, lured by the fog emanating from the open vault. After a brief chase, the shark is lulled to sleep by the song of Abigail Pettigrew, one of the frozen who has been freed.

The Doctor realizes that singing induces a sympathetic harmonic that the fish like, which is the same principle that drives the cloud machine in the future. The Doctor puts the shark in Abigail’s box and takes his new companions on a ride in the TARDIS. Meanwhile, in the future, Abigail’s portrait has appeared on the elder Sardick’s wall. The shark is set free and Abigail is returned to her box with a promise that they will return every Christmas.

Sure enough, the Doctor and Sardick awaken Abigail one year later, unaware of the countdown on her box. They call the shark with the sonic and take a sleigh ride. The tradition continues as Sardick ages and his future self marvels over the new memories, ranging from New York to the Pyramids.

One year, Abigail asks to see her family again. She weeps as she watches her family have the life she can never have, and Sardick consoles her. The Doctor arranges a small celebration with Abigail’s family. Abigail explains her situation and vouches for Sardick’s character, and the group shares a holiday dinner before Abigail returns to her box with a kiss for Sardick.

The next year brings a Hollywood party for the trio. Abigail nearly reveals the truth about her life to Sardick, but they are forced to leave early since the Doctor has inadvertently become engaged to Marilyn Monroe. Abigail knows that there is nothing to be done, and as Sardick returns Abigail to her box, he tells the Doctor that he’d like to break the tradition in favor of working on the cloud machine.

The Doctor is sad that Sardick hasn’t evolved from his future attitudes, but gives the man his broken sonic screwdriver as he leaves. In the future, the portrait reverts from Abigail’s to Sardick’s father. One year later, the Sardicks complete work on the machine, and while the younger man considers calling the Doctor and resuming the tradition, he turns away.

The future Sardick digs the abandoned sonic out of his drawer, rejects another plea from the cruiseliner, and then meets the Ghost of Christmas Present… or rather, Amy’s hologram. She projects the crew and passengers into the vault, singing Silent Night as a further plea for their lives. The Doctor has told Amy about Abigail and Sardick tells her about Abigail’s terminal illness. The countdown has been tracking the number of days Abigail has to leave.

Amy and Rory reverse the transmission to bring Sardick’s hologram to the ship’s bridge. When Sardick is not swayed, he’s returned to the vault to face the Doctor. The Time Lord apologizes, but then brings the cruel man face to face with his twelve-year-old self. The elder’s heart is broken and he apologizes to his younger self.

The elder Sardick attempts to save the ship but the machine no longer recognizes him since he’s changed so much. Sardick flashes the sonic screwdriver and the Doctor realizes that the other half is still in the shark. Unfortunately, to lure the shark, they need Abigail’s song. The Sardicks release her, knowing that her death is imminent, but Abigail is overjoyed to spend one last Christmas with the man she loves.

Abigail’s song is broadcast into the clouds through the sonic screwdriver, drawing the two halves together. The resonance induces a Christmas snow to fall. High above, the cruiseliner stabilizes and everyone aboard celebrates. As the Christmas mood spreads through the village, the Doctor takes the younger Sardick home.

Some time later, the Ponds reunite with the Doctor. The Time Lord rejects a phone call from Marilyn Monroe, absolutely convinced that it wasn’t a real chapel after all. As the travelers depart for their next adventure, Sardick and Abigail sail the skies in a shark-drawn sleigh.


Steven Moffat promised that this holiday story would be the most “Christmassy Christmas special ever” and “all your favourite Christmas movies at once, in an hour, with monsters and the Doctor and a honeymoon.”

Mission accomplished.

There have been countless adaptations of Charles Dickens’s famous novel, and this one adds a Doctor Who flair to the timeless tale. Karzan Sardick takes the Scrooge journey courtesy of the Christmas Ghosts:  The Doctor takes the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past, Amy is the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Sardick himself becomes the Ghost of Christmas Future (or Christmas Yet to Come). In a sense, Abigail fills the roles of Jacob Marley and “Tiny Tim” Cratchit.

The redemption story is touching and drew me in because of the unique take. We get to watch Scrooge evolve and grow as the Doctor brings the trademark love and compassion to bear. The tragedy of the love affair is heartbreaking, played so well by both Michael Gambon and Danny Horn as both versions of Sardick live through the memories. Katherine Jenkins absolutely sells the empathetic Abigail.

I love the nods throughout this celebration. We’ve heard about the Doctor’s friendship with Albert Einstein before (Time and the Rani), the sonic screwdriver gets destroyed (The VisitationSmith and JonesThe Eleventh Hour), the psychic paper once again proves not to be infallible (Army of GhostsThe Shakespeare CodeThe Vampires of Venice), and the Fourth Doctor gets a beautiful yet subtle tribute with long scarves as Abigail’s clock ticks to 004.

I could have sworn that Silent Night had been in Doctor Who before now, but research says that I was wrong.

Finally, I’d be remiss not to note Dumbledore. Okay, okay, not quite the wizard, but definitely Michael Gambon, who was far more sinister here than in his five appearances in the Harry Potter films. I love seeing actors I know in productions and roles that are so different than what I’ve seen from them before, and this was no exception.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut & Doctor Who: Day of the Moon

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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 #SJA22: Death of the Doctor

Sarah Jane Adventures: Death of the Doctor
(2 episodes, s04e03, 2010)

Timestamp SJA22 Death of the Doctor

The Doctor is dead. Long live the Doctor.

Luke is talking to the Bannerman Road Gang over webcam when UNIT arrive at Sarah Jane’s home. Colonel Tia Karim bears bad news: The Doctor is dead.

The Shansheeth discovered the body of a Time Lord and, upon confirming the DNA, organized a funeral. The Shansheeth delivered a holographic epitaph via Colonel Karim and Sarah Jane doesn’t believe the news, but Rani helps her to cope. Later that night, Sarah Jane muses with Luke that the Doctor cannot be dead. After all, she believes that she’d know somehow as though a piece of her was missing.

The Bannerman Road Gang take a road trip with UNIT to the funeral location at Mount Snowden, a massive UNIT base. While getting into the private car, Clyde experiences a jolt of energy, but he chalks it up to simple static electricity. When they arrive, they find out that the Brigadier is stranded in Peru and Liz Shaw is unable to leave the moon base in time for the service. They also see a group of Groske – a blue and tame version of the Graske – who tell Clyde that he smells like time. Clyde notices the energy on his hand and the Groske simply says that “he’s coming.”

The gang attend the gathering of remembrance where Sarah Jane requests that Karim open the coffin. The colonel replies that the Doctor was injured and a viewing is impossible. Sarah Jane notes that the last time that she saw the Doctor he was preparing for regeneration. He could have a completely different face now.

As the Shansheeth officiating the ceremony asks everyone to recollect their memories, Clyde recognizes the static as artron energy and a newcomer arrives. Enter: Jo Jones, previously known as Jo Grant. Sarah Jane recognizes her from the way that UNIT described her and they hit it off right away. Rani and Clyde meet Jo’s grandson Santiago who talks about the family’s globetrotting activism.

Jo is upset to learn that the Doctor returned for Sarah Jane. He never stopped in for her. But they share the belief that they’d feel it if the Doctor died (even on Metebilis III), so they start brainstorming his faked death. They also bond over their shared experiences on Peladon with the great beast Aggedor.

Meanwhile, Clyde pursues the mystery of the artron energy and we learn that the Shansheeth are trying to harvest the mourner’s memories of the Doctor using a memory weave that will kill the former companions. Clyde, Rani, and Santiago overhear the Shansheeth plot. They run back to Sarah Jane and Jo just in time for the Doctor to make contact through (and then exchange places with) Clyde.

Clyde’s on a red planet somewhere, but the Doctor is here. The companions catch up with the Doctor’s new face and the Time Lord confronts the Shansheeth. The Shanseeth reply with an energy beam and the sincerest wish that he rest in peace.

In the energy beam, the Doctor and Clyde swap places a couple of times. Once released, the Doctor runs with the assembled allies to safety behind a locked door. The Doctor grabs hands with Jo and Sarah Jane, spiriting “Smith and Jones” away to the red planet, the Crimson Heart. Clyde is left behind with Rani and Santiago in the locked room. They are soon rescued by the Groske and taken to his hiding spot in the ventilation system.

The Shansheeth, meanwhile, reveal that they have the TARDIS and are building a method to break in.

Sarah Jane and the Doctor work on the gadget that he used to swap places with Clyde while Jo muses about why the Doctor left her behind. After all, he did promise that he’d see her again. The Doctor reveals that, just before his regeneration, he visited every one of his former companions and is very proud of what Jo has done with her life.

Colonel Karim discovers where Rani, Clyde, and Santiago are hiding and locks them inside while turning up the heat. Luckily, the Doctor and his companions have fixed the device so they can return to Earth without leaving Clyde on the Crimson Heart. The Doctor saves the teenagers but Sarah Jane and Jo are captured by Karim and the Shansheeth.

The Shansheeth plan to use the memory weave to conjure a physical TARDIS key from the memories of the companions. They want to use the TARDIS to stop death on a universal scale and put an end to pain and suffering. Karim, on the other hand, merely wants to leave the planet and travel the stars.

The Doctor stops the memory weave’s operation by calling to the companions through the locked door and asking them to remember every adventure that he shared with them. Clyde and Rani also tell Sarah Jane to remember all of their adventures on Bannerman Road and Santiago prompts Jo’s memories of their Earthbound travels.

The memory weave overloads and begins a self-destruct sequence. Jo and Sarah Jane are trapped, but the Doctor reminds them of the lead-lined coffin. It provides just enough protection to shield the companions from the blast. The Shansheeth and Karim are destroyed and the Groske is amused by the smell of roast chicken.

Everyone hitches a ride home with the Doctor in the TARDIS. The companions say their farewells – Jo has no idea about the Time War, but why would she? – and the Doctor hies off to his next adventure. Rani and Clyde help Santiago figure out how to reunite with his parents, then Jo and Santiago say goodbye as they move on to Norway.

Sarah Jane tells her friends about the echoes of the Doctor around the globe: Tegan is fighting for aboriginal rights in Australia; Ian and Barbara Chesterton are Cambridge professors who are rumored not to have aged since the 1960s; Harry Sullivan is a doctor working on vaccines; Ben and Polly run an orphanage in India; and Dorothy McShane has raised millions through her company “A Charitable Earth”.

All of that from a simple Google search for “TARDIS”.

Long live the Doctor.


What a powerhouse story! Russell T Davies provided a story reflective of his years on Doctor Who, right down to the pacing and well-crafted prose. It’s also saturated with Doctor Who lore, including scenes from 36 adventures which I am not going to list here. Believe me, it’s tempting…

The attention to detail about regeneration – Jo knows about it since she met the First and Second Doctors – and the Last Great Time War is amazing. It’s also fun to watch the Doctor toying with Clyde about regeneration. The idea of 507 possible regenerations was a jest by this incarnation, but we know for a fact that regeneration can indeed result in changing into a form other than a white male.

I was amused by the Doctor musing about ventilation shafts, particularly in light of The Ark in Space, The Hand of Fear, and Planet of the Daleks. I also laughed about Amy and Rory’s marital adventures on the honeymoon planet. Ah, sentient planets.

Last but not least, the memory weave has a distinctive sound in science fiction history. It is unmistakably the activation sound for the proton packs in the Ghostbusters franchise. That takes me back.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Empty Planet

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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: Series Five Summary

Doctor Who: Series Five Summary

Timestamp Logo Eleventh

Series Five shifted gears with a new Doctor and a new showrunner.

Having seen the Matt Smith episodes before, I haven’t looked back fondly upon them. I think part of it was my mindset, especially after binging the episodes from Series One. I’m also a big fan of David Tennant and the paradigm shift from Russell T Davies and David Tennant to Steven Moffat and Matt Smith was a shock.

There’s a lot later in Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner to be critical about, but Series Five is much better than I remember.

The big stumbling blocks were Amy’s Choice and The Lodger. In the former case, the issue was presenting a mystery for the audience to solve but leaving out a critical puzzle piece to make the Doctor the smartest man in the room. In the latter case, the story was obviously a filler episode. The season also had a hard time selling me on the love between Amy and Rory. He obviously adores her, but she treats him like refuse far too often.

But it’s hard to be angry with such a fun and interesting slate otherwise, from the “I’m the Doctor” moment in The Eleventh Hour to the Daleks winning the battle in Victory of the Daleks, the return of the Silurians in The Hungry Earth & Cold Blood, and the time-traveling epic that is The Pandorica Opens & The Big Bang.

Lest we forget the most beautiful story in this batch: Vincent and the Doctor. It makes me cry every time.


Series Five comes in at an average of 4.3. That leaves it in a three-way tie for fifth place for the Timestamps Project, coming in behind the classic Ninth Series, the new era’s Series Four, the Eighth Doctor’s run, and the Tenth Doctor’s specials. It’s on par with two other revival groupings – Series One and Series Three – and just ahead of the classic Eleventh Series.

The Eleventh Hour – 5
The Beast Below – 5
Victory of the Daleks – 4
The Time of Angels & Flesh and Stone – 4
The Vampires of Venice – 4
Amy’s Choice – 3
The Hungry Earth & Cold Blood – 5
Vincent and the Doctor – 5
The Lodger – 3
The Pandorica Opens & The Big Bang – 5

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


Next up, we head back to Bannerman Road with the fourth series of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

UP NEXT – The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Nightmare Man

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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 #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.