Charity Anthology Review: Regenerations, edited by Kenton Hall, featuring the War Doctor

Nearly seven years ago, I remember sitting in my bedroom with the television on and the lights dimmed. I had put my children—then ages seven and five—to bed early, and locked up the house, and silenced my cell phone, all so that I could watch, uninterrupted, something for which I had waited years: the fiftieth anniversary special of Doctor Who.

And it was worth it. In the years since, there has been much debate over the episode, much of it over on the /r/Gallifrey subreddit (where this post can also be found); but on that night I didn’t care about any of that. I watched and enjoyed the story for everything it represented–fifty years of wonderful stories, of colorful characters, of Doctor after Doctor after Doctor…and something unexpected: a new Doctor! And not even the next one, which we already knew about; but rather, a past Doctor, a hidden Doctor, one the Doctor himself couldn’t bear to bring into the light. Needless to say, I was caught up. (Full disclosure, of course: the actual reveal was in the previous episode—but we knew so little, it may as well have been in the special. I certainly wasn’t disappointed!)

John Hurt’s War Doctor became the glue that held the entire post-Time War continuity together. The Last Great Time War was the event that drove every incarnation of the Doctor, from Eccleston’s Nine to Capaldi’s Twelve; but it took Hurt’s War Doctor to show us just why, and how much, the Doctor loathed himself. So much so that he denied the very name; so much so that he managed to hide the existence of the War Doctor from every instance where he could have been expected to be revealed. But the past doesn’t always stay in the past, even if you’re the Doctor.

Unfortunately, John Hurt was taken too soon. He turned in a few glorious performances as the War Doctor in Big Finish’s audio format; and then he was gone. I one hundred percent respect the BBC’s, and Big Finish’s, decision not to recast him or otherwise continue his legacy. And yet, there’s a part of me, as a fan, that says what everyone was thinking: The War Doctor deserves more.

 

That’s where today’s review comes in. On 03 August 2020, a new War Doctor charity anthology was released; and we’ll be looking at it today. Published by Chinbeard Books, and edited by Kenton Hall, Regenerations is released in support of Invest in ME, a research organization studying treatments for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (the “ME” of the title). I will link to the charity at the end, as well as to the sale page for the anthology. In the meantime, you can view a short trailer for the anthology here!

Regenerations book cover

We’ve had other charity projects concerning the War Doctor before, most notably the Seasons of War anthology (an excellent read, if you can locate a copy; it is currently out of print, and not expected to return). Regenerations is a bit different; where Seasons of War is a compilation of stories that are in rough chronological order—as much as a Time War can ever be chronological!—but mostly unrelated to each other, Regenerations is more tightly woven. But more on that in a moment.

There will be some spoilers ahead! I have given a short and vague overview of the anthology’s entries, but even those clips contain spoilers. Further, afterward, I’ll be summing up the frame story, and will at minimum be spoiling who the major villain is, and a bit of how it is overcome. I am not going to try to spoiler tag such an extensive part of the post; but you can use the line dividers ahead as markers. You can read the next section, beginning with the phrase “Less like an anthology”, safely without significant spoilers. The two line-divided sections thereafter are spoiler-heavy, so if you want to avoid them, skip ahead!

With all that said, let’s dive in!


Less like an anthology, Regenerations reads like a novel, despite being the work of a group of authors. Its stories don’t simply have “the Time War” as their common thread; they mesh together for a purpose. There’s a frame story, penned by editor Kenton Hall, in which the War Doctor begins abruptly to sense that, in this war of changed timelines, someone is playing games with his own past. Suddenly, he’s not quite the man he has been—and he is dangerously close to becoming the man he used to be. That’s unfortunate, and quite possibly disastrous, because the change comes at a critical moment, a time when the universe seems to need the Warrior more than the Doctor. Now, he must work through his past lives and find the divergences, and somehow set them right, before he himself ceases to be. And if, along the way, he can find the parties responsible, it would be a wonderful bonus.

We’re introduced to two new Time Lords, newly minted Academy graduates (and CIA desk jockeys) Jelsillon and Dyliss. Their world is turned on its head when they receive a new mission from the CIA’s Coordinator—and instantly they know something is wrong. The Coordinator is a man they know—but not from the CIA. Rather, it’s a former classmate, Narvin (yes, THAT Narvin), who is suddenly seen to be much older and several regenerations along. Narvin sets them a mission: to disrupt the timeline of the famous (infamous?) Time Lord known as the Doctor. There’s just one problem: They don’t know who that is.

Jelsillon and Dyliss, as it turns out, live in a time long before the War, and even before the rise of the Doctor. This, it seems, makes them prime candidates for the mission; though they familiarize themselves with the Doctor, they have no preconceptions. All they have is a drive for adventure—and who wouldn’t want to save the world, after all?

From here, we launch into a series of tales, one concerning each of the War Doctor’s past lives. Each is an alteration of events familiar to us, the fans; each is a deviation from the timeline we have known. Between these stories, we see in short form the Doctor’s continuing efforts to get to the bottom of the situation.


Let’s take a look at the stories.

  • First Doctor: To get us started and set our course, editor Kenton Hall gives us our first tale, told in five short parts. In An Untrustworthy Child and The World That Was Different, we visit late 1963, where a policeman walks his beat near I.M. Foreman’s scrapyard; but his curiosity will cost him tonight. Elsewhere and elsewhen, on war-torn Gallifrey, the High Council under Rassilon banishes one of its own, and sets a dangerous plan in place. And two young Time Lords, Jelsillon and Dyliss, are sent on a mission to make that plan a reality, though they don’t know what they are getting into. In Exit the Doctor, the First Doctor mulls over his situation, and ultimately decides the time to leave 1963 London is fast approaching; but before he can act, he discovers the alarming presence of another TARDIS in the scrapyard, and goes to investigate. In The TARDISes, the Doctor isn’t the only one investigating; two teachers from his granddaughter Susan’s school are making their way to the scrapyard on a mission of their own. Meanwhile, the occupants of the new TARDIS, Jelsillon and Dyliss, have laid a trap, not for the Doctor, but for his granddaughter, Susan. A split-second decision will return Susan to Gallifrey, and turn everything on its head, as Jelsillon and Dyliss—not Ian and Barbara—join the Doctor on his travels. They have one goal: to ensure he never goes to Skaro, and never meets the Daleks. For, as the High Council believes, it’s the Doctor’s encounters with the Daleks that ultimately lead them to their vendetta against the Time Lords; if that can be averted, will not also the War itself? And in The Pawn of Time, the Doctor—now having traveled for some time with Dyliss and Jelsillon—has just taken on a new companion, one Vicki Pallister. Back on Gallifrey, the banished Cardinal is summoned to a meeting by the War Doctor; and on Earth, a somewhat traumatized policeman decides to put in for his retirement.
  • The Second Doctor: Dan Barratt’s Time of the Cybermen revisits the events of Tomb of the Cybermen, on the distant planet of Telos—until a sweeping wave of timeline changes carries the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria away to Earth, with aching heads and new memories… Here they discover a different tomb, as in the 22nd century they find that the Cybermen, not the Daleks, conquered Earth. Now, the last bastion of humanity, long sleeping in their own frozen crypt, is about to be discovered—and it’s all the Doctor’s fault!
  • The Third Doctor: Andrew Lawston revisits Day of the Daleks in The Paradoxical Affair at Styles. Events happen much the same, with a 22nd century assassin returning to kill Reginald Styles, only to be thwarted—but when the assassin is killed, he is determined to be the Doctor! Naturally, this is most alarming to the Doctor himself. He and Jo Grant find themselves transported into the future—but they miss the mark by twenty years, only to find themselves in the midst of the Dalek occupation of Earth. They receive unexpected aid from an old enemy: The Master—but not as they have known them. This Master claims to be from the future, in a time of universe-consuming war. In the end, his help only serves to perpetuate the loop, with the Doctor returning to the past to assassinate Styles…
  • The Fourth Doctor: Terminus of the Daleks, by Alan Ronald, takes us to the far future of Gallifrey, a time long past the disappearance of the hero known as the Doctor. We meet Ari, an actor, who is playing the role of the Doctor in his greatest adventure: his visit to Skaro at the very beginning of the Dalek menace (Genesis of the Daleks), where he asked the famous question, “Have I the right…?” and then answered with a resounding YES. And yet, here, now, with history solid and reassuring behind him, he must ask himself: How would the Doctor really feel? The question has weight, and so will the answer.
  • The Fifth Doctor: Shockwave, by Simon A. Brett and Lee Rawlings, picks up immediately after the death of Adric—but not the death we remember. After all, there were no Sontarans involved in Adric’s original death. Don’t mind the oddity though; as the Doctor says to Tegan and Nyssa, “as we’ve been dealing with a number of supremely powerful species discharging temporal energy in the same relatively localized area of time and space, normality may be too much to ask.” But there’s no time to worry about that, as the TARDIS has a close call with a VERY displaced Concorde—which leads them to a drastically altered Heathrow airport, an ankylosaurus in the shops, and a kidnapping by a quite unexpected old enemy.
  • Sixth Doctor: Revelation, by Christine Grit, opens with the Sixth Doctor landing on a world called Necros—or is it?—in the midst of an argument with his young companion, Per—no, Adric. Even the Doctor can detect that something isn’t right—just why did he come here, anyway? A funeral? An old friend?—but he can’t force his mind to sort it out. Which quickly becomes irrelevant, as he is captured and placed in a cage in a zoo, right between a dead Sontaran and a depressed-but-artistic Ice Warrior. Adric, meanwhile, escapes, only to fall in with a local band of (literally) shadowy rebels, led by a strange woman with a gravity-defying mermaid tail. Yes, that is a real sentence; just roll with it, it works out alright in the end. Before long, the roles are reversed; it is the Doctor who is free and siding with the young woman, while Adric is a prisoner…of a long-absent Time Lord called the Rani, and her modified Daleks.
  • Seventh Doctor: Enter the Rani by Nick Mellish picks up on the threads left hanging in Revelation. After disposing of Adric, the Rani’s plans have moved ahead, and she has found a suitable world in Lakertya. If only she hadn’t crashed on it! But given time—something she has in abundance—she shapes the rocky continent of her landing into something she can use, enslaving its people, building labs, conducting experiments. It isn’t long before her next targets—the Doctor and his companion, Mel—come along…only to crash as well. Strange. Well, the Rani is nothing if not an opportunist. She captures the Doctor, but is stunned to see that he has just regenerated, which will certainly throw a wrench in the plans. Mel falls in with the remaining natives, and organizes a rescue—and for once it works! The Rani is captured, the Doctor freed. Her plans continue, however—plans to destroy a strange matter comet and collect the chronons it generates, and use them to punch a hole in time and shape history—and evolution—to her own desires. But the mystery still remains: What is it that traps TARDISes on this world? As the moon turns blue, the truth proves to be stranger than fiction—but that won’t stop the end of the world from happening.
  • Eighth Doctor: Steven Horry’s The Edge of the War posits only a small change: What if the Master, in his deathworm morphant form after his execution by the Daleks, didn’t steal the body of Bruce the paramedic, but rather, the body of his wife, Miranda? Such a small change…and yet the consequences snowball, as this new Master kills Chang Lee rather than subverts him, and then steals the TARDIS, leaving the Doctor stranded on Earth—and out of the path of the inevitable Time War.
  • War Doctor–or not?: The Flight of the Doctor, by Barnaby Eaton-Jones, shows us a different view of The Night of the Doctor, one in which Cass and her crew safely escape the gunship’s crash on Karn…and the Doctor walks away from Ohila’s offer. After all, what does a war need more than a medic?

From here to the end of the book, we return to the War Doctor, Jelsillon, and Dyliss. For the War Doctor, this tale began on the world of Makaria Prime, which dealt with the War in a singularly impressive way: By removing themselves from it. Unfortunately, they did so by punching a hole through not only the time vortex, but the very fabric of the universe itself—and that hole became a superhighway for not only the Daleks, but also another, unexpected villain. Long ago, the Doctor encountered an artificial pocket universe called the Land of Fiction, which was ruled by a supercomputer called the Master Brain, using various human proxies. Now, the Master Brain itself has evolved sentience, just in time to find a way through the Makarian rupture and into the universe. And yet, it remains bound to the Land. Now, it seeks the Doctor, not just for revenge, but for a greater purpose: To cede control of the Land to him. This will give the Doctor the power to create what he always wanted: A universe without the Daleks. In turn, it will free the Master Brain to wander the universe and do as it pleases—much as the Rani once sought control over history. It is the Master Brain, using willing pawns in power-hungry Rassilon, Coordinator Narvin, Jelsillon, and Dyliss, who tampered with the Doctor’s past, all to bring him to this point. And to accomplish all this, it has possessed Jelsillon, taking control of his body—a control it plans never to relinquish.

When of course he refuses, the computer tortures him with visions of what may be. He sees his next life save London from overeager Chula nanogenes…by introducing them to regeneration. He sees the Tenth Doctor save Donna Noble from her memories, only to see her become an amalgamation of his own darker sides, calling itself the Valeyard. He sees a world where one Amy Pond didn’t follow her husband into the Weeping Angel’s touch, and mourns his death all the way to a world called Trenzalore. He sees his Twelfth incarnation stand at the top of a miles-long ship with two friends and an old enemy, and watches the villain take a blast for him that leaves a hole through her body. The Master Brain shows him these things not to hurt him (or, well, maybe a little to hurt him), but to show him the wealth of possibilities, if only he will give in.

And ultimately, he does exactly that.

But the Doctor—even as the Warrior—remains the Doctor; and as always, he’s done something clever. For he knows what the computer does not: That as much as anything else, this is a love story. Jelsillon and Dyliss’s story, to be specific—over the years, they’ve developed a bond much greater than classmates or coworkers. And that bond allows Dyliss to find Jelsillon, and with him, the Doctor and the Master Brain. Staser in hand, she offers the computer a way out: The Doctor will take ownership of the Land, and in return the Master Brain can go free—but in its disembodied form, where it can do no harm. At last it agrees.

The Doctor closes the tale with “a bit of a rewrite”. Going one step further than the Master Brain, he seeks out his Thirteenth incarnation, interrupting her battle against the Lone Cyberman at Villa Diodati, and enlists her help to set things right. Slowly he pieces his life back together, visiting points of divergence, preventing changes. Narvin’s call to Jelsillon and Dyliss is intercepted, much to Narvin’s anger. Changes radiate through his timestream as he makes them, a river resuming an old familiar course. Unfortunately, as he does so, the Doctor recedes, and the Warrior resurges. But that’s not such a bad thing—after all, there’s still the matter of the Makarians to deal with. Only a Warrior would help them escape the universe—and after all, the Doctor recently inherited a piece of extra-universal Land…

Back at their old jobs, Jelsillon and Dyliss talk over their experiences, before the timestreams cause them to forget. But some things—like the bond they created—will outlast even the changes of memory.

And in a future still to come, a weary Warrior trudges across a desert toward an old barn, a sack on his back, ready to bring about an end, and so many beginnings.


Most spoilers end here!

One never knows what to expect when beginning a story about the War Doctor. That’s chiefly because it’s impossible to do justice to the Time War, the inevitable backdrop of any War Doctor story. It’s a frequent complaint: Descriptions given by the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors paint a picture that is never fully realized, and understandably so—after all, a true Time War of the scale described would be beyond the comprehension of three-dimensional beings like us. Consequently many stories leave fans feeling a bit short-changed.

I don’t buy into that outlook, though. A bad War Doctor story is better than none at all; and if we can’t properly encompass the incomprehensibility of the Time War, well, neither can its victims. Therein lies the secret: You have to view it through the lens of an individual. When you do that, the smaller stories make sense, because that’s how the incomprehensible would filter down to us.

And if you’re going to do that, then you should run with it.

That’s what we have here in Regenerations. We see the War Doctor not as a force of nature, because forces of nature don’t make good stories (even a disaster movie is about the people it affects). We see him as a person. While we don’t get to see him in full Warrior mode—another frequent complaint—we do get to see him struggle between the two personas of Doctor and Warrior as they’re pitted directly against each other. He himself doesn’t know who he is, and he feels pulled apart by the struggle.

The entire book walks a line between earnest and tongue-in-cheek, sometimes dipping a toe in one direction or the other. There’s a serious story happening here, worthy of any other time-bending story in Whovian continuity; but there’s also plenty of jokes, and a wealth of references to past stories, far more than I could possibly cover here as I usually do. That’s above and beyond the fact that each story is a new take on a classic story—you get inside jokes, such as the War Doctor announcing “Im looking for the Doctor”; Graham declaring “You’ve certainly come to the right place”; and Thirteen leaping in to insist that “No he hasn’t! He’s come to entirely the wrong place and he knows it!”

I admit to being especially impressed at the continuity here. Sometimes I forget just how many threads of continuity one must tie together in order to keep a story in order these days. It’s especially complicated here, where not only do we have to track each Doctor’s timestream, track the changes we’re making, and make sure we’re not contradicting more obscure details; but also we have to bring in any number of sources—for example, Narvin from the Gallifrey audio series, the Doctor’s return to the Land of Fiction in the New Adventures novels, various television seasons, and even a hint about the Eighth Doctor being stranded on Earth with Grace Holloway in the Doctor Who Magazine comics. Somehow, despite spanning an entire stable of authors, it works.

In the final analysis, the book left me both satisfied with the outcome, and wanting more. I’m content with the end of this story; it’s fully resolved, and lingering too long would weaken it. But I wouldn’t mind seeing some more stories set in some of these alternate lives. In particular, Jelsillon and Dyliss are interesting characters, and I’d be interested to see more of their adventures with the First Doctor in place of Ian, Barbara, and Susan. Or, I would like to see more of the life of third-regeneration Susan as a Cardinal during the Time War—a different take than her appearance in the audio All Hands on Deck; a life in which she either never left Gallifrey with the Doctor, or was returned there from 1963 London by Jelsillon and Dyliss (her own memories of the event are in flux at this point). I’d like to know what happens to Seven and Mel and the Rani if and when they escape Lakertya. I wouldn’t mind a glimpse into the battle against Donna as the Valeyard.

We’ll leave that to the imagination for now, I suppose.

But, if you’re also into alternate continuities, or the War Doctor, or just the humor to be had in revisiting these adventures, check out the book. You’ll enjoy it, and you’ll give some support to a worthy cause in the process.

Thanks for reading!

You can purchase Regenerations from Chinbeard Books at this link. Please note that the limited print run has sold out, but the ebook is still available.

The trailer for the anthology may be viewed here.

For more information on Invest in ME Research, check out their website here.

Seasons of War Mini-Review 44: Rise/Risen: A Coda

Concluding my series of mini-reviews on the short stories to be found in the charity War Doctor anthology, Seasons of War, edited by Declan May and published by Chinbeard Books.

Seasons of War cover

The War is over.

Part One: The man who was of late a warrior–the Warrior—stands at the console. Memories burn and fade in his mind. The taste of tea; an art gallery. He remembers, but he doesn’t. Three men and a woman—no, two; one of them both familiar and not. Three men? Two? Or only one? Old memories flood back, as well—a long-ago moment of theft of a TARDIS. Words at random, Earth words. A rose. A moment—no, a Moment.

Words spill from his tongue, at first in…French? Is he French this time? No, that makes no sense, though it would be quite a change indeed. His accent. Something northern this time.

The biggest change of all: He is young. Very young. After so many years of old age, it’s only right. The change in body, in sensations, is too much. It always is. What’s with these new ears?

Suddenly it all roars back to him. The barn. The Moment. The end of it all. It’s too much to bear, and he collapses as, roaring in, here comes everything.

Part Two: The TARDIS hangs and spins in the time vortex, battered by the winds of time. It tumbles toward a nearby world, on a collision course. Its pilot lies unconscious on the floor, defending himself in the only way possible from the onslaught of horrible memories, the terrible past (now Time Locked away, but the memories stay). As he comes to, he examines it all in his mind: the War, the Daleks, the Time Lords, Gallifrey, the madness…so many names he has worn in his rush to be anything but himself: the Warrior, the Postman, the Foreman, the Man in the Bandolier, the Prisoner…

He remembers it all: the death of his Eighth body on Karn, the end of the Doctor. The Chronosmiths and the Eight Minute War. The return of Rassilon, the lives and deaths of Jenny Shirt and Cinder, the Fall of Arcadia… and under (over?) it all, a fading memory of a man in a bow tie, and one in sand shoes…

He hesitates a moment only, before admitting it to himself. HE pressed the button. He used the Moment, and killed every last one of them—Daleks and Time Lords alike.

He is awake now. He moves to the console, pressing buttons, setting things right, stabilizing his ship.

Part Three: The newborn Doctor wanders the corridors of his ancient TARDIS, probing at the remaining hole in his memories. He cannot remember how he got here. From the Moment to the TARDIS…shouldn’t he have burned with Gallifrey? It was certainly what he intended. He had no wish to survive.

This TARDIS…now it is home for certain. It is the only home he has left. As he strides through its passages, it too shakes off the War. It rebuilds itself, changes, transforms…and as it does, the Doctor does the same. The Warrior falls away, and the Doctor blossoms—“like a rose”, he hears in his mind. He remembers them all—and he remembers ending them.

“Fantastic,” he calls out, new vowels bitter and ironic echo and reverberate. “I wiped them out, watched them burn then popped-off in my TARDIS and had a cuppa!” And with that, he laughs, perhaps for the first time in a long time.

Still, he can’t fill the hole in his memory. Words float back, indicating something might be different from what he recalls, but they are gone again at once. But… the War, the Last Great Time War, is over. “No more,” he says. “I am the Doctor again…”

He visits the wardrobe for the first time in years. He drops his old jacket to the floor, drops the bandolier with it. His sonic screwdriver rolls across the floor to fetch up against a crate. Atop that crate lies a simple, black leather jacket. That will work…keep things simple. He changes quickly, discarding the Warrior’s clothes, not paying much attention to what he chooses, and putting the new jacket over it all. The sonic, he leaves lying on the floor—he’ll soon make a new one, with fewer memories attached.

As he finishes, the Cloister Bell tolls. It may signal danger, but it gives order to his world. He is needed…somewhere. He runs back through his regenerating TARDIS, toward the console room.

He finds that this room, too, is changing—and what worse time? It burns and melts, its roundels falling and disappearing, coral spearing up through its floor to strike the ceiling. “Not now! Just give me this moment!”

The screen is active. It focuses in on Earth, London, 2005. There is a signal there. Nestene? Did the Consciousness survive? Its world burned, too…he’d been unable to help. Perhaps now he could set that right. The Nestene will be wanting the Earth. Perhaps today he can save two races.

His ship is burning. He himself is newly transformed. And yet, he knows two things for sure:

“The Earth’s in danger,” he says. “And I’m the Doctor.”

As he throws the dematerialisation switch, and swoops toward a planet he never expected to see again, he can’t help but be excited. The Doctor has returned. “Fantastic,” he says. “Absolutely fantastic!”

After the Horde of Travesties, beyond the Nightmare Childe,

When a rose caught in a Moment,

Bloomed ferocious genocide.

The Warrior fades and weakens, loosens heavy bandolier,

Forgets his day as the doctor,

Now the Doctor, again, is near.

Rise Risen 1

There are only a few things I regret about The Day of the Doctor. One is that the past-Doctor actors didn’t get to make an appearance, with the exception of Tom Baker as the Curator (The Five-ish Doctors Reboot notwithstanding). The others are tied together: I regret that Christopher Eccleston declined to appear (although, if he had, we might not have had the War Doctor at all, and might not be having this conversation!), and I regret that the War Doctor’s regeneration scene was cut short out of deference to Eccleston. That last is particularly notable; it’s no surprise that numerous fans have recut the video to show a more complete transformation into the Ninth Doctor. This story also sets out to address that gap, by giving us the newly-regenerated Ninth Doctor from the moment immediately after regeneration (as he still has the taste of the tea he drank in the under-gallery in his mouth) to the moment when he heads for Earth to initiate the events of Rose.

Some fans may take issue with the idea that Rose occurs so soon after regeneration. Certainly it’s been debated often—did the Ninth Doctor have adventures prior to meeting Rose Tyler? I think that that was certainly the implication, as there’s the famous scene where he looks in Jackie Tyler’s mirror as though he had never seen his own face before. It is a bit undermined by a scene later in Series One in which the Doctor was seen alone at several historic events, including the JFK assassination and the eruption of Krakatoa. Stories in other media have taken the stance that he spent some time without companions before meeting Rose; but the subject is still open for debate. I’ve always been a fan of the idea that Rose is truly his first adventure in this body, and that the historical scenes are later in his personal timeline (as it’s simple enough to get separated from Rose long enough for a photo to be snapped even if she is present for the adventure). With this story, it’s great to see the connection between The Day of the Doctor and Rose, even if the Doctor himself can’t see it (due to his memory being altered by the out-of-sync timelines among his selves.)

The thing that stands out to me most in this final story is the idea that it’s not over. Oh, the Time War is over, there’s no question of that; but the Doctor’s story is not over. It would have been very easy to look at the Time War and its resolution as the end-all of events in the Doctor’s life—after all, how do you top something like that? Simply put: you don’t try to top it, you just move on. The Doctor does exactly that here: he begins to alternately lose and push away his memories, and he looks toward the future. New body, new clothes, new sonic screwdriver (soon anyway), new TARDIS interior…and it is most definitely time for a change! He’ll have the lingering guilt to deal with, of course, but we know it will work out for him in the end. In the meantime, he gets to go and be fantastic.

We’ve reached the end of the anthology, and for a time, we can let the War Doctor rest. There’s one item left to cover; we’ll be looking at the Seasons of War short film next, and then we’ll put this series on hold until December, when The Horde of Travesties and A History of the Time War picks up the War Doctor’s story again. I hope everyone has enjoyed this series.

Some time ago, someone asked what materials are new to the final edition of the anthology. As per the editor, the stories titled Life During Wartime, Reflections, and today’s entry, Rise/Risen: A Coda, are all new. Additionally, all incidental art by Simon Brett, the opening endorsement by Steven Moffat (“Seasons Of War. At last: the John Hurt era continues. Those sixteen years off the air are fixed now!” – Steven Moffat, January 2017. Located on page 11 of the final edition.), and the illustrations by Raine Stryminski (pages 6 and 8, for anyone who has the final edition) of the young and old War Doctors, are all new.

Rise/Risen: A Coda was written by Declan May, with art by Simon A. Brett. Next time: the Seasons of War short film, written and directed by Andy Robinson, with additional information from The Director’s Tale, also by Andy Robinson.

risen proof

If you would like to get started with Seasons of War, there is a limited-time opportunity open right now to obtain the ebook version of the anthology, for a few more days only I checked just prior to posting, and saw that the ebook orders closed yesterday. My apologies. However there is currently an auction open for two signed copies (first and second editions in one prize package) along with some other special items. Also, pre-orders have been re-opened for The Horde of Travesties and A History of the Time War for one more day only! I will include links to both at the end of this post. As these are unofficial, charity projects, sales are limited, and no volumes are guaranteed to be released again. I am not affiliated with either project; I’m simply promoting them because I found the first one to be excellent, and expect the others to continue as such.

To pre-order The Horde of Travesties and A History of the Time War, please visit this link for information and payment options. This opportunity has been re-opened ONLY until Saturday, 07/15/17.

Another volume in the series, War Crimes: Dispatches and Testimonies from the Dark Side of the Time War, is also available for pre-order at this link.

Other volumes (Corsair, Gallifrey, and Regenerations) have been announced, and pre-order dates will be forthcoming.

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Anthology Review: Seasons of War, Final Edition

I have not given up on my rewatch series, which is usually on Fridays; but the last few weeks have been extraordinarily busy for me, and I haven’t had time to watch the episodes. I do intend to get back to it next week; but in the meantime, here’s something a little less labor-intensive to hold over.

Greetings from N-Space! Today I want to cover a piece of Doctor Who fiction that doesn’t fit the usual categories. The overwhelming majority of the material I review here is licensed, official material—and honestly, that’s just as well; with fifty-plus years of stories, I may never get through all the licensed material, let alone unlicensed works. Still, every now and then, I come across something unlicensed which I think is worth inclusion.

Seasons of War final cover

Cover art borrowed from the Seasons of War Facebook page; link at the end.  Created by Simon A. Brett.

One such work is Seasons of War: Tales from a Time War, a charity anthology published by Chinbeard Books as a fundraising effort for the charity Caudwell Children. I consider it noteworthy because it adds much material to the admittedly-thin canon of War Doctor stories in existence. In addition, it has some degree of sanction from Steven Moffat, who provided a brief dedication for the book (although I would definitely not place it on the same level as the licensed works). The book manages to do something that none of the War Doctor’s televised, audio, or novel appearances accomplished: delivering on the promise of a Warrior who broke his own promise, and committed atrocities, and—to some degree justly—forsook the name of the Doctor. While at his core he will always, in every incarnation, maintain some spark of the Doctor, here we see why he declared himself “Doctor no more”.

 

This book is out of print now, and is not expected to return. The original edition was published in 2015; a second and final edition, with added material, was announced in December 2016, and a limited run of orders were accepted. With the sudden and unexpected death of Sir John Hurt in early 2017, orders were delayed for approximately six weeks, as tribute material was added to the project prior to printing. It is this second edition that I will be reviewing. The editors, Declan May and Barnaby Eaton-Jones, have made it clear that no further editions will be produced, and no ebook of the final edition will be released (though I understand there was an ebook of the original edition). Therefore, while this work may be of interest, I realize many fans will not have the opportunity to obtain a copy. As such, I may be a little more explicit with plot details than I usually seek to be.

The book follows a very loose character arc for the War Doctor, and covers events from immediately after his regeneration in The Night of the Doctor–and I do mean immediately—until immediately after his regeneration into the Ninth Doctor at the end of The Day of the Doctor. Most entries are short, twenty pages or less. There is a great deal of story packed into this 400+ page book, much more than I anticipated when I bought it. As I want to do it justice—and as War Doctor material is in very short supply anyway—I’ve changed plans for dealing with this book. Instead of covering it all in one or two long posts, I intend to post a series of mini-reviews of one or two paragraphs each, one for each entry. I will admit that this is more for the sake of my blog than Reddit, but I think it will be worthwhile in both cases. Meanwhile, this post introduces the book; and at the end, I’ll make a final post with thoughts on the book as a whole.

The original edition was dedicated to the memory of Paul Spragg, (1975-2014), formerly of Big Finish Productions, who passed away on very short notice in 2014. That dedication remains in the final edition, alongside the new dedication to Sir John Hurt (1940-2017). The book also contains a number of illustrations, some of which were newly added after John Hurt’s death. The book opens with a tribute to John Hurt written by editor Declan May, in which he describes his brief contact with Mr. Hurt in preparation for this anthology; Hurt declined to participate directly (shortly before news of his ill health broke, so it’s understandable), but gave his blessing for the project. The tribute is followed by a brief dedication by Steven Moffat, as I mentioned before, and then the original introduction to the book, also by Declan May. The original preface and tribute to Paul Spragg follows, written by Big Finish producer Nicholas Briggs. After this, it immediately dives in…to the epilogue?! Eh, it’s a time war, why not?

John Hurt Tribute photo

Tribute artwork in memory of Sir John Hurt, created by Paul Griffin.  Borrowed from the Seasons of War Facebook page and used without permission and for no profit.

 

I say it jokingly, but it will make sense in the end. This epilogue by Matt Fitton, titled Warsmiths and coming at the beginning of the book, details an encounter near the end of the War Doctor’s life. On a barren world, the aged War Doctor meets another Time Lord who stands over a pool of primordial ooze. The planet, it is revealed, is Skaro, and the man is the Co-ordinator of the Celestial Intervention Agency, although his name is not given. He carries a canister with a simple purpose: Here in Skaro’s distant past, it will poison the primordial soup from which life will evolve, preventing the rise of not only the Kaleds and their progeny the Daleks, but all life on Skaro. The War Doctor talks the Co-ordinator out of it despite his desperation, and takes the canister with him when he leaves, allowing history to play out. Only then can the war be halted—and perhaps the Co-ordinator will make peace with himself as well.

This epilogue takes place after the events of Engines of War, but before The Day of the Doctor. Near the end of the story, the Doctor reflects on his late catchphrase: “No More”. He only reached that conclusion—that he must end the war by any means necessary—at the end of that novel, which we know to be very late in his life; seeing the phrase here, in that context, places this story very near the end, and indeed he makes comments to the effect that he is leaving now to go and end the war. If this is how it ends, one wonders how it begins—but the prologue, unfortunately, is a long way off.

Seasons of War cover

Cover art borrowed from the Seasons of War Facebook page, used without permission.  Link is below.

Next time: I’ll post the first of the mini-reviews for the individual stories, beginning with Karn, which picks up immediately after The Night of the Doctor and gives us a glimpse of the newborn Warrior. See you there!

Although this anthology is now out of print, you can learn more at its original edition and final edition sale pages, and at the Seasons of War Facebook page.

Next

Prose Review: Fanwinked

We’re back, with another Doctor Who prose review! I say “prose” instead of the usual “novel”, because what I’m reviewing today isn’t strictly a novel; it’s a collection. I’m a bit behind on the New Adventures—didn’t make it through Transit in time to post about it this week—and so we’ll cover something different that I finished recently. Today we’re covering J.R. Southall’s Fanwinked, an unauthorized collection of Doctor Who short stories. It’s off the beaten path, but bear with me; it may interest you, and it’s currently in print (unlike most of the New Adventures). Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not read this book!

Fanwinked

I have to say up front, I was a little confused when I discovered this book (via a post on the Facebook page for the War Doctor charity anthology, Seasons of War, which with any luck should be arriving in the mail this week). It’s billed as unauthorized—the author doesn’t shy away from descriptions of “fanfiction”—and yet it’s still for sale. I’ve been working toward publication for some time, and I still have no idea how that can be legal, but apparently it is. At any rate, allegedly all royalties are being donated to charity, so perhaps that has something to do with it.

The key descriptor I have for the book is “irreverent”. It’s not a serious take on the Whoniverse at all, although there are a few serious stories in it. Most of its selections are parodies of one sort or another. Don’t let that discourage you; they’re mostly good parodies, if not quite Curse of Fatal Death good. When I say irreverent, I also mean that there is material here that—while not particularly lurid—would be a bit too racy for the television series, though not by much. (He may allow it to be called fanfiction, but it’s not THAT kind of fanfiction. Mostly.)

It is worth it to take a moment and copy over the book’s back-cover blurb before we go on:

Somewhere in space and time, Peter Cushing really is the first Doctor Who, Hugh Grant’s TARDIS turn lasted longer than a few Fatal Death minutes, and Adric is the King of the Neanderthals.

In this same alternative reality, the United States produced their own domestic remake of the series, Clara met the eighth Doctor over a cow, and the eleventh Doctor had an insatiable desire to terminate Amy and Rory with as much extreme prejudice as he could muster.

None of these things are real. But don’t let that stop you.

The blurb is a bit misleading. There is a Cushing Doctor story, but it’s strictly within the universe of the Cushing Dr. Who films; and as far as I could tell, there is no story that includes Hugh Grant’s Doctor (or if there is, he’s vague enough not to make it obvious; maybe it was a planned story that was cut?). Adric definitely is king of the Neanderthals, however; we’ll get to that. The other stories it references are as it says.

Let’s take a glance at each story. I’m listing them out of order; I want to look at the parodies first, and then finish with the more serious works. Many of the stories are set up like an Unbound audio: “What if…?”

The book opens with “The Silent Space”. This Eleventh-Doctor story asks the question, “What if you open the TARDIS doors while it’s in flight?” The answer really has nothing to do with the question, but that’s beside the point. The story’s real purpose is to provide a send-up of the show’s habit of killing Rory Williams at every opportunity—in fact, he dies a few times in this story—and to that end, it brings in River Song at various ages, and not one, but two Amys—who end up kissing each other. Hey, I did say it was mostly not that kind of fanfiction. It’s a funny story, but it’s a little disorganized; there are certainly better. The book also includes an earlier draft of this story, which is in the form of a script rather than a short story, but hits all the same notes. The story was first published in a fanzine called Fanwnak (and no, that isn’t a misspelling, it’s actually titled that way).

“River Song’s Bedtime Story”, also written for Fanwnak, is a good followup to the “The Silent Space”. It uses the framework of River—the adult River, mind you—visiting her parents, Amy and Rory, overnight for the first time; and she insists on something she never got as a child: A bedtime story. Okay, silly, perhaps, but simple enough. The story they tell her reads as a parody, but actually is fairly serious with regard to its events. In the story, the Doctor takes Amy and Rory (post-The Big Bang) back to Totter’s Yard, 23 November 1963, to show them where his travels had their beginning (yes, I know, not literally the beginning, but shut up, this is fanwank at its best). Their plans take an abrupt turn, however, when they end up rerouted to Dallas a day early, and meet none other than Lee Harvey Oswald. The Doctor’s usual take on such events is to leave them untouched, but there’s just one problem: Oswald is a Time Agent from the future, and he’s here to save the president! Insert chaos, watch things degrade from there. I won’t spoil the ending.

“Companion Peace” rounds out this early trilogy of Fanwnak submissions, all of which feature the Eleventh Doctor, Amy, Rory, and River. This is the only story that I truly didn’t like, and for one simple reason: It’s creepy as hell. In its presentation, it feels very much like Curse of Fatal Death; it features the Doctor divesting himself of past responsibilities—mostly in the form of his companions, whom he repeatedly tries to drop off in dangerous situations—and obtaining a new love interest. That’s fine; it’s funny. Then you reach the last page; and for once, I don’t mind giving a spoiler. On the last page, you find out that the new love interest…is a memory-wiped Susan. You find this out just before the Doctor goes to bed with her. This is completely out of character for this author, and honestly I have no idea what the hell he was thinking, or how he got even an independent fanzine to publish it. I promise you the other stories are not like that.

“Dance of Light” brings us to a section of stories that feel parodic, but really aren’t; the author is writing a serious story, but cloaking it in humor. It’s well done in most cases, and is similar to the way that the Christmas specials tend to run; in fact, one story that we’ll get to could be a sort of Christmas special. More of that later. This story—written under the pseudonym “Terrance Dick”, without the final –s–actually doesn’t involve the Doctor at all. It’s a UNIT story, set shortly before the Third Doctor’s regeneration in Planet of the Spiders, and it gives us the story of Harry Sullivan’s arrival at UNIT. Sergeant Benton, the Brigadier, Mike Yates, and Jo Grant find themselves obligated to thwart an alien invasion while attending a celebration of UNIT’s tenth anniversary. It’s a neatly written story, and gives Jo and Mike a chance to take center stage, however briefly. Harry—the real Harry, if that’s not revealing too much—does appear near the end. The Doctor gets a brief mention, but does not appear. Anything else I could say would be a spoiler; but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and was sorry to see it be so short. (Big Finish, take note: Perhaps a set of UNIT Short Trips wouldn’t be out of order…?)

“Maid of Eight” is another faux-parodic story. It’s narrated by Clara Oswald, although that isn’t revealed until later, and involves one of her many “echoes” from The Name of the Doctor. This one meets the Eighth Doctor; it’s not particularly clear from the story itself that that is the incarnation appearing here, but between the descriptions given and the title of the story, it’s obvious. Eight is traveling alone at this point. I’m not fond of Clara in her later seasons, but I’ve always admitted to liking the “impossible girl” storyline, and this story falls under that umbrella, so it’s not bad. It also includes a cow with green milk. What’s not to love?

“Time-Shock” is the promised Adric story, and takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the popular complaint that the Fifth Doctor could have saved Adric. The Doctor wants to go back and save Adric; Nyssa and Tegan, not so much. There are some suggestive moments—okay, some very blatant suggestive moments—between Nyssa and Tegan, and some innuendo involving the Doctor; this is not a family story, but it’s not creepy like “Companion Peace”, either. The story begins at the end of Earthshock, and ends with Adric becoming the expected King of the Neanderthals (and the Australopithecus, and…). How he gets there is something you just have to see for yourself. Suffice it to say, he didn’t die after all, despite the best efforts of his female companions.

“Let’s Regenerate!” is written in script form. I have to say, I’ve read it once, gone over it a few more times, and I still have no idea what’s going on. That in no way makes it any less funny. It involves the various Doctors meeting and progressing through their regenerations, finally culminating in a new, Thirteenth Doctor (gloriously portrayed as John Cleese). The Valeyard makes an appearance; we get not one, but TWO Capaldi Twelfth Doctors; and the first through third Doctors are portrayed by Kenneth Colley, Sam Troughton, and Sean Pertwee. Every Doctor delivers a ton of one-line non sequiturs, but always perfectly in character. I’m still laughing, even if I can’t quite figure out why.

“WHO” asks the question: “What if Doctor Who was remade in America?” You may have seen the list that went around a few years ago of who might play the various Doctors, had the show been made in America (it was quite good, except for Nicholas Cage). This, I assure you, is as far from that as you can get. We’re so deep in parody territory here that we may never get out. The author uses multiple pseudonyms within this story; his favorite is “Stephen Muppet”, poking fun at Steven Moffat. This story is the most egregious example of that. It’s another Eleventh Doctor story, though only incredibly loosely so; it takes the characters of the Amy Pond (or rather, Aimee Bond—yes, it’s that kind of parody) era and loosely retells the story of Genesis of the Daleks, and I do mean loosely. Rory still manages to die, or almost anyway. There’s a lot of innuendo here, but nothing particularly gratuitous, unless you count renaming the TARDIS as “Travels In Time And Space Shuttle”—you figure out the acronym. Yes, they make exactly that joke. It’s a funny story, but I felt like it tries too hard; it’s humor on the same level as the old Mad Magazine or Cracked Magazine comics, but without the experience those magazines had after years of writing such things.

“The Happy Man” is parody by merit of its subject matter, though it tries to be a serious story. It’s a sequel to The Happiness Patrol, and brings back the Kandy Man—excuse me, the Happy Man, as he’s calling himself here. It’s hard to write a story about that character without unintentionally becoming a parody; Southall doesn’t really manage the trick. It’s not a bad story, though. It begins with a drug epidemic, and ends as a human-interest story, and somehow the transition doesn’t seem contrived. It does give us a made-up companion character, Punk, rather than using Ace; I think that was a good decision, as Ace would have taken over this story, and it’s not about the companion. It has one of the better speeches about the Doctor’s (and the companion’s) purpose, and it’s worth the read just for that scene. I enjoyed it anyway, but if you just can’t stomach a Kandy Man story, it’s probably skippable.

“Pieces of Eight” is by far the strangest story in the collection. I was sure at first that it was going to be some kind of parody. It’s written in script form, and an animated version exists on YouTube, although I haven’t looked it up as yet. It’s an Eighth Doctor story, and at first glance it’s another take on the popular trope of having the Doctor meet his past selves inside his own mind. It lampshades this trope by having the Doctor recognize that that is what’s happening; but still, nothing works out quite like he expects. The various version of the Doctor have alternate names here, like “Stream” and “Flavour” and “Choke”; that’s one of the reasons I assumed it was a parody, and laughed appropriately. By the end of the story, you’re not laughing anymore, as the story very suddenly pulls the curtain back, and you realize that it’s a commentary on the Time War, before the War even begins. I was completely caught off guard by this turn of events, and I like to think I’m good at spotting a twist coming. It’s a very good story, though it can only really spring its twist on you once, and probably wouldn’t hold up to rereading (or as I call this, “Shyamalan Syndrome”). It does seem to have been written before the War Doctor was introduced, as it skips over him and ends with a cameo of the Ninth Doctor. (In context, that’s not much of a spoiler—read the story!)

Now we reach the truly serious stories, of which there are three. These occur in the middle of the book, but I delayed them to the end of the post, because they’re worth the extra consideration. “Time’s Past is a short piece, only requiring two or three minutes to read, but it is hands down the most emotional piece in the book. It’s a very brief encounter between an aging Ian Chesterton and the Eleventh Doctor, in which they reminisce without ever quite revealing their identities to each other. It doesn’t matter; they know. (It doesn’t take into account Ian’s previous meeting with the Eleventh Doctor in Hunters of the Burning Stone, but then, stories in other media often overlook the comics, so that’s forgiveable, perhaps.) This story made me cry, which is something that almost never happens with regard to a story. It also takes into account the real-world death of Jacqueline Hill, giving a corresponding death to Barbara at some point in the past, and handling the entire matter very respectfully, but also very emotionally. It’s my favorite entry in the collection, and I highly recommend it. I’ve often imagined such a scene between the Twelfth Doctor and Ian, and I had hoped that he would make a cameo in Class as one of Coal Hill’s board of governors, so that we would have such a scene; but it didn’t happen, of course. This story is very much what I would have imagined, though with a different Doctor.

“The Short and the Tall of It” is the aforementioned Cushing/Dr. Who story. It’s narrated in first person by that universe’s version of Ian, who is still dating Dr. Who’s granddaughter, Barbara, placing it between the two films. It implies that there have been other adventures in Tardis (again, not a misspelling—see any post about the movies for more details) since the first, with Ian a semi-unwilling participant. It’s this universe’s answer to Planet of Giants, and makes clever use of both time-travel (Tardis-free, this time) and changes in size. I’m fond of the films, and I like stories with the Cushing Doctor, rare as they may be; and I really had no problems with this story. It’s pure fun, but that’s exactly what it aims to be, and it succeeds.

Finally, there’s “Everything In Its Right Place”. This story centers on the War Doctor, and constitutes Southall’s contribution to the Seasons of War charity anthology. It seems to hinge on other events covered in that anthology, though I won’t be sure until I receive my copy; it implies that the War Doctor previously relocated Earth into another dimension. In Earth’s place, something else has arisen, riding on the dreams of the displaced planet. It’s told from the point of view of Alice, a peculiar girl who seems to be not entirely human…but she’s becoming human, or so the Doctor thinks. It plays out similarly to such classic stories as The Mind Robber, with changing environments and adversaries; it ends with a poignant loss, before the Doctor returns to his war. It’s the older War Doctor in view here, although I understand that the charity anthology includes stories of his younger self as well. There are two versions of this story as well; the version that was submitted for the anthology appears first, and an earlier draft rounds out the book. Both are good; the changes don’t seem to improve so much as change focus.

As a whole, the collection is better than I expected when I bought it. At a price of just five dollars for the Kindle edition, I wasn’t expecting much; I just thought it would be a few hours’ idle entertainment. I was pleasantly surprised. There’s really only one low point (“Companion Peace”), and several of the other stories give insight into corners of the Doctor Who universe that often slip through the cracks and get forgotten. It’s an emotional roller coaster, running the gamut from humor to sobriety to nobility to “Why would you WRITE that?!” It’s available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle edition; the link is below. If you’re the kind of fan for whom “canon” is less a structure and more a friendly suggestion, you’ll love this collection; and even if that’s not you, you’ll still find something to enjoy. Check it out!

Next week: Hopefully I’ll be back on track with the VNAs, reviewing Transit. See you there.

Fanwinked, by J.R. Southall, may be purchased from Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.  Link is below.

Fanwinked

Audio Drama Review: Night of the Whisper

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to Night of the Whisper, the Ninth Doctor’s contribution to the Fiftieth Anniversary series, Destiny of the Doctor, written by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright, and read by Nicholas Briggs and John Schwab. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!

night-of-the-whisper-1

It’s the 23rd century on the environment-domed colony of New Vegas…and Rose Tyler is a waitress. It sounded like fun when the TARDIS landed, but that was then—now, she’s not happy with how the Doctor’s plan has worked out. Yet, here she is, working for a werewolf named Cyrus Wolfsbane in his Full Moon Nightclub. And that’s only the beginning, as someone is raiding the club!

A tall man in a cape and a mask invades the club, whispering about justice being served. It’s a vigilante, recently arrived in New Vegas, known as the Whisper. Rose flees the club in the chaos, and runs into Jack Harkness, who stops her from going back to intervene as the police arrive—but then they are picked up by the police. Jack is released on the basis of his faked credentials—he is temporarily working as a reporter from the Daily Galaxy–but Rose is taken in for questioning. Jack lingers long enough to see the Whisper leave the scene.

Rose is questioned by police commissioner James McNeil, who is much more interested in her identity and history than in her involvement with the Whisper. Rose has no documented history of her travels, which makes McNeil suspicious. However, she is saved by the appearance of the Doctor, who claims to be Inspector George Dixon from New New New Scotland Yard on Earth, here to investigate the Whisper. He provides a digital record for Rose, which does not entirely satisfy McNeil, but silences him; the Doctor takes custody of Rose, and gets her out of the precinct. Outside, he comments on the weather; it’s raining, but it is never supposed to do so under the dome. Wolfsbane intercepts them and offers Rose a ride back to the nightclub. Meanwhile, at the offices of the Daily Galaxy, Jack is researching the Whisper and his victims. He is interrupted by a woman named Daisy Hewett, who has a strange story; she wants him to investigate the disappearance of her best friend, Lillian Marsh, who vanished shortly after the death of her husband. Daisy attributes the disappearance to Wolfsbane, for whom Lillian’s husband worked. Jack at first pushes her away, but then becomes intrigued.

Wolfsbane tells Rose he is promoting her to Senior Waitress in the private lounge area of the nightclub, because he is watching out for her—in fact, he is just watching her, via monitors. He suspects something is up with her, as the police let her go. He watches her meet up with the Doctor; the Doctor fakes a robbery with Rose, to attract the Whisper. The Whisper arrives, but dodges the Doctor in favor of killing a graffiti artist across the street, and then flees again. The Doctor and Rose borrow a hoverbike to go after him. While chasing the Whisper, the Doctor tells Rose that the police are at a loss for dealing with the Whisper; the vigilante has gone from stopping major crime to killing even petty criminals, causing far more trouble than it stops—but the press love him.

They fail to catch him, but when they are forced to stop, they see an electronic billboard with a strange display. The Eleventh Doctor (although he doesn’t name himself as such) appears, and delivers a message to the Ninth Doctor, telling him that McNeil must live, and will eventually be the mayor of New Vegas. (Rose is left confused, as she does not yet know anything about regeneration.) Wolfsbane arrives and pursues them as they chase the Whisper, who escapes. They evade Wolfsbane, but end up inside the police precinct. The Doctor grabs several devices and constructs a tracker for the Whisper. McNeil confronts them, but the Doctor brushes him off.

night-of-the-whisper-2

Jack and Daisy sneak into Wolfsbane’s office and check his security records. They find video of Lillian confronting Wolfsbane about her husband’s death. The video shows that Wolfsbane had Lillian killed by dumping her outside the atmosphere dome; he also killed her husband, and sabotaged the atmosphere systems (later he will say that he changed the atmosphere to send a message to the mayor regarding the true power in New Vegas). Jack calls the Doctor and updates him, but is interrupted. Daisy takes the opportunity to drug Jack, knocking him out.

The Doctor and Rose track the Whisper to its lair, in a residential neighborhood. He finds the name “McNeil” on the house, and rushes in to find the Whisper about to kill McNeil. He and Rose intervene, saving McNeil; the Doctor is about to attack the Whisper, when McNeil stops him. The Whisper is revealed to be Lillian…who is McNeil’s daughter. McNeil then saves Rose from the Whisper, which flees the house.

McNeil admits that he was behind the situation. He and Lillian had fought over her marriage to Ralph Marsh, who worked for Wolfsbane; McNeil had been working on taking down Wolfsbane. However, Lillian had come back to McNeil from the murder attempt, but changed. She had been possessed by a Star Marshal, an electronic law enforcement agent from an alien collective outside the Earth Empire. The Marshal had previously crashed on the moon; wounded, it found the dying Lillian and merged with her. When the mixed organism asked McNeil for instructions, he gave it more than that: he gave it the personality of a vigilante, and sent it against Wolfsbane—but he never anticipated that it would turn on every form of crime. To the Whisper’s defective thinking, everyone is guilty of something—and everyone must pay with death. And, worse: it intends to serve justice on everyone at once, by shutting down the containment dome.

night-of-the-whisper-3

Jack awakens in Wolfsbane’s custody; Daisy has turned him in. She is revealed to be working for Wolfsbane. Wolfsbane wants to get to the Doctor, but more than that, he wants to get to the Whisper. He promises to kill Jack after he gets information from him…but Daisy lets slip that they are not at the nightclub, but at the atmospheric control center. And none of them know that the Whisper is on its way.

The Whisper arrives, and attacks Wolfsbane’s men. McNeil, the Doctor, and Rose also arrive, and find the gates already opened, and the guards down—the Whisper isn’t just killing, but draining the life force of its victims to keep itself alive. The Doctor and Rose go in, but the Doctor warns McNeil to stay outside, remembering the Eleventh Doctor’s warning. Wolfsbane uses Daisy as a shield, and recognizes Lillian’s corpse. Daisy escapes and runs, but is killed by the Whisper. It grabs Wolfsbane, but the Doctor intervenes, sending Rose to free Jack. The Whisper begins cycling down the dome’s generators. McNeil admits his own wrong, and tries to talk the Whisper down with the Doctor’s help. Wolfsbane takes advantage of the opportunity to strike the Whisper, breaking something vital inside it. He escapes, leaving the Whisper to die in McNeil’s arms. While the Doctor, Rose, and Jack regroup, McNeil slips out to chase down Wolfsbane.

The Doctor goes after him, intent on keeping him alive, and finds him cornering Wolfsbane on a gantry over a drop. The Doctor tries to stop him from murdering Wolfsbane, begging him to bring Wolfsbane to justice instead. McNeil nearly falls with Wolfsbane, but the Doctor catches McNeil and halts his fall. McNeil demands to fall and take Wolfsbane with him. Wolfsbane drags the Doctor over—and Rose catches the Doctor’s hand. Wolfsbane loses his grip on McNeil and falls to his death.

As the four survivors regroup, the police arrive. McNeil orders them to arrest him for collaborating with the Whisper, and as an accessory to murder. However, it seems the timeline is intact—and one day, McNeil will still be mayor.

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This story is notable for being the first audio drama to feature the Ninth Doctor, and the first to occur during Series One of the revived series. To date there are still only a handful of stories that involve the Ninth Doctor, due mostly to Christopher Eccleston’s consistent refusal to return to the role, but also to Big Finish’s still-limited collection of new series audios. Also notably, this story is not read by any of the television actors from the Ninth Doctor era, but by Nicholas Briggs. He does an admirable job—as well he should, as he has a long history of covering a variety of characters in the audios—and he covers fairly well for the Ninth Doctor here. I feel that the supplementary voice actor, John Schwab, is wasted here—his voice is a dead ringer for Jack Harkness, and that’s clearly the role he should have played, but instead he plays Police Commissioner McNeil. It’s convincing enough that I caught myself a few times thinking that McNeil’s lines were Jack’s. This story is also the longest of the Destiny of the Doctor entries, at nearly eighty minutes.

This story must occur between The Doctor Dances and Bad Wolf, as demonstrated by Jack’s presence with Rose and the Doctor; it must also occur after Boom Town, as Rose refers to having visited Raxicoricofallapatorious and Woman Wept. Rose, as well, does not know about regeneration yet, and thus misses the fact that the message is from a future version of the Doctor, though it is not lost on the Doctor himself. Again, the Eleventh Doctor is not named as such, and in this case only context makes it clear that he is a future incarnation—he refers to breaking laws of time to communicate with his past self. He mentions Amy Pond in the past tense, indicating that he is speaking from a time after her departure in The Angels Take Manhattan. Also consistent with Series One, there is a Bad Wolf reference; Wolfsbane says that it is thanks to Bad Wolf Holdings that he is owner of the atmospheric-control consortium. Unlike Series One, this story takes place away from Earth; every episode took place on or near Earth. At the end, Jack, the Doctor, and Rose discuss visiting other worlds.

The entire story is a reference to classic Batman stories, with the Whisper (though clearly the villain) using many of the same tricks that Batman uses. Rose even makes a Batman reference at one point, commenting that the Whisper’s lair is “not exactly Wayne Manor”. As such, the pacing of the story is very much like a Batman adventure, as is the environment—with its rain and its organized crime and the steam-filled atmospheric works, New Vegas may as well be Gotham City. It sounds strange on paper; but for the Ninth Doctor, it works, especially with Jack and Rose along for the ride. Supporting the reference, you have a highly-involved police commissioner, and a gimmicky secondary villain in the form of Wolfsbane (who, though not directly stated to be a werewolf, is so clearly described as one that there is no mistaking it—he is even called a “wolf man” at one point). It’s probably for the sake of this motif that the TARDIS is hardly even mentioned, let alone seen—in this case, it would almost break the immersion.

There aren’t really many references that I haven’t already mentioned; but there are a few. The Doctor mentions the Judoon (Smith and Jones, et al.), which confuses Rose, as she has never encountered them. Jack acknowledges that the Doctor confiscated his sonic blaster (The Doctor Dances), but he has a spare (and we know from The Long Game that he’s creepily good at hiding them…). The Doctor uses his “stupid apes” line, which originated in Father’s Day; also he uses his “Fantastic!” catchphrase immediately after receiving the message from his future self, but Rose thinks that it’s the first time he ever used it without at least some enthusiasm. He claims to have been in a film with—and lost a game of chess to—Humphrey Bogart, but this adventure occurred offscreen.

Overall, I think this story is—to borrow a catchphrase—“fantastic!” Nine episodes into Destiny of the Doctor, this is my favorite so far. In part, that’s because I’m an unabashed fan of noir fiction and detective stories, and this story is gleefully cast in that style [all it’s missing is a detective voiceover]. As well, anything new with the Ninth Doctor is well worth my time, I think; I hold out hope that someday Big Finish will manage to persuade Christopher Eccleston to resume the role. If anyone can, it’s that company. In the meantime, this story is a good time in every sense, and I highly recommend it.

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Next time: We’re getting close to the end! We’ll look at the Tenth Doctor in Death’s Deal; and on Monday, we’ll continue the Main Range with Minuet in Hell. See you there!

All audio dramas featured in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; link to this story’s purchase page is below.  This and many other selections may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.

Night of the Whisper

Destiny of the Doctor

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Parting of the Ways: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series One Finale

We’re back with our new Doctor Who rewatch! Today we’re finishing up Series One, with the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler; if you’d like to catch up, here are the entries for Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four. As a reminder, each series in the new show tends to have considerably more stories than the classic seasons; therefore we’re splitting each series into parts for the sake of length. Today we’re looking at the series one finale, episodes twelve and thirteen. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has never seen these episodes!

The episode is titled Bad Wolf, and we open cold on the Doctor, Rose and Jack. They awaken to find themselves with slight amnesia, and find they have been incorporated as contestants in several futuristic game shows. (The shows are intentional takes on shows that were popular at the time of broadcast, notably Big Brother (here featuring the Doctor), The Weakest Link (Rose), and What Not To Wear (Jack). They are mostly unchanged, with the exception of robotic versions of their real-world hosts—which, coincidentally, are voiced by said hosts.) They are stunned, but quickly recover, only to find that losing contestants don’t go home—they are vaporized.

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Their intrusion isn’t unnoticed. The staff that are controlling the broadcasts have taken note of their presence, and presented their findings to the Controller—a human woman who is wired into the system to control the data. She has been there since she was five years old, and knows no other life; she only sees the data, not the individuals. She tells the staff to continue working as though nothing had changed; and she cuts off access to the nearby Archive Six.

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After some adventures in their respective shows, the Doctor and Jack escape, taking another contestant—Lynda—with them. The Doctor suddenly realizes where they are: They have returned to Satellite Five, and it is the year 200,100, one hundred years after his previous visit. The satellite is now called the Gamestation; it no longer broadcasts news, but now broadcasts more than 40,000 channels of high-stakes entertainment. They try to find Rose, but are too late; losing her competition, she is disintegrated. Enraged, the Doctor and Jack head for Floor 500. There they confront the broadcast staff, and the Controller, just as a solar flare temporarily takes down the broadcast.

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Under the protective silence of the flare, the Controller addresses the Doctor directly. She tells him that she serves hidden masters, but she cannot tell him who they are—they have programmed her not to reveal their name. She states that they manipulate and oppress humanity for their own ends, growing in power in the darkness of space. She tells him that they fear him, and so she has brought him here to destroy them. (How she did it is not explained, however. She somehow managed to locate the TARDIS and pluck it and its occupants from flight, all without any obvious means of time travel.) The solar flare prevents them from reading her thoughts, allowing her to privately pass this message. However, the flare ends before she can tell him where to find her masters.

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Jack breaks into Archive Six, and finds the TARDIS there. He uses the equipment aboard to determine that the contestants aren’t being killed; they’re secretly being transmatted away, meaning that Rose is still alive. The Controller breaks her secrecy to reveal the coordinates to the Doctor, and is immediately transmatted away to her masters, who kill her for her betrayal. Rose, too, is there, and discovers the terrible truth: The masters are Daleks.

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The Doctor locates the coordinates at the edge of the solar system, but nothing is seen there. He cuts off the cloaking wave that the station is broadcasting along with its signal, and a fleet of two hundred Dalek warships is revealed. Each contains a few thousand Daleks, bringing their total force to nearly half a million. The Daleks contact the Doctor, and threaten him to stand down or they will kill Rose; he refuses, and says he is coming to rescue her and destroy them.

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The Parting of the Ways picks up immediately, with the Doctor and Jack racing to the scene in the TARDIS. They use the extrapolator from Boom Town to create a shield around the TARDIS, which allows them to materialize around Rose, then step out and speak to the Daleks with impunity. They discover that the Daleks are led by the Dalek Emperor, who somehow survived the destruction of the last day of the Time War and fell through time to come here. He has since built up his forces over a few centuries by using human dead to create new Daleks. He now considers himself the Dalek god.

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The Doctor and the others escape and return to the station to stage a defense. He organizes a perimeter defense under Jack and some of the station’s crew; behind the lines, he begins to establish a Delta wave, a form of energy burst that will fry the brains of every Dalek. However, the emperor contacts him and reveals that it will be indiscriminate; it will also kill every human in its range, including those on Earth. The Doctor is willing to sacrifice Earth to destroy the Daleks; he states that humanity on its far-flung colonies will survive, but the Daleks must die here. The Daleks compare him again to them, calling him the Great Exterminator, which rankles him.

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Rose and Jack are also willing to die. However, the Doctor tricks Rose into leaving in the TARDIS using an emergency program. She is returned to her home time, with Mickey and Jackie. On the station, the battle begins; the Daleks invade and slaughter everyone they can find, until only Jack and the Doctor are left. They also begin killing vast swaths of the population of Earth (offscreen, thankfully).

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In 2006, Rose admits defeat. However, she suddenly realizes she is seeing Bad Wolf graffiti everywhere. She takes it as a warning, and tries to get the TARDIS to move. Remembering her experience with Blon, she reasons that she can open the heart of the TARDIS to somehow spur it to action; and with Mickey’s help (and a yellow truck) she does. The heart invades her body, and takes her over; she becomes a powerful entity that takes the Bad Wolf name, and forces the TARDIS back to the station. She arrives just as Jack is killed, leaving only the Doctor. He is horrified; she has absorbed the power of the vortex, which is too much for anyone to survive.

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The entity destroys the Daleks, turning them all to dust. It scatters the Bad Wolf words through time and space, creating all the references that led them here—thus, creating itself. It restores life to Jack (and much more, as we’ll later see). Then, before Rose can be consumed by the power, the Doctor kisses her, drawing it into himself, and releasing it back into the TARDIS. It will be his final act.

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Jack arrives just in time to see the TARDIS leave, stranding him here. Inside, the Doctor tells Rose the damage is too much even for him, and he will die. He explains about regeneration, when he will change to a new face. He says his goodbyes…and transforms into the Tenth Doctor.

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This remains one of my favorite series finales, if not my absolute favorite. As humorous and (sometimes) off-balance as the series could be, it takes itself seriously here, even while making jokes about reality television. All season the Doctor has been venting his emotions as if he can’t control them at all; here, we see it come together, and get an idea of how truly fearsome he can be. And yet, even with that, it’s Rose who is truly to be feared, as she recklessly absorbs the vortex and becomes the Bad Wolf. For all the Doctor’s anger, it’s his sense of self-sacrifice that saves the day, as he dies to save her.parting-of-the-ways-7

I had previously mentioned that Satellite Five had a ridiculously low number of channels for the future. That’s overcompensated here, with over 44,000. The game show parodies were cleverly done, with puns and inside jokes, even if they seem dated now. There’s a reference to Torchwood here, as the Great Cobalt Pyramid is said to stand on its ruins. And of course, there’s the obvious Bad Wolf reference, in the name of the consortium that runs the station (secretly under the Daleks, of course).

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The Doctor, Rose, and Jack mention having come from Raxicoricofallapatorius (having dropped off egg-Blon as promised), then having had one more adventure, in 1338 Kyoto, from which they narrowly escaped. Thus there is no time for additional adventures involving the three of them—sorry, fanfic writers. It was good while it lasted. Jack’s sexuality is played up again, though not as jokingly as in previous episodes; I also do not want to know where he was hiding his gun, though.

Doctor Who TV series starring Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Billie Piper, Karen Gillan, Freema Agyeman, Catherine Tate, Alex Kingston, Jenna Coleman, Paul Kasey, Nicholas Briggs, Arthur Darvill, Noel Clarke, John Barrowman - dvdbash.com

Doctor Who TV series starring Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Billie Piper, Karen Gillan, Freema Agyeman, Catherine Tate, Alex Kingston, Jenna Coleman, Paul Kasey, Nicholas Briggs, Arthur Darvill, Noel Clarke, John Barrowman – dvdbash.com

The Daleks have an established history of using human children as “controllers”, dating back to Day of the Daleks; this isn’t quite the same, but close, and again, their subject betrays them. We also get a connection with the transmats leaving dust behind; this happened previously in The Twin Dilemma. The Face of Boe is mentioned again, in the trivia questions. A control panel on the Dalek ship is the same as one dating all the way back to The Chase–a small but interesting connection. The Doctor tells the Daleks that their legends call him the oncoming storm; this name will recur several times in the new series, but actually dates to a Draconian phrase in the VNA novel, Love and War. (Another VNA reference is seen in the trivia questions; the planet Lucifer gets a mention, having originated in the novel Lucifer Rising.) Most interestingly, Jack recognizes the Daleks and their ships; this makes for interesting questions about the Time War. Some are answered in part two, when he explains that they were the most feared race in the universe, but suddenly vanished; the Doctor explains that they left to fight a bigger war, the Time War, which Jack implies was just a legend.

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The line “And for my next trick”, seen in part two, is later reused in The Day of the Doctor. The Daleks here are post-war Daleks, making them very powerful indeed, and it’s probably that had Rose not intervened, they would have won. The Doctor faces the same choice—kill innocents to destroy the Daleks—that he faced in the war, but here he makes the other decision, and stays his hand.

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The Dalek emperor is the same as in the war, but appears to not be the same as any others we have seen mentioned. The concept first appeared in The Evil of the Daleks, all the way back to the Second Doctor; Davros also called himself the emperor. As with Davros’s Imperial Daleks, the Daleks seen here are bred from human stock, and thus inherit some of the characteristics of humanity, in this case religious inclination. That part doesn’t surprise me; the only oddity is that the Emperor, who is a pure Dalek of Skaro origins (presumably), buys into it. It’s very curious, but then, we’ll see this sort of leader-worship again, if not so explicitly. As to the human stock: This issue will also reappear in the Eighth Doctor Adventures audio drama, Blood of the Daleks, where it is initiated by the human Professor Martez.

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This is an incredibly bloodthirsty story. Every incidental character dies, including all the humans on the station and all the Daleks. Though it happens offscreen, the Daleks are stated to be killing off large portions of Earth’s population. As well, Jack and the Doctor both die, though both live again (Jack by resurrection, the Doctor by regeneration). Only Rose, Jackie, and Mickey survive (and, I suppose, any background characters in the 2006 scenes, though they hardly bear mentioning). Jack is the fifth companion character to die onscreen, joining classic companions Katarina, Sara Kingdom, Adric, and Kamelion. (Apparently it doesn’t pay to have the letter K in your name…)

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The Doctor tricks Rose into leaving in the TARDIS, by activating an emergency program. The Eleventh Doctor will later do the same to Clara Oswald in The Time of the Doctor, complete with a similar holographic interface. Clara will take equally extreme actions to return to him, as she clings to the outside of the TARDIS while in the vortex.

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For the second time in this series, a Dalek compares the Doctor to the Daleks; the Emperor calls him the Great Exterminator. He doesn’t care for the comparison. The emperor states that this act of extermination will make the Doctor like him; however, the joke’s on him—he already did it once, although we haven’t yet had the specifics revealed to us. As I mentioned, he makes the opposite choice here, and chooses not to kill.

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The Bad Wolf entity is fascinating. It’s set up as a parallel to the Dalek Emperor, in that both established themselves as a kind of god. However, where the Emperor merely boasted of godhood, the Bad Wolf demonstrated it, by displaying a ridiculous amount of power. Being possessed of control over time, it creates itself, by scattering the “Bad Wolf” words throughout time in such a way as to lead Rose and the Doctor here, to this moment. (This makes the entire series, to me, reminiscent of the episode Turn Left, where the point is that a myriad small choices lead up to momentous things–Doctor Who’s take on the butterfly effect, if you will.) The entity also kills the Daleks by reducing them to dust; and it brings life by command, reviving Jack from death. This will have consequences, of course, as later episodes (and the Torchwood spinoff) will show that he is now immortal, and a sort of mobile fixed point in time. At the end, the Doctor leaves him here; and it will later be revealed that this was because he finds Jack’s new nature abhorrent, offensive to his time sense, although he still respects him personally.

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This is, as far as I’ve seen, the first mention of regeneration in the new series. The Doctor explains it briefly to Rose before it happens; and really, he’s explaining it to the fans, as well. New fans who missed out on the classic series would likely have no idea that he can change; and as it had already been announced that he would be leaving, it no doubt left some viewers wondering about the future of the show. This regeneration would have resolved that uncertainty, as we see the Tenth Doctor for the first time. Also, this is the first new-style regeneration, with the now-characteristic energy explosion, although we have since learned it dates back to the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration into the War Doctor. I do find it interesting that Rose seemed to maintain the vortex energy better than the Doctor; she holds it for some time before it begins to kill her, but the Doctor appears to be mortally hurt by it after just a moment—after all, he releases it back to the TARDIS almost instantly after taking it in.

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And so, with that, we say goodbye to the Ninth Doctor, and hello to the Tenth. It’s been a fun ride, and far too short. Still, without the Ninth Doctor, we never would have had the good things to come; and we wouldn’t be eagerly awaiting Series Ten today. For that, though Christopher Eccleston’s time in the TARDIS was short, we thank him.

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Next time: The Christmas Invasion! And possibly the beginning of Series Two. See you there!

All episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.

Bad Wolf

The Parting of the Ways

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Dancing Doctors and Future Immortals: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series One, Part Four

We’re back, with our New Doctor Who rewatch! We’re nearing the end of Series One, with the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler; if you’d like to catch up, here are the entries for part one, part two, and part three. As a reminder, each series in the new show tends to have considerably more stories than the classic seasons; therefore we’re splitting each season into parts for the sake of length. Today we’re looking at episodes nine, ten, and eleven. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has never seen these episodes!

We open with The Empty Child, the first part of a two-part story. It’s significant for being future showrunner Steven Moffatt’s first contribution to the revived series. It also introduces one of his best and most notorious creations: Captain Jack Harkness. This story occurs during Harkness’s first documented trip through the twentieth century; at this point, he is not associated with the Torchwood organization, and is not immortal, as will be widely referenced later. He originates from the 51st century, and was at one time a Time Agent; however, he considers himself betrayed by the Time Agency, who took away two years of his memories, and now freelances as a mercenary and con man. He has access to time travel via his wrist-worn vortex manipulator, though that is not clearly explained here as yet; and he also travels with a stolen spaceship.

He sure knows how to make an entrance.

He sure knows how to make an entrance.

The Doctor and Rose arrive in London, 1941, during the height of the London Blitz. They have come in pursuit of an alien ship, which crashed in the middle of London, and has been mistaken for one of many bombs by the locals. The Doctor is actually unaware of this at first, failing to realize they have arrived during the Blitz (and giving us some minor comedy); but they are interrupted by an air raid. Rose, having wandered off, finds herself dangling from a barrage balloon, and is saved by Jack using his ship’s tractor beam. He at once realizes she is not from this time period, and believes that she and the Doctor are Time Agents coming to interfere with him. He attempts to sell the crashed ship to her, and reveals he was the one who caused it to come down safely; but in two hours, it will be blown up by a bomb. She leads him to the Doctor.

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Meanwhile, the Doctor has found a mystery. A small child in a gas mask is following an older girl around, behaving dangerously and searching for its mother. The girl leads the Doctor to a hospital, where he speaks with the doctor on duty, and learns that many people have become like the child—and there is nothing inside them. It is like a disease, and it is spreading. The hospital doctor himself succumbs while the Doctor watches. Rose and Jack meet him there, and they are forced to try to escape. The episode ends with a cliffhanger here; if they are touched by the infected people, they too will succumb.

Not completely relevant, but too funny to pass up!

Not completely relevant, but too funny to pass up!

The Doctor Dances picks up immediately, and the Doctor and his companions elude the creatures and find themselves in a storeroom. Jack gets them out via the teleporter on his ship. They then make their way to the crash site, where they find the girl, Nancy, trapped—and the guards are transforming like the child, as the disease becomes airborne. However, the Doctor deduces that the ship is no battleship—it’s an ambulance, of sorts. It is filled with nanogenes, microscopic machines with the power to not only heal, but remake organic life. Escaping the crash, the nanogenes latched onto an injured child nearby and healed him; but with no preset pattern, they healed him incorrectly, creating the empty child. With the bomb about to fall on the site, the Doctor realizes that Nancy is the child’s mother, rather than his older sister as she had claimed. She accepts the child to her, and the nanogenes use her DNA to determine the correct pattern for his, healing him. The Doctor sends Jack to deal with the bomb, then updates the nanogenes to fix the other victims. He then sets the ship to blow up, eliminating the threat. Just this once, everyone lives…!

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…Except Jack. He uses his ship to catch the bomb, but can’t contain it from exploding, and can’t escape. He resigns himself to death—until the TARDIS appears and snatches him away. He is stranded now, but chooses to travel with them.

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This story is very significant in the history of the new series, setting up many elements that would recur. The Time Agency is not new—it was referenced as far back as The Talons of Weng-Chiang—but will get new life in the revived series, with some new backstory (most notably, that it was established in the absence of the Time Lords after the Time War, as noted in the comic Weapons of Past Destruction). Vortex manipulators appear here without much explanation, and Jack’s sonic “squareness gun” will reappear later with River Song (though not explained here, Moffatt’s intention is that it is stored in the TARDIS until River finds it). Jack will go on to be a part of Torchwood Three, and develop immortality.

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There are a lot of good lines here, more than I could capture. Dr. Constantine at the hospital remarks “Before this war I was a father and a grandfather. Now I am neither. But I am still a doctor,” to which the Doctor famously replies “Yeah, I know the feeling,” a reference at minimum to his lost granddaughter Susan. Jack refers to Pompeii on Volcano Day, a reference the Tenth Doctor will repeat to Donna Noble in The Fires of Pompeii. Jack also famously remarks, on seeing the sonic screwdriver, “Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks, ooh, this could be a little more sonic?!” Rose gets in a dig at the Doctor with “The first time I met him he blew up my job. It’s practically how he communicates.” The Doctor gets her, though, with “I’ve traveled with lots of people, but you’re setting new records for ‘jeopardy-friendly’.” And, of course, his most famous line occurs near the end: “Everybody lives, Rose. Just this once, everybody lives!” We also get the famous “Are you my mummy?” line, which the Tenth Doctor will jokingly reference in The Poison Sky. Rose, as well, makes the classic “Doctor Who?” joke.

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The title The Doctor Dances comes from the storeroom scene, where he dances with Rose out of jealousy over Jack. They dance again at the end, in the TARDIS. His dancing with a partner is a very uncommon thing; it only happens once in the classic series, with the one-off character Ray in Delta and the Bannermen. The Doctor also uses dancing as a euphemism for sex, in telling Rose about Jack’s home century. Jack, as the episode makes clear, is bisexual, and even not particularly concerned about the species of his partners; this will be played up in a number of later appearances, both seriously and as a bit of a joke. Further regarding the title: It represents a few rarities among episodes. It contains a verb, and it names the Doctor, both of which are very uncommon (though not unheard of!), both in the classic and new series. It is the first occurrence of each in the new series.

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There’s a Bad Wolf reference in the second episode, but it’s subtle and hard to spot. The German bomb, when caught by Jack’s tractor beam, is seen to have the phrase “Schlechter Wolf” (literally, “Worse Wolf”) printed on its side. Jack, of course, gets the bomb away and into space. He is very willing to die to save everyone, though not exactly happily. I found it supremely ironic, then, that he very soon will not be able to die. He’s a fascinating character in any regard.

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We finish today with Boom Town, which takes us back to Earth in 2006. The story is a sequel to World War Three, and brings back the character of Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen, aka Margaret Blaine, the one Slitheen to survive the attack on Downing Street. Now, six months later, she has gotten herself selected as Lord Mayor of Cardiff, and is overseeing the construction of a new power plant. Not bad for such a short time; it’s too bad she wants to blow it all up, for both revenge and escape.

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The TARDIS crew have come to Cardiff to refuel the TARDIS, using the rift that was last seen in The Unquiet Dead. The Rift will later be a central plot point in the Torchwood spin-off series. In fact, the Torchwood Three hub already exists at this point, complete with its own version of Jack Harkness; the novel The Twilight Streets will establish that Jack purposefully kept his team locked down for the day so as not to meet himself on the streets. In fact, a third Jack is also nearby, though in cryogenic storage, as seen in the Torchwood episode Exit Wounds. The TARDIS previously did not require such refueling, being powered by the central Eye of Harmony; but with the destruction of Gallifrey, that Eye was lost, and now it is rifts like this that allow the TARDIS to recharge periodically (although this is not made explicit at this time). While waiting, Rose meets up with Mickey; it ends badly, signaling the end of their relationship, though he stays around to help deal with Blon.

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The Doctor captures Blon (after a great scene with a teleporter that wouldn’t be out of place on Scooby-Doo). He intends to take her home to Raxicoricofallapatorius; she insists she will be put to death if she goes there. He then determines her plan: Using an alien device called a Tribophysical Waveform Macrokinetic Extrapolator (or extrapolator, for short), she intends to use the power plant to destroy the Earth. She will then ride the shockwave to freedom in the galaxy, using the extrapolator. The Doctor stops that plan, only to find out that she lied; her real plan was to use the rift to destroy the world; and by parking the TARDIS on it, the Doctor has given her the key.

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Desperate to stop her, the Doctor takes a drastic step: He opens the heart of the TARDIS, under the console, which is being supercharged by the rift. Looking into it—for it is far more than just a power source—Blon is transformed, regressed into an egg. The Doctor then closes the rift and averts the crisis. Departing—and leaving Mickey behind, alone—the travelers plan to drop the egg on Raxicoricofallapatorius, giving Blon a chance at a new life.

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I’m fond of this episode, even though it isn’t ranked particularly highly among new series episodes. I like the Slitheen as villains, once we look past the flatulence jokes (which recur here, but in a more understated manner). Blon in particular is a villain with some complexity; there’s a notable scene where she intends to kill a journalist, but refrains upon finding out that the woman is pregnant. Her grief over the loss of her own family is still acute. She’s also good for some comic relief; there’s the previously mentioned teleporter scene, and her “dinner date” with the Doctor, in which she tries several times to kill him. She gets in a good line when she says to the Doctor, “What did I ever do to you?”; he replies with “You tried to kill me and destroy this entire planet.” “Apart from that!” she retorts with a tsk.

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Jack’s role is toned down a bit here, though he will be instrumental again in the upcoming series finale. He’s still entertaining; and of course this episode plants the earliest seeds of the upcoming Torchwood television series, which will reuse some of the locations from this story. Mickey is at what may be his lowest point here; he attempts to reconnect with Rose, but then admits that he is seeing someone else. When challenged on it by Rose—who, not incorrectly, believes it is about her rather than the other woman—he admits that he did it because at least he knows where the other woman is. With Rose, he never knows. He comes off as petulant and downright mean to Rose, but his points are still valid—she will never choose him.

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There’s a Bad Wolf reference in the name of the power plant. In Welsh, it is called “Blaidd Drwgg”, which translates to “Bad Wolf”; unlike the last foreign-language reference, the Doctor catches this one and interrogates Blon as to why she chose that name. He and Rose comment that the words seem to be following them around; but in the end he dismisses it as coincidence. Of course it isn’t, as we will see soon.

Doctor Who TV series starring Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Billie Piper, Karen Gillan, Freema Agyeman, Catherine Tate, Alex Kingston, Jenna Coleman, Paul Kasey, Nicholas Briggs, Arthur Darvill, Noel Clarke, John Barrowman - dvdbash.com

Blon’s regression to egg form has precedent: In The Leisure Hive, the villain Pangol was regressed to infancy. Also, in The Visitation, the Terileptils—like Blon—declined to be repatriated to their homeworld due to fear of execution. In that case, the Doctor allowed them to settle on another world; here he denies Blon that opportunity, stating that she will just resume her criminal activities.

boom-town-8

Overall, these are good episodes, and I think it’s safe to say that Series One is finally finding its feet. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances are often cited as the best episodes of the series; and Boom Town, while not so highly regarded, is still well executed. It’s a good way to wrap up the week-by-week portion of the series, as the next episodes are devoted to the overall arc.

Next time: We finish Series One, and say goodbye to the Ninth Doctor—and hello to some old enemies! See you there.

All episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.

The Empty Child

The Doctor Dances

Boom Town

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The Doctor Fails: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series One, Part Three

After a lengthy delay, we’re back, continuing our New Doctor Who rewatch! It’s been a while, so if you would like to catch up, here are the entries for Series One, part one, and Series One, part two. As a reminder, each season in the new show tends to have considerably more stories than the classic seasons; therefore we’re splitting each season into parts for the sake of length. Today—and due to an upcoming two-parter that we won’t want to split up—we’re cutting down to only two episodes, episodes seven and eight of Series One. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has never seen these episodes!

Picking up right where we left off in Dalek, we find ourselves in the far future again in The Long Game. It’s approximately the year 200,000, and humanity is squarely in the middle of the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire—or at least, it should be. It doesn’t take the Doctor long to figure out that something has gone wrong with the empire. The TARDIS lands aboard Satellite 5, a large space station orbiting the Earth. The station is responsible for television (or at least, the 2000th century equivalent) broadcasting, and especially newscasting from the far-flung reaches of the empire.

It doesn't end well for poor Suki.

Satellite 5

The latest companion, Adam Mitchell, is overwhelmed at first by this new experience. The Doctor treats him pretty roughly, which is no surprise, given that he didn’t want Adam along in the first place. After obtaining some credits—money—for use in exploring the station, the trio finds themselves observing a newsgathering session—and get a surprise: The central computer in the session is actually the living brain of one of the news staff, “borrowed” for the purpose via an electronic port in her head. During the session, one of the staff is promoted unexpectedly, and called up to Floor 500, the near-mythical control deck of the station. Behind the scenes, we see that it is not what she expects, but then, she also has her secrets; she’s an agent working to expose corruption on the station. She finds that something else is in control—and dies for her trouble.

It doesn't end well for poor Suki.

It doesn’t end well for poor Suki.

Separating himself from the Doctor, Adam sneaks off and attempts to acquire information that he can send home to exploit in his own time, thus vindicating the Doctor’s distrust of him. To that end, he uses the credit supply to have one of the electronic ports installed in his own head; it only appears when triggered by a finger snap.

You look happy about it now, Adam, but just wait.

You look happy about it now, Adam, but just wait.

Upon investigating further, the Doctor and Rose find themselves admitted to Floor 500, where they meet the Editor, a slick and oily human in charge of the station. He himself only works for the true master, though: a massive, dangerous creature with a high metabolism—and therefore requiring constant cold temperatures—called the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe. The Editor reveals that the Empire is neither human nor particularly great, because, for 91 years, the Jagrafess has been manipulating its development for profit. And now, thanks to Adam’s access of the systems, it knows all about the Doctor, and wants the TARDIS. The Doctor and Rose and Adam are all rescued, however, by one of the surviving news staff, when she interrupts the Editor’s access, and pumps heat into the Jagrafess’s room. This causes it to explode—and in a final bit of revenge from the agent’s barely-animate corpse, the Editor is trapped and killed with it. The Empire is now free to resume its development.

Hello, Jagrafess!

Hello, Jagrafess!

Full of anger, the Doctor returns Adam to his parents’ home. He destroys the tape Adam had made of exploitable data, but warns him that he will have to live a quiet life, because all it takes is a snap of the fingers to expose his secret. Adam expects to be able to do just that…until his mother comes in and snaps her fingers just seconds later.

Oops.

Oops.

There’s a Bad Wolf reference early in this episode; one of the television broadcasts in the background refers to the “Bad Wolf channel”, which is carrying an exclusive on the Face of Boe’s pregnancy. (That creature—whether the rumor about it being an ancient Jack Harkness is true or not—is incredibly long-lived; its previous appearance is billions of years later than this.) As well—though it hasn’t been revealed at this point—this episode sets up for the series one finale, which will return the Doctor to Satellite 5.

Nobody said this had to make sense.

Nobody said this had to make sense.

I feel compelled to say something about human history here. I’ve made a project throughout these rewatches of trying to figure out the basic course of future history. There are five major periods to which Doctor Who makes repeated reference, though not always in detail. There is the colonization period, from about 2100 to 2500 AD; and the Earth Empire, which grows out of the colonization period and lasts until about 3000 AD. These two periods were portrayed often in the classic series, although occasional trips into the further future also occurred (but without delving much into the greater scene of humanity). The Earth Empire, if named according to NuWho conventions, would have been synonymous with the First Great and Bountiful Human Empire. The Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire was in existence by the 42nd century, and was the first truly intergalactic empire, encompassing three galaxies. It is the galaxy in which the Ood served as slaves, as seen in Planet of the Ood, and was concurrent with the Earth Alliance, a smaller political body seen in the audio Invasion of the Daleks. The Third Great and Bountiful Human Empire has not been seen onscreen, but appeared in the comics with the Eleventh Doctor, who described it as “neither great, nor bountiful, nor overwhelmingly human”; it occurs in the 78th and 79th centuries, and though we haven’t seen it addressed, it is possible that some classic stories may occur here. Then, it is a long period—more than a hundred thousand years—before we come to the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, seen here; we don’t get an accurate accounting of its size, as the Doctor describes it a bit poetically, so we can’t really compare it to the previous Empires. It remains to be seen if any of these empires will be further fleshed out, but we know this is not the end; another intergalactic civilization exists at the time of The End of the World, and I have said in various places that I think that that civilization is the Empire seen fighting the Cybermen in Nightmare in Silver. I mention all of this here because it is a topic I expect to recur often during this rewatch.

the-long-game-7

Father’s Day takes us to another new frontier: Rose’s personal past. We’ve met her mother, Jackie; now we learn that her father, Pete Tyler, died at a young age, killed by a hit-and-run driver. Knowing he died alone and in pain, Rose wants to be there for him, even if he doesn’t know her; and against his better judgment, the Doctor allows it. In fact, he allows it twice, as she balks the first time—and on the second attempt, she saves his life instead. This creates a paradox, and trouble for everyone.

Bad idea, Rose, no matter how it seemed at the time.

Bad idea, Rose, no matter how it seemed at the time.

We actually have an exact date for this episode—in fact, we have both birth and death dates for Pete Tyler: September 15, 1954 to November 7, 1987, the date of this story. En route to a friend’s wedding at the time of his original death, he was struck and killed, until Rose changed it all. So, what are these massive, demonic creatures that suddenly appeared, and started killing people without a trace? And why is the interior of the TARDIS suddenly gone?

How do you misplace the inside of a TARDIS?!

How do you misplace the inside of a TARDIS?!

The Doctor rushes Rose, Jackie, Pete, their friends, and—shockingly to Rose—the infant version of Rose, into the church, and barricades the doors. The ancient stone of the building is enough to keep the creatures—called Reapers—out for now, but not for long. The Doctor is very angry with Rose, and tells her that her stupid actions have caused this problem. The creatures are like white blood cells responding to a wound to cleanse it; however, this wound is in time itself. The Doctor explains that a person’s actions are fixed in time once carried out, and that one cannot change her own personal history without causing a paradox. These creatures, therefore, will kill everyone to repair the damage—and they are trapped there without the TARDIS. He laments that the Time Lords would once have prevented this, but they are gone, thanks to him. He also tells Rose not to make contact with her infant self—this will cause a further paradox, and will let the Reapers in.

THESE creatures.

THESE creatures.

Anachronisms begin to happen. Music and phone calls from other times begin to appear on present-day devices. Rose finds herself in contact with the child version of her ex-boyfriend, Mickey, and suspects she has imprinted herself on him, possibly leading to his later love for her. The Doctor sets in motion a plan to recover the TARDIS using its key, but it is eventually interrupted. As the truth comes out about Rose’s identity, Pete and Jackie argue, and Pete—not knowing the danger—presses the infant Rose into the adult Rose’s hands. The creatures materialize inside the church, and the Doctor—being the oldest thing there—sacrifices himself to let the others escape.

Rose, meet Rose.

Rose, meet Rose.

Throughout this time, Pete has been seeing something strange out the windows: The car that should have struck him keeps reappearing as if on a loop. He realizes that the only way to fix time is to let his death occur. Jackie objects, showing her true love for him for once, but he insists; he tells her that his sacrifice will allow her to raise Rose properly. The three share a final embrace…and he throws himself in front of the car.

Because that's how dads roll.

Because that’s how dads roll.

Time is instantly repaired, and the Doctor and the TARDIS are restored. Lesson learned, Rose departs again with him…and we close with Jackie telling the young Rose about her father, and the mysterious girl who stayed with him while he died, then vanished.

Mystery girl.

Mystery girl.

For me, this story competes with Dalek as the high point of series one. Besides being a good and entertaining—and, I admit, an emotional—story, it gives us some foundational concepts which we will see repeatedly throughout the upcoming seasons. It re-establishes the First Law of Time, which will be further explored in later episodes—the law that states that you cannot change your own timeline, due to the risk of paradox. It also establishes—though not in so many words—the concept of fixed points, events which must occur and cannot be altered, as later explored in The Waters of Mars. As well, it establishes that some things can be changed; the hit-and-run driver stops and takes responsibility for his actions after Rose’s intervention. As well, we get some setup for the four-part series two finale, from Rise of the Cybermen to Doomsday. There is also another Bad Wolf reference; the phrase is written across a poster for an upcoming concert.

Bad Wolf, and crossing your own timeline.

Bad Wolf, and crossing your own timeline.

What I find most interesting about both these episodes is their similarity in basic structure. Both episodes hinge on a companion making a terrible mistake, and both times the Doctor has to intervene and set it right. However, in both episodes, the Doctor fails to save the day (in Father’s Day, he actually dies trying). In both cases, it is up to incidental characters to save the Doctor and Rose and the entire situation—Cathica in The Long Game, Pete in Father’s Day. In both episodes, exploitation of time travel is a critical issue; Adam attempts to exploit future knowledge for financial gain in the present, and the Doctor accuses Rose of exploiting him and the TARDIS for an opportunity to save her father. The parallel is interesting, and though Adam is ejected from the TARDIS, there’s really nothing to distinguish Rose’s actions from his, though the Doctor allows her to stay. (Adam will get another appearance, as a villain, in the comics.)

fathers-day-8

Overall, comparing the two episodes, I preferred the latter. However, The Long Game was decent, and also is necessary to establish the season finale, so I can’t complain. I like the ongoing Bad Wolf arc; I remember being very intrigued on my first viewing. Not so pleasant: The Doctor is at his angriest in these episodes, and takes it out on those closest to him (for example, we get another “stupid ape” exclamation, aimed at Rose). This is not his fanatical hatred of the Daleks; it’s simple bitterness, and it reduces him. Still, he will recover soon.

Angry all the time!

Angry all the time!

Next time: popular two-parter The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, and the return of an old enemy in Boom Town. Also, Captain Jack Harkness! See you there.

All episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.

The Long Game

Father’s Day

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It’s Not Over Yet: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series One, Part Two

We’re back, continuing our New Doctor Who rewatch! This week, we’re continuing our review of Series One, with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor and Billie Piper as companion Rose Tyler. As a reminder, each season in the new show tends to have considerably more stories than the classic seasons; therefore we’re splitting each season into parts for the sake of length. Today we’re looking at episodes four, five, and six. Let’s get started!

Series 1 logo

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has never seen these episodes!

So long, Big Ben!

So long, Big Ben!

So far, we’ve traveled with Rose and the Doctor to the past and the future. Now, we accompany them on Rose’s most difficult journey yet: Home. In Aliens of London, she returns to her neighborhood, expecting that twelve hours have passed. Instead, she learns the hard way that it’s been twelve months. Jackie and Mickey have spent the intervening time searching for her, and posting flyers, and dealing with the police. The reunion is cut short, though, by an alien spaceship crashing into Big Ben, then landing in the Thames.

Touchdown!

Touchdown!

The Doctor and the others get caught up in the action, only to find out that the ship isn’t what it seems, nor is the body recovered from it. Instead, it’s a decoy; and the real aliens, in the guise of government officials, are already in power. They’re the Slitheen family, from the planet Raxicoricofallapatorius; and though they can convincingly disguise themselves as humans, they’re given away by the ineffective gas exchangers on their suits, which compress them to a manageable size. The Doctor and Rose also meet Harriet Jones, an MP from Flydale, who has a significant future ahead of her. The episode ends with a cliffhanger, as the Slitheen attempt to put all of Britain’s alien experts to death…and the Doctor among them.

Welcome, Tosh!

Welcome, Tosh!

We get our third Bad Wolf reference here, as a child paints it on the TARDIS. We also meet a doctor by the last name of Sato; this character will be prominent in Torchwood as Toshiko Sato. In that show she’s a technology expert, not a medical doctor; the discrepancy is explained offscreen, in that she was covering for Torchwood’s newly-acquired medical doctor, Owen Harper, who was hung over. It seems like an odd choice for a coroner, but who am I to judge? For the record, I love Owen and Tosh in Torchwood, and I wish they hadn’t been killed off. The scene with the fake alien escaping the morgue is very reminiscent—possibly deliberately—of the scene of the Eighth Doctor doing so in the television movie. The Doctor makes a throwaway line about Mickey’s real name being Rickey…but is it a throwaway? Next season will reveal something interesting about that, when the TARDIS crosses universes in Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel. UNIT gets a mention here, but the Doctor states that, although he once worked with him, they wouldn’t recognize him now. To my knowledge, the Ninth Doctor never works with UNIT. The TARDIS key, first seen here up close, has reverted to the Yale key of the early classic series; in the movie, it was the spade-type key favored by the Third Doctor. This is not new; however, this series will eventually establish that it’s not just a key, but a bit of linked technology; it glows when the TARDIS approaches, and has other properties as well. The Doctor claims to be 900 years old, but various materials indicate that he’s probably lying; he should be older than that. Note that various incarnations have claimed that age, and they can’t all be true.

That's not a good look for you, Harriet. Try to show some dignity.

That’s not a good look for you, Harriet. Try to show some dignity.

From this point forward, all episodes set in the contemporary world are actually set one year in the future from their broadcast dates, give or take. This will continue until The End of Time, when the writers took advantage of the year without a full series to synchronize the timelines again. The net effect for Rose, of course, is that she just simply loses this entire year. Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, for what it’s worth, are also synchronized with Doctor Who. This episode, incidentally, is the 700th episode of Doctor Who; it’s also the first two-parter of the new show.

Ah, yes, the Slitheen. Can't forget them.

Ah, yes, the Slitheen. Can’t forget them.

World War Three picks up right where Aliens of London leaves off. The Doctor escapes the trap—although the other experts don’t, sadly—and reconnects with Rose and Harriet. They find themselves trapped by choice in the Cabinet room of 10 Downing Street, which is protected by steel walls that keep out the Slitheen—but also keep them in. Cornered, he communicates with Mickey and Jackie by telephone, and saves them from a Slitheen; he deduces their homeworld, and realizes they are calcium-based, allowing Mickey to kill it with a mix of substances in Mickey’s apartment. He then gets Mickey to log onto UNIT’s network using the Doctor’s own credentials, and commandeers a missile. After some debate with Jackie—and an order from Harriet—the Doctor, via Mickey, does the only thing left to do: He fires the missile at 10 Downing Street, where the Slitheen are gathered…and also where he and the others are trapped. Thanks to the quick thinking of Rose, the trio survive…and the Slitheen are destroyed. At the Doctor’s suggestion, Harriet takes charge of the situation, which will soon lead to her election as Prime Minister, with three terms ahead of her; the Doctor states she will initiate Britain’s golden age. Privately he offers Mickey a place in the TARDIS; Mickey refuses, stating that life is not for him, but he asks the Doctor to not tell Rose it was his choice. The Doctor honors the request, and tells Rose that he won’t let Mickey join them. Despite Jackie’s objections, Rose leaves again in the TARDIS.

Jackie and Rickey, I mean, Mickey.

Jackie and Rickey, I mean, Mickey.

Jackie gets a lot of flak, but her demands about Rose—to know she’s safe—are really not unreasonable. Although she’s flaky on the surface, beneath it she truly cares about Rose, and is willing to fight for her, and I give her credit for that. Mickey, as well, in his own way does the same; he only refuses to travel because he knows when he’s outmatched. In his own depth, he’s far more loyal and competent than Rose ever appreciates. Harriet Jones is presented here as something of a fixed point, though that term isn’t used; but later episodes will indicate that it is far from fixed, as the Tenth Doctor destroys her career almost on a whim. The calcium-based life form that the Slitheen prove to be, stretches real-world credibility quite a bit; but they’re decent enemies anyway, getting several reappearances here and on The Sarah Jane Adventures. In fact, one Slitheen—Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen, to be exact—will be seen again this series in Boom Town.

Don't take it off!

Don’t take it off!

This episode and its prequel got a lot of criticism for the low humor, especially in regard to the Slitheen’s artificial flatulence. It’s been argued that this is because the series was just beginning to find its voice and tone, and that’s a fair assessment. I would also say that I think the show is well served by having a wide range with regard to tone; a show with this loose a grip on continuity and its own rules would be tanked if it became too serious.

The Mysterious "Metaltron", better known as a Dalek.

The Mysterious “Metaltron”, better known as a Dalek.

We’ll finish today with Dalek. Longtime fans had to be wondering if the Doctor’s perennial arch-enemies would reappear; and they did, in terrifying style. The Doctor and Rose find themselves in the year 2012, under the Utah desert, in the personal museum of Henry Van Statten. It’s not just any museum; it’s a space museum, one might say—and in fact, it constitutes a bit of a reference to the classic serial titled The Space Museum (one of my personal favorites). The Doctor and Rose are quickly captured; the arrogant Van Statten goes easy on them, however, when he discovers that the Doctor is more than he seems. He takes them to see the prize of his collection: a living Dalek. The Doctor’s reaction, however, reveals more than he would have liked; and Van Statten restrains him for study. Meanwhile, Rose, having made friends with a researcher named Adam Mitchell, goes to the Dalek—which she does not recognize—and talks to it. When she touches it, it incorporates her DNA—affected by time travel—and revitalizes itself, and escapes.

Henry Van Statten, the Martin Shkreli of his universe. Isn't that face just punchable?

Henry Van Statten, the Martin Shkreli of his universe. Isn’t that face just punchable?

Van Statten is forced to accept the Doctor’s help as the Dalek goes on a rampage. It’s Rose, however, who ultimately is responsible for the Dalek’s defeat, or rather, its self-defeat. Having absorbed some of her DNA, it is developing a bit of human perspective, and is appalled by this change in itself. Still, it can’t destroy itself without orders; and it chooses to accept them from the Doctor, and annihilates itself. Van Statten, for his stupidity, gets his comeuppance; his own staff leave him in a public place with his memory wiped. They then choose to shut down the facility and fill it with concrete. The Doctor and Rose are free to go on their way, but they don’t go alone; at Rose’s urging, the Doctor reluctantly takes Adam Mitchell with them.

An inside view.

An inside view.

This episode is one of the very few places that establish Rose’s age. When the Doctor says they are in “Utah, 2012”, Rose comments that she should be 26. Given that it’s seven years after her point of origin in 2005, she would be 19; and the Doctor later directly states that that is her age. This episode also gives us a far more advanced Dalek than any we saw in the classic series; in addition to its hovering capability (which is not new, but may not be well known), it possesses enormous memory banks and capacitors, enough to absorb all the electricity on the west coast, and the entire content of the internet. It possesses shields that make it resistant to all types of projectile fire; self-repair systems that can generate new material out of pure energy; and a complex self-destruct system. It’s also our first view in this series of a Kaled mutant (and probably our clearest in the show overall to this point), and our first view of a Dalek shell that isn’t “flip-top”. The “EL-E-VATE!” moment in the episode had to come as a shock to many viewers, and it’s still suspenseful today. (Related: In The Tom Baker Years VHS clip show from the nineties, Tom Baker—while watching clips of his old episodes—commented that one had to work hard at pretending to be afraid of the Daleks, when you knew that all you had to do to defeat them was go upstairs. Hilarious commentary, but alas, Tom, things have changed!)

You would make a good Dalek.

You would make a good Dalek.

The Dalek’s erratic firing in connection with its fear sets the stage for the Series Nine revelation that emotion triggers the Daleks’ weapon systems (The Witch’s Familiar). It’s never really spelled out—anywhere that I can recall, not just here—what kind of energy is in a Dalek beam, but there is clearly an electrical component, as it electrocutes the security force under the sprinklers. For all the complaints by fans in later seasons that the Daleks aren’t scary anymore, I have to say, THIS Dalek is terrifying. Even the Doctor is terrified, and justifiably so, having recently (as far as we can be sure) come off the Time War, where “everyone lost”. His PTSD gets the better of him briefly, but he recovers well enough for now. He’s shaken by the Dalek’s comment that “you would make a good Dalek”; it’s a sentiment we’ll hear repeatedly. The Doctor is many things, but a soft man, he is not.

"EL-E-VATE!"

“EL-E-VATE!”

I’m going to voice an opinion that doesn’t seem to be popular among current fans: I prefer the lighter, humorous tone of Series One, especially when compared to the grim, tense, deadly-serious tone of the Capaldi era. Part of the issue, in my opinion, is that eleven years of this series have pushed the stakes higher and higher, with every series caught in the trap of having to outdo the previous series. When the stakes are universe-spanning in every episode, it’s hard to be lighthearted. Certainly there is a place for that kind of storytelling (in the series-long sense), and I’m not opposed to it on principle, nor will I mock anyone for preferring it; but I like this format better. As I mentioned before, Aliens of London and World War Three get a lot of flak for their low humor; but I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t want every episode to be quite on that level, but I enjoyed watching them; they were fun. Then, when you take episodes like that and follow up with a story like Dalek, you get an idea of the range of which this show is capable. Dalek is not a funny episode at all; it has its tense moments, and it’s full of action and death. But the very fact of having that variety in one series is what makes the darkness here acceptable; we can have that darkness, and then take a breath, and we’re not drowning in it all the time. I think that’s fantastic. (For the record, I consider Dalek to be, hands-down, my favorite episode of Series One. So I suppose it’s not the tone, it’s the execution.)

Diana Goddard. A truly dangerous woman.

Diana Goddard. A truly dangerous woman.

Some things I liked: The new Daleks are amazing. It had to feel almost a waste to audiences at the time to see the last Dalek destroyed; of course we know now that they’ll be back, but audiences then didn’t know that. Harriet Jones is an interesting character, but maybe a bit one-dimensional; I couldn’t help wondering if that’s why later writers removed her from office and from the series—all her stories had been told. The Slitheen aren’t bad villains, though I have yet to see what The Sarah Jane Adventures does with them; I feel like they would have been better accepted by fans if not for the fart jokes. I would love to have seen Diana Goddard—Henry Van Statten’s assistant and eventual judge—again, possibly in a UNIT story; she’s a frightening, cold-hearted, clever individual. Not bad episodes, overall.

Next time: Because of an upcoming two-parter that I would otherwise have to split up, we’ll trim it to two episodes: The Long Game and Father’s Day. See you there!

All episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.

Aliens of London

World War Three

Dalek

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The War Is Over: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series One, Part One.

Welcome back to my Doctor Who rewatch! Recently we completed the classic television series, and it was great. Twenty-six years of television yields a show with a wealth of lore and background. But, what happens when that show is cancelled, only to be revived sixteen years later? Let’s find out!

Series 1 logo

To that end, I’ve decided to continue on into the revived, 2005-era series of Doctor Who. This series, while connecting nicely to its predecessor, is really a different animal, and those differences are going to count in this review. For one, I’ll be using the preferred modern term “Series” instead of “Season” as I did in the classic series—“Series One”, “Series Two”, etc. Obviously that gets a bit confusing with regard to the television series as a whole; for that I’ll probably switch over and just say “show”. It’s necessary, though, as the numbering system resets; we wouldn’t want to confuse Series One of the revived series with Season One of the classic series. For another change, the format is different now; where the classic show utilized a serialized format, with multiple short episodes per story, the revived show tends to limit stories to one forty-five-minute episode, with occasional two- or three-parters. With that said, we get more stories per series than we did with the latter two-thirds of the classic show. In light of that, I won’t be able to do an entire series per post; they would be far too long, and I’m already verbose enough. I expect to do about three episodes per post; at about thirteen episodes per series, that’s a comfortable rate that should let me post once a week. As I’m also reviewing audio dramas, I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew.

Series 1

This week, we’re looking at Series One, from 2005, and covering the first three episodes: Rose, The End of the World, and The Unquiet Dead. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has never seen these episodes! (I should have been saying that all along.)

After a long hiatus (nine or sixteen years, depending on your point of view), Doctor Who returns with the simply-titled Rose. It’s not a deep story, but it moves fast! Nineteen-year-old Rose Tyler works in a shop, hangs out with her boyfriend Mickey Smith, and argues with her mother, Jackie…until the shop dummies start menacing her in the basement at her job. Everything changes, though, when a strange and compelling man grabs her hand and says, “Run!” It’s non-stop from there, as her encounter with the Doctor and the menacing Autons takes her further from life as she’s known it. In the end, she leads the Doctor to a confrontation with the Nestene Consciousness that controls the Autons, and saves his life…and flies away with him.

"RUN!"

“RUN!”

We get some new characters here, including Rose, her mother Jackie, and her skeptical and protective boyfriend Mickey…but none more fascinating than the Doctor. This Doctor is a brand new man, possibly literally; there’s a scene where he looks at his reflection as though he’s seeing it for the first time, though that’s been debated hotly ever since. The BBC and showrunner Russell Davies made the decision not to bring back Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor—first seen in the 1996 movie, and popularized since by the audios, novels, and comics—instead choosing a clean start with Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor. It really is a clean break, as well, as we immediately get the startling revelation that he is all alone—his people, the Time Lords (not named here) are gone. Longtime fans would have been stunned at that revelation. Eccleston’s Doctor is clean-cut and spare compared to McGann’s; no more Victorian costumes, no more long hair, instead he prefers simple clothing, a black leather jacket, and a buzzed head. He’s spare in personality, as well; he’s blunt and forthright (“Is it always like this?” “Yeah.”), and honestly, offensive sometimes. He can be rude, but not in the flamboyant manner of the Sixth Doctor; he’s more of an immovable object, hard and unforgiving.

"Is it always like this?" "Yeah."

“Is it always like this?” “Yeah.”

Of course, there’s a good reason for it, though we don’t know it yet: He’s just survived a war. The massive and far-flung Last Great Time War—not named here, but we’ll get there soon—has been time-locked and therefore wiped from the memory of much of the universe; but the Doctor remembers. He can never forget. In a very real sense, he has post-traumatic stress disorder; he doesn’t scream or lash out, but he keeps himself buttoned up tight, because he knows the man he could be if he let it out. Opinions of Eccleston may vary, but there’s absolutely no question that he was the Doctor for the hour, here, and he is—to borrow his favorite word—fantastic.

Rose 3

It…may have taken Rose a while to realize he was fantastic.

The Autons and the Nestene Consciousness are the villains here, for the first time since The Auton Invasion. They’re interesting to me; this is only their third appearance onscreen, but every appearance has been a season/series premiere, and twice it’s been the premiere for a new Doctor. They’re similar to their previous appearances; you can’t do much with shop dummies, I suppose. However, we do see them in other forms here; anything plastic they can control, so we see them control a garbage bin, and even produce a speaking duplicate of Mickey. They’re defeated with anti-plastic, a corrosive chemical, but it won’t be the last we see of them. There’s an interesting reference to their worlds having been destroyed; it’s not spelled out, but understood later that they were destroyed in the Time War.

Autons! Autons everywhere! But seriously, people died here.

Autons! Autons everywhere! But seriously, people died here.

Other noteworthy things: The new sonic screwdriver appears, and it’s beautiful. If this is, as the theory goes, the Ninth Doctor’s first adventure, then it really is a brand-new screwdriver; it differs from the one the War Doctor will eventually be seen to carry at the time of his regeneration. The Shadow Proclamation is first mentioned, and the terminology makes it sound more like a treaty or declaration than an organization; I suppose this could be metonymy, the idiomatic practice where a thing becomes identified by one of its features. The Doctor first uses his “I AM TALKING!” line which will be more common under Matt Smith. Rose makes the first in a long line of “bigger on the inside” comments about the TARDIS (she actually says “The inside’s bigger than the outside”). The Doctor calls humans “stupid apes”—something he will do often in moments of anger—and then makes his famous “Lots of planets have a north!” line. The TARDIS interior can be seen through the open doors, something the classic series could not do convincingly, and mostly never tried.

"It's a scientific instrument, not a water pistol!"

“It’s a scientific instrument, not a water pistol!”

I wanted to say a bit more about the question of whether this is the first adventure of the Ninth Doctor. I like to think it is; the scene with his reflection seems very clear to me, though some staff for the show have said otherwise. I feel that the existence of photos of the Ninth Doctor at past events, does not mean they happened earlier in his lifetime; they could easily be offscreen adventures in the future. To that end, it’s worth mentioning that he briefly dematerializes the TARDIS without Rose before taking her with him; it’s been suggested that some offscreen adventures take place without her during that gap. Certainly there’s precedent for it; the Fourth Doctor most likely visited Leela’s homeworld for the first time while Harry Sullivan was knocked out in Robot (we see him returning in the TARDIS). Nevertheless, if anyone disagrees, that’s fine as well.

Not bad, not bad at all.

Not bad, not bad at all.

Rose’s first real adventure in the TARDIS takes her to The End of the World, literally. After brief stops in the years 2105 and 12,005 (which the Doctor states to be the New Roman Empire; note that this is after the time frame of the Earth Empire seen often in the classic show), they land in the year 5.5/apple/26, five billion years in Rose’s future. It’s the day the Earth is to be destroyed by the expanding Sun, which technically should already have happened. (The Sun has been held back by gravity-controlling satellites.) It’s not the furthest in time we will ever go—multiple adventures will take the Doctor to the end of time itself—but it’s still impressive, and not often beaten. We land on Platform One, a hospitality and viewing station which will be used to view the death of the planet.

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel...well, honestly, like I might be sick, but whatever.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel…well, honestly, like I might be sick, but whatever.

At this point in history, pure humans are considered to be mostly extinct; or rather, they’ve interbred and/or genetically engineered themselves into related but dissimilar races—it’s played for comedic effect when the Doctor gets hit on by a human tree (no, really). The Lady Cassandra O’Brien dot Delta Seventeen (I’ll dispense with the symbols for convenience’s sake) is considered to be the last pure human, and even she has surgically altered herself to the point of being unrecognizable—she’s essentially a tank of organs attached to a face of stretched skin (or as Rose puts it, a “bitchy trampoline”; they will have a short rivalry hereafter, which is arguably Rose’s fault, as she starts the fight). Of course, later episodes—especially Utopia–will establish that pure humans exist nearly all the way to the end of time. I see no contradiction; the universe is a big place, and it’s not impossible that other pure humans exist elsewhere, but are unknown to the bulk of the populace.

Human trees. Yes, really.

Human trees. Yes, really.

Cassandra proves to be the villain here, as she attempts to extort the guests for money to fund her continued body modification. She is thwarted by the Doctor at the last second, and appears to die; but she’ll be back.

Cassandra and Rose.

Cassandra and Rose.

We’re introduced to the Face of Boe, who will figure significantly into the Tenth Doctor’s life (and might be Jack Harkness!). The architecture of Platform One is very reminiscent of the Imperator’s ship in Nightmare in Silver, which is still several years in our future. There’s no clear indication of when that story takes place, but I’ve always felt—based on the advanced state of the Cybermen and other technology—that it must be far in the future. It’s stated to be a thousand years after the Cyber-Wars, but I don’t believe they are the same Cyber-wars as have previously been noted to be in the 26th century; in that century, the Earth’s populated range of worlds was small, but these wars are said to involve many galaxies. Therefore I would submit that Nightmare in Silver is contemporary with The End of the World, or close to it.

The Face of Boe!

The Face of Boe!

The Doctor shows an intimate grasp of time, possibly even slowing it by force of will so that he can step through the final fan even with his eyes closed; perfect timing or not, that fan was moving too fast to allow passage otherwise. (Never mind that it visibly doesn’t reach the floor, and he could have crawled under.) The Time War is first mentioned here, but not by name; it’s evident that some people remember it, but many do not. We first see psychic paper here. The Doctor cries for the first time in either television series. Also, the phrase “Bad Wolf” makes its first appearance, in an offhand remark by a background character; we’ll see it often this series. I like this episode a lot; it’s one of the earliest NuWho episodes I watched (although in reruns), and I’m fond of it.

Pictures of the Doctor stepping through the fan were surprisingly hard to find. This is the closest I could get.

Pictures of the Doctor stepping through the fan were surprisingly hard to find. This is the closest I could get.

The Unquiet Dead takes us on Rose’s first trip into the past. It’s Cardiff at Christmas, 1869; the Doctor was aiming for 1860 Naples, Italy, but missed—hardly an uncommon occurrence. Though set at Christmas, it’s not a Christmas special; the wiki states—and I am inclined to agree—that it’s the closest thing Eccleston has to a Christmas special, as he left before the 2005 Christmas season. We get our first mention of the time-space rift at Cardiff, which will become a major plot point for the Torchwood spinoff. By coincidence, Eve Myles, who plays the housemaid Gwyneth here, will later play co-lead Gwen Cooper in Torchwood; in-universe, Gwen, who grew up near the rift, was sort of imprinted with Gwyneth’s features as a side effect, though they are not actually related.

unquiet dead 1

Charles Dickens appears as a character here; his experiences here are a reference to his short novel, A Christmas Carol, but not the inspiration for the book, as he has already written it. His experience here is eerily parallel to that of Vincent Van Gogh in Vincent and the Doctor, even to the point that both characters will die within a year of their experience with the Doctor. I’ve also compared this episode previously with several others, including Hide and Ghost Light.

The man himself.

The man himself.

The plot begins with the dead reviving, causing problems in town, and especially at a local funeral parlor. The dead are being possessed by the disembodied Gelth, aliens from a doomed world who have come through the rift; their world was destroyed in the Time War, here named for the first time. However, most of their survivors are trapped on the other side of the rift; they need it opened to come through, and the serving girl Gwyneth—who has a form of telepathy—can open it. As soon as she does so, however, the Gelth reveal their true colors—literally—and their greater numbers, and attempt to wipe out humanity so as to claim the Earth. Gwyneth sacrifices herself to close the rift and destroy them.

Not as nice as they seem, those Gelth.

Not as nice as they seem, those Gelth.

Gwyneth gives us our second “Bad Wolf” reference, in regard to Rose’s thoughts. The Doctor makes a groaner of a pun, stating that “I love a happy medium!” in reference to Gwyneth. Dickens makes a funny line when he shouts “What the Shakespeare?!” in an obvious play on the phrase “What the dickens?”—which, incidentally, predates him and has nothing to do with his name. This foray into the past arguably puts the idea into Rose’s head to visit her deceased father (Father’s Day). And finally, Dickens concludes with “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Even for you, Doctor.” Which just about sums up everything you need to know about Doctor Who and why we all watch it.

Unquiet Dead 4

Next time: Aliens of London, World War Three, and Dalek! See you there.

All episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.

Rose

The End of the World

The Unquiet Dead

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