Dalek

Dalek - Dalek.jpg

The stuff of nightmares, reduced to an exhibit.  I’m getting old.

The Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor and Rose arrive in an underground bunker in the United States in 2012 in response to a distress signal, where alien collector Henry Van Statten is keeping his latest find – the last Dalek in existence.

Review

The Daleks are almost as essential to Doctor Who as the TARDIS and the titular hero.  Even in the TV Movie, they are heard but not seen, even if the Dalek voice is a bit questionable.  So looking back on Dalek in hindsight, it seems bizarre that there was a possibility that the Daleks would not appear when Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner brought Christopher Eccleston to our screens in 2005.  Even when you think about the Daleks coming back, it would be far too easy to overcomplicate this story by shrouding the return of the Daleks in large swathes of continuity from the previous stories that have gone before.  So it is still refreshing that Dalek is such an effective reintroduction to the evil pepper pots, whether this is your first time viewing, or simply the latest in many revisits.

In a way, this story cements some things that were introduced in the Daleks’ final appearance in the original TV run, Remembrance of the Daleks.  They are again seen to be masterful tacticians, and obviously, there’s the fact that they can get up the stairs, perhaps putting that over-used joke finally to bed.  The Dalek here is also shown to be manipulative as well, manipulating Rose into seeing something completely different to what the Doctor sees when he first sees the captive Dalek – a cruelly treated prisoner.  The director, Joe Ahearne deserves a huge amount of credit for making the Dalek seem as threatening as it does here, as the Dalek feels just as threatening and menacing when it refuses to reply to Van Statten as when it is moving through the bunker exterminating everyone in its path or talking to the Doctor.  One of my favourite scenes is in the weapons development area of the base, where Van Statten has instructed everyone in the base to grab a weapon to try and stop the Dalek.  Instead of simply exterminating everyone by shooting them individually, the Dalek instead elects to elevate itself above the floor, shoots the fire alarm, which in turn activates the sprinklers, and with a simple blast of its weapon, shoots the wet floor, killing the majority of the people standing in its way.  There is a quiet majesty about the way the Dalek surveys the situation from its elevated position which is truly menacing.

Dalek - Dalek sucker.jpg

This story has to contain some of Christopher Eccleston’s best moments as the Doctor as he faces the last surviving Dalek of the Time War.  He is fantastic as the battle-scarred version of the Doctor and his reaction when he realises that he has been locked in a room with a Dalek, to his sudden switch when he realises that the Dalek is completely powerless, then to actually go against that famous maxim that the late great Terrance Dicks once wrote that the Doctor should never be cruel or cowardly by trying to kill the Dalek himself.  Eccleston really does sell this all so well, with this exchange and his discussion with the Dalek about the outcome of the Time War really standing out.  I feel that I also need to praise two other actors as making this such a great story: Nicholas Briggs and Corey Johnson.  Johnson is utterly believable as this all-powerful individual who doesn’t think twice about replacing Presidents and torturing aliens for not speaking to him, and shows this character as utterly contemptible, with the scene where the Doctor shows him the alien instrument telling the audience everything that we need to know.  And Nicholas Briggs gives a fantastic performance as the voice of the Dalek, whether it being simple screaming or talking normally (for a Dalek), with his voice bristling with menace.

Let me tell you something, Van Statten.  Mankind goes into space to explore, to be part of something greater.

Exactly! I wanted to touch the stars.

You just want to drag the stars down, stick them underground, under tons of sand and dirt, and label them.  You’re about as far from the stars as you can get.

The Ninth Doctor and Henry Van Statten

Rob Shearman’s story is, as is well known, a loose adaptation of his Big Finish story for the Sixth Doctor, Jubilee, but the two are largely very different beasts and can stand alone on their own merits.  There are shared elements, such as the lone Dalek being tortured and appealing to the companion, in this case, Rose, resulting in a bond being formed between the Dalek’s greatest enemy and his companion.  Shearman’s greatest achievement here is strongly establishing for a new audience who may not, as strange as this may sound, be aware of the Daleks and their nature.  With this coming in the first series of the revived series, Shearman keeps the continuity light, however, does enough to ensure that the uninitiated are in no doubt that the Doctor and the Daleks have shared history.  There is even a sly aside about the Daleks’ creator, Davros, which is handled superbly, saying more about the character of Van Statten than delving deep into the show’s continuity – there is absolutely no need for the story to name drop Davros and the story wisely doesn’t.

I hope that my love of this story has come through in the preceding paragraphs, as I briefly turn to address an element of this story and the following story that I really dislike – Adam.  Established as a boy genius – parallels, of course, to Adric – Langley never really convinces me of this, and the scenes with him and Rose seem to really dull the pace of an overall frenetic adventure.  Ultimately, the fact that Adam even ends up travelling with the Doctor into the next story just feels so lazy that it does bug me sufficiently to write it up here.  The character feels like a complete non-entity and I don’t see why the Doctor doesn’t put his foot down and say no.  After all, it will only lead to trouble…

Adam was saying that all his life, he’s wanted to see the stars.

Tell him to go and stand outside then.

Rose Tyler and the Ninth Doctor

Verdict:  Ahearne, Eccleston and Briggs make the return of the Doctor’s oldest enemy rank among the strongest of the revived series, as well as one of the best stories to feature the Daleks.  10/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Steven Beckingham (Polkowski), Corey Johnson (Henry van Statten), Anna-Louise Plowman (Goddard), Bruno Langley (Adam), Nigel Whitmey (Simmons), John Schwab (Bywater), Jana Carpenter (De Maggio), Joe Montana (Commander), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek Operator) & Nicholas Briggs (Dalek Voice).

Writer: Robert Shearman

Director: Joe Ahearne

Behind the Scenes

  • The story was adapted from the Big Finish story Jubilee, also written by Robert Shearman.  Whilst the two stories diverge, some plot elements appear in both.  The in-universe pizza company, Jubilee Pizzas, is named as a reference to this story, and pizza boxes from this chain appear in this story and in the background of Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures stories.
  • First appearance of the Daleks in the revived series and the only time in the Russell T Davies era that they would appear in a single-part story.
  • Shearman had to write an alternative version of the story in case the estate of Terry Nation would not allow the Daleks to be used.  The alternate story may have featured a robotic creature called “Future Human”, an idea which would become the Toclafane.
  • The first appearance of Bruno Langley as Adam.
  • The first story of the revived series not to feature any TARDIS interior scenes.

Best Moment

You may have been able to guess from the way I described it above, but the scene in the weapons testing zone – I love how in command of that scene the sole Dalek is.

Best Quote

I am a soldier. I was bred to receive orders.

Well you’re never gonna get them.  Not ever.

I demand orders!

They’re never going to come! Your race is dead.  You all burned – all of you.  Ten million ships on fire.  The entire Dalek race, wiped out in one second.

You lie!

I watched it happen.  I madeit happen.

You destroyed us?

I had no choice.

And what of the Time Lords?

Dead.  They burned with you.  The end of the last great Time War.  Everyone lost.

And the coward survived.

Dalek and the Ninth Doctor

Henry Van Statten - Dalek

The Aztecs

Aztecs - Doctor and Cameca.jpg
(c) BBC

You’re monsters! All of you, monsters!

Susan Foreman

Synopsis

The TARDIS arrives in 15th Century Mexico and the crew encounter the doomed Aztecs, who are a mixture of high culture and savagery.  Barbara is mistaken for one of the Aztecs’ Gods, complicating matters considerably.

Review

The Aztecs is the first time the show really addressed the issues regarding interference in historic events, and it does it really well, with Barbara being mistaken for the Aztec God Yetexa, along with her pre-existing interest in the Aztec people giving this story genuine stakes.  Unlike some 60s Who, these stakes, along with the fact that each member of the TARDIS team has a decent subplot for a change, makes this one of the more memorable entries in Hartnell’s era.

The story feels quite epic in some regards and all the more impressive that it manages to deal with each of them so effectively compared to other stories in this era of Doctor Who with longer runtimes.  The story uses the plot device of the two sacrifices to establish and tie-up the various subplots involved, with the main plot revolving around the consequences of Barbara having picked up the bracelet in the tomb and being mistaken for the God, Yetexa.  The subplots revolve around the Doctor trying to find a way of regaining access to the TARDIS, which materialised in the tomb, Ian being roped in to fight Ixta to become the leader of the Aztec army and Susan being taken away to be taught Aztec values.  With the exception of Susan’s subplot, these all interact loosely with each other through the various parts, for instance, when the Doctor gives Ixta advice on how to win his fight, not knowing that this will be against Ian, in return for supposed information on the design of the tomb.  Due to Carol Ann Ford’s holiday, her subplot does feel more detached from the main narrative, although there are some other characters other than the other members of the TARDIS team who appear at times and her subplot does get worked back in nicely towards the end of the story.

The Aztecs
(c) BBC

The story focuses on the idea of non-interference and it is really strange coming to this story as someone whose introduction to Doctor Who was the modern series, in which the Doctor, whilst not advocating interference in historical events, isn’t so rigid as the First Doctor is here.  The script gives Barbara a good enough reason to be so concerned about the plight of the Aztec people – it is one of her interests – to want to interfere, putting her at odds not only with the Doctor, but with Tlotoxl as well.  Ultimately, the story does feel quite Shakespearean, especially when viewed in the light of the performance of John Ringham as Tlotoxl, one of the Aztec High Priests, whose deformities are a homage to Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard III.  The character is also quite similar to the play’s hatchet job it does on the controversial monarch, quietly scheming and spitting poison into the ears of the other characters.  His opposite number, Autloc, represents civilisation and order, whilst Tlotoxl represents the more savage aspects of Aztec society, such as human sacrifice.

The performances are also really good here.  I’m not sure if it’s because she has less to do and is probably in the story the least, but Susan did not irritate me as much as usual in Hartnell stories, which is a distinct positive, however, the real revelation was the performance of William Hartnell.  This story allows us to see a softer side of this incarnation of the Doctor which up till now has been rarely seen in the scenes with Cameca.  The performances of Hartnell and Margo Van der Burgh are really lovely, and the Doctor genuinely looks smitten by Cameca and there does seem to be genuine sadness that he has to leave her behind, evidenced by the fact that he picks up her broach before leaving in the TARDIS.  Hartnell seems much more genial and pleasant that the version of the Doctor we have seen before, and watching this story has really made me warm to First Doctor.  He is also shown to be fallible, like when he is giving Ixta information on how to defeat Ian, not knowing the identity of the former’s opponent.  Again, William Russell gives a great performance as Ian, and I particularly enjoy his reaction when he learns that the Doctor is engaged to Cameca!  The main plaudits do really have to go to Jacqueline Hill who provides a majestic performance as Barbara here, as she really is the focus of the entire story and she carries it so well.

Where did you get hold of this?

My fiancé.

I see…your what?

Yes, I made some cocoa and I got engaged…

Ian Chesterton and First Doctor

Verdict: I really enjoyed The Aztecs as it is really rather different to anything I remember the show doing before.  A strong script really does help here as well.  8/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Carol Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Keith Pyott (Autloc), John Ringham (Tlotoxl), Ian Cullen (Ixta), Margot Van der Burgh (Cameca), Tom Booth (First Victim), David Anderson (Aztec Captain), Walter Randall (Tonila), Andre Boulay (Perfect Victim)

Writer: John Lucarotti

Director: John Crockett

Parts: 4 (The Temple of Evil, The Warriors of Death, The Bride of Sacrifice & The Day of Darkness)

Behind the Scenes

  • The first story to address altering the course of history and the first to have a romantic subplot involving the Doctor.
  • ‘The Warriors of Death’ was the first episode filmed at BBC Television Centre following persistent requests from Verity Lambert and her allies.  Ultimately, this would only be temporary, as by the end of production on the serial, they were back filming at Lime Grove.
  • The only story written by Lucarotti that exists in the BBC Archives in its entirety.
  • Jacqueline Hill named this as her favourite story.
  • Carol Ann Ford was on holiday for two weeks and only appears in pre-filmed inserts in episodes 2 and 3.

Best Moment

In the story’s final scene, the TARDIS crew hear Tloxtol and the rest of the Aztecs carry out their planned sacrifice, and Barbara and the Doctor’s conversation discusses how they actually didn’t really achieve anything and the emotional impact this has on Barbara.

Best Quote

Oh, don’t you see?  If I could start the destruction of everything that’s evil here, then everything that’s good will survive when Cortes lands.

But you can’t rewrite history! Not one line! Barbara, one last appeal: what you are trying to do is utterly impossible.  I know! Believe me, I know!

Barbara Wright and First Doctor

Aztecs - Autloc
(c) BBC

Minuet in Hell

minuet in hell

Leave me be! Don’t carry me off to Hell…I’m awfully trepidatious about Hell, you know.

Eighth Doctor

Synopsis

It is early in the 21st Century, and Malebolgia is enjoying its status as the 51st state of the United States.  The Brigadier has been invited over to provide advice after his role in securing the devolution of powers to Scotland.  There’s definitely more going on here than meets the eye, with a man in the mental institution talking about a TARDIS.

Review

Anyone who has read this blog, specifically my reviews of Jon Pertwee’s era, will know how much I love the Brigadier, and I desperately wanted this story to be good.  Therefore it really pains me to say that the only meeting of the Brigadier and the Eighth Doctor is a substandard entry.  None of the plot elements really grab me, and the story feels as though it does go on for so long and the American accents really don’t help either.  There are lots of elements that seem to be thrown at the listener, but hardly any of them really stick and it really does feel like a slog to get to the finish line.

The best part of this story are the performances of Nicholas Briggs, Paul McGann and Nicholas Courtney, who at least keep you vaguely engaged with the story.  Briggs brings a degree of sinisterness to Gideon Crane, a man who has got the memories of the Doctor in his head, a reference to the fact that Nick Briggs played the Doctor in the Audio Visuals.  Nicholas Courtney superbly brings his Brigadier back to life, and the scenes with him expressing his exasperation with his superiors back in Britain.  I particularly enjoy him wishing that the Secretary of State would find a demon in his jacuzzi! The Doctor being incapacitated for most of the story means that the Brigadier is essentially the male lead and Courtney is able to pull this off as well as you would expect.  McGann is also great, dealing with the confusion of the amnesiac Doctor perfectly and his recovery of his memories is nicely played as a gradual transition and not everything falling into place at once.  His interactions with Gideon Crane greatly help this.

The writing really lets this story down.  Minuet in Hell had a very troubled production, with Alan Lear suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome whilst writing this story and Gary Russell rewriting the second half of the story.  However, it is more symptomatic of problems with the early Eighth Doctor audios.  It feels as though Big Finish are uncertain about the direction they want to take this series in, and this story seems to be veering more towards making the story darker and more adult.  This is a story in which Charley essentially gets forced into being a prostitute and very briefly attends an orgy, combined with a Satanist cult.  Maybe it’s my Christian background but the Satanism aspect of this story certainly makes really and deeply uncomfortable.  There are also so many different plot strands here as well, like the PSI-859 and the Doctor’s amnesia, but none really grabbed me as wanting to know how the story will end.  Honestly, I just wanted to get through it relatively unscathed.  Additionally, and I’m aware that this may just be me being a massive Brigadier fan, but I hate the fact that the Doctor and the Brigadier spend so little time together with the Doctor’s memories restored.  It is a bold move in the Eighth Doctor’s fifth story in total and fourth since McGann came back to Big Finish for the Doctor to lose his memory.  Sadly, I think it is too early in his run for a story where the Doctor takes a complete backseat until the final part.

Sadly the majority of the other performances are largely poor, let down by poor accents.  I feel that I do need to let India Fisher off the hook though, as she does the best she can with some incredibly stilted dialogue.  The performances are chewing the scenery, to put it mildly and the stereotypical American accents are really painful to listen to, especially Waldo Pickering and Becky Lee.  Becky Lee, a member of the Order of St Matthew, who is essentially Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is so irritating that I think I might have to re-evaluate listening to nails being scraped down a blackboard, meanwhile Waldo Pickering sounds as though he might be trying to sell me southern fried chicken at any moment.  Marchiosias is also not at all intimidating, partially due to being given really sarcastic dialogue constantly, really undermining the sense of menace I suspect he was supposed to generate.

Verdict: Really, Minuet in Hell is a story that I would recommend skipping unless you’re a completist or love the Brigadier (like me).  Good performances from McGann, Courtney and Briggs can’t save this incredibly poor conclusion to the Eighth Doctor’s first series at Big Finish. 2/10

Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Robert Jezek (Brigham Elisha Dashwood III), Morgan Deare (Senator Waldo Pickering), Helen Goldwyn (Becky Lee Kowalczyck/Catatonic Woman), Maureen Oakeley (Dr. Dale Pargeter), Nicholas Briggs (Gideon Crane), Hylton Collins (Orderly), Barnaby Edwards (Scott/Catatonic Man), Alistair Lock (Guard), Jacqueline Rayner (Catatonic Woman) & Nicholas Pegg (Catatonic Man)

Writer: Alan W. Lear & Gary Russell

Director: Nicholas Briggs

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The story marks the first meeting of the Brigadier and the Eighth Doctor.
  • It is a remake of an Audio Visuals story of the same name.
  • The last story to use David Arnold’s original arrangement in Storm Warning.

Best Quote

Quite a man your friend, the Brigadier.  One of the best you said?

No, Charley.  THE best.

Charley Pollard and the Eighth Doctor

Remembrance of the Daleks

Remembrance Dalek

Do you remember the Zygon gambit with the Loch Ness Monster? Or the Yeti in the Underground?  Your species has an amazing capacity for self-deception.

The Seventh Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor and Ace are back in 1963, where the Daleks are on the hunt for some Time Lord technology that the Doctor left on Earth which would allow them to perfect their ability to time travel.

Review

Remembrance of the Daleks stands out as one of the best examples of late 1980s Doctor Who, and one of the best Dalek stories in the show’s history.  I think this really should have been the show’s 25th-anniversary special, rather than Silver Nemesis and in my head, it really is.  After all, it does go back to where the show started, albeit with an infamous mistake on that blue door to the scrapyard.  Remembrance wraps up a kind of informal 1980s trilogy and is symbolic of a kind of swagger reminiscent of moments in the Tom Baker era and is one of the stories that I would regard as almost being like a comfort blanket.

Dalek eye stalk Remembrance

Those who have read my Time and the Rani review will not be surprised to hear me compliment the work of the director, Andrew Morgan, who returns here with a much stronger story to back him up.  Morgan really makes the Daleks feel threatening again, right from their first action in the story, with the sole Dalek in the scrapyard.  The gleaming Daleks feel at their most powerful in a long time, especially the gleaming white and gold Imperial Daleks.  The direction really helps scenes like the cliffhanger at the end of episode one, with the Dalek flying up the stairs towards the trapped Doctor, which really stand out and make this story memorable.  There are other examples, like the scene in which Ace attacks a Dalek in the classroom and the final scenes of the Daleks battling each other in the streets of Shoreditch which are really nicely directed.  Even elements like the girl being used by the Daleks, which could and have not worked well in the past work well here, with the girl being really quite creepy.

Every great decision creates ripples, like a huge boulder dropped in a lake.  The ripples merge, rebound off the banks in unforeseeable ways.  The heavier the decision, the larger the waves, the more uncertain the consequences.

The Seventh Doctor

Ben Aaronovitch’s story is also top-notch.  His writing seems so effortlessly good that, despite this being his debut story, it feels like he is a veteran of writing for Doctor Who.  Maybe this is why the story seems to have recovered some of the feeling of unassailable swagger that it had in the early years of the John Nathan-Turner years.  It cannot be easy to write a story like this, bringing in the Doctor’s most famous adversaries and their creator, while weaving in nods to the show’s history but it is done so well here.  The story has the confidence to save the reveal of Davros until the very end, which is really the mark of a show that has a strong belief that it has a long and bright future, when in hindsight, we know that the reality was that the sharks were circling in the light of reducing viewing figures and increasingly waining faith in the show by the high ups at the BBC.  That isn’t the impression this story gives especially when, in the closing moments, we see Davros escaping, clearly to fight the Doctor once again.  A show resigned to its fate would likely give us a final end for either one of them, but this is something different.  It could be labelled as the show being in denial, but I can imagine that this story gave fans cause for optimism.  The story also seamlessly drops in contextual elements like racism and fascism and deals with these succinctly too.

Renegade Daleks

The whole cast give a fantastic account of them too, and it is doing her no disservice to say that Ace rules this episode.  From her scenes of beating up a Dalek with a baseball bat to her reaction when it is revealed that Mike is a traitor, Aldred pitches it perfectly and cements Ace as a fantastic companion.  McCoy gives his best performance to date as the Doctor, especially in the scene in the café and when Terry Molloy’s Davros finally unveils himself to the Doctor on the screen.  Meanwhile, the guest cast that we spend the most time with are likeable enough and it is clear to see why Big Finish would see the potential for a spin-off with these characters.

Verdict: I think it’s pretty clear I adore this story.  10/10

Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Simon Williams (Gilmour), Dursley McLinden (Mike), Pamela Salem (Rachel), Karen Gledhill (Allison), George Sewell (Ratcliffe), Michael Sheard (Headmaster), Harry Fowler (Harry), Jasmine Breaks (The Girl), Peter Hamilton Dyer (Embery), Hugh Spight, John Scott Martin, Tony Starr & Cy Town (Dalek Operators), Roy Skelton, John Leeson, Royce Mills & Brian Miller (Voices), Peter Halliday (Vicar), Joseph Marcell (John), William Thomas (Martin), Derek Keller (Kaufman), Terry Molloy (Davros) and Hugh Spight (Black Dalek Operator)

Writer: Ben Aaronovitch

Director: Andrew Morgan

Behind the Scenes

  • This is a story of several firsts.  It is the first time we see the skeleton effect used when someone is shot with Dalek weaponry, and famously the first time we see a Dalek fly up the stairs.  Daleks had previously been seen to fly in Revelation of the Daleks and levitate in The Chase.
  • This is the first story of the 25th anniversary series of Doctor Who, and the first to show the Seventh Doctor as more of a Machiavellian schemer, a trait which would remain until the end of his era.
  • There are hints of the Doctor’s secret past on Gallifrey which would continue to be delved into in the later seasons of the Classic era.
  • The final appearance of the Daleks and Davros in the original television series.  The Daleks would reappear in Dalek and Davros in The Stolen Earth in the revived television series.
  • The end of the serial shows the destruction of the Dalek’s home planet of Skaro.  However, Skaro would be seen in the TV Movie, Asylum of the DaleksThe Magician’s ApprenticeThe Witch’s Familiar and the adventure game City of the Daleks.  John Peel proposed a story called War of the Daleks, which saw Skaro saved from destruction, which was adapted into an Eighth Doctor Adventures novel, showing that Antalin was used as a decoy and accordingly, destroyed instead of Skaro.
  • Russell T Davies stated that he considered the destruction of Skaro, along with the events of Genesis of the Daleks to be the origins of the Time War.
  • The story marks the final appearances of Michael Sheard and Peter Halliday.
  • The Counter Measures group would be picked for a spin-off produced by Big Finish Productions.
  • William Thomas would go on to be the first actor to play a role in the original run and the revived run of Doctor Who, appearing in Boom Town.  He would then play Gwen’s father, Geraint, in Torchwood.

Best Moment

This is one of my favourite stories of the classic era, so there are too many to count.  I think it is probably a draw between the scene with Ace destroying the Dalek with her baseball bat and the cliffhanger at the end of part one.

Although I do enjoy the brief moment where the Doctor picks up the Hand of Omega in funeral directors and the ‘coffin’ levitates out after him.

Best Quote

The Daleks shall become Lords of Time.  We shall become all…

Powerful.  Crush the lesser races.  Conquer the galaxy.  Unimaginable power.  Unlimited rice pudding, et cetera, et cetera.

Davros and the Seventh Doctor

Remembrance of the Daleks Davros

The Two Doctors

The Two Doctors

What’s the use of a good quotation if you can’t change it?

The Sixth Doctor

Synopsis

The Sixth Doctor finds himself teaming up with his Second incarnation to ensure his own existence in the presence.

Review

There is a distinct advance in bringing an experienced Doctor Who veteran in to write a story like this one, and that is that he completely understands the character of the Doctor.  Robert Holmes, who worked on the programme regularly from the late 1960s, is one of the best writers to work on Doctor Who in the show’s history and his experience writing for various incarnations really serves him in good stead here.  That’s not to say this story is perfect, however, as there are other issues at play here.

Holmes’ characterisation, despite the story’s other flaws, is on point.  The version of the Sixth Doctor he presents here is a lot better than most of the other stories in Colin Baker’s first season.  Here, the arrogance and hard edges to this incarnation are still present but they are dealt with much better and he seems a lot more recognisable as being consistent with past incarnations with the Doctor.  Examples of this include his snarking with the homicidal computer onboard the space station and his unwillingness to drop the initial mystery despite Peri’s misgivings.  Combined with a spot-on interpretation of the Second Doctor, and this element really works well.  The idea of having the Doctor converted into a species that he seems to see absolutely no redeeming qualities in is a really interesting idea and something that has never really been explored before or since  The story does have a rather heavy-handed nature when it comes to the writer almost lecturing about the issues surrounding eating meat and this is down to Holmes’ vegetarianism, but they are hardly subtle.  One of the clearest examples of this is the character of Oscar who kills helpless animals for fun but cannot stand the sight of gore.  The story also suffers from the rewrites and Robert Holmes’ lack of interest in Seville as a location is evident – he famously wanted the story to be shot in New Orleans and had a lot of jokes thrown in about the differences between English and American English.  The story does also have a more general issue which is its attitude towards violence, which definitely seems to be down to Eric Saward, but is particularly problematic when it comes to the death of characters like Oscar.

Two Doctors - Dastrai, Jamie, Doctor

It’s also really nice to see Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines back in Doctor Who.  Both actors feel as though they have not been away, despite a gap of nearly twenty years since both played their parts regularly and using the first part of this story effectively reintroducing them works really well.  I really like the reaction shot when the Second Doctor realises that he’s picked up a cucumber rather than a knife in his initial meeting with Shockeye.  This story does also add significant credence to the idea of Season 6B, which is a fan idea to explain some plot holes, such as Jamie and the Doctor openly talking about the Time Lords and the ageing of both actors.  The two returning actors also seem to enjoy great chemistry with both Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant which makes this story more enjoyable, but it is a shame that we don’t get to see these two Doctors spend more time together.  The scenes with both Doctors together really fizzle and it seems clear that both men had great rapport and respect for the other.

Two Doctors Sontaran

Sadly, the story really drags.  The story spends a lot of time with the Sixth Doctor investigating what has happened to his previous incarnation and I really think Peter Moffatt’s direction makes the story feel very flat and lifeless in places.  The classic example of this is the reveal shot of the Sontarans, which seems bizarrely framed.  The Sontarans themselves were included at the instance on John Nathan-Turner, and it is clear that Holmes did not want them there as he seems extremely disinterested in them.  Speaking of the Sontarans, their costumes really let this story down, especially the loose neck collars which make them look less believable.  Chessene’s plot changes halfway through the story, from being obsessed with taking the Doctor’s symbiotic nuclei to unlock the secrets of time travel, to seemingly converting the Doctor into an Androgum for no good reason.

Verdict: The last multi-Doctor story of the Classic era is largely flawed but great fun in some places.  It is probably the story that seems to understand what the production team were going for with the Sixth Doctor, and it is great fun to see Troughton and Hines back.  6/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), John Stratton (Shockeye), Jacqueline Pearce (Chessene), Laurence Payne (Dastari), Aimee Delamain (Dona Arana), James Saxon (Oscar), Carmen Gomez (Anita), Tim Raynham (Varl), Nicholas Fawcett (Technician) & Clinton Greyn (Stike)

Writer: Robert Holmes

Director: Peter Moffatt

Behind the Scenes

  • First appearance of the Sontarans since The Invasion of Time and their last appearance in the Classic series.
  • The first multi-Doctor story not marking an anniversary for the show.
  • Final story directed by Peter Moffatt and the first Sixth Doctor script written by Robert Holmes.
  • Last appearance of Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines.  Troughton was quick to agree to return, having enjoyed returning for The Five Doctors a couple of years previously.  He sadly passed away in 1987.
  • The story was originally set in New Orleans, where the plot involving the Androgums and food tied into the culinary tradition of the city.  However, funding was pulled, and the story was rewritten to be set in Venice, and then in Seville.
  • Jacqueline Pearce was a last-minute replacement for another actress and would go on to play Cardinal Ollistra in the War Doctor and the Eighth Doctor Time War series.
  • The TARDIS console used for the Second Doctor’s TARDIS was the prop used in the first two series of the Davison era as the budget could not accommodate the cost of the rebuilding of the original 1960s console.
  • The first three-part serial since The Planet of Giants and the last to date.

Best Moment

I really like the opening of the first part, where the scene changes slowly from black and white to colour.

Best Quote

Do try and keep out of my way in future and past, there’s a good fellow.  The time continuum should be big enough for both of us.  Just.

The Second Doctor