The Doctor Dances

The world doesn’t end because the Doctor dances.

Rose Tyler

Synopsis

The Doctor, Rose and intergalactic con-man Jack Harkness are trapped in an abandoned hospital by an army of those infected by the Child’s plague. Will they get to the site of Jack’s supposed space junk and discover ground zero for the plague?

Review

The Doctor Dances ultimately sticks the landing and maintains the feeling of fear, whilst successfully bringing Moffat’s debut story for televised Doctor Who to a great conclusion. This, along with Dalek and the finale, really stand out as examples of the best stories of the first series of the revival and obviously were important in securing a future for the show.

Go to your room! Go to your room! I mean it, I’m very very angry with you. I’m very very cross. Go to your room!

I’m really glad that worked. Those would have been terrible last words.

The Ninth Doctor

From a writing standpoint, the story really works well even if it does have a ‘love saves the day’ conclusion, which I feel works here. Even the resolution to the cliffhanger works, which nine times out of ten it probably wouldn’t. The script is full of good and quotable lines, some of which are quite funny, without detracting from the feeling of threat and menace that the Child has built up over the the preceding episode. There are moments in this episode where the writing and direction combine to create unsettling and nerving moments, such as the scene in the Child’s room, where the reveal that the tape that the Doctor, Jack and Rose have been listening to has run out and the Child is actually in the room works really well. This is a great example of the Doctor’s pride coming back to hurt him – he is proud that his ‘go to your room’ gambit worked, without realising the consequences of this until it is too late. Equally, moments like the transformation of the Zombies remains unsettling, especially in the scene where Nancy is handcuffed at the crash site to a soldier who has been infected. There are other moments where the Child isn’t on screen but still feels present, like when the Doctor and Rose are trapped in the Albion Hospital with his voice carrying over the speaker, or the typewriter scene. The direction is pretty solid, and I particularly enjoyed the pullback into the TARDIS from Jack’s ship at the end of the story.

The London Blitz is great for self-cleaners. Pompeii’s nice if you want to make a vacation of it though. But you gotta set your alarm for Volcano Day.

Captain Jack Harkness

Equally, the resolution surrounding the origins of the Child and the Nanogenes feels organic. The Nanogenes seem to be introduced innocuously enough in the first part, but when it is revealed that they have caused the mutation of Jamie into the Child it seems logical. It is set up quite well and makes sense within the confines of the story as to why they are converting the other humans. Jack’s con seems almost too good to be true until it is revealed that the Chula vessel is a hospital ship containing the healing sub-atomic robots, whilst the Doctor realising how he can use them to fix the problem that they have created is quite a nice way of tying the story up.

This story can be seen to be the start of a change in the Doctor-companion relationship. In the original run, while companions like Susan and Leela left the TARDIS to get married, there was little to no hint of sexual tension between the Doctor and his companions, whilst in the TV Movie, the Eighth Doctor kissed Grace Holloway, a controversial moment at the time. Here, with the metaphor of dancing, the Doctor is made to feel romantically accessible for the first time. Whilst I am not a fan of the execution of this going forward, especially when it comes to the Tenth Doctor and Rose, I can see why the production team wanted to do something like this, to reflect changes in television in the intervening sixteen years. Ultimately, the resolution of this story addresses taboos about sex, single parenthood and teenage pregnancy in the 1940s, and the story also does talk about how sexuality has changed over time, with Jack being an example of how it has evolved between the 21st and 51st Centuries, whilst Nancy uses prejudices at that time to blackmail Mr Lloyd.

The cast do a great job here. Eccleston plays the Ninth Doctor perfectly, and even though he looks awkward when he has to dance, it feels in character for the Doctor. Whereas David Tennant feels as though he is comfortable in romantic situations, Eccleston is much more like Matt Smith, feeling as though he is uncomfortable with them. Equally, the Doctor’s relationship with Jack is good, and unlike Adam, once Jack realises that he is culpable for the problem he takes steps to resolve it. Billie Piper is good as Rose here, and keeps a cool head to get her, the Doctor and Jack out of some tight corners in the Albion Hospital. Nancy continues to demonstrate that, if circumstances were different, she would be a perfect companion, with her resourcefulness evident when she gets the tools necessary to break into the crash site.

Verdict: The Doctor Dances wraps up a great story, full of horror elements combined with some great moments of humour. 10/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Albert Valentine (The Child), Florence Hoath (Nancy), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Luke Perry (Timothy Lloyd), Damian Samuels (Mr Lloyd), Cheryl Fergison (Mrs Lloyd), Joseph Tremain (Jim), Jordan Murphy (Ernie), Robert Hands (Algy), Martin Hodgson (Jenkins), Richard Wilson (Dr. Constantine), Vilma Hollingberry (Mrs Harcourt), Noah Johnson (Voice of the Empty Child) & Dian Perry (Computer Voice).

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: James Hawes

Behind the Scenes

  • The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances won Steven Moffat his first Hugo Award working on the show. By the end of his run, he would have won four Hugo Awards and been nominated a further nine times.
  • The first single-story episode since Doctor Who and the Silurians where the titular character’s name appears in the title. This happened infrequently for episode names in the Hartnell era (eg: The Death of Doctor Who (The Chase) and A Holiday for the Doctor (The Gunfighters). Since this episode, it has featured frequently with the next occasion being The Doctor’s Daughter.
  • Dancing is used as an innuendo for sex here, a motif that Moffat would reuse in The Girl in the Fireplace.
  • This story was originally going to be followed by an episode written by Paul Abbott in which Jack would learn that the Doctor has been manipulating Rose’s life to create the perfect companion. This would have shown the circumstances behind Rose receiving the red bicycle for Christmas, however, Abbott proved to be unavailable to write this story.
  • The second cliffhanger to be resolved in the pre-credits sequence. The first was in World War Three. This practice largely fell out of favour, with the pre-credits sequence generally being a recap of the first part.
  • Early drafts featured Jamie’s father, who would appear to silently and anonymously assist Nancy and the orphans. His identity would have been revealed in the climatic moments of the story, revealing that he was German, giving an alternative reason for Nancy to be ashamed.

Best Moment

I really enjoy the “Everybody Lives Moment” – a moment of pure joy for the battle-damaged Ninth Doctor.

Best Quote

Who has a sonic screwdriver?

I do!

Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks “Ooh, this could be a bit more sonic”?

What, you’ve never been bored? Never had a long night? Never had a lot of cabinets to put up?

Jack Harkness and the Ninth Doctor

Previous Ninth Doctor review: The Empty Child

The Empty Child

Are you my Mummy?

The Child

Synopsis

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

Preamble

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

Review

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

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

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

I suppose you’d know.

I do actually, yes.

The Ninth Doctor and Nancy

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

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

The Ninth Doctor

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

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

Amazing.

What is?

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

The Ninth Doctor and Nancy

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

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

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

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

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: James Hawes

Behind the Scenes

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

Best Moment

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

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

Your mummy isn’t here.

Are you my mummy?

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

The Child and the Ninth Doctor

Best Quote

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

Yeah. I know the feeling.

Doctor Constantine and the Ninth Doctor

Previous Ninth Doctor Review: Father’s Day

Father’s Day

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

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

Rose Tyler and the Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler

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

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

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

Writer: Paul Cornell

Director: Joe Ahearne

Behind the Scenes

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

Best Moment

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

Best Quote

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

The Ninth Doctor (to Baby Rose Tyler)

Previous Ninth Doctor Review: The Long Game

The Long Game

The Long Game Spike

The thing is, Adam, time travel’s like visiting Paris.  You can’t just read the guide book, you’ve got to throw yourself in.  Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up snogging complete strangers.  Or is that just me?

The Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS materialises on board Satellite 5, which broadcasts across the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, however, the Empire’s attitude and technology appear backwards and those promoted to Floor 500 are never seen again.

Review

When I rewatched this episode to write this review, I was quite surprised at how my attitude towards it had changed. Previously I would have considered it one of the stronger episodes of the first series of the revival, however, having thought about it greater depth, I do have some problems with it.

One of the weaknesses of the story is Adam, as played by Bruno Langley.  The story sets out with the ultimate aim of proving that not everyone is a suitable companion to the Doctor, which is achieved by showing Adam’s abuse of the technology onboard Satellite Five to attempt to turn a profit.  Largely I feel that this element of the plot doesn’t work so well because we haven’t really spent enough time with Adam to feel as though his departure from the TARDIS is a great loss and he hasn’t really received any characterisation.  In one draft of the script, Adam’s motivation for sending the future information to the past was in order to develop a cure for his father’s arthritis, an element that would have at least added something to his character, although it would seem incredibly callous of the Doctor to kick him off the TARDIS if this had been his motivation all along.  The truth of the matter is that the Doctor didn’t want Adam along in the first place and it almost feels like he wants an excuse to get rid of him; Rose invited him to join them at the end of Dalek, but neither she nor the Doctor spend very much time with him on Satellite Five.  He rejoins the main narrative late on, but the story at times does feel like separate narratives.  I will admit that I don’t like Adam, but it does feel like he has incredibly raw deal by the end of it, especially considering what happens in the following adventure, Father’s Day.  It certainly does feel as though the Doctor and Rose are all too happy to leave Adam to his own devices during the story, only caring when it could have caused them problems and it is almost as if they have forgotten who he worked for in the previous story.  The scenes with Adam wandering off on his own feel really disjointed, uneven and at times, sadly quite dull.

It certainly does feel as though there is a lot going on in this story, and I’m not convinced that all of it works.  It feels as though Davies has tried to cram his original script premise pitched to Andrew Cartmel in the late Eighties into a 45-minute program, and not all of it entirely works.  We have things like the head chips, which aren’t really dwelt on, and as a huge fan of Black Books, it is a shame not to see more of Tamsin Greig in this story.  This certainly does feel like a Seventh Doctor story, with the Doctor motivating someone to rise up and destroy the current system, with this narrative making it Cathica, angry and resentful at the fact that she has not been promoted before, even though she knows what happens on Floor 500 who saves the Doctor and Rose.  There is certainly an underlying attack on the media here, with the Jagrafess and the Editor controlling the narrative to set the human race back 90 years, which is a thinly veiled attack on media moguls like Rupert Murdoch and the late Robert Maxwell and there is the capitalist nature of the humans on Satellite 5, who want nothing more than to be promoted to Floor 500, where rumours have it, the walls are made of gold.  Ultimately, it feels as though there’s too much going on, and the storylines are not all gold – it feels as though a couple could have been cut to make a better story.

The Editor

The strongest parts of this story is the Editor, played by Simon Pegg.  A middle man involved in the running of Satellite 5 on behalf of the Jagrafess.  Pegg adds quite a lot of menace to the story which is somewhat undermined when we get to see the Jagrafess itself.  However, Pegg almost feels like a dark echo of the Doctor, with the clearest parallel being his enthusiasm at not knowing something when he finds no record of the Doctor and Rose.  The Editor is described as being a human banker, at a time where being human is difficult to make a profit from and his banking background also seems like socialist attack on that profession.  Pegg stalks around his frozen wasteland, perfectly content and channeling a feeling of real menace and evil.  The story never gives us a convincing reason as to why the Jagrafess and the Editor are doing this to the human race (although we do learn why in the finale), however, given the speed at which the Editor is willing to change his plans after learning that the Doctor is a Time Lord and has a time machine, it is a suggestion that he isn’t too wedded to Satellite Five.

Verdict: The Long Game has too much going on in its narrative and feels unnecessary in its treatment of Adam to prove how worthy Rose is.  Simon Pegg does his best but this story is quite forgettable. 5/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Bruno Langley (Adam), Colin Prockter (Head Chef), Christine Adams (Cathica), Anna Maxwell-Martin (Suki), Simon Pegg (The Editor), Tamsin Greig (Nurse) & Judy Holt (Adam’s Mum).

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Brian Grant

Behind the Scenes

  • Adam becomes the first companion to be removed from the TARDIS due to bad behaviour.
  • The story is based on an idea submitted to the Doctor Who production team by Russell T Davies in the 1980s.
  • Simon Pegg previously appeared in Invaders from Mars.
  • This story would demonstrate to the new production team the utility of a process known as ‘double banking’, which would lead to ‘Doctor-lite’ and ‘companion-lite’ episodes.

Best Moment

Possibly the medical scene with Adam and the Nurse, but I’m struggling to think of any better.

Best Quote

Create a climate of fear and it’s easy to keep the borders closed.  It’s just a matter of emphasis.  The right word in the right broadcast repeated often enough can destabilise an economy, create an enemy, change a vote.

So all the people are like, slaves.

Well now. There’s an interesting point.  Is a slave a slave if he doesn’t known he’s enslaved?

Yes.

Oh.  I was hoping for a fun philosphical debate.  Is that all I’m going to get? “Yes”?

Yes.

You’re no fun.

Let me out of these manacles.  You’ll find out how much fun I am.

The Editor, Rose Tyler and the Ninth Doctor

The Long Game TARDIS

 

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