Timestamp #174: Tooth and Claw

Doctor Who: Tooth and Claw
(1 episode, s02e02, 2006)

 

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. However, what makes you stronger can also kill you.

Upon the Scottish moors, a group of monks walks to the Torchwood Estate. Their leader, Father Angelo, takes the house by force from its owner. They chain everyone, including Lady Isobel MacLeish, in the cellar with a mysterious cage. When she sees what’s inside, Lady Isobel screams.

Oh, does she scream.

Meanwhile, the TARDIS soars through space-time as the Doctor tries to steer the capsule to 1979 Sheffield through some fun mechanical agitation. Instead of The Muppet Movie, they find guns in their faces (and Rose’s terrible Scottish accent) in the year 1879. Identifying as Scottish doctor James McCrimmon, the travelers are introduced to Queen Victoria. She believes that the Doctor is assigned as her protector, and she invites them to accompany her to Balmoral Castle. En route, they arrive at the Torchwood Estate where the Queen plans to spend the night.

Despite Sir Robert’s hints that not everything is well at the house, the Queen insists on spending the night since it was a favorite of her late consort, Prince Albert. Captain Reynolds, chief of the Queen’s guard, stows a small box in the safe as the Queen and the travelers tour the house’s observatory. The Doctor analyzes the telescope designed by Sir Robert’s father, noting the surplus of prisms as the Queen muses about the local tales of a mysterious wolf. Before Sir Robert can relay the tale, Father Angelo suggests that dinner may be in order.

The meal is prepared, the guards are drugged, and Rose finds a housemaid in the closet as she looks for a suitable dress. Rose takes Flora to find the Doctor, but they are both taken by the monks. Meanwhile, the Doctor, Captain Reynolds, and the Queen listen to Sir Robert’s tale at the dinner table: Over the last three centuries, livestock has been slaughtered during every full moon. Once a generation, a boy goes missing and a werewolf is spotted in the wilderness. Coincidentally, the cage in the cellar contains a boy with pitch black eyes. The boy is possessed by an alien force that plans to inhabit Queen Victoria and begin the Empire of the Wolf. He also feels the power of the wolf that burns like the sun within her.

Sir Robert believes that his father had communicated with the beast and nearly learned its secrets, but was stopped by the Brethern. The Monks expose the caged being to moonlight and it transforms into a wolf as Father Angelo begins his assault on the Queen. After six attempts on her life, she’s packing a small handgun, and Father Angelo is soon dead. The Doctor and Sir Robert break into the cellar just in time to watch the wolf escape. The Doctor evacuates the prisoners and locks the door. The wolf breaks free, and despite their best efforts, it kills all of the estate’s working men. The women, however, are inexplicably spared.

The Queen retrieves the box and attempts escape with Sir Robert and the travelers, but they’re soon cornered. They run up several flights of stairs and seek refuge in the library after Captain Reynolds gives his life to slow the wolf down. The wolf refuses to break through the barricade, offering its prey a chance to breathe and look for the item that’s stopping it. Sir Robert apologizes and the Queen demands an explanation.

In the kitchen, Lady Isobel notices that the monks guarding the perimeter are wearing mistletoe. The Doctor notes the same in the library, which he muses is filled with the greatest arsenal in the world: Books. They discover that a spacecraft crashed to Earth in 1540 near the monastery and the creature that grew within decided to establish an empire. The Queen interjects that, if she is to die this night, she must find a safe place for the contents of her box. It is the Koh-i-Noor, a large diamond with a supposed curse, that is intended to be cut to the perfect shape.

The Doctor connects the dots as the wolf breaks through the glass skylight, and our heroes are saved by Lady Isobel and a pot of mistletoe. The Queen and the travelers take refuge in the observatory as Sir Robert faces the wolf. The Doctor installs the diamond in the telescope, which is really a trap for the wolf designed by Prince Albert and Sir Robert’s father. Once aligned, the light chamber focuses the moon’s rays and suspends the wolf in mid-air. The human form emerges and asks the Doctor to increase the intensity so he can be free. The Lupine Wavelength Haemovariform is soon destroyed.

For their efforts, the Queen bestows titles upon the travelers – Sir Doctor of TARDIS and Dame Rose of the Powell Estate – and then banishes them from the Empire because their world is steeped in terror and blasphemy, yet they consider it fun. The Queen is not amused – Rose wins her bet! – and the travelers return to the TARDIS while they muse about the nature of hemophilia in the royal bloodline.

Maybe the Queen is a werewolf after all. Ah-wooooooo!

Back at the estate, Queen Victoria tells Lady Isobel that her husband’s sacrifice and the ingenuity of his father will survive. She has seen that the Empire has enemies beyond imagination and has decreed that an institute will research and fight these threats. It will be known as the Torchwood Institute.

If the Doctor returns, he should beware, because Torchwood will be waiting.

 

A Russell T. Davies story, this was a breakneck experience well-mixed among action, humor, and drama. We get the typical alien-of-the-week threat, but there’s an additional layer with a bystander who calls things based on how I imagine that most people in these adventures see the Doctor and companions. Honestly, it’s very much a reflection of Tegan’s second departure from the TARDIS.

The difference is that Queen Victoria has the power to literally banish the travelers from her realm. For all the good it will do, given that Rose is a native of the modern day and the Doctor isn’t even native to this planet. She also has the power to establish a planetary defense agency, the Torchwood Institute, which has been referenced twice to this point and will likely be a large part of the story going forward.

Overall, this was an enjoyable adventure harkening back to the classic roots of the franchise.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: School Reunion

 

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 #173: New Earth

Doctor Who: New Earth
(1 episode, s02e01, 2006)

 

The adventure continues with a rather pointless return.

Just after saying goodbye to her mother and Mickey, Rose Tyler joins the Doctor in the TARDIS as they go further than they’ve ever gone before. They end up on New Earth, a planet similar to its long-dead namesake in the year 5,000,000,023, located in Galaxy M87. Their arrival is witnessed by a spider-drone, which (of course) belongs to Lady Cassandra.

There’s no surprise in that reveal at all.

Following a message on the psychic paper – “Ward 26. Please come.” – Rose and the Doctor visit the New New York Hospital. They find nuns that look like cats, an extensive disinfection protocol, and a diversion named Chip that splits companion from Time Lord. The Doctor talks with Sister Jatt, a member of the humanoid feline Sisters of Plentitude, before reuniting with the Face of Boe. It seems that the Face is dying of old age, which is something that the Sisters cannot cure.

Rose explores the basement, pipe in hand as a weapon, and encounters Lady Cassandra. She was reconstructed from another piece of her former body’s skin – see: plot armor – and as she tells her story she traps Rose and transfers her consciousness into the woman’s body. After a phone call from the Doctor, Cassandra stuffs a small vial in her new cleavage and heads upstairs.

The Doctor sits with the Face of Boe and Novice Hame. The attendant relates a story that the Face has lived for thousands, perhaps millions of years and that he will give his dying message to a lonely god, a wanderer without a home. Surely she means the Doctor because the look on his face and the lingering camera tell us so. While he waits for the Face to awaken, the Doctor investigates the medical ward and the mysterious rash of miracle recoveries. He’s also suspicious of Rose’s return with her strange voice, the knowledge she shouldn’t have of the hospital’s inner workings, and some lusty kisses beside. Together they hack their way into the intensive care unit and find patients infected with every possible disease in the universe. These patients exist as human lab rats, a farm from which to harvest cures for the greater good.

The Doctor is incensed. He confronts Novice Hame, but the nun insists that the artificial humans are nothing more than mere flesh. He turns the tables, demanding to know what happened to Rose. Novice Hame says she has no idea, and Cassandra drugs the Doctor with the perfume vial she secreted away. The Doctor awakens in one of the pods, on the verge of being pumped full of the disease cocktail. Cassandra attempts to blackmail Matron Casp, the leader of the hospital’s order, but they refuse with the threat of claws. Cassandra turns to Plan B and releases all of human slaves, which promptly turn on their feline captives with gruesome results. Matron Casp escapes and quarantines the facility as Cassandra, Chip, and the Doctor run for their lives. Well, Cassandra and the Doctor do after the former fleshy trampoline leaves Chip behind.

The Doctor confronts Cassandra and demands that she return Rose. Cassandra obliges by jumping into the Doctor’s body in a humorous fashion. They continue to run as the diseased horde breaks through, and Matron Casp is killed by her own creation as they climb. Upon reaching a locked elevator door, Cassandra bounces from the Doctor to Rose and one of the infected – quickly learning about their life of loneliness – as our heroes escape. Cassandra returns to Rose as they reach Ward 26, and the Doctor hatches a plan with a quick descent down an elevator shaft with a large batch of the intravenous cures strapped to his body. He fills the disinfectant tub in the elevator with the solutions and lures the infected into the empty car. The spray cures the horde, and the Doctor celebrates with a confused and enlightened Cassandra in tow.

As the police arrive, Matron Casp is taken away, and the Doctor finally communicates with the Face of Boe. The Face promises to meet the Doctor for the third (and last) time and also promises to share his secrets at that meeting before teleporting away. Apparently, they ran out of time for that plot thread. The Doctor turns to Cassandra and orders her to leave Rose. Cassandra refuses until Chip (miraculously) returns, upon which time she jumps into her willing slave. Unfortunately, Chip only has a half-life and is dying, but Cassandra accepts this as her just end.

The Doctor offers Cassandra one last gift: He takes her back to the party she was watching on film, allowing her the chance to tell her past self – a fully human self – of her beauty before collapsing. With that, the Doctor and Rose say farewell and return to the TARDIS.

 

On the plus side, both Tennant and Piper are amazing in their performances. It is plainly obvious that they’re having a ton of fun as they explore their new chemistry as series leads. Also on the production side, the cat makeup is fantastic. Storywise, the ending is poignant and continues the Doctor’s character theme of redemption over vengeance.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story doesn’t meet those high points. There’s a clear lack of villain here, and the plot spends too much time on Cassandra’s plans for revenge than on the abuses of the Sisters of Plentitude. That element is resolved too quickly with a chemical shower that comes across as more miracle than anything else. It would have worked if more time was invested in the story, but there was no empathy, and that made the story boring.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Tooth and Claw

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #172: Born Again & The Christmas Invasion

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

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

 

New teeth. New hand. New Doctor.

 

Born Again

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

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

 

The Christmas Invasion

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

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

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

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

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

Apparently, Harriet Jones shouldn’t know about Torchwood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: New Earth

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #171: Bad Wolf & The Parting of the Ways

Doctor Who: Bad Wolf
Doctor Who: The Parting of the Ways
(2 episodes, s01e12-13, 2005)

 

Going out in a blaze of glory.

Following on a century after the adventure on Satellite Five, the Doctor finds himself falling out of a transmat and into a house. Specifically, the Big Brother house on Channel 44000. The Doctor is not amused. Elsewhere, Rose wakes up in a dark studio and is helped to her feet just in time to compete on The Weakest Link. Finally, Captain Jack wakes up on a table where two androids give him a wardrobe makeover in the vein of What Not to Wear.

The Doctor starts looking for a way out of the house, making friends with a fellow resident named Lynda. He remembers that they had just left Raxacoricofallapatorius and then visited Kyoto, Japan in 1336. Their transit was intercepted by a transmat beam, but no ordinary transmat could penetrate the the TARDIS. The Doctor faces the camera and vows to get out, find his companions, and then find those responsible.

Rose plays The Weakest Link – we get a reference to something called Torchwood – and is observed by the engineers in the control room. She realizes that they’re not playing a game when Fitch, the weakest link in the round, is disintegrated. Another player tries to run, but the rules are “play or die,” so the runner is vaporized. A similar fate plays out in the Big Brother house as one of the housemates is evicted by disintegration. The Doctor is immediately motivated by this twist and disables the camera.

Oh, and Jack? He avoids a literal face change by producing a blaster (from where, you don’t want to know) and destroying the androids.

Rose finds out that the company running the games is the Bad Wolf Corporation, and she connects the dots over her adventures with the Doctor: Gwyneth told her about it in Cardiff 1869; it was the call sign for Henry van Statten‘s helicopter; it was the nuclear power plant project on the Cardiff Rift; it was tagged on the TARDIS in 2006; and it was a news channel on Satellite Five in the 2001st century.

Meanwhile, the Doctor forces his eviction from the house, but the disintegration is overridden. He uses his sonic screwdriver to open the door and rescues Lynda from her captivity. He discovers that they are back on Satellite Five, and as he and Lynda look for a way out, she reveals who is in charge. The Bad Wolf logo gives the Doctor pause. He gets it too.

The programmers reveal the security problem to a woman hardwired to the system, but the Controller dismisses them before alerting them to an incoming solar flare.

Jack builds a gun out of the robots and their defabricator beam and goes in search of the Doctor. The Doctor, to his horror, realizes that when he shut down the satellite before, the human race stopped instead of building the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. Jack reunites with the Doctor as Rose fights for her life in the last round of the game. As Rose loses the game and faces disintegration, the Doctor breaks in, but he is too late to stop Rose from being vaporized. The enraged Doctor, Lynda, and Jack are arrested by station security, but quickly escape and make their way to Floor 500 with a lot of firepower.

Jack seals the doors as the Doctor interrogates the programmers (after tossing them his gun). The TARDIS is located nearby, and Jack finds something startling within. The Controller calls for the Doctor, revealing that the solar flare is blocking her masters from reading her mind. The masters have been hiding in the shadows and shaping the Earth for centuries. They also fear the Doctor.

The flare passes, the Controller resumes her trance, and Jack reveals that the disintegrator beam is really a transmat. The Controller is transmatted away, landing in the same place as Rose. Rose is chased by a familiar visage and the Controller is exterminated. The Doctor traces the signal to a fleet of saucers.

The masters are the Daleks. There are half a million in the fleet, and they have survived the Time War.

The Daleks open a channel to the Doctor, demanding his surrender in exchange for Rose’s life. The Doctor defiantly counters: Without a plan, he promises to save Rose Tyler and eliminate the Daleks. The Daleks respond by declaring war on the Doctor.

And here we go.

The Daleks demand that Rose predict the Doctor’s actions, but she refuses. They open fire on the TARDIS but the Doctor materializes it around Rose and her Dalek guard. Jack makes short work of the Dalek and the Doctor sets to analyzing the remains. He explains the Time War to Jack – “I thought that was a legend!” – and then confronts the Daleks under the protection of a force field. He discovers that the Daleks survived thanks to the Emperor Dalek and a crippled starship that tumbled through time in the war’s aftermath. The Daleks know the Doctor as The Oncoming Storm, and they fear him, but the Emperor Dalek explains how he rebuilt the Daleks out of the corpses of humanity. These Daleks are of mixed DNA, but the Emperor considers them pure.

These Daleks are more of a cult than an empire, driven mad by their own flesh. The stink of their humanity. The hate of their own existence.

The travelers retreat to the TARDIS and the Doctor takes them back to the satellite. Once there, he begins his defense of the planet below. As the fleet advances on Earth, the Doctor begins to rewire the satellite – a giant transmitter – so he can broadcast a delta wave. You know, something that tends to barbecue any brains in its way. That would normally take three days, but he has to get it done in twenty-two minutes.

As Rose helps the Doctor, Jack rallies the remaining programmers and citizens to defend the satellite. A select few join the captain’s cause while the rest are warned to stay quiet and remain below Floor 494. Rose and the Doctor also have a fantastic discussion on the morality and the nature of time travel, one that inspires the Doctor to cross his own timeline in order to speed up the process. It ends up being a trick though, as the Doctor remotely sends the TARDIS and Rose away to protect her.

A holographic message informs her that he’s fulfilling his promise to keep her safe. It will take her home and then die on a street corner. Before the message fades, it tells her to have a fantastic life. The TARDIS lands and Mickey finds Rose, wrapping her in his arms in consolation.

The Doctor continues to work, but the Emperor reveals that the delta wave cannot be refined in time to prevent it from killing everything in Earth’s orbit. The Doctor has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He confronts the Emperor about the Bad Wolf message, but the Dalek knows nothing about it. Something else is driving events.

Back in her century, Rose doesn’t know how to go on, even with Mickey and Jackie trying to console her. Near the TARDIS, she finds the words Bad Wolf written everywhere, and she assumes that it’s a link back to the Doctor. She and Mickey enter the time capsule and Rose decides to communicate with the heart of the TARDIS. Her efforts to open the console fail, and Jackie tries to help her move on, but Rose reveals the truth about her father’s death. The revelation spurs Jackie to borrow a tow truck to provide enough force.

In the future, the Daleks arrive at Earth and begin their assault on the satellite. The defenders make a valiant effort, including using the Anne Droid from The Weakest Link, but the Daleks make short work of them. They massacre the gathered citizens in the floors below the defenders, and they decimate the Earth’s surface. Jack’s last line of defense makes some headway, but the Daleks find Lynda from her position as defense coordinator. Soon enough, Jack is the last man standing between the Daleks and the Doctor, but then he is exterminated as well.

The tow truck gambit works and Rose is exposed to the heart of the TARDIS. The time capsule propels itself forward in time as Rose absorbs the energy in the console. On the satellite, the Doctor finishes his work, but he cannot push the button despite his bluster. He cannot commit another mass genocide. As he faces his execution, the TARDIS materializes and reveals a super-powered Rose.

She looked into the TARDIS. The TARDIS looked into her. She is the Bad Wolf. She created her own message throughout time and space. She can see all of it at once.

With her power, she turns the Daleks to dust. All of them. Once the threat is removed, she restores Jack to life, but refuses the Doctor’s request to relinquish her powers. When the pain becomes too much, the Doctor kisses her and absorbs the power. The Doctor returns the energy to the TARDIS before leaving with Rose, stranding Jack on the satellite.

As the TARDIS flies through the vortex, the Doctor watches his hand glow and laments the adventures he meant to experience with Rose. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have time. He explains that this life is at an end. He is about to regenerate, but he won’t be the same afterward. He tells Rose that she was fantastic.

You know what? So was he.

And then he regenerates.

 

This is the big culmination of everything we have learned since Rose. The opening was deliberately confusing and a great introduction to the building tension leading to the big reveal at the end of Bad Wolf. The second half, Time War Round Two, was an impressive balance of the Ninth Doctor’s redemptive arc and the Tyler family drama.

This finale doesn’t let up for a second, but it still finds time for the character moments. At the risk of overplaying the meme, it was absolutely fantastic.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Series One and Ninth Doctor Summary

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #170: Boom Town

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

 

Second chances all around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #169: The Empty Child & The Doctor Dances

Doctor Who: The Empty Child
Doctor Who: The Doctor Dances
(2 episodes, s01e09-10, 2005)

 

“You’ve never been bored? Never had a long night? Never had a lot of cabinets to put up?”

Rose and the Doctor are chasing a metal cylinder through space and time – they’re under mauve alert, which is apparently misunderstood by humans to be closer to red, complete with “all that dancing and misunderstanding” – before landing in London, 1941. They’re a couple of months behind the crash landing of the cylinder, and as the Doctor jimmies the lock on a door, Rose chases a kid in a gas mask who is calling for his mother.

The Doctor finds himself in a makeshift cabaret, and after the singer finishes her number – It Had to Be You – the Doctor uses the microphone to ask if anything has fallen from the sky recently. All he gets in return is laughter and an air raid siren. It is World War II after all, right in the middle of the London Blitz. Speaking of, Rose finds herself dangling from a rope under a barrage balloon, witness to a flight of bombers coming straight at her.

The Doctor returns to the TARDIS, comically telling a stray cat that one day he’ll find a companion who won’t run away. The phone in the TARDIS door rings, an event that shouldn’t happen because that phone has never worked, and he’s warned by a strange woman not to answer it. When he does, a boy’s voice asks if anyone has seen his mommy. He hangs up and pursues the woman, who he finds raiding a kitchen after the occupants have run for their bomb shelter.

On a balcony, an RAF officer named Jack uses a futuristic set of binoculars to spot Rose as she drifts through the skies of London. He notes her remarkable posterior, flirts with another soldier, and humorously rescues her with a light beam. In the house, the woman invites a group of homeless children to join her for an abandoned but warm dinner. They’re joined by the Doctor who deduces that they are homeless, however they should have been evacuated some time ago. The woman is Nancy, and she finds them food since they were all returned to London under various circumstances. The Doctor remarks that it’s either “Marxism in action or a West End musical.” When he asks about the cylinder, their dinner is interrupted by the creepy child in a gas mask looking for his mommy. Nancy tells him that the child is empty, and anyone he touches ends up just as empty. The voice – “Are you my mommy?” – penetrates the house, and the Doctor notes a scar on the boy’s hand before opening the door to reveal an empty stoop.

Rose awakens to meet Captain Jack Harkness, an American volunteer with the Number 133 Squadron RAF who also has psychic paper, nanogenes to heal Rose’s rope burn, and a cloaked ship. He believes that Rose is a fellow Time Agent and invites her for a drink and Moonlight Serenade on the top of the ship. He offers something that the Time Agency might want to buy if she has the ability to negotiate, and she suggests that they should talk to her “companion.” The item is a fully equipped Chula warship, the last of its kind, but it will be destroyed in two hours by a German bomb. Jack scans for alien tech in order to locate Rose’s companion.

The Doctor pursues Nancy to her hideout and surprises her as she unloads the tins of food she stole from the house. He makes the connection between the cylinder and the empty child: A bomb that wasn’t a bomb landed near Limehouse Green station a month before, and in order for them to bypass the soldiers guarding it, they need to go see “the doctor.” They end up near Albion Hospital, and the Doctor discovers that Nancy’s brother Jamie died in an air raid, driving her to take care of those unable to defend themselves.

The Doctor enters the hospital and finds the wards filled with people in gas masks. The doctor in question, Doctor Constantine, shows the Doctor that each victim has identical injuries to their skulls and chest cavities, and the gas masks are fused to their faces. They all have identical scars, as does Constantine, and they all came from touching the single victim of the bombing. They also are not dead, as Constantine demonstrates by rapping his cane on a pail, causing all of the bodies to sit up for a moment. Constantine offers the Doctor advice: The army plans to destroy the hospital to stop the tide of the infection, and he directs the Doctor to Room 802 before evolving into one of the masked undead.

Ye gods, that was downright creepy. Points to you, Doctor Who.

The Doctor meets Rose and Jack as they arrive at the hospital, and the Doctor finds out that Jack in conning them: He threw the cylinder at them, pursued them to London, and tried to convince them that it was valuable. Quite the cheeky and scurrilous cad, no?

Nancy returns to the abandoned house but is ambushed by the masked child, who is actually her brother Jamie. When he discovers Nancy and advances on her, the bodies in the ward also awaken and converge on the time travelers. The Doctor steps up and scolds the lot, telling them crossly to go to their rooms. He’s surprised when they retreat, glad that they weren’t his last words.

The Doctor talks to Jack about the con, which Jack remarks is a great scam for a time and place like the London Blitz or Pompeii. The Doctor notes that cylinder, which Jack claims was a burned-out medical transport, is the source of this virus. They proceed upstairs to Room 802 – Jack opens the door with his 51st-century sonic blaster, and the site of the factory where it was built is now a banana grove – to find what’s left from the first victim, Jamie.

At the all-clear signal, Nancy is captured by the family who own the house, but she talks her way out of the charges by noting how much food they have in a period of rationing, and demands wire cutters, a torch, food, and a visit to the bathroom before she leaves. She returns to her hideout to find the assembled children. They want to stay with her because she keeps them safe, but she points out that the empty child is coming after her, not them. Nancy leaves them and heads to the bombsite.

As Jamie returns to Room 802, the time traveling trio run from a horde of masked people – the banana and sonic device jokes are a hoot – before ending up in a storeroom. As the Doctor looks for a way out, Jack vanishes. He calls them from his ship using Om-Com technology, a transmission that can communicate over any speaker. The infected also use this technology and jump into the transmission, but Jack jams with Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade. The Doctor starts to work on breaking them out, asking why Rose trusts Jack so much. Rose says that Jack reminds her of the Doctor, but with more “dating and dancing.” The Doctor is offended at the notion that he doesn’t dance, and when Rose offers him the chance, he notes that her hands have been healed. They start to dance when they are transmatted to Jack’s ship, which the Doctor recognizes as a Chula spacecraft. The nanogenes heal his hand, which was burned when the TARDIS console sparked, and he asks to go to the bombsite. Jack reveals that he was once a Time Agent, but he left the Agency when they stole two years of his memories.

The bombsite’s commander, Algy, apprehends Nancy when she infiltrates the area. They lock her up next to an officer named Jenkins, who has been infected, and after they leave Nancy watches in horror as the man painfully transforms. As the time traveling trio approach the site, Jack recognizes Algy and shoots down Rose’s plan to distract the commander since she’s “not his type.” Unfortunately, Algy is in the middle of transformation, and the Doctor recognizes that the virus has gone airborne. They find Nancy, who is singing lullabies to the transformed Jenkins to keep him docile, and free her before examining the cylinder.

Jack tries to open the cylinder but trips an alarm instead. As the masked horde descend on the bombsite, the Doctor sends Rose to reassemble the barbed wire with his sonic screwdriver. Rose comforts Nancy by explaining time travel and the bright future ahead when the Allies win the war. The return as Jack opens the cylinder, and the Doctor reveals that it contained nanogenes. Programmed to heal any wound, the first thing they found was a dead child wearing a gas mask, so they used that as the template to heal everyone they could find. All of them are now hysterical four-year-olds turned powerful Chula warriors awaiting orders, ready to tear the world apart to save their mommys. Jack is suitably chagrined.

The Doctor discovers that Nancy is not Jamie’s brother, but is instead his mother. That’s the reason that he keeps chasing her, and the Doctor implores her to reveal the truth to the boy. She embraces the boy and tells him the truth, and the nanogenes use the moment to analyze her DNA and restore Jamie to his former self.

In the interim, Jack as transmatted to his ship and returns just in time to stop the incoming bomb, the Schlechter Wolf, before rocketing away. After Jack departs, the Doctor forces the nanogenes to fix everyone – “Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!” – and pins the results on Doctor Constantine’s expert medical knowledge. After everyone leaves the bombsite, he sets the cylinder to self-destruct, and they return to the TARDIS. Sadly, Rose learns the truth about Jack’s fate.

As Jack races through space, he is unable to jettison the bomb before it explodes, so he settles in with a martini to meet his death. He turns to see the open doors of the TARDIS and he scrambles aboard. The Doctor welcomes him aboard, and as the TARDIS head to the next adventure, the Doctor and Rose dance through the cosmos.

 

This story marks the return of Steven Moffat to the franchise and his trademark pace and tropes are on full display, from the romantic angle between the main characters to his fourth-quarter twists in the story. His script was delightfully creepy and scary, and the direction and production only helped to amplify it. The twist at the end – Nancy is the mother, not the sister – is quite touching.

Captain Jack Harkness is a fan favorite, especially in our household. We’ve seen so much of John Barrowman over the years at Dragon Con – take that as you will, knowing his convention performances – so dialing back a decade or so to his first Doctor Who appearance was fun.

Finally, I simply adore how the Ninth Doctor has evolved. He wants to be analytical about this mystery, and the action pace sets him back on his heels. He virtually explodes as all the pieces come together, and his joy at being able to save everyone is both palpable and exhilarating.

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Boom Town

 

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 #168: Father’s Day

Doctor Who: Father’s Day
(1 episode, s01e08, 2005)

 

Time can correct itself, but the consequences are deadly.

Rose reminisces about her father, Peter Alan Tyler, who died in November of 1987. She asks the Doctor if they can travel to see him and the Time Lord agrees with a caveat: “Be careful what you wish for.” They watch their wedding, where her father nervously messes up Jackie’s name during the vows, and then travel to the day of his death so he won’t die alone.

They stand on the roadside as Peter Tyler drives up – “Bad Wolf” is scrawled on a poster on a wall – but Rose cannot stand the sight of the hit and run accident. She asks the Doctor for another chance, an event that crosses their own timelines, and saves her father from death. They accompany Pete back to Tyler flat where Rose joyfully looks at her father’s belongings before being upbraided by the Doctor for changing the timeline. He demands the TARDIS key back and leaves, unaware of the eyes in the sky that kill three people in rapid succession.

Pete tries to console Rose over her boyfriend troubles, but she rebuffs his advice before escorting him to the Hoskins-Clark wedding. Meanwhile, the Doctor arrives at the TARDIS to find it an empty (and normal) police box. He runs after Rose, who is currently riding in a car (and getting Rickrolled like we all did back in the day) before hearing an anachronistic song on the radio. She picks up a message on her superphone – “Watson, come here, I need you.” – and narrowly avoids being hit twice by the same driver who nearly killed her father before.

They arrive at the church to meet Jackie and baby Rose, and a spat between Rose’s parents reveals her father’s infidelity. Nearby, a young Mickey watches everyone on the playground disappear before running to the church. The Doctor arrives just in time to save Rose and most of the wedding guests from dragon-like creatures. Everyone hides in the church – the older something is, the stronger it is against the rupture in time – and the Doctor reveals that the creatures are there to sterilize the wound by consuming those involved.

The Doctor watches as the hit-and-run driver makes another loop in time and Pete puts the pieces together. They tearfully embrace and talk about time travel as the creatures try to enter the church. The Doctor continues his rounds in the church, meeting the bride, groom, and their unborn child. Witness to their ordinary lives and potentially happy future, something he has never had, he promises to save them.

Jackie looks after Mickey as the Doctor watches baby Rose. The Time Lord is still angry about the paradox, for which he has no solution, and prevents Rose from comforting her younger self lest it add to the problem. Rose apologizes, the Doctor forgives her, and they realize that the TARDIS is (literally) the key to the problem. The Doctor uses an ’80s mobile phone battery and his sonic screwdriver to charge the key as Rose tries to console her father with false memories, but Pete knows that what she’s telling him is a lie. The TARDIS begins to materialize around the key and it becomes a race against time to save everyone in the church.

Unfortunately, Jackie picks that moment to confront Pete over Rose. The baby gets handed to Rose in the altercation and a creature materializes in the church from the new twist in the timelines. The Doctor tries to protect everyone but he is eaten by the creature, which then flies into the materializing TARDIS and stops the process cold. All avenues for success appear to be cut off. Rose mourns the Doctor as the world grows darker, and Pete makes a fateful decision about the looping hit-and-run driver.

Pete shows Rose to Jackie, who finally understands who the Doctor’s companion is, and says farewell to the daughter he barely knew. He grabs the vase that was broken in the correct timeline, leaves the church, and steps in front of the car. His sacrifice restores the Doctor and the timeline, and presents Rose one last chance to comfort her father before he dies.

History has changed slightly, but the fixed point in time – Pete’s death – has been restored. With this deeper understanding of the nature of space and time, Rose solemnly accompanies the Doctor back to the restored TARDIS.

 

This is a muddled story, and would otherwise be average (or less) as a result, but the confusion and unease that it inspires adds to the atmosphere. We don’t know why Pete Tyler’s death is a fixed (unmovable) point in time, but the mysteries surrounding it in this base-under-siege story infuse the poignancy with a degree of anxiety. It also adds more dimension to Rose and her awakening to the universe beyond her front door.

The Doctor still has some anger issues related to the Last Great Time War, but he’s also healing as we can see from his impassioned argument against fixing parts of personal timelines. He could stop the genocide, but the results could be catastrophic.

This isn’t one of my favorite stories, but it does the job well.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Empty Child and Doctor Who: The Doctor Dances

 

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.