Timestamp #250: The Day of the Doctor

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor
(1 episode, 50th Anniversary Special, 2013)

Timestamp 250 Day of the Doctor

The big event in a cup-a-soup.

The Last Day

A soldier opens his eyes to find someone standing over him. The soldier is part of the army on Gallifrey and has been fitted with a headcam. The man explains the headcam’s use and function, including how the frightening images that keep popping up are hallucinations, not premonitions. The headcams are installed into the brain and record everything for the official record. The recording is censored, with violence and language deemed unsuitable for the soldiers’ families cut out, and anything particularly graphic gets tinted red.

These soldiers proceed to Arcadia, the safest place on Gallifrey due to the impenetrable sky trenches. If even one Dalek did get through, the city could be destroyed, so the soldier has to remain vigilant in his scans. As he is trained on the scanner’s use, he detects a Dalek.

That Dalek leads to many more. As the Daleks open fire, the soldier’s headcam goes blank. The last sound heard in the background is a chilling death cry of anguish.

Thus begins the Fall of Arcadia.

The Day of the Doctor

After opening on a familiar theme, we see a police constable patrolling near I. M. Foreman’s scrap yard and Coal Hill School. Inside the school, Clara finishes a lesson for her class as the bell rings. She gets a note to meet “her doctor” at an address on an open patch of road. There she spots the TARDIS and races toward it on her motorcycle.

The TARDIS lets her in without complaint and she snaps her fingers to close the doors. After a cheerful reunion with the Doctor, she jumps as the TARDIS shudders. A helicopter hauls the box away. The Doctor calls Kate Stewart at UNIT headquarters only to find out that she’s bringing the TARDIS. She had no idea that he was still inside.

She has the TARDIS taken directly to the National Gallery where she presents instructions directly from Queen Elizabeth I. The Doctor and Clara meet UNIT scientist Petronella Osgood – she has a nice scarf – and proceed into the gallery. There they find a Time Lord painting known as both No More and Gallifrey Falls. It depicts the Fall of Arcadia and appears in three dimensions. The Doctor is shaken by what he remembers upon seeing the painting, recounting the day that the previously unknown Doctor ended the Time War.

Inside the image, we find the last day of the Last Great Time War. As the Daleks rage and innocents die, the War Doctor takes a gun from a lone soldier. With that weapon, he carves a message into a wall near the TARDIS.

It reads “NO MORE”.

The Doctor escapes by plowing the TARDIS through a wall and a gathering of Daleks. As he flees, the High Commanders gather in the War Room to plan their next move. The Eleventh General dismisses the High Council’s plans since “they have already failed” and ponders the Doctor’s message. He also learns that there has been a breach in the Omega Arsenal of the Time Vaults. Among all of the forbidden weapons – many of which have already been used in vain against the Daleks – the Moment has been taken.

The Moment was the final work of the ancients of Gallifrey. It is a weapon so advanced that it developed a conscience to stand in judgment of the user. The General muses that only the Doctor would be mad enough to use such a weapon.

Sure enough, the Doctor issues a final warning as he walks the empty desert toward an abandoned farmhouse: “Time Lords of Gallifrey, Daleks of Skaro, I serve notice on you all. Too long I have stayed my hand. No more. Today you leave me no choice. Today, this war will end. No more. No more…” He uncovers a complex box that ticks and whirs, lamenting the lack of a big red button to activate it. He hears a rustling sound and investigates, returning to find a woman sitting on the box.

This woman appears to be Rose Tyler, a face that this incarnation does not recognize, but she eventually identifies as Bad Wolf, an avatar of the Moment. She mocks the Doctor in her judgment, wondering why he left the TARDIS so far away. Perhaps so the TARDIS couldn’t witness what he’s about to do. Meanwhile, the Time Lord refuses the right to be called Doctor. Even though the name resides in his head, he no longer feels worthy of it. The suffering of the universe is too great, and he must end it even though it means his death. The Moment decides that his fate and punishment will be to survive the holocaust and live with the consequences, counting the dead for the rest of his lives.

They are interrupted by a fissure that opens overhead. A fez falls out.

In the 21st century, the Eleventh Doctor opens the queen’s letter.

“My dearest love: I hope the painting known as Gallifrey Falls will serve as proof that it is your Elizabeth that writes to you now. You will recall that you pledged yourself to the safety of my kingdom. In that capacity, I have appointed you Curator of the Under Gallery, where deadly danger to England is locked away. Should any disturbance occur within its walls, it is my wish that you should be summoned. Godspeed, gentle husband.”

Kate leads the Doctor and Clara away to show them the next piece of the puzzle. As they leave, UNIT scientist McGillop takes a mysterious phone call and questions why he should move the painting.

The Doctor, Clara, and Kate arrive at a painting of Queen Elizabeth I and the Tenth Doctor, leading the scene to England, 1562. There, the Tenth Doctor and Queen Elizabeth I ride a horse out of the TARDIS where he presumably just gave her a tour of the time capsule. They later share a picnic, and after she remarks on the face that has seen war, he proposes marriage.

It’s a ruse to uncover a Zygon invasion of Earth. Unfortunately, even with his tracking device that goes ding, he misidentifies the queen as a Zygon. When the horse changes shape, the duo runs from the threat. They end up separated, and while the queen gets attacked, the Doctor threatens a rabbit before realizing that it is truly just a rabbit.

The Doctor finds the queen once again, as well as a doppelgänger. While he tries to figure out which queen is the real one, a time fissure opens and a fez falls out.

In the 21t century, Kate leads her group into the Under Gallery where the Eleventh Doctor is fascinated by stone dust. Kate orders Osgood to analyze it while they proceed deeper. The Doctor pulls a fez from a display case before coming to the reason why Kate called him here. Several 3-D paintings that used to show figures have had their glass broken out from the inside. The figures are missing.

The time fissure opens and the Eleventh Doctor faintly recalls seeing it before. He tosses the fez through before jumping across, landing at the Tenth Doctor’s feet. The two Time Lords realize who each other are, compare sonic screwdrivers, and bicker a bit before the time fissure crackles.

The Tenth Doctor sends the queens away with a pair of kisses as Clara communicates with the Doctors through the fissure. The Eleventh Doctor tries to send the fez back, but it never arrives in the Under Gallery. Instead, it lands at the War Doctor’s feet.

Kate leaves Clara in the Under Gallery as she calls her office to request the Cromier file – invoking a nod toward the “UNIT dating controversy” – unaware of the Zygon lurking behind her.

The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors attempt to analyze the fissure, canceling each other’s reversal of the polarity with their sonics. After a moment, the War Doctor jumps through and meets his successors, mistaking them at first for companions instead of Time Lords.

He also chastises them for pointing their sonic screwdrivers like water pistols.

The meeting is interrupted by the queen’s royal guard. The Eleventh Doctor tries to get Clara to pose as a witch through the fissure, but the guards and the War Doctor are not impressed. The Queen arrives and threatens to toss the Doctors in the Tower of London, which serves as Kate’s office in the future.

Once there, the Eleventh Doctor sets to work scratching at a pillar while the Tenth Doctor questions the War Doctor. Meanwhile, in the future, Osgood puts the pieces together and realizes that the statues are Zygons. She’s too late, however, and both she and McGillop are copied. Osgood is able to escape in short order.

Kate leads Clara to the Black Archive, a space where the deepest secrets are kept and everyone’s memories of visiting it are wiped. The archive is TARDIS-proofed to keep the Doctor out since he wouldn’t approve of the collection within. Kate shows Clara a vortex manipulator gifted to the archive by Captain Jack Harkness. The access code has been carved into a pillar.

Clara also finds out that Kate, Osgood, and McGillop are Zygons. In that confusion, Clara steals Kate’s phone and uses the access code to teleport away with the vortex manipulator.

In 1562, the War Doctor muses that he could program his sonic screwdriver to disintegrate the door, but the calculations would take centuries. He suggests starting on them while questioning the dread on the faces of his future selves. They discuss the Last Day of the Great Time War, and the Moment – only visible to the War Doctor – prompts him to ask about the children.

The Eleventh Doctor can’t remember the number of children on Gallifrey, but the Tenth Doctor can. There were 2.47 billion children, and the fact that the Eleventh Doctor doesn’t want to remember angers – no, infuriates – the Tenth Doctor.

The Moment fills in the blanks for the War Doctor: The Tenth Doctor is the man who regrets and the Eleventh Doctor is the man who forgets. She also points out that they all have the same sonic screwdriver at heart with different cases.

If the War Doctor can scan the door, then the Eleventh Doctor’s screwdriver could calculate the method of breaking the door. They confirm it but are amazed when Clara bursts through the door and claims that it wasn’t locked. The queen is right behind her, confirming that she was curious about what they would do.

In the modern day, the real Osgood skulks about the Under Gallery and finds Kate in Zygon stasis. In 1562, the queen shows her visitors what is going on, including how she implanted the Zygons in the Gallifreyan paintings using stasis cubes. They also learn that the woman is the real Queen Elizabeth I and that she killed her impostor in the forest.

After the Tenth Doctor and Queen Elizabeth I are married, the three Time Lords and Clara board the Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS. Detecting a potential paradox, the TARDIS compensates by shifting the desktops around a bit before Clara notifies the trio that they should head for the Black Archive.

The Zygons in the Black Archive are joined by their human counterparts, and Kate informs them that the Archive’s self-destruct mechanism has been activated. In five minutes, the nuclear warhead beneath them will detonate. The Doctors try to land the TARDIS in the Archive and fail, so the War Doctor suggests using the stasis cube instead.

When McGillop takes his call near the first painting, he gets an order to take the painting to the Black Archive. Once there, the Doctors emerge from the Fall of Arcadia and enter the Black Archive. They then use the memory modifiers to confuse everybody as to whether they are human or Zygon. If the participants stop the detonation and create a peace treaty – which is sure to be incredibly fair since the negotiators can’t remember which side they’re on – they will have their memories restored.

The countdown is stopped and the negotiations begin. The Osgoods figure each other out only by the nature of asthma. Meanwhile, Clara talks to the War Doctor about the Last Day, discovering that he hasn’t used the Moment. She expresses the Doctor’s regret about what he did that day, and the War Doctor makes his decision.

The Moment takes him back to the barn in the desert and presents him with a big red button.

He knows now that his successors are extraordinary men, but that they will only become so if he follows through. The Moment talks to him about the wheezing and groaning of the TARDIS, a sound that brings hope wherever it goes. At the same time, two TARDISes materialize behind him and his successors arrive.

They were able to arrive in this time-locked space because the Moment allowed it.

The two Time Lords talk about how they’ve treated their memory of the War Doctor. They explain that he was the Doctor on the day that it was impossible to get things right, and they offer to help him push the button today. Not out of fear or hatred, but because there is no other way. In the name of the lives that they cannot save.

The Eleventh Doctor stays his hand at Clara’s face. She could never imagine him destroying his own people. The Moment shows them the Fall of Arcadia, adding a moment of conscience to the act. Clara judges them: The Warrior, the Hero, and… what is the Eleventh?

She reminds him of the promise of the Doctor – “Never cowardly or cruel. Never give up; never give in.” – and tells her Doctor what to do. They have enough warriors, and any old idiot can be a hero. He should be a Doctor.

The Eleventh Doctor disarms the Moment and explains. He’s had lifetimes to think about this, and these three have a stasis cube. While the War Doctor thanks the “Bad Wolf girl” – the Tenth Doctor is taken aback – the Time Lords put their plan into action.

On the Last Day of the Great Time War, the Doctors send a message to Gallifrey High Command: GALLIFREY STANDS. They explain their plan to the Eleventh General, and even though the general finds the idea absurd, the Doctors explain that they’ve been working on it all their lives.

In an extraordinary moment, the three Doctors are joined by their other ten incarnations, including the one they will eventually become. The thirteen TARDISes take position as the Daleks intensify their firepower. The general tells the Doctor to go ahead. The planet Gallifrey disappears into a pocket dimension and the Daleks destroy each other in the crossfire. A single Dalek pod spins off into the void, foreshadowing their eventual return as the Cult of Skaro.

Gallifrey stands.

Back in the National Gallery, the Doctors muse on whether or not they succeeded. The mysterious painting remains an enigma, but they agree that it was better to have failed having done the right thing than succeeding in doing the wrong. The War Doctor bids farewell to his successors with a special nod to Clara, and they address him as Doctor, fully worthy of the title. He won’t remember this adventure, however, because the timestreams are a mess, but the Eleventh Doctor and Clara will. His legacy is safe with them.

As the War Doctor departs, he begins to regenerate after surviving the Time War. He hopes that the ears will be less conspicuous before transforming into the Ninth Doctor.

The Tenth Doctor takes his leave, asking the Eleventh Doctor where he’s going next. The Eleventh Doctor relents and reveals that they are destined to die in battle on Trenzalore. The Tenth Doctor is glad that his future is in safe hands, but expresses a desire to change their final destination. After all, he doesn’t want to go.

Clara leaves the Eleventh Doctor to sit and look at the painting for a little while. As she steps into the TARDIS, she mentions that the gallery’s curator was looking for him. He muses that he would be a great curator, and a deep voice agrees with him. The Doctor is astonished to see a very familiar face as the Curator arrives, looking very much like the Fourth Doctor.

The Curator suggests that the Doctor may revisit a few of his old faces before turning to the painting. He points out that everyone screws up the title of the painting: It is neither Gallifrey Falls nor No More, but rather Gallifrey Falls No More.

Gallifrey survived, and now the Doctor is tasked with finding it. The mission is now returning it and all its people to the universe.

Later on, the Doctor speaks of his dreams. In a vision, he walks through the TARDIS doors to join his previous incarnations as they stare at the planet Gallifrey above. He is destined to go home, even if it takes him the long way around.


First and foremost, I adore this episode. It is littered with nods to the franchise’s mythology, but more salient, it tackles some important concepts with the Doctor’s character.

During the revival era, the Last Great Time War has hung over the Doctor’s head. The Ninth Doctor was fresh from that conflict and obviously suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from the magnitude of his choices. The Tenth Doctor and the Eleventh Doctor carried this weight as shown in this story.

The beauty of this story is that it retains the show’s history – the Doctor’s incarnations before now do not remember saving Gallifrey, so none of the motivations or choices made have changed – but absolution and redemption are offered for everyone involved, especially the Eleventh Doctor. Even though it is temporary, the senses of forgiveness and relief are important for the War Doctor and the Tenth Doctor and definitely shed a different light on the episodes we’ve seen to this point.

I love how the destruction of Gallifrey was driven by Clara, thus allowing a sense of humanity to temper the decisions of the Time Lord. This has been a constant over Doctor Who‘s history and was used to great effect here.

I do question how every incarnation of the Doctor knew to calculate the salvation of Gallifrey. Earlier, the sonic screwdrivers drove the point that the shell may change but the software remains the same, but those calculations were started by the War Doctor and matured with the Eleventh Doctor. In reverse, the idea to save Gallifrey seems to propagate from Eleven to War to Ten, a path that is far from linear. In fact, it’s wibbly-wobbly, which describes the Doctor to a tee.

Speaking of, I am so glad that the writers were able to give the War Doctor such brilliant insights into the revival era’s use of sonic screwdrivers. They’re not magic wands or water pistols, and the Doctor’s not going to assemble a cabinet at an enemy. I love his view on these scientific instruments.


Shifting gears, as much as I love the War Doctor and John Hurt, I really wish that Steven Moffat hadn’t needed to introduce him.

I get the reasons why: Christopher Eccleston did not want to return after how he was treated in the role, and he was less than impressed with the script when it was sent to him. What I don’t understand is why Paul McGann couldn’t have filled the same role.

Yes, I also love The Night of the Doctor, but it was developed as part of this whole story arc. Realistically, the Eighth Doctor could have been the incarnation that engaged in the Time War after seeing how Cass Fermazzi was willing to sacrifice her own life to avoid traveling with a Time Lord. This would effectively avoid the Stuffed into the Fridge trope (since Cass isn’t a loved one being used to motivate the hero) and could give us far more screen time for Paul McGann than just a TV movie and a webcast short.

It would have avoided the thirteen lives complications that developed from introducing another Doctor (which we’ll obviously cover during The Time of the Doctor) and would have still avoided the need for Christopher Eccelston’s involvement.

Everything else in The Day of the Doctor could have remained the same.

As much as I adore John Hurt and his performance here, the War Doctor needlessly complicated things, which apparently stemmed from Steven Moffat’s desire to have a “complete set” of regenerations before his departure. From what I can tell, that’s a rumor, but… yeah.


No look at the fiftieth anniversary special would be complete without a look at the mythology.

I have linked a good number of the mythological callbacks, but there are still quite a few favorites that jumped out in the course of this celebration. One of them is the set design, particularly the roundels (“the round things”) in the War Doctor’s TARDIS and in the Curator’s gallery. The War Doctor’s TARDIS design is a fun mix between the classic era (not counting the TV movie) and the coral motif that kicked off the revival era. The Curator’s gallery adds the hexagons to the roundels, tying the classic and revival eras together.

The Brigadier’s space-time telegraph made a notable appearance in the Black Archive. It was prominently featured in Revenge of the Cybermen and Terror of the Zygons, the latter of which was our last meeting with the Zygons. That portion of the story also showcased one of my favorite Osgood moments as she and her doppelgänger share their identities over her asthma inhaler.

The Day of the Doctor marks the last salvo fired in the Last Great Time War, a confrontation that began in Genesis of the Daleks. Russell T Davies stated in an episode of Doctor Who Confidential that the origins of the war that he envisioned began when the Time Lords struck first – the attempted genocide of the Daleks – in the Fourth Doctor’s era. This idea was repeated by RTD in Doctor Who Annual 2006, and was adapted in Hunters of the Burning Stone, a 2013 comic story published in Doctor Who Magazine as part of the 50th-anniversary celebration. The comic was written by Scott Gray and served as a sequel to An Unearthly Child, though it was the Eleventh Doctor in the lead with Ian and Barbara.

The Black Archive pinboards hold tons of photo references to the franchise’s history, including: Susan Foreman; Barbara Wright & Ian Chesterton; Vicki Pallister; Katarina & Sara Kingdom; Steven Taylor; Dodo Chaplet; Ben Jackson & Polly Wright; Victoria Waterfield; Zoe Heriot; Liz Shaw; Captain Mike Yates; Harry Sullivan & Warrant Officer John Benton; Leela; Romana I; Romana II; Adric; Nyssa; Tegan Jovanka; Kamelion & Vislor Turlough; Jamie McCrimmon; Peri Brown; Melanie Bush; Brigadier Winifred Bambera; Ace McShane; Grace Holloway; Adam Mitchell (why?); K-9 Mark III; Lieutenant General Sanchez; Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart; UNIT Captain Erisa Magambo; Donna Noble, Martha Jones, Mickey Smith, Rose Tyler, & Wilfred Mott; Jo Grant; Jack Harkness; Craig Owens (again, why?); Sarah Jane Smith;
Amy Pond & Rory Williams; River Song; Kate Stewart; and Clara Oswald.

Finally, that moment. The all thirteen moment. The moment that made me jump out of my seat and cheer. The moment that makes me grin from ear to ear every time I see it.

It was amazing to see all of the Doctors on screen, interacting with each other to save their home. Since many of them are no longer with us, it was also fun to see exactly where the producers sourced the footage to bring this moment together.

  • The First Doctor’s footage came from The Daleks (specifically “The Dead Planet”), and his voice was newly recorded audio by John Guilor (who also voiced the First Doctor in the reconstruction of Planet of Giants).
  • The Second Doctor’s footage came from The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Mind Robber, and his audio came from The Seeds of Death.
  • The Third Doctor’s footage came from Colony in Space – the re-used footage was flipped from the original – and the audio came from The Green Death.
  • The Fourth Doctor’s footage came from Planet of Evil – again, the re-used footage was flipped – but the audio (“Ready.”) has yet to be identified.
  • The Fifth Doctor’s footage was sourced from Frontios and the audio came from The Five Doctors.
  • The Sixth Doctor’s footage and audio were sourced from the same story: Attack of the Cybermen.
  • The Seventh Doctor’s (flipped) footage and audio came from Battlefield, but the producers also used some footage from the TV movie.
  • The Eighth Doctor’s footage came from the TV movie. The audio (“Commencing calculations.”) hasn’t been identified.
  • Finally, the Ninth Doctor’s footage came from Rose and The Parting of the Ways (“And for my next trick…”), along with some footage from Aliens of London.

The sheer amount of work and research required to make this climactic scene come to life amazes me.


Finally, I want to take a look at three smaller items before closing this out.

First, The Last Day: It was a quick and easy prequel story. The biggest thing that came from it was a desire to know more about the soldiers and the headcams.

Second, the visual salute to Christopher Eccleston’s legacy in the regeneration. Steven Moffat didn’t want to include an image of Eccleston in the regeneration sequence because it would have been “crossing the line” by implying that he had been on set. So, there are hints as John Hurt morphs into Christopher Eccleston, but the camera cuts away just in time to give us the impression of what comes next. Of course, as implied by the novelization of this story, the Ninth Doctor broke every mirror in the TARDIS just after regeneration because he couldn’t face himself. That adds a new dimension to his first glance in the mirror in Rose.

The last is the novelization of The Day of the Doctor. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, pick it up. It tells the story of the TV episode but breaks the chapters into narratives by the War Doctor, the Tenth Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor, Petronella Osgood and the Zygons, the Twelfth Doctor, and even the Thirteenth Doctor. It expands a lot of the characters and scenes, and it also adds a few additional insights and inside gags, including some time with Peter Cushing’s Dr. Who. While I don’t generally lean on the expanded media for information, this is written by Steven Moffat so I consider it a bit more authoritative. Chapter 9 (“The Truth of the Doctor”) is a hoot.

It’s a quick read and well worth the time.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot

cc-break

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 #248: The Name of the Doctor

Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor
(1 episode, s07e13, 2013)

Timestamp 248 The Name of the Doctor

The prophecy of Trenzalore comes to call.

Clarence and the Whispermen

Locked away in a jail, serial killer Clarence DeMarco shouts at whispering inhuman creatures. He insists that they are nothing more than voices in his head and asks them to stop. The Whisper Men vanish, then reappear inside the cell, demanding to find the Doctor.

The Whisper Men project Gallifreyan symbols in the air, forcibly impressing them into his mind with an instruction to bring the message to the reptile detective. They are part of the Intelligence and promise that if Clarence cooperates, he will be pardoned and will live a good long life only troubled by dreams.

He cries to be left alone. The creatures pass by him.

She Said, He Said

The story is divided into two parts: “Clara” and “The Doctor”.

Clara’s monologue walks down memory lane about her adventures with the Doctor and what it has done to her. She’s forgotten to ask who he is and why he runs. Then she found out at Trenzalore.

The Doctor’s monologue focuses on Clara’s impossibility and his meetings with her, from the Dalek Asylum and Victorian London to his current run with her.

Each part acts as a tribute to the other… as well as a warning about the darkness in the relationship and its secrets.

The Name of the Doctor

In a workshop, two engineers respond to an alarm. A supposed idiot, the First Doctor, is trying to steal a faulty TARDIS from the capital city of Gallifrey, and Clara Oswald tells him that he is making a big mistake.

Clara falls through a golden vortex. She does not know where she is but remembers one thing: The Doctor. She has appeared at various points in his life but few of those incarnations ever notice her. The Eleventh Doctor is an exception when she calls to him in Victorian London.

She blew into this world on a leaf and doesn’t believe she’ll ever land. She’s the Impossible Girl and she was born to save the Doctor.

In Victorian London, Madame Vastra visits Clarence DeMarco at his jail cell. He murdered fourteen women and is sentenced to death, but he bargains for his life with information about the Doctor. The Doctor has a secret that he will take to the grave, and it is discovered.

Later on, Vastra consults with Jenny, explaining that Clarence will live until she understands what he told her. They make preparations for a conference call to investigate further. Jenny hears a strange whisper from outside as Vastra wonders where Strax has gone. The Sontaran has the weekend off, much to Vastra’s displeasure at his chosen locale.

In Glasgow, a familiar Sontar-Ha is heard as Strax fights a large Scottish man. They are interrupted by a boy carrying a telegram, summoning Strax to the conference call. Strax apologizes to Archie, his opponent, for not being able to finish the match, then asks to be rendered unconscious. He drops into the trance-like conference call, an astral projection of sorts, of which Jenny complements the new desktop.

While working on a soufflé on April 10, 2013, Clara gets an invitation to the conference call. The letter has come from Vastra and drugs her so she enters the dream state. The final participant, River Song, pops in soon afterward, and the meeting commences with introductions of the Doctor’s wife to his current companion.

Vastra presents Clarence’s message, a grouping of Gallifreyan symbols, which River identifies as space-time coordinates. They are the location of the Doctor’s greatest secret, his name, which River knows. Vastra shares the single word from Clarence: Trenzalore.

Outside of the conference call, someone skulks around Jenny. Unfortunately, her form fades away as she is murdered by the Whisper Men. River forces everyone to wake up as the face of Dr. Simeon appears, stating that the Doctor’s friends are lost forever more unless he goes to Trenzalore.

When Clara awakens, she finds the Doctor blindfolded, playing Blind Man’s Bluff so they could sneak away to the cinema. The Doctor is annoyed but then realizes that Clara is troubled. They discuss the call over tea and the Doctor is brought to tears over Trenzalore. He runs to the TARDIS where Clara finds him under the console. The Doctor connects Clara to the TARDIS so she can telepathically transmit the coordinates she saw to the time capsule.

“When you are a time traveler, there is one place you must never go. One place in all of space and time you must never — ever — find yourself.” Trenzalore is the Doctor’s grave, and it is the one place he must never go, however, he owes his friends and they must be saved.

The Doctor sets the course but the TARDIS rebels, fighting the transit while he forces her onward. The TARDIS refuses to land on the actual site, so it parks in orbit and the travelers take a look upon the torn and battered planet. The Doctor shuts everything else down and forces the TARDIS to plummet to the surface, cracking the exterior glass in the process.

They find a battlefield graveyard. Some headstones are larger than others, based on the importance of the warrior. On the summit ahead rests the TARDIS, abnormally outsized as the “bigger on the inside” qualities start to break down and leak beyond the shell.

The TARDIS is the Doctor’s tomb.

River contacts Clara as the Doctor climbs on, an echo of the conference call which River left open. The Doctor cannot see her but spots her gravestone among the others. As he ponders how it can possibly be here, they are approached by the Whisper Men as River and Clara work out that the gravestone is the entrance to the tomb.

Inside the TARDIS monument, the Paternosters awaken and Strax revives Jenny from death. They are approached by the Great Intelligence and the Whisper Men, who welcome them to the final resting place of the great tyrant known as the Doctor.

Clara and the Doctor navigate the catacombs as River explains her death to Clara. The duo is pursued by Whisper Men. They are driven to the Paternoster Gang where the Intelligence proclaims that the Doctor’s final battle was not as large as the Time War but he has blood on his hands. He also remarks that the Doctor will be known by names such as the Beast and the Valeyard.

Clara has flashbacks to climbing through a wrecked TARDIS, an adventure that she shouldn’t remember. The Great Intelligence demands the key that will open the Doctor’s tomb, hissing that it is the Doctor’s real name. He threatens the Doctor’s friends with death if the Time Lord does not comply. The Great Intelligence keeps asking The First Question until the tomb opens.

The TARDIS can still hear River’s projection, so she supplied his name to keep the secret safe.

Inside the doors lies an overgrown control room. Where the time rotor would normally rest is a flowing beam of blue-white light. That is the Doctor’s mark on the universe. Rather than his body, his travels in time have left a scar representing his personal timeline, past and future, and everything that resulted from it.

The Doctor collapses from his proximity to it. When he points his sonic screwdriver at it, the voices of his previous incarnations flow from it. The Great Intelligence approaches the light, intent on rewriting the Doctor’s history and turning all of his victories into failures. The act will scatter him across the Doctor’s timeline.

As the Intelligence steps into the light, the Doctor writhes in pain as his very existence is rewritten. Vastra declares that a universe without the Doctor will have consequences. She flees outside in terror and sees the stars go dark as entire star systems are erased from history. Jenny, once saved by the Doctor, is erased as Strax turns hostile and must be vaporized.

Despite protests from River and the Doctor, Clara decides to act. With the phrase that has pursued her since the Doctor met her – “Run, you clever boy, and remember me.” – she jumps into the light and is split into millions of copies throughout history, each one setting right what the Great Intelligence has put wrong.

She even tells the First Doctor which TARDIS to steal. After all, a broken navigation system will be much more fun.

With Clara’s influence fixing the timeline, the Doctor decides to rescue her, using himself as Clara’s advantage. River protests, but the Doctor tells her that he can always see her even when no one else can. There is a time to live and a time to sleep, and while he has a hard time saying goodbye, it’s only because he doesn’t know how.

With her help, he tells her goodbye with the promise that they’ll see each other again. She also reminds him that, since she was telepathically linked to Clara, then she cannot truly be dead. To tell him the details, however, would be a spoiler.

As River dissipates, the Doctor enters his own timestream.

Clara falls to the ground inside the timestream and she wonders what’s left for her to accomplish in the Doctor’s timeline. The Eleventh Doctor’s voice guides her through the figures of his previous incarnations, telling her to focus on the sight of a leaf as her guide. Using it, she is reunited with the Doctor.

Beyond their embrace, Clara sees a shadowy figure. The Doctor shows intense fear at the sight, explaining that the figure is him, but Clara doesn’t understand.

The name Doctor is a promise, but this figure broke the promise. He is the Doctor’s secret. The figure defends his actions as Clara collapses, but the Eleventh Doctor turns away.

This new man is the Doctor… but not one we were expecting.


Clara’s mystery finally comes to a head here as her various incarnations are explained. All three of them were her, just in different splintered ways. This is the big part of Clara’s run that I really enjoy. The other is her initiative, which has been highlighted over her run.

This relationship proves to be an ontological paradox – a causal loop – since the Doctor might not have invited the modern-day Clara Oswald to travel as his companion had he not encountered Oswin and Victorian Clara, however, if she had not traveled with him, those echoes would have never existed.

She’s been with the Doctor since the beginning of his travels – key dialogue here was taken from The Web Planet providing some degree of influence at key moments. Of those moments, we get callbacks to The Five Doctors (Second and Third Doctors), The Invasion of Time (Fourth Doctor), The Arc of Infinity (Fifth Doctor), and Dragonfire (Seventh Doctor). Clara also seems to have influenced The Aztecs and The Web of Fear in her removal of the Great Intelligence’s interference.

This also marks the end of the Great Intelligence from the perspective of the show itself. The entity was splintered into infinite pieces across the Doctor’s timeline but then was systematically eradicated by Clara. The difference is that no one came to guide the Great Intelligence out of the Doctor’s timestream, so we have no reason to believe that it survived.

Clara’s adventure reveals the continuation of events from The Night of the Doctor, establishing a previously unknown incarnation between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors. It perpetuates a continuity re-write – far from the first in the franchise – based around the unfortunate behind-the-scenes drama of the Christopher Eccleston era. This change in continuity will come to a head in Day of the Doctor.

There’s certainly a lot of world-building in this single story, both in terms of resolutions and groundwork for the future. I found it all quite enjoyable, and remember it to be quite shocking when I first saw it.

With the rest of the Timestamps Project for context, I certainly appreciate the attention to detail in portraying the Doctors. Not only do we have twelve incarnations sharing the same airtime (a record number to this point), but we also got to see both versions (to this point) of the First Doctor in William Hartnell and Richard Hurndall.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Clara and the TARDIS & Doctor Who: Rain Gods & Doctor Who: The Inforarium

cc-break

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 #194: Time Crash & Voyage of the Damned

Doctor Who: Time Crash
Doctor Who: Voyage of the Damned
(Children in Need and Christmas Specials, 2007)

When you look deep into the pockets of the universe, you never know what you find.

Time Crash

Immediately after Martha left the TARDIS and the Doctor once again took flight, the blue box goes haywire. The Doctor stabilizes the time capsule, but he finds himself face-to-face with the Fifth Doctor. The Fifth Doctor is confused but the Tenth Doctor is amused, getting nostalgic about the frowny face, the hat, the coat, the crickety-cricket outfit, the brainy specs, and even the decorative vegetable on his lapel.

The Fifth Doctor is beside himself, but his frustration is interrupted by a warning that two TARDISes have merged and have the potential to blow a hole in the space-time continuum the size of Belgium. The Fifth Doctor thinks that the Tenth Doctor is a fan, possibly from LINDA. The Tenth offers the Fifth a sonic screwdriver but remembers that he went hands-free at this point in his lives.

At the moment of Belgium, the Doctors initiate a supernova and a black hole at the same time and separate their capsules. The Tenth works to send his predecessor home, curious if Nyssa and Tegan were with him, or whether he has encountered the Cybermen, the Mara, or the Master yet. The Tenth Doctor admits that he just faced the Master, prompting the Fifth to ask about “that rubbish beard.” The Tenth replies that the beard is gone, replaced by a wife.

Oh, Steven Moffat and his jokes about homosexuality.

As the Fifth Doctor returns his time, the Tenth takes a moment to say goodbye. After all, the Fifth Doctor was his Doctor.

The moment is broken when a ship crashes through the TARDIS walls.

Her name is Titanic.

Voyage of the Damned

The Doctor uses the TARDIS console to regenerate the capsule’s walls and materialize aboard the cruise liner. He finds a Christmas party in full swing, complete with aliens and seemingly robotic angels, as the starliner Titanic settles into orbit with the planet Earth spinning around below.

The ship’s captain offers his stalwart crew a tot of rum to celebrate the holiday. The bridge crew leaves except for a midshipman who quotes regulation to the captain, and he’s allowed to stay behind.

The Titanic is a Max Capricorn cruiseliner, which the tuxedo-clad Doctor discovers as he views a promotional ad before rejoining the party. He finds that the robotic angels, the Host, are the shipboard information system. The ship was named after the most famous vessel of the planet Earth and is en route from Sto to observe the human holiday. The angel short circuits and is taken below to the engineering section with all of the other malfunctioning robots.

Among all the lovers in the room, the Doctor meets Astrid Peth, a member of the ship’s staff who accidentally drops a drink tray. She wants to travel like the Doctor, and realizing that it’s never too late, he reveals himself as a stowaway. She’s impressed – almost like love at first sight – and offers a drink instead of reporting him. The Doctor joins a table with Morvin and Foon Van Hoff, a couple in sparkly Western-style dress who are being mocked by the black-tie guests. The Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver to pop a champagne bottle and douse the bullies before joining the Van Hoffs for a trip to the planet below. En route, he spins Astrid around and brings her along. After a poorly researched historical brief, the party is joined by a small spiky red-skinned alien before they all transmat down to a deserted city.

The Doctor is perplexed: London should be bustling with people, but there’s not a soul in sight.

He asks Wilfred Mott, a newsstand operator, where everyone is on a night like this. He points to the last two Christmas invasions as examples that drove people to flee the city just in case. Better the devil you know, right? The Doctor and Astrid are beamed back up, mid-sentence, due to irregular power fluctuations on the ship. The Doctor is intrigued.

Meanwhile, the captain has magnetized the hull to draw in nearby passing meteors. The midshipman is perplexed. The Doctor discovers that the shields are down and tries to warn the bridge, but he’s ignored and apprehended. He tries to warn the passengers but is taken away. The captain also shoots the midshipman to prevent him from stopping events. He has been extorted in some way.

The passengers start to come around but everyone is too late to stop the collision. The ship is struck on the starboard side and mayhem erupts. As the Host come back to life in engineering, the Doctor notes that the chaos has stopped for the time being. He also remarks that Titanic is a bad name for a ship and that his tuxedo is awfully unlucky.

One of the crew inadvertently causes a hull breach but the Doctor re-enables the oxygen shield. He also watches as the TARDIS drifts by. Luckily, it locks on to the nearest planet and flies into the blue. Unfortunately, they can’t reach it.

Another bit of bad luck? The Host are now programmed to kill.

The Doctor makes contact with the bridge and Midshipman Frame. They discover that the storm drive engines are spooling down. If ship loses locomotion and plummets into the planet, it will cause a nuclear explosion and a planetwide extinction event. The ship is a timebomb.

The Doctor – “I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I’m nine hundred and three years old and I’m the man who’s going to save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?” – believes that it’s never too late and asks the survivors to confide in him. He takes charge and rallies them to both escape and save the planet. Astrid really believes in him.

As they move through the ship, Mr. Copper, the historian, keeps getting information about the planet below all wrong. They discover a disabled Host and the Van Hoffs (who are robotics experts) start trying to fix it. Meanwhile, Bannakaffalatta (the small red alien who is really a cyborg) scouts ahead through the wreckage as Astrid and the impossible Rickston Slade try to move enough wreckage to get everyone through. Astrid and Bannakaffalatta develop a special relationship as they go.

Midshipman Frame discovers that the Host are corrupted after they kill survivors in the galley. He warns the Doctor just as the Van Hoffs fix their disabled robot. The group of survivors rush to safety, learning on the way that the Host are being controlled from Deck 31. The Host assault the bridge, forcing Frame to deadlock the hatches and seal himself in without escape.

The survivors take a meal break while they have a chance. The Doctor and Astrid continue building their relationship while Copper reveals that he lied to get his job. The Host banging on a nearby bulkhead force the survivors to press forward, but that leads them to the space above the nuclear engines. The space between bulkheads is spanned by a narrow bridge, and as Morvin declares that he and Foon will go last, the deck gives way and he plummets to his doom. Astrid comforts Foon as Slade crawls across the bridge.

Bannakaffalatta goes next, followed by Astrid and Copper. Foon refuses to cross and the Doctor promises to come back for her. The Host stops banging on the bulkheads, but only because they take flight and start using their halos as deadly discuses. Bannakaffalatta reveals his nature to the survivors with an electromagnetic pulse, disabling the Host but giving his life in the process.

Copper salvages the electromagnetic transmitter as a remaining Host rises. The Doctor stumbles onto a security override that allows him three questions, so he learns that the Host have been instructed by their leader to kill the survivors. The Host raises its halo to strike but Foon wraps it in a rope and jumps over the side, sacrificing herself for the group.

Vowing that no more shall die tonight, the Doctor sets everyone to work. Astrid makes her case to join him on the TARDIS and he agrees that it would be wonderful to have her step back in time with him. He sends the survivors with the EMP unit and his sonic screwdriver, and with a kiss from Astrid, he rushes down to Deck 31.

Astrid, Copper, and Slade successfully defeat a group of the Host while the Doctor reveals himself as a stowaway and negotiates his arrest. The survivors make it back to the ballroom and while Copper and Slade work on the distress signal, Astrid convinces Frame to give her enough power to transmat to Deck 31 and help the Doctor.

The Doctor arrives on Deck 31 and meets the ultimate authority behind the night’s events: Max Capricorn. Or rather, the disembodied head on a rolling robotic life-support system, running the company by hologram in a culture that distrusts cyborgs. Capricorn is angry that the ship hasn’t crashed yet, and the Doctor takes the time to unravel the plan. Capricorn’s company has failed and he has been pushed out by the board, so if the Titanic destroys the Earth, he gets revenge as the board gets jailed for murder. Capricorn will survive in a special chamber and live out his life far away.

Capricorn reveals that he can remotely shut down the engines, forcing the Titanic to crash. As Capricorn orders the Doctor’s execution, Astrid rushes in with a forklift and drives Capricorn’s robotic body over the side into the engine below. The Doctor, begging inside for just a little more time, watches as she falls to her death.

The resolute Time Lord declares himself as the next highest authority on the ship and orders the Host take him straight to the bridge. They burst through the deck and the Doctor takes the helm from Midshipman Alonso Frame, steering the ship straight into the atmosphere. He calls up Buckingham Palace, ordering the Queen and her corgis to evacuate just in case his calculations are off. On the street below, Wilfred screams at the sky.

The Titanic barely misses the palace (but gets a Christmas greeting from the Queen) and sails into the sky, using the heat of re-entry to restart the auxiliary engines. The Doctor did it again.

He has an epiphany and tries to use the teleport bracelets to restore Astrid using their safety protocol. He’s only partially successful due to the damage in the system, bringing her back as only a fragment of her former self. The Doctor apologizes and kisses her in a bittersweet goodbye before opening a porthole and sending her atoms to fly among the stars forever.

Frame, Copper, and Slade, the only survivors of the starliner Titanic say their farewells to the Doctor. Copper offhandedly remarks that, if someone could decide who lives and who dies, it would make them a monster. The Doctor hands him a bracelet and they teleport to the surface. The Doctor refuses Copper’s request to travel with him, but he does explain that the credit card that Copper carries for Earth incidentals makes him a millionaire.

Copper dances away with the promise he will make the Doctor proud… and that he will always remember Astrid.

The episode closes on a dedication to Verity Lambert, OBE. She was the first producer of Doctor Who, and she died a month before this story was originally aired.

Both of these episodes were pure fun. Starting with Time Crash, we get the first multi-Doctor story of the revival era as well as the first time a classic-era Doctor’s actor was in the opening credits. It was directed by Graeme Harper, whose first credited directorial work in Doctor Who was Peter Davison’s last story.

It’s a better two-Doctor story than The Two Doctors, but that’s not hard to do.

It also marks the return of Steven Moffat to Doctor Who, a name we will see one more time in the Tennant era. The Curse of Fatal Death, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, and this small story are leading to bigger adventures for him in the coming years.

Moving to Voyage of the Damned, we get a rollicking adventure with a celebrity guest star as a one-shot companion. Kylie Minogue is magnetic in this story and it’s a shame that we didn’t get the chance to see her as a regular. She did a magnificent job in driving the contrast between the lonely Time Lord and one who travels with companions. She also indirectly proved the points that the Doctor is not a god and that he is not infallible.

The Host look very similar to the Axons and the Capricorn cyborg is reminiscent of Davros. We also get a couple of cameos with singer Yamit Mamo (including original song “The Stowaway“) and BBC journalist Nicholas Witchell. If you look closely at the Titanic‘s band, you’ll also note Murray Gold and Ben Foster.

The big drawback to this episode was the overuse of the Hans Gruber moment. The slow-motion shot of someone falling while looking up towards the camera happened four times – the steward, Foon, Morvin, and Astrid’s respective deaths – and that count is bordering on comical.

Regardless, this pair of stories was an entertaining adventure and a fantastic lead-in to Series Four.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

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 Special #7: Dimensions in Time

Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time
(2 episodes, 1993)

 

Celebrating thirty years.

Starting off with a little backstory, this was shown as part of the 1993 Children in Need telethon over two nights. Both parts were bracketed by host Noel Edmonds, and the first part involved a short intro sketch with Jon Pertwee in character as the Doctor. Sadly, this was his last on-screen performance before his death.

On to the story…

The Rani is traveling with her companion, previously having captured (busts of) the First and Second Doctors in an attempt to assemble a menagerie of sentient life-forms to control the universe. That’s kind of her thing, really. Her companion checks off a Cyberman and a Time Lord from Gallifrey, noting that they need a human from Earth to complete the collection.

Elsewhere, the Fourth Doctor (in his Eighteenth Season garb) issues a warning to all of his other incarnations. It appears that he’s too late as the Rani takes aim on the TARDIS and knocks the capsule off course. Instead of landing in China, the Seventh Doctor and Ace materialize on the docks at the Cutty Sark Gardens, circa 1973. As Ace calls for help, the Seventh Doctor transforms into the Sixth Doctor, and both of them are instantly transported to (the fictional) Albert Square. The Sixth Doctor remarks that they have “slipped a groove” in time, and somehow he knows who Ace is.

This timey-wimey-wibbly-wobbliness will drive the rest of the adventure.

As Ace spots a clothing stand and a discount on a jacket from Sanjay and Gita (of The EastEnders), the Sixth Doctor discovers that they are now in 1993. The slipped groove has also slipped them two decades into the future. Just as he begins to question things, the slip happens again, leaving behind the Third Doctor and Mel. The Third Doctor believes that someone is rooting through his timeline and extracting previous incarnations and companions. The pair stop and ask two shop owners (Pauline Fowler and Kathy Beale from The EastEnders) what year they are in, and they are shocked to discover that they are in 2013.

The slips come fast and furious now, bouncing between 1973, 1993, and 2013, all in an attempt to separate the Doctor from the TARDIS and seal all of the Doctors together. One slip occurs, revealing the Sixth Doctor and Susan Foreman, the latter of whom is eager to find her grandfather, Ian, and Barbara. Another slip brings Sarah Jane and the Third Doctor back together. The next reunites the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, and Peri, and this time they’re under attack from the Rani’s menagerie because our heroes (in all their guises) are too close to the truth.

They face off against a host of villains from the last thirty years (including an Argolin, a biomechanoid, a Cyberman, a Mentor, an Ogron, a Sandminer robot, a Sea Devil, a Tetrap, a Time Lord, a Tractator, a Vanir and a Vervoid, and even Fifi), and after they attempt to warn Pat Butcher (The EastEnders) of the danger – a futile effort, it seems – they are trapped by the Rani outside the Queen Victoria (once more, The EastEnders).

The Fifth Doctor psychically summons the Third Doctor in his place, an act that replaces Nyssa and Peri with Liz Shaw. Liz attempts to disarm the Rani, but then flees after Mandy (The EastEnders) distracts the villain. Mike Yates arrives in Bessie and shoots the gun out of the Rani’s hands, offering the Doctor a way out. Together they flee to a helicopter and the Brigadier.

Another slip occurs, exchanging the Third Doctor for the Sixth as they reach safety. As another slip occurs, the Rani and her companion set course for the Greenwich Meridian to find their missing human specimen. In a garage, the second Romana is flushed out of her hiding spot by Phil and Grant Mitchell (you guessed it, The EastEnders), who point her to their doctor, Harold Legg. As she passes the Queen Victoria, the Rani captures her.

In 1973, the Third Doctor and Victoria Waterfield discuss the nature of the Rani as they return to the TARDIS. Time slips once again, and the Seventh Doctor lands in 1993 and encounters Leela, who has escaped the Rani after being cloned in the form of the second Romana. This is the key that the Doctor needs, since the Rani now has an extra Time Lord brain imprint instead of the human one she needed. The Seventh Doctor, Ace, and K9 rig up a device to overload the time tunnel, capturing the Rani inside while breaking the other Doctors free.

Triumphant, the Seventh Doctor and Ace board the TARDIS for their next adventure, confident in the fact that the Doctor(s) are difficult to get rid of.

 

This was fun but chaotic, and a decent nod to the franchise on its thirtieth anniversary.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Death Comes to Time

 

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: Twenty-First Series and Fifth Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: Twenty-First Series and Fifth Doctor Summary

 

It’s an unfortunate ending to an era.

The Fifth Doctor’s three series run did not perform well in comparison to the rest of the franchise so far, and that’s disappointing considering how much potential the character had. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t stellar.

The Twenty-First Series had highs in Warriors of the Deep  and Resurrection of the Daleks, and it had a low in The Awakening. The rest just evened out to the average. Part of that was the companions, Tegan and Turlough, who I never really connected with. Another part was the stories, which has really high body counts and somewhat lackluster execution and resolution.

This series also contained a regeneration, but what is interesting about that is how it shakes out against other regeneration stories. The Fifth Doctor’s regeneration and Sixth Doctor’s premiere both scored a 3, and the last regeneration/premiere story to do that was An Unearthly Child. Everything since then has been either a 4 or 5, leading to an average among those stories of 4.2. I hope this doesn’t bode poorly for the future of the franchise, but there have been stories…

The caveat here is that none of the series so far have been outright bad. The average across all twenty-one series is a 3.6 on a 5.0 scale. The lowest series score is 3.1 out of five, which is smack in the middle. The downside is that is that the Twenty-First Series is tied with the Third and Nineteenth Series (the Fifth Doctor’s first set of stories) for last place.

After Adric left the series, I was optimistic about the series and the Fifth Doctor’s evolution. I wanted to see him run with the role, but the opportunities never came to fruition. More on that in a moment.

 

Warriors of the Deep – 4
The Awakening – 2
Frontios – 3
Resurrection of the Daleks –  4
Planet of Fire – 3
The Caves of Androzani – 3
The Twin Dilemma – 3

Series Twenty-One Average Rating: 3.1/5

 

 

 

If there’s one positive thing to say about the Fifth Doctor, it’s that he was consistent.

If there’s another, it’s that he was a good father figure.

The Fifth Doctor’s tenure brought the franchise back from some of the silliness of the Fourth Doctor‘s run, but it also reduced a bit of the charm. I admired his youth, sensitivity, and honesty. His reserved honor made him an ideal guardian and guide for his companions, and he used his traits to help each of the companions (whether I liked them or not) expand their horizons.

But those traits brought a hesitancy to the character that made him demure instead of advancing the take-charge attitude that the Doctor often embodies. Since he also tended to rush right into danger before observing the conflicts, we also tended to see a higher body count in his stories.

It’s that consistency that hurt his run the most because he never really evolved. Compare him to the two other scientist Doctors, the First and the Third, and you can see a distinct improvement as the character evolves and settles in. The First Doctor started as a gruff nomad but demonstrated a deep capacity to love and care. The Third Doctor’s run was an evolution of the franchise, and he started angry and frustrated by his circumstances before softening once he got his keys back and could satiate his exploratory curiosity.

And that’s why I’m so conflicted about the Fifth Doctor. I admire people who embody ideals like honor, sensitivity, and fairness, and Doctor Who has asked us to celebrate heroes who triumph over brute force and cynicism with love and compassion. But it also asks us to celebrate the capacity to learn and grow, and I don’t know that this Doctor ever really did.

If the First Doctor was a wise grandfather, the Second a sly jester, the Third a secret agent scientist, and the Fourth an inquisitive idealist, then I would call the Fifth Doctor an honorable humanitarian.

 

For scoring purposes, I obviously will not include The Twin Dilemma in the Fifth Doctor’s final tally.

 

Warriors of the Deep – 4
The Awakening – 2
Frontios – 3
Resurrection of the Daleks –  4
Planet of Fire – 3
The Caves of Androzani – 3

Series Twenty-One (Fifth Doctor) Average Rating: 3.2

 

Series 19 – 3.1
Series 20 – 3.3
Series 21 – 3.2

Fifth Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 3.20

 

Ranking (by score)
1 – Third (4.00)
2 – Second (3.67)
2 – Fourth (3.67)
4 – First (3.41)
5 – Fifth (3.20)

Ranking (by character)
1 – Second Doctor
2 – Third Doctor
3 – Fourth Doctor
4 – First Doctor
5 – Fifth Doctor

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen

 

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 #136: The Caves of Androzani

Doctor Who: The Caves of Androzani
(4 episodes, s21e17-e20, 1984)

 

Davison deserved better.

The TARDIS arrives in a dry lake bed on Androzani Minor. After a small bout of exploration, Peri and the Doctor question the presence of motor vehicle tracks on an otherwise desolate planet and decide to follow them. While they travel, the Doctor muses about keeping diaries. While they explore the crystalline caves, Peri falls into a web-like substance that stings. Afterward, she asks the Doctor about his lapel celery, which turns purple when exposed to gases in the Praxis range.

Elsewhere, a monster attacks a group of soldiers. The travelers run into the soldiers, are mistaken for gunrunners and apprehended, and are taken to General Chellak. He believes that they are supplying arms to a group of android rebels and will not hear anything about their innocence. When Trau Morgus (CEO of the Sirius Conglomerate) on Androzani Major calls, the general tosses his prisoners into a closet. The communication is tense and tapped by a mysterious third party who thinks Peri is pretty. Morgus is disinterested in the travelers, unemotionally orders their execution, and engages in a little bit of fourth-wall breaking by staring straight into the camera. When more soldiers are attacked, the general orders his second, Major Salateen, to prepare the travelers for execution while he attends to the ambush. The entire squadron is decimated.

The Doctor apologizes to Peri for their predicament while tending to her web-induced rashes and watching the general as the dead squadron is returned to the base. He muses on the background of spectrox, the valuable material the humans are mining. On Androzani Major, Morgus hosts the president of the planet and reveals the nature of spectrox to the audience: It is a powerful drug produced by the bats of Androzani Minor that enhances youth and extends life. The meeting turns to the execution as the Doctor and Peri are lined up before a firing squad, and on the proper count, the Doctor and Peri are shot to death.

Except that they aren’t.

The mysterious eavesdropper, Sharaz Jek, swapped the prisoners for android duplicates. The general and major realize the deception, but cannot report it because it would end their careers. Jek also intends to keep the Doctor and Peri as unwilling companions. Jek owns a considerable share of the spectrox in the caves and can monitor troop movements. He has cost the general hundreds of troops and speculates that his inventory won’t be in jeopardy for another five years. He expects the people of Androzani Major to have rebelled against Morgus by then and wants nothing less than the CEO’s head at his feet. Meanwhile, on the surface, there are troubles among the gunrunners as they fight over failures and lack of pay.

Morgus receives word that one of his mines has exploded. Back in Jek’s caves, the Doctor meets the real Salateen (who was replaced months before) and discovers that the web they encountered earlier is a spectrox nest. Exposure is lethal, and the antidote (the milk of a queen bat) is difficult to find due to the mining operations.

So far, we have the following open threads: The spectrox war (androids vs. humans); spectrox toxaemia; the gun smugglers who are supplying Jek’s android army; a giant monster; and celery.

Stotz, the lead gunrunner, requests a meeting with Jek. Before Jek leaves, he talks to the Doctor and becomes enraged when Peri asks about his mask. The story behind it is gruesome and it hides the burn scars from an encounter with Morgus. After Jek leaves, the Doctor tries to sneak by the androids, which are programmed to kill humans on sight. The Doctor disables the android guards and takes Peri and Salateen back to the TARDIS for supplies. En route, they are ambushed and the Doctor is wounded by an android guard. Salateen saves Peri and abandons the Doctor.

The meeting between Jek and Stotz is less than productive. Stotz threatens to leave the operation, but Jek knows that he can get any number of people to wage his war with his supply of spectrox. Jek returns to his base and finds his captives missing. Meanwhile, the gunrunners meet up with the Doctor. The Time Lord hides and the gunrunners are attacked by another monster. The monster makes short work of the smugglers and the Doctor escapes. Stotz and the survivors find Jek, who reveals that the monster is a bat, and their tense confrontation is broken up by the Doctor. The smugglers are paid and the Doctor is taken captive and tortured for Peri’s location. When the Doctor reasons that Salateen and Peri have returned to Chellak’s base, the smugglers decide to take the Time Lord to the CEO on Androzani Major. It turns out that Morgus is playing both sides against each other. Fearing the president’s discovery of Morgus’s double dealings, the CEO assassinates him.

That combines two of our open threads: The spectrox war (androids vs. humans vs. Morgus and the gun smugglers); spectrox toxaemia; a giant monster; and celery.

Salateen and Peri arrive at Chellak’s base and expose the truth behind the major’s doppelgänger. Chellak develops a plan to remove the android from his ranks. and has no interest in Peri’s illness due to her affiliation with Jek. Salateen reveals the badges that keep humans safe from the androids and the nature of Jek’s wiretapping. The general is displeased, to say the least, but has an idea of how to turn the tide with this intel.

Chellak sends Android-Salateen on a recon mission, during which Jek finds out where Salateen and Peri are housed. Jek sneaks into the base and kidnaps Peri while the Doctor breaks free on the smuggler ship and returns it to (read: crashes it on) Androzani Minor. The Doctor runs from the smugglers and is able to get away as Stotz receives word that Morgus is on his way. The Doctor is only saved by a spontaneous mudburst that drives the smugglers away. When Morgus arrives, he orders Stotz to secure Jek’s supply of spectrox as a nest egg so he can escape the Androzani planets. His assistant has turned state’s evidence and usurped Morgus’s position. Stotz turns on his own crew, gunning them down, and joins Morgus on an expedition into the caves.

Salateen leads an assault misson on Jek’s base. As they come across an android, Salateen thinks that his buckle will identify him as a friendly, but the android opens fire and kills him. The assault team is pinned down but heroically press on. Chellak enters Jek’s base and fights the man, but is forced into the fatal mudburst inside the caverns. The Doctor arrives soon after and tries to revive Peri with the celery (supposedly a powerful restorative on Gallifrey), but is forced into the oxygen-deprived lower caverns after the bat milk. Jek provides him with one oxygen mask and looks after Peri until the Doctor returns.

While the Doctor retrieves the bat milk, Stotz and Morgus storm Jek’s lair. Jek kills Morgus, Stotz kills Jek, and Android-Salateen kills Stotz. The Doctor scoops up Peri and races to the TARDIS as the mudburst destroys Jek’s lair. Once inside, the Doctor dematerializes the TARDIS and gives her the milk before collapsing on the deck.

He says goodbye to Peri, unsure if he’s going to regenerate or not. He sees images of Tegan, Turlough, Kamelion, Nyssa, and Adric encouraging him to survive, and an image of the Master goading him into death. It is Adric — his only companion who died — that prompts him to live, and so he regenerates…

…into a rather brash man who claims to bring change, and not a moment too soon.

 

Where to begin?

This story has consistently been voted as the best in the history of the televised franchise. I don’t know what I missed. Starting with the spectrox war, I really enjoyed the idea of a conflict triangle, particularly when considered against the political atmospheres both now and in 1984. The big problem I have with the largest part of the story is that the narrative was so muddy and poorly paced. The conflict was unclear for most of the story, and while it had the benefit of placing us in the shoes of our heroes, the continued confusion quickly became frustrating.

This wasn’t helped by the acting. Morgus, the fulcrum of the conflict, came across as dull (was he reading his lines from cue cards?) and his incessant need to recap key plot points directly into the camera was distracting and unnerving. This was counterbalanced by Jek’s madness, which was plainly evident in the delightfully creepy portrayal, but the pacing sabotaged the atmosphere surrounding him by chopping up the interesting backstory with the lackluster Morgus and Chellak scenes. Among our heroes, Peri’s performance was still rocky despite it’s potential to become something more, but Peter Davison seemed off, almost as if he didn’t want to be involved anymore.

The spectrox toxaemia offered a good race-against-the-clock element to the story, and this time the frustration worked in the serial’s favor as each side has the potential to cure our heroes, but they refuse to do so because of how they view the Doctor’s allegiances. Politics in a nutshell, and while the plot devices of the inconvenient cure in the conveniently (and overly) hostile lower caves had merit, I felt that the execution was lazy.

Why? Because the Doctor could have gone after the cure at any time after being told about it and survived the story. In fact, it was his own curiosity that got him and Peri involved, and he had no reason to interfere in this conflict. Yes, there is an argument about combatting evil in even the smallest measures of good, but the body count in this story puts a giant thumb on that scale: Every male character in this serial dies, and there are only two survivors.

The red herring plot threads of the giant monster and the celery were annoying. Both of them were misdirections in an already muddled story.

All of that said, I did enjoy the boost in production value with this story, including the unique camera angles in the Doctor’s explosive run across the planetary surface.

I also plan to give the Sixth Doctor a chance to prove himself, but right now his introduction is far too cynical for my tastes.

The final score benefits greatly from the +1 regeneration handicap in this project, but it still doesn’t meet the “greatest story ever” expectations. Which is a letdown because Peter Davison deserved better.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma

 

 

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 #135: Planet of Fire

Doctor Who: Planet of Fire
(4 episodes, s21e13-e16, 1984)

 

It’s a strange mashup between a primitive religion theme and an unstoppable menace.

Crossing a barren volcanic landscape, two men in tattered clothes offer up a distinctly Middle Eastern vibe. The cross cuts to two other men discussing matters of faith and pilgrimages in a pristine palace environment further that flavor. The two travelers crest the volcano and find nothing, confirming their belief that the god Logar is a myth. That’s a slightly different pilgrimage than I expected.

Meanwhile, an archaeological expedition led by Howard Foster is dredging the ocean in search of artifacts. They find one with strange triangular markings, which are shared on the younger of the two men in the palace. In fact, the Mark of Logar makes the man a Chosen One, and his queries into his role in society are met with the same answer that has plagued religious challenges since time eternal: TRADITION!

“One day, it will all be clear to you.” Uh-huh. Right.

The Doctor depressively obsesses over the Daleks when robotic screaming from the other room snaps him and Turlough into action. Kamelion has plugged into the TARDIS data banks. Turlough tries to disable the link and picks up a distress signal. Turlough disables the signal by tearing apart the relays in the console (and lies to the Doctor about his role in such). The TARDIS changes course to intercept the signal and the Doctor devises a method to triangulate the distress signal.

As the archaeologists pull into port on the island, we meet a woman named Peri (Howard Foster’s stepdaughter) who is planning to leave on a trip with friends to Morocco. After some tense back and forth, Howard relents and allows Peri to go. Howard unloads the boat but strands Peri as he ferries in the rest of the artifacts. Peri loads her clothes, Howard’s wallet, and the double-triangle artifact into a bag and attempts to swim for shore. Unfortunately, she doesn’t make it far before floundering.

Back on shore, the TARDIS arrives and the Doctor and Turlough examine the artifacts. Turlough returns to the TARDIS and overloads the console, preventing Kamelion from making contact with an unknown entity, presumably a place called Trion. Turlough then sees Peri on the scanner and rushes to her rescue, taking her back to the TARDIS and discovering the triangle-marked artifact. It turns out that Turlough conveniently has the same Chosen One mark on his arm.

After inadvertently stiffing a local restauranteur over a glass of water, the Doctor traces the distress signal back to the TARDIS – specifically, to the artifact – and questions Turlough about the data core inside the mysterious device. As the Doctor labors, Peri has dreams about Howard’s treachery, and Kamelion shapeshifts into Howard’s form. Under his control, the TARDIS dematerializes while Kamelion-Howard interacts with the travelers and Peri.

This whole time, the religious group has been debating over the prophecies of Logar and the revelations of the non-believers who hiked the volcano. The congregation receives a sign from their god. The TARDIS arrives, presumably fulfilling the prophecy of an outsider coming to their civilization. When the Doctor and Turlough explore the area, Kamelion changes again, this time triumphantly celebrating his control of the TARDIS as the Master.

That man has so many lives. He must be part cat.

Peri attempts to escape and fails, though the altercation forces Kamelion to overcome the thrall of the Master for a time. Kamelion uses the time to prepare a message for the Doctor. Unfortunately, the Master’s TARDIS arrives soon after, and the renegade Time Lord reasserts control over Kamelion and forces her (and Peri) to leave the Doctor’s TARDIS. A seismic event causes the Master’s TARDIS to topple, breaking the psychic link and providing Peri the window she needs to run.

Kamelion is unable to lift the Master’s TARDIS, so he returns to the Doctor’s TARDIS with the plan to materialize it inside the Master’s capsule. Luckily, Peri has stolen a component from the console. Kamelion-Master gives chase as Peri makes her way toward the Doctor and Turlough, who have just been sheltered by the non-believers. Kamelion-Master catches her, but Peri forces a standoff by dangling the circuit board over a cliff. She persuades Kamelion to re-emerge and uses the distraction to escape once again, but as the Master resumes control, he is mistaken as the prophesied outsider by the priest from the story’s opening.

The Doctor warns the non-believers that their hiding spot isn’t safe: It is in the same vent tunnels that the impending volcanic eruption will use to release its pressure and magma. The non-believers take the Doctor and Turlough to the congregation where Turlough recognizes the technology. It is from Trion, and potentially from his father’s ship. Turlough convinces Malkon, the Chosen One, to take him to the Place of Fire where Malkon was found. The triangular mark on Turlough’s arm is sufficient to sway Malkon.

Meanwhile, Kamelion-Master arrives and surprises the Doctor as Peri catches up to Turlough and briefs him on what has happened. In a rather tense and perilous sequence, Kamelion-Master orders the sacrifice of the entire congregation as leverage to get the circuit board back. Peri, Turlough, and Malkon arrive to save the Doctor, and while Malkon unsuccessfully stalls for time, Peri and Turlough turn off the flames at the source. Malkon tips off the Doctor and plays dead after being shot, prompting the Doctor to confront Kamelion-Master. The Doctor nearly succeeds in releasing the android from the Master, but Kamelion-Master has the Doctor and the non-believers locked away. When Peri rushes to the Doctor’s defense, Kamelion-Master takes her and the congregation to the Master’s TARDIS. Turlough arrives shortly thereafter, releases the Doctor and the non-believers, and reveals that Malkon may very well be his brother.

The congregation uprights the obvious styrofoam pillar and Kamelion-Master pulls Peri into the time capsule. The Doctor arrives and, after some persuasion of the believers by Turlough, attempts to stop the Master. Unfortunately, the Doctor’s TARDIS has been sabotaged and the Master escapes. Luckily, he hasn’t gone far: The pair arrive in the heart of the volcano and Kamelion-Master coerces Peri to cooperate on pain of death.

It’s a conspicuous dichotomy, but I do like the Master’s dark control room.

Kamelion-Master initiates another seismic event and Turlough loads all of the civilians into the TARDIS. The Doctor discusses Logar with the head priest, Timanov, and learns of the sacred blue flame within the volcano. When Kamelion-Master turns on that blue flame, the congregation takes it as a sign of mercy and retreats to their bunker for celebration. The Doctor grills Turlough for information, but the boy is silent and the Doctor settles for an analysis of the fire chamber. Meanwhile, Peri escapes from Kamelion-Master and takes refuge in the Master’s TARDIS. When she attempts to use the control box to disable Kamelion, she finds a miniature Master hiding within.

Huh?

Peri kicks the box in disgust and knocks it over. That disrupts the Master’s control over Kamelion and causes him to scurry like a rat for safety in the TARDIS console. There he taunts Peri and shorts the circuitry for the TARDIS door, prompting Peri to leave the capsule. He then figures out a way to restore his control over Kamelion.

The Doctor and Turlough discover that the blue flame is fueled by Numismaton gas, which has healing powers. They use it to mend Malkon’s wounds, then they devise a plan to save the people on the planet. Turlough was a Trion political prisoner, but he is willing to risk himself to call for a rescue ship. His captors used this planet as a prison for undesirables, covering their technological control of the volcano with legends and myths, but the pending eruption is too large for the tech to handle.

The Doctor reunites with Peri as he and Amyand (the lead non-believer) make their way to the Numismaton control room. He finds that the Master has already started an irreversible chain reaction, but he is able to slow it for a time. The Doctor swipes components for his own TARDIS, then discovers the Master’s condition inside the control box. It turns out that the Master accidentally shrunk himself and needs the flame to restore his former glory. Kamelion, back under the Master’s control, ambushes the team and forces them to leave.

Amyand dons a fire suit – effectively becoming Logar – and goes for help. Meanwhile, the Doctor conceives a plan to short-circuit Kamelion. The plan works, and Kamelion requests a coup de grâce to end his potential threat. Sadly, the Doctor complies and then continues his work. Amyand arrives at the bunker, convinces the congregation to leave, and gives Turlough the parts for the TARDIS. Once Turlough installs the parts, the TARDIS follows the Master’s TARDIS to the flame control room, but without Turlough onboard.

The blue flame ignites, restoring the Master to his proper form, but the normal flame returns shortly thereafter and (supposedly) destroys the Master. The Doctor and Peri seek refuge in the TARDIS as the eruption begins. It lands near Turlough, who has just received word that his exile is rescinded. Turlough doesn’t want to leave, but both he and the Doctor know that it’s for the best.

After a brief farewell, the Doctor offers Peri the chance to travel with him. After all, she still has three months left on her vacation.

 

Starting with the departures, I’m conflicted. I haven’t liked Turlough from his debut in Mawdryn Undead, and his selfless acts here didn’t ring true to me. It’s almost as if he resigned himself to his fate (and avoided any negative repercussions by pure chance) instead of surrendering himself because it was the right thing to do. He had nothing left to lose, and it seemed like he was using the Doctor as a convenient sanctuary.

Kamelion, on the other hand, was a wasted opportunity. I mean, look at him. The android was virtually unstoppable, and while I enjoyed the Terminator vibe I think that his heel turn and subsequent demise would have had much more meaning if he would have been involved in more than two stories. Otherwise, it’s merely a clearing of the decks before Peter Davison leaves in the next story.

In place of Turlough and Kamelion, the Doctor picks up Peri. I like her strong will and I hope the damsel-in-distress vibe dies off quickly as she settles in.

 

Other than that, this was a fairly strong story hampered by a contrived plot about the incredible shrinking Master. It was good to see him back, and the twist was a nice touch, but there had to be a better way to explain his stature than his foolish tinkering. I also noticed that I had to rewind periodically to sort out the characters because of their uniform costumes, genders, and ethnicities.

 

Next time, we say goodbye once again. It’s hard to believe that we’re already here.

 

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Caves of Androzani

 

 

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 #134: Resurrection of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Resurrection of the Daleks
(2 episodes, s21e11-e12, 1984)

 

This story gets dark fast and leaves a lot of room to think in the end.

In a disused modern day alley, several men in anachronistic costumes run from police officers and their machine pistols. When the runners (and one innocent bystander) are shot down, they are transmatted to a nearby starship. There are two survivors as the execution squad beams away, and they return to the warehouse to warn others only to find that the time corridor has been closed. They are spooked by a remaining executioner who kills one, but the other (a man named Stien) escapes. The executioner returns to the starship and the crew sets course for a nearby prison station, assuming an attack posture.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS has been careening out of control through a time corridor since the end of Frontios. The danger of destruction is quite real (so says the Cloister Bell), but in moments the time capsule stabilizes and materializes near the murder alley. The travelers set out in search of the time corridor they detected, but instead, they find Stien. They investigate the warehouse, lose Turlough under mysterious circumstances, and find a military bomb disposal squad.

All things considered, can we call the exchange even? I guess not.

The battlecruiser arrives at the prison station and the latter is no match for the starship’s might. The station is invaded by Daleks who make short work of the defending humans, but they are driven back by surprise mines in the corridors. The invading humans flood the airlock with gas and drive the prison staff back, and an attempt to destroy the prisoner the Daleks seek fails. We also find out that Turlough has transmatted to the Dalek ship.

The prisoner of interest is Davros. As the prison crew works to destroy him, they are overcome by the face-melting side effects of the gas and a human raiding party. Back on Earth, the Doctor and the military compare notes before being confronted by a Dalek who traveled through the time corridor. Tegan is injured, and the Doctor advises to shoot for the eyestalk and after the Dalek is blinded, the soldiers toss it out a second-floor window and watch it explode. At this point, the Daleks know that the Doctor is on the battlefield.

Four human survivors prowl the passageways of the prison station in an attempt to mount a resistance, possibly by way of the station’s self-destruct sequence. Meanwhile, Turlough finds the chamber housing the corpses from the story’s prologue and nearly loses his lunch, the Doctor cleans up the Dalek in the alley, and the invaders revive Davros at his prison cell. Davros is incensed to learn that the Movellan-Dalek war did not go well for his children and that the Daleks now rely on human allies to survive. The Movellans developed a virus to attack the Daleks, forcing the Daleks to seek Davros and develop a cure.

On Earth, the soldier watching the Dalek remains doesn’t notice movement under the pieces and parts and only realizes his mistake when the Kaled mutant strangles him. The hunt is on for the murderous wayward blob, which is further complicated by the arrival of an execution squad. On the ship, the Daleks find Turlough skulking, recognize him as the Doctor’s companion, and allow him to roam to use him as bait. Soon after, he passes several stealth checks (good DEX score?) and ends up on the prison station, but is soon intercepted by the resistance survivors.

Those Dalek-inspired helmets for the human invaders are something else.

The Doctor’s team hunt for the Kaled mutant, finding a stray cat before locating the alien and gunning it down after it takes a chunk out of another soldier.

(And, yes, the Doctor is using a gun again so we can put down that old myth. TV Tropes has done some pretty good work on that already. Let’s just say that the Doctor doesn’t use guns often and call it good.)

The Doctor and Stien head back to the TARDIS to investigate the time corridor as the soldier who was bitten by the Kaled goes bonkers. The search for the infected goes south when three Daleks appear in the warehouse and, with help from the execution squad, take everyone hostage. The TARDIS materializes on the Dalek ship, and Stien double-crosses the Doctor. The Daleks move in for the kill, but the Supreme Dalek puts that to a halt. Apparently, the Doctor and his companions are to be cloned (on a bed of bubble wrap nonetheless) and used as an assassin against the Time Lord High Council.

The resistance team finds the self-destruct mechanism and begins working on it. To avoid becoming a martyr, Turlough suggests using the time corridor to escape the blast. Turlough joins resistance member Lieutenant Mercer to scout the path out, but the way to the time corridor is swarming with Daleks, and when they return to the self-destruct chamber they find it under siege. Turlough deduces that Davros is still on the station. He’s right, of course, and the Dalek leader is slowly building an army of humans and Daleks using a mind-control device. The resistance team in the chamber is destroyed and Davros begins an analysis of the virus which has been stored in the warehouse all this time (and explains the location’s importance in the story).

Back on Earth, Tegan and Professor Laird (the military team’s scientist) engineer an escape from the execution squad before they are transferred to the Dalek ship. Tegan escapes as Laird remains behind to sell the bluff. Laird is captured and Tegan is pursued by the executioners for a short time before being captured herself. Laird is killed attempting escape and Tegan is forced into the time corridor. When she arrives on the other side, she finds Mercer and Turlough and begins plotting the Doctor’s rescue.

In the cloning chamber, the Doctor’s procedure is slowed by the emergence of the real Stien’s memories. Stien begins downloading the Doctor’s memories but short circuits as the real Stien emerges. The Doctor and Stien meet up with Tegan, Mercer, and Turlough, and the group returns to the TARDIS after destroying the tapes housing the Doctor’s memories. The Doctor leaves the companions in the safety of the TARDIS and sets out to kill Davros, joined in his reluctant and heavy task by Mercer and Stien.

The Doctor arrives in the lab and takes aim on Davros, but his gruesome task is interrupted by an argumentative distraction by Davros and the re-emergence of Stien’s Dalek programming. With Mercer dead, Stien runs off into the station, leaving the Doctor locked out of the lab and separated from Davros. Back on the TARDIS, the time capsule initiates a time-delayed flight (which the Doctor programmed) through the time corridor to the warehouse (which the Doctor did not program). They arrive in time for an all-out (and one-sided) battle between the Daleks and the remaining soldiers, but they end up snagging a sample of the Movellan virus before seeking refuge in TARDIS. During the battle, the Daleks split allegiances and create two warring factions: The Imperial Daleks led by Davros and the Renegade Daleks led by the Supreme Dalek.

A Dalek civil war cannot end well.

Stien arms the self-destruct while the Doctor returns to Earth and plants bombs on various Daleks before joining the companions in the TARDIS. Back on the station, Davros unleashes the Movellan virus against the Renegade Daleks, killing the Daleks and (in an unforeseen consequence) himself. Similarly, the Doctor introduces the virus into the warehouse, killing every Dalek inside.

The Supreme Dalek contacts the Doctor and promises him that the Dalek race will survive. Before the Daleks can implement this plan, the self-destruct triggers, destroying the station and the docked ship. The threat is over with the exception of the surviving execution squad. Gotta leave room for a sequel, right?

The Doctor and Turlough prepare to leave, but Tegan hesitates. She is disgusted by the massacre and can no longer follow the Doctor in his current mindset. In a heartbreaking farewell, she runs away, and her parting words remind the Doctor of who he truly is. Dejected, he and Turlough depart, and as the TARDIS fades from view, Tegan returns to tell the absent Doctor that she will indeed miss him.

 

“Brave heart, Tegan.” She certainly did have that in this story, as it takes a lot to tell off the Doctor when he’s really screwing things up. My appreciation of Tegan has been up and down through her tenure on the TARDIS, and this story didn’t do a lot by removing her from the plot for a significant portion of the story, but her exit highlighted her strength. She brought heart to the team, and she’ll be missed.

She also highlights a small trend in the show this season. Every one of the stories in the Twenty-First Series have showcased a lot of death, and Warriors of the Deep highlighted the start of the trend with a plaintive plea: “There should have been another way.” Tegan slapped the Doctor with her farewell, reminding him that he can be more. That he should be more.

He’s going to need to be more now that he’s alone with Turlough. I don’t like Turlough.

On the story side, setting aside everything already mentioned, I enjoyed the serial and how well the story was constructed. The plot moved efficiently and kept me engaged. The big downside was the magnitude of the deaths, especially the obviously gratuitous ones like Laird, the innocent bystander in the alley, and the treasure hunter at the docks.

Finally, it was nice to get the ties back to the Doctor’s history – the memory download highlighted Turlough, Tegan, Nyssa, Adric, both Romanas, K9, Harry Sullivan, Sarah Jane Smith, Jo Grant, the Brigadier, Liz Shaw, Zoe Heriot, Jamie McCrimmon, Victoria Waterfield, Ben Jackson, Polly Wright, Dodo Chaplet, Sara Kingdom, Katarina, Steven Taylor, Vicki Pallister, Barbara Wright, Ian Chesterton, and Susan Foreman – which I feel keeps a strong tie through the franchise. All of the other issues aside, it’s nice to have a sense of continuity with the franchise’s title character.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Planet of Fire

 

 

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 #133: Frontios

Doctor Who: Frontios
(4 episodes, s21e07-e10, 1984)

 

Base under siege… again.

An expedition is studying minerals underground when the mine shaft collapses around them, killing the team (and colony) leader, Captain Revere. Chief Orderly Brazen, head of security for the colony, swears the remaining members to secrecy. His scientific officer, Mr. Range, fervently disagrees.

On the TARDIS, the Doctor is fidgeting, including obsessing over the placement of the hatstand. The time capsule drifts into orbit of Frontios, home to the survivors of human civilization after the Earth collided with the sun. The Doctor refuses to set down, fearing contamination of the civilization since it is on the edge of Gallifreyan knowledge, but the TARDIS is forced down by a meteor shower. The same meteor shower has bombarded the surface, and soon enough the travelers are engaged to help the injured. The Doctor is taken aback by the primitive state of the colony, and he asks Mr. Range to not speak of his influence on their society. Word of unidentified attacks piques the Doctor’s interest and he tosses aside the non-interference policy to lend a hand.

Word of the TARDIS’s arrival makes its way to the colony’s leader, Plantagenet (Captain Revere’s son, presumably named for the House of Plantagenet), and he muses that it may the beginning of a prophesied invasion.

Tegan and Turlough note that the TARDIS interior has deformed, but the Doctor doesn’t pay attention to their concerns. Tegan and Turlough offer to help solve the medical bay’s lighting problem with help from a colonist named Norna. The plan is to break into the nearby crashed colony ship and steal a jar of acid to amplify the chemical lights. They are interrupted by Plantagenet and Brazen, but after they leave the trio sneak into the ship.

Range explains their history to the Doctor: After the ship crashed, their technology was destroyed and the survivors spent the ensuing decade tilling the fields until the bombardments began. Plantagenet joins the discussion and expresses his doubts, and the Doctor warns that the constant paranoia will destroy what’s left of the colony. As a new series of bombardments begin, the trio of thieves bring the acid jar to the medical area and the Doctor suggests that they should depart, leaving the colonists to their own fates. Unfortunately, the bombardment strikes the TARDIS. All that is left is the hatstand in the rubble of the destroyed time capsule.

Wait… what?

Well, then.

The travelers are reeling from their loss, but are brought back to reality by the firing squad that surrounds them. Norna jumps to their defense, suggesting that if the Doctor is an invader, then he should remain alive to reveal the mystery of the bombardments. The colonial leadership decides to kill the Doctor until Turlough steps in with the hatstand to defend the Time Lord. The leadership relents and the Doctor agrees to analyze the meteorites and solve the mystery, but as Plantagenet attacks Turlough, he collapses and clutches his heart. The Doctor recognizes the symptoms of a glancing blow by a meteorite and has the man taken to the medical center.

The colonists have never seen a hatstand? Really? Okay.

Tegan learns more about the colony, including the existence of Retrogrades (those who have abandoned the colony) and the predilection of the orderlies to shoot the deserters on sight. She also notes a set of secret files labeled “Deaths Unaccountable,” but Range forbids her from looking at them. The Doctor and the medical team arrive and use the new lighting system as a defibrillator. The man is saved, and the leaders are more trusting.

Norna and Turlough analyze the meteorites and discuss why digging underground is forbidden. Turns out that the planet is hungry. Turlough notes that the samples are dated after the closure of the quarry, so he starts snooping about. He and Norna take a trip into the tunnels from the serial’s opening scenes and find that the rock is “moth-eaten.” Further in, the rock turns slick and polished, and as the pair explore they are followed by two creatures.

The Doctor and Range return to the research room, leaving Tegan with Brazen in the medical room. When Tegan accidentally mentions the unaccountable files, Brazen breaks into the files and moves to confront Range. Meanwhile, Tegan finds Plantagenet on the ground, but when she leaves to find help, he is pulled into the soil. Just outside, the colonists are becoming restless and starting to loot the colony ship, and Tegan takes the opportunity to escape from Brazen. She returns to the colony ship and follows the Doctor and Range into the tunnels.

Turlough remembers something about “Tractators,” which he screams to the Doctor and Range before entering a catatonic state. The Doctor and Tegan go ahead and find a group of the creatures holding Norna in a gravity field. They spot the Doctor and drag him in as well, but Tegan saves them by using her chemical lamp as a fiery distraction. Tegan takes Norna to safety while the Doctor investigates the Tractators. Tegan and Range race off to help the Doctor, but the Doctor and Tegan are snared in another gravity field. The Doctor repeats Tegan’s trick to free them.

Range returns to Norna, watching as Turlough continues to babble. It turns out that the Tractators invaded his homeworld, and the rantings are the ancestral memory bubbling to the surface. Range and Norna escort him to the surface. Topside, Brazen breaks free and finds Orderly Cockerill looting. He is escorted out of the colony ship to the waiting Retrogrades, but Brazen does nothing to help him when the Retrogrades attack for the rations Cockerill stole. His body is pulled into the soil without a word from his fellow looters. Brazen meets up with Range at the entrance to the quarry, and Range’s group is arrested.

The Doctor and Tegan witness Cockerill being pulled below the surface, and the presence distracts the Tractator and disrupts Cockerill’s disappearance. Since he supposedly defied the hungry earth, the Retrogrades start to admire him.

Upon questioning, Range reveals that his records are evidence of the myth that Frontios buries its own dead. Brazen overhears Turlough’s rantings, and the pieces all come together: Revere and Plantagenet may still be alive because the Tractators need living minds. Underground, the Doctor and Tegan discover that the Tractators are sentient and intelligent, but it’s unclear why they are tunneling.

The lead Tractator, Gravis, confronts Plantagenet, waiting for their old extractor driver’s mind to die before replacing it with the human’s. As Brazen leads a team (guided by a captive Range, followed later by Turlough who takes Range’s place) into the tunnels, Gravis sends the extractor as bait to lure the Doctor. When it catches up to them, it is being driven by the enslaved mind of Captain Revere.

Gravis knows of the Doctor by reputation and is intrigued by Tegan’s accidental reveal of the TARDIS (or what’s left of it). The Tractators have been stranded on Frontios for five centuries and are eager to get on their way. The Doctor convinces Gravis that Tegan is an android (thus, saving her from being installed in the extractor) and learns that the Tractators are responsible for the bombardments and the original crash of the colony ship. Plantagenet is almost installed in the extractor, but the Doctor frees him thanks to a distraction from Tegan and Turlough. They all nearly escape, but Turlough is mesmerized by the machine and inadvertently traps Brazen in its clutches.

That boy is an idiot.

Luckily, Brazen is able to run the machine out of control and destroy it. Using the information that the team has gathered, the Doctor concludes that the Tractators are building a gravity drive so they can pilot the entire planet like a starship. They also learn that there is a second excavator machine, because redundancy. It also has a new pilot thanks to all the humans running about in the caves.

Topside, Norna is attacked by a Retrograde, saved by Cockerill, and learns of her savior’s armed revolution with his new followers. Cockerill ties her up, but she breaks free and informs the revolutionaries of the threat below.

Tegan discovers that the walls of the TARDIS are growing in the cave system, which helps when the team is chased into the console room. It’s non-functional but serves as a suitable distraction to isolate Gravis from the rest of the Tractators courtesy of his desire to leave the planet. The Doctor tricks Gravis into reassembling the time capsule, an act that places the occupants into the TARDIS’s dimensions and severs the Gravis’s psychic link to his own kind.

The Doctor and Tegan drop the Gravis on the uninhabited moon of Kolkokron. Upon their return, they gift Plantagenet with the hatstand in exchange for his silence in the Doctor’s interference. When they dematerialize, the TARDIS malfunctions and is pulled toward the middle of the universe, setting up the next adventure.

This was an okay base-under-siege story. We get some background on Turlough (though I still couldn’t care less about the character), a new bit of trivia about how the TARDIS can be destroyed and reassemble itself, and some decent action with a new (if somewhat underwhelming) enemy. Also, the Doctor breaking out the spectacles to investigate the machine was fun.

The big problem I had was the loose thread of Cockerill and the Revolutionaries (there’s a band name for you), who were warned about the threat underground but were never seen again in the story. That’s a bit sloppy.

 

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Resurrection of the Daleks

 

 

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 #132: The Awakening

Doctor Who: The Awakening
(2 episodes, s21e05-e06, 1984)

 

A new adventure starts by showing us that “it’s just a joke” often isn’t.

A schoolteacher named Jane Hampden is being harassed by English civil war re-enactors. She thinks they’ve taken things too far, but Sir George and his band blow off her concerns because she just doesn’t get it.

You know, despite all the anger in fandom over the Thirteenth Doctor, it’s pretty obvious that Doctor Who has been pretty progressive for quite a long time.

The Doctor is taking Tegan on a special trip to visit her grandfather, but the TARDIS is acting strangely. When they materialize, they find a man in a crumbling structure, but the man runs away. Based on the man’s clothing, the travelers have arrived in the 17th century, but the TARDIS coordinates read as 1984. As our heroes explore, smoke pours from a crack a wall. They don’t see it, and neither do they see the re-enactors who round them up and take them to Sir George.

Sir George’s retinue informs Tegan that her grandfather is missing, and she angrily storms out. After having her purse stolen, she sees flashing lights and the ethereal image of an old man before being rescued by Turlough. After the Doctor sneaks away, Sir George sends his men to find the travelers based on Tegan’s grandfather. After all, “something strange but wonderful” is coming to the village.

The Doctor pursues a man carrying Tegan’s purse back to the church, and in short order, Tegan, Turlough, and the Doctor join forces with Will Chandler, a supposed 17th-century peasant. As the Doctor convinces Will of the truth of his temporal dislocation, Tegan and Turlough return to the TARDIS and see the flashing blue lights again. They are soon captured while searching for the Doctor, and Tegan is forced to adopt the role of Queen of the May.

Will and the Doctor discover a hidden passage from the church to the manor, conveniently decorated with the face of something called Malus. They join up with Jane, who is being pursued, and hide from Sir George’s forces. While in hiding, they find a sample of tincalvic, a metal mined by the Tereleptils on the planet Raaga for the people of Hakol. Hakol is a place where psychic energy is harnessed, and the metal is part of a spacecraft or probe. As they return to the church, they discover a large face emerging from the crack in the wall, and after surviving a psychic projection from the Malus, they escape to the tunnel.

En route, the Doctor talks to Jane about the Malus, which is feeding off the psychic energy of the war games. The Doctor fails to convince Sir George to stop the war games, and Sir George orders Colonel Woolsey to execute the Doctor’s team. Woolsey disobeys by switching sides and collaborating with the Doctor to stop the threat. Meanwhile, Turlough encounters Andrew Verney, the man who discovered the Malus and was imprisoned by Sir George to keep it secret.

So, the Doctor places himself on the front lines of the Queen of the May celebration, and Woolsley delivers a mockup of Tegan to draw off the soldiers. Verney and Turlough break out of their cell, while the Doctor collects Will, and everyone converges on the church to battle the Disney Imagineer façade that is the Malus.

The Malus fights back by draining all the psychic energy from the villagers to battle the Doctor, but the energy is wasted when a random redshirt runs in and is decapitated by projected soldiers. Sir George, completely under the thrall of the Malus, confronts the Doctor. The Doctor logics his way into Sir George’s head and the battle between good and evil disarms the leader. In a surprise move, Will pushes the helpless man into the gaping maw of the Malus. The Doctor says cold-blooded murder is okay, but we all know that it’s really not.

The Doctor shepherds the whole lot to the TARDIS and takes off just in time as the church collapses around the self-destructing Malus. The Doctor makes arrangements to put everyone back in their proper places, and Tegan convinces everyone to convince the Doctor to stay in the village for a while. After all, they came to visit her grandfather, and Mr. Verney is right there.

Nothing says family reunion like running for your lives, right?

This one was a compressed evil alien versus the village scenario, and it was just okay. The team is working well together (which is good) but the narrative took a lot of shortcuts to fit the two episode limit (which is bad). I usually don’t mind the special effects, but the face of Malus was particularly laughable. What wasn’t funny was the Doctor excusing cold-blooded murder. That’s not in character at all.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Frontios

 

 

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.