The Lodger

I’m the Doctor. Well, they call me the Doctor. I don’t know why. I call me the Doctor too. Still don’t know why.

The Eleventh Doctor

Preamble

I feel like I’m going to have to keep posting this preamble on stories written by this individual. If anyone missed it, this issue has reared its ugly head again in connection to a now cancelled tweet-a-long arranged by the superb Emily Cook of one of the other episodes Gareth Roberts wrote (The Unicorn and the Wasp).

Gareth Roberts is a deeply problematic individual in Doctor Who, having previously been dropped from The Target Collection, a collection of short stories in 2019 after transphobic and racist tweets came to light.

To be clear, I find the views he expressed to be abhorrent but I feel that it is important to view and evaluate his work separately, as I do with every writer who has written for Doctor Who on this blog.

Synopsis

A mysterious force blocks the TARDIS – with Amy inside – from landing, keeping it in a materialisation loop. It’s up to the Doctor to work out what that force is, lest Amy and the TARDIS are lost forever. In the course of his investigations, he discovers a house where people go up the stairs and never come back down and has to pass himself off as human to solve the mystery.

Review

The Lodger fills in the traditional slot of being the calm before the storm of the series finale, and so is quite light in tone and a bit of a romp, but that’s not to do it down. I really enjoy this story and it works equally well whether ‘binge-watching’ the show or looking for a story to watch as a one-off. It benefits from quite a simple but effective and creepy central idea as well as good central performances from Smith, James Corden and Daisy Haggard.

The story plays on familiar ‘don’t go into that room’ vibes and horror tropes, but I still find the voice coming out of that intercom creepy and I don’t think I’ve ever really looked at that quite common type of intercom system the same way since. This story balances the lighter and scarier moments well for the most part, taking all the traditional sitcom tropes of ill-suited housemates combined with some good horror elements, which may be well trodden, like the little girl form the hologram takes. I think the story is pretty well written, and even the love saving the day feels quite fresh here and the set for the “upstairs” ship looks fantastic. There are also some lovely shots here – I don’t think a staircase has looked so threatening as it does in this story.

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who likes James Corden. Having first come across him in Gavin & Stacey, which would have probably been the only thing I had seen him in when this story was first broadcast and I still quite like him to this day. I know he’s an incredible divisive person but I think he plays Craig well, and he is quite a likeable character here. The relationship between him and Sophie feels very real – the plans for an evening of ‘pizza, booze, telly’ feels genuine and the two have a dynamic that feels very comfortable. When Sophie refers to him to another friend as “Just Craig”, it is another facet of a believable relationship. I feel like I say so often in these blogs that I don’t care what happens to some of the guest characters because we don’t believe in their relationships but this is one where the audience genuinely care. As a result, when Sophie is the one who is at risk upstairs from Craig’s apartment, there is a genuine sense of peril. It’s a shame we don’t get more of Haggard in Closing Time, as I really like their relationship.

Has anyone told you that you’re a bit weird?

They never really stop. Ever been to Paris, Craig?

Nah. I can’t see the point of Paris. I’m not much of a traveller.

I can tell by your sofa.

My sofa?

You’re starting to look like it.

Craig Owens and the Eleventh Doctor

With Amy stranded in a TARDIS unable to land this week, Matt Smith really comes front and centre in this episode, and it is a performance it is difficult to picture any other Doctor before or since pulling off – perhaps Peter Capaldi could do it, but part of this episode relies on the Doctor looking young. Smith’s Eleventh Doctor is well-intentioned but completely lacking in social skills to understand how his behaviour could irritate Craig. Equally, this Doctor is uncomfortable with romance, so when Sophie is clearly infatuated with him, which would play differently with a Doctor like the Tenth, for instance, who was brimming with self-confidence in this area. The Doctor encourages Sophie to follow her dreams to go and work with monkeys because he genuinely wants people to fulfill their potential. He equally he realises that there is something holding her back from it. There is a lot of great dialogue here, which Smith delivers with aplomb, and the football scenes are always enjoyable, reminding me of the scenes of Peter Davison playing cricket in Black Orchid. With this being a companion-lite episode, there is not a lot for Karen Gillan to do until the final moments when Amy finds Rory’s engagement ring in the Doctor’s tweed jacket, which is a nice scene setting things up going into the finale. A flaw in this story is that she feels largely underutilised, but Craig and Daisy do a good job standing in as the companion of the week.

Verdict: I really like The Lodger – it has a simple but effective threat, some likeable characters and a good performance from Matt Smith. 8/10

Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), James Corden (Craig Owens), Daisy Haggard (Sophie), Owen Donovan (Steven), Babatunde Aleshe (Sean), Jem Wall (Michael), Karen Seacombe (Sandra) & Kamara Bacchus (Clubber).

Writer: Gareth Roberts

Director: Catherine Morshead

Behind the Scenes

  • The story was based on a comic strip of the same name published in Doctor Who Magazine and written by Roberts. This makes it the third instance of a story being adapted for television after Dalek and Human Nature. The comic strip featured the Tenth Doctor living with Mickey Smith and focused more on the domestic side than the “something at the top of the stairs” aspect.
  • Working titles included Mrs Meglos (the story was at one point to have included Meglos), Something at the Top of the Stairs and Don’t Go Up The Stairs.
  • Matt Smith originally wanted to be a footballer before he suffered a back injury, causing him to focus on acting. However, the football scene was written prior to Smith’s casting as the Doctor and always intended to be carried over from the comic strip. Coincidentally, this episode’s broadcast coincided with England’s first game of the 2010 World Cup, with kick-off of the game following the story’s conclusion.
  • Neil Gaiman’s story, The Doctor’s Wife, was originally meant to fill the 11th slot of Series 5, however, when this proved impossible due to both technical and budgetary reasons, it was held over to Series 6.

Cast Notes

  • Both James Corden and Daisy Haggard would reprise their roles in the Series 6 story Closing TIme.

Best Moment

I do quite like the scene where the Doctor goes to Craig’s office and everyone loves him.

Best Quote

If you ever need me out of your hair, just give me a shout.

Why would I want that?

Well, in case you want to bring someone over? Like a girlfriend or…boyfriend?

Oh! Yes, yes, I will. I will shout something like…”I was not expecting this!”

Craig Owens and the Eleventh Doctor

Previous Eleventh Doctor story: Vincent and the Doctor

The Curse of Peladon

We reject all violence…except in self-defence.

Izlyr

Synopsis

The Doctor and Jo make a test flight in the TARDIS and arrive on the planet Peladon. Seeking shelter, they enter the citadel of the soon-to-be-crowned King Peladon, where the Doctor is mistaken for a human dignitary summoned to act as chairman of a committee assessing an application by the planet to join the Galactic Federation.

Review

The Curse of Peladon is one of the first Doctor Who stories that reflects the wider context in which it was made. The story can be seen to be paralleling current affairs of the day, with Peladon’s application to join the Galactic Federation a metaphor for Britain’s vote on joining the European Economic Community. Like a lot of Jon Pertwee’s era as the Doctor, this political metaphor is not unusual, but it is certainly one in the eye for anybody who claims that Doctor Who being political is only a recent thing.

The story is really strong here, with a conflict between tradition and progress embodied by the conflict between King Peladon and the Galactic Federation the one hand, and Hepesh and his followers on the other. Neither side are completely flawless – the Galactic Federation discuss destroying Peladon should the rebellion led by Hepesh successfully overthrow Peladon’s rule, whilst Hepesh’s faction are resistant to modernisation that joining the Federation would bring. The story works really well and establishes the planet as one of the better developed planets in the show’s history. We get a well developed sense of history and a faith system, which makes this world feel lived in, as well as a genuine background given to the relationships of the people of the planet. Hayles’ story also shows how creatures can change over time, as demonstrated by the Ice Warriors who have switched from the aggression we have seen in the past to being more peaceful ambassadors, much to the Doctor’s distrust at the beginning of the story. In fact, the change in the Ice Warrior’s nature leads to the tension and intrigue around the central plot of who is sabotaging the conference on Peladon – as we have only met the Ice Warriors through travels with the Doctor, we mistrust them too. I particularly like the idea of the Galactic Federation and it certainly makes this story more interesting as it features a range of colourful aliens and makes the wider universe feel more realistic and lived in. Not every bit works well though, as I think that the cliffhangers are pretty underwhelming and I’m struggling to remember any of them really well, with the one at the end of Episode 3 needing some clarification as to what is actually going on at the beginning of the concluding part.

From a production point of view, this is really well made despite having a low budget. The story makes up for a lack of location shooting by having some lovely model shots of the citadel of Peladon which look fantastic and the sets seem to be of a very high quality, simply conveying the fact that these people live quite medieval and feudal lives. One of the best of the model shots is when the TARDIS topples over the edge of the mountain, which looks really good and certainly gives off the impression of the hopelessness of the Doctor and Jo’s situation. The director, Lennie Mayne, does a good job making the story look visually interesting and making the most of a limited budget. The costume design is also pretty fantastic, with the obvious exception of Alpha Centauri, but the production team and director are to be praised for realising that something had to be done to the original costume. Arcturus’ costume is really good and works really well, whilst Aggedor’s is possibly where the show’s lack of budget finally shows.

The performances are good here. Jon Pertwee seems noticeably softer and is charming at times, especially when impersonating the Earth delegate. He has some really lovely scenes with Katy Manning here, where their fondness for each other really shines through, especially when he commends her for her bravery despite her chasing off Aggedor when the Doctor had nearly completed hypnotising the creature. Pertwee is particularly good towards the end of the story where he bashfully confesses that the TARDIS is not fixed at all, and their presence on Peladon was most likely due to more Time Lord meddling. Manning is really good in her scenes with David Troughton, selling the romantic angle really well opposite the young and naïve King-to-be. It is testament to how good this story is that the romantic subplot between King Peladon and Jo is wrapped up before the conclusion of the story. Troughton does well as the half-human, half-Peladon King, desperately trying to lead his society into the future despite the advice coming from his former mentor, Hepesh, which is another fine performance in this story.

Verdict: The Curse of Peladon is an example of a low budget story done well. There are good performances, good direction and model work making this a great Pertwee story. 8/10

Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), David Troughton (Peladon), Geoffrey Toone (Hepesh), Henry Gilbert (Torbis), Alan Bennion (Izlyr), Sonny Caldinez (Ssorg), Stuart Fell (Alpha Centauri), Ysanne Churchman (Voice of Alpha Centauri), Murphy Grumbar (Arcturus), Terry Bale (Voice of Arcturus), Gordon St. Clair (Grun), Nick Hobbs (Aggedor), George Giles (Guard Captain) & Wendy Danvers (Amazonia).

Writer: Brian Hayles

Director: Lennie Mayne

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The first story to be broadcast in a different order to that in which it had been produced. Though a common occurence in later years, it had been impossible in the 1960s due to the narrow interval between recording and broadcast.
  • This is the first story of the Third Doctor’s era not to feature the Brigadier, UNIT or any scenes set on Earth.
  • The only story of the original run of the show to feature the Ice Warriors that does not consist of six episodes.

Cast Notes

  • David Troughton makes his third appearance in this story. He is the son of Patrick Troughton and appeared opposite his father in The Enemy of the World and The War Games. He would reappear in Midnight.
  • Geoffrey Toone previously appeared in the film Dr Who and the Daleks.
  • Ysanne Churchman would reprise her role as Alpha Centauri in The Monster of Peladon and Empress of Mars.

Best Moment

I really liked all the miniature shots, but especially the one of the TARDIS falling off the mountain, which looks really stunning and is a superb piece of direction from Lennie Mayne and the production team.

Best Quote

I wanted to save our world…to preserve the old ways. Perhaps I was wrong, Peladon. I hope so. Your future, which you set so much store by, is yours now.

Hepesh

Previous Third Doctor story: Day of the Daleks

Love & Monsters

When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all, grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker, and so much madder. And so much better.

Elton Pope

Synopsis

An ordinary man becomes obsessed with the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler, and uncovers a world of living nightmares.

Review

Love and Monsters is a bit of a marmite episode amongst Doctor Who fans, with few in the middle, which is where I find myself. There are some good performances in here, namely from Marc Warren, Camille Coduri and Shirley Henderson, coupled with an interesting idea, however, elements like Peter Kay’s performance and some weird writing decisions let it down. So please forgive me for sitting on the fence – I genuinely have no strong feelings towards this story.

It’s easy to look at Love & Monsters with the benefit of hindsight and the experience of Doctor-lite stories like Blink or Turn Left and say that it is not as good as those stories, which I do agree with to an extent but this was a production team experiencing the challenge of making this type of story for the first time. This has to walk so that later stories of this kind can fly. There is a lot to admire here, for instance, this gives us a view of an ordinary person of the events in the revived series so far, such as the Auton Invasion seen in Rose, the spaceship crashing into the Elizabeth Tower and the Sycorax ship arriving. The Doctor’s impact on the wider population than his companion and their family is something that we haven’t seen much before or since this episode, and furthers Clive’s message in Rose – if your life touches the Doctor’s, it’s probably not going to end well. Again, something that this episode brings up which isn’t really touched on again is the impact on the companion leaving on those left behind. This is something that I felt was dealt with really badly in Aliens of London and never brought up again, especially considering that Jackie believes Rose to be dead for that year. This element is really effective, showing how Jackie is desperate for company and the fact that she never knows when she will either see or hear from Rose whilst she is off on her travels with the Doctor. The story wants to emphasise the differences between travelling with the Doctor and staying on Earth, by using industrial areas and scenes around the Powell Estate, contrasting with the wonders we have seen Rose experience. Dan Zeff does a decent job of directing, juggling the normal narrative and Elton’s video diary well for the most part, but the brief cut to Elton in the cold open does puncture the tension after seeing the Hoix. Zeff even manages to make the Scooby Doo-esque opening sequence not seem utterly ridiculous, which has to go in the plus column for this episode.

LINDA, short for London Investigation ‘N’ Detective Agency, is a thinly veiled parallel for the Doctor Who fandom. A group of people who are united by their interest in the Doctor, who then divulge further interests, it’s not a terribly favourable view on the fandom. Here, Elton’s love of ELO feels a bit like confessing you like Doctor Who to anybody ‘normal’ – I know that I personally am not forthcoming with telling new people my interests or about my love of Doctor Who. The five members of LINDA are almost stereotypical science fiction fans, portrayed as being a bit weird and lonely and able to gain some enjoyment in their fellowship. When Elton is initiated, he is almost drawn further and further down the rabbit hole as the other members tell When their other interests get in the way of their search for the Doctor, Victor Kennedy enters to stop the fun. Some have stated that they believe Kennedy to be a parody of people like Ian Levine and their passion for the Doctor. It’s really a story about how easily something pure can be corrupted by a minority and arguably is as important an episode now as it was in 2006.

The story does have a massive flaw in the shape of its central villain – Victor Kennedy, or the Abzorbaloff. One of the biggest problems with this story is the celebrity casting of Peter Kay in the part, and as soon as he enters the story, I certainly see nobody other than Kay rather than a character. His casting makes little sense to me, as I am primarily aware of him as a comedian rather than an actor, but I don’t really find that there are a lot of funny lines in general and especially not said by Kennedy. Again, the creature is an interesting idea and I have no problem with the whole Blue Peter competition winner’s concept, but I feel that a pantomime performance by Kay and some poor effects, especially when the faces of the creature’s victims aren’t speaking, really let the story down. When the absorbed members of LINDA unite to destroy the Abzorbaloff, it shows that this episode was perhaps not blessed with a huge budget!

Whilst Kay’s performance is poor, this episode’s strength lies in a triumvarate of Marc Warren, Camille Coduri and Shirley Henderson. Warren manages to take a relatively underdeveloped pencil sketch of a character, who has quite generic male interests (“I like football. I like a drink. I like Spain.”) and make him quite likeable. The writing has lines which make Elton seem quite childish, but I was surprised to learn that Warren is only two years younger than co-stars Camille Coduri and Shirley Henderson. I really like Camille Coduri’s performance here and this makes Jackie’s character much more likeable. I’ve spoken about not really liking Jackie very much in previous reviews, but given more understanding into her insecurities and loneliness here and her speech about how she will be protect Rose and the Doctor is one of this story’s few high points. I do have a problem with the story presenting the potential predatory nature of Jackie, especially as Elton is portrayed as being much younger than her. Henderson is good as Ursula, who introduces Elton to the wider context of the Doctor’s actions, and of all the LINDA gang, she is probably the most fleshed and out and likeable. It’s only the unfortunate love life line that really lets her character down – and that’s not Shirley Henderson’s fault! Tennant and Piper are in this so briefly and do a solid enough job.

Verdict: Maybe in a few years, I will be amongst those who love this story. Ultimately, Love & Monsters is just fine. 5/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Peter Kay (Victor Kennedy/The Abzorbaloff), Marc Warren (Elton Pope), Shirley Henderson (Ursula Blake), Simon Greenall (Mr Skinner), Moya Brady (Bridget), Kathryn Drysdale (Bliss), Paul Kasey (The Hoix) & Bella Emberg (Mrs Croot).

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Dan Zeff

Behind the Scenes

  • The working title was I Love the Doctor.
  • The Abzorbaloff was created by a child, William Grantham, who won a Blue Peter competition. It was often stated that Grantham was disappointed with the appearance of the monster, however, on the DVD documentary Who Peter, he stated that he was “stunned” at how well realised it was by Millennium FX.
  • This story was double-banked with another story, allowing fourteen episodes to be filmed in the time it should take to film 13. The “Doctor-lite” format continued in the show going forwards.
  • This story mentions elements of the first four story arcs of the revived show: Bad Wolf, Torchwood, Mr Saxon and the missing planet Clom.
  • The acronym LINDA was previously used on the children”s television show Why Don’t You?, which Russell T Davies worked on.
  • In an early draft, Elton would have experienced events from the original run, including his third birthday part being evacuated due to the Shoreditch Incident (Remembrance of the Daleks), his mother being killed by a plastic daffodil (Terror of the Autons) and Elton would have seen the Loch Ness Monster rising from the Thames (Terror of the Zygons).

Cast Notes

  • Peter Kay got the part after writing to Russell T Davies after the new series began in 2005 and Davies replied offering him a part. He was originally offered the part of Elton, but Kay declined, feeling that the part was too similar to his Coronation Street character. Kay would later reflect negatively on being in the show, stating “I loved making it, but when I saw it, I thought “Oh my God. I’m a big green lizard running around in Cardiff? Is that it?”

Best Moment

I quite like the moment that Elton, Ursula and Mr Skinner storm out of the basement – it is one of the few

Best Quote

Let me tell you something about those who get left behind. Because it’s hard. And that’s what you become, hard. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that I will never let her down. And I’ll protect them both until the end of my life. So whatever you want, I’m warning you, back off.

Jackie Tyler

Previous Tenth Doctor review: The Satan Pit

Other Stories Referenced:

Aliens of London

The Enemy of the World

People spend all their time making nice things and then other people come along and break them!

The Second Doctor

Synopsis

On Earth in 2018, the Doctor and his companions are enmeshed in a deadly web of intrigue thanks to his uncanny resemblance to the scientist/politician Salamander. He is hailed as the “shopkeeper of the world” for his efforts to relive global famine, but why do his rivals keep disappearing? How can he predict so many natural disasters? The Doctor must expose Salamander’s schemes before he takes over the world.

Review

Season 5 is sometimes referred to as the monster season, and The Enemy of the World is a pretty obvious outlier in this regard as it features no aliens except for the Doctor himself. With Troughton playing both the Doctor and Ramón Salamander, this story is real exhibition of his talents as an actor and considering his acting CV, it is no surprise that he is fantastic in the dual role.

It would be all too easy, with hindsight, to say that this story shows the direction the show would take in the coming years, especially the early Pertwee era, especially considering that Barry Letts directs it. In reality, at the time, it was just another story, experimenting with what kind of stories the show could get away with showing. Some draw parallels between this story and the James Bond films of the era and to an extent, I can see where they are coming from. This story is certainly globetrotting, with locations such as Australia and Hungary featured, although on a budget and it is to the production team’s credit that the British locations don’t let the side down. Salamander is also similar to Bond villains in a lot of ways, with his seemingly amiable public façade covering for much more diabolical schemes. When it’s revealed later on in the story that Salamander has slaves working underground, it certainly feels like a plot element that you wouldn’t be surprised if it came up in a Bond movie, lurking in a traditional lair. The story also evokes a dystopian future, almost like 1984, with a situation that feels quite bleak and hopeless at times.

The story is pretty great, though, and I was pleasantly surprised that it kept me engaged throughout. It has a pretty action-packed opening, with the helicopter and hovercraft, before becoming a Cold War thriller, trying to bring down a dictator with a plot about duplicates. Jamie even gets to step into the Bond-esque role when he is sent to earn Salamander’s trust by saving his life, complete with Victoria and Astrid in tow. I quite liked the fact that the story delivers a good twist in its final part, revealing that the seemingly affable Kent wants Salamander out of the way so that he can take his place, which worked really well for me. Equally, Salamander impersonating the Doctor towards the end of the story was a good idea even if it was disappointing that we didn’t get a bit more of it.

Whilst the majority of the story works really well, there are aspects that aren’t great, for instance, Victoria doesn’t have a lot to do, and the conclusion feels distinctly underwhelming after waiting for the Doctor and Salamander to come face to face. This is not entirely the story’s fault, as the technology did not exist to do this more often, but I feel that the story does struggle due to this. The kitchen interlude is bizarre, introducing the constantly complaining Griffin, and doesn’t really feel like it services the story going forwards, except for the attempted assassination of Denes.

Patrick Troughton is a great actor, and this story is one that allows him to show off his abilities to the full, using subtle things to differentiate between the Doctor and Salamander. Troughton manages to even lose his sparkle when he is playing the villain and is capable of being quite menacing at times, like in his scenes with Denes and Fedorin. Admittedly, part of this is down to the changing hairstyle, but Troughton’s entire face seems to switch effortlessly between characters. When the TARDIS arrives on the beach, I was struck how similar the Second and Eleventh Doctors are when the Second Doctor is so enthusiastic at being at the seaside, much to the bemusement of his companions. Salamander is an effective villain, although it would be nice to see more characters who adore him rather than the characters we get, who all seem to be firmly on the other side.

Verdict: One of the high points of Troughton’s time as the Doctor, The Enemy of the World feels different to the stories surrounding it but struggles with practicalities of the time. 8/10

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor/Ramón Salamander), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield), Bill Kerr (Giles Kent), Mary Peach (Astrid), George Pravda (Denes), Colin Douglas (Donald Bruce), David Nettheim (Fedorin), Milton Johns (Benik), Henry Stamper (Anton), Simon Cain (Curly), Rhys McConnochie (Rod), Reg Lye (Griffin), Christopher Burgess (Swann), Adam Verney (Colin), Margaret Hickey (Mary), Andrew Staines (Sergeant to Benik), Bob Anderson (Fighting Guard), Gordon Faith (Guard Captain), Elliot Cairnes (Guard Captain), Dibbs Mather (Guard in Caravan), William McGuirk (Guard in Corridor) & Bill Lyons (Guard on Denes).

Writer: David Whitaker

Director: Barry Letts

Parts: 6

Behind the Scenes

  • This is quite a notable story from a production aspect. This was the last serial broadcast whilst creator Sydney Newman was working at the BBC, as his contract expired at the end of 1967. The key production roles for this story were all occupied by men heavily involved in the development of Doctor Who:
    • David Whitaker was the first script editor for the show;
    • Barry Letts makes his directorial debut for the show here, and he would become the show’s producer for the majority of the Pertwee era, executive producer for Season 18 and occasional script writer.
    • Peter Bryant (script editor) would become producer from the next story; and
    • Innes Lloyd was the current producer and left after this story.
  • Troughton is credited as “Dr Who” for episodes 1 and 6 and as “Dr Who” and “Salamander” for the remaining parts. This is the second time a doppelganger of the Doctor has appeared following William Hartnell’s double performance as the Doctor and the Abbott of Amboise in The Massacre.
  • The helicopter explosion in Episode One was stock footage originally shot for From Russia With Love.
  • It was intended for the Doctor to come face to face with Salamander more often in this story, but due to the technical difficulty in accomplishing this, the characters only meet once.
  • Episode 3 was the only episode to survive in the BBC Archive until 2013 when the remaining five episodes were returned, having been found in a television relay station storage room in Nigeria.

Cast Notes

  • Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling do not appear in Episode 4 as they were on holiday that week.
  • Milton Johns would reappear in The Android Invasion and The Invasion of Time.
  • Colin Douglas appeared in The Horror of Fang Rock.
  • George Pravda would reappear in The Mutants and The Deadly Assassin

Best Moment

The scenes with the hovercraft on the beach in the first episode are great, really well directed and tense scenes.

Also, Jamie and Victoria being terrified of the helicopter is great.

Best Quote

Perhaps we’ve landed in a world of mad men!

They’re human beings, if that’s what you mean. Indulging their favourite pastime of trying to destroy each other.

Victoria Waterfield and the Second Doctor

Previous Second Doctor Review: The Ice Warriors

Boom Town

And I was having such a nice day.

The Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

The Ninth Doctor, Jack and Rose return to modern day Cardiff, where they are joined by Mickey. On their arrival, they find that Blon Fel-Fetch Passamer-Day Slitheen (better known as Margaret Blaine) has become Mayor of the city, with no obvious escape route off Earth and willing to tear apart the world to ensure her survival.

Review

The Slitheen are perhaps one of my least favourite creatures in the history of the show, so it is always a surprise to me that when I rewatch Boom Town that I enjoy it so much. I know that this one can be a bit of a marmite episode for a lot of people, but I feel that it does a good job of being a ‘calm before the storm’ of the finale and moves relationships between the Doctor, Jack, Rose and even Mickey to a different levels.

The story seeks to draw together the arc before sending us spinning into the chaos of the end of Eccleston’s only televised series. We get an acknowledgement – and equally quick dismissal – of the fact that the words ‘Bad Wolf’ have been following the Doctor and Rose through their travels in time and space, and the story’s resolution seems only to be there to set up future events in Parting of the Ways. The resolution does let this story down as the TARDIS becomes a deus ex machina, and it is a little frustrating after the focus on the Doctor, his conscience and ongoing theme of the consequences of his actions catching up with him is undermined somewhat by a lazy conclusion. As the Ninth Doctor has softened in his behaviour through the course of this series, it would be interesting to see if he could deal with dropping Blon back on Raxacoricofallapatorius to be killed by her race. As it is, the plot gives her a second chance, something which the Ninth Doctor has been unwilling to give some other characters, for instance Adam or Cassandra. The story is quite witty, and whilst Mickey is still the comic relief, Clarke’s performance seems to have matured since earlier in the series. I remember hearing an interview with Noel Clarke from a while ago in which he said that his attitude towards Doctor Who and acting in general changed after a car accident that occurred during production of the first series, and it is a noticeably better performance. I’ve found a link to it (below), which is worth a watch!

The story starts off really fast-paced from the arrival of Mickey in Cardiff, then slows down for introspection during the restaurant scene, but it is to director Joe Ahearne’s credit that the change in pace doesn’t affect the wider story. Scenes like the ones in the restaurant, or with Margaret in the TARDIS with the Doctor and Jack are really visually interesting. The latter uses some interesting areas of the TARDIS set which I don’t recall seeing before or after this, whilst the former could feel cartoony in the wrong hands, especially the bit with the dart. Ahearne keeps the camera tight on the Doctor and Margaret in these scenes, which makes the scenes feel quite claustrophobic. The scene in the TARDIS where Blon asks her captors whether they can look her in the eye knowing that they are taking her to her death is an interesting one, as I suspect that if the events of this story had happened earlier in the series, the Doctor might have held her gaze. Eccleston and Badland are fantastic in their scenes together, especially in that restaurant scene, where both of them are sizing each other up. The turn by Badland, when she realises that the Doctor isn’t going to let her go is also superb.

Who the hell are you?

What do you mean, “who the hell am I?” Who the hell are you?

Captain Jack Harkness. Whatever you’re selling, we’re not buying.

Get out of my way!

Captain Jack Harkness and Mickey Smith

This is quite an important episode for Rose and Mickey too. This story sees Rose realise that she has unconsciously been quite self-centred through her travels with the Doctor, to the expense of Mickey and Jackie, as we’ve seen earlier this series. The TARDIS team seem quite cliquey when Mickey arrives, and we see what the trio look like to outsiders – and it acts as a precursor to some of the smugness when the next Doctor comes along in a couple of episodes time. Rose doesn’t even realise what she sounds like when she’s talking to Mickey and all she’s talking about is the Doctor and their travels together, leading to him ultimately talking about going out with Trisha Delaney instead, despite his devotion to Rose, which has led him to coming down to Cardiff on the pretext of bringing her passport. By the end of the story, Rose seems to have realised how her behaviour has affected Mickey and is almost left wishing for a second chance, like Margaret. The performances from themselves and Barrowman are good, even if Jack takes a backseat for most of this story. I wish we had more of the Ninth Doctor, Rose, Jack and Mickey as a team as they have a really fun dynamic.

Verdict: Boom Town is a good episode to reflect on how far characters have come over the course of the first series. There are a lot of fun moments in here too, but it is let down by the conclusion, which feels a bit underwhelming. 8/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), William Thomas (Mr Cleaver), Annette Badland (Margaret), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Mali Harries (Cathy), Alan Pedrick (Idris Hopper) & Alan Ruscoe (Slitheen).

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Joe Ahearne

Behind the Scenes

  • The episode had a working title of Dining With Monsters.
  • The episode was originally offered to Paul Abbott and would have taken place in Pompeii, with Jack discovering that the Doctor has manipulated Rose’s life to make her into an experiment to create the perfect companion. Abbott had to pull out due to other commitments.
  • Russell T Davies wanted to bring back Annette Badland, as he found her performance in Aliens of London and World War Three to be brilliant, despite her not having many lines.
  • The first story to be set in modern-day Cardiff and establishes the Cardiff Space-Time Rift as still being active, thus laying the groundwork for the spin-off, Torchwood.

Cast Notes

  • William Thomas previously appeared in Remembrance of the Daleks, making him the first performer to appear in the original and revived runs of Doctor Who. He would go on to play Geraint Cooper, Gwen’s dad, in Torchwood.

Best Moment

I quite like the scenes of the Doctor, Rose, Jack and Mickey making their way through City Hall to confront Margaret.

Best Quote

I promise you I’ve changed since we last met, Doctor. There was this girl, just yesterday, young thing…And something of a danger. She was getting too close. I felt the bloodlust rising, just as the family taught me. I was going to kill her without a thought. And then…I stopped. She’s alive somewhere right now. She’s walking around this city because I change! I did change! I know I can’t prove it –

I believe you.

Then you know I’m capable of better.

It doesn’t mean anything.

I spared her life!

You let one go, but that’s nothing new. Every now and then, a little victim’s spared. Because she smiled, because he’s got freckles, because they begged. And that’s how you live with yourself. That’s how you slaughter millions. Because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind’s in the right direction, you happen to be kind.

Only a killer would know that. Is that right? From what I’ve seen, your funny little happy-go-lucky life leaves devastation in its wake. Always moving on, because you dare not go back. Playing with so many people’s lives – you might as well be a god. And you’re right, Doctor. You’re absolutely right. Sometimes you let one go.

Margaret Blaine and the Ninth Doctor

Previous Ninth Doctor Review: The Doctor Dances

Other stories mentioned:

The End of the World

Aliens of London

The Long Game

References

Noel Clarke interview with Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode