Listen

Clara Doctor

Question: why do we talk out loud when we know we’re alone? Conjecture: because we know we’re not. Evolution perfects survival skills. There are perfect hunters. There is perfect defense. Question: why is there no such thing as perfect hiding? Answer: how would you know? Logically, if evolution were to perfect a creature whose primary skill were to hide from view, how could you know it existed? It could be with us every second and we would never know. How would you detect it? Even sense it? Except in those moments when for no clear reason, you choose to speak aloud. What would such a creature want? What would it do? {yelling into the empty TARDIS} Well? What would you do!?

The Twelfth Doctor

Synopsis

Are we ever really alone?  The Doctor finds himself delving into questions of the past and future to find the answer to this question.

Review

Listen does something remarkably different with Doctor Who giving us an episode with no real definitive conclusions.  The story instead explores the Doctor’s psychology and background, with us seeing a sequence towards the end of the episode with Clara and the youngest First Doctor appearance we see on screen.  I really love Listen, and what it tells us about the Doctor.

Doctor cubed.jpg

Steven Moffat’s script is really superb, full of humour, scary moments and real character development for this new Doctor.  The premise of the story is another one of Moffat’s terrors that lurk in the banal things, like the statues and the dust in sunbeams, but the difference here is that we don’t get definitive answers about whether the creature even exists.  In fact, the existence of the creature is really irrelevant.  Moffat takes precedent from episodes that have come before, most notably MidnightThe Eleventh HourHide and Utopia but develops them beautifully into something that delves into the Doctor’s backstory, and there are perfectly rational explanations for all of the events that we see.  My particular favourite is the Doctor taking the caretaker’s coffee cup, but I like the uncertainty about whether or not there was actually a creature on Rupert’s bed.  Personally for me, that is an alien under the sheet, but I can see it either way.  We also have a rather bold decision to show a slither of the Doctor’s childhood in the closing sequence, but it actually helps to tie the narrative relating to the Doctor’s lonely childhood together, which had been hinted at through the revived series – mostly, it has to be said, in Moffat’s stories.  I still remember the feeling of shock of being Gallifrey with no pomp or ceremony really, which is something I really like about this story.  Finally, Moffat’s story seems to be fundamentally saying that it is alright to be afraid, as even the Doctor is afraid sometimes.  Later on in Capaldi’s run, he says that he left Gallifrey because he was scared, and this story certainly gives this account credence.  Boredom, the previously accepted reason, also works perfectly with the idea that he was afraid, as the two can sometimes feel similar.

Doctor Clara Orson

Mackinnon’s direction is superb and feels really off-kilter at times, putting the audience on the edge of their seats, despite the fact that there is no monster for the TARDIS team to face.  The scenes in the care home feel really creepy and escalate the rising sense of tension.  In a way, this feels quite similar to Day of the Moon, with the Silence running the care home in America.  His direction of the restaurant scenes is also great, especially when the spacesuited Orson Pink appears in the corner of the restaurant that Danny and Clara are eating in.  The scene in Orson’s spaceship are probably the most visually striking of the entire episode, and really help to keep the tension and belief that there is something outside the capsule trying to get in.  His subtle direction of the scene in Rupert Pink’s direction really helps with the general tone of the story, with the only look we get at whatever is on the bed being obscured, and the shots when it is covered by the blanket seeming really creepy.

Performance-wise, we get a great performance by Capaldi.  That opening monologue in the cold open is beautifully performed and well shot by Douglas Mackinnon.  He handles the humour deftly as well, and he does certainly convey a sense of alienness that makes Matt Smith look normal.  He seems to really get what Moffat wants to do with this incarnation of the Doctor, and although he may seem mean and uncaring, he still retains that Doctor-ish twinkle.  This incarnation of the Doctor seems unwilling to let things lie and is much more inquisitive about the mysteries of the universe.  There is a real feeling in this story that this version of the Doctor wants to know everything, and Capaldi encapsulates this perfectly.The scenes between Danny and Clara in the restaurant are utterly believable and I found them to be quite reminiscent of Coupling, which Steven Moffat also wrote.  The argument scenes are really well played by both Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson, and the fight actually feels believable.  I think we’ve all been in situations where we have put our foot in our moves and as the audience, we cringe as Clara mentions the name of Rupert Pink.  We have a small but perfectly formed cast here, which is quite nice and they all do play their part to bring Moffat’s script to life.

Listen. This is just a dream. But very clever people can hear dreams. So please just listen. I know you’re afraid, but being afraid is all right. Because didn’t anybody ever tell you? Fear is a superpower. Fear can make you faster, and cleverer, and stronger. And one day, you’re gonna come back to this barn, and on that day, you’re going to be very afraid indeed. But that’s okay. Because if you’re very wise and very strong, fear doesn’t have to make you cruel or cowardly. Fear can make you kind. … It doesn’t matter if there’s nothing under the bed, or in the dark, so long as you know it’s okay to be afraid of it. So listen. If you listen to nothing else, listen to this: you’re always going to be afraid, even if you learn to hide it. Fear is like… a companion. A constant companion, always there. But that’s okay. Because fear can bring us together. Fear can bring you home. I’m gonna leave you something just so you’ll always remember. Fear makes companions of us all.

Clara Oswald

Verdict: Listen is a great exploration of a new Doctor’s personality, and of the Doctor in general.  It retains a sense of eeriness and creepiness, despite the lack of a real threat and the small cast are perfect. 10/10

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink/Orson Pink), Remi Gooding (Rupert Pink), Robert Goodman (Reg), Kiran Shah (Figure)

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Douglas Mackinnon

Orson Pink

Behind the Scenes

  • Listen marks the first non-archival appearance of the First Doctor since The Five Doctors, and the first time we see the Doctor as a child.
  • Steven Moffat wrote a short story in 2007 called Corner of the Eye, which featured monsters called Floofs, who had the super-ability to hide.

Best Moment

When the Doctor is revealed to have stolen Reg’s coffee.

Best Quote

Where is he?

Doctor?

I can’t find him.  Can you find him?

Find who?

Wally.

Wally?

He’s nowhere in this book.

It’s not a Where’s Wally one.

Well, how would you know?  Maybe you just haven’t found him yet.

He’s not in every book.

Really?  Well that’s a few years of my life I’ll be needing back.

The Twelfth Doctor, Clara Oswald and Rupert Pink

 

Genesis of the Daleks

The Doctor Davros Genesis

Today, the Kaled race has ended, consumed in a fire of war.  But from it’s ashes shall rise a new race.  The supreme creature.  The ultimate conqueror of the universe.  The Dalek!

Davros

Synopsis

The Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry are intercepted on their way back to the Nerva Beacon by the Time Lords, they are given a mission of the utmost importance: prevent the creation of the Daleks.

Review

When it comes to this story, I think it’s hard to say anything novel or new.  Genesis of the Daleks is a masterpiece, although it doesn’t entirely work with the Dalek stories that come before it.  The main cast are all on their A-Games here again, and aided by fantastic members of the guest cast like Michael Wisher and Peter Miles as Davros and Nyder together, making the creators of the Daleks almost as frightening as the evil pepperpots themselves.  This story has been highlighted by Russell T Davies as the start of the Time War between the Daleks and the Time Lords, with the Doctor’s mission to destroy the Daleks at their creation being a key point in the story.  This is undisputedly Nation’s best script with his creations, and also helps to reinforce the general direction script editor Robert Holmes and producer Philip Hinchcliffe were looking to take the show.  Let us not forget that the central premise of the story revolves around our protagonist seeking to commit genocide, and the tone and direction of this story add to a tone of gathering doom and dread.

Sarah Harry Doctor Genesis

When Hinchcliffe and Holmes took over the series from Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks respectively, they wanted to change the tone to a more gothic one, with inspiration taken from villains and monsters from classic literature.  However, in their first series, they were mostly left with scripts that had been commissioned by their predecessors, and Genesis of the Daleks was one of these stories.  This is a story that feels incredibly bleak, with the Thals and the Kaleds locked into a seemingly never-ending war, where the technology they are using to fight seems to be regressing rather than progressing.  Additionally, the Doctor’s mission from his own people is to prevent the creation of the Daleks is darker than anything he has done before, whether or not under some duress or not.  The story really breezes along through it’s six-part running time, and shows some great liberties, such as not showing the Daleks until the closing minutes of the first episode, which greatly help.  I suppose that, with the return of the famous villains revealed in the serial’s title and the best part of three hours to play with, you don’t have to rush the first appearance of the prototype Dalek.  David Maloney’s direction deserves commendation for making the whole story have this impending sense of trouble lurking around each corner and the pace of the story.  This is obvious from the opening scene of the story, as Maloney makes this battlefield meeting quite striking and iconic. It seems to me that this is the first time since the start of the Hinchcliffe and Holmes era that it is blinding obvious that those running the show have changed.

The central cast all feel as though they are comfortable in their roles, which really helps cement this as a classic.  Tom Baker has had enough time to bed in as the Doctor, even if the audience didn’t buy him after his speech about humanity in The Ark in Space, and together with Ian Marter and Elisabeth Sladen, this TARDIS team feels like a really cohesive unit.  Baker’s Doctor so far has seemed relatively carefree when facing off threats as recent as the Sontarans, so it is nice to see him almost out of his depth here.  The moment when the Time Lord informs him of his mission, Baker’s entire body language changes.  I like the fact that in the opening scene in which the TARDIS team arrive in the minefield, we get to see Harry’s bravery and military experience put to good use when the Doctor steps on a landmine.  They are all on their A games here, which is fantastic in a story that, had he gone through with intentionally completing the mission, would leave us with a morally compromised Doctor.  In the end, despite doing the groundwork, he only sets the Daleks back a bit rather than completely destroying him, but Baker’s performance does have you believing that the Doctor’s hatred for the Daleks is so great that he would carry out this genocide.

nyder and davros

Davros, if you had created a virus in your laboratory.  Something infectious and contagious that killed on contact.  A virus that would destroy all other forms of life…would you allow its use?

It is an interesting conjecture.

Would you do it?

The only living thing…the microscopic organism…reigning supreme…A fascinating idea.

But would you do it?

Yes. Yes.  To hold in my hand, a capsule that contained such power.  To know that life and death on such a scale was my choice.  To know that the tiny pressure on my thumb, enough to break the glass, would end everything.  Yes, I would do it.  That power would set me up amongst the gods.  And through the Daleks I shall have that power!

The Fourth Doctor and Davros

The guest cast here are also superb, with both Michael Wisher and Peter Miles deserving special credit for their performances as Davros and Nyder respectively.  Wisher’s Davros is so superbly manipulative and creepy, and it feels as though he is constantly ahead of our protagonists and the Kaled Elite at every turn, almost forcing the Doctor into carrying out the Time Lord’s plan.  Baker and Wisher really spark off each other superbly, especially in moments like the scene quoted above, and Davros himself is eminently quotable in this story.  The introduction of Davros can make it feel as though the Daleks are being reduced to bit-part players, however, in this story, they are practically equals.  In later stories, Davros would return with them, and it almost diminishes from the Daleks in some way, and the revived series seems to deal with this a lot better than the original from Destiny of the Daleks onwards – although Terry Molloy is a superb Davros as well.   Peter Miles is so brilliantly slimy and sinister that he doesn’t necessarily have to be the focal point of a scene – as the viewer your eye is automatically drawn to him to see what he will do next.  He is utterly incorruptible, Davros’s man through and through, which is ultimately his undoing, and Miles is superb in this role.  Of the other cast, I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention how strange it seems seeing Guy Siner playing an actual Nazi-like character here, being so used to seeing him in the sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo, but after the initial shock, I put this behind me and Siner puts in a good performance as Ravon.

Nyder and Ravon

Despite Genesis of the Daleks being an undisputed masterpiece, there are some minor flaws with it.  The story, by and large, does seem to suffer from incredibly poor cliffhangers, especially the famous one where Sarah falls from the scaffolding, only to land on an unseen bit of gantry in the opening scene of the following episode is poor, and the only one that really resonates is the initial reveal of the prototype Dalek at the end of episode one.  There are also potentially too many members of the Kaled scientific elite than the story knows what to do with, so it is difficult to keep track of characters, especially in the middle parts.  As I’ve previously stated, these issues do not detract from the story, but they do need to be mentioned as potential issues with the story.

Verdict:  A true masterpiece, which sets the tone for the Hinchcliffe era.  The birth of the Daleks is seen, and seeds are sown for future meetings of the Doctor and his infamous foe.  Wisher is superb as Davros as well.  10/10

Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan), Michael Wisher (Davros), Peter Miles (Nyder), Dennis Chinnery (Gharman), Guy Siner (Ravon), John Franklyn-Robbins (Time Lord), Richard Reeves (Kaled Leader), John Scott Martin, Cy Town and Keith Ashley (Dalek Operators), Stephen Yardley (Sevrin), James Garbutt (Ronson), Drew Wood (Tane), Jeremy Chandler (Gerrill), Pat Gorman (Thal Soldier), Tom Georgeson (Kavell), Ivor Roberts (Mogran), Michael Lynch (Thal Politician), Max Faulkner (Thal Guard), Roy Skelton (Dalek voices), Harriet Philpin (Bettan), Peter Mantel (Kaled Guard), Andrew Johns (Kravos), John Gleeson (Thal Soldier)

Writer: Terry Nation

Director: David Maloney

Parts: 6

Behind the Scenes

  • Genesis of the Daleks marks the only time in the ‘Classic’ series that two consecutive serials did not feature the TARDIS at all.
  • It is also one of only two Dalek stories in Tom Baker’s era, a marked reduction from his predecessors.  They would reappear in Destiny of the Daleks in 1979, then only once in each following Doctor’s respective eras.  Davros, introduced here as the creator of the Daleks, would go on to appear in each of these stories.
  • The Doctor’s actions in this story are attributed to sowing the seeds of the Time War by Russell T Davies.
  • Director David Maloney rewrote the opening scene.  Both Terry Nation and Mary Whitehouse felt that this revised scene was too violent for young children.
  • This is the last non-series finale to have six parts.  This was due to criticisms of excessively long serials, resulting in the staff instituting a policy that all non-finale series would be a maximum of four parts.

Best Moment

There are so many to count, but I will mention again the opening sequence when the Doctor arrives in the battlefield.

Best Quote

If someone who knew the future, pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives…could you then kill that child?

We’re talking about the Daleks.  The most evil creatures ever invented.  You must destroy them.  You must complete your mission for the Time Lords!

Do I have the right?  Simply touch one wire against the other and that’s it.  The Daleks cease to exist.  Hundreds of millions of people, thousands of generations can live without fear…in peace, and never know the word ‘Dalek’.

Then why wait?  If it was a disease or some sort of bacteria you were destroying, you wouldn’t hesitate.

But if I kill.  Wipe out a whole intelligent life form, then I become like them.  I’d be no better than the Daleks.

The Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith

Honourable mention

Excuse me, can you help me?  I’m a spy!

The Fourth Doctor

excuse me

The Time of Angels

Doctor Time of Angels

You lot, you’re everywhere!  You’re like rabbits!  I’ll never get done saving you.

The Eleventh Doctor

Synopsis

River Song recruits the Doctor to track down the last of the Weeping Angels, who caused the crash of the Byzantium starliner and has escaped into the Maze of the Dead on Alfava Metraxis.

Review

After the success of Blink, we get the return of the Weeping Angels in this fast-paced and gripping first part of the story.  We see an increase in the powers of the lonely assassins here and the new introductions work well alongside the established abilities from their prior story.  We also see the first reappearance of Alex Kingston as River Song, and I am a massive fan of her chemistry with Matt Smith, as well as establishing her as someone who killed ‘a good man’ – even at the time, it seemed blindingly obvious that this would turn out to be the Doctor!

The Weeping Angels established themselves as one of the best things to come out of the revived series, and this story cements them as one of the Doctor’s most intimidating foes.  The Time of Angels also demonstrates that, just with all the best enemies, one of them is more than enough of a threat.  The additions to the mythology only seem to increase their threat, with the image of an Angel itself becoming an Angel a simple yet well-executed idea that creates one of the most memorable scenes with Amy stuck in the dropship with the videotape of the Angel.  We also see a more sadistic and malevolent side to them here, with them breaking Angelo, Marco and Bob’s necks, and stripping out Bob’s vocal cortex to allow the Angels to taunt the Doctor.  The plot, to revive an army of Weeping Angels using leaking radiation from the Byzantium’s engines, leads to a fantastically tense climax with one of the best cliffhangers in Doctor Who history.

The direction by Adam Smith is really superb as well, aided by a story that cruises along with an almost frenetic pace from the cold open.  Speaking of the cold open, it is one of my favourite scenes in the episode, feeling a bit like the opening sequence from a James Bond film, and I especially like how it cuts between River being chased by Alistair’s guards to the Doctor and Amy being chased by museum security.  Another highlight is the scene with Amy in the dropship, which, thanks to Smith’s direction feels really tense and scary.  I feel that the reveal that all the statues in the Maze of the Dead are degenerated Weeping Angels works as well as it does because we are only ever allowed really fleeting glimpses of them by Smith’s direction, which means that the majority of the audience come to the same conclusion as the characters at around the same time, which builds an impending sense of dread in the story.

Weeping Angels

I feel that it would be negligent to not give Steven Moffat’s writing a fair share of the credit in giving the story the breakneck pace that works to its benefit.  There are some cracking bits of dialogue as well, and I particularly enjoy the scene in the TARDIS with River flying the TARDIS, which he wrote in a hurry.  Although these scenes and River being able to fly the TARDIS were seen as being controversial at the time, they are great fun.  It should also be applauded that he didn’t rely on the same aspects of the Weeping Angels as in Blink, with them feeling more fleshed out in their second appearance, which in part is down to not relying on the same gimic as the prior story.  As can be expected in his stories, the dialogue really sparks and there are some fun bits of misdirection and evasion, especially when hinting at the nature of the relationship between the Doctor and River.

Are you all Mr Grumpy Face today?

A Weeping Angel, Amy, is the deadliest, most powerful, most malevolent lifeform evolution has ever produced and right now one of them is trapped inside that wreckage, and I’m supposed to climb in after it with a screwdriver and a torch – and assuming I survive the radiation long enough and assuming the ship doesn’t blow up in my face – do something incredibly clever which I haven’t actually thought up yet.  That’s my day.  That’s what I’m up to. Any questions?

Is River Song your wife?  ‘Cause she’s someone from your future.  And the way she talks to you, I’ve never seen anyone do that.  She’s kind of like, you know “Heel boy.”  She’s Mrs Doctor from the future, isn’t she?  Is she going to be your wife one day?

Yes.  You’re right. I am definitely Mr. Grumpy Face today.

Amy Pond and the Eleventh Doctor

The relatively small cast here also produce superb performances, and the chemistry between the three main leads is superb. I really like the dynamic between Matt Smith and Alex Kingston as the Doctor and River Song respectively.  Smith has just the right level of awkwardness to pull off what the story demands of him and Kingston bosses her scenes – there are nice little moments like the fact that she hangs her heels on the TARDIS screen which really help her to feel in control.  Meanwhile, Karen Gillan is great at teasing the Doctor about the mysterious relationship with River and has a great relationship with her too.  The scene where Amy and River talk about the Doctor whilst he pretends not to listen is a fantastic example of this, highlighting the nice dynamic that this trio have.  Of the guest cast, Iain Glen stands out in particular as the leader of the Clerics, Father Octavian, giving this part the gravitas and authority that his rank deserves.  He really taps into the Doctor not having to deal with the consequences of his mistake when his men die, which is a really small part of this superb episode, but Glen gives it the right level of emphasis to make sure that these lines really resonate.

River Doctor Amy.jpg

Verdict:  The Time of Angels manages to live up to the high standard set by the Weeping Angels’ first appearance, thanks to a good plot and fantastic pacing.  10/10

Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Alex Kingston (River Song), Iain Glen (Father Octavian), Simon Dutton (Alistair), Mike Skinner (Security Guard), Mark Springer (Christian), Troy Glasgow (Angelo), David Atkins (Bob), Darren Morfitt (Marco)

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Adam Smith

Behind the Scenes

  • This episode ran short because of high tides at the beach location, with Steven Moffat writing a scene where River flies the TARDIS to make up for this lost time.
  • An animated graphic was played over the closing minute of a dancing Graham Norton, causing complaints to be filed with the BBC. This was the second time that Graham Norton had been seen to interrupt an episode of Doctor Who, with his voice bleeding into the opening moments of Rose.
  • The beach scenes were filmed on the same beach as Army of Ghosts/Doomsday and Journey’s End.
  • This episode was the first filmed of the fifth series and gives us both Smith and Gillan’s first performances.

Best Moment

The opening sequence, with River Song escaping the Byzantium and the Doctor and Amy in the museum.

Best Quote

Sorry, can I ask again? You mentioned a mistake we’d made.

A big big mistake. Really huge. Didn’t anyone ever tell you? There’s one thing you never put in a trap – if you’re smart, if you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow – there’s one thing you never ever put in a trap.

And what would that be, sir?

Me.

Angel Bob and the Eleventh Doctor

Inferno

Brigade Leader

Listen to that! It’s the sound of the planet screaming out its rage!

Third Doctor

Synopsis

While accompanying U.N.I.T and the Brigadier, the Doctor investigates an attempt by Professor Stahlman to drill through the Earth’s crust.  The drill begins to leak a green liquid which turns anyone who touches it into a primaeval creature with a lust for heat.  The Doctor accidentally ends up in a parallel universe whilst experimenting with a partially repaired TARDIS console, and finds the project more advanced than in his universe, and antagonistic alter-egos of his friends.

Review

Inferno brings Jon Pertwee’s first season as the Doctor to a fantastic finale.  It fantastically evokes the feeling of a disaster movie, and despite being a seven-parter, it doesn’t feel as though there is a lot of filler here.  The cast also seem like they are having a lot of fun with the dual roles the story demands of them here, and the story rather excellently shows that there are parts of each character reflected in their alternate universe selves.  The Primords, some shaky make-up aside, make for a great opponent for the Doctor, seeming practically unstoppable at times, and there are some great guest performances.

Primord

Due to the fact that the director’s chair was inhabited by two directors, I want to praise the fact that the story feels very coherent narratively and that you cannot notice the join, as it were.  Letts attributes this to Douglas Camfield’s meticulous preparation for directing the story, which he simply followed, however, I feel it deserves praise.  As mentioned above, this is a story which has a fantastic frenetic pace to it and there is a sense of impending disaster which looms over the majority of the running time.  There is brief exposition covered in the first episode, covering the basic premise of the experiment and the fact that there are concerns about Stahlman overlooking concerns from Sir Keith, causing him to bring in inspectors, such as Greg Sutton.  From this point on, the story really speeds through the gears superbly without really stopping for breath.  I like how subtle Stahlman’s transformation into a Primord is portrayed by music cues and it is slower than the other transformations that we see.  There are a number of fight scenes which take place high up on gantries and you can really feel the danger and stakes.   I love the story and the idea of the Doctor becoming trapped in a parallel universe which is running slightly ahead and Don Houghton deserves a lot of credit for this story.

Dr Williams Elizabeth Shaw

The guest cast here are largely magnificent.  Olaf Pooley plays the reckless and arrogant two versions of Stahlman superbly and it is a really lovely performance from the actor, frustrated with the interference of Gold, the Doctor and Sutton into his life’s work.  It is a shame that he has little to do later on as he transforms into the Primord, but what we do see of him if great.  Derek Newark and Christopher Benjamin are equally superb as Greg Sutton and Sir Keith Gold, and Sheila Dunn is also good, although I prefer her alternative universe version of her character to the version in the Doctor’s universe.  The original version seems a bit bland, perhaps because she is only Stahlman’s assistant rather than being a doctor in her own right in the alternate universe, but Dunn does do the best with the material she is given to work with.  The relationship between the ‘original’ and parallel Sutton and Petra is a bit shaky in places but the two good enough chemistry to allow you to overlook this.  The story really makes the most of this cast, and allows the majority of them to stretch their acting muscles and it does seem as though they make the most of this opportunity.  Some of the characters are more different than others, with the two Greg Suttons being quite similar, however, there is a feeling that his dissent has more potential to get him in trouble in a parallel universe.  Petra also seems much more willing to listen to the Doctor’s concerns from his arrival than her counterpart in the Doctor’s universe.

“Pompous, self-opinionated idiot”, I think you said, Doctor.

Yes, well, we don’t want to hold a grudge for a few hasty words, do we?  No, not after all the years we’ve worked together.  Now come along, my dear fellow.  Put on a smile…

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and the Third Doctor

The core cast of the Doctor, the Brigadier, Liz and Benton are also great.  There are some lovely moments which establish that the Doctor and the Brigadier do have some form of a relationship, for instance, the scene in the first part where the Doctor tries to spot the Brigadier in the photograph on his desk, which also acts as foreshadowing for us seeing the moustache-less Brigade Leader.  Additionally, when the Brigadier walks in on the Doctor threatening Professor Stahlman, the Doctor respects him enough to unhand the Professor and temporarily disappear from Central Control.  Courtney and Caroline John seem to really enjoy their parallel selves, and Courtney, in particular, deserves credit for making the Brigade Leader so completely unlikeable.  It is really jarring when he does the distinctive chair turn, one of many high points in a great story and we do see similarities between these two versions, especially when he is barking orders to Benton.  Liz’s counterpart is slightly softer, with the Doctor able to play on the similarities between Section Leader Shaw and Liz, especially the fact that the Section Leader had the opportunity to study science at Cambridge.  Moments like this, and when Gold survives the car accident meant to kill him in the Doctor’s universe stress the importance of free will.  Benton doesn’t have very much to do except for order troops around in both universes, but his transformation scene into a Primord is a really horrifying piece of body horror.  Benton is perhaps the most expendable of the core cast, so it makes sense that he would be the one chosen by the production team to undergo the transformation, but it does help to bring home the threat packed by the Primords.

Doctor Brigade Leader Stahlman Liz

I’m going to dedicate a paragraph to Jon Pertwee, as he is the one consistent throughout the story.  This is the first time where we see the Third Doctor separated from his support network of the U.N.I.T. family, and his resourcefulness has to come to the fore.  Pertwee is superb when he is outraged, and I love his delivery when he tells Stahlman that he is a nitwit – a really underrated word!  There are small moments in Pertwee’s performance that I really like, such as stroking the TARDIS console with his hand, and he does seem to look at it with a great deal of affection, and when he says that he feels lost without his TARDIS to Liz early in the story, you utterly believe him.  I’m not a fan of the moment where the Doctor tells the Brigadier what he thinks of him at the end of the final episode, but is nice to see his pompous bubble popped when his flight with the TARDIS goes wrong.  Pertwee does probably have the most to do in this story, and his performance really does not disappoint.

Verdict: Inferno is a great first delve into the worlds of parallel universes from Doctor Who, with a story that really zips along nicely over a seven episode runtime.  I love practically everything about this story.  10/10

Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Caroline John (Liz Shaw/Section Leader Elizabeth Shaw), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart/Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart), John Levene (Sergeant Benton/Platoon Under Leader Benton), Olaf Pooley (Professor Stahlman/Director Stahlman), Christopher Benjamin (Sir Keith Gold), Sheila Dunn (Petra Williams/Dr. Williams), Derek Newark (Greg Sutton), David Simeon (Private Latimer), Derek Ware (Private Wyatt), Walter Randall (Harry Slocum), Ian Fairbairn (Bromley), Roy Scammell (RSF Sentry), Keith James (Patterson), Dave Carter, Pat Gorman, Walter Henry, Philip Ryan and Peter Thompson (Primords)

Writer: Don Houghton

Director: Douglas Camfield and Barry Letts (Letts is uncredited)

Parts: 7

Behind the Scenes

  • Final appearance of Caroline John as Liz Shaw, and her departure is not depicted.
  • This is the first Doctor Who story to cover the idea of parallel universes, as well as being the first story that Barry Letts had any say in commissioning and developing.  He and script editor Terrance Dicks were concerned that Houghton’s story did not have enough to fill a seven part story, and so the Primords and scenes featuring Venusian aikido were added.
  • Barry Letts directed the studio scenes for the final five episodes after director Douglas Camfield suffered a minor heart attack following completion of location shooting and studio footage for the first two episodes.
  • Houghton based the story on attempts by both the Americans and the Russians to penetrate the Earth’s crust which was abandoned.  As part of his research, Houghton attempted to find out why the American project, Project Mo-Hole, was stopped, but was unsuccessful as the information was classified.
  • This marks the first appearance in Doctor of Christopher Benjamin, best known for playing Henry Gordon Jago in The Talons of Weng Chiang, and he has also appeared in The Unicorn and the Wasp.  Derek Newark had previously appeared in An Unearthly Child and Ian Fairbairn had been in The Macra Terror and The Invasion and would go on to appear in The Seeds of Doom.
  • The part of Petra was originally given to Kate O’Mara, who would go on to play the Rani against the Sixth and Seventh Doctor. Sheila Dunn, Douglas Camfield’s wife, was cast in the part instead.
  • Caroline John enjoyed playing an evil version of her character, as she found the ‘good’ version of Liz quite boring to play.  She was, however, uncomfortable with the scene in which she shoots the Brigade Leader as she was pregnant at the time.  As a result, the gun is fired from out of shot.
  • Nicholas Courtney was also fond of this story, stating that playing the Brigade Leader was his favourite thing he did on Doctor Who.  He frequently recalled the scene where he turns around with the eye patch and scar to find the assembled cast and crew also wearing eye patches.  Courtney proceeded to perform the whole scene without reacting.
  • This story was so closely associated with Courtney that Steven Moffat wrote scenes where everyone was wearing eye patches in The Wedding of River Song as a posthumous tribute after his death in 2011.
  • The final story to feature the original TARDIS console prop, which had been deteriorating for a while.  The TARDIS console would reappear in The Claws of Axos, redesigned by Kenneth Sharp.
  • The leader of the British Republic is seen in photographs in the alternative universe.  The man in the pictures is BBC visuals effects designer Jack Kine, and is a homage to the images of the face of Big Brother in the BBC’s adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four being a picture of Roy Oxley, the BBC’s then head of television design.

Best Moment

Either the reveal of the Brigade Leader, or the cliffhanger at the end of Episode 6.

Best Quote

I keep telling you, Brigade Leader, that I don’t exist here!

Then you won’t feel the bullets when we shoot you.

Third Doctor and Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart

Inferno The Doctor and Liz