The Time of the Daleks

We are the Masters of Time!

The Daleks

Synopsis

The Doctor has always admired the work of William Shakespeare. So he is a little surprised that Charley doesn’t hold the galaxy’s greatest playwright in the same esteem. In fact, she’s never heard of him.

Which the Doctor thinks is quite improbable.

General Mariah Learman, ruling Britain after the Eurowars, is one of Shakespeare’s greatest admirers, and is convinced her time machine will enable her to see the plays’ original performances.

Which the Doctor believes is extremely unlikely.

The Daleks just want to help. They want Learman to get her time machine working. They want Charley to appreciate the first-ever performance of Julius Caesar. They believe that Shakespeare is the greatest playwright ever to have existed and venerate his memory.

Which the Doctor knows is utterly impossible.

Review

The Time of the Daleks feels impeccably researched, or at the least like the writer showing off his knowledge about Shakespearean plays. Whilst the idea at the heart of this story is undoubtedly a good one, ultimately, the story is not the strongest. It is to the credit of Nicholas Briggs, the director, in making Paul McGann’s first meeting with the Daleks not be an unmitigated disaster, and the central premise is sound enough to see this through.

The idea at the core of this one is pretty solid – William Shakespeare has been removed from history, causing humans in New Britain and Charley to gradually forget him. It is a plot that would only work for a story set in this location, as the concept of remembering Shakespeare is almost weaponised. It is certainly powerful enough to convince the opposition to General Learman that the poet and playwright disappearing from history is a plot by the ‘benevolent’ dictator and a side effect of her attempts to develop a means to time travel. As bizarre as it sounds, hearing the Daleks, and in the opening moments, Rassilon, quoting Shakespeare as Skaro’s famous children prepare to detonate their temporal extinction device is really quite powerful and well done. This is probably the most verbose we ever hear the Daleks and I appreciate that this probably won’t be for everybody but I rather enjoyed this aspect of this story. I think that it’s good to see different things attempted with the Daleks, and although this does eventually and inevitably dissolve into traditional Dalek action, it is at least to this story’s credit that they try and do something a bit different. The idea of time travel through mirrors is a nice one, if a bit silly, and something that we would see on the television in Turn Left. My favourite moment was probably the transformation of Learman into the Dalek mutant and the suicide of a ‘failed’ Dalek to include her in their plans. It’s a lovely moment, almost like body horror in audio and is executed really well.

Nick Briggs’ direction of this story does help it slightly, especially with the sound design and background music. There is a nice bit of piano that teases the arrival of the Daleks, and of course we get the traditional Dalek heartbeat. One of my favourite things in this story was the effects used on the voices of Viola and Charley as they attempt to use the mirrors to time travel, distorting their voices, which is a really nice way of realising this on audio. His key role of course, is the Daleks, which it feels obvious to say that he does well here, but having a solid presence in a story like this is always useful, playing the usual Daleks and the Supreme. He also has a lot more work to do than normal, given the fact that the story gives the Daleks more to say than usual.

I feel that the first two parts are good, but starts to fall down in the concluding two parts. It almost feels as though there is enough material to be put into two stories here – one, with the Daleks invading Earth through its history, and the other with Shakespeare (and maybe other famous literary figures) disappearing from time and the impact on time and the present. I will never criticise a writer for doing their homework, as it were, but Justin Richards feels as though he throws every possible Shakespearean reference at this and not all of them work. Part of the problem might be that there are too many characters, and certainly the majority of the guest cast don’t make much of an impression. The exception to this is Mariah Learman, played by Dot Smith, who ultimately wants to be the only person who can remember Shakespeare as she descends into insanity, bemoaning the fact that his skill is taken for granted. Smith is really good in the role and makes the most of this part, but I don’t think the other guest characters are written as well, and so this causes them to feel quite similar.

Whilst Paul McGann and India Fisher do put in decent performances, this isn’t the greatest Eighth Doctor and Charley story ever. In fact, I think this story could work with any Doctor/Companion pairing, with nothing really to tie it to these two other than the final scene, which links into the ongoing arc surrounding Charley.

Verdict: I actually managed to talk myself up in the course of writing this review. There are some interesting ideas in The Time of the Daleks, but a promising start leads to a bit of a convaluted ending. 6/10

Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Dot Smith (General Mariah Learman), Julian Harries (Major Ferdinand), Nicola Boyce (Viola), Jem Bassett (Kitchen Boy), Mark McDonnell (Priestly), Lee Moone (Hart), Ian Brooker (Professor Osric), Nicholas Briggs (Dalek Voice), Clayton Hickman (Dalek Voice/Yokel), Robert Curbishley (Marcus), Ian Potter (Mark Anthony/Army Officer/Tannoy) & Don Warrington (Rassilon).

Writer: Justin Richards

Director: Nicholas Briggs

Behind the Scenes

  • This story marks the first credited appearance of Rassilon in an audio story. He appeared at the end of Seasons of Fear, but was not credited.
  • The first Dalek story for Paul McGann – despite the Daleks briefly making an audio cameo at the start of the TV Movie, the Doctor and the Daleks did not share any scenes.
  • Whilst the Doctor has met Shakespeare on a number of occasions, this is chronologically the first meeting between the two.

Cast Notes

  • Dot Smith appeared in Dalek Empire as Milvas.
  • Julian Harries also appeared in Bloodtide.
  • Nicola Boyce appeared in Embrace the Darkness and would go on to appear in Neverland.
  • To hide the fact that Shakespeare was being portrayed by a woman, Jemma Bassett was credited as Jem.
  • Mark McDonald would go on to appear in Neverland, as well as featuring in the War Doctor audios and had previously appeared in Embrace the Darkness.
  • Following on from his appearance in Embrace the Darkness, Lee Moone would go on to appear in Neverland.
  • Ian Brooker had previously appeared in Embrace the Darkness.
  • Clayton Hickman designed a lot of DVD and Big Finish CD covers.
  • Robert Curbishley has appeared in numerous releases across the Main Range and UNIT releases.
  • Ian Potter has written a number of stories for both novels and Big Finish.

Best Quote

It’s a strange partnership where they do all the work and we get all the reward.

Major Ferdinand

Battlefield

My blood and thunder days are long past.

Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart

Synopsis

The Doctor and Ace arrive near Carbury, where the Doctor re-encounters UNIT, headed by Brigadier Winifred Bambera, who has a nuclear convoy nearby Lake Vortigern. At the bottom of that lake is a spaceship from another dimension, containing King Arthur held in suspended animation and his sword, Excalibur.

A knight, Ancelyn, arrives on Earth to help his King, but is followed by the villainous Morgaine and Mordred, all of whom recognise the Doctor as Merlin. The involvement of the Doctor ultimately brings Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart out of his cosy retirement to join the inevitable fight.

Mini Review

The Brigadier is in this. So clearly this is a 10/10.

What? You want a full review? Oh, go on then.

Review

Battlefield is probably the weakest story in the final season, but it is not as bad as that would suggest. The final season of the original show’s run is known for perhaps being one of the strongest in its history and Battlefield kicks things off with a nod to the show’s past in the shape of the Brigadier and a romp of a story concerning Arthurian mythology with knights from other dimensions. It’s reputation is probably not helped by the fact that it came from the pen of Ben Aaronovitch, who wrote the superb season opener for the previous season, Remembrance of the Daleks, which I think we’d all prefer to remember as the real 25th Anniversary story than Silver Nemesis. There are flaws, as with a lot of Doctor Who, but to me, Battlefield feels like a comfort blanket.

The problems with this story really circulate around the writing, direction and music. Keff McCulloch’s score feels really overblown and intrusive. Those who find Murray Gold’s early scores to be too over the top should watch this story and see how understated Gold’s music is in comparison. When it comes to the direction, it is interesting to compare this story to the early Jon Pertwee era where the HAVOC team performed a lot of the stunts. Meanwhile here, the action scenes feel rather flat and lifeless, in particular the battle between Mordred’s forces and UNIT, which does make it difficult to take them seriously. When it comes to the writing of the story, there are some really poorly written aspects, such as Ace and Ling Tai’s dialogue, which makes it feel like nobody on the production team had ever spoken to another teenager, and, like in previous review of The Ultimate Evil, Mordred has moments where all he seems to do is manically laugh for what feels like five minutes at a time. It does feel as though there are too many characters here, and perhaps this was realised by the production team as they remove characters like Warmsly and the owners of the hotel later on in the narrative. Additionally, there are some logical leaps, like why Morgaine’s army fight with a combination of laser guns and grenades, but on the other hand, just normal medieval swords. For all the writing problems, there are moments like where the Doctor explains to Ace that the reverse of Clarke’s Law is also true, which reminds me of when Thor explains how Asgard works to Jane Foster in his first movie.

Can someone tell me what on earth is going on?

Well if my hunch is right, the Earth could be at the centre of a war that doesn’t even belong to this dimension!

Shou Yuing and the Seventh Doctor

I’ll move on to something that I think is more positive: the return of the Brigadier. This is a different Lethbridge-Stewart to the one that was last seen in The Five Doctors and Mawdryn Undead, as he is domesticated, only interested in getting involved when he knows that the Doctor is there. It’s a lovely moment between Sylvester McCoy and Nicholas Courtney when the Brigadier immediately recognises him as The Doctor. He is a bit more uncomfortable when it comes to dealing with Ace, addressing her as the latest one, but it is perhaps a poor bit of writing for her reaction. Ace came in immediately as her predecessor, Mel, left, so she doesn’t have the excuse of not knowing that the Doctor has travelled with others before her. Perhaps it is supposed to denote that Ace isn’t like the previous companions, but it is poorly written and makes Ace seem rude to someone she has just met. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart acts as a comparison to Brigadier Bambera, played by Angela Bruce. Bambera comes across as much more cold and clinical, perhaps understandably as she doesn’t have the same back catalogue of appearances as Lethbridge-Stewart. Her appointment is just one of the sweeping changes that seem to have occurred since we’ve last seen UNIT, which seems to have come on leaps and bounds as a military organisation since we last saw them briefly in The Five Doctors. They seem a lot more capable than they were in the Pertwee era and have made developments It is perhaps surprising, however, that Bambera has not been briefed as to the possibility of encountering the Doctor.

The villains of the piece are a bit of a mixed bag: on the positive side, there are Morgaine and the Destroyer, on the negative is Mordred. Jean Marsh does really well with Morgaine, who could become overblown in different hands, but she takes this part and makes it really good. Her scene with Courtney after his helicopter is blown up is great and she does certainly carry off her performance with a sense of majesty. The Destroyer is, from a technical point of view, spectacular especially in a story where the lack of budget is painfully obvious. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, Mordred is rather poor. It’s rare that I find a character so annoying that I was glad when Morgaine was willing to let him die at the hands of the Brigadier, then frustrated when he cropped back up. Having been slightly obsessed with Arthurian legend in my childhood, I liked the idea that they were from an alternate dimension where Arthurian legend was closer to reality.

The Seventh Doctor is central to this story, trapped in a situation orchestrated by his future self, known as Merlin and this is a good performance from McCoy. At times he is utterly bluffing his position but at others, he is utterly in control. He is in his element when he is dealing with the Brigadier and it is utterly believable that he is a future incarnation of Pertwee’s Doctor. Sophie Aldred doesn’t have a lot to do here, and isn’t terribly well written. This story does include her throwing a racial slur at Shou when Morgaine is trying to manipulate them to get her own hands on Excalibur, which is troubling. It also does go some way to explain that Ace is a bit of an outcast and doesn’t really have friends outside of her travels in the TARDIS, something which would be explored more in the season to come.

Verdict: This is no Remembrance of the Daleks, but frankly, few things are. Aaronovitch’s difficult second episode is good fun, if littered with issues around writing, direction and music, but ultimately is quite easy watching. 7/10

Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Jean Marsh (Morgaine), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), James Ellis (Peter Warmsly), Angela Bruce (Brigadier Winifred Bambera), Christopher Bowen (Mordred), Marcus Gilbert (Ancelyn), Angela Douglas (Doris Lethbridge-Stewart), Noel Collins (Pat Rowlinson), June Bland (Elizabeth Rowlinson), Ling Tai (Shou Yuing), Robert Jezek (Sergeant Zbrigniev), Dorota Rae (Flight Lieutenant Lavel), Stefan Schwartz (Knight Commander), Paul Tomany (Major Husak) & Marek Anton (The Destroyer).

Writer: Ben Aaronovitch

Director: Michael Kerrigan

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • This story marks Nicholas Courtney’s final appearance in televised Doctor Who ahead of his passing in 2011, and the Brigadier was written out in The Wedding of River Song. Courtney did reprise the role in The Sarah Jane Adventures and in the independent production Downtime, as well as for Big Finish.
  • In the original outline for this story, the Brigadier was going to die, however, when the production team realised that this was going to be largely overshadowed by explosions, they reconsidered.
  • Graeme Harper was approached to direct, however, he was busy working on Boon.
  • The water tank sequence at the end of Part 2 almost caused catastrophy when the glass began to crack, sending water over the studio floor towards live wires. Sylvester McCoy alerted the crew by breaking character and swearing to get Sophie Aldred out of the tank. The majority of the cast and crew, including Aldred, believe that she would have died without McCoy’s intervention, however, Gary Downie disputed that Aldred was at any risk, but the floor crew were.
  • The last story to feature Bessie, the Third Doctor’s vintage car, in original footage. Bessie would appear in The Name of the Doctor, but only in archive footage.
  • The last serial of the original run to feature the TARDIS interior. The scene in Part One was shot on a hastily constructed set, covered up by shooting in semi-darkness. The regular scenery had been accidently disposed of after recording The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.
  • Working titles for this story included Knightfall, Storm over Avallion, Lakes Over Avallion, Pool of Avallion, Song of Avallion, Stormtroopers of Avallion and The Battlefield.
  • Part One had the lowest rating of an episode of Doctor Who at 3.1 million viewers.

Cast Notes

  • Jean Marsh had previously appeared in The Crusade and The Dalek’s Master Plan. Coincidentally, Nicholas Courtney was also in The Dalek’s Master Plan.
  • June Bland had previously appeared in Earthshock.
  • Angela Bruce would reprise her role as Brigadier Bambera in the Big Finish audio story, Animal.

Best Moment

As someone who is fond of the Brigadier, I do quite like his face-off with the Destroyer, followed by the revelation that he is not dead, but prepared to hand his responsibilities over to Ace.

Best Quote

Ahh…little man. What do you want of me?

Get off my world!

Pitiful. Can this world do no better than you as their champion?

Probably. I just do the best I can.

The Destroyer and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart

Previous Seventh Doctor Review: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

Further Reading

Remembrance of the Daleks

The Ultimate Evil

Synopsis

With the TARDIS working perfectly, the Doctor and Peri use a gadget from the storage locker to find a holiday destination. On arriving on the seemingly peaceful planet of Tranquelya, they find that a hate ray is sweeping the continent, turning the civilians into rampant beasts and it can only originate from the other continent, home to their ancient enemies, Ameliarians.

Review

I came into this story with quite high expectations thanks to enjoying The Elite and enjoying The Nightmare Fair. Sadly, The Ultimate Evil feels a bit of a disappointment. Whilst the idea at the story’s core is a good one, it is let down by some poorly written dialogue and overacting.

One thing that is fantastic about this story is the sound design by Nigel Fairs, which does phenomenal work in evoking the Sixth Doctor’s television era. It is small things like this that really make a big difference to these Lost Stories and gives a narrative shorthand to where we are in the timeline of the Doctor and Peri’s relationship, for instance. In all of the Lost Stories that I’ve reviewed so far, the music and general sound design has been fantastic for establishing this. Helen Goldwyn’s direction also helps to recreate the feeling of a continuation from Season 23, and largely manages to keep the guest performances on the right side of overblown. That being said, she can’t do very much about the fact that Mordant

I think the biggest problem with The Ultimate Evil is that it feels pretty derivative of Vengeance on Varos, which, in my opinion is a far superior story. The very nature of having an antagonist who is watching the Doctor’s every move feels familiar and the general atmosphere of the story feels very gritty, which is both a plus and a minus. I’m not sure that Doctor Who, regardless of trouble behind the scenes, could have survived having two back-to-back Seasons with the tone of Season 22. Ultimately, the story feels so genuine Saward-era Doctor Who because the Doctor and Peri are absent from the main action for over thirty minutes of the narrative. It is no secret that Eric Saward was not in favour of the casting of Colin Baker as the Doctor, and the way he dealt with this was by keeping the Doctor apart from the action for as long as he possibly could. As much as I liked the Doctor’s outrage and feelings of betrayal that the TARDIS is working perfectly when he has nowhere in particular to be, the longer this scene goes on it just feels like a diversion. That being said, Daly’s story does having some interesting ideas. I like the idea of weaponising emotions like anger and fear, that Mordant is attempting to sell to the Tranquelans to restart the war with their neighbouring continent. I also liked the fact that when the Doctor visited them to warn them of the impending attack, the Amelierians were not the traditional peaceful society that we see in other stories, for instance Genesis of the Daleks. There are also ideas that aren’t developed fully, for instance, the fact that Peri is a doppelganger for Mariana, who dies at the beginning of the story. Despite being mentioned a couple of times and being given as justifications for the Tranquelans being so angry when the Doctor and Peri arrive, not very much else is done with this, and ultimately it feels pointless when it is revealed that Mariana is, in fact alive in the story’s closing moments.

The guest cast here are really quite similar and there are few stand-out performances. Mordant feels like rehash of Sil as well, which is ultimately disappointing and as he spends what feels like most of the story maniacally laughing, it is difficult to take him too seriously. Robin Sebastian does his best with what is essentially a one-dimensional villain who feels as though he is ultimately dispatched too easily by the Doctor. Guy Burgess does bring some feelings of distrust and sliminess to the character of Escoval, the traitor, but otherwise they are pretty non-descript.

Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are pretty good here, even if the narrative sees them spend most of the story apart. They are both particularly good in the opening TARDIS scenes, which highlights how their relationship has become a bit more amiable. Colin Baker and script editor John Dorney reflect on how the character has changed in the interviews, highlighting elements like the Doctor’s tendency to repeat words getting more and more outraged as a shorthand to do this, which is something that I hadn’t really noticed before.

Verdict: Sadly, The Ultimate Evil is quite bland and derivative, which is a shame because it does have an interesting idea at its heart. It’s worth a listen but probably doesn’t have much replay value. 3/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown/Mariana), Robin Sebastian (Mordant), Kim Durham (Abatan), Guy Burgess (Escoval), Jack Forsyth-Noble (Locas), Paul Panting (Ravlos), Issy Van Randwyck (Koreelya), Jack Myers (Shankel/Leader) & Wally K Daly (The Bird).

Writer: Wally K Daly

Director: Helen Goldwyn

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • Big Finish did attempt to obtain the rights for this story in the original run of Lost Stories, however, Wally K Daly was involved in adapting the story for a version for the RNIB. The story had previously been novelised for Target Books.
  • Had the story been made for television, it would have been directed by Fiona Cumming.

Cast Notes

  • Robin Sebastian has also appeared in The Masquerade of Death and Imperatrix.
  • Paul Panting has appeared in a number of Big Finish plays, including Revenge of the Swarm and Mistfall.
  • Issy Van Randwyck has appeared in Family Matters, Requiem for the Doctor and Carnival of Angels.

Best Quote

Look at this, Peri!

Hmm…an ostrich egg on a plinth.

You have no idea. Follow me!

The Sixth Doctor and Peri Brown

Previous Sixth Doctor Review: The Nightmare Fair

The Elite

Helping a Dalek – has it come to this?

The Fifth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor offers Nyssa and Tegan a trip to the paradise world of Florana, but instead the TARDIS takes them to a domed city on a planet, scarred by warfare. A world where everyone is young, and fighting for the glory of the Elite…

Hidden away in the Cathedral of Power, the High Priest is watching. It knows the Doctor, and his arrival changes everything…

Review

I don’t think that it is possible to evoke an era better than The Elite manages to. Quite simply, this felt like it could have slotted in nicely between Arc of Infinity and Snakedance seamlessly. Whilst the writing felt different, John Dorney’s writing encapsulates the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan perfectly for me and, despite culminating in a bit of a slaughter at the end, didn’t feel as grim as a script written under the supervision of Eric Saward.

That’s not to say that it’s all perfect, however. There’s quite a sizeable guest cast here and I’m not sure that the story quite does enough with them. I personally struggled to tell Aubron and Alaric apart at times, and neither receive enough characterisation to distinguish them at times, and whilst Ryan Sampson does a solid enough job for the first three parts, he really flies off the rails and pushes the insanity well past 11 in the final part of the story. I would have liked the story to have more of Educator Stemp, however, as her character seemed to have some real promise and she is particularly good when she is sparking off Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton, but she ultimately suffers from not having much development. Ella is another character that I would have liked to have had more time with and she does interact nicely with Janet Fielding.

What the story does really nicely is evoke the feeling of Doctor Who in the early 1980s. Almost everything works really well, from the score which uses synthesisers to feels ultimately at home in this era, to the reduced role of Nyssa and some of the grittiness that Eric Saward, for some reason, felt so driven to include at all times. John Dorney, in taking on this story based on a premise by Barbara Clegg, is make it simultaneously a celebration of Peter Davison’s televised era whilst combining it with the development that the Fifth Doctor has enjoyed through Big Finish. There are scenes like the one in the TARDIS in the first part where the Doctor is obviously not sure about having Tegan back as a companion which acknowledge that more time has passed for Nyssa and the Doctor than has for Tegan. The squabbles between the Doctor and Tegan feel natural for the progression of the characters as seen on television, whilst Dorney allows the Fifth Doctor to snipe back at her times, but ultimately, when Aubron insults her intelligence, the Doctor is outraged. Despite their relationship not being fixed by the end of this story, the story almost feels like both the Fifth Doctor and Tegan coming to terms with being back together again, and all that this entails. A moment that feels as though this perfectly encapsulates Tegan coming to terms with travelling is when she and Nyssa are wandering around the city shortly after arriving.

Oh no no no! I know how this story ends. The Doctor tells us to stay put, we wander off, we get captured, lots of people are shot and it all ends badly. I’m sorry, Nyssa, but no. This time, we’re going to exactly what the Doctor says.

Tegan Jovanka

Another aspect that feels in keeping with the era is the appearance of a foe in disguise. In this case, the ‘High Priest’ is revealed to be a Dalek, and this is complete with Nicholas Briggs’ being credited under a pseudonym, which feels reminiscent of Anthony Ainley’s faux credits. As I am talking about the Dalek, it must be said that this is something a bit different for the Doctor’s evil adversary to do. We have seen the danger of a lone Dalek in the new series, in both Dalek and more recently Resolution, but this story sees one sole Dalek doing something a bit different: manipulating the development of society of the Elite through the Church to ensure the development of a Master Race. This Dalek is different, damaged from a crash that occurred ten years before the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan arrived on the planet of Florana and without the access to power the ‘Cleansing Fire’ which will summon the Dalek fleet. Whilst the reveal of the ‘High Priest’ to be a Dalek at the end of Part 2 didn’t really take me by surprise, it felt like a better reveal than the one of Time-Flight with the Master. Ultimately, by the time that the Doctor and Aubron discuss the nature of the Elite’s society, euthanising those who are deemed not to be of benefit to their society and those over the age of 30, the reveal seems like a matter of time.

We are making –

A Master Race!

Aubron and the Fifth Doctor

Dorney states in the behind the scenes interviews that he even expects that some listeners will jump ahead of the Doctor and realise that the Daleks are involved before this point, and Briggs’ voice is modulated differently but still sounds Dalek-like in its cadence. That being said, the moment where the High Priest is returned to its ‘throne’ and the Dalek heartbeat is heard is a lovely moment. We then come to the twist in Part 3. Once the Dalek is revealed to be at the heart of the Elite’s society, I certainly expected it to be a more traditional story involving the Doctor stopping the Dalek’s machinations, probably involving the arrival of the fleet. The first hint that this was not going to go the way I thought was when the Dalek wanted the Doctor’s help to get off Florana, the second when the seemingly traditional acolyte Thane turns on the Dalek and kills him. This is probably one of the best twists I can remember in a Doctor Who story, and can genuinely say that I didn’t see this one coming.

The main cast all do sterling work here, even if Sarah Sutton is side lined, brainwashed and possessed by the Elite to do their bidding. Even so, it’s enjoyable to hear Sutton joining in with the exterminating towards the end of the story. The focus here is really on Peter Davison and Janet Fielding. I really like Davison’s Doctor in general, but he is particularly great here. Dorney has given him the licence to be quite funny when the story allows it, and Davison delivers these moments nicely. Janet Fielding is often maligned, but she is good here too, and I particularly liked her scenes in the prison with Ella.

Verdict: The Elite is a great story which evokes the feeling of the Fifth Doctor’s era really well. 8/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Joe Coen (Aubron), Ryan Sampson (Thane), Derek Carlyle (Alaric), Joannah Tincey (Stemp), Nicholas Briggs (credited as Arthur Wallis, High Priest), John Banks (Garthak) & Ellie Burrow (Ella).

Writer: John Dorney, adapted from an idea by Barbara Clegg

Director: Ken Bentley

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • This story would have fallen after Terminus if it had been made in the 1980s, the story in which Nyssa left the TARDIS.
  • If this story had been broadcast, it would have seen Nyssa’s first meeting with a Dalek. In the intervening years, Nyssa had gone on to face the Daleks in a number of Big Finish stories before this adaptation was released.

Cast Notes

  • Ryan Sampson appeared in the Tenth Doctor story The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky as Luke Rattigan.
  • Joe Coen has appeared in Binary, The Edge and The Battle.
  • Derek Carlyle has appeared in a number of Big Finish stories, including The Death Collectors, Spider’s Shadow and Brotherhood of the Daleks.
  • Joannah Tincey appeared in A Thousand Tiny Wings, Industrial Evolution and The Skin of the Sleek/The Thief Who Stole Time.
  • John Banks has appeared in multiple Big Finish stories, and has appeared alongside the majority of incarnations of the Doctor, including John Hurt and David Tennant.
  • Ellie Burrow appeared in The Jupiter Conjunction and The Four Doctors.

Best Moment

Whilst I saw the reveal of the High Priest being a Dalek coming a mile off, the killing off of this Dalek was a real shock to me.

Best Quote

Let me guess, you’re going to be quite cross with me for a while. Funnily enough, I don’t find that a terribly frightening prospect. Pretty much business as usual!

The Fifth Doctor

Previous Fifth Doctor review: Arc of Infinity

Other Reviews:

Time-Flight

Dalek

Resolution

Flatline

Could you not just let me enjoy this moment of not knowing something? I mean, it happens so rarely.

The Twelfth Doctor

Synopsis

With the Doctor trapped in a shrinking TARDIS, Clara is forced into the role of the Doctor, complete with a group of people to save as a force from another dimension threaten their existence.

Review

Flatline sees a return to the “Doctor-lite” stories that were commonplace in David Tennant’s era and feels like a story that wouldn’t have felt out of place in Russell T Davies’ era as showrunner, with contemporary Britain the setting for a takeover. However, by the mere fact that we haven’t had an abundance of this story in the intervening years, and with an original and creepy foe, Mathieson makes this feel quite fresh. Jamie Mathieson is a fantastic addition to the show for the late Moffat era and this story is a fantastic example of what he brought to the show.

Unlike some other Doctor-lite stories, Capaldi’s Doctor feels constantly present through being the voice in Clara’s ear. If we compare this to an episode like Love & Monsters or Turn Left, it is scarcely noticeable that Capaldi probably shot all of his scenes in a couple of days. Clara is forced into the lead role, and it is perhaps a chance to see how developed this character has become over the course of this series. From being ‘the Impossible Girl’ in her first half series, she has become a defined and flawed human being, seen to be lying to Danny and making the Doctor complicit in this. From his brief cameo, Danny seems to have made his peace with the idea of Clara continuing her travels in the TARDIS, but the fact that Clara still continues to deceive him is more of an issue in their relationship. Whilst I have problems with this, they become much more relevant to the series finale and so I will go into more detail when I get to review that episode. That said, Danny does encapsulate Ultimately, the story is designed to show the responsibility that the Doctor takes on when he enters situations like this and he is clearly alarmed at the ease with which Clara slips into the role. She takes the authority role over the group of community service outcasts and is ultimately accountable when only Rigsy and Fenton survive.

Why can’t you say it? I was the Doctor and I was good.

You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara.

Thank you.

Goodness had nothing to do with it.

Clara Oswald and the Twelfth Doctor

As mentioned above, this story does feel as though it wouldn’t have felt out of place during the Tenth Doctor’s era. Mathieson has set this on a council estate, which harks back to the Powell Estate, and there are numerous mentions that the authorities are hoping that the problem will solve itself. Officer Forrest tells Clara and Rigsy as much shortly before she is absorbed into the rug as the trio investigate the home of another victim. Clara’s band of companions feel like the forgotten of society, and Rigsy is an example of the potential that exists in these scenarios. A further reinforcement of this is Fenton, the community service supervisor, who regards his charges as scum. Fenton fills the role of the person who the audience want something unpleasant to happen to, almost guaranteeing their survival. This reminded me most strongly of Voyage of the Damned, where Rickston Slade survives the events aboard the Titanic. Mathieson does waver from some aspects of the Russell T Davies era and Doctor Who in general, however, when Clara stops Rigsy from making the heroic sacrifice, substituting him losing his life with her losing her hairband. The story also has some moments of lightness and humour, such as Fenton only seeing a blank piece of paper when presented with the psychic paper, due to his lack of imagination, a detail which is completely throwaway, but it’s always nice to see that the Doctor’s gadgets have flaws.

Ultimately, the strength of the story lies in the monster. A foe from another dimension, whose motivations aren’t really ever fleshed out, but seem to be hostile, the ‘Boneless’ are a great one-off antagonist and bring out the strongest elements on the production side. The direction by Douglas Mackinnon is fantastic, and he makes the story feel really unsettling at times, starting with the cold open where the camera moves slowly to allow the reveal of Roscoe’s stretched out body. This story utilises a combination of great direction and special effects, particularly when the Boneless take on a three-dimensional form in the tunnel towards the end of the story. Moments like the reveal of George being killed work really well, and the transition between him seeming three dimensional and then merging into the wall and eventually melting away is really well done. One moment, conversely, that doesn’t work so well is when the hand pulls Al back down the tunnel and the camera tracks with it. It would be much more effective to have Al just pulled out of shot, but I have come to terms with it as it introduces the human facsimiles who are really sinister in the way that they move and their appearance. The story also takes advantage of playing with the reduced size of the TARDIS, complete with funny moments like the Doctor passing Clara the sledgehammer through her handbag or the Addams Family reference as the Doctor gets the TARDIS off the train track, followed by his little celebratory dance.

Putting Jenna Coleman in the leading role works really well for this story, and brings great performances out of her and Capaldi. The Doctor wants to believe the best of the Boneless until he has definitive proof that they are out to harm humanity, and his speech at the end was the moment that sold me on this Doctor forever. Out of the guest cast, Rigsy really stands out and it is a good performance by Joivan Wade, who we’ll see again in Series 9. Rigsy is a character who falls into the mould of a directionless outcast but his experiences with Clara (and by extension, the Doctor) open his eyes. I really like the fact that the solution to the story involves his artistic skills to power up the TARDIS.

Your last painting was so good it saved the world. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

It’s not gonna be easy. I’ve got a hairband to live up to.

The Twelfth Doctor and Rigsy

Verdict: A story which is creepy and visually interesting and sees the companion take on the responsibilities of the Doctor, Flatline is a standout episode from Capaldi’s debut series. 10/10

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Joivan Wade (Rigsy), Samuel Anderson (Danny), John Cummins (Roscoe), Jessica Hayles (PC Forrest), Christopher Fairbank (Fenton), Matt Bardock (Al), Raj Bajaj (George), James Quinn (Bill) & Michelle Gomez (Missy).

Writer: Jamie Mathieson

Director: Douglas Mackinnon

Behind the Scenes

  • This was the original idea that Jamie Mathieson pitched to Steven Moffat, after which, he was also asked to write Mummy on the Orient Express. After several drafts, he was asked to minimise the role of the Doctor to abide by the production schedule.
  • Mathieson wanted to maintain a sense of mystery around the Boneless, and so chose not to have them speak.

Best Moment

There are a lot here, but I think I’m going to have to go for the Doctor getting the TARDIS off the train tracks.

Best Quote

I tried to talk. I want you to remember that. I tried to reach out. I tried to understand you. But I think you understand us perfectly. I think that you just don’t care. And I don’t know if you’re here to invade, infilitrate, or just replace us. I don’t suppose it really matters now. You are monsters! That is the role you seem determined to play. So it seems I must play mine. The man who stops the monsters. I’m sending you back to your own dimension. Who knows? Some of you may even survive the trip. And if you do, remember this. You are not welcome here. This plane is defended. I am the Doctor. And I name you the Boneless!

The Twelfth Doctor

Previous Twelfth Doctor review: Mummy on the Orient Express