Podcasts

If you’d asked me ten years ago a boom that I did not understand, it would have been the still quite fledgling podcast world.  Now I can’t imagine not having something to listen to.  When the world was ‘normal’, I relied on them to keep me company on my commute to work.  When I started working night shifts, they were the one thing that kept me sane.

Now the world seems to have flipped upside down, they are more vital than ever.  In the light of the COVID-19 crisis, they are now keeping me entertained through social distancing and beyond.  So I thought I would put together a list of recommendations (of both Doctor Who and non-Doctor Who-related podcasts for you to check out.  All of these shows have been going on for several years now, so have extensive back catalogues to dip in and out of as you so wish.  So, in no particular order, here we go!

1 – Radio Free Skaro

Radio Free Skaro

Radio Free Skaro was my first delve into the world of Doctor Who podcasts many years ago.  Hosted by three Canadian fans, Steven, Warren and Chris, they probably have forgotten more about Doctor Who than I will ever know.  Listening to this podcast has taught me a lot about the show including the most valuable lesson – Doctor Who has no real canon.  They are also quite interested in the behind the camera side of things on the show – best reflected by the type of guests that they get on their Gallifrey One Live Shows.

They feature some interesting content on here – alongside the usual reviews, they do commentaries on the episodes usually with guests, interviews with Doctor Who cast and crew and Fluid Links, a section where they try to answer listener’s questions.

2 – Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review

Kermode and Mayo

Whilst Radio Free Skaro was my first delve into Doctor Who podcasts, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review was the first podcast I ever subscribed to.  In pre-coronavirus times, the show revolves around reviewing the latest releases that week and an interview with actors or directors about upcoming releases.  In these times, the focus has changed to films available on demand and streaming.

Hosted by radio veteran Simon Mayo and ably contributed to by arguably Britain’s leading film critic, Mark Kermode, the show dubbed ‘Wittertainment’ is full of in-jokes and amusing bickering between the two men.  I went to see a live recording of their show several years ago and they were absolutely great.

Hello to Jason Isaacs!

3 – Verity!

Verity!

Named after the show’s first producer, Verity Lambert, Verity! is hosted by six very witty and clever women and their podcasts feature varying line ups of Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, Lizbeth Myles, Lynne Thomas and Tansy Roberts.  Again, they review episodes of the show and have a theme that runs through the rest of the year.  I particularly enjoyed last year’s “Seven” theme.  They also have bonus episodes that feature games that are released around the holidays, which are great fun.

Verity! has certainly made me think about certain episodes and eras of Doctor Who more critically than I would have done previously.  In addition, I really like their ‘Happy Things’ section at the beginning of most of their weekly podcasts, which recommend checking out new things related to Doctor Who and its extended universe.

4 – No Such Thing As A Fish

No Such Thing As A Fish

No Such Thing As A Fish is a podcast made by elves.  By which of course, I mean the researchers for the BBC panel show, QI.  The four hosts are Dan Schreiber, Andrew Hunter Murray, James Harkin and Anna Ptaszynsky and the podcast consists of them presenting weird and wonderful facts that they have discovered during the week.  These can lead down some quite weird and wonderful tangents and all four hosts are very engaging.  Dan’s facts are generally quite out there and not always fully researched, but that just makes them all the better.

Again, I have seen these guys live on their book launch for The Book of the Year 2019 and met them afterwards.  If you get a chance to see them, I’d fully recommend it!

As a side note, this starts a mini-sublist of podcasts with the following two of having theme music that you will get stuck in your head.

5 – Who Back When

Who Back When

This is my most recently discovered Doctor Who themed podcast (or Doc-Past!), and I absolutely love it.  Unlike the previous two on the list, the hosts of the show seem much more like casual fans who have some recollection of past episodes and events, and this means that they aren’t quite as afraid to tear down some perceived ‘great’ episodes down a peg or two.

There are rotating hosts here again, and currently shows are presented by any combination of Leon (or Ponken, not entirely sure why), Drew (Drew Back When, excellent branding), Marie and Jim, and they are going through Doctor Who episode by episode, alternating between Classic, New and The Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller Big Finish adventures and providing reviews.  I seriously cannot recommend this podcast enough, it is great fun!

6 – You’re Dead To Me

You're Dead to Me

As a lover of history from a young age and someone who holds a History degree, You’re Dead to Me might not usually appeal as it is targeted towards those who “don’t like history, or at least forgot to learn any at school”.  However, as it focuses on subjects that aren’t commonly taught in schools it really interests me.  It is hosted by Greg Jenner, who is a consultant historian on the Horrible Histories books and incredibly successful TV show, and he is joined by an academic and a comedian to discuss history.

Interestingly for Doctor Who fans, there are podcasts focussed on Lord Byron, the Aztecs and more recently Mary Shelley, which have been enlightening.  Sadly production has been delayed on the second series of podcasts, but the first series and a bit are more than enough to sink your teeth into.

7 – The Big Finish Podcast

Nick Briggs and Benji Clifford host a podcast about the latest releases from Big Finish!  What more is there to say?  They feature interviews with the stars of their dramas, as well as trailers and recommendations of past stories.

8 – The Football Ramble

Football Ramble

Yes, sorry folks, I quite enjoy football.  Where are you going? No, wait, come back!

The Football Ramble is a rather irrelevant podcast which is very entertaining, even if it has an unhealthy obsession with Kevin Keegan.  The hosts are Marcus Speller, Jim Campbell, Luke Moore and Pete Donaldson, and the show is anarchically entertaining even with the suspension of the football season.  This is great for people who love the ‘beautiful game’ but don’t take it too seriously.

9 – David Tennant Does A Podcast With…

The title really says it all.  Doctor Who, Good Omens and Harry Potter star David Tennant interviews fellow actors and celebrities, including but not limited to Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker and other Doctor Who alumni such as Olivia Coleman and Michael Sheen.

This is probably the podcast with the fewest episodes on this list, but the interviews are all well worth a listen.  Jodie Whittaker’s is interesting because she does talk a little bit about the backlash to her casting as the Doctor.

 

Planet of Evil

Planet of Evil - Forest

You and I are scientists, Professor.  We buy our privilege to experiment at the cost of total responsibility.

The Doctor

Synopsis

Picking up a distress call from the edge of the known universe, the Doctor and Sarah Jane find themselves on Zeta Minor, where a geological team have been nearly wiped out.

Review

Planet of Evil is a story that arguably suffers from being flanked by better known and iconic serials in Series 13 and I was certainly pleasantly surprised on watching it.  Whilst it certainly wears its influences on its sleeves, it benefits from some amazing set design by Roger Murray-Leach and direction by David Maloney, along with strong performances from Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen and most of the guest cast.

Planet of Evil - Doctor and Sarah, TARDIS

The story is perhaps most clearly influenced by The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, with both the titular planet and Sorenson from the third part onwards having multiple personalities.  It also takes ideas from Forbidden Planet, the team from Monestra coming to investigate a missing team and the design of the id creature.  The story itself is relatively simple but it is quite compelling and certainly kept me gripped for its run time, and even has a decent cliffhanger at the end of Part 3 (albeit with a naff resolution) that sees the Doctor and Sarah seemingly being ejected out into space.  Writer Louis Marks brought the anti-matter element into the story and it is interesting to note how different this use of it is to The Three Doctors and Arc of Infinity.  It is also enormously to the story’s benefit that it doesn’t feel tedious when the ship is unable to leave Zeta Minor and the crew are refusing to listen to the Doctor and Sarah.  Something that did really stand out to me is that the story goes to the effort to show that the Monestrans have funeral traditions in a brief scene in Part 3, which really makes them feel more fleshed out than a simple humanoid race.   The conclusion is underwhelming, however, and I understand that it was a late change to have Sorenson survive the story at the request of Philip Hinchcliffe.  Regardless of whether the character survived the events of the story or not, it doesn’t change the fact that he was ultimately a tragic character.

We’re stationary.  Suspended in space.

It’s crazy.  The thrusters are at full power.

The answer’s really very simple.  You’ve come to the end of your piece of elastic.

Vishinsky, Salamar and The Doctor

The story benefits from high production values, especially with the design of the forest of Zeta Minor designed by Roger Murray-Leach.  The sinister and foreboding design makes the planet feel like a character in itself and the extensive work that doubtlessly went into the planning and making of the forest cannot be understated.  It certainly looks as real a world now as it would have done at the time of broadcast and made me for one feel as though it went on beyond the limits of the set.  The direction certainly helps the eerieness of the forest – there is so little distinction between day and night on this planet that means that there is almost a constant sense of uneasiness whenever the characters are on the planet.  Additionally, the spacecraft sets are quite effectively used and the effects used to make Sorenson’s eyes glow and the id creature are really rather effective.

Planet of Evil - Sorensen

The performances of Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen are exemplary here, and it is easy to see why they are regarded by many as the quintessential Doctor and companion pairing.  There is no Harry Sullivan shaped hole in this story which is to the story’s credit – as much as I like Harry, there would not have been enough for him to do here.  The Doctor is suitably incredulous and full of wide-eyed wonder throughout and he feels completely comfortable in this role.  Sladen, on the other hand, is sold rather short by the story, reduced a simple role as a messenger for the Doctor for large parts of the story, but equally, she has come to grips with Sarah.  Sladen’s reduced role is potentially worse because she is also the only female character in the production.  Amongst the guest cast, Sorenson and Vishinsky stand out as positives, with Frederick Jaeger convincingly capturing the emotional trauma of the experiences his character has been through on Zeta Minor.  Ewen Solon is likable as Vishinsky and performs admirably against a variable Prentis Hancock who seems to be largely wooden for most of the story and potentially a better performance would have increased my interest in their power struggle.

Verdict:  A solid if unspectacular story, Planet of Evil benefits from some amazing production design and solid performances.  7/10

Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ewen Solon (Vishinsky), Frederick Jaeger (Sorenson), Prentis Hancock (Salamar), Michael Wisher (Morelli), Graham Weston (De Haan), Louis Mahoney (Ponti), Terence Brook (Braun), Tony McEwan (Baldwin), Haydn Wood (O’Hara) & Melvyn Bedford (Reig).

Writer: Louis Marks

Director: David Maloney

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The jungle was a set designed by Roger Murray-Leach.  It was so impressive that the BBC used it as an example of fine set design for a long time after production concluded.
  • The first appearance of a new TARDIS console, and additionally, the first appearance of the TARDIS interior since Death to the Daleks.
  • This is the first story commissioned by Phillip Hinchcliffe – every previous story had been commissioned by his predecessors, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks.  The story was conceived as a mash-up between Forbidden Planet and The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
  • The ship’s main cabin set would be reused in Robots of Death.

Cast Notes

  • The final appearance of Michael Wisher in Doctor Who.  Despite being the original actor to portray Davros, regular theatre commitments would mean that he would be unable to reprise the role.
  • Prentis Hancock previously appeared in Spearhead from Space and Planet of the Daleks and would go on to reappear in The Ribos Operation.
  • Frederick Jaeger and Ewen Solon were in The Savages.
  • Louis Mahoney was in Frontier in Space and would go on to be in Blink.
  • Graham Western previously appeared in The War Games.

Best Moment

Sarah’s walk through the forest is very atmospheric and creepy as she goes to look for the Doctor in Part Two.

Honourable Mentions

The closing shot of the TARDIS spinning away into space at the end of Part 4 is beautiful.

Best Quote

Here on Zeta Minor is the boundary between existence as you know it and the other universe which you just don’t understand.  From the beginning of time it has existed side by side with the known universe.  Each is the antithesis of the other.  You call it “nothing”, a word to cover ignorance.  And centuries ago scientists invented another word for it.  “Antimatter”, they called it.  And you, by coming here, have crossed the boundary into that other universe to plunder it.  Dangerous…

The Doctor

Planet of Evil - ID creature

Amy’s Choice

Amy's Choice

So here’s your challenge: two worlds.  Here in the time machine.  And there in the village that time forgot.  One is real, the other’s…fake.  And to just make it more interesting, you’re going to face a deadly danger, but only one of the dangers is real.  Tweet tweet, time to sleep.  Oh.  Or are you waking up?

The Dream Lord

Synopsis

Five years after Amy and Rory stopped travelling with the Doctor, they are living in Upper Leadworth.  Amy is pregnant, Rory is a doctor and everything seems idyllic.  Until the Doctor shows up by accident, leading to Amy to question whether she is really living in Leadworth with Rory or whether they are actually still travelling in the TARDIS with the Doctor.

Review

Amy’s Choice is, in my opinion, one of the highest points of one of the strongest series of Doctor Who.  It has some great performances by the three leads and the villain of the week and plays around with the idea of shared dreams quite nicely.  It also ties into the fairytale style feeling of this series, with the Doctor feeling like Peter Pan trying to tempt Amy away from his perceptions of domesticity and the associated mundanity.  It is surely no accident that Amy left Leadworth at the end of The Eleventh Hour in her nightie, an obvious parallel with Wendy Darling in J.M Barrie’s novel.  This story also largely removes the Doctor-Companion romantic angle that had been prevalent since the show’s revival – especially with early companions Rose and Martha.

Look around you.  Examine everything.  Look for all the details that don’t ring true.

Okay, well, we’re in a spaceship that’s bigger on the inside than the outside. 

With a bowtie-wearing idiot.

So maybe “what rings true” isn’t so simple. 

Valid point.

The Doctor, Rory Williams and Amy Pond

This is the first and, to date, only story written by Simon Nye, best known for being the creative force behind the sitcom Men Behaving Badly, but anyone afraid of a sitcom episode will surely have had their fears allayed within the opening minutes.  This story opens with an intriguing premise and has two of the leads utterly convinced that one of the scenarios is reality.  Nye’s script crackles with some great dialogue delivered with supreme gusto by the cast, highlighted especially well when the Doctor and Rory are bickering about which of the realities is real.  There is quite a lot of bickering in this story, but all of it seems believable, especially between Amy and Rory.  The dream in Upper Leadworth shows a reality in which Rory has got exactly what he wants, even if Amy isn’t convinced by settling down early.   In many ways, this is an important story for them. The conclusion of the episode shows that, if there’s a universe where Rory stops existing, Amy doesn’t want to be a part of it.  This sows the seeds of what is to come in this series and also links forward in time to their eventual departure from the TARDIS.  Amy does make her choice and that choice is Rory.  With other Doctors, this might have been mocked or been subject to angst and jealousy, but the Eleventh Doctor seems genuinely pleased that Amy has made this choice – after all, that’s what he wanted to happen after that scene at the end of Flesh and Stone.

Amy's Choice - Eknodines

The weakest part of the episode is undoubtedly the Eknodines, although this could be seen to be highlighting the weirdness of dreams.  There is something somehow amusing and sinister seeing old people inhabited by aliens shuffling after the cast, almost like a zombie movie.  Equally, the image of them tearing up items from Amy and Rory’s front garden in order to break into the house is darkly comic.  On the other hand, the star burning cold, whilst an impossibility, is a rather nicer idea and in the context of a science fiction show, possibly more plausible.  The reveal that both of these “realities” are dreams is really well executed.

The science is all wrong here.  Burning ice?

No, no, no.  Ice can burn.  Sofas can read. It’s a big universe.

Amy Pond and The Doctor

Amy's Choice - The Dream Lord

I’ll make no secret of the fact that I really like Toby Jones as an actor, and he is great here too.  Jones has the ability to raise the bar and plays off really nicely against Matt Smith.  Whilst Smith’s Doctor is almost immediately affable, the Dream Lord comes across immediately as sneering and evil and the scenes between the two are spiky and great.  I spoke earlier about the strength of the dialogue and Jones gets his fair share of decent lines.  He is particularly sinister in his scene with Amy alone in the TARDIS and the scene by the castle after the Eknodines reveal themselves.  The reveal that this is a manifestation of the darker sides of the Doctor is again something that isn’t surprising but works effectively.  As the story concludes, we are treated to a final glimpse of the Dream Lord, a reminder that, despite his external appearances, there is a lot of darkness in the Time Lord.

Verdict: Simon Nye gives us a good story, focusing on the companion’s decision making and Arthur Darvill’s performance is particularly strong.  9/10

Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Toby Jones (Dream Lord), Nick Hobbs (Mr Nainby), Joan Linder (Mrs Hamill) & Audrey Ardington (Mrs Poggitt)

Writer: Simon Nye

Director: Catherine Morshead

Behind the Scenes

  • The only story in the series not to allude to the Silence or the Cracks, and therefore the only story not to be referenced in the finale.  It does, however, link to some elements of the Series 6 arc.

Familiar Faces

  • Nick Hobbs previously appeared in The Curse of Peladon, The Monster of Peladon and The Claws of Axos, and operated the Wirrn prop in The Ark in Space.
  • Toby Jones would go on to portray Straxus in the Big Finish audio box set Dark Eyes.

Best Moment

The scene with the Doctor and the Dream Lord in the Butcher’s shop.

Best Quote

Ask me what happens if you die in reality.

What happens?

You die, stupid, that’s why it’s called reality.

The Dream Lord and Rory Williams

Amy's Choice - Ponchos

The Claws of Axos

Claws of Axos - Axons

Obviously the Time Lords have programmed the TARDIS always to return to Earth.  It seems that I am some sort of intergalactic yo-yo!

The Third Doctor

Synopsis

A group of gold-skinned aliens arrive on Earth offering a seemingly magical element in return for fuel.  The Doctor sees through their seeming benevolence and uncovers their true nature, ultimately teaming up with his adversary the Master in efforts to take them down.

Review

It’ll be no secret to anybody who has read my other blogs about the Jon Pertwee era that it is one that I am immensely fond of.  I really enjoy the Third Doctor’s man of action, the UNIT Family (especially the Brigadier!) and Roger Delgado, however, that doesn’t stop me from seeing how formulaic things get.  The Claws of Axos is a solid, if unremarkable, story with a lot of familiar elements and I acknowledge that it is unfair to lay all the faults of Season 8 squarely at the door of this serial.

As mentioned above, all of the hallmarks of the Third Doctor’s era are here.  We have an interfering civil servant in the shape of Mr Chinn, played by Peter Bathurst, who gives a good performance as an utter jobsworth who seems to be equally despised by the Doctor, UNIT and the Ministry that he serves.  Chinn is shown to be the worst of humanity when he is presented with the Axonite, only wanting it to benefit Britain and being extremely reluctant even when instructed by the Minister to share it with the rest of the World.  There is somewhat of a see-saw of control in this story, as the Brigadier and Chinn are constantly vying to stay in control of the situation surrounding the seemingly distressed Axon craft, with the Brigadier, Benton and Yates arrested by the military at one point.  Whilst other civil servants have acted foolishly (see Geoffrey Palmer’s infected Masters in The Silurians) or acted antagonistically towards the Doctor and the Brigadier, Chinn seems completely callous.  When he wanders into the reactor room towards the serial’s conclusion, he is more concerned about the potential impact on his career than the fate of the Earth.

Ah, Mister Chinn.  Where have you been hiding yourself?  Canteen?

As it so happens, I’ve been doing your job!

Oh yes?

Trying to do something about the situation.

Which particular situation?

Axonite, Brigadier, Axonite.  Do you realise that Britain’s going to get the blame for all this? 

Britain or you, Mister Chinn?

Well, if you won’t get me the Ministry…where’s Hardiman?

Dead.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Chinn

Despite the story being quite formulaic, I do quite like the Axons.  There is certainly something about their gold faces and bug-like eyes which is rather unsettling and they are rather unique in the grand scheme of Doctor Who foes, seemingly being a benevolent force.  The costumes in both their humanoid and “raw” forms are quite effectively creepy and I like the idea of them being an embodiment of their ship.  Their plan is an allusion to the fuel crisis in the 1970s, with Axonite being gifted to the humans as a substitute fuel and a “chameleon element”.  When it is sold to humanity like that, it is perhaps not surprising that Chinn would take this attitude to hoard the supplies for Britain, and it is only with the intervention of the Master that Axos’s plan gets back on track.

Claws of Axos - Master

Speaking of the Master, Roger Delgado is great as usual.  He is able to easily manage scenes like hypnotising the UNIT truck driver and using a frankly ludicrous disguise to get past Benton with his usual charming and suave demeanour, and it is perhaps difficult to see any of his successors in the role managing to pull this off in the same way.  The one element that doesn’t really work is the presence of Bill Filer, an American agent sent to arrest the Master, not helped by an accent that could be described as shaky at best.  Despite this, I’m still not bored of the Master turning up every episode, and it is nice to see the Doctor and the Master finally working together to defeat Axos.  Considering how spiky the Third Doctor has been in his tenure to date, it is not surprising to see his abandonment of humanity once he has an inkling of a way off the planet and the scenes with the Master and the Doctor in the TARDIS are a joy.  It’s equally nice to see the Master almost acting as the scientific advisor to UNIT and the Master’s frustration that the Brigadier won’t simply let him leave his fantastic.

Claws of Axos - Brigadier, Master, Filer

If I had one major criticism, it would be that Katy Manning doesn’t really have very much to do here.  This might be in part why I am not keen on the character of Bill Filer, as his role could have been much better filled by Jo, especially the initial discovery of the Master.  I do like Jo as a companion, so it is a shame to see her reduced to a bit part here, especially as she is one of two women who appear in this story.

Verdict: Whilst the story is almost a paint by numbers Earth invasion story, there are moments that redeem it from becoming completely formulaic.  This is probably helped by decent performances from the regulars, especially Delgado. 6/10

Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), John Levene (Sergeant Benton), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), Roger Delgado (The Master), Paul Grist (Filer), Peter Bathurst (Chinn), Fernanda Marlowe (Corporal Bell), Donald Hewlett (Hardiman), David Savile (Winser), Derek Ware (Pigbin Josh), Bernard Holley (Axon Man), Michael Walker (1st Radar Operator), David G Marsh (2nd Radar Operator), Patricia Gordino (Axon Woman), John Hicks (Axon Boy), Debbie Lee London (Axon Girl), Tim Piggott-Smith (Captain Harker), Kenneth Benda (Defence Minister) & Royston Farrell (Technician).

Writer: Bob Baker & Dave Martin

Director: Michael Ferguson

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The first contribution to the show by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.  Originally envisaged as a six or seven-part story, it was scaled back due to issues relating to the budget.
  • The first appearance of the TARDIS interior in Pertwee’s era, and the differences seen here – the corridor between the main doors and the console room and the monitor screen being contained in a roundel.  When the TARDIS interior reappeared later, both features were gone.
  • An overnight snowstorm during location filming necessitated the line regarding the ‘freak weather conditions’ caused by the arrival of Axos.
  • The third and final serial of the Pertwee era to use the Patrick Troughton variation of the theme.
  • Bernard Holley previously appeared in The Tomb of the Cybermen and would reprise his role in The Feast of Axos.  Peter Bathurst had previously appeared in The Power of the Daleks, John Hicks had previously appeared in The Dominators, and Tim Piggott-Smith would go on to appear in The Masque of Mandragora.

Best Moment

Seeing the Master and the Brigadier working together is quite enjoyable.

Best Quote

What else can we do?

Oh, nothing very much.  Oh, I suppose you can take the usual precautions against nuclear blast, like, er, sticky tape on the windows and that sort of thing.

Hardiman and the Master

Claws of Axos - Jo, Doctor, Filer

The Age of Steel

The Age of Steel - Cybermen

The human race.  For such an intelligent lot you aren’t half susceptible. Give anyone a chance to take control and you submit.  Sometimes I think you enjoy it.  Easy life.

Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

On the parallel Earth, Lumic is starting to convert unwilling humans into Cybermen and it is a race against time for the Doctor, Rose and Mickey along with Pete Tyler and the Preachers to stop the Cybermen.

Review

I’d love to say that my problems from Rise of the Cybermen are magically fixed by the second part.  There are some nice moments here, however, the Cybermen do still feel quite hampered by the presence of John Lumic, their creator, who feels like a completely unnecessary addition to Doctor Who’s history.  The conclusion to their reintroduction to the revived series, this episode is better than it’s predecessor but could be so much better.

There are moments here that work really nicely and most of these are down to Graeme Harper’s direction.  The scenes with the Doctor and Mrs Moore walking through the Cybermen-filled tunnels leading to Battersea Power Station are beautifully shot and nicely atmospheric.  Harper’s experience of directing the original series definitely stands him in good stead and this definitely shows through here and shooting the Cybermen from low angles certainly makes them feel intimidating.  There are some nice emotional moments here, like the scene with the Cyberman remember who she was prior to conversion, revealing that she was Sally Phelan and converted the night before her marriage.  Call me a sentimental old romantic, but that really gets me every time.  Equally, even though I know that Mrs Moore’s demise is coming every time, it doesn’t lessen its emotional impact.  A scene that did take me by surprise, however, is a very brief one in the episode’s closing moments when Rose returns home to see her mother, and when Jackie asks what’s happened and the Doctor can only answer that they went ‘Far away.’  It’s a lovely moment, where the acting achieves more than pages of dialogue ever would.

Equally, Mickey finally has some development.  Following on from the death of his doppelganger Ricky early on in this concluding episode, Mickey finds a place for him to be happy and not trailing around after the Doctor and Rose, which feels like a lovely moment of seizing control of his future.  I wish I could say that this feels like it has been coming from Rose, however, from my other Tenth Doctor reviews you will see that I am not a fan of how the show has treated Mickey generally.  That being said, the fact that he kisses Rose before running off with Ricky does suggest that he hasn’t entirely moved on from her, despite her ambivalence towards him.  Rose’s reaction to her decision to stay on this parallel Earth feels slightly false considering what we’ve seen before.

The Age of Steel - Cybercontroller

I feel as though the writer, Tom MacRae, and potentially Russell T Davies (depending on how much he rewrote), don’t really know what to do with the Cybermen.  They seem to just be there for large periods of this story, not really doing anything except being pawns in Lumic’s game for World Domination.  The fact that the Doctor is able to save himself, Pete and Rose early on with the sonic screwdriver without really explaining what he did really irritates me.  The story does feel extremely derivative of Genesis of the Daleks, especially when he debates whether causing the destruction of the Cybermen by overwhelming them with emotion is the right course of action.  Equally, Lumic feels utterly superfluous – not every adversary that the Doctor faces needs a Davros style creator, and Lumic feels utterly ridiculous here.  Ultimately, the audience doesn’t really care when John Lumic gets converted into the Cyber Controller by the Cybermen because we haven’t really spent enough time with this character to care about his ultimate fate.

The Age of Steel - Pete Rose Doctor

Verdict: The conclusion of the reintroduction of the Cybermen is enjoyable if slightly underwhelming, with the titular antagonist taking more of a back seat in this concluding part. 5/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Shaun Dingwall (Peter Tyler), Roger Lloyd Pack (John Lumic), Andrew Hayden-Smith (Jake Simmonds), Helen Griffin (Mrs Moore), Colin Spaull (Mr Crane), Duncan Duff (Newsreader), Paul Kasey (Cyber Leader) & Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen).

Writer: Tom MacRae

Director: Graeme Harper

Behind the Scenes

  • In a scene that was deleted from the final episode, it would have been revealed that Ricky and Jake were lovers.
  • There are references to Tomb of the Cybermen, including the Cybermen being able to kill with electricity from their hands, using mind control and characters being surprised by a decoy Cyberman.

Best Moment

A scene that I had forgotten but one that plays really nicely – the brief scene between Rose, Jackie and the Doctor towards the end of the episode.

Best Quote

I’ve been captured.  But don’t worry, Rose and Pete are out there.  They can rescue me.  Oh well, never mind.

The Tenth Doctor