Timestamp: Tenth Doctor Specials and Tenth Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor Specials and Tenth Doctor Summary

The Tenth Doctor Specials were a great but short run.

The grouping ran from December 2008 to January 2010 – effectively, the year of 2009 – and helped to create David Tennant’s farewell tour. It was accompanied by the Doctor Who Prom (which included a mini-episode called Music of the Spheres) and The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith.

It was unique for exploring the darker side of the Tenth Doctor, following from the bittersweet victory of Journey’s End and evolving on what started in The Runaway Bride and the concept of the Time Lord’s unrestrained power.

In some fan circles, these episodes are looked down upon because they are so different in spirit from the zany friendly nature of the previous three series. I feel that they perform a great service in terms of a war veteran who is trying to make amends for the things he’s done while trying desperately to avoid any further destruction.

That’s where we are with The Next Doctor and Planet of the Dead. The Doctor has just lost Donna and closed the loop with Rose, and that cuts him to the quick. By the time we reach The Waters of Mars, he’s been traveling for a while without a companion, which we have seen established before as a really bad thing for him. Without the balance of a companion, the Doctor believes that he can solve anything with his power as the last of the Time Lords.

All of this culminates in his temper tantrum at the time of his fatal radiation exposure in The End of Time. He wants to do so much more. In fact, he needs to. It is a primal, emotional necessity to make up for whatever he did in the Time War. He still does the right thing in saving Wilf, and then turns his need on its head by using his remaining time to help those he loves.

In that, the Doctor is redeemed for his flirtations with darkness Time Lord Victorious, and presumably for his role in the Time War. He’s done so much good that maybe, just maybe, he can finally rest.

From that perspective, I love this set of stories with the exceptions that I have previously noted. Particularly with the portrayal of the Master in The End of Time.


The Tenth Doctor Specials collection comes in at an average of 4.4. That’s fourth all-time for the Timestamps Project, coming in behind the classic Ninth Series, the new era’s Series Four, and the Eighth Doctor’s run. It’s just ahead of both Series One and Series Three.

The Next Doctor – 4
Planet of the Dead – 5
The Waters of Mars – 5
Dreamland – 3
The End of Time – 5

Tenth Doctor Specials (Revival Era) Average Rating: 4.4/5


Timestamp Tenth Doctor

Following tradition…

The First Doctor was a wise grandfather, the Second a sly jester, the Third a secret agent scientist, the Fourth an inquisitive idealist, the Fifth an honorable humanitarian, the Sixth a squandered cynic, the Seventh a curious schemer, the Eighth a classical romantic, the Ninth a hopeful healing veteran…

…and the Tenth Doctor is a bargaining humanitarian.

The Tenth Doctor continues the work of the Ninth on Kübler-Ross model of grief. The Ninth worked through Denial and Anger, while the Tenth Doctor picked up with Bargaining and worked into Depression (with added bits of Anger since, let’s face it, this model is not perfectly linear).

He tried to stop the bad things from happening, always looking for a way out. But when those bad things finally happened, he was so very sorry. As mentioned before, he was always looking to even the score for watching Gallifrey burn, and he wanted to do so much more before his death.

We can only hope that the Eleventh Doctor finds Acceptance.

I started watching Doctor Who with the Ninth Doctor back in 2008, but the Tenth was always “my” Doctor. Watching these stories again with the full context of the franchise behind me has been a joy.


Series 2 – 4.1
Series 3 – 4.3
Series 4 – 4.6
Specials – 4.4

Tenth Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 4.34

Ranking (by score)
1 – Eighth (4.50)
2 – Tenth (4.34)
3 – Ninth (4.30)
4 – Third (4.00)
5 – Second (3.67)
6 – Fourth (3.67)
7 – Seventh (3.54)
8 – First (3.41)
9 – Fifth (3.20)
10 – Sixth (2.73)

Ranking (by character)
1 – Tenth Doctor
2 – Second Doctor
3 – Ninth Doctor
4 – Eighth Doctor
5 – Third Doctor
6 – Fourth Doctor
7 – Seventh Doctor
8 – First Doctor
9 – Fifth Doctor
10 – Sixth Doctor

I’ve mentioned this before: Those top seven spaces on the character ranking are really, really, really close. I have been tempted to make them a a tie for first place since I would gladly watch any of those stories at any time, but that would be taking the easy way out. It’s far more challenging to actually rank them.


Next up, we change Doctors and showrunners.

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour

cc-break

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 #209: The End of Time

Doctor Who: The End of Time
(Christmas Special, 2009)
(New Year Special, 2010)

“It is said that in the final days of planet Earth, everyone had bad dreams…” Everyone forgot these terrible dreams, except one man.

London is gearing up for Christmas, and Wilfred Mott is no exception. However, when he sees flashes of the Master laughing maniacally, he seeks the sanctuary of a nearby church. In the stained glass, he spots an image of the TARDIS. A mysterious woman tells him that it’s called the mystery of the blue box, driven by a sainted physician who smote a demon and vanished. She muses that he may be coming back, but when Wilf tells her that it would make his Christmas, she vanishes.

And the Master laughs.

The TARDIS materializes on the Ood Sphere, a full century after the Doctor and Donna freed the Ood. The Doctor struts into the snowy landscape in a tropical get-up, trying to get a laugh from Ood Sigma with a remote car lock on the time capsule. It doesn’t work. Neither does the Doctor’s boasting that he named a galaxy Alison, saw the Phosphorous Carousel of the Great Magellan Gestalt, and married Queen Elizabeth I.

The Doctor is troubled by the rapid nature of the Ood evolution. The Ood are troubled as well, though their burden is bad dreams of a return. The Doctor joins their vision and sees the laughing Master. The Doctor protests since the Master is dead, sharing his memories of The Year That Never Was, but is troubled as he sees visions of Wilf, Lucy Saxon, and a mysterious couple.

He recounts the tale of the Master’s demise and funeral, but the Ood note how he missed a woman picking up the Master’s ring. There’s also a shadow falling over creation. The end of time is coming.

The Doctor runs for the TARDIS. Lucy Saxon is set free from her jail cell in Christmas Eve. As the Doctor flies the TARDIS apart, Lucy is introduced to Miss Trefusis, the woman who retrieved the ring, and a group of fanatical disciples of the Master. The ring is placed into a vessel among potions and the biological signature from Lucy’s lips. The disciples surrender their life energy as the Master rematerializes in a burst of energy. The drumbeat echoes in his head as he muses to Lucy, but Lucy stymies his plans by throwing a potion of her own into the mix.

The prison explodes.

The Doctor arrives a day too late.

But someone survived the inferno, and that unknown couple celebrates. They are Joshua Naismith and his daughter Abigail, and they give orders to prepare the gate.

Meanwhile, Wilf joins a group of friends for drinks, but ends up giving them informational packets to keep an eye our for the Doctor. When they question him, he reminds them of their bad dreams and that the Doctor can help them.

In a junkyard, two men pick up meals from a food truck. A third man in a hoodie arrives and reveals himself as the Master. He devours a hamburger with the other two men, and after he’s identified as Harold Saxon, he chases them back to the food truck while phasing in and out. The food truck has been destroyed, and the two men are consumed next.

The Doctor stands over the junkyard, which the Master senses. The Master begins pounding a drumbeat on a steel drum. The Doctor runs to find him but arrives just in time to watch the manic Time Lord jump away with superhuman power. The Doctor pleads with him, asking to help him before he burns up his lifeforce, but the Master disappears.

Wilf arrives right away with his Silver Cloak network, and the Doctor is beside himself as they fawn over him. The Doctor returns to town with Wilf and they sit down over tea. The Doctor wonders why they keep meeting, musing about the prophecy of his own death. Even upon regeneration, he says, each incarnation dies as the next carries on.

They spot Donna, and while the Doctor reinforces that she can never remember him, he’s pleased that she’s moved on. She’s engaged to Shaun Temple, but Wilf knows that she knows that something is missing in her life.

Wilf asks about his companions and the Doctor tells him that he’s traveling alone. Sadly, he notes, without a companion he’s made some bad choices. The Doctor starts crying, burdened by the guilt of his recent actions which also devastates Wilf. He asks if Donna could make him smile again, but by now she is gone. The Doctor moves on as fate places all of the players on the field.

The Doctor finds the Master. The Master generates some kind of electrical blasts and pours energy into the Doctor, forcing the Time Lord to the ground. The Doctor realizes that the Master’s body has been torn wide open, enabling him to weaponize his life force at the expense of his own time. It’s a resurrection gone wrong and the Master is insane.

The Master remembers back to their childhood, where they would play on pastures of red grass, stretching across the slopes of Mount Perdition. The Doctor talks of the prophecy and the Master of his drumbeat. The Master shares the sound with the Doctor, forcing the Doctor to recoil in fear. The Master rockets away and the Doctor gives chase. The Master stops and asks what is calling him. Then a helicopter arrives, shoots at the Doctor, and abducts the Master. The Doctor is left unconscious in the junkyard.

Christmas arrives. Donna has given Wilf a copy of Naismith’s book, Fighting the Future, which troubles Wilf. Donna has no idea why she picked it out. It just felt right. Shaun arrives and Wilf tries to watch the Queen’s address, but it is preempted by a message that only he can see. The mysterious woman warns that, even though he fought in the war and never took a life, he will need to take up arms. He should also not warn the Doctor of this.

He goes to his bedroom and retrieves his service revolver. He looks up as the Doctor tosses a rock at his window, and goes out to talk to him. The Doctor is trying to connect the dots and finally does when Wilf shows him Naismith’s book. When Donna comes calling, the Doctor and Wilf take off in the TARDIS, leaving Sylvia yelling at the wind and Donna amused.

It’s Wilf’s first trip in the TARDIS. He thought it would be cleaner.

Meanwhile, the Naismiths celebrate the arrival of the Master. Wrapped in a straitjacket, the Time Lord is introduced to the Immortality Gate, which Naismith found after the fall of Torchwood. The gate’s power supply includes two booths connected to a nuclear device so that it has to be manned all the time. Naismith wants immortality for his daughter, who is aware of the disciples of Saxon.

Naismith has moles in his staff. Two of his scientists, Addams and Rossiter, are undercover Vinvocci disguised as humans. They want to take the gate for themselves.

The Doctor and Wilf arrive, and the Doctor pushes the TARDIS one second out of sync to hide it. They sneak into the Naismith complex and find the Vinvocci as the Master repairs the gate and brings it online. As the Master is restrained, the Doctor questions what is going on.

The Vinvocci are a salvage team and the gate is a medical device that repairs entire planets using a genetic template. They are also not the Zocci and take offense to being compared to cacti. With this knowledge, the Doctor rushes upstairs as the Master jumps into the gate. The Master’s genetic template is transmitted across the planet into every human being.

The Doctor and Wilf jump into the control booths. The radiation shielding protects Wilf from the transmission, leaving the Doctor free to work. Meanwhile, the planet is panicking.

Everyone begins transforming into the Master and Donna has witnessed it since she’s immune due to the metacrisis. Unfortunately, she’s begun to remember all of it as the Master celebrates the rise of the Master race.

And that unknown narrator who has been chronicling the story? He’s happy, because the return of the Time Lords and Gallifrey is at hand. He’s also the current Lord President.

In Doctor Who fashion, this story is taking place in two distinct temporal zones. On the last day of the Time War, the High Council tells the Lord President that the Doctor still has the Moment. Once he uses it, Gallifrey will fall as the Daleks are destroyed. One adviser suggests that it might be for the best since billions are dying and being resurrected over and over, but the President vaporizes her for the suggestion.

He will not surrender.

He learns that the Doctor and the Master will survive the Time War and will end up on Earth, so the President sets his sights there.

On Earth, the Doctor and Wilf are restrained as the Master checks in with himself around the world. The Master is surprised as Donna calls, demanding to know why she hasn’t changed. Wilf warns her to run as the Master pursues, but when Donna is cornered, the Doctor-Donna power is unleashed. The Masters and Donna all collapse.

The Master ungags the Doctor. The Doctor offers to let the Master travel with him, but the Master is concerned about the drumbeat in his head. Wilf asks about it, and the Master shares the story of how he was forced to look into the Untempered Schism. That was when it began.

The Lord President learns of this story at the same time, correlating the rhythm of four with the heartbeat of a Time Lord.

The Doctor realizes that the Master is still dying even with the Gate’s influence, but the Master is otherwise obsessed. The drumbeat is now amplified billions of times and coming from the end of time. The prophecy concerns him.

When the Master order Wilf to be executed, the guard turns out to be Rossiter. The Master is knocked unconscious and Wilf and the Doctor are rescued by Rossiter, Addams, and a teleport to the orbiting Vinvocci ship.

Once freed from his restraints, the Doctor rushes to save them from a planet of missiles aimed toward the skies. Oh, and a starstruck Wilf who has never been to space.

The Doctor’s solution? He turns the entire ship off by destroying the ship’s systems. It has stranded them in orbit, but Wilf has faith in the Doctor. As the Doctor begins to rebuild the ship’s systems, the mysterious woman appears to Wilf again and orders him to give his gun to the Doctor.

As the Masters listen for the drumbeats – which are now revealed to have been planted by the Lord President at the end of the Time War – the High Council sends a White-Point Star through the link. The size of a diamond, it is small enough to break the temporal lock, and when it lands in London with a giant crater, the Master laughs hysterically.

Wilf talks with the Doctor as the Time Lord works on the ship. He recounts his memories of the war and learns that the Doctor is 906 years old. He supposes that the Doctor sees humans as insects, but the Doctor admits that he really sees them as giants. The Doctor refuses the gun, but tells Wilf that he would be proud to be his son.

The Doctor wonders if Time Lords live too long, but realizes that killing the Master would only mean that he starts down that dark path. While he’s made some bad choices and taken lives, he won’t kill the Master to save himself, even if Wilf pleads with him.

The Master sends an open broadcast to the Doctor, revealing the existence of the White-Point Star. The Doctor realizes with fear that the Time Lords are returning, and he takes the gun and rushes to the control room.

On Earth, the Master uses the White-Point Star to establish a link and open a pathway. Contact is made, and the High Council chooses life over the fall of Gallifrey.

Wilf is confused. He thought that the Time Lords were wise and peaceful, but that’s how the Doctor chooses to remember them. In reality, the horrors of the Time War had changed them, irrevocably corrupting them and making them far more dangerous than any of his enemies.

The Doctor restores power to the ship and takes control. With an old Earth saying, a word of great power and wisdom and consolation to soul in times of need, he drives the ship toward the planet: “Allons-y!”

Using the ship’s salvage lasers, Wilf and Rossiter destroy the planet’s missiles as the ship races to England. When they arrive, the Doctor dives from the ship, falling through the glass dome into the chamber below at the President’s feet in a battered mess.

That’s right. The Time Lords have arrived.

The President greets the renegades as “Lord Doctor” and “Lord Master”, noting the paradox of having been saved by Gallifrey’s most infamous child. When the Master tries to change the Time Lords into himself, the President reverses the effect worldwide and demands that humanity kneel before him.

Then Gallifrey materializes in Earth’s orbit, bearing down on the planet and causing it to quake. Shaun goes in search of Donna as everyone panics in the street. Wilf finds his way to the surface and enters the Gate’s control chamber.

The Master is excited that the Time Lords have returned, but the Doctor reminds him that he wasn’t there in the final days. All of the other horrors born in the last days of the Time War, which he had sealed away in the Time Lock, would also be released. The Daleks would be joined by the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, and the Could’ve Been King with his Army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres. Hell has come to Earth, and the Time Lords, who had planned to deal with these horrors with the Ultimate Sanction – an ascension above the physical form while creation tears itself apart – would be enacted here.

All of this chaos was happening at the same time as Dalek Caan breaking through the time lock to rescue Davros. Apparently, while it was primarily a battle between the Daleks and the Time Lords, the Time War engulfed the entire universe in both space and time.

The Doctor draws Wilf’s gun on the President, then on the Master. Both are the ends of the link, but the Doctor cannot kill either. Finally, he spots the mysterious woman in the President’s retinue. She was one of the two advisers who disagreed with the President and was forced to hide her face like a Weeping Angel. Her tear-streaked gaze focuses on the White-Point Star, and when the Doctor shoots it, Gallifrey returns to its rightful place on the last day of the Time War.

The President, now revealed as Rassilon, threatens to take the Doctor with him, but the Master unleashes his energy in fury. Rassilon falls to his knees as Gallifrey, the Time Lords, and the Master vanish.

The planet and her people are safe once again, and the Doctor is certain that he’s dodged the prophecy.

But someone knocks four times.

Wilf is still in the control booth, and the only way out is if someone replaces him and takes the brunt of the nuclear blast of 500,000 rads as the energy source goes into overload. Wilf offers to sacrifice himself, but the Doctor cannot allow that. Even in his anger because he could do so much more!

The Doctor pushes his own darkness aside because he knows the right answer and enters the booth. Wilf is saved as the energy pours into the Doctor. The Time Lord collapses in pain, and once the energy release is complete, the Doctor exits the now dead booth.

Wilf thinks that the Doctor made it out okay, but the Doctor shows him the injuries from his skydive. His regeneration has begun. The Tenth Doctor is dying.

All Wilf can offer is a hug.

Shaun and Sylvia tend to Donna as the Doctor drops Wilf at the house. The whine of the TARDIS awakens her, and she seems to be no worse for wear. The Doctor promises that he’ll see Wilf one more time, but he has a reward to find.

Here we find the Tenth Doctor seeking redemption for the dark things he’s done since losing Donna.

First, he saves Martha and Mickey from a Sontaran sniper. It turns out that they’re married now. To each other.

Next, he saves Luke Smith from being struck by a car. With a glance, he says farewell to Sarah Jane. She knows what’s coming next.

Next up? An intergalactic bar where he introduces a despondent Captain Jack Harkness to Midshipman Alonso Frame. You know what happens next.

After that, he buys a book from Verity Newman. Her great-grandmother was Joan Redfern, the woman who fell in love with John Smith. He asks if Joan was happy in the end. She was. Silently, so was he.

He returns to Wilf at Donna’s successful wedding. He offers a winning lottery ticket bought with a pound from Sylvia’s late husband. Once they cash it in, all of the family’s financial troubles will be history. The Doctor leaves with a final look at Wilfred, the man whose life he saved at the expense of his own. Wilfred cries, realizing that he’ll never see the Doctor again. It’s one salute that the Doctor doesn’t mind.

Finally, we come to New Years Day 2005. From the shadows, he talks to Rose Tyler at the Powell Estate, promising her that she’s going to have a really great year. When she meets the Ninth Doctor in a few months, she certainly will.

With that, he struggles back to the TARDIS, guided by Ood Sigma. Sigma tells him that the universe will sing him to sleep, and while this song is ending, the story never ends. The Doctor musters his strength as the Ood sing “Vale Decem” in chorus.

He enters the TARDIS, discards his coat, and looks upon his glowing hand as the TARDIS reaches orbit. He laments, “I don’t want to go,” and then erupts in violent regeneration energy.

The explosion rips through the TARDIS, toppling the coral supports, tearing apart the console, and blowing out the windows.

“Geronimoooooooooooo!”


You know, I actually feel sorry for the Master. When Professor Yana regenerated into this version of the Master, I was pleased. Professor Yana was a little crazed due to his identity crisis but also a whole lotta evil. The Harold Saxon Master was diabolical and slightly insane due to the constant drumbeat in his head. When the Master was defeated and killed by Lucy Saxon, I thought it was a good ending for the character, even with the knowledge that the Master never dies.

This resurrection gone wrong takes the character in an entirely wrong direction. I can understand the increased mania, since we’ve seen regenerations gone wrong before, and I loved the dynamic of the Doctor trying to save the Master from self-destruction, but the flight and speed superpowers were way over the top. It shifts a nefarious nemesis into a parody, and thankfully the powers were limited.

What’s really intriguing is the Gallifery connection. We know Rassilon, from his origins as a founder of Time Lord civilization to the manifestation of his quest for power in The Five Doctors, and we know just how aloof and disdainful the Time Lords are in general. So, it really makes sense that they would willingly torture one of their own to save their civilization.

The Doctor knew it, too. Throughout the classic era, the Doctor wore his displeasure on his sleeves. Whatever happened in the Time War – whatever mighty burden the Doctor carries in the aftermath – was powerful enough to change his anger into rose-colored nostalgia.

Shifting gear, Wilf is just too precious. He is the perfect embodiment of Doctor Who, from his wide-eyed wonder upon going to space (having dreamed about it since Partners in Crime) to his delicate balance of self-sacrifice, love, and understanding that darkness is necessary to balance the light. He claims that he’s lived his life to its natural conclusion, but he has so much more to give the world in his honesty and sincerity. One of my favorite character notes is that he was a veteran, but he never killed anyone in the war and sees that as a badge of honor.

I am really going to miss him.

His moment in the “final reward” farewell tour was touching. It was also a fitting ending to Donna’s story as she gained so much happiness after losing so much. I was also pleased with the emotion and scope of the farewell tour, from Sarah Jane and Captain Jack – that scene was also a farewell to Russell T. Davies as well, given all of the creature cameos in those short minutes – to Rose and even Mickey the Idiot. The nod to the franchise’s origins with Verity Newman was a very nice touch.

The scene with Martha and Mickey was pretty cool, but their marriage comes out of pretty much nowhere. Last we knew from The Last of the Time Lords, Reset, and The Sontaran Stratagem, Martha was engaged to Tom Milligan. You know, the pediatrician working in Africa who was a resistance leader in The Year That Never Was? But somewhere between The Sontaran Stratagem and The End of Time, she hot-swapped Tom for Mickey.

The final farewell with Rose was a perfect place to end the tour, promising her a fantastic year to come from the shadows. She obviously disregarded the whole meeting as one with a New Year’s drunk, but the promise is heartwarming.

Then we come to the part where Murray Gold hits it out of the park. “Vale Decem,” which premiered at the end of The Waters of Mars, is a near-perfect farewell for the Tenth Doctor. It combines the Doctor’s theme with a Latin love letter that literally says “Farewell Ten”, and since the Doctor’s theme is the base melody and the Doctor can hear the song, it can be assumed that the Doctor’s theme exists in the “real world” of the Doctor Who universe.

Finally, the regeneration. It is heartbreaking from both the in-universe and production aspects. The Tenth Doctor was the most popular incarnation of the character since the Fourth Doctor, greatly owed to each of them being an entry point for the franchise. You never forget your first Doctor, after all. But from production, the regeneration was the coda to an era of the show which heralded the resurrection of the franchise.

In the phoenix flames of rebirth, the title character destroys the console room (which was iconic for years) and ends the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who.

And, yeah, that regeneration makes a lot of sense. He’s been holding this process back for who knows how long. Effectively, he’s been dying the entire time. The explosive destruction should be expected.

The end result on this story? It is a fun adventure when the tempo picks up, but I remember the first time that I watched it. I had only seen the series from Rose forward, and with very little knowledge about the show’s history or the Time War, the story was confusing and convoluted. It made a lot more sense on this watch thanks to my detailed trip through Doctor Who, but I wonder how much I would have enjoyed this a decade ago if Russell T. Davies had addressed more about the Time War in the course of his run.

That mystery will continue for several seasons.

Based on the rules of the Timestamps Project, regeneration episodes get a +1 handicap since they tend to be a little rough. Without that bump, this story would have settled at a high 3 or low 4, primarily from the Super Master effect.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Specials and Tenth Doctor Summary

cc-break

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 #208: Dreamland

Doctor Who: Dreamland
(Animated Special, 2009)

“Always count your steps, Seruba Velak. You never know when you might need to escape in a box.”

One ship is pursued across the sky by two others. In a hail of laser fire, it crashes into the New Mexico desert, outside Roswell, on June 13, 1947.

Eleven years later, the Doctor arrives at a diner in Dry Springs, Nevada. He meets Cassie Rice, a customer named Jimmy, and a mysterious artifact that lights up under sonic screwdriver. While Cassie and Jimmy marvel over the technology, a man in a black suit arrives and demands it. He assaults them for it, and they make haste for the ranch where Jimmy works.

When they arrive, they find a large Viperox battle drone which has been eating the cattle. A helicopter arrives with soldiers on board, and after they blow up the Viperox, they tell the Doctor that he’s wanted at Area 51.

Also known as Dreamland.

Accompanied by Jimmy and Cassie, the Doctor is taken below ground to meet Colonel Stark. He tells them that he plans to wipe their minds, straps them to some operating tables, taunts them for a few minutes, and turns on the amnesia gas. The Doctor wriggles free, turns off the gas, and helps his companions escape through the ventilation shafts.

As alarms echo through the facility, the trio takes flight, ending up in Lab 51. Inside the lab, they discover an alien behind a glass partition. Force to run again, the team takes a lift to a hangar where they are immediately captured.

The Doctor’s entourage are shepherded toward the alien craft that crashed in Roswell. Using his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor hijacks the ship and takes it for a spin. Pursued by Air Force fighters, he crashes the ship in the desert. They take refuge in a ghost town called Solitude.

Meanwhile, Colonel Stark is confronted by a Viperox named Lord Azlok, demanding that he not disappoint the Viperox forces. Azlok is also very interested in the Doctor and his skills.

The Doctor and his companions find a Viperox that pulls Jimmy underground. Lord Azlok interrogates Jimmy and meets the Doctor, whom he pegs as an alien because of his two heartbeats. Cassie frees Jimmy and stages a diversion, and although the Doctor is upset that he didn’t figure out the master plan, they discover it soon enough. Lord Azlok brought the Viperox Queen to Earth, and she’s laying eggs Aliens-style to hatch an invasion force.

The trio runs again, this time taking an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom mining cart ride into the blinding desert. There, they meet four men in black suits. The head Man in Black, Mr. Dread, demands the the ionic fusion bar from the diner. When the Doctor stalls, the MiBs reveal themselves as robots. They are saved by Jimmy’s grandfather, Night Eagle, and a hail of arrows.

Night Eagle reveals that he found another of the gray aliens from the crashed ship and kept him safe. Rivesh Mantilax wants to go home, but first he needs to find Seruba Velak, his wife and the alien in the base. His wife was an ambassador who was trying to build an alliance against the Viperox, but was attacked by hired mercenaries.

Colonel Stark arrives and takes everyone into custody. Back at Area 51, the Doctor discovers that Stark has allied with Azlok. They watch as the gray aliens are reunited, then discuss how Rivesh was developing a genetic weapon to destroy the Viperox. Joined by Mr. Dread, Stark reveals his plan to use the ionic fusion bar as a weapon to destroy the Soviet Union.

The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to disable Mr. Dread, then runs to the roof with the alien weapon. On the edge of the roof, held at gunpoint by Stark, the Doctor pleads for the colonel’s help. Stark listens to reason, but his plan to arrest Azlok is interrupted by the Viperox leader himself and the promise to tear Earth to shreds.

Down below, Cassie finds Rivesh has been critically injured by Azlok. Once freed, Seruba says that she can save her husband, but only with her ship. Stark takes the group to the Area 51 Vault where all of the ship’s contents were stored in the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. While the Doctor and Seruba start searching, he sends Cassie and Jimmy to retrieve the TARDIS.

As the sun sets, the Viperox emerge from the desert and start their rampage while Seruba finds the component and the Doctor finds a swarm of hungry Skorpius Flies.

Stark deploys his army against the Viperox while Seruba and the Doctor play hide-and-go-seek with the flies. The army is no match for the invasion, and as Stark’s operations center is overrun by Azlok, the Doctor is reunited with the TARDIS. Jimmy, Cassie, and Seruba step aboard and they travel to Rivesh’s side. Once Rivesh is revived, the Doctor asks him to activate the device but to stop before destroying the Viperox. The Doctor connects the device into the TARDIS console and it broadcasts a signal that drives the Viperox off the planet entirely.

The Doctor let them live because, one day, they are destined to evolve into something better.

The Doctor entrusts the device to Colonel Stark for the protection of Earth. They bid farewell to Seruba and Rivesh, and the Doctor takes off as Cassie and Jimmy hold hands.


Admittedly, it is a function of its form, but this story moved like a squirrel binging energy drinks. This piece was originally planned as seven six-minute episodes for the BBC’s Red Button service. As a result, we got a story that has a plot climax every five or six minutes.

It was kind of tiring.

I could point out the technical inaccuracies, but the fact that this was a cartoon developed for a charity event gives the writers a considerable amount of grace in my eyes. Some of the errors are animation shortcuts, others concern United States history, but overall they are inconsequential to the plot on the whole.

So, I’ll revel in the character and cast lists.

Like, the return of Georgia Moffett – daughter of Peter Davison and wife of David Tennant – who we last heard (and saw) in The Doctor’s Daughter and who I really enjoy seeing/hearing on the show.

Or Lisa Bowerman as Seruba Velak. Big Finish fans know Lisa Bowerman as Bernice Summerfield, and classic era fans might remember her as Karra from Survival.

Or the first Native American companion (however briefly) in Doctor Who, Jimmy Stalkingwolf, portrayed by Canadian born English actor and singer Tim Howar. It would have been nice to a Native American actor in either this role or Night Eagle’s role, but I’ll take this advancement as progress. I mean, we’ve come quite the distance from An Unearthly Child when the First Doctor referred to “Red Indians” as having “savage minds”.

Or… How about Doctor Who getting David Warner as Lord Azlok. Emmy-award winning film, television, and theatre actor David Warner from The OmenTime After TimeTime BanditsTronTitanicStar Trek V: The Final FrontierStar Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryStar Trek: The Next Generation, and so much more.

I mean… wow. Just, wow.

Of course, we first heard of Dreamland from Prisoner of the Judoon, which is where we first saw the ship designs seen in this tale. We get plenty of continuity from the Doctor abhorring salutes (previously The Sontaran Stratagem and Planet of the Dead) and outright despising the nickname “Doc” (referencing The Time MeddlerThe Five DoctorsThe Twin DilemmaThe Ultimate Foe, and more I’m sure).

I also enjoyed seeing Doctor Who outright embrace the Roswell mythos, from the “grays” of typical close encounter accounts to the legendary Men in Black.

Production-wise, this marked the first six-part story on television since The Armageddon Factor and the first six-part story produced since Shada, which was finally completed in 2017 (but not yet reviewed in that form on this site… although there’s always hope).

But, all of that awesomeness considered, I keep coming back to that over-caffeinated squirrel of story pacing. Like I said, it was tiring, and it really pulled me away from the adventure because I was trying to keep up with what was going on with otherwise thinly developed characters.

And that is truly a shame for a tale with so many other groundbreaking elements.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The End of Time

cc-break

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 #206: Planet of the Dead

Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead
(Easter Special, 2009)

 

When stingrays attack!

At the International Gallery, a group of armed guards is hard at work protecting a golden goblet. They fire up a fancy security system as they lock up for the night, but the lasers around the perimeter don’t account for an assault from above. A masked figure Mission: Impossibles her way down, exchanges the artifact for a waving Maneki Neko, and runs out. Her accomplice is captured, so she boards a double-decker bus and bribes the driver to help her get away. The Doctor boards right after, sits beside her, and wishes her a happy Easter.

The Doctor muses about various Easters throughout time, including the original event, before a device that detects rhondium particles chirps in his pocket. As the bus traverses a tunnel and a passenger hears screaming voices, the bus leaves Earth and arrives in a vast desert.

The driver declares the bus immobile. True enough, because it’s a wreck. The thief, Christina de Souza, gets to know the Doctor as he analyzes the sand and doesn’t like what he tastes. The passengers blame him for their predicament, but he shows them the wormhole that they passed through. Unfortunately, the wormhole doesn’t allow them to pass through without the bus surrounding them. The driver tries to rush through, but he’s immediately reduced to a skeleton on the other side. The police on Earth immediately call for UNIT to assist.

Christina takes charge of the situation and facilitates introductions all around – Nathan, a young adult with slicked up hair; Barclay, about the same age and the one who confronted the Doctor about their situation; Angela Whittaker, an older blond woman; Louis, who goes by the nickname “Lou”; and his wife, Carmen – before handing the science bits to the Doctor. Carmen has low-level psychic abilities and can hear voices all around them. She also feels death coming.

The Doctor calms the passengers in order to focus them on surviving. He promises to get them all home. They set to work on preparing the bus, including the tools in Christina’s amazing backpack. She’s prepared for everything. While the passengers work on the bus, the Doctor and Christina scout the area. They verbally spar and spot a storm on the horizon. The Doctor borrows a mobile and rigs it to contact UNIT.

UNIT arrives and officer-in-charge Captain Erisa Magambo takes command of the tunnel. She takes the call from the Doctor and makes contact with UNIT’s scientific advisor, one Malcolm Taylor, who completely fanboys out before setting to analyzing the disturbance. The Doctor sends a picture of the storm back to Earth, which Christina says contains sparkling like metal. She also spots an insectile creature that takes them to its crashed ship by gunpoint.

The beings onboard identify themselves as the Tritovores and blame them for crashing their ship. When the Doctor explains that they’re in the same predicament, the Tritovores decide to trust him. In return, the Doctor restores their shipboard power and launches a probe. The sand planet is San Helios, located in the Scorpion Nebula, and the aliens had been on their way to trade with the inhabitants. Unfortunately, the city has been destroyed. All of it, including the 100 billion inhabitants, have been reduced to sand, and Carmen keeps hearing them die over and again.

Malcolm Taylor calls again with news that the wormhole is expanding. The Doctor also gets bad news from Nathan: The bus is out of fuel. Capping the unfortunate circumstances, the probe relays images of the storm. It is full of stingray-like creatures that stripped San Helios and have set their appetites on Earth.

The Doctor deduces that the stingrays, which are made of metal, travel fast enough to rip open the wormhole and travel from place to place. Christina, who is enamored by the Doctor and his alien nature, points the Time Lord to the Tritovores and their ship. The Doctor develops a plan to use the ship to move the bus. While the Doctor tries patching wires throughout the ship, Christina uses her rogue’s rig to dive into the shaft after a much-needed crystal.

While Christina retrieves the crystal, the Doctor muses about her nature (and similarities to Donna Noble) and the stolen goblet (the Cup of Athelstan) in her pack. The Doctor doesn’t approve of her thievery at first but admits that he stole his ship, the TARDIS, to begin his travels. As Christina retrieves the crystal, she awakens a stingray living in the ship’s ventilation system. She successfully evades it, but the rest start tearing apart the ship.

The Doctor and Christina run back to the bus with the storm in pursuit. When they get back, the Doctor orders everybody back to their seats as he discards the crystal and attaches the clamps surrounding it to the bus. He calls Malcolm, requesting a means to close the wormhole, but is stymied by the interface of the bus and crystal systems. They use the goblet, worth 18 million pounds, to bridge the technology. Destructively, to Christina’s chagrin.

On Earth, Captain Magambo orders Malcolm to close the wormhole to save Earth. In the desert, the Doctor gets the bus airborne with the anti-gravity clamps and rockets away from the stingrays. The bus returns home followed by three of the stingrays. Magambo orders her troops to open fire as Malcolm (with the Dcotor’s help) closes the portal.

The UNIT troops and their explosive solutions make short work of the three stingrays. Meanwhile, the Doctor sets the bus down at the tunnel’s exit and gets a kiss from Christina for his efforts. Malcolm meets the Doctor and fanboys all over the place while Christina is taken away. The Doctor recommends Nathan and Barclay for UNIT service and Magambo shows his the TARDIS, retrieved from the gardens at Buckingham Palace.

Christina asks the Doctor if she can travel with him, but he rejects her. She has to face the consequences of her actions and he’s not ready to lose another companion. Never again, in fact. While Christina is taken away, Carmen leaves him with some parting words: His song is ending, it is returning through the dark, and he will knock four times.

Carmen takes her leave and the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to free Christina. While she runs for the bus and flies away, the Doctor departs in the TARDIS.

 

This tale does wonders for the Doctor’s character development while providing an entertaining and riveting story. The revelation that he stole the TARDIS appears in the revival era for the first time – it had been previously mentioned in The War GamesFrontier in Space, and Logopolis – and does him well on the road to accepting Lady Christina. Of course, he still isn’t over Donna’s tragic departure, so there’s no way that she’s joining him on the TARDIS. Just like Mr. Copper in Voyage of the Damned, the Doctor rejected her.

Christina is a character that I wouldn’t mind returning to the show, particularly given her chemistry with the Doctor. A criminal and a member of the British aristocracy, she would be a fun addition to the show.

The revival era continues linking back to its heritage, this time with the K1 Robot, Quatermass, and UNIT’s general lack of luck with bullets against aliens.

This episode was a major milestone in the franchise, marking not only the 200th storyline but the first to be filmed for high definition. It was also the first to film in a Middle Eastern country.

Finally, the path is laid at the Doctor’s feet for his own demise. The end is coming.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

Keeping in mind that the Timestamps Project is following the franchise chronologically at this point…

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day One

 

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 #205: The Next Doctor

Doctor Who: The Next Doctor
(Christmas Special, 2008)

 

The Doctor who wasn’t really the Doctor.

The TARDIS materializes under an archway in a snowstorm. The Doctor strides out with a smile on his face, happy to be in London for Christmas in 1851. His joy is interrupted by someone screaming “Doctor!”, and he finds a growling creature behind a door wearing a copper Cyberman mask, a frantic woman, and a man claiming to be the Doctor.

This other Doctor, armed with his own “sonic” screwdriver, tries to lasso the primitive assimilation as it runs up a wall. The Tenth Doctor grabs on and the pair finds themselves dragged along until companion Rosita cuts the rope with a hatchet. The Doctors laugh about their adventure while Rosita chides them. While she goes to check the traps, the Doctor rambles along, mistakenly believing that the other Doctor is a future regeneration. He soon figures out that the other Doctor has memory loss, something that happened just before the Cybermen arrived.

The Tenth Doctor adopts the John Smith alias as the other Doctor rushes off to a funeral.

The Cybermen, led by a new Cyber Leader and a human ally named Mercy Hartigan, review the Cybershade’s surveillance footage while they prepare for the rise of the Cyber King. These Cybermen are the Pete’s World variety, somehow left behind when the worlds merged.

The other Doctor and Rosita observe the funeral procession of Reverend Aubrey Fairchild before springing into action. Rosita heads to the “TARDIS” while the other Doctor investigates the house of the deceased. He’s joined by Mr. Smith, and he explains that the Cybermen presence is linked to a number of murders and child abductions across the city. The rash of crimes started with the death of a man named Jackson Lake and have led to the reverend’s demise by some advanced form of electrocution.

The pair find a pair of infostamps, one of which contains the history of London from 1066 to 1851. The other Doctor has a flashback to his “regeneration” and memory of another infostamp. They also uncover a Cyberman home invasion and have to run. While they flee, John Smith reveals himself as the real Doctor and the other Doctor bypasses the safeties on the infostamp to overload the pursuing Cybermen.

The other Doctor is troubled by the happenings. The Doctor promises to help him.

At the reverend’s graveside service, Miss Hartigan crashes the proceedings with an admission: The reverend had to die in order to get the mourners in one place. She dispatches the Cybermen to attack them, sparing only a few as the rest are deleted.

The Doctors return to Rosita’s side at their home base. Jackson Lake’s belongings are stacked by the wall, kept as evidence of his disappearance, and the Tenth Doctor finds another infostamp in the luggage. The other Doctor shows off his TARDIS – a gas balloon, fueled by the local gasworks for a substantial fee, long-form called Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style – and dreams of flying it one day.

The Doctor now knows that this man is not him. He shares the story of the Battle of Canary Wharf, presuming that some of the survivors fell through time and landed in London, 1851. He draws the parallels between Jackson Lake and the man’s memories, even showing him the JL inscription on his fob watch. The man, truly Jackson Lake, was flashed with an infostamp that contained all of the Cybermen’s information the Doctor, thus side-booting his brain with an alternate identity.

There’s still one missing piece that Jackson can’t remember, but the Doctor helps him remember based on the amount of luggage on hand: Jackson remembers how the Cybermen invaded his home and killed his wife Caroline. His fugue state ends as he breaks down in tears.

While Jackson Lake mourns and is consoled by Rosita, the infostamps start to chime. The Doctor finds a whole cache of them and realizes that the Cybermen are on the move. The Doctor rushes out, and Jackson sends Rosita after him.

Miss Hartigan fits her survivors with Cyberman EarPods and uses them to fulfill tasks for her. The Doctor and Rosita find the survivors marching children from their workhouses and orphanages to the River Thames. The procession is guarded by Cybershades and Cybermen, and it ends at the court of the Cyber King.

The Doctor and Rosita are ambushed by Miss Hartigan and the Cybermen. The Cybermen don’t recognize the Doctor because of the corrupted data on the infostamp, but they repair it. The Cybermen march on the Doctor and Rosita, but are stopped by Jackson Lake and his cache of infostamps. The trio run (after Rosita sucker punches Miss Hartigan!) and Jackson reveals that his cellar may be a gateway into their operations.

Miss Hartigan, in it for her own social liberation from this patriarchal society, takes control of the child workforce after killing the EarPod-clad men. Meanwhile, the Doctor’s trio finds a Dimension Vault in Jackson’s cellar. The Cybermen used the Dalek technology to travel through time and escape the Void. They follow the tunnels to the enemy base as the Cybermen attempt to convert Miss Hartigan and provide her liberation (from her anger and rage) as their Cyber King.

Unfortunately for them, she’s too strongwilled for conversion. Her mind is too powerful to control, and she uses her new powers to obliterate the Cyber Leader when it tries to intervene.

The conversion has also moved up the CyberKing’s timetable. Since they’re no longer needed, the Cybermen try to delete the children, but the Doctor and Rosita free them instead. While the children run, Jackson remembers that the Cybermen had also abducted his son, and he finds the boy among the workforce. Unfortunately, Frederic is trapped on a ledge, so the Doctor swashbuckles his way up and rescues him.

As the base ignites around them, the Doctor, Jackson, and Frederic run. Outside, a giant mechanical CyberKing rises from the Thames with Miss Hartigan on the throne, ready to convert millions into Cybermen as it rampages through London. Jackson, Frederic, and Rosita rush to safety.

The Doctor grabs the Dimension Vault and uses the “TARDIS” balloon to look the CyberKing in the eye. He offers Miss Hartigan one last chance at mercy, extending the opportunity for the Cybermen to travel using the Dimension Vault to a place where they can live in peace. She rejects him, so he uses the cache of infostamps against her. The assault breaks the cyber connection and leaves her mind open to see what she’s become. The shock and terror of her reasserted humanity destroys all of the Cybermen, leaving the giant automaton to stumble about until the Doctor uses the Dimension Vault to transport it into the time vortex where it will be disintegrated.

Jackson Lake addresses the onlookers and rallies them to cheer for the Doctor as he drifts above the city. Later on, they discuss the Lake family’s future, including Rosita as Frederic’s new nursemaid. The Doctor offers Jackson a look inside the real TARDIS. Jackson is amazed by the sight, but Jackson has had quite enough adventure. He asks the Doctor about his companions, to which the Doctor turns maudlin.

Jackson offers the Doctor a Christmas dinner in honor of all those that they’ve lost. The Doctor accepts.

 

I’m of two minds about this story. The Jackson Lake mystery is simultaneously amusing and tragic, adding a compelling throughline to the Cyberman invasion plot. The flip side is that the climax of the Cyberman story – the Pacific Rim-style CyberKing – is utterly ridiculous.

It’s a shame, really, because this story balloon really flies along until the cyber-mech lets the air right out.

There are some good but minor things that help tie things off:

The infostamp memory files of the Doctor’s lives come from The Time Meddler, The Ice Warriors, Terror of the Autons, City of Death, Arc of Infinity, The Mysterious Planet, Time and the Rani, Doctor Who (The Movie), The Parting of the Ways, and The Family of Blood, none of which are actuallyCyberman stories. The War Doctor does not appear in the library files, which makes sense from a production standpoint, but doesn’t quite jive from an internal chronological standpoint.

Finally, I also love the character development as the Tenth Doctor considers that his time may be coming to an end. He’s excited to think that he won’t be the last of his regenerations, and his joy is infectious.

I just wish that the cyber jaeger hadn’t been a thing.

 

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

 

 

Keeping in mind that the Timestamps Project is following the franchise chronologically at this point…

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: From Raxacoricofallapatorius with Love

 

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: Series Four Summary

Doctor Who: Series Four Summary

 

The Doctor-Donna adventures were molto bene.

The story of Donna Noble was an amazing and heartbreaking journey. Her first meeting with the Doctor displayed their beautiful chemistry, and their adventures together this season showed us just how magnificent they were together.

Her humanity and his experience made a great pair, and they helped save one another in the course of their relationship: The Doctor needs a companion to counter his vast knowledge and challenge his limits, and Donna needed to see that there was a universe beyond her own self.

The fact that their relationship wasn’t romantic – countering the Rose Tyler arc and defusing the tension developed in the Martha Jones arc – was the icing on the cake.

The heartbreak, of course, is that Donna doesn’t remember her travels at the end of her time with the Doctor. The consolation is that the universe remembers her and every life she saved.

In that respect, she is indeed the most important person in the universe. A legend in her own right.

 

Series Three comes in at an average of 4.6. That’s second, only coming in behind the Ninth classic season. That is good company to keep.

 

Time Crash & Voyage of the Damned – 5
Partners in Crime – 5
The Fires of Pompeii – 5
Planet of the Ood – 4
The Sontaran Stratagem & The Poison Sky – 5
The Doctor’s Daughter – 4
The Unicorn and the Wasp – 4
Silence in the Library & Forest of the Dead – 5
Midnight – 5
Turn Left – 4
The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End – 5

Series Three (Revival Era) Average Rating: 4.6/5

 

The path forward takes a few twists and turns from here as David Tennant’s era comes to an end. Looking ahead from now to the end of the year, the Timestamps Project will proceed in airdate order and visit the second year of The Sarah Jane Adventures, the third year of Torchwood, and the third year of The Sarah Jane Adventures, with five remaining Tenth Doctor adventures interspersed throughout.

It is one great way to spend the back half of 2020.

Allons-y!

 

UP NEXT – Sarah Jane Adventures: The Last Sontaran

 

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 #204: The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End

Doctor Who: The Stolen Earth
Doctor Who: Journey’s End
(2 episodes, s04e12-e13, 2008)

 

The return of a long-dead enemy and the rise of a family.

 

The Stolen Earth

The Doctor and Donna race back to Earth to find that everything is fine. It’s a calm Saturday, but the Doctor knows that the walls of the universe are breaking down because Rose has been able to travel between realities. When they return to the TARDIS, the planet begins to shake. When the violent tremors subside, the Doctor and Donna look outside to find themselves in space.

The TARDIS is in the same place, but the Earth has been stolen.

Far across the universe, Martha Jones wakes up in New York with her UNIT team. In Cardiff, Torchwood Three are picking up the pieces. On Bannerman Road, Sarah Jane Smith and Luke dust themselves off before Mr. Smith tells them to look outside. Sylvia and Wilfred look upward as well.

The planet Earth is among twenty-six other stolen planets, all of them visible in the sky above, and Rose Tyler has just arrived with a big freakin’ gun.

Back in Earth’s orbit, the Doctor and Donna puzzle over the mystery before setting a course for the Shadow Proclamation. On Earth, Torchwood Three discovers that the planet still maintains atmosphere and heat. Both Torchwood and Mr. Smith detect a space station and a fleet of ships. UNIT spools up their alert status as the two hundred ships enter orbit.

As rioters swarm the streets, Rose stops a pair of looters before using a stolen laptop to get an update.

Martha calls Jack as the planet intercepts a single repeated signal: EXTERMINATE! It rattles all of our heroes to their very cores as Dalek saucers open fire on Earth. The Supreme Dalek declares that they are now the masters of Earth.

The TARDIS touches down at the Shadow Proclamation and is greeted by a squad of Judoon. The Doctor meets with a member of the Proclamation and learns that twenty-four planets have been taken. Donna reminds the Doctor that Pyrovillia and Adipose 3 are missing. Adding the lost moon of Poosh, they have twenty-seven planets taken out of time and space and formed into an engine. The Doctor recalls that someone tried to steal the Earth a long time ago, but it can’t be…

The UNIT forces decide to activate Project Indigo, their top-secret project that Jack doesn’t think will work. Martha puts on a backpack apparatus, is handed something called the Osterhagen Key, and teleports away using Sontaran technology. Jack believes that she is scattered into atoms because the technology lacks coordinates and stabilization.

On the Dalek station, the Supreme Dalek orders the fleet to commence landing and rounding up of humans for “the Crucible”. A familiar-looking form asks about the Doctor, warning the Supreme Dalek about his pride and that Dalek Caan has an uneasy prophecy: The Doctor is coming.

Donna is deep in thought when a member of the Proclamation gives her sustenance. She knows that something was on Donna’s back and is sorry for the loss that’s about to come. The Doctor asks Donna what he’s not thinking of and she reminds him that the bees have gone missing. The Doctor says that it means that they were going home to the planet Melissa Majoria before the Earth vanished. The Doctor uses that to trace the planet’s course – an act that forces the Proclamation to order him to join their war fleet, which he declines – and the TARDIS is off to the rescue.

On Earth, the humans in Wilf and Sylvia’s neighborhood resist. The Daleks respond by destroying their homes. Wilf uses a paintball gun to try blinding a Dalek, but it doesn’t work. Before the Dalek exterminates Donna’s family, Rose rescues them by destroying the Dalek with her gun.

The TARDIS materializes in the Medusa Cascade, a place that the Doctor hasn’t visited since he was ninety years old. They’re in the middle of a rift in time and space, but there’s no trace of the missing planets.

Torchwood and Bannerman Road listen as the United Nations surrenders the planet to the Daleks. Their sorrow is interrupted by a mysterious (familiar sounding) signal from a “subwave network”. The caller is Harriet Jones (former Prime Minister) and she links Torchwood, Bannerman Road, and Martha Jones (who materialized at her mother’s house). Rose can only listen in since Sylvia considers webcams to be “naughty”.

Introductions are made around the table – Jack admires Sarah Jane’s work, but Sarah Jane has been staying away because of all the guns – and Harriet Jones warns that they will not use the Osterhagen Key under any circumstances. Rose is a bit jealous.

Using a sentient computer program from the Mr. Copper Foundation, the subwave network can boost the signal to reach the Doctor. Sure enough, the Doctor’s Army pools their resources and opens a channel, but the Daleks are hot on their trail. The TARDIS locks onto the signal as the Daleks blow a hole into Harriet’s home. She transfers control and faces them down before they exterminate her.

The TARDIS materializes in the middle of the missing planets, now one second out of sync with the rest of the universe. The Doctor opens a channel and makes contact with everyone but Rose. Moments later, Davros breaks into the signal and reintroduces himself to the Doctor. The Doctor saw him destroyed in the first year of the Time War, but Davros was rescued by Dalek Caan after the mad Dalek hybrid shifted through the time lock and rescued him. Davros returned the favor by donating his own DNA to rebuild the Dalek Empire.

The Doctor pilots the TARDIS to Earth while Dalek Caan predicts death for the most faithful companion. Jack uses Martha’s coordinates to fix his vortex manipulator and teleport to her location as the Daleks descend on Torchwood. Ianto and Gwen mount a defense.

Sarah Jane leaves Luke in Mr. Smith’s care as she races to the TARDIS’s landing point. Rose also teleports away with a wish of luck from Donna’s family, appearing behind the Doctor and Donna on a street full of abandoned cars. The Doctor and Rose race to each other, but a Dalek rounds the corner and shoots the Doctor. Jack appears and destroys the Dalek, but they’re too late.

Rose, Jack, and Donna take the Doctor back to the TARDIS. Rose and Jack know what’s coming, but Donna has no idea. The Doctor’s hand begins to glow.

Sarah Jane is trapped by Daleks. Torchwood is under assault.

The Doctor begins to regenerate.

 

Journey’s End

The Doctor channels the regeneration energy into the hand in the bubbling jar, leaving his companions baffled. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane is rescued by the surprise appearance of Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler, and Torchwood’s certain doom is stopped by a strange bubble in time. It’s a time lock developed by Tosh before her death, but it means that Ianto and Gwen are trapped in Torchwood HQ.

The Doctor used enough regeneration energy to heal himself, but refused to change his face. The Daleks surround the phone box and place it in a temporal prison before transporting it to the Crucible. Sarah Jane warns her saviors to put down their guns before they all surrender to the Daleks, intent on being sent to the Crucible. Martha uses Project Indigo, but only makes it as far as Germany.

Rose tells the Doctor about the coming darkness and how all the timelines are converging on Donna. The loss of power on the TARDIS also means that the capsule is as fragile as the wooden doors that it resembles. These are, after all, the Daleks that fought the Time Lords. The TARDIS lands at the Crucible, but Donna is lost in thought once more. The Doctor and his companions exit the TARDIS, certain of their fate as they face the Supreme Dalek, but Donna doesn’t leave the ship.

The TARDIS door closes and the Daleks eject the time capsule into the heart of the Crucible. The Doctor fears that it will be destroyed and begs for Donna’s life. On the TARDIS, Donna is enthralled by the hand in a jar, and she reaches for it, it glows with regeneration energy and explodes into a fully formed duplicate of the Doctor.

The new Doctor – the Metacrisis Doctor – pushes a button and the TARDIS vanishes. Everyone in the Crucible above believes it to be destroyed and Jack opens fire with his revolver. The Daleks exterminate him and lead Rose and the Doctor away as Jack revives and plays possum.

The Metacrisis Doctor fixes the TARDIS and bonds with Donna, discovering that he only has one heart. He’s a human-Time Lord hybrid, and he believes Donna to be special. They’ve been heading to this moment from the very beginning, from the runaway bride to the convenient parking of Donna’s car near the TARDIS during the Adipose incident. But time or destiny or fate or whatever is not done yet.

Martha arrives at a castle, one of the Osterhagen bases. The caretaker threatens her by gunpoint not to go through with the plan, but Martha presses on.

On the Crucible, Jack escapes disposal and is free to find his allies. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane and her new friends arrive. The Doctor and Rose are put in confinement beams and converse with Davros, who the Doctor calls the Daleks’ pet. Davros reveals Dalek Caan, the last of the Cult of Skaro, and says that the Supreme Dalek is afraid of the mad hybrid’s prophecies about the Children of Time. Davros revels in the darkness with the Doctor, but the Time Lord puts it away as quickly as it surfaced when he learns about the secret weapon: A reality bomb.

As the prisoners are processed, Sarah Jane and Mickey escape with her sonic lipstick. The Daleks test their reality bomb on the prisoners, using the neutrino energy channeled through the aligned planets as a weapon. Just as it’s about to fire, Jackie’s teleporter recharges and she escapes as the prisoners are vaporized. They literally vanished from existence.

Davros plans to destroy the entirety of creation, every single corner of reality in every universe. The only thing to remain will be the Daleks.

Jack meets up with Sarah Jane, Mickey, and Jackie. Jack and Mickey share a manly hug as Sarah Jane produces a warp star – a warp fold conjugation trapped in a carbonized shell, or an “explosion waiting to happen”, gifted to her by a Verron soothsayer – to destroy the Crucible. On Earth, Martha makes contact with the other Osterhagen bases and opens a channel to the Crucible, threatening to use a chain of twenty-five nuclear warheads around the globe to destroy the planet. Jack also makes contact, threatening to use the warp star to destroy the Crucible, and Davros is pleased to see Sarah Jane once again.

Davros is pleased that the Doctor, a pacifist, has honed his companions into weapons ready to kill. He asks the Doctor – the man who keeps running because he dare not look back for fear of the shame – to consider how many others have died in his name. The drama is a distraction as the Supreme Dalek locks onto all of the Doctor’s allies and teleports them to the Doctor’s location.

The Daleks then initiate the reality bomb.

One the TARDIS, the Metacrisis Doctor and Donna rig a device to cause the reality bomb to backfire. The TARDIS materializes in the Crucible and the Metacrisis Doctor races out, but Davros strikes him with an electrical charge before trapping him. Donna picks up the device and is similarly dispatched before Davros destroys the weapon. Unfortunately for the Daleks, Donna stops the reality bomb, Davros, and the Daleks with knowledge that she shouldn’t have.

The creation of the Metacrisis Doctor was a two-way street. It created the Doctor-Donna, which was sparked by Davros when he shot her.

The Time Lords and humans send the missing planets home and round up the Daleks. Davros asked why Dalek Caan couldn’t see this coming, but the truth is that Dalek Caan put everything in motion to end the Dalek reign of terror. The Supreme Dalek tries to stop them, but Jack destroys it. As the Doctor rushes into the TARDIS, the Metacrisis Doctor decides to send a surge of energy into the entire fleet to prevent the Daleks from attacking the universe.

As the Daleks explode, the Doctor is appalled at the bloodlust of his duplicate, and he rushes his allies into the TARDIS. The Doctor offers sanctuary for Davros, but earns the name “Destroyer of Worlds” in return as his offer is declined. The TARDIS takes off but cannot break free of the time bubble, so the Doctor contacts Torchwood and Bannerman Road – including K9! – to break free with every companion on the console.

Just as the TARDIS is meant to be flown.

The time capsule tows the planet Earth back to its rightful place in our solar system. As they arrive, having saved the world in epic fashion, the console room erupts in a celebration that bleeds onto the planet below.

The Doctor bids farewell once again to Sarah Jane, who tells him that he has the biggest family on Earth. Mickey decides to stay behind in this reality as the Doctor disables Jack’s vortex manipulator. Jack and Martha walk away with Mickey in close pursuit.

The Doctor takes the TARDIS to Bad Wolf Bay in Rose’s parallel universe. Jackie tells the Metacrisis Doctor that she needs to find her husband and son, and the Doctor tells Rose that he’s leaving his clone with her. The Metacrisis Doctor is exactly how Rose found the Doctor, full of anger and fury, and he needs Rose’s influence to grow and change. The big difference is that he is part human and will grow old with her.

She asks the Doctor what he was going to say on the day he left her behind in Bad Wolf Bay. The Metacrisis Doctor whispers the answer to her and they kiss as the TARDIS vanishes from sight.

As the TARDIS flies, Donna’s Time Lord knowledge begins to overload her brain. She wants to stay with him, but if she does, the metacrisis will destroy her. She cannot be with him forever as she wanted. She begs him not to leave her behind, but he has no choice but to say goodbye as he wipes her mind.

He delivers her home and makes Wilf and Sylvia promise that she can never remember anything about her travels with the Doctor. If she remembers any thread of it, she will die. Wilf is understanding but angry, and he takes solace in the fact that she saved so many in her travels. For one shining moment she was the most important woman in existence. Sylvia says that she still is. The Doctor reminds her to tell Donna every once in a while.

Donna awakens and rushes in, but she doesn’t remember any of it. The Doctor bids her farewell as John Smith, and Wilf promises to look up to the stars on his behalf every night. The Doctor walks away in the rain takes flight in the TARDIS once more.

Time Lord victorious. Time Lord alone.

 

It is no secret that this story earns every last bit of a high rating.  The balance of action and dramatic tension as all of our heroes from the last four years come together to defeat one of the Doctor’s oldest enemies is masterful. They all bring strengths and weaknesses, and they leverage all of them together to save the world. The universe. All of creation.

The cinematography was quite impressive. I was blown away by the beautiful dichotomy between the close shots of the celebrating family and the long shots of the Doctor alone and somewhat defeated.

There’s also a great deal of attention paid to the franchise’s mythology, both old and new. It’s important for them to do so because, hey, it’s the Daleks. We met Davros in Genesis of the Daleks and watched him lose his hand in Revelation of the Daleks. UNIT gets another crack at the Daleks after their first encounter in Day of the Daleks. The Daleks tried to steal the Earth before in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, which is also where we first encountered a Supreme Dalek.

We last saw Davros and the Supreme Dalek in Remembrance of the Daleks as the Dalek Civil War came to a close, and that’s a really interesting dynamic: Davros commanded the Imperial Daleks and the Supreme Dalek commanded the Renegades. After the Time War, it seems that bygones are bygones as there is only one faction of Daleks now.

Of course, in the post-Time War era, we’ve seen the Cult of Skaro. Survivors of the Time War, it adds a twist as a hybrid helps give birth to the new Dalek empire before destroying it.

In more comical callbacks, we’ve seen Daleks disabled by attacking their eyestalks – The DaleksPlanet of the DaleksResurrection of the DaleksRevelation of the DaleksThe Parting of the Ways – often screaming, “My vision is impaired!” This time, the trope was flipped to both humorous appeal and heightened tension.

The Doctor has been shot by a Dalek before, but this is the first time it was effectively lethal. When the Third Doctor took a hit from a Dalek cannon in Planet of the Daleks, he was only paralyzed for a short time.

In terms of the missing planets, the theft of Earth is nothing new since it was stolen by the Time Lords (and renamed Ravolox) in The Trial of a Time Lord. Earth’s twin planet Mondas was moved and became home to the Cybermen.

We heard about Adipose 3, Pyrovillia, and the Lost Moon of Poosh through this series. We’ve never seen Shallacatop or Jahoo, but three others have been mentioned in one way or another: Clom was the home of the Abzorbaloff (Love & Monsters), Woman Wept was the site of an off-screen adventure for Rose and the Ninth Doctor (Boom Town), and Calufrax Minor could be in the same vein as the miniaturized Calufrax from The Pirate Planet.

Then we get to the Children of Time.

I know that Rose is a fan favorite, but I stand by my assessment that Martha was superior in every way. Rose is a liability to the Doctor, almost costing him his life in the middle of a war. Sure, the reunion was touching, but her jealousy was nearly intolerable.

It’s a little ironic that an avatar resembling her will be the key to saving the Doctors, the Time Lords, and Gallifrey down the road.

The consequences of the Rose and Doctor relationship also gives us the notion that Time Lords have some degree of control over their regenerations.

Martha, Sarah Jane, and Jack continue to bring their strengths to bear in a conflict, each tackling the problem with their unique skillsets. I had the biggest grin at Sarah Jane’s line about Torchwood using their guns too often, and Jack’s fanboy nature over Sarah Jane was adorable.

Gwen (who gets the callback to The Unquiet Dead) and Ianto holding down the fort at Torchwood makes sense, particularly since they’ve never encountered Daleks before. The same goes for Luke and Mr. Smith. I was also pleased to see Mickey (“Us Smiths gotta stick together!”) and Jackie following Rose through the breach and, in a natural evolution since their debut, fighting for their planet.

That leaves us with Donna. Oh, Donna. Her departure is heartbreaking, particularly since she wanted to travel with the Doctor for the rest of her life. She considered him to be her destiny, and she was correct thanks to Dalek Caan. Now she doesn’t remember any part of her adventures with the Doctor, even though the universe remembers her.

Donna Noble was the Doctor’s conscience, saving him with her direct nature and wide-eyed innocence more than once. She reminded him of his empathy, which Davros tries to use against him by reminding him of those who sacrificed themselves for him and those he couldn’t save – Harriet Jones, Ceth Ceth Jafe, the Controller, Lynda Moss, Sir Robert MacLeish, Angela Price, Colin Skinner, Ursula Blake, Bridget Sinclair, the Face of Boe, Chantho, Astrid Peth, Luke Rattigan, Jenny, River Song, and the hostess – and how easily any of his Earth family could join those ranks.

None of the Doctor’s companions physically died to save the world, but the Donna that he knew is gone. She didn’t love him, but she loved everything about him. She believed in him. She saved him.

And he saved her in turn.

I’m going to miss her.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Series Four 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 #203: Turn Left

Doctor Who: Turn Left
(1 episode, s04e11, 2008)

 

What could have been if not for a Noble companion?

The Doctor and Donna have stopped in a bustling marketplace on an alien world. While mixing it up with the locals, Donna wanders away to explore and finds herself in the company of a local fortuneteller. Offered a free reading since she’s a redhead, Donna takes a seat. The fortuneteller talks to her about the Doctor and Donna recounts her first meeting with the Time Lord.

While a mysterious scurrying occurs behind her, she flashes back to her time as a temp with H.C. Clements and the offer she turned down businessman Jival Chowdry. The moment of decision for her entire future was sitting at an intersection with her mother. She turned left…

…but what if she had turned right?

A large insect latches on to her back and the fortuneteller convinces her to turn right. She does.

The next time we see Donna Noble, she’s at a Christmas party celebrating her recent promotion with a round of drinks for her friends. One of her friends, Alice, almost sees the creature on her back, but they’re interrupted by the arrival of the Racnoss Webstar. The invading spacecraft is destroyed by UNIT and the Racnoss queen was killed, but the Doctor drowned in the assault. He was unable to regenerate.

Donna walks away by is soon met by none other than Rose Tyler. She came so far but was too late to meet with the Doctor, but she spots the insect on Donna’s back before vanishing into thin air.

Due to the closure of the Thames, Chowdry’s company has been losing money and Donna has been fired. Simultaneously, the Royal Hope Hospital has vanished into the sky. When it returns, there is only one survivor: Medical student Oliver Morgenstern. He was saved by Martha Jones, but she died as a result. Sarah Jane Smith and the Bannerman Road Gang were there as well, but they died while trying to stop the incursion. Wilfred is convinced that aliens are to blame, but Donna wants to hear none of it.

Donna takes a walk and finds Rose again as she emerges from loud flashes of light. The insect comes up again before Rose asks her about Christmas plans. She suggests that Donna and her family take a holiday, using the winnings from a future raffle ticket to afford it. Donna warns her to stay away and Rose vanishes again.

Sure enough, next Christmas, Donna’s family travel to the countryside. On Christmas Day, they watch as the Titanic smashes into Buckingham Palace. As a mushroom cloud rises over London – and Donna nearly spots the insect in a mirror – the terror and shock set in as they realize that everyone they know is dead.

Now refugees, her family is forced to relocate to Leeds to escape the radiation. Meanwhile, France has closed its borders to refugees, but the Nobles are allocated a house with two other families. The United States offers monetary assistance, but they are forced to withdraw their support when sixty million Americans are killed and converted to Adipose. Every major world city is affected as well.

The Nobles bond with their housemates, but they’re interrupted by soldiers firing at cars. The Sontarans have activated the ATMOS system and covered the planet in a poisonous fog. One of the soldiers spots the insect and takes aim at Donna, but he can’t find it later. Donna follows the flashing lights to find Rose in a nearby alley.

The two companions sit on a bench and talk about the crisis. The sky lights up as the gas burns away, courtesy of Torchwood Three. Gwen and Ianto died in the attempt, and Jack was taken to the Sontaran homeworld. Rose talks about the Doctor, how he saved the world from all of these events, and how Donna traveled with him in another reality. Had she been there to save him from himself under the Thames, the world would be in a better place. Rose has come to warn the Doctor of a darkness that threatens both of their universes, calling Donna the most important woman in the whole of creation.

Rose asks her to come along, finally settling on a time three weeks from now. She vanishes with an ominous prophecy: Donna Noble will die.

The Nobles bid farewell to their Italian housemates, courtesy of a new law that evicts all immigrants from England. They’re going to labor camps, which Wilf recognizes as the first step to fascism that he fought against before. Later that night, Wilf and Donna relax by the fire as he looks through his telescope. While trying to find Orion, the stars vanish from the night sky. Donna finds Rose and tells her that she is ready.

They hitch a ride with UNIT to a warehouse filled with computers, mirrors, and the TARDIS. The police box was salvaged from the Thames wreckage, and when Donna goes in, she finds it cold and dark even though she’s amazed. The ship is dying but still trying to muster the energy to help.

Using that energy, Rose is able to show Donna the insect with a circle of mirrors. The beetle feeds off time, specifically from decisions not made. By turning right instead of left, Donna has given the beetle a temporal smorgasbord. Rose recognizes that both the Doctor and Donna are necessary to stop the stars from going out. Scared out her mind, Donna asks what she can do to help.

Rose tells her that Donna needs to travel through time.

After a quick briefing, Donna steps back into the mirror circle – which is actually a homemade time machine – with the intent of changing her car’s direction. The machine is activated, but Donna has the revelation that she still has to die to save the world.

She materializes on a sidewalk in Sutton Court, half a mile and three minutes from her destiny. She starts running but soon realizes that she won’t make it in time. With the revelation echoing in her mind, she understands what she has to do.

She steps out in front of a truck, sacrificing her life to cause a traffic jam. As Donna dies, Rose whispers two words in her ear as a message for the Doctor, and Donna Noble turns left.

The insect falls off as the reset button is pushed. The Doctor comes in as the fortuneteller runs off, and Donna wraps him in a hug. They examine the insect as they talk about Donna’s adventure and her knack for finding parallel worlds. The Doctor wonders about the coincidences in their travels together, and when he calls her brilliant, Donna remembers Rose.

Except she never knew Rose’s name.

But she does know two words: Bad Wolf.

The Doctor rushes back to the TARDIS, seeing “Bad Wolf” everywhere. Inside, the console room is bathed in red light and the Cloister Bell is ringing.

The end of the universe is coming.

 

This “what if” story is a great dark tale that is really just a setup for the season finale. We get the greatest hits of the Tenth Doctor’s saves of Earth without seeing much of David Tennant at all. He was filming Midnight while Catherine Tate was engaged on this “Doctor-lite” adventure, one in a similar vein to Love & Monsters and Blink, but with a much darker direction.

It’s also a tease for the all-star cavalcade to come with nice touches for each mention: Martha’s theme and a pop of the Torchwood theme accompany their non-appearances, and the news report surrounding Sarah Jane’s heroic death mentions her employment with the Metropolitan, which is where she mentioned working to the Third Doctor in Planet of the Spiders. Rose obviously gets her theme throughout.

Catherine Tate sells this story, from Donna’s depression as the planet falls apart around her to her abject terror when she finally sees the time beetle on her back, which finally pays off the prophecy from The Fires of Pompeii. Her acting skill is just amazing and is showcased by not being overshadowed by or in competition with Tennant’s energy.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Stolen Earth and Doctor Who: Journey’s End

 

 

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 #202: Midnight

Doctor Who: Midnight
(1 episode, s04e10, 2008)

 

All that glitters is death.

It’s time for a vacation. The Doctor wants to visit a sapphire waterfall, but Donna wants nothing more than to lounge poolside with drinks and sunbathing (in X-tonic radiation with is immediately lethal without proper shielding). So, the Doctor goes alone. What could possibly go wrong?

The Doctor ends up on a tour bus of sorts, traveling four hours each direction with a cheerful allons-y. His fellow passengers include the Cane family – Val, Biff, and their bored teenage son Jethro –Professor Hobbes and his assistant Dee Dee Blasco, and recently-divorced businesswoman Sky Silvestry. The bus is a little empty and will be taking a slight detour because of a diamond fall on the normal path.

It’s also annoying as hell due to every entertainment option playing at the same time, but a subtle wave of the sonic screwdriver results in silence that the Doctor fills with small talk amongst the captive crowd. Among other things, we find out that there was no life on Midnight before the leisure resort arrived.

The trip is delayed while the bus experiences mechanical problems. The Doctor uses his psychic paper to access the control compartment and assess the situation. A rescue truck is on the way, and the Doctor convinces the drivers to open the window for a couple of minutes to take in the breathtaking view. The mechanic spots an odd shadow before the shields are restored and the Doctor is sent back to his seat.

The passengers start to speculate on the problem, but it soon rises into a panic. The Doctor calls for silence, but the calm is broken by a knocking on the hull. The silence becomes deafening as terror takes hold and panic rises again. The knocking moves around to each of the airlocks, mimicking Biff and the Doctor as they knock in return.

It intensifies, knocking the bus around as Sky screams that it is coming for her. The lights go out and the entertainment system comes on briefly – Rose Tyler (“I had a friend who went a different universe.”) screams silently as the screen goes out again – before the chaos settles. Sky is cowering in her seat, which is dismantled, and the cockpit is missing. The drivers are dust and only a single door shields the passengers from the lethal radiation. The control circuits in the bus have also been severed.

The Doctor tries talking to Sky, but she’s not herself anymore. She echoes every word that the passengers say and moves with bird-like precision, almost as if she’s absorbing everything around her. Panic rises again and the cacophony of repetition becomes unbearable. It ends as the backup power systems engage.

Sky has moved from repetition to predictive mimicry. The Doctor settles the passengers and then continues his examination of Sky. Jethro and the Doctor both conclude that Sky is not Sky anymore. The Doctor moves everyone else to the back of the bus and asks them for patience over the next fifty minutes as they wait for rescue.

The tour attendant suggests throwing Sky off the bus, which Professor Hobbes continues to believe is a lifeless planet beyond. The passengers start to follow that path of logic, but the Doctor vehemently protests. The passengers turn on him as their hysteria and paranoia rise, picking apart his alien nature and threatening to throw him out as well. They demand to know his name but don’t accept the “John Smith” pseudonym.

The mood is broken as Jethro notices a change in Sky’s demeanor. She’s only copying the Doctor now, and he’s intrigued that she’s chosen his voice… or perhaps, his cleverness. She advances to predicting his voice, and as Sky comes back to life (but still not as herself), the Doctor becomes more and more rigid.

Sky asks the professor to help her up as the Doctor remains behind. Sky appears to have returned to normal, and soon rallies the passengers to turn against him. Dee Dee thinks that Sky is still the intruder, but the rest of the passengers are fully onboard with the whispers. Sky orders the Doctor’s execution and Biff and the professor try to drag him to the airlock.

The tour attendant realizes that Sky is talking with the Doctor’s voice when she uses his odd phrases – allons-y and molto bene – and takes action to save the Doctor’s life. She wraps Sky in a hug and activates the cockpit door, blowing the two of them into the diamond death beyond.

The passengers calm down as they realize what came over them and what they were about to do. As the rescue vehicle approaches, the Doctor asks what the hostess’s name was. None of them know.

The Doctor returns to Donna and suggests that the resort will have to move, leaving Midnight to spin in silence. Donna says that she cannot imagine the Doctor without a voice, and he replies with a forced smile and a molto bene. Donna repeats it, but that’s just too much for him to bear.

 

This is one creepy, edge-of-the-seat episode. It’s a “companion-lite” story, which is a first for the franchise. We’ve been down the road of stories without companions and stories without the Doctor before, but this is a milestone of sorts. It’s also a TARDIS-free episode, which is a bit more common in the franchise — Mission to the UnknownDoctor Who and the SiluriansThe Mind of EvilThe DæmonsThe Sea DevilsThe Sontaran Experiment, and Genesis of the Daleks — but is a first for the revival era.

Finally, it is the first televised story in franchise history that does not reveal the villain.

The Medusa Cascade gets another mention after The Fires of Pompeii and The Sontaran Stratagem, this time in concert with the names Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, and Donna Noble.

The guest stars did a considerable amount of the dramatic lifting in this one, and while they were all amazing, two stood out. First, Jethro was played by Colin Morgan, who shocked me as a moody teenager since the last time I saw him was as a wide-eyed innocent sorcerer in Merlin. Second Professor Hobbes was portrayed by David Troughton, son of Second Doctor Patrick Troughton, and a Doctor Who alumni in his own right from The Enemy of the WorldThe War Games, and The Curse of Peladon.

All of that just adds spice to an excellent and thought-provoking tale.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Turn Left

 

 

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 #201: Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead

Doctor Who: Silence in the Library
Doctor Who: Forest of the Dead
(2 episodes, s04e08-e09, 2008)

 

Seriously, though, who turned out the lights?

 

Silence in the Library

We open on a therapy session with a little girl and Doctor Moon. She describes an immense library in her dreams, a place devoid of all human life. Her vision is interrupted by a pounding at the library door. The door bursts open to reveal the Doctor and Donna. They barricade the door with a book and ask if they can stop for a bit.

Okay, let’s rewind.

The TARDIS materializes in a 51st-century library, which is actually an entire world of books. It’s not a Sunday, the Doctor claims, as Sundays are boring. Donna picks up a volume, but Doctor tells her not to spoil her future. He’s also perplexed as the Library is silent.

Dead silent.

The worldwide computer system only detects the Doctor and Donna as humanoid lifeforms, but registers a million million lives in other forms. That’s one trillion souls, or roughly 125 times Earth’s population in early 2020. Donna presumes that the books may be alive before seeking out a courtesy node to unravel the mystery. There they find a message from the head librarian to run. A second message tells them to count the shadows if they want to live.

The Doctor is intrigued and warns Donna to stay out of the shadows.

They move into the stacks where the Doctor reveals that he was summoned to the Library by a message on the psychic paper. They are chased out by the approaching darkness as the lights switch off. The Doctor sonics the door – not the wood part, obviously – before Donna takes matters into her own soles and kicks the door down.

We’re back where we started, except the little girl is a floating camera. The Doctor analyzes it, which causes the girl pain as the sonic buzzes, but she’s able to warn the travelers that “others are coming.” Donna asks the courtesy node in the room for help – distracted by the human-like face which was donated to the Library like a memorial park bench – before the Doctor notes the moving shadows without origins in the room with them.

The door blows open and people in spacesuits arrive. One of them turns on her face-lamp and smiles at the Doctor with two words: “Hello, sweetie!”

The expedition is staffed with archaeologists who remove their helmets but pretty much ignore the Doctor’s warnings until he points out that the way they came is now shrouded in darkness. The expedition is funded by the Lux Corporation, and one of the team members – Strackman Lux – is a descendant of the family that built the Library.

The Doctor identifies the problem as the Vashta Nerada, carnivorous creatures who hunt in the shadows. The team sets to work as River pulls “pretty boy” Doctor aside. She’s the one who called him, but he doesn’t know who she is. She consults a TARDIS-styled diary and asks him about milestones in his life, but the Doctor hasn’t yet encountered them. In fact, this is the first time that they’ve met. Well, the first time that he’s met her.

The team is interrupted by the ringing of a phone, which is happening in the point-of-view of the little girl. Her father ignores it because he can’t hear it, so she eventually reaches for it. The ringing stops as soon as she touches it. Moments later, the Doctor hacks into her television and makes contact, but the link is soon lost.

The Doctor tries to re-establish contact, momentarily reaching for River’s diary before she tells him that his own rules forbid it. Books fly about the room as the little girl presses buttons on her remote, and Donna consoles Miss Evangelista, Lux’s assistant and the expedition members who is alienated because she’s the stereotypical pretty and dumb one.

The Doctor spots the word CAL on the monitor and asks Lux about it, but he won’t speak about it since the Doctor didn’t sign the expedition contract. River didn’t sign it either, and she shares the confidential bit with him: “4022 saved. No survivors.”

There were exactly 4022 people in the Library when it went silent.

While they discuss the message, Miss Evangelista is ignored and wanders off. Her scream draws the rest of the team, but she’s already been reduced to mere bones. Moments later, she “ghosts,” which is her last moment trapped in the neural relays of the suit communicators. It lasts for an indeterminate amount of time after death until the footprint on the beach fades in the tide.

Donna takes it especially hard since Evangelista asks for her specifically. The Doctor implores Donna to help her pass, and soon the pattern degrades into a loop and she’s gone. River pulls the plug as the Doctor consoles his companion.

River wants a word with the predator that killed one of her crew, and the Doctor offers to introduce them. Using a lunch from River’s pack, he hunts for the Vashta Nerada while River talks to Donna about her relationship with the Time Lord. River recognizes her as Donna Noble, but specifically by her absence.

Meanwhile, Dr. Moon tells the little girl that, given the difference between the real world and her nightmares, her nightmares are the reality and only she can save the team from the shadows.

The Doctor finds the Vashta Nerada and throws a chicken leg into the darkness. Only a bone remains. They are everywhere, like the dust in a sunbeam, but the only way to survive them is to run. Donna spots a potential way out, but the Doctor stops them. It seems that one of the team members, Proper Dave, has two shadows, one of which is being used to keep him fresh. The Doctor has the team don their helmets and alters their suits. River helps with her own advanced sonic screwdriver.

The Doctor uses a teleporter to send Donna back to the TARDIS, but her signal is intercepted. Meanwhile, the second shadow has moved into the victim’s suit. His visor goes pitch black – “Hey, who turned out the lights!?” – before he’s consumed from within. His helmet light is restored to reveal a skull as he attacks the Doctor. The team is cornered as the swarm in a suit expands its shadows, and River blows open a wall with a “squareness gun” to escape.

The little girl has a message: “Donna Noble has been saved.”

The team takes a rest and the Doctor amplifies the lights in the stacks. He notes that River’s sonic is similar to his, and she tells him that she got it from him. The Doctor realizes that Donna never reached the TARDIS, and he finds a courtesy node with her face on it.

In horror, the node repeats “Donna Noble has left the Library. Donna Noble has been saved.” The tension ratchets as the lights go out and the swarm in the suit approaches.

 

Forest of the Dead

River blows a hole through the stacks and the team escapes as the little girl watches their progress on her television. She also watches a medical show where Donna is taken by ambulance and rehabilitated over two years by Dr. Moon. In this reality, the facility is named CAL and the adventures were only a dream. Donna meets man named Lee, gets married, and has two kids over the next seven years. The image is interrupted as the Doctor tries to break through the signal.

The survivors find a new room. They’re surrounded by the Vashta Nerada, and as the Doctor scans for a way out, Donna professes her faith in the Doctor to get her team out of this scrape. When the Doctor’s screwdriver isn’t enough, River offers hers. It precipitates an “old married couple” squabble before River whispers something in his ear to prove herself.

Energized, the Doctor tries to figure out what new signal is interfering with his screwdriver. They determine that the moon – the “doctor moon”, a planetary anti-virus – is the source. While the Doctor tries to figure it out, team member Anita gains a second shadow. They’re suddenly visited by Proper Dave’s animated corpse and are back on the run.

In Dr. Moon’s reality, Donna tries to figure out what’s going on. She’s visited by a cloaked figure who leaves a letter stating that the world is wrong and asking her to meet at a local playground. Donna goes the next day and learns that time progresses differently in this dream state. Her visitor is what remains of Miss Evangelista. They are the Dead of the Library.

On the run, the Doctor tries to reason with the Vashta Nerada, asking them for a dialogue. They typically hunt in forests, but hatched in the Library. The Doctor argues that there are no trees in the Library, but then realizes that they’re standing in a forest of dead trees. The Other Dave is consumed, but the Doctor escapes from a trap of Daves by using a trap door as sunset approaches.

River laments that the Tenth Doctor is not her Doctor. This version isn’t yet done cooking, but hers could make armies run with a glance and open the TARDIS with a snap of his fingers. The Tenth Doctor arrives with a word – “Spoilers!” – and figures out what saved means in the context of the Library.

At the moment of the Vashta Nerada hatching, the Library evacuated the 4022 survivors in the only way that it could. It saved them to the hard drive, ready to be transmitted when the time was right. Donna is in that same condition, but Evangelista gained considerable knowledge when her signal was warped on transmission. Evangelista brings up the word CAL, but the little girl fights to keep that secret, including removing her father from the world and setting the planetary autodestruct. That act could “crack the planet like an egg.”

Dr. Moon tries to talk her down, but the girl deletes him as well. Luckily, Lux offers to take them to the secret of CAL at the planet’s core. The team of four descends on a gravity platform.

Meanwhile, Donna’s world is fragmenting.

When the team reaches the core, they hear the computer – the little girl – asking for help. The Doctor tries to wake it up because it is dreaming of a normal life. Lux reveals that it is driven by a courtesy node with the girl’s face, and her name is CAL. Charlotte Abigail Lux, Mr. Lux’s grandfather’s youngest daughter, was dying of an incurable disease. She was preserved in the Library with an imaginary world of every tale ever told to live in.

Now she’s suffering from four thousand people in her mind.

The Doctor proposes building another processor to transfer the consciousness into, deciding to use his mind as the vessel despite River’s protests that it will burn him alive without hope of regeneration. He also notices that Anita has been eaten. The Doctor threatens the Vashta Nerada, telling them to look him up in their forest. They withdraw for one day.

Then River sucker punches him.

He wakes up handcuffed, out of reach of the sonic screwdrivers with River on the transfer platform. He trusted her because she knew his real name – it was what she whispered in his ear – and she tells him about their last night together in a future incarnation. About all of the time that they spent together. That they will spend together.

But she refuses to tell him anything else. The countdown ends and she completes the circuit. Four thousand twenty-two people are saved, rematerialized in the Library, but River Song is dead.

Later, the Doctor and Donna are reunited, both mourning lost loves that they barely knew. They take hands and walk to the balcony where they discuss Donna’s future over River’s diary. Together, they decide that peeking at the end would be spoiling the adventure, and they walk away.

“He just can’t do it, can he? That man. That impossible man. He just can’t give up.”

River’s diary and screwdriver are left behind, but only for a moment until he realizes that her echo remains in the sonic. He grabs it and dives into the planet’s core, sprinting to the computer and plugging in the sonic. River’s essence is uploaded into Dr. Moon’s virtual reality and she is reunited with her expeditionary team.

Triumphant, the Time Lord returns to the TARDIS. He opens the doors with a snap and a smile, and River reads her children a bedtime story with a happy ending: It was a special day, one where the Doctor came to call. It was a day when everybody lived.

 

So much energy, so much talent, so much fun. This is the episode that makes me just a little bit scared of the dark.

The acting and the story are an elegant concert with this story. We have Donna’s joy as her dreams become reality in Dr. Moon’s virtual space, contrasted by her anguish as they disintegrate before her eyes. River tries to balance the conflict between her confidence and faith that the Doctor will triumph, even considering the looming foreshadowing of her own death, and her sorrow that he’s not quite the man that she knew. The Doctor has to keep his own scales in check between saving the innocent and solving a mystery of his own future.

Every one of those plates keeps spinning as the tension continues to ratchet. The two twists in this well-crafted tale – the supposedly useless character becomes a critical piece of the puzzle while the young girl’s story is really at the core of the entire thing – were well concealed underneath the character drama.

We get a lot of nods to the history of the franchise hidden in the stacks: There was an operating manual for the TARDIS, Origins of the Universe, The French Revolution, A Journal of Impossible Things, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (written by former writer and script editor Douglas Adams), Everest in Easy Stages, and Black Orchid.

We also get another crack at the Doctor’s true name, a question that hearkens back to the early days of Doctor Who and has threaded throughout the years in An Unearthly ChildSilver NemesisThe Girl in the FireplaceThe Shakespeare Code, and The Fires of Pompeii thus far.

This continues Steven Moffat’s theme of childhood fears – Blink had statues that came to life, The Girl in the Fireplace highlighted monsters under the bed, and The Empty Child & The Doctor Dances tackled the fear of war – but we also get a taste of what’s to come from his upcoming run as producer with reference to River as a clever girl. That word is one of his favorites in this universe.

It also highlights his pattern of not letting characters die. That will come back to haunt his run.

 

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Midnight

 

 

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.