Timestamp #167: The Long Game

Doctor Who: The Long Game
(1 episode, s01e07, 2005)

 

All the Editor-in-Chief asks is for an open mind.

The TARDIS arrives on Satellite 5, in orbit around Earth during the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, in the year 200,000. Rose and Doctor do their best to wow Adam, and the new companion responds by fainting in a most unimpressive way.

The trio stumble into a marketplace as the Doctor muses about the fine manners and cuisine among the 96 billion members of the human race. Unfortunately, every vendor is selling junk food. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to steal money from an automatic teller machine, sends Rose and Adam off for food, and meets a pair of journalists who tell him all about the station-wide news station that is Satellite 5.

The Doctor stealing money seems a bit off at first, but makes sense when you think about the non-materialistic and otherwise detached nature of the character. The Seventh Doctor broke a payphone once for cash, and there have been a few instances of the Doctor carrying various coins from across time and space to exchange for goods and services. I get the impression that the Doctor doesn’t care about their intrinsic value.

By the way, someone called the Face of Boe is headline news on BadWolfTV.

Adam is overwhelmed by his trip in time and space, so Rose offers him the use of her supercharged mobile phone. He calls home and leaves a message, but takes advantage of a distraction to pocket the phone. They rendezvous with the Doctor as he uses his psychic paper to pose as an inspecting manager. The trio watch as the journalists interface with a computer, using one of them as the central processor through a hole in her forehead. Adam is amazed by the technology but the Doctor feels that trouble is afoot.

The interface is monitored by a central security agency and a man known as the Editor. The determine that one of the journalists is a spy and promote her to Floor 500 (where the walls are supposedly made of gold). The revelation that once you go to Floor 500 you never come back piques the Doctor’s interest. Meanwhile, Adam takes some time on his own to decompress and Rose gives him a TARDIS key.

Oh, and Suki? She reaches Floor 500, which is freezing cold and covered in ice, finds a bunch of corpses, and is interrogated by the Editor as a member of the Freedom Fifteen anarchist underground group. She points a gun at the Editor, revealing that the Freedom Foundation has been monitoring the satellite and its corrupted signals. She’s then killed by the Editor in Chief, a creature living in the overhead of Floor 500.

The Doctor asks Cathica, the lead journalist on the current floor, about the station. She picks up that he’s not management, but helps him understand the nature of current events. The Doctor states that the Empire is stunted in attitudes and technology, and should have evolved far beyond this point by now. Something has been holding them back for the last 91 years.

Adam accesses a station terminal on the observation deck and learns all about the technology of the future. He tries to relay the information to his home via the supercharged mobile phone, but ends up getting routed to Floor 16 instead. He bluffs his way through an interview, uses the money that the Doctor got for him, and ends up having a chip installed to interface with the station.

The Doctor continues his investigation by accessing the station mainframe. The Editor continues to research the Doctor and Rose, but can’t find any information so he promotes them to Floor 500. Meanwhile, the Doctor, Rose, and Cathica determine that all of the station’s cooling is being directed into Floor 500.

The Doctor and Rose take the lift to Floor 500 and discover Suki’s dead body enslaved to the computer systems. They’re confronted by the Editor and are restrained by guards before meeting the Editor-in-Chief, a creature known as the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe. Or, Max for short. By manipulating the news, controlling the economy, locking the borders, and fostering a climate of fear, they have kept the human race controlled as slaves. Those who suspect the truth are detected by the chips in their heads and are eliminated. The Editor is funded by the banks and the satellite keeps the Jagrafess alive through the cold.

Cathica makes her way to Floor 500 and watches the interrogation. Meanwhile, Adam interfaces with the computer (transmitting the signal home through the mobile phone) and inadvertently offers the Editor all of the information in his head. The Editor plans to use the TARDIS (thanks to the key Adam has) and the information about the Doctor to take further control.

Cathica uses the interface on Floor 500 to override the Editor’s control and disrupt the Jagrafess’s life support system. The Doctor and Rose escape, and Suki prevents the Editor from leaving as the Jagrafess explodes from overheating. The Doctor leaves Cathica to put the human race back on track as he and Rose take Adam home. The Doctor destroys the answering machine, dresses down Adam, and leaves him with his new forehead port and the fear of being dissected if he is discovered.

As the TARDIS leaves, Adam’s mother comes home and celebrates his return after six months away. With an inadvertent snap of her fingers, she activates the port in Adam’s head and recoils in horror.

 

This story reminds me of Paradise Towers, The Sun Makers, and pretty much any other time Doctor Who has made a statement about totalitarian regimes that enslave their populaces and filter their knowledge. Remember, despite what certain fan circles tell you, Doctor Who has been political from the beginning: The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon dealt with two different political issues in the 1970s United Kingdom; The Green Death was overt about environmentalism; and The Mutants tackled colonialism. That just scratches the surface, and as we know, starting all the way back at The Daleks, we’ve had a recurring and iconic enemy that consistently pushes the point home about the evils of ethnic cleansing and cultural supremacy.

It’s the basis of science fiction: Metaphor that tells us about the human condition and how to be better people.

Here, the message is neither subtle nor particularly engaging, but it’s not one that irritates the viewer with a mallet bonking them on the head. It’s up front. Transparent and overt.

We also get the first (and only) televised companion to be kicked out of the TARDIS for bad behavior. We’ve seen companions left behind for their safety or well-being, but Adam was evicted (rightfully so) for greed, avarice, and most nearly mucking up the timeline. Amusingly, the Doctor left a future artifact behind with Adam’s head-port, but the impact of that may be minimal.

I also assume that the Doctor retrieved the superphone during the trip from Satellite 5 to Adam’s house.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Father’s Day

 

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 #166: Dalek

Doctor Who: Dalek
(1 episode, s01e06, 2005)

 

Spoiler: This is one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who, and the context of the Timestamps Project has only made it better.

The TARDIS materializes in a dark room filled with displays after following a strange distress signal. As the lights come up, the Doctor recognizes the space as an alien museum. He and Rose spot moon dust, asteroid fragments, a Raxacoricofallapatorian arm, and the head of a Mondasian Cyberman, but after the Doctor touches a display case an alarm sounds and the travelers are surrounded by armed guards.

A helicopter arrives – callsign Bad Wolf One – and delivers Henry van Statten, the owner of the collection. He’s a power-hungry billionaire who flaunts his influence and easily disposes of employees who disagree with him. He looks over some new acquisitions with assistant Adam Mitchell and learns from the Doctor how to operate one of the more delicate artifacts before casually tossing it aside.

He’s a frustrating pain in the ass.

Van Statten invites the Doctor to see the one living specimen in the collection, a creature dubbed Metaltron. The billionaire has been torturing the creature in order to make it speak, but so far it has remained silent. The Doctor enters the vault and introduces himself, but is shocked when the creature repeats the name in a familiar voice.

Metaltron is a Dalek.

The Dalek tries to exterminate the Doctor, forcing the Time Lord to run for the sealed door, but the gun stalk does not work. Surprised, the Doctor turns hostile and confronts the Dalek. In turn, the Dalek asks for orders. The Doctor tells it that orders are not coming and that all of the Daleks are dead. The Doctor killed them all, along with the Time Lords, in the mutually assured destruction of the Great Time War.

As the last of their respective species, the Dalek concludes that they are the same. The Doctor hesitates for a moment but finally agrees and attempts to destroy the Dalek. He is removed from the room and escorted to an upper level by van Statten and Diana Goddard. The trip is filled with discussion of how the Dalek fell through time to Earth and was eventually retrieved by van Statten. The billionaire takes the Doctor to an examination room and forcibly scans the Time Lord, all the while gloating over his accomplishments due to alien technology. The Doctor pleads with van Statten for his release, but it does not come.

Elsewhere, Adam shows Rose his collection of artifacts. After some discussion on the nature of the universe and a little flirting, they turn on the cameras and watch as the Dalek is tortured. Rose and Adam rush to stop them, eventually interviewing the Dalek. It tells Rose that it is in pain, prompting Rose to reach out and touch the armor casing in sympathy. The Dalek absorbs part of her DNA and powers up, breaks free of its chains, and kills a tech with its sucker arm.

As the alarm sounds, van Statten releases the Doctor, but they are too late to stop the Dalek from breaking free of the vault. It recharges from the base’s power grid, downloads the internet, and regenerates its armor. It rampages through the base and slaughters the soldiers. All the while, van Statten worries about keeping the Dalek in pristine condition.

The Doctor and Goddard plan a method to stop it as Rose and Adam run up a flight of stairs to escape. Unfortunately, Daleks have learned how to navigate stairs by flying. This was impressive when I first saw this episode in 2008, but after having seen Remembrance of the Daleks, it became a fantastic callback.

Rose and Adam continue to run while the Doctor opens van Statten’s eyes to the horror they have released: The Dalek will cleanse the planet because no other being is pure enough to survive. Rose and Adam find safety behind more soldiers. The Dalek arrives, looks straight at Rose, and then exterminates the entire squad using the fire sprinklers to conduct shots like electricity from the gun stalk. The Doctor, van Statten, and Goddard watch in alarm before planning an escape route. The Dalek addresses the Doctor directly, explaining how the DNA of a time traveler regenerated it and lamenting the inability to receive commands. Without commands, it defaults to base programming: Exterminate everything. The Dalek and the Doctor go back and forth, igniting the Doctor’s fury, but the Time Lord is knocked back on his heels by the Dalek’s response: “You would make a good Dalek.”

Yes, this shell-shocked Doctor certainly would.

Adam and Rose run for safety, but van Statten is forced to seal the vault before Rose can escape. It’s just her and the Dalek alone, and the Dalek supposedly kills Rose. Fortunately for her, the Dalek cannot because it feels her fear through the DNA link, and the logical conflict is driving it insane.

Believing that Rose is dead, the Doctor directs his fury at van Statten. The Doctor promised to protect her, and now he has failed. When Adam arrives, the Dalek addresses the Doctor, reveals the deceit, and demands to be freed lest it truly kill her. The Doctor relents and raises the blast door before looking for a weapon to fight with.

The Dalek and Rose take the elevator to van Statten’s office. The Dalek confronts the billionaire over the torture sessions and nearly kills him, but Rose stops extermination in exchange for the Dalek’s freedom. She walks it toward the exit, but it unexpectedly stops and blasts a hole in the ceiling. Channeling the human DNA coursing through its body, it stands in the resulting beam of light and opens its shell exposing the organic Dalek to the sun. The Doctor arrives with a large gun, but Rose stands between the two mortal enemies as a bridge of peace.

She talks the Doctor down, forcing both of them to face their mortality. Both of them have started down a road of healing by contact with Rose, but the Dalek cannot accept what it is becoming because of the impurity. The drive of being a Dalek is just too strong, and it asks her to order its destruction. At first Rose refuses, but after the Dalek pleads with her for merciful relief she relents. The Dalek rises, generates a force field around itself, and self-destructs.

The last of the Daleks is dead.

In the aftermath, Goddard has van Statten taken away and mind-wiped. The Doctor and Rose head back to the TARDIS, and while Rose offers a bit of hope – if the Dalek survived, maybe another Time Lord did as well – Adam arrives looking for a way out. Rose asks if he can join them, and the Doctor tells her that Adam is her responsibility.

The three of them board the TARDIS and head off to the next adventure.

 

This entire season so far has been centered on a damaged Doctor. We have seen clues along the way, including haunted sadness, anger, and even deflection, but this is where his actions come to roost. The beauty of this episode, and the big reason why it is one of my favorites, is because it takes our hero through the paces: The Doctor’s anger pushes him back into darkness before pulling him back to face who he has become. He has to diagnose his injuries before he can allow them to heal.

The bridge between these stalemated warriors is Rose. Her compassion is something that the Dalek doesn’t have and the Doctor has forgotten how to use. The awakening forces both warriors to effectively lay down their arms, even to the point of humbling the Time Lord with the power of the people he has traveled for most of his lives.

The parallels with veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the horrors of war are powerful. The arc of redemption compounds that power, and the representation that anyone can be the catalyst of that change, even a nineteen-year old department store employee, makes it that much more special.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Long Game

 

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.

 

 

Timestamp #164: The Unquiet Dead

Doctor Who: The Unquiet Dead
(1 episode, s01e03, 2005)

 

An undead Christmas carol, being a quest for redemption stymied by a bait and switch.

In the Sneed and Company funeral parlor, Mr. Redpath grieves over the casket of his grandmother. He takes a moment alone, leaving him open to attack as the corpse reanimates with a blue glow and snaps the man’s neck. The undertaker rushes in but cannot stop the undead from walking into the snowy night and wailing. Sneed summons his servant girl, Gwyneth, and makes a plan to deal with the walking dead.

Meanwhile, while hurtling through time and space, the TARDIS shimmies as the Doctor and Rose try to pilot the capsule to Naples, 1860. The TARDIS materializes and Rose gets a wardrobe change – avoiding a riot over her modern clothing – before taking part in Christmas. The Doctor calls her beautiful in her new attire, all things considered: She is human after all, and not particularly attractive to this incarnation.

Gwyneth uses her clairvoyant abilities to track the corpse to her last living desire, which was to see a Charles Dickens reading. At the theater, despite being jaded and weary, Dickens still decides to put on the reading of A Christmas Carol. His performance is interrupted by the zombie, and the screams attract the Doctor. The blue glow exits the corpse, leaving it to fall lifeless as the gas screams and swoops into a nearby lantern. Rose, however, is kidnapped by the undertaker as Sneed and Gwyneth recover the body, and the Doctor gives chase – with considerable fanboy charm – alongside Dickens in the writer’s carriage.

Rose awakens in the funeral parlor, as do more corpses with the blue gas from a nearby flame. The Doctor and Dickens arrive, determine that something is living in the gas pipes, and rescue Rose from the dead. The Doctor interviews the corpses and reveals that they are dying because the Rift is failing. The vapors are released and the corpses are lifeless once more.

The Rift, eh?

Moments later, the Doctor and Dickens interrogate Sneed as Gwyneth uses her powers to pour perfect cups of tea. The Rift is a growing crack in spacetime and the entities have traveled from across the universe. Dickens investigates the corpses and the Doctor fills in the gaps: When a body decomposes, it releases gas and leaves space for these gaseous beings to inhabit. Dickens is dismayed that his view of the world is wrong, but the Doctor assures him that it’s just limited and expanding by the minute.

Rose makes friends with Gwyneth over their similar occupations and upbringings, but Gwyneth sees the full scope of Rose’s past/future in her mind. Gwyneth exposes her clairvoyance to Rose – she mentions the Bad Wolf – and the Doctor surmises that her power is growing due to the expanding Rift. Gwyneth is the key, and the Doctor suggests a séance.

Surrounded by the key players (including a skeptical Dickens) Gwyneth summons the creatures. They descend on the round table, identifying themselves as the Gelth, a species whose bodies were destroyed in the Last Great Time War. They want to take over corpses to live again, and want to use the power of the Rift to let them through to Cardiff. Rose is repulsed by the idea, but the Doctor (quite aggressively) wants to help. Gwyneth stands up for herself and tips the scale, eager to assist the Gelth.

Rose is sure that the plan will fail because the dead aren’t walking in the future, but the Doctor reminds her that time is constantly in flux. Gwyneth channels her powers and opens the Rift, but the Gelth have tricked everyone by hiding their true numbers. As billions of Gelth swarm through the Rift, Sneed is killed and converted, and the march begins to destroy humanity and live in their corpses.

Dickens flees the funeral parlor as Rose and the Doctor are trapped in a corner. The Doctor apologizes to Rose for her pending death, but Rose is willing to accept it because she wanted to come. They choose to go down fighting, but are rescued by Dickens who snuffs the lanterns but leaves the gas running. The natural gas displaces the Gelth and forces them out of the corpses, leaving the Doctor open to convince Gwyneth to send them back. Unfortunately, she cannot, but she can hold them long enough to burn them as she strikes a match and ignites the gas. The Doctor mourns her sacrifice, another victim in the Time War, with two words: I’m sorry.

The Doctor explains that Gwyneth was dead from the moment she stepped into the arch. Rose doesn’t understand, but Dickens does via Shakespeare: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Rose realizes that a mere servant girl, someone with no more power than she, has just anonymously saved the world.

As the Doctor and Rose prepare to leave, a newly rejuvenated Dickens lays out his plans for family and the future, plotting to warn the world through his works, which the Doctor assures him will last forever. Dickens watches in wonder as the TARDIS dematerializes, then walks the streets with a wish for the world of a merry Christmas.

 

The theme of the damaged and haunted Doctor continues here with his drive to make things right after (presumably) destroying his entire species. Here, he even goes against his companion to “save” the Gelth because they’re victims of the Time War and he feels personally responsible for their supposed genocide. The great part is that he learns from this mistake; there is no easy route to absolution, and in his emotionally-clouded desperation, the Doctor is prone to being fooled.

Rose continues to be the gateway to his redemption as she sees that Gwyneth, a servant girl who is realistically no different than her, can save the world. One person can make a difference no matter who they are, and the Doctor seems inspired (though saddened) by this revelation.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Aliens of London and Doctor Who: World War Three

 

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 #163: The End of the World

Doctor Who: The End of the World
(1 episode, s01e02, 2005)

 

A trip to the end of the Earth is the gateway to a Time Lord’s scarred psyche.

Picking up immediately after the thwarted Nestene invasion, Rose and the Doctor determine where to go for their first trip together. The 22nd Century? Nah, that’s too boring. The New Roman Empire in the year 12005? Rose gives that a pass. A space station orbiting Earth five billion years in Rose’s future, the very day when the Earth dies after a solar expansion? That’s the ticket to adventure!

Rose is forlorn at the death of her homeworld, but the planet has long since been empty and in the possession of the National Trust as a sort of amusement for the rich and powerful. The travelers are confronted by one of the station’s stewards, and the Doctor uses his psychic paper to pose as a formal invitation to the proceedings. They are soon joined by the Moxx of Balhoon, the Face of Boe, living humanoid trees from the Forest of Cheem, and Adherents of the Repeated Meme. They are also joined the last remaining human, the Lady Cassandra O’Brien, a piece of stretched skin on a frame.

The guests exchange gifts, and Lady Cassandra offers the last ostrich egg and a jukebox (which she calls an iPod before playing “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell). The events are overwhelming for Rose and she flees from the gathering. Meanwhile, the silver spheres brought by the Adherents of the Repeated Meme hatch into mechanical spiders and the humanoid trees determine the truth about the Doctor’s origins.

Rose has a conversation with a station worker which illuminates her position so far from home with a stranger. When she leaves, the spiders attack the worker as they swarm through the station’s system, and Rose finds her way to an observation room. The Doctor offers a friendly ear as she talks through the overwhelming events. She also confronts him over the TARDIS and the translation matrix being in her brain without consent, and demands to know who he truly is. The Doctor stares at the viewport with the look of a haunted military veteran. As Rose pulls out her cell phone, he changes the topic by adjusting it so she can call home across time and space. She phones her mother, but the moment is disrupted by a tremor in the station. Moments later, the station’s steward is killed by the spiders.

The Doctor and Rose investigate the disruption, but Rose leaves as Jabe – the leader of the delegation from the Forest of Cheem – joins the Doctor in the maintenance corridors. Rose, in the meantime, speaks to Cassandra, but is disgusted by the portable face’s racist rhetoric. Rose declares herself as the last true human, insulting the Lady. As she storms off, the Adherents find her and knock her out.

Jabe talks with the Doctor, offering her condolences over his situation as the last of the Time Lords. He is visibly moved before he opens the ventilation system and (with Jabe’s help) captures a spider. As the Earth nears death, Lady Cassandra spins up “Toxic” by Britney Spears on the jukebox. Rose wakes up in the observation room with a lowering window filter, exposing her to the lethal rays of the sun. The Doctor finds her and eventually overrides the filter, but the door is jammed.

The Doctor and Jabe rejoin the assembled guests, and the Doctor uses the spider to trace the invasion to the Adherents. The Doctor discovers that the Adherents are merely remote controlled robots, and that the true villain is Lady Cassandra. She’s seeking the ransom on the assembled guests to fund her cosmetic operations, and the ransom can be paid whether they are alive or dead. Cassandra transmats away and the Doctor springs into action. He and Jabe return to the ventilation room, and the living tree sacrifices herself so that the Doctor reset the system.

Several of the guests died before the shields could be restored, but the station is able to defend itself just before the Earth is consumed. Rose is freed from her captivity as the station begins automatic repairs, and the Doctor pays his condolences to the Forest delegates. A furious Doctor finds Cassandra’s transmat device and brings her back to the observation room. He confronts the skin piece, and despite Rose’s requests for mercy, he watches coldly as she dries out and explodes.

Later, Rose watches through the window and muses that no one cared about the Earth’s death. The Doctor takes her home, telling her that people think things will last forever, but of course they won’t. He then tells her about being the last of the Time Lords, a man who watched his planet burn away in war. Rose offers companionship and to buy him chips.

 

This story, after hinting at the destruction of Gallifrey, really highlights the Ninth Doctor’s position as a haunted war veteran who is trying to reconcile what he did with who he is at heart. He shares a seat with Rose and listens to her concerns, but later shows no mercy in allowing someone who hurt innocents to die at their own hand. This Doctor is a troubled incarnation, and watching this hero work through his demons while still trying to do good, almost seeking redemption for his sins, is amazing.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Unquiet Dead

 

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 #162: Rose

Doctor Who: Rose
(1 episode, s01e01, 2005)

 

Doctor Who evolves again.

The beginning of the Third Doctor’s era in 1970 was a major turning point for the franchise, signaling a shift in production (black and white to color) and tone (cerebral plots to more action-driven stories). It happened again to a smaller degree in 1982 as the Fifth Doctor literally unraveled his predecessor’s scarf and tied off the loose ends in a trilogy of Master stories. In 1996, the television movie signaled another paradigm shift after a seven year hiatus, and nine years later Doctor Who did again upon starting up in the twenty-first century.

This story and era starts with the global view, zooming in on the hectic life of Rose Tyler, a young woman who works at Henrik’s department store. She goes to work, has lunch with her boyfriend Mickey Smith, and almost leaves the store with the lottery money. She takes it to Chief Electrician Wilson’s office, but instead of completing her task, she finds an empty office, an army of mobile mannequins, and a strange man named the Doctor.

Together, the Ninth Doctor and Rose run from the Autons – it’s been, what, thirty-four years since we saw them last? –  and Rose is pushed out of the store as the Doctor detonates a bomb that destroys the upper floor of the building. Rose returns home, not noticing the rickety blue police box across the street and trying to avoid the hovering affections of Mickey and her mother Jackie. Mickey leaves with a mannequin arm that came from the store as Rose goes to bed.

The next morning, Rose is visited by the Doctor, who has been tracing a plastic signal. The Time Lord is unfazed by Jackie’s flirtations, and he’s impressed by his face, presumably the first time he’s seen it since regeneration. He and Rose are attacked by the mannequin hand (which crawled back to the Tyler residence) and immediately leave; the Doctor is intent on solving the mystery and Rose is intent on understanding what’s going on.

The Doctor leaves Rose outside his TARDIS, and as she walks away she sees the capsule dematerialize. She goes to Mickey’s place and searches the internet for any sign of the Doctor. She stumbles onto a website dedicated to the mystery of the Time Lord, run by a man named Clive. She and Mickey drive to Clive’s home and Rose learns about how the same man appears throughout time. The Doctor is a legend woven throughout history, and when disaster comes, he’s there with the storm of death behind him.

Outside, Mickey encounters a moving trash bin that replaces him with a plastic duplicate. When Rose returns, the pair goes to lunch. Auton-Mickey interrogates Rose about the Doctor, and the Time Lord arrives just in time to save her from the doppelganger’s rampage. The Doctor enters the TARDIS, and Rose joins him moments later after processing her “bigger on the inside” moment.

The TARDIS is gorgeous, reflecting a coral pattern in the console room. Rose learns about the Doctor as the Time Lord connects the Auton’s head to the console in an attempt to trace the signal. The TARDIS moves to the edge of the River Thames, shocking Rose even further, but her confusion turns to anger over the Doctor’s dismissal of the real Mickey’s fate. The pair try to trace the transmitter for the Nestene Consciousness, the controlling source of the Autons, and Rose narrows it down to the London Eye. They descend underground with a vial of anti-plastic to end the threat.

They enter the Nestene base where the Doctor confronts the Consciousness. Rose leaves the Doctor when she sees the real Mickey, who was kept alive to maintain the copy. The Doctor challenges the Consciousness under something called the Shadow Accords, trying to reason with it when he is captured by two mannequins. The Consciousness detects the TARDIS, a superior technology, and confront the Doctor over the death of Gallifrey in the Time War. It begins the invasion ahead of schedule.

In the Queen’s Arcade mall, the people are terrorized by rampaging mannequins. Jackie is chased, Clive is killed, and the streets are overrun. Underground, Rose and Mickey run for the TARDIS but are locked out. Rose comes to the Doctor’s rescue, attacking the Autons and knocking the anti-plastic into the Consciousness. The transmission stops, sending the Autons into confusion as the base explodes. Rose, Mickey, and the Doctor escape in the TARDIS as the Consciousness is apparently destroyed.

When the TARDIS lands, Mickey runs in confusion and fear. The Doctor invites Rose to travel with him – Mickey is too afraid of the alien – but she turns him down. Rose watches as the TARDIS dematerializes, but as she and Mickey walk away, the Doctor returns to tell her that it’s also a time machine. That wins her over: She kisses Mickey goodbye and runs for the TARDIS.

 

The show has changed, and just like with the Seventh Series, it was necessary for survival. Production values jumped, plot structures shifted, and episode lengths shortened, but the mythology is still the same. The franchise also adapted to modern technology, bringing the internet and mobile phones to bear when they haven’t really been addressed to date.

As a companion, Rose Tyler fulfills her role of gateway to the world of the Doctor. The Ninth Doctor himself offers a view into the world of a weary war veteran who is worn and nearly broken from the horrors he’s witnessed (or even taken part in personally).

There’s a lot of potential from this point forward, and this is a strong showing that hardly needs the regeneration handicap to score well.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The End of the World

 

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.