Tomb of the Cybermen

Our lives are different to anyone else’s. That’s the exciting thing. Nobody in the universe can do what we’re doing.

The Second Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS arrives on the planet Telos, where the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria find an archaeological team looking to enter the resting place of the last Cybermen. Amongst the party are two members of the Brotherhood of Logicians, who are looking to revive the Cybermen to create an invincible force for conquest.

Review

I’m pretty certain that this is the first black and white story I ever watched and therefore the first Patrick Troughton story I ever saw which wasn’t a multi-Doctor special. Tomb of the Cybermen is widely regarded as one of the better serials of his era and is certainly deserving of this acclaim. It is creepy and atmospheric, and to date is definitely in the conversation relating to the best episodes to feature the Cybermen. It features great performances from the majority of the cast, and Troughton is particularly strong here and bosses every scene that he is in.

There is an elephant in the room here, which I feel that I must address and it is something that sticks out like a sore thumb when viewed by a modern audience: this story is racist. The three human antagonists, Klieg, Kaftan and Toberman are all not white and fulfil a troubling cunning foreigners trope, whilst the rest of the cast are British and “American” (there are some incredibly bad American accents amongst the crew members, but that’s par for the course). Toberman is perhaps the most glaring of these, being a servant to Kaftan and not speaking for the majority of the episode. The three antagonists aren’t really portrayed as three dimensional either, although there are moments where it is hinted at that Kaftan and Toberman care for each other. Kaftan and Klieg have financed this expedition, however, it’s never really questioned early on why they have felt so strongly about coming along with the archaeologists.

Where are we?

Oh, it’s the TARDIS. It’s my home. At least it has been for a considerable number of years.

Victoria Waterfield and the Second Doctor

This story is Victoria’s official first story as companion after her debut in the Season 4 closer, The Evil of the Daleks, which gives the show a good reason to almost reintroduce the concept of the show with the opening scene depicting Jamie and the Doctor showing her the interior of the TARDIS. Victoria seems to slalom between being competent and a damsel in distress and it doesn’t feel as though she gets solid characterisation here. The most glaring moment is where, after waking up from her drug-induced sleep, she is able to destroy a Cybermat with a single shot. Deborah Watling is okay for the majority of this story and I do particularly like the moment where she tells Kaftan that she doesn’t need her to look out for her. She does get some standard screaming moments, but it doesn’t seem to be as frequent or annoying as some of her predecessors, like Susan.

The main antagonists of the story – shockingly – is the Cybermen. As the Cybermen are relatively well established by this point, there is a sense of threat and dread even being in the Tomb without us even seeing an active Cyberman from the beginning of the story. The scene with the Cybermen coming out of their honeycomb style tombs is rightly held up as being iconic and the Cyber-Controller’s voice is really creepy. Obviously the Cybermen want to convert Klieg, Kaftan and the Brotherhood of Logicians to create a new group of Cybermen, and it does stretch credulity slightly that this doesn’t seem to have occurred to Klieg. The fact that these Cybermen deal with Toberman so effectively and efficiently, whose strength has been established early on by his opening the doors to the tomb when both the Doctor and Jamie have failed. This is one of the better Cybermen stories and it is no surprise that over 50 years after the original broadcast, it will feature high in the list of stories featuring the Cybermen.

How did you know in the first place?

Oh, I used my own, special technique.

Oh really, Doctor…and may we know what that is?

Keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut!

Eric Klieg and the Second Doctor

Troughton’s Doctor is superb here and he runs every scene, especially on entering the Tomb. I am particularly fond of the way that he distracts the suspicision poured on him when he and his companions arrive on Telos, quickly distracting everyone. I’ve spoken about Victoria above, but Frazer is strong here too. Jamie and the Second Doctor are so comfortable around each other now and there is a lovely moment where they find themselves holding each other’s hands by accident, each believing themselves to be holding Victoria’s hand to comfort her. From the behind the scenes documentary, I learnt that this was in fact improvised by Troughton and Hines and only done whilst filming due to concerns that the director would object if they had done this in rehearsal. Jamie, by this point, has taken on the role of older brother to Victoria and feels that he has been travelling with the Doctor long enough to be able to explain the TARDIS to her. The guest cast, aside from Klieg, Kaftan, Toberman and Professor Parry are largely forgettable or don’t spend very much time on screen for us to enable us to really care about them.

Verdict: The Tomb of the Cybermen thoroughly deserves it’s reputation as a classic Doctor Who story, despite some cast issues which would be out of place in a modern production. 9/10

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield), Roy Stewart (Toberman), Aubrey Richards (Professor Parry), Cyril Shaps (John Viner), Clive Merrison (Jim Callum), Shirley Cooklin (Kaftan), George Roubicek (Captain Hopper), George Pastell (Eric Klieg), Alan Johns (Ted Rogers), Bernard Holley (Peter Haydon), Ray Grover (Crewman), Michael Kilgarriff (Cyber-Controller), Hans de Vries, Tony Harwood, John Hogan, Richard Kerley, Ronald Lee, Charles Pemberton, Kenneth Seeger & Reg Whitehead (Cybermen) & Peter Hawkins (Voice of the Cybermen)

Writers: Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis

Director: Morris Barry

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The introduction of the Cybermats and the Cyber-Controller.
  • The earliest Second Doctor story to survive in its entirety and, until the recovery of The Enemy of the World in 2013, it was the only serial from Season 5 to exist.
  • The first ‘…of the Cybermen’ story.
  • This was recorded at the end of the fourth block of Season 4, however, was deliberately held over to start Season 5.
  • Toberman was originally intended to be deaf, hence his lack of significant speech and the character would have had hearing aids, however, Morris Barry was not keen on this.

Cast Notes

  • Michael Kilgarriff would go on to reprise the role of Cyber-Controller in Attack of the Cybermen and the titular Robot in Tom Baker’s debut story, Robot, and Ogrons in Frontier in Space.
  • Roy Stewart went on to appear in Terror of the Autons.
  • The first appearance of Cyril Shaps, who would appear in The Ambassadors of Death, Planet of the Spiders and The Androids of Tara.
  • Clive Merrison would go on to appear in the Sylvester McCoy story Paradise Towers and in the Big Finish story The Contingency Club.
  • A number of the actors who appear here as Cybermen also appear as Robot Yetis in the next story, The Abominable Snowmen.

Best Moment

It can’t be anything else than the iconic scenes of the Cybermen coming out of their tombs.

Best Quote

You probably can’t remember your family.

Oh yes, I can when I want to. And that’s the point, really. I have to really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they sleep in my mind, and I forget. And so will you.

Victoria Waterfield and the Second Doctor

Previous Second Doctor Blog: The Evil of the Daleks

Review of the animated The Faceless Ones here!

The Faceless Ones

It’s a flying beastie!

Jamie McCrimmon

Synopsis

Arriving at Gatwick Airport, the Doctor finds that a great number of young people are disappearing, including Ben and Polly.  Together with Jamie and Samantha Briggs, the sister of one of the missing people, he investigates what the Chameleons are up to.

Review

The Faceless Ones is latest Troughton era Doctor Who story to receive the animation treatment to allow us now to enjoy it in its full glory. The release gives the options to watch all six parts in animated format in colour or black and white, or to watch the surviving two episodes alongside the animation. Whilst writing my notes on this story, I watched the colour animated version, however, I have also watched parts of the two other options. I have really enjoyed the animation of these stories in the past and I am pleased to report that this one is no exception, helped in no small part by a great story.

As much as I enjoyed seeing this story in its full glory, there are some problems that I have here. It is a testament to how different television was in 1967 that this was how the departure of a companion was dealt with, as Ben and Polly are largely absent from the story, with the production team deciding to focus more on Jamie and Samantha Briggs played by Pauline Collins, who was being eyed up as a potential companion. Unfortunately, once Anneke Wills and Michael Craze stop appearing on screen it is all too easy to forget about them and their plight until they briefly turn up again at the end of Episode 6. It is also difficult to imagine any production set in modern times which would spend so much time fleshing out a character so much as Samantha Briggs is here, without having secured her signature as a companion going forwards. As it is, in terms of her departure from the story and her kiss with Jamie, it does feel unresolved. In modern television, contracts would have been signed months in advance of production starting, ensuring that the actor was committed to stay with the programme. This is something that will certainly return to be an issue with other actors, significantly, Caroline John, Louise Jameson and Mary Tamm, so I suppose we should be grateful we got a departure scene for Ben and Polly. The story being six episodes long makes it potentially too long, but I found it gripping for the whole of its running time, although the conclusion did feel a little rushed.

The story revolves around the mystery of missing young people who have travelled on Chameleon Tours, and Polly gets kidnapped very early on in the story when she discovers a body in their hanger. The Chameleons take the forms of some of the people they have kidnapped, leaving to a sense of unease about who is an alien which is pulled off really well. The shape-shifting nature of the Chameleons means that it is believable that the Doctor and his companions are regarded with suspicion by the Commandant of Gatwick Airport and the airport staff. Once the Doctor discovers the nature of the duplicates, the search is on for the originals as the copy cannot be sustained without the original being frozen. The Chameleons look fantastic in their usual form and the animation makes them look better than they did in the story, and it is actually quite nice to have a bit of a wait until we actually see them in their base form. The Chameleons have managed to go quite a while unchecked, as they state that they have been able to kidnap a large number of young people, which does stretch credulity slightly as it seems that people have only just started to notice that their loved ones have gone missing.

As Polly and Ben are sidelined for a lot of the story, the Doctor and Jamie are allowed to shine here. Troughton is fantastic as usual, and even in animated form, you find your eyes drawn to his performance, whilst Jamie gets a romantic interest in the form of Samantha and shows some initiative in his investigations away from the Doctor, including him hiding on the plane which prevents him from being shrunk. Pauline Collins is also good as Samantha, who enters the story looking for her brother who has travelled with Chameleon Tours. The rest of the performances are solid and I particularly enjoyed the performance of Bernard Kay in the join role as Inspector Crossland and the Director of the Chameleons.

Verdict: A solid Second Doctor story with a good storyline, if a lacklustre departure for Ben and Polly. It’s great to have this as a complete story and I’m really looking forward to the release of Fury from the Deep later this year. 8/10

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Pauline Collins (Samantha Briggs), James Appleby (Policeman), Colin Gordon (Commandant), George Selway (Meadows), Wanda Ventham (Jean Rock), Victor Winding (Spencer), Peter Whitaker (Inspector Gascoigne), Donald Pickering (Blade), Christopher Tranchell (Jenkins), Madalena Nicol (Nurse Pinto), Bernard Kay (Crossland), Gilly Fraser (Ann Davidson), Brigit Paul (Announcer), Barry Wilsher (Heslington), Michael Ladkin (RAF Pilot) & Leonard Trolley (Supt. Reynolds).

Writers: David Ellis & Malcolm Hulke

Director: Gerry Mill (original production) & AnneMarie Walsh (animation)

Parts: 6

Behind the Scenes

  • This story sees the departure of Ben and Polly as played by Michael Craze and Anneke Wills respectively. They are notable for being the first characters to act as companions to two incarnations of the Doctor, having first appeared in The War Machines.
  • This is the final appearance of Michael Craze as Ben Jackson in any medium. Craze passed away on 7 December 1998, however, the part has been played by Elliot Chapman for Big Finish and by Jared Garfield in Twice Upon A Time.
  • Only Episode 1 and 3 exist in their original form in the BBC Archives.
  • The story was originally written for William Hartnell’s Doctor by Malcolm Hulke and David Kerkham (whose pen name was David Ellis) and set in a department store. Script editor Gerry Davis liked the Chameleons but decided to change the location.
  • At the time of broadcast, this was only the second story set in the modern day, with the first being The War Machines. Coincidentally, the two stories are set on the same day.

Cast Notes

  • Pauline Collins was offered the opportunity to become the new companion to the Doctor, an opportunity which she declined. Collins would go on to play Queen Victoria in Tooth and Claw.
  • Bernard Kay previously appeared in The Dalek Invasion of Earth and The Crusade.
  • Donald Pickering was in The Keys of Marinus and would go on to appear in Time and the Rani, along with Wanda Ventham, who previously appeared in Image of the Fendahl.
  • Christopher Tranchell was in The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Eve and The Invasion of Time.

Best Moment

The passengers disappearing on the plane at the end of Episode 3.

Best Quote

We could eliminate a whole squadron of their toy planes, and they’d never get on to us. Their minds can’t cope with an operation like this. Remember the teachings of our Director – the intelligence of Earth people is comparable only to that of animals on our planet.

Blade

Father’s Day

It’s so weird. The day my father died. I thought it’d be all grim and stormy. It’s just another day.

The past is another country. 1987’s just the Isle of Wight.

Rose Tyler and the Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

Rose convinces the Doctor to take her back to the day of her father’s death, 7 November 1987. On a whim, she ends up changing his fate, creating a paradox and summoning the Reapers to the wedding of Stuart Hoskins and Sarah Clark.

Review

When Father’s Day was first broadcast in 2005, it was exploring relatively untrodden ground for the show. Although Ace encountered her own mother in The Curse of Fenric, it was not central to the plot, whilst here it is the driving force behind the narrative. For some fans, this story is symptomatic of the soap opera feel to the revived series, with the Reapers taking a backseat to family drama. However, this is a really moving story that deals with fixed points in time nicely and gives us nice character moments.

The story focuses on the companion, Rose Tyler, and her father Pete, who died when she was a baby in a hit-and-run. With the Doctor agreeing to take her back in time to the day when he died so that someone can be with him as he is dying, Rose freezes when it comes to the punch and she convinces him to take her back again, despite the risks, which are multiplied when Rose saves her father. As the Reapers arrive, the survivors of the wedding party take refuge in a church, as the older something is, the more protection it affords. One of the aspects of this story that interested me was the idealised view Rose has of her father from her mother’s stories, which gets quickly dispelled when the Doctor and Rose attend her parents’ wedding and once she actually gets the chance to talk to Pete in the car after saving him and in the Tylers’ flat. A relationship that has been described to Rose as being perfect, is in reality, full of suspected infidelity and arguments. Equally, when asked about what he is like as a father, she paints an equally idealised image of him as a father which he ultimately sees through and realises that he will not be around to see Rose grow up. The story is packed full of emotion, culminating in Pete’s decision to sacrifice himself to reverse the effects his survival has had on time itself. The story is somewhat driven by misconceptions as the wedding that the Tylers and Stuart and Sarah, where Stuart’s father is certainly of the impression that his son is only marrying someone that he regards to be unsuitable because she is pregnant.

The antagonists, the Reapers, enter the narrative due to the paradox of Pete’s survival and are described by the Doctor as being bacteria coming to cleanse the subsequent wound. They are rather one dimensional as a foe, although the Doctor does admit that he is pretty powerless against them. The CGI hasn’t dated fantastically but they do have a good design and I particularly like the shots from their point of view as they pick off humans in their quest. Ultimately, though, this story is character driven rather than driven by the alien threat. It is perhaps surprising that the Reapers have never returned, especially considering some of the other paradoxes we have had in the revived series. However, it can be said that they only appear when time is seriously weakened: here, not only does Rose save Pete, meaning that she and the Doctor would never have to travel back to save him in the first place, but she does so in front of earlier versions of herself and the Doctor. The Reapers As the characters shelter in the church, the Doctor is regaled with the story of how the to-be-weds met, ironically being asked to look after the baby Rose and the adult Rose imprinting herself on young Mickey. The story certainly deserves praise for making us care about what happens to members of the guest cast, the majority of whom we will never see again.

The cast here do a spectacular job with this story. Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper are fantastic together, even when having the most serious argument that at the time we’d ever seen the Doctor have with a companion. The argument serves to remind us that Rose is still quite young and immature, especially when compared to the Doctor. When the Doctor tells Rose that they are no longer going to travel together, we genuinely believe that he means it, and having seen his ejection of Adam from the TARDIS in the previous story, it feels like a genuine threat. Camille Coduri is good as the frustrated younger Jackie, and of the guest cast, Shaun Dingwall stands out as Pete, who along with Billie Piper acts as this story’s beating heart. Dingwall of course would return for the second series as an alternative version of Pete Tyler.

When we met, I said “Travel with me in space.” You said no. Then I said “Time machine.”

It wasn’t some big plan. I just saw it happening and thought, I can stop it.

I did it again, I picked another stupid ape. I should have known. It’s not about showing you the universe. It never is. It’s about the universe doing something for you.

The Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler

The direction and general production are pretty fantastic here too. Joe Ahearne’s direction is very good and I particularly like the appearance of the TARDIS as it restores around the key. The moment when the Doctor opens the TARDIS doors to find that it is empty is also a lovely moment. There also has to be a mention of the fantastic work done by the costumes department and set dressing in evoking the look of the 1980s with some great costumes, and attention to detail with posters especially in the early scenes.

Verdict: One of several episodes that ensures a strong finish for Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor and the debut series of the revival. 9/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler), Robert Barton (Registrar), Julia Joyce (Young Rose), Christopher Llewellyn (Stuart), Frank Rozelaar-Green (Sonny), Natalie Jones (Sarah), Eirlys Bellin (Bev), Rhian James (Suzie) & Casey Dyer (Young Mickey)

Writer: Paul Cornell

Director: Joe Ahearne

Behind the Scenes

  • The first contribution of Paul Cornell to televised Doctor Who.
  • The story deals with fixed points in time, a topic which would frequently reoccur in the revived series.
  • Alexander Graham Bell’s first words spoken over a telephone are incorrect.  In this episode, they are said to be “Watson, come here, I need you”, when in fact they are “Watson, I come here, I want you.”  According to Phil Collinson, this was an error that crept in during the recording of the line, as the line was correct in the script.

Best Moment

I really like the moment that the Doctor returns to the TARDIS, only to find that it is only a box.

Best Quote

Now Rose, you’re not going to bring about the end of the world. Are you?

The Ninth Doctor (to Baby Rose Tyler)

Previous Ninth Doctor Review: The Long Game

The Reign of Terror

The Reign of Terror

Death, always death!  Do you think I want this carnage?

Robespierre

Synopsis

In an attempt to get Ian and Barbara back to 1963, the TARDIS arrives in the outskirts of Paris in 1794, one of the bloodiest years of the French Revolution.  The TARDIS team rapidly get caught up in the actions of James Stirling, an English spy working within the Conciergie Prison.

Review

As someone who spent every holiday in France until the age of 16, French history has always been of interest to me, to the point that when I went to University, I chose to study modules about the Hundred Year’s War and the French Revolution.  When I heard that the first-ever season of Doctor Who closed with a story set in the Reign of Terror, which is one of the bloodiest and grimmest times in French history, I was surprised and intrigued.  I am pleased to say that I did enjoy this story, albeit with some reservations, and think that it closes the first season off really nicely.

The Reign of Terror - house

Despite being broadly positive towards it, I do have some issues.  The majority of the guest performances are really good, however, James Cairncross as Lemaitre or the spy James Stirling seems really wooden and there doesn’t really seem to be much difference between Stirling and the Revolutionary he is supposed to be undercover as.  It’s probably for the best that he gets largely sidelined in the last part.  The story is also quite repetitive in places, with the companions seemingly walking in and out of the revolving door at the Conciergie Prison, with Susan spending most of the story here.  The story does try to explain this by saying that Stirling is in control of the movements of the companions but it isn’t really that convincing.  There are liberties taken with history which does not bother me too much but the meeting between Barras and Napoleon to discuss the removal of Robespierre seems like a conscious effort to crowbar him into the narrative in some way as a familiar figure for viewers to cling to.  This story also gets criticised for simplifying the period and making it almost black and white in its depiction of Royalists and Revolutionaries, which I understand to a certain extent.  In a show like Doctor Who, it is difficult to portray moral grey areas which existed on both sides, and whilst on the surface the Aristocrats are portrayed as being uniformly good and the Revolutionaries are evil, the story does go to measures to point out that Jules is not an Aristocrat.

Reign of Terror - Lemaitre, Barbara and Ian

As stated above, the majority of the performances are strong here, and this is a strong story for William Hartnell.  We see that he has softened since the beginning of the season, although he is still capable of moments of great anger, such as his heated discussion with Ian and Barbara at the beginning of the story.  He is also still prone to fits of violence, as he knocks out the supervisor of the road workers, which is something it is difficult to think of the Doctor doing today.  Of the guest cast, Keith Anderson as Robespierre and Tony Wall as Napoleon are probably the stand-outs, despite how unnecessary Bonaparte’s inclusion is for the story.  The companions are good here too, with Susan not too shrill this time and another strong outing for Barbara and Ian.

You can’t influence or change history.  I learnt that with the Aztecs.

The events will happen, just as they are written.  I’m afraid so, and we cannot stem the tide.  But at least we can stop being carried away with the flood!

Barbara Wright and the First Doctor

Dennis Spooner’s story is obviously well researched and he makes the wise decision to inject some humour with the character of the jailer and the team of workers on the road that the Doctor encounters on his way to Paris.  I also like the fact that we never seen the guillotine – the shots we do see are stock footage and we never actually see any executions or set ups for them.  Similarly to The Aztecs, the TARDIS team are not here to interfere with events and they must let history run its course, and the previous story is nicely alluded to in a conversation between the Doctor and Barbara late on.  Despite the repetitions of characters constantly getting captured and imprisoned, this story kept me engaged throughout its running time and this is impressive given its near three hour run time.  The story also benefits from high production values which help the story look good.  This is particularly evident in one of the earliest scenes in the story where the soldiers arrive at the house, where the costumes look perfect for the era and I love the fact that they aren’t gleaming – they are dirty which helps make this world feel lived in.  Additionally, this story did have a troubled production (for more information about this, it is detailed in my ‘Behind the Scenes section below) but it feels seamless – this really feels like a gleaming example of what the ‘pure’ historical Doctor Who story can be.

Verdict: A solid conclusion to the first season of Doctor Who and a good contribution to the ‘pure’ historical subgenre of the show.  Hartnell and the main cast do good work here and the whole production feels really smooth and professional. 8/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Carol Anne Ford (Susan Foreman), Peter Walker (Small Boy), Laidlaw Dalling (Rouvray), Neville Smith (D’Argenson), Robert Hunter (Sergeant), Ken Lawrence (Lieutenant), James Hall (Soldier), Howard Charlton (Judge), Jack Cunningham (Jailer), Jeffry Wickham (Webster), Dallas Cavell (Overseer), Dennis Cleary (Peasant), James Cairncross (Lemaitre), Roy Herrick (Jean), Donald Morley (Jules Renan), John Barrard (Shopkeeper), Caroline Hunt (Danielle), Edward Brayshaw (Léon Colbert), Keith Anderson (Robespierre), Ronald Pickup (Physician), Terry Bale (Soldier), John Law (Paul Barras), Tony Wall (Napoleon Bonaparte) & Patrick Marley (Soldier).

Writer: Dennis Spooner

Director: Henric Hirsch

Parts: 6 (A Land of Fear, Guests of Madame Guillotine, A Change of Identity, The Tyrant of France, A Bargain of Necessity, Prisoners of Conciergie)

Behind the Scenes

  • The first serial to show the full-sized TARDIS prop materalising.
  • The only season finale to contain no science fiction elements than the Doctor, the companions and the TARDIS.
  • Episodes 4 and 5 remain missing from the BBC Archives, however, they have been recreated in animated form.
  • The first story to contain location filming for the scenes of the Doctor walking through the French countryside.  These scenes, however, do not feature William Hartnell but extra Brian Proudfoot.
  • The first contribution to the show by Dennis Spooner who would go on to be script editor.  This story replaced a story written by David Whittaker about the Spanish Armada, who in turn had been commissioned to write a story to replace.  William Russell suggested having a story set in the French Revolution.
  • Henric Hirsch struggled with the direction of this story.  He was an inexperienced television director combined with filming conditions at the cramped Lime Grove Studios and William Hartnell was difficult at responding to his direction.  This culminated in Hirsch collapsing during camera rehearsals for the third episode, necessitating a new short term director.  There is no documentation to indicate who this was, although it is thought to have been either John Gorrie or Mervyn Pinfield.  Hirsch would return for the fourth episode, which saw production move to Television Centre and Timothy Combe, the production assistant and future Doctor Who director, step up to share the role.

Best Moment

The scene in the first part where the Army find the Aristocrats in the house on the way out of Paris.

Best Quote

What are we going to see and learn next, Doctor?

Well, unlike the old adage, my boy, our destiny is in the stars, so let’s go and search for it..

Ian Chesterton and the First Doctor

Previous First Doctor review: The Sensorites

Seasons of Fear

Seasons of Fear

It was at the Singapore Hilton, on the cusp of the yars 1930 and 1931, that I first met Mr. Sebastian Grayle.

The Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor brings Charley to the Hilton in Singapore, her original destination when she originally boarded the R101, to meet Alex Grayle.  Whilst Charley enjoys her date, the Doctor encounters the immortal Sebastian Grayle, an old adversary of the Doctor whom the Doctor has not met yet.

Unfortunately for the Doctor, Sebastian Grayle succeeded in killing him years before this meeting and he has only come here to gloat.  The Doctor realises that there is something drastically wrong with time and he and Charley have to fix it.

Review

It is perhaps an understatement to say that following the superb Chimes of Midnight is an unenviable task for Seasons of Fear, however, I am pleased to say that this story largely succeeds.  The two are very different stories, with this story a quest through various time eras and it is to the director’s credit that the various periods of history and locations this story contains feel so well developed and different. which certainly helps to make this story to work as well as it does.  It also features a very strong performance from Stephen Perring as the central antagonist Sebastian Grayle, who feels like a juggernaut and the Doctor certainly seems like he is steps behind.

My new state and the slow processes of influence and investment have given a land of my own.  A Bishopric.  And soon they will give me more.

An Earldom, perhaps?

The World, Doctor.  What less could one desire?

Sebastian Grayle (disguised as Leofric) and the Doctor

One of the strongest parts of this story is the performance of Stephen Perring as Sebastian Grayle.  The performance bristles with menace and resentment towards the Doctor, in part down to the Time Lord’s interference in his attempt to become immortal at the end of Part One.  Perring manages to maintain this throughout the story down to the character’s final moments in Part Four and certainly feels like a worthy adversary.  He is frustrated that the Doctor at times isn’t willing to give him his full attention at times and there is a lovely moment where he gets angry as the Doctor switches his attention to Charley instead, resulting in Charley being able to render Grayle unconscious with the TARDIS hatstand.  Grayle’s Masters who have interferred with time to the extent that they have rendered the Time Lords powerless are eventually revealed to be the Nimon, and they certainly work better on audio than they did in the Tom Baker era.  The Nimons attempted to set themselves up as God species on Earth, however, were earlier foiled by Mithrais, who later has a religion set up in his name.  The Nimons are able to exploit Grayle with promises of immortality in return for a sacrifice and setting up a ground station to establish a link between Earth and the Ordinand System, with the opportunity first arrising in 305AD Britain, and then later in 1055 and 1806 when the stars align correctly.  The Nimon are brough to life effectively by Robert Curbishley, and I’d say that they are used sparingly and effectively here.

So, Grayle, or should I say Leofric?  You’ve got yourself a grand old Saxon name now.  Why are you at court?  What are you planning?

Doctor…is that what they called you?  Doctor Who?

My enemies never ask me that.  Isn’t that terrible?  But they know me better than my friends.

The Doctor and Sebastian Grayle

The story is a romp through time which is something that certainly hasn’t been done very much on televison – the only example I can think of in the revived series is Spyfall, Part Two, where the Thirteenth Doctor visits various eras.  Husband and wife writing team Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox do a good job here, with a script that is both quite scary and funny in places.  The scenes in Roman Britain feel unsettling, however, there are elements of dark humour here – there are similarities to the Church of England’s standard services in parts, which no doubt come from Symcox’s experiences as a vicar.  The story ultimates concludes with the innocent original Grayle being so horrified by what he becomes after being given immortality that he kills his older self, which works quite well here too.  I do enjoy this story, however, if I had to pick a minor niggle, I would say that the use of narration is a bit jarring and took me out of the story in places, however, I can understand why it is necessary in a story which includes multiple different time periods and is quite fast paced at times.  The story also reveals that the disruptions to time are a consequence of the Doctor saving Charley from the R-101, an important arc that would continue through the next few stories

Paul McGann and India Fisher are on fine form here and have a really easy chemistry which makes their relationship work really well.  The Doctor and Charley have certainly settleed into an easy relationship and both of them are likeable – this is probably one of my favourite TARDIS pairings.  Outside of this central dynamic, I really enjoyed Lennox Graves and Sue Wallace as Edward the Confessor and Edith of Wessex respectively.  Both certainly bring a lot of regality to their performances and they are playing historical figures who personally interest me and are not really very commonly featured in drama.  This is surprising considering how important Edward the Confessor is in the grand scheme of British history, even if he is known for the chaos he left in his wake by essentially allowing anyone and everyone to inherit the throne on his death in 1066, leading to the Norman invasion.

Verdict: Seasons of Fear is another strong story for the Eighth Doctor and Charley which features a strong antagonist and a good story jumping through different time periods, which each feel distinct thanks to good direction. 8/10

Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Stephen Perring (Sebastien Grayle), Stephen Fewell (Lucillius/Richard Martin), Lennox Greaves (Edward the Confessor), Sue Wallace (Edith), Robert Curbishley (Marcus/Nimon voice), Justine Mitchell (Lucy Martin), Don Warrington (Rassilon) & Gareth Jenkins (Waiter/Prisoner).

Writer: Paul Cornell & Caroline Symcox

Director: Gary Russell

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The first appearance of the Nimon since The Horns of Nimon.

Cast Notes

This story boasts a lot of actors who have been involved in Big Finish productions, which I have done my best to list the most significant of below:

  • Stephen Perring (The Eyes of the Scorpion, Zagreus and the Kro’ka during the Eighth Doctor’s time in the Divergent Universe);
  • Stephen Fewell (Red DawnThe One Doctor, Zagreus and The Twilight Kingdom, and also Jason Kane in the Bernice Summerfield stories);
  • Lennox Graves (The Shadow of the Scourge, The Chimes of Midnight, The Condemned and The Whispering Forest);
  • Sue Wallace (The Chimes of Midnight and The Whispering Forest);
  • Robert Curbishley (The Fires of VulcanThe Chimes of MidnightThe Time of the DaleksThe Church and the Crown and The Game;
  • Gareth Jenkins worked for the company ERS who did sound design and post production for Big Finish.  He also appears in Dust Breeding and Bang-Bang-a-Boom!
  • Don Warrington makes his first appearance here as Rassilon.  He went onto appear in Rise of the Cybermen.

Best Quote

I’d like to lock him in here for a while, but left alone he could do serious damage.  besides, in the end he would get out of any confinement.  That’s one of the wonderful things about Lady Time, isn’t it?  How nothing’s constant, how everything decays and changes?

You call that wonderful?

I call that absolutely beautiful.  How would it be if everything was always the same?  If you never got too big for your dresses, if you never got to pass them on to you sister?  If the rainy autumn lasted forever and spring never came?  At least I change.  I’m stumbling my way through bodies like I own a particularly dangerous bicycle.  Grayle never changes, not inside.  Not who he is.

The Doctor and Charley Pollard

Previous Eighth Doctor review: Living Legend