We’re back, with another season of classic Doctor Who! In Season 9, the Doctor has settled into his exile on Earth, and so has companion Jo Grant. With the Master behind bars, what lies ahead? Let’s get to it!
The season opener starts off strong when, after four years of absence, the Daleks return in Day of the Daleks. The story centers on a Dalek conquest of Earth, but it’s not the same one seen in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. That complicates things, as this invasion is said to begin near the end of the twentieth century, but is seen to still be in place in the twenty-third century—thus it encompasses the invasion we already know. It’s an early example of how time can be rewritten (and not always for the better!) as it is the Daleks’ use of time travel that causes this invasion, thereby changing the timeline. In the end, the Doctor’s intervention causes it to be changed back. It was interesting to see time travel used as a major plot point, which is rare; usually it just gets the participants to the scene of the action.
Theis story introduces the Ogrons, ogre-like slaves of the Daleks, who fulfill the same function as the Robomen in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. They will get at least a few more mentions, if not appearances. UNIT, meanwhile, is still performing a security role, again at a peace conference, where once again the Chinese delegation is the source of the trouble; this has little direct bearing on the plot, but it is the target for the Daleks, who want to destabilize the world and plunge it into war.
Judging by the Daleks’ words, this is (from their perspective) the first time they reveal to the Doctor that they possess time travel, meaning that The Chase and other past time travel stories are yet in their future. It’s also their first encounter with the Third Doctor.
The Curse of Peladon introduces the planet Peladon, which will appear once more on the show and several times in spinoff media. It’s another temporary reprieve from exile for the Doctor; he believes at first that he has repaired the TARDIS, but at the end he speculates (probably correctly, though it’s not confirmed) that the Time Lords have actually arranged this trip for their purposes. Peladon is a prospective member of the Galactic Federation, and the story is set sometime in the mid-3000s. There’s little consensus on the date, but the TARDIS wiki places it in 3885, which seems as good a guess as any.
The Ice Warriors make an appearance here, but surprisingly, they prove not to be the villains, having renounced their warlike ways. That honor goes to Arcturus, another delegate at the conference, and to Hepesh, a native of Peladon. Arcturus uses a life support system which is very reminiscent of Max Capricorn’s cyborg body in Voyage of the Damned. Unfortunately that story occurs some 1800 years prior to this; therefore the technologies are probably not related.
Returning to Earth, the Doctor encounters the Master again in The Sea Devils. He’s the only prisoner of a very unique prison, conveniently situated on an island. Continuing a trend, he forms a sort of uneasy alliance—slavery, really—with the so-called Sea Devils, a race of aquatic Silurians. This lends some weight to my own theory that NuWho Silurians are a racial variant of the classic series Silurians, as they look considerably different; the Sea Devils look even more different, and have some different abilities. Also true to form, this alliance falls apart and becomes a problem for the Master, though he manages to escape custody at the end. As for the Sea Devils…it’s beginning to seem that every encounter with any variant of Silurians ends with failed negotiations, and also often with mass destruction.
Two interesting things about this serial: for one, this is the only time that the Third Doctor, during his own era, ever utters the now-iconic line “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow”. He does occasionally use shortened versions, but the complete line will only occur once more, during the Fifth Doctor-era The Five Doctors. Secondly, this is another of the exceedingly rare times when the TARDIS does not feature in the story in any capacity. Four of those incidents (Doctor Who and the Silurians, The Mind of Evil, The Daemons, The Sea Devils) occur in the Third Doctor era. One (Mission to the Unknown, also the only Doctor-free story to date) occurs in the First Doctor era; two (The Sontaran Experiment, Genesis of the Daleks) in the Fourth; and one (Midnight) in the Tenth.
In The Mutants, the Time Lords again send the Doctor and Jo on a mission, this time to the planet Solos in “the thirtieth century” as stated by the Doctor (A History of the Universe places it in 2990, but with little evidence). It’s a good, straightforward story, with the familiar theme of oppression of an indigenous population. There’s a twist, though; the humanoid Solonians are actually a multistage lifeform, like a butterfly. Their life cycle has been stunted, leaving them in their monstrous, mutant-like “pupa” form; thanks to the Doctor, they will achieve their full potential and expel the invading humans from their world. Altogether, it’s a very NuWho plot, though with the pacing that is common to the classic series. I grudgingly admitted that Jo proves herself useful in this story, first bluffing the humans’ Marshal to manipulate him and help the Doctor, and later disarming a guard. I don’t have to like it, though!
Together with the The Curse of Peladon, this story gives us some hints about the course of future history, especially for humanity. On their own, the two stories don’t say much, but when added to events referenced later in NuWho, a picture starts to emerge. It’s never stated onscreen, but the Earth Empire represented in this story by the Marshal appears to be synonymous with the First Great and Bountiful Human Empire (never called as such, but other empires in the series make it clear). If our chronology is correct, it collapses and is replaced with the Galactic Federation previously mentioned. Then, a century or two later, the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire arises from the remains of the Federation. (The third and fourth empires are much further removed in time.) We don’t know the duration of the second empire, but it’s possible that it is still the political entity in power in the 51st and 52nd centuries, when Jack Harkness and River Song lived significant portions of their lives.
The Master closes out the season with a bang in The Time Monster. Once again, he seeks an alliance that proves dangerous to him. This time, it’s with a creature from outside time itself, the chronovore (literally “time eater” or “time devourer”) Kronos. Seeing this creature, I couldn’t help wondering if the series will eventually draw a connection between the chronovores and the Weeping Angels; after all, they’re both winged creatures that feed on time, if by different mechanisms. The chronovere Kronos is credited with the destruction of Atlantis; it’s the third such explanation we’ve been given, but this time, we get to see it begin. The Doctor does successfully take his TARDIS to Atlantis, but that doesn’t mean he’s free of exile yet; having just left a space loop with the Master’s TARDIS, it seems he tracks the Master to Atlantis, using the Master’s TARDIS as a landing beacon.
This is a trippy episode, with such things as time-and-space loops; the TARDISes materializing inside each other; Jo hearing the Doctor’s thoughts (a scene reminiscent of Clara’s trip into the Eleventh Doctor’s timeline); the first naming (I think) of the Time Vortex as such; and the first mention of the TARDIS’s telepathic circuits, which return in a big way in Listen with the Twelfth Doctor. The TARDIS gets a new interior and console, and a new time rotor (slightly different for the Master’s TARDIS), though it will soon be changed again, as this set will degrade in storage between seasons. There’s also an early mention of the TARDIS possibly being alive, though the Doctor is a little vague about it. The Doctor builds a device to track problems in time, which is suspiciously similar to the Tenth Doctor’s “timey-wimey detector”. And finally, to answer an often-asked question: Yes, the Doctor does sleep! He’s seen to be sleeping at the beginning of the story.
This entry is getting long, but one more thing. In a weird case of perfect timing, while watching this season I had the opportunity to read a well-known Doctor Who novel titled Who Killed Kennedy (and yes, the lack of a question mark is intentional). I don’t often get to read prose spinoff material; mostly I find myself reading about it; so this was a rare treat. It was timely, though, as the book takes an outsider’s view of the events of this very season, as well as the preceding two seasons. The ostensible narrator of the book, a reporter named James Stevens, even makes an unnamed appearance in The Mind of Evil, in the background of the Keller Machine demonstration at Stangmoor Prison. It gives a different perspective of the events of the series, and goes a long way toward answering the question of how these things can happen without public reaction. (As a bonus, it gives considerable “screen time” to a former companion, Dodo Chaplet, and also gives another appearance of Liz Shaw—what’s not to love?) I highly recommend the book, which is available as an ebook for free by clicking this link.
Next time: Ten years of Doctor Who, and a visit from some old friends! See you there.
All episodes can be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.
Day of the Daleks (for episode 4,