The Time of Angels

Doctor Time of Angels

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

The Eleventh Doctor

Synopsis

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

Review

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

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

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

Weeping Angels

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

Are you all Mr Grumpy Face today?

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

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

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

Amy Pond and the Eleventh Doctor

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

River Doctor Amy.jpg

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

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

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Adam Smith

Behind the Scenes

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

Best Moment

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

Best Quote

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

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

And what would that be, sir?

Me.

Angel Bob and the Eleventh Doctor

Inferno

Brigade Leader

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

Third Doctor

Synopsis

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

Review

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

Primord

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

Dr Williams Elizabeth Shaw

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

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

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

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and the Third Doctor

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

Doctor Brigade Leader Stahlman Liz

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

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

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

Writer: Don Houghton

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

Parts: 7

Behind the Scenes

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

Best Moment

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

Best Quote

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

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

Third Doctor and Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart

Inferno The Doctor and Liz

School Reunion

Doctor Sarah K-9

You can spend the rest of your life with me, but I can’t spend the rest of mine with you.  I have to live on.  That’s the curse of the Time Lords.

The Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Rose and Mickey investigate strange events occurring in Deffry Vale High School, where some children have impossible knowledge.  Whilst the Doctor is undercover as a teacher, he bumps into a former companion, Sarah Jane Smith, who is also investigating incredible results.

Review

School Reunion is quite a major milestone for the revived series, as it finally explicitly confirms its connection to the original series.  This is something that had been previously alluded to in the first series, however, it demonstrates confidence here in the second series that the new followers of the show will accept a previous companion returning to the show.  Bringing back Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane seems like a bit of a no-brainer really, as the character is one of the most easily recognisable companions from the ‘Classic’ era of the show, having served as a companion to both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.

Hello.

Oh, I should think so!

And you are?

Hm? Ah, Smith.  John Smith.

John Smith.  I used to have sometimes went by that name.

Well, it’s a very common name.

He was a very uncommon man.  Nice to meet you.

Nice to meet you.  Yes, very nice.  More than nice.  Brilliant.

Sarah Jane Smith and The Tenth Doctor

School Reunion sees David Tennant at potentially his best if watching chronologically through his era.  The moment where the Doctor, under the guise of John Smith, spots Sarah Jane for the first time is so well played and Tennant’s enthusiasm at acting alongside Sladen is clear here, equalled only by his reaction when K-9 is unveiled in the back of Sarah’s car.  Tennant and Sladen have some great and easy chemistry which really helps with the idea that this is the same man who travelled with her through time and space.  Sarah does harbour a considerable amount of resentment for how her time with the Doctor ended, with her being left in Aberdeen rather than Croydon.  Equally, there is tension between Rose and Sarah Jane, which I feel is one of the stronger parts of the episode.  This story really brings it home to Rose that there have been other people to travel with the Doctor and almost bursts the smugness that seems to be prevalent in the second series.  The moment where they argue and compare experiences, ultimately realising how silly they are being and mocking the Doctor’s eccentricities is really lovely.  It almost promises an improvement in Rose’s attitude, but it does feel a bit like an immediate step backwards at the conclusion, where Mickey wants to travel with the Doctor.  Noel Clarke continues his upwards trend and Mickey is much more likeable and much more useful as a companion now than he would have been during the first series.  His realisation that he is the equivalent of K-9 is fantastically well played.

Doctor Headmaster

The Krillitane are a good villain for this story and the set up of them taking the place of teachers at the school works really well.  I particularly like the callback when Rose talks about how she thought teachers used to sleep at school, only to find that the Krillitane are asleep in the Headmaster’s office.  Anthony Head is another strong element of this episode, as there is something otherworldly about his appearance, with his slicked-back hair and the way he carries himself which makes it utterly believable that he could, in fact, be an alien disguised as a human.  The Krillitanes’ scheme is also quite effective and gives the Doctor, Rose and Sarah Jane pause for thought, offering the Doctor the opportunity to change the outcome of the Time War, and both Sarah and Rose the opportunity to travel with the Doctor forever.  It does seem as though this opportunity might tempt the Doctor enough here, only for Sarah’s speech to Finch to snap him out of it, and it is nice to see the Doctor potentially swayed by an enemy’s plan for once.

sarah jane and the doctor

School Reunion is perhaps unique in demonstrating the impact travelling with the Doctor has on his companions’ lives and their struggles in adapting to life after the Doctor.  It doesn’t even seem to have occurred to Rose that there is any potential event that might mean that the Doctor would leave her behind, despite Jack having been left behind only a few episodes earlier.  In bringing back Sarah Jane, we see a companion who has had time to deal with being left by the Doctor, however, there is still some uncertainty and lingering doubts as to whether it is due to something that she did wrong which meant that the Doctor did not return for her.  It’s a really superb depiction of what losing that way of life means for people and it’s nice to see Doctor Who actually address that.  The scene at the end of the episode where Sarah finally gets a proper goodbye from the Doctor is really touching.

Did I do something wrong?  ‘Cause you never came back for me.  You just dumped me.

I told you.  I was called back home and in those days, humans weren’t allowed.

I waited for you. I missed you.

Oh, you didn’t need me.  You were getting on with your life.

You were my life.

Sarah Jane Smith and Tenth Doctor

Verdict: A really good episode that sees a past companion return.  The central performances are all really good, and it has a good one off villain.  9/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Anthony Head (Mr. Finch), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Rod Arthur (Mr Parsons), Eugene Washington (Mr Wagner), Heather Cameron (Nina), Joe Pickley (Kenny), Benjamin Smith (Luke), Clem Tibber (Milo), Lucinda Dryzek (Melissa), Caroline Berry (Dinner Lady), John Leeson (Voice of K-9)

Writer: Toby Whithouse

Director: James Hawes

Behind the Scenes

  • With the reappearance of Sarah Jane and K-9, the rebooted show confirms explicitly that it is a continuation of the original series.  This story also acted as a backdoor pilot for The Sarah Jane Adventures, which would be launched in January 2007.  This is the first appearance for both Sarah and K-9 since 1983’s The Five Doctors.
  • The Doctor states that he has regenerated “half a dozen times” since he and Sarah last met.  At the time of broadcast, this referred back to The Hand of Fear, Sarah’s last story as a companion, not taking into account The Five Doctors.  However, after the reveal of the War Doctor, a secret incarnation of the Doctor, this line still works, and takes it back to Sarah meeting the Fifth Doctor.

Best Moment

The confrontation between the Doctor and Mr. Finch in the swimming pool is a highlight, as is the meeting between Sarah and the Doctor once she’s seen the TARDIS.

Best Quote

Their lives are so fleeting.  So many goodbyes.  How lonely you must be, Doctor.  Join us.

I could save everyone.

Yes.

I could stop the war.

No.  The universe has to move forward.  Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love.  Whether it’s a world or a relationship, everything has its time.  And everything ends.

Mr Finch, The Tenth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith

Mr Finch

Honourable mention for:

You bad dog.

Affirmative.

Mr Finch and K-9

 

The Moonbase

moonbase cybermen

Everything’s got a weak point.  It’s just a question of waiting until it turns up, that’s all.

Second Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS lands on the Moon in 2070, where the crew are becoming infected with a strange alien virus.  With Jamie unconscious, the Doctor, Ben and Polly become aware of a mysterious silver menace.

Review

The Moonbase is perhaps notable for being the first episode to launch the “base under siege” style of Doctor Who stories, as well as cementing the Cybermen as a true A list Doctor Who villain.  Whilst the story is not perfect, it does a lot of things well, but there is some incredibly shaky scientific basis, surprising as the writer, Kit Pedler, was a scientist.  I think this story gives us Troughton’s first definitive performance as the Doctor, encapsulated by his delivery of the famous “corners” speech.

One of this story’s real strengths is that it definitely shores up the feeling of the Troughton era.  Troughton seems to have learnt where his strengths are and what sort of person the Second Doctor is.  Aside from the obvious moment, he really nails it when he realises how the Neurotrope virus is affecting the crew via the sugar, as well as the look of abject horror on his face when he realises that the crew didn’t search the medical bay.  Troughton’s face is so expressive, and he really uses it to sell the sense of impending dread.  Whilst it’s a shame that Jamie is unconscious or feverish for much of the story, the story does demonstrate the dynamics within the TARDIS team.  Both Jamie and Ben seem to have a bit of hostility towards each other, whilst it is nice that the story allows Polly to come up with a solution to defeating the Cybermen.  It’s also nice to see Ben and Polly discussing their past encounter with the Cybermen, which helps to turn the tide here, as well as bringing Jamie up to speed on their threat.

Polly Doctor Ben

Another of the strengths of the story if how it deals with the Cybermen.  By us only seeing them fleeting in the first two episodes, it effectively allows tension to be built until they are finally seen by the majority of the crew at the end of the second part.  It also allows for Hobson’s distrust of the Doctor and his companions to feel legitimate and it is a good performance by Patrick Barr.  I initially found the new voice of the Cybermen jarring and a bit irritating, but as I got used to it, actually found it more menacing and sinister than the sing-song version we get in The Tenth Planet. The use of music here also helps give the Cybermen a feeling of real dread and I particularly love the shots of the Cybermen moving across the lunar surface.

The Moonbase is definitely an episode that I’d recommend watching when looking at the development of the Second Doctor’s era as a whole, as well as seeing how the Cybermen became a classic villain.  That is not to say that it is not without flaws.  Some of the direction seems quite flat, especially whilst on the titular Moonbase, although some of the shots on the lunar surface are spectacular.  The story in places does stretch credibility, especially when the Cyber-controlled Dr. Evans is able to gain access to the controls of the Gravitron despite the base supposedly being on red alert and the fact that he is covered in black lines and wearing a Cyber control helmet.  Additionally, the conclusion to the episode feels a bit too silly for a story that by and large is a serious story that packs a lot of a threat. The Cybermen’s plan to destroy the surface of the Earth by using the Gravitron also feels pretty ridiculous and convulted plan.  None of these issues massively affected my enjoyment of the story, though I do feel as though they need to be mentioned.

Verdict: A fun, if flawed, introduction to the base under siege style of stories.  The Cybermen really have a decent second outing. 7/10

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Patrick Barr (Hobson), Andre Maranne (Benoit), Michael Wolf (Nils), John Rolfe (Sam), Alan Rowe (Voice from Space Control), Mark Heath (Ralph), Alan Rowe (Dr. Evans), Barry Ashton, Derek Calder, Arnold Chazen, Leon Maybank, Victor Pemberton, Edward Phillips, Ron Pinnell, Robin Scott, Allan Wells (Scientists), Denis McCarthy (Voice of Controller Rinberg), John Wills, Sonnie Willis, Peter Greene, Keith Goodman, Reg Whitehead (Cybermen), Peter Hawkins (Voice of Cybermen)

Writer: Kit Pedler

Director: Morris Barry

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The Moonbase was commissioned very quickly after the broadcast of The Tenth Planet, due to uncertainty about the availability of the Daleks for future appearances and the success of the Cybermen.  Dalek creator Terry Nation was looking at opportunities to launch the infamous villains in televisions and movies in the United States.  The Cybermen would go on to reappear several times in Troughton’s run as the Doctor.
  • The first story to feature the Earth’s Moon, and the first redesign of the Cybermen.  It also marks the final usage of the original title sequence until 2013’s Day of the Doctor.
  • Episode 1 and 3 are missing, but have been animated in the BBC’s DVD release.
  • According to a story told by Anneke Wills, Patrick Troughton was nearly crushed when the Gravitron prop fell from the rigging whilst he was exploring the set.
  • Victor Pemberton, who plays an unnamed scientist, served as the show’s largely uncredited script editor from The Evil of the Daleks until The Ice Warriors, and wrote Fury From The Deep.  This makes him both one of the five people to write and act in the show and the only person to appear in a story before a story of his was broadcast.

Best Moment

I really love the moment where the Cyberman is found in the stock room.  It’s really effective and quite scary, and the story really uses shadows effectively.

Best Quote

There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things.  Things which act against everything we believe in.  They must be fought.

Second Doctor

Moonbase crew

Aliens of London

slitheen spaceship

Every conversation with you just goes mental.  There’s no one else I can talk to. I’ve seen all that stuff up there.  The size of it.  And I can’t say a word.  Aliens and spaceships and things.  And I’m the only person on Earth who knows they exist.

Rose Tyler

Synopsis

Rose returns to Earth, only to find that the TARDIS has returned them a year after she originally left with the Doctor.  At the same time, a spaceship crash lands in the Thames, smashing through Big Ben in the process, and there are mysterious happenings at Number 10 Downing Street.  The Doctor is required.

Review

Aliens of London is the first time that the revived series really feels like it stumbles.  It may just be one of my least favourite episodes of Doctor Who that I have seen so far.  There is absolutely no subtlety here, with the story seeming like it’s been directed as an out and out comedy.  With the exception of Eccleston, Piper and Wilton, all the cast seem to be playing it for laughs.  Doctor Who doesn’t need to take itself too seriously, and a good fart joke isn’t in itself a massive problem, but the story doesn’t seem to know when to stop.  There are other elements of the episode that don’t work so well as well, but I’ll delve into them in more depth in this review.

Slitheen

The Slitheen are really the elephant in the room so I will address them first.   I don’t mind the idea of shapeshifting aliens, but the added element of the flatulence is a joke that wears thin far too quickly, and it isn’t aided by the performances of the three main actors portraying the human forms of the Slitheen.  Lines like “I’m shaking my booty” and “would you rather silent but deadly?” just make me cringe, which is partially down to the writing and partially down to their delivery, but combined, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Part of me wonders why they didn’t think of bringing back the Zygons if they were going to use shape-shifting aliens – the production team obviously weren’t afraid to bring back ‘B list’ aliens, as they brought back the Autons in Rose.  I think if the direction and the actors treated the Slitheen slightly more seriously, they would be slightly less jarring to me – everything in the first series has been at least treated as a serious threat, but the treatment of the Slitheen makes them feel decidedly lightweight.  It is fine that they treat their plans on Earth as a bit of fun and a joke, but the fact that the episode itself does too seriously undermines them.

Another issue I have with this story is the fallout from Rose’s missing year, although I have to say I love the reveal at the start of the episode, more specifically the way Murray Gold’s score starts off bright and optimistic and slides into a minor key which puts the viewer on edge.  Jackie is pretty one-dimensional in her reaction to the reappearance of Rose, and thinking long term, this doesn’t really have very much impact on the relationship between Jackie and the Doctor going forward to the end of the Tyler’s time on the show.  In a way, Martha’s mother, Francine, has a much more understandable reaction after learning about the Doctor in The Lazarus Experiment than Jackie does here.  She is just angry and shouting constantly, which is understandable, but there are no hints of sorrow in this performance.  Coduri is just shrill, which just sets my teeth on edge, but I don’t think it is entirely her fault.  Again, there is no nuance to either the writing or the directing and her character suffers as a result.   The treatment of Mickey is also a bit ridiculous.  We’re led to believe that Mickey has been questioned about Rose’s disappearance and treated as if he murdered her for almost an entire year.  The story only briefly delves into the effect that this would have on a person, and Rose just asks him if he’s been seeing anyone else whilst she’s been gone.  If Mickey is going to be treated as the comedic “idiot”, which the story wants to do here too, judging by the scene in which he runs to the TARDIS whilst it is dematerialising and crashes into the wall behind it, then there’s little point in adding this detail to his character.  It goes without saying, but Mickey being suspected for Rose’s murder and Jackie’s treatment of him during this year is never explicitly mentioned again after this two-parter.

Excuse me.  Harriet Jones.  MP for Flydale North.

I’m sorry, can’t it wait?

But I did have an appointment at 3:15.

Yes.  And then a spaceship crashed in the middle of London.  I think the schedule might have changed.

Harriet Jones and Indra Ganesh

Fortunately, some of the cast are treating it as serious drama.  Eccleston, Piper and Wilton give decent performances whilst the story crashes around their ears.  Penelope Wilton gives Harriet Jones suitable gravitas and she is likeable enough, even when asked to repeatedly churn out that “Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North” line which is initially amusing but wears thin quickly.  This is yet more evidence of Davies not knowing when to stop flogging a dead horse.  It is also really lovely to see Eccleston getting to investigate and discover on his own in this story, which is something we don’t really get to see him to do much of.  I love the Doctor’s equal disdain for the aliens who created the “mermaid” space pig and the soldier who shoots it dead, which for me is the strongest part of the episode.  I am going to put in an honourable mention for the scene where the pig is trying to break out of the morgue, which pays a rather obvious homage to Paul McGann’s regeneration scene in the TV Movie, which I only really noticed on this occasion! Billie Piper also helps to keep the story grounded, and these three performances perhaps save this story from me giving it a lower rating.

Verdict: Aliens of London might just be one of the weakest episode of the revived series.  Repeated jokes and extremely broad performances make this one to forget about as quickly as possible – the rest of the series does, anyway!  2/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Corey Doabe (Spray Painter), Ceris Jones (Policeman), Jack Tarlton (Reporter), Lachele Carl (Trinity Wells), Andrew Marr (Himself), Matt Baker (Himself), Fiesta Mei Ling (Ru), Basil Chung (Bau), Rupert Vansittart (General Asquith), David Verrey (Joseph Green), Navin Chowdry (Indra Ganesh), Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones), Annette Badland (Margaret Blaine), Naoko Mori (Doctor Sato), Eric Potts (Oliver Charles), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Jimmy Vee (Pig), Steve Speirs (Strickland), Elizabeth Frost, Paul Kasey and Alan Ruscoe (Slitheen)

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Keith Boak

Doctor Rose Downing Street

Behind the Scenes

  • First two-parter of the revived series and the 700th episode of Doctor Who.
  • The final Doctor Who story to have any footage shot at Television Centre.
  • This story introduced some recurring characters and aliens for this era of Doctor Who.  The Slitheen would go on to reappear in Boom Town and The Sarah Jane Adventures, whilst it would also introduce Harriet Jones, who had several appearances later in the Tennant era.  It also introduced Toshiko Sato, who would be a member of the Torchwood 3 team in the first two series of the spin-off, Torchwood.  Finally, it marks the first appearance of newsreader Trinity Wells.
  • This story features U.N.I.T. for the first time since Battlefield.  Notably, this is the last time they are referred to as the United Nations Intelligence Task Force.
  • The story moved the narrative of the programme to a year ahead of the broadcast version, something which would continue until Planet of the Dead in 2009.
  • The next time trailer being shown immediately after the cliffhanger was criticised, and following this story, the trailer for multi-part stories would only be shown after the closing credits concluded.

Best Moment

The scenes where the Doctor is off investigating at the hospital, especially when he expresses his disgust at what the space pig is, comparing it to a “mermaid” and his anger at the U.N.I.T. soldier for shooting it dead.

Best Quote

Excuse me, would you mind not farting while I’m saving the world?

Ninth Doctor

Doctor Aliens of London