The Dæmons

Chap with the wings there. Five rounds rapid.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart

Synopsis

In the village of Devil’s End, the Master is at working summoning cloven-hoofed demons to bow the residents to his will. With the village sealed off to the outside world, the Doctor and Jo have to race against time to stop the Master destroying the whole world.

Review

The Dæmons is possibly the most quintessential Third Doctor stories, and your individual reaction to this story will largely depend on your opinion of his era. It will come as no surprise to people who have read my other blogs on this era that this is one of my favourites, and I particularly love the UNIT family, so it’s safe to say that I really enjoyed this one. That’s not to say that this story is without flaws, however, and it’s certainly a divisive story in certain sectors of the fan community.

My main issue with this story is that it feels a bit too long, even though it is only five parts and I feel that it may have been a push if it had been six parts as originally intended. Whilst I like the delay in UNIT getting involved in the story, it does feel as though these scenes, as well as those with the Brigadier and Sergeant Osgood being held outside of Devil’s End by the heat barrier are just padding. In my opinion, The Dæmons would work better as a tight four-part story with fewer of these scenes. The Brigadier also gets some suspect dialogue, and it is a testament to Nicholas Courtney’s acting ability that he makes these feel real.

Despite this, the story in general is strong and feels as though the writers had done their research, or were at least aided by Damaris Hayman, playing Miss Hawthorne. The story deals with her character surprisingly sympathetically, as Miss Hawthorne is a white witch and it would be all too easy to characterise her as a bit crazy. Instead, she is shown as resourceful and a great help to the Doctor and his allies, especially Benton. The story also gives what seems like a perfectly feasible endgame for the Master after his repeated appearances in Pertwee’s second season, with his aim being world domination, if not, global destruction. The presence of a BBC News crew (from BBC 3, no less) gives this story a feeling of urgency and some degree of scale, which is needed before the Doctor turns up. With producer Barry Letts writing the backbone of this story, it is unsurprising that the regulars all get their moments to shine, even if the Brigadier has to wait a bit longer for his. The story benefits from the direction of Christopher Barry, who uses simple and effective tools to cover up the perennial problem of not having the budget to effectively tell the whole story, along with some strong demonic imagery which make this effective. Of all the effects, the one of Bok reforming after enduring heavy fire from the UNIT troops is fantastic. Barry also makes the action sequences synonymous with the Pertwee era look great, especially the sequence with Girton in the helicopter attempting to get the Doctor to drive into the heat barrier around Devil’s End. Barry also deserves a lot of credit for not making the sequence with the Morris Dancers surrounding the Doctor look laughable, which it so easily could have done in other hands. It would be remiss of me to not mention the location filming in Aldbourne, which is another of the stars and was a great choice for the sleepy village.

The regulars here are all on fine form. Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning are fantastic as the Doctor and Jo, and for moments where the Doctor is condescending to her, we get scenes like the one before they go into the Barrow where he shows real concern for her well-being by giving her the option to stay outside, which of course, she refuses! Jo is of course responsible for the ultimate defeat of Azal by putting her life on the line for the Doctor, a move that he cannot comprehend. It is lovely to see Benton and Yates in their civvies, and the Brigadier all dressed up. All three actors put in great performances, but Courtney is the real stand out, especially in the scene where he learns that Benton and Yates have gone to Devil’s End. I haven’t really suffered with ‘Master fatigue’ due to the way that I’m watching stories in order to post these reviews, and Delgado is good here again.

The Dæmons are used quite effectively here. As mentioned above, Barry only shows us Azal sparingly so that we can avoid the use of too much Colour Separation Overlay (CSO), and although Bok is clearly a man in a costume, he is quite effectively creepy and I didn’t have any trouble buying him as a gargoyle who had started moving about. Stephen Thorne is great as Azal, and it is easy to see why the production team would call him back to play similarly intimidating characters later on in the future.

Verdict: A good fun episode, which could only potentially be improved by reducing the run time, The Dæmons is deserves its place in the best stories of Jon Pertwee’s era. 8/10

Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Roger Delgado (The Master), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), John Levene (Sergeant Benton), Damaris Hayman (Miss Hawthorne), Don McKillop (Bert the Landlord), Rollo Gamble (Winstanley), Robin Wentworth (Prof. Horner), David Simeon (Alastair Fergus), James Snell (Harry), John Joyce (Garvin), Eric Hillyard (Dr. Reeves), Jon Croft (Tom Girton), Christopher Wray (PC Groom), Gerald Taylor (Baker’s Man), Stanley Mason (Bok), Alec Linstead (Sergeant Osgood), John Owens (Thorpe), Stephen Thorne (Azal), The Headington Quarry Men (Morris Dancers) & Matthew Corbett (Jones).

Writer: Guy Leopold (Robert Sloman & Barry Letts)

Director: Christopher Barry

Parts: 5

Behind the Scenes

  • One of the eleven televised stories not to feature the Doctor’s TARDIS.
  • The story was filmed in Aldbourne in Wiltshire.
  • The shot of the exploded helicopter was an used shot from the James Bond film From Russia With Love. The shot was so convincing that some members of the audience were convinced that a real helicopter had been destroyed.
  • This story concludes a season-long run of stories featuring the Master. Roger Delgado would appear in the following two seasons, appearing in two stories in Season 9 and one in Season 10.
  • The last five part Doctor Who story.
  • The incantation used by the Master is ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’ backwards. It was originally The Lord’s Prayer spoken backwards but BBC bosses objected.
  • Many viewers believed that the model of the church destroyed in the final episode was the actual church and the BBC received complaints.
  • It was originally intended to be a six-part story but was cut down due to production difficulties.

Cast Notes

  • David Simeon had previously appeared in Inferno.
  • Damaris Hayman acted as an unofficial adviser whilst on the show as she had an interest in the supernatural.
  • Stephen Thorne would go on to appear as further costumed villains in The Three Doctors, Frontier in Space and The Hand of Fear.

Best Moment

Best Quote

I see. So all we’ve got to deal with is something which is either too small to see or thirty feet tall, can incinerate you or freeze you to death, turn stone images into homicidal monsters and looks like the devil.

Exactly.

Mike Yates and the Third Doctor

Previous Third Doctor Review: Colony in Space

Colony in Space

It’s always innocent bystanders who suffer.

The Master

Synopsis

The Time Lords discover that the Master has stolen their file on the Doomsday Weapon, and so enlist the Doctor and Jo to help deal with the crisis. On arriving on the planet Uxarieus, they became involved in a struggle between human colonists and a powerful mining company determined to evict them.

Review

Colony in Space marks the first time since Patrick Troughton’s regeneration story, The War Games, that the Third Doctor has left Earth. From a production standpoint, this was to prevent the monotony of what they saw as the two main Earth-bound stories, the evil scientist and the alien invasion. Whilst the production is undoubtedly filmed in a rain-sodden quarry somewhere in England, it is quite refreshing to see this Doctor and companion pairing given some time away from the Brigadier and UNIT. It has quite a clear political message – even in the future, the corporations are calling the shots – which isn’t exactly subtle!

One of the story’s biggest issues is that it does feel quite slow and repetitive in places, with the dispute between the Interplanetary Mining Corporation (IMC) and the colonists on Uxarieus feeling like some quite mature science fiction and I think that children would certainly struggle with this story. At six parts long, it feels as though it would be much more effective and memorable as a four-parter, as having the colonists attack the IMC twice and win twice does feel quite repetitive here. I really enjoyed the first two parts of this story but thought that it began to drag once Jo was captured by the Uxarieans and struggled to regain my interest until the Master showed up in Part 4. The native aliens are very much bog standard Doctor Who aliens, and their inclusion does feel like a bit of an afterthought, as does the whole Doomsday weapon subplot, which is built up to be important by the Time Lords at the start of the story, but seems to be largely forgotten.

The story does feature some really good direction and the general production standard is good. The titular colony and the Uxariean underground civilisation are excellent examples of set design, and whilst this might not be Michael Briant’s best story to judge his talents as director, he definitely has moments of visual flair and manages to make the robot look threatening at the end of part one despite the ridiculous ‘reptile’ hands. The show also deserves a lot of credit for finding the quarry of the week as it does appear to be completely inhospitable and so it is believable when the Doctor and Ashe discuss the failing crop yields at the beginning of the story. Briant also makes the colony feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable especially in the scenes when they are unaware that they have a traitor in their midst in the shape of Norton.

The main villains of the piece are Captain Dent and Morgan from IMC, alongside the Master when he eventually shows up. Dent and Morgan are good villains, shown to have no scruples about their attempts to convince Ashe and the colonists to leave Uraxeius and their actions and dialogue make it clear that they are unafraid of the leaders of the overcrowded planet Earth and any potential consequences that they may suffer. Hulke here is clearly warning about the dangers of unaccountable corporations acting in similar ways. Caldwell presents a more sympathetic character, expressing some concerns about the legality and morality of what they are doing in order to get their hands on the substantive amounts of Duralinium, but he is prevented from taking his concerns further by Dent’s threats that he will ensure that Caldwell never works again. These three actors all do good jobs, especially Morris Perry as Dent who is really sinister at times. The other antagonist is the Master, who continues his streak of appearing in every story in Season 8. I know some are critical of this, however, I rather enjoyed the fact that his appearance on screen was held back here and found that his presence elevated the latter half of the story which could have really dragged otherwise. Delgado is such an engaging presence on screen that it almost distracts from other deficiencies in the story, especially in his scenes with Pertwee, even if the Doomsday Weapon subplot is a bit rubbish.

Speaking of Jon Pertwee, this is another good performance from him as the Third Doctor and his delight at being able to travel off the Earth is palpable in part one, even if he is annoyed at the fact that this does not mean he can control his TARDIS again. The Doctor and Jo spend very little time together once they have travelled to the planet and as much as I like the character and Katy Manning’s performances generally, she is portrayed as a typical damsel in distress here. Amongst the colonists, there are also no real stand out performances and the characters largely feel bland and interchangeable.

Verdict: A good if not exceptional first adventure off Earth for the Third Doctor would have benefited greatly from being shorter. Michael Briant and the rest of the production team deserve praise for some lovely direction and set design though. 6/10

Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Nicholas Pennell (Winton), John Ringham (Ashe), David Webb (Leeson), Sheila Grant (Jane Leeson), Roy Skelton (Norton), Helen Worth (Mary Ashe), John Line (Martin), Mitzi Webster (Mrs Martin), John Scott Martin (Robot), Pat Gorman (Primitive, Voice, Long and Colonist), Peter Forbes-Robertson (Time Lord), John Baker (Time Lord), Graham Leaman (Time Lord), Bernard Kay (Caldwell), Morris Perry (Dent), Tony Caunter (Morgan), John Herrington (Holden), Stanley McGeagh (Allen), Roger Delgado (The Master), John Tordoff (Alec Leeson), Norman Atkyns (Guardian) & Roy Heymann (Alien Priest),.

Writer: Malcolm Hulke

Director: Michael Briant

Parts: 6

Behind the Scenes

  • The first off-Earth story recorded in colour and Jo Grant is the first companion to travel with the Doctor in the TARDIS since The War Games.
  • The story introduces a new model of the sonic screwdriver and also marks the start of it being used more often.
  • The first directorial credit for Michael Briant, who had been with the show since the Innes Lloyd and Peter Bryant eras. He also provides the voice-over for the propaganda film in the second episode.
  • The working title for this story was The Colony.

Cast Notes

  • Susan Jameson was originally cast as Morgan, however, after the BBC’s Head of Drama Serials made an intervention, the role was given to Tony Caunter as the role was deemed inappropriate for a woman to play in a show targeted at families as it could have been unintentally deemed to be sexual. As Jameson had signed a contract, she was paid in full.
  • Tony Caunter had previously appeared in The Crusade and would go on to appear in Enlightenment.
  • Sheila Grant previously voiced the Quarks in The Dominators.
  • Roy Skelton makes his first on screen appearance here, and would later appear in The Green Death. He had done voice work for the show since The Ark and is probably best known as the voice of the Daleks from Evil of the Daleks until Remembrance of the Daleks. He also voiced the Monoids and Cybermen.
  • John Line appeared in the stage play The Curse of the Daleks and the audio adaptation of the same produced by Big Finish.
  • Mitzi McKenzie went on to appear in The Green Death.
  • Peter Forbes-Robertson previously appeared as a guard in The Power of the Daleks and was the Chief Sea Devil in The Sea Devils.
  • John Baker appeared in The Visitation.
  • Graham Leaman makes his fourth of five appearances in Doctor Who here. His final appearance would be in The Three Doctors.
  • Bernard Kay makes his final appearance in a Doctor Who story, having previously been in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Crusade and The Faceless Ones.
  • John Herrington previously appeared in The Daleks’ Master Plan.
  • Stanley McGeagh and Norman Atkyns would go on to appear in The Sea Devils.
  • Roy Heymann would later appear in Death to the Daleks.

Best Moment

It’s not a traditionally great moment, but I do like the top and tail scenes with the Brigadier, especially when the Doctor and Jo decide not to tell the Brigadier that they have been on a trip away from Headquarters.

Best Quote

One must rule or serve. That is the basic law of life. Why do you hesitate? Surely it’s not loyalty to the Time Lords, who exiled you to one insignificant planet.

You’ll never understand. I want to see the universe, not rule it.

The Master and the Third Doctor

Previous Third Doctor review: The Claws of Axos

Time-Flight

Time-Flight - Doctor

The illusion is always one of normality.

The Doctor

Synopsis

When a Concorde disappears through a crack in time, the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan take another Concorde to follow, unaware that a mysterious conjuror Kalid is waiting for them.

Review

After the explosive climax to Earthshock, the conclusion to Peter Davison’s first season as the Doctor is difficult to describe as anything other than a letdown.  Time-Flight has a reputation that certainly precedes it – I was certainly aware that this was not a great story before watching this story – and it is frustrating to see Davison’s Doctor hampered by stories like this and Black Orchid.

This is certainly an example of the show having ambition well in advance of its meagre budget.  Aspects like the landscape of pre-historic Earth and the prop Concorde landing gear look laughable and very much like a set in front of a matt painting.  Additionally, filming onboard Concorde itself seems to, like a lot of the John Nathan-Turner era, have been done for reasons of generating publicity rather than considering the practicalities of it.  The scenes shot in the cabin and the flight deck of Concorde look very claustrophobic and not easy to work in – there is one scene with the Doctor talking to the flight crew which feels as though the camera is literally right behind Peter Davison.  The one thing that does look like money has been spent on it is the Master’s disguise as Kalid, which does look rather impressive, even though it is only used for the first two parts.  Given the scope of the story and the cast and production team’s seeming antipathy towards this serial, it is perhaps surprising that one of the script editors or John Nathan-Turner suggested holding it over to the next season in order to do this story full justice.

Time-Flight Kalid and the TARDIS

Peter Grimwade’s story is certainly ambitious, however, it is safe to say that his writing is not as good as his direction, and the narrative is full of characters that feel superfluous.  I do feel that this is not entirely his fault though, as this story is unfortunate to follow Earthshock and doesn’t entirely deal with the death of Adric satisfactorily.  This isn’t a problem exclusive to Doctor Who.  For those of you unfamiliar with your James Bond films, Blofeld kills Bond’s new bride in the closing minutes of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, yet when James Bond returned in Diamonds Are Forever, he acts as though the worst thing Blofeld has ever done is park in his space.  The story does certainly start with a sombre tone, picking up straight after the Doctor has dropped off the survivors of the encounter with the Cybermen, but this does get quite rapidly dropped as a plot element.  I’ve heard that the Master originally was not supposed to feature and was a late addition and this certainly makes quite a lot of sense.  His appearance here does seem quite derivative of his earlier appearance in Castrovalva, especially considering that he spent most of his time in disguise in that story too.  Grimwade’s story does have some interesting ideas, like the Xeraphin and the Jekyll and Hyde style relationship that seems to dog their race, however, there are too many other things going on here to go into it in further details.

There is quite a large cast here but a lot of them aren’t given an awful lot to do, with the Master mind-controlling the majority of the passengers and crew of the first Concorde, and Nyssa and Tegan largely sidelined.  However, there are four standout performances that mean that this story isn’t absolutely dreadful.  The first is Peter Davison, who really throws himself into the story despite his personal feelings towards the story.  The second is Anthony Ainley, who, though the Master doesn’t really need to be in this story, brings a suitable sense of pantomime menace to proceedings.  The third and fourth are Richard Easton and Nigel Stock as Captain Stapley and Professor Hayter.  Richard Easton portrays such a likable character who falls completely under the spell of this energetic and youthful Doctor and is eager to help as evidenced in the scenes where he attempts to thwart the Master taking parts of the Doctor’s TARDIS.  Nigel Stock brings some cynicism and some wonderful barbs into the episode which does not really give the actors very much to work with.

Verdict: Time-Flight brings Davison’s first season as the Doctor to a somewhat lacklustre conclusion.  An ambitious story which should perhaps have been refused on grounds of practicalities, however, it does feature some good performances from Davison, Ainley, Easton and Stock. 2/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Anthony Ainley (Khalid/The Master), Richard Easton (Captain Stapley), Keith Drinkel (Flight Engineer Scobie), Michael Cashman (First Officer Bilton), Peter Dahlsen (Horton), Brian McDermott (Sheard), John Flint (Captain Urquhart), Peter Cellier (Andrews), Judith Byfield (Angela Clifford), Nigel Stock (Professor Hayter), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Hugh Hayes (Anithon) & André Winterton (Zarak).

Writer: Peter Grimwade

Director: Ron Jones

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The first part of this story was the most successful in terms of viewing figures of John Nathan-Turner’s entire era as producer.
  • Adric’s appearance served not only to fulfill Matthew Waterhouse’s contract but also to mean that his name would have to appear in the Radio Times, thus not spoiling the character’s death at the end of Earthshock.
  • This story was the first television program permitted to film at Heathrow Airport and the first to film on Concorde.
  • Although Janet Fielding leaves at the end of this story, there was never any intention to make this a permanent departure, and she reappears in Arc of Infinity.
  • Peter Davison labels this story as his most disappointing experience.
  • Anthony Ainley is credited as Leon Ny Taiy for the first episode.

Cast Notes

  • Keith Drinkel would go on to appear in the audio drama Catch-1782.

Best Moment

The scenes in Part One with the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan at Heathrow Airport are good – I especially like how quick the Doctor is to be accepted by the authorities after namedropping UNIT and the Brigadier.

Best Quote

I thought you were going with the Doctor.

So did I…

Captain Stapley and Tegan Jovanka

The Claws of Axos

Claws of Axos - Axons

Obviously the Time Lords have programmed the TARDIS always to return to Earth.  It seems that I am some sort of intergalactic yo-yo!

The Third Doctor

Synopsis

A group of gold-skinned aliens arrive on Earth offering a seemingly magical element in return for fuel.  The Doctor sees through their seeming benevolence and uncovers their true nature, ultimately teaming up with his adversary the Master in efforts to take them down.

Review

It’ll be no secret to anybody who has read my other blogs about the Jon Pertwee era that it is one that I am immensely fond of.  I really enjoy the Third Doctor’s man of action, the UNIT Family (especially the Brigadier!) and Roger Delgado, however, that doesn’t stop me from seeing how formulaic things get.  The Claws of Axos is a solid, if unremarkable, story with a lot of familiar elements and I acknowledge that it is unfair to lay all the faults of Season 8 squarely at the door of this serial.

As mentioned above, all of the hallmarks of the Third Doctor’s era are here.  We have an interfering civil servant in the shape of Mr Chinn, played by Peter Bathurst, who gives a good performance as an utter jobsworth who seems to be equally despised by the Doctor, UNIT and the Ministry that he serves.  Chinn is shown to be the worst of humanity when he is presented with the Axonite, only wanting it to benefit Britain and being extremely reluctant even when instructed by the Minister to share it with the rest of the World.  There is somewhat of a see-saw of control in this story, as the Brigadier and Chinn are constantly vying to stay in control of the situation surrounding the seemingly distressed Axon craft, with the Brigadier, Benton and Yates arrested by the military at one point.  Whilst other civil servants have acted foolishly (see Geoffrey Palmer’s infected Masters in The Silurians) or acted antagonistically towards the Doctor and the Brigadier, Chinn seems completely callous.  When he wanders into the reactor room towards the serial’s conclusion, he is more concerned about the potential impact on his career than the fate of the Earth.

Ah, Mister Chinn.  Where have you been hiding yourself?  Canteen?

As it so happens, I’ve been doing your job!

Oh yes?

Trying to do something about the situation.

Which particular situation?

Axonite, Brigadier, Axonite.  Do you realise that Britain’s going to get the blame for all this? 

Britain or you, Mister Chinn?

Well, if you won’t get me the Ministry…where’s Hardiman?

Dead.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Chinn

Despite the story being quite formulaic, I do quite like the Axons.  There is certainly something about their gold faces and bug-like eyes which is rather unsettling and they are rather unique in the grand scheme of Doctor Who foes, seemingly being a benevolent force.  The costumes in both their humanoid and “raw” forms are quite effectively creepy and I like the idea of them being an embodiment of their ship.  Their plan is an allusion to the fuel crisis in the 1970s, with Axonite being gifted to the humans as a substitute fuel and a “chameleon element”.  When it is sold to humanity like that, it is perhaps not surprising that Chinn would take this attitude to hoard the supplies for Britain, and it is only with the intervention of the Master that Axos’s plan gets back on track.

Claws of Axos - Master

Speaking of the Master, Roger Delgado is great as usual.  He is able to easily manage scenes like hypnotising the UNIT truck driver and using a frankly ludicrous disguise to get past Benton with his usual charming and suave demeanour, and it is perhaps difficult to see any of his successors in the role managing to pull this off in the same way.  The one element that doesn’t really work is the presence of Bill Filer, an American agent sent to arrest the Master, not helped by an accent that could be described as shaky at best.  Despite this, I’m still not bored of the Master turning up every episode, and it is nice to see the Doctor and the Master finally working together to defeat Axos.  Considering how spiky the Third Doctor has been in his tenure to date, it is not surprising to see his abandonment of humanity once he has an inkling of a way off the planet and the scenes with the Master and the Doctor in the TARDIS are a joy.  It’s equally nice to see the Master almost acting as the scientific advisor to UNIT and the Master’s frustration that the Brigadier won’t simply let him leave his fantastic.

Claws of Axos - Brigadier, Master, Filer

If I had one major criticism, it would be that Katy Manning doesn’t really have very much to do here.  This might be in part why I am not keen on the character of Bill Filer, as his role could have been much better filled by Jo, especially the initial discovery of the Master.  I do like Jo as a companion, so it is a shame to see her reduced to a bit part here, especially as she is one of two women who appear in this story.

Verdict: Whilst the story is almost a paint by numbers Earth invasion story, there are moments that redeem it from becoming completely formulaic.  This is probably helped by decent performances from the regulars, especially Delgado. 6/10

Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), John Levene (Sergeant Benton), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), Roger Delgado (The Master), Paul Grist (Filer), Peter Bathurst (Chinn), Fernanda Marlowe (Corporal Bell), Donald Hewlett (Hardiman), David Savile (Winser), Derek Ware (Pigbin Josh), Bernard Holley (Axon Man), Michael Walker (1st Radar Operator), David G Marsh (2nd Radar Operator), Patricia Gordino (Axon Woman), John Hicks (Axon Boy), Debbie Lee London (Axon Girl), Tim Piggott-Smith (Captain Harker), Kenneth Benda (Defence Minister) & Royston Farrell (Technician).

Writer: Bob Baker & Dave Martin

Director: Michael Ferguson

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The first contribution to the show by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.  Originally envisaged as a six or seven-part story, it was scaled back due to issues relating to the budget.
  • The first appearance of the TARDIS interior in Pertwee’s era, and the differences seen here – the corridor between the main doors and the console room and the monitor screen being contained in a roundel.  When the TARDIS interior reappeared later, both features were gone.
  • An overnight snowstorm during location filming necessitated the line regarding the ‘freak weather conditions’ caused by the arrival of Axos.
  • The third and final serial of the Pertwee era to use the Patrick Troughton variation of the theme.
  • Bernard Holley previously appeared in The Tomb of the Cybermen and would reprise his role in The Feast of Axos.  Peter Bathurst had previously appeared in The Power of the Daleks, John Hicks had previously appeared in The Dominators, and Tim Piggott-Smith would go on to appear in The Masque of Mandragora.

Best Moment

Seeing the Master and the Brigadier working together is quite enjoyable.

Best Quote

What else can we do?

Oh, nothing very much.  Oh, I suppose you can take the usual precautions against nuclear blast, like, er, sticky tape on the windows and that sort of thing.

Hardiman and the Master

Claws of Axos - Jo, Doctor, Filer

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.