Victory of the Daleks

dalek bracewell churchill doctor amy

Would you care for some tea?

“Ironside” Dalek

Synopsis

Responding to Winston Churchill’s call, the Doctor and Amy travel to World War Two where they find the Daleks. But why are they helping the Allied cause? Why don’t they recognise the Doctor? What are the Daleks planning?
Review

When I rewatched Victory of the Daleks for this blog, I realised that I still had vivid memories of watching it on it’s initial transmission in 2010. This may seem bizarre, as it is a divisive entry into Doctor Who canon, but thinking about it, I realised that this was the first Matt Smith story I watched live. I’d been away for the broadcast of the previous two, and having caught up and having been utterly convinced by this new Doctor, sat down excitedly for the next instalment of his adventures. This makes me sound like I was 8. I was actually 18, just about to take my A-Levels and probably in the midst of panicking about exams, university and life beyond. When I came to watch this episode nearly ten years later, my reaction to it was probably about the same as it was then. I’m not going to say that Victory is the best Dalek story that the new series or the original have produced, however, I feel it does get a rough ride. Matt Smith puts in a good performance as the Doctor, as does Karen Gillan as Amy, and the guest stars of Ian McNeice and Bill Paterson certainly help this story along. It is hindered by some poor direction in places by Andrew Gunn, and I really feel this story could have benefitted from being a two-parter.

Listen to me. Just listen. The Daleks have no conscience. No mercy. No pity. They are my oldest and deadliest enemy. You can not trust them.

If Hitler invaded Hell, I would give a favourable reference to the Devil.

Eleventh Doctor and Winston Churchill

I’ll talk about the elements of the episode that I’m not so keen on first of all. This story definitely feels too short, and at forty minutes it feels as though something is definitely missing. There is potentially more to be done with the Daleks posing as Bracewell’s Ironsides, and in my mind, if this were a two-parter, perhaps either the Doctor’s “testimony” or the reveal of the New Dalek Paradigm would have been a good place for the end of the first part. Additionally, I’m not a fan of the direction of Andrew Gunn here, especially of the scene in which the Eleventh Doctor confronts the Daleks triggering his testimony. Equally the Cabinet War Rooms feel a bit too wide and open as opposed to claustrophobic and the Dalek ship, supposed to be ramshackle and damaged from the climax of Journey’s End feels extremely overlit. However, I do like the scene in which Churchill, Amy and the Doctor are discussing the Daleks and a sole Dalek wheels by. In Steven Moffat’s interview after his departure as showrunner, he did say that he felt that he had taken his eye off this block of episodes, and it does certainly show in some regards. The design of the new Dalek Paradigm did not bother me at the time and still to this day does not bother me too much and I really wish that we learnt what the purpose of an Eternal Dalek was (come on Big Finish!). Nick Briggs does modify his original Dalek voice to being slightly deeper and booming which makes them feel more menacing.

the new daleks

One of the more positive parts of this episode is the fact that it marks the end of a run of stories that see the Daleks as scavengers, a side effect of the Time War. This is the start of something that I like about the Moffat era in general is that there is a greater feeling of a wider universe. With this story depicting a rare and relative victory for the Daleks, it kickstarts a new Dalek empire and leads to the Alliance being set up at the end of the series. The stories since the Time War that have featured one last surviving Dalek are all very well and effective, but a regenerated race of Daleks to fight against a relatively newly regenerated Doctor is a potentially frightening prospect for the universe. I am not overly enamoured with the climax with the Bracewell bomb, although I do like Karen Gillan’s delivery of the line “Hey Paisley. Ever fancied someone you shouldn’t have?” and additionally, the Spitfires in space sequence is a bit silly but is a nice idea. The idea of the Daleks acting as servants to the British army is an obvious homage to Power of the Daleks, and part of me wishes that it did go on for a bit longer.

battlefield

The central and guest performances are strong in this story again. Matt Smith gives a particularly commendable performance as the Doctor, battling with his guilt when he realises that he is responsible for this new, shiny, multicoloured variety of Daleks. He is particularly good in the scene where the Supreme Dalek gives him the ultimatum – he can destroy the Dalek ship and condemn the Earth to destruction, or let the Daleks escape and potentially save the world. Of course, there is no doubt that the Doctor will save the world, but Smith’s performance makes you believe that this is really a choice that the Doctor is really grappling with. Karen Gillan is good here too, and the fact that she does not remember the Daleks works really well as it isolates the Doctor when he is warning of the threat. This also is the first story to demonstrate to Amy the dangers of travelling with the Doctor, as the fairytale feel of this series falls away with the arrival of the Dalek. Ian McNeice and Bill Patterson also put in good supporting performances, with small to medium size roles, making them feel really memorable.

Verdict: Victory of the Daleks does fluff it’s lines a little but allows us to see Matt Smith taking on the Doctor’s most famous adversary. 6/10
Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill), Bill Paterson (Bracewell), Nina De Cosimo (Blanche), Tim Wallers (Childers), Nicholas Pegg (Dalek 1), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek 2), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks), Susanah Fielding (Lilian), James Albrecht (Todd), Colin Prockter (Air Raid Warden)
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Andrew Gunn
Behind the Scenes

  • As part of the Cracks in Space and Time arc, it is revealed that certain events in the show’s modern history have been retconned, such as the Dalek invasion of Earth in 2009.
  • The ‘New Paradigm’ Daleks were initially intended to replace the bronze Daleks reintroduced in Dalek, however, due to the mixed response the new design received, the bronze Daleks and the new design would appear side by side in their appearance in Series 7.

Best Moment

The scene in which the Supreme Dalek gives the Doctor his ultimatum.
Best Quote

You are everything I despise. The worst sin in all creation. I’ve defeated you time and time again. I’ve defeated you. I sent you back into the void. I’ve saved all of reality from you. I am the Doctor, and you are the Daleks!

Correct! Review testimony.

What are you talking about, testimony?

Transmitting testimony now.

Transmit what? Where?

The Eleventh Doctor and a Dalek

churchill and the dalek

The Ambassadors of Death

liz doctor console

Something took off from Mars…

Charles Van Lyden

Synopsis

The Doctor and Liz join the investigation regarding Mars Probe 7, which has not communicated with Space Control since setting back from Mars seven months ago.  A further vessel, Recovery 7, is encountering similar problems.  When Recovery 7 returns to Earth, the ship is found to be crewed by three alien ambassadors…

Review

Sadly, and perhaps understandably, Ambassadors of Death is a bit of a mess, and certainly the worst story of Jon Pertwee’s first series as the Doctor, although, considering the standard of the stories around it, this is certainly not shameful.  I still enjoyed this one, although it does suffer with pacing issues and it definitely feels as though it needs a couple of episodes for the story to really get started.  However, there are some superb examples of model work in the space scenes, whilst there are some great moments of tension and the episode is perhaps notable for a sympathetic portrayal of Carrington’s madness, along with benevolent aliens.  There is some fantastic model work in this story and Dudley Simpson’s score is simple but really effective.

Doc Brig Liz

The Ambassadors (OF DEATH) is an episode which features no overtly hostile aliens, with the titular aliens instead being vilified by humans such as Reegan and Carrington.  The species of aliens are capable of killing with a single touch who encountered General Carrington on a previous Mars mission and accidentally killed his partner, triggering a xenophobic grudge between them and the new head of the Space Security Department.  Despite being benevolent, the Ambassadors really look sinister, especially in the spacesuits with blacked out visors, and certainly feel like a threat, although they are being exploited by humans.  The idea of a simple touch being able to kill is particularly effective and helps with the fear factor.  A particularly good example of this is the scene where the three Ambassadors surround Liz in their containment cell.  We only get brief glimpses at one is under the helmet, which makes them all the more spooky.  Carrington’s xenophobia, paranoia and madness increases as the story goes on, culminating in his reaction when the United Nations refuse to sanction the nuclear first strike on the Ambassador’s ship and his decision to arrest UNIT as being alien collaborators.  I think what makes the conclusion all the more effective is the fact that the Doctor actually gently tells Carrington that he understands why he did what he had.  This is by far the most effective part of this story and sold by the performance of John Abineri.

Jon Pertwee delivers another assured performance as the Third Doctor, and I particularly enjoy his facade of being a doddering old man in the scene where he reclaims the stolen truck carrying Recovery 7.  I also appreciate the fact that at the beginning of the story, the Doctor is still harbouring resentment and bitterness towards the Brigadier for his actions at the end of The Silurians.  This story does go some way to mending this relationship, with the Doctor and the Brigadier’s scene when they say goodbye to each other before the Doctor goes into space, which also shows their mutual respect for one another.  The Third Doctor, despite being quite an establishment figure, really prickles against figures of authority such as Quinlan, and demonstrates that beautifully here.  The Brigadier demonstrates that he is one to shoot first and ask questions later, especially towards the end where he acts effectively when moving to rescue Liz and the Doctor.  Additionally, Liz gets some good scenes, especially with her attempted escape from Reegan’s men and helping Lennox escape, although this is ultimately futile.

Sadly this story does suffer from pacing issues and does feel very heavily padded to get it up to seven parts.  The opening episodes of the story feel particularly slow and padded, with the gunfight at the end of part one really goes on a bit too long, as does Liz’s chase and the sequence around the retrieval of Recovery 7.  There are also a number of elements that feel like they are unnecessary, such as the presence of Taltalian sabotaging the Doctor’s initial efforts to help Cornish, which feels unnecessary – and not just the actor’s strange French(?) accent.  That being said, it is perhaps notable for being a story in which the Doctor and the Brigadier are almost consistently one or two steps behind their adversaries for the entire course of the story.  The scenes in space are quite gripping and the model work is really well done, especially with the docking sequence, evoking a sense of apprehension.  I also feel that every Doctor Who story requires a bearded newsreader sitting in the corner of the studio explaining the story!

ambassadors model shot

Verdict:  A good if not exceptional story, which does suffer from some pacing issues.  I like the aliens and the handling of Carrington’s madness though and the model shots and general idea are good. 7/10

Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Caroline Johns (Liz Shaw), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Ronald Allen (Ralph Cornish), Robert Cawdron (Taltalian), John Abineri (General Carrington), Ric Felgate (Van Lyden), Michael Wisher (John Wakefield), Cheryl Molineaux (Miss Rutherford), Ray Armstrong (Grey), Robert Robertson (Collinson), Dallas Cavell (Quinlan), Bernard Martin (Control Room Assistant), Juan Moreno (Dobson), James Haswell (Corporal Champion), Derek Ware (UNIT sergeant), William Dysart (Reegan), Cyril Shaps (Lennox), Gordon Sterne (Heldorf), Ric Felgate, Steve Peters and Neville Simons (Astronauts), Max Faulkner (UNIT soldier), John Lord (Masters), Tony Harwood (Flynn), John Levene (Sergeant Benton), James Clayton (Private Parker), Joanna Ross (Control Room Assistant), Carl Conway (Control Room Assistant), Roy Scammell (Technician), Peter Noel Cook (Alien Space Captain), Peter Halliday (Alien Voices), Steve Peters (Lefee), Neville Simons (Michaels), Geoffrey Beevers (Private Johnson)

Writer: David Whitaker

Director: Michael Ferguson

Parts: 7

Behind the Scenes

  • This is the last story written by former script editor, David Whitaker.  It is also his least favourite.  Whitaker originally started writing the story for Patrick Troughton’s Doctor but proved incapable of adapting it for the new format and cast that had come in with Jon Pertwee.  Eventually, Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke and Trevor Ray rewrote the story but agreed to give full credit (and the fee) for the story to Whitaker.
  • The story depicts the first occasion on which the Doctor travels to space without his TARDIS.  It is also the first story to show the TARDIS console in colour, with the Doctor having disconnected it from the machine and put in a study at UNIT H.Q.
  • This story marks the first appearance of John Benton since The Invasion.
  • The UNIT uniforms worn by everyone other than the Brigadier are solely seen in this story.
  • There are two actors who appear here who would return in more significant roles later.  Michael Wisher would go on to be the voice of the Daleks during the Third Doctor’s era, as well as going on to reappear in Terror of the Autons and Carnival of Monsters, eventually going on to be the first actor to play Davros.  Geoffrey Beevers would go on to play the Master in The Keeper of Traken and for Big Finish.
  • By a strange coincidence, this story was being broadcast during the Apollo 13 crisis.
  • This is the first and only time that the opening credits would be interrupted for a recap of the cliffhanger, to be followed by the story’s title.  It is also the first to feature the now common sound effect at the cliffhanger.

Best Moment

Pertwee’s acting as the doddery old man is a personal highlight, but I also enjoy the cliffhanger with the Ambassador reaching out towards the Doctor as he inspects the body of  Quinlan.

Best Quote

My dear fellow, I don’t have a pass!  (pause) Because I don’t believe in them, that’s why!

Third Doctor

John Wakefield

Tooth and Claw

victoria

You want weapons?  We’re in a library!  Books! The best weapon in the world.  This room’s the greatest arsenal we could ever have.  Arm yourselves!

Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

Accidentally ending up in 1876, the Doctor and Rose find themselves trying to keep Queen Victoria safe from a mysterious order of monks and a werewolf.

Review

It’s quite rare for a new Doctor to hit the ground running for me – in the complete rankings of their debuts stories so far, only Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and Matt Smith have had 10/10 scoring.  Upon rewatching David Tennant’s era, I’ve realised quite how long it takes for him to feel like the Doctor, but happily, Tooth and Claw, for me is the moment he truly inhabits the role.  I must stress that this era was my entry point into watching the show, albeit later in this series – I remember seeing a bit of The Impossible Planet and then nothing until Doomsday – so I do have a lot of fondness for this Doctor.  From here on the quality does (by and large) improve, and while I still have issues with his relationship with Rose, Tennant seems more assured in the role here.

Is that the Koh-i-noor?

Oh yes.  The greatest diamond in the world.

Given to me as the spoils of war.  Perhaps its legend is now coming true.  It is said whoever owns it must surely die.

Well, that’s true of anything if you wait long enough.

Rose Tyler, The Tenth Doctor and Queen Victoria

Speaking of the Tenth Doctor, this is quite a significant episode for this incarnation.  We see his sorrow at his status as the last of the Time Lords during Victoria’s speech about her late husband, Albert, as well as seeing this Doctor’s fondness for 20th Century culture and his propensity for licking object to ascertain their chemical make-up.  I feel that this is a better demonstration of the kind of man that the Tenth Doctor is developing into and Tennant certainly gives a good performance here.  I like his enthusiasm about the telescope and his disappointment when he realises that it is “a bit rubbish”, but my favourite moment of his in this episode is where he first sees the werewolf/Lupin Waveform and states that it is beautiful.  This is one of my favourite things about the Doctor and moments like this are really lovely, and allude to the reason why the Doctor left Gallifrey in the first place.

household staff

This story shows the establishment of the organisation of the Torchwood Institute, the arc for series 2, which we first heard mentioned in Bad Wolf in Series One, but I do feel that the story doesn’t really do enough to justify Queen Victoria’s decision to set up the organisation to counter the Doctor in the closing moments.  The Doctor’s banishment feels really sudden, especially following immediately on the heels of his and Rose’s knighthood.  Otherwise, considering the story was a rushed job, it stands up surprisingly well.  The story is quite scary in places and certainly gripping, aided by the two stars and guest performances such as that of Pauline Collins as Queen Victoria.  I like how real-world elements are worked into the story here, such as the Koh-i-noor diamond and that the plot is based around an assassination attempt on the monarch, as well as elements from fantasy novels about werewolves, such as the full moon, silver bullets and the lesser known element of mistletoe being used as a deterrent for the creature.  I also really like the fact that Sir Robert does get redemption in the end, as he is put into a difficult position by both the Queen and the monks, but dies with honour saving his monarch.

I saw last night that Great Britain has enemies beyond imagination.  And we must defend our borders on all sides.  I propose an institute.  To investigate these strange happenings and to fight them.  I will call it Torchwood.  The Torchwood Institute.  And if this Doctor should return, then he should beware.  Because Torchwood will be waiting.

Queen Victoria

The villains of the piece also really stand out here.  The opening sequence with the monks fighting against Sir Robert’s household staff is really well choreographed and visually striking, making them seem like an effective foe.  The performance of Tom Smith as the Host is particularly unnerving and particularly memorable, although it is brief.  The delivery of the lines is very creepy and the transformation effects are particularly effective moments of body horror.  When it comes to the werewolf, the CGI really stands up and helps it feel like a real and believable threat, which does help the story.

the host

Verdict: A solid episode if not exceptional, Tooth and Claw is an important episode in terms of the second series and Tennant’s era in general.  7/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Pauline Collins (Queen Victoria), Ian Hanmore (Father Angelo), Michelle Duncan (Lady Isobel), Derek Riddell (Sir Robert), Jamie Sives (Captain Reynolds), Ron Donachie (Steward), Tom Smith (The Host), Ruth Milne (Flora)

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Euros Lyn

Behind the Scenes

  • This story was written in a rush by Russell T Davies.
  • Due to the difficulties in realistically creating the werewolf using CGI, the Mill imported a CGI hair specialist for this story.
  • The Doctor identifies himself as “Doctor James McCrimmon from the township of Balamory” – Balamory was the fictional setting of a CBeebies programme but also is a reference to the royal palace at Balmoral, whilst the name is a reference to Second Doctor companion, Jamie McCrimmon.
  • In the same conversation, the Doctor states that he studied under Doctor Joseph Bell, who was a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle served as Dr. Bell’s clerk and Sherlock Holmes is thought to be loosely based on him.

Best Moment

When the Doctor sees the werewolf for the first time.

Best Quote

I’m sorry Ma’am.  It’s all my fault.  I should’ve sent you away.  I tried to suggest something was wrong.  I thought you might notice.  Did you think there was nothing strange about my household staff?

Well, they were bald, athletic – your wife’s away, I just thought you were happy.

Sir Robert and the Tenth Doctor

werewolf

The Underwater Menace

doctor underwater menace

Nothing in the world can stop me now!

Professor Zaroff

Synopsis

The TARDIS arrives on an extinct volcanic island, and after being captured and taken into the depths of the Earth, the Doctor and his companions find the lost city of Atlantis and it’s civilians. A deranged scientist, Professor Zaroff has convinced them that he can raise the city from the sea, but in actuality, he plans to drain the ocean into the molten core at the Earth’s centre, which will result in the explosion of the planet.
Review

The Underwater Menace contains, at the time of writing, our first look as Patrick Troughton in the role of the Doctor. Up until part two of this story, we have to make do with animation in The Power of the Daleks, audio in the case of The Highlanders and telesnap reconstructions of the first and last parts of this story. It is perhaps a shame that it is quite an underwhelming story, which feels as though the writer doesn’t have a firm enough grip on the concept of Doctor Who.

doctor head dress

It feels like I say this with every early Doctor Who story, but this one definitely had a troubled journey to the screen, as it was another rushed job, due to the scheduled author of this story being taken ill. It does feel as though Geoffrey Orme doesn’t really understand the central concept of Doctor Who and the plot regarding the lost city of Atlantis and the megalomaniacal plans of Zaroff wouldn’t feel out of place in a late-era Roger Moore James Bond movie. Despite how Doctor Who has a relatively flexible structure and can almost fit any kind of story, The Underwater Menace feels as though it has overstepped the mark. Despite Zaroff’s grand plans, it never feels as though the story really has credible stakes due to the sheer ridiculousness of the plot. Orme’s lack of knowledge of the series seems blatant when the note that the Doctor writes to Zaroff is signed by “Dr. W”. Similarly, the story does struggle to accommodate the increased number of companions, with Jamie McCrimmon being a late addition to the TARDIS team and with the existing companions Ben and Polly, it feels like there’s barely enough for them all to do. The narrative also gives the additional pseudo-companion of Ara who gets more to do than any of the three. Catherine Howe, however, does give a good performance and it is a shame that it’s not a better story and that she does not get the opportunity to travel with the Doctor.

Look at him – he ain’t normal, is he? (about the Doctor)

Ben

The elephant in the room here is the performance of Joseph Furst as Professor Zaroff. In keeping with the late Moore-era feel of his villain, Furst really overplays it and it feels at first like he is one in the long list of actors to ham up their role. However, as the story gets more ridiculous, the performance becomes much more commendable as he makes the best of questionable writing. The lasting legacy of Furst’s performance is perhaps helping Troughton finally decide on how he will play this incarnation of the Doctor. Troughton starts the story feeling like he is still feeling his way as the Doctor, however, when he faces off against Zaroff, his performance alters. He starts to play the Doctor more subtly, with an impish charm and hints of a more scheming mind behind his cosmic hobo exterior. This story definitely gives us a more recognisable performance of the Second Doctor, by Troughton largely underplaying the role. This is perfectly demonstrated by the way he fiddles with the lighting at the start of part two, which saves Polly from her surgery.

sea creature

The sea creatures seen in this story also look distinctly cheap and really add nothing to the plot, except to be manipulated by outside elements into rebellion against Zaroff. I appreciate that the budget was much lower in this era and the show was making more episodes on it, but they look utterly bizarre. They also feel like a last minute addendum to the plot, just to give Ben and Jamie something to do. This story also features a beautifully choreographed ‘underwater’ dance sequence, which also just feels like complete filler. Other than Ara, the other civilians of Atlantis seem rather one dimensional, sadly, and this coupled with looking like quite a cheap episode (except for the eventual destruction of Atlantis) means that this is rather forgettable.

Verdict: Sadly, the first surviving footage we have of Troughton features in a bit of a muddle. The performance of Joseph Furst saves some of the more middling moments, but it feels utterly baffling at times. 3/10
Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Joseph Furst (Professor Zaroff), Catherine Howe (Ara), Tom Watson (Ramo), Peter Stephens (Lolem), Colin Jeavons (Damon), Gerald Taylor (Damon’s Assistant), Graham Ashley (Overseer), Tony Handy (Zaroff’s Guard), Paul Anil (Jacko), P.G. Stephens (Sean), Noel Johnson (Thous), Roma Woodnutt (Nola)
Writer: Geoffrey Orme
Director: Julia Smith
Behind the Scenes

  • This is the first story to feature the lost city of Atlantis.
  • Hugh David was originally slated to direct, but realised that it was impossible on Doctor Who’s budget after discussing the story with a member of the crew working on the James Bond films. David dropped out and then assigned to direct the preceding serial, The Highlanders.
  • Jamie McCrimmon was a late addition to the TARDIS team, which meant that there had to be hasty rewrites to accommodate him.
  • This is the first Doctor Who story to feature Atlantis, which would reappear in The Time Monster.

Best Moment

The Doctor’s confrontation with Professor Zaroff, where we start to see what kind of man the Second Doctor will be.
Best Quote

Zaroff, I think you ought to know the sea has broken through and is about to overwhelm us all.

Don’t listen to him! The man lies!

Then perhaps the distant roaring we can hear is just the goddess Amdo with indigestion.

Second Doctor and Professor Zaroff

The Unquiet Dead

charles dickens

I saw the Fall of Troy! World War Five! I pushed boxes at the Boston Tea Party, and now I’m going to die in a dungeon…in Cardiff!

Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor and Rose, along with Charles Dickens, encounter the Gelth in 1869 Cardiff who are possessing dead human bodies. Can the Doctor help both parties, or are the Gelth not to be trusted?
Review

doctor and rose

With this story taking place during Christmas 1869, sadly, this is most likely to be the closest we’ll ever get to a Christmas episode starring Christopher Eccleston. The story is not overtly festive, despite various references to arguably Dickens’ most famous work, A Christmas Carol, and Mark Gatiss’ story focuses more on the gothic atmosphere and a ghost story for most of its run. The story is aided by the casting of Simon Callow as Charles Dickens, with this inclusion allowing us to see a more enthusiastic and joyful side to the Ninth Doctor amid an alien threat possessing the bodies of the dead plot.

Can it be that I have the world so wrong?

Not wrong. There’s just more to learn.

Charles Dickens and the Ninth Doctor

It has to be said that casting an actor as well known as Simon Callow for the revived show’s first ‘celebrity historical’ would have been an enormous coup for the show at the time. A widely well known thespian, Callow has also appeared in critically renowned films such as Four Weddings and A Funeral. It is also to the show’s advantage that he had played Dickens numerous times before, and the actor states that he believes that this characterisation is one of the truest to the real Dickens, which is a credit to Mark Gatiss’ writing. Dickens here is presented as being quite similar to arguably his most famous character, Ebenezer Scrooge, at the start of the story and is initially disbelieving of the situation that he finds himself in. In fact, Charles acts almost like a second companion in this story, and as a counterpoint to Rose. Whilst Rose is used to aliens from her previous adventures, she has not travelled back in time before, whilst Charles is the complete opposite. Both require the Doctor to help them through this alien experience. His adventure with the Doctor and Rose leaves him sufficiently and believably changed into the new man, and like Scrooge, he leaves to make amends with his friends and family, inspired by his encounters with the Gelth. It is a credit to Callow that in a relatively limited time, we care enough about Charles as a character by the end of the story that the fact that he dies the year afterwards does render an emotional punch. Gatiss cleverly ties this into Dickens’ unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edward Drood, with the author stating that an extra-terrestrial influence will be the resolution of his novel. Of the remaining guest cast, Eve Myles stands out as the maid Gwyneth, the channel through which the Gelth attempt to enact their plot. Myles is quite convincing in this role, and it is easy to see why she was asked back to play Gwen Cooper in Torchwood.

Speaking of Mark Gatiss, this is one of the strongest stories he contributed to televised Doctor Who. Gatiss clearly loves the Victorian era – he goes on to revisit it in The Crimson Horror and Empress of Mars – and this period certainly suits the gothic tone here and it’s evident that he understands how to make a Doctor Who story chilling and effective. He also easily incorporates an important element of historical stories by establishing in the modern continuity that events the Doctor and his friends experience are in flux and so their actions can have unintended consequences, including their own deaths. This enables this story and those set in the future to have a feeling of stakes. This story also features some really lovely scenes, with one particular highlight being the conversation between Rose and Gwyneth. This scene seems quite light and frothy at the outset, with Rose learning what life was like for Gwyneth and trying to draw comparisons between their lives, despite living centuries apart. However, this scene goes on to explore Gwyneth’s power to see things through the Rift, such as knowing that Rose’s father has died and hinting towards the Bad Wolf arc of the series. This is effective as it builds slowly up to this revelation rather than giving them away straight away, which adds to the power of the scene.

Gelth.png

The Gelth are also quite a good one off villain, as a wolf in sheep’s clothing to begin with, they manage to manipulate two of the central characters. They are able to play on the Doctor’s survivor’s guilt regarding the Time War, as they claim that their species were victims of the universe “convulsing” as a result of this. This makes the Doctor feel a personal responsibility in ensuring their ultimate fate, which does ensure that he comes up with a more sustainable plan than leaving them in the bodies of the deceased. They also manipulate Gwyneth, as she states that they have been calling to her since her childhood. When it is revealed that they are actually not the weak children that they have been presenting themselves as in the story so far, and especially at the seance. They are quite an effective one-off antagonist for the Doctor and effective for this initial historical story.

No, it means “fanatic”, “devoted to”. Mind you, I’ve gotta say, that American bit in Martin Chuzzlewit, what’s that about? Was that just padding or what? I mean it’s rubbish that bit.

I thought you said you were my fan.

Oh, well, if you can’t take criticism.

Ninth Doctor and Charles Dickens

Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor is also great here, in a story where we get to see a slightly lighter side to this incarnation. This incarnation’s delight and slight incredulity at meeting Charles Dickens is really lovely to see and this new found levity on the part of the Doctor is part of an ongoing arc of development for both this and the next incarnation of the Doctor. We also see his survivor’s guilt tapped it into here, with his feeling of responsibility making him determined to find the solution that suits both humans and Gelth alike. There is a tiny moment which highlights why I like this incarnation so much. When the Doctor hears the screams coming from the theatre, his entire face just lights up and Eccleston has such a contagious smile, showing his insatiable desire for adventure and danger. I also like the dynamic relationship between Rose and the Doctor here, especially highlighted in the scene where the Doctor realises that they have not landed where they intended, and where the Doctor tells an ultimate dad joke. I much prefer this dynamic between them than the later relationship between the Tenth Doctor and Rose, and in a way it is sad that there, at the time of writing, is no prospect of ever getting Eccleston back in the role.

Now don’t antagonise her. I love a happy medium.

I can’t believe you said that.

The Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler

Verdict: Mark Gatiss’s first story for the show is a fantastic Victorian horror story which establishes some important elements for the show. Great guest performances from Simon Callow and Eve Myles help the story along in an enjoyable romp. 8/10
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Alan David (Gabriel Sneed), Huw Rhys (Redpath), Jennifer Hill (Mrs Peace), Eve Myles (Gwyneth), Simon Callow (Charles Dickens), Wayne Cater (Stage Manager), Meic Povey (Driver), Zoe Thorne (The Gelth)
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Euros Lyn
Behind the Scenes

  • Eve Myles went on to play Gwen Cooper in Doctor Who spin-off, Torchwood. In Journey’s End, the Tenth Doctor and Rose notice that the two characters look similar, but it is explained as being due to Gwyneth’s physical characteristics remaining as an echo in the Rift and eventually being imprinted onto Gwen, rather than the two being genetically related.
  • This is the first televised story written by Mark Gatiss.
  • This is the first story since Timelash to see the Doctor meet a historical figure.
  • The story also marks the first appearance of the Space-Time Rift in Cardiff.
  • This is loosely based on Mark Gatiss’s Big Finish play, Phantasmagoria.
  • Simon Callow would briefly reprise the role of Charles Dickens in The Wedding of River Song.

Best Moment

The Doctor’s enthusiasm at meeting Charles Dickens.
Best Quote

What are they?

Aliens.

Like foreigners, you mean.

Pretty foreign, yeah. From up there.

Brecon?

Close.

Mr. Sneed and the Ninth Doctor

dickens and tardis

The Edge of Destruction

I wish I could understand you, Doctor. One moment you’re accusing us, and the next, you’re playing the perfect butler.

Ian Chesterton

Synopsis

After leaving Skaro, the TARDIS team begin acting strangely and unexplained events occur, which cause the crew to become suspicious of each other.
Review

The Edge of Destruction is a critically important episode for Doctor Who at an early stage of it’s history. In the two previous stories, we were presented with a main protagonist in the Doctor who was distinctly unlikeable, erratic and arrogant, with a dysfunctional TARDIS team around him. This story, a late addition to production, allows the Doctor to see that he actually needs Ian and Barbara around in his travels, along with hinting at the true nature of the Doctor’s ship. This Doctor’s fundamental nature of being untrusting and untrustworthy does not suddenly change, but it is important to remember that this Doctor is inexperienced and vulnerable too, and this is the first story to demonstrate it.

This story also has one of the smallest casts in Doctor Who history, and with the four leads experiencing amnesia following the conclusion of The Daleks, the first part feels very eerie and disconcerting. The decision not to have any noise in the opening console room scenes are very effective and puts the audience on edge here, as it makes this almost homely environment seem so much more alien. The writing also divides the characters into pairs in the first part, almost playing off horror movie tropes to ramp up the tension, where as soon as one character wakes up, the characters are split up again. It feels as though this is more of a stage play than a television episode at points in the first part, and it is clear that Hartnell, Hill, and after a fashion, Russell are more comfortable in this environment than Ford is. Despite this, the story is impressive when viewed as being a rushed job and works remarkably well.

I feel it would be an oversight to talk about this story without mentioning the controversial scissors scene with Susan. I feel that this scene was really well directed by Richard Martin with some great striking imagery and the effectiveness of the shadow cast behind the actors adding to the tone of the scene. I also like the camera coming in and out of focus from Susan’s point of view. However, I can see why it was controversial though, with Susan threatening Ian and Barbara with a rather large pair of scissors, with the BBC keen to avoid imitative behaviour. It certainly does feel like a line has been crossed, not for the last time. In general, the direction in the second part is better than in the first – there are too many static shots which didn’t really work for me. Cox’s direction is better, and I in particular found the shot of the Doctor delivering his monologue about the Big Bang particularly effective. This meets the original remit of the show being educational. The ultimate resolution of the show being a faulty spring has been highlighted elsewhere as being underwhelming but I quite appreciate it. It helps demonstrate the inexperience of the Doctor and the way the TARDIS tries to warn them adds to the mystery about his wonderful machine.

Accuse us! You ought to go down on your knees and thank us! Gratitude’s the last thing you’ll ever have…or any sort of common sense either!

Barbara Wright

Comfortably the best part of the episode is the argument between the Doctor, Barbara and Ian at the start of the second part. There has been tension festering between these three for the last two serials, and here it comes to a head with the Doctor unable to accept that he may have been affected by the weird happenings on the ship and unwilling to accept any other explanation than Ian and Barbara being responsible. When Barbara finally does snap at him, highlighting the times that Ian and Barbara have saved him, it does seem to trigger a change in his character. It feels like a perfectly justified attack on this incarnation of the Doctor, and I really like the scene where he apologises to Barbara. This does serve an important character moment which is crucial for the incarnation as well as the show overall. The Doctor does not understand his TARDIS fully, not knowing that it is alive and not having all the answers and needs the help of a team all on the same page.

As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves.

First Doctor

Verdict: Strong central performance from Hartnell helps to lift this four hander, which feels quite significant for the show in general. It can’t help but feel a bit like filler though. 7/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), Carol Ann Ford (Susan Foreman)

Writer: David Whitaker

Director: Richard Martin (Part One) and Frank Cox (Part Two)

Parts: 2 (The Edge of Destruction and The Brink of Disaster)

Behind the Scenes

  • This story is the last fully surviving story of the Hartnell era, with the next story Marco Polo still currently missing from the BBC’s archives.
  • This story is the first to hint that the TARDIS did not originally belong to him, as he does not fully understand it’s abilities and is the first in which the Doctor alludes to having met famous historical figures, stating that the coat he lends Ian belonged to Gilbert and Sullivan.
  • Doctor Who was originally commissioned as having a 13 episode run, so a new two-part story was needed as a filler in case the show was not renewed. Whitaker wrote the story in two days, and the original director, Paddy Russell, had other commitments due to a delay in filming. The story also had no budget.
  • This is the first story to feature only the Doctor and his companions, and the only full story to only feature them. It is also the first story to have all of its’ action take place in the TARDIS, with only the final moments seeing the team leave the ship, in a lead-in for the first part of Marco Polo.

Best Moment

Barbara’s rant at the Doctor.
Best Quote

We’re at the very beginning, the new start of a solar system. Outside, the atoms are rushing towards each other. Fusing, coagulating, until minute little collections of matter are created. And so the process goes on, and on until dust is formed. Dust then becomes solid entity. A new birth of a sun and its planets.

First Doctor

Storm Warning

Storm Warning

Breathe in deep, Lieutenant Commander. You too, Charley.  You feel that pounding in your heart?  The tightness in the pit of your stomach?  The blood rushing to your head?  You know what that is?  Adventure!  The thrill and the fear and the joy of stepping into the unknown.  That’s why we’re all here and that’s why we’re alive!

Eighth Doctor

Synopsis

In October 1930, His Majesty’s airship, the R101, sets off on her maiden voyage around the British Empire.  Among the passengers are a spy, an Edwardian governess, a mysterious passenger who doesn’t appear on any of the ship’s manifests…and a Time Lord from Gallifrey.

Review

The first story to feature the Eighth Doctor since the TV Movie, Storm Warning kicks off this Doctor’s era in confident and bombastic style.  Alan Barnes confidently tackles the task of reintroducing a relatively fresh out of the packaging Doctor and a new companion in the shape of India Fisher’s Charlotte “Charley” Pollard, an Edwardian lady desperate for adventure, along with an interesting story.  Gareth Thomas’ performance as Lord Tamworth, the Minister for Air with ambitions of becoming Viceroy of India, is a particular highlight.

The main strength of this story comes from the two central characters of the Doctor and Charley.  Paul McGann delivers a performance that makes it hard to believe that five years have passed since he last played the role as he manages to recapture the enthusiasm and charm that we saw in his debut.  He also perfectly captures the Doctor’s compassion for all living things, especially in his outraged reaction when Weeks suggests killing the Vortisaur.  His Eighth Doctor seems perfectly suited to hunting Vortisaurs, maybe due to the parallels between this incarnation and Jules Verne.  Barnes makes quite a bold decision by starting off the story with essentially a four-minute monologue in which the Doctor talks to himself regarding the Vortisaurs attack on a time vessel, which in the hands of a less engaging performer could fall flat, but McGann delivers it fantastically.  After attempting to uphold the integrity of the Web of Time for the whole story, the Doctor berating himself for tampering with it by allowing Charley’s survival is also great.  India Fisher’s Charley comes across as the perfect companion, demonstrating very early on her resourcefulness in stowing away on the R-101 having previously got the real Murchford drunk in a pub in Hampshire.  She also has the required spirit of adventure to be a great companion and she has great chemistry with the Doctor, striking up an immediate rapport, despite her initial misgivings about him given the stories he tells when they initially meet.  The moment of realisation hat the Doctor is telling the truth is one of the story’s best examples of sparkling dialogue.  Charley also is able to keep a cool head in a crisis, evidenced by her spotting the parachutes as a potential way to save the passengers of the R101.

Doctor, does this mean there are other worlds past the the Sun?

A million planets circling a million suns, Charley.  Where starlight makes colours which human eyes have never seen.

You’ve been there, haven’t you? You’ve really been there.  Like you really have met Geronimo and Lenin.  Just think, yesterday the furthest place I could imagine was the terrace of the Singapore Hilton.

Charley Pollard and the Eighth Doctor.

The two aliens of the piece are also quite good.  I especially like the idea of the Vortisaurs and the way that their attacks leaving five-dimensional wounds – thus aging Rathbone’s arm by thirty years – is a really cool idea.  As they are essentially pterodactyls, they seem to fit into this era quite well.  The major alien race introduced here are the Triskele, a previously much-feared race who then decided to change their nature by dividing themselves into three parts; the Engineers, representing logical thought, the Uncreators, the impulsive and brutish part of the race, and the Law Giver, who mediates between the two sides.  This concept intrigued me and put me in mind of the systems of checks and balances prevalent in Western democracy as well as having explicit comparisons in the story itself.  When the R101 ascends to meet the Triskele ship, the Doctor, Lieutenant Frayling and Tamworth are seen to be the three closest equivalents to these parts of the race.  While quite an intriguing idea, the story does get a bit too bogged down with exposition in Part 3, which is a problem that does regularly befall Doctor Who stories.  It does affect the urgency of the pace but does explain some of the intricacies of the story and didn’t completely take me out of the enjoyment of the story, so Barnes manages to make this part work, but it did feel longer than the other three parts.  I do like the R101 being repurposed for meeting the Triskele though and the plan to claim a spaceship for Great Britain is an interesting idea if pretty foolhardy.

The Doctor.  Of most things, and some more things besides, before you ask.

Of most things and some besides?  Steward, what do you mean by bringing some long haired stowaway into the VIP lounge?

I’m wearing a tie!

Eighth Doctor and Lord Tamworth

I feel I must talk about Gareth Thomas’ performance as Lord Tamworth, as it is a real standout.  He delivers his lines with such gusto and aplomb and really embodies the character of Tamworth, who does not suffer fools gladly.  He also has a large ego which the Doctor plays to his advantage, finding it easy to convince Lord Tamworth that he and Charley are in fact German spies (incidentally, I love the fact that the name he chooses for this alibi is Johann Schmitt).  The scenes with McGann, Thomas and Pegg playing off each other are fantastic and it seems that all three actors are having a great time.  I will make a passing mention of Barnaby Edwards’ Rathbone.  Whilst his South African accent is unconvincing to say the least, the fact that this does not distract from him being a menacing and effective human baddy does him a great deal of credit.

Verdict: A good and welcome return for the Eighth Doctor, with the only problem coming with the exposition dump in Part 3.  The Eighth Doctor and Charley have some great chemistry and the performance of Gareth Thomas as Tamworth is great to listen to.  9/10

Cast: Paul McGann (Eighth Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Gareth Thomas (Lord Tamworth), Nicholas Pegg (Lt-Col Frayling), Barnaby Edwards (Rathbone), Hylton Collins (Chief Steward Weeks), Helen Goldwyn (Triskelion), Mark Gatiss (Announcer)

Writer: Alan Barnes

Director: Gary Russell

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The R101 was a real airship that crashed in France in 1930, however, there were six survivors as opposed to everyone onboard dying as happens here.  All the characters featured in this story are fictional, despite the story’s basis in real-world events.
  • This story features a new version of the theme tune composed by David Arnold, replacing the Delia Derbyshire theme.
  • This is the first Big Finish story to take place after the events of the TV Movie, and the first to star Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor.  Additionally, it was the first Big Finish story to feature the sonic screwdriver.

Best Quote

You know nothing about time.  Do you know about the Web of Time? Do you know how history cant be changed?  You take an alien energy weapon back to England now, in 1930, and then what?  Of course, you strip it down, you study it’s design, master ion beam emission in a few short years.  By 1940, you have Spitfires mounted with laser cannons, fight the Battle of Britain that way.  The British Empire is supposed to be falling apart, her colonies gaining independence.  With weapons such as these, no-one will dare oppose her.  And you haven’t, have you?  You’ve learnt nothing today.

Eighth Doctor