Love & Monsters

When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all, grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker, and so much madder. And so much better.

Elton Pope

Synopsis

An ordinary man becomes obsessed with the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler, and uncovers a world of living nightmares.

Review

Love and Monsters is a bit of a marmite episode amongst Doctor Who fans, with few in the middle, which is where I find myself. There are some good performances in here, namely from Marc Warren, Camille Coduri and Shirley Henderson, coupled with an interesting idea, however, elements like Peter Kay’s performance and some weird writing decisions let it down. So please forgive me for sitting on the fence – I genuinely have no strong feelings towards this story.

It’s easy to look at Love & Monsters with the benefit of hindsight and the experience of Doctor-lite stories like Blink or Turn Left and say that it is not as good as those stories, which I do agree with to an extent but this was a production team experiencing the challenge of making this type of story for the first time. This has to walk so that later stories of this kind can fly. There is a lot to admire here, for instance, this gives us a view of an ordinary person of the events in the revived series so far, such as the Auton Invasion seen in Rose, the spaceship crashing into the Elizabeth Tower and the Sycorax ship arriving. The Doctor’s impact on the wider population than his companion and their family is something that we haven’t seen much before or since this episode, and furthers Clive’s message in Rose – if your life touches the Doctor’s, it’s probably not going to end well. Again, something that this episode brings up which isn’t really touched on again is the impact on the companion leaving on those left behind. This is something that I felt was dealt with really badly in Aliens of London and never brought up again, especially considering that Jackie believes Rose to be dead for that year. This element is really effective, showing how Jackie is desperate for company and the fact that she never knows when she will either see or hear from Rose whilst she is off on her travels with the Doctor. The story wants to emphasise the differences between travelling with the Doctor and staying on Earth, by using industrial areas and scenes around the Powell Estate, contrasting with the wonders we have seen Rose experience. Dan Zeff does a decent job of directing, juggling the normal narrative and Elton’s video diary well for the most part, but the brief cut to Elton in the cold open does puncture the tension after seeing the Hoix. Zeff even manages to make the Scooby Doo-esque opening sequence not seem utterly ridiculous, which has to go in the plus column for this episode.

LINDA, short for London Investigation ‘N’ Detective Agency, is a thinly veiled parallel for the Doctor Who fandom. A group of people who are united by their interest in the Doctor, who then divulge further interests, it’s not a terribly favourable view on the fandom. Here, Elton’s love of ELO feels a bit like confessing you like Doctor Who to anybody ‘normal’ – I know that I personally am not forthcoming with telling new people my interests or about my love of Doctor Who. The five members of LINDA are almost stereotypical science fiction fans, portrayed as being a bit weird and lonely and able to gain some enjoyment in their fellowship. When Elton is initiated, he is almost drawn further and further down the rabbit hole as the other members tell When their other interests get in the way of their search for the Doctor, Victor Kennedy enters to stop the fun. Some have stated that they believe Kennedy to be a parody of people like Ian Levine and their passion for the Doctor. It’s really a story about how easily something pure can be corrupted by a minority and arguably is as important an episode now as it was in 2006.

The story does have a massive flaw in the shape of its central villain – Victor Kennedy, or the Abzorbaloff. One of the biggest problems with this story is the celebrity casting of Peter Kay in the part, and as soon as he enters the story, I certainly see nobody other than Kay rather than a character. His casting makes little sense to me, as I am primarily aware of him as a comedian rather than an actor, but I don’t really find that there are a lot of funny lines in general and especially not said by Kennedy. Again, the creature is an interesting idea and I have no problem with the whole Blue Peter competition winner’s concept, but I feel that a pantomime performance by Kay and some poor effects, especially when the faces of the creature’s victims aren’t speaking, really let the story down. When the absorbed members of LINDA unite to destroy the Abzorbaloff, it shows that this episode was perhaps not blessed with a huge budget!

Whilst Kay’s performance is poor, this episode’s strength lies in a triumvarate of Marc Warren, Camille Coduri and Shirley Henderson. Warren manages to take a relatively underdeveloped pencil sketch of a character, who has quite generic male interests (“I like football. I like a drink. I like Spain.”) and make him quite likeable. The writing has lines which make Elton seem quite childish, but I was surprised to learn that Warren is only two years younger than co-stars Camille Coduri and Shirley Henderson. I really like Camille Coduri’s performance here and this makes Jackie’s character much more likeable. I’ve spoken about not really liking Jackie very much in previous reviews, but given more understanding into her insecurities and loneliness here and her speech about how she will be protect Rose and the Doctor is one of this story’s few high points. I do have a problem with the story presenting the potential predatory nature of Jackie, especially as Elton is portrayed as being much younger than her. Henderson is good as Ursula, who introduces Elton to the wider context of the Doctor’s actions, and of all the LINDA gang, she is probably the most fleshed and out and likeable. It’s only the unfortunate love life line that really lets her character down – and that’s not Shirley Henderson’s fault! Tennant and Piper are in this so briefly and do a solid enough job.

Verdict: Maybe in a few years, I will be amongst those who love this story. Ultimately, Love & Monsters is just fine. 5/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Peter Kay (Victor Kennedy/The Abzorbaloff), Marc Warren (Elton Pope), Shirley Henderson (Ursula Blake), Simon Greenall (Mr Skinner), Moya Brady (Bridget), Kathryn Drysdale (Bliss), Paul Kasey (The Hoix) & Bella Emberg (Mrs Croot).

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Dan Zeff

Behind the Scenes

  • The working title was I Love the Doctor.
  • The Abzorbaloff was created by a child, William Grantham, who won a Blue Peter competition. It was often stated that Grantham was disappointed with the appearance of the monster, however, on the DVD documentary Who Peter, he stated that he was “stunned” at how well realised it was by Millennium FX.
  • This story was double-banked with another story, allowing fourteen episodes to be filmed in the time it should take to film 13. The “Doctor-lite” format continued in the show going forwards.
  • This story mentions elements of the first four story arcs of the revived show: Bad Wolf, Torchwood, Mr Saxon and the missing planet Clom.
  • The acronym LINDA was previously used on the children”s television show Why Don’t You?, which Russell T Davies worked on.
  • In an early draft, Elton would have experienced events from the original run, including his third birthday part being evacuated due to the Shoreditch Incident (Remembrance of the Daleks), his mother being killed by a plastic daffodil (Terror of the Autons) and Elton would have seen the Loch Ness Monster rising from the Thames (Terror of the Zygons).

Cast Notes

  • Peter Kay got the part after writing to Russell T Davies after the new series began in 2005 and Davies replied offering him a part. He was originally offered the part of Elton, but Kay declined, feeling that the part was too similar to his Coronation Street character. Kay would later reflect negatively on being in the show, stating “I loved making it, but when I saw it, I thought “Oh my God. I’m a big green lizard running around in Cardiff? Is that it?”

Best Moment

I quite like the moment that Elton, Ursula and Mr Skinner storm out of the basement – it is one of the few

Best Quote

Let me tell you something about those who get left behind. Because it’s hard. And that’s what you become, hard. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that I will never let her down. And I’ll protect them both until the end of my life. So whatever you want, I’m warning you, back off.

Jackie Tyler

Previous Tenth Doctor review: The Satan Pit

Other Stories Referenced:

Aliens of London

Boom Town

And I was having such a nice day.

The Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

The Ninth Doctor, Jack and Rose return to modern day Cardiff, where they are joined by Mickey. On their arrival, they find that Blon Fel-Fetch Passamer-Day Slitheen (better known as Margaret Blaine) has become Mayor of the city, with no obvious escape route off Earth and willing to tear apart the world to ensure her survival.

Review

The Slitheen are perhaps one of my least favourite creatures in the history of the show, so it is always a surprise to me that when I rewatch Boom Town that I enjoy it so much. I know that this one can be a bit of a marmite episode for a lot of people, but I feel that it does a good job of being a ‘calm before the storm’ of the finale and moves relationships between the Doctor, Jack, Rose and even Mickey to a different levels.

The story seeks to draw together the arc before sending us spinning into the chaos of the end of Eccleston’s only televised series. We get an acknowledgement – and equally quick dismissal – of the fact that the words ‘Bad Wolf’ have been following the Doctor and Rose through their travels in time and space, and the story’s resolution seems only to be there to set up future events in Parting of the Ways. The resolution does let this story down as the TARDIS becomes a deus ex machina, and it is a little frustrating after the focus on the Doctor, his conscience and ongoing theme of the consequences of his actions catching up with him is undermined somewhat by a lazy conclusion. As the Ninth Doctor has softened in his behaviour through the course of this series, it would be interesting to see if he could deal with dropping Blon back on Raxacoricofallapatorius to be killed by her race. As it is, the plot gives her a second chance, something which the Ninth Doctor has been unwilling to give some other characters, for instance Adam or Cassandra. The story is quite witty, and whilst Mickey is still the comic relief, Clarke’s performance seems to have matured since earlier in the series. I remember hearing an interview with Noel Clarke from a while ago in which he said that his attitude towards Doctor Who and acting in general changed after a car accident that occurred during production of the first series, and it is a noticeably better performance. I’ve found a link to it (below), which is worth a watch!

The story starts off really fast-paced from the arrival of Mickey in Cardiff, then slows down for introspection during the restaurant scene, but it is to director Joe Ahearne’s credit that the change in pace doesn’t affect the wider story. Scenes like the ones in the restaurant, or with Margaret in the TARDIS with the Doctor and Jack are really visually interesting. The latter uses some interesting areas of the TARDIS set which I don’t recall seeing before or after this, whilst the former could feel cartoony in the wrong hands, especially the bit with the dart. Ahearne keeps the camera tight on the Doctor and Margaret in these scenes, which makes the scenes feel quite claustrophobic. The scene in the TARDIS where Blon asks her captors whether they can look her in the eye knowing that they are taking her to her death is an interesting one, as I suspect that if the events of this story had happened earlier in the series, the Doctor might have held her gaze. Eccleston and Badland are fantastic in their scenes together, especially in that restaurant scene, where both of them are sizing each other up. The turn by Badland, when she realises that the Doctor isn’t going to let her go is also superb.

Who the hell are you?

What do you mean, “who the hell am I?” Who the hell are you?

Captain Jack Harkness. Whatever you’re selling, we’re not buying.

Get out of my way!

Captain Jack Harkness and Mickey Smith

This is quite an important episode for Rose and Mickey too. This story sees Rose realise that she has unconsciously been quite self-centred through her travels with the Doctor, to the expense of Mickey and Jackie, as we’ve seen earlier this series. The TARDIS team seem quite cliquey when Mickey arrives, and we see what the trio look like to outsiders – and it acts as a precursor to some of the smugness when the next Doctor comes along in a couple of episodes time. Rose doesn’t even realise what she sounds like when she’s talking to Mickey and all she’s talking about is the Doctor and their travels together, leading to him ultimately talking about going out with Trisha Delaney instead, despite his devotion to Rose, which has led him to coming down to Cardiff on the pretext of bringing her passport. By the end of the story, Rose seems to have realised how her behaviour has affected Mickey and is almost left wishing for a second chance, like Margaret. The performances from themselves and Barrowman are good, even if Jack takes a backseat for most of this story. I wish we had more of the Ninth Doctor, Rose, Jack and Mickey as a team as they have a really fun dynamic.

Verdict: Boom Town is a good episode to reflect on how far characters have come over the course of the first series. There are a lot of fun moments in here too, but it is let down by the conclusion, which feels a bit underwhelming. 8/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), William Thomas (Mr Cleaver), Annette Badland (Margaret), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Mali Harries (Cathy), Alan Pedrick (Idris Hopper) & Alan Ruscoe (Slitheen).

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Joe Ahearne

Behind the Scenes

  • The episode had a working title of Dining With Monsters.
  • The episode was originally offered to Paul Abbott and would have taken place in Pompeii, with Jack discovering that the Doctor has manipulated Rose’s life to make her into an experiment to create the perfect companion. Abbott had to pull out due to other commitments.
  • Russell T Davies wanted to bring back Annette Badland, as he found her performance in Aliens of London and World War Three to be brilliant, despite her not having many lines.
  • The first story to be set in modern-day Cardiff and establishes the Cardiff Space-Time Rift as still being active, thus laying the groundwork for the spin-off, Torchwood.

Cast Notes

  • William Thomas previously appeared in Remembrance of the Daleks, making him the first performer to appear in the original and revived runs of Doctor Who. He would go on to play Geraint Cooper, Gwen’s dad, in Torchwood.

Best Moment

I quite like the scenes of the Doctor, Rose, Jack and Mickey making their way through City Hall to confront Margaret.

Best Quote

I promise you I’ve changed since we last met, Doctor. There was this girl, just yesterday, young thing…And something of a danger. She was getting too close. I felt the bloodlust rising, just as the family taught me. I was going to kill her without a thought. And then…I stopped. She’s alive somewhere right now. She’s walking around this city because I change! I did change! I know I can’t prove it –

I believe you.

Then you know I’m capable of better.

It doesn’t mean anything.

I spared her life!

You let one go, but that’s nothing new. Every now and then, a little victim’s spared. Because she smiled, because he’s got freckles, because they begged. And that’s how you live with yourself. That’s how you slaughter millions. Because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind’s in the right direction, you happen to be kind.

Only a killer would know that. Is that right? From what I’ve seen, your funny little happy-go-lucky life leaves devastation in its wake. Always moving on, because you dare not go back. Playing with so many people’s lives – you might as well be a god. And you’re right, Doctor. You’re absolutely right. Sometimes you let one go.

Margaret Blaine and the Ninth Doctor

Previous Ninth Doctor Review: The Doctor Dances

Other stories mentioned:

The End of the World

Aliens of London

The Long Game

References

Noel Clarke interview with Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode

The Satan Pit

This is your freedom. Free to die! You’re going into that black hole and I’m riding with you!

The Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor faces off against an enemy that defies all of his beliefs, whilst Rose and the rest of the Sanctuary 6 base fight for survival against the Ood, possessed by the Beast.

Review

I feel that The Satan Pit does manage to live up to it’s preceding part, but on reflection it does have more flaws than The Impossible Planet. There are some great moments and the story does a lot really well, but there is some shaky characterisation for Rose and some strange directing decisions, but good guest cast performances save this one.

The writing and direction are largely good. Whilst The Impossible Planet was a lot of set-up without a lot happening, this feels much more like an action movie. Perhaps its the sequences in the service shafts that make me feel like that, which can only remind me of Die Hard. There are also the scenes with the Doctor and Ida discussing their beliefs about the existence of a devil, which are nicely written. I feel like I’m nit-picking to find flaws with this story, but I do have an issue with the sped-up effect of the guns shooting, which just looks a bit weird, and the eventual encounter with the Beast is a bit disappointing, as it would potentially have been interesting to see a showdown between the two with a fully powerful Beast. All in all, though, this is a very well written and directed episode, utilising the talents of its leads and guest cast well.

The Beast is a powerful adversary and harnesses the vocal talents of Gabriel Woolf to its full extent, and he is brimming with malice and trickery. Ultimately the Beast using the Ood against the crew of the Sanctuary Base makes a statement about humanity: even in the future they discriminate against other races. Zack notes that when his surviving crew are crawling through ventiliation system that he cannot trace the Ood as the Torchwood Institute who sent them on the expedition did not quantify them as a life form, a complacency that really has come back to bite them on this mission. Obviously this would be explored further in Planet of the Ood, but the Beast uses this to his full advantage. I have praised Gabriel Woolf, and it is only fair to also praise Will Thorp for his performance as Toby, especially when he is possessed. The moment in which his eyes briefly turn red as he tells the Ood to hold off is particularly creepy and he is good in the climatic scene as he, Zack, Danny and Rose are in the rocket escaping from the black hole.

Whilst I may have problems with the relationship between the Tenth Doctor and Rose, it doesn’t bother me very much here. Even the Doctor’s concluding speech to the Beast doesn’t make me want to scream, which can only be a positive. What does bother me is that Rose seems to undergo very inconsistent characterisation here, seesawing from a character in control of her environment to one who is constantly seeking the confirmation of the Doctor. There are two examples of this in the opening quarter of an hour. The first is where she immediately becomes simpering and helpless following the Beast’s first speech and turns to the Doctor immediately for assurance that Satan doesn’t exist. The second and, in my opinion, worst example of this follows the Beast’s speech to the crew of the Sanctuary Base, where Rose is told that she will die in battle very soon. Whilst this line is obviously meant to make the audience fear for Rose getting out of this story alive, the script has Rose ask the Doctor what the Beast means by this, when it is very clear to everyone. It does make me wonder whether there was a more convoluted or enigmatic line spoken by the Beast originally which was simplified, but Rose’s response to it was unchanged. It is an understandable reaction to be upset after being given such news, but Rose’s reaction feels forced to make her seem lovelorn and almost childlike, then she almost immediately flips to taking charge of the crew she is with. No matter what the circumstances, it doesn’t really give Billie Piper much to work with and is symptomatic of the problems with her characterisation throughout Series 2, which is perhaps particularly telling when compared to Series 1.

Whilst we’ve seen the Tenth Doctor with other characters in recent weeks – Tommy in The Idiot’s Lantern, Mrs Moore in The Age of Steel and Madame de Pompadour in The Girl in the Fireplace spring to mind – his partnership with Ida feels a bit different, perhaps because they are completely isolated in the majority of their scenes together. This adds some intimacy to their scenes together as they discuss what their beliefs are whilst confronted by something claiming to be the origin of the stories of the Devil in established religions across the universe. When Ida tells the Doctor that she doesn’t want to die, it is a great example of a simple line being delivered effectively and you completely believe that they are in that situation. Claire Rushbrook and David Tennant deserve a lot of credit for these scenes, as they are entirely acted in those orange spacesuits and seen through visors, but these scenes still feel intimate and moving.

But I don’t want to die on my own.

I know.

Ida Scott and the Tenth Doctor

I feel that I would be remiss not to mention some other guest cast members, namely Danny Webb and Shaun Parkes. These two actors do such a good job with these parts. Jefferson almost seems to fit stereotypically into the turncoat role in Classic Who, but here he is fundamentally a force for good, ultimately sacrificing himself to buy the others time to escape the advancing Ood. It is made all the more effective that the audience never finds out what dark secret lurks in his past, as we are allowed to judge him purely based on his actions in these two episodes. Equally, Zachary Cross Flane is a character who, despite a frankly awesome name, would be all too easy to be portrayed as either too competent or unsuitable for his command and Parkes treads this line to perfection. The scene where he has to have Rose subdued in order to evacuate the base could come across badly, however, here it is perfectly portrayed. Parkes encapsulates the character’s conflicted feelings about going against Rose’s explicitly stated wishes combined with his feeling of responsibility for everyone still alive on that base to get away as quickly and safely as possible. Ultimately he takes the decision that he believes is right and his statement afterwards is one that would not seem out of place coming out of the Doctor’s mouth in other stories:

I have lost too many people. I am not leaving you behind.

Zachary Cross Flane

Verdict: A strong conclusion to a good story, The Satan Pit is a highlight of Tennant’s first year as the Doctor. 9/10

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

Writer: Matt Jones

Director: James Strong

Behind the Scenes

  • This episode was originally broadcast on 06/06/2006.
  • The closing scene was Billie Piper’s final scene as a regular cast member as Doomsday had been filmed as part of an earlier production block.
  • This story nearly featured the return of Davros as the production team were not sure who should be at the bottom of the titular pit.

Best Moment

It’s a small moment, but the reveal that the mind of the Beast is still possessing Toby after Rose, Danny and he manage to escape the Ood is subtly handled and really well done.

Best Quote

There it is again. That itch. “Go down, go down, go down”.

The urge to jump. Do you know where that comes from, that sensation? Genetic heritage. Ever since we were primates in the trees. It’s our body’s way of testing us. Calculating whether or not we can reach the next branch.

No, that’s not it. That’s too kind. It’s not the urge to jump, it’s deeper than that. It’s the urge to fall!

The Tenth Doctor and Ida Scott

Previous Tenth Doctor review: The Impossible Planet

Further Reading

The Age of Steel

The Idiot’s Lantern

The Girl in the Fireplace

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 Impossible Planet

We are the Legion of the Beast.

The Ood

Synopsis

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

Review

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

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

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

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

And then what?

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

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

You’d have to get a mortgage.

Rose Tyler and the Tenth Doctor

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

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

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

Ida Scott

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

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

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

Writer: Matt Jones

Director: James Strong

Behind the Scenes

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

Cast Notes

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

Best Moment

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

Best Quote

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

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

Ida Scott and the Tenth Doctor

Previous Tenth Doctor Review: The Idiot’s Lantern

Link:

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

The Tsuranga Conundrum