Timestamp #258: Kill the Moon

Doctor Who: Kill the Moon
(1 episode, s08e07, 2014)

Timestamp 258 Kill the Moon

An innocent life versus the future of all mankind.

Do you remember Courtney Woods? It seems that she’s been quite the troublemaker after meeting the Doctor. She’s been using the psychic paper to sneak into clubs and stowing away in the TARDIS, and it’s all been since the Doctor told her that she wasn’t special. It damaged her psyche.

The Doctor and Clara find Courtney in the console room and the Time Lord offers to make the student the first woman on the Moon. The TARDIS lands in the cargo bay of a shuttle approaching the Moon, and after the landing, the travelers meet the crew who want to know what’s going on. The cargo bay is full of bombs, and the Doctor distracts the human crew with tales of infinite regenerations while conducting a Fourth Doctor gravity test with a yo-yo.

The Moon’s gravity is too strong and no one knows why. The Doctor presumes that it has somehow increased in mass. A Mexican mining outpost has gone missing and this crew is an after-thought in a third-rate spacecraft. The travelers and the crew venture onto the lunar surface to investigate, finding the outpost and a lot of organic webbing.

Inside the mining outpost, the team finds a corpse. They restore power and oxygen and the Doctor discovers that the Moon is slowly disintegrating. Crewman Henry explores a nearby cave and gets eaten by a spider. Another spider enters the base kills crewman Duke and sets its sights on the rest of the team. Courtney gets separated from the team and ends up killing the spider with a cleaner that she brought along, leading the Doctor to conclude that the spider is a germ. Gravity is also shifting as the internal mass of the Moon is moving.

Courtney would really like to go home so the team returns to the TARDIS. Clara wonders why they don’t just leave but the Doctor isn’t sure that the Moon doesn’t survive this adventure. He isn’t sure what happens beyond this point, but he knows that he must remain here to see that this problem is resolved. It is a fluxed point in time. Meanwhile, crewman Lundvik begins prepping her nuclear arsenal.

The team investigates the site where Henry died and finds the cave to be full of germ spiders that are afraid of the sunlight. The Doctor finds evidence of amniotic fluid in a crater and dives in to investigate. Left behind, Clara and Lundvik head back to the TARDIS as Courtney posts about her adventure on Tumblr. Unfortunately, the shuttle is swallowed by a crevasse.

The Doctor returns and takes the team back to the mining base. He has figured out that the Moon is an egg, and the spiders are bacteria living inside it. If they destroy the Moon with nuclear bombs, they will have to explain why they killed a creature that is the last of its kind. On the other hand, the lunar disruptions are taking a toll on the Earth. While the Doctor and Clara debate with Lundvik, the Doctor gives Courtney instructions to bring the TARDIS to him.

He then decides to let the humans sort it out. Not being from Earth or the Moon, the Doctor chooses not to interfere, insisting that only humans can decide the future of their planet. He boards the TARDIS and leaves.

The team discusses the risks of eliminating the Moon. Lundvik decides to activate the bomb timer but Courtney and Clara suggest that the people of Earth take a poll. Between “kill” and “don’t kill”, the planet chooses “kill”. Lundvik decides to detonate the explosives but Clara presses the abort command first just as the Doctor returns.

The team descends to a beach on Earth’s surface as the creature hatches. As the Doctor monologues, the butterfly-like being flies into the stars, leaving another egg behind that becomes a new Moon. From this point, humanity expands into space and endures to the end of the universe because they chose not to kill. Lundvik is left to find her way to NASA while the Doctor takes Clara and Courtney home.

As Courtney leaves the TARDIS, Clara confronts the Doctor about what he knew. He explains that he knew that the egg was harmless but that it wasn’t his place to choose the fate of humanity. Clara is furious for patronizing her and placing them in danger. As her friend, he left her behind to scrabble with the rest of humanity.

She tells him to go away and not come back.

As the TARDIS fades from sight, Clara returns to her classroom and finds some solace with Danny. He tells her that, because she’s still angry with him, her relationship with the Doctor is not over. She agrees, then heads home for a glass of wine as she stares out at the Moon.


We continue the Doctor’s decline that I noted in The Caretaker. While I appreciate the prickly nature when it comes to no one getting sick and no hanky panky on the TARDIS, I found his decision to leave the humans to fend for themselves… well… anger-inducing.

I get it. I really do. It was important for humans to make this choice for themselves, but he could have offered a bit more warmth and explanation for his choice. He’s helped so many other times, but this one is the one that has to be completely hands-off? Clara had a point about the Twelfth Doctor being patronizing instead of being a counselor, and her anger is completely justified.

Now take this to the next level: Kill the Moon is an analogy for abortion. While the de facto custodians of this new life – Clara, Courtney, and Lundvik, notably all women – have the agency to choose, the Doctor’s role with his vast knowledge of was to guide, counsel, and console. He performed none of those roles, waving the “not my problem” flag and leaving the humans in the mire of making a life-altering decision without a trusted someone to provide support.

Clara’s anger was birthed from frustration and fear, and all of it could have been avoided with the Doctor’s help. Now that trust is broken. Especially because he knew that the egg was (mostly) harmless.

Note that the Ninth Doctor took a similar approach in Aliens of London, but he still remained as an anchor through a difficult moment. The Twelfth Doctor abandoned his companions.

All of that analysis aside, this story has an interesting hook with a Philip Hinchcliffe monster-of-the-week execution and terrible logic. The Moon is really an egg that incubates for millions of years, causes planetary distress upon hatching, and then is replaced by an exact copy to repeat the cycle in another eon?

The concept should have been incubated for much longer.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Mummy on the Orient Express

cc-break

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

Timestamp #257: The Caretaker

Doctor Who: The Caretaker
(1 episode, s08e06, 2014)

Timestamp 257 The Caretaker

Life, love, and lies in time and space.

Clara and the Doctor begin this adventure chained to posts on Geonosis a red desert planet with no name. The Doctor asks Clara for the vibro-cutters, but she left them in her other jacket. The Doctor asks why she has a backup jacket, to which Clara retorts that even if she had the device, she wouldn’t be able to pass it because her hands are restrained.

Of course, they won’t die of exposure because the sand piranhas will eat them first.

They escape somehow and Clara meets Danny for a date. He comments on her deep tan.

Later, she tries to leave for another date only to find the Doctor and the TARDIS in her bedroom. He tempts her with an adventure among the fish people. She later explains her soaking wet dress and the seaweed in her hair as a freak rain shower.

On another adventure, the travelers run from soldiers bent on killing them. She then meets up with Danny for a run outside. When she gets home, she claims that she can’t keep this up. She then decides that she has everything under control.

Clara enters the TARDIS for another trip but the Doctor says that he has nothing for her to do. She calls his bluff but he maintains the story that he’s going undercover. Clara is not convinced but leaves the Doctor to his work. Clara finds out the next day that his undercover assignment is as John Smith, the new caretaker of Coal Hill School.

Oh, boy.

Clara finds a moment to interrogate the Doctor about this mission, but the Doctor has no desire to explain why he’s working there. He simply says that the children will be safe if he’s allowed to complete his task.

Later on, a police officer finds two students on the street. He tells them to get back to school, then investigates a strange noise in a nearby abandoned building. The officer is soon killed by an alien robot.

The Doctor interrupts Clara’s class to tell her that she has the publication date of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice wrong. She introduces him to the class as the new caretaker, and as the bell rings, he continues laying devices around the school perimeter. Clara finds the Doctor talking to Danny and Adrian Davies, and she eavesdrops to help preserve the secret of their traveling relationship. She also reminds the Doctor about Colonel Orson Pink before being pulled away for teaching business. The Doctor mistakes Adrian for Clara’s boyfriend, and as he continues his work, Danny keeps a suspicious eye on him.

The Doctor also meets Courtney Woods when the schoolgirl finds him working in the TARDIS (which is hidden in the caretaker’s workshop). Courtney threatens to tell the headmaster about the strange blue box but the Doctor deflects as Clara arrives. After Courtney leaves, the Doctor explains that he’s looking for a Skovox Blitzer, a machine that may be hunting the artron energy and will kill everyone in its path before destroying Earth. He also shows her a wrist-mounted cloaking device that he will use to prevent the Blitzer from scanning him while he traps it.

Oh, and he’s lured it to the school.

Clara meets up with Danny and they discuss plans for a date and the new caretaker. After the school closes and the sun sets, the Doctor puts his plan into action, unaware that Danny is stalking him. Clara also canceled her date in order to help the Doctor, so all three of them are in harm’s way.

The Blitzer pursues the Doctor by following the scanning devices that Danny Pink moved to the assembly hall. The Doctor saves Danny’s life by pulling the Blitzer into the temporal vortex and casting it into the future. He chastises Danny for interfering, concerned that the device changes have altered the plan. Instead of returning in one billion years, the Blitzer will return in three days.

Danny puts the clues together and the Doctor tries to erase his memory. As Clara tries to convince him otherwise, she admits that she loves the math teacher. She determines that the best way to explain everything is the truth, including showing Danny the TARDIS.

Danny wants to call in the military to fight the Blitzer, but the Doctor tells Clara to take Danny away. The humans go to Clara’s flat to deal with what Danny has learned while the Doctor resets the trap. Despite her denials, Danny struggles with whether or not Clara loves the Doctor romantically, but he does accept that she travels to see the wonders of the universe. He does, however, feel betrayed by the lies, so Clara offers the cloaking watch so he can observe how she interacts with the Doctor.

In the TARDIS, Clara tries to change the Doctor’s opinion of Danny, but she fails. Danny decloaks himself and the Doctor reveals that Time Lords can feel invisibility fields around them. Danny and the Doctor argue – Danny considers the Time Lord to be pompous due to his aristocratic title and the Doctor sees the math teacher as nothing more than a soldier – and the teachers leave for Parents Night.

The Doctor presumes that he is alone but is met again by Courtney. The Doctor shows Courtney the TARDIS, suggesting that she could travel with him because there may soon be a vacancy. Meanwhile, the teachers meet with the parents as the vortex unexpectedly opens and deposits the Blitzer in the assembly hall.

The Doctor summons Clara to help. Danny follows but is rebuffed by the Doctor while Clara acts like a decoy. The Blitzer chases Clara into the caretaker’s storeroom where the Doctor is waiting with an improvised trap and poses as the Blitzer’s superior officer. Danny provides a final distraction that gives the Doctor enough time to end the threat. The Time Lord and the math teacher finally resolve their conflict as they both realize that Danny is good enough for Clara.

The Doctor takes Courtney as he leaves the Blitzer in deep space, but the schoolgirl proves that she can’t handle travel in the TARDIS. Back in Clara’s flat, Danny explains that he knows the Doctor because he’s seen men like him in the military. He asks her to tell him if the Doctor pushes her too far.

Finally, in a brightly lit office, the police officer who was killed by the Blitzer is being interviewed by a man named Seb. It is revealed that CSO Matthew is in the afterlife in a place called the Nethersphere, and as he spots Missy walking the hallway, Seb asks the new arrival if he has any questions.


This story is this set’s The Lodger and Closing Time, and that leaves it on somewhat shaky ground. It is great to see some development with Clara and Danny, but the counter is how the Doctor is so abrasive and detached from the people he’s trying to protect. Further, he literally draws the threat to the school, potentially placing plenty of innocents in danger when the plan goes sideways.

At the point, the halfway mark in Peter Capaldi’s debut series, it’s painfully apparent that the Doctor is alien. It’s also painfully apparent that he has not grown into the traditional role of being a companion to those he serves and travels with.

It’s a double-edged sword. It’s a good dynamic to explore in the revival era, which has had plenty of Doctors that are intimately familiar with their companions, but the abrasiveness is also off-putting. Even the Sixth and Ninth Doctors had a certain degree of compassion, but the Twelfth (to this point) feels like he sees humanity as something beneath him.

This story also echoes to another revival-era undercover story in School Reunion with similar results from a less prickly Doctor. The artron emissions that drew the Blitzer to Earth could either be from every adventure that the Doctor has had on the planet, or it could be specific to Coal Hill with An Unearthly Child, Attack of the Cybermen, Remembrance of the Daleks, and maybe even The Day of the Doctor. The first adventure is also nodded to with the “Home sweet home” throwaway line, and another callback reaches out to Mawdryn Undead with the discussion that a soldier cannot become a math teacher. The Brigadier would like a word, dear Doctor.

This had the power to be a great character-building story, but I couldn’t get past the Doctor’s apparent lack of progress on the same plane.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Kill the Moon

cc-break

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

Timestamp #256: Time Heist

Doctor Who: Time Heist
(1 episode, s08e05, 2014)

Timestamp 256 Time Heist

Doctor Who goes Ocean’s Eleven with the Architect’s Four.

The Doctor is trying to convince Clara to take another trip with him, tempting her with the Satanic Nebula and the Lagoon of Lost Stars. Unfortunately for him, she has a date planned with Danny Pink. In fact, the most that he’s noticed is that she’s taller due to high heels. Clara tries to leave but the TARDIS phone rings. This perplexes the Doctor since very few people have that number, but when he answers it, he and Clara are transported to a table with two other people, all of them victims of a memory worm.

According to vocal recordings, the others are an augmented human named Psi and a mutant human named Saibra, and all of them agreed to the memory wipes of their own free will. A case opens on the table revealing plans by “the Architect” that instruct the quartet to rob the Bank of Karabraxos, the most impregnable bank in the universe. They can’t back out because they’re already in the bank and the guards are aware of their presence.

Psi downloads the plans into his memory before the quartet runs. The guards are stopped when they handle the memory worms, leading the bank’s head of security, Ms. Delphox, to dispatch the Teller, an alien bloodhound that hunts guilt.

After a round of introductions, we learn that Psi was in prison for bank robbery and Saibra can change shape based on contact with biological matter. As the quartet makes its way through the bank, Clara and the Doctor question where the TARDIS is located. As they enter a populated area, Ms. Delphox uses the Teller to sniff out a random person’s guilt in front of them. The man’s brain is turned into soup as a result.

The quartet enters a vault and secures a bomb. They use the schematic to blow a hole in the floor and access the service corridors below. The bomb is a phase-shifting device, so the hole is sealed when they pass through and the guards are unable to follow.

The Architect’s plan leads the team to a series of cases, each with useful items as they get closer to the vault. One of those cases contains six items that the Doctor claims not to recognize. Saibra calls his bluff and he admits that they are the exit strategy while Psi and Clara discuss the latter’s ability to delete his memories.

The team ends up near the Teller’s hibernation chamber and the bloodhound detect’s Clara’s brainwaves. The Doctor breaks her free but Saibra is caught in the scan. She uses one of the exit strategy devices, an atomic shredder, as a more humane way to die and vanishes in the process.

The remaining three carry on as Psi aggressively questions the Doctor’s motives. Psi is able to hack into the vault’s security systems as Ms. Delphox releases the Teller to hunt them down. The Doctor and Clara split up to distract the Teller as Psi works. Psi is found when he saves Clara’s life and opts to use the atomic shredder device to avoid the Teller.

Psi’s work was mostly successful, but the vault remains closed due to one last lock. The Doctor and Clara are prepared to meet the Teller when a solar storm arrives, disrupting the bank’s systems and breaking the final lock. The Doctor then realizes that the Architect must be located in the future, making this robbery a time heist.

*ding* There’s the title!

The storm would also prevent the TARDIS from traveling to this time and place. Convenient plot device, that one.

The Doctor and Clara follow the clues to a safe deposit box where a neophyte circuit resides. They also find a gene suppressant before being found by the Teller. They are taken to Ms. Delphox with the knowledge that these items were Psi and Saibra’s fees for the heist. Ms. Delphox leaves to put the Teller back into hibernation to protect him from the solar storm, ordering her guards to kill the intruders. The guards end up being Saibra and Psi, revealing that the disintegrators were really teleporters linked to a ship in orbit. The Doctor gives them the items from the vault but also needs to find the remaining private vault, so Psi leads them into the depths of the bank.

The private vault turns out to be the residence of Ms. Karabraxos, who is identical to Ms. Delphox because the security chief is a clone. In fact, Karabraxos has a clone in charge of security in every one of her facilities and burns them alive when they fail her. Ms. Karabraxos sentences Ms. Delphox to that fate after ordering the Teller to the vault. The Doctor, meanwhile, puts the clues together and realizes that Ms. Karabraxos is behind the heist and gives her his phone number to use in case of an emergency.

See, this solar storm wipes out the bank, and Ms. Karabraxos gathers a few possessions before departing. The Teller arrives soon after and the Doctor submits to its powers in order to find the memories that were blocked by the worms. A dying and regretful Ms. Karabraxos was on the other end of the TARDIS phone, and she asked the Doctor to prepare a plan to fix the past. As the architect, he assembled the crew and the plan.

With this knowledge, the Teller is free of Karabraxos and Delphox and uses its power to free its mate. The heist was a rescue mission to save the last two of the Teller’s species, and the Doctor takes them to an isolated planet far from the universe’s telepathic noise. He then returns Psi and Saibra to their homes before dropping Clara back at her flat in time for her date.

The Doctor muses that robbing a bank is unbeatable for a date.


On the plus side, this episode meets the goal of being a tribute to the classic heist film. It assembles a team of experts with the mission of breaking into a super secure vault to retrieve a valuable whatsit. (I almost called it a MacGuffin, but that particular Hitchcockian plot device is of trivial value.) The story even has a few twists and turns that add personal value to each treasure and complicate motivations.

The plot is a fun conceit, but elements of feel rushed including the use of convenient loot boxes that act as signposts along the path. The ending where everyone is returned home in a triumphant montage also feels tacked on and really steals momentum from the climax. All of this is understandable since the classic heist film runs between 90 to 120 minutes, but this story has to be compressed into an hour-long block.

The biggest downside is how this episode exercises the Black Dude Dies First trope, which is overused in science fiction and “slasher”-style stories. The first two victims of the Teller are people of color, and even though one of those deaths is subverted later, it still stings. The trope stems from the history of cinema where black actors purposely kept clear of leading roles. As times changed and more actors of color were cast in bigger roles, they were treated as token actors and their characters were often killed off first.

Note that this 2014 production doesn’t have any explicit racist intent, but the history behind the trope makes people question it when the plot gives the appearance.

Swinging back to series mythology, this tale is packed with references. The computer databank has files on a Sensorite, Androvax, Kahler-Tek, a Terileptil, John Hart, Abslom Daak (a character from the novels and comics!), an Ice Warrior, the Slitheen family, a Weevil, and the Trickster. The Doctor makes direct reference to his previous and Fourth incarnations, and the disintegrators-turned-teleporters also call back to Bad Wolf.

Overall, not a terrible story, but the time compression and unfortunate narrative choices work against an otherwise intriguing tribute. I came in around a 3.5 score but rounded up.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Caretaker

cc-break

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

Timestamp #255: Listen

Doctor Who: Listen
(1 episode, s08e04, 2014)

Timestamp 255 Listen

Are we ever truly alone?

The Doctor meditates on top of the TARDIS in Earth’s orbit when he whispers the episode’s title. *ding* He later muses in the console room about the habit of talking to oneself when alone. Perhaps it is because we know that we’re not truly alone. On a tour of the world’s biomes, he studies hunters and prey and hypothesizes about a being that can remain perfectly hidden. He places his piece of chalk in an open book and asks what such a being would do. When he returns to the book, the chalk is on the floor and the chalkboard contains a single statement.

Listen.

Clara returns home from a date with Danny Pink, but it is obvious that things did not go well. In fact, Danny became hostile when she joked about him knowing of killing another person. She tries to apologize for her gaffe but, through a series of miscommunications, ends up leaving. Danny is also upset over the interaction.

Clara finds the Doctor and the TARDIS in her bedroom. The Doctor ropes her into his theory, including his dream journal, and the premise that everyone has had the exact same nightmare that someone is watching. In the premise, there’s no one there until a hand reaches out from under the bed to grab the dreamer’s leg.

To her credit, Clara wonders how long the Doctor has been traveling alone.

The Doctor interfaces Clara with the TARDIS’s telepathic circuits and sets the craft in motion. They arrive at the West Country Children’s Home in Gloucester in the mid-1990s, which the Doctor claims is part of Clara’s childhood but she doesn’t remember visiting the location. Since meeting herself could be catastrophic, the Doctor leaves Clara with the TARDIS while he investigates, but she spots a boy waving from a window. The boy is Rupert Pink, has a desire to change his “stupid” first name, and waves just like Danny does.

The Doctor enters the home and poses as an inspector. While he talks to the night manager about strange things that happen while he’s alone (and steals the man’s coffee), Clara sneaks upstairs to Rupert’s room. She asks the boy about the Doctor’s theoretical dream and then dispels the notion of a creature under the bed by climbing under it with Rupert. Her explanation is interrupted by someone sitting on the bed.

When Clara investigates, she finds someone sitting under the covers. The Doctor arrives to investigate and talk with Rupert about fear. He convinces Clara and Rupert to turn their backs on the figure under the covers, then addresses the figure with an offer to leave in peace. It approaches them and uncovers itself, and the Doctor implores them to promise that they’ll never look at the being. The figure leaves with the slam of a door and Clara convinces Rupert that his toy army will guard against anything else happening to him. She includes a soldier without a gun as the leader – Dan the Soldier Man, a soldier so brave that he doesn’t need a weapon to keep the world safe – and then the Doctor telepathically puts him to sleep.

Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor muses about why they were there when they should have been somewhere on her timeline. Since she was thinking about Danny when she was piloting the TARDIS, she theorizes that the boy was him. The Doctor reinforces this by saying that he scrambled Rupert’s memory of the night’s events with a dream about Dan the Soldier Man.

Clara tests the hypothesis by asking the Doctor to return to her to the moment when she stormed out on Danny. She makes amends with him but stumbles when she blurts out his real name. Danny asks for the truth about Clara, but leaves when she can’t tell him. Clara spots a figure in the Doctor’s orange spacesuit who beckons her back to the TARDIS, a person who is revealed to be Colonel Orson Pink, a time-traveling descendant of Danny’s. The Doctor found him at the end of the universe, stranded on an expedition that was only supposed to send a pioneer one week forward in time. They missed.

The Doctor stalls for time to ask about his dream theory. Even though there’s no one else left in the universe, Orson still locks his doors at night. Orson is adamant about not speaking of it, but the Doctor assumes that the figures have emerged since there’s no one left to hide from.

Orson hides in the TARDIS and inadvertently reveals Dan the Soldier Man, an heirloom that brings luck. He strongly implies that he and Clara are related.

As the Doctor and Clara spend a night in Orson’s base, they hear the rattles and squeaks related to the Doctor’s theory. They banter about Clara’s date and discuss the Doctor’s need to pursue the theory. They are interrupted by a knocking on the locked door and, as Clara asks why he’s so motivated to find out what’s going on, the Doctor unseals the door and sends Clara to the TARDIS.

Clara and Orson watch on the TARDIS scanner as the door opens, but the screen shorts as the air shell is breached. Orson rushes out to save the Doctor. When they return, the TARDIS begins to shake and the Cloister Bell sounds, so Clara engages the telepathic circuits to move the ship. She goes outside to investigate, leaving Orson to tend to the Doctor.

Clara emerges in a barn where someone is crying in a bed. She climbs to the loft, mistaking the child for Rupert and Orson before hiding when the a man and woman arrive. The child prefers to sleep in the barn because he cries so often. He also doesn’t want to join the army, but the man doesn’t think the boy has what it takes to join the Academy and become a Time Lord.

Wait…

The Doctor awakens in the TARDIS and calls for Clara, prompting the boy to spring from his bed. Clara grabs the boy’s leg and persuades him to go back to sleep, dismissing all of this as a dream. The boy does so and Clara departs, leaving him with a comforting thought. She asks him to listen and tells him that fear is a superpower. That one day he’ll return to the barn in fear, but that fear need not make him cruel or cowardly. Instead, it should make him kind.

She has crossed the Doctor’s timeline and encountered him as a child.

Clara returns to the TARDIS and suggests that all of this potentially stems from a fear of the dark. She tells the Doctor to take them somewhere else and never look at where they were. They return Orson home and then Clara returns to Danny’s side to discuss his fears.

The Doctor can be afraid, but that fear can be a comforting companion that always brings him home. In the TARDIS, the Doctor closes the book by underlining the word LISTEN. In the barn, the Doctor awakens to see the night sky and a gift from the mysterious voice under his bed: A toy soldier so brave that he doesn’t need a weapon.


This story makes good progress on the season arcs related to the Doctor’s identity and the relationship with Danny Pink. Both of these characters are alien to the environments in which they live, and the parallel between the Doctor’s quest to find himself and Danny’s quest to reconcile his history is fantastic. I especially like how both characters are on these journeys but still have to appear “normal” and blend in with the people around them. They have both experienced things that those around them cannot fathom, and as a military veteran myself, I can empathize.

Clara is a good counterbalance to both characters as they travel these paths, and I’m glad that she can be there for both of them.

This story marks the first appearance of the Doctor as a child. While the actor’s face remains shadowed throughout the encounter, it was a good call by director Douglas Mackinnon to style Michael Jones’s hair to match a photograph of William Hartnell in his youth. I also liked the parallel to The Day of the Doctor with the barn becoming a place of solace for the Doctor in his most stressful times.

Clara’s words of strength to the young Doctor echo throughout his life: The thread of not being cruel or cowardly was recently reinforced in The Day of the Doctor, and “fear makes companions of us all” was said to Barbara Wright in An Unearthly Child. The fear of the dark calls back to Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, and we also have character threads reaching back to The Empty Child and The Girl in the Fireplace.

Sadly, the aliens themselves are a clever idea but are backseated as a plot device to carry the theme. I’d really like to know more about them and the mystery that they embody.

Overall, it’s a twisted and convoluted narrative, but the results struck home for me.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Time Heist

cc-break

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

Timestamp #254: Robot of Sherwood

Doctor Who: Robot of Sherwood
(1 episode, s08e03, 2014)

Timestamp 254 Robot of Sherwood

Oo-de-lally?

Whilst in the TARDIS, the Doctor writes some equations on a blackboard while offering Clara the opportunity to take them anywhere and any time. She gleefully chooses Robin Hood but the Doctor tells her that the legend is not real. The character is made-up. He offers up alternatives such as the Ice Warrior hives of Mars or the Tumescent Arrows of the Half-Light, but Clara is adamant. She wants to visit Sherwood Forest in 1190.

The Doctor is sure that she’ll be disappointed but relents. While Clara changes into appropriate attire, the Doctor steps outside and surveys the area, but is surprised when an arrow pierces the TARDIS door. He’s even more surprised to find that the archer is none other than Robin Hood.

The Doctor extracts the arrow – the TARDIS heals immediately – and confronts the archer. The testy interaction is interrupted by Clara’s arrival. She is enthralled and the archer is smitten, however, Robin wants to take the magic box from the Doctor. He and Robin duel spoon-to-blade until the archer is knocked into the river, but Robin gets the last laugh as he pushes the Doctor into the water as well.

In a nearby village, knights are abducting prisoners as Master Quayle pleads with them not to take his young female ward. The Sheriff of Nottingham appraises the gold that the knights have gathered, tosses a ruby aside, and kills Quayle as the master confronts the sheriff. The woman is taken away for labor at the castle.

Clara is introduced to Robin’s merry men while the Doctor intrusively investigates the party. She meets Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck, Alan-a-Dale, Walter, and John Little, then pulls the Doctor aside to chastise him for his rudeness. The Doctor has confirmed that the men are real people, but questions if the surroundings are a Miniscope. When he asks when Clara began to believe in impossible heroes, she reminds him that it was the day they met.

As the Doctor continues his scans, Robin talks with Clara about her friend and his own history. While the king is away, the sheriff has been causing nothing but misery. Robin spoke out against the tyranny but was stripped of his title – Earl of Loxley – and forced into hiding. He fights against injustice in order to end the sheriff’s campaign and reunite with his love, Marian.

Robin announces the sheriff is holding a contest to find the most skilled archer in the land. The prize is a golden arrow, and Clara immediately warns that it is a trap to capture Robin. Robin knows it is, but enters anyway since he is the best archer in Nottingham. Under the guise of Tom the Tinker, Robin enters the contest and wins the prize but the Doctor immediately shows him up. Robin and the Doctor duel until the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to blow up the target. The sheriff orders the protagonists to be apprehended, but Robin, Clara, and the Doctor fight back, eventually revealing the knights to be robots. They are soon apprehended and taken to the dungeons as part of the Doctor’s plan to unravel the mystery.

The robots readily execute any of the peasant workers who don’t perform adequately. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Robin continue to spar until Clara has had enough. She gets them back on track, but the plan for escaping hits a snag since the sheriff has taken the sonic screwdriver. Luckily, one of the sheriff’s lackeys arrives and demands to know who the true ringleader is. From the arguments he has overheard, he selects Clara and leaves the other two behind.

While the peasants continue to toil, melting down the gold they have seized for extraterrestrial purposes, Clara is taken to dine with the sheriff. The sheriff is intrigued by the Doctor’s possessions, including the sonic screwdriver, and asks Clara if she is from beyond the stars. She is able to goad the sheriff into revealing that he witnessed a spaceship crash and has been trying to repair it by collecting gold to repair the circuitry. Planning to seize the kingdom and the world, he offers to make Clara his consort, but she vehemently rejects his advances.

In their cell, Robin and the Doctor execute a plan to attract the guard. The Doctor eventually suggests that Robin carries a vital message for the king that promises a large bounty. Robin headbutts the guard but they are unable to retrieve the keys due to their bickering. They uproot their posts and break their chains at a blacksmith’s forge, then locate the spacecraft in the castle. The Doctor examines the logs and finds that the ship was en route to the Promised Land. Every anachronism that the Doctor has seen is being caused by the ship’s presence, including (he presumes) Robin’s very existence, but Robin rejects the notion as the Sheriff blasts open the door and orders the robots to kill the men. Robin escapes by jumping with Clara into the moat, leaving the Doctor with the sheriff. The Doctor is soon knocked out and taken to join the peasant workforce.

Clara, meanwhile, awakens in Robin’s camp. Much to her confusion, the archer demands to know who the Doctor is, what he knows about Robin Hood’s life, and what his plans are.

The Doctor meets the woman from earlier, escapes his chains, and arms the peasants with reflective platters to defeat the robots and their energy beams. This angers the sheriff, who arrives as the Doctor frees the peasant workforce. The Doctor tries to dissuade the sheriff’s plan, which cannot succeed due to a lack of sufficient gold. They also discuss Robin’s status as a robot, but the sheriff denies it. When the Doctor realizes that he’s been wrong and that Robin is a legend, the archer and Clara arrive to finish the battle.

Robin and the sheriff duel, resulting in the archer using the Doctor’s earlier footwork to send the sheriff to a fiery demise. The survivors rally outside the castle as the spacecraft takes off, and the Doctor realizes that the golden arrow may provide enough fuel to reach orbit. From there, the spacecraft can harmlessly explode. The former rivals work together – the Doctor and Clara hold the bow while Robin fires the arrow – and the kingdom is saved.

At the TARDIS, Clara says her farewells and asks Robin to stay safe if he can. Robin is pleased that history will forget that he was a real person. After all, history is a burden but stories can help people soar. Robin sympathizes with the Doctor and they part on good terms.

As the TARDIS departs, the Doctor reveals that he left Robin a gift. The woman he met in the dungeon was none other than Marian, and she reunites with the legendary archer as the travelers move on to the next adventure.


This story is hit and miss with me. The moral at the end is the best part as it reflects upon what makes Doctor Who great. Between “A man born into wealth and privilege should find the plight of the oppressed and weak too much to bear… until one night he’s moved to steal a TARDIS and fly amongst the stars, fighting the good fight.” and the concept that both men should continue to pretend to be heroes to inspire others to rise up, the episode touches on the heart(s) of the franchise itself.

But the journey to get there is often weighed down by bickering and one-ups-manship. Instead of something inspiring or uplifting, we get the “privilege” of watching the equivalent of a penis-measuring contest. The novelty of that wore off after the first duel on the river.

Quite frankly, the legends of the Doctor and Robin Hood deserve better.

I did find joy in the Doctor explaining that he was taught fencing by the best – Richard the Lionheart, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Errol Flynn – particularly since this story intersects with two previous adventures. During this tale, King Richard is fighting the Crusades, and met the First Doctor during The Crusade. About twenty-five years down the road, the Fifth Doctor met Kamelion masquerading as King John in The King’s Demons.

Also fun was how the spaceship was disguised as a castle (see State of Decay) and escaping a prison cell by feigning a possession (see The Smugglers). We also saw the TARDIS struck by arrows in Silver Nemesis and The Shakespeare Code.

Finally, we continue the Third and Fourth Doctor comparisons as this brash Time Lord uses all sorts of scientific toys to analyze the goings-on. I just wish this adventure better aligned with one of those predecessors instead of being filled with pettiness and meaningless feuds.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Listen

cc-break

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

Timestamp #253: Into the Dalek

Doctor Who: Into the Dalek
(1 episode, s08e02, 2014)

Timestamp 253 Into the Dalek

A fantastic innerspace voyage.

A pilot and her wounded co-pilot desperately fly away from an attacking Dalek ship. The pilot, Journey Blue, calls for help but her ship explodes around her. She awakens in the TARDIS console room and pulls a gun on the Doctor. He tries to explain that he saved her life by materializing the TARDIS around her at the moment of her death, and he waits for her to ask nicely before taking her back to her command ship.

The vessel was once a hospital ship, but the Doctor does not receive a warm welcome when he emerges on the hangar deck. Journey Blue saves his life when she tells her shipmates that the visitor is a doctor. The crew takes the Doctor to his new patient. Unfortunately, it is a Dalek.

Back on Earth, Danny Pink trains the Coal Hill Cadet Squad before returning to his duties as a mathematics instructor. He’s quite the bit of eye-candy for the women at the school and an object of intrigue for the students since he served as a soldier in the army. The kids are curious if he’s ever killed anyone and if he’s ever killed someone who was not a soldier.

Danny eventually meets Clara, but he turns down an opportunity to join her for a drink. When he later verbally berates himself (supposedly in private), Clara offers again and he accepts. Clara leaves Danny and enters a supply closet to find the Doctor and the TARDIS. The Doctor offers some coffee, which he was supposed to fetch three weeks ago, and asks her for advice.

The Doctor wants to know if he is a good man.

Since Clara isn’t familiar with this Doctor, she replies that she doesn’t know the answer. Sadly, neither does he, and he sets a course for Aristotle. It turns out that the Dalek has asked for help and has offered to destroy its own kind, and the Doctor cannot quite wrap his head around the concept. Once they return to the command ship, they realize that they have to get into the Dalek’s head. Luckily, Aristotle has a gizmo that will shrink people.

The Doctor, Clara, Journey, and soldiers Ross and Gretchen are miniaturized and injected into the Dalek’s eyestalk. The soldiers are there to kill the travelers if they turn out to be Dalek spies. The team encounters the Dalek’s artificial memory drive which filters out good memories and reinforces bad ones, essentially refining evil. They are also attacked by antibodies when the soldiers attach grappling hooks to the Dalek’s internals. Ross is killed, but the Doctor is able to track his remains to a place of relevant safety. Unfortunately, that’s a pool of protein that feeds the Dalek, which the Doctor has named Rusty.

The team escapes through a hot tunnel to an irradiated battery room. The radiation is affecting Rusty’s memory core and allowing his morality to leak through. The damage is related to Rusty watching a star being born, an event that spoke of beauty and divine perfection. It also reinforced that life prevails and resistance to that is futile.

The Doctor fixes the battery leak, but that causes Rusty to revert to his murderous ways. He then breaks free of his restraints and begins exterminating the ship’s crew. Rusty opens a communication channel to the Dalek ship and reveals Aristotle‘s secret location.

The Doctor uses this as evidence that there is no such thing as a good Dalek, but Clara is not satisfied with the result and slaps him back into sense. Following Clara’s inspiration, the Doctor instructs her, Gretchen, and Journey to make their way back to the memory drive and try to restore Rusty’s memories of the star while he reasons with Rusty.

Gretchen sacrifices herself to get Clara and Journey to the memory core. When the antibodies kill Gretchen, she ends up meeting Missy in the garden called Heaven. Meanwhile, Rusty continues his rampage as the Daleks reach Aristotle.

The Doctor meets Rusty eye to eye, facing off against the organic creature at the heart of the Dalekanium shell. As the Doctor forms a psychic link with the Dalek, Clara crawls through its core and restores the hidden memories. The plan is mostly successful but falters when Rusty finds the Doctor’s intense hatred of the Daleks. Despite the Doctor pleading with Rusty to look beyond that hatred, the Dalek uses it to fuel a mission of destruction against his own kind.

Rusty destroys the rest of the Daleks on the ship and the team is restored to their proper size. Rusty leaves to join his own kind, promising to work against them from within. He also shakes the Doctor to his core by proclaiming that the Time Lord is the good Dalek that he was searching for. As the travelers prepare to leave, Journey asks to travel with the Doctor but he refuses because she was a soldier.

Clara changes clothes for her date as he takes her home. She tells him that she doesn’t know if he is a good man, but she does give him credit for trying to be one. She then leaves for her date with Danny, trying not to adopt the Time Lord’s policy against soldiers.


Welcome to the origin of the “Don’t be lasagna” meme. It’s such a funny example of this Doctor’s quest to find his bearings, reflecting the whimsy of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. His ruthlessness also reflects the Ninth and Tenth Doctors – note that he’s not bloodthirsty, but he is direct – and his views on the military reach back to the Third and Fourth Doctor eras.

Importantly, the military stereotypes get subverted with the reinforcement that people can evolve beyond their roles and/or training.

The Doctor’s hatred of the Daleks is generally universal, but it is amplified by the events of The Day of the Doctor. This level of hatred reminds me of the Ninth Doctor in Dalek – another time when the Doctor would make a good Dalek – though I do appreciate the attempt at defusing the hatred while persuading Rusty. The imagery used in that persuasion comes from The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End.

There are obviously elements of the classic “go inside the body” films Innerspace and Fantastic Voyage. We also have a callback to another shrunken Doctor adventure in Planet of Giants. I also love the breaking out of a morgue callback to the TV movie.

But it is the exploration of the Doctor at this point after his regeneration in the face of his greatest enemy that intrigues me, followed closely by Clara using the Doctor’s lessons learned in her own life outside the TARDIS. It’s a good journey into his personality during an otherwise straightforward narrative.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Robot of Sherwood

cc-break

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

Timestamp #252: Deep Breath

Doctor Who: Deep Breath
(1 episode, s08e01, 2014)

Timestamp 252 Deep Breath

The last chance for the Paternoster Gang to play Sherlock Holmes.

A tyrannosaurus rex stomps through London as the Paternoster Gang responds to investigate. Madame Vastra assumes that the dinosaur traveled through time, a suspicion that is confirmed when she coughs up the TARDIS. The blue box, which Police Inspector Gregson mistakes for an egg, lands on the bank of the Thames.

Vastra orders the inspector to place sonic lanterns along the river’s banks to confine the tyrannosaur while the Paternosters make contact with the Doctor. Strax knocks on the door and briefly meets the Twelfth Doctor. The Time Lord, still dressed in his predecessor’s clothes, is experiencing confusion and memory issues after his difficult regeneration.

With a bong of the cloister bell, the Doctor collapses on the river bank as Vastra remarks, “Here we go again.

Everyone moves to Vastra’s house where the Doctor is overstimulated by the concept of a bedroom. He also remarks that the mirror looks “absolutely furious”. When the Doctor reacts to typical British accents, Vastra adopts a Scottish accent like the Doctor’s new persona and uses his telepathy to put him to sleep. When Clara demands to know how to change the Doctor back, Vastra retires to her study with a request for her veil. After all, she realizes, there is a stranger in the house.

As the Doctor sleeps, he murmurs translations of the dinosaur’s moans. The tyrannosaur is alone and laments the lost world. Clara leaves the Doctor’s side as Strax arrives to escort her to Vastra’s study.

On the streets below, people look upon the dinosaur as a man named Alf wonders if it is a government conspiracy. He chats with a mysterious clockwork man who admires Alf’s eyes to the point of taking them.

Vastra interviews Clara about the events of and following Trenzalore. Vastra challenges the companion about her impressions of the Doctor, alluding to her veil as an analogy for the Doctor’s faces: She wears it to be accepted among those who wouldn’t understand her life and values otherwise. She also suggests that the veil is a judgment upon the character of those she meets. The Doctor trusted Clara enough to regenerate in her presence, showing her his weakest side and moment, and this revelation spins Clara into a fury. Vastra is amused by the anger, and explains that the Doctor needs all of them – especially Clara – to anchor himself as he finds his identity again. In the exchange, Vastra has removed her veil, remarking that it disappeared when Clara stopped seeing it.

The Doctor wakes up and finds a piece of chalk. He then proceeds to write Gallifreyan calculations around the room. He scrambles onto the roof and promises to return the dinosaur home, but the tyrannosaur spontaneously combusts and collapses into the river. The Doctor leaps from the roof and liberates a horse from its carriage before riding off into the night. The Paternoster Gang pursues him to the river’s edge.

The Doctor is apologetic toward the dinosaur’s remains and furious at everyone else around him, but his detective mind raises questions. First, have there been any similar murders? Second, who is the one man not gawking at the spectacle? The Doctor dives into the river with a mind to investigate.

The next morning, Strax has the TARDIS delivered to Vastra’s home. Clara dresses in Victorian fashion after being knocked out by a newspaper thrown by Strax and meets up with Jenny. It seems that Madame Vastra is having the Camberwell child poisoner for dinner… after interrogating him, of course. Strax gives Clara a medical examination as a prelude to her joining the Paternosters in case the Doctor never returns.

The Doctor is wandering about in an alley, obviously freezing in his wet state. He finds a homeless man and asks about his own face, musing about how it seems familiar, including the “attack eyebrows”. He wonders who did the frowning to wrinkle his new face so. He is delighted by his Scottish accent and how it relates to his cross-looking face.

He then remembers reading about a case of spontaneous combustion in the newspaper. Vastra is also following the leads as Jenny inexplicably poses in her underclothes. The Silurian remarks that burning the bodies would be a great way to hide what was missing from them, but this train of thought is derailed when Clara enters to show them an advertisement in the paper addressed to the Impossible Girl. After some puzzle-solving, Clara figures out that she should meet the Doctor at Mancini’s Family Restaurant.

When Clara arrives at the restaurant, she is confronted by a terrible smell. It is the Doctor, who soon joins her at a table in a coat he pawned off a homeless man. They discuss Clara’s reaction to his regeneration through his response to her advert in the paper. They soon realize that they’ve both been tricked into coming to the restaurant.

The Doctor measures the air disturbance using one of Clara’s hairs. They watch the other patrons and realize that they’re not actually eating. They’re also not breathing. When the duo stands to leave, the other patrons rise to block their exit. The Doctor and Clara sit down again and the patrons follow suit.

They are soon met by a clockwork waiter who categorizes the organs that the newcomers have to offer. The Doctor rips off the waiter’s face, noting that an automaton lies beneath, and the duo is locked into their chairs and lowered into a tunnel below. The Doctor notes that it appears to be a larder and, after some cooperative hijinks, is able to free them with the sonic screwdriver.

The Doctor and Clara tour the larder and find the Half-Faced Man – the eye thief from before – recharging in a chair. The automatons are stealing body parts to appear more human piece by piece. The cases of spontaneous combustion hide the butchery conducted upon the victims.

The Half-Faced Man begins to wake up, so the Doctor and Clara attempt to escape. The Doctor thinks that he’s seen something like this before, but the escape is thwarted as a door slides between the duo. The Doctor leaves Clara behind and she evades the automatons for a little while by holding her breath. As she walks to the exit, she’s confronted by a memory from the past and collapses as her body rebels.

Captured by the automatons, she awakens to the sight of the Half-Faced Man. Clara refuses to tell him where the Doctor is, calling the automaton’s bluff. After all, killing her will leave him without information, which is the same place he is now. Instead, she offers an information exchange, question for question, and finds out that the automatons killed the dinosaur specifically for parts so that they can reach the Promised Land. They have been working toward this goal for millions of years.

When the Half-Faced Man threatens to torture Clara for information, Clara declares that the Doctor will always have her back. Sure enough, he has been hiding as an automaton, and with a keyword – Geronimo! – the Paternoster Gang arrives as backup.

He also determines that the Half-Faced Man did not post the advert summoning the travelers to the restaurant.

The Half-Faced Man retreats upstairs with the Doctor in pursuit, attempting to leave via an escape capsule. Vastra had summoned the police, but the automaton chases them out and leaves an opportunity for the Doctor to pour two drinks for a discussion. He now remembers that the automatons are from the 51st century and continues to extract information as the escape capsule is deployed. It is powered by a hot-air balloon made from human skin.

The Doctor examines a control button and finds that the pod belonged to the SS Marie Antoinette, sister ship to the SS Madame de Pompadour. The ship fell through time and crashed into England millions of years earlier. The only survivors, the service robots, began their cycle of repairing themselves over and over again. The Doctor assures the Half-Faced Man that humans are never small to him. That he will always fight for them.

As they struggle, Clara and the Paternosters finally defeat the robotic warriors in the larder by holding their breath as Clara uses the sonic screwdriver to open the door. Meanwhile, the Doctor and the Half-Faced Man reach an impasse. Suicide is against the automaton’s programming, but murder is against the Doctor’s nature.

Only one of them is lying, and they both know who it is. In the end, the automaton falls from the capsule and dies impaled upon the spire of the Clock Tower.

Clara and the Paternoster Gang return to Vastra’s home only to find the Doctor and the TARDIS are gone. Clara offers to join the household, but Vastra points out that Clara has already dressed in her modern-era clothing in preparation for continuing her travels. Sure enough, the TARDIS returns and Clara joins the Doctor in a revamped console room.

The Doctor tells her that he’s not a boyfriend, noting that it was his mistake to lead her on in his previous life. He’s also made many mistakes over two thousand years and is keen to do something about them. He places the TARDIS in flight and asks about the advert in the paper. The Doctor ties it back to the strange woman who originally gave Clara the TARDIS’s phone number as a computer help line, deciding that someone really wants the two of them to travel together.

The TARDIS lands at Clara’s home time, and she expresses regret that she doesn’t know who the Doctor is anymore. At that moment, Clara’s mobile rings, and she steps out to head the Eleventh Doctor in the line. He leaves her a message from Trenzalore – before she found the exterior phone dangling – imploring her to put aside her fear in order to help the Doctor find his way. With that, the Eleventh Doctor says goodbye.

Clara returns to the Twelfth Doctor’s side. The Time Lord asks her to look beyond the appearance and just see him. Clara examines him before giving him a hug, thanking him for the guidance. This Doctor’s not a hugger, but he offers to go for chips and coffee. They’ll work through the change together.

The Half-Faced Man awakens in a mysterious garden. He is greeted by a woman named Missy who refers to the Doctor as her boyfriend. She tells the automaton that he has reached his goal. He is in the Promised Land.

Paradise.

Heaven?


This episode is a rough start to a new era, but it plays well because it reflects the rough regeneration and the turmoil in the relationship between the Doctor and Clara.

On its face, Clara’s reaction to regeneration doesn’t seem reasonable. One could argue that she doesn’t remember her fragmented trip into the Doctor’s timeline in The Name of the Doctor, however, she readily recognized the War Doctor in The Day of the Doctor and remembered the salvation of Gallifrey during The Time of the Doctor. Therefore, she obviously knows about regeneration having directly interacted with three distinct incarnations of the Doctor during her travels.

Her confusion, therefore, seems to be linked to how the Doctor appears after regeneration, which makes her appear shallow. This is an unfortunate change of character for Clara that only gets a bit of smoothing over by suggesting that the Eleventh Doctor led her to believe that their relationship was more romantic and/or intimate. There is a point to be made here, of course, because the Eleventh Doctor was pretty obsessive over Clara’s “Impossible Girl” mystery, but her knowledge of regeneration should have overridden that.

The smoothing at the end of the episode also gives a bit of promise to the new somewhat antagonistic dynamic between the Doctor and Clara. She has been requested specifically by the old Doctor to help the new Doctor find his footing, and I can get on board with that as long as the transition doesn’t take too long. I am eager to have a Doctor that doesn’t have romantic entanglements with his companions.

The roughness of this episode also results from smashing elements of three previous adventures into one: Invasion of the Dinosaurs, The Snowmen, and The Girl in the Fireplace. To that end, it plays as a “greatest hits” story in the background of this Doctor’s character introduction. It works, but it is awkward, especially with some of the more slapstick comedy elements like the boing effect when the Doctor is put to sleep, the car alarm on the Paternoster carriage, and the strange underwear modeling by Jenny while Vastra works. These comedic beats fell flat for me.

On the upside, I love this Doctor’s outfit and mannerisms once he returns to pick up Clara. Between these elements and Vastra’s “here we go again”, Steven Moffat is obviously trying to tie the Twelfth Doctor to the Third Doctor.

Speaking of the Doctor’s return, this is typically seen as the moment where the Twelfth Doctor joined the Siege of Gallifrey.

Peter Capaldi’s eyebrow cameo in The Day of the Doctor has never been explicitly placed within his run on the show, but the visual clues point to this moment. The console room in the cameo clearly shows the Series 7 console room coloring (which has changed upon the Doctor’s return here) and Capaldi has his shorter haircut. The piece that seals it for me is the chalk equations, which aren’t explained within the story but make sense if he’s still processing the plan put in place by the Tenth, Eleventh, and War Doctors.

There is a possibility that the Twelfth Doctor’s inclusion in the Siege of Gallifrey is a paradox that takes place outside of time, which typically happens when multiple Doctors appear in the same story – see The Five Doctors and Time Crash for prime examples – but the effects of The Day of the Doctor have shown to be pretty significant, so I’m keen to side with the theory that the Twelfth Doctor’s role in the 50th anniversary special happened here.

Finally, this episode brings us the final appearance (to date) of the Paternoster Gang, and Steven Moffat really hammed up the Sherlock Holmes connections (which we started seeing in The Snowmen). Inspector Gregson, “the game is afoot!”, the Conk-Singleton forgery case, the Camberwell poisoning case, and Vastra’s use of the agony column are all significant in the universe created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

(Though I did learn that “the game is afoot” originated with Shakespeare’s Henry V.)

While this story was rough and awkward, it was far more engaging than The Time of the Doctor and lays some groundwork for the adventures to come. Recall that, per the rules of the Timestamps Project, regeneration episodes pick up an extra point. That pushes Deep Breath from above average to top marks.

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Into the Dalek

cc-break

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

Timestamp #251: The Time of the Doctor

Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor
(1 episode, Christmas Special, 2013)

Timestamp 251 Time of the Doctor

Death and birth in Christmas.

A fleet of ships respond to a tri-tone signal echoing in the cosmos from a seemingly unimportant planet. The Doctor is among the respondents and transports aboard a Dalek ship. When they start shooting, he transports back and scolds a disembodied Cyberman head named Handles.

His rant is interrupted by a ringing telephone. Unfortunately, it is routed to the handset on the outside of the TARDIS, but fortunately, the caller is Clara. She invented an imaginary boyfriend and needs the Doctor to pose as him at Christmas dinner. He materializes the TARDIS on a newly arrived ship, this time a Cyberman ship, and then scampers off as Clara calls again.

Clara’s trying her best to host Christmas dinner, but she’s having difficulty with the turkey and her family. When the TARDIS arrives, she runs down to meet the Doctor but finds him naked. It seems that he’s going to church. He puts on some holographic clothes and runs up to meet the family, but failed to extend the holographic projection to the family. Clara explains her issues with the turkey and the Doctor takes her to the TARDIS to cook it in the temporal engine.

Meanwhile, Handles has calculated the planet’s identity: Gallifrey. The Doctor refuses to believe the analysis even though he has recently saved his homeworld. His thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of Mother Superious Tasha Lem and the Papal Mainframe. Clara dons holographic clothing – nudity is the order of the day at church – and the pair board the new ship.

Tasha is pleased with the Doctor’s new body and offers a private consultation while Clara waits outside the chapel. While Tasha and the Doctor confer, Clara encounters the Silence, repeatedly forgetting the confessors once she looks away from them. She interrupts Tasha and the Doctor in a panic, forgetting why she did, and then joins the Doctor as he teleports to the planet surface. Tasha demands the TARDIS key so he can’t summon the time capsule and requests that he return in one hour.

Once the travelers arrive on the surface, they find a group of Weeping Angels buried in the snow. The Doctor summons the TARDIS by removing a surprise wig and revealing a key hidden beneath. The TARDIS materializes in a nearby village where the freshly re-dressed travelers meet the residents and a field that forces people to tell the truth.

The town, by the way, is called Christmas.

As the Doctor and Clara explore, they find a glowing crack in the wall, something he hasn’t seen for some time. The Doctor detects evidence that someone is trying to break through this weak point, and Handles suggests that it is Gallifreyan in nature. The truth field and the signal are coming from the Time Lords, and the signal is a question being transmitted through time and space.

It is the oldest question. You know, that inside joke about the show’s title. If he answers the question with his name, the Time Lords will know that it will be safe to return. Unfortunately, that means that everyone in orbit will open fire to destroy their enemy. The Time War will begin again.

The Doctor sends Clara to the TARDIS as Tasha reveals the true name of the planet. Turns out that Christmas is on Trenzalore. As the Doctor negotiates the problem with Tasha, the TARDIS returns Clara home. The Doctor places the planet under his protection, forcing Tasha to begin the Siege of Trenzalore and order the Doctor’s silence to fall.

The Doctor defends against Sontarans, Weeping Angels, and even wooden Cybermen as the years march onward and begin to show on the Time Lord’s body. The town celebrates every victory and comes to love the man who stayed for Christmas.

Eventually, the TARDIS returns to Trenzalore. It has been gone for 300 years, but it has returned Clara as she clung to the outer shell through the temporal vortex. They yell at each other and then embrace. Clara learns about the Doctor’s exploits and joins him for sunrise. Sadly, it is the last sunrise for Handles as the Cyberman head has developed a fault over time and succumbs to inevitability. The Doctor and Clara discuss the nature of his work on Trenzalore. Everyone gets stuck somewhere eventually. Everything ends.

The Doctor also reveals that he’s out of regenerations. Eleven Doctors, the War Doctor, and the Tenth Doctor’s vanity regeneration mean that this regeneration is the end of the line, but every life saved is a victory for him. His musings are interrupted by a request for a parley from Tasha. The Doctor and Clara take the TARDIS to Papal Mainframe. As Tasha and the Doctor negotiate, she reveals that everyone aboard has been replaced by Dalek puppets in order to snare their greatest enemy. The Daleks also know who the Doctor is thanks to information downloaded from the mainframe.

The Daleks try to use Clara as a bargaining chip, but he’s able to restore Tasha’s memories so she can fight back. The Doctor and Clara take the transmat back to the TARDIS. The turkey is finally done and Clara forces the Doctor to promise that he’ll never send her away again. Of course, the Doctor lies – rule number one, right? – and he tricks Clara into returning home while he stays on Trenzalore.

The years continue on as the fleets above continue the siege and the Doctor continues the fight. On Earth, Clara’s family consoles her as they celebrate Christmas. She hears the TARDIS returning and rushes to meet it. Inside, she finds Tasha, who then returns her to Trenzalore so the Doctor doesn’t die alone.

Clara returns to the room with the crack, marveling at the Doctor’s exploits and advanced age. They share a Christmas cracker and find a poignant message inside. The moment is broken by the arrival of the Daleks, and the Doctor ascends the belltower to make his last stand. This is how it ends.

Clara promises to remain behind as the Doctor bids her farewell. She turns to the crack and begs the Time Lords for assistance, offering the Doctor’s reputation as proof of who they seek. They respond by sealing the crack.

The Doctor faces the Dalek ship from the belltower. He admits that he has nothing left to offer, but the Dalek assault is disrupted by the crack opening in the sky. A burst of regeneration energy floats down to the Doctor and he begins to glow in a familiar golden light.

A bit of advice: Never ever tell the Doctor the rules. Regeneration number thirteen begins as the Time Lord uses the power rushing through his body to tear through the Dalek forces and Clara shepherds the villagers to safety.

After the battle, Clara returns to the TARDIS as she searches for the Doctor. She hangs up the phone and enters the time capsule to find the Doctor’s clothes on the floor and a bowl of fish custard on the console. He appears to her with his restored face, claiming that this is the reset. He sets the TARDIS in motion as he prepares to regenerate.

He talks to Clara as he begins to glow, seeing visions of Amelia Pond running around the TARDIS. He promises never to forget when the Doctor was him, then says farewell to a vision of Amy Pond.

He drops his bow tie, which he donned on his first day, then regenerates in a snap. As the new Doctor – an older Scottish man with familiar attack eyebrows – muses about the color of his kidneys, the TARDIS begins to spin out of control. Unfortunately, he doesn’t remember how to fly it.


This story bounces all over the map, and that is truly unfortunate. It was an attempt to tie everything off for Matt Smith’s era, including the Silence, the cracks in time, Trenzalore, and the fate of Gallifrey, but it was just too much and the sheer volume of concurrent story elements made for a muddled send-off for the Eleventh Doctor.

The mystery of the time crack was pretty well wrapped up back in Series 5, and the Silence arc came to a suitable end in Series 6. Bringing both of these elements back for this story seemed more of vain conceits than meaningful plot threads, particularly trying to redeem the Silence as religious confessors when they previously served as murderous foot soldiers.

The fate of Gallifrey was handled quite well in The Day of the Doctor, and while their minor influence here was welcome, I feel like the ending wasn’t quite earned. It’s Clara who begs the Time Lords for help, and historically the Time Lords have looked down on the Doctor’s interference in universal affairs. They even forced him to regenerate as punishment at one point, remember?

Sure, he saved them from utter annihilation, but is that enough to look the other way? I don’t know. The stakes seem awfully high since they’re perfectly safe in the pocket dimension… unless the goal is to ensure that the Doctor is indebted to them and obligated to free them.

The final element – the Doctor’s regeneration limit – takes a few turns here. This story firmly establishes that the limit is purely arbitrary, dictated at a whim by a higher power. Similar to the Master’s offer in The Five Doctors and the brand new set of regenerations gifted to him before The Sound of Drums, the Doctor’s potential is unleashed by the Time Lords with a snap.

The regeneration limit itself was mentioned three times before this point – The Deadly AssassinMawdryn Undead, and the TV movie – and given how regenerations are treated by other Time Lords like Runcible (The Deadly Assassin), the Council (The War Games, wherein the Time Lords didn’t even bat an eye at what was effectively capital punishment), and Romana (Destiny of the Daleks), I have long considered the limit to be very flexible if not completely artificial. The Doctor and the Master may believe it (at this point in the series progression), but others have shown us that the limits of regeneration are capricious at best. They are a way for the Council to keep the lesser Time Lords in line.

By extension, this also adds more credence to the Morbius faces being those of the Doctor before the First Doctor, but we’ll get there soon enough. (Breaking the Timestamps Project timeline, this story is exactly why I didn’t have an issue with the Timeless Child revelation during the Thirteenth Doctor’s run.)

It seems that this regeneration was the first in a whole new set of twelve, provided that the Eleventh Doctor didn’t burn all of them off with that over-the-top light show. It also offers a reset, so in that way, it was suitable for Steven Moffat to tie everything off in a sloppy bow. I have already talked about how this whole regeneration limit discussion could have been pushed into the next era by replacing the War Doctor with the Eighth Doctor, but again, Moffat and vanity conceits.

Taking a look at other elements of series mythology, we saw a nice list of “guest” aliens in orbit of Trenzalore, including the Judoon, the Silurians, the Terileptils, and the Raxacoricofallapatorians. In the Doctor’s hall of fame, there is also evidence that the Sycorax, the Monoids, the Racnoss, the Pyrovile, the Ood, and the Adipose also came to play.

It’s one hell of a finale for this era of Doctor Who. I only wish it was better. The ending was emotional, but the rest of the story was uneven. It definitely needs to take advantage of the Timestamps Project’s +1 handicap for regeneration episodes.

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


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Series Seven, Specials, and Eleventh Doctor Summary

cc-break

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

Timestamp #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

cc-break

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

Timestamp Supplemental #3: A Twelfth Doctor Retrospective

A Twelfth Doctor Retrospective
Earth Station Who: Episode 193

 

This week marked another trip in the TARDIS to Earth Station Who. While I was there, I joined Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, Mary Ogle, and Sue Kisenwether in a discussion of the Twelfth Doctor. This episode was recorded live at Dragon Con 2018, and spanned the era from Angry Eyebrows to the struggle to be a good man. Sonic sunglasses were optional.

As always, I recommend taking the transmat to their site and listening to the podcasts. They cover everything from the Doctor Who franchise, from the classic and new televised episodes to the Big Finish audio and everything in the middle. During the regular seasons, they review the new episodes on a weekly basis, and during the off-season, they take a look back at some of their favorite (and not so favorite) adventures in time and space.

If you enjoy what you hear, leave a review in all the regular places, and also consider joining their fan community on Facebook. The ESW crew has built a fantastic community of fans, and it’s far more respectful than a lot of places on the internet. They are fans who love the series and want to share that love with fellow fans worldwide.

Earth Station Who is a podcast in the ESO Network, which includes the flagship show Earth Station One.

 

 

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