Timestamp #236: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
(1 episode, s07e02, 2012)

Timestamp 236 Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Sailing the stars Jurassic-style.

The Doctor did a good thing and saved 1334 BC Egypt from a swarm of locusts. On his way back to the TARDIS, he’s intercepted by Queen Nefertiti who wants to thank him properly for his services… if you know what she means.

Her efforts are interrupted by a message on the psychic paper from the Indian Space Agency. He’s forced to take “Nefi” with him because she forces her way onto the TARDIS, and once he arrives in the 24th century, he’s informed of a non-communicative spaceship approaching Earth. If it gets within ten thousand kilometers – the edge of the Earth’s exosphere – the Indian Space Agency will start shooting missiles.

The Doctor decides that he needs some additional help, so he jets off to Africa in 1902 to convince game hunter John Riddell to join the fun. He then travels to 21st century London. There, Rory and his father Brian are changing a lightbulb. Amy finds things amusing until the Doctor arrives, materializing around the three and immediately setting course for the 24th century.

Brian is shell-shocked and the Doctor is confused, but soon enough everything is set in motion as the crew starts exploring amidst the pounding noises around them. When they reach a lift, the doors open to reveal a pair of dinosaurs.

On a spaceship.

*ding* There’s the title!

The group runs for cover from the Ankylosauruses. Riddell claims that he can take one of them alone with his knife, but the Doctor is intrigued by the discovery and wants to preserve them. They find an interactive monitor and the Doctor starts mapping the ship. When he asks for a path to the engines, he, Rory, and Brian are teleported to a foggy beach. Brian loses his mind as he tries to process what’s going on.

The Doctor tastes the air and determines that they are on Earth… sort of. The air is slightly wrong, the ground is humming, and Brian discovers a metal deck under the sand. As Rory calls for the Doctor to show him what they found, a mysterious watcher orders someone to bring the Doctor to him.

Amy, Nefi, and Riddell continue to explore the ship, literally stumbling into a Tyrannosaur nest. Luckily, the tyrant lizard is fast asleep. The trio continues on.

The Doctor finds another monitor and learns that the beach is the engine room. In fact, propulsion and energy are maintained by the waves. The Doctor’s excitement is cut short by the arrival of a flock of pterodactyls. The trio rush for a cave, avoiding the snapping beaks but running right into a pair of stomping robots.

Amy’s team find another monitor and review the ship’s logs. Amy finds out that the ship is Silurian and was a form of ark that was launched when the Silurians feared a cataclysm when the Earth aligned with the Moon. Between the time of launch and now, the population has drastically decreased. Also, the ship has been boarded before.

The Doctor’s team and the accompanying robots run into a triceratops that acts like a puppy, licking Brian’s face and playing fetch with a golf ball. The group is taken to Solomon, a man listening to Fantasia in F minor by Franz Schubert as he tries to recover from a raptor attack. Solomon has mistaken the Time Lord for an actual medical doctor, which isn’t that far from the truth. When the Doctor offers assistance in exchange for information about Solomon’s arrival, the wounded man orders the robots to shoot Brian. The Doctor works on Solomon while Rory tends to his father’s burn, and Brian is surprised that Rory keeps a medical supply pack with him. It’s a family habit to carry tools around, as evidenced by Brian’s convenient trowel.

Amy calls Rory via mobile phone – the TARDIS superphone returns! – to tell him about the Silurians. Meanwhile, the Doctor finds out that Solomon is a trader and is interested in selling the dinosaurs as precious cargo. He is intrigued in how the Doctor doesn’t exist in his database. Solomon explains that the Silurians rescued the trader, and in return he ejected them from their own ship. Unfortunately, Solomon couldn’t control the ship so it automatically set course for Earth.

The Doctor gathers Rory and Brian, set on making sure that Solomon does not control the ark of the Silurians. The trio hops aboard the triceratops – which the Doctor has named Tricey – and they escape from the robots as the dinosaur chases the golf ball down the passageway. When Tricey catches the ball, she bucks her passengers off and sits patiently.

The Indian Space Agency calls the Doctor, warning him that the ship has entered the atmosphere and they have no choice but to open fire. Meanwhile, Amy’s team finds some stun rifles. As Nefi learns that the Doctor is married, Amy watches the Doctor over the security feeds as he tries to figure out how to stop the missiles.

Solomon catches up to the Doctor and makes him an offer: He’ll let everyone go if he surrenders Queen Nefertiti. The Doctor refuses, so Solomon shows that he’s serious by murdering Tricey. Amy’s team uses the teleporter to reach the Doctor, and Nefertiti offers herself willingly. Solomon transports himself, Nefi, and the robots back to his ship.

The Doctor takes everyone else to the control room, explaining that Solomon couldn’t control the ship because the Silurians designed it to require two pilots who share similar DNA. The Doctor magnetically locks Solomon’s ship to the ark as Brian offers to pilot the ship with Rory. The Doctor explains how to control the ship while Riddell stands guard against the roving velociraptors.

The Doctor works on the wiring, chatting with Amy while he works. Amy expresses her fear that his visits are becoming farther and farther apart. One day, he might never show up. The Doctor comforts Amy by explaining that he’ll always come to see them. As the Doctor teleports to Solomon’s ship, Amy joins Riddell on guard duty and fends off the velociraptors.

The Indian Space Agency notes that the ark has changed course, but they still maintain their missile lock.

The Doctor arrives on Solomon’s ship and disables the robots as Nefertiti disables Solomon. The Doctor leaves a green tracking orb on the ship’s bridge and releases the magnetic lock, teleporting back to the ark as the missiles destroy Solomon’s craft.

With the ark back on course for deep space, the Doctor offers to take everyone on an adventure, but Rory suggests that he take everyone home. Before they do, Brian asks for one favor: As the TARDIS orbits the Earth, he sits on the edge of the doorway and sips coffee while staring at his homeworld.

Riddell returns home, though he is now joined by Nefertiti. The Ponds return home as well, but they keep receiving postcards from Brian. It turns out that Rory’s dad – a man who used to be afraid of traveling – has gone traveling with the Doctor, including to Siluria, the new home of the dinosaurs.


David Bradley does his best evil in this story. I mean, it was deliciously evil. He was previously the voice of Shansheeth in Death of the Doctor, and (spoilers) he’ll eventually follow Colin Baker’s and Peter Capaldi’s lead by playing an incarnation of the Doctor after previously holding a role on the show. His demise did strike me as especially brutal: The Doctor literally set him up to die, which differs from the typical tactic of allowing the foe to set themselves up.

Sometimes this particular incarnation scares me.

Brian Williams is so much fun as well, paving a narrative path for Rory to become the only person to travel in the TARDIS with both a parent and a child (though not at the same time). Brian’s excitement nearly leapt off the screen as he tried to figure out what was going on around him and how best to help. His travels at the end of the story made me smile wide.

This story was a great follow-on from Doctor Who and the Silurians, which previously showed us the relationship between the Silurians and dinosaurs. At that time, the Silurians were using a dinosaur to guard their base. It also echoes back to previous stories about arks (The ArkThe Ark in Space), Invasion of the Dinosaurs (wherein the Third Doctor also prioritized preservation of the dinosaurs), and the literal extinction-level event for the dinosaurs (Earthshock).

How many more times can I say dinosaur? I’ll save the most moving instance – the most traumatic, especially as a dog owner – for last. Tricey’s demise was heartbreaking. It serves as a fantastic testament to the writer and production staff since it solidifies Solomon’s despicable nature and makes me stand in awe because I fell in love with a computer-generated dinosaur in a handful of minutes.

That writer, by the way? Chris Chibnall.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: A Town Called Mercy

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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 #235: Asylum of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks
(1 episode, s07e01, 2012)

Timestamp 235 Asylum of the Daleks

Eggs… Eggs… Eggs…

Prequel

The Doctor is enjoying an afternoon tea with scones, cream, and jam when he interrupted by a mysterious hooded figure staring at him. When he looks away, the figure is suddenly sitting at his table.

The hooded figure says that a woman wants to meet him, and when the Doctor tries to brush the figure off, he waves his hand and makes the tea room empty. Everyone is gone.

The Doctor is intrigued, but he can’t get much more from the mysterious figure than a name: Darla von Karlsen. The Doctor says he never heard of her and stands to leave, but he’s instantly in a dark room. The message is a psychic projection. The room is familiar, forcing the Doctor to try waking up. He ends up in a chair on a beach, but the figure tells him that it’s still a dream.

They end up in space. The figure gives him space-time coordinates and explains that Darla wants help saving her daughter. The Doctor is visibly shaken by the coordinates, but refuses to say the name associated with them. The figure pushes until the Doctor wakes up in the console room of the TARDIS. There he whispers the name…

Skaro.

Asylum of the Daleks

On Skaro, the Doctor meets with Darla von Karlsen in the eye of a giant Dalek statue. Darla doesn’t say who told her of the Doctor. She’s also cagey about how she escaped a Dalek prison camp because no one escapes from Dalek prison camps. She’s cold to the touch and the Doctor knows that this is a trap. Sure enough, an eyestalk emerges from Darla’s forehead and a gunstick from her palm. She blasts the Doctor and a Dalek saucer swoops into to take him prisoner.

We then see Amy Pond, supermodel, who refuses a call from her husband because she “no longer has one.” Rory has brought divorce papers to her dressing area and she signs them, only expressing regret when he leaves without a word.

In short order, both Amy and Rory are taken prisoner by the Daleks. They awaken in a cell with a view of Dalek saucers and are soon greeted by the Doctor and his Dalek escorts. Together, they are all taken to a vast circular auditorium filled with Daleks. This is the Parliament of the Daleks.

In view of the captured TARDIS, the Doctor spreads his arms wide, ready to be exterminated. It is Christmas for the Daleks… their greatest wish come true. Except they stun their prisoners with two simple words.

“Save us.”

After a new title sequence, we meet Oswin Oswald. It’s Day 363 of her confinement in a mysterious place besieged by Daleks and she’s having trouble with soufflés.

Back in the Parliament, the Doctor assesses the Daleks and the Ponds and Amy narrates his thought process. When they arrive at the destination, a Dalek in a transparent tube asks the Doctor about the Dalek Asylum. It is a place where outcast Daleks – the insane, the battle-scarred, and the uncontrollable – are exiled. They aren’t killed because the destruction of “Divine Hatred” is offensive to the Daleks, so the outcasts are sent to this automated planet surrounded by an impenetrable shield.

But the Daleks have detected a signal of unknown origin on the planet. Of course, they never considered tracing it to the source, but the signal is “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” – an aria from Carmen in which the Doctor played the triangle – and it is coming from Oswin’s tiny apartment. Which, in reality, is the remnants of the crashed starliner Alaska upon which she served.

The Daleks plan to send their predator, the Doctor, to the surface to deactivate the planetary shield (which, conveniently, can only be done from the surface) so they can destroy the Oswin’s signal at the source. They send him and his companions on a gravity beam where they are promptly separated.

Amy awakens on a snowy mountainside next to a man named Harvey. She runs off in search of the Doctor and Rory. The Doctor comes to next to a Dalek eye stalk which is linked to Oswin (“soufflé girl”) because she found it easy to hack. Amy and Harvey find the Doctor and search for Rory, leading them to a giant hole in the ground. Rory wakes up inside that hole surrounded by dormant Dalek shells.

Harvey leads the Doctor and Amy to one of the Alaska‘s escape pods. Harvey claims that he’s been on planet for days, but that doesn’t mesh with Oswin’s story. In fact, all of Harvey’s crewmates are long dead. Harvey then remembers that he died out in the snow and that the planet’s nano-cloud transformed him into one of the Dalek puppets like the ones that trapped the Doctor and the Ponds.

The only thing stopping the travelers from transforming is the bracelets that the Daleks provided them.

Unfortunately, the cloud also transforms the dead so now we have Dalek zombies. Joy.

The Doctor and Amy take refuge from the Dalek puppets in the escape pod’s cockpit. Oswin engineers an escape path for them while the Doctor starts working on Amy’s marital problems. Before they descend into the mountain, they realize that the zombies have stolen Amy’s wristband so she’s now vulnerable to the nano particles.

Underground, Rory inadvertantly awakens the dormant Daleks who immediately focus on exterminating the intruder. Oswin opens a door for him and, after he escapes, makes introductions by flirting.

As the Doctor and Amy descend, he explains that the nanocloud will slowly reprogram Amy’s mind. In fact, it’s already started since they’ve repeated the same discussion four times. He encourages her to embrace her fear of what’s happening because Daleks don’t feel fear. Oswin coordinates with the Doctor to reunite him with Rory, but that means leaving Amy for a moment. That presents a moment for Amy to interact with what she things are people but are really the Daleks that Rory faced. Thankfully, they’re decayed enough that they cannot give chase for long. Unfortunately, they can still activate self-destruct.

The Doctor is able to override a Dalek’s motivators and send it back into the chamber with the others. The self-destruct eliminates all of them and the travelers are reunited. The Doctor has a brief conversation with Oswin, musing about how she was able to survive a year alone and where she gets milk for her soufflés.

The Doctor lays out four goals: Neutralize all of the Daleks in the Asylum, rescue Oswin, escape from the planet, and fix the Pond marriage. Luckily they are standing on a teleport pad, so they need to lower the planetary shield and beam out very rapidly. Oswin sends a map of her location to the Doctor, so the Doctor tasks Amy and Rory with keeping Amy from becoming a Dalek while he’s gone.

Rory assumes that he can give Amy his wristband because the transformation will be slower for him. Since the nanocloud transforms love into hate, he would last longer because he always loved her more than she loved him. After all, he spent 2000 years protecting her inside the Pandorica as an Auton. They argue, uncovering that the focal point of their conflict is children. The conflict at Demons Run left Amy sterile: Rory thought Amy kicked him out after deciding she didn’t love him, but she knew that he had always wanted children so she “gave him up” to give him a chance with someone else.

They then realize the Doctor put his bracelet on Amy while she was sleeping. Amy muses that he probably doesn’t need it and he used it to trick them into working out their relationship problems.

The Doctor reaches the Intensive Care area, the home for Daleks defeated in particular battles, all of which occurred during the Doctor’s first, second, and third incarnations. Once he realizes this, the Daleks revive and corner him. Oswin hacks into the Dalek Pathweb and erases all data on him, effectively making them forget the Doctor. The deranged Daleks quietly go back to their cells.

Oswin opens the door and invites the Doctor in, but he hesitates when he sees Oswin’s true form. She dreamed up her situation because the reality was too terrible. She was in the cockpit of the escape pod and climbed down the same ladder that the Doctor and Amy used. The Daleks need her genius, so they converted her in full.

Oswin Oswald is now a full Dalek.

The truth is indeed too much to bear. She asks why the Daleks hate the Doctor. He tells her that he beats them everytime. She says that the Daleks grow stronger in spite of him… because of their fear of him. She tells him to run – “Run, you clever boy, and remember.” – and lowers the planetary shield, ready to die as a human at heart.

The Doctor reaches the Ponds and teleports them to the Dalek Parliament ship just as the Daleks destroy the Asylum. Unfortunately for the Daleks, the Doctor has really good aim with a teleporter. Fortunately, for the Doctor, the Daleks have no idea who he is, so he escapes in the TARDIS as the Daleks scream “Doctor WHO!?” over and over again.

The Doctor drops the Ponds at their doorstep, leaving Rory overjoyed that Amy has welcomed him home. The Doctor flies on, reveling in his new anonymity, as he looks forward to the next adventure.


This story presents a good payoff for the previous season’s shenanigans, offering the “what happens next” scenario for the traumas that our main characters faced with the Silence. It also pays off Pond Life to a degree, answering the question of the rift in the Pond household.

Of course, Amy’s relationship problems still center on a lack of communication and unilateral decision making. It’s been a common theme for her: Despite loving Rory, of which I have no doubt, she still treats him poorly and doesn’t communicate with him until she’s forced to.

I did enjoy the visuals on the Asylum, particularly how the construction was much like the city from The Daleks. The Intensive Care Unit also offers a few nods to history, including SpiridonKembelAridiusVulcan, and Exxilon. The Daleks have asked for help before, leading us back to The Evil of the Daleks.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Parliament of the Daleks, which offered a smorgasbord of Dalek history, including:

Really, all we’re missing are the Imperial Daleks from Revelation of the Daleks and/or Resurrection of the Daleks, the disc-backed units in silver-and-black-striped livery from The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the gold-ringed versions from The Chase, the gold units from Day of the Daleks and Frontier in Space, the Supreme Council Dalek from Planet of the Daleks, the “Skittles” units from Victory of the Daleks, the Supreme Red from The Stolen Earth, and (why not?) the variety of unofficial models from both Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.

That bit of fun aside, this story also ends on quite the question for the Daleks to ask. It’s a great place to leave everything as the Doctor’s biggest enemy can’t even remember their supreme rival’s name.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

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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 #234: Good as Gold & Pond Life

Doctor Who: Good as Gold
Doctor Who: Pond Life
(6 episodes, pre-Series 7 Specials, 2012)

Timestamp 234 Pond Life

Catching up with the Ponds.

Good as Gold

The Doctor and Amy are traveling in the TARDIS. Amy notes that the Intrepid Universe Traveler Handbook says they need to have at least one adventure per week, so the Doctor turns on the “Adventure Setting” for the TARDIS. In short order, the Cloister Bell sounds and the TARDIS crashes.

After the crash, an athlete runs through the door holding the Olympic Torch. They’ve landed in the middle of the Olympic running track, but it’s a good thing since the athlete was being pursued by a Weeping Angel. The Angel wants to steal the Olympic flame and destroy the Pride of the Olympics, so the Doctor points his sonic screwdriver at the torch and fractures the Angel.

The athlete grabs the torch before it hits the floor, then thanks the Doctor for his assistance by giving him a gold medal before running on to light the 2012 Olympic flame. As the Doctor prepares for the next adventure, the Weeping Angel reappears in the doorway. It is cracked and missing the arm that touched the torch, but it is still inside the TARDIS… a story fragment to probably never be resolved.

Pond Life: April 2012

The Doctor leaves a message on Amy and Rory’s answering machine about his recent adventures. He has fled Sontarans by surfing the firefalls on Florinall 9, had a risqué meeting with Mata Hari in Paris while roasting crumpets, sung the backups for an album, and crashed into ancient Greece due to a fault in the helmic regulator.

It seems that the TARDIS was hit by an arrow at the Battle of Hastings.

Pond Life: May 2012

The Doctor bursts into the Ponds’ house while they sleep. The world is endangered and the Ponds need to save the world! Except that it is the wrong time for them – helmic regulator! – so everything is fine. He wishes them a good night and leaves to find the right Ponds, leaving Rory to remark about how much he hates it when the Doctor does that.

Pond Life: June 2012

Rory steps into the bathroom only to be startled by the unexpected. While Rory collects himself, Amy checks things out. She finds an Ood on the loo who asks, “May I be of any assistance?”

Pond Life: July 2012

The Ood is no longer on the loo, but instead is acting as a butler for Amy and Rory by cleaning their windows, making food, and doing the wash. The Doctor explains that he rescued the Ood from the Androvax conflict and is planning on returning it to the Ood Sphere. Unfortunately, he misplaced the Ood on his last visit but plans to pick him up tonight.

Whenever that is.

Pond Life: August 2012

The Doctor has returned the Ood to the Ood Sphere. While changing the TARDIS light bulb, he recounts his recent adventures on the Ponds’ answering machine, including riding a horse through 11th Century Conventry, having invented pasta, and visiting their home (except that they were out).

He hopes that everything is okay, but he’s unaware that Rory stormed out of the house during a fight with Amy. He decides to delete the message just before Amy returns home. She checks the empty recording, then looks into the distance with a wish on her lips.

“We need you, raggedy man. I need you.”


Good as Gold written by The Children of Ashdene School in the same spirit as Death is the Only Answer. It also links back to the Olympic moments of Fear Her and provides a potential crossing of the Doctor’s timeline.

Good as Gold joins Pond Life to provide some fun filler while the show was away for nine months between the 2011 Christmas Special and the Series 7 premiere, but ultimately they are an average prologue to pass the time.

Even if they did give us “Ood on the loo.”

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks

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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 #233: The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

Doctor Who: The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe
(1 episode, Christmas Special, 2011)

Timestamp 233 Doctor Widow Wardrobe

Facing traumas and Christmas miracles.

Prequel

The Eleventh Doctor holds a button that, when released, will blow up a ship that’s about to destroy the Earth. He calls Amy Pond on the TARDIS phone to ask her to rescue him, but he realizes she cannot fly the TARDIS. He also doesn’t have the coordinates and, well, Amy is no longer with him.

The Doctor admits he just wanted to chat and wishes her a merry Christmas before triggering the explosion.

The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe

A spaceship approaches Earth in 1938, ready to destroy the planet, but it blows up from within courtesy of the Eleventh Doctor. The Doctor is ejected from the ship and plummets toward Earth as he struggles into a nearby spacesuit.

He plummets to the ground near a woman riding her bike in the dark. That woman, Madge Arwell, finds the Doctor in a crater, his helmet on backwards, and mistakes him for a space angel. Madge leaves an elaborate message with her son and takes the Doctor to town to find a police box. Unfortunately, they find the wrong box at first, but Madge is presumably successful by the time she returns home. The Doctor tells her that all she needs to do is make a wish and he’ll be there.

Three years later, her husband is lost in the war when his plane crashes. Madge Arwell now is a war widow with two kids. She makes a silent wish before taking the children to Uncle Digby’s abandoned country estate for the holiday. It is there that the family formally meets the Doctor, posing as the caretaker.

A whirlwind tour reveals a sitting room with moving chairs, a kitchen with a lemonade tap, the rumor of panthers, and a magical children’s bedroom complete with hammocks. Madge is beside herself and privately asks why the Doctor is doing all of this. He tells her that he knows the sadness that will come when she finally tells them the bad news.

The family adjourns to the main sitting room with a large Christmas tree and a giant glowing present. The Doctor wanders away as Madge promises the kids that this will be the best present ever. That night, Cyril sneaks down to investigate the present while Lily looks in on the Doctor. Lily finds the Time Lord fiddling with the TARDIS while Cyril discovers that the present leads to a Narnia-like world beyond its wrappings.

Once the Doctor realizes that Cyril has entered the package, he and Lily give chase. The Doctor tells Lily that it was supposed to be a portal to the safest planet he knew but it wasn’t supposed to be opened until Christmas. Meanwhile, Cyril has followed mysterious footprints from a creature that hatched from a silver ball to a tower in the woods.

The Doctor recognizes that the voices around him are the trees talking to each other. There is something wrong in the forest. As they search for Cyril, Madge finds the package and enters the portal as well, soon encountering three harvest rangers who hold her at gunpoint. The forest is private property and an acid rain storm is about to melt the trees for fuel. The stress of the entire encounter is too much as Madge breaks down in tears.

Cyril enters the tower and finds a wooden being on a throne. It comes to life as Cyril climbs the stairs behind it. When he reaches the top of the tower, he finds a throne with another wooden statue. The Doctor and Lily enter the tower and recognize the Wooden King and that the tower is made from trees. It is a trap, but the Doctor questions why the forest needs people. Above them, Cyril is forced to sit in the throne and is crowned by the Wooden Queen. This forces the Wooden King to rise and ascend the stairs.

The harvest rangers are from Androzani Major and they lower their weapons, believing that Madge is no harm. Unfortunately for them, she pulls out a gun. After all, there’s a war on. The men are bound as the female ranger tries to scan for the Arwell children. Unfortunately, she can’t pilot the ranger vehicle and the rangers are teleported away as the final warning is announced.

The Wooden King and Queen speak through Cyril, passing along the news that they are shepherding the lifeforce of the forest away before it is melted. They are using Cyril as a lifeboat, but the boy is too weak to hold forest’s lifeforce. The Doctor is also not compatible, but Lily is. Unfortunately, she’s also too young.

Then the rain begins.

Madge can hear the children and the Doctor over an open channel, motivating her to drive the ranger harvester to the tower. It topples over as it reaches the tower but Madge makes it inside safely. After she chastises the children, she is crowned by the Wooden Queen. Madge is strong enough to save the forest.

The Doctor is perplexed by Madge’s ability to house the entire forest in her head, then realizes that weak and strong are code for male and female. The geodesic sphere atop the tower lifts off and plunges into the temporal vortex to remain safe while the forest is converted. The Wooden Queen tells the Doctor that Madge can pilot them home with a single thought.

Using the telegram that announced her husband’s death, she focuses on her family and plots a course home. On the way, she sees her history with her husband, including his death over the Channel, revealing the truth to her children.

The transit ends with the forest finding a new home among the stars. They have returned to the estate and the family shares a moment over the tragic news. The Doctor leaves them for a moment and makes a life-changing discovery.

Madge’s husband died because there were no stars to light the way home. Because of what Madge did for the forest, the light of the temporal vortex became his beacon home. He landed with them and survived the war after all, given the Arwells a Christmas miracle.

Later on, Madge discovers that the Doctor is her spaceman angel. She thanks him and asks him to stay for Christmas. He declines and readies to leave, and she tells him that no one should be alone for Christmas. He should go see his family, even though they think that he’s dead.

If Madge needs him again, all she needs is to make a wish.

The TARDIS dematerializes, taking the Doctor to the Pond home. Amy answers the blue door, ready to spray annoying carolers, and expresses her annoyance at the Doctor’s two year absence. She reveals that River told them about the Doctor’s survival, and after a brief standoff, the two hug once again. Rory and Amy also tell him that they always set a place for him at Christmas dinner.

The Doctor steps inside and smiles as he wipes a tear from his eye.


This story embodies the positives of the holiday specials. They typically meld the science fiction elements of the franchise with a feel-good story to life viewers up in the season, and this was a prime example of their magic.

The story handled the trauma of loss and the family left behind in war quite well, allowing the family to heal from the obvious friction that started their Christmas holiday. I admit that I was crying as Madge faced that which she did not want to, and I kept crying as her family found their miracle in saving his life.

The plot plays a wonderful parallel to the Doctor’s own life, resulting in a payoff as he realizes that he needs other people in his life after all.

Reg Arwell as played by Alexander Armstrong, whom we have heard before over five series as the supercomputer Mr. Smith in The Sarah Jane Adventures. It’s good to put a face to the voice.

The parallels to the C.S. Lewis Narnia tales is quite obvious, as are several of the ties back to this show’s mythology from the Magna Carta to the Doctor’s respiratory bypass system to survive in space. Oh, and the entire Androzani link for the Fifth Doctor’s swan song.

And the sonic screwdriver being used as a tool and rendered inoperative because of all the wood. That was a nice touch.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Good as Gold and Doctor Who: Pond Life

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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 #232: Space/Time & Night and the Doctor

Doctor Who: Space/Time
Doctor Who: Night and the Doctor
(7 episodes, Comic Relief and Home Video Specials, 2011)

Timestamp 232 Night and the Doctor

Wrapping up some loose ends with the time travelers’ dating game run amok!

Space

Set between The Big Bang and The Impossible Astronaut, we begin with our travelers fixing the TARDIS in something called “conceptual space”. Amy unsuccessfully tries to get the Doctor’s attention, but is distracted by Rory installing thermocouples. Banter flies about Amy’s failed driving test and the fact that she was wearing a skirt. In fact, it’s the same skirt that she’s currently wearing, which distracts Rory and forces the TARDIS to execute an emergency landing.

When the Doctor restores power, the team is shocked to find the TARDIS materialized inside the console room. The Doctor presumes that it was the safest place to land, but when he investigates he finds that it is the same TARDIS as the one they are currently occupying.

More than a time loop, it is a space loop. No one can leave the TARDIS again.

That is, until another Amy walks through the doors. This, apparently, is where it gets complicated.

Time

The new Amy is from the future since the exterior shell is running slightly ahead of the console room. After the Doctor makes sure that the timeline stays exactly as it should – and after present Pond flirts with future Pond, much to Rory’s amusement – Amy enters the TARDIS.

Directly after, both Amy and Rory enter the console room. The Doctor sets up a controlled temporal implosion to reset the TARDIS, but since he doesn’t know which lever to pull, the entire TARDIS could explode. He doesn’t know which lever to pull, but a future version of the Doctor rushes in to tell him to use the “wibbly lever”. The Doctor thanks himself, pulls the lever, and enters the TARDIS before it dematerializes.

Everything’s back to normal and there’s no longer any danger of the localized time field imploding. But, just in case, he asks Amy to put on some trousers before they get back to work.

Bad Night

The console room is dark and the phone is ringing. Amy answers the phone, obviously having just been asleep. The voice on the other end, a Prince of Wales, asks for the Doctor as Amy swats a fly. The Doctor rushes in, clad in top hat and tails, and hands Amy a goldfish and bowl while he deals with the nighttime caller.

He assures the prince that his “mother is fine” while chastising Amy for answering the phone. It turns out that the Queen has been transformed into a goldfish at a party, and the warrior chief who did so is trapped in the TARDIS until he reverses it. Unfortunately, that warrior chief was the fly that Amy killed.

Oh, and River Song was at the party as well.

As the Doctor rushes off to solve the problem, Amy asks for his help. She can’t sleep because something is on her mind. Convinced that she’s “having an emotion,” the Doctor calls for Rory to handle it. It seems that they take turns dealing with her emotional needs.

Finally, the Doctor realizes that he has the wrong fish. He also only has three hours to get the right one before the pet shops open and the Commonwealth is potentially destroyed.

Good Night

The Doctor returns from another night with River Song, this time carrying a euphonium. This time, Amy’s waiting up for him, wondering if he does this kind of thing every night. While the Doctor explains his adventures in saving people – he helped a possessed orchestra on the moonbase, prevented two supernovas, wrote the history of the universe in jokes, and worked as physician in Brixton – Amy wonders if the companions’ lives are just brief flickers in his overall life.

She also explains why she can’t sleep. Her life doesn’t make sense because, as a result of The Big Bang, she can remember two versions of her life, one without her parents and one with them. The Doctor comforts her, in the process reminding her of the saddest moment of her life. It was at a fair when she dropped an ice cream, and she suddenly remembers a woman with red hair, dressed in a nightgown, who came to give her a new ice cream. When she finishes the story, the Doctor is by the doors, ready to go with her to the fair.

Time and space will never make sense, including this causality loop, but at least the Doctor gets ice cream and a trip to the fair.

First Night

River Song is in her cell at Stormcage when the Doctor arrives in a white dinner suit. The Ponds are asleep, so he is taking her to Calderon Beta. It’s a boring planet aside from a four hundred foot tall tree growing out of a cliff-top in the middle of the sea, which is where the Doctor wants to show River the starriest night sky in the entire history of the universe.

Which happens to be on September 21, 2360.

This is apparently right after he gave her the TARDIS diary so they can keep their timelines straight. He’s also chosen a dress for her, but there are more in the wardrobe down the corridor if she wants something different. While she runs off to rifle through the racks, the TARDIS lands. Curious about the sound of gunfire outside, he opens the door and finds a different River Song.

This one collapses into his arms, calling him a nostalgic idiot for coming back to this spot.

Last Night

This new River wasn’t injured, but rather holding her breath for dramatic effect. She flirts with the Doctor while explaining that she’s running from some Sontarans. She spots the dress and gets jealous, storming through the TARDIS to find the presumed mistress.

Of course, future River remembers the encounter – it’s the same night! – but not the details, so chaos ensues between the Doctor and the two Rivers. It gets worse when a third River enters the TARDIS, this one actually wearing the gold dress that the Doctor had picked out. This River was expecting to meet the Doctor here, but she questions why the same dress is hanging by the console. The Doctor asks her to step outside to check if the light on top of the TARDIS is working, which she does.

The second River rushes back into the console room and the Doctor sends her back to Stormcage by tweaking her vortex manipulator with his sonic screwdriver. The third River returns to the TARDIS, followed by an older version of the Doctor who tells her that she’s in the wrong blue box. His, after all, is parked around back.

River muses about two Doctors at once, then rushes out, excited about a trip to the Singing Towers of Darillium. The two Doctors are saddened because River visited that site before she died, but the older Doctor refuses to reveal any spoilers before leaving.

The first River returns, catching a glimpse of the future Doctor and developing a liking for the word “spoilers” before joining her Doctor on their night out together. She jokes that him and his secrets will be the death of her.

Up All Night

In a prequel to Closing Time, we find Craig Owens in his home, eating baby food as he protests to his wife Sophie that he can’t be left alone with their baby. He’s terrified that he’ll break Alfie, but Sophie disagrees, puts Alfie in his arms, and tells him he’s amazing. Craig bounces a little as Sophie notices another disappearance in the newspaper.

Craig questions whether or not she should leave the both of them alone all weekend, but Sophie is sure. She says that it is bath time, which Craig protests because it happened just yesterday, but Sophie suggests that it’s not the end of the world.

The kitchen lights flicker as they walk out.


Overall, this collection of shorts was entertaining enough. Space/Time were part of the 2011 Comic Relief special, the first multi-part charity story since the 30th anniversary special Dimensions in Time (“Which is totally canon, right?” he asked with a grin). It’s also the fifth televised story in the forty-eight year (to this point) history of the franchise to be set entirely on the TARDIS.

Meanwhile, the Night and the Doctor collection was a special feature for the Series Six home video release.

With that context, the source of Space/Time‘s humor is understandable since it caters to a lower denominator to drive pledges. It’s also irritating since it reduces a competent companion and woman to an upskirt gag to propel the story. Space/Time is definitely my least favorite part of this set.

Night and the Doctor plays with downtime on the TARDIS, addressing both Amy’s dual timeline crisis that stems from The Big Bang and going slapstick with the divergent linearity of the River/Doctor relationship. The Amy thread does quite well with the Eleventh Doctor’s aloof and detached nature when it comes to relationships, and it is by far my favorite subset of the collection. The dating game falls in the middle of the set by having fun with a lot of confusion.

Up All Night just… exists. That’s about it.

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


UP NEXT – Series 6 Summary

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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 #231: The Wedding of River Song

Doctor Who: The Wedding of River Song
(1 episode, s06e13, 2011)

Timestamp 231 The Wedding of River Song

A wedding, two funerals, and a question.

Prequel

A digital clock flickers on a computer screen, bouncing between 05:02:57 PM and 05:02:58 PM. Two soldiers patrol the corridors in Area 52, looking into supposedly empty tanks on their rounds. The tanks are not empty, however, but instead each contain a Silent. Behind a barricaded wooden door in a room containing an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, a familiar woman stands in a black suit. She is River Song, wearing an eyepatch over her right eye. She smiles as the ominous nursery rhyme ushers out the scene.

Tick tock, goes the clock,
Tick tock, goes the clock,
Tick tock, goes the clock…
Doctor, brave and good.
He turned away from violence.
When he understood
The falling of the Silence.

The Wedding of River Song

It’s a weird timeline. Cars are flying on hot air balloons, the War of the Roses enters its second year as London picnickers are warned not to feed the pterodactyls, and Charles Dickens is interviewed on television about his new Christmas ghost special. Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill returns to Buckingham Senate on his personal mammoth.

Uh, what?

The Emperor is not pleased about his conference with Cleopatra and he asks his Silurian physician, Malokeh, for the time. It’s 5:02pm on April 22, 2011. Emperor Churchill is troubled by this news, despite the fact that it has always been the same date, so he summons his soothsayer from the Tower. He demands an explanation about what has happened to time. The Doctor raises his head and replies, “A woman.”

Some time before, the Doctor addresses a video receptor in a dark and damaged room.

“Imagine you were dying. Imagine you were afraid and a long way from home and in terrible pain. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you looked up and saw the face of the devil himself… Hello, Dalek.”

The Dalek Supreme is damaged beyond repair, so the Doctor takes it apart and scans its memory banks for any information regarding the Silence.

At a different time, now on the docks of Calisto B, the Doctor arrives at a bar and asks for Father Gideon Vandaleur. He offers the eyestalk from the Dalek Supreme as a calling card. Once he meets Father Vandaleur, once an envoy of the Silence, he uses his sonic screwdriver to reveal the Teselecta. The Father has been dead for six months, and he wants to speak to the shapeshifting ship’s captain. He wants to know about the Silence’s weakest link.

Using that information, he tracks down Gantok and challenges him to a game of live chess. The next move will kill Gantok, but the Doctor is willing to trade the victory for information. He wants to know why he has to die, and apparently Dorium Maldovar has the answer. Dorium was beheaded at Demon’s Run, but the Headless Monks have stored the leftovers in the Seventh Transept.

Dorium’s head is kept in a box, a luxury for the richest victims of the Monks. Gantok tries to kill the Doctor but instead falls into a trap with ravenous skulls. After the Doctor seals the trap, he addresses Dorium. The beheaded head explains that it was easier to create a fixed point in time to ensure that the Doctor would die without fail. If the Doctor lives, then…

“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked. A question that must be never, ever be answered.”

The Silence must fall when the question is asked. It is the first question, hidden in plain sight, but the Doctor doesn’t know it. Dorium asks if he wants to, and the Doctor nervously agrees. After he hears it, the Doctor takes Dorium’s head to the TARDIS and sets a course.

All of this is the tale that the Doctor tells Emperor Churchill. He talks to the emperor about it as they stroll through the Roman Senate. The emperor produces a revolver, claiming that the Soothsayer is dangerous company. The Doctor, noting a mark on his arm, agrees.

Back to the story, the Doctor continues his farewell tour. However, once he finds out that the Brigadier has died, he finally accepts that his time has come. He produces the invitations in the blue envelopes and asks the Teselecta to deliver them. He’d do it himself, except that it would mean crossing his own timestream.

He goes to Lake Silencio. He meets Amy Pond, Rory Williams, and River Song. They drink a bottle of wine that Napoleon threw at him. The impossible astronaut rises from the lake. He goes to meet it after ordering his companions to stay back. This time we see that River Song is in the suit, unable to fight the plan in motion.

He explains that she won’t remember murdering him, but she will serve time for this crime that she can’t remember and committed against her will. He forgives her unconditionally and closes his eyes as his destiny arrives.

Except that it doesn’t. Instead of three blasts, there are five as River drains the suit’s power. The fixed point in time is subverted, resulting in the time track being derailed. In the future(?), Emperor Churchill and Doctor Soothsayer appear to be defending themselves with the revolver and a spear. While they can’t remember the Silence, they are surrounded by them.

They are saved by Amelia Pond, now wearing an eyepatch and in command of a platoon of soldiers. She shoots the Doctor point-blank. Luckily, it was only a stun bolt, and when the Doctor awakens on a train, he finds that Amy is only playing along. She returns the Doctor’s suit to him and start to plan.

Thanks to the crack in time, Amy has memories of alternate timelines but cannot recall that Captain Williams is really her husband.  Amy wonders if things can stay like they are, but the Doctor tells her that this mess, currently confined to Earth, will spread into the universe until all of reality disintegrates. Through it all, the Doctor continues to age because he is the focal point.

The train arrives at Area 52, housed within the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Doctor is given an eyepatch – an Eye Drive to remember the Silence when spotted – and walk past tanks of Silents that are uncharacteristically fixated on the Doctor. They arrive in the King’s Chamber and meet River Song and a captive Madame Kovarian.

After a bit of taunting, the Doctor grabs River’s arm, forcing time to start moving forward again. They appear back on the shores of Lake Silencio, but it all vanishes again when River pulls away and orders the Doctor to be restrained.

This is the moment when the Silents spring their trap. They’ve been waiting for the Doctor to arrive so they could break free and kill him. Kovarian reveals that the Eye Drives are designed to kill their users, though the Silence turns on her as well. Rory stays to hold off the Silents while River, Amy, and the Doctor ascend the pyramid to see what River has built as a contingency plan. The Silents descend on Rory, taunting him until Amy remembers who he is and destroys the Silents with a machine gun.

Amy then reveals that she remembers what Kovarian did to her and her daughter Melody. She ensures that Kovarian’s Eye Drive is properly affixed, then leaves her to die.

At the top of the pyramid, River reveals a distress beacon that she built with her knowledge as a child of the TARDIS. The message – “The Doctor is dying. Please help.” – is being broadcast to the universe in the past, present, and the future. The universe has been replying, despite the Doctor’s desire to close himself off from all of it, offering to help because he has helped them so many times.

River wants the Doctor to survive more than anything else in the universe. The Doctor, realizing that there is only one way to pacify River, uses his bow tie to marry her in a rushed ceremony. He whispers a secret into his bride’s ear and tells her she must never tell anyone what he has just told her.

As she looks at him in wonder, the Doctor asks for her help. They kiss and time is reset. River shoots the Doctor three times on the shore of Lake Silencio, preventing his regeneration, and the alternate timeline vanishes.

Later, River joins Amy for a bottle of wine. River has just come from the Byzantium mission and Amy is in the relative present. Amy is wracked with guilt and would love to talk to the Doctor about it, but she cannot. River, however, reveals the Doctor’s final secret, which they also tell Rory when he arrives home. They dance with joy until Amy realizes one fundamental truth: She is now the Doctor’s mother-in-law.

In the Seventh Transept, a monk returns Dorium’s head (and box) to its proper pedestal. The monk reveals himself as the Doctor, having hidden himself in the Teselecta. That was the secret he told River. The Doctor realizes that he’s become too big and noisy, so it’s time to step back into the shadows. While River serves her days in Stormcage, the Doctor admits that her nights are between him and her.

Dorium will keep the Doctor’s secrets, but warns that Trenzalore still awaits him. As does the question.

The first question.

The question that must never be answered.

The question that the Doctor has been running from his entire life.

“Doctor who?”


So, it is possible to bypass a fixed point in time because they did it twice here.

I will say, though, that the idea was a clever way to tie all the various pieces together and, like Father’s Day, an avenue to explore the fragility of time. The solution is a literal deus ex machina and a bit of a cheat, exchanging one fixed point subversion for another. The second one is okay though, I guess, because it’s in the screenplay. Or the way things were supposed to roll out?

The very nature of this story demands callbacks, many of which have already been mentioned above. As if those weren’t enough, the alternate Amy’s drawings served as a moment of rapid-fire nods from her temporal travels to date. They included the Krafayis, the Weeping Angels, the Saturnyns, the Daleks, the Minotaur, the Cybermen, the Smilers, and a self-portrait of her time in pirate garb. The major callback, of course, Amy’s partial protection from temporal fluctuations based on her long-term exposure to the crack from last season.

The Question is a running gag in the franchise, recently highlighted in Silver Nemesis and The Girl in the Fireplace, and has been in play since An Unearthly Child. I feel like the big gag here defuses a bit of the victory by sticking its tongue out at the audience. Here we are, basking in the glow of a major win that sidestepped the Doctor’s death and the destruction of the universe, and our closing thought is a corny meta joke.

As we’ve seen before, the question works as the occasional gag, but making it a major fixture of the franchise’s mythology feels like a bit of shark-jumping. It’s easily fixed, too. The point is the Doctor’s real name, so instead of “Doctor who?”, how about “Who is the Last of the Time Lords?” or something similar?

One last note on the first funeral of two: The Doctor’s new hair takes some getting used to.

Finally, I really loved the farewell for Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart and the actor who brought him to life, Nicholas Courtney, who died eight months before this tale originally aired. Part of the episode was set in Cairo, the city of Courtney’s birth. Eyepatches were prevalent all around, referring to a favorite anecdote of his from Inferno. The Doctor was told that the Brigadier died peacefully in his sleep, which was directly from the Seventh Doctor’s prophecy in Battlefield.

That last one was a tearjerker, particularly with the news that the Brig waited patiently for the Doctor’s return with a spare glass of brandy at the ready. They may have sparred quite a bit since the day that they met, but both characters had a deep respect for each other.

Goodbye, Brigadier.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Night and the Doctor

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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 #230: Closing Time

Doctor Who: Closing Time
(1 episode, s06e12, 2011)

Timestamp 230 Closing Time

Here to help!

At the Sanderson & Grainger store in Colchester, Kelly and Shona prepare to close up for the night. Kelly is late for a date, so Shona offers to take her duties. Shona is perturbed that a customer is still in the changing rooms and is not amused at the flickering lights throughout the store.

Elsewhere, Craig Owens escorts his wife out the door for a weekend getaway, intent on showing her (and everyone else) that he can handle things on his own while she’s gone. Sophie has called a few people to check in on Craig, but he calls them back and tells them not to worry. He hears a knock at the door and, believing that Sophie has come back, answers it. To his dismay, his guest is none other than the Doctor.

His guest doesn’t like the new decor. Or the inexplicable power surges.

When he investigates, he finds a baby. Sophie and Craig’s baby.

Shona, on the other hand, finds a Cyberman. Surprise!

Craig tells the Doctor that he really can’t handle the baby. Alas, there are no off switches, but the Doctor has a secret weapon: He speaks baby.

It turns out that Alfie, the baby boy, prefers to be called Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All. Sophie is “Mum”, Craig is “Not-Mum”, the Doctor is “also-not-Mum”, and everyone else is merely “peasant”.

The Doctor says that Craig’s place is one more stop on his great farewell tour, of which he has spent a considerable amount of time waving at the Ponds through history. He sets out to visit the Alignment of Exodor, trying desperately to not notice the oddities around him. His curiosity gets the best of him, however, and he ends up as a toy salesman at Sanderson & Grainger. Nametag and all.

Craig is surprised to see the Doctor demonstrating a remote control helicopter. The Doctor explains that he’s living in the moment, even introducing Craig to Yappy the robot dog (which is nowhere near as fun as other robot dogs he knows). His attention is drawn to a silver blur, and when Craig asks, the Doctor alludes to several missing people and the ongoing power fluctuations. The Doctor ushers Craig out, but is convinced by Stormie to explain the teleporter. The teleporter in the elevator which soon whisks them away to wherever the Cybermen are hiding. The Doctor reverses it and starts searching, begging Craig to take Alfie and go, but Craig refuses. He believes in the Doctor.

The Doctor, Craig, and Stormie return to the store and investigate. The Doctor gets word of a “silver rat thing” from Val, the perfume saleswoman who thinks that he and Craig are a couple. Craig stalks the women’s department, completely missing the silver blur and getting in trouble with security. Craig gets bailed out by the Doctor (who is absolutely adored by the staff) and they both end up in the changing rooms where Shona was last seen.

Oh, and the silver rat is a Cybermat. Which makes these Mondasian Cybermen, not Cybus Cybermen.

Craig wanders off to change Alfie. In the meantime, the Doctor spots Amy and Rory. Amy has become a bit of a celebrity thanks to her perfume ads, and is surprised that a little girl wants her autograph. The Doctor beams with pride as he avoids being seen.

After closing, the Doctor, Craig, and Stormie go hunting for Cybermats. They find one, teeth and all, then follow screams to security guard George. A Cyberman knocks the Doctor out with an electrical charge and takes George’s body away. The Doctor is confused as to how the Cybermen repaired the teleport so fast.

The team regroups at Craig’s house. The Doctor whips up a science experiment and gives Alfie a pep talk, realizing that it is his old age talking. In the meantime, the Cybermat reactivates and attacks the adorable duo. Unfortunately, the Doctor locks himself and Alfie outside without the sonic screwdriver. The Doctor tries to warn Craig, but the Cybermat wreaks havoc. One broken back door and a recalibration of the sonic later, the Cybermat is disabled.

While dissecting the Cybermat with a normal screwdriver and a loupe, the Doctor laments his position. Tomorrow is the day that the prophecy – “Silence will fall when the question is asked”, even though he has no idea what the question is – descends upon him. Craig falls asleep and the Doctor goes back to the store to hunt with his new friend Bitey the Cybermat.

The Doctor finds what he’s looking for behind a mirror in the changing room, descending down a tunnel into the foundation of the store. Craig follows the Doctor, leaving Alfie with Val, as the Time Lord explores the cyber ship and is captured. The Cybermen don’t find the Doctor to be compatible, but start conversion of Craig into the new Cyber Controller. The Doctor pleads with Craig to think of Alfie as the helmet seals around his face.

Alfie’s cries across an open CCTV channel reawaken Craig’s emotions, breaking him free of the conversion and starting an emotional feedback loop in the Cybermen. Their heads literally explode and the ship blows up as Craig and the Doctor use the teleport to return to the elevator.

Oh, and Bitey? He didn’t make it.

The day saved and the “companion” miscommunication nearly resolved, the Doctor spirits away. He uses the TARDIS to help tidy up Craig’s house. He also reveals that Stormie prefers the name Alfie now, and also refers to Craig as “Dad”. The Doctor borrows some blue stationery and Craig offers him a Stetson.

Sophie returns, Alfie has a first word, and the Doctor moves on. He says hello to some kids, an event that is somehow chronicled in the records at Luna University in the 52nd century. There, River Song encounters Madame Kovarian while doing research. Kovarian and her Silence companions reveal that they have locked out part of her memories, relating the story of an impossible astronaut.

River is sedated against her will and dressed in a spacesuit. She awakens under Lake Silencio.

She’s destined to kill the Doctor.


On the one hand, this is a good dramatic break from the tension developed over the last four episodes. It does a decent job of connecting the dots leading into the finale, making it less of a filler story than its predecessor. On the other hand, the downsides here are pretty big.

First, James Corden isn’t particularly funny here, which acts as an anchor around this story’s neck. Second, and perhaps more damning, is how this story defangs the Cybermen. The Cybermen haven’t been a central figure in a story since the David Tennant era. The last time was The Next Doctor, but the last truly impactful stories were all the way back in Series Two with Army of Ghosts & Doomsday and Rise of the Cybermen & The Age of Steel.

The Cybermen here are, frankly, on the same level as The Next Doctor without the humor, the heart, or even the absurdity. They only serve to assimilate random victims and get blown to kingdom come as a function of the formula. They aren’t menacing, and they certainly don’t march anywhere. They’re nothing more than a prop.

I do appreciate several moments in this story.

  • The Doctor’s telepathy makes a comeback as he quiets people with a simple command.
  • The “I don’t like it” review of redecoration is a fun running gag from The Three DoctorsThe Five Doctors, and Time Crash.
  • The concept of another farewell tour, this one spanning 200 years or so.
  • The acknowledgement that the Doctor always offers a choice to his enemies. In fact, some of the best stories present the enemy failure as their own undoing.

We also see how what Pond life is like without the Doctor. It seems they’re doing well enough. The use of petrichor was a nice touch.

But in the effort to set this series up for a home-stretch sprint, this light-hearted episode stumbles while rounding the curve.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Death is the Only Answer

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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 #229: The God Complex

Doctor Who: The God Complex
(1 episode, s06e11, 2011)

Timestamp 229 The God Complex

The Doctor meets The Shining.

Policewoman Lucy Hayward roams the halls of what appears to be a 1980s vintage hotel. Each room she checks holds a manifestation of a fear, and the visitors must wander the halls until they find their specific room. After that, it becomes clear – “Praise him.” – before the fear kills them.

Our traveling trio arrives at the hotel and sees a series of photos with strange captions (which we know correlates to the killing fear) before meeting Rita (a human nurse), Howie (a human computer geek), and Gibbis (a cowardly, mole-like alien from the planet Tivoli). They have all been taken from their normal lives and deposited in this endlessly shifting maze on the planet Ravenscala.

To make matters worse, the TARDIS has vanished.

The three survivors also tell the Doctor about Joe, a delusional man who is tied up in the ballroom with a host of laughing puppets. Joe has “seen the light” and is willing to accept his fate because only “he” matters. Joe explains that everyone has a specific room and asks to be left behind, but the Doctor puts Joe’s chair on a luggage cart and brings him along.

The team decides to look for a way out, pledging not to leave anyone alone at any time. Howie finds a room full of twenty-something girls who mock his nerdiness and stutter, but is saved by the Doctor and Rory. Amy finds Lucy Hayward’s notes, but can’t show the Doctor before the roaring beast approaches and sends the team scattering.

Rita and Joe enter a room to find Rita’s father scolding her about grades. She begins to “praise him” as Amy, Rory, Howie, Gibbis, and the Doctor enter a room to find a pair of Weeping Angels, but the Doctor quickly ascertains that they are not real. The Doctor peeks through the door’s peephole to see the beast. The beast goes after Joe, whose bindings are loosened telekinetically, and hauls the man away before killing him.

The group returns to the ballroom, presumably the safest place now, and Amy consoles Gibbis. Gibbis notes that if the Weeping Angels were meant for him, then Amy’s room is still out there. Meanwhile, Rita and the Doctor discuss Joe’s death and the situation. She believes that the hotels is Jahannam, the Muslim version of Hell. Amy takes the moment to show Lucy’s notes to the Doctor. When the Doctor mentions the words “praise him”, Howie repeats them and the beast awakens.

Gibbis suggests that the group sacrifices Howie to save everyone, but the Doctor says that all of them are getting out alive. Theorizing that the beast feeds on fear, the Doctor tells the others that they must do whatever they can to fight the fear off in any way they can. Amy wonders about the next move, and the Doctor explains that they’re going to catch the monster.

Using a speaker, the Doctor lures the monster into the hotel spa. Amy, Rory, and Rita block the exits, locking the creature in the spa as the Doctor begins talking with it. The beast is a Minotaur and the hotel is a prison. The Minotaur has lived so long that it has forgotten its own name, but it wants the cycle to stop so it can get some peace.

Unfortunately, Howie (who was being watched by Gibbis) gets free and the Minotaur gives chase. While the team looks for Howie, Amy enters a room and finds her fear. Howie is soon found, dead, and Gibbis begs for forgiveness after losing track of him.

Rory and the Doctor share a moment in front of Howie’s picture. Rory hasn’t found his room yet, and the Doctor interprets that Rory isn’t afraid of anything. Rory replies, “After all the time I spent with you in the TARDIS, what was left to be scared of?” The Doctor is sad that Rory said it in the past tense.

The Doctor talks with Rita, who notes that the Doctor has a God complex. The Doctor watches Amy and realizes that he feels guilty for bringing them to a place with a real danger of killing them. He offers Rita a place on the TARDIS before spotting a security camera and going in search of the security room, missing the fact that Rita has been afflicted by her own fear.

The Doctor finds his own room, Room 11, and faces his fear. The reflection in his eye reveals it as the crack in time, forcing him to smile as the Cloister Bell sounds and remark, “Of course. Who else?” He hangs a Do Not Disturb sign on the door and moves on.

Entering the security room, he watches as Rita navigates the halls. He dials a nearby room and waits for Rita to pick up the phone, discovering that she’s been affected. She wants the Doctor to remember her as she was, and as the Doctor is joined by Amy and Rory, Rita says goodbye and succumbs to the Minotaur.

Devastated, the Doctor hangs up the phone and turns off the camera. In a fit of rage, he later realizes that his theory was wrong. Rita was not afraid of her death, so the fear couldn’t be the driver. Instead, it was faith.

Howie believed in conspiracies, Rita was a devout Muslim, Joe was a gambler who believed in luck, and Gibbis believes in the continued presence of invaders who will tell him what to do. The Doctor laments that his has inadvertently helped the Minotaur by insisting that everyone reject their fear and fall back on their faith.

He tells a confused Rory that the TARDIS was pulled to the hotel – which is, in fact, an alien prison – because of Amy’s faith in the Doctor. Rory has no faith to consume.

Since Amy has seen her fear, she suddenly begins the mantra: “Praise him.”

The team then flee through the hotel as the Minotaur pursues them. They end up in the room with Amy’s fear: Her seven-year-old self waiting for the Doctor. The Time Lord laments stealing her childhood, revealing that he took Amy in the TARDIS because he was vain and wanted to be adored. He tells her to let go of her faith in him, calling her Amy Williams, and suggests that she allow herself to stop waiting for her Doctor. He is, after all, just a madman in a box.

The Minotaur collapses in the hallway and the illusion dissolves, revealing an alien prison is revealed. The automated system kidnaps people with belief systems and feeds the creature. The dying Minotaur passes a message to the Doctor, expressing his pity for “an ancient creature drenched in the blood of the innocent”, because “for such a creature, death would be a gift.” The Minotaur tells the Doctor that he wasn’t speaking of himself, but rather the Time Lord who saved him.

Refusing to tell Amy what he saw in his own room, the Doctor returns Amy and Rory to Earth. He presents them with their own home and Rory’s favorite car, and Amy knows that he is leaving them behind. She asks why and he responds that it’s because they’re still breathing. He doesn’t want to wait to say goodbye until he’s standing over their graves.

After a tearful farewell, the Doctor leaves. Rory watches the TARDIS dematerialize and wonders where he’s gone, but Amy simply says that he is saving them.

Later that night, Amy watches the sky from her bedroom window. The Doctor looks around the empty console room as he prepares to travel alone.


This was quite the ride that brought us full circle from The Vampires of Venice. Recall that, on his first journey in the TARDIS, Rory believed that the Doctor’s companions placed themselves in danger to impress the Time Lord. This adventure confirmed that first impression, and finally brought the Eleventh Doctor’s fears in that regard to a head.

It’s a common thread with writer Toby Whithouse, whose pen graced this story, Vampires, and School Reunion, all of which played with this concept.

The story here, which we first think is an obsession with facing fears, but actually is an obsession with faith, was fun to explore. It was also thought-provoking to find that there was nothing evil behind the scenes. There’s a lot to digest with an automatic system that has a mission to maintain those under its charge, even to the point of killing innocent people, and that its been doing this for such a very long time.

This story had a few franchise ties, including one that linked Amy to Ace with the Doctor saving a companion’s life by forcing her to lose faith in him. The Seventh Doctor tore Ace apart emotionally in The Curse of Fenric, opening the door for a victory. Another was exploring the Doctor’s fears, which we saw in The Mind of Evil and Inferno, and the Doctor seemed unmoved by the revelation of what he feared most at this particular point. Strangely, it didn’t seem to be his own death at Lake Silencio, which has been taking up a lot of his bandwidth since The Impossible Astronaut.

We have seen minotaurs before (The Mind Robber and The Time Monster) and we’ve seen the “distant cousin” in The Horns of Nimon, a story that I called “downright painful”.

From this point forward, we get to find the answer to the question that sprung from The Girl Who Waited: Amy loved being Amy Pond in the TARDIS with Rory Williams, but what happens when they stop traveling with the Doctor?

Obviously, Amy misses it already.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Closing Time

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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 #228: The Girl Who Waited

Doctor Who: The Girl Who Waited
(1 episode, s06e10, 2011)

Timestamp 228 The Girl Who Waited

A moral choice reveals the core of Amy and Rory’s relationship.

The Doctor takes Rory and Amy to Apalapucia, a resort planet voted the number two place to visit for an intergalactic traveler. They are there because everyone goes to the number one place, the Planet of the Coffee Shops.

When the team exits the TARDIS, they are presented with a set of doors. Amy returns to the TARDIS for her mobile phone while Rory and the Doctor examine the doors. Presented with two choices — Green Anchor or Red Waterfall — Rory chooses the green one to reveal a stark room with a magnifying glass in the middle. Amy, on the other hand, chooses the red button and ends up in a separate but equally decorated room.

The two rooms are connected by the magnifying glasses. The Doctor and Rory are visited by a Handbot while the Doctor realizes that time is being disrupted. In fact, the two rooms are running at different speeds, and Amy’s in running faster.

The Handbot analyzes Rory. Rory exits the room and tries to enter the Red Waterfall room, but Amy is not there. When he returns, the Handbot informs them that Apalapucia is under quarantine and this space is a “kindness facility” for victims of Chen-7, a one-day plague that affects beings with two hearts. This includes the native Apalapucians and, of course, Time Lords. It’s a one-day plague because victims die within one day of exposure.

The magnifying glass syncs the two time streams, allowing loved ones to watch the victims grow old in a single day rather than sitting by a deathbed. The Doctor removes the magnifying glass and uses it to lock on to Amy, but this also sounds an alarm in the facility. He tells Amy to go through the facility beyond, and while she’s immune to the plague, any intervention by the Handbots may kill her. The Doctor then gives Rory a set of glasses that act as a camera and uses the TARDIS to try breaking through to Amy’s temporal location.

Amy checks in to the Two Streams center and meets the Interface, her guide through within the facility. After reviewing the entertainment options at her disposal, she meets a Handbot that tries to rid her of the unauthorized bacteria in her body by injecting her with medicine. She refuses, then dodges the syringe projectiles before running from the squad of Handbots. She finally hides in a cage which blocks the Handbot sensors.

The TARDIS lands in the Red Waterfall area and Rory ventures out to find Amy. Meanwhile, Amy finds the entertainment hub and chooses the garden simulation, a perfect replica of the Shill Governor’s mansion on Shallana. She finds out that she was hiding in a vent for the temporal engines. When ambushed by two Handbots, she sets out to find the engines and leaves the Doctor a note.

Rory and the Doctor figure out that room houses thousands of overlapping time streams. As Rory marvels, he is surprised by a sword-wielding Amy. Sadly, she’s aged considerably, revealing that the Doctor landed 36 years too far forward in her time stream. In that time, she’s been dodging and defeating Handbots while she’s been waiting. She also built her own “sonic probe” from scratch.

She also hates the Doctor for abandoning her.

She leads Rory to her hiding place, complete with a literally-disarmed Handbot that she’s named “Rory”. She waits for the right time, then takes Rory to the garden. Via speakerphone, the Doctor figures out where the temporal engine’s regulator is located while Amy and Rory get reacquainted over a laugh. The Doctor tells her that there’s still time to fix everything.

Rory wanders off and encounters a Handbot, but Amy saves him before Rory can be inoculated. When the Doctor offers to rescue Amy, she refuses and returns to the engineering section. She doesn’t want to die by ceasing to exist. She offers to come in past-Amy’s place, but Rory and the Doctor refuse.

Frustrated, Rory says that he no longer wants to travel with the Doctor. When he throws the glasses, the Doctor detects past-Amy, and Rory uses that to allow future-Amy and past-Amy to talk through the magnifying glass.

As the the Amys talk, future-Amy remembers the real reason she was never rescued. It wasn’t because Rory and the Doctor left her behind, but because her future self refused to help them when it mattered. They discuss Rory and their mutual love of him, realizing that Amy needs to be saved for him. Future-Amy agrees to help her past self, but only if she gets to travel in the TARDIS alongside herself.

The reunion between Amy and Rory is touching.

The Doctor admits that the TARDIS could possibly sustain the paradox of the two Amys. To make this possible, the Amys need to share a thought so powerful that it can rip through time. While Rory makes the appropriate mechanical changes, the Amys think about their first kiss with Rory while they were dancing the Macarena. The gamble works and the new trio is formed, but the TARDIS doesn’t like the paradox at all and the link via the glasses is severed.

The trio battle a legion of Handbots before taking the long way around to the TARDIS. Unfortunately, past-Amy is stunned by one of the Handbots, forcing Rory to carry her while future-Amy covers them. Once past-Amy and Rory enter the TARDIS, the Doctor seals the door behind them to prevent future-Amy from entering.

The Doctor reveals that he lied. The paradox cannot be sustained, and Rory must choose which Amy to save. Rory is devastated, but future-Amy tells him through the door that, if he loves her, he shouldn’t let her in. Seeing Rory carry the younger Amy to the TARDIS made her realize just how much he truly loves her. She loved being Amy Pond in the TARDIS with Rory Williams.

Rory secures the door and apologizes. The choice tears him apart.

Future-Amy turns around to find herself surrounded by Handbots. She asks the Interface to show her a hologram of Earth. She remembers Rory as she is stunned and injected. The sound of the TARDIS engines comforts her as she disappears from existence.

Rory asks the Doctor if he always knew that the paradox wouldn’t work. The Doctor only replies that he promised to save her, which he did. When Amy wakes up, she asks about her future self. The Doctor leaves the Ponds to talk.


Here we have a mix of several different tropes from this era: Amy experiences versions of herself from different times (The Hungry EarthCold BloodThe Big Bang); is separated from Rory for what should be an unnaturally long period of time (The Big BangThe Doctor’s Wife); and (flipping the script from Amy’s Choice) is the target of a life/death choice between two versions.

We also see an element of the classic era here, namely The Massacre. Steven Taylor had an attachment to Anne Chaplet, a woman who was going to die unavoidably but whom he desperately wished to save. The First Doctor could not alter history, but lied to Steven to make them think it was possible. Steven was eventually finally forced to abandon Anne to her fate and was angry with the Doctor.

Finally, the scene between Rory and future-Amy through the TARDIS door reminded me of the tear-jerking farewell between the Tenth Doctor and Rose in Doomsday. I have no doubt that the parallel was intentional.

This kind of mind-bending temporal story is like catnip to me, and it was especially engaging because the Amys were able to reconcile their differences and fight together for survival. The question of how this became a real event if future-Amy never existed, however, is an exercise best left to the wibbly-wobbly nature of Doctor Who continuity: It just works.

A different question is raised here, which may be something to consider in the future: Amy claims to love Rory because of how much he loves her. She also says that she loved being Amy Pond in the TARDIS with Rory Williams.

So what happens to them if they stop traveling with the Doctor?

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The God Complex

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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 #227: Night Terrors

Doctor Who: Night Terrors
(1 episode, s06e09, 2011)

Timestamp 227 Night Terrors

The Doctor makes a house call.

It’s nighttime and time for little George to go to bed. Unfortunately, he’s afraid to do so. His mom flips the lights five times to ward off evil and tells the boy to put his fears in his cupboard. He also whispers a plea to the heavens, “Please save me from the monsters,” before he heads to bed. While George’s parents worry that he needs a doctor, the plea reaches the psychic paper and the Doctor sets a course.

The TARDIS materializes on the street below and the Doctor and the Ponds head up to find George’s apartment. As the group splits up, they encounter several interesting characters including the elderly Mrs. Rossiter, landlord Jim Purcell, and a mother and her creepy twin daughters. Every one of them are suspicious and slam the door on their traveling visitors.

George overhears Rory joking about the monsters eating the kid, but the Doctor notices when George peeks through the window. The Doctor sends the Ponds on a wild goose chase while he goes to meet George alone. The Ponds end up in an elevator that plummets to the ground and spirits them away. Similarly, Mrs. Rossiter is taken away as she’s consumed by a garbage pile.

George’s father Alex mistakes the Doctor for a social worker. Alex insists that George is “scared to death of everything” and explains that they established the tradition of putting everything scary into the cupboard. When George startles at the sound of the elevator, he meets the Doctor. The Time Lord takes the opportunity to ask about the monsters.

The Ponds wake up in the dark. Rory thinks that they’re dead (or that they’ve time traveled) but they’re really in a dark and rather peculiar house. They find an electric lantern and a wooden pan designed to look like a copper one. They also find a giant glass eye in a drawer. As things get curiouser and curiouser, they get even more unnerved, especially by the strange giggling.

The Doctor tries to communicate with George, even to the point of opening the cupboard before a knock at the door interrupts them. Landlord Jim and his dog arrive to badger Alex about the money he owes, offering the Doctor the chance to use his sonic screwdriver. This both comforts George and allows the Doctor to scan the cupboard. What the Doctor finds in the scan rattles him. Jim leaves and Alex offers to open the cupboard, but the Doctor tells him to stop. George’s monsters are indeed real.

Alex is furious at the Doctor’s actions, but the Doctor is not swayed.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Rossiter is revealed to be alive in the mysterious house. The Ponds look for a way out but only seem to be getting closer to the eerie giggles. They open a door and find a child-like wooden doll with a large Funko Pop-like head. As they walk away, the doll creaks to life.

The Doctor finally decides to open the cupboard. When he does, he finds a host of items but nothing nefarious. At the same time, Landlord Jim is swallowed by his apartment floor. The Doctor has a bout of inspiration and quizzes Alex about George’s birth, but Alex can’t remember it. In fact, he blurts out that Claire can’t have children.

The answer lies with George.

The cupboard springs to life with bright lights, pulling the Doctor and Alex into the mysterious house. There, the Ponds watch as a creepy doll transforms Landlord Jim into a similar doll. The Doctor recognizes the house as a dollhouse, a psychic repository for all of George’s fears, and starts looking for a way out with Alex in tow. Luckily, Alex finds a pattern in the lights: They cycle on and off in fives.

Amy is captured and transformed by the dolls. The dolls also find the Doctor and Alex, but the sonic screwdriver is useless against wood. As he and Alex run, the Doctor realizes that George is a Tenza, an alien species that are like cuckoo birds. They find foster parents and adapt perfectly into what their parents want as their child, and George instinctively sought out Claire and Alex because they were unable to have kids. When something startled him, he started this subconscious cycle of fear.

The Doctor pleads with George to end the cycle, but he realizes that the fear is based on Alex’s rejection of George. When George calls for help and the dolls swarm him, Alex instinctively springs into action and promises to protect him. This breaks the cycle and releases the captives.

The Ponds arrive in the elevator, Mrs. Rossiter emerges from the trash pile, and Landlord Jim wakes up on the floor with his dog. As Claire arrives home from work, she finds Alex and George laughing and giggling with the Doctor. Claire is amazed at the change, but the Doctor asks her to trust him. The Time Lord reassures Alex that everything will be okay before reuniting with the Ponds and returning to the TARDIS.

As they set a course for their next destination, the time and place of the Doctor’s death appears on the monitors, accompanied by a nursery rhyme:

“Tick, tock, goes the clock, even for the Doctor…”


On the one hand, this was a fun little story with a neat twist. Unfortunately, that twist comes with one of the weakest but most often employed tools in the Steven Moffatt era’s arsenal: The Doctor being the smartest character in the room.

As I’ve said before, the story loses its power and magic when the answers are just handed to the audience, and this is no exception. There were no indications in the narrative that George was the source of the problem aside from the five-light pattern. There was also no introduction of the Tenza or any other “cuckoo bird” analogues, making the revelation about George simply something that the Doctor yanked from thin air (or any applicable orifice). The same can be said about the dollhouse setting.

In fact, I checked. The Tenza have never been mentioned before this story, and they have never been mentioned again to this point. (And, no, the mention of Sherpa Tenzing wasn’t relevant at all.)

It’s not smart storytelling. In fact, it’s lazy, sloppy, and irritating. Part of the fun in any mystery is the ability for the audience to solve it. Without the very basis to reach the revelation, the audience is merely along for the ride.

There were some minor bright spots. As a fan of Poltergeist, I liked the parallel when the Doctor and Alex are sucked into the cupboard. I also liked how George’s message on the psychic paper was so strong that it persisted and both Rory and the Doctor could read it.

I also liked the fanciful listing of the Doctor’s favorite childhood tales: The Emperor Dalek’s New Clothes (a play on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes), The Three Little Sontarans (a play on The Three Little Pigs), and Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday (a play on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the 1970s stageplay Doctor Who and the Daleks in Seven Keys to Doomsday, and the 2008 audio adaptation Seven Keys to Doomsday).

Note that The Emperor Dalek’s New Clothes contradicts the claims that the First Doctor didn’t know of the Daleks before The Daleks. Also note Rule #1: The Doctor lies.

But, in the end, these little nuggets of fun can’t override a terribly constructed story. Especially one that insults the audience by pulling the rug out from under them.

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”


UP NEXT – Torchwood: The Blood Line

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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.