Timestamp #250: The Day of the Doctor

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

Timestamp 250 Day of the Doctor

The big event in a cup-a-soup.

The Last Day

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

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

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

Thus begins the Fall of Arcadia.

The Day of the Doctor

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

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

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

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

It reads “NO MORE”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gallifrey stands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot

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

Timestamp #248: The Name of the Doctor

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

Timestamp 248 The Name of the Doctor

The prophecy of Trenzalore comes to call.

Clarence and the Whispermen

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

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

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

She Said, He Said

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

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

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

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

The Name of the Doctor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The TARDIS is the Doctor’s tomb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As River dissipates, the Doctor enters his own timestream.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


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

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

Timestamp Special #7: Dimensions in Time

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

 

Celebrating thirty years.

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

On to the story…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Death Comes to Time

 

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

 

Timestamp #130: The Five Doctors

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors
(Twentieth Anniversary Special, 1983)

 

“I am being diminished, whittled away piece by piece. A man is the sum of his memories you know, a Time Lord even more so…”

After a heart-touching introduction by the First Doctor, we find the Fifth Doctor – To save on confusion, I’m going to call them by number right out of the gate – putting the finishing touches on a brand new control console, and I actually kind of like it. The team is relaxing at the Eye of Orion, taking some time away from the rush of their recent adventures. The tranquil atmosphere has something to do with a bombardment of positive ions, and the Doctor agrees with Tegan that they can vacation for a little while.

Elsewhere, a black-gloved hand fiddles with controls and activates a scanner. On the screen is none other than the First Doctor (though not quite the genuine article due to an obvious need for recasting). A black Phantom Zone-like two-dimensional triangle swoops down and scoops up the Time Lord, an act that causes the Fifth Doctor considerable pain. The First Doctor is reduced to an Eaglemoss figurine and placed on a crystalline display.

Next up, we’re taken to UNIT HQ where Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is talking to his replacement, Colonel Crighton, when the Second Doctor arrives. The Time Lord has arrived to attend the Brig’s farewell speech and is unhappy with the renovations at UNIT HQ. He and the Brigadier take a walk, reminiscing over the Yeti, the Cybermen, Omega, and the Terrible Zodin (okay, not so much that one) before they too are swept into the Phantom Zone and turned into toys.

On to the Third Doctor, who is trying to outrace the spinning triangle in Bessie. He fails.

Tegan and Turlough escort the Fifth Doctor to the TARDIS, where he tells them that he must find his older selves to stop whatever is chewing at his soul. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sarah Jane and K9 puzzle over the danger that the robotic dog detects. Sarah Jane ignores his concerns and heads to the bus for her daily schedule. She’s later consumed by the mysterious triangle.

The Fourth Doctor and Romana are punting down the river at Cambridge, just like they did in Shada. It’s a clever re-use of footage, really. Anyway, they are also taken, which causes the Fifth Doctor to collapse, but not before he sets the coordinates. The Fifth Doctor fades in and out before the TARDIS lands, and the mysterious figure adds models of Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor to the display.

On Gallifrey, the Inner Council has convened, comprised of a newly-regenerated President Borusa, High Chancellor Flavia, and the Castellan. Shockingly, they admit the Master for a conference. The Inner Council offer a pardon for his long list of crimes and a whole new regeneration cycle in exchange for one act: He is to rescue the Doctor.

Surprise!

The First Doctor wanders an angular cave of mirrors, joined in a surprise appearance by Susan. (There were cheers from this Whovian. I’ve missed her.) The pair run as a Dalek (we haven’t seen them in a while!) rounds a corner and opens fire. The place is known as the Death Zone, an arena-like place on Gallifrey where beings from across the universe were sent to battle for amusement before the time of Rassilon. The Council sent two representatives who did not return. They attempted to send the Doctor, but all of his incarnations have vanished from the timeline. All of them (except the Fourth because Tom Baker had reasons) have been deposited in the Death Zone. Inside the Zone, the First Doctor and Susan trick the Dalek into a mirrored dead end. It fires and the reflected beam destroys the creature, revealing the mutant within the armored casing. Through a hole in the wall, they see the tower of the Death Zone and decide to investigate.

Elsewhere, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier tangle with Cybermen and the Third Doctor reunites with Sarah Jane as he rescues her from a terrible fall. As the First Doctor and Susan wander, they find the Fifth Doctor’s TARDIS and meet Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor. The First Doctor spearheads introductions all around and then tasks Tegan with fetching refreshments. She objects, but the Fifth Doctor asks her to humor the oldest of the Doctors. After all, he used to get a bit tetchy. Meanwhile, the Master is sent into the Zone with the Seal of the High Council (to prove his credentials) and a transmat recall device. He is soon found by the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane, but the reunion is broken up by laser fire. The Master runs one direction while the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane go another, but without the aid of Bessie who took a direct hit to the engine.

The Fifth Doctor sets the TARDIS coordinates for the Dark Tower, a place that supposedly holds the tomb of Rassilon and is the current destination for all of the Doctors and companions. The Fifth Doctor, Susan, and Tegan set out on foot to disable the force field around it so the First Doctor and Turlough can move the TARDIS to its doorstep. Meanwhile, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier go in through the cave system beneath the tower, the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter Cybermen, and the Fifth Doctor’s team encounters the Master. The last event is watched by a squad of Cybermen, who rush the Time Lords and stun the Master. The Fifth Doctor sends Susan (who twists her ankle) and Tegan back to the TARDIS before using the transmat recall to return to the capitol. The First Doctor decides to take up the Fifth Doctor’s task, and Tegan joins him. Amusingly, the First Doctor still has a great deal of resentment at being addressed as “Doc.”

The Fifth Doctor confers with the Inner Council about who has control of the time scoop and the Cybermen. He uncovers a homing beacon inside the recall device, surmising that someone led the Cybermen to the Master to attack the Doctors. Borusa has the Castellan, who originally gave the device to the Master, arrested and his office and quarters searched. Meanwhile, the Master makes an arrangement with the Cybermen, who then converge on the TARDIS.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter a Raston Warrior Robot, a perfect killing machine, halting their progress until it passes. Luckily, the Cybermen approach and engage the Raston, providing a diversion for our heroes to escape (with the Raston’s supplies). In the caves, the Second Doctor and the Brig find a Yeti, which they evade before finding a door to the Dark Tower. It is unlocked, so a trap must lie beyond.

In the Citadel, a chest containing Black Scrolls of Rassilon, forbidden knowledge from the Dark Times, is found in the Castellan’s quarters. The Castellan is taken away for interrogation but is shot dead (without regeneration) en route. The Fifth Doctor is forbidden by Borusa from returning to the Death Zone. Flavia is tasked with taking care of the Fifth Doctor, and they discuss the possibility that the Castellan was not the traitor.

At this point, all three entrances to the Dark Tower are in use. The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane zipline across to the upper entrance, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier are in the basement, and the First Doctor and Tegan use a biometric entry coder to open the front door. The Master follows through the main entrance with the Cybermen. Interestingly, the First Doctor does not recognize his former classmate. The Master tricks the Cybermen into a death trap, but the CyberLeader survives until the Master tricks and kills him with a Cyberman blaster. The Master passes the trap, followed by the First Doctor and Tegan who survive by using π. Stay in school, kids… math can save your life.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane descend toward the Tomb of Rassilon, but the closer they get, the more psychic energy pushes back on Sarah Jane. The Third Doctor scouts ahead and finds former companions Mike Yates and Liz Shaw. Similarly, the Second Doctor encounters Zoe Heriot and Jaimie McCrimmon, but in both cases, the former companions are only specters designed to impede progress toward the heart of the tower. Once the Doctors understand that the companions are mere illusions, they disappear with chilling screams. The First Doctor is unaffected since, at his age, he has nothing left to fear.

The First, Second, and Third Doctors, along with their current traveling companions, finally arrive at the tomb. After a series of reunions, the Doctors decipher the Old High Gallifreyan language of mathematical symbols to discover that whoever wears Rassilon’s ring shall achieve immortality. The First Doctor is troubled by the last line in the text: “To lose is to win and he who wins shall lose.” The Master arrives shortly afterward and threatens the Doctors, but he is sucker-punched by the Brigadier and tied up by Tegan and Sarah Jane.

The Fifth Doctor goes to confer with Borusa, but the president is nowhere to be found. The Doctor discovers that the Harp of Rassilon is a musical key. The key unlocks a chamber where the figurines (including one of the Master) are being overseen by Borusa, the true mastermind of this scheme. The president is not satisfied with leading Gallifrey for all of his lifetimes, but instead want to be immortal and President Eternal. He plans to use the Doctors to clear the path and traps, leaving the way open for him to claim the prize. When the Fifth Doctor refuses to help, Borusa uses the power of the Coronet of Rassilon to compel his cooperation.

Politicians, right?

The Third Doctor reverses the polarity of the neutron flow on the control console, and with the forcefields down around the Tomb of Rassilon, the TARDIS engages autopilot and moves to the tomb with Susan and Turlough. The movement is just in time as the Cybermen detonate a bomb to destroy the TARDIS, but they miss. Soon, the Fifth Doctor and Borusa arrive via transmat to claim the prize. The first three Doctors combine their psionic powers to break the telepathic hold, and as the Fifth Doctor is freed, the voice of Rassilon issues a challenge to Borusa. The First Doctor convinces Rassilon to surrender the ring to Borusa, and the president’s desire is granted: The faces that line the plinth come to life, for they are those who have previously sought immortality, and Borusa becomes one of them.

Rassilon offers immortality to the Doctors, but they decline in exchange for the chance to go back to their respective timestreams. The Fourth Doctor is restored to Shada, and the Master is restored with the promise that his sins will find their punishment in due time. As the Doctors says their farewells, the First Doctor (smugly) explains that he convinced Rassilon to give Borusa the ring because he finally understood the riddle: It was a trap set by Rassilon to weed out the more selfish of their people because they were a danger to civilization. Each set of Doctors and companions boards the TARDIS in order and the TARDIS splits through a form of temporal fission to return them their proper homes.

Chancellor Flavia arrives and tells the Doctor that he is due back to the Citadel. Since Borusa has been disqualified, the High Council has decided that the Doctor shall resume his duties as Lord President. He orders Flavia back to the Citadel, telling her that she has full authority until he arrives in his TARDIS. After ushering Tegan and Turlough aboard, he sets a course and dematerializes, stunning his companions by announcing his intention to not take office.

“You mean you’re deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people, in a rackety old TARDIS?”

“Why not? After all, that’s how it all started.”

 

All in all, this was a wonderful story to celebrate a significant milestone. I was curious, so I looked at scripted entertainment television across the United States and United Kingdom and came up with a short list of shows to reach twenty years by 1983: Coronation Street, Guiding Light, As the World Turns, General Hospital, The Wonderful World of Disney, Romper Room, Search for Tomorrow, Captain Kangaroo, and The Edge of Night. There were also a couple of semi-scripted children’s shows like Blue Peter and The Sooty Show, but the fact remains that, in a world dominated by soap opera longevity, Doctor Who was the only science-fiction drama reach that mark.

Yeah, they deserved this party.

I was very pleased to see so many of the companions back in action, even if their cameos were short. While I would have loved to see Liz, Zoe, and Jamie get into the mix, the saying holds true that too many cooks spoil the broth. It was clever, however, to subvert nostalgia with the canonical circumstances of The War Games. I appreciate that level of attention to detail.

I did miss having Tom Baker in the mix, which would have drawn The Five Doctors down to four if it hadn’t been for Richard Hurndall. From what I gather in fan circles, his involvement as the First Doctor is sometimes disparaged, but I thought he did a fantastic job. Mixing his performance with the archival footage at the beginning (effectively bringing us two First Doctors) was a nice touch and a beautiful tribute to the beginnings of this franchise.

Finally, that wonderful musical mix over the end credits to tie the eras together: C’est fantastique.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Twentieth Series Summary

 

 

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

Timestamp: Eleventh Series and Third Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: Eleventh Series and Third Doctor Summary

Timestamp Logo Third 2

 

The Eleventh Series bounces back from the slight dip in the Tenth Series, but that’s not without caveats. Two of the stories were easy marks: The Time Warrior was a straight-up 5, and The Monster of Peladon – rest in peace, brave Aggedor – was a solid 4. But each of the other ones in this series took a little, shall we say, extra consideration. Invasion of the Dinosaurs and Death to the Daleks benefitted from optimistic mathematics, but Planet of the Spiders only scored well because of the regeneration handicap and the addition of franchise mythology in an already heavily padded story.

This season heralded the passing of the torch for the Third Doctor’s run: UNIT is phased out more and more as one of the strongest companions so far gets introduced. Sarah Jane Smith is so fantastic, from her journalistic inquisitiveness to her proactivity and fiery nature. She definitely has not let me down.

Out of the Third Doctor’s run, this one was the second highest rated behind the Ninth Series. It’s also the second highest rated for the entire Timestamps Project to date, barely edging out the Fifth Series. But I think a lot of the turbulence for me in this series has a lot to do with one major component of the Third Doctor’s era: Convenience.

 

The Time Warrior – 5
Invasion of the Dinosaurs – 4
Death to the Daleks – 4
The Monster of Peladon – 4
Planet of the Spiders – 4

Series Eleven Average Rating: 4.2/5

 

Timestamp Third Doctor

 

Remember how I referred to William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton as anchors for the audience? I think it still holds here. Jon Pertwee’s introduction ushered in a lot of changes for the franchise, and it meant that the Doctor had to change a bit as well. If the First Doctor is the Wise Grandfather and the Second Doctor is the Sly Jester, then the Third Doctor is the Secret Agent Scientist.

The James Bond influence is strong in Pertwee’s run, from the Lazenby-style ruffles to the ad hoc gadgets and super-powered vehicles. Unfortunately, those efforts to appeal to modern audiences come at the price of adding convenience to the franchise. I wanted to know how often I called out the convenience in the stories, so I searched the Timestamps Project for the term and came up with sixteen hits. Of those, half of them were in the Third Doctor’s run alone.

In The Ambassadors of Death, it was the antagonist’s communicator and a gadget on Bessie. In The Curse of Peladon, it was the plot device that removed the TARDIS as an escape vector and the Time Lord interference that sent the Doctor there. In Carnival of Monsters, it was Jo’s skeleton keys. In Frontier in Space, it was the quick clearing-of-the-stage appearance of the Daleks. In Planet of the Daleks, it was the secret information that the Time Lords provided to the Doctor about the large Dalek force. In Invasion of the Dinosaurs, it was the selective nature of the time bubble machine. In Planet of the Spiders, it was both the Whomobile’s sudden flight mode and the ability of Yates and Tommy to survive a blast that essentially killed a Time Lord.

In the one that I can excuse, The Three Doctors kept an infirm William Hartnell confined to a time eddy.

But that’s still seven occurrences in five series related to one Doctor. Hartnell and Troughton each had four hits on my search, and I’m willing to admit that it’s probably more prevalent, the fact remains that it really stood out during this Doctor’s run. To me, that represents a substantial change in the franchise overall. This isn’t the same Doctor Who as it was under Hartnell and Troughton.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Doctor Who had been running for seven years before the Third Doctor, and those seven years were, for the most part, pretty consistent. Television shows these days are lucky to get three or four years unless they’re medical procedurals (ER, Grey’s Anatomy), crime procedurals (Law & Order, Bones), or Supernatural. Star Treks generally got seven seasons (arguably, four of which were consistent). Babylon 5 ran for five years (and some extras) and Farscape ran for four years (and a miniseries). Closer to the 1960s, the original Star Trek only got three years, and depending on who you ask, it was consistent for two.

With those odds, it made sense that Doctor Who would have to evolve (regenerate) in order to survive. It will likely happen again.

So, what did I think of the character? I liked him, though not as much as the scores would indicate. In my opinion, the Third Doctor’s episodes were generally superior to those of his predecessors, but the character himself suffered from his exile. He was frequently snotty, condescending, and downright rude, and while that made sense to the story, those aren’t character traits that I admire. I loved that he brought science back to the forefront with his constant experimentation and exploration, but he didn’t really start to shine for me until he got his keys back.

He’s a man defined by his wheels – Bessie, the Whomobile, the TARDIS – and that makes him kind of shallow.

And I seriously hope that one of those, the Whomobile, stays in the garage.

The Third Doctor’s run consistently has some of my favorite work in the series, and it scores the highest as a result, but outside of the numbers I still favor the Second Doctor as a character.

 

Series 7 – 3.8
Series 8 – 3.4
Series 9 – 4.8
Series 10 – 3.8
Series 11 – 4.2

Third Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 4.00

 

Ranking (by score)
1 – Third (4.00)
2 – Second (3.67)
3 – First (3.41)

Ranking (by character)
1 – Second Doctor
2 – Third Doctor
3 – First Doctor

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Robot

 

 

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 #74: Planet of the Spiders

Doctor Who: Planet of the Spiders
(6 episodes, s11e21-e26, 1974)

Timestamp 074 Planet of the Spiders

 

I don’t like spiders. I’ll try not to let that color my commentary.

Mike Yates, who we haven’t seen since his betrayal of UNIT and the Doctor, is recuperating at a Buddhist meditation center led by a man named K’anpo and his assistant, Cho Je. He finds a secret group in the basement that may be up to no good, so he calls Sarah Jane and they investigate matters. On the way back to the center, Sarah Jane is convinced of the fascinating tale when they get run off the road by an imaginary tractor. The leader of the secret group, Mr. Lupton, meets the cinematic standard of a villain since he physically abuses and bullies Tom, a man with a mental disability.

The Doctor is at a comedy show of some sort with the Brigadier. He’s there to see a psychic, Professor Herbert Clegg, who he invites to UNIT. Clegg is a very powerful clairvoyant, and he submits to some experiments to determine his full strength. One, for example, summons experiences from the sonic screwdriver and displays them on a monitor. During this evaluation, a package arrives from Jo Grant containing the crystal from Metebilis III, which is an odd way to re-gift a wedding present. Professor Clegg has a violent psychic reaction to the crystal, resulting in a fatal fear-induced heart attack. Simultaneously, Lupton’s group summons an intelligent and powerful spider from another dimension, and that spider merges with Lupton’s body. Sarah Jane and Yates witness this event, and she returns to UNIT and relays the tale to the Doctor.

The Doctor gazes into the crystal, sees the hermit who lived behind his childhood home, and relays the story to the Brigadier. Meanwhile, Lupton is driven by the spider to seek the crystal at UNIT HQ. He forces his way in and steals the crystal, which prompts an extensive chase. Lupton steals the Whomobile, so Sgt. Benton, Sarah Jane, and the Brigadier follow in Bessie, while the Doctor provides air support in a small, one-man helicopter. After the whole group breaks some local speed laws, a police officer joins the chase in a moment of levity. After they all stop at an airport, Lupton steals the helicopter, and the Doctor and Sarah Jane continue pursuit in the Whomobile, which (conveniently) can now fly. The ground chase gives way to a water chase involving a hovercraft and a speedboat, which results in a several rather obvious reveals of the Jon Pertwee’s stunt double. When the Doctor finally catches up to the speedboat, Lupton has vanished.

Take a moment and catch your breath.

Lupton apparates back to the retreat and is seen by Tommy, who only has eyes for the crystal and covets it for his collection of “pretties.” As the Doctor and Sarah Jane track Lupton back to the retreat, the Lupton-Spider calls home to the spider community on Metebilis III and conspires to take over Earth. The spider attempts to coerce Lupton through telepathic pain, but Lupton levels up and reverses the effect on the spider. Meanwhile, Tommy steals the crystal and hides it in his cupboard under the stairs.

I found the fact that he lives under the stairs to be quite interesting. It’s part of the Madwoman in the Attic trope, where the socially undesirable member of the house is locked away from public view to save face. In some cases, this person ends up being the hero of the story of a fulcrum to pivot the plot and enable the hero to save the day. Three of my favorite examples are Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, Scorpius in Farscape, and Harry Potter in the franchise of the same name.

Tommy takes Sarah Jane to look at the crystal, but Sarah Jane overhears Lupton and follows him to the basement. She asks Tommy to relay her plans to Yates and watches Lupton apparate to Metebilis III. She inadvertently follows him and gets captured by a group of humans who are subjects to the queen spider and her society of Eight Legs. The queen just happens to visit the village and Sarah Jane is discovered. The Doctor gives chase in the TARDIS and arrives just as the queen discovers Sarah Jane. The Doctor gets into a fight with the queen’s human guards, and is eventually incapacitated and left for dead as the queen and her retinue depart. During the fracas, Sarah Jane hides in the crowd.

Back on Earth, Tommy gets into an altercation with Lupton’s comrades. He returns to his cupboard and gazes into the crystal, which heals his brain. On Metebilis III, Lupton realizes that he is a only a cog in the overall Eight Leg machine designed to overthrow the queen. Sarah Jane retrieves a machine from the TARDIS to help heal the Doctor, but she is captured by the Eight Legs. One of the indentured humans uses the machine to help the Doctor as Sarah Jane learns the history of Metebilis III from a fellow captive named Sabor. The humans are descendants of a crashed spaceship, and the Eight Legs are spiders that were on the ship and were mutated by the crystals.

The Doctor investigates different types of stones around the human village and finds one that negates the energy attacks of the Eight Legs followers. He infiltrates the spider fortress and is captured, but escapes using techniques learned from Harry Houdini. As the Doctor makes his way to the lair of the Great One, the supreme spider, the queen takes Sarah Jane and confides in her that the queen wants peace with humanity. Sarah Jane agrees to get the crystal if the humans are all released.

The Doctor reaches the lair of the Great One, but she warns him not to go any further due to intense radiation. She wants the crystal, the last perfect crystal of power, but the Doctor doesn’t yield. The Great One telepathically forces the Doctor to march about like a tin soldier (to music very reminiscent of the march of the Cybermen), before releasing him so he can retrieve the crystal. He escapes with Sarah Jane, who has apparently learned how to apparate from the queen, and they return to Earth.

Lupton’s followers open the gateway to the spiders, who transport to Earth. The spiders attack Cho Je and Yate, and then possess the followers. They then attack the Doctor and Sarah Jane, who are saved by Tommy before being taken to K’anpo. During their discussion, K’anpo is very impressed with the Doctor’s knowledge of Tibetan customs, and the Doctor feels that K’anpo is familiar to him.

In the interim, the spiders track the crystal to Tommy, and they fire on him with their Force lightning energy beams. At this point, it’s painfully obvious how much padding this serial has. The recaps in each episode are pretty long, but the last one is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back with significant re-editing to reveal things that would have spoiled the cliffhanger. I’m sure it was different back in 1974 when the break between episodes was a whole week, but when they’re watched back-to-back, the extensive recaps become painful. Regardless, this whole serial could be cut down into three or four episodes instead of six.

Anyway, the spiders track the crystal to Tommy because Tommy delivered it to K’anpo. At this point, we find out that Sarah Jane is under the control of the queen, who has tricked her to retrieve the crystal. K’anpo and the Doctor free her with the crystal, and the queen dies as she apparates back to Metebilis III. In a twist, K’anpo is revealed as the hermit from the Doctor’s childhood. He is a Time Lord as well, but chose not to follow the path of others like the Doctor, having regenerated and left Gallifrey to live in Tibet. Cho Je is merely a projection of K’anpo’s mind.

Here we are with some important mythology points: We learn the name for regeneration, as well as getting another reference to the Doctor stealing the TARDIS and running from Gallifrey.

The Doctor communes with K’anpo and realizes that he must take the crystal to the Great One. His greed for knowledge and his theft of the crystal set all of this in motion, and only he can stop it by facing his fears.

Outside, Tommy is resisting the spider lightning, so Lupton’s followers channel power from the spider council on Metebilis III and use it to attack Tommy. He resists the first blast, and Yates dives in to take the second. The followers burst into K’anpo’s chambers just as the hermit tells the Doctor how to apparate. The followers shoot K’anpo before running for the basement, but the Doctor is too quick for them. He returns to Metebilis III, but is betrayed by the villagers who are under the influence of the spider council. The Doctor easily convinces the council that he will return the crystal to the Great One alone, and they allow him to leave. Afterward, the Eight Legs kill Lupton for his insolence.

Back on Earth, Yates and Tommy have (conveniently) survived, the former being protected by his compassion, and the latter by his innocence. Given that the same blasts force K’anpo to regenerate into Cho Je, I think that Yates and Tommy should have died. It certainly would have given Yates a bit of redemption after his betrayal.

The Doctor enters the lair of the Great One, who desires the perfect crystal to complete a telepathic weapon that will saturate the universe with her mind. She takes the crystal and puts it in place, but the device overloads and destroys her and the Eight Legs civilization. The Doctor escapes, but is weakened from the large dose of radiation he absorbed.

Three weeks later, the Doctor is still missing. As the Brigadier and Sarah Jane discuss the Doctor’s absence, the TARDIS materializes. The Doctor falls out of the TARDIS, just as he did when he first arrived, after being lost in the time vortex. He has received a fatal dose of radiation and is dying. He says his goodbyes to Sarah Jane, and then regenerates.

Tucked into his farewells is the phrase “Where there’s life, there is hope,” which comes from the Roman play Heauton Timorumenos, but also has roots all over mythology. It’s a universal theme, and very relevant to the character of the Doctor, a being who brings hope everywhere he goes spanning lifetime after lifetime.

Overall, I had a hard time with this story. If it were presented on its own, I’d score it as a 2. It’s far too spread out and padded, especially in the recaps, but it gains some salvation in the ties into the franchise’s mythology, especially for reaching into our hero’s childhood once again. Adding a point for those ties and another for the regeneration handicap, and this one comes to a total of 4, but I still think that it’s a pretty bad way for the Third Doctor to end his era.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Eleventh Series and Third Doctor Summary

 

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

 

 

Timestamp #73: The Monster of Peladon

Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon
(6 episodes, s11e15-e20, 1974)

Timestamp 073 The Monster of Peladon

 

The Doctor returns to Peladon, and that means we get more Aggedor! Well, kind of.

As this serial gets rolling, I hadn’t noticed before now that the opening credits have a glitch. When the Third Doctor transforms into a silhouette and joins the wormhole effect, the zooming leaves an artifact in the lower left corner of the screen until the Doctor Who logo appears. I can’t un-see it now.

Anyway, back to Peladon. Three miners are moving a device called the sonic lance when they are attacked by something called the “Spirit of Aggdeor”. It’s no surprise that the miners are afraid and refuse to work any longer, and it’s also no surprise that it’s time for the Doctor to arrive. Right on cue, the Doctor brings Sarah Jane to Peladon to show her “one of the most interesting places” he knows, and they are almost immediately apprehended.

They are taken before the queen, the daughter of the king we saw on the Doctor’s last trip to Peladon, who is working with the Federation delegates to keep mining production moving. Our travelers arrived in the height of war between the Federation and Galaxy Five, and their appearance correlates with fears of enemy spies being implanted in the Federation. It’s been fifty years since the Doctor was last on Peladon, but the queen knows the legends of the Doctor, and his life is saved by old friend Alpha Centauri, who vouches for the Doctor.

Sarah Jane is fiery. So awesome!

The miners are extracting a mineral for the war effort, and are upset with their way of life which hasn’t improved in the last fifty years. Their leadership is split between Gebek (who negotiates with the queen for improvement) and Ettis (who relies on violence, including taking over a Federation armory), and they have some unintentionally hilarious hairstyles.

After the Spirit attacks again, the Doctor appeals to the queen to let him investigate before she takes rash action against the rebels. The queen sends her champion with the Doctor to investigate the last site of the Spirit’s appearance when Ettis sets off an explosion. The Spirit appears, kills the champion, and then vanishes. Gebek uses the sonic lance to free the Doctor, who escapes just before the Spirit attacks again, and the Doctor and Gebek strike a deal for the good of Peladon to continue the investigation. The Doctor promises to convince the queen to improve conditions and the miners can get back to work. As the guards attack, the miners and the Doctor escape together.

Sarah Jane has gone to find the Doctor and gets lost, tripping a defense system near the refinery after seeing someone sneaking about inside. She is rescued by Alpha Centauri and Eckersley, a human miner. Meanwhile, Chancellor Ortron (mirroring High Priest Hepesh from the last Peladon adventure) convinces the queen that the Doctor is in league with the miners, and recommends that the Doctor be executed.

Ettis attacks Eckersley and forces Alpha Centauri and Sarah Jane to open the armory. After Alpha Centauri sounds the alarm, Ettis escapes with Sarah Jane, who then is captured by the palace guards. Ortron orders her taken to the temple and pins the rebellion on her and the Doctor. He throws them both into the pit to be disposed of by the real Aggedor.

Oh, Aggedor, I have missed you.

The Doctor uses the “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” lullabye on Aggedor, which works just like it did fifty years before, and they are released by the queen. Thank the Maker that the queen is finally standing up for herself! She asks the Doctor to have Gebek meet with her and discuss the miners’ grievances. The Doctor departs on his mission, but asks Sarah Jane to remain and advise the queen in how to stand up for herself. Her advice: “There’s nothing ‘only’ about being a girl.”

Yes! She’s like Jo turned up to eleven.

Gebek tries to rally the miners to a peaceful situation, but Alpha Centauri has requested Federation military support, which may exacerbate the situation. As the Doctor gets ready to assuage that problem, Ortron orders the Doctor to remain in the Citadel, and when he tries to sneak out to meet with Gebek, Ortron has him arrested. Alpha Centauri and the queen lobby for his release, but Ortron declines. The queen orders that Sarah Jane is to remain free, and Ortron agrees since, as a female, Sarah Jane cannot be a problem.

When Ortron talks about the Doctor’s “rebel friends,” he rolls the R and enunciates much like Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: A New Hope. It must be part of classical British acting classes.

Sarah Jane relays the Doctor’s message to Gebek, whose men have just secured the sonic lance by force. She later confers with the queen in the presence of Alpha Centauri and Ortron on how to dissuade the incoming Federation troops, who (by procedure) cannot be recalled once summoned. Sarah Jane heads for the dungeon to release the Doctor, but Gebek offers to go in her stead. Once free, the Doctor accompanies Gebek to the refinery as the miners set up the sonic lance and prepare to lay siege on the Citadel. During all of that, Alpha Centauri contacts the Federation troops, who sound a lot like Ice Warriors, and gets an update on their deployment.

Ortron puts the plan in action by appealing to the miners to return to work and promises that after the troops leave, the queen will listen to their grievances. They agree, but are immediately attacked by the Spirit. As they run, the Doctor finishes hotwiring the refinery door and reveals two Ice Warriors.

Wait. Aren’t the Ice Warriors supposed to be friendly on Peladon? Not anymore, it seems. They take the Doctor and Gebek captive and impose martial law on Peladon. All of the players are taken to the throne room, and the Ice Warrior commander, Azaxyr, summarizes the entire affair so that he has a clear picture. He returns the miners to work under Peladonian armed guards: If the miners fail to work, they will be killed, and if the miners and guards fail to follow the plan, the Ice Warriors will execute the hostages they have taken as collateral. The Ice Warriors claim to be a Federation force operating under wartime rules of engagement.

Ettis and his miner army storm the throne room to rescue Gebek, but are immediately slain by the Ice Warriors. Only Ettis escapes, and Azaxyr decides to execute the Doctor, but is convinced by Sarah Jane, Alpha Centauri, and Eckersley that only the Doctor can convince the miners to return to work. After the Ice Warriors leave to inspect the worksite, the Doctor reasons with Sarah Jane that the figure she saw in the refinery must have been the Ice Warrior guard Sskel, and that Azaxyr and Sskel must have been on the planet before the Federation troops arrived.

Sneaky, sneaky.

The Doctor returns to the throne room and asks the miners to return to work, but the Peladonians are united as a whole against the Ice Warriors. So he asks them to pretend to work until he can solve the problem, and they agree. The miners return to work as asked: They cooperate with Azaxyr exactly as they did with Ortron. Meanwhile, the Doctor raises the temperature in the mines to weaken the Ice Warriors and give the miners a fighting chance against them. The miners attack, but Gebek learns of Ettis’s plan to destroy the Citadel with the sonic lance. The Doctor goes after Ettis while Gebek keeps Sarah Jane safe, but Sarah Jane is captured by Sskel and interrogated by Azaxyr.

The Doctor fights Ettis and is defeated, but when Ettis tries to activate the sonic lance, a self-destruct circuit — one that Azaxyr enabled when he detected the rebels moving the machine into position — destroys the machine. Ettis is killed, and the Doctor is presumed dead. Azaxyr returns the mines to normal temperature and disables the ventilation system. The Doctor wakes up from the explosion and returns to the mines. He catches Gebek up on the situation, and the Doctor heads to the refinery to restore ventilation.

Sarah Jane stages a diversion to free the queen, Ortron, Alpha Centauri, and herself from the throne room, but only Alpha Centauri and Sarah Jane escape. Ortron is killed in the attempt while trying to protect the queen. Alpha Centauri and Sarah Jane take refuge in the communication room where the ambassador sends a general distress call and Sarah Jane discovers that Eckersley is conspiring with Azaxyr to corner the market on the minerals and ship it all to Galaxy Five. Eckersley is also controlling the Spirit of Aggedor, which is a matter projection of a statue with a directional heat ray. Sarah Jane sees the Doctor on the screen and runs to join him at the refinery.

That’s two serials in a row to use the combination of a galactic emergency, essential minerals, and cornering of markets to leverage power.

Eckersley and Azaxyr return to the Citadel, and Sarah Jane distracts the refinery guard long enough for the Doctor and Gebek to incapacitate him. Azaxyr discovers Alpha Centauri in the communications room, and the ambassador is sent back to the throne room where Azaxyr intimidates the queen and Alpha Centauri reveals the truth about Eckersley and Azaxyr. The ambassador is forced to reveal Sarah Jane’s whereabouts, and Sskel is dispatched to apprehend the team at the refinery. The Doctor defeats the Ice Warriors at the refinery door with the Spirit of Aggedor, and Sskel returns to Azaxyr.

Gebek rallies the miners and the guards while the Doctor controls the Spirit from the refinery, but Eckersley amplifies the security system until it drives Sarah Jane out of the refinery and overpowers the Doctor. The miners storm the Citadel with help from the Spirit of Aggedor. Sarah Jane returns to the Citadel and holds Eckersley at gunpoint until he disables the security system. He disarms her when she sees the unconscious Doctor on the screen, and Eckersley locks her in the communications room.

The miners storm the throne room to find Azaxyr holding the queen at gunpoint. The miners lay down their swords, but then attack the Ice Warriors hand-to-hand and kill them all. The queen sends Alpha Centauri to send a message to the Federation, where the ambassador frees a morose Sarah Jane who goes to the refinery. Meanwhile, Eckersley takes the queen hostage.

The Doctor wakes up, having placed himself in a sensory withdrawl trance, and shocks Sarah Jane. He mocks her for her concern, but they return together to the throne room and learn of the queen’s peril. The Doctor dispatches the real Aggedor like a bloodhound, and the creature finds and kills Eckersley. Sadly, it dies in the assault, and the Doctor mourns his friend’s death.

I mourn as well. I’m going to miss that critter.

A short time later, the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and the queen are gathered in the throne room where Gebek is named as the new chancellor and Alpha Centauri brings news of Galaxy Five’s surrender. As the Doctor and Sarah Jane leave, she ribs him over the queen’s offer to remain as her advisor, and he playfully pushes her into the TARDIS as they head off to the next adventure.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Planet of the Spiders

 

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 #72: Death to the Daleks

Doctor Who: Death to the Daleks
(4 episodes, s11e11-e14, 1974)

Timestamp 072 Death to the Daleks

 

Sometimes you get to go to the beach, and sometimes you get enslaved by xenophobic mutants in armored cans bent on galactic domination.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane are getting ready for a sandy vacation when the TARDIS loses all power and crashes. Main power, backup power, battery power, all of it gets drained away. Luckily, the Doctor has a kerosene lantern to light the way and they pair goes outside to investigate, but when Sarah Jane returns to the TARDIS to change out of her swimsuit, the Doctor gets pursued the planet’s natives. Sarah Jane returns and looks for the Doctor, but only finds a blood-stained lamp. Sarah Jane is pursued by the aliens and discovers a city with a large pulsing light. The city is a holy shrine, and trespassing is punishable by death. Of course, Sarah Jane is discovered and captured.

It’s a somewhat clever device to keep the travelers engaged on the planet: The TARDIS is utterly useless at this point.

The Doctor escapes captivity and encounters a Marine Space Corps expedition. The planet is Exxilon, and the expedition commander was gravely injured by the Exxilons. The humans are in search of parrinium, which is abundant on Exxilon and desperately needed to treat a plague. On their way to harvest it, their ship also lost power and crashed.

I did note that the human expedition badges look like a sideways version of the insignia from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It’s probably just coincidence.

On cue, another ship arrives. The expedition mistakes it for a rescue mission, but it is actually a Dalek ship. The Daleks disembark and try to exterminate, but their weapons are disabled by the energy drain. The combined stranded groups consider forging an alliance since the Daleks are also seeking the parrinium. The allied team returns to the mining dome, but are ambushed en route, and the Exxilons kill one of the humans and a Dalek before taking the entire group into custody.

When they arrive at the Exxilon camp, the Doctor saves Sarah Jane from being sacrificed, but is in turn sentenced to die for his actions. The Daleks negotiate terms with the High Priest, which the humans presume are for everyone’s release. Back on their ship, the Daleks who remained on board replace their ray weapons with projectile weapons, and those Daleks arrive and take over the Exxilons. The Doctor and Sarah Jane escape into the tunnels, which is where something is lurking that will complete the interrupted sacrifice. The Daleks enslave the Exxilons for mining the parrinium, and the humans are to hunt a renegade group of Exxilons in exchange for the minerals they need, as well as hunting the Doctor and Sarah Jane.

Smart Daleks. They keep evolving as the franchise carries on, as they also now move under psychokinetic power.

The Doctor investigates a tunnel as Sarah Jane waits, where she is approached by one of the renegade Exxilons. The Doctor discovers a strange tentacle that looks like the Martian eyestalks from 1953’s War of the Worlds, and it strikes at him. He evades until a Dalek arrives, which provides him a chance to escape. The renegade Exxilon offers them refuge from the patrols, and they agree.

The Doctor was actually cheering the tentacle’s destruction of the Dalek. What was that about abhorring violence?

The renegade Exxilon, Bellal, tells the tale: The civilization was once very technologically advanced, including travelling in space. Thousands of years ago, the Exxilons built the enormous city, which the Doctor thinks might be one of the Seven Hundred Wonders of the Universe. The city became sentient and drove the Exxilons out, and the Exxilons gradually degenerated into their current primitive society which worships the thing that destroyed them. Bellal and Gotal are from another, much smaller faction which wishes to destroy the City. The Daleks also plan to destroy it so they can escape the planet, which they will do by force with explosives.

The Dalek-human alliance begins to fracture as the Exxilons are not mining fast enough. After another root comes to the surface through a body of water and kills an Exxilon and a Dalek, the Daleks move the mining operation.

Bellal describes several images from the city walls, which the Doctor has seen before on a temple in Peru on Earth. He’s not saying that it’s aliens, but maybe ancient astronauts? He decides to infiltrate the city, and tells Sarah Jane to get the humans ready for takeoff when the beacon is disabled. If he fails to return, she must leave with the humans. Two Daleks also attempt to infiltrate the city, causing Bellal and the Doctor to flee through a secret doorway. The path forward is via a series of logic, mental acuity, and intelligence tests. The Daleks are in pursuit by way of the same tests.

The Doctor and Bellal reach the city’s brain after passing the tests, but the city attempts to prevent the Doctor’s meddling by creating antibodies. He completes his modifications as the pursuing Daleks arrive, and the antibodies attack the Daleks as the Doctor and Bellal escape.

Sarah Jane finds the human camp and works with Jill Tarrant, one of the expedition members, to exchange the full mineral sacks with ones full of sand. A Dalek discovers that Jill has escaped, and instead of sounding the alarm, it self-destructs from the sheer guilt of its failure. As the Daleks load their ship, the beacon is destroyed by the explosives team and power is restored. The Doctor, Sarah Jane, Jill, and Bellal are all captured, but instead of killing them, the Daleks leave the group to die when they infect the surface with the plague. They plan to use their mineral supply to corner the market and take over the weakened powers of the universe.

No one expects Galloway, however, who kept one of the Dalek explosives and suicide bombs the ship. The remaining humans wait with the parrinium for rescue, and the city dies and melts away. The Doctor laments the loss of such a wonder.

This was along the same lines as Invasion of the Dinosaurs in that it was a decent enough story, and even with some sketchy effects, it holds its own to reach a high 3 mark. Again, I round up.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon

 

 

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 #71: Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Doctor Who: Invasion of the Dinosaurs
(6 episodes, s11e05-e10, 1974)

Timestamp 071 Invasion of the Dinosaurs

 

It’s an invasion! But you don’t know what’s invading until the second episode! Or until you read the title of this Timestamp!

Sorry for the spoilers.

Actually, it’s fairly clever to hide the plot device by changing the name of the first episode. I mean, it’s pretty fun to figure out why London is empty – a feat that had to be fun to orchestrate and film – except for UNIT, the regular army (led by General Finch), and looters avoiding the martial law imposed on the evacuated metropolis. It’s even more clever to make this the “real” timeline instead of an alternate or parallel timeline from the actual events. The history books never really explain the great British dinosaur invasion of Nineteen-Seventy-something-something.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane explore the area, get robbed, try calling the police, and get distracted as their robber’s car gets into an accident. That seemed like a particularly grisly scene for this show. As the pair keep looking about, they encounter more looters and a pterodactyl before being apprehended by the army.  In a humorous bit, they are designated as Prisoners 177781 and 177782 as they keep disrupting the booking process. Luckily, once they are on the official books, the Brigadier and Sgt Benton discover their status and send a dispatch to retrieve them.

Did I mention pterodactyl? Yeah, the city is being evacuated because of dinosaurs.

The travelers are sentenced to a detention camp, but before they depart, the Doctor stages a fight with a fellow prisoner, then subdues the guard before making a run for it. The duo are soon captured again and loaded into a truck for transfer, but the truck gets ambushed by a tyrannosaurus rex.

Unfortunately, the tyrannosaur’s appearance highlights just how terrible the dinosaur effects are.

The travelers escape and hide in a garage where they meet a medieval peasant – not a dinosaur – who believes that the Doctor is a wizard. He attacks the Doctor with a knife but then disappears back to his own time. Soldiers soon arrive, accompanied by the Brigadier, and the group returns to the temporary UNIT HQ where the Brigadier explains the situation. The Doctor theorizes that the dinosaurs are moving back and forth through time, but he doesn’t know who is controlling the process. The general, accompanied by Captain Yates fresh off leave after the adventure with the mine maggots, doesn’t believe any of it.

The Doctor and Brigadier go out to a dinosaur sighting where they find a stegosaurus. The dinosaur fades away into a time eddy, and the localized distortion makes time run backwards for the witnesses, which eliminates the memory of the transition. The Doctor works on a gadget to knock out a dinosaur and track the temporal distortions, which are the result of Professor Whitaker and fellow scientist Butler’s experiments.  Unfortunately, Yates is working with the scientists, and proposes that the Doctor could be helpful to them. Whitaker declines in order to protect the operation and directs Yates to break the dinosaur stunner. Yates accompanies the Doctor and Brigadier to a dinosaur sighting, and sabotages the stunner. A time eddy takes the apatosaurus away, but a tyrannosaur appears behind them.

In trying to escape the threat, the Doctor falls, and Yates rushes to his rescue, fixing the stunner and taking down the dinosaur. Yates berates the scientists for trying to kill the Doctor, but agrees to sabotage the Doctor’s efforts to track Whitaker. Sarah Jane, who is still a reporter, has also been working on finding him for months.

Yates continues to hinder the Doctor by breaking the tracker. Sarah Jane gets permission to photograph the T. rex, and it wakes up and chases her because General Finch has loosened its chains. The Doctor rescues her, and Sarah Jane begins her own investigation as the Doctor begins work on a smaller, portable tracking device. Sarah Jane’s investigation leads her to an ecologist Member of Parliament, Sir Charles Grover, who is the acting Minister with Special Responsibilities in London. When she presses her points, he drugs her. She wakes up on a spaceship three months away from Earth.

Wait, what? Where did that come from?

The spaceship is filled with minor celebrities and is bound for New Earth, a pure, younger version of the current Earth. There are over 200 people on the ship in stasis, and there are seven ships. I’m not sure that 1400 people are enough for a diverse gene pool, but the concept is there I suppose. Sarah Jane questions things, so the others send to the re-education program so she can be trained to think like them.

The Doctor drives his new Whomobile – Where is Bessie and what is this shark-jumper? – and tracks the temporal distortions to an abandoned Underground station. He discovers a hidden elevator and takes it down to the lab and heads toward the reactor. The scientists steer him back to the elevator by closing a series of doors (which make the sets shimmy), and then they set a pterodactyl on him. He fights it off and escapes.

The Doctor brings the Brigadier back to the station, but the elevator has been disabled. The two of them confer with MP Grover who tries to deflect them, and Operation Golden Age, a plan to establish a fresh start for humanity by rolling back time across the entire planet, now conspires to discredit the Doctor.  Whitaker comes out of hiding, pretends to be an innocent bystander in the affair, and asks the Doctor to meet him in the hangar. The scientists drop a stegosaurus in the hangar when the Doctor arrives, and Finch brings in the Brigadier to reveal the “true” perpetrator. The Brigadier places the Doctor under arrest, which helps the Doctor to uncover the UNIT mole when Yates will not help him escape. Sgt Benton, on the other hand, allows the Doctor to run so he can unravel the mystery.

Sarah Jane attempts to convince Mark, a fellow captive on the spaceship, that the whole thing is a elaborate ruse. He watches her depressurize and step out of the airlock without being harmed. As the Doctor evades capture by an army squad, Sarah Jane is captured by Finch after trusting him with what she’s discovered. MP Grover explains the plan to her, and then starts rolling back pockets of time. Coincidentally, this leaves the Doctor surrounded by dinosaurs. The dinosaurs fight each other in a bloodless battle (which is strange since the car accident victim in the first episode was a bloody mess), and the Doctor runs only to be apprehended by Finch and the Brigadier. The Brigadier asserts his authority to take custody of the Doctor, and they return to the temporary HQ where Yates holds everyone at gunpoint. He explains the plot to the Doctor, the Brigadier, and Benton, but is distracted by another soldier which allows Benton to disarm him.

Sarah Jane returns to the spaceship, convincing Mark that it’s all fake, and they set out to reveal it to everyone on board. They get locked away for disruptive behavior. Adam, the ship’s leader, calls MP Grover and explains the situation. Grover comes into the spaceship set in a spacesuit, and berates Sarah Jane in her cell. Adam overhears the discussion and frees Mark and Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane demonstrates that the airlock is not real, and the captives escape.

So, there’s only one ship. That’s 200 people. That’s definitely not enough for diverse gene pool.

Also, everyone we saw on the ship was white. Oops.

Anyway, the Doctor and the Brigadier infiltrate the underground lab. The Doctor goes in while the Brigadier calls for reinforcements, but Benton is held at gunpoint by Finch. Benton overpowers the general and dispatches the reinforcements. Everyone confronts Grover and the scientists, and Whitaker responds by throwing the switch. It freezes everyone except (conveniently) the Doctor, and he stops the process and reverses the polarity of the machine. Grover throws the switch again, but it sends Whitaker, Grover, and the machine back in time to their Golden Age, presumably as dino snacks.

The bad guys are put away, Yates is given the opportunity to resign quietly, and the Doctor convinces Sarah Jane to travel with him.

I loved the interaction between the Brigadier and the Doctor. We don’t see a lot of that, so it’s refreshing when it happens. I also loved how much of a hero Benton became with this story. Sarah Jane is a-maz-ing, and I’m so happy to see her character in these stories.

On the costume front, the Doctor’s green and brown outfit was a good break, but I really like this blue and gray wardrobe. He has a ruffled wardrobe for all seasons.

The story was good, but the effects and logistics sketchy at best. I settled on a 3.5, and, fortunately for this story, I round up.


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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Death to 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 #70: The Time Warrior

Doctor Who: The Time Warrior
(4 episodes, s11e01-e04, 1973-74)

Timestamp 070 The Time Warrior

 

Welcome to Series Eleven and a serial chock full of firsts for the franchise. I really like the new title sequence and logo, which combines Star Trek-style warp speed rainbow star streak effects and 1970s psychedelic wormholes.

The story begins with a group of medieval warriors who are complaining about the poor stores in their seized castle, including sour wine and rancid meat, when they see a falling star. After a series of well-done effects for the crash, the raiders investigate and encounter a spaceship piloted by a Sontaran.

A Sontaran!

His name is Linx and his ship needs repair. After he claims Earth for the Sontaran Empire, the medieval warriors exchange their help for super weapons that would make them invincible. Flashing forward to the 20th century, the Doctor and the Brigadier investigate the disappearance of a dozen leading scientists and their hardware. Linx is the culprit, having kidnapped them through time so that they can repair his ship. True to his word, Linx has also provided Irongron, the lead human warrior, with a rifle.

During the investigation, the Doctor provides his name (once again) as Doctor John Smith, and we meet Sarah Jane Smith.

Sarah Jane!

Sarah Jane is a journalist posing as her aunt, a scientist. When another scientist, Professor Rubeish, goes missing, the Doctor traces him through time and Sarah Jane stows away on the TARDIS. When the Doctor sets his course for medieval times, Sarah Jane disrupts an archer who is trying to assassinate Irongron, and then gets captured by his forces.

I loved the Doctor’s quote: “A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.”

The Doctor witnesses Linx removing his helmet and, you know, the Sontarans really haven’t changed that much over the years. Sarah Jane is brought before Irongron, who is in a poor mood. Linx arrives, interrogates Sarah Jane, and provides a robotic knight for Irongron’s exploits. Irongron tests it by pitting the assassin archer against the robot for sport, but the Doctor stops the machine with an arrow to its remote control. The archer escapes with Sarah Jane, and the Doctor breaks into Linx’s lab after Irongron calls the Sontaran away to diagnose the robot. The Doctor discovers the missing scientists, including Rubeish, who couldn’t be hypnotized like the others because he left his glasses in the future, but the Doctor is soon ambushed by Linx. Linx interrogates the Doctor, who discloses that he is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey.

Gallifrey!

Sarah Jane is taken to the Wessex Castle where she meets the lord who wants to defeat Irongron, and they all assume that the Doctor is behind the plot to kidnap the scientists. They develop a plan to kidnap the Doctor and stop the insanity. Back in the makeshift lab, Linx restrains the Doctor with a headset that provides a shock when he strays from his assigned task. Rubeish helps him to escape, but the Doctor encounters the human warriors and is nearly beheaded by Irongron. He is saved by the archer Hal and Sarah Jane, but they spirit him away to Wessex Castle. They confront him about his role in the affair, but he convinces them that he is the good guy.

Irongron attacks Wessex Castle and is nearly dissuaded by the dummies that impersonate a superior force, but Linx shows Irongron how to shoot the rifles and they discover the ruse. The Doctor and Sarah Jane drive the warriors back with chemical warfare. Irongron is angered by the failure, and Linx is angry with Irongron.

The Doctor and Sarah Jane lead an attack on Irongron’s castle, and they sneak in disguised as friars. They discover the scientists suffering from starvation and sleep deprivation. When Linx returns to the lab, the Doctor offers to help him fix his ship in exchange for the scientists’ lives. Linx attacks in response, and while the Sontaran is distracted by the weakened Doctor, Rubeish hits Linx right in the probic vent, his only weak spot, and knocks him out.

Irongron summons Linx, and the Doctor responds in the guise of an upgraded robot knight. He is soon defeated and captured, and subjected to a firing squad to offer Irongron’s men practice with their rifles. Sarah Jane sneaks into the kitchen and slips a knockout draught into the food, and then helps the Doctor escape the rogues and their poor aim. Rubeish removes the scientists’ trance and works to send them all back to their time.

At this point, it’s Linx versus everyone else: When Linx’s spacecraft lifts off, it will produce a shock wave that will level the castle, and the Doctor wants to save the innocents from that fate. Linx begins the power-up sequence on his craft as the guards fall prey to Sarah Jane’s culinary sabotage. The Doctor figures out how to send the scientists home and leaves Rubeish in charge as he faces off against Linx.

Only Irongron remains standing from the drugged stew. He bursts in to confront Linx, but the Sontaran kills him. Hal warns the rogues that the castle is about to be destroyed, and then arrives just in time to shoot Linx in the probic vent with an arrow. Linx dies, but falls on the activation button for his ship, and the castle is destroyed as the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Hal escape.

Irongron is dead, his marauders are scattered, Wessex is safe, and the Doctor and his stowaway companion set course for home.

This was a fun episode with so many pieces of the mythology. Sarah Jane is an empowered and very spirited woman. She takes charge and fights hard, but is also willing to admit when she’s wrong. She’s a fantastic character right from the start. I’m eager to see how she develops as a companion.

Grading this one was easy.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Invasion of the Dinosaurs

 

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.