Timestamp #182: Army of Ghosts & Doomsday

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Series Two Summary

 

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

 

 

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Timestamp #177: Rise of the Cybermen & The Age of Steel

Doctor Who: Rise of the Cybermen
Doctor Who: The Age of Steel
(2 episodes, s02e05-06, 2006)

 

A classic enemy finally returns, but in a slightly different way.

Opening in a laboratory shrouded in darkness, a wheelchair-bound man named John Lumic gazes upon a new creation with pride. The scientist in charge, Dr. Kendrick, voices his ethical objections to the project, and Lumic orders the creation to kill the scientist. Lumic tells his staff to set sail for Great Britain as the Cyberman electrocutes Kendrick.

I have no problem just admitting that the monster is a Cyberman. That surprise is lost during the opening title sequence. No one looked at “Rise of the Cybermen” in the red vortex titles and said, “Hey, I wonder if this episode is about the return of Aggedor.”

Anyway…

On the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rose laugh about their adventures as Mickey keeps a switch on the console depressed. He could have let go a few minutes before, but the Doctor seems to have forgotten him. Mickey’s irritation is sidelined as the time-space vortex dissipates, tossing the TARDIS all about, and pretty much destroying the console. The TARDIS is dead, but they appear to have touched down in London.

Unfortunately, it’s not their London. In fact, the fleet of zeppelins in the air means that it’s not even their world.

Oh, and Rose’s dad? He’s alive here.

The Tylers don’t live in an apartment complex on this Earth. Pete has done quite well with his food schemes and has a large mansion. He arrives home with a bouquet to a grumpy wife. Jackie is preparing to celebrate her 40th – although she claims it’s her 39th – birthday, and the banner is all wrong. Jackie snuggles with Rose, her dog, while she tries out her new EarPods. Pete calls Lumic to thank him for the EarPods, and moments later Lumic activates them, overrides Jackie’s brain, and gets himself an invite to the party. He also orders his henchmen to gather up some extra staff, which turn out to be the local homeless population with a promise of free food. One of them refuses and films the events as the others begin screaming inside the truck.

Rose takes a walk on this new Earth as Mickey and the Doctor stare at the dead TARDIS console. She sees a broadcast from Lumic and Cybus Industries on her mobile. Meanwhile, the Doctor explains to Mickey that the TARDIS draws power from the universe, but this universe is incompatible. It was apparently easier when the Time Lords were in power, but now there’s no one to help. His spirits rise when he sees a single green glowing light under the console, giving them approximately twenty-four hours. Mickey and the Doctor find Rose with their news, but she’s depressed because she doesn’t exist in this universe. Mickey and Rose decide to split from the Doctor: Mickey wants to find someone who values him more than the Doctor, and Rose wants to see Pete Tyler. Reluctantly, the Doctor gives them twenty-four hours and chases after Rose.

The players get in position: Pete meets Lumic’s airship as it touches down; Mickey discovers military checkpoints and a curfew; Rose tells the Doctor about Mickey’s history before wandering into a crowd of drone-like people all wearing EarPods. Those people are all receiving a daily download from Cybus Industries, including news, lottery numbers, and a funny joke. Now that there’s a mystery afoot, the Doctor is interested in meeting Pete Tyler.

Mickey ends up at his grandmother’s house. In his reality, he was abandoned by his parents and raised by his grandmother until she tripped and died on the stairs. Mickey meets her counterpart in the new universe, and after promising not to disappear, beating him over his lack of contact, and calling him Ricky, she welcomes him in for a cup of tea.

The Doctor and Rose have really been taking him for granted.

Before he can settle in for his tea, however, a blue van drives up and takes him away. The occupants, part of the resistance, believe that Mickey is their Ricky, a man who is London’s most wanted. As night falls, they arrive at their hideout to find Ricky, leaving Mickey in a tight spot.

Pete Tyler and the President of Great Britain meet with Lumic to hear his proposal on how to extend human life by capturing the brain in a cybernetic suit. The President turns down the project and Lumic dismisses Pete before checking in with his henchman Crane. Lumic orders the project to proceed without permission, and Crane begins processing the homeless victims, drowning out their screams with The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

It seems that the band Tight Fit exists on this alternate Earth too.

Rose and the Doctor arrive at the Tyler mansion and pose as waitstaff to crash the party. After all, if you want to know what’s going on, work in the kitchen. The Doctor fills Rose in on all the scuttlebutt as they work the floor, only stopping as Pete Tyler presents Jackie to his assembled guests. Rose is a bit miffed that she shares her name with the dog.

As Lumic prepares his metal soldiers to begin their invasion, Ricky’s crew investigates the mystery of Mickey. Ricky’s crew – Jake and Mrs. Moore – take Mickey with them as they tail the Cybus truck to the Tyler estate. At the estate, the Doctor does some poking into an open computer as Rose gets her moment to talk with Pete. After things get a little personal, the conversation turns odd as Pete feels a strange connection with Rose and veers off to talk to someone who works at Torchwood. Rose later finds Jackie and has a moment with her, but it turns sour as Jackie takes offense to Rose’s comments on her personal life.

The truck arrives and deploys its malicious cargo. Rose watches the march of the Cybermen as the Doctor uncovers the truth. They meet up as the Cybermen literally crash the party, and as the President confronts Lumic, the Doctor explains who they are. The Cybermen offer to upgrade the party guests, but the President refuses. The Cyberman kills the President in response, and then begin to slaughter the party guests. Jackie is trapped in the cellar as Rose, Pete, and the Doctor run. Our heroes find Mickey and the rebels, and the Doctor offers their surrender.

Unfortunately for him, that tactic will not work on this Earth. These are not the Mondasian Cybermen that the Doctor has encountered in his normal universe, and the interlopers are considered inconvertible. Thus, the travelers are inferior and subject to maximum deletion.

So, an explosive resolution presents itself.

The Doctor pulls out the TARDIS crystal and channels its energy into the Cybermen, vaporizing them and allowing a chance for Mrs. Moore to rescue them in the van. The crystal will recharge in four hours, giving the resistance time to regroup and strategize. They find out that Pete Tyler is Gemini, their secret informant inside Cybus Industries, and the Doctor warns that talk of executing Pete will make the resistance his enemy. They don’t want that. The Doctor takes charge and promises to end the threat tonight.

Back at his factory, Lumic deploys the EarPods and starts bringing all of the citizens (including Jackie) to him for conversion. The resistance finds a group of stumbling drone-people, but they cannot remove the EarPods for fear of destroying their minds. The Doctor mentions the Cybermen of his normal universe, drawing the conclusion that these Cybermen are attempting to start their own Mondas from this ground zero. The Cybermen march on them, so the team splits and runs. In the chase, Ricky is killed in front of Mickey by the Cybermen. He brings this news to the assembled resistance, and Jake is furious with grief.

Crane comes before Lumic after having ditched his EarPods, requesting an upgrade. Crane disables Lumic’s life support chair, and after killing Crane, the Cybermen begin the upgrade process on Lumic. Across the river, the resistance plots their assault, and Pete and Rose decide to go in the front door with fake EarPods. The Doctor tasks Jake with destroying the EarPod transmitter, then teams with Mrs. Moore to enter through the cooling tunnels. Mickey refuses to be the tin dog and accompanies a reluctant Jake on his explosive mission.

The Doctor and Mrs. Moore find the cooling tunnels lined with dormant Cybermen. Mrs. Moore used to work at Cybus Industries as Angela Price, but she was apprehended for reading about the plans for Cybermen. When she escaped, she joined the resistance and took her alias. As they move through the tunnels, they trip a motion sensor and awaken the sleeping army. They barely escape into the factory. Moments later, they are confronted by a Cyberman and Mrs. Moore disables it with an electromagnetic grenade. The Doctor investigates the Cyberman’s construction and finds the emotional inhibitor. Unfortunately, it was broken in the confrontation, and the human side of the encased brain dies a frightened death as the Doctor disables the electronic heart. The two discuss the morality of killing the entire cyber army before Mrs. Moore is ambushed and killed. The Doctor is escorted away to Cyber Control.

Out front, Rose and Pete join the line of drone citizens marching toward upgrade. They witness the operations firsthand as unwitting victims are cut apart and transformed. When one Cyberman recognizes Pete, it confronts him and reveals that it was Jackie Tyler. Pete and Rose and taken to Cyber Control.

Jake and Mickey find the airship guarded by two men, and Mickey demands that they should not be killed. They disable the guards and enter the airship, finding what they think is a display Cyberman on the bridge. Mickey sets to work in hacking the ship’s navigational systems. The Cyberman comes to life and is tricked into destroying the transmitter. The citizens are awakened, and they run in terror.

In Cyber Control, the Doctor is reunited with Pete and Rose, and together they meet Lumic, the new Cyber Controller. The Cyber Controller tells the Doctor that he is too late, and that even if he is thwarted here, his factories around the world will take humanity by force. The Cyber Controller challenges the Doctor about his emotions, and the Doctor responds by sending Mickey (the “idiot”) a coded instruction to disable the emotional inhibitor. Mickey sends the disable code to Rose’s mobile, the Doctor plugs it into the mainframe, and the entire cyber army selfs destructs under the pain of their restored emotions and souls.

With the factory falling apart at the seams, Mickey takes command of the airship – he learned to fly on Playstation – and directs the Doctor, Rose, and Pete to the roof. He lowers a ladder and the heroes climb to safety, but the Cyber Controller grabs the ladder. The Doctor tosses his sonic screwdriver to Pete, and in Jackie’s name, the elder Tyler cuts the rope and sends Lumic to his demise.

The Doctor returns to the TARDIS and installs the charged crystal, bringing the TARDIS back to life. Outside, Rose and Pete say their farewells, and Pete decides to destroy the remaining factories as part of the resistance. He’s also unable to process the fact that Rose is his daughter in another universe. Mickey and Jake return, and the Doctor tasks Jake with telling Mrs. Moore’s family about her sacrifice. Mickey also reveals that he is staying behind as this universe’s Ricky. He acknowledges that his relationship with Rose has been broken since she started to travel with the Doctor, and the Doctor reminds both of them that they can never return.

The Doctor wishes Mickey luck, proud of what he has chosen to do. The two humans say their tearful farewells, and a reluctant Rose boards the TARDIS one more time. Mickey and Jake watch the TARDIS disappear, and then set their sights on Paris.

The TARDIS rematerializes in this universe’s Tyler apartment, and Rose rushes to her mother’s arms. Meanwhile, a universe away, Mickey remarks that he once saved the universe in a big yellow truck, so using a van is no challenge at all.

 

As noted before, the tension surrounding the return of the Cybermen was spoiled within minutes by the opening titles. It doesn’t seem like a big deal nearly thirteen years later, but it is obvious from the cinematography – blurred backgrounds, tight shots, the air of mystery around the monster – that director Graeme Harper (the first and only classic era Doctor Who director to cross over to the revival era) intended to make the reveal into a big deal.

In terms of the mythos, this return was a big deal. It’s the first full return for the Cybermen (excluding the quick nod in Dalek) and was a (sort of) 40th-anniversary celebration of their premiere in The Tenth Planet. It was also a return to form, restoring the iconic teardrop to the Cyberman masks after a 31-year absence.

I appreciated the fact that this made the Cybermen scary again by restoring the tragic nature of their origins. Throughout their existence, they have evolved from the almost-human species of The Tenth Planet to little more than a marauding horde of sentient robots. By playing with both Jackie’s assimilation and the emotional inhibitors – Sally Phelan’s death in the cold Cyberman armor was particularly poignant – the underlying empathy of the unemotional menace was restored.

Of course, since I originally started watching Doctor Who in the revival era and have seen what’s to come, rewatching this story reminded me that (in my opinion) this is as good as the Cybermen will get until the Twelfth Doctor’s finale.

Finally, I was impressed with Mickey’s sacrifice for the greater good. He fully admits that his relationship with Rose has been rocky since she first met the Doctor – This is another link in her continued dependence on the Doctor: Is she losing her humanity as she immerses herself without question in the Doctor’s universe? –  and decides to fulfill his counterpart’s mission while spending time with Ricky’s grandmother in an attempt to heal his own emotional wounds. I admire him for stepping up, and I credit his evolution to his discussion with Sarah Jane Smith.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Idiot’s Lantern

 

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 #176: The Girl in the Fireplace

Doctor Who: The Girl in the Fireplace
(1 episode, s02e04, 2006)

 

“Godspeed, my lonely angel.”

Under a starry night sky, the occupants of an ornate estate run from clockwork monsters as a woman laments a broken clock and calls to the Doctor through the fireplace. Three millennia later, the Doctor, Rose, and Mickey arrive on a spaceship. Mickey is excited as Rose and the Doctor investigate the abandoned control room. The ship is drifting in space, but the power cells are at full capacity. They are interrupted by the smell of cooking roast and an eighteenth-century fireplace. The fireplace is against the outer hull in this time, but it is linked to a little girl’s room in 1727 France.

When the Doctor flips a switch, the mantle rotates and delivers him into Reinette’s bedroom in France, but weeks have passed since they first spoke. The Doctor points out that the mantle clock is broken, and it scares him. It is the only clock in the room, it is broken, but there is a pervasive ticking sound all around them. The ticking is too big to be a clock, which the Doctor confirms when he looks under the bed and is attacked by a silent clown-like being in period dress. The clockwork monster tells the Doctor that the girl is incomplete, and when the Time Lord points the sonic screwdriver at it, the monster attacks him with a blade. The Doctor reassures Reinette, telling her not to worry because even monsters have nightmares – Brilliant retort when asked what they fear: “Me!” – as he wheels the robot back to the future spacecraft and disables it with a fire extinguisher. After its true form is revealed to the travelers, the robot teleports away.

The Doctor tells his companions not to go in search of the robot while he spins back to Reinette’s room. The companions don’t listen – of course, they don’t – and the Doctor finds that Reinette has grown into a lovely young woman. After a few moments of back and forth, the inquisitive woman gives the Doctor a kiss, which he seems to be quite into, and leaves. The Doctor puts the pieces together as he realizes that he just kissed Madame de Pompadour.

Yes, the famous “actress, artist, musician, dancer, courtesan, and fantastic gardener!”

Returning to the future, the Doctor finds a white horse – whom he christens Arthur – while his companions find corridors equipped with eyes and a human heart. The Doctor opens another door with the horse, emerging into the yards at the estate as Reinette strolls with her friend and exchanges news of the king’s ill mistress. When he returns, he finds his companions watching the King of France and Reinette through a window. The ship has windows to parts of her life scattered throughout its passageways. As Reinette is attacked by the robot assassin, the Doctor springs into action and saves her with a fire extinguisher.

Reinette orders the robot to answer the Doctor’s questions, revealing that it a maintenance android and that the ship is in need of repair. Since they didn’t have enough spare parts, the robot used the crew’s organs to fix the systems. That Sunday roast? Yeah, it was barbecued crewman. The android requires one last part to get the ship underway, so it has opened multiple time windows to scan Reinette until she is complete. Reinette orders the android away, and the companions are sent in pursuit as it teleports away. They are ambushed moments later by more androids and strapped down for harvesting.

The Doctor telepathically accesses Reinette’s memories, hoping to figure out what the androids are looking for. This also gives her access to his memories – “A door, once opened, may be stepped through in either direction.” – and asks about his real name – “Doctor? Doctor Who?” – before inviting him to dance with her.

Does she mean dancing or dancing? Either way, the Doctor later waltzes into the room where the companions are strapped down, high on life and claiming that he may have just invented the banana daiquiri. Always take a banana to a party, after all. He has determined that Reinette’s brain is what the androids need, dropping the ruse as he frees Mickey and Rose while disabling the robots. When they receive a message that Reinette’s brain is ready, they teleport away to the opening teaser. The Doctor sends Rose to warn the Madame, although she is five years early.

Reinette demands that Rose tell her the story behind the scenes, amazed that her life is bound by the spaceship, like chapters in a book. When Mickey brings word that they found the time window of the attack, Reinette runs through the door to the future and hears her voice from the night of terror. Rose reassures Reinette and she returns to her own time. The Doctor and his companions prepare their assault, but the portal is locked.

The Doctor is unable to break through – the TARDIS cannot go since they are now part of the events in motion and that would mean crossing their timelines – but Reinette buys time by confronting the androids. The Doctor breaks through the window, riding to the rescue on the white horse, which seals him in the past and breaks the link to the ship, much to the frustration of Mickey and Rose. Fortunately, the androids run out of energy since their purpose is now gone, and Reinette is saved. Unfortunately, the Doctor and his companions are now separated by 3000 years.

The Doctor is reconciled to taking the slow path to the future with Reinette, wondering how he’s going to make in the past. She shows him her secret: The fireplace from Versailles through which they first met. Since she moved the fireplace, that doorway was offline when the link was severed. One tweak from the sonic screwdriver later he spins the mantle and returns to the future. He asks Reinette to pack a bag, intent on taking her in the TARDIS, but when he returns to the past, she has just left for Paris. The King delivers a letter and the sad news that Reinette has died, hoping to see the Doctor one last time before illness took her. The trip to Paris is her last, due for interment.

The Doctor returns to the future, the TARDIS, and his companions. Mickey and Rose give him a moment alone while he reads Reinette’s final words. With sadness in his eyes, he disables the last link from Reinette to the ship by extinguishing the fireplace. The TARDIS dematerializes as they move on to the next adventure.

The reason that the androids wanted Reinette’s mind is revealed to the viewer alone: The ship is the SS Madame de Pompadour.

Like the Doctor, it truly drifts alone.

 

This is another example of why Steven Moffat is a great Doctor Who writer. We’ve seen him twice before (The Curse of Fatal Death and The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances) and each time has been fun. The themes exercised here are a fantastic exploration of the Doctor, especially in light of the tragedy and redemption we’ve seen so far. The Doctor falls in love (a Moffat trope to be sure, excluding the TV movie) and is devastated when his very domain, time and space, defeats his desire.

We also get a bit more education for Rose, removing further the notion that she’s special as the companion, and playing off the revelations from Sarah Jane Smith.

The big quibble I have is the resolution of the Doctor’s grand sacrifice. He’s content to spend the rest of Reinette’s life with her, returning to the TARDIS and his companions the long way around, but his way out is pure coincidence. Sure, it was touching and moving, but it was also a fortunate function of the plot.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Rise of the Cybermen and Doctor Who: The Age of Steel

 

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 #175: School Reunion

Doctor Who: School Reunion
(1 episode, s02e03, 2006)

 

The curse of the Time Lord is always having to say goodbye.

While walking the halls of Deffry Vale High School, Headmaster Finch notices a student waiting outside his office. She has a headache, but she can’t go home since she lives in an orphanage. Finch notes that no one will miss her and invites her into his office. The door closes, wings flap, and the girl screams.

The Doctor is posing as a teacher named John Smith. He asks a series of questions, each escalating in difficulty, and each answered by a student named Milo. Rose, on the other hand, is working in the cafeteria serving chips. She’s unhappy about the previous two days where they’ve been under cover based on a tip from Mickey. They note that the chips taste funny, but that the menu has been specially selected by the headmaster. Another teacher, Mr. Wagner, selects a student named Melissa for a top class. Another student, Kenny, is not allowed to eat the chips, and Finch is watching like a vulture from above.

In the kitchen, Rose watches the other kitchen staff bring in a barrel while wearing gloves and face masks. Mickey calls her with news of UFO activity in the area, but notes that he is being blocked by something called Torchwood. The barrel spills and one of the staff members is burned by the contents. The head cook stops Rose from calling an ambulance, even as Rose hears screams and smoke billows out of the side room.

In the mathematics classroom, Mr. Wagner subjects his top students to a Matrix-style computer program with alien symbols. Meanwhile, the Doctor is reunited with Sarah Jane Smith, now working as a reporter who is writing a profile on the headmaster.

I nearly cried at the reunion. I know it gets better.

Strange events are afoot: The students have taken a quantum leap in knowledge since Finch arrived; the day the headmaster arrived, several teachers disappeared under mysterious circumstances; and Kenny notices an alien creature snacking on a student. The Doctor, Rose, and Mickey investigate the school after hours, Sarah Jane finds the TARDIS, and the Doctor finally reconnects with his former companion.

She chastises him for not coming back after leaving her in Aberdeen (not South Croydon), and he reveals that all of the Time Lords are dead. The team comes together when Sarah Jane meets Rose and Mickey, and the two women clash while Mickey ruffles the Doctor’s feathers. They also discover that the teachers are actually bats that roost in the headmaster’s office. When the Doctor tries to take the oil sample back to the TARDIS, Sarah Jane shows him a faster way to analyze the sample.

K9! Mark III, to be exact! In Sarah Jane’s car!

She explains that the tin dog stopped working one day and she couldn’t repair the advanced technology. They don’t notice that they are being trailed by Headmaster Finch as they retire to a nearby café. The Doctor repairs K9, Mickey teases Rose about her jealousy, and Sarah Jane asks the Doctor if she did something wrong since he never came back for her after his visit home. The Doctor tries to brush it off, saying that she was getting on with her life, but Sarah Jane replies that the Doctor was her life. The hardest thing was adjusting back to mundane life after seeing the wonders of the universe.

K9 returns to life and recognizes the Doctor. He analyzes the sample and reports that it is Krillitane oil. The Krillitanes are a composite species who take the best physical parts of other species they conquer, and they’re doing something to the children.

As they leave the café, Rose is struggling with the realization that she’s not the first companion while Sarah Jane relates Mickey to K9, effectively the tin dog of the modern companion set. Rose is troubled that the Doctor has gone through so many companions, but the Doctor retorts that he doesn’t age. The curse of the Time Lords is regenerating and saying goodbye while everyone else ages around them.

The revelation of the Doctor’s identity frightens Mr. Finch, and everyone knows who everyone else is. The team returns to the school the next day. Rose and Sarah Jane investigate the computers, Mickey and K9 act as lookouts in the car, and the Doctor has a word with the headmaster, really a Krillitane named Brother Lassar. The human form is a morphic illusion, and Finch refers to the Doctor as a pompous, dusty senator, afraid of change and chaos and now all but extinct. The Doctor quietly replies that he had much more mercy when he was younger, and he offers a single warning.

Sarah Jane and Rose argue about who has had more experience with the Doctor – references include Pyramids of MarsThe Time WarriorRobot, The Sontaran Experiment, Revenge of the Cybermen, The Android InvasionThe Five Doctors, Death to the Daleks, Genesis of the Daleks, Planet of Evil, Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Terror of the Zygons, The Unquiet Dead, Aliens of London/World War Three, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, and Tooth and Claw – and Sarah Jane gets the upper hand with the Loch Ness Monster. They bond over their compared notes about the Doctor – he still strokes parts of the TARDIS! – and the Time Lord is confused by their laughter when he enters the room.

The Krillitanes are rallied to their final phase as Finch seals the school, recalls the students to their hyper-processing class, and offers the rest of the staff as a lunchtime snack. The Doctor finds that the mainframe is fixed with a deadlock seal which the sonic screwdriver cannot breach. Meanwhile, Kenny, the only student not enthralled by the computers, attracts Mickey and K9 for help. While Mickey looks for a way to break down the door, K9 reminds him they are in a car.

Oh, K9. I have missed you.

Rose, Sarah Jane, and the Doctor watch the symbols flash on a large screen. The Doctor works out that the Krillitanes are trying to solve the Skasis Paradigm, the Universal Theory. Whoever solves it can control the building blocks of the universe and all of time and space. The oil is boosting the children’s intelligence, focusing them as a giant processor. Finch arrives with an offer for the Doctor to join them, to change the universe, to save everyone, even restore the Time Lords. In true Sarah Jane fashion, she acts as his the Doctor’s conscience: Pain and loss define them as much as happiness or love; Everything has its time and everything ends, whether a world or a relationship. The Doctor smashes the screen and they all run as Finch rallies the Krillitanes.

Mickey crashes through the front doors with Sarah Jane’s car. K9 springs to the rescue and shoots down one of the bats with his blaster. The Doctor tells K9 to hold them off while they retreat, even though his battery is failing. The Krillitane ignore the “shooty dog thing” – hello, Joss Whedon – and pursue the Doctor. The Time Lord realizes that the oil is the solution, and the Krillitanes have changed their physiology so often that even their own oil is toxic to them now. Mickey goes for the kids while the Doctor stuns the bats with the fire alarm.

The barrels have been deadlock sealed, and K9 notes that he can destroy them with one shot from his blaster. Unfortunately, K9 must remain behind to strike the blow. The Doctor protests, but then bids his old friend farewell – “You good dog.” – and leaves. He takes Sarah Jane’s hand to stop her from going back for the robot dog and drags her to safety.

Finch and the bat brethren enter the kitchen in search of the Doctor. K9 shoots the barrel, and Finch snarls: “You bad dog.” K9 replies with, “Affirmative,” as the school explodes. The students cheer, hailing Kenny as the hero who saved the day as Sarah Jane weeps over K9’s sacrifice.

Later on, Sarah Jane finds the TARDIS in a park. The Doctor suggests that she join them, but Sarah Jane declines. It’s time, she says, that she found a life of her own. Mickey asks if he may join the TARDIS, ready to see the universe. Sarah Jane gives him her blessing, one Smith to another, and the Doctor agrees. Rose isn’t as pleased.

Sarah Jane wants to stay, but some things are worth getting your heart broken for. She tells Rose that if she ever needs to, Sarah Jane is there to talk. She thanks the Doctor for her time with him, and he asks if she ever found someone special. She tells him that there was one man with whom she traveled with for a while, but he was a tough act to follow. She asks him to say goodbye this time and he does – “Goodbye, my Sarah Jane!” – with a tight hug. She walks away as the TARDIS dematerializes, but when she looks back she finds a present: A brand new K9 with the Mark III consciousness installed.

Happily, Sarah orders her new companion home. They have work to do.

 

This was a magnificent episode. We get to reunite with two classic companions, we get connections between the revival series and the classic series that officially link the mythology together, and we get David Tennant getting comfortable in his skin as the Doctor. The first time I saw this episode, I also was very pleased with guest star Anthony Stewart Head, who I had only seen as Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I love him as a bad guy.

I especially loved seeing Elisabeth Sladen once again. Her performance brought tears to my eyes, and I really do miss her as the incomparable and irreplaceable Sarah Jane Smith. I’m looking forward to The Sarah Jane Adventures when they roll up in this project.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Girl in the Fireplace

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #172: Born Again & The Christmas Invasion

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

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

 

New teeth. New hand. New Doctor.

 

Born Again

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

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

 

The Christmas Invasion

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

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

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

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

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

Apparently, Harriet Jones shouldn’t know about Torchwood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: New Earth

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #170: Boom Town

Doctor Who: Boom Town
(1 episode, s01e11, 2005)

 

Second chances all around.

Six months after the attempted Slitheen invasion, a scientist is pleading with Mayor Margaret Blaine to stop construction of a nuclear power plant lest it destroy the city. With a little bit of gassy rumbling we know who she really is, and she shows the scientist moments later as she unzips her head and devours him.

Mickey arrives in Cardiff by train and finds the TARDIS. He meets Jack and then reunites with Rose to deliver her passport. Rose explains that they are using the Cardiff Rift to recharge the TARDIS. One lesson about the chameleon circuit and the history of the TARDIS later, they head into the city for a little fun.

Mayor Blaine introduces the nuclear power plant – the Blaidd Drwg project – at a press conference. Afterward, she encounters a reporter named Cathy Salt who challenges the mayor about random deaths and the dangers of the plant. Cathy is nearly killed by the mayor in the ladies room, but the revelation that the reporter is pregnant stays the Slitheen’s hand. While at lunch, the Doctor spots a newspaper with the mayor’s photo on the front page. His day is ruined by the news that the Slitheen still lives. The team converges on City Hall with a divide-and-conquer strategy. The Doctor flushes the mayor out and the team corners her. While on the run, she assembles a transmat device from her jewelry, but the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to negate the effect.

The travelers and Mayor Blaine look over the model of the plant, revealing that it is hiding a tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator – a pan-dimensional surfboard, of sorts – to escape the explosion that will destroy the planet. The Doctor finally connects the dots on the Bad Wolf label (Blaidd Drwg in Welsh) that is following them through time. That’s a mystery for another day, since he also learns that if he takes Blaine – better known as Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen – back to Raxacoricofallapatorius, she will be executed. She uses that to her psychological advantage as they wait for the TARDIS to recharge.

Mickey and Rose use the interlude to catch up, especially considering that Rose didn’t really call him to bring a passport. They leave for a night on the town while the Doctor and Jack have a conversation with Blon. The Slitheen makes a last request: A final meal at her favorite restaurant. Jack offers a pair of bracelets that will shock her if she tries to escape, so while he tries to wire the extrapolator to the TARDIS console, the Doctor and Blon dine. She tries to kill the Doctor multiple times, but he deflects each attempt. She details her pending execution in attempt to dissuade him, but the Doctor notes that if he shows her mercy then she’ll just start again. She decries him as a vengeful god – we’re back to the literal deus ex machina theme – and then the night goes sideways.

Meanwhile, Rose and Mickey walk around the bay, and Mickey reveals that he’s tried to move on. Rose tries to deal with the news, but ends up confronting Mickey over it. Mickey is distraught because Rose is gone all the time, and even though it will tear him apart, he promises to wait for her. Rose, rightly, is chagrined.

That’s one thing that I have really enjoyed about this series of episodes: It has addressed those who are left behind.

But, let’s get back to the sideways: The night is shaken apart by an earthquake.

The energy from the extrapolator is using the energy from the TARDIS to tear open the Cardiff Rift. Everyone returns to the TARDIS and Blon takes Rose hostage. The Slitheen reveals that this was her plan, relying on an advanced technology to find the extrapolator and destroy the planet through the Rift. Unfortunately for her, the heart of the TARDIS is opened beneath the console. Blon is transfixed by the beauty within the living machine, and with heartfelt thanks, she disappears. After the TARDIS is shut down and the crisis is averted, the Doctor finds an egg inside the skin suit. The TARDIS telepathically communicated with Blon and granted her a second chance by helping her revert to her youngest form.

Rose tries to say goodbye to Mickey, but he sees her and leaves before she finds him. With that, the travelers set course for a hatchery on Raxacoricofallapatorius.

 

The mythological ties are strong in this one, reaching all the way back to 1963. Between the discussion of how the TARDIS ended up stuck as a police box and the concept of the Heart of the TARDIS – alluded to in the third story, The Edge of Destruction, physically seen in Terminus, and discussed in the television movie – it’s apparent that writer and producer Russell T. Davies did his homework for this episode.

This story also continues the series thread of redemption for the Doctor. He wants to do the right thing in taking a serious criminal home to answer for their atrocities, but knowing that she faces execution is a huge wrinkle. This is a Doctor who has a lot of blood on his hands, and it’s apparent that he doesn’t want any more. After all, he was overjoyed last week that “just this once” everybody got to survive an encounter with him.

As previously mentioned, this series has also been simply fantastic at exploring the lives of those left behind, especially Jackie and Mickey. Doctor Who usually focuses on the adventure in the TARDIS, but if the companions leave family behind when the Doctor throws the switch, there is plenty of drama to explore. It makes the scenarios that much more humanly believable.

Finally, the Bad Wolf is coming to a head. The Doctor and Rose have been seeing the meme following them from place to place – notably, all of which have been on Earth this series (except for the off-screen adventures that Rose effuses about, breaking the guideline of “show, don’t tell“) – but the Doctor sets the idea aside for another day. It’s the bigger issue at hand, but not the most pressing in the face of Earth’s pending doom.

Something tells me that we’ll learn more during the next adventure.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Bad Wolf and Doctor Who: The Parting of the Ways

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #165: Aliens of London & World War Three

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

 

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

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

The Doctor has never been a reliable TARDIS pilot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That sets off a whole new set of alarms.

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

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

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

They are the Slitheen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Dalek

 

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