Revolution of the Daleks

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Revolution of the Daleks. If you have not seen it yet, come back after watching it.

Being with the Doctor, you don’t get to choose when it stops, whether you leave her or…she leaves you.

Captain Jack Harkness

Synopsis

The Doctor is imprisoned halfway across the universe. On Earth, the sighting of a Dalek alerts Graham, Ryan and Yaz. Can the return of Captain Jack Harkness help them stop a deadly Dalek takeover?

Review

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been 10 months since we last saw the Doctor and her three companions. At times, I struggled to remember having a series of Doctor Who in 2020. It feels good to have her and the “fam” back, even if it is only for a special.

Why were you in prison in the first place?

Evading the Judoon. Twice at once. Then once I was in, they took 7,000 other offences into consideration.

They stopped at seven?

Captain Jack Harkness and the Thirteenth Doctor

The story pays homage to some other Dalek stories but ultimately feels as though it puts some flesh on the bones of some of the ideas that came up in Resolution, their last appearance on New Year’s Day 2019. It starts off fairly slowly, getting players into the places they need to be, but builds up to a frenetic confrontation and a nice call back at the end. Whilst inspiration seems to have come from earlier stories, most specifically Victory of the Daleks, there were differences which made this story more enjoyable for me. I liked the fact that it was human interference and curiosity that led to the rise of the Daleks here, rather than it being a wider Dalek plot. As soon as it was mentioned that the new ‘defence drones’ were going to be unveiled by the new Prime Minister, Jo Patterson, before beta testing was completed, alarm bells started ringing that something was going to go wrong. One thing that was slightly mishandled was the escape, as it felt all too easy for Jack and the Doctor to escape, making it feel as though the Doctor hasn’t been really working to escape. I was sceptical about the return of Chris Noth as Jack Robertson here, but I think he works well here as someone who cannot be trusted, although, again he comes away with his reputation seemingly repaired, with talks of a potential knighthood and second stab at the US Presidency, whilst his fellow human conspirators fall by the wayside.

Resolution showed that the Dalek mutant was almost as much of a threat as the travel machine, and this is an idea that this story picks up and runs with here. The scenes in the Robertson owned facility in Osaka, where the Dalek mutants are being grown, are some of the creepiest in the episode, and when Leo is being controlled by the Dalek mutant he is suitably creepy. Like he did in Resolution, Nick Briggs is possibly at his scariest when he is voicing the mutant possessing Leo. I quite liked the new design of the Daleks and the simple transition between blue and red to signify their transition from the AI to being Daleks. The story returns to that old thorny issue of Dalek purity, and whilst I was perhaps disappointed at how quickly the potential civil war was dealt with, it did perhaps reinforce what poor imitations Robertson’s Daleks were. The shot of the ‘pure’ Daleks encircling the TARDIS in the sky above the Earth is beautiful too, and whilst the eventual defeat is a bit underwhelming, the visuals of the TARDIS being destroyed by the forces of the void are equally stunning.

Thanks? Is that it?

Are you feeling insecure? Cos you seem to need a lot of praise.

Captain Jack Harkness and Yasmin Khan

It’s great to see John Barrowman back again, coming face to face with the Doctor for the first time in over a decade. As mentioned in my review of Fugitive of the Judoon, Barrowman brings a lot of charisma and screen presence and the role seems to come back to him really easily – not surprising, considering that he has been playing the role for Big Finish for the last couple of years. Jack here serves a similar role to Sarah Jane in School Reunion, gently reminding the audience that companions don’t stick around forever. It’s worth remembering that these three companions still don’t know the Doctor terribly well – they only learnt where the Doctor came from and that she can regenerate relatively recently – and so Jack does have an important role to play, especially for Yaz. Jack understands how it feels to be abandoned by the Doctor, for considerably more than ten months. Whilst his departure from this story feels overlooked, I think it is open for him to come back at some point – and it is nice to have a name drop for Gwen, Rose and appearances for various foes in the prison.

The relationship between the Doctor and her companions has changed, largely due to the fact that the Doctor was unable to get her TARDIS back to them in a timely fashion. It has enabled Ryan to think about what he wants to do with his future, and the discussion between the Doctor and Ryan is one of the high points of the episode, in part because again, he is the only one that she completely opens up to about events on Gallifrey. Whilst I haven’t been the biggest fan of Ryan during the show, his and Graham’s departure did make me quite emotional. Their arc felt as though it reached it’s logical conclusion at the end of their first season, and despite their departures being left quite open, I don’t think we’ll be seeing them again. Yaz seems to have taken the ten month gap hardest of the three, and keen to jump into danger when given the option once she was back. It’s no surprise that she wants to stick around, and personally, I’m interested to see what happens with her and the Doctor as we go into Series 13.

As for the Doctor herself, the events of Series 12 and her time in prison. Whittaker gives some hints of what might be to come and I liked the eventual defeat of the Daleks, which ties up the loose thread of the other TARDIS left on Earth. Her scheme to get rid of the Robertson Daleks by getting the bronze Daleks involved and her ultimate scheme to get rid of the death squad Daleks feels like a scheme out of Troughton or McCoy’s playbook. Her reaction to the departure of Graham and Ryan is fantastic, especially when she thinks about crossing her own timeline to visit her companions sooner. We know that there’s a new companion coming in the Doctor’s future, as well as a shortened series coming later this year, so there are certainly interesting times ahead.

Verdict: The return of the Daleks is a bit of a barnstormer, wrapping up some loose ends. It has a good departure for two of the Doctor’s companions, but has some issues with pacing towards the beginning and the Doctor’s escape from prison. 8/10

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Chris Noth (Jack Robertson), Harriet Walter (Jo Patterson), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Leo Rugazzi), Nathan Armarkwei-Laryea (Armen), Helen Anderson (Rachel), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek Operator 1), Nicholas Pegg (Dalek Operator 2), Emily Maitlis (Herself), Sharon D Clarke (Grace O’Brien) & Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks).

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Director: Lee Haven Jones

Behind the Scenes

  • The story was mostly filmed with the rest of Series 12 in 2019, however, Chris Chibnall confirmed that one additional scene was filmed in 2020.

Best Moment

The moment that the Doctor and Jack land back in the TARDIS after escaping the prison.

Best Quote

No weapons. No time to think. All that time in that cell, wondering who I am. I’m the Doctor. I’m the one who stops the Daleks.

The Thirteenth Doctor

Previous Thirteenth Doctor story: The Timeless Children

Other Stories mentioned:

School Reunion

Victory of the Daleks

Resolution

Arachnids in the UK

The Timeless Children

This post contains spoilers for The Timeless Children.  If you haven’t seen it yet, please turn back now and come back after watching.

The Timeless Children - Doctor and the Master

Welcome, Doctor.  Are you suffering comfortably? Then, I’ll begin.  Once upon a time…No.  Once upon several times, before the Time Lords, before everything we know, there was an explorer.

The Master

Synopsis

The Cybermen are on the march.  The last remaining humans are hunted down.  Lies are exposed, truths are revealed, and for the Doctor, nothing will be the same again.

Review

Well, that was no Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.

We had the Master, Gallifrey and the Cybermen and some answers, yet more questions to send some of us away scratching our heads.  With Sacha Dhawan’s arrival at the end of the previous story, Ashad and the Cybermen take a backseat to a story that delves into Time Lord history and the truth behind the Timeless Child, which is a bit of a shame as they are possibly the most interesting take on the Cybermen we have seen in the revived series, but this new Master certainly feels like enough of a threat to the Doctor and universal survival.

The Timeless Children - Ashad

I’ll start with my biggest issue with the story, which is the role of the Cybermen, who do feel underserved here and do ultimately end up as a new army for the Master, which does certainly feel like a waste of this new take on the Cybermen.  They ultimately only end up killing one of the human survivors, which feels a bit bizarre considering that the large guest cast here are mainly cannon fodder, with one obvious exception.  Ashad does still bring a large amount of threat to the story, with the scene with Yaz and Graham hiding inside Cyber suits – a plot element which the story somehow manages to play straight and avoids lengthy passages of the companions trudging about in Cybersuits, potentially thankfully.  Ultimately, the Cybermen’s plan is a bit rubbish, wanting to wipe out all organic life, which the Master is perfectly right in poking holes in and suggesting a new plan for the Cybermen to dominate the galaxy.  From the moment that Ashad is taken out of the picture via the Master’s Tissue Compression Eliminator, the Cybermen are essentially set dressing, waiting for Ko Sharmus to blow them up in the final moments.  I would like to see the Cybermen be a threat on their own, so I was quite pleased to see that they weren’t working with the Master before this story, however, the fact that they end up working together disappointed me.  I’m not sure how well it would have worked to have them as entirely separated plot elements though, so maybe this is a no-win scenario.

After playing relatively safe with canon and ‘established’ lore in Series 11, Chris Chibnall has somewhat resolved to tear the rule book up here, most notably in Fugitive of the Judoon introducing us to a mysterious new Doctor played by Jo Martin.  The Timeless Children does have to provide us with some answers to questions raised here and shows us the origins of the alien that we know as ‘The Doctor’.  This story shows that the Doctor was found at a mysterious boundary to another universe and that this Timeless Child was the base genetic code for the Gallifreyans, permitting them the ability to regenerate, rewriting what we had previously been told about the role of Rassilon, who isn’t mentioned by name here, in the foundation of Time Lord society.  Whilst it might not be a shock to discover that the Doctor is the Timeless Child, the child’s treatment at the hands of her adoptive mother Tecteun and the Time Lords more generally is more of a surprise.  Previous incarnations of the Doctor prior to Hartnell are revealed to have been working for a mysterious Time Lord secret police – potentially a precursor to the Celestial Intervention Agency – who ultimately wiped the Doctor’s memory.  This is also revealed to be what the Ireland scenes with Brendan last week were – a way of covering up previous Time Lord interference in the Doctor’s life.   Whilst we get some of the Doctor’s backstory, the central mystery still remains – we still don’t really know more about the Doctor and where she came from.

The Timeless Children - Master and Ashad

The Master takes centre stage for a lot of the story, with the Doctor paralysed in the Matrix Chamber on Gallifrey and the companions fleeing the Cybermen, and it cements Dhawan as a great Master.  This incarnation is seen to be more vicious than other incarnations, his heel turn on Ashad being a prime example of his aggression.  He and Whittaker really spark off each other in their scenes in the Matrix and his fury at his discovery that there has always been a part of the Doctor inside him all along is utterly believable in this particular incarnation.  We are still no clearer on where he falls in the line-up – whether he is pre- or post-Michelle Gomez, but I don’t think it really matters.  His creation of his ‘perfect army’ of Cybermen with the ability to regenerate also seems a bit bizarre, although the image of Cybermen wearing Time Lord headgear is great despite the concept being ridiculously daft.  Despite my reservations about his presence reducing the role played by the Cybermen, I really like this incarnation of the Master and I am certain he will return at some stage.

Timeless Children - Graham and Yaz

The Doctor certainly goes through the emotional wringer in this episode, and Whittaker is great here with dealing with the revelations and her determination to sacrifice herself to stop the Master and the Cybermen is fantastic.  Her farewell to the companions is so heartfelt and reminiscent of the ending of the first series, with the Doctor packing her companions off to safety on Earth. Obviously, the audience know that she won’t go through with it, but the moment that Ko Sharmus steps into her place to finish off the Cybermen still works well.  We also get a welcome but all too brief appearance from Jo Martin, which looks like it might be the last time we see her, but she does deliver some of the most important dialogue to save the Doctor from the Matrix.  The companions largely have reduced roles but there are some important character moments, like Ryan being able to accurately throw a bomb to stop the advancing Cybermen and Graham and Yaz’s interaction on the Cyber Carrier, which made me 99% certain that one of them was going to die.  Whilst the companions and the Doctor end this story separated, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them crop up in the festive special for a farewell adventure with the Doctor for one or all of them.

Listen, Yaz, um…If we don’t get out of this…

We will get out of this.

Yeah, well…I know, but I’m just saying, if we don’t…I want you to know I…I think you’re such an impressive young woman.  Never thrown by anything.  Always fighting.

Thanks.

You said to the Doc that you thought she was the best person you’d ever met.  You know what, Yaz?  I think you are.  You ain’t got a time machine or a sonic…but you’re never afraid and you’re never beaten.  I’m going to sound like a…like a proper old man, but you’re doing your family proud, Yaz, you really are.  In fact, you’re doing the whole human race proud.  S-Sorry.  I haven’t offended you, have I?

It’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

Oh, right.

You’re not such a bad human yourself, either.

Not su…?  Is that it?  I’ve just said all them lovely things about you, and all you give me is “You’re not such a bad human”?

Mate, I’m from Yorkshire – that’s a love letter.

Graham O Brien and Yasmin Khan

Finally, that ending – the Doctor imprisoned for the acts of her previous incarnations certainly tees up an interesting premise for the Special – I’m intrigued to see how the Doctor will get out of this one.

Verdict: The Timeless Children certainly provides some answers, and Dhawan and Whittaker are superb.  The Cybermen are a bit underused and their plan is a bit daft, but this does close off a strong season well. 8/10.

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Sacha Dhawan (The Master), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Ian McElhinney (Ko Sharmus), Julie Graham (Ravio), Alex Austin (Yedlarmi), Rhiannon Clements (Bescot), Matt Carver (Ethan), Seylan Baxter (Tecteun), Kirsty Besterman (Solpada), Paul Kasey (Judoon Captain), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen & Judoon Captain), Matthew Rohman, Simon Carew, Jon Davey, Richard Highgate, Richard Price, Mickey Lewis, Matthew Doman & Paul Bailey (Cybermen) and Jo Martin (The Doctor).

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Director: Jamie Magnus Stone

Behind the Scenes

  • There are so many references here – to name a few, we have a brief mention of the Doctor and the Master running away from Borusa through the Citadel of Gallifrey, several references to The Deadly Assassin and a fleeting mention of Kamelion. Most importantly, it states that the mysterious incarnations seen in The Brain of Morbius were previous incarnations of the Doctor.

Best Moment

The Doctor breaking out of the Matrix, showing all of her past incarnations, with the theme underneath – including solving some questions that have bugged people since The Brain of Morbius.

Best Quote

Where do you fit into all of this?  Were you me all that time ago?  Were all my memories of you erased?  Did they force me back into becoming a child?  How many more of me are there out there?

I don’t have those answers.  But say I did, would they even help?

Of course they would.  All this, it means I’m not who I thought I was.

Because your memories aren’t compatible with what you learnt today?

Yes.

Have you ever been limited by who you were before?

Ah.  Now, that does sound like me talking.

The Doctor and The Doctor (Jo Martin)

But, it could have so nearly been this:

So come on, Doc, what are you thinking?

One option left  I have to use the Death Particle on Gallifrey.  On my home.  On the Master and his new breed of Cybermen.  

Are you sure you want to do that?

I’m sure I don’t want to do that but there’s not alternative.  If the Master and the Cybermen get off this planet, they’ll be unstoppable.  I started this with Shelley and the Cyberium, now I have to finish it.  Alone.

What?

The TARDIS will take you back to Earth.  All of you.  You can settle in the 21st Century.

You’re not serious.

Deadly.

What about you?  You detonate that thing, you’ll die too.

That’s the way it has to be.  And I would do that in a heartbeat for this universe.  For you…my fam.

We’re not letting you go! You’re not doing this!

Get off me, Yaz.  Please.

Yaz.  Come on.

Live great lives.

Graham O’Brien, The Doctor, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin Khan and Ravio.

Ascension of the Cybermen

This blog post contains spoilers for Ascension of the Cybermen.  If you have not seen this episode yet, please return after watching.

Ascension of the Cybermen Fam

The Cybermen were defeated.  The victors of a billion battles, broken.  An empire of might and terror, fallen.  Their weaknesses exploited.  Their armies outfought.  Their conquests surrendered.  Every empire has its time.  And every empire falls.  But that which is dead can live again in the hands of a believer.

Ashad

Synopsis

In the far future, the Doctor and her friends face a brutal battle across the farthest reaches of space to protect the last remnants of the human race against the deadly Cybermen.

Review

The first part of a two-part finale which has been billed as being game-changing by Chris Chibnall, Ascension of the Cybermen certainly leaves us with a lot of plot to mull over for the next week.  I feel this story broadly worked, however, the mystery surrounding the Irish policeman Brendan whilst intriguing felt as though it had come from another episode or even at times, a program like All Creatures Great and Small or Call the Midwife.  Ashad, or the Lone Cyberman, is still pretty strong and this episode certainly makes the Cybermen feel very threatening.

Ascension - Brendan

After quite a nice, atmospheric opening – and I particularly enjoyed the camera going through the disembodied Cyber head into the opening credits – the opening with a baby being abandoned in Ireland was rather unexpected.  The story keeps jumping in to check up on him, seeing him being adopted, enjoying a seemingly idyllic childhood, joining the Garda, mysteriously surviving a tumble off a cliff whilst in pursuit of a gun-toting criminal and then retiring, felt largely detached from the main plot until the ending, and even then I’m not convinced I entirely understand what’s happening.  At worst, this element feels out of place, however, given the ending of this story, I am intrigued to see what the pay off will be next week.  I’m particularly intrigued by the fact that neither his adopted mother or father seem to age, despite some considerable passage of time, which makes me think that this might be an artificial reality around him.  I doubt that he is the Lone Cyberman as Ashad states later that he wanted to be converted into a Cyberman and the last scene we have with Brendan certainly doesn’t make him look willing.  Unfortunately, however, some of these check-ins on Brendan’s life do feel like the brakes have been slammed on in quite a bombastic and stuffed episode.

There is no glory in being a Cyberman.  And ther’s definitely no glory in you.  I mean, talk about an identity crisis – you despite who you are.  That anger and hatred that’s driving you – those are human emotions.  The real Cybermen, they don’t do emotions.  So you loathe your own being because of what’s driving you.  Now, that’s what I call an inner conflict.

The Doctor

This story really does make the Cybermen feel threatening again, with the Lone Cyberman (or perhaps we should call him Ashad) certainly felt different to any other Cyberman we’ve seen before.  Ashad maintains his sense of threat from the previous episode and the fact that we can see the human elements and the incomplete nature of this beast make him more terrifying.  One simple but effective way that Ashad is marked as being different from the two battered Cybermen he spends most of the story with is the fact that he doesn’t have the ‘standard’ Cyberman voice performed by Nicholas Briggs and this contrast is particularly effective.  I liked the fact that they were able to easily incapacitate the Doctor’s attempts to defend the refugees through the use of Cyber drones, which looked great and took some of the traditional weaknesses of the Cybermen off the board by destroying machines like the Neural Inhibitor system, the Particle Projector, and the force field quite early on.  I am slightly confused as to why they are killing humans rather than converting them, which seems to be against their modus operandi, so I’m hoping we get some resolution to this in the second part.  Potentially this might be because, thanks to the Cyberium, Ashad knows that he’s got a shiny new army of Cybermen hidden away somewhere, ready to ascend, even if he is capable of making these Cybermen scream.

Ascension of the Cybermen Ashad

The goal of the refugees is to get to the mysterious Ko Sharmus and the Boundary, leading to the conclusion to this story, with the Doctor and Ryan with Ethan and Graham and Yaz with the remaining human refugees striving to reach this escape from the Cybermen.  In the conclusion of the episode, the Boundary is seen to open before the Doctor to reveal Gallifrey, albeit in its ruined state, however, the human refugees presumably haven’t all ended up here as it is stated much earlier in the story that the readings for the Boundary are never the same.  Whilst I was expecting Gallifrey to appear in some form in the finale, I was expecting it next week rather than here so it was a nice surprise. We also get a brief cameo from Sacha Dhawan’s Master in the closing minutes and I am certainly intrigued to see his involvement in this story.  We get less of an explanation as to Ko Sharmus, who is revealed to be a space hermit rather than a planet, and why he is so close to the Boundary, but this again could be another potential character that Brendan’s story ties into.

You’ve come a long way, Graham O’Brien.

Yasmin Khan

The Doctor and her companions continue their good form, and it is particularly nice to see the fact that the Doctor has underestimated the Lone Cyberman, despite Jack and her companions’ warnings and her realisation that she has done so continues a potentially darker side of this incarnation that we saw towards the end of last week’s episode.  The companions are separated again here, and it is good to see Yaz take control of the group of refugees who eventually end up on the Cybership and maintaining a cool head while the refugees and Graham are losing theirs.  Graham gets some nice moments with Ravio whilst they are exploring the troop carrier, and Ravio is probably the member of the guest cast that we spend the most time with.  Sadly, the rest of them are rather underserved as the crammed plot doesn’t really have time to explore them anymore, but we might get more time with them next week.

Verdict: Ascension of the Cybermen is a good first part of a two-part story, with enough sense of mystery and dread around it, even if the Brendan subplot does effect the pace somewhat.  8/10

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Sacha Dhawan (The Master), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Julie Graham (Ravio), Ian McElhinney (Ko Sharmus), Alex Austin (Yedlarmi), Steve Toussaint (Feekat), Coalyn Byrne (Sergeant), Matt Carver (Ethan), Rhiannon Clements (Bescot), Branwell Donaghy (Patrick), Kevin Hudson (Cyber Warrior), Andrew Macklin (Michael), Evan McCabe (Brendan), Orla O’Rourke (Meg), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen), Richard Highgate, Richard Price, Mickey Lewis, Matthew Doman, Paul Bailey, Simon Carew & Matthew Rohman (Cybermen).

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Director: Jamie Magnus Stone

Behind the Scenes

  • The sixth appearance of the Cybermen in part of a series finale – including cameos – and their third such appearance with the Master/Missy.
  • The twelfth story not to feature the TARDIS.

Best Moment

I’m a sucker for Cybermen stepping out of their pods like in Tomb of the Cybermen.  What can I say?

Best Quote

The systems didn’t stop ’em, Doc.

I know.

They destroyed everything we brought with us.

I know.

We haven’t got anything else to defend ourselves or them.

I know!  Listen to me, do not argue, go with the humans.  Help them.  Get them out of here.  You won’t make it back to the TARDIS alive.  Make sure you’re with them.  

What about you?

I’ll hold them off.

How are you going to do that?

This isn’t a discussion.

We’re not just going to leave you.

Yes you are.  All of you.  No questions.  Get out.  I’ve been so reckless with you.

What are you talking about?

You’re human!  If they capture you, they’ll convert you.  I’ll find you.  Get safe, now!

Graham O’Brien, The Doctor, Yasmin Khan and Ryan Sinclair.

 

 

 

The Haunting of Villa Diodati

This post contains spoilers for The Haunting of Villa Diodati.  If you’ve not seen it yet, come back after watching!

HoVD Doctor, Mary, Yas

Save the poet, save the Universe.

The Thirteenth Doctor

 

Synopsis

Lake Geneva, 1816.  Lord Byron and the Shelleys prepare for a night telling ghost stories, but their villa seems to have ghostly presences all of its own.

Review

It’s probably to the benefit of this story that it has broadcast on a weekend where the UK has been suffering under the winds and rain of ‘Storm Dennis’ and also that it coincided with the release of another period drama (Emma.)  However, I think that this might just be my favourite television Cyberman story – possibly jointly with World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls.  I love the way that this takes the tropes of a haunted house story and twists them neatly with the inclusion of the Lone Cyberman, and this is certainly the creepiest story of the Whittaker era to date.

Maxine Alderton’s debut story for the show is pretty damned strong.  She does some good initial work, setting up the guest cast of Lord Byron, the Shelleys, Claire Clairmont and Doctor Polidori early on through the cold open, the dancing scene and the scene with Ryan, Mary and Polidori at the piano, allowing everyone a satisfactory introduction.  Byron seems to get more of the lion’s share of the story than the Shelleys though which did bug me a little. The story does revert to somewhat standard haunted house and horror movie tropes, however, I really like the idea of the interior of the Villa being changed to make it into a ‘panic room’ for the Guardian of the Cyberium.  Despite the tone of this story being creepy and grim in places – especially the moment that the Cyberman picks up Mary’s infant son William – there is still some room for humour, with most of these moments being given to Graham, allowing Bradley Walsh to really shine.  These are helped by some good direction by Emma Sullivan, who emphasises gags like the one below with some good visual moments too – the looks that the Doctor and Graham shoot each other are fantastic.  Another example is the look that Fletcher shoots the Doctor when she tastes the dust from the destroyed disembodied hand.  The direction also helps with the fear factor too, which helps give the villain of the piece some real threat.

Yes, because it is a truth universally acknowledged…

Wrong writer!

…that one’s driver will park one’s carriage imprudently too far from whence one is going.

Graham O’Brien and the Thirteenth Doctor

Haunting of Villa Diodati

We get to see the Lone Cyberman, who was first mentioned in Fugitive of the Judoon by Captain Jack Harkness.  The design on this is fantastic giving us a drastically different Cyberman to the ones that we have seen previously.  This Cyberman is incomplete, showing more organic components than we have seen previously from usual Cybermen and this emphasises the body horror that is core to what makes this enemy of the Doctor so scary.  Like with the Daleks, it is good to have a story that stresses that even just the one Cyberman is enough of a threat which this certainly does.  The moment that Mary confronts the Cyberman to try and get him to address his humanity is fantastic and stresses that emotions like love aren’t going to provide us with a simple solution like previously, only for the Cyberman to reveal that he only spared Mary’s son because he’s a “pathetic runt” is really effective.  I like the fact that the Cyberman trying to come back through time is causing things like the weather, but equally the reveal that the ghosts that Graham was seeing weren’t part of this is a really nice moment.

Are you the Guardian?

No sir, I am the valet.

The Lone Cyberman and Fletcher

With regards to the Doctor and her companions, this story puts them into a really interesting place heading into the finale.  The Doctor and her companions are brought into conflict regarding Jack’s message about the Lone Cyberman, with Ryan stating that sacrificing Shelley’s life would save billions, which leads the Doctor into a speech which is probably the best part of the episode.  This really highlights the burden on her shoulders as a Time Lord in trying to weigh up what the right thing is to do, and with the ramifications of letting the Lone Cyberman get what it wants clearly pretty disastrous, the Doctor must be pretty confident in her abilities to atone for her error.  There have been more moments of conflict between the Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham this series, which is an improvement on last series.  She did get some lighter material as well and is particularly enjoyable in her scenes opposite Byron.  Meanwhile, the companions do get like some nice individual moments in the story, with Ryan talking to Mary at the piano, Graham’s hunt for the toilet revealing the first moments of the haunting of the house and Yaz with Claire Clairmont.

This enigmatic person of yours – would you trade them for reliable and dull?

My person’s a bit different.

Claire Clairmont and Yasmin Khan

Verdict: A really enjoyable haunted house story with a science fiction twist, The Haunting of Villa Diodati continues a strong second series for Jodie Whittaker and is amongst the best television Cybermen stories. 10/10

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Lili Miller (Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin), Jacob Collins-Levy (Lord Byron), Lewis Rainer (Percy Bysshe Shelley), Maxim Baldry (Dr John Polidori), Nadia Parkes (Claire Clairmont), Patrick O’Kane (Ashad), Stefan Bednarczyck (Fletcher) & Sarah Perles (Elise).

Writer: Maxine Alderton

Director: Emma Sullivan

Behind the Scenes

  • The Eighth Doctor previously met Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and Percy Shelley in The Company of Friends and Mary would become a companion of this incarnation of the Doctor in several Big Finish audio stories.
  • The Doctor mentions having met Ada Lovelace in Spyfall, Part Two.
  • The Psychic Paper is shown not to work at all after getting wet. It’s previously been shown not to work when a lie is just plain unbelievable – like in A Christmas Carol.

Best Moment

The discussion in the cellar regarding what to do with the Cyberium and Shelley – see below.  It’s a great moment which shows how the Doctor’s decision is not simple and I’m intrigued to see how this series will wrap up!

Best Quote

I can’t keep him away much longer.

Then don’t.

Doc!

Stop fighting.  It’s okay.

Jack’s warning!

Jack isn’t here, stuck in a house with that.

Exactly.  You didn’t want us near it a minute ago.

I’ve just been inside his brain.  there’s a super-computer fused to a cerebral cortex.  He’s the only one who knows how to get that out!

Don’t let the Cyberman have what it wants.

I know, because armies will rise and billions will die.

Shelley’s going to die if that stuff stays inside him.

Shelley’s only one life against all those others.

What are you saying?  How can you condemn him to death like that?

But is he, Ryan?  His thoughts, his words inspire thousands for centuries.  If he dies now, who knows what damage that will have on future history?  Wordes matter.  One death, one ripple and history will change in a blink.  The future will not be the world you know.  The world you came from, the world you were created in won’t exist, so neither will you.  It’s not just his life at stake.  It’s yours.  You want to sacrifice yourself for this?  You want me to sacrifice you?  You want to call it?  Do it now.  All of you.  Yeah.  Cos sometimes this team structure isn’t flat.  It’s mountainous, with me at the summit, in the stratosphere.  Alone.  Left to choose.  Save the poet, save the universe.  Watch people burn now or tomorrow.  Sometimes, even I can’t win.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, the Thirteenth Doctor, Graham O’Brien, Yasmin Khan, Ryan Sinclair and Mary Wollstonecraft

HoVD Shelley's Room

Can You Hear Me?

Warning: This review contains spoilers for Can You Hear Me?  If you haven’t seen it yet, please come back after watching!

Can You Hear Me

 

Synopsis

Team TARDIS answers calls for help from deep space, 1380s Aleppo and Sheffield.

Review

Can You Hear Me? starts with an interesting premise delivers some sorely needed backstory for one of the companions and explores an issue that it is clear that Chibnall really likes – the impact of the companions’ travelling in space and time on those left behind in the shape of Ryan’s friend Tibo.  Almost coincidentally, this story has been broadcast at the start of Mental Health Week and does have some messages about mental health and toxic masculinity which are important to hear.

CYHM Zellin

The story starts with the basis of fears and focuses on nightmares as something for the two villains of the piece to prey on and the story does this suitably creepily.  A major factor here is the performance of Ian Gelder as Zellin, who doesn’t do much but laugh softly in the first few moments of his time onscreen, but imbues it with such menace as he appears in people’s darkened flats and the effect used when his fingers disconnect from the rest of his hand is really effectively done.  The threat is helped greatly by the direction by Emma Chambers, and helps to make him and later Rakaya feel like a real threat to both the Doctor and the Universe as a whole.   That was something that was really lacking from Whittaker’s first series and her second has seen a vast improvement in this respect and I especially liked the idea of Zellin being a God that was bored.  Speaking of direction, and to address the point more broadly, I’ve been very pleased with the way the show has played around with lighting of the TARDIS this season, exemplified here by the appearance of Zellin in the control room.  Zellin’s fellow immortal, Rakaya, is equally sinister once freed from her prison, keeping two planets apart that the pair have spent a long period of time trying to destroy.  I do feel that their combined threat is dispatched a bit too easily, having hyped up the ability of the immortals to change their form at will, but are completely undone by the sonic screwdriver.  The creature extracted from the nightmares of Tahira doesn’t look fantastic, sadly, in a story that looks stunning, even if it does contribute to one of the episode’s strongest moments in the cold open.

The use of nightmares as a plot point allows us to see the fears of Ryan, Graham and Yaz in turn, with Ryan fearing the impact his absences are having on his best friend, Graham worrying about his cancer returning and wallowing in his survivor’s guilt and Yaz revisiting her feelings of abandonment after running away from home.  The Doctor is also subjected to this, meaning that we do get a further glimpse of the Timeless Child as well as a reminder of the Master’s message relating to Gallifrey and as we are in the last stretch of this series, it’s nice to get a reminder of where we might be heading in a few weeks time.   Potentially, this story could have been helped by being a two-parter, with the reveal that Zellin has made the Doctor fall into a trap being a cliffhanger, giving the story more time to breath and explore the nightmare and fears in a bit more detail.

CYHM Yaz

It is Yaz’s nightmare that really stands out, with her subconscious mind feeding her an image of her sister Sonya, who we see earlier in the episode celebrating an anniversary (presumably of Yaz coming back home), urging her to ‘do it right this time.’  This is much-needed development for Yaz, who really suffered last series’ focus on Graham and Ryan’s relationship and their grief at the loss of Grace.  This gives us a hint at Yaz’s life before she met the Doctor and before she joined the police, with the arrival of the police officer and the talk she gets, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, inspiring her to potentially become a police officer, although the story doesn’t explicitly state this.  It also allows us to see more of the relationship between her and her sister –  which is really lovely.   Ryan’s nightmares circulate around an Earth on fire and the Dregs from Orphan 55 combined with the struggles that he sees his friend Tibo having at the start of the episode.  Tibo serves to reflect what could have potentially happened to Ryan had he not gone with the Doctor after Grace’s death.  I think this works well too by bringing back a character that we have seen previously this series – Tibo appeared in the opening to Spyfall, Part One as one of Ryan’s friends who he was playing basketball with.  Of the three companions, Graham’s dream scene feels as though it falls a little bit flat and is a bit too predictable, but his talk with the Doctor at the end of the episode is good, even if the Doctor doesn’t come across fantastically in her response to him.

Do it right this time.  I won’t be calling anyone.  No point. You’re weak.  You run. Nobody’s coming, Yaz.  You’re alone in the dark.

Sonya

The story also focuses on an issue which Chibnall seems quite keen to explore, the issue of what happens to those left behind by those who go traveling with the Doctor and the impact of adventures through time and space.  This was previously addressed in The Power of Three, where Amy and Rory had to choose between their lives at home and their lives with the Doctor.  Ryan and Yaz here have a conversation at the end of the story regarding this, which seems to imply that one of them will be leaving at the end of the series.  I think there is possibly too much potential with Yaz, but potentially one or both of Graham and Ryan may be leaving at the end of the series, leaving us with a significantly less crowded TARDIS.  Ryan certainly seems quite shaken up by the events of this episode and his concern for his friend and the life that he is missing out on might just drive him to leave the TARDIS.   These companions are certainly not in the same place they were at the beginning of the series.

CYHM Ryan

Yes! Gods back in their box.  We need to get this back to the monitor platform and all those people out of the TARDIS jacuzzi.  Come on!

Thirteenth Doctor

The Doctor takes a back seat to her companions for the majority of this episode, with the focus on their home lives more, but Whittaker continues to develop her Doctor.  I’ve seen some criticisms of her conversation with Graham as calling her glib and uncaring about his medical concerns which I understand.  Not to say that her reaction is right, but I don’t think it’s exclusive to this incarnation of the Doctor – I can certainly imagine Peter Capaldi or Tom Baker reacting in a similar fashion.  I really liked the fact that the Doctor was at somewhat of a loose end once the companions left until she had a mystery to solve and she was pretty good in her scenes with Zellin and Rakaya and thought that the moments where she forgot – or genuinely didn’t know – she wasn’t with the companions were great.

Verdict: An interesting premise which is largely executed well, but with some niggles.  It is good to see Yaz get some backstory and development here though. 7/10

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Clare-Hope Ashitey (Rakaya), Ian Gelder (Zellin), Aruhan Gailieva (Tahila), Nasreen Hussain (Anita Patel), Buom Tihngang (Tibo), Willie Jonah (Old Tibo), Bhavnisha Parmar (Sonya Khan), Sirina Saba (Maryam), Amanda Liberman (Mum), Everal A Walsh (Gabriel), Michael Keane (Fred), Anthony Taylor (Andrew) & Sharon D Clarke (Grace O’Brien).

Writer: Charlene James and Chris Chibnall

Director: Emma Sullivan

Behind the Scenes

  • Ian Gelder previously portrayed Dekker in Torchwood: Children of Earth, as well as playing the voice of the Remnants in The Ghost Monument.
  • The first televised Doctor Who story to feature animation in any form.
  • The Eternals are alluded to in relation to Zellin – the Doctor previously faced off against other Eternals in Enlightenment and Ghost Light and reference is also made to the Toymaker.

Best Moment

Probably the flashback chat between Yaz and the police officer, and the return to give her the 50p.

Best Quote

Now listen to me – Earth is not your plaything.  You’re wrong about humans. They’re not pathetic, they’re magnificient.  They live with their fears, doubts, guilts.  They face them down every day and they prevail.  That’s not weakness, that’s strength.  That’s what humanity is.

The Doctor