Timestamp #250: The Day of the Doctor

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor
(1 episode, 50th Anniversary Special, 2013)

Timestamp 250 Day of the Doctor

The big event in a cup-a-soup.

The Last Day

A soldier opens his eyes to find someone standing over him. The soldier is part of the army on Gallifrey and has been fitted with a headcam. The man explains the headcam’s use and function, including how the frightening images that keep popping up are hallucinations, not premonitions. The headcams are installed into the brain and record everything for the official record. The recording is censored, with violence and language deemed unsuitable for the soldiers’ families cut out, and anything particularly graphic gets tinted red.

These soldiers proceed to Arcadia, the safest place on Gallifrey due to the impenetrable sky trenches. If even one Dalek did get through, the city could be destroyed, so the soldier has to remain vigilant in his scans. As he is trained on the scanner’s use, he detects a Dalek.

That Dalek leads to many more. As the Daleks open fire, the soldier’s headcam goes blank. The last sound heard in the background is a chilling death cry of anguish.

Thus begins the Fall of Arcadia.

The Day of the Doctor

After opening on a familiar theme, we see a police constable patrolling near I. M. Foreman’s scrap yard and Coal Hill School. Inside the school, Clara finishes a lesson for her class as the bell rings. She gets a note to meet “her doctor” at an address on an open patch of road. There she spots the TARDIS and races toward it on her motorcycle.

The TARDIS lets her in without complaint and she snaps her fingers to close the doors. After a cheerful reunion with the Doctor, she jumps as the TARDIS shudders. A helicopter hauls the box away. The Doctor calls Kate Stewart at UNIT headquarters only to find out that she’s bringing the TARDIS. She had no idea that he was still inside.

She has the TARDIS taken directly to the National Gallery where she presents instructions directly from Queen Elizabeth I. The Doctor and Clara meet UNIT scientist Petronella Osgood – she has a nice scarf – and proceed into the gallery. There they find a Time Lord painting known as both No More and Gallifrey Falls. It depicts the Fall of Arcadia and appears in three dimensions. The Doctor is shaken by what he remembers upon seeing the painting, recounting the day that the previously unknown Doctor ended the Time War.

Inside the image, we find the last day of the Last Great Time War. As the Daleks rage and innocents die, the War Doctor takes a gun from a lone soldier. With that weapon, he carves a message into a wall near the TARDIS.

It reads “NO MORE”.

The Doctor escapes by plowing the TARDIS through a wall and a gathering of Daleks. As he flees, the High Commanders gather in the War Room to plan their next move. The Eleventh General dismisses the High Council’s plans since “they have already failed” and ponders the Doctor’s message. He also learns that there has been a breach in the Omega Arsenal of the Time Vaults. Among all of the forbidden weapons – many of which have already been used in vain against the Daleks – the Moment has been taken.

The Moment was the final work of the ancients of Gallifrey. It is a weapon so advanced that it developed a conscience to stand in judgment of the user. The General muses that only the Doctor would be mad enough to use such a weapon.

Sure enough, the Doctor issues a final warning as he walks the empty desert toward an abandoned farmhouse: “Time Lords of Gallifrey, Daleks of Skaro, I serve notice on you all. Too long I have stayed my hand. No more. Today you leave me no choice. Today, this war will end. No more. No more…” He uncovers a complex box that ticks and whirs, lamenting the lack of a big red button to activate it. He hears a rustling sound and investigates, returning to find a woman sitting on the box.

This woman appears to be Rose Tyler, a face that this incarnation does not recognize, but she eventually identifies as Bad Wolf, an avatar of the Moment. She mocks the Doctor in her judgment, wondering why he left the TARDIS so far away. Perhaps so the TARDIS couldn’t witness what he’s about to do. Meanwhile, the Time Lord refuses the right to be called Doctor. Even though the name resides in his head, he no longer feels worthy of it. The suffering of the universe is too great, and he must end it even though it means his death. The Moment decides that his fate and punishment will be to survive the holocaust and live with the consequences, counting the dead for the rest of his lives.

They are interrupted by a fissure that opens overhead. A fez falls out.

In the 21st century, the Eleventh Doctor opens the queen’s letter.

“My dearest love: I hope the painting known as Gallifrey Falls will serve as proof that it is your Elizabeth that writes to you now. You will recall that you pledged yourself to the safety of my kingdom. In that capacity, I have appointed you Curator of the Under Gallery, where deadly danger to England is locked away. Should any disturbance occur within its walls, it is my wish that you should be summoned. Godspeed, gentle husband.”

Kate leads the Doctor and Clara away to show them the next piece of the puzzle. As they leave, UNIT scientist McGillop takes a mysterious phone call and questions why he should move the painting.

The Doctor, Clara, and Kate arrive at a painting of Queen Elizabeth I and the Tenth Doctor, leading the scene to England, 1562. There, the Tenth Doctor and Queen Elizabeth I ride a horse out of the TARDIS where he presumably just gave her a tour of the time capsule. They later share a picnic, and after she remarks on the face that has seen war, he proposes marriage.

It’s a ruse to uncover a Zygon invasion of Earth. Unfortunately, even with his tracking device that goes ding, he misidentifies the queen as a Zygon. When the horse changes shape, the duo runs from the threat. They end up separated, and while the queen gets attacked, the Doctor threatens a rabbit before realizing that it is truly just a rabbit.

The Doctor finds the queen once again, as well as a doppelgänger. While he tries to figure out which queen is the real one, a time fissure opens and a fez falls out.

In the 21t century, Kate leads her group into the Under Gallery where the Eleventh Doctor is fascinated by stone dust. Kate orders Osgood to analyze it while they proceed deeper. The Doctor pulls a fez from a display case before coming to the reason why Kate called him here. Several 3-D paintings that used to show figures have had their glass broken out from the inside. The figures are missing.

The time fissure opens and the Eleventh Doctor faintly recalls seeing it before. He tosses the fez through before jumping across, landing at the Tenth Doctor’s feet. The two Time Lords realize who each other are, compare sonic screwdrivers, and bicker a bit before the time fissure crackles.

The Tenth Doctor sends the queens away with a pair of kisses as Clara communicates with the Doctors through the fissure. The Eleventh Doctor tries to send the fez back, but it never arrives in the Under Gallery. Instead, it lands at the War Doctor’s feet.

Kate leaves Clara in the Under Gallery as she calls her office to request the Cromier file – invoking a nod toward the “UNIT dating controversy” – unaware of the Zygon lurking behind her.

The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors attempt to analyze the fissure, canceling each other’s reversal of the polarity with their sonics. After a moment, the War Doctor jumps through and meets his successors, mistaking them at first for companions instead of Time Lords.

He also chastises them for pointing their sonic screwdrivers like water pistols.

The meeting is interrupted by the queen’s royal guard. The Eleventh Doctor tries to get Clara to pose as a witch through the fissure, but the guards and the War Doctor are not impressed. The Queen arrives and threatens to toss the Doctors in the Tower of London, which serves as Kate’s office in the future.

Once there, the Eleventh Doctor sets to work scratching at a pillar while the Tenth Doctor questions the War Doctor. Meanwhile, in the future, Osgood puts the pieces together and realizes that the statues are Zygons. She’s too late, however, and both she and McGillop are copied. Osgood is able to escape in short order.

Kate leads Clara to the Black Archive, a space where the deepest secrets are kept and everyone’s memories of visiting it are wiped. The archive is TARDIS-proofed to keep the Doctor out since he wouldn’t approve of the collection within. Kate shows Clara a vortex manipulator gifted to the archive by Captain Jack Harkness. The access code has been carved into a pillar.

Clara also finds out that Kate, Osgood, and McGillop are Zygons. In that confusion, Clara steals Kate’s phone and uses the access code to teleport away with the vortex manipulator.

In 1562, the War Doctor muses that he could program his sonic screwdriver to disintegrate the door, but the calculations would take centuries. He suggests starting on them while questioning the dread on the faces of his future selves. They discuss the Last Day of the Great Time War, and the Moment – only visible to the War Doctor – prompts him to ask about the children.

The Eleventh Doctor can’t remember the number of children on Gallifrey, but the Tenth Doctor can. There were 2.47 billion children, and the fact that the Eleventh Doctor doesn’t want to remember angers – no, infuriates – the Tenth Doctor.

The Moment fills in the blanks for the War Doctor: The Tenth Doctor is the man who regrets and the Eleventh Doctor is the man who forgets. She also points out that they all have the same sonic screwdriver at heart with different cases.

If the War Doctor can scan the door, then the Eleventh Doctor’s screwdriver could calculate the method of breaking the door. They confirm it but are amazed when Clara bursts through the door and claims that it wasn’t locked. The queen is right behind her, confirming that she was curious about what they would do.

In the modern day, the real Osgood skulks about the Under Gallery and finds Kate in Zygon stasis. In 1562, the queen shows her visitors what is going on, including how she implanted the Zygons in the Gallifreyan paintings using stasis cubes. They also learn that the woman is the real Queen Elizabeth I and that she killed her impostor in the forest.

After the Tenth Doctor and Queen Elizabeth I are married, the three Time Lords and Clara board the Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS. Detecting a potential paradox, the TARDIS compensates by shifting the desktops around a bit before Clara notifies the trio that they should head for the Black Archive.

The Zygons in the Black Archive are joined by their human counterparts, and Kate informs them that the Archive’s self-destruct mechanism has been activated. In five minutes, the nuclear warhead beneath them will detonate. The Doctors try to land the TARDIS in the Archive and fail, so the War Doctor suggests using the stasis cube instead.

When McGillop takes his call near the first painting, he gets an order to take the painting to the Black Archive. Once there, the Doctors emerge from the Fall of Arcadia and enter the Black Archive. They then use the memory modifiers to confuse everybody as to whether they are human or Zygon. If the participants stop the detonation and create a peace treaty – which is sure to be incredibly fair since the negotiators can’t remember which side they’re on – they will have their memories restored.

The countdown is stopped and the negotiations begin. The Osgoods figure each other out only by the nature of asthma. Meanwhile, Clara talks to the War Doctor about the Last Day, discovering that he hasn’t used the Moment. She expresses the Doctor’s regret about what he did that day, and the War Doctor makes his decision.

The Moment takes him back to the barn in the desert and presents him with a big red button.

He knows now that his successors are extraordinary men, but that they will only become so if he follows through. The Moment talks to him about the wheezing and groaning of the TARDIS, a sound that brings hope wherever it goes. At the same time, two TARDISes materialize behind him and his successors arrive.

They were able to arrive in this time-locked space because the Moment allowed it.

The two Time Lords talk about how they’ve treated their memory of the War Doctor. They explain that he was the Doctor on the day that it was impossible to get things right, and they offer to help him push the button today. Not out of fear or hatred, but because there is no other way. In the name of the lives that they cannot save.

The Eleventh Doctor stays his hand at Clara’s face. She could never imagine him destroying his own people. The Moment shows them the Fall of Arcadia, adding a moment of conscience to the act. Clara judges them: The Warrior, the Hero, and… what is the Eleventh?

She reminds him of the promise of the Doctor – “Never cowardly or cruel. Never give up; never give in.” – and tells her Doctor what to do. They have enough warriors, and any old idiot can be a hero. He should be a Doctor.

The Eleventh Doctor disarms the Moment and explains. He’s had lifetimes to think about this, and these three have a stasis cube. While the War Doctor thanks the “Bad Wolf girl” – the Tenth Doctor is taken aback – the Time Lords put their plan into action.

On the Last Day of the Great Time War, the Doctors send a message to Gallifrey High Command: GALLIFREY STANDS. They explain their plan to the Eleventh General, and even though the general finds the idea absurd, the Doctors explain that they’ve been working on it all their lives.

In an extraordinary moment, the three Doctors are joined by their other ten incarnations, including the one they will eventually become. The thirteen TARDISes take position as the Daleks intensify their firepower. The general tells the Doctor to go ahead. The planet Gallifrey disappears into a pocket dimension and the Daleks destroy each other in the crossfire. A single Dalek pod spins off into the void, foreshadowing their eventual return as the Cult of Skaro.

Gallifrey stands.

Back in the National Gallery, the Doctors muse on whether or not they succeeded. The mysterious painting remains an enigma, but they agree that it was better to have failed having done the right thing than succeeding in doing the wrong. The War Doctor bids farewell to his successors with a special nod to Clara, and they address him as Doctor, fully worthy of the title. He won’t remember this adventure, however, because the timestreams are a mess, but the Eleventh Doctor and Clara will. His legacy is safe with them.

As the War Doctor departs, he begins to regenerate after surviving the Time War. He hopes that the ears will be less conspicuous before transforming into the Ninth Doctor.

The Tenth Doctor takes his leave, asking the Eleventh Doctor where he’s going next. The Eleventh Doctor relents and reveals that they are destined to die in battle on Trenzalore. The Tenth Doctor is glad that his future is in safe hands, but expresses a desire to change their final destination. After all, he doesn’t want to go.

Clara leaves the Eleventh Doctor to sit and look at the painting for a little while. As she steps into the TARDIS, she mentions that the gallery’s curator was looking for him. He muses that he would be a great curator, and a deep voice agrees with him. The Doctor is astonished to see a very familiar face as the Curator arrives, looking very much like the Fourth Doctor.

The Curator suggests that the Doctor may revisit a few of his old faces before turning to the painting. He points out that everyone screws up the title of the painting: It is neither Gallifrey Falls nor No More, but rather Gallifrey Falls No More.

Gallifrey survived, and now the Doctor is tasked with finding it. The mission is now returning it and all its people to the universe.

Later on, the Doctor speaks of his dreams. In a vision, he walks through the TARDIS doors to join his previous incarnations as they stare at the planet Gallifrey above. He is destined to go home, even if it takes him the long way around.


First and foremost, I adore this episode. It is littered with nods to the franchise’s mythology, but more salient, it tackles some important concepts with the Doctor’s character.

During the revival era, the Last Great Time War has hung over the Doctor’s head. The Ninth Doctor was fresh from that conflict and obviously suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from the magnitude of his choices. The Tenth Doctor and the Eleventh Doctor carried this weight as shown in this story.

The beauty of this story is that it retains the show’s history – the Doctor’s incarnations before now do not remember saving Gallifrey, so none of the motivations or choices made have changed – but absolution and redemption are offered for everyone involved, especially the Eleventh Doctor. Even though it is temporary, the senses of forgiveness and relief are important for the War Doctor and the Tenth Doctor and definitely shed a different light on the episodes we’ve seen to this point.

I love how the destruction of Gallifrey was driven by Clara, thus allowing a sense of humanity to temper the decisions of the Time Lord. This has been a constant over Doctor Who‘s history and was used to great effect here.

I do question how every incarnation of the Doctor knew to calculate the salvation of Gallifrey. Earlier, the sonic screwdrivers drove the point that the shell may change but the software remains the same, but those calculations were started by the War Doctor and matured with the Eleventh Doctor. In reverse, the idea to save Gallifrey seems to propagate from Eleven to War to Ten, a path that is far from linear. In fact, it’s wibbly-wobbly, which describes the Doctor to a tee.

Speaking of, I am so glad that the writers were able to give the War Doctor such brilliant insights into the revival era’s use of sonic screwdrivers. They’re not magic wands or water pistols, and the Doctor’s not going to assemble a cabinet at an enemy. I love his view on these scientific instruments.


Shifting gears, as much as I love the War Doctor and John Hurt, I really wish that Steven Moffat hadn’t needed to introduce him.

I get the reasons why: Christopher Eccleston did not want to return after how he was treated in the role, and he was less than impressed with the script when it was sent to him. What I don’t understand is why Paul McGann couldn’t have filled the same role.

Yes, I also love The Night of the Doctor, but it was developed as part of this whole story arc. Realistically, the Eighth Doctor could have been the incarnation that engaged in the Time War after seeing how Cass Fermazzi was willing to sacrifice her own life to avoid traveling with a Time Lord. This would effectively avoid the Stuffed into the Fridge trope (since Cass isn’t a loved one being used to motivate the hero) and could give us far more screen time for Paul McGann than just a TV movie and a webcast short.

It would have avoided the thirteen lives complications that developed from introducing another Doctor (which we’ll obviously cover during The Time of the Doctor) and would have still avoided the need for Christopher Eccelston’s involvement.

Everything else in The Day of the Doctor could have remained the same.

As much as I adore John Hurt and his performance here, the War Doctor needlessly complicated things, which apparently stemmed from Steven Moffat’s desire to have a “complete set” of regenerations before his departure. From what I can tell, that’s a rumor, but… yeah.


No look at the fiftieth anniversary special would be complete without a look at the mythology.

I have linked a good number of the mythological callbacks, but there are still quite a few favorites that jumped out in the course of this celebration. One of them is the set design, particularly the roundels (“the round things”) in the War Doctor’s TARDIS and in the Curator’s gallery. The War Doctor’s TARDIS design is a fun mix between the classic era (not counting the TV movie) and the coral motif that kicked off the revival era. The Curator’s gallery adds the hexagons to the roundels, tying the classic and revival eras together.

The Brigadier’s space-time telegraph made a notable appearance in the Black Archive. It was prominently featured in Revenge of the Cybermen and Terror of the Zygons, the latter of which was our last meeting with the Zygons. That portion of the story also showcased one of my favorite Osgood moments as she and her doppelgänger share their identities over her asthma inhaler.

The Day of the Doctor marks the last salvo fired in the Last Great Time War, a confrontation that began in Genesis of the Daleks. Russell T Davies stated in an episode of Doctor Who Confidential that the origins of the war that he envisioned began when the Time Lords struck first – the attempted genocide of the Daleks – in the Fourth Doctor’s era. This idea was repeated by RTD in Doctor Who Annual 2006, and was adapted in Hunters of the Burning Stone, a 2013 comic story published in Doctor Who Magazine as part of the 50th-anniversary celebration. The comic was written by Scott Gray and served as a sequel to An Unearthly Child, though it was the Eleventh Doctor in the lead with Ian and Barbara.

The Black Archive pinboards hold tons of photo references to the franchise’s history, including: Susan Foreman; Barbara Wright & Ian Chesterton; Vicki Pallister; Katarina & Sara Kingdom; Steven Taylor; Dodo Chaplet; Ben Jackson & Polly Wright; Victoria Waterfield; Zoe Heriot; Liz Shaw; Captain Mike Yates; Harry Sullivan & Warrant Officer John Benton; Leela; Romana I; Romana II; Adric; Nyssa; Tegan Jovanka; Kamelion & Vislor Turlough; Jamie McCrimmon; Peri Brown; Melanie Bush; Brigadier Winifred Bambera; Ace McShane; Grace Holloway; Adam Mitchell (why?); K-9 Mark III; Lieutenant General Sanchez; Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart; UNIT Captain Erisa Magambo; Donna Noble, Martha Jones, Mickey Smith, Rose Tyler, & Wilfred Mott; Jo Grant; Jack Harkness; Craig Owens (again, why?); Sarah Jane Smith;
Amy Pond & Rory Williams; River Song; Kate Stewart; and Clara Oswald.

Finally, that moment. The all thirteen moment. The moment that made me jump out of my seat and cheer. The moment that makes me grin from ear to ear every time I see it.

It was amazing to see all of the Doctors on screen, interacting with each other to save their home. Since many of them are no longer with us, it was also fun to see exactly where the producers sourced the footage to bring this moment together.

  • The First Doctor’s footage came from The Daleks (specifically “The Dead Planet”), and his voice was newly recorded audio by John Guilor (who also voiced the First Doctor in the reconstruction of Planet of Giants).
  • The Second Doctor’s footage came from The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Mind Robber, and his audio came from The Seeds of Death.
  • The Third Doctor’s footage came from Colony in Space – the re-used footage was flipped from the original – and the audio came from The Green Death.
  • The Fourth Doctor’s footage came from Planet of Evil – again, the re-used footage was flipped – but the audio (“Ready.”) has yet to be identified.
  • The Fifth Doctor’s footage was sourced from Frontios and the audio came from The Five Doctors.
  • The Sixth Doctor’s footage and audio were sourced from the same story: Attack of the Cybermen.
  • The Seventh Doctor’s (flipped) footage and audio came from Battlefield, but the producers also used some footage from the TV movie.
  • The Eighth Doctor’s footage came from the TV movie. The audio (“Commencing calculations.”) hasn’t been identified.
  • Finally, the Ninth Doctor’s footage came from Rose and The Parting of the Ways (“And for my next trick…”), along with some footage from Aliens of London.

The sheer amount of work and research required to make this climactic scene come to life amazes me.


Finally, I want to take a look at three smaller items before closing this out.

First, The Last Day: It was a quick and easy prequel story. The biggest thing that came from it was a desire to know more about the soldiers and the headcams.

Second, the visual salute to Christopher Eccleston’s legacy in the regeneration. Steven Moffat didn’t want to include an image of Eccleston in the regeneration sequence because it would have been “crossing the line” by implying that he had been on set. So, there are hints as John Hurt morphs into Christopher Eccleston, but the camera cuts away just in time to give us the impression of what comes next. Of course, as implied by the novelization of this story, the Ninth Doctor broke every mirror in the TARDIS just after regeneration because he couldn’t face himself. That adds a new dimension to his first glance in the mirror in Rose.

The last is the novelization of The Day of the Doctor. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, pick it up. It tells the story of the TV episode but breaks the chapters into narratives by the War Doctor, the Tenth Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor, Petronella Osgood and the Zygons, the Twelfth Doctor, and even the Thirteenth Doctor. It expands a lot of the characters and scenes, and it also adds a few additional insights and inside gags, including some time with Peter Cushing’s Dr. Who. While I don’t generally lean on the expanded media for information, this is written by Steven Moffat so I consider it a bit more authoritative. Chapter 9 (“The Truth of the Doctor”) is a hoot.

It’s a quick read and well worth the time.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot

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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 #248: The Name of the Doctor

Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor
(1 episode, s07e13, 2013)

Timestamp 248 The Name of the Doctor

The prophecy of Trenzalore comes to call.

Clarence and the Whispermen

Locked away in a jail, serial killer Clarence DeMarco shouts at whispering inhuman creatures. He insists that they are nothing more than voices in his head and asks them to stop. The Whisper Men vanish, then reappear inside the cell, demanding to find the Doctor.

The Whisper Men project Gallifreyan symbols in the air, forcibly impressing them into his mind with an instruction to bring the message to the reptile detective. They are part of the Intelligence and promise that if Clarence cooperates, he will be pardoned and will live a good long life only troubled by dreams.

He cries to be left alone. The creatures pass by him.

She Said, He Said

The story is divided into two parts: “Clara” and “The Doctor”.

Clara’s monologue walks down memory lane about her adventures with the Doctor and what it has done to her. She’s forgotten to ask who he is and why he runs. Then she found out at Trenzalore.

The Doctor’s monologue focuses on Clara’s impossibility and his meetings with her, from the Dalek Asylum and Victorian London to his current run with her.

Each part acts as a tribute to the other… as well as a warning about the darkness in the relationship and its secrets.

The Name of the Doctor

In a workshop, two engineers respond to an alarm. A supposed idiot, the First Doctor, is trying to steal a faulty TARDIS from the capital city of Gallifrey, and Clara Oswald tells him that he is making a big mistake.

Clara falls through a golden vortex. She does not know where she is but remembers one thing: The Doctor. She has appeared at various points in his life but few of those incarnations ever notice her. The Eleventh Doctor is an exception when she calls to him in Victorian London.

She blew into this world on a leaf and doesn’t believe she’ll ever land. She’s the Impossible Girl and she was born to save the Doctor.

In Victorian London, Madame Vastra visits Clarence DeMarco at his jail cell. He murdered fourteen women and is sentenced to death, but he bargains for his life with information about the Doctor. The Doctor has a secret that he will take to the grave, and it is discovered.

Later on, Vastra consults with Jenny, explaining that Clarence will live until she understands what he told her. They make preparations for a conference call to investigate further. Jenny hears a strange whisper from outside as Vastra wonders where Strax has gone. The Sontaran has the weekend off, much to Vastra’s displeasure at his chosen locale.

In Glasgow, a familiar Sontar-Ha is heard as Strax fights a large Scottish man. They are interrupted by a boy carrying a telegram, summoning Strax to the conference call. Strax apologizes to Archie, his opponent, for not being able to finish the match, then asks to be rendered unconscious. He drops into the trance-like conference call, an astral projection of sorts, of which Jenny complements the new desktop.

While working on a soufflé on April 10, 2013, Clara gets an invitation to the conference call. The letter has come from Vastra and drugs her so she enters the dream state. The final participant, River Song, pops in soon afterward, and the meeting commences with introductions of the Doctor’s wife to his current companion.

Vastra presents Clarence’s message, a grouping of Gallifreyan symbols, which River identifies as space-time coordinates. They are the location of the Doctor’s greatest secret, his name, which River knows. Vastra shares the single word from Clarence: Trenzalore.

Outside of the conference call, someone skulks around Jenny. Unfortunately, her form fades away as she is murdered by the Whisper Men. River forces everyone to wake up as the face of Dr. Simeon appears, stating that the Doctor’s friends are lost forever more unless he goes to Trenzalore.

When Clara awakens, she finds the Doctor blindfolded, playing Blind Man’s Bluff so they could sneak away to the cinema. The Doctor is annoyed but then realizes that Clara is troubled. They discuss the call over tea and the Doctor is brought to tears over Trenzalore. He runs to the TARDIS where Clara finds him under the console. The Doctor connects Clara to the TARDIS so she can telepathically transmit the coordinates she saw to the time capsule.

“When you are a time traveler, there is one place you must never go. One place in all of space and time you must never — ever — find yourself.” Trenzalore is the Doctor’s grave, and it is the one place he must never go, however, he owes his friends and they must be saved.

The Doctor sets the course but the TARDIS rebels, fighting the transit while he forces her onward. The TARDIS refuses to land on the actual site, so it parks in orbit and the travelers take a look upon the torn and battered planet. The Doctor shuts everything else down and forces the TARDIS to plummet to the surface, cracking the exterior glass in the process.

They find a battlefield graveyard. Some headstones are larger than others, based on the importance of the warrior. On the summit ahead rests the TARDIS, abnormally outsized as the “bigger on the inside” qualities start to break down and leak beyond the shell.

The TARDIS is the Doctor’s tomb.

River contacts Clara as the Doctor climbs on, an echo of the conference call which River left open. The Doctor cannot see her but spots her gravestone among the others. As he ponders how it can possibly be here, they are approached by the Whisper Men as River and Clara work out that the gravestone is the entrance to the tomb.

Inside the TARDIS monument, the Paternosters awaken and Strax revives Jenny from death. They are approached by the Great Intelligence and the Whisper Men, who welcome them to the final resting place of the great tyrant known as the Doctor.

Clara and the Doctor navigate the catacombs as River explains her death to Clara. The duo is pursued by Whisper Men. They are driven to the Paternoster Gang where the Intelligence proclaims that the Doctor’s final battle was not as large as the Time War but he has blood on his hands. He also remarks that the Doctor will be known by names such as the Beast and the Valeyard.

Clara has flashbacks to climbing through a wrecked TARDIS, an adventure that she shouldn’t remember. The Great Intelligence demands the key that will open the Doctor’s tomb, hissing that it is the Doctor’s real name. He threatens the Doctor’s friends with death if the Time Lord does not comply. The Great Intelligence keeps asking The First Question until the tomb opens.

The TARDIS can still hear River’s projection, so she supplied his name to keep the secret safe.

Inside the doors lies an overgrown control room. Where the time rotor would normally rest is a flowing beam of blue-white light. That is the Doctor’s mark on the universe. Rather than his body, his travels in time have left a scar representing his personal timeline, past and future, and everything that resulted from it.

The Doctor collapses from his proximity to it. When he points his sonic screwdriver at it, the voices of his previous incarnations flow from it. The Great Intelligence approaches the light, intent on rewriting the Doctor’s history and turning all of his victories into failures. The act will scatter him across the Doctor’s timeline.

As the Intelligence steps into the light, the Doctor writhes in pain as his very existence is rewritten. Vastra declares that a universe without the Doctor will have consequences. She flees outside in terror and sees the stars go dark as entire star systems are erased from history. Jenny, once saved by the Doctor, is erased as Strax turns hostile and must be vaporized.

Despite protests from River and the Doctor, Clara decides to act. With the phrase that has pursued her since the Doctor met her – “Run, you clever boy, and remember me.” – she jumps into the light and is split into millions of copies throughout history, each one setting right what the Great Intelligence has put wrong.

She even tells the First Doctor which TARDIS to steal. After all, a broken navigation system will be much more fun.

With Clara’s influence fixing the timeline, the Doctor decides to rescue her, using himself as Clara’s advantage. River protests, but the Doctor tells her that he can always see her even when no one else can. There is a time to live and a time to sleep, and while he has a hard time saying goodbye, it’s only because he doesn’t know how.

With her help, he tells her goodbye with the promise that they’ll see each other again. She also reminds him that, since she was telepathically linked to Clara, then she cannot truly be dead. To tell him the details, however, would be a spoiler.

As River dissipates, the Doctor enters his own timestream.

Clara falls to the ground inside the timestream and she wonders what’s left for her to accomplish in the Doctor’s timeline. The Eleventh Doctor’s voice guides her through the figures of his previous incarnations, telling her to focus on the sight of a leaf as her guide. Using it, she is reunited with the Doctor.

Beyond their embrace, Clara sees a shadowy figure. The Doctor shows intense fear at the sight, explaining that the figure is him, but Clara doesn’t understand.

The name Doctor is a promise, but this figure broke the promise. He is the Doctor’s secret. The figure defends his actions as Clara collapses, but the Eleventh Doctor turns away.

This new man is the Doctor… but not one we were expecting.


Clara’s mystery finally comes to a head here as her various incarnations are explained. All three of them were her, just in different splintered ways. This is the big part of Clara’s run that I really enjoy. The other is her initiative, which has been highlighted over her run.

This relationship proves to be an ontological paradox – a causal loop – since the Doctor might not have invited the modern-day Clara Oswald to travel as his companion had he not encountered Oswin and Victorian Clara, however, if she had not traveled with him, those echoes would have never existed.

She’s been with the Doctor since the beginning of his travels – key dialogue here was taken from The Web Planet providing some degree of influence at key moments. Of those moments, we get callbacks to The Five Doctors (Second and Third Doctors), The Invasion of Time (Fourth Doctor), The Arc of Infinity (Fifth Doctor), and Dragonfire (Seventh Doctor). Clara also seems to have influenced The Aztecs and The Web of Fear in her removal of the Great Intelligence’s interference.

This also marks the end of the Great Intelligence from the perspective of the show itself. The entity was splintered into infinite pieces across the Doctor’s timeline but then was systematically eradicated by Clara. The difference is that no one came to guide the Great Intelligence out of the Doctor’s timestream, so we have no reason to believe that it survived.

Clara’s adventure reveals the continuation of events from The Night of the Doctor, establishing a previously unknown incarnation between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors. It perpetuates a continuity re-write – far from the first in the franchise – based around the unfortunate behind-the-scenes drama of the Christopher Eccleston era. This change in continuity will come to a head in Day of the Doctor.

There’s certainly a lot of world-building in this single story, both in terms of resolutions and groundwork for the future. I found it all quite enjoyable, and remember it to be quite shocking when I first saw it.

With the rest of the Timestamps Project for context, I certainly appreciate the attention to detail in portraying the Doctors. Not only do we have twelve incarnations sharing the same airtime (a record number to this point), but we also got to see both versions (to this point) of the First Doctor in William Hartnell and Richard Hurndall.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Clara and the TARDIS & Doctor Who: Rain Gods & Doctor Who: The Inforarium

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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 Special #7: Dimensions in Time

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

 

Celebrating thirty years.

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

On to the story…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Death Comes to Time

 

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

 

Timestamp #148: Time and the Rani

Doctor Who: Time and the Rani
(4 episodes, s24e01-e04, 1987)

 

TARDIS under attack!

In a rare pre-credits sequence, a rather well-done for the era computer-generated TARDIS topples tail over teakettle, leaving the Sixth Doctor and Mel unconscious on the floor of the console room. On Lakertya, the planet below, a native watches the TARDIS hurtle to the ground in a rainbow of energy. Within moments, the doors open from the outside to reveal the Rani and her henchmen. The Rani orders that Mel is left behind as the creatures take a freshly regenerating Seventh Doctor to her laboratory.

Roll credits. Fancy computer generated credits. With a new theme and a winking Doctor.

I’m not adverse to them. I like them better than the dark theme from the Twenty-Third Series, but man, oh man, are they so very ’80s.

In the Rani’s lab, we see Albert Einstein being loaded into a stasis chamber by two Lakertyans. The Rani has kidnapped many genius scientists from Earth history, and now she has the Doctor to play with. The newly regenerated Time Lord snaps awake with a burst of energy and a babble of speech, eventually confronting the Rani. He threatens to smash some equipment with his umbrella, forcing the Rani’s hairy companion to shoot him with a laser web device.

Sylvester McCoy’s energy and acting are refreshing. I found myself grinning during this whole sequence.

One of the Lakertyans, Ikona, enters the TARDIS and retrieves the unconscious Mel. His female counterpart, scared off by the Rani’s anger, is soon killed in explosive fashion, but not before meeting Mel. Ikona warns Mel that if she runs, she will find more of the same explosive traps. He also believes that Mel is allied with the Rani and takes her for ransom. He drags her through the typical Doctor Who quarry, but she ends up rescuing him from a trap and earning her freedom. They continue to run, trying to evade the Tetraps (the Rani’s hairy foot-soldiers).

In the lab, the Rani drugs the Doctor so he won’t remember waking up before, and when he comes around again, she is (poorly) disguised as Mel. The Rani attempts to convince the Doctor to repair some broken equipment in (what she calls) his lab. He exhibits some Sixth Doctor tendencies and an ability to play the spoons, but the tech confounds him. The Rani convinces him to return to the TARDIS for some tools.

Upon returning to the TARDIS, the Doctor decides to change clothes. He tries on a Napoleon outfit, a British guard uniform, an arcane schoolteacher getup, the Fourth Doctor‘s burgundy attire with the wrong scarf, the Third Doctor‘s brown coat and ruffles, the Fifth Doctor‘s ensemble, and the Second Doctor‘s fur coat before settling on his trademark style.

Note: The suspenders should be underneath the sweater.

The Doctor nearly recognizes the Rani under her disguise, but after she slaps him he goes off to find the radiation wave meter.

Elsewhere, Mel runs from the Tetrap but trips one of the exploding bubble traps. The bubble bounces all across the landscape – understandably, Mel is screaming the entire time (and goodness, can she scream) – before safely landing in a lake. Ikona frees her and they continue to run, but they are soon ambushed. As Mel screams, Ikona finds a hidden rifle to defend them. They end up at the Rani’s tower.

The Doctor continues to work on the Rani’s equipment, but he is obsessed with what lies beyond a sealed door. Prior to this, the Rani had stated that the Lakertyans weren’t an advanced species, so the Doctor is puzzled when the Rani suggests that the Lakertyans can patch a broken mineral plate in the device. She leaves to find the necessary gear, locking the Doctor in the lab.

Mel and Ikona encounter Faroon, another Lakertyan, and they mourn the death of Sarn, the female Lakertyan… Faroon’s daughter. Faroon leaves deliver the bad news to Beyus, Sarn’s father, and Mel and Ikona follow. Ikona distracts the Tetrap guard long enough for Mel to sneak in. Meanwhile, the Tetrap guard mistakenly apprehends the Rani (who is still dressed like Mel).

Mel finds the lab and assaults the Doctor, unaware that the Time Lord has regenerated. After a brief altercation, they verify each other’s identities. Mel knows about regeneration, but she’s still astounded by the change. The pair are rescued from the lab by Faroon and Beyus and taken to the stasis chamber where they discover the sleeping scientists and a chamber set aside for the Doctor.

The Rani is freed and, after berating her minion, heads for her TARDIS. Her time capsule is a small pyramid, and the inside is futuristic and gorgeous. She fixes the mineral plate and returns to her lab, prompting the Doctor to send Mel with Faroon and Beyus. The Doctor uncovers the Rani’s ruse and discovers her plan: She is channeling the scientists’ minds into a single artificial brain in an attempt to harvest strange matter from a nearby asteroid.

Okay, given that only strange matter can affect strange matter, therefore requiring the brain to develop a lightweight substitute with the same qualities, why not just use the substitute for the nefarious scheme? Perhaps a difference in purity or something?

Anyway, the Doctor escapes and finds refuge in the pit where the Rani keeps the Tetraps. She searches the pit and departs, locking the grate behind her and leaving the Doctor surrounded by the beasts. Luckily, Beyus arrives to feed the Tetraps and helps the Doctor escape. Unable to find the Doctor inside the complex, the Rani extends her search outside. She returns as the Doctor sabotages her machinery, and she sounds the alarm as the Doctor escapes the facility. Meanwhile, Mel is captured by the Tetraps and taken to the Rani.

Goodness, can she scream.

The Doctor meets Ikona, and together they trick a Tetrap into one of the explosive traps. Ikona takes the Time Lord to the Center of Leisure where his people are kept happy and indolent despite their servitude. The Doctor doesn’t understand why Beyus told him to visit the center, but he does question the strange sphere in the center of the room. The device’s purpose is made clear as the Rani punishes the Lakertyans by releasing killer insects. As they run, Faroon tells the Doctor that Mel is being held hostage, and the ransom is the missing piece from the machine. The Doctor makes the trade, but the exchanged hostage is a hologram. The real Mel is pressed into service as Beyus’s assistant.

This section of the story was the weakest part and an unnecessary tangent.

The Doctor is captured as he and Ikona try to sneak back into the laboratory. The Doctor is loaded into his stasis chamber and his intelligence is networked into the artificial brain – Mel responds by screaming, because goodness, can she scream – but the Doctor’s inputs are nothing more than bad puns and nonsense. While the Rani sorts out the issues, she dispatches the army of Tetraps to exact “selective retribution” on the dissident Lakertyans. After she disconnects the Doctor, Mel and the Doctor trap her in the stasis chamber. Unfortunately, the Doctor’s intelligence provided the brain with the answer: Loyhargil.

The answer is the Holy Grail? Seriously, anagram it.

The explosion of the strange matter will create a shell of chronons (discrete particles of time?) around the planet, causing the brain to expand, fill the sphere, and become a Time Manipulator. Using that, the Rani can travel through time and alter history, adding order to the entropy of evolution throughout the universe. She also mentions that she alone will survive the supernova, a fact that upsets her Tetrap assistant. The Rani synthesizes her grail and heads for her TARDIS.

The Doctor and Mel escape the lab one more time to reunite with Ikona and help him spur the Lakertyans into full rebellion. The travelers then return to the lab and free the scientists, prompting Beyus to sacrifice his life to destroy the brain and delay the launch just long enough to miss the asteroid and foil the Rani’s plans. The Rani retreats to her TARDIS, but her escape is shortlived as the Tetraps, collectively stowed away in the time capsule, “invite” her to join them on their homeworld.

The Doctor and Mel return to their TARDIS, saying their farewells to the liberated Lakertyans and escorting the scientists aboard for their return home. The Lakertyans have learned that they must solve their own problems if they are to survive.

 

Starting with the story, it was average at best. Regeneration stories are often rough since they involve new actors (and sometimes new production teams), but this one seemed even more troubled than most. It wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t good either. Continuity-wise, I really wish that the BBC could have made amends with Colin Baker, but I understand his reasoning for not returning. It’s obviously Sylvester McCoy with a dodgy wig behind the regeneration effect. That doesn’t bother me as much as the Rani’s random mole. I don’t recall seeing it in her previous appearance, and it was only visible for a short time here.

What buoyed this up for me was Sylvester McCoy’s energy and acting, which were refreshing. Because of that, I have high hopes for what’s to come.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Paradise Towers

 

 

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 Special #6: A Fix with Sontarans

Doctor Who: A Fix with Sontarans
(1 episode, 1985)

 

It’s one last brief stop with Colin Baker before jumping back on the canon timeline.

Starting with a little bit of history, this is a segment of the popular British television show Jim’ll Fix It. The premise is that children write in with their wishes and Jimmy Saville, the show’s creator and host, finds a way to make those dreams come true. For this ten-minute spot, eight-year-old Gareth Jenkins wrote a letter asking to meet Colin Baker and visit the TARDIS. He also included a picture of him in a Sixth Doctor costume that his mother or grandmother made for him.

It’s been pretty evident during my reviews of the Sixth Doctor’s run that I wasn’t fond of the character – a fact that has earned me a certain amount of flak from fans, including those who think that I’m attacking Colin Baker instead of the character, which is far from reality – but my fan heart is warmed by this. I have a philosophy to not the criticize fans based on what they love, and I’m over the moon that young Mr. Jenkins idolized this Doctor so much.

In order to make Gareth’s dream come true, Jimmy Saville presented an adventure with two Doctor Who alumni. That’s pretty cool.

The story opens with the Doctor dancing around the TARDIS console in a valiant effort to tech the tech when an inadvertent button push teleports Tegan Jovanka into the console room. Tegan’s unimpressed with the Doctor’s new face and unhappy about the abduction, but she agrees to help remove two Sontarans and their vitrox bomb from the ship.

On a clever note, Tegan asks what a Sontaran is because she’s never met one.

The Doctor asks Tegan to push the blue button, but since there are so many of them, she accidentally activates the matter transfer stream again. This time the new passenger is a human boy named Gareth Jenkins. The boy is dressed exactly like the Doctor and offers to help in any way he can. Together, they set a trap as the Sontarans storm the console room.

Group Marshall Nathan (Turner? Am I reading too much into this?) demands introductions and is surprised to learn that Gareth is aboard. In the year 2001, their invasion of Earth is stopped by a brave and wise military leader of the same name, and the Sontarans decide that if they kill him now they can succeed later on. As they raise their weapons, Gareth springs the trap and the Sontarans literally melt to death.

Ew.

The Doctor asks Gareth how he knew where all of the controls were, and the boy answers, “Well, I’ve seen you fly the TARDIS on telly.” After that, Jimmy Saville appears on the scanner screen for a moment before boarding the TARDIS. The Doctor presents Gareth Jenkins with a Jim’ll Fix It medal for his participation, along with a bonus: A Sontaran meson gun.

 

It was heartwarming and fun, even if the Sixth Doctor was a little acidic with Tegan. That last bit makes sense since this episode was aired on 23 February 1985, right in the middle of the Twenty-Second Series.

 

As our journey with the Sixth Doctor comes to a close, we’ll rejoin the time stream on our next adventure.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Time and the Rani

 

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 Special #5: Real Time

Doctor Who: Real Time
(6 episodes, 2002)

It seems appropriate to visit the one visual Big Finish Sixth Doctor tale after saying farewell to Colin Baker’s live-action television portrayal.

After a brief reprise of the Third Doctor‘s opening credits, we are reintroduced to the Cybermen as they search the rooms surrounding a large ball called the Chronosphere. Two humans emerge after the patrols pass and send a “doctor” (who was connected inside the sphere) to the past, potentially destroying their timeline.

On a starship called the Cassius, an officer named Kruger talks to Professor Osborne on the state of the planet below. Two teams have disappeared in two days, but their disappearance has stymied the search teams. During the debrief, the professor and his team are engulfed by a wave of temporal energy and disappear, exactly on schedule with the last two events. They also witness a Cyberman as they vanish.

On the planet, the TARDIS overlooks a camp and pyramid-shaped temple. Evelyn Smythe and a third survey team are digging into the mystery with the help of the Doctor (as requested by the authority called Central) because of the Cyberman sighting. Evelyn and Doctor Reece Goddard discuss the Doctor before settling in for a chat about the history of Cybermen.

Inside the temple, the survey team and the Doctor are studying the hieroglyphs printed on the walls of a large chamber. This version of the Sixth Doctor is more conservatively dressed and far less pompous, and he helps the team unlock a few secrets of the building’s architecture. Together, they decide to open a sealed door and examine the wall beyond. The team leader, Nicola Savage, is adamant and eager to find her missing colleagues, but the Doctor and the rest of the team are hesitant and cautious. As they argue, the door opens on its own accord and exposes an extra-dimensional space beyond. The Doctor warns the team not to mess with the membrane covering the entrance, but the scientists don’t listen and they Savage is pulled through. After the lights go out, half-converted Cybermen (including Savage) emerge and threaten to assimilate the rest of the team.

Evelyn and the administrative team in the camp muse about the subcutaneous bio-trackers that keep tabs on everyone on the survey team – except Evelyn, the Doctor, and the allergic Goddard – and how Savage’s signal has blipped off then on. Their discussion and debate are interrupted by the Doctor and the partial Cybermen. The Cybermen cannot recognize the Doctor in his sixth form until Evelyn inadvertently reveals him, and they demand that he follow them into the portal to meet the Cyber Controller and turn over the TARDIS. The portal itself leads to the Chronosphere chamber from the story’s opening.

The Doctor puzzles over Cyber Savage’s ultimatum: She plans to kill the survey team if the Doctor doesn’t comply, but the Doctor notes that the threat is impotent since he sees a handful of lives as insignificant against the survival of the universe. He also deduces that the Cyber Controller didn’t build the temple, but instead is using it after the previous occupants have long since gone.

Cyber Savage reveals a critical key to the audience: The Cyber Controller is interested in an heir to its power, and the Doctor (along with his knowledge of time travel) is the perfect candidate. That’s an interesting idea. Anyway, Administrator Isherwood offers to betray the Doctor by making a duplicate key, and the Cybermen agree with the plan. The Doctor doesn’t think it will work, and he confirms it by watching the Cybermen struggle with basic logic as they try to carry the TARDIS into the temple. They are usually more intuitive than that.

After consulting with the Cyber Controller, Cyber Savage provides the Doctor with the history of the situation and a demand to provide sanctuary from the impending temporal wave inside the TARDIS. The Doctor also figures out the plan to assimilate him and travel back to the origins of the temple. The Doctor confronts Isherwood over his plans for the TARDIS, then develops a plan to prevent the Cyber Controller from communicating with Cyber Savage. Evelyn and Goddard enter the ruins with scientist Carey, but there are two problems: First, Carey has an implant so he can be tracked; Second, Evelyn has potential knowledge of TARDIS operation. The Doctor has no choice but to go after them, but the Cybermen catch them first and take them to the Cyber Controller. Carey is assimilated in a most gruesome fashion, and Evelyn is faced with a future as the new Controller.

Cyber Savage stands in the Doctor’s way as he tries to pass through the portal, prompting the Doctor to debate her with empathy. Cyber Savage responds with force and logic, driving the Doctor to relent. Cyber Savage uses this to her advantage later by tricking the Doctor by manipulating his empathy for her prior humanity.

Meanwhile, Goddard confronts Isherwood and his plan to take time travel for his own uses. On the other side of the portal, Evelyn discusses empathy with the Cyber Controller and makes some headway through logic and reason.

The Doctor figures out Cyber Savage’s deception before she succeeds in securing the TARDIS, and the Time Lord uses the distraction to confront Goddard. The Cybermen have ignored him so far, and the Doctor wants to know why. Goddard is a Cyberman from the future (sort of), and his technology is based on Time Lord knowledge, which the Doctor will inevitably yield.

Nice twist!

In 1927, the Cybermen unleashed a virus on Earth that transformed humans into cybernetic hybrids. Goddard was one of the few who survived and joined a rebellion to reclaim the planet, and his research has brought him to this point. The ability to travel in time has allowed the Cybermen to completely conquer the universe and Goddard (who was the doctor in the time sphere) us trying to stop the origins of the Cyber-verse using a counter-virus.

The downside: This creates a time paradox.

The Doctor tries to stop Goddard, but the hybrid knocks him out. The scientists see this happen, but Cyber Savage cannot see Goddard. Unable to explain the event, Cyber Savage kills Renchard while torturing him for the truth and then takes Isherwood to the portal. Goddard and the Doctor follow, but the Doctor is ambushed by a Cyberman. Goddard kills it with the counter-virus and they proceed, but the transition through the portal destroys most of the counter-virus. Once through the portal, the Doctor makes a few changes to the hieroglyphs.

I love the point/counterpoint of the clashing moralities between the Doctor and Goddard.

As Evelyn’s assimilation begins, the Cyber Controller demonstrates to Ishwerwood how the portal negatively affects the organics under the cyber armor. The Controller finds the Doctor and begins to reason out the existence of Goddard, and a slip of the tongue from Isherwood leads to a change in the Cyberman algorithms, making the young scientist is visible to the enemy. The Cyber Controller finds the virus and questions the Doctor’s morality around it, calling back to Article Seven of the Time Lord Constitution and the laws against genocide.

Goddard assures the Cybermen that he will use the counter-virus even if the Doctor will not, and the Doctor negotiates with the Cyber Controller over the TARDIS as Cyber Savage analyzes the counter-virus. Cyber Savage finds that the counter-virus will only help them and sends Isherwood and Goddard for assimilation.

In the assimilation chamber, Evelyn’s transformation stops as the overseeing Cyberman has a human epiphany of emotions. After the Cyberman leaves, the Cyber Controller notes the irregularity and reactivates the chamber. The Cyberman engages Cyber Savage, and the Doctor and Goddard use the distraction to gain the upper hand. Goddard kills Cyber Savage, then delivers a coup de grâce to Isherwood as the former administrator shares a secret with him.

The Doctor finds Evelyn and frees her from the conversion chamber, but Goddard arrives and reveals the secret: Evelyn is carrying the original virus, engineered from the counter-virus and completing the paradox that the Doctor warned of. Goddard defeats the Cyber Controller and opens the faceplate, revealing Evelyn’s face beneath as the being dies and the temporal wave washes over them both.

The Doctor and Evelyn reach the TARDIS, the former unaware of the terrible burden the latter carries. Evelyn is weary and a deeply respectful Doctor takes care of her as he sets course for a cliffhanger: The TARDIS hurtles toward Charles Lindbergh‘s historic flight in 1927 and the birth of the Cyber-verse.

This was a decent story with some great twists, and it operated almost like the reconstructions of the First and Second Doctor‘s eras. The downsides are numerous, including far too many close-ups on random bits, such as the cat brooch (which emotes as the Doctor does) and Cyber Savage’s cyber-crotch. It was also far gorier than previous stories and maintained the Fifth and Sixth Doctor era tradition of large body counts.

That said, the big positive is a better representation of the Sixth Doctor himself. This Doctor shucked the cynicism and abusive attitude while maintaining his standoffishness. He has really grown up, and I would have liked to see this Doctor for a season on the actual show.

Next up, our journeys with the Sixth Doctor come to a close with another non-canon tale.

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

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: A Fix with Sontarans

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: Twenty-Third Series and Sixth Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: Twenty-Third Series and Sixth Doctor Summary
The Trial of a Time Lord

 

It was a decent defense against an indictment of the franchise.

After the Twenty-Second Series, it was hard to imagine where Doctor Who could go. It was presumably harder to fall further, but the loss of goodwill for the Sixth Doctor was hard to overcome. The Twenty-Third Series split that difference.

The Trial of a Time Lord started strong with a story that put both the Doctor and his performance on trial. In universe, it essentially sidelined the Doctor and made him face his own demons. In the meta sense, it served to analyze the John Nathan-Turner era and the Sixth Doctor’s abuses on the whole. By the time we reached the end though – as noted in The Ultimate Foe – the logic of the season arc fell apart.

Setting aside my problems with the treatment of the Artifacts of Rassilon and related ephemera, you have the High Council of Gallifrey committing muder (and potentially genocide) to hide their secrets. This is despite their previously established rules against meddling in affairs outside their borders. We also have the mind-bending plot of a later Doctor trying to kill one of his predecessors in order to survive, despite the Grandfather Paradox that is immediately presented if the Valeyard leaves the bubble of the Inquisitor’s space station.

I also noted how the Valeyard was a decent villain in the beginning, but was reduced to “Master Lite” in the end. The reintroduction of the Master in the final chapter de-fanged the Valeyard and highlighted the comparison between the two.

The good news is that this season was a recovery from the awfulness of its predecessor. The bad news is that it’s still not enough on the whole. The average was a 3.0 on a 5.0 scale, placing The Trial of a Time Lord as second to last ahead of the Twenty-Second Series, but just behind the three-way tie of the Twenty-First,  the Third, and the Nineteenth Series.

 

The Mysterious Planet – 4
Mindwarp – 3
Terror of the Vervoids – 3
The Ultimate Foe –  2

Series Twenty-Three Average Rating: 3.0/5

 

 

 

The Sixth Doctor was wasted potential.

I get what the showrunners were trying to do with the question of what happens if a regeneration goes bad, and while it was ambitious, it was hamstrung by The Twin Dilemma. If that story had started the Twenty-Second Series instead of ending the Twenty-First, maybe the idea of watching the Doctor’s inherent goodness overcoming a life-altering setback would have had legs. But if I was watching in real time in the 1980s, I might have quit there. I certainly would have after The Two Doctors, Timelash, Revelation of the Daleks, and Mindwarp.

Especially after Revelation of the Daleks.

I know that Peri is not well-liked as a companion, but the Sixth Doctor’s abusive attitude toward her was simply unacceptable. Capping it with a vicious exit in Mindwarp, coupled with a reaction from the Doctor that was completely against his opinion of her in the past, made me wonder just how far this era could fall. It seems that choking her in The Twin Dilemma was just the beginning.

 

Before we go any further – and the fact that I even have to clarify this baffles me – my criticisms are of the Sixth Doctor, not of Colin Baker himself. My less than stellar reviews of the entire Sixth Doctor era have garnered a bit of flak from some fans who think that I’m attacking the actor, and that is about as far from reality as it gets. From all accounts, Colin Baker is a wonderful man, and I would love to meet him and (yes, really) even thank him for his time on the show. The decline of the franchise, the character’s cynicism, and the antithetical scripts were not his fault. Colin Baker did the best he could with the vision he was presented, and the way that he was treated after the Twenty-Third Series was disgusting.

Before the Twenty-Third Series was transformed into the Trial of a Time Lord, it was supposed to be a series of six stories spread across thirteen to seventeen episodes: The Nightmare Fair would have brought back the Celestial Toymaker; Mission to Magnus would have been Sil’s return after Vengeance on Varos and the return of the Ice Warriors after eleven seasons of franchise hibernation; Yellow Fever and How to Cure It would have brought back the Autons, along with the Master and the Rani; The Hollows of Time would have reintroduced the Tractators; and The Ultimate Evil and The Children of January would have stood alone, presumably with new enemies to thwart.

After the Twenty-Third Series was transformed into a fourteen-part arc – let’s be honest, it was a gimmick to save the show after the near cancellation and eighteen-month hiatus following the Twenty-Second Series – the BBC fired Colin Baker in the middle of filming without his knowledge. They invited him back for a final four-part story to regenerate the Sixth Doctor into the Seventh, but (rightfully so) he declined. He counteroffered with another full season with a regeneration at the end, but the BBC turned him down.

I would have liked to see what Colin Baker’s vision for a more mature Sixth Doctor was, and I may go hunting for the available stories in the coming years. Just like with Season 6B, I have another rabbit hole to dive into, but I can’t afford to do it just yet. For this very reason, I will be exploring two other Sixth Doctor visual stories that sit outside of televised canon with Real Time and A Fix with Sontarans as Timestamps Specials before moving into the Twenty-Fourth Series.

But no, I’m not being critical of Colin Baker himself, just of the character he played and the situations presented during his run. To suggest otherwise is silly at best, and frankly borderline offensive.

 

Following tradition, if the First Doctor was a wise grandfather, the Second a sly jester, the Third a secret agent scientist, the Fourth an inquisitive idealist, and the Fifth Doctor was an honorable humanitarian, then the Sixth Doctor would fall as the squandered cynic.

 

It doesn’t bring me any joy to say it, either.

 

Series 21 (The Twin Dilemma) – 3.0
Series 22 – 2.5
Series 23 – 3.0

Sixth Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 2.73

 

Ranking (by score)
1 – Third (4.00)
2 – Second (3.67)
2 – Fourth (3.67)
4 – First (3.41)
5 – Fifth (3.20)
6 – Sixth (2.73)

Ranking (by character)
1 – Second Doctor
2 – Third Doctor
3 – Fourth Doctor
4 – First Doctor
5 – Fifth Doctor
6 – Sixth Doctor

 

As noted before, the project will detour here with Real Time and A Fix with Sontarans before jumping back into things with Time and the Rani.

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Real Time

 

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

Timestamp #147: The Ultimate Foe

Doctor Who: The Ultimate Foe
The Trial of a Time Lord, Parts XIII-XIV

(2 episodes, s23e13-e14, 1986)

 

It’s time for closing statements.

Picking up at the Doctor’s inadvertent admission of genocide, the Doctor charges that the Matrix has been tampered with so the Inquisitor calls upon the Keeper of the Matrix to testify. The Keeper denies the possibility on grounds that the Key of Rassilon is required to enter the database, and only senior Time Lords have access to the keys. Neither the Valeyard nor the Inquisitor is swayed.

Something sounded fishy here, so I waded back into the archives. The Invasion of Time calls out the Great Key of Rassilon, the literal key to ultimate Time Lord knowledge. So are all of these senior Time Lords holding Lesser Keys of Rassilon, and if so, what is the difference if they all lead to the same Matrix, arguably the source of all Time Lord knowledge?

Outside the station, two pods arrive and travel down the fancy corridor of light. They open to reveal Sabalom Glitz and Mel – though neither knows how they arrived at the station – and they barge into the courtroom to offer a defense for the Doctor. On cue, their mysterious benefactor is revealed as the Master, communicating to them from the depths of the Matrix.

First, this whole arc just got a lot more deus ex machina.

Second, it turns out that a Key of Rassilon can be duplicated. Looking back on The Invasion of Time and the (admittedly assumed) purpose of the Great Key and the “lesser” keys, this really makes me wonder about the Artifacts of Rassilon. Possession of the Sash, the Key, and the Rod could lead to absolute power and a Time Lord dictatorship, and if the keys are so easily duplicated then why hasn’t someone attempted a coup with a Gallifreyan 3-D printer?

The Time Lords in attendance do not recognize the Master (which is surprising given how often the High Council has interacted with the Master and/or sent the Doctor to stop him), but the Master seems to have a deep interest in the Valeyard and a strong desire to see him lose. The Inquisitor allows Glitz to testify and the rogue reveals that the mysterious box he was searching for contained secrets of the Time Lords. The sleepers – the inhabitants of Ravalox, then known as Earth – somehow gained access to the Matrix and were siphoning secrets into the box for later use, and the Gallifreyan High Council drew Earth out of orbit, initiated the fireball, and renamed the planet to protect the information.

Yikes. The Doctor’s enemy in this story is own people?

The Master reveals that the Valeyard was charged to tamper with the trial evidence in exchange for the rest of the Doctor’s regenerations. You see, the Valeyard is the Doctor… or rather the amalgamation of the Doctor’s darker impulses from somewhere between his twelfth and final incarnations.

The Doctor’s real enemy is himself.

The Inquisitor agrees that the trial must consider this new evidence, and the Valeyard flees into the Matrix. The Doctor and Glitz pursue him, landing in a warped recreation of Victorian-era London. The Doctor is attacked by a rain barrel, but he is saved by Glitz. The rouge hands the Time Lord a note from the Master pointing them toward a place called The Fantasy Factory. As they approach, Glitz takes a harpoon to the chest.

The Matrix is a place where logic has no hold, and we’re back to The Deadly Assassin.

In the courtroom, the Master testifies to the court that everything they saw was true with minor adjustments to cast doubt on the Doctor. He also reveals that Peri’s fate in Mindwarp was a lie. She is serving as a queen at the side of King Yrcanos, thus providing a great sigh of relief from your humble reviewer. The Master hopes that the Valeyard and the Doctor will destroy each other and leave him free to pillage the universe, and he suggests that the High Council be made to answer for their crimes.

Reasonable.

In the Matrix, we find that the Valeyard’s attack didn’t roll high enough to defeat Glitz’s armor class, and the rogue is convinced to help the Doctor and escape the computer. They enter The Fantasy Factory and meet Mr. Popplewick, a rather stuffy bureaucrat who loves his red tape. The Doctor rushes past the front desk to the proprietor’s office only to find a more officious version of Popplewick. The procedure is sacrosanct!

Before the Doctor is allowed to proceed, he is forced to sign over his remaining regenerations to Mr. J. J. Chambers – the Valeyard – in the event of his “untimely” death. Within moments, he is whisked away to a bleak beach where hands attack from beneath the sand and draw him down, reminiscent of the quicksand traps that permeated much of ’80s television and film adventures. Glitz adopts the role of reliable sidekick and tries to rescue him, but the Doctor overcomes the trap by sheer willpower, pretty much invalidating any amount of physical peril going forward. After a round of taunting from the Valeyard, the evil Time Lord forces the Doctor and Glitz into a nearby hut with a cloud of nerve gas.

The twist: The hut is the Master’s TARDIS. The Master explains that the Valeyard has to be stopped because he has none of the Doctor’s morality, leaving him eviler, more powerful, and a huge threat. The Master tricks the Doctor by putting him in a catatonic state and leaving him as bait for the Valeyard. The Master’s Tissue Compression Eliminator proves useless against the Valeyard and the pair is forced to retreat. Meanwhile, Mel somehow arrives in the Matrix and escorts him out of the Matrix and back to the courtroom.

Mel testifies in the Doctor’s defense, offering footage from Terror of the Vervoids as evidence. The Inquisitor is not swayed, sentencing the Doctor to death. The Doctor accepts the verdict with surprising calm, and we find out that this is yet another Matrix illusion. Outside the Matrix, the real Mel is incensed, prompting her to steal the Key of Rassilon and enter the Matrix. She intercepts the Doctor, but he chides her because he knew it was a ruse based on her digital doppelgänger’s testimony. Together they enter the Fantasy Factory in pursuit of the Valeyard.

The Master charges Glitz, first via failed hypnosis then with a treasure chest, with finding the Ravalox Matrix box. Glitz finds the memory tapes and Mr. Popplewick while the Doctor discovers a list (in his own handwriting) of judges from his trial. Together, they force Popplewick to take them to the Valeyard, but Glitz trades the Doctor for the memory tapes, which he then passes to the Master.

The Doctor reveals Popplewick to be the Valeyard in disguise. He further discovers a maser device aimed at the courtroom, ready to kill the assembled Time Lords as a last resort. The list of names was a hit list. He dispatches Mel to evacuate the courtroom.

In the real world, Gallifrey is collapsing into chaos. The High Council has been deposed by a civilian revolt, and the Master takes the opportunity to seize control. The attempt is stymied when he loads the Ravalox drive into his TARDIS console and it freezes both the Master and Glitz in the Matrix.

Mel tries to evacuate the courtroom while the Doctor destroys the maser using a feedback loop. The surge strikes the Valeyard, knocking him down as the Fantasy Factory explodes. The Doctor returns to reality and learns of Peri’s true fate. The Inquisitor offers the presidency to the Doctor, but he declines, instead offering it to her. He also suggests that the Master should be punished but that Glitz can be reformed.

Leaving his fate up to the Time Lords means that the Master will be back. No doubt.

Mel and the Doctor depart with a quip, and the Doctor nearly abandons Mel at the hint of carrot juice in their future. Instead, they board the TARDIS and take off for points unknown. Meanwhile, the Inquisitor dissolves the court and orders the Keeper to repair and reinforce the Matrix.

Unbeknownst to anyone in attendance, the Keeper is the Valeyard in disguise.

 

As part of the Trial of a Time Lord arc, The Ultimate Foe provides a decent enough resolution, bolstered by the revelation that Peri survived and is living a good life. She did look a little sad, but I assume that it’s the weight of her role as leader. I can’t imagine that she actually missed the Sixth Doctor after all the abuse he has subjected her to, but she might miss the thrill of the adventure.

On its own, the story of The Ultimate Foe is fairly weak. The introduction of the Master weakens the power of the Valeyard and turns this “dark Doctor” into “Master Lite”. The disguises, the logical trickery, the drive to steal regenerations and kill the Doctor… all of it is just a rehash of the Master’s various machinations. The resolution also points out a massive plot hole: If the Sixth Doctor dies with regenerating, there can’t be a Twelfth Doctor or beyond. The Valeyard cannot exist unless he remains outside of time, and if he does stay outside of time then what is the point of all that power?

On a series continuity note, I did enjoy the call back to the Doctor’s dislike of the nickname “Doc”. We’ve seen it at least four times before: The Dalek Invasion of EarthThe Time Meddler, The Five Doctors, and The Twin Dilemma.

On a project note, this is the first time that an incarnation’s finale doesn’t get the regeneration handicap. This wasn’t intended as the final story for Colin Baker, and he doesn’t even begin the regeneration process in this story.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Twenty-Third Series Summary

 

 

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

Timestamp #146: Terror of the Vervoids

Doctor Who: Terror of the Vervoids
The Trial of a Time Lord, Parts IX-XII

(4 episodes, s23e09-e12, 1986)

 

The Doctor is given a brief recess to mourn Peri’s death before being allowed the privilege of his own defense.

This episode of Time Lord Theater delves into the Doctor’s future. The dark introduction focuses on the mining planet Mogar in 2986 AD, galactic liner Hyperion III, a shipment of minerals, and murder.

As the passengers get checked in and settled on the cruise liner, an elderly man named Kimber spots someone he recognizes as an investigator named Hallett. The other passenger corrects him, stating that he is a mineralogist named Grenville, but Kimber puts on his conspiracy hat and his belief begins to spread like wildfire. A trio of scientists – Professor Sarah Lasky and her colleagues – are disturbed by this news. Nothing shady going on there, right?

On the TARDIS, the Doctor is working out with a companion named Mel.

Now, Mel’s very presence removes all of the dramatic tension surrounding the trial. If Mel comes from the Doctor’s future from this perspective, then it logically follows that he has a future after this trial! Ergo, he isn’t executed and is allowed to travel again.

Second, where does Mel come from? After the demise of Peri, Mel feels like a replacement to fill a quota.

The Time Lord gags down some carrot juice as their passage is detected by the cruise liner. They soon pick up a distress call from the cruise liner, sent by a mysterious figure who just incapacitated the communications officer, and they materialize in the cargo hold. Mel wants to rush into danger, but the Doctor is concerned since the distress call was sent directly to them. They are soon apprehended by security officers and taken before the ship’s captain, one Commodore Travers, whom the Doctor has met before on a previous (untelevised) adventure. Travers denies sending the distress call and is skeptical of the Doctor’s presence. He gives them quarters after refusing to let them leave the ship.

Something evil is brewing down in the cargo bay among the scientific experiments. Meanwhile, Mel develops a plan to solve the mystery: The Doctor will ask about while Mel investigates the passenger spaces. She ends up in the gymnasium and receives a secret message. She relays this message to the Doctor and they head to Cabin Six for the rendezvous. There they find a wrecked room, evidence of a fight, and the seeds used in the scientific experiments.

The room and missing boot belong to Grenville, who apparently has just been vaporized in the waste disposal unit. The Doctor presumes that their adventure is over, but Mel is not convinced. In the courtroom, the Doctor claims that the memories have been tampered with. The Valeyard points to it as more evidence that he is reckless and endangers companions needlessly, but the Doctor continues in hopes of proving him wrong.

Aside: Do you want some particularly pointed commentary on the John Nathan-Turner era of Doctor Who? Look no further than “Why it is that every time you appear on the scene, people begin to die?”

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

Mel investigates the hydroponics center, the focus of the scientific experiments. The unfortunate communications officer is killed in a freak accident, something emerges from one of the alien pods, and Mel screams.

Goodness, does she scream.

The guards arrive on the scene and Mel is taken to Travers. After she leaves, the other guard is killed, but both corpses vanish. Travers summons the Doctor and interrogates Mel, and they all come to the conclusion that something nefarious is happening on the Hyperion III. The Doctor and Mel take the seeds they found to Professor Lasky, but she claims that the Time Lord stole them. After they sort out the circumstances, Mel and Lasky geek out over the seeds while the Doctor watches aghast.

In response to the deaths on board, Travers alters course to arrive on Earth 72 hours earlier. Unfortunately, this will take them closer to the Black Hole of Tartarus. The Mogarians protest, coupling the danger with the politics of mining their home bare.

In the courtroom, the Valeyard objects to the politics, but the Doctor points out that he’s missing the forest for the trees.

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

One of the Morgarians collapses after having a beverage, and the Doctor removes the being’s faceplate (despite objections that oxygen will kill the alien) to reveal Grenville. Or rather, Hallett, proving Kimber right. Grenville’s death was staged to remove a threat to his cover story. The Doctor only knew that Grenville was not a Morgarian because the undercover alien did not use his translator to speak.

This event prompts the Doctor to take a more active role in matters. He and Mel investigate the trashed hydroponics center as the scientists conspire in the gymnasium. Meanwhile, poor Kimber is killed by one of the plant creatures in his cabin, and our travelers witness Lasky leaving an isolated room. The Doctor sets off the fire alarm to distract the guards, then he and Mel take a look in the quarantined cabin. We’ll just assume for the sake of fiction that smoke masks can also filter pathogens. They discover a human-plant hybrid, and Mel screams.

Goodness, does she scream.

The hybrid tells the Doctor to stop Lasky before the scientists arrive and usher the travelers out. The scientists are escorting the hybrid, one of the lab aides, back to Earth in order to help her after being infected by a freak accident. The discussion is interrupted by the guards, who apprehend the Doctor for setting off a false alarm.

The Doctor is taken to Travers and he explains what he found. Elsewhere, an attendant raises the alarm about Kimber’s disappearance and Mel finds evidence of plant interference in his cabin. The plant creatures are using the ventilation system to move around the ship and systematically kill each passenger. Mel discovers this and records their discussions, but is abducted shortly thereafter and dumped in a refuse container. Coincidentally, the Doctor comes in after this and finds the recording. He runs after the waste bins and stops Mel from being killed in the waste disposal unit, but the recording disappears in the interim.

The Doctor heads to hydroponics as Mel investigates the stewardess. In the courtroom, the trial stops as the Matrix shows the Doctor destroying the communications center, which the Doctor disputes. He’s trapped in a logical quandary: If he stops because the evidence has been tampered with, he gives up his right to defense, but if he continues then he’s subject to being incriminated by the faulty recordings.

Regardless, he chooses to continue.

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

Mel is interrupted by one of the plant creatures, but she is able to hide in time. Down in hydroponics, scientist Bruchner rebels against Lasky and knocks her out. He steals a weapon and takes over the bridge, changing the ship’s course for the black hole in order to destroy the threat. The bridge has been flooded with marsh gas by the plant creatures, now known as Vervoids, but the Morgarians are able to brave the gas and the save the ship.

The victory is short-lived as they turn the tables and mutiny with security chief Rudge. The Doctor signals Mel and she is able to escape with a small group as the Doctor, Lasky, and Travers are taken to the ship’s lounge. Mel’s group is able to take the bridge back by killing the Morgarians with water, but the Vervoids are still tearing through the ship. Mel rescues the Doctor and crew from the lounge, and the Doctor is given permission to search bow to stern for the missing audio tape. Rudge escapes, but is soon taken by the Vervoids.

The Doctor finds the tape on the scientist Doland, but it has been wiped. The Doctor figured it would be, but confirms what he already suspected about Doland’s involvement in the rise of the Vervoid menace. The scientist’s confession is overheard by Travers and Doland is arrested. On the way to the brig, he is abducted by the Vervoids.

On the bridge, the Doctor discovers the Vervoid plot to kill all animal-kind and the assembled team of Lasky, Travers, and Mel conclude that cooperation with the plants is impossible. Back to the courtroom, the Doctor presents this as evidence that he wasn’t meddling but instead working on a direct request for help from Travers.

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

The chemicals needed to create an herbicide have been taken by the Vervoids, and a direct appeal from Lasky fails. Mel and the Doctor escape into the ventilation ducts, stumbling across the corpses of everyone who has died so far. It’s effectively a compost heap. They return to the bridge and develop a plan to defeat the plants using vionesium, a rare metal from Mogar (and therefore, in the cargo hold) that can release extreme light and carbon dioxide. This will simulate a passage of time and accelerate the life cycle of the plants.

Because science?

The Doctor and Mel get the metal and deploy it – Mel screams… Goodness, does she scream – and the threat is ended as the Vervoids become leaves on the wind. With that, the travelers bid their farewells and depart.

In the courtroom, the Inquisitor recognizes that the Doctor saved the universe from a major threat. The Valeyard, on the other hand, spins the events to paint the Doctor as a genocidal maniac.

And the trial continues…

 

I liked the Doctor a bit more in this one since he was a bit more heroic and less abusive. Mel wasn’t terrible aside from the screaming. Aside from that, the story was average with a few science-fiction conceits to keep the plot rolling.

Aside from that whole timey-wimey lack of tension due to evidence of the Doctor’s future.

Bonus: Professor Lasky was played by Avenger and Bond Girl Honor Blackman. She is a powerful actress and a world treasure.

 

 

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

 

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Ultimate Foe

 

 

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 #145: Mindwarp

Doctor Who: Mindwarp
The Trial of a Time Lord, Parts V-VIII

(4 episodes, s23e05-e08, 1986)

 

“May I remind you this is a court of law, not a debating society for maladjusted psychotic sociopaths.”

The trial continues as the Valeyard and the Doctor continue bashing heads. The Inquisitor scores the best burn and puts the squabbling children in their places before directing the proceedings to continue. The brown-nosing by the Valeyard – he addresses the Inquisitor as Sagacity, which is the state of being sagacious, or rather showing acute mental discernment and soundness of judgment – doesn’t hurt his case any, but it sure puts the Doctor on edge.

Today’s episode of Time Lord Theater is the adventure in which he was engaged just before being summoned to court. The setting is Thoros Beta, a pretty planet with pink oceans and pastel skies. As the TARDIS touches down just offshore, the Peri and the Doctor wade to the beach and start searching for the source of a weapon owned by the lecherous Warlord of Thordon, a man whom they just visited.

The travelers find a cave and explore it, finding a kelp monster that attacks Peri. In the struggle, the Doctor accidentally kills the beast, but the Valeyard makes the case that the Doctor’s actions were deliberate. A group of men arrives and, after accusing the Doctor of murdering the Raak, the leader asks if the travelers are part of Crozier’s group. The Doctor tries to play along, even though he faces inquiry for the Raak incident, and is invited back to the laboratory.

Crozier is a scientist who is conducting some kind of mental conditioning experiments. When the guards begin to question the Doctor, he and Peri apply the “skedaddle” test to the Raak’s corpse and flee. During their run, they find a chained man who has been altered to act and look like a wolf. They are nice to him and he relents, but they are forced to run further by the guards. They hide, and from the shadows, they observe Sil and two others of his species being carried by.

In the courtroom, the Valeyard asks if the Doctor relishes danger. When the Doctor deflects, the Valeyard points out that the Doctor courts it easily and places his companions into peril more often than not.

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

The man in Crozier’s chair is King Yrcanos, a warrior who is resisting the attempting the tranquility conditioning. The Doctor and Peri sneak into the laboratory after Crozier and the guards leave to report the Raak’s death to Sil and company. We find out that Crozier’s experiments are designed to help Kiv, one of Sil’s species, overcome paralyzing headaches due to a rapidly expanding mutant brain. As the Doctor sabotages the lab equipment, Sil, Crozier, and the guards enter the room and confront the Time Lord. The Doctor is strapped into the machine, and Sil orders it to be used as a mind probe to extract the truth about the Raak’s death.

This is a lot of effort over this accident, but if it’s that critical to the experiment, I can see why.

King Yrcanos awakens in true Brian Blessed fashion, destroys the laboratory, and frees the travelers. Yrcanos outlines a plan to attack Sil and his followers, and a stunned Doctor agrees enthusiastically before collapsing. In the courtroom, the Doctor admits that he cannot remember anything after Crozier’s machine jolted his brain. The Valeyard doesn’t believe him but warns him that a nasty surprise is coming.

I don’t like this dark foreshadowing. I have a bad feeling about this.

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

The king and his new companions go to where the new slaves are brought into the compound. Yrcanos tries to sneak attack the guards, but the scramble-brained Doctor fumbles his stealth roll and yells out, spoiling the surprise. Yrcanos flees, cursing the Doctor’s name, and Peri soon follows when the Doctor refuses to help her. Left with Sil and the guards, the Doctor sides with the reptilian rogue and claims that the odds were not on their sides for the attack.

In the courtroom, the Doctor protests, but the Valeyard retorts that the Matrix cannot lie.

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

In the lab, the Doctor confirms that the Raak attacked first, setting Crozier on a path to fix the experiment. The Doctor lends a hand, and although Sil is skeptical, he is eager to save his people (who we find out are called the Mentors).

Elsewhere, Peri finds the heart of the operation before being discovered by the leader of the guards.  She runs and finds Matrona, leader of the servants, and she joins up rather than returning to captivity. As King Yrconas finds the wolf-man and frees him after recognizing him as one of his subjects, the servants are sent to Kiv’s chambers. As soon as Peri enters, the Doctor uncovers her ruse and denounces her as an enemy.

In the courtroom, the Doctor confirms that this was a ploy to gain the Mentors’ trust and allow the travelers to escape. The Inquisitor demands to see the interrogation tapes to corroborate his story.

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

Peri is chained to the rocks by the sea. The Doctor tortures Peri and tells her that Crozier is planning to put Kiv’s brain in the Time Lord’s body. The whole thing, between the betrayal and the torture, is really uncomfortable. Crozier calls off the interrogation and orders them back inside. When they return, Yrcanos attacks the Doctor. Despite her reservations, Peri saves her friend, an act that angers the king.

In the courtroom, the Inquisitor offers (once again) a public defender for the Doctor’s case, but he refuses, reasoning that if the Time Lords want him dead, he cannot trust any of them to save him.

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

The Doctor flees the scene and arrives at the lab. Crozier is trying to transplant Kiv into a new body that he found washed ashore, and the Doctor jumps in to assist. Meanwhile, Peri follows Yrconas to find pockets of resistance in Kiv’s organization. The three of them, Yrconas, Peri, and Dorf the wolfman take a rest, eat some flay fish, and plot while overcoming a spate of jealousy. They move on and are soon captured, but their captors are rebels against the Mentors. An army is raised and they go on the hunt, but they are eventually apprehended. When they try to escape, they are all shot down.

Luckily, they were only stunned, but for a moment in the courtroom, the Doctor truly thought that Peri was dead and that he was responsible.

Back in the lab, after a rather harrowing medical drama, Kiv is successfully transplanted, but there are complications. The brain is not quite compatible with the body of a fisherman, and the body is winning by taking over the memories. In order to save Kiv, they need to move his brain one more time. Crozier suggests Peri as a suitable candidate, but the Doctor shows his apprehension so Crozier sends him to the induction center to find a suitable candidate.

In their new cell, Peri expresses a desire to go back to her own time and be with people she loves. King Yrconas asks her about love, and Peri teaches him in her own magical way. Soon after, she is taken to the lab and sized up for the transplant.

The Doctor tricks the head guard and frees Yrconas and Dorf. The group follows the Doctor’s plan, taking over the induction center and setting their sights on the control center to free all of the slaves in the compound. A heartbreaking stray shot kills Dorf but the team takes the control room and destroys it.

As the Doctor rushes to save Peri, the Time Lords remove him from time and take him to the court, effectively catching us up on his timeline. Their reasoning is that he had unleashed chaos and set irreversible events into motion with Peri that would threaten the future of human evolution. They then show him what happened after he left Thoros Beta.

Kiv is transplanted into Peri’s body, effectively erasing her brain in the process. Yrcanos attacks the lab, but the Time Lords place him in a time bubble to await the perfect time to strike, basically turning him into an unwitting assassin. The Doctor chides the Inquisitor for this act of second-rate gods.

Kiv awakens in Peri’s body as the time bubble dissipates, and Yrcanos storms into the lab. He sees what has happened to the woman he has grown to love and he kills everyone in the room.

He killed everyone.

The Doctor is incensed – as am I at this point – but the Inquisitor and the Valeyard tell him that is was necessary to stop the pending disaster. The Doctor doesn’t believe them, and he vows to find out exactly why he is in this place outside of time.

 

Upsides: Brian Blessed was amazingly over the top, and it was glorious; Thomas Branch, the actor behind Dorf the wolfman sold the man’s best friend routine so well that my heart hurt when the character died.

Downside: I don’t like what they did to Peri in this story, between the Doctor’s perceived betrayal and her death. She has been abused so much during her travels with the Sixth Doctor (usually at his hand), and she deserved so much better.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Terror of the Vervoids

 

 

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.