Timestamp #182: Army of Ghosts & Doomsday

Doctor Who: Army of Ghosts
Doctor Who: Doomsday
(2 episodes, s02e12-13, 2006)

 

This is how Rose Tyler’s journey with the Doctor ended. This is how she died.

The TARDIS materializes on a playground near the Powell Estate as Rose makes a brief stop to visit her mother. Jackie has a surprise for Rose in a visit from Prentice, Jackie’s long-dead father. At ten past the hour, a non-descript ethereal form arrives in the kitchen. The Doctor and Rose rush outside to find the same figures everywhere, disappearing as rapidly as they arrived, and according to Jackie, just like clockwork.

In the Torchwood Institute, a group of scientists adjust a large lever and are congratulated by project director Yvonne Hartman. Their actions are felt around the world according to Jackie and the news. Jackie is upset that the Doctor is ruining the magic by investigating, but the Time Lord is unconvinced that the supposedly beneficial footprint is not one from a jackboot.

Deeper in the Torchwood Institute, a group of scientists led by Dr. Rajesh Singh investigate a large metal sphere that should not exist. Meanwhile, two Torchwood workers, Adeola and Gareth, step away for a clandestine romantic rendezvous. They choose an off-limits area that is under renovation, but the interlude is interrupted by a Cyberman.

Rose and the Doctor play Ghostbusters by setting up a containment field to determine the origin point by triangulation. As the scientists of Torchwood start the next shift – Adeola and Gareth have returned, each with a second rapidly blinking Bluetooth earpiece – Jackie talks to Rose about how the young woman has changed in her travels. The shift occurs, and a 3-D bespectacled Doctor traps a ghost for analysis. That effort disrupts Torchwood’s systems, forcing them to locate the TARDIS by CCTV. As the police box disappears with a hearty “Allons-y,” Torchwood prepares for the Doctor’s arrival with rifles and soldiers.

Oh, and Jackie came along. Not willingly, of course.

The Doctor emerges from the TARDIS, eliciting a round of applause from Hartman and the soldiers. Hartman demands to see his companion so the Doctor snags Jackie to pose as Rose, and the group goes on a tour of Torchwood. Hartman shows off the advanced technology that they have secured in order to enforce their borders, reminding him that they were responsible for destroying the Sycorax on Christmas Day. They also take the TARDIS for their archives, and Rose develops a plan of attack.

Adeola lures another co-worker, Matt, to his doom. Elsewhere, Hartman briefs the Doctor on the history of Torchwood and his status as their enemy. She takes him to the sphere, an object that intrigues the Time Lord as he identifies it as a Void Ship, a vessel designed to exist outside time and space in the emptiness between universes. Whatever resides inside is safe from the universe around it. Hartman shows the Doctor where they found the sphere. It is a spatial disturbance, the hole in the fabric of reality where they also can tap into the ghosts. The rift is in the sky above Canary Wharf, so Torchwood built a tower to reach it. The Doctor warns them that the rift has the power to fracture this universe like a cracked pane of glass, but when Hartman refuses to listen, the Doctor settles in to watch the fireworks.

His stubbornness scares Hartman into stopping the shift and asking for more information. Unfortunately, the newly-Cyberized workers covertly restart the countdown.

Rose leaves the TARDIS, snags a labcoat disguise, and finds the sphere room. She tries to use the psychic paper, but Singh has training and can avoid the ruse. She also spots Mickey Smith working in the room as Singh reports her to Hartman. The Doctor reveals the truth, but the countdown pulls them all away as the ghost shift begins.

The rift glows and the sphere activates, but the Doctor stops the assimilated workers by disabling their earpieces. The Doctor tracks the source of the transmission with his sonic screwdriver and uncovers the Cybermen, the advanced guard from Pete’s World. They take the Doctor, Jackie, and Hartman prisoner before turning the shift up to full power. A legion of Cybermen march through the rift into the tower, millions comprising an invasion force around the world.

Meanwhile, in the lab, the sphere opens to reveal a completely different threat. The sphere punched through the rift, the Cybermen followed the sphere, and the sphere brought the Daleks.

After forty-three years, Doctor Who finally gets a battle royale between the Doctor’s two biggest adversaries, and the Earth is the battleground.

Rose calls to the Daleks, momentarily confounding them as she reveals her knowledge of the Time War. She demands that they keep the three of them in the room alive, and the Daleks agree as they initiate something called the Genesis Ark. They demand to know which is least important, and Singh offers himself. He is sacrificed moments later.

The Cybermen address the planet as the Doctor promises Jackie that he will keep Rose safe, but the Earth refuses to surrender. They then investigate the strange technology in the sphere room. The Daleks emerge and the Doctor is beside himself in shock. As the two powerhouses exchange insults, the Doctor calls Rose’s phone and listens in. The Cybermen fire on the Daleks to no avail and the Daleks easily exterminate the drones. They plan to take on the millions of Cybermen with only four Daleks, but they step back when they learn of the Doctor’s presence.

Jackie and Hartman are taken away for upgrading along with the rest of the Torchwood staff. As Hartman is assimilated, a new group comes through the rift and destroys the Cyber Leader. Jackie’s upgrade is halted as a new Cyber Leader is christened, and the Doctor is reintroduced to Jake Simmonds from the Pete’s World resistance force. Jake takes the Doctor through to the alternate Torchwood, which the Resistance destroyed, and finds Pete Tyler. The Cybermen were able to break free of the Resistance and cross the boundary to the Doctor’s universe. Elsewhere, Mickey reveals that they can travel through use of disc-like devices, and Rose tells him about her history with the Daleks.

They also learn that the Genesis Ark is not of Dalek design. They stole it from the Time Lords.

During Pete’s discussion with the Doctor, the Time Lord learns that Pete’s World is collapsing due to the extreme amount of universe jumping. Pete asks for the Doctor’s help in defeating both invasions and saving his world, and the Doctor agrees. They all return to the normal universe, the Doctor sets Pete on a mission to save Jackie, modifies Jake’s rifle to affect polycarbide, and then surrenders to the Cybermen.

The Daleks force Rose to open the Genesis Ark, but she stalls by telling them about the Dalek Emperor’s fate. Moments later, the Doctor arrives. They verbally spar for a moment before the Doctor figures out that these four Daleks are the Cult of Skaro, Daleks with names and individualized purpose. He distracts them long enough to explosively open a door for the Resistance and the Cybermen, but during the fight, Mickey touches the Ark and activates it. Since it needs thirteen square miles of space to operate, the Daleks move it outside.

While on the run, the Doctor, Rose, and Mickey hook up with Pete and save Jackie. The initial meeting – a reunion of sorts for Jackie – is touching and funny, and despite not being from the same universe, they still feel a mutual attraction.

As the Daleks plow through the Cyber forces, the Cyber Leader orders all units to converge on Torchwood Tower. The Daleks open the storage bay’s roof and fly the Ark into the sky. When they open it, an entire legion of Daleks emerge.

The Ark is Time Lord science. It is bigger in the inside. The Earth is screwed.

As the Daleks swarm and begin exterminating everything below, the Cybermen open fire. Pete prepares to take his team (and Jackie) back through the rift, and the Doctor reveals that his 3-D glasses can see the remnants of “void stuff” contaminating everyone who traveled through it. He’ll be able to target those remnants and ship the Daleks and the Cybermen into the void, but Rose and everyone who has crossed the breach has to go through to Pete’s World.

Rose refuses to go without the Doctor, so he tricks her into going. She uses the disk to come back, and Pete strips the rest of them from his side, leaving Jackie upset at losing her daughter. Rose refuses to go back, so she and the Doctor set a pair of gravity clamps and activate the machine. The Daleks and Cybermen are pulled into the void – the lead Dalek executes an emergency temporal shift to escape – but the rushing winds pull one of the levers out of position. Rose lets go of her clamp to fix it, but the void threatens to pull her in. When she lets go, Pete arrives at the last moment and teleports her away just as the breach is sealed behind them.

Rose beats on the wall in Pete’s World, desperate to find the Doctor again. Both travelers rest their heads against their respective walls in a moment of solidarity, and then the Doctor walks away solemnly.

For all intents and purposes, Rose and Jackie Tyler are dead in our universe.

Some time later, Rose hears the Doctor calling her voice across the void. She tells her family of the dream, then follow it to Bergen, Norway, on the coastline of Dårlig Ulv Stranden. Loosely translated: Bad Wolf Bay. There, she finds the image of the Doctor, transmitting from the TARDIS by way of a supernova that the Doctor is using to power the signal. He called her here to say goodbye.

She tells him she’s working to defend the Earth through the newly rebuilt Torchwood, as well as that Jackie is pregnant. She’s sad that she’ll never see the Doctor again, and she tells him that she loves him. The Doctor nearly says the same, but time runs out before he can get the words out.

A tear runs down his face as he is once again alone.

He sets a new course for the TARDIS, but is interrupted by a bride standing in the console room. He’s confused, she demands to know where she is, and the credits roll.

 

I have always loved this one for its quick pacing and snappy dialogue. Rose and the Doctor have a lot of fun together, and their chemistry is undeniable. It gets even more fun when Jackie gets involved because of how she plays with the Doctor and deeply cares about her daughter.

That said, it was high time for Rose to leave the TARDIS. I don’t have any issue with the Doctor falling in love, even with a companion, but it seemed that their relationship was being dominated by that connection. Rose never wanted to leave, and in fact, told the Doctor that she planned to stay with him forever. As such, her growth had stagnated and (as Jackie noted) she was being consumed by the journey. The only way she was ever going to leave the TARDIS was by force, and she’s now using her expertise in a different way as a consultant for Torchwood. She’s free to move on with her life.

The events are still emotional – I found myself tearing up as our heroes said their farewells – but I wholeheartedly believe that this was the best thing for the characters and the show, especially one explicitly driven by the concept of change.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Series Two Summary

 

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

 

 

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Timestamp #180: Love & Monsters

Doctor Who: Love & Monsters
(1 episode, s02e10, 2006)

 

This is the peculiar story of Elton Pope.

He starts his tale by racing across a rocky field to find the TARDIS. He follows the excited voices of the Doctor and Rose, comes face to face with a Hoix, and witnesses a whole Scooby Doo-style chase before he scurries away to the sound of the dematerializing TARDIS.

Or so he tells the video camera anyway.

When he was three (or four) years old, he first met the Doctor in his living room. He was one of the shoppers during the Auton invasion of 2005. A year later, he witnessed the Slitheen ship crash into Big Ben. Following the Christmas invasion, he started looking for information about the Doctor and documenting his journey.

Well, despite the Bad Wolf virus, anyway.

It’s during this investigation that he meets Ursula Blake, a member of the “My Invasion Blog.” Ursula introduces Elton to her fellow investigators Bliss, Bridget Sinclair, and Mr. Colin Skinner, and together they start the London Investigation ‘n’ Detective Agency. Better known as LINDA, for short. The acquaintanceship blossoms into a tight combination of friendship and support group until the arrival of Victor Kennedy, a (supposedly) wealthy gentleman who doesn’t make physical contact due to a skin condition.

Kennedy focuses the group’s efforts back toward the Doctor, courtesy of files from the Torchwood Institute. As Kennedy sends the team on various projects, Bliss mysteriously vanishes. The TARDIS arrives and Elton lives through the events from the opening teaser, though when Elton doesn’t produce the Doctor in the end, Kennedy gets angry. Luckily, Ursula stands up for him.

Kennedy focuses the team toward finding Rose Tyler. Elton does some detective work and runs into Jackie Tyler at the laundromat, eventually ending up at her flat to fix the washing machine. Jackie and Elton sit down for a cup of tea and a relationship develops. Jackie calls Elton for various odd jobs, all the while building up to romantic seduction. The mood is broken as Rose calls home and Jackie comes to her senses. Elton changes tactics by offering friendship instead of romance, driven by the realization that he truly loves Ursula. Jackie finds Rose’s photo in Elton’s jacket and tells him (in no uncertain terms) to leave her alone.

Oh, and Bridget mysteriously vanishes along the way.

Elton tells Kennedy that he has ruined LINDA, suggesting that the remaining members would be better off without Kennedy in their lives. Elton and Ursula leave for a dinner date, but Skinner stays behind after Kennedy tempts him with Bridget’s contact information. Ursula and Elton return in search of her mobile phone, but they find that Kennedy is really the Abzorbaloff, a being that has been consuming their friends and absorbing their essences. Their faces are plainly visible and able to speak on the creature’s flesh. Kennedy wants to absorb the Doctor, and when confronted by Ursula, consumes her as well. Elton pleads for her life, but the process is irreversible. Ursula tells Elton to run, and the Abzorbaloff pursues him into an alley.

Elton nearly surrenders until the Doctor arrives in the TARDIS. Rose bursts out of the time capsule, eager to confront Elton over Jackie, and the Doctor takes the opportunity to interrogate the Abzorbaloff. The creature is from Clom, the twin planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius, and the distraction is enough for the members of LINDA to defeat the threat. The absorbed humans pull the creature in multiple directions and Elton breaks the cane, which was really a limitation field that held the Abzorbaloff together. The creature melts away into the ground, taking the absorbed members of LINDA with it.

The Doctor and Rose sit with Elton, and the Doctor explains why he was in Elton’s childhood home so many years ago: A living shadow had escaped its home dimension and the Time Lord was hunting it. He caught the being, but not before it killed Elton’s mother.

Elton muses that meeting the Doctor is a moment fraught with danger. He had a special group of friends in LINDA, but their pursuit of the Time Lord led to their demise. Death and destruction are what happens to one who touches the Doctor’s world, and Elton wonders how long it will be before Rose and Jackie pay a similar price.

Elton also understands that it wasn’t directly the Doctor’s fault. In fact, the Doctor did save Elton one last time. Using the sonic screwdriver, Ursula is partially restored as a face in one of the paving stones where the Abzorbaloff liquified. Together, they have some happiness despite the trauma, living by a quote from Stephen King: “Salvation and damnation are the same thing.”

It turns out that the world protected by the Doctor isn’t all it seems. In fact, it’s better.

 

This story has a lot of echoes to themes we’ve seen since Rose, including conspiracy theory websites and (especially) the tales of those the Doctor leaves behind. Mickey is gone and Jackie is lonely without her daughter and best friend by her side. Her story, particularly the idea that no one cares about her, runs contrary to the feelings of hope that the Doctor and the TARDIS typically inspire.

This episode is also a great self-aware moment for the franchise with respect to fans. All of us, this humble writer included, continue to chase the inherent value of Doctor Who: Sometimes we find truths and inspiration, sometimes we find friendship and love, and sometimes we get taken astray. But we all still find something to capture our passions and imaginations.

Since this story is Earthbound and not explicitly focused on the Doctor, we get an impressive amount of modern culture: Regresa a Mi as covered by Il Divo, The Riddle Song, Brand New Key by Melanie, a snippet of Daniel by Elton John, and a ton of Electric Light Orchestra with Mr. Blue Sky, Turn to Stone, and Don’t Bring Me Down. We also get a notable guest star with Shirley Henderson as Ursula, who I cannot listen to without immediately thinking of Moaning Myrtle because that’s where I was first introduced to her acting talent.

The biggest downside I have for this story is within the last segment where Elton reveals Ursula’s final fate. His revelation of their sort-of love life was true to character and sincere, but it was something I truly did not ever need to know.

Otherwise, it was a fun ride and a well-crafted adventure.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Fear Her

 

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 #172: Born Again & The Christmas Invasion

Doctor Who: Born Again
(1 episode, Children in Need, 2005)

Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion
(1 episode, Christmas Special, 2005)

 

New teeth. New hand. New Doctor.

 

Born Again

After a brief recap of Bad Wolf and the Ninth Doctor’s farewell, we meet the Tenth Doctor. He plots a course for Barcelona – the planet where dogs have no noses – before taking stock of his new looks, all the while ignoring Rose’s confusion and apprehension. She’s skeptical of this new face, not recognizing him because regeneration is a whole new deck of cards for her.

After discounting nanogenes, Gelth, and the Slitheen, the Doctor assures her that he is still himself by recounting the day they met. Rose is still not convinced, and the Doctor offers her the choice to go home. He changes course to London on Christmas Eve, but soon suffers a bout of irrationality as the regeneration goes wrong. It’s so bad that even the Cloister Bell begins to sound as they TARDIS barrels through the vortex, almost out of control.

 

The Christmas Invasion

On Earth, Jackie trims the Christmas tree as Mickey works in the garage. The sound of the TARDIS brings them both running just in time to see the police box materialize in mid-air, bounce off a few buildings, and skid to a stop. The Doctor pops out of the box to meet Jackie and Mickey, collapsing just after he wishes them a Merry Christmas. Jackie and Mickey look on in confusion as Rose explains that this is now the Doctor.

The Doctor ends up resting in the Tyler home, sport a new set of pajamas that belong to Howard, Jackie’s current boyfriend who stashes random fruit in his pockets. Rose is examining the Doctor using a (shall we say) borrowed stethoscope and Jackie is amazed that he has two hearts. As they leave the room to wait for him to recover, the Doctor breathes out a wisp of regeneration energy. They watch newly elected Prime Minister Harriet Jones as she headlines a press conference on the unmanned Martian probe Guinevere One, launched by the British Rocket Group. That probe is soon lost to a giant island-like spacecraft.

Rose goes out with Mickey to do a little Chirstmas shopping, but their date is interrupted by a group of masked Santas wielding brass instruments as weapons. Our two lovebirds run and grab a taxi back to the flat, assuming that the Santas are chasing them to get to the Doctor. When they get there, they find a new Christmas tree that was recently delivered, and it tries to kill them. Rose, Jackie, and Mickey take refuge with the sleeping Doctor as the tree tears the place apart. Just as the tree bursts into the bedroom, Rose whispers “Help me” into the Doctor’s ear, and the Time Lord snaps into action to destroy the threat. He then points his sonic screwdriver at the Santas on the street below, forcing them to transmat away.

The Doctor is bursting with regeneration energy, and that energy could power the alien spacecraft for a long time. The incoming spaceship detected the energy as the Doctor continued to bleed it off, and the Santas were scavenger-like “pilot fish” leading the way for the larger predator. As he collapses again, the Doctor warns that something is coming and tries to ask for an unknown food item. His condition continues to deteriorate as the humans watch a news conference by the probe’s lead scientist, Daniel Llewellyn. The first images beamed back by the probe show a snarling alien face, a visage that spurs the world into action. Llewellyn is escorted to the Tower of London by UNIT where he meets Harriett and her aide Alex. Llewellyn is shocked to know that both the United Kingdom and United Nations are familiar with extraterrestrials, and analyst Sally Jacobs reveals that the signal came from an incoming ship.

The inhabitants of that ship contact Earth, but no one can understand them. UNIT applies a translation program while Rose (watching from Mickey’s hacked access to UNIT systems) laments the lack of the TARDIS translation circuits. The crisis builds as the translation program works and Jackie watches over the Doctor, and Harriett asks Major Blake of UNIT about Torchwood’s ability to handle the invasion.

Apparently, Harriet Jones shouldn’t know about Torchwood.

The translation program decrypts the transmission: The Sycorax are coming for Earth and its resources, and they demand a total surrender. Harriet refuses the demands, and the Sycorax respond with a signal that reprograms select humans on the planet to act like drones. The drones, now spread all around the world, all climb to high points like tops of buildings and prepare to unwittingly jump to their deaths. UNIT records show a genetic link among those affected, and they all share a blood type: A-positive. Guinevere One had a sample of humanity aboard – music, literature, and so on – including a vial of A-positive blood, and the Sycorax have used it to their advantage.

Harriet Jones continues to work the Torchwood angle as she broadcasts a plea to the Doctor, wherever he may be, to help them in their hour of need. Rose sees this broadcast and weeps for the dying Doctor, and her grief is broken as the incoming ship creates a sonic wave upon entering the atmosphere that shatters glass across the city. Soon enough, the island in the sky is hovering overhead. Rose rushes to the bedroom and moves the Doctor to the TARDIS as a last resort. Meanwhile, the Sycorax transport Harriet, Major Blake, Alex, and Llewellyn to their ship and demand their surrender. When Llewellyn begs for mercy, the Sycorax leader kills him and Major Blake. Harriet is faced with a terrible choice: One-third of the population dies or one half is sold into slavery.

Rose, Jackie, and Mickey get the Doctor to the TARDIS, and as they fiddle with the scanner, the Sycorax detect the advanced technology. After Jackie left to fetch a tote of food, the Sycorax teleport the TARDIS to their ship. Rose and Mickey are taken hostage, and a dropped container of tea drips onto the components below. The steam and smoke from the dripping tea rouse the Doctor as Rose is called forward to speak for humanity.

She attempts to bluff her way through a declaration, but fails miserably.

Lucky for her, the Doctor arrives in time to save everyone. The cup of tea, or rather the vapors from it, are exactly what he needed. Tannins are apparently good for the mind.

A brief round of introductions (and a lament about not being a redhead this time around) later, the Doctor springs into action. He quickly deduces how the Sycorax are controlling the humans below, and he decides to press the big red button. Instead of killing everyone, it releases the control. Blood control acts like hypnosis, and the instinct to live is too powerful for hypnotic suggestions of suicide. He tries to sway the Sycorax with The Lion King before challenging them to ritual combat for control of the planet.

The sword fight commences, eventually leading to the decks outside. Moments later, the Doctor’s hand is cut off, tumbling away ala The Empire Strikes Back, but the Time Lord uses the rest of this regeneration cycle to regrow his hand. Declaring it to be a fighting hand, he defeats the Sycorax leader and demands that the ship leave immediately. When the Sycorax leader attempts to double-cross the Doctor, the Doctor dumps him off the edge. This incarnation doesn’t believe in second chances for betrayal.

That’s a bit of an interesting twist, since the Doctor has only survived because of redemption.

The humans, the Doctor, and the TARDIS are returned to the planet’s surface as the spacecraft departs in a hurry. They celebrate as the Doctor warns Harriet that the planet is being noticed. They should expect more visitors. The Prime Minister receives word that Torchwood is ready, and she orders them to fire. Moments later, a beam of energy lances upward and destroys the Sycorax ship.

The Doctor is downright furious, and rightfully so. This has echoes to Doctor Who and the Silurians.

Harriet defends her actions, pointing out that the Doctor isn’t always there. He threatens to bring her down with six words, which he whispers to Alex: “Don’t you think she looks tired?”

Harriet Jones, Prime Minister, demands to know what the Doctor said before muttering an apology as he walks away.

The Doctor retreats to the TARDIS to pick out a new wardrobe – a pinstripe suit and trenchcoat ensemble – before joining Rose and her family for Christmas dinner, and the Time Lord watches the news as Harriet is faced with a vote of no confidence. They go outside in the freshly falling snow, which just happens to be ash from the ship. The Doctor prepares to leave and invites Rose to join him. He consoles Jackie and Mickey before preparing for their next adventure.

 

This episode begins a new tradition for the franchise in regular Christmas specials. The last time an episode was aired on December 25th was A Feast for Steven, the seventh part of The Daleks’ Master Plan, aired thirty-nine years prior. This story was different since is was specially produced for the holiday.

While it lacks in substance, it does have quite a few things going for it: The dramatic tension on the UNIT side is good, and the callbacks to elements of the franchise’s history keep the story grounded in its overarching identity. I mean, everything else that has been mentioned aside, the wardrobe scene is a veritable Who’s Who of Doctor Who history:

Sadly, all of that is not quite enough to overpower the long stretches of maudlin Rose and a comatose Doctor. Tennant’s superior acting kicks things into gear, but that energy doesn’t arrive until late in the game.

Until then, it’s a rather boring slog that takes full advantage of the Project’s regeneration handicap. Thankfully, it gets better in the future.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: New Earth

 

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 #165: Aliens of London & World War Three

Doctor Who: Aliens of London
Doctor Who: World War Three
(2 episodes, s01e04-05, 2005)

 

That one time that a family of fart monsters almost destroyed the world.

Rose and the Doctor return to her home at the Powell Estate, presumably a mere twelve hours after she left. When she runs up to the apartment, she’s surprised to find out that it’s been twelve months and that her mother Jackie has been searching the entire time.

The Doctor has never been a reliable TARDIS pilot.

As a tagger leaves the words BAD WOLF on the TARDIS, Jackie calls the police and berates Rose for her absence. I mean, she’s really running Rose through the wringer. When the Doctor takes responsibility for the missing time, Jackie slaps him before taking a moment with her daughter. Rose confides in the Doctor that she can’t reveal the truth and the Time Lord refuses to take Jackie on his travels. Their discussion is interrupted by a crashing spacecraft that sails over London, smashes through Big Ben, and splashes into the river. The Doctor and Rose run to the crash site but can’t get through due to the gridlock. The whole scenario is brand new to the Doctor, and Rose suggests that if they can’t see it in person, they can watch it on television.

The world is in emergency response mode, and as Jackie’s neighbors convene to watch live, the news reports that a body has been found and taken to Albion Hospital. It’s unknown if UNIT is still in operation, but the military has already arrived. General Asquith examines the body, noting that experts are on their way and that the Prime Minister is missing.

All sorts of important figures converge on 10 Downing Street, including Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North. In case you missed it the first time, she’ll remind you every time she says her name. The acting Prime Minister, Joseph Green, gets a hasty turnover while experiencing some gas problems, and once behind closed doors, he laughs with some associates in a mysterious (perhaps evil) manner.

The Doctor departs the Tyler apartment, leaving Rose a TARDIS key. Mickey Smith sees him enter the TARDIS and gives chase, but he doesn’t catch up before the TARDIS dematerializes. The ship gives the Time Lord a little trouble as he navigates it to the hospital. When he arrives, after a brief run in with a detachment of soldiers, he finds that the alien has awakened and escaped from the morgue. The Doctor spots the pig-like creature but cannot catch it before a soldier fatally shoots it.

Harriet Jones continues to work her way onto the agenda but is continually rebuffed. She sneaks into the Cabinet Room and takes a peek at the emergency protocols. She’s forced to hide in a closet when Green trio returns with General Asquith. The gassy trio unzip their foreheads, expose their true forms, and kill the general.

The Doctor examines the the alien corpse and determines that it is a fake. He takes the TARDIS back to the Powell Estate as Mickey finds Rose for the first time in a year. Mickey reveals that he was suspected of murder, and the word that the Doctor left shocks her. Rose, Mickey, and Jackie convene outside in time to see the Doctor return, which exposes Jackie to the truth. Rose invites Mickey and Jackie inside, but as Mickey and the Doctor spar, Jackie runs away. Moments later, she calls the hotline in fear and reports the Doctor to the authorities.

That sets off a whole new set of alarms.

As Mickey and Rose make up, the Doctor connects local radar signals to the console. They discover that the spacecraft originated from Earth and that the landing was faked. They also see that UNIT has been called in, but the Doctor decides not to contact them since they might not recognize him. Meanwhile, the aliens take over the general’s body before being alerted to the Doctor’s presence. The military surrounds the TARDIS and takes the Doctor and Rose into custody as Mickey escapes. Jackie is taken back to her apartment to be interviewed, but the official in charge is one of the aliens.

Rose and the Doctor are taken to 10 Downing Street to consult on the emergency. Everyone convenes in a briefing room except Rose and Harriet Jones since neither of them have clearance. The women uncover the truth about the aliens and their skin suits. The Doctor takes charge of the briefing and discovers the trap.

The police officer interviewing Jackie unzips his head. Rose and Harriet are confronted by Margaret Blaine. The Doctor watches Asquith and Green as they use the ID cards to electrocute everyone at the briefing and announce who they really are.

They are the Slitheen.

Since the Doctor is not human, the electrocution doesn’t work on him. He attaches his tag to the Asquith alien and the energy somehow affects all of the Slitheen. Rose and Harriet run, Mickey rescues Jackie, and the Doctor brings the soldiers to fight the threat. After Green stops the energy, he convinces the military to chase the Doctor instead. The Time Lord escapes into the elevator and the chase continues.

General Asquith orders the upper levels to be quarantined before escorting Green into the elevator, ditching their skin suits inside. They meet with the Margaret Blaine alien and nearly get Rose and Harriet before the Doctor rescues them. The Doctor stops the Slitheen with a bluff of port in order to interrogate the aliens, who are actually the Slitheen family instead of members of the Slitheen species. The Doctor notes that they are standing in the Cabinet Room, which was outfitted as a panic room. He triggers the blast doors and locks the Slitheen out, but in the process locks him and his companions inside.

More of the Slitheen (in skin suits) arrive at 10 Downing Street while Jackie and Mickey end up at his flat. In the Cabinet Room, the Doctor apologizes to the bodies of the Prime Minister and his assistant Indra Ganesh before looking for an escape. Rose discovers how the Slitheen fit into their skin suits – their collars generate a compression field (maybe something like the Master‘s technology?) that causes gas to build and escape – before receiving a message from Mickey on her souped-up mobile. While the Doctor ponders why Harriet’s name sounds so familiar, he helps Mickey access the UNIT database for information.

Harriet explains that the UK’s nuclear launch codes are in the United Nation’s hands, so the Slitheen can’t be looking for the missiles. The UNIT site reveals a signal coming from the North Sea, but the Doctor can’t interpret it before the police officer Slitheen invades Mickey’s flat. The Doctor, Harriet, and Rose use the facts to deduce the destination of the Slitheen signal – the planet Raxacoricofallapatorius – and help Mickey and Jackie defeat their invader with vinegar – the acetic acid reacts with the creature and causes it to explode.

Acting PM Green senses the death of his brother and speaks to the media, telling them a story of invading aliens to get access to the nuclear arsenal. The Doctor releases the blast doors and confronts the Slitheen outside, knowing that once the Slitheen decimate the planet’s surface with nuclear holocaust, they will sell the remnants for raw fuel. As the Doctor vows to stop them, he triggers the panic room once more, a sinister darkness crossing his face that shakes the Blaine alien.

As morning dawns, the Doctor reveals that he has one option, but he can’t guarantee Rose’s safety. Jackie pleads with the Doctor to keep her safe, but Rose knows that the world’s safety is worth more than her life. Harriet steps in as the only elected official in the room and orders the Doctor to act. The Doctor and Mickey access the Royal Navy’s systems and launch a Harpoon missile toward Downing Street.

The United Nations releases the nuclear codes to the Slitheen, but the incoming missile prompts the evacuation of Downing Street area. The Doctor, Rose, and Harriet ride out the ensuing explosion in the cupboard of the panic room, but the Slitheen are not so lucky. When the panic room door opens, Harriet takes charge, and the Doctor remembers how he knows her: Harriet Jones is the future Prime Minister, elected for three consecutive terms, and architect of Britain’s Golden Age.

Rose returns home to her mother as the Doctor returns to the TARDIS. Rose convinces her mother that the Doctor isn’t so bad after all, and Jackie offers to cook a proper sit-down meal for the three of them. The Doctor cancels the Slitheen signal and refuses dinner for the wonders of the universe. He extends the offer to Rose, prompting her to pack a bag much to Jackie’s dismay.

As the boy who tagged the TARDIS scrubs his handiwork away, the Doctor gives Mickey a virus to remove the Time Lord’s presence from the internet. Jackie accompanies Rose to the TARDIS, and Mickey turns down to chance to travel (for which the Doctor takes credit to save Mickey’s reputation). Jackie demands that the Doctor take care of Rose, and Rose says she could be home in ten seconds.

The TARDIS dematerializes and Jackie waits ten seconds, but they don’t come back. She walks away sadly as Mickey stands watch over the street.

 

This episode has a high body count, and while that’s not particularly great for Doctor Who, it does show us a hint of what darkness the Ninth Doctor is capable of. Especially when he’s backed into a corner. He’s still the Doctor, and we still get that sense of exploration and compassion that the show is known for, but we also get more clues here about how broken he is over the Time War.

I also want to highlight Camille Coduri and her portrayal of a worried mother. Jackie Tyler tends to fluctuate between compassionate and irritating, and here she absolutely sold the heartbreak over her concern for Rose’s safety. That last scene – ten seconds – was heart-wrenching.

The character moments alone keep this set of stories firing on all cylinders.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Dalek

 

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.