Timestamp Special #13: Farewell, Sarah Jane

Farewell, Sarah Jane
(Doctor Who: Lockdown: April 19, 2020)

Timestamp S13 Farewell Sarah Jane

On the ninth anniversary of Elisabeth Sladen’s untimely passing, in the midst of a global pandemic, we were offered a chance to say goodbye.

It was a beautiful and fitting tribute to the character and the woman who brought her to life. Russell T Davies did an amazing job, especially with his bridge between the classic and revival eras. He also put the cap on his vision for The Sarah Jane Adventures which had been considered impossible in 2011.

I, for one, want to experience that adventure with Ace, Sarah Jane, and the Diamond Wolf Clan.

Until then, farewell, Sarah Jane.

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe


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


Timestamp #SJA22: Death of the Doctor

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

Timestamp SJA22 Death of the Doctor

The Doctor is dead. Long live the Doctor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long live the Doctor.

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Empty Planet


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 #69: The Green Death

Doctor Who: The Green Death
(6 episodes, s10e21-e26, 1973)

Timestamp 069 The Green Death


The Doctor and Jo battle corporate fat cats and green slime.

Starting with a closed mine, the workers are waiting for news, but jeer the official who brings them news of money for expansion. As the protest continues, a worker displays a green glow on his skin, and he dies as he sounds the alarm. Back at UNIT, the Doctor is working on the TARDIS as Jo eats breakfast and reads about the mine and Professor Clifford Jones, who has concerns about the corporation and its manipulation of worker health for profit.

In the exchange between our heroes, it seems that Jo is a bit off, but that she and the Doctor are more in sync than they have been. This exchange gets heated as the Brigadier tries to assign the Doctor to the mining case. The Doctor refuses because he wants to take Jo to Metebilis III, but Jo is far more interested in waging an environmentalist battle. The Brigadier and Jo head for the mine, and it’s obvious that the Doctor and Jo are diverging on their philosophical courses. As the Doctor heads to Metebilis III almost in rebellion against Jo’s interests, he is attacked just after landing.

Jo meets Professor Jones, and the man is a bit of an ass who gradually warms to his visitor. His research involves a new high protein fungus, and he’s upset because thousands of gallons of waste, almost like a liquid plastic sludge, are being pumped into the mine. The Brigadier, meanwhile, meets with the corporate executive at Global Chemicals, Mr. Stevens, and offers extra security in light of the protests. He also intends to investigate the mine as soon as the Doctor arrives. The Doctor returns from his trip amid a flurry of attacks and immediately sets out for the mines.

Mr. Stevens orders that no one should go into the mine, but his directive is made through a strange mental haze. In violation of that order, Jo accompanies a miner named Bert down inside the mine to help another infected man, and as the Doctor and the Brigadier arrive to investigate, the cage descends out of control. Bert takes a humorous opportunity to toss Jo around the cage, the Doctor saves them by jamming the mechanism, and Jo and Bert climb down the rest of the way. The miners can free the cage, but they are missing some equipment to to cut the cable. Even though Global Chemicals has the equipment, they claim not to, although a staffer named Mr. Elgin knows differently.

The mental haze from before takes a twist: Mr. Stevens is controlled by a strange disembodied voice which commands his to “process” Mr. Fell, one of the dissenting staff, and that staff member comes back as a near automaton. Resistance is apparently futile.

The Doctor’s investigation reveals that the lift was sabotaged, and he works with Professor Jones to sneak into Global Chemicals and steal the cutting equipment. He is detected by the voice, and intercepted by security guards who are dispatched with Venusian aikido. He is soon trapped by Stevens who, strangely, dismisses the incident after showing the Doctor the empty storage container where the cutting equipment should be. The Brigadier arrives with some cutting equipment that he rounded up by luck, the cable is cut, and the Doctor and a miner enter the shaft.

Bert and Jo explore the mine and find some of the green slime. Bert touches it and is incapacitated, so Jo goes on alone to find help as the Doctor finds Bert and the slime. The Doctor follows Jo, and they both encounter a group of maggots in a large pool of slime who attack as a cave-in begins. They use a mine cart to ford the slime, and climb a crevice to the surface inside the factory. Elgin saves the Doctor and Jo from drowning in the pipe as it fills with sludge, and Fell experiences a conflict between his conscience and the programming, which drives him to commit suicide.

The Brigadier tries to leverage a little government muscle to break open the mystery, but the Prime Minister shuts him down. Later on, the Doctor, Jo, the Brigadier, and Jones are relaxing with a high protein fungus dinner, but the mood is spoiled by word that Bert has died from his exposure. The egg that they retrieved from the shaft hatches, and a maggot creeps up to Jo. Mr. Hinks, the assistant to Stevens, is sent to retrieve the egg, but is attacked by the maggot instead. He quickly dies.

At this point, it’s obvious that Jo and Jones are falling in love. But what of Sgt Benton? Did it not work out with them? Whatever happened, it’s immaterial as she’s totally twitterpated with Jones and his trip to the Amazon, and totally uninterested in the large blue Crystal of Convenience – it later displays a +3 attribute for rolls against brainwashing – that the Doctor brought back from Metebilis III.

The analysis of the slime shows that it works as a virus that changes the victims, and UNIT has orders to seal the mine and limit the spread of the infection. This causes the maggots to escape to the surface, and since bullets and spray don’t work, the Doctor realizes that only a counter-virus will work. Back at Global Chemicals, the Brigadier has sent Captain Yates undercover to find evidence of wrongdoing within the company. That is a great move by the Brigadier, and it demonstrates just how much more dynamic he is in this story than in previous serials.

The Doctor is warned not to return to the corporate offices, so he is forced to don several successive costumes – a move that is very reminiscent of the Second Doctor in The Underwater Menace, The Enemy of the World, and The War Games, just to name a few – to move freely about the compound. Captain Yates provides the Doctor some intel, which the Time Lord follows to the top floor of the factory. The top floor reveals the mystery with a supercomputer called the BOSS, or Biomorphic Organizational Systems Supervisor. It appears that, once again, someone really wanted to spell SHIELD. The Doctor overwhelms the machine with the Liar’s Paradox, but is captured by Stevens who tries to brainwash the Doctor and fails.

On the lovebird front, Jo upsets Jones by accidentally ruining the slides for the slime analysis, so she sets off the find another sample. Her accident turns out to be a critical step toward the cure. He sets off after her and saves her from the grenade barrage that destroys the field of maggots, but he sustains a head injury.

Captain Yates is captured trying to rescue the Doctor. The Doctor escapes, but Yates is brainwashed by the BOSS. The Doctor and Sgt Benton save Jo and Jones, but Jones has been infected by the slime. The Doctor returns to the professor’s lab where he is ambushed by Yates, but the Doctor uses the crystal from Metebelis III to break the brainwashing. The Doctor sends him back in under the guise of still being brainwashed to thrown Stevens off the trail, but that doesn’t work as well as they had hoped. Benton returns to the lab with an empty maggot chrysalis, and they discover another maggot that ate the fungus and died. The Doctor then realizes that the fungus is a cure. They scatter samples all over the area and kill the maggots, but they are stalked by a giant dragonfly, the adult form of the creature. The Doctor defeats it with his overcoat.

Okay, those maggots are downright freaky, with their mouth filled with razor sharp teeth like a langolier.

Captain Yates escapes from the factory and passes word to the Brigadier and the Doctor that the computer is planning something at 4pm that afternoon. The Doctor discovers the cure with Jo’s help and administers it to Jones, and then goes to confront BOSS before the supercomputer links with the other supercomputers around the world. The Doctor reverses Stevens’s brainwashing with the crystal, and Stevens triggers the self-destruct, stopping BOSS permanently.

The voice actor for BOSS, John Dearth, obviously had a lot of fun in the sixth episode with his singing, and the Stevens/BOSS hybrid was a beautiful bit of acting. I was amazed by how well it was performed.

With the crisis stopped, Jo gets engaged to Jones and decides to join the professor on his travels. The professor’s research gets a major UN grant thanks to Jo’s uncle. The Doctor gives Jo the Metebelis crystal as a wedding gift and silently sneaks out with only Jo noticing.

Her days of traveling about time and space are done, and he drives off into the sunset, obviously heartbroken. That ending alone ratcheted up the score for this serial because of the sheer power in so little dialogue.

I’m going to miss Jo Jo.


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


UP NEXT – Tenth Series 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.



Timestamp #68: Planet of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Planet of the Daleks
(6 episodes, s10e15-e20, 1973)

Timestamp 068 Planet of the Daleks


Picking up immediately after the events of Frontier in Space, this serial ties off some loose ends from the beginning of the Doctor’s adventures.

The Doctor contacts the Time Lords telepathically before lying down and entering a healing trance. Just like the last time, his temperature and heart rates rapidly decline, but Jo is okay with this because she’s seen it before. This talent got me thinking: The Third Doctor started his adventures in another healing trance, but he stayed at his normal temperature and cardiac rhythms. Is a violent demonic summoning or a grazing gunshot injury that much more traumatic than a forced regeneration, or did the Doctor enter this healing coma during the trip from Gallifrey to Earth during his transition from Second to Third?

Or am I overthinking it? That’s always a strong possibility.

The TARDIS lands and Jo goes to find help, but finds some strange flowers that start spraying the TARDIS. She evades the flowers and finds a spacecraft, along with a corpse within. Some time later, the Doctor emerges from his coma and discovers that the TARDIS has triggered the emergency air supply despite the planet’s breathable atmosphere. He has also pulled off a quick wardrobe change from green to purple.

Jo is discovered in the spacecraft by two people who recognize Earth as a place in their legends. They are alerted to a nearby patrol, and they leave Jo in the ship’s relative safety as they set off for the TARDIS, which has been completely covered in the sap from the spitting plants. The soldiers break the sap and rescue the Doctor from suffocation. Given the sheer magnitude of the TARDIS interior, he must have been inside for a very long time to use up that much oxygen. The soldiers identify themselves as Thals, and they recognize the Doctor (and his previous companions Ian, Barbara, and Susan) from their legends.

In a quick info-dump, we discover that the plants are fungi who spread their spores by spraying, that the planet is Spiridon, and that the natives are invisible. The Thals treat the Doctor fungal infection, but Jo needs attention soon, so they set out to find her. On their way, they hear a noise and see a circular depression in the ground. After spraying the area with a revealing compound, they discover an inoperative Dalek, and the Doctor learns that the Daleks are trying to replicate the Spiridon invisibility science. Fortunately, they have had limited success.

Separate Spiridon patrols find the Doctor’s group and Jo. One of the Thals, Codal, distracts the Spiridon patrol long enough for the rest of the group to reach the ship. When they reach it, they find the TARDIS log that Jo was using, but two Daleks arrive and nearly destroy the ship and the Doctor interferes since he believes Jo is still inside. The Daleks stun him, destroy the ship, and take him away.

These Daleks don’t seem to know who the Doctor is.

The Doctor has some great motivational moments with Codal during their incarceration, including a quote: “Courage is being afraid but doing what you have to do anyway.” The Doctor tries to escape the cell with his sonic screwdriver, but fails, so he uses the TARDIS log to transmit a signal that will jam the Daleks. Meanwhile, a Spiridon named Wester (who sounds a lot like an Ice Warrior) tends to Jo’s infection, and she joins the rebellion. Several Spiridon slaves are moving vegetation samples into the Dalek base, and the pair sneak in using those crates. In a conceit for the audience watching along at home, Wester carries stuff around to show us where he is.

The Thals are surprised when a new ship crash lands on the planet. It is piloted by a Thal crew bearing a message intercepted from the Daleks to their supreme commander: There are 10,000 Daleks on the planet. Additionally, the planet has an icy core that spews out molten ice magma, which the Daleks use to cool their base. In a move very similar to The Daleks, the Thals attempt to infiltrate the base using the cooling tunnels.

The Doctor’s Dalek disruptor works, but only once at close range. He quips, “You know, for a man who abhors violence, I must say I took great satisfaction in doing that.” Really? He abhors violence while using guns and hand-to-hand fighting more than his predecessors? I’m not entirely sold on that claim. Anyway, he and Codal begin to look for a way out and discover the Thals infiltration team. They jam the door open and dodge an ice magma explosion that covers a Dalek patrol. They escape the base after retrieving the location of an explosives cache, through a vertical ventilation shaft on an improvised hot air balloon. The Doctor also discovers the massive Dalek army under ice.

Jo follows the Daleks who are also seeking the explosives. The Daleks arm the bombs, and Jo attempts to disarm them but takes a falling rock to the head. When she comes to, she takes the two disarmed bombs and hides. The remaining explosion takes out two patrolling Daleks. The Doctor’s group escapes from the shaft and discovers Jo with a happy reunion. The Doctor explains that he (conveniently) learned of the Dalek invasion force and this planet during the events of Frontier in Space, and that the Time Lords steered the TARDIS to Spiridon to stop the evil plan. The group proceeds to the Plain of Stones, a good place to spend the night since the stone formations store heat from the daylight, which will protect them from the intense cold of Spiridon night. Vaber, a Thal who is at odds with their leader Taron, steals the bombs in the middle of the night and is captured by the Spiridon slaves. Taron and Codal pursue Vaber, disguise themselves as Spiridons, and attempt a rescue, but the Daleks exterminate Vaber after he attempts to mislead them. Taron and Codal retrieve the bombs in the chaos and escape. Meanwhile, Wester stops by the Plain of Stones to warn Jo about a new wrinkle: To defeat the Thals, the Daleks have cultivated a bacteria to destroy all life on Spiridon. Luckily, they have also developed an immunization to protect themselves. The Doctor’s group develops a plan to enter the base, including luring the Daleks to the molten ice pools and submerging them, then using the casing to sneak in.

We still have no idea what the Daleks look like inside the shell at this point. Also, add two Daleks to the Doctor’s list of “non-violent” acts.

Once inside the base, Wester breaks containment on the bacteria, sacrificing himself but sealing the room so that it can never get out. As the Thals break into the base, the Daleks spot a Thal boot in the Spiridon disguises, blowing the cover for the Doctor’s team. They escape to the cooling chamber and set their plan into action. The timeline is accelerated as they learn that the Dalek Supreme is inbound, and the Daleks (who have finally recognized the Doctor) decide to capture the Doctor for interrogation by their supreme leader. The Dalek Supreme, who has a unique light-up eyestalk, is ruthless, and he exterminates the section leader for allowing the Thals to disrupt the operation.

In the chaos, Jo and Latep use one of the bombs to slow down the Daleks, and the rest of the group set the last bomb to open an ice magma vein and flood the chamber where the invasion force is gathered. They are successful, and the Daleks are re-frozen into suspension. The setback forces the Dalek Supreme to abandon the base. The Thals hijack the Dalek Supreme’s ship and return home to Skaro. The Doctor only asks that they do not glorify this adventure and that they return to a peaceful existence. Latep asks Jo to return to Skaro with him, but she declines as she is starting to become homesick after this series of adventures. As the Thals take off, the Dalek Supreme arrives and pursues Jo and the Doctor to TARDIS. The TARDIS dematerializes successfully, but the Daleks start making plans to recover their army. They are never defeated.

I still love how manic the Daleks get under stress.

Despite the inconsistencies, I had a lot of fun with this serial.


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



UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Green Death


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 #67: Frontier in Space

Doctor Who: Frontier in Space
(6 episodes, s10e09-e14, 1973)

Timestamp 067 Frontier in Space


The Time Lords might be regretting restoring the Doctor’s driving privileges. This story starts with an Earth cargo ship getting ready to jump to hyperspace, but the TARDIS nearly collides with the ship before materializing inside it. The humans are already on high alert since there’s a war brewing between them and the Draconians. Almost on cue, Jo spots a ship through the viewport that looks like a derelict, but it changes shape into a Draconian battle cruiser. The human cargo pilot, Stewart, sends a distress call while his co-pilot, Hardy, goes to retrieve their weapons in preparation for repelling boarders. Hardy encounters the Doctor and Jo, but Hardy sees the Doctor as a Draconian. While the Doctor tries to talk Hardy down, Jo freaks out since Hardy appears to her as a Drashig.

Back on Earth, the human president – A woman president on television in the 1970s! – and the Draconian ambassador (who is also the Emperor’s son) are confronting each other as the distress call comes in. The president dispatches General Williams to supervise the rescue attempt, which is becoming a political football as riots break out on the planet over the string of altercations. On the ship, the Doctor and Jo are confined while the pilots deal with the Draconian assault. The sonic hypnosis field they encountered caused Jo and the pilots to see their greatest fears, hence the mistaken identities, but it seems to be only keyed into human physiology. The Draconians break through the airlock, and Hardy tries to use the Doctor and Jo as hostages. The boarders are Ogrons, not Draconians, and they stun the pilots and the Doctor while I wonder if the Daleks are not too far behind.

The Ogrons confine Jo and steal the cargo and the TARDIS, but the Doctor questions their actions after he comes to and releases Jo. The Ogron actions don’t make sense since, while they are mercenaries for hire, they resealed the airlock and left everyone alive. While he muses on this turn of events, an Earth battlecruiser docks with the cargo ship, and the cargo pilots accuse the Doctor and Jo of being Draconian spies. Back to the jail cell they go, which gives Jo the fun opportunity to brainstorm an escape from the cell.

The cargo ship arrives at Earth and the President wants to question the Doctor and Jo in the presence of the Draconian ambassador. The Doctor reasons with the President that a third party is manipulating both sides to induce a large-scale war, and after the general has them taken away, and the sympathetic president takes the political road of lodging a formal protest with the Draconian Emperor.

Speaking of footballs, our heroes certainly fit the role. The Draconians are curious about the Doctor’s claims, so they break the Doctor out and interrogate him, but he escapes only to be re-captured by the humans. The Ogrons show up and try to break them out again, this time under the guise of Draconians, which cements the idea with the humans that the Doctor and Jo are indeed working for the Draconians.

General Williams convinces the President to break off negotiations with the Draconians and expel them from Earth, but she refuses to attack them without proof. Williams uses a mind probe on the Doctor, but it overloads as he keeps telling them the truth and they keep turning up the power. The President tries compassion one last time, but ends up sending the Doctor to the lunar penal colony. On the moon, the Doctor meets Professor Dale, a member of the Peace Party, who shows him around.

The President receives criminal records from Sirius IV for the Doctor and Jo, and the commissioner arrives to extradite them. Thus marks the return of the Master, who explains to Jo that he is working with the Ogrons to overturn humanity, and has only arrived now because (surprise!) his minions brought him the TARDIS.

Back on the moon, Professor Dale is working with an overseer named Cross who has left two spacesuits for escapees to cross the lunar surface and steal a ship to return to Earth. Dale believes the Doctor’s story and asks him to be his accomplice for the escape attempt. But Cross pulls a double as he depressurizes the airlock after sabotaging the spacesuits. The Master ends up saving them and gains custody of the Doctor, fully intent on taking him and Jo to the Ogron homeworld because his employers are very interested in the Time Lord. Jo stages an impressive distraction (including a James Bond reference, which appears to be a constant inspiration for the Pertwee era) as the Doctor breaks out of the cell on the Master’s ship, dons a spacesuit, and crosses the ship’s hull to the flight deck.

I really enjoyed the accurate lack of sound in the spacewalk sequences.

The Master figures out the ruse and threatens to throw Jo out of the airlock, but the Doctor gets the jump on him. During the confrontation, neither of them see the Draconian battlecruiser approach, and they board through the airlock where Jo is being held. The Draconians take all of them hostage and set course for the Draconian homeworld, but of course, the Master signals the Ogrons for help.

The Draconian emperor unwittingly shares the Earth president’s desire of not wanting to start a war without proof, and the Doctor, who is holds a title of nobility on Draconia, tries to convince the emperor of the plot. As luck would have it, they are interrupted by an attacking Earth force, which is really the Ogrons under hypnotic guise. The Ogrons rescue the Master, and as the hypnotic field fades, the emperor is finally convinced of the Doctor’s story. The Doctor, Jo, and the Draconian ambassador take an Orgon prisoner and the Master’s police ship back to Earth to convince the president of the plot, but the Master is following to destroy the evidence. The Master fires on the Doctor’s ship, causing a distraction that allows the Ogron to escape to the flight deck. The Master’s ship docks, and they rescue the Ogron and kidnap Jo.

And the Doctor is using a gun again. Huh.

The Doctor’s ship is intercepted by an Earth battlecruiser. The president hears the tale and while she is sympathetic, the general is unwilling to help the Draconians until a certain revelation is made about his past (and previously unknown) military mistakes. They all set course for the Ogron homeworld, where the Master’s ship has arrived. The Master tries to enthrall Jo and use her and the TARDIS as bait, but she has conditioned herself against the Master’s spell. He also tries the hypnotic sound, but she resists that as well. As she is taken away, she swipes a spoon, which she later uses to escape. She signals the general’s ship as it reaches orbit, but the Master surprises her and explains that she sprung his trap. The transmitter was a short range model, and only the Doctor could have heard her distress call.

The general’s ship lands and his team is ambushed by the Ogrons, who are then driven away by a large creature called the Eater. The Master is angry, and after yet another ship lands, he ambushes the rescue party with the help of his employers: The Daleks.

It was a nice twist that was telegraphed with the presence of the Ogrons, and in this cameo appearance, they conveniently kill all of the rescuers except the Doctor and the Draconian ambassador. It’s at this point that I really missed the old Dalek ray sound and their old voices. The Master convinces the Dalek leader to leave the Doctor unharmed so that his nemesis can see Earth in flames before he is exterminated, and the Doctor gets introduced to yet another jail cell. He escapes after jury-rigging the hypnotic signal, and he sends General Williams and the Draconian ambassador back to Earth with news of the new threat. As the Doctor and Jo make their way to the TARDIS, the Master intercepts the them. The Doctor startles the Ogrons with the hynoptic signal, the Ogrons jostle the Master, the Master shoots the Doctor, and this story ends on an excellent cliffhanger as Jo helps a weakened Doctor to the TARDIS where he contacts the Time Lords and sends a warning.

This story had its moments, but overall it felt like an elaborate setup serial with some excellent performances. Jo was great, and the Master was fun to watch. Looking ahead though, it is sad that Roger Delgado would never reprise that due to his untimely and accidental death. This was a good, yet completely unintentional send-off.



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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Planet 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 #66: Carnival of Monsters

Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters
(4 episodes, s10e05-e08, 1973)

Timestamp 066 Carnival of Monsters


There is a lot of filler in this lackluster serial.

This tale begins with a cargo ship that arrives on Inter Minor and deposits several parcels and two beings. The new arrivals, Vorg and Shirna, are traveling carnival workers, and they are accompanied by a strange looking machine. As they get settled, the indentured dock workers start to get agitated, but the violence is quelled by one of the planet’s bureaucratic officials.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS materializes on a more Earthly cargo ship, which the Doctor mistakes for Metebelis III until Jo finds a crate of chickens. While the Doctor – decked out in a fine green and brown version of his typical red, white, and black number – tries to figure out if these birds are the dominant intelligent life-form, Jo finds another crate marked “SINGAPORE”. The travelers discover that they’re still on Earth, in the year 1926, on the SS Bernice. The ship is soon attacked by a plesiosaurus, and the travelers are discovered and confined to a cabin as stowaways. Strangely, there is a plate in the deck that the ship’s officers cannot see, the clocks are running backward, and the time of day doesn’t correlate with the sun’s position.  The pair escape thanks to Jo’s convenient ring of skeleton keys since the sonic screwdriver only works on electronic locks (for now). They inspect the plate and return to the TARDIS for a magnetic core extractor, but find the passengers and crew repeating the previous moments in time. As they arrive at the TARDIS, a giant hand reaches down and pulls it away.

It turns out that they have materialized inside traveling carnival’s attraction machine, which is operated by Vorg and Shirna, and contains Ogrons, Cybermen, Tellurians (humans), and the fearsome Drashigs. The Inter Minor customs officials are xenophobes and demand a demonstration of the machine’s benignity, so the keepers amplify the hostility of the Earth habitat. After a brief chase around the Bernice, the travelers are captured before the keepers turn down the hostility settings to prevent the captives from harming each other. The ship’s crew and passengers restart their cycle, and Jo and the Doctor enter the metal plate to find the internal workings of the machine.

The carnival keepers have an expired license, so the customs officials stage a tribunal and decide to eradicate the aliens within the machine. The eradication device only damages the machine, and the paranoid officials believe that it is armored to protect a transmitter that is signaling an invasion force. They extract what they believe to be a transmitter, which expands to normal size outside of the miniaturization field as the TARDIS.

As those shenanigans continue, Jo and the Doctor explore the machine and enter the habitat of the Drashig. It sets off on their trail, hunting them by cutting off their escape route, and the Doctor distracts the beast by igniting the swamp gas with his sonic screwdriver. Vorg reaches in and holds back the Drashigs so the travelers can escape. All of this leads the Doctor to reason that the machine is a miniscope, something that he helped to ban and destroy in his earlier life. Jo, rightfully so, is offended by the concept of being on display.

The Drashigs follow the scent into the machine’s interior and wreak havoc, which plays into the hand of the planet’s lead controller, who desperately wants to overthrow the planetary president. As the Drashig rages on, the travelers retrieve a rope from the Bernice and use it to traverse the machine’s extraction shaft, however only the Doctor escapes. The Doctor confronts the tribunal about the ethics of the miniscope while Vorg and Shirna reason that he is a showman like them based on clothing and manner.

The Doctor returns into the machine to rescue Jo as the miniscope starts to fail based on the damage, which will kill all of the inhabitants. The scheming tribunal members help the Drashigs escape, and Vorg fixes the eradicator to fend off the beasts, but not before they eat the scheming tribunal members. The Doctor sends all of the inhabitants back to their original temporal coordinates just before the miniscope melts down.

Everyone gets a happy resolution as Vorg receives kudos for saving the day and starts ripping off the remaining tribunal member with a shell game. The Doctor and Jo sneak away on the TARDIS, and Shirna smiles as they dematerialize.

It was a quick story, but very shallow, and barely earns a mid-range grade. I really liked Shirna, and I think she would have been a good companion for a little while.


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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Frontier in Space


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 #65: The Three Doctors

Doctor Who: The Three Doctors
(4 episodes, s10e01-e04, 1972-73)

Timestamp 065 The Three Doctors 2


Happy 10th anniversary, Doctor Who! Traditionally, you’d get something made of tin, but the Time Lords are feeling benevolent.

A Pandora’s box arrives in the form of a cosmic ray research module, and it’s hungry because it eats Mr Ollis, the warden of the bird sanctuary where the module crash-landed. Doctor Tyler arrives and takes the box to UNIT where the Doctor analyzes the data, and the Doctor trolls the Brigadier with a silicon rod to stir his tea. As the Doctor and Jo investigate the crash site, the module consumes Doctor Tyler, and a psychedelic cloud leaks out, menaces our heroes, and eats Bessie.

Someone needs a copy of Care and Feeding of Psychedelic Clouds for Dummies.

As if that’s not enough, several cyclopean crab creatures apparate and storm UNIT HQ. The Brigadier leaves Sgt Benton in charge of the lab and leaves to assess the situation, prompting the cloud to arrive and force the Doctor, Jo, and Benton to take refuge in the TARDIS. The TARDIS won’t dematerialize, so the Doctor plays his last resort card and calls the Time Lords.

The TARDIS has been redecorated again, and while I liked the wash basin roundels more, this is still a step up from the wallpaper that dominated the Troughton era. While I was observing that, Sgt Benton was having his “bigger on the inside” moment, which made me laugh.

The Time Lords determine that the attack is stemming from a black hole which bridges into a universe of anti-matter, but they can’t help because the same gateway is siphoning all of their power reserves. Despite the First Law of Time, which forbids the Doctor from doubling back on his own timeline (wait, what?), the Time Lords break the rules and send the Second Doctor to help the Third.

Oh, the irony.

The Second Doctor arrives, heralded by his trademark recorder, and followed by his dislike of the new décor. Sgt Benton is overjoyed, since the last time this saw this Doctor was during the Cyberman invasion. The two Doctors link together telepathically, but can’t get anything accomplished because the “dandy” and the “clown” can’t stop bickering, so the Time Lords call up the First Doctor to set them straight. He can’t come all the way in because of a plot-convenient time eddy that the council cannot overpower, but he passes the word that the black hole is a time breach and that they must cross it.

The Time Lords, by the way, call the First Doctor the “earliest Doctor”: Hartnell’s character was definitively the original.

The Third Doctor decides on a bad plan and rushes out of the TARDIS. Jo follows, and both are consumed. The Second Doctor sees that the cloud has been temporarily satiated, so he and Benton leave the TARDIS to investigate. The Brigadier meets the Second Doctor again, and he jumps to the conclusion that the Third Doctor has regenerated… er, degenerated… er, changed back into the Second Doctor. Bickering and hilarity ensue.

The Second Doctor deduce that the cloud is made of antimatter, and that it was sent by someone powerful since it hasn’t caused a matter-antimatter annihilation. He suggests confusing it with useless information, such as with a television. That’s right, Doctor Who went meta before meta was a thing. While the Second Doctor works that problem, the Third Doctor and Jo wake up on a barren world with the one-eyed crabs, pieces of the laboratory, and Bessie, and they use the car to track a set of footprints to their source.

Back on Earth, the Brigadier wants the Second Doctor to address the Security Council, calling him the Third Doctor’s assistant to sideline the whole regeneration question, much to the Second’s chagrin. The cloud gets the hunger pains again, and the Second Doctor, the Brigadier, and Benton take refuge in the TARDIS. The Brigadier’s “bigger on the inside” moment trumps Benton’s as he accuses the Doctor of building the contraption from UNIT materials and funds. As the Third Doctor and Jo find Doctor Tyler and are subdued by the crab monsters, the Second Doctor works with the First Doctor who suggests letting the cloud attack the TARDIS. When it does, the entire headquarters building is transported into the black hole, which leaves the Brigadier nearly apoplectic. He goes off to call in this new development as the Second Doctor and Benton find Mr. Ollis, and then get captured by the crabs.

We also note that the TARDIS is just a prop thanks to a camera angle that peers all the way inside.

And then we meet the architect of this whole thing: The legendary long lost Time Lord named Omega. He was the solar engineer who created the supernova that powers Time Lord civilization, but was supposedly killed in the resulting explosion. In reality, he was transported to the antimatter universe, where his will and thought turned the formless matter into physical form. It’s also his cage, since his will is the only thing maintaining reality, and he vowed revenge on the Time Lords who left him stranded. Omega deduces that the Second Doctor and the Third Doctor are the same Time Lord, and boy is he angry. He places them in a cell pending execution, and they continue bickering before the companions put them in their place. I loved that!

Omega has control of the singularity, which grants him immense power, and Jo considers that the Doctor must also have some potential in this universe. The two Doctor will a door into existence, they all escape the cell, the companions get lost and escape the palace, and the Doctors get discovered by Omega in the singularity chamber, where Omega challenges the Third Doctor to a mental Thunderdome. The Third Doctor is defeated, but the Second reasons with Omega using the imprisoned Time Lord’s freedom as leverage.

The Time Lords send the First Doctor into the black hole, reasoning that together they are powerful enough to defeat Omega. The Second Doctor laments his lost recorder (foreshadowing!), but deliberately angers Omega to challenge the villain’s self control. The two Doctors reason that if Omega can transport matter to Earth on the light stream, he could transmit himself as well, but Omega reveals that he is a prisoner of his own design. If tries to leave, he loses control over the construct, and if he stops controlling the construct, he cannot leave. He brought the Doctor(s) to become the new caretakers. As he prepares to leave, however, he discovers that he no longer exists in a form that can survive outside of the antimatter construct. Omega is powered only by his will to live, and that only works on this side of the mirror. He goes all Kylo Ren on everything since he does not want to live like that, and the Doctor run back to the TARDIS just in time to let all of the companions seek shelter.

The First Doctor is unable to fully appear in the antimatter universe since the Time Lords’ power is so badly compromised, but he links with his successors and formulate a plan. They ask Omega to bring the TARDIS to him, and then ask the companions to trust them implicitly. They promise to set Omega free only if he sends the companions home, and Omega counters that he cannot be freed, but will keep the Doctors as his companions. Each of the Doctors’ companions step into the light stream and go home.

As much as I tear into the Brigadier’s character, he did have a very touching moment as he saluted the Doctors. He truly believes it to be the last time that he shall see them.

The Doctors offer Omega the TARDIS’s force field generator as a means to escape, but he physically rejects it, and the Second Doctor’s recorder (which has been on the TARDIS inside the generator the entire time and not modified to exist in both universes) annihilates with the anti-matter in a supernova, breaking the bridge and returning everyone to their rightful places. Poetically, the act also restores power to the Time Lords, making it the second time that Omega has exchanged his life for their civilization.

In exchange for his help, the Time Lords forgive the Doctor of his crimes: After fifteen serials in exile, they return his knowledge of time travel and provide him with a new dematerialization circuit. Jo is elated, since the Doctor decides that he can’t leave Earth yet since he needs a new force field generator.

Thank the Maker, we get time travel again!

Overall, this was a great story, and it was fantastic to see Troughton back in action. His madcap style is a great contrast to Pertwee’s pompous prim and proper. It was also good to see how well the companions and Doctors all interacted, although it would have been nice to bring in some of the First and Second Doctor’s companions as well. Time and budget are always constraints, and it might have also muddied the plot a little.

One place where I’m torn is with Hartnell’s final performance. It was so good to see him in character again, but he was obviously very ill and not fully back to where he left the character thirty-six serials ago. Sadly, he died two years after this performance, his last as the Doctor and his final acting performance overall.


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters



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 #64: The Time Monster

Doctor Who: The Time Monster
(6 episodes, s09e21-e26, 1972)

Timestamp 064 The Time Monster


The Doctor has some weird dreams.

Foreshadowing events to come over the next three hours, he has a nightmare about the Master and trident-shaped crystal, which is (1) a bit on the nose symbolically since it comes from Atlantis, and (2) exactly what the Master happens to be holding in his guise of a science professor. Of course, this is the third time Doctor Who has tapped on the Atlantis mythos, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The Doctor is concerned about his nightmare, and he tells the Brigadier (who has been laying low since the Daleks waged gorilla on guerilla warfare) to alert UNIT to be on the lookout for the Master. The Brigadier does so sarcastically, and then reminds the Doctor that UNIT is obligated to attend the demonstration of TOMTIT – a project that demonstrates Transmission of Matter Through Interstitial Time and the Master’s desire to spell something silly – but since the Doctor and Jo are waiting for the Master to strike and Captain Yates has the duty, poor Sergeant Benton is ordered to cancel his leave and join the Brigadier at the Newton Institute.

What the Doctor doesn’t realize is that leave is one of the most precious commodities in the world to an enlisted man. I’m not saying that he should watch his back from this point forward, but maybe he should start carrying a rear-view mirror everywhere he goes.

Instead of requisitioning a rear-view mirror, the Doctor builds a time sensor – a TARDIS “sniffer-outer” – that starts going ballistic when the TOMTIT scientists start a rehearsal of the experiment. That Master gets angry that the team started early, but Dr. Ruth Ingram points out that the experiment overloaded its circuits during the teleportation, and the Master determines that the crystal is drawing energy from outside time itself. He decides to skip the traditional post-demonstration wine-and-dine when he sees UNIT arrive for the show.

The Doctor and Jo track the source of the temporal readings in Bessie, which now has a Super Pursuit Mode sans absurd transforming sentient Trans-Am, and we also start seeing the depths of the Doctor’s obsession with Venus. He has programmed the time sensor to read in Venusian miles, requiring a conversion table for each calculation. The sensor spikes as the Master, cleverly disguised in a radiation suit, begins the experiment which turns out to be a front to summon a being called Kronos.

The experiment creates bubbles of time dilation, and when the Doctor arrives, he is slowed down and Jo is frozen. Stuart, the research assistant, has aged sixty years due to radiation exposure as his own personal temporal reference has been accelerated. Dr. Ingram – call her Ruth – mentions Professor Thascalos, and the Doctor’s mastery of Greek uncovers the Master’s identity. The Brigadier orders support troops, the Doctor’s TARDIS, and an evacuation of non-essential personnel from the Institute, and the Doctor investigates the crystal at the heart of TOMTIT. Kronos is a fearsome member of the Chronovore race who live outside of and eat time, and the mythology is an interpretation of actual events. The crystal is the same one that summoned Kronos to Atlantis thousands of years ago, and the rest of it is located in the Vault of Poseidon, deep in the legendary city thousands of years in the past.

The Master’s TARDIS is disguised as a computer in the laboratory, and to get to it, he tricks Benton into leaving the laboratory. Benton sees through the ruse, but gets knocked out upon ambushing the Master. The Master summons an Atlantean priest named Krasis, and the priest possesses a holy seal that contains the secret of summoning Kronos. With all the keys in place, the Master summons Kronos. The mighty creature eats the institute’s director as Stuart de-ages and the Brigadier, Benton, and Ruth get trapped by the temporal field. Kronos proves to be uncontrollable, and the Master returns it to the crystal.

The Doctor makes a temporal jamming device, but it doesn’t last long. As Captain Yates and UNIT arrive, the Master summons opposition from the past in the form of a medieval knight, a squad of Roundheads, and a V1 bomb. The V1 takes out the convoy but everyone is okay, and as Ruth, Stuart, and Benton go to the lab to take on the Master, the Doctor and Jo take to the TARDIS.

The TARDIS has a new desktop – the wash basin roundels are a nice touch – and the Doctor develops a plan to materialize his TARDIS inside the Master’s TARDIS. This concept of a TARDIS inside a TARDIS boggles the mind, but it’s possible. Really tricky, but possible. If the calculations aren’t precise, a time ram will occur that will annihilate both of them.

Jo’s bravery and spunk motivate the Doctor, and the TARDIS lands. The two are linked as the Master’s TARDIS appears to materialize inside the Doctor’s. When he leaves, his TARDIS is inside the Master’s. They leave the Master’s and emerge into the Doctor’s. They are both inside each other, creating a time loop.

When the UNIT troops arrive – Krasis’s temporal ignorance is a fantastic alarm system – and the Master extends a time field to prevent them from interfering. The duo take off for Atlantis, and since the TARDISes are linked, the Doctor and Jo go with him. Meanwhile, Ruth, Stuart, and Benton are trapped in the lab, and they work to deactivate the time field and rescue the Brigadier’s squad. The plan backfires, and Benton gets turned into a baby.

After a sequence that helps develop the franchise’s basis for the TARDIS’s telepathy and language interpretation skills, the Doctor is forced to leave his TARDIS to confront the Master. The Master summons Kronos, which eats the Doctor (setting him adrift in the time vortex) before returning to the crystal. The Master then ejects the Doctor’s TARDIS into the time vortex. After the turbulence, Jo comes to and hears several whispers from the Doctor, but a single, strong voice comes through clearly via the TARDIS. The TARDIS and the Doctor work with Jo to rescue the Time Lord before setting course for Atlantis.

In the legendary lost city, King Dalios holds court, and rabble-rouser Hippias wishes for a return to the glory during the era of Kronos. Dalios attempts to dissuade them, but the Master interrupts him with a grand entry and claims to be an envoy of the gods. When Krasis claims to have seen Kronos, Dalios takes him and the Master into private conference. The Doctor arrives shortly thereafter, and Krasis attempts to kill him but Hippias intervenes. The Doctor and Jo are taken to Dalios instead.

The Master is dismissed after failing to place Dalios under his thrall, and he’s surprised to see the Doctor alive. The Doctor and “Jo Jo Grant” meet with Dalios, and the king sends Jo to meet with his queen, Galleia. Later on, Galleia meets with the Master, who offers him the crystal. Jo attempts to inform the king and the Doctor, but she is turned away. She pursues Hippias, who is tasked with retrieving the crystal for Galleia, but is captured by Krasis and locked in with the crystal’s guardian, the Minotaur.

The Doctor finds out about Jo and goes after her. Hippias tries to save Jo, but the Minotaur kills him, and the Doctor does his best olé by bullfighting the guardian into a wall. As the wall crumbles, the crystal chamber is exposed, and Krasis takes the Doctor and Jo to see the king. Unfortunately, the king has been deposed thanks to Galleia and replaced by the Master. He imprisons the Doctor and Jo, and after the Doctor relates a tale about the blackest day of his life. Behind his home on a mountain was a hermit (a monk, but not The Monk) who spent half his life under a tree. The hermit listened to the Doctor’s woes, and then pointed to a flower, which presented the Doctor a new perspective on life. Afterward, Dalios is imprisoned in the same cell, shares his vision of the Doctor saving Atlantis, and then dies.

Later on, Galleia addresses Atlantis and presents the Master as king, and he offers to summon Kronos. The Doctor reveals to Galleia that Dalios is dead, and she turns on the Master. Kronos is summoned and the Master orders it to destroy Atlantis. The Master escapes with the crystal, but Jo pursues him into his TARDIS. The Doctor chases after them in his TARDIS and threatens the Master with a time ram. The Master calls the Doctor’s bluff, and Jo initiates the time ram, catapulting both TARDISes into a featureless place. They are greeted by Kronos, who was released when the TARDISes collided. She grants the Doctor and Jo a reward for their assistance, and they ask to be returned home. She intends to keep the Master in torment and punishment, but the Doctor asks for leniency. Of course, the Master takes the opportunity to escape.

With the universe saved once again, the Doctor and Jo return to Cambridge as the time field is released and the TOMTIT device explodes. Everything is back to normal, the Brigadier acts as comic relief, and Benton returns to adult form in his vintage birthday suit.

The Doctor might really want to consider that rear view mirror.

This was a pretty good serial, but not quite up to the bar set by the rest of the season. It was certainly fun, but it’s kind of hard to follow The Mutants.

I appreciated that the writers hung a lampshade on the TOMTIT acronym: Almost every time it was mentioned, one of the companions would do a double take, and it’s understandable. The device looks nothing like a small bird or a biplane, and between this and the rather unfortunate shape of the time sensor, I think the creative team was having some fun with this one.

I also liked the symmetry of the Master and the Doctor simultaneously working the overload problem in separate locations. These frenemies (hey, the word’s been around since the 1950s) are really not that different if you strip away their motivations, and if the Master could get over his self-sabotaging need to have his plans overpower him, he’d be nearly unstoppable. I also liked how the Master didn’t engage the TARDIS’s chameleon circuit when he traveled to Atlantis. It added to the shock and awe of seeing a foreign object materialize from thin air.

I enjoyed the humor behind the Doctor showing up the Brigadier and his disdain of Bessie with the car’s super drive. I also liked seeing Dave “Darth Vader” Prowse in something other than Star Wars.

Overall, this was a great story that was perhaps a bit long, and even judged on its own merits is the weakest part of an otherwise spectacular season.


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


UP NEXT – Ninth Series 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.



Timestamp #63: The Mutants

Doctor Who: The Mutants
(6 episodes, s09e15-e20, 1972)

Timestamp 063 The Mutants


This is one dense story with a lot to unpack. Unlike a parcel where you can cut the tape, root through all the packing peanut filler, and find the gem at the bottom, everything in this box feels important.

The Doctor gets an assignment from the Time Lords, and he’s oddly excited about it. Yes, it means that he gets to travel somewhere in the (pre-programmed) TARDIS, but isn’t he still being a puppet? This assignment makes the Doctor a courier with a message coded to one person, and the Jo accompanies him as they dematerialize for a broom closet in the future. This future contains three classes of beings: The Overlords who rule from the safety of the Skybase, the Solonians who live on the ruined planet Solos, and the mutants, Solonians who have transformed into a monster-form and are better known to the Overlords who hunt them as “mutts”.

The disparity between the classes is evident from the very beginning, right down to the separate (but equal) teleportation platforms for the delegates that are arriving for a conference. The Overlords, who hail from the empire of Earth, have decided that after exploiting and industrializing Solos to near death, it is better for the dying empire to graciously grant the Solonians their indepedence. This plan isn’t without its detractors, as the Marshal (the Skybase’s commander) is in favor of destroying the native Solonians (and whatever causes their mutations) and terraforming their world for the empire.

Before the conference, the Marshal discusses matters with a Solonian named Varan and offers him a token of appreciation that should be kept safe, which Varan bestows upon his son. Elsewhere, one of the Solonians transforms and is killed before the Doctor and Jo, who are then taken into custody. The conference itself goes swimmingly for all of a minute before the empire’s administrator delivers a condescending speech, prompting the Solonians start protesting for their freedom. As the Solonians grow more and more irritated, Varan’s son fiddles with the token and it goes off, killing the imperial administrator with a poison dart. Ky, the Solonian leader, runs from the guards, takes Jo hostage, and teleports down to the Solonian surface.

The downside to the planet’s surface, courtesy of the Marshal’s experiments, is the poisonous mists that dominate the day hours. Solonians are immune to those gas clouds, but humans cannot survive long. Knowing this, the Marshal uses the Doctor’s compassion for Jo to solicit the Time Lord’s help in exchange for stepping up the search for Jo and Ky. The Marshal also takes the opportunity to wrap up loose threads by killing Varan’s son with a poison dart and framing Ky for the administrator’s assassination. Varan escapes with the truth in hand, but the Marshal declares him a mutt and order his execution. Meanwhile, Ky saves Jo’s life by attacking a guard, stealing his mask, and escorting her to a nearby cave. Ky rocks Jo’s world by showing her how humans from Earth have turned into a swarm of devouring locusts that leave ruined worlds in their wake. Her expression betrays the culture shock as she realizes just how terrible her own people can be.

The Doctor attempts to open the message box, which he realized was meant for Ky when the Solonian rushed by earlier, using particle reversal. The Skybase’s lead scientist, Jaeger, realizes that the same technology could be used to clean up the planet’s atmosphere. This technique is better in Jaeger’s eyes than the previous option, which would use rockets to scrub the atmosphere at the cost of planetary genocide. Meanwhile, the Doctor exposes the Marshal’s deception with Varan to officer Stubbs, and the Marshal convinces officer Cotton to lie about Jo’s whereabouts. The hero and the villain are left at an empasse, but Cotton’s conscience forces him to comes clean after consulting with his roommate Stubbs.

Knowing that the Marshal is hiding the truth about Jo, the Doctor runs an experiment on particle reversal that deliberately blows the power grid so he can sneak down to Solos. Similarly, Stubbs helps Varan escape during the outage, and Varan captures the Doctor after mistaking him for an Overlord. Once on the surface, the Doctor disables Varan with his Vensuian Aikido skills and makes him promise as a warrior that he will take the Doctor to Ky. The Doctor and Varan find Ky in the caves after he and Jo were pushed deeper into the cave system by the mutants. The mutants are driven off, but Jo has moved further into the caves to a chamber filled with light. She collapses, but is rescued by a figure in a protective suit. Meanwhile, Ky opens the message box and finds a set of stone tablets with ancient writing on them, but the language is part of the culture destroyed by the Overlords.

Seemingly ignorant to their recent treachery, the Marshal sends Stubbs and Cotton to the surface after Varan and the Doctor. He leads the team, intending to deploy gas bombs in the caves and smoke out the Doctor. While searching for the Doctor, Stubbs and Cotton confirm the Marshal’s suspicions about their earlier actions, and he seals them in with explosives that collapse the cave entrances. The group is saved from the gas by the mysterious figure in the protective suit.

The man in the suit is Professor Sondergaard, an Overlord scientist long thought dead, who turned on them because of how the Overlords treated the Solonians. The professor and the Doctor stay behind in the caves to decipher the tablets, which turn out to be a Solonian calendar, as Stubbs, Cotton, Jo, and Ky make their way out of the mountain. The group of companions are ambushed by Varan’s warriors and taken hostage, and the Doctor and Sondergaard explore the radioactive chamber of lights, in which they find a large crystal.

The Marshal returns to the Skybase and gets word that an Earth Investigator is en route. Meanwhile, Varan’s group takes Jo’s group to the Skybase so they can destroy it, and the Doctor returns to the Skybase to analyze the crystal after theorizing that the mutations are actually a normal part of the Solonian lifecycle. The Marshal detects Varan’s intrusion and sends guards to intercept. The Solonian warriors are all killed, and the Marshal shoots Varan and the bulkhead, which breaches and sends Varan into space. Jo and her cohort escape the hull breach and are taken into custody, subject to execution by the Marshal, as Jaeger launches his rockets. Luckily, they malfunction and only poison the surface instead of ionizing the atmosphere. This leaves particle reversal as the only option, which forces the Marshal back to the planet to find the Doctor. The Doctor avoids the guards and teleports back up to the Skybase, but is ambushed by the Marshal. With Jo’s life at stake, the Doctor is pressed into helping Jaeger. Jo feigns illness and ambushes the guards, securing their freedom long enough to relay the situation to the incoming inspector’s ship, but Stubbs dies as the Marshal captures them once again.

On the surface, Sondergaard returns to the cave and is rescued from one of the guards by the mutants. The professor explains the genetic discovery, and the mutants agree to help find the Doctor. On the Skybase, the Doctor begins the particle reversal on the planet, which undoes the damage from the rockets, but the Marshal uses Jo as collateral as a threat to finish the job. Just then, the investigator arrives, and Jo is taken to the other hostages (Cotton and Ky) in the refueling room, which will become radioactive when the ship begins refueling. They narrowly escape through the refueling boom as the investigator conducts an inquiry of the Marshal’s actions.

When Jo, Ky, and Cotton arrive, the tables turn as the Doctor tricks the Marshal into exposing his bigotry. Sondergaard arrives to testify as a mutant beams up to the station. The mutant’s presence prompts the Investigator to release the guards and fight the intruders, and the Doctor takes advantage of the chaos to analyze the crystal. The Marshal confines Jo, Sondergaard, Cotton, and Ky to the refueling chamber, but Sondergaard uses the crystal and the radiation to accelerate Ky’s evolution. Ky ascends to a higher form, then makes his way through the station to the laboratory just as the particle reversal machine overloads and explodes. Ky kills the Marshal, thanks the Doctor, and leaves.

In the aftermath, Sondergaard and Cotton remain to study the Solonians, and Cotton gets promoted to station commander. The Doctor and Jo make excuses and depart for the TARDIS, prompting another “doctor who” groaner as the credits roll.

I summarized (yes, summarized) all of that just to make sense of it. As the TARDIS vwooorp-ed away, I had to sit back and really think about what I had just watched over the previous three hours. For me, it was almost like I was back to analyzing Farscape again because on the surface, this is a typical good guy/bad guy monster tale, and that surface story has a twist with the monsters not serving the villain’s agenda. But there was more. It called to me. I knew that I had to look deeper.

This was a very dense story, and I loved pretty much all of it. There was plenty of action and intrigue – again, the frosting on the surface – but it also had delicious thematic layers that made it one of the most on-point stories I have seen so far with allegories about racism, segregation, environmentalism, over-industrialization, corruption, tyranny, economics, politics, and probably a handful of other topics that I still haven’t figured out, and all it is wrapped up in a neat presentation with a bow on top.

Quite honestly, it was like a handful of classic Star Trek episodes turned up to eleven, but it wasn’t messy or tangled. I settled on a mid-range 4 rating, and you know what happens with that when I add a drop of my patent-pending optimism.


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Time Monster


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 #62: The Sea Devils

Doctor Who: The Sea Devils
(6 episodes, s09e09-e14, 1972)

Timestamp 062 The Sea Devils


The Master returns to Doctor Who, scheming and plotting from his island prison cell. The Doctor and Jo pay him a visit, and the Master claims to be rehabilitated, but he refuses to reveal where he parked his TARDIS, so the Doctor is skeptical.

Adding to the Doctor’s uneasy feeling is a recent rash of ship sinkings in the area and Colonel Trenchard, the very odd prison warden who (unbeknownst to the Doctor) is working with the Master to defeat some unknown enemy agents. The Doctor goes to the nearby naval base and enlists the help of the base commander. He and Jo head to the nearby sea fort to investigate, but are stranded as the Sea Devils destroy their boat. The Sea Devils give chase inside the fort, where the Doctor and Jo find a single half-mad survivor before calling for help and escaping.

According to the Doctor, these Sea Devils are related to the Silurians: They are adapted to living underwater, and they share the same motivations as their cave-dwelling cousins.

Trenchard sets the Master free, and he goes to the naval base in the guise of a Navy commander. He steals some sonar equipment, assaults a Chief Petty Officer, and escapes after being spotted by Jo. When the Doctor and Jo return to the prison, the Master is back in his cell as if nothing ever happened. The Doctor sends Jo to inform UNIT as the Master escapes and a random swordfight breaks out. Trenchard arrests the Doctor, and the Master explains his evil plan to take over the world with the Sea Devils.

Meanwhile, the Sea Devils take over a rather spacious submarine. Who knows why at this point, but they do.

The Doctor escapes with Jo’s help and they run for the beach, but are soon trapped among the Master, the colonel’s troops, a minefield, and a Sea Devil summoned by the Master. The Master’s plan goes south as the fearful soldiers attack the Sea Devil, the Sea Devil kills the soldiers, the Doctor and Jo run for the minefield, the Sea Devil enters the minefield, the Doctor triggers a mine to scare the Sea Devil back to the ocean, the colonel questions the Master about the creature who slaughtered his men, and the Master sends a handful of them to attack the prison and kill Trenchard.

Take a moment here to breathe as the secret service Sea Devils take their luxury submarine somewhere. Who knows where are this point, but they do.

The Doctor and Jo go back to the naval base, and the Doctor takes a diving bell to the foundation of the sea fort to investigate. The Sea Devils abduct him and take him to their leader, with whom the Doctor almost brokers peace, but is interrupted by the arrival the Master. Further complicating matters are Parliamentary Private Secretary Walker, a sexist, pompous, arrogant ass who arrives to “solve” the missing ship problem with his depth charges.

The Doctor escapes from the sea devils, rescues the submarine crew, and they all break free from the underwater base in a moment of okay, sure that had me setting aside my background in undersea warfare. At least they wrapped up the dangling plot thread about that stolen sub. Not to be dissuaded, the Master and the Sea Devils take over the naval base, and the Master tries to convince the Doctor to help him revive all of the Sea Devils around the world. The Doctor sabotages the machine, which incapacitates the Sea Devils so the sailors can escape. The Doctor fixes the “mistake” just as the sailors stage an assault to retake the island, but the Master runs with the machine and the Doctor gives chase. They end up back in the waiting fins of the Sea Devils, who are now tired of all of these Time Lord shenanigans. The Doctor sabotages the machine by reversing the polarity of the neutron flow (huzzah!), which creates a bomb that the Master unknowingly activates. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to open the cell, and he and the Master escape. The Sea Devil base explodes, but the Master works his mental magic to escape in a hovercraft.

All of that in six episodes, which normally poses a problem for me, but this story was so well paced that it didn’t matter. Each thirty-minute block just flew by.

Despite the pace, there were a couple of down notes. First, the third episode must have been a bit short since they repeated the whole swordfight from the previous episode. It wouldn’t have been a problem if I wasn’t watching these in rapid succession, but when the episodes are back-to-back, long repeated story points shred the pacing. Second, it’s becoming standard operating procedure for the Master that his eyes are too big for his metaphorical stomach. His plans always double back on him, usually because he’s trying to wield too much power. Don’t get me wrong, it makes sense with the megalomaniacal bag full of cats that is the Master, but it’s become predictable. Especially after an entire season of stories with that common thread.

On the plus side: First, the writers did their homework with all of the naval trappings. Even though the submarine was the standard Hollywood-style hotel underwater, it was still okay with me in practice. Second, Roger Delgado is deliciously evil and melodramatic in this serial, and while Series Eight was decent with his portrayals, for some reason this serial really worked for me. Last, I loved how the Doctor used the sonic screwdriver as a tool to navigate the minefield, set off one of the charges to scare the Sea Devil, and escape from a jail cell. The prop also has a totally ’70s sci-fi vibe, and I adore it.

This fast-paced and fairly tightly written serial shook out to a high 4 when I was done, and I have no problem rounding that up.


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Mutants



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.