The Impossible Planet

We are the Legion of the Beast.

The Ood

Synopsis

Separated from the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rose find themselves stuck on a planet orbiting a black hole with the crew of a space base. However, an evil entity is awakening, causing trouble for the crew.

Review

The Impossible Planet is possibly one of the first glimpses of revived Doctor Who I ever had. I have a distinct memory of seeing the crew seeing Scooti’s body floating towards the black hole when my brother was re-watching this episode – or possibly channel hopping. It is certainly a stronger two-parter than the rather limp Cyberman double-hander in the same series, giving us some great moments of fear and unease and (takes a deep breath) some actual decent moments between the Tenth Doctor and Rose. I think the majority of the guest cast do well and they feel like lived-in characters.

No signal. That’s the first time I’ve gone out of range. Mind you, even if I could…what would I tell her? Can you build another TARDIS?

They were grown, not built. And with my home planet gone, we’re kind of stuck.

Well, could be worse. This lot said that they’d give us a lift.

And then what?

I don’t know. Find a planet. Get a job. You live a life the same as the rest of the Universe.

I’d have to settle down. Get a house or something, a proper house. With…doors and carpets. Me, living in a house. That, that is terrifying.

You’d have to get a mortgage.

Rose Tyler and the Tenth Doctor

I’ll start by talking about the Doctor and Rose. If you’ve read any of my other reviews of David Tennant’s first series, you’ll know that I’m not the biggest fan of this pairing, however, the writing seems a lot better. The scene with the Doctor and Rose discussing the implications of losing the TARDIS, especially for the Doctor, is one of the most mature and well-dealt with conversations that I think that these two ever have. It’s interesting for the Doctor to have this discussion, considering that Russell T Davies seems to like forceably separating the Doctor and the TARDIS. I might be wrong but can think of several occasions this happens in his era, and this might be mind playing tricks on me) but I can only think of two occasions since 2010 that this has happened (Cold War and The Tsuranga Conundrum). This story moves to ground their relationship and actually makes me see that David Tennant and Billie Piper do have decent chemistry together. There are little moments like Rose kissing the Doctor’s visor before he goes down in the drill capsule with Ida that sell the idea of this relationship being something more than the standard Doctor-companion relationship. Perhaps because the Doctor feels quite out of his depth, with the language that the TARDIS can’t translate means that they can’t be as smug and cavalier as usual. We do get some of the inconsistent Rose that has been around since Tennant’s debut in New Earth rather than the strong individual we saw when she was with Eccleston, especially in the moment she tells Ida and the Doctor to keep breathing when they are in the diving bell.

The story certainly fits into the category of base under siege, with the interesting added threat of the black hole. I’m reliably informed by my research done in the course of writing this blog that a planet in orbit around a black hole is not as impossible as the Doctor states, just highly improbable, but otherwise this story is well written. Matt Jones goes down as another writer who has written one solitary adventure for the revived series, although Russell T Davies had to do a lot of work on this two-parter, which might explain why he never came back. The story does create a terrifying atmosphere, with the scenes with Toby Zed on his own, with Gabriel Woolf’s voice is really scary. I love the idea of the planet being ‘the bitter pill’, which is a lovely piece of dialogue. The story also presents some uncomfortable truths about humanity with the inclusion of the Ood, revealing that even in the future, humans will still feel the need to subjugate species. The story also benefits from the direction of James Strong who helps the story feel claustrophobic and threatening when it needs to. The shot of Scooti floating in space is beautiful, and even knowing how it was filmed thanks to Doctor Who Confidential, it still blows me away every single time.

In the scriptures of the Valtino, this planet is called Krop-Tor, the bitter pill. And the black hole is supposed to be a mighty demon, who was tricked into devouring the planet only to spit it out because it was poison.

Ida Scott

The guest cast here for the most part feel quite lived in and three dimensional, with the exception of Scooti, who is dispatched quite early on by Toby. Zach is thrust into a reluctant leadership position by the death of the previous captain of the mission and it is encouraging to see how he is supported by his fellow crew members, making the best of a bad situation. The only character who seems to be lacking characterisation who survives the run-time of this first part is Toby, who seems to be classed as a bit weird and a loner, also known as perfect possession material. I’d like to reserve special praise for the work of Silas Carson and Gabriel Woolf, voicing the Ood and the Beast respectively, as both are key here. Carson makes the Ood’s calm responses chilling when they start reciting the messages of the Beast and Woolf is suitably sinister – when Radio Free Skaro did a commentary episode for it a few years ago, they slipped a clip of his dialogue in unannounced, and save to say it felt as though my heart stopped for a second!

Verdict: The Impossible Planet does a good job of creating a terrifying atmosphere thanks to a strong script and direction, as well as a good guest cast. 9/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Danny Webb (Mr Jefferson), Shaun Parkes (Zachary Cross Flane), Claire Rushbrook (Ida Scott), Will Thorp (Toby Zed), Ronny Jhutti (Danny Bartock), MyAnna Buring (Scooti Manista), Paul Kasey (The Ood), Gabriel Woolf (Voice of the Beast) & Silas Carson (Voice of the Ood).

Writer: Matt Jones

Director: James Strong

Behind the Scenes

  • Matt Jones wrote the Seventh Doctor Virgin New Adventures novel Bad Therapy.
  • The story originally featured the Slitheen Family until the production team realised that the cost of repairing the costumes was equivalent to creating new ones.
  • First appearance of the Sanctuary Base space suit, which would be worn on multiple occasions and by multiple incarnations of The Doctor.

Cast Notes

  • Gabriel Woolf previous played Sutekh in Pyramids of Mars.
  • Danny Webb was in the audio plays The Girl Who Never Was and The Dark Husband.
  • Claire Rushbrook went on to appear as Tula Chenka, sister of Eighth Doctor companion Liv Chenka, in Escape from Kaldor and the spin-off series The Robots.
  • Will Thorp has appeared in the Big Finish audio plays 100 BC and Bedtime Story.

Best Moment

The scene where Scooti discovers the possessed Toby out on the planet’s surface, especially with the creepy computer voice.

Best Quote

Well, we’ve come this far. There’s no turning back.

Oh, come on! Did you have to? No turning back, that’s almost as bad as “Nothing could possibly go wrong” or “This is gonna be the best Christmas Walford’s ever had!”

Ida Scott and the Tenth Doctor

Previous Tenth Doctor Review: The Idiot’s Lantern

Link:

Radio Free Skaro’s Commentary for The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit

The Tsuranga Conundrum

The Abominable Snowmen

Victoria, I think that this is one of those instances where discretion is the better part of valour: Jamie has a plan.

The Second Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive in Tibet in the 1930s, where the usually gentle Yeti have besieged a Buddhist monastery, and the the TARDIS team become ensnared in the plans of the Great Intelligence.

The Story

It feels as though we constantly hit a story in the Troughton era with parts missing. The Abominable Snowmen is no exception, with only the second episode still existing. I have watched some fan-made reconstructions to get a feel for the story, but I don’t think it’s fair to give it a rating based on these. If in the future, an animated version is released, then I’ll review it then – like I did with The Faceless Ones earlier this year.

This story is notable for introducing the Great Intelligence, who would reappear in The Web of Fear, later in Season 5. The Great Intelligence currently holds the record for the longest period between onscreen appearances at 44 years, reappearing in The Snowmen in 2012, voiced firstly by Sir Ian McKellen and then portrayed by Richard E. Grant. Created by the writers of this story, curiously, Haisman and Lincoln did not receive a credit for the creation when it returned in 2012. The Intelligence went on to feature in the expanded universe, appearing in Big Finish audio stories such as The Web of Time opposite River Song, set prior to the Second Doctor’s arrival in this story and in books, most frequently the Candy Jar published books about the Brigadier’s childhood and life prior to meeting the Doctor.

The story also has another recurring character who would go on to appear in The Web of Fear, in the shape of Edward Travers, played by Jack Watling, Deborah Watling’s father. It is his endeavour to find a real life Yeti that links the two stories, with the story starting with a Yeti killing his travelling companion, John in the story’s opening moments. The Doctor comes to visit the scene of a previous and unseen adventure, only to find that the situation has changed as the Great Intelligence seeks freedom from the astral plane, possessing the body of Padmasmbhava in his quest to do so.

The Abominable Snowmen has a pretty solid reputation to live up to, and I would love to see it either found again or brought back via the means of animation, with memorable creatures and villain. Having not known much about this story before researching it and now knowing how it ties into The Web of Fear, I’m now looking forward to seeing the returning elements!

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield), Jack Watling (Professor Edward Travers), Wolfe Morris (Padmasambhava), Charles Morgan (Songsten), Norman Jones (Khrisong), David Grey (Rinchen), David Spenser (Thonmi), Raymond Llewellyn (Sapan), David Baron (Ralpachan) & Reg Whitehead, Tony Harwood, Richard Kerley and John Hogan (Yeti).

Writer: Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln

Director: Gerald Blake

Parts: 6

Cast Notes

  • Norman Jones would later appear in The Silurians and The Masque of Mandragora.
  • David Baron is often erroneously claimed to be Harold Pinter, as this was his Equity name, however Pinter had abandoned the name before production on this story had commenced.

The Empty Child

Are you my Mummy?

The Child

Synopsis

The Doctor and Rose encounter a mysterious object in the Time Vortex which they pursue to 1941 London in the midst of the Blitz. While Rose meets Captain Jack Harkness, The Doctor encounters a group of children who are being terrorised by a child wearing a gas mask.

Preamble

I’m going to go off on a slight tangent before starting my review. I’m writing this on the day that Big Finish announced that Christopher Eccleston would be reprising the role of the Ninth Doctor in four boxsets starting in May 2021! Eccleston returning to the role is something that I never thought would happen, and it’s safe to say that I’m very excited about this happening. As I am approaching the end of his first and only televised series, I was making plans for what I would be doing for this slot next year, which now will be pushed back a little bit, but that’s no problem when we’re getting more of Eccleston!

Review

The Empty Child kicks off a rather strong end to the first series of the revival with a story that doesn’t become less creepy the more it is watched. Those who have read reviews on here of Steven Moffat’s other work will know that I greatly enjoy his writing and his stint as show runner, but I did try and watch this as it would have been seen in 2005. This first part of the story presents us with a Doctor and companion at the peak of their powers, a character who would go on to be a fan-favourite and one of the best one-off villains of all time, coupled with one of the most haunting deliveries of a relatively simple line. Moffat delights in taking the mundane and everyday and making it frightening – here, it is the traditional image of the World War Two gas mask.

This story separates the Doctor and Rose early on and gives the Ninth Doctor some great characterisation. Throughout the first series, we have seen glimpses of just how battle scarred this incarnation is, but here we get clear confirmation of the impact of the Time War on him. We get the exchange between him and Doctor Constantine, a lovely appearance by Richard Wilson, where we appreciate the sheer scale of what the Doctor has lost, making Wilson’s brief cameo particularly effective and memorable. We also get a mention of the Doctor’s childhood on Gallifrey.

What’s this, then? It’s never easy being the only child left out in the cold, you know.

I suppose you’d know.

I do actually, yes.

The Ninth Doctor and Nancy

We also get to see the Doctor interacting with children, something I feel that we haven’t seen this incarnation do a lot of – going forward, the Eleventh Doctor in particular spends a lot of time interacting with children. We also get a good moment that feels as though any Doctor could say it – the scene with the cat, which feels as though any Doctor could have said it. In my case, I can especially picture that scene with Peter Davison!

Rose? (A cat meows, the Doctor picks it up) You know, one day, just one day, I’m going to meet someone who gets the whole don’t wander off thing. Nine hundred years of phone box travel, it’s the only thing left to surprise me.

The Ninth Doctor

Billie Piper is great here, too, and separating her from the Doctor gives her an opportunity to explore the setting of wartime London and stumble across a renegade Time Agent Jack Harkness, before being reunited with the Doctor shortly before the cliffhanger to tie the plot together. Having begged the Doctor for some more ‘Spock’ as she calls it, she falls quite literally into the hands of John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness, someone who is all about gadgets and showing off and she falls under his spell. She’s particularly good in her moments of outrage, like when Jack tells her to switch her mobile off, pointing out the absurdity of the situation. She also show initiative, trying to imitate a Time Agent whom Captain Jack is trying to con, and obviously does this effectively enough to get Jack and The Doctor to meet.

The story really doesn’t let up, starting with a bombastic and frenetically paced cold open which establishes the basis for the story effectively and economically as the audience is in no doubt as to what is happening and what the problem is. After the opening credits, Steven Moffat uses some horror tropes to create an atmosphere of fear and dread, such as the Child, the sudden appearance and equally sudden disappearance of Nancy and the phone call to a disconnected phone. The script really crackles with some great dialogue, some humour and is recognisable as a Moffat story. In more recent times, I have developed problems with the idea of romanticising World War II, and for the most part this story depicts something close to the grim reality of the Blitz. The Doctor does have a speech that, in the wrong hands could have rubbed me up the wrong way, but it’s a testament to the writing, directing and performance by Eccleston that it doesn’t rankle.

Amazing.

What is?

1941. Right now, not very far from here, the German war machine is rolling up the map of Europe. Country after country, falling like dominoes. Nothing can stop it. Nothing. Until one, tiny, damp little island says no. No. Not here. A mouse in front of a lion. You’re amazing, the lot of you. Don’t know what you do to Hitler, but you frighten the hell out of me.

The Ninth Doctor and Nancy

James Hawes’ direction also adds to this story and the feeling of unease and fear, with scenes like the ones in the hospital towards the end of this episode really well done. The scene with the reveal of Doctor Constantine’s scar on his hand, his subsequent transformation into one of the gas mask creatures is nicely done and all of the other affected patients sitting up in their bed are all creepy.

The Child is one of the creepiest antagonists to the Doctor and this is in no small part down to the performances of Albert Valentine and Noah Johnson who make this character so eerie and iconic. The voice sends shivers down my spine, and the direction and appearance of the Child make simple gestures like pointing effective. Nancy, his sister, is also good and she proves herself to be capable of providing for the gang of children without the Doctor’s help. Unlike Rose, she is utterly blunt with him, rather than hanging off every word. Otherwise, John Barrowman is good as Jack Harkness, coming across as a lovable rogue, even if he is ultimately responsible for the problem that the Doctor and Rose find themselves trying to solve.

Verdict: The Empty Child is one of the best examples of what Doctor Who can do. A creepy child and a sense of dread and fear make this one into an absolute classic. 10/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Kate Harvey (Nightclub Singer), Albert Valentine (The Child), Florence Hoath (Nancy), Cheryl Fergison (Mrs Lloyd), Damian Samuels (Mr Lloyd), John Barrowman (Jack Harkness), Robert Hands (Algy), Joseph Tremain (Jim), Jordan Murphy (Ernie), Brandon Miller (Alf), Richard Wilson (Dr. Constantine), Noah Johnson (Voice of the Empty Child) & Dian Perry (Computer Voice)

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: James Hawes

Behind the Scenes

  • Working titles included World War II and An Empty Child, a reference to An Unearthly Child.
  • The first contribution to the show by future showrunner Steven Moffat.
  • This story introduces the character of Captain Jack Harkness, who would go on to have his own spin-off in the shape of Torchwood and would return on numerous occasions, most recently in Fugitive of the Judoon. Although Barrowman would stay with the show until the end of the first series, his name would not appear in the opening credits until he came back in Utopia in series 3. It was intended in Russell T Davies’ original pitch that the character’s real name would be Captain Jax.
  • The first revived story to feature a child as being responsible for the bizarre goings on in the story.
  • The name Chula for the warship is a reference to a restaurant in London, where Moffat, Robert Shearman, Mark Gatiss and Paul Cornell went to celebrate being commissioned to write for the first episode since the revival.
  • This two-parter won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in 2006.

Best Moment

There are too many to mention, but I think my favorite might be the conversation between the child and the Doctor in the hallway of the Lloyd’s house.

Mummy? Please let me in, mummy. Please let me in.

Your mummy isn’t here.

Are you my mummy?

No mummies here. Nobody here but us chickens. Well, this chicken anyway.

The Child and the Ninth Doctor

Best Quote

Before this war began, I was a father and a grandfather. Now I’m neither, but I’m still a doctor.

Yeah. I know the feeling.

Doctor Constantine and the Ninth Doctor

Previous Ninth Doctor Review: Father’s Day

Planet of Giants

We have been reduced roughly to the size of an inch!

The First Doctor

Synopsis

A fault with the TARDIS means that the doors open just before it materialises, and when the Doctor and his companions emerge, they find that they have been shrunk to about an inch tall. In this state, they stumble across the plot of a businessman, Forester, to launch a new pesticide, DN6 which would effectively wipe out all insect life.

Review

I am intrigued as to why the production team were so preoccupied with the idea of shrinking the TARDIS and its crew during the early days of the programme, when they plainly did not have either the means or the plot to achieve it satisfactorily. I like stories that feature playing with scale, for instance, I really enjoy the Ant-Man films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but this story didn’t really work for me.

There are two parts of the production that I would like to praise. The first is the set design, which, despite limitations, is broadly very good. I particularly like the dead insects and attention to detail with props like the matchbox and the sink helps the audience believe that the main cast have been reduced in size. There was obviously not enough budget to play with scale in the way that more recent movies are able to do, however, their efforts need to be commended. The other strong element is the main cast of Hartnell, Russell, Ford and Hill, who all put in good performances. Hartnell’s Doctor has come some way towards a softer and more sympathetic character, who is capable of apologising for his bad temper and shows some fondness for Barbara. Jacqueline Hill stands out as she does get poisoned by the DN6, and her concern for getting back to the ship whilst hiding her illness from the other three is particularly believable. These two elements help a rather lacklustre story from ranking even lower.

Ultimately, the story is not very engaging and I can see why there were doubts at the time it was made and why it was cut down from four parts to three. Ultimately, it feels that the production team had bitten off more than they could chew with this story and the technology simply did not exist to bring the story to the screen effectively. Whilst it is to be commended that they believed that they could do it all practically, it is particularly telling that most of the normal size things the shrunken TARDIS team interact with are all props rather than alive animals and people. The moment this is most obvious is when The Doctor, Barbara, Ian and Susan stand in front of Farrow’s dead body, where the body is clearly a static and blown up image of Frank Crawshaw. It also feels like the shrinking story line and the pesticide thread are equally underdeveloped, which might be down to the story being edited down in post-production, but even at three parts, there are moments that really drag, for instance, the sequences where the crew attempt to put corks under the receiver of the telephone in Crisis. The story also has a common problem of having a rushed climax

It doesn’t help that the small guest cast aren’t great. Farrow is hardly in the story, but Alan Tilvern and Reginald Barrett seem very ill suited to their roles in the story, not helped by a poor script and moments like Forester taking out a gun and then putting it away after the story has already shown the audience him murdering Farrow. Smithers seems to have varying knowledge of how the pesticide he has created affects wildlife other than pests at moments, but both he and Forester are quite two dimensional. Rosemary Johnson and Fred Ferris as Hilda and Bert seem to have wandered in from some other programme entirely as the operator and the policeman.

Verdict: A story with ideas beyond its means, Planet of Giants is largely let down by a lacklustre story and wooden performances from the guest cast. 3/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Carol Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Alan Tilvern (Forester), Frank Crawshaw (Farrow), Reginald Barrett (Smithers), Rosemary Johnson (Hilda Rowse) & Fred Ferris (Bert Rowse).

Writer: Louis Marks

Directors: Mervyn Pinfield & Douglas Camfield

Parts: 3 (Planet of Giants, Dangerous Journey & Crisis)

Behind the Scenes

  • Working titles for this story were Miniscule Story and The Miniscules.
  • The idea of the Doctor and his companions being shrunk had been around for some time and had been considered for the first episode of the show, although this concept was the only one that was carried over from C.E Webber’s original idea. The idea of a shrunken TARDIS crew was then passed on to writer Robert Gould, but he seems to have given up on the idea and script editor David Whitaker released Gould from the commission and passed the idea to Louis Marks.
  • Even when the story was produced, the Head of Serials at the BBC, Donald Wilson, was not keen and did not believe that the story was strong enough to open the second season. He would have preferred The Dalek Invasion of Earth to open the season instead, however, this was not feasible due to the departure of Carol Ann Ford at the end of that story. He insisted on the story being shortened to three parts, necessitating footage from Part 3 and Part 4 to be merged, with the cut footage not retained.
  • Mervyn Pinfield was unable to direct Episode 4, so Douglas Camfield directed Part 4. As the two episodes were merged, Camfield was credited as director of Part 3.
  • First credited contributions of Louis Marks, Dudley Simpson and Douglas Camfield.
  • First story to be set on contemporary Earth since An Unearthly Child.
  • The first story to feature a miniaturised TARDIS. The TARDIS would go on to be miniaturised in Logopolis and Flatline, whilst the Monk’s TARDIS would be in The Time Meddler.

Best Moment

A difficult one to pick as I didn’t really enjoy this story. However, I did like the idea of the cat, even if it is obvious that the cat and the cast aren’t present at the same time.

Best Quote

Do you know why I’m a success, Mr Farrow? Because I’ve never allowed the word “can’t” to exist.

Forester

Previous First Doctor Review: The Reign of Terror

Other reviews mentioned:

An Unearthly Child

Other works mentioned

Ant-Man

Ant-Man & The Wasp

Embrace the Darkness

The first new dawn in the Cimmerian System for a thousand years. And it’s my fault.

The Eighth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor and Charley travel to the distant Cimmerian system to unravel the mystery of its sun. But darkness has embraced the scientific base on Cimmeria IV in more ways that one…

In a fight for survival, the Doctor must use all his wits against a deadly artificial life-form and an ancient race whose return to the Cimmerian System threatens suffering and death on an apocalyptic scale.

Review

Nicholas Briggs’ early Big Finish stories show promise but ultimately fall short and sadly Embrace the Darkness is in this mould. This story does feature a lot of problems that beset the four part stories in the original run of Doctor Who, including what feels like a shortfall of plot which makes the middle of the story sag a little bit, whilst it also manages to make the finale feel rushed.

Where the story does really succeed, however, is in the audio landscape. Nicholas Briggs has been done a really great job here of creating a creepy and unsettling atmosphere through mostly sound effects rather than music. Like all of the Big Finish audios I have listened to so far for this blog, I listened to this on headphones and this story really felt three-dimensional and believable. The Cimmerian voices are also suitably unnerving and reminded me slightly of the voice of Gollum from The Lord of Rings films. This is also true of The Sword of Orion, Briggs’ previous story for the Eighth Doctor, but this story feels slightly more confident and ever so slightly better.

The story also has an interesting idea in its central premise – a star system devoid of light, afraid of the return of the light due to a belief that it will lead to their destruction. We also have a lot of time spent with the Doctor believing that his actions will lead to the Cimmerians destruction and questioning the effect of his interference. A story set on a planet devoid of light naturally lends itself to audio and helps the listener feel engaged in the story. There are some other stories which use the constraints of audio to their advantage in the Big Finish range – another one that jumps to mind is The End of the Line in which the characters spend a lot of time stranded in thick fog. Whilst this element works really well, the story feels as though it spends a lot of time treading water in the middle, especially as those stranded on the base don’t seem in any urgent hurry to leave in the rescue ship. The story doesn’t take the opportunity to delve into giving the guest characters more characterisation despite a small cast. They can largely be described as being one dimensional, and only really have one defining characteristic each. Orllensa is lucky and has two – she is Russian or at least East European and cynical. We do get some of her bask story but Haliard and Ferras get nothing.

The ending is also pretty poor, with the reveal that the perceived descending army of Solarians are actually Cimmerians feeling both rushed and overly simplistic. It does skirt around the idea of fear enhancing to the point where the Cimmerians are terrified of the light and deprive it of everyone in the system, which leads to some particularly effective body horror when we learn that Orllensa and Ferras have had their eyes burnt out. What I do like about the story is that, despite the Doctor and Charley mentioning the TARDIS and even trying to escape from the advancing Solarians, the story doesn’t allow them to take that shortcut. Despite my issues with the conclusion, I also really like the idea of their ships which are powered by solar sails.

This is not a tremendous story for the Eighth Doctor or Charley, however, McGann and Fisher do some good work here. The story spends a lot of time with the Doctor feeling like a pedestrian to the plot and he seems to spend most of it being quite reactionary but the moments in which he ponders whether interfering in the life of alien races and planets is right. Meanwhile, despite spending most the story apart, Charley doesn’t feel as though she has very much to do. She does have some good moments – I like her reaction when ROSM disables offensive weaponry previously targeted at her. McGann and Fisher feel as though they have really got the relationship between the two characters down and even in a story like this, they are capable of elevating it. The story does not advance the ongoing arc about Charley’s survival and its impact on the Web of Time, although the gathering of the Type 70 TARDISes at the beginning of the story might be hinting at the Time Lords tightening the net, and ROSM states that his readings flag something up as unusual, but nothing more is made of it.

Verdict: A story with an interesting premise and great sound design, which falls down in its execution. The ending feels particularly rushed. 5/10

Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Nicola Boyce (Orllensa), Lee Moone (Ferras), Mark McDonnell (Haliard), Ian Brooker (ROSM/Solarian/Cimmerian) & Nicholas Briggs (Cimmerian Voice).

Writer: Nicholas Briggs

Director: Nicholas Briggs

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The story was originally supposed to feature the Morestrans from Planet of Evil, but the rights could not be obtained from the BBC.

Cast Notes

  • Nicola Boyce and Lee Moone also appeared in The Time of Daleks and Neverland, along with Mark McDonnall who also appeared in The Fear Monger and Dalek Empire.
  • Ian Brooker has played numerous roles for Big Finish, most notably playing the shortest lived alternative incarnation of the Doctor (who lived for 11 seconds) in Full Fathom Five.

Best Moment

The build-up to the cliffhanger at the end of the first part, ending with the reveal that Ferras and Orliensa have no eyes.

Best Quote

Your eyes…

What about them?

You’ve lost your eyes.

Charley Pollard and Ferras

Previous Eighth Doctor review: Seasons of Fear

Other Reviews Mentioned:

The Sword of Orion