Timestamp Special #7: Dimensions in Time

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

 

Celebrating thirty years.

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

On to the story…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Death Comes to Time

 

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

 

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Timestamp #130: The Five Doctors

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors
(Twentieth Anniversary Special, 1983)

 

“I am being diminished, whittled away piece by piece. A man is the sum of his memories you know, a Time Lord even more so…”

After a heart-touching introduction by the First Doctor, we find the Fifth Doctor – To save on confusion, I’m going to call them by number right out of the gate – putting the finishing touches on a brand new control console, and I actually kind of like it. The team is relaxing at the Eye of Orion, taking some time away from the rush of their recent adventures. The tranquil atmosphere has something to do with a bombardment of positive ions, and the Doctor agrees with Tegan that they can vacation for a little while.

Elsewhere, a black-gloved hand fiddles with controls and activates a scanner. On the screen is none other than the First Doctor (though not quite the genuine article due to an obvious need for recasting). A black Phantom Zone-like two-dimensional triangle swoops down and scoops up the Time Lord, an act that causes the Fifth Doctor considerable pain. The First Doctor is reduced to an Eaglemoss figurine and placed on a crystalline display.

Next up, we’re taken to UNIT HQ where Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is talking to his replacement, Colonel Crighton, when the Second Doctor arrives. The Time Lord has arrived to attend the Brig’s farewell speech and is unhappy with the renovations at UNIT HQ. He and the Brigadier take a walk, reminiscing over the Yeti, the Cybermen, Omega, and the Terrible Zodin (okay, not so much that one) before they too are swept into the Phantom Zone and turned into toys.

On to the Third Doctor, who is trying to outrace the spinning triangle in Bessie. He fails.

Tegan and Turlough escort the Fifth Doctor to the TARDIS, where he tells them that he must find his older selves to stop whatever is chewing at his soul. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sarah Jane and K9 puzzle over the danger that the robotic dog detects. Sarah Jane ignores his concerns and heads to the bus for her daily schedule. She’s later consumed by the mysterious triangle.

The Fourth Doctor and Romana are punting down the river at Cambridge, just like they did in Shada. It’s a clever re-use of footage, really. Anyway, they are also taken, which causes the Fifth Doctor to collapse, but not before he sets the coordinates. The Fifth Doctor fades in and out before the TARDIS lands, and the mysterious figure adds models of Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor to the display.

On Gallifrey, the Inner Council has convened, comprised of a newly-regenerated President Borusa, High Chancellor Flavia, and the Castellan. Shockingly, they admit the Master for a conference. The Inner Council offer a pardon for his long list of crimes and a whole new regeneration cycle in exchange for one act: He is to rescue the Doctor.

Surprise!

The First Doctor wanders an angular cave of mirrors, joined in a surprise appearance by Susan. (There were cheers from this Whovian. I’ve missed her.) The pair run as a Dalek (we haven’t seen them in a while!) rounds a corner and opens fire. The place is known as the Death Zone, an arena-like place on Gallifrey where beings from across the universe were sent to battle for amusement before the time of Rassilon. The Council sent two representatives who did not return. They attempted to send the Doctor, but all of his incarnations have vanished from the timeline. All of them (except the Fourth because Tom Baker had reasons) have been deposited in the Death Zone. Inside the Zone, the First Doctor and Susan trick the Dalek into a mirrored dead end. It fires and the reflected beam destroys the creature, revealing the mutant within the armored casing. Through a hole in the wall, they see the tower of the Death Zone and decide to investigate.

Elsewhere, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier tangle with Cybermen and the Third Doctor reunites with Sarah Jane as he rescues her from a terrible fall. As the First Doctor and Susan wander, they find the Fifth Doctor’s TARDIS and meet Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor. The First Doctor spearheads introductions all around and then tasks Tegan with fetching refreshments. She objects, but the Fifth Doctor asks her to humor the oldest of the Doctors. After all, he used to get a bit tetchy. Meanwhile, the Master is sent into the Zone with the Seal of the High Council (to prove his credentials) and a transmat recall device. He is soon found by the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane, but the reunion is broken up by laser fire. The Master runs one direction while the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane go another, but without the aid of Bessie who took a direct hit to the engine.

The Fifth Doctor sets the TARDIS coordinates for the Dark Tower, a place that supposedly holds the tomb of Rassilon and is the current destination for all of the Doctors and companions. The Fifth Doctor, Susan, and Tegan set out on foot to disable the force field around it so the First Doctor and Turlough can move the TARDIS to its doorstep. Meanwhile, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier go in through the cave system beneath the tower, the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter Cybermen, and the Fifth Doctor’s team encounters the Master. The last event is watched by a squad of Cybermen, who rush the Time Lords and stun the Master. The Fifth Doctor sends Susan (who twists her ankle) and Tegan back to the TARDIS before using the transmat recall to return to the capitol. The First Doctor decides to take up the Fifth Doctor’s task, and Tegan joins him. Amusingly, the First Doctor still has a great deal of resentment at being addressed as “Doc.”

The Fifth Doctor confers with the Inner Council about who has control of the time scoop and the Cybermen. He uncovers a homing beacon inside the recall device, surmising that someone led the Cybermen to the Master to attack the Doctors. Borusa has the Castellan, who originally gave the device to the Master, arrested and his office and quarters searched. Meanwhile, the Master makes an arrangement with the Cybermen, who then converge on the TARDIS.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter a Raston Warrior Robot, a perfect killing machine, halting their progress until it passes. Luckily, the Cybermen approach and engage the Raston, providing a diversion for our heroes to escape (with the Raston’s supplies). In the caves, the Second Doctor and the Brig find a Yeti, which they evade before finding a door to the Dark Tower. It is unlocked, so a trap must lie beyond.

In the Citadel, a chest containing Black Scrolls of Rassilon, forbidden knowledge from the Dark Times, is found in the Castellan’s quarters. The Castellan is taken away for interrogation but is shot dead (without regeneration) en route. The Fifth Doctor is forbidden by Borusa from returning to the Death Zone. Flavia is tasked with taking care of the Fifth Doctor, and they discuss the possibility that the Castellan was not the traitor.

At this point, all three entrances to the Dark Tower are in use. The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane zipline across to the upper entrance, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier are in the basement, and the First Doctor and Tegan use a biometric entry coder to open the front door. The Master follows through the main entrance with the Cybermen. Interestingly, the First Doctor does not recognize his former classmate. The Master tricks the Cybermen into a death trap, but the CyberLeader survives until the Master tricks and kills him with a Cyberman blaster. The Master passes the trap, followed by the First Doctor and Tegan who survive by using π. Stay in school, kids… math can save your life.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane descend toward the Tomb of Rassilon, but the closer they get, the more psychic energy pushes back on Sarah Jane. The Third Doctor scouts ahead and finds former companions Mike Yates and Liz Shaw. Similarly, the Second Doctor encounters Zoe Heriot and Jaimie McCrimmon, but in both cases, the former companions are only specters designed to impede progress toward the heart of the tower. Once the Doctors understand that the companions are mere illusions, they disappear with chilling screams. The First Doctor is unaffected since, at his age, he has nothing left to fear.

The First, Second, and Third Doctors, along with their current traveling companions, finally arrive at the tomb. After a series of reunions, the Doctors decipher the Old High Gallifreyan language of mathematical symbols to discover that whoever wears Rassilon’s ring shall achieve immortality. The First Doctor is troubled by the last line in the text: “To lose is to win and he who wins shall lose.” The Master arrives shortly afterward and threatens the Doctors, but he is sucker-punched by the Brigadier and tied up by Tegan and Sarah Jane.

The Fifth Doctor goes to confer with Borusa, but the president is nowhere to be found. The Doctor discovers that the Harp of Rassilon is a musical key. The key unlocks a chamber where the figurines (including one of the Master) are being overseen by Borusa, the true mastermind of this scheme. The president is not satisfied with leading Gallifrey for all of his lifetimes, but instead want to be immortal and President Eternal. He plans to use the Doctors to clear the path and traps, leaving the way open for him to claim the prize. When the Fifth Doctor refuses to help, Borusa uses the power of the Coronet of Rassilon to compel his cooperation.

Politicians, right?

The Third Doctor reverses the polarity of the neutron flow on the control console, and with the forcefields down around the Tomb of Rassilon, the TARDIS engages autopilot and moves to the tomb with Susan and Turlough. The movement is just in time as the Cybermen detonate a bomb to destroy the TARDIS, but they miss. Soon, the Fifth Doctor and Borusa arrive via transmat to claim the prize. The first three Doctors combine their psionic powers to break the telepathic hold, and as the Fifth Doctor is freed, the voice of Rassilon issues a challenge to Borusa. The First Doctor convinces Rassilon to surrender the ring to Borusa, and the president’s desire is granted: The faces that line the plinth come to life, for they are those who have previously sought immortality, and Borusa becomes one of them.

Rassilon offers immortality to the Doctors, but they decline in exchange for the chance to go back to their respective timestreams. The Fourth Doctor is restored to Shada, and the Master is restored with the promise that his sins will find their punishment in due time. As the Doctors says their farewells, the First Doctor (smugly) explains that he convinced Rassilon to give Borusa the ring because he finally understood the riddle: It was a trap set by Rassilon to weed out the more selfish of their people because they were a danger to civilization. Each set of Doctors and companions boards the TARDIS in order and the TARDIS splits through a form of temporal fission to return them their proper homes.

Chancellor Flavia arrives and tells the Doctor that he is due back to the Citadel. Since Borusa has been disqualified, the High Council has decided that the Doctor shall resume his duties as Lord President. He orders Flavia back to the Citadel, telling her that she has full authority until he arrives in his TARDIS. After ushering Tegan and Turlough aboard, he sets a course and dematerializes, stunning his companions by announcing his intention to not take office.

“You mean you’re deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people, in a rackety old TARDIS?”

“Why not? After all, that’s how it all started.”

 

All in all, this was a wonderful story to celebrate a significant milestone. I was curious, so I looked at scripted entertainment television across the United States and United Kingdom and came up with a short list of shows to reach twenty years by 1983: Coronation Street, Guiding Light, As the World Turns, General Hospital, The Wonderful World of Disney, Romper Room, Search for Tomorrow, Captain Kangaroo, and The Edge of Night. There were also a couple of semi-scripted children’s shows like Blue Peter and The Sooty Show, but the fact remains that, in a world dominated by soap opera longevity, Doctor Who was the only science-fiction drama reach that mark.

Yeah, they deserved this party.

I was very pleased to see so many of the companions back in action, even if their cameos were short. While I would have loved to see Liz, Zoe, and Jamie get into the mix, the saying holds true that too many cooks spoil the broth. It was clever, however, to subvert nostalgia with the canonical circumstances of The War Games. I appreciate that level of attention to detail.

I did miss having Tom Baker in the mix, which would have drawn The Five Doctors down to four if it hadn’t been for Richard Hurndall. From what I gather in fan circles, his involvement as the First Doctor is sometimes disparaged, but I thought he did a fantastic job. Mixing his performance with the archival footage at the beginning (effectively bringing us two First Doctors) was a nice touch and a beautiful tribute to the beginnings of this franchise.

Finally, that wonderful musical mix over the end credits to tie the eras together: C’est fantastique.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Twentieth 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 #54: Inferno

Doctor Who: Inferno
(7 episodes, s07e19-e25, 1970)

Timestamp 054 Inferno

 

Time is the enemy this time around, and the weapon is the planet Earth.

Professor Stahlman, a rather arrogant child, is in charge of a nuclear powered drilling project in search of a previously untapped energy source. The project is experiencing problems, including a mysterious green goo that transforms people into some kind of emerald werewolves, so an expert is called in to help. This upsets Stahlman, who thinks that UNIT and the Doctor are already causing unnecessary interference and that Greg Sutton’s addition will only make things go slower. He even disables the computer, which provides safety guidance based on hard data, because it stands in his way.

The Doctor is using the same reactor to power experiments on the TARDIS console, which launches him into a dimensional void. Liz saves him by cutting the power, but he manipulates the situation as a goo-infected Stahlman increases the pressure to punch through the Earth’s crust and ends up on an alternate Earth that is a few hours ahead of his reality.

This alternate reality is fascist, with a UNIT analogue led by Section Leader Liz Shaw and Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart. Stahlman is still a petulant ass, and the drilling is still on track. In this reality, the crust is breached and the green slime explodes from the site. Stahlman seals himself in the drill room and exposes the crew inside to the goo, and the planet is at the point of no return. This Earth is dead.

The alternate Earth team helps the Doctor to restore power to the console after a brief demonstration of its capabilities, and the Brigade Leader tries to hijack it to save their lives. In a really nice twist, Liz kills him to defend the Doctor. The Doctor travels back to his reality and stops the drilling just in time to save the planet from the inferno.

It took seven episodes to tell that story.

I liked the return of travelling to the franchise. I’m beginning to share the Doctor’s frustration at waiting for the story to come to him. His life at this point revolves around trying to restore his mobility, and while the threats on Earth are interesting and (for the most part) exciting, exploration is one of the key themes of the show.

I liked the main “mirror universe” characters and how well Nicholas Courtney and Caroline John played them. I also liked the escalation of the conflict between the Doctor and the Brigadier. The Doctor is very abrasive toward the Brigadier – this is a trait I think is somewhat justified given how much the Doctor dislikes everything that UNIT represents in terms of military force – but it also highlights how arrogant, bitter, and self-centered he is in this incarnation. It’s like the First Doctor has returned with a slightly more cheery attitude.

There was one brilliant pop culture moment (“What did you expect? Some kind of space rocket with Batman at the controls?”) and one missed moment that highlights another difference between the Doctors (Sutton repeatedly calls the Doctor “Doc”, which his first incarnation vehemently despised).

I truly loved how empowered Petra Williams, the personal assistant to Professor Stahlman, was. She’s not a typist, she’s not to be loaned out, and she challenges the otherwise untouchable professor.

The two things I wasn’t too keen on were the antagonist and the resulting conflict. The immediate enemy was the strange wolf creatures, which are mutated by the unspecified green ooze from inside the planet. The Doctor links this incident to the volcanic eruption at Krakatoa in 1883, but to what end? The planet is saved by stopping the drilling, but the true antagonist, time, remains in play at the end. Eventually, someone else will drill into the planet in search of the power, and this will all start again. The problem wasn’t solved. It was merely delayed.

Between that and the number of episodes to tell what is really a very simple story, the serial slid from good to mediocre in quick order.

On the other hand, we finally have a threat that UNIT can stop with their guns, so at least they’re finally useful in a fight.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Series Seven 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 #53: The Ambassadors of Death

Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of Death
(7 episodes, s07e12-e18, 1970)

Timestamp 053 The Ambassadors of Death

 

I spent a good part of this serial trying to figure out if the aliens were the Ice Warriors again.

A recovery capsule attempts to rendezvous with a Mars capsule that has lost contact with Earth and the whole world knows because, a concept completely (and sadly) foreign to us today, the mission is being televised. Over that broadcast, the Doctor (who has somehow removed the TARDIS control console from the blue box and is playing some crazy plot-filler shenanigans with Liz Shaw and micro-trips to the future) hears a sound that he recognizes. He and Liz make haste to the mission control center to figure it out.

Mars: Check. Time Lord familiarity: Check. It could be the Ice Warriors…

The Doctor determines that this sound is an encrypted transmission, and the slightly different version that pings back is a reply message. It’s certainly not a deep conversation; if this were a texting relationship, it would be like “hey” followed by “what up (smiley emoticon)”. There are a couple of investigations around the source of the reply and the freshly landed recovery capsule and gun fights break out. Meanwhile, General Carrington, the head of the Space Security Department, pulls a Homeland Security Department move and extracts the astronauts before UNIT arrives. He has removed the astronauts because of radiation exposure, but the astronauts now feed on it. They also emit it like a virus, which could potentially spread like a plague. The astronauts are not the humans, but rather legitimate aliens, and a criminal named Reegan and a disgraced Cambridge professor named Lennox are tending to them. The aliens don’t have enough radiation to consume and are weakening.

So, not the Ice Warriors, but instead an attempt at domestic terrorism on a large scale by way of a government cover-up, right?

By way of a convenient communications device, the antagonists send the aliens on a raid of the space center. It fails, and the Doctor goes into space to investigate astronauts he believes are still in orbit. He dodges an assassination attempt, docks with the capsule, gets intercepted by an incoming alien saucer, and learns that the aliens on Earth are ambassadors to fulfill a peace treaty with humanity.

Not a domestic terror plot. I didn’t see that twist coming.

In a far too quick resolution for an already thinly stretched plot, it turns out that Carrington met the aliens when he piloted the previous Mars probe, and he signed the peace treaty to lure them to Earth and stop what he interpreted as an invasion. The Doctor takes the ambassadors to space center to stop the general’s plan and exchange the aliens for the missing astronauts. The day is saved. The end.

Can I have the Ice Warriors instead? Please?

No, really. I felt like this story was just all over the place and had no idea where it really wanted to go. Seven episodes is just far too long for that kind of song and dance. There were some fun moments with the Doctor being all scientific again, but there were also some real groaners in here. For one, the strange titles – Main titles, teaser footage, return to the titles for “The Ambassadors… OF DEATH!” with some really bad sound editing – were annoying. For two, the “transmigration” of an object? Ugh. Far too magical despite the Doctor’s magician outfit. For three, the convenience of magic side panels on the escape van. I love my Bond moments, and I get the license plates spinning to conceal the car, but the side panels should have been a more realistic change.

Speaking of Bond, what good is an “anti-thief” device on Bessie if it’s clearly labeled, required to be switched on to immobilize the thieves, and frees the perpetrators after a short time? A thief could just steal the car and not touch the switch. Achievement unlocked: Grand Theft Bessie – +30G.

Finally, the episodes shift in and out of black and white because of more missing master tapes. I don’t hold it against the episode since I survived the first six seasons of the show, but it seems that the BBC certainly has a hard time learning from their mistakes. Especially after what comes across as a significant investment in the show’s future with color, higher production values, and so on.

But, yeah, just like the plot, my attention for this one was touch and go. At the end, I was just happy to see it go.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Inferno

 

 

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 #52: Doctor Who and the Silurians

Doctor Who and the Silurians
(7 episodes, s07e05-e011, 1970)

Timestamp 052 Doctor Who and the Silurians

 

Nothing good ever comes from spelunking in genre shows.

This serial focuses on a cyclotron proton accelerator being used to research atomic power for the country. It is having security, personnel, and scientific problems, and who else do you call in for such things than a paramilitary organization, a Ph.D., and a time traveling alien? The facility has been having major power drains, which have been covered up in an attempt to help a race known as the Silurians. These reptilians aren’t really aliens per se, since they were really the planet’s original inhabitants before the rise of humanity. People who have encountered the Silurians are either killed by fear or sent into a catatonic state. Additionally, their very presence seems to have affected the cyclotron’s staff, all of whom suffer from fear-based neuroses. The Silurians retreated into hibernation chambers when they saw a strange planet crashing toward the Earth – that “planet” turned out to be the Moon falling into its orbit – but couldn’t be revived again without a sufficient power source like the cyclotron.

The Doctor eventually encounters the leaders of Silurians and nearly brokers a peace that would allow them to be assimilated into the modern Earth population, but a younger impatient upstart kills the leader and unleashes a bacterial infection on the planet to kill humanity and leave the planet for the Silurians alone. They also plan on eliminating the Van Allen Belt and irradiating the planet. Go big or go home, eh?

The Doctor tricks the Silurians by overloading the reactor and threatening to irradiate the area for at least 25 years. He stops the overload after the Silurians leave, and the younger Silurian is killed in defending the Doctor. The rest are placed in hibernation, and the Doctor wants to study them and negotiate a peaceful resolution. The Brigadier instead destroys all of them, which (rightfully so) disgusts the Doctor.

This Doctor is much harder to judge emotionally based on his reactions. He seems shocked to see the Silurian, but instantly turns congenial. Is he good at playing shocked, or good at rapidly overcoming it? I also liked his new wheels: The canary yellow Edwardian roadster named Bessie, complete with registration of “WHO 1”. He also can’t find his sonic screwdriver, and I couldn’t quite figure out if he was using it to fix Bessie or if it was lost in the fallout from The War Games.

I wondered about the dinosaur that the Silurians kept in the cave network. Was it also kept in hibernation? I assume so, since it wouldn’t have survived so long without a food source, but then why did they pick that particular dinosaur? I’m imagining a family of Silurians running for the hibernation chambers, and one of the kids won’t leave without the family pet Dino.

The Doctor mentions that he’s “beginning to lose confidence for the first time in my life, and that covers several thousand years.” The Doctor’s age is a wildly contentious item in the mythology. Is that travel time given the other estimates of his biological age throughout the franchise, or is he calculating on a different solar period?

The Doctor developing the antidote really emphasizes his scientific knowledge, something lightly touched on in the first two iterations. He really has nothing else to do since he’s grounded and waiting for the plot to come to him.

In minor notes, the music is odd in this one. It’s too whimsical for the dramatic tale, and doesn’t seem to fit with the story at all. The Silurian makeup is pretty cool, but it’s also impressive how far they’ve come to Madame Vastra in the modern years. It’s also the first use of “neutron flow” catch phrase.

The ongoing question will be how the Doctor can trust the Brigadier from this point forward. The Brigadier committed genocide – admittedly, in defense of the planet – which obviously disgusted the Doctor. The Doctor is pretty much locked into indentured servitude until he can unlock the TARDIS, so he can’t not work with UNIT, but can he really trust UNIT and the Brigadier?

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Ambassadors of 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 #51: Spearhead from Space

Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space
(4 episodes, s07e01-e04, 1970)

Timestamp 051 Spearhead from Space

 

It’s Doctor Who, now in color!

There’s a nice new opening to take advantage of that fact, although the projector sheet is pretty obvious. They also spoil the surprise of the Doctor’s new face in the opening credits, which is odd because they tease it for a good portion of the first episode. The budget has also obviously skyrocketed and the pace is a whole lot faster for what is looking more and more like a soft reboot of the series.

It’s really nice to see the Brigadier and UNIT again. He reminds the audience that we’ve met him twice before, and this is obviously his playground. He’s also dismayed because he doesn’t recognize the Doctor’s new face. We also get a new companion with Doctor Elizabeth Shaw. She’s really gruff with everyone except the Doctor, with whom she seems quite enamored. She’s quite an empowered woman, and certainly less of a damsel in distress than previous companions. She also demands respect by not putting up with the Doctor’s subterfuge when the Time Lord tricks her into retrieving the TARDIS key. Of course, he subsequently pulls a Millennium Falcon with the blue box. (No, it wouldn’t help if Liz got out and pushed.)

This story also cleanly brings Doctor Who into the era of the 1970s, which was the modern era for the production. You have civilians like the porter and the poacher acting exactly as they would in the time, which makes the show a fun little time capsule.

This Doctor kicks things off with a lot of heart – two, actually, as we establish that part of the mythos – and comedy. He acts crazy about his shoes as a ruse to get the TARDIS key he secreted away, and then he escapes in a wheelchair after almost being kidnapped, makes a break for the TARDIS, and gets shot. He should be more careful with this new body. I also laughed a lot about the clever sight gag with the doctor’s locker room sign (“Doctors Only”) and his escape from the hospital, during which he steals a rich doctor’s clothes and figures out how to steal a car. He really is a doctor of “pretty much everything.”

The plot isn’t half bad either. Meteorites crash to Earth, but they’re made of blinking and ringing plastic and draw Autons like ants. They’re impervious to gunfire (but the UNIT soldiers just keep slinging lead because that’s what they’re scripted to do) and are replacing key members of local leadership to (what else?) take over the world.

Channing, a character played to apathetic creepy perfection by Hugh Burden, is the avatar of the Nestene Consciousness, a force that has colonized planets like a virus across the universe and has now focused on Earth. The Doctor and crew stop them with a jury-rigged device, and after a brief technical difficulty and a battle with tentacles, the Doctor fries the Consciousness. Anyone for calamari?

The Doctor agrees to stay on with UNIT in exchange for facilities, technology to repair the TARDIS, Liz’s help with all of it, and a car. He also starts going by the pseudonym John Smith.

This serial hit the ground running, introduced a new Doctor, and made me like him right away. According to the rules of the Timestamps Project, regeneration episodes get an automatic +1 handicap, but this story certainly doesn’t need it.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who and the Silurians

 

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.