The Underwater Menace

doctor underwater menace

Nothing in the world can stop me now!

Professor Zaroff

Synopsis

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

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

doctor head dress

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

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

Ben

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

sea creature

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

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

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

Best Moment

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

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

Don’t listen to him! The man lies!

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

Second Doctor and Professor Zaroff

The Unquiet Dead

charles dickens

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

Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

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

doctor and rose

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

Can it be that I have the world so wrong?

Not wrong. There’s just more to learn.

Charles Dickens and the Ninth Doctor

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

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

Gelth.png

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

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

I thought you said you were my fan.

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

Ninth Doctor and Charles Dickens

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

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

I can’t believe you said that.

The Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler

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

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

Best Moment

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

What are they?

Aliens.

Like foreigners, you mean.

Pretty foreign, yeah. From up there.

Brecon?

Close.

Mr. Sneed and the Ninth Doctor

dickens and tardis

The Edge of Destruction

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

Ian Chesterton

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara Wright

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

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

First Doctor

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

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

Writer: David Whitaker

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

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

Behind the Scenes

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

Best Moment

Barbara’s rant at the Doctor.
Best Quote

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

First Doctor

Storm Warning

Storm Warning

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

Eighth Doctor

Synopsis

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Charley Pollard and the Eighth Doctor.

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

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

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

I’m wearing a tie!

Eighth Doctor and Lord Tamworth

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

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

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

Writer: Alan Barnes

Director: Gary Russell

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

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

Best Quote

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

Eighth Doctor

 

Resolution

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Resolution. If you wish to stay spoiler-free, come back after watching!

The Doctor Resolution

This is the DNA of the most dangerous creature in the universe.

Does it have a name?

A Dalek.

Thirteenth Doctor and Graham O’Brien

Synopsis

As the New Year begins, a terrible evil stirs from across the centuries on planet Earth.
Review

Well, after that teaser after The Battle of Ravkoor Av Kolos, it couldn’t really be anything other than the Daleks, could it? The obvious comparison is to Dalek, but with added family angst with the return of Ryan’s father, which I really felt slowed the pace of the first half down considerably and the episode struggled to really recover. I sincerely hope that, given the closing moments of this episode, this whole Ryan and Graham arc is to take more of a back seat when the show returns in 2020.

Dalek Resolution

I will start with our first returning monster of the Whittaker era of Doctor Who – the Dalek. In a series with less than memorable foes, the Daleks are a more than welcome adversary here. This episode manages to find something new to do with a 55-year-old enemy, with the mutant usually controlling the machine shown to be equally resourceful and menacing without armour. The Dalek mutant being able to control Lin and later Ryan’s father makes them feel like a proper threat again, which they haven’t necessarily always been. The scenes where it is controlling Lin is where this new is at it’s most effective and makes it much more effective than the Dalek puppets we saw in episodes like Asylum of the Daleks. This added with Nicholas Briggs’ returning as the voice of the Dalek really helps with the menace of the episode, and the scene in the bathroom with Lin when the creature begins to speak is really fantastic. Briggs deserves a lot of credit for his new voice for the mutant outside the casing, which was particularly creepy. In Dalek, we saw the sheer power of one Dalek and this is largely echoed here with the Dalek able to create a makeshift outer shell for itself. I loved this rusty design for the creature, although I do have a slight issue with the fact that, despite being completely cobbled together out of odds and ends, there is no real feeling of the Dalek not being fully operational until the plot depends on it. However, this is a successful return for the Daleks and I hope that we get more returning villains when the series returns.

I always think I’m rid of them. Never am. Trust me, Graham, even if it’s just one, it’s enough.

Thirteenth Doctor

It is often said that the actor playing the Doctor doesn’t feel like the Doctor until they’ve faced off against the Daleks, and in modern terms, this is quite late for Whittaker’s Doctor (they appeared 12 episodes into Tennant’s run, but he only met them in episode 13). Fortunately, Jodie Whittaker certainly ups her game to face off against Skaro’s finest killing machines and she certainly feels as though she has the personal history of facing off against the Daleks. Her first face to face encounter with the makeshift Dalek in this incarnation is really great and we finally get a speech about the Earth being defended, and the final confrontation is also really great. As this is the last we will see of this Doctor until next year, it is perhaps for the best that the Daleks have waited for now, as this is definitely her best performance thus far. The nature of the threat seen in this episode means that she has to stop being as scatty and gives this Doctor some gravitas in her fear of the Daleks.

Oh, mate. I’m the Doctor. Ring any bells?

Thirteenth Doctor

Chris Chibnall’s episodes have largely been seen as the weakest part of this series so far, and whilst I largely liked the episode, it does suffer majorly with pacing. This episode does feature more action which is good and the majority of the Dalek element of the episode works really well, and the Doctor gets some great lines. On the flip side, there are moments that almost creak with predictability, for instance, when the doorbell rings, there is absolutely no doubt in the majority of the audience’s mind that it will be Ryan’s father or that his microwave will be crucial in the resolution of the story. This predictability is best exemplified when the Dalek mutant is possessing Aaron and Ryan is able to pull him back, whilst there would potentially be more dramatic heft and story possibilities if instead, Ryan was unable to save his dad. This would actually add an interesting dynamic between the Doctor and Ryan, with the latter holding the Doctor responsible for his father’s demise, and would give the episode some emotional heft. This would also help absolve the café scene between Ryan and his dad, which really makes the episode feel like has slowed to a crawl. The scene goes on for almost five minutes but certainly felt like much longer and could have been dealt with better, as you can almost feel the episode creaking as it attempts to move back up through the gears again. Additionally, the throwaway jokes here don’t really work and again impact the pace. The joke about modern families is bad enough, but the one that really irritated me was the call centre scene where it is revealed that UNIT has been suspended due to budget cuts. This joke seems ridiculously heavy-handed and defies logic – UNIT is an international organisation and it’s stretching credibility to suggest that Brexit would have any impact on it. UNIT have never been a match for the Daleks anyway, so I don’t understand why we couldn’t have had at least a nod towards them here instead of this completely unnecessary joke. Maybe it’s the Jon Pertwee era fan in me, but this really rattled my cage.

TARDIS team Resolution

This episode does not help resolve the issues of an overcrowded TARDIS either. In addition to our four series regulars, we have three more guest cast in the shape of Aaron, Lin and Mitch which only add to this issue. As a result, it is no surprise that Yaz is sidelined yet again, but it is perhaps surprising that Graham gets thrown to the sidelines too. This does push Ryan front and centre of the story with a lot of time dealing with his relationship with his father, which allows Tosin Cole a chance to show us what he can do. Ryan has seemed like a bit of a blank canvas for some of this series, but whilst I criticised the café scene above, it has at the very least added something to this character. The guest cast perform their roles as well as the script allows, but I do wonder how much longer we can go on with this enlarged TARDIS team, as here it seems that Yaz is just the Doctor’s personal assistant and I would love her to have a more major role in the new series. I feel like I’ve said that quite a lot recently, but sadly she just feels quite a bit like superfluous at the moment.

Ok, stop. I don’t care how it’s been for you. This ain’t about us commiserating with each other. This is about you making things right.

Ryan Sinclair

Verdict: A story in which the Daleks felt as though they packed a real threat again, but it did suffer from some poor writing in places which damaged the pacing. Jodie Whittaker’s performance facing off against her first Classic monster does help save it a little though. 7/10
Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Charlotte Ritchie (Lin), Nikesh Patel (Mitch), Daniel Adeyboyega (Aaron), Darryl Clark (Police Officer Will), Connor Calland (Security Guard Richard), James Lewis (Farmer Dinkle), Sophie Duval (Mum), Callum McDonald (Teen 1), Harry Vallance (Teen 2), Laura Evelyn (Call Centre Polly), Michael Ballard (Sergeant) and Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks)
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Director: Wayne Yip
Behind the Scenes

  • This is only the second time that Chris Chibnall has written a story featuring a classic monster – the other time being The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, which saw the return of the Silurians.
  • Wayne Yip is the first director in this run who has directed an episode of Doctor Who prior to this series. Yip directed The Lie of the Land and The Empress of Mars and several episodes of Class.
  • The Daleks were last seen in Twice Upon A Time and last appeared as the primary antagonist in The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar.

Best Moment

The scene with Lin in the bathroom where we see that the mutant is on her back. It is really well acted.
Best Quote

No matter how many times you try, no matter how long you wait, I will always be in your way, backed up by the best of humanity. Now, final, final, final warning – cos I’m nice, I really do try my best. Stop the signal, get off this planet.

Thirteenth Doctor

Dalek Doctor Resolutin