The Beast Below

The_Beast_Below_6799

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Andrew Gunn

Cast: Matt Smith (Eleventh Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Sophie Okonedo (Liz 10), Terence Hardiman (Hawthorne), Hannah Sharp (Mandy), Alfie Field (Timmy), Christopher Good (Morgan), David Ajala (Peter), Catrin Richards (Poem Girl), Jonathan Battersby (Winder), Chris Porter (Voice of Smilers/Winder), Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill)

In bed above we’re deep asleep, while greater love lies further deep. This dream must end, the world must know – we all depend on the beast below.

Amy Pond

Synopsis

The Doctor takes Amy to the 29th Century, where they find all of the UK’s citizens (apart from the Scottish) onboard Starship UK, searching for a new home after the Earth has been roasted by solar flares.

However, they find something amiss.  The citizens are ignoring crying children and are afraid of sinister Smilers.  As the Doctor and Amy investigate, it becomes increasingly clear that the Doctor will have to make an impossible decision.  No matter what he chooses, death is the only outcome.

Behind the Scenes

Similarly to Series Three, this story follows immediately on from the end of The Eleventh Hour (via the minisode, Meanwhile in the TARDIS 1), and leads into the following story, Victory of the Daleks.

scream of the shalka 2

Sophie Okonedo previously played Alison Cheney, the companion of an alternative Ninth Doctor, known commonly as the Shalka Doctor and played by Richard E. Grant, in Scream of the Shalka, a webcast published on the Doctor Who website in 2003.

This episode also marks the first mention of the promise that the Doctor made to himself when choosing his name:

Never cruel or cowardly.  Never give up, never give in.

Review

The Beast Below has a tough act to follow as it falls immediately after one of the strongest and most confident new Doctor debut episodes in the show’s history.  It mostly manages to deliver a strong episode, however, does fall down when it comes to a rushed and anti-climactic conclusion, but has plenty of strong dialogue, creepy villains and great performances from Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Sophie Okonedo.  And despite the chameleon circuit having been broken for who knows how long, the TARDIS gets some scenery it doesn’t look out of place in!

Speaking of the central performances, I want to focus in on Matt Smith’s performance as the Doctor.  Here we see the differentiation between Smith and his predecessor, as Smith shows us a much more alien portrayal of the Doctor, as evidenced by a more evident disdain for elements of humanity, closer to Eccleston:

Nobody HUMAN has anything to say to me today!

His sudden outburst here really crosses a line from fury into something terrifying, and the way he goes back to almost speaking normally to He also demonstrates perfectly the enthusiasm of the Doctor when they first spot Starship UK, when he forgets about Amy dangling outside the TARDIS.  Karen Gillan is very good here too, performing her role as a fish out of water well and her chemistry with Smith is great, and Sophie Okonedo as Liz 10 is great, aided by a script that features some great lines.

Liz 10

I’m the bloody Queen, mate, and basically I rule.

Liz 10

The episode hinges on the central conceit of people choosing to forget the secret behind Starship UK: that the occupants of Starship UK are complicit in the torture of an innocent creature for their own gain, with anyone who chooses to protest fed to the Star Whale.  The Doctor takes great pleasure in stating that the system is essentially “democracy in action”.  What we see here is essentially democratic dystopia, with the Queen’s government keeping the truth from the reigning monarch.  I’d imagine this would be much easier to do currently than with the gun-toting Liz 10 we see here – perhaps losing Scotland drove her over the edge?

The Smilers are also quite creepy, although never really explained what their function is, except sending people down to the Beast for protesting.  They don’t really ascend to the level of Weeping Angels or Vashta Nerada, despite how visually striking they look.  The origin of them is not really explained, but their resurrection moment after Liz 10 shoots them is the spookiest thing they do.  We are told that the populace of Starship UK are afraid of them, hence why their booths are so clean, however, we’re never really shown enough of them to convince us as to why.

beast_4.jpg

Additionally, the story does suffer towards the climax as the story doesn’t really have any consequences.  The fact that the Star Whale doesn’t leave and the human race doesn’t suffer any ill effect from their mistreatment of the generous creature robs a story with interesting ideas of a meaningful conclusion and damages the episode as a whole.  In addition, despite people being fed to the Beast, no one has died at the end of the story.

Verdict: A good story with intriguing ideas and strong central performances, however, the lack of a meaningful conclusion lets it down.  7/10

Best Moment: The part where the Doctor and Amy are talking in the TARDIS, then we realise the Doctor’s left to comfort the crying child, whilst Amy thinks she’s still talking to him.

Best Quote: 

What if you were really old, and really kind and lonely, your whole race gone.  What couldn’t you do then?  If you were that old, and that kind, and the very last of your kind, you couldn’t just stand there and watch children cry.

Amy Pond

 

 

 

 

(Doctor Who and) The Silurians

silurians 5

Writer: Malcolm Hulke (3rd story written)

Director: Timothy Combe (1st story directed)

Parts: 7

Cast: Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor), Caroline John (Liz Shaw), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Fulton Mackay (Dr Quinn), Norman Jones (Major Baker), Peter Miles (Dr Lawrence), Thomasine Heiner (Miss Dawson), Ian Cunningham (Dr Meredith), Ray Branigan (Roberts), John Newman (Spencer), Bill Matthews (Davis), Paul Darrow (Captain Hawkins), Nancie Jackson (Doris Squire), Gordon Richardson (Squire), Peter Halliday (Silurian Voices), Geoffrey Palmer (Masters), Richard Steele (Sergeant Hart), Ian Talbot (Travis), Dave Carter (Old Silurian), Nigel Johns (Young Silurian), Harry Swift (Private Robins), Pat Gorman (Silurian Scientist), Alan Mason (Corporal Nutting), Derek Pollitt (Private Wright), Brendan Barry (Hospital Doctor), Pat Gorman, Paul Barton, Simon Cain, John Churchill & Dave Carter (Silurians)

Synopsis

The former rulers of Earth have awoken and are causing power drains on a nuclear testing facility at Wenley Moor, so The Doctor and Liz go to investigate with U.N.I.T.  However, what they find will put the Doctor and the Brigadier’s relationship under considerable strain.

Behind the Scenes

This story is the only one televised to feature the prefix of “Doctor Who and…”, which had been included on production notes since the programme’s inception in 1963.  The commonly agreed upon reasoning for this was that, due to the director, Timothy Combe, having never directed a story before, he instructed the art department to include it.  There was no producer to correct the error before broadcast, as the incoming producer, Barry Letts, was still committed to another programme, and his predecessors, Derrick Sherwin and Peter Bryant, left the show at the end of the preceding story, Spearhead From Space.  Script editor Terrance Dicks was therefore in charge of production, and this error slipped through the net, and in future, the production paperwork omitted the prefix to prevent the error occurring again.

Additionally, this story is still technically “missing”, as the master tapes were wiped by the BBC.  Fortuitously, it was also recorded in several other formats, and so survives to this day.

Bessie

This serial is notable for several debuts, both off and on camera.  On camera, this is the first appearance of the Doctor’s canary-yellow Edwardian roadster, part of the Doctor’s agreement with the Brigadier to work for U.N.I.T during his exile on Earth, and the Silurians, who went on to reappear in Warriors From the Deep, and returned to the revived show in the Chris Chibnall penned The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood.  Although we are not given a date for The Silurians, it was broadcast in 1970, and they go into hibernation for fifty years, whilst Chibnall’s two-parter is set in 2020.  Behind the camera, this marks a debut for colour separation overlay, a precursor to blue screen, and videotape recording.

Peter Miles, Paul Darrow and Geoffrey Palmer make their first appearances in Doctor Who in this serial, going on to reappear numerous times in different roles, whilst Norman Jones had previously appeared in The Abominable Snowmen opposite Patrick Troughton and would go on to appear in The Masque of Mandragora opposite Tom Baker.  Fulton Mackay, best known for his role in Ronnie Barker penned sitcom, Porridge, also appears in this story.  Despite never reappearing in the programme, Mackay was considered to replace Jon Pertwee in 1974. There are cameos for Terrance Dicks, Barry Letts and, most notably, Trevor Ray in the scenes at Marylebone Station.

The Silurians is also one of only nine stories to date not to feature the TARDIS in any way, and at the time of broadcast, just the second not to have the famous blue police box appear.

Review

Despite having a complete runtime of around two and a half hours, The Silurians feels much shorter, thanks to strong central and guest performances and a gripping story.  The main heart of the story is the friction between the Doctor and the Brigadier, new colleagues as of the end of the last story, and this tension combined with the climax serve to deliver a truly great episode.

silurians 1

Due to the length of time in which Malcolm Hulke has to tell the story, the story has time to breathe and allows us to see the difficulties in the Doctor and the Brigadier’s working relationship, before introducing the central antagonists of the story.  This allows for several great scenes featuring just Pertwee and Courtney sparring, the free-spirited Doctor’s reluctance to conform to the needs of the establishment fully seen early on.  One of my particular favourite scenes comes in part one, where the Doctor is frustrated that the Brigadier is not taking his concerns about events at Wenley Moor seriously, leading the following exchange:

Brigadier: Then I suggest you discover something I can’t dismiss.

The Doctor: You’re not exactly a little Sherlock Holmes yourself, are you?

The lights dim and the air conditioning goes off.

The Doctor: What the devil’s that?

Brigadier: It’s another power failure.  Come on, Doctor Watson.

Despite this, there are still signs of mutual respect between the two men, such as when the Brigadier tells Dr. Lawrence that the Doctor is qualified to do “almost anything”.  Part of the Doctor’s frustration must come from the fact that he is no longer free to come and go as he pleases, and he is now utterly reliant on the Brigadier and U.N.I.T.

Silurians

The strength of this part of the story means that we don’t need to have a full glimpse of the titular creatures until the end of Part 3.  We get the sighting of the dinosaur at end of Part One, when the Doctor goes into the caves on his own, and various glimpses and point of view shots from the wounded Silurian, especially effective at the end of part two, where they sneak up behind Liz.  When the story allows us that first full glimpse of the Silurian, the story continues to escalate towards its climax: Lawrence calls in the government in the shape of the Permanent Under Secretary, Masters, and disagreements between those who favour attacking the Silurians head on and those who want to attempt to ensure peace, namely the Doctor and Liz.  The Silurians show themselves to be quite a threat to the human race, especially with the virus that they unleash towards the end of the story, and the scenes shown in London of the victims almost look like something out of a horror story.

What has been created here by Hulke and the production team is a multi-layered and morally ambiguous story.  I find it easy to see where both the Doctor and the Brigadier are coming from: rather than fighting with this re-animated previous occupier of Earth, we should look to seek peace and share the Earth with them, as both races have an equal claim.  However, the Brigadier’s viewpoint is understandable – the Silurians possess dangerous technology and there is no guarantee that peace between the two races would succeed.  We see the Silurian Elder who the Doctor discusses peace with killed by the younger Silurians.  To Hulke’s credit, the Brigadier remains a sympathetic character, who is seen to be under multiple pressures, from both Dr Lawrence and from Masters, which leads him to eventually ordering the destruction of the Silurian base at the end of the story.

silurians7

There are also themes that tap into the contemporary concerns of the adults who were watching, such as the Cold War, nuclear technology and an increasing distrust of politicians and scientists.  Fulton Mackay’s Dr Quinn and Peter Miles’ Dr Lawrence embody distrust of public servants, who were seen to be looking to further their own concerns.  Quinn is looking to utilise the Silurian technology to further his own career, whilst Lawrence refuses to take the threat of the Silurians seriously and refuses to allow the closing down of the Wenley Moor plant because of the damage it will do to his reputation.  Even when he is dying from the Silurian virus, he is still furious at the Brigadier for ruining his work at Wenley Moor.  Meanwhile, Geoffrey Palmer’s Masters, who unlike in later Pertwee stories, does not turn out to be a disguise for the Master, reflects a changing attitude towards the establishment following scandals such as the Profumo Affair in 1963, thanks in part to a rise in scrutiny of politicians by the media and satire as a medium.

The final scene of the story is also perfectly done – we don’t see the Doctor’s immediate anger at the Brigadier addressed, which will remain to have an impact on the relationship between the Doctor and the Brigadier for the remainder of the Third Doctor’s life, and perhaps for the Doctor’s continuing distrust of the military to this day.

Verdict: The Silurians is rightfully seen as a classic story in Doctor Who history.  The relationship between the Doctor and the Brigadier is sufficiently expanded and it shows how well the Earth-based Doctor can work. 10/10

Best Moment: The end scene, with a broken down Bessie and the Doctor seeing that the Brigadier has blown up the Silurian base.

Best Quote

“I’m beginning to lose confidence for the first time in my life – and that covers several thousand years.”

Third Doctor

 

 

New Earth

New Earth

Writer: Russell T Davies (9th episode)

Director: James Hawes (4th episode)

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Zoe Wanamaker (Cassandra), Sean Gallagher (Chip), Dona Croll (Matron Casp), Michael Fitzgerald (Duke of Manhattan), Lucy Robinson (Fran Clovis), Andjoa Andoh (Sister Jatt), Anna Hope (Novice Hame), Struan Rodger (Face of Boe)

Synopsis

The Tenth Doctor and Rose travel to the distant future, where an order of cat nuns are able to cure all illnesses.  The Doctor must investigate their shady operations in the hospital and save Rose from his old enemy, Lady Cassandra.

Behind the Scenes

New Earth 1

This story is notable in the revived series to see the Doctor and his companion visit an alien planet – for the entirety of the first series, adventures had been set on Earth or on satellites orbiting the Earth.  The episode came about because Billie Piper had asked Russell T Davies to be in an episode where she could be funnier.

In story terms, this is a debut for New Earth, which would reappear in Gridlock in the following series.  This story is set 23 years after The End of the World, and 30 years before Gridlock.  When writing this story, Russell T Davies originally had the Face of Boe delivering his “You are not alone” message, and the Face of Boe would also have died.  However, when the production team were told that series 3 had been commissioned, Davies postponed this plot strand until the following year.  Originally the infected would have all been killed off at the end, but was influenced by an introduction written by Steven Moffat in The Shooting Scripts, good-naturedly mocking him for “(creating) interesting characters and (melting) them”.

Additionally, there seems to be a gap between this story and the preceding story, The Christmas Invasion, which could either suggest that the Doctor has been staying on the Powell Estate for a while between stories, or that the Doctor and Rose have been on other adventures in the meantime.  This is due to the fact that the seasons have obviously changed and the TARDIS has moved since the conclusion of the Christmas special.

Location-wise, the intensive care unit of the hospital was previously used in Rose as the Nestene base.  Casting wise, Andjoa Andoh would go on to play Francine Jones, Martha’s mother in series 3.

Review

New Earth zombies

David Tennant’s first fully conscious episode of Doctor Who is a mixed bag and is a bit bizarre as a series opener here.  I am going to talk about the positives as I see them before moving onto the weaker sides of the episode.

The main positive of this story is the prosthetics and make-up, especially on the cat nuns, which looks fantastic.  There are fantastic effects used here, such as on the Duke of Manhattan with Petrifold Regression, but all of the practical effects used on the patients and the infected are fantastic.  I also feel that, by and large, David Tennant’s performance in this episode is strong, especially in the scene where he finds out the truth of the hospital.  He absolutely bristles with righteous anger and rage and it is the undoubted highlight of the episode for me.  I do have a minor qualm about an element of his performance, but I’ll come onto that later.  Additionally, I feel that the story is quite well balanced, as we seem to spend an appropriate amount of time on the two elements of the plot: Cassandra and the hospital.

This is quite a flawed story, however, and really stands out as quite a bonkers plot for a first episode of the series, due to the body swapping element. Usually, a series debut will re-establish the returning characters in order to aid new viewers into the programme.  On the other hand, this story seems to assume a certain amount of knowledge of the characters. There is also a plot hole in the fact that the jumping of bodies by Cassandra seems to initially require a device, but then can just happen spontaneously.  This body swapping also contributes to another of my problems with this episode – Tennant’s acting when he’s being possessed by Cassandra.  He really hams it up and it absolutely undermines his first performance as the Doctor.  He looks really uncomfortable performing this aspect of the character and this really magnifies the issues in this story.

The test subject zombies are also a bizarre choice of villain for a Doctor Who story.  As mentioned above, the prosthetics are fantastic and the idea of getting infected by just one touch is really effective, but they don’t really fit in here.  The technique of transferring an infection through one touch is used far more effectively in a later episode, The Waters of Mars, ironically, the Tenth Doctor’s penultimate story.  Speaking of the main issue with the infected patients, I feel that one of the story’s biggest issues is the resolution.  THe magic cocktail of remedies that the Doctor and Rose/Cassandra make is a bit of a rushed job, and you can certainly tell that this wasn’t the original direction that Davies wanted the story to go in.  Although I don’t necessarily believe that Doctor Who needs to include a whole load of death, it is ultimately necessary for the stakes to remain high and for there to be any real sense of dramatic tension and believe in that week’s threat.

Verdict: A flawed second episode for David Tennant, which includes a good premise, but is let down by its execution.  Tennant’s performance is largely good, except when the body swap happens, and his charisma makes this a watchable if not entirely memorable episode. 4/10

Best Moment: The Doctor’s rage when he discovers the truth of the hospital.

Best Quote

“You were supposed to be dying.”

“There are better things to do today.  Dying can wait.”

The Tenth Doctor and the Face of Boe

What do you think?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

The Highlanders

This story does not exist due to the wiping of old films by the BBC in the 1970s. As such, I’ll have a look at what the story entailed and talk about the important elements for Patrick Troughton’s time in the TARDIS.

The Highlanders was written by Elwyn Jones and Gerry Davis, and directed by Hugh David. Elwyn Jones, although commissioned to write a script, carried out no work on the script, and the story in its entirety was written by script editor, Gerry Davis.  Normally in situations where the script editor rewrote or wrote the majority of the script, they were not credited, however, in this case, Davis received an on-screen credit. Hugh David was amongst the actors considered to portray the First Doctor by Rex Tucker, however, Verity Lambert rejected him on the grounds that, at the age of 38, he was too young to play the Doctor.  David would also direct the next story, Fury From The Deep.

It was made up of four parts and would be the last ‘pure historical’ story of Doctor Who until 1982’s Black Orchid.  However, as The Highlanders is based around true historical events, unlike Black Orchid, it can be seen to be the last ‘true’ historical event.  The only character included in this story who actually existed is the villainous Solicitor Grey, though.

This episode sees the introduction of Jamie McCrimmon, played by Frazer Hines, who would remain with the programme until The War Games in 1969. Jamie is a fan favourite companion and would cameo in The Five Doctors and reappear again in The Two Doctors. Due to the vast amount of Doctor Who made in this era, Jamie McCrimmon is the companion with the most appearances, with 113 episodes under his belt.  He also narrowly misses out on appearing in every Troughton episode.  Hines himself now plays the Second Doctor for Big Finish Productions, as well as continuing in the role of Jamie.

Synopsis

The TARDIS team arrive in Scotland in 1746, shortly after the Battle of Culloden, where the Doctor tends to the wounds of a Laird of the Jacobites, Colin McLaren, and gains the trust of a small band of Jacobites.  All of them are captured by the Redcoat troops, except for Polly and the Laird’s daughter, Kirsty, and are put into the custody of Solicitor Grey, who plans to sell his prisoners into slavery in the West Indies.

Polly and Kirsty blackmail the leader of the Redcoats, Lieutenant Algernon Ffinch, to help them, and they smuggle weapons onto the stolen ship where the prisoners are being held, the Annabelle. Solicitor Grey and the captain, Trask, are overpowered, and the stolen ship is returned to it’s rightful owner, Willie Mackay, who agrees to take the rebels to France.  At the end of the story, Jamie joins the TARDIS crew.

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben), Anneke Wills (Polly), Fraser Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), William Dysart (Alexander McLaren), Donald Bissert (The Laird), Hannah Gordon (Kirsty McLaren), Michael Elwyn (Lieutenant Algernon Ffinch), David Garth (Grey), Dallas Cavell (Trask).

 

 

The End of the World

end of the world

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Euros Lynn

Starring: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Simon Day (Steward), Yasmin Bannerman (Jade), Jimmy Vee (Moxx of Balhoon), Zoe Wanamaker (Cassandra), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Beccy Armory (Raffalo), Sara Stewart (Computer Voice), Silas Carson (Alien Voices)

Synopsis

The Doctor takes his new companion, Rose, to the year 5,000,000,000 to witness the death of the world party on Platform One, along with some of the richest beings in the Universe. Meanwhile, robot spiders brought onboard by the Adherents of the Repeated Meme as gifts to the others on the station are infiltrating and sabotaging Platform One.

Behind the Scenes

This episode is notable for being the first episode in where we discover that the Doctor is the last of his kind and about the ending of the Time War, although who the Time Lords were fighting is not answered at this point. This episode also marks the appearance of the psychic paper, which was devised by Russell T Davies as a time-saving mechanism for the show, as it prevents the distrust of the Doctor and his companion commonly seen in the previous era of the show. With the show now being a one episode story, it removes episodes of the Doctor being locked away.

The episode also marks the first appearances of Face of Boe and Lady Cassandra, who would reappear in Gridlock and New Earth respectively. It also starts the tradition of episodes starting with a cold open, something which has continued through the revived series, and only happened sparingly during the classic era – in Castrovalva, The Five Doctors and Remembrance of the Daleks.

Behind the camera, we see a directorial debut for Euros Lyn. Lyn would go on to direct nine episodes of Doctor Who from 2005 until 2010, including The End of Time.

Due to the extensive use of CGI in this episode, the majority of the effects budget for the entire series was spent on this episode.

Review

The End of the World is a bold second episode for the revived series. The story takes us to the far future, introduces us to a series of new aliens and shows us the destruction of their world. The episode does also briefly touch on humanity and what it means to be human – Cassandra regards herself as the last “true” human, despite her never-ending cycle of cosmetic procedures, as opposed to the rest of the human race, who went out into the stars and “mingled”. It is an episode that you’d expect to come perhaps slightly later in the series, with perhaps an iconic classic foe such as the Daleks or the Cybermen, but the fact that we get an episode like this is great.

It seems strange to praise an episode by jumping straight to the ending scene, but this episode really puts Eccleston in particular through his paces emotionally. He has to convey great joy at one moment, burning rage another and almost unimaginable sorrow at yet another. This is the first mention we have of the Time War. Taking Rose to witness the death of her planet almost gives them something to share, although, as the Doctor states, Gallifrey went “before its time”, meanwhile the death of the Earth is something much more natural. The way he says “my planet’s gone”, is so matter of fact but so weighed down with sorrow. It has parallels with the scene at the end of Gridlock, where the 10th Doctor tells Martha that he’s the last of the Time Lords. I love both of those scenes equally, but the scene here is slightly better as it’s the first occurrence.

There are several nice moments in this episode, and what surprised me is how well this episode has aged. There are pop culture references, such as the use of Tainted Love by Soft Cell and Toxic by Britney Spears, however, these don’t date as badly as some later on in series one (I’m looking at you, Bad Wolf). There is also a nice conversation between Rose and the plumber Jaffalo where Rose realises the absurdity of her situation and perhaps how foolhardy she has been coming travelling with a man she barely knows. I gather that this was an eleventh-hour addition, and if that is the case I’m very glad it made it.

End of the World 2

That being said, the episode does have problems, especially surrounding the ending. It feels extremely rushed and the climactic scenes with the Doctor and Jabe with the spinning fans is a bit anti-climatic. However, the Doctor and Jabe are two of the most interesting characters in this story, and to spend more time in their company is definitely a positive. I also like the fact that immediately after Jabe’s demise, the Doctor goes to inform her people before reversing the teleport and bringing Cassandra back to the ship. However, the whole conclusion is ultimately rushed, although I do enjoy the fury and anger that we see come from the Doctor in this final confrontation. It is the first time we see this Doctor truly angry. I do also feel that there are perhaps too many aliens thrown in here, who serve no real purpose except to be in peril. This does allow us a fleshing out of the new universe but does seem a bit of a waste, especially when some of these creatures are never seen again.  We also don’t really care when characters like the Moxx of Balhoon die, for instance, because we spend absolutely no time with them.

Verdict: A strong second episode for Eccleston which gives us our first mention of the Time War. 8/10

Best Quote: 

Everything has it’s time, and everything dies.

The Ninth Doctor

Best Moment: The ending scene is just, to coin a phrase, fantastic.

 

The Daleks

Daleks

Parts: 7 (The Dead Planet, The Survivors, The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition, The Ordeal and The Rescue)

Writer: Terry Nation

Directors: Richard Martin (Parts 3, 6 and 7)  and Christopher Barry (Parts 1, 2, 4 and 5)

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Susan Foreman (Carol Ann Ford), Peter Hawkins and David Graham (Dalek voices), Alan Wheatley (Temmossus), John Lee (Alydon), Virginia Wetherell (Dyoni), Philip Bond (Ganatus), Marcus Hammond (Antodus), Jonathan Crane (Kristas), Gerald Curtis (Elyon)

Behind the Scenes

The Daleks were created by Terry Nation, who also came up with the main idea for the story, however, script editor David Whittaker is believed to have done a lot of work on character development and dialogue.  Nation’s agent negotiated a deal for him that meant that Nation ended up doing very well financially out of the Daleks, as he was made a co-owner.  Coincidentally, Nation’s agent was Beryl Vertue, who would go on to found the production company Hartswood Films, which produced several comedy series, including Steven Moffat’s Coupling in the early 2000s, and is Steven Moffat’s mother-in-law.

The Daleks would prove to be Doctor Who’s saviour.  Despite Sydney Newman’s insistence that he did not want any aliens in his new series, Verity Lambert stuck to her guns and got the Daleks made.  Her confidence in the story and the Daleks themselves would prove to be vindicated, as the story pulled in significantly more viewers than An Unearthly Child, and prevented the BBC from pulling the plug on the series.  The success of the Daleks amongst the viewing public was reflected by Dalek-mania, which would see the nefarious villains return every season up until season 5.  The Daleks would go on to appear opposite every Doctor (Paul McGann has faced them in Big Finish), and are as synoymous with the show as long scarves and blue police boxes.

Review

The first appearance of the Daleks is interesting, if a bit of an overlong story.  One of the most interesting things that I found about it was how early some of the lore that I had almost assumed got introduced in Genesis of the Daleks is actually brought in here.  The Thals, Skaro and the mutants (or gorilla gloves covered in vaseline) are all seen in this story.  Although The Daleks and Genesis can be seen to be contradictory, this didn’t really impact on my enjoyment of the story.  I think that the story does massively benefit from how menacing the Daleks look in black and white, and thinking about the reaction to their first appearance, it is easy to see how they became such an phenomenon.

The TARDIS team here get a bit more development which is welcome and the story does tap into contemporary concerns, with the radiation sickness storyline.  The Doctor here is shown to be quite self-centered and willing to put his granddaughter and her two teachers in danger to satiate his curiosity about the mysterious city.  However, when he realises his mistake, he does apologise to his companions – a bit too late really.  We also get a great exchange at the beginning of the story between Ian and Barbara about their situation and about their doubts about the Doctor too.  Ian is more of a traditional heroic character here, and occupies a role that modern audience would be more likely to associate with the Doctor rather than the companion.  Susan shows initial promise but then seems to blend into the background for most of the rest of the story, except when she screams.  She’s no Mel, but boy, can she scream.

With hindsight, some of the elements don’t work so well.  The question of whether or not the Daleks are actually villains in the first couple of parts doesn’t work with the benefit of seeing episodes featuring the Daleks for the last 55 years.  There is also the issue of the story feeling a bit too overstretched, with the story being made up of seven parts, however, I am never too bothered with this as an issue with ‘Classic Who’, as the stories were never ever intended to be binge-watched on DVD, and this story does benefit from more interesting villains and supporting characters in the Thals than there were in the previous story.

Verdict: A good story introducing an iconic villain, which perhaps suffers from the fact that there are more interesting stories involving them in the show’s history.  7/10

Best Quote: 

“You wanted advice you said.  I never give it.  Never. But I might just say this to you.  Always search for the truth.  My truth is in the stars and yours is here.”

The First Doctor

Best Moment:

The sequence in which they discuss the logistics of food on the TARDIS.  Or the cliffhanger at the end of the first part with the plunger with Barbara.

The TV Movie

McCoy and McGann

Writer: Matthew Jacobs

Director: Geoffrey Sax

Cast: Paul McGann (Eighth Doctor), Daphne Ashbrook (Grace Holloway), Yee Jee Tso (Chang Lee), Eric Roberts (Bruce/The Master), Sylvester McCoy (Seventh Doctor), John Novak (Salinger), Michael David Simms (Dr. Swift), Catherine Lough (Wheeler), Dolores Drake (Curtis), Will Sasso (Pete), Jeremy Radick (Gareth), Eliza Roberts (Miranda), Gordon Tipple (The Old Master)

Synopsis

Reaching the end of his Seventh incarnation, the Doctor is charged with returning the remains of the Master to Gallifrey.  However, the Master is not dead and causes a timing malfunction in the Doctor’s TARDIS, bringing the action to San Francisco in 1999.  The Seventh Doctor is shot by a street gant and regenerates after his biology confuses his surgeon, Grace Holloway, while the Master takes over another body.  Recruiting Chang Lee to his side, the Master aims to get control over the Doctor’s body by using the Eye of Harmony.  Meanwhile, the new Doctor needs to find a beryllium atomic clock to aid him to stop the Master…

Production

It is perhaps surprising that an American TV company would have wanted to take a chance on Doctor Who in the years post-cancellation in 1989.  However, American TV producer Philip Segal was so keen that he spent a considerable amount of time trying to get the BBC to agree to an American version, finally getting approval in 1994.

The production was held up by various other factors, with the TV movie eventually being picked up by Fox, with the BBC having appointed a producer, Jo Wright, to look after their interests.  Wright would have various input in the project, at one point expressing a preference for Tom Baker to return as the Doctor, and also putting forward the notion that if Sylvester McCoy returned, he should not speak in the episode, as McCoy’s tenure was still firmly associated with the show’s decline in the BBC.  Additionally, the BBC also vetoed the idea of bringing back Ace as the Seventh Doctor’s companion, something Segal was apparently keen on.

Actors who auditioned for the role of the Eighth Doctor included Rowan Atkinson, Paul McGann’s brother, Mark, Tim McInnery, Anthony Head and Liam Cunningham, and Peter Capaldi was invited to audition, but declined as he did not feel that he would get the part.  I’m sure I’ve also heard that Christopher Eccleston was also invited to audition, but also declined.  Paul McGann, best known at the time for his roles in The Monocled Mutineer and Withnail and I was cast as the Doctor, with Sylvester McCoy returning for the transition.  This was apparently due to McCoy wishing to pass over the role properly to his successor.

Despite strong viewing figures in the UK, it struggled in the US, going up against Roseanne.  Fox decided not to take up the option of a series, and so McGann’s run would be limited to just one screen outing.  In 2001, he returned to the part for Big Finish productions, and has continued to play the part to the present day, fleshing out the adventures of the Eighth Doctor.  In 2013, McGann finally got to film his regeneration in the online and red button extra, The Night of the Doctor being released ahead of The Day of the Doctor.

Review

Seen through a modern lens, the TV Movie is actually not as terrible as received fan wisdom would tell us.  Amongst other things, it has a fantastic production value, some great central performances and looks familiar as being Doctor Who to an audience who have been brought up on the modern era of the show.  On the other side, it does have Eric Roberts as the Master, and some fairly big plot holes.  A massive talking point at the time was that the Doctor kissed his companion – something that doesn’t seem so much of a big deal today, as the Doctor has now been seen to have over 20 on-screen kisses, and I believe that the first companion not to kiss the Doctor since McGann is the recently departed Bill Potts.

McGann

On to one of the strongest parts of the episode: Paul McGann as the Doctor.  McGann is a fantastic choice to play the Time Lord, and nothing encapsulates this better than the infamous shoes scene.  He immediately commands any scene he appears in, which makes it understandable why some fans want McGann to return on screen.  Really, the fact that the story gives him short of an hour of screen time is nothing short of baffling – perhaps it was overconfidence that the series would be a success and a series would follow to show the best of the young actor.  I am all in favour of continuity and the fact that Sylvester McCoy returns at the beginning is great, but it does feel with hindsight that it detracts a bit from McGann. I like the ordinary nature of the Seventh Doctor’s death though, as I enjoy the irony of a man who was always a couple of steps ahead of his adversaries being struck down by a stray bullet due to not checking the TARDIS scanner.  The regeneration scene, intercut with scenes from 1931’s Frankenstein, is also fantastic, although the “WHO AM I?!?” scene is a bit over the top.

The Doctor: Wait, I remember! I’m with my father, we’re lying back in the grass, it’s a warm Gallifreyan night…

Grace: Gallifreyan?

The Doctor: Gallifrey.  Yes, this must be where I live.  Now, where is that?

Grace: I’ve never heard of it.  What do you remember?

The Doctor: A meteor storm. The sky above us was dancing with lights.  Purple, green, brilliant yellow. Yes!

Grace: What?

The Doctor: These shoes! They fit perfectly!

The other strength of the episode is the performance of Daphne Ashbrook as Grace.  She is recognisable to a present day audience as more similar to the modern series companions, such as Rose and Martha.  She is a very strong character, and the two main actors have such superb chemistry together that it allows you to overlook some of the story’s deficiencies.

paul mcgann and eric roberts

Speaking of the deficiencies, we come onto Eric Roberts’ performance as the Master.  This is a much-maligned performance in fan circles, when, in reality, the majority of his performance could be seen as quite menacing, especially when compared to John Simm’s performance in The End of Time.  However, the last act, when he is in the Time Lord robes in the Eye of Harmony chamber, he starts chewing the scenery.  There are scenes where he is great though, like when the Master has just taken over Bruce’s body, or when he’s at the hospital asking about what’s happened to the Doctor’s body.  I don’t think the costume he wears for the majority is terrible, but he does just look like a Terminator rip-off. It’ll be intriguing to see what Big Finish do with this incarnation of the Master when he appears in The Diaries of River Song Volume 5.

I always dress for the occasion.

The Master

The biggest issue I have with the TV Movie are the plot holes in the story.  For instance, it bugs me that it is never explained how the Master gets into the TARDIS.  I appreciate that the production was troubled, and the eventual production was extremely rushed – they were supposed to have a 30 day shoot, but this was cut down to 25 days to save money – and there were various scripts floating around.  To be honest, we should be grateful we got the story we did, as earlier drafts involved a more family affair, with the Master and the Doctor revealed to be half-brothers, and the story around Ulysses, the Doctor’s father and Borussa being the Doctor’s grandfather.  Looking at it, the half-human line suddenly doesn’t seem so bad…

Oh, and that TARDIS set is gorgeous.  Absolutely gorgeous.

Verdict: A good fun but flawed romp, recognisable to fans of the modern series.  McGann is the strongest part of the story, and it is a shame not to see more of him on screen. 7/10

Best Quote: The Doctor: I love humans.  Always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there.

Best Moment: Either the shoes scene, or the regeneration sequence.