Timestamp #188: The Lazarus Experiment

Doctor Who: The Lazarus Experiment
(1 episode, s03e06, 2007)

 

Tonight’s event: The Last of the Time Lords vs The Immortal Scorpion King.

The Doctor returns Martha to her flat, intent on dropping her off at the end of her journey on the morning after she initially left. The reprieve is shortlived when Martha’s mother calls with news that her sister Tish is on the news. Professor Richard Lazarus has discovered how, with the single push of a button, to change what it means to be human.

The Doctor is obviously intrigued.

Before the demonstration, Professor Lazarus and Lady Thaw discuss their plans, intent on providing Harold Saxon with an intriguing show. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Martha arrive in their finest black-tie, despite the omen that bad things tend to happen when the Time Lord wears that suit, and meet Martha’s family and a platter of “nibbles.” The meeting between the Doctor and Martha’s mother is tense, to say the least, but he is saved by the professor as the demonstration begins. Lazarus steps into the giant chamber at the center of the room and, with a little help from the Doctor as the device nearly overloads, emerges decades younger.

He has created a fountain of youth.

Lazarus makes the rounds later with Lady Thaw, but he’s stopped by a sharp pain. He snags a platter of hors d’oeuvres and wolfs it down to quench what the Doctor recognizes as an energy deficiency, somewhat similar to his own regeneration. Lazarus and the Doctor spar momentarily before the professor departs. The travelers set to work on the mystery, using the DNA Lazarus left as a farewell kiss on Martha’s hand to start their investigation.

The DNA fluctuates during their analysis. Similarly, as Lazarus and Thaw share a drink in his office, the professor transforms into a scorpion-like creature after insulting the woman about her age. Lady Thaw doesn’t survive much longer.

While Martha’s family debate over the Doctor’s presence in Martha’s life, Lazarus returns to the floor in a different suit. He summons Tish with a lecherous leer as the Doctor and Martha discover what’s left of Lady Thaw. Lazarus leeched the life-force out of her.

The Doctor and Martha return to the floor only to receive word that Tish and Lazarus are on the roof. While they rush to the rescue, Francine meets a mysterious stranger who tells her that Martha should choose better friends. Martha and Doctor interrupt Tish and Lazarus as the professor muses over T.S. Eliot. Tish is angry, but that is shortlived as Lazarus reveals himself. Jones, Jones, and the Doctor run as the building goes into lockdown. The Doctor tosses his sonic screwdriver to Martha so she can pick the lock while Lazarus storms the show floor. The Doctor cannot save one of the attendees, but he is able to save Martha’s family by goading Lazarus into a chase through the building.

Martha sees her family to safety as the Doctor climbs through the utility room. She’s able to open the main doors and let everyone out, but she also turns the power back on. To her mother’s chagrin, she rushes to the Doctor’s side. Meanwhile, the Doctor sets a trap with gas and an electrical spark, but the explosion doesn’t stop the monster.

The mysterious man returns and whispers secrets in Francine’s ear about the Doctor. Back on the show floor, the Doctor and Martha seek refuge inside the Lazarus capsule as the professor scorpion switches it on. The Doctor works feverishly to reverse the polarity and reflect the energy into the monster. They find Lazarus back in human form, soon to be taken away by an ambulance.

Francine greets the Doctor with a slap to the face. As the ambulance crashes, the Doctor rushes to find the EMTs drained of energy. Francine is upset that her daughters join the investigation. They follow the scorpion’s energy to the nearby Southwark Cathedral and find a human Lazarus talking about his childhood during the Blitz. The Doctor empathizes as he makes plans, and Martha eventually lures the beast to the top of the belltower. The Doctor uses his sonic in concert with the cathedral organ to stun Lazarus. The scorpion falls the stone floor below and dies on impact, transforming one last time to the old man he once was.

Martha and the Doctor end up back at the TARDIS, and he offers her another trip through time. She doesn’t want to be just a passenger, so he offers her something more. As she rushes into the TARDIS and they dematerialize her phone rings. It’s Francine on the other end with a message from Harold Saxon: The Doctor is dangerous, and Martha is not safe.

 

What could be an otherwise average story does a lot to move the ball forward for the second half of the season. The Doctor/Martha relationship is fairly well established, but now we get the added friction of distrust from Martha’s closest allies courtesy of the mysterious Mr. Saxon. It almost makes up for the CGI scorpion, which is dodgy while still being one step above The Scorpion King‘s big reveal from 2002.

The season’s been pretty good so far. Let’s see if this head of steam keeps the train on the rails.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: 42

 

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

 

 

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Timestamp #187: Daleks in Manhattan & Evolution of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Daleks in Manhattan
Doctor Who: Evolution of the Daleks
(2 episodes, s03e04-e05, 2007)

 

It’s the tallest genetic experiment on Earth!

It’s Manhattan in the 1930s. The show’s about to start and showgirl Tallulah is talking to her boyfriend Laszlo, one of the stagehands. They’re making plans to go away together, but after Tallulah goes on stage, Laszlo has an unfortunate encounter with a pig creature.

Later on, the TARDIS materializes at the base of the Statue of Liberty and Martha is excited to finally visit New York City. She spots the (under construction) Empire State Building and finds the date on a newspaper: November 1st, 1930. The mystery of people vanishing from Hooverville piques the Doctor’s interest. So, it’s off to Central Park they go.

As the Doctor explains the history of Hooverville (and similar locations across the United States), the watch as community leader Solomon breaks up a fight over a loaf of bread. The travelers talk to Solomon, who questions why a building like the Empire State can be built while people like him are starving in Manhattan.

At the Empire State Building, a businessman named Mr. Diagoras pressures his foreman to speed up construction on the roof mast. When the foreman refuses, Diagoras introduces him to the masters over the project: The Daleks, specifically from the Cult of Skaro. The foreman is taken by a pair of pig slaves for the “final experiment” while Diagoras gets a new set of orders. Dalek Caan needs more bodies for the experiment.

The Doctor and Martha ask Solomon about the disappearances, but their discussion is interrupted by Diagoras asking for volunteers to work in the sewer. When no one volunteers for the dollar a day wages, the Doctor and Martha step up, joined by Solomon and a young man from Tennessee named Frank. They probe the depths of the sewers and find a pulsing green mass of alien flesh, square under the Empire State Building. The Doctor examines it before shoving it in his pocket.

Meanwhile, Diagoras has workers placing Dalek spheres on the building mast, disregarding the risk of death for the men. After they leave, Dalek Caan joins Diagoras and muses about humanity and how a city like New York can survive while Skaro cannot. Noting how Diagoras thinks like one of them, Dalek Sec orders Dalek Caan to bring the human for the final experiment.

The Doctor and his sewer crew don’t find the collapsed tunnels that Diagoras hired them to clear, but before the Doctor can send the humans back, they encounter a lone pig slave. They are soon surrounded and running for their lives. They escape but Frank is taken after holding off the pig slaves.

The ladder and manhole lead right into the theater, and the Doctor, Martha, and Solomon soon meet Tallulah and her (stage prop) handgun. She asks them about Laszlo, but our heroes don’t have any info to offer. The Doctor uses electronics in the theater to develop a scanner for the alien mass while Solomon returns to Hooverville to defend his community. Martha and Tallulah discuss Laszlo – someone is still leaving her roses every day, but won’t reveal their identity – while Martha hems and haws about her relationship with the Doctor.

The Daleks begin the final experiment, and Diagoras fears that he will be changed into one of the pig slaves. Dalek Thay questions why Daleks need DNA from inferior species and Dalek Sec counters that their xenophobic quest for purity has resulted in their extinction. Dalek Sec opens his shell and grabs Diagoras, merging with the human as the casing seals shut around them.

The Doctor examines the alien flesh blob as Martha watches Tallulah’s show from just offstage. Martha spots a pig slave watching the show from across the stage and navigates through the performance to get a closer look. Meanwhile, the Doctor finds the numbers 467-989 and isolates the point of origin to Skaro. Martha chases the pig slave, which soon captures her, and the Doctor and Tallulah pursue them into the sewers. They soon discover the Daleks in the sewers and the Doctor is immediately put on edge.

On their way back to the theater, they encounter Laszlo, now transformed into a pig slave but able to maintain his intelligence. He is the pig slave that Martha was pursuing, and he was leaving the roses for Tallulah. The Doctor asks Laszlo to take him to Martha.

Martha is added to a lot of future slaves, including Frank. They are soon joined by the Daleks, whom Martha recognizes from the Doctor’s stories. The Daleks assess the slaves by intelligence and divide them into two groups: Future pig slaves and candidates for the final experiment. As they are led away, the Doctor and Laszlo join Martha’s group as Tallulah heads back and gets lost.

They end up in the lab where Dalek Sec is finalizing his evolution. The Doctor prompts Martha to ask about the experiment and the Daleks explain that the Children of Skaro must walk again. The Doctor is beside himself when Dalek Sec’s shell opens to reveal a Dalek-human hybrid.

The Doctor reveals himself as the Daleks prepare to process the slaves. He taunts them – time was that four Daleks could have conquered the world – and confronts Dalek Sec about what he feels. He shows them a radio and muses about its wonders before springing his trap. He uses the sonic screwdriver to produce a high pitched noise from the radio, then runs with the prisoners to Hooverville. The Daleks give chase while Dalek Sec remains behind. Daleks Thay and Caan discuss their doubts about Sec’s plan.

Solomon’s community, now armed with rifles, defend Hooverville against the pig slaves that come to retrieve their prisoners. When the pig slaves have fallen, Daleks Jast and Caan arrive in the air and start bombarding the village while Sec watches from the Empire State Building. Solomon tries to reason with the Daleks, but the Daleks exterminate him in response. That act causes Sec, who was moved by Solomon’s courage, to gasp in sorrow and despair. Martha is horrified and the Doctor is angry. The Doctor demands to be exterminated, but Sec spares the Doctor’s life. The Daleks are apprehensive but follow Sec’s order to bring the Doctor back to the lab. Martha tries to follow, but the Doctor asks her to help the wounded while slipping her the psychic paper.

Sec explains that the deaths were wrong. As the first of his kind confronting the last of the Time Lords, he talks about how he tried to rebuild the Dalek race. Eventually, he landed on a Frankenstein-level experiment to wipe human minds and reformat the brains with Dalek information. They have over a thousand empty shells ready for experimentation and genetic splicing, and all they need is power. Enter the dalekanium plates on the building’s roof and a large solar flare.

Sec’s plan would remove the Dalek mentality from their next evolution, but Jast, Caan, and Thay are unsure. Despite their reservations, Sec says that they will follow his orders. He also suggests that the Doctor could take them to another planet and let their new civilization grow in peace. The Doctor sets to work on the plan.

As Martha, Frank, and Tallulah make their way into the Empire State Building and examine the construction in progress, the Doctor continues his work. He also apologizes to Laszlo because he can’t reverse the stagehand’s physical changes, but he confides that if helping Sec will save the universe, he has to try. Martha finds the revised plans that added the dalekanium to the roof as the experiment goes awry. The Daleks revolt against Sec and change the genetic solution to make the subject pure Dalek. The Doctor and Laszlo make a break for it and meet up with Martha’s group while the Daleks restrain Sec.

The Doctor and his acrophobia climb the mast and start work on the Dalekanium. Meanwhile, the pig slaves assault Martha’s team. Laszlo falls before the fight, and Martha evens the odds with a makeshift lightning rod. The Doctor’s work is halted when he drops his sonic screwdriver, so he improvises by embracing the mast as lightning strikes. The bolt slaughters the pig slaves, but the new Dalek-human hybrids awaken and prepare for war. Dalek Caan takes command as Sec protests.

Martha and Frank find the Doctor and his screwdriver. The Doctor snaps out his shocked state and makes a plan with Martha’s team. They race back to the theater and the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to signal the Daleks. They have no choice but to face their ultimate nemesis.

The hybrids burst into the theater and surround the Doctor’s team. Thay and Jast, with Sec in chains, take aim on the Doctor. Sec tries to sway the hybrids and his captors, then sacrifices himself by stepping in front of the bolt meant for the Doctor. The Doctor addresses the hybrids and convinces the Daleks to let them kill him. The hybrids refuse to shoot, questioning their orders. The Doctor’s DNA got mixed into the genetic structure, and that revelation sparks a firefight between the Daleks and the hybrids. Thay and Jast are destroyed, but Caan issues a self-destruct command that kills all of the hybrids.

The Doctor returns to the laboratory and faces Dalek Caan, the last of the Daleks and the last of the Cult of Skaro. In the face of the recent genocide, the Doctor offers to help Caan, but the Dalek uses an emergency temporal shift to escape.

Martha and Tallulah bring Laszlo to the lab. The pig slaves were only meant to live for a few weeks, but the Doctor springs into action with the gene lab to save his life. In the end, Laszlo and Tallulah find a home in Hooverville.

Martha and the Doctor return to the TARDIS. Before they leave, Martha asks if he’ll see Dalek Caan again. The Doctor is sure of it.

 

This two-part story is filled to the brim with action and intrigue, and it’s a good chance to finally introduce the Doctor’s mortal enemies to his new companion. The narrative is true to the Dalek history while adding some interesting (but somewhat silly) twists.

The Doctor/Martha relationship is still solid enough for me, but the will-they-won’t-they aspect is my least favorite part.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Lazarus Experiment

 

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 #186: Gridlock

Doctor Who: Gridlock
(1 episode, s03e03, 2007)

 

Atlanta traffic might be bad, but at least we don’t have killer crabs.

A newscaster delivers a traffic report as an elderly couple in a stalled car wait for the police. They are under attack from an unknown creature, and the creature wins before they can be rescued.

On the TARDIS, the Doctor offers Martha a trip into the future. She wants to visit his home planet, but the Doctor deflects her attention with musings about the architecture and the orange skies of Gallifrey. The way he looks… it’s heartbreaking. He sets a course for New Earth, the same place he took Rose on their first adventure together. The Doctor is excited, but Martha considers it a rebound relationship.

As they arrive, the Face of Boe directs his attendant, Novice Hame, to find the Doctor before it’s too late. Meanwhile, Martha encounters the New Earth version of a drug bazaar. The Doctor watches a young woman buy a dose of Forget after losing her parents on the motorway, and the transaction provides a distraction for a couple to kidnap Martha and drug her with a Sleep patch. With enough people on board, the car now qualifies for the express lane.

The Doctor pursues on advice from the pharmacists – he threatens that he will personally close the street down that night – and Martha meets her abductors. They are Milo and Cheen, and Cheen is pregnant so they’re looking for a better place to live. The upside is that they’re only ten miles away, but the downside is that it will take six years to travel the distance.

The title of the episode is Gridlock for a reason.

The Doctor enters the motorway and, after choking on exhaust, meets a cat person named Thomas Kincaide Brannigan and his human wife Valerie. They also have a litter of kitten kids, colloquially known as Children of the Motorway. The Doctor is astounded by the pace of the motorway, but he has no way off his current car. Brannigan refuses to move to the fast lane due to safety concerns for his kids, but he does connect the Doctor to a radio-based network of drivers who help him track down Martha’s location. Some of the drivers on the motorway have been there for over twenty years.

The Doctor questions if the police even exist in this endless traffic jam. Meanwhile, Martha learns that there are creatures living in the smoke layers beneath them, possibly in the air vents. As they all sit in the eternal traffic, the radio broadcasts a devotional that buoys the spirits of the commuters. Milo and Cheen’s car is finally granted access to the fast lane, but the exits are all closed. In fact, they’re perpetually closed, and the creatures are on the attack as the cars keep making the loop.

The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to jump from car to car, descending on foot. He leaves his coat – it was given to him by Janis Joplin – and muses about how he lied to Martha while he was showboating, then poses as a traffic patrolman as he bounces down the levels and encounters a host of characters.

The Doctor reaches the last level before the fast lane. He clears the smoke for a moment to get a clear view of the monsters below. They are the Macra, and they’re attacking cars in the fast lane. Martha’s car uses a submarine trick and cuts power to rest on the floor of the motorway. Unfortunately, they only have eight minutes.

The Doctor explains that the Macra feed on toxic gas, once building an empire of slaves (in the Second Doctor’s era) to mine gas for them. These Macra are no longer intelligent, but instead non-sentient hungry beasts. His attempts to stop the Macra is interrupted by Novice Hame, who explains that she’s dedicated her life to redemption for her past crimes over the last twenty-four years after she teleports them away. The world died in seven minutes after a drug named Bliss evolved into a lethal virus. Novice Hame has spent the ensuing years taking care of the Face of Boe while New Earth labors under a self-imposed century-long quarantine. The citizens in the motorway were saved from the virus, but are enslaved in their salvation.

The Face of Boe implores the Doctor to save the human race.

Martha and her abductors talk about the Doctor as their air supply dwindles. She places all of her faith in him, and its enough to sway her captors to power back up and drive through the Macra. The Doctor detects their license signature and, with a burst of life energy from the Face of Boe, opens the entire motorway to the world above. Martha’s faith is redeemed as her car emerges into the light of the sun and sets a course for the Doctor and the senate building.

As Martha arrives, the Face of Boe’s containment tank shatters. Martha asks who Boe is, but the Doctor only knows of the legends. The legend also tells that Boe will share a final secret before death, and the last of one race shares fate-changing words with the last of another.

“Know this, Doctor: You are not alone.”

And then he dies.

Martha and the Doctor return to the TARDIS, strolling along the now-defunct Pharmacist’s Row. Martha demands that the Doctor explain the secrets of Gallifrey and his history, and as the city raises their voices in the song of the devotional, the Doctor finally tells her of his home and the Last Great Time War.

 

This story is fairly light on story, but it continues threads set down from the beginnings of the revival era. The character development between the Doctor and Martha is great stuff, especially as Martha settles into her role as companion and helps the Doctor heal.

The Christian themes in the story are strong, from the discussions of faith in the Doctor – a literal deus ex machina, remember – and the salvation found in heading toward the light to the use of two Christian hymns as diegetic music. The travelers on the motorway sing “The Old Rugged Cross,” a 1912 hymn written by American evangelist George Bennard, and the recently freed citizens of the New New York sing “Abide with Me,” an 1847 hymn written by Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte.

Finally, we saw the return of a classic enemy, although in a much-reduced state. They are left to waste away in the bowels of the motorway, which is somewhat troubling, but certainly not as much as it would have been had they been fully sentient.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Daleks in Manhattan & Doctor Who: Evolution of the Daleks

 

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 #185: The Shakespeare Code

Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Code
(1 episode, s03e02, 2007)

 

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

A woman named Lillith smiles as she is serenaded by a bard. She offers him a trip upstairs for his efforts where she reveals herself as a witch-like creature. She introduces the rest of her coven, Mothers Doomfinger and Bloodtide, and they consume the young man.

Going out on a limb, I’d say he’s not getting lucky tonight.

As the TARDIS hurtles through the void, Martha asks about how the time capsule works. The Doctor is elusive but is more than happy to introduce her to London 1599. She’s concerned about A Sound of Thunder, the Grandfather Paradox, and slavery, but the Time Lord eases her mind with the spectacle around them and urges her to “walk like she owns the place.” Oh, and they can also check out the freshly-built Globe Theater.

It’s more of tetradecagon instead of a globe, but they get to see William Shakespeare nonetheless. The Bard makes a curtain call after Love’s Labour’s Lost concludes, and the Doctor is bewildered by the man’s vocabulary and his odd behavior. It seems that Shakespeare is under Lillith’s spell and he has just announced a surprise play that the Doctor and Martha have never heard of.

They visit Shakespeare a bit later as he and his actors talk about the upcoming play. The playwright is unaffected by the psychic paper – he sees it as blank, which the Doctor heralds as the mark of a true genius – and looks through the ruse of Sir Doctor of TARDIS and Martha of Freedonia. He even tries to woo Martha, though she’s put off by his racial vernacular. After a brief confrontation with Lynley, the Master of Revels – the witches dispatch him after he threatens to shut down the new play – the trio get to know each other. Shakespeare can see a considerable amount about the travelers as they talk. Shortly thereafter, the Doctor and Martha retire to their guest quarters and chat about magic and witchcraft.

The Doctor also continues to mourn Rose, which puts Martha off a bit as he inadvertently compares the two companions.

Lillith visits Shakespeare and acts as his muse, playing the puppetmaster as he unwittingly writes. Lillith also kills Dolly Bailey, the owner of the house. The next morning, Shakespeare muses about the Globe Theater and how the architect, Peter Streete, often spoke of witches. They rush to the theater and investigate why it is built as a tetradecagal. They then head to Bethlehem Royal Hospital, where Streete was committed after he spoke of witchcraft.

The actors rehearse their lines and summon a spirit, but they agree not to speak of it for fear of being committed. Meanwhile, our travelers meet with Streete and find him catatonic, but the Doctor uses his telepathy to help the architect to unlock his memories.

They’re also upset to find that the hospital’s inhabitants are whipped to entertain the gentry.

Streete reveals that the witches dictated the design of the Globe Theater. When the design was complete, the witches broke him and he ended up in the hospital. The discussion is stopped when Mother Doomfinger arrives and kills Streete with a single touch. The Doctor challenges her, and after he deduces that the fourteen walls of the theater are based on the fourteen stars of the Rexel configuration, he names Doomfinger as a Carrionite. The witch disappears as the Doctor explains that their “magic” is really an ancient science based on the power of words.

Lillith promises to kill the Doctor. Because that’s what she does.

The Carrionites vanished at the dawn of the universe, in the Dark Times, leaving it up to debate whether or not they actually existed. The Doctor deduces that the new play was supplied by the Carrionites, and its recitation will bring about the end of the world as focused by the lens of the Globe Theater. The Bard heads for the theater to stop the play as the Doctor and Martha rush to stop the Carrionites.

Bloodtide and Doomfinger use their power to stop Shakespeare. Meanwhile, the Doctor explains that time travel’s cause-and-effect is kind of like Back to the Future. They enter the house and confront Lillith. The witch names Martha, knocking her out instead of killing her since she’s out of her proper time. She attempts to name the Doctor but doesn’t succeed. She also tries to use Rose’s name, but that only makes the Doctor fight harder to save humanity.

She explains that the Eternals eventually found the word to banish the Carrionites into darkness, but the three “witches” used the power of Shakespeare’s grief over his young son’s death to escape.

She tries seducing him and fails, so she steals a lock of hair to weave into a puppet (or rather, a DNA replication module). Lillith stabs the puppet and the Doctor collapses, relying on Martha to restart the heart that the witch attacked. Lillith flies away to the theater.

As the travelers rush to the theater, the actors speak the words that open a portal and release a violent storm of energy. Shakespeare joins the travelers and the Doctor encourages him to reverse the magic through his wordsmithing. The Bard stumbles over the last word and Martha supplies “expelliarmus” ala JK Rowling.

The Carrionites and all the copies of the play are sucked into oblivion, and with the portal closed, the assembled audience erupts in applause. The Doctor finds the Carrionite globe and the witches trapped within. As morning dawns, Shakespeare flirts once again with Martha as the Doctor plays with props, including a skull that reminds him of the Sycorax. He also fits the playwright with a neck brace that looks historically familiar.

As the Doctor and Martha bid the Bard farewell, he reveals that he knows about their true nature as travelers in time and space. The scene is broken up by the arrival of Queen Elizabeth I. The Doctor is ecstatic to finally meet her, but the queen demands that the Doctor be executed for reasons unknown.

The travelers run, chased by guards, and barely enter the TARDIS before an arrow slams into the door.

And off they go again.

 

This was another fun adventure that capitalized on Martha learning about the new universe around her. It was especially fun for the Doctor to hang a lampshade on that with his remark about having to break in new companions.

The references to the franchise were particularly deep. The Doctor’s mind-reading ability came back into play (The Girl in the Fireplace, Fear Her, and The Sensorites), and the arrow in the TARDIS called back to both An Unearthly Child and Silver Nemesis.

We also get a call-back to the Eternals, first introduced in Enlightenment, and the concept of witches is not a new one in this franchise.

Behind the scenes, we’ll continue to see the witches’ loft as Sarah Jane’s attic, a move that helped to pay for what became one of Doctor Who‘s most costly productions.

It’s hard to find complaints about this story. Even the blossoming relationship between the Doctor and Martha isn’t terribly oppressive. If I had one issue to highlight, the chroma keying process was a bit off in the opening scenes and in the shots as our heroes rush for the Globe Theater.

Otherwise, this was a fun adventure with roots deep in franchise history.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Gridlock

 

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 #184: Smith and Jones

Doctor Who: Smith and Jones
(1 episode, s03e01, 2007)

 

It’s a coincidence, but what a fitting story to chronicle just after Apollo 11’s fiftieth anniversary.

Martha Jones is on her way to work when her mobile rings several times, each caller talking to her about her brother’s twenty-first birthday. In the midst of all these calls, she’s interrupted by a certain Time Lord who demonstrably takes off his tie. Once at the hospital, Martha bumps into a helmet-clad motorcycle rider in black, changes clothes, and tends to her patients as a medical student.

After dealing with a patient experiencing a salt deficiency, she spots two more motorcycle riders before moving on to her second patient: John Smith. The man has two heartbeats and is complaining of abdominal pain. Martha examines him and each of the medical students talks about the rise of static electricity as they move on to the next patient.

Later on, Martha talks to her sister on the phone and discovers that the storm outside is focused directly over the hospital. As John Smith walks by, the rain changes direction – straight up! – and the building rumbles as lightning strikes. Looking outside, Martha discovers that the hospital has been moved to the surface of the moon.

That cause a bit of consternation among the occupants. Okay, more like a riot.

Martha and her co-worker, Julia Swales, take stock of the situation. As Martha remarks that the building isn’t airtight – they should have died from asphyxiation long ago – John Smith congratulates her on her intuition and invites her to join him. They stand on a balcony in the Earth-light, breathe deep, and discuss extraterrestrials on Earth. From Big Ben to the Christmas invasion and the Battle of Canary Wharf (where Martha lost her nearly identical cousin, Adeola), Martha believes in aliens. John Smith introduces himself as the Doctor and apologizes for not saving Martha’s cousin. That event is still fresh in his mind.

Then they meet the Judoon.

Huge cylindrical ships land nearby and an army marches on the hospital. Meanwhile, the lady with the salt deficiency introduces Mr. Stoker, the medical student supervisor, to her friends in the motorcycle helmets. She also uses a bendy straw to start drinking his blood.

The Judoon storm the hospital, revealing themselves as rhinoceros-faced aliens, and use a universal translator to learn English. They catalog everyone they meet as human, complete with an X on each captive’s hands. Meanwhile, the Doctor tells Martha that the Judoon are police-for-hire, and if they find a non-human criminal hiding in the hospital, they will execute everyone inside as an accomplice. One patient tries to stop the Judoon with a vase to the head and he is immediately executed for assault.

Justice is swift.

The Doctor, being non-human, skulks away with Martha and tries to hack the computer system with the sonic screwdriver. He tells Martha that he spotted alien power cores a few days back and checked into the hospital as a patient to look around. Martha decides to ask Stoker for help in finding anyone with unusual symptoms, finds Florence enjoying her blood beverage, and the chase is on.

The Doctor and Martha take refuge in a radiology suite and the Doctor ambushes one of the motorcycle gang with an X-ray machine. He blasts the creature – a Slab, leather through and through – with 5000 times the radiation of a normal X-ray. He absorbs the rest of the roentgen (gamma) radiation and dumps it into his shoe, then ditches the other one to balance himself out. Barefoot on the moon, the Doctor finds that his sonic screwdriver has been destroyed before realizing that Florence can now pose as human thanks to her hemoglobin smoothie.

Sure enough, she’s soon cataloged as human.

The other Slab searches for the Doctor and Martha while she asks the Time Lord about traveling companions. They’re ambushed by Judoon who catalog the Doctor as non-human – Martha is truly surprised – and they run to the floor below. Since the Judoon are methodical, they won’t revisit a floor they’ve already audited. The pair find the exsanguinated Stoker, discover that the oxygen supply is starting to dwindle, and separate as the Judoon (surprisingly) storm the floor. The Doctor kisses Martha before running for the MRI suite where he finds Florence modifying the imager to fry every biologic within 250,000 miles. She’s intent on using the Judoon ships to escape.

The Doctor poses as a human and verbally spars with Florence. He mentions that the Judoon are changing their scans so Florence refreshes her disguise by drinking the Doctor’s blood. The Judoon barge in and scan the Doctor, declaring him deceased. Martha scans Florence, revealing her as non-human. Florence, a plasmavore, sets her MRI plan in motion before being executed (along with the Slab) and the Judoon leave.

Meanwhile, the hospital is about to explode.

Martha returns to the Doctor and performs a modified version of CPR, bringing him back to life. With oxygen levels critically low, the Doctor stops the MRI by pulling the plug and then carries Martha to a window as the Judoon lift off. Before they clear the moon’s gravity, they reverse the teleport process and return the hospital to Earth.

In the chaos that follows later, Martha watches as the Doctor enters the TARDIS and dematerializes. She goes home and gets dressed for her brother’s party, an event where Martha is mocked for her moon story – the public cover story is that everyone was drugged – before her family storms off. She spots the Doctor and follows him to the TARDIS. He offers Martha the chance to join him and she eventually joins him.

The “bigger on the inside” moment completely blows her mind.

The Doctor mentions his former companion, Rose, and tells Martha that she is definitely not replacing her. Martha replies that, despite the earlier kiss, she’s only interested in humans. The Doctor sets a course and the TARDIS hurtles away through the vortex.

 

The thing that impresses me most about this episode is the chemistry between Freema Agyeman and David Tennant. The spark is immediate and coupled with the pacing and the dialogue, this story is just fun. Martha is likable and smart, and she plays well with the Tenth Doctor’s zaniness. The downside, of course, is that the hints of a future romantic relationship are far too strong. We just left that party in Pete’s World.

The whole Saxon thread is back with this story after being teased in The Runaway Bride and Captain Jack Harkness. This season’s “Bad Wolf” gives us the added benefit that the mysterious stranger believes in life among the stars. We also get some callbacks as the Ninth Doctor’s sonic is destroyed – the last time we lost a sonic screwdriver like that was in the Fifth Doctor‘s era, and it was like losing “an old friend” –  and the Tenth Doctor muses about his love of bananas.

 


Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Code

 

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 #TW13: End of Days

Torchwood: End of Days
(1 episode, s01e13, 2007)

 

The last big fracture that brings a family together.

Gwen and Rhys have a rare moment to themselves, but Jack calls with an untimely but important interruption: UFOs have been sighted over the Taj Mahal, police are clashing with soldiers from the English Civil War, and people believe they are signs of Armageddon.

Ianto recites biblical verses (what he calls Daniel 12:10 is really Daniel 12:8-9), and Jack brings news that everything worldwide is linked to Owen’s breach of the Rift. Institutions around the world, including UNIT, have their eyes on Torchwood. Owen and Tosh are dispatched to a quarantined hospital, and PC Andy Davidson calls Gwen with word of a Roman Soldier in lockup. Gwen and Jack drug the soldier and lock him away in the Hub. Gwen also sees a vision of Bilis Manger that apologizes to her.

Owen and Tosh find evidence of bubonic plague, the Black Death, at the hospital. Owen is rattled since he brought this upon Cardiff, and he channels that frustration into the medical staff. Meanwhile, Tosh sees her mother who brings an ominous message: Darkness is coming and Tosh must open the Rift to stop it.

At the Hub, Ianto brings word that the weevils are swarming. Once he’s alone, he also sees Lisa again, and his vision tells him to open the Rift.

I’m going to say that opening the Rift is a bad plan.

When Owen and Tosh return to the Hub, Jack unleashes on Owen for meddling with the Rift. The two men quarrel, resulting in Jack firing Owen. He also tells everyone else that they can follow Owen if they want, and Owen reminds Gwen that he’ll likely be Retconned within the next twenty-four hours and walks out.

Jack and Gwen visit Bilis at his clock shop, A Stitch in Time. Bilis reveals that he can step through time and see the whole of history, but his curse is that he doesn’t belong anywhere within it. He says that the only way to solve the fracturing of time is to fully open the Rift. He then disappears, only to leave a message for Gwen: Rhys is going to die horribly at some point in the future.

Gwen rushes back to her flat to find Rhys cleaning the oven. He won’t come with Gwen, so she stuns him and takes him to the Hub. He’s understandably upset, but she asks him to trust her. She returns to the operations area and talks with the team, with whom she has shared the vision. When the power goes out, Gwen and Jack run for the cells. With the power off, the cell doors have opened, and Rhys meets Bilis. Bilis stabs Rhys multiple times and vanishes as the power comes back. Jack and Gwen find Rhys, but it is too late. Gwen’s screams are heart-wrenching and soul-shattering.

Meanwhile, Owen is drowning his sorrows at a bar when he sees a vision of Diane. She tells him to open the Rift. It’s still a bad plan.

As the team mourns around Rhys in the examination area, Jack consoles Gwen as she lashes out at him. Owen rushes in, but while Tosh is happy to see him, Gwen is furious. Owen announces his intention to open the Rift, and everyone but Jack follows him to help. Jack tells them that it’s a trap, threatens to shoot Gwen, and insults each of them: Tosh and her fling with Mary; Owen and his death wish; Ianto and his Cyber-girlfriend; Gwen and her affair with Owen.

Gwen punches Jack and Owen kills him with his own gun. The team is shocked, but then starts gathering retinal images to unlock the subroutine to open the Rift. It’s at that point that Jack snaps back to life. The team evacuates the Hub only to find Bilis healding the arrival of Abaddon, an enormous vision of the devil that is stampeding through the city. It was cast out of time, and anyone in its shadow immediately dies.

Jack tells Gwen to take him to an open space, intent on feeding Abaddon with his all-you-can-eat life smorgasbord. Jack stands in the shadow, writhing in pain, and a bright blue light arcs from his chest to destroy the beast and seal the Rift. Gwen grieves over the dead body of Captain Jack Harkness.

The events reset the timeline with one exception: Jack is still dead. Owen, Ianto, and Tosh are resigned to his fate, but Gwen won’t give up. She sits with him for days despite the team’s growing worry about her. Ianto breaks down and cries into Jack’s coat, and Tosh nearly convinces Gwen to let Jack go.

She kisses Jack and starts to walk away when he wakes up, weak but alive. He gets dressed and reunites with the team, all of whom are happy to see him in their own way. Jack even forgives Owen and embraces him as the team’s black sheep weeps.

Later on, Jack and Gwen discuss the Rift. It’s due to become more volatile, and Jack tells Gwen what vision would have convinced him to open it during the crisis: “The right kind of Doctor.” He walks out to find the tank with the hand bubbling and glowing. He also hears the faint sound of the TARDIS materializing, to which he snatches up the tank and runs, leaving Gwen confused as the team returns with coffee.

Something has taken him. Jack is missing.

 

This story ties all of the threads together that have been strung across the last twelve episodes. Every one of our main characters has been broken in one way or another, and it’s this trauma that finally unites them for a common cause as a dysfunctional family. It brutally unearths everyone’s secrets for the bright light of day, and that honesty is healing.

The story twists and weaves in one way while being direct in others, linking the Torchwood series definitively with Doctor Who, and not just in the final moments. It was well-crafted and exhilarating, and a fantastic way to close this chapter.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Series One 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 #183: The Runaway Bride

Doctor Who: The Runaway Bride
(1 episode, Christmas Special, 2006)

 

It’s the balance between character chemistry and chewed scenery.

Starting with that RTD Earth-zoom shot – you know the one – we meet bride-to-be Donna Noble as she’s walked down the aisle on Christmas Eve. As she approaches her groom, she’s transported away in a cloud of gold energy and appears on the TARDIS right where we left the Tenth Doctor, orbiting a supernova, at the end of Doomsday.

Donna immediately confronts the Doctor, demanding to know where she is. The Doctor is confused since she doesn’t belong on the TARDIS, and Donna thinks it is a practical joke by her friend Nerys. Donna opens the doors in an attempt to flee but stops cold at the sight of outer space beyond the TARDIS’s walls.

Then she finds out that the Doctor is an alien. Mind blown.

The Doctor investigates Donna while she demands to be taken back to the church. She spots one of Rose’s shirts and wants to know how many women the Doctor has abducted, but his attitude shifts to a combination of somber and angry as he replies that he lost her. Back on Earth, the church is in chaos as the Doctor drops Donna near Oxford Street. Donna has her “bigger on the inside moment” while the Doctor tends to the TARDIS, and she sets out on foot. The Doctor pursues, adamant that he’s not a Martian, and the pair have considerable difficulty hailing a taxi.

Especially since neither of them has any money.

Donna uses a sonic-screwdriver hacked pay phone while the Doctor stands in line for the automatic teller machine. He sonics some cash and then notices a trio of sinister Santas, including one that just drove off with Donna. She figures out that the Santas are the bad guys after she is abducted, and the Doctor runs for the TARDIS. He materializes on the roadway, flies alongside the taxi, and rescues Donna while driving the time capsule with a length of twine. The whole sequence is solid edge-of-your-seat action.

The TARDIS touches down on a rooftop and, in a burst of smoke, takes some time to cool down. The Doctor and Donna talk about her wedding and time machines, and the Time Lord gives her a ring that acts as a bio-damper to confuse the Santa-bots. They also talk about the events of last Christmas, during which Donna was hung over so she missed the whole affair. The Doctor muses about Rose for a moment before turning back to the mystery at hand.

Donna works as a secretary at a local security firm where she met Lance, head of Human Relations and her husband-to-be, as he offered her a cup of coffee. They went out for a while before they decided to get married (after Donna pestered him for a really long time). The Doctor takes her to the wedding reception, which Donna is furious about since they’re partying without the bride. Donna’s mother Sylvia counters, prompting a furious storm from the assembled guests, and Donna silences them with a quick cry. The party carries on and the Doctor investigates H.C. Clements.

It turns out that the security firm was owned by Torchwood before the institute was decimated. The Doctor asks the wedding videographer if he caught Donna’s disappearance on tape, and figures out that she was infused with Huon particles. Unfortunately, those particles cannot be shielded by a bio-damper and the Santas are on the march. The building is surrounded, and the Doctor sees that the Santas are using the Christmas trees as weapons. The ornaments explode, providing a diversion as the Santas take aim on the Doctor. The Doctor replies by plugging his sonic screwdriver into the DJ’s mixing board and blowing the robots apart.

The Doctor realizes that the Robot Santas aren’t being controlled by the Sycorax this time. He analyzes one of the robot heads and tracks the controlling signal to a star-shaped spacecraft in orbit. Lance gives Donna and the Doctor to H.C. Clements – Donna missed the Torchwood event as well – and the Doctor tracks the Huon particles to a secret sub-basement. Those particles, which haven’t been seen since the Dark Times, connected Donna to the TARDIS since the time capsule is the only other place where they exist. The trio take Segways to a door marked with the Torchwood logo, and the Doctor ascends to the Thames Flood Barrier. The secret base is underneath the landmark river.

They find a series of water capsules in a lab. Someone has been using the river to create the particles and store them in liquid form. The Doctor explains that the Time Lords stopped using Huon particles because they were deadly, and he promises to help rid Donna of them. They’re interrupted by a legion of robots and a sinister voice belonging to a half-spider half-humanoid being, the Empress of the Racnoss. The Racnoss were supposed to have gone extinct during the Dark Times.

They also find a pit dug all the way to the center of the Earth. Chekhov’s pit, perhaps? Spoiler: Not quite.

Above the pit is a giant web, inside which is the corpse of H.C. Clements. The Doctor and Donna try to distract the Empress as Lance sneaks up with an axe, but Lance’s identity is soon revealed. He made her coffee everyday, spiking it with Huon particles while tolerating her obsession with pop culture. He’s been promised a chance to see the stars, and that was enough to betray Donna. The Empress decides to dispose of the Doctor, but he reverses the particle activity and draws the TARDIS around them so they can escape.

The Doctor sets a course back in time as Donna grieves about Lance’s betrayal. They arrive at the creation of the Earth, making Donna the first human to ever see it. Together, they watch as the Racnoss starship arrives, acting as the nucleus for the planet’s formation. At that moment, the TARDIS rocks and is pulled forward to the present day as the Empress floods Lance’s body with Huon particles. To avoid a direct return to the lab, the Doctor smacks the extrapolator and shifts the TARDIS into an abandoned corridor. Unfortunately, they are both soon trapped by the robots.

The Empress extracts the Huon particles from Donna and Lance, projecting the energy into the pit and awakening the sleeping Racnoss below. She then releases Lance as food for her growing horde as her spaceship descends and attacks the city. The Doctor arrives and saves Donna before offering the Empress one last chance to save her people by surrendering. The Empress, of course, declines, and the Doctor warns her that what follows is her own doing.

The Doctor disables the robots before telling the Empress where he’s from. It turns out that the Time Lords were responsible for the extinction of the Racnoss, so the name Gallifrey sparks fear in the Empress. The Doctor uses the explosive ornaments to breach the Thames walls, flooding the complex while the Last of the Time Lords watches with sinister intent. Donna brings him back to his senses as the Empress transmats back to her ship.

On the roads above, tanks roll in and – under orders from Mr. Saxon, who we saw referenced last in Love & Monsters – destroy the ship. The Doctor and Donna surface to find the threat over and the Thames drained. They take the TARDIS back to a nearby road and the duo say goodbye. The Doctor uses temporal energy to start a Christmas snow before offering Donna a chance to travel with him. She declines, despite the adventure they just shared, but she encourages him to find someone because they can help balance the darkness in him.

The Doctor briefly tells Donna about Rose before taking off for his next adventure.

 

For a fun Christmas tale, this one does the trick. Donna and the Doctor together are amazing, playing off each other in pseudo-confrontational snappy dialogue as they work together to solve the mystery. The source of that threat, on the other hand, was way over the top: The Racnoss Empress chewed the scenery into splinters.

The Doctor is taking some time to mourn for Rose. It seems like just the right amount instead of going to the extreme with a depressed and/or mopey Doctor. He also knows when to set aside his grief to save Donna’s life and stop the Racnoss from destroying the Earth. I also really enjoyed the discussion about the Doctor needing a companion to balance him and rein him, particularly in the post-Time War trauma that the character is experiencing.

Following the episode airdates, we go back to Torchwood at this point and will remain there until the end of the show’s first series.

 

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Torchwood: Captain Jack Harkness

 

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.