The Doctor and Clara journey into the most dangerous place in the universe – inside a Dalek! The Doctor will find the limits of his compassion being tested as he ponders whether or not he is a good man, and more importantly, can there ever be a good Dalek?
Peter Capaldi’s second episode as the Doctor sees him go face to face with his long term nemesis, the Daleks, and sees ultimately the impact of the Battle of Trenzalore on this incarnation of the Daleks. I am very fond of this episode, which obviously pays homage to Fantastic Voyage.
You are a good Dalek.
This story is one of the best new series episodes to feature the Daleks, and does something relatively new with them. This is not the first time since 2005 where we have seen Daleks seeing the truth about their race, as we have seen this in Evolution of the Daleks and Journey’s End, however, this is the first time that we see this create in effect a good Dalek. The new Doctor’s stubbornness to accept that there can be such a thing as a good Dalek leads him to want to prove that this is impossible, and he does not really care how many lives are sacrificed to prove that he is right. This may be due to the amount of time that the Doctor spent defending Trenzalore in The Time of the Doctor, but when he is called out for this, and when he sees the effects of his hatred when Rusty starts destroying the Daleks, he is horrified.
She’s my carer. She cares so I don’t have to.
We also see the introduction of an important character in Danny Pink, another teacher with Clara at Coal Hill School. The scenes between Clara and Danny are very reminiscent of a previous Moffat series, Coupling, which is a definite strong element in this story. Although he does not encounter the Doctor here, we can tell that there will be issues when the two do eventually meet, as we get other soldiers here in the shape of Michael Smiley’s Colonel Morgan Blue and Zawe Ashton’s Journey Blue, who the Doctor is not in favour of. Journey Blue even gets rejected as a companion due to the fact that this particular incarnation of the Doctor has such an adversion to soldiers. When it comes to Danny, we do get a couple of weird moments, such as the headmaster calling him a “lady killer” and the student asking oddly specific questions about Danny’s military time, which are really weird out of context.
We do get development in the relationship between Clara and the Doctor here though, as prior to this series, Clara had no real character development. With this new and unstable Doctor, Clara is needed to keep him grounded and Jenna Coleman performs the part well here. Peter Capaldi also puts in a strong performance and the fact that it is the most intriguing episode to feature the Daleks potentially since Dalek, really serves to make it memorable.
Verdict: One of the strongest episodes to feature the Daleks since the revival. 8/10
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Zawe Ashton (Journey Blue), Michael Smiley (Colonel Morgan Blue), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink), Laura Dos Santos (Gretchen), Ben Crompton (Ross), Bradley Ford (Fleming), Michelle Morris (School Secretary), Nigel Betts (Mr Armitage), Ellis George (Courtney Woods), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks), Michelle Gomez (Missy)
Writer: Steven Moffat and Phil Ford
Director: Ben Wheatley
Behind the Scenes
This is the first episode since Nightmare in Silver not to feature another incarnation of the Doctor, and the first since The End of Time Part One not to feature Matt Smith.
Due to availability issues, and as with Deep Breath, the scene with Missy and Gretchen was directed by Rachel Talalay, the director of the finale.
In perhaps the best bit of behind the scenes news, Peter Capaldi came to set on his day off for the day that the destruction of the Daleks was being filmed.
The idea of travelling inside a Dalek was originally conceived by Steven Moffat when coming up with concepts for a Doctor Who video game.
Best Moment: When Rusty turns on the invading Daleks on the station.
It’s smaller on the outside.
Yeah, it’s a bit more impressive when you go the other way.
The TARDIS lands on a space station orbiting the Earth in the distant future. They find thousands of humans in cryogenic sleep, and their space station has been invaded by the Wirrn, a parasitic insect race, who threaten the future of mankind.
Despite a difficult conception, The Ark in Space is correctly regarded as a classic in terms of Doctor Who. I am going to start with what may be seen as the biggest problem with the story first, the Wirrn and their appearance.
So, the bubble wrap aliens. Despite the fact that it is clearly bubble wrap around Noah’s hand and Kenton Moore’s personal disappointment about how the transformation actually appeared on screen, the obvious cheap prosthetic effect doesn’t really bother me that much. Maybe it’s my own phobia relating to insects, but I feel that the Wirrn are potentially one of the better classic era villains, and especially one of the best ones that only appear once. Moore’s performance when he stares at his hand as the transformation begins really sells it to me, and I know from the behind the scenes documentary that he was hoping for more visual stimulation from the prosthetic, but that scene really stands out. The idea behind the parasitic Wirrn, and the fact that they devour the host and absorb their memories to a hive mind is quite a horrifying and effective idea. The adult Wirrn are also fantastically creepy and quite unsettling in how they move.
Another strong element of this episode is the dynamic between the three lead actors, Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter. The episode greatly benefits from the fact that the first part of the story could be described as a three-hander, although Sarah Jane does spend most of that unconscious, so it is a good chance to see the relationship between Harry and the Doctor develop a little more. In the course of the first part, we see Harry blamed for them ending up on the Nerva Beacon and the Doctor goes from believing Harry to be an imbecile to be “improving”, although being the Doctor, of course, this is entirely due to his influence. This story does contain some really lovely moments with this TARDIS team, with scenes like the Doctor “encouraging” Sarah Jane through the ventilation shafts really highlighting this.
The use of language in this episode is really interesting, and the use of the old-fashioned Harry to highlight it is really interesting. The humans in suspended animation use much more advanced language than Harry which serves to highlight the development and evolution of the humans, and the use of Harry’s more old-fashioned sensibilities serve to highlight this. Initially, in the first drafts of the script, this was much more pronounced and is more toned down in the finished show, however, this also is used to emphasise the differences between Harry and Sarah and the Nerva Beacon humans like Vira.
I cannot review this story without talking for a moment about Roger Murray-Leach, the designer of many sets in Classic Who. Here they stand out to create a fantastic atmosphere that almost makes you believe that they are on a real space station. The sets evoke a feeling of a cold and clinical environment, which helps with the general feelings of horror, especially with the cryogenic pods giving a horrible sense of claustrophobia. The fact that the sets were obviously constructed on a shoestring budget makes this all the more effective: mirrors were used to create the impression that the cryogenic chamber was much larger than it really was, and good direction helps the corridor set to be differentiated from other areas of the spaceship.
This story really feels more like a debut for the Fourth Doctor’s era than the preceding story, Robot, with it’s smaller cast and obvious themes of possession and horror story staples, it is definitely a precursor to things to come under Philip Hinchcliffe’s time as producer. It also helps that the story leads directly into the following one, capturing the viewer’s imagination as to what the Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane will find when they return to Earth. Tom Baker’s performance as the Doctor, where he is completely unpredictable from moment to moment, also helps to keep the viewer engaged and he obviously took to the role like a duck to water.
Verdict: Thanks to strong horror influences, a creepy alien and good performances from the main and guest casts, this story kicks the Fourth Doctor’s era into life. 10/10
Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan), Wendy Williams (Vira), Kenton Moore (Noah), Richardson Morgan (Rogin), John Gregg (Lycett), Christopher Master (Libri), Stuart Fell and Nick Hobbs (The Wirrn), Gladys Spencer (High Minister’s Voice) Peter Tuddenham (Voices on Nerva)
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: Rodney Bennett
Behind the Scenes
This story had a difficult conception – the idea of a story being set on a space station was given to both Christopher Langley and John Lucarotti. Langley had never written for the show before, and Lucarotti hadn’t written for the show since William Hartnell’s era. His original drafts contained episode titles, a practice that had stopped after The Gunfighters. Langley’s premise was rejected.
Lucarotti was living on a boat in the Meditteranean at the time and the Corsican postal service was on strike, making it infeasible for script editor Robert Holmes to work with him to get the story to the screen. Holmes conducted a page one rewrite, incorporating some elements from Lucarotti’s draft (the ark, the humans oversleeping and the station being infiltrated while they slept), and whilst Holmes was credited as the sole writer, Lucarotti was paid for his work.
This is a well regarded story by those who went on to work on Doctor Who. Showrunners Russell T Davies have both sung its praises, with Davies labelling it the best story of the ‘classic’ era and Moffat stating that it is his favourite story of Tom Baker’s time on the show. Peter Capaldi lists it among his favourite stories from his childhood and Dalek operator Barnaby Edwards said that he was “petrified of the Wirrn”. Tom Baker also states it to be his favourite story.
Part Two was the fifth most viewed programme in the week it was broadcast, the highest charting episode of Doctor Who until Voyage of the Damned, giving us the answer to the question as to whether Kylie Minogue or the Wirrn is more popular.
The story introduces the Nerva Beacon, which would be the lynchpin of the Fourth Doctor’s first season and the sets would be reused in Revenge of the Cybermen.
It was produced at the same time as The Sontaran Experiment, as this story was entirely set based, whilst the latter was shot on location, to save on costs.
When Noah is looking at his hand and obviously beginning to lose control of his own body at the end of Part 3. It is a really chilling scene.
Shame about the scarf. Madam Nostradamus knitted for me. Witty little knitter.
The Doctor takes Amy to the 29th Century, where they find all of the UK’s citizens (apart from the Scottish) onboard Starship UK, searching for a new home after the Earth has been roasted by solar flares.
However, they find something amiss. The citizens are ignoring crying children and are afraid of sinister Smilers. As the Doctor and Amy investigate, it becomes increasingly clear that the Doctor will have to make an impossible decision. No matter what he chooses, death is the only outcome.
The Beast Below has a tough act to follow as it falls immediately after one of the strongest and most confident new Doctor debut episodes in the show’s history. It mostly manages to deliver a strong episode, however, does fall down when it comes to a rushed and anti-climactic conclusion, but has plenty of strong dialogue, creepy villains and great performances from Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Sophie Okonedo. And despite the chameleon circuit having been broken for who knows how long, the TARDIS gets some scenery it doesn’t look out of place in!
Speaking of the central performances, I want to focus in on Matt Smith’s performance as the Doctor. Here we see the differentiation between Smith and his predecessor, as Smith shows us a much more alien portrayal of the Doctor, as evidenced by a more evident disdain for elements of humanity, closer to Eccleston:
Nobody HUMAN has anything to say to me today!
The Eleventh Doctor
His sudden outburst here really crosses a line from fury into something terrifying, and the way he goes back to almost speaking normally to He also demonstrates perfectly the enthusiasm of the Doctor when they first spot Starship UK, when he forgets about Amy dangling outside the TARDIS. Karen Gillan is very good here too, performing her role as a fish out of water well and her chemistry with Smith is great, and Sophie Okonedo as Liz 10 is great, aided by a script that features some great lines.
I’m the bloody Queen, mate, and basically I rule.
The episode hinges on the central conceit of people choosing to forget the secret behind Starship UK: that the occupants of Starship UK are complicit in the torture of an innocent creature for their own gain, with anyone who chooses to protest fed to the Star Whale. The Doctor takes great pleasure in stating that the system is essentially “democracy in action”. What we see here is essentially democratic dystopia, with the Queen’s government keeping the truth from the reigning monarch. I’d imagine this would be much easier to do currently than with the gun-toting Liz 10 we see here – perhaps losing Scotland drove her over the edge?
The Smilers are also quite creepy, although never really explained what their function is, except sending people down to the Beast for protesting. They don’t really ascend to the level of Weeping Angels or Vashta Nerada, despite how visually striking they look. The origin of them is not really explained, but their resurrection moment after Liz 10 shoots them is the spookiest thing they do. We are told that the populace of Starship UK are afraid of them, hence why their booths are so clean, however, we’re never really shown enough of them to convince us as to why.
Additionally, the story does suffer towards the climax as the story doesn’t really have any consequences. The fact that the Star Whale doesn’t leave and the human race doesn’t suffer any ill effect from their mistreatment of the generous creature robs a story with interesting ideas of a meaningful conclusion and damages the episode as a whole. In addition, despite people being fed to the Beast, no one has died at the end of the story.
Verdict: A good story with intriguing ideas and strong central performances, however, the lack of a meaningful conclusion lets it down. 7/10
Cast: Matt Smith (Eleventh Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Sophie Okonedo (Liz 10), Terence Hardiman (Hawthorne), Hannah Sharp (Mandy), Alfie Field (Timmy), Christopher Good (Morgan), David Ajala (Peter), Catrin Richards (Poem Girl), Jonathan Battersby (Winder), Chris Porter (Voice of Smilers/Winder), Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill)
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Andrew Gunn
Behind the Scenes
Like Series 3, this story picks up immediately (via the minisode Meanwhile in the TARDIS1) from The Eleventh Hour and leads straight into the following story, Victory of the Daleks.
Liz X refers to the Doctor’s previous encounters with the British Royal Family, including his marriage to Elizabeth I as seen in The Day of the Doctor and meeting Queen Victoria in Scotland in Tooth and Claw.
This episode marks the first time that the promise the Doctor made when choosing his name is mentioned in the show itself. It is based on a passage written in The Making of Doctor Who by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke:
He is impulsive, idealistic, ready to risk his life for a worthy cause. He hates tyranny and oppression and anything that is anti-life. He never gives in and never gives up, however overwhelming the odds against him.
The Doctor believes in good and fights evil. Though often caught up in violent situations, he is a man of peace. He is never cruel or cowardly.
In fact, to put it simply, the Doctor is a hero.
Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke, The Making of Doctor Who, published 1972
Sophie Okonedo previously played Alison Cheney, a companion to the ‘Shalka’ Doctor who featured in the 2003 webisode Scream of the Shalka. The Doctor was voiced by Richard E Grant.
The part where the Doctor and Amy are talking in the TARDIS, then we realise the Doctor’s left to comfort the crying child, whilst Amy thinks she’s still talking to him.
What if you were really old, and really kind and lonely, your whole race gone. What couldn’t you do then? If you were that old, and that kind, and the very last of your kind, you couldn’t just stand there and watch children cry.
The former rulers of Earth have awoken and are causing power drains on a nuclear testing facility at Wenley Moor, so The Doctor and Liz go to investigate with U.N.I.T. However, what they find will put the Doctor and the Brigadier’s relationship under considerable strain.
Behind the Scenes
This story is the only one televised to feature the prefix of “Doctor Who and…”, which had been included on production notes since the programme’s inception in 1963. The commonly agreed upon reasoning for this was that, due to the director, Timothy Combe, having never directed a story before, he instructed the art department to include it. There was no producer to correct the error before broadcast, as the incoming producer, Barry Letts, was still committed to another programme, and his predecessors, Derrick Sherwin and Peter Bryant, left the show at the end of the preceding story, Spearhead From Space. Script editor Terrance Dicks was therefore in charge of production, and this error slipped through the net, and in future, the production paperwork omitted the prefix to prevent the error occurring again.
Additionally, this story is still technically “missing”, as the master tapes were wiped by the BBC. Fortuitously, it was also recorded in several other formats, and so survives to this day.
This serial is notable for several debuts, both off and on camera. On camera, this is the first appearance of the Doctor’s canary-yellow Edwardian roadster, part of the Doctor’s agreement with the Brigadier to work for U.N.I.T during his exile on Earth, and the Silurians, who went on to reappear in Warriors From the Deep, and returned to the revived show in the Chris Chibnall penned The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood. Although we are not given a date for The Silurians, it was broadcast in 1970, and they go into hibernation for fifty years, whilst Chibnall’s two-parter is set in 2020. Behind the camera, this marks a debut for colour separation overlay, a precursor to blue screen, and videotape recording.
Peter Miles, Paul Darrow and Geoffrey Palmer make their first appearances in Doctor Who in this serial, going on to reappear numerous times in different roles, whilst Norman Jones had previously appeared in The Abominable Snowmen opposite Patrick Troughton and would go on to appear in The Masque of Mandragora opposite Tom Baker. Fulton Mackay, best known for his role in Ronnie Barker penned sitcom, Porridge, also appears in this story. Despite never reappearing in the programme, Mackay was considered to replace Jon Pertwee in 1974. There are cameos for Terrance Dicks, Barry Letts and, most notably, Trevor Ray in the scenes at Marylebone Station.
TheSilurians is also one of only nine stories to date not to feature the TARDIS in any way, and at the time of broadcast, just the second not to have the famous blue police box appear.
Despite having a complete runtime of around two and a half hours, The Silurians feels much shorter, thanks to strong central and guest performances and a gripping story. The main heart of the story is the friction between the Doctor and the Brigadier, new colleagues as of the end of the last story, and this tension combined with the climax serve to deliver a truly great episode.
Due to the length of time in which Malcolm Hulke has to tell the story, the story has time to breathe and allows us to see the difficulties in the Doctor and the Brigadier’s working relationship, before introducing the central antagonists of the story. This allows for several great scenes featuring just Pertwee and Courtney sparring, the free-spirited Doctor’s reluctance to conform to the needs of the establishment fully seen early on. One of my particular favourite scenes comes in part one, where the Doctor is frustrated that the Brigadier is not taking his concerns about events at Wenley Moor seriously, leading the following exchange:
Brigadier: Then I suggest you discover something I can’t dismiss.
The Doctor: You’re not exactly a little Sherlock Holmes yourself, are you?
The lights dim and the air conditioning goes off.
The Doctor: What the devil’s that?
Brigadier: It’s another power failure. Come on, Doctor Watson.
Despite this, there are still signs of mutual respect between the two men, such as when the Brigadier tells Dr. Lawrence that the Doctor is qualified to do “almost anything”. Part of the Doctor’s frustration must come from the fact that he is no longer free to come and go as he pleases, and he is now utterly reliant on the Brigadier and U.N.I.T.
The strength of this part of the story means that we don’t need to have a full glimpse of the titular creatures until the end of Part 3. We get the sighting of the dinosaur at end of Part One, when the Doctor goes into the caves on his own, and various glimpses and point of view shots from the wounded Silurian, especially effective at the end of part two, where they sneak up behind Liz. When the story allows us that first full glimpse of the Silurian, the story continues to escalate towards its climax: Lawrence calls in the government in the shape of the Permanent Under Secretary, Masters, and disagreements between those who favour attacking the Silurians head on and those who want to attempt to ensure peace, namely the Doctor and Liz. The Silurians show themselves to be quite a threat to the human race, especially with the virus that they unleash towards the end of the story, and the scenes shown in London of the victims almost look like something out of a horror story.
What has been created here by Hulke and the production team is a multi-layered and morally ambiguous story. I find it easy to see where both the Doctor and the Brigadier are coming from: rather than fighting with this re-animated previous occupier of Earth, we should look to seek peace and share the Earth with them, as both races have an equal claim. However, the Brigadier’s viewpoint is understandable – the Silurians possess dangerous technology and there is no guarantee that peace between the two races would succeed. We see the Silurian Elder who the Doctor discusses peace with killed by the younger Silurians. To Hulke’s credit, the Brigadier remains a sympathetic character, who is seen to be under multiple pressures, from both Dr Lawrence and from Masters, which leads him to eventually ordering the destruction of the Silurian base at the end of the story.
There are also themes that tap into the contemporary concerns of the adults who were watching, such as the Cold War, nuclear technology and an increasing distrust of politicians and scientists. Fulton Mackay’s Dr Quinn and Peter Miles’ Dr Lawrence embody distrust of public servants, who were seen to be looking to further their own concerns. Quinn is looking to utilise the Silurian technology to further his own career, whilst Lawrence refuses to take the threat of the Silurians seriously and refuses to allow the closing down of the Wenley Moor plant because of the damage it will do to his reputation. Even when he is dying from the Silurian virus, he is still furious at the Brigadier for ruining his work at Wenley Moor. Meanwhile, Geoffrey Palmer’s Masters, who unlike in later Pertwee stories, does not turn out to be a disguise for the Master, reflects a changing attitude towards the establishment following scandals such as the Profumo Affair in 1963, thanks in part to a rise in scrutiny of politicians by the media and satire as a medium.
The final scene of the story is also perfectly done – we don’t see the Doctor’s immediate anger at the Brigadier addressed, which will remain to have an impact on the relationship between the Doctor and the Brigadier for the remainder of the Third Doctor’s life, and perhaps for the Doctor’s continuing distrust of the military to this day.
Verdict: The Silurians is rightfully seen as a classic story in Doctor Who history. The relationship between the Doctor and the Brigadier is sufficiently expanded and it shows how well the Earth-based Doctor can work. 10/10
Cast: Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor), Caroline John (Liz Shaw), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Fulton Mackay (Dr Quinn), Norman Jones (Major Baker), Peter Miles (Dr Lawrence), Thomasine Heiner (Miss Dawson), Ian Cunningham (Dr Meredith), Ray Branigan (Roberts), John Newman (Spencer), Bill Matthews (Davis), Paul Darrow (Captain Hawkins), Nancie Jackson (Doris Squire), Gordon Richardson (Squire), Peter Halliday (Silurian Voices), Geoffrey Palmer (Masters), Richard Steele (Sergeant Hart), Ian Talbot (Travis), Dave Carter (Old Silurian), Nigel Johns (Young Silurian), Harry Swift (Private Robins), Pat Gorman (Silurian Scientist), Alan Mason (Corporal Nutting), Derek Pollitt (Private Wright), Brendan Barry (Hospital Doctor), Pat Gorman, Paul Barton, Simon Cain, John Churchill & Dave Carter (Silurians)
Writer: Malcolm Hulke (3rd story written)
Director: Timothy Combe (1st story directed)
Best Moment: The end scene, with a broken down Bessie and the Doctor seeing that the Brigadier has blown up the Silurian base.
“I’m beginning to lose confidence for the first time in my life – and that covers several thousand years.”