Messiah Figures and Angels: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Three, Part Four

I didn’t finish in time to post this on Friday. Sorry about that.

We’re back, with our new Doctor Who rewatch! Today, we’re nearing the end of Series Three, with three of the Tenth Doctor’s most highly-regarded episodes. We’re looking at the two-part Human Nature and The Family of Blood, and the introduction of the Weeping Angels in Blink. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not seen these episodes!

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In Human Nature, the Doctor and Martha are being chased through time by a violent but unseen enemy. The enemy is using a stolen vortex manipulator to track the TARDIS, meaning they cannot be outrun. Therefore the Doctor executes a desperate plan: he uses the TARDIS’s chameleon arch…and makes himself human.

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Hiding on Earth in 1913, “John Smith” is now an instructor at a secondary school for boys. Martha works as a maid, keeping an eye on him. She remembers the truth, but he does not; but he carries a fob watch that contains all of his memories, his personality, his biodata—everything that makes him the Doctor. Without it, he is just a man—a man, that is, who is falling in love with the school’s nurse, Matron Joan Redfern, much to Martha’s consternation.

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Secretly, Martha uses the TARDIS, which is in low-power mode, to watch for the enemy that drove them here. They are the Family of Blood, a group of four non-corporeal aliens with short life spans. If they can capture and consume a Time Lord, they will gain his life span; otherwise, they will die less than three months from the time their chase began. Elsewhere in the school, a schoolboy named Timothy Latimer is tormented by another boy, Baines. Latimer has some psychic ability, and gets flashes of the future, but has learned to conceal it.

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At night, Martha and a friend witness a meteor crashing to Earth. Martha suspects it may be their pursuers, and she is right. Elsewhere, Baines encounters the meteor in the woods, and finds it is a spaceship. Inside, he is possessed by one of the Family, Son of Mine. The family then proceeds to take other hosts—Father of Mine, a local farmer; Daughter of Mine, a young schoolgirl; and Mother of Mine, Martha’s friend Jenny. They begin to infiltrate the school, leaving Father of Mine to assemble an army of animated scarecrows.

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Smith is overseeing the school’s defense training, where the boys train in military skills, including weapons. Later, he asks Joan to the school’s dance that evening. Martha, realizing that the Family have arrived, runs to get the watch and get the Doctor to open it; but it is missing, as—unknown to everyone—Timothy has been drawn to it, and has taken it. He can hear the Doctor speaking to him from inside it. Smith doesn’t believe Martha’s claims, and ridicules her, as does Joan.

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At the dance, the family invades in force, using the scarecrows to control the students. They pull energy weapons against Smith, and order him to change back to himself; if he doesn’t, they will kill either Joan or Martha, and the choice is up to him.

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The Family of Blood picks up immediately. At the besieged dance, Timothy briefly opens the watch, disorienting the Family and allowing Martha to snatch one of their weapons. Smith is able to evacuate everyone, though Martha loses the gun to one of the scarecrows. Smith and Headmaster Rocastle organize the students to defend the school, while Daughter of Mine—who had not participated in the invasion—arrives to spy on them. Joan is beginning to believe that Smith is really the Doctor, and she is unhappy—but more than that, she doesn’t want him to lead the students into battle. Daughter of Mine encounters Timothy, who opens the watch to expose her to its light; this allows the rest of the Family to track him. They send the scarecrows to attack, and the boys shoot them, but are relieved to see that no one is inside. They attack again, and Timothy again uses the watch to disorient them, allowing the boys to escape. Daughter of Mine shoots and kills the headmaster, along with a few others.

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The family find the TARDIS and move it to the school, and taunt Smith with it. They begin bombarding the school with their ship’s weapons. Martha, Smith, Joan, and Timothy hide in a cottage, and Martha recovers the watch, which still says to Timothy that it is not time. She tries to get Smith to open it, but he will not, although he gets flashes of the Doctor’s personality from it. He realizes it is all true, but he doesn’t want to change back; he considers it death for himself if he becomes the Doctor. He and Joan have a vision of his remaining life if he doesn’t change, but he seems unconvinced. He decides—to Martha’s horror—that he will give the watch to the family.

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Smith goes to their ship, and gives them the watch as they mock his humanity as he falls against the console. However, when they open the watch, they find it is a fake; he has already opened it, and is the Doctor once more. And they just allowed him to set the controls to overload. The Family and the Doctor escape the ship—but they cannot escape him.

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Son of Mine narrates the family’s fates at the hands of the Doctor. He trapped Father of Mine in unbreakable chains; Mother of Mine in the event horizon of a dying galaxy; Daughter of Mine in mirrors; and Son of Mine in a scarecrow. None of these fates allow them to die, giving them what they want, but in horrifying fashion.

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There’s considerably more about this story than I will have room to say here. It’s based on a Virgin New Adventures novel, Human Nature, by Paul Cornell, in which the role was played by the Seventh Doctor rather than the as-yet-nonexistent Tenth, with Bernice Summerfield as the companion of the day. I unfortunately haven’t read this novel yet, though I have a copy; I should get there in about seven months, and we’ll revisit at that time, hopefully. This episode (and presumably the book as well) introduces the chameleon arch, a bit of technology which can turn a Time Lord into another species on both physical and mental levels, storing the original memories and biodata in a token object, in this case a fob watch. The fob watch will be a sort of recurring motif, as we’ll soon see a similar one in the season finale; but I’ll discuss that when we get there.

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It’s a very different performance for David Tennant. The human John Smith is most definitely NOT the Doctor. He’s a good man, and strong in his way, but he’s also panicky and subject to denial; and at the end, although he ultimately does make the right decision, he’s very close to making the wrong one, and doing so willfully. This is a story about character: not the literary kind, but the moral and ethical kind. Is he still the Doctor when he lacks the TARDIS, the two hearts, the sonic screwdriver, and the technical knowledge? What MAKES him the Doctor? I propose that it’s his character, and I believe the series agrees with me on that. It will be borne out some years later when the War Doctor—along with this same Tenth Doctor—explains the nature of the Doctor in his own words:

Never cruel nor cowardly,

Never give up; never give in.

If all that is true, then this is truly a crisis of identity for the Doctor in more ways than one. Beyond just “human or Gallifreyan”, he has to decide if he will keep that promise or not (though he doesn’t remember literally making it). John Smith has his cruel moments, when he sends the boys out to die; his cowardly moments, when he’s desperately searching for a way to avoid opening the watch; his moment of giving up, when he is tempted to stay and be human forever with Joan; and his moment of giving in, when he decides to give the unopened watch to the Family. But, he overcomes it all, and opens the watch, and becomes the Doctor again.

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If I may expand on this just a bit: it’s a little bit of a Christ parallel. Using the arch is his death; he’s even visibly hanging from the thing, as if on a cross. He is resurrected when he opens the watch, and he does it offscreen, just as the Bible doesn’t literally show us the actual moment of Christ’s resurrection through the eyes of witnesses. And, the events of the Family’s battle at the school are his temptation. (That event is not in the correct order for the biblical account, but we can forgive that, I suppose.) All of this is going to matter immensely in the series three finale, when he is clearly portrayed as a messiah figure—more on that next week.

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There’s some exploration of racism here, but I feel like it is not so much commentary as a simple depiction of how it would have been in this time period. Martha’s means of displaying her physician training (listing the bones of the hand) is a bit silly, and really is unnecessary; at this point it doesn’t matter if Joan believes her or not. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to put up with such prejudice after coming from a future where it’s just not like that anymore; but Martha handles it with aplomb, most of the time anyway. However, the depiction of the race issue here is useful in the greater story arc for one thing: it highlights Martha’s growing feelings for the Doctor. I remember at this point thinking “oh no, she’s turning into Rose!” But we’ll see in a few episodes that there’s a different end in mind. Still, she actually voices her feelings here, though she downplays them later. That TARDIS is getting a bit uncomfortable, I imagine.

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Some references: The big one is John Smith’s sketchbook. It includes sketches of the first, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth Doctors; the console room, the sonic screwdriver, a Dalek, Moxx of Balhoon (The End of the World), Autons (Rose, also in flashback in Love and Monsters), Rose, the Clockwork Droids (The Girl in the Fireplace), a Cyberman (Cybus variant, last seen in Doomsday), Jack Harkness (last seen in DW in The Parting of the Ways), a Slitheen (Boom Town), a gas mask (The Doctor Dances). (Yes, I copied that list from the wiki, but with annotations added.) Notably, the book is also the first visual representation of past (i.e. pre-Ninth) Doctors in the new series, although they were referenced in School Reunion. The Doctor mentions perception filters, which figure prominently in Torchwood (Everything Changes) and will soon appear again on Doctor Who (The Sound of Drums). When the watch is opened, the Doctor’s voice says “You are not alone” (among other things), which were the last words of the Face of Boe (Gridlock), and will soon appear again (Utopia). His conversation with Joan about the location of Gallifrey is a reference to a similar conversation in The Hand of Fear. Chains made of dwarf star alloy also appeared in Warrior’s Gate. There’s also a meta-reference, which I have mentioned in other posts; when John Smith talks about his family, he says his parents were Verity and Sydney, which is a reference to Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert, the creator and first producer of Doctor Who.

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In Blink, we meet photographer Sally Sparrow. While photographing an old house, Wester Drumlins, she finds a message behind the wallpaper—a message aimed directly at her, from the Doctor, dated 1969. Freaked out, she visits a friend, Katherine Nightingale. In Kathy’s apartment, she sees a strange video of a one-sided monologue from the Doctor, whom she doesn’t know. The video belongs to Kathy’s brother, Larry. In the morning, Sally and Kathy return to Wester Drumlins, where they see a statue of a weeping angel—and Sally says it has moved from the last time she saw it. On the way out, Kathy vanishes. Minutes later, Sally is met by a young man, who gives her a letter from his deceased grandmother…who proves to be Kathy. Sally doesn’t believe it, but then she finds more angel statues, and one of them has a key—the TARDIS key—in its hand. She takes the key. In flashback, we see Kathy arrive in 1920, beginning a new life.

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Sally finds Larry, who works in a video shop. He tells her that the video of the Doctor is an Easter egg on seventeen different DVDs, and he gives her a list. She can’t explain it all, so she goes to the police. There she tells her story to a detective, Billy Shipton, who shows her a garage of vehicles left by missing persons—and one of them is the TARDIS. He also asks her out on a date. She gives him her number, and leaves. Billy is then touched by another angel statue, and vanishes. He arrives in 1969, where he is met by the Doctor and Martha. The Doctor explains that the angels sent him here, and he is without his time machine. He wants Billy to give Sally a message—but it requires going the long way around.

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Sally gets a phone call, summoning her to a hospital. There she meets Billy, now aged and dying. He delivers the Doctor’s message—“look at the list of DVDs”, which coincidentally are all the DVDs Sally owns. He admits that he went into publishing, and video publishing, and was responsible for placing the Easter egg. He dies thereafter, but with no regrets.

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Sally meets Larry at Wester Drumlins and watches the full video. She finds that it interacts with her, word for word; Larry writes down her words, creating a transcript. The Doctor admits to having a transcript with him, as well. He explains about the weeping angels: quantum-locked predators that feed on the potential time energy of living creatures. To access this energy, they send the individuals back in time, thus negating their remaining life in their own time; otherwise, however, they do not harm anyone. All that is required is a touch. They are inhumanly fast, but they can only exist when unobserved; if you look at them, they turn to stone. Therefore, when facing them: “Don’t blink.” And unfortunately, they have the TARDIS.

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Sally and Larry are interrupted by four angel statues. They try to not let them out of sight, but it’s nearly impossible. The creatures chase them into the cellar, where they find the now-relocated TARDIS. As Larry desperately tries to watch the statues, Sally tries the key, and they get inside, locking the door. A hologram appears, and says they are carrying a control disk; Larry puts the DVD in the console, and the TARDIS dematerializes, headed for 1969—leaving the two of them behind. They are terrified of the angels outside—but they suddenly realize that the disappearing TARDIS left the four angels facing each other. Now observing each other, they are all quantum-locked forever, or at least as long as they are not moved.

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A year later, Sally and Larry are now operating the video store together. She has a folder with everything from her adventure in it. She sees the Doctor and Martha run by in the street, and she stops them—but realizes they are from an earlier point in their own history, and for them, it hasn’t happened yet. She gives them the folder, and tells the Doctor to make sure he has it on him when, one day, he is trapped in 1969.

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Here we have it: possibly THE most famous episode of the revived series. Often people will cite Blink as the episode they show to non-fans to get them interested in Doctor Who; that seems strange to me, as it’s very different from most episodes. Still, whatever works, works, I suppose. This is Series Three’s “Doctor-lite” episode (and companion-lite, too, now that I think of it), allowing filming of two stories at once by two different units. It also introduces one of the most popular and controversial modern villains: the Weeping Angels. (Interestingly, Sally is the one who calls them that here; while the Doctor will confirm the name later, what a coincidence!) The angels are simply terrifying here; it’s the only, and I do mean only, episode of modern Doctor Who that has ever scared me. Others are tense and suspenseful, but I’m nearly forty years old, and jaded about television; but this one, in my first viewing, got to me. (Well, I suppose I was younger then, but you get the idea.) For better or worse, the angels are not as scary in all subsequent episodes. It’s what I jokingly call the M. Night Shyamalan Effect: Once you know the twist, it’s not scary anymore. It can only get you once. Here, though, they are at their best, and it’s glorious. I remember thinking about the sheer beauty of the resolution—yes, Sally and Larry got left behind, but the Doctor, without even being there, trapped the angels into looking at each other. It’s a work of art.

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There’s a bootstrap paradox, but a weak one. Sally and Larry record the Doctor’s words into the transcript, which is why he knows what to say…where did the words originate? It’s not as egregious, though, as some other paradoxes we’ve seen, and besides, it’s not complete; Sally’s words originate with her, onscreen. It’s only the Doctor’s words that are impossibly scripted.

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I’ve heard it suggested that Sally Sparrow should be a companion. It’s a fair point; she has all the makings of one. Still, I’m glad she isn’t. I like the thought that there are companion-worthy people in the Doctor’s sphere who get to go on being normal, especially since companions tend to have their lives upended in spectacular fashion. I don’t know anything else about Carey Mulligan, who plays the role, but she is perfect for this part; Sally is a great character. My favorite one-off character, though, is Billy Shipton, the detective who flirts with Sally before being caught by an angel. He’s played by Michael Obiora in his younger version, and by Louis Mahoney in his elderly version; both actors play the part so consistently that you would believe they really are the same person. ( I suppose I should admit that Old Billy’s accent is a bit thicker, but that’s not unreasonable over five decades.)

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There aren’t many references to speak of. The “Timey-Wimey Detector* will appear again in a couple of novels, Ghosts of India and Touched by an Angel (actually a different model in the latter). Sally successfully takes a photo of the angels, but this will be retconned in The Time of Angels, where it’s a supremely bad idea to do that. However, this episode gives us two of the most famous tenth Doctor quotes, ranking right up there with “Allons-y!”:

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.

Don’t blink. Blink and you’re dead. They are fast. Faster than you can believe. Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. And don’t blink. Good luck.

I’m running out of space, so I’ll leave it there for this week. Great episodes, all around.

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Next week: We’ll wrap up Series Three with a three-part finale, involving my favorite villain, the Master! Join me for Utopia, The Sound of Drums, and Last of the Time Lords! See you there.

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

Human Nature

The Family of Blood

Blink

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Cold Hearts and Hot Heads: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Three, Part Three

We’re back, with our New Doctor Who rewatch! This week we continue Series Three, looking at two episodes: The Lazarus Experiment and 42. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not watched these episodes!

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In The Lazarus Experiment, the Doctor returns Martha Jones to her home as promised, though she isn’t happy about it. He’s just about to leave, when a news broadcast catches his ear: an elderly man named Richard Lazarus promises to change what it means to be human.

As it turns out, the man is the employer of Martha’s sister, Tish; and as family of staff, Martha has a “plus one” invitation to attend Lazarus’s party that night, at which the elderly scientist will unveil his accomplishment. She takes the Doctor as her “plus one”; this is not well received by her mother, who is suspicious of the Doctor. While they talk, Lazarus arrives with his partner, the equally-elderly Lady Thaw, and begins his show. He steps into a high-tech chamber in the center of the party, and after a near-explosion and some timely intervention from the Doctor, he steps out—changed, it seems, into a man a good five decades younger. The Doctor has a word with him, but is interrupted by Lazarus’s sudden, ravenous hunger—an energy deficit, as the Doctor notes. He has concerns about the outcome of the experiment, but Lazarus excuses himself.

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The Doctor and Martha check Lazarus’s DNA as scanned by the machine, and find that it is undergoing sudden, ongoing mutations. Alarmed, they go in search of him. Meanwhile, upstairs, Lazarus talks with Thaw, who expects to become young with him and build an empire at his side, but he rejects her as beneath him. Suddenly he transforms into a large, scorpionlike creature, and attacks her. The Doctor and Martha arrive to find him gone, and Thaw’s corpse drained of all life energy. Lazarus, back in human form, goes down and locates Tish, and escorts her to the roof to look at the view; trailing behind, the Doctor and Martha have an encounter with Martha’s mother, and then follow them. The Doctor confronts Lazarus, who transforms again; he chases the Doctor, Martha, and Tish downstairs, tripping an alarm on the way. The alarm causes a security lockdown, sealing the building. Lazarus arrives at the party, killing one person right away and causing panic in the others. Martha borrows the sonic screwdriver to get a door open, and everyone escapes while the Doctor leads Lazarus back through the building; but Martha defies her mother to go after him. Meanwhile, a strange man warns Martha’s mother about the Doctor.

The Doctor and Martha hide inside the machine, and the Doctor begins modifying it. Lazarus starts the machine to drive them out; at the last second, the Doctor reverses the polarity, causing its sonic wave to focus outward instead of inward, striking Lazarus. It makes him human again, and knocks him out. Martha’s mother confronts the Doctor as Lazarus is taken away in an ambulance; but they are interrupted as the ambulance crashes down the street, and Lazarus escapes. The Doctor, Martha, and Tish chase him into a nearby church, where he used to hide from the air raids as a boy. The Doctor sends Martha and Tish to prepare to lead Lazarus into the bell tower, while the Doctor tries to talk him back to sanity. He is unsuccessful, and Lazarus chases the women into the tower. The Doctor plays the pipe organ, using it along with the sonic screwdriver and the tower’s acoustics to disrupt the sonic field that caused Lazarus’s transformation. He falls to the floor of the church, and reverts to his original, aged form, dying as he does so.

At the TARDIS, the Doctor offers Martha another trip; she declines, until he tells her she is more than just a passenger. She departs with him, just as her mother leaves a message on her phone: the Doctor is dangerous…so says Harold Saxon.

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I’ve always felt that this episode works best if viewed as a commentary on the topic of regeneration. It isn’t particularly heavy-handed about it, but viewed a certain way, it paints the Doctor as somewhat arrogant regarding his place as a Time Lord. He never directly mentions his species here, or even uses the term “regeneration”, though he alludes to it. Still, that’s clearly what Lazarus is getting at—a form of regeneration that would apply to humans—and the Doctor doesn’t take it well. He’s quick to point out that facing death is a part of being human [emphasis mine], even though he himself can elude it. It’s a message that’s reinforced by the situation itself; Time Lords can safely regenerate, but when Lazarus tries it, his body can’t handle it, and terrible things happen. One would expect the Doctor to be a little more sympathetic; after all, it’s the other Time Lords—whom he frequently clashed with—who think that their lifespans, regeneration, and mastery of time make them superior to other beings. However, the Tenth Doctor will follow a disturbingly similar path throughout his life, if gradually. Here, he confronts the matter of regeneration; here, as well, he comments about his age (though again, not directly) and the wisdom he gained from it; and we are all familiar with what mastery of time will do to him, as The Waters of Mars will eventually establish the “Time Lord Victorious aspect of his character. I don’t like to be heavy-handed with religious metaphors in Doctor Who; but if the Doctor is seen as a destined, almost messianic character at some points (admittedly, more as Eleven than Ten, but still), then this is his three-part temptation playing out; and he has to eventually overcome all three parts before he can become the prophecy-laden Eleventh Doctor, who will eventually cheat death, and become (possibly) functionally immortal.

Martha’s family comes to the forefront here, and they are still as unpleasant as ever; or at least, her mother is. She’s doing what she does for the sake of her daughter, which is admirable; but she’s making the wrong decisions, and there will be consequences. She is the gateway to the series-arc “Mr. Saxon” references here; she becomes involved with Saxon’s agents, who are aware of the Doctor. It’s a bit anticlimax now that we all know who Mr. Saxon is; but at the time, it was quite intriguing. We get several such references here, not only from Martha’s family, but also from Lazarus and Thaw; this series has the unique challenge of developing an arc that is bound to a few short months on Earth, while having offworld episodes, and so they make up for the last few episodes by having multiple references here.

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There are only a few references to past stories here, other than the Saxon references. The Doctor reverses the polarity, which the Third Doctor often did (and Ten and Eleven will do in Day of the Doctor). He mentions that bad things happen when he wears the tuxedo, as in Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel. The events of Smith and Jones are mentioned as being less than a day prior to this story. Martha mentions Shakespeare (* The Shakespeare Code), New New York (Gridlock) and old New York (Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks). The Doctor mentions being present in the Blitz (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances; also the novels *Illegal Alien and Just War).

My major complaint here is that this story plays fast and loose with science in some conspicuous ways. Altering DNA cannot instantly change physiognomy or physiology, although it can produce changes over time; but Lazarus changes instantly, several times, in both age and form. As well, he gains and loses mass instantly; the Doctor handwaves this a bit with a comment about stretching himself thin as the cells triple, but it’s still difficult to believe, especially as the monstrous form is noticeably heavier than the human form.

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In 42, the Doctor alters Martha’s phone to have universal roaming (but not in time to catch the message her mother left at the end of the previous episode). The TARDIS is then caught in turbulence, and lands, as a distress signal comes in. They are on a cargo ship…and in 42 minutes, it will crash into the star below it.

The TARDIS is in a vent chamber, which fills with superheated air and can’t be accessed. The Doctor offers to fix the ship’s engines, and runs to the engine room. He discovers the ship has been sabotaged. The captain, McDonnell explains the situation to him, but she doesn’t know who did it. However, part of the sabotage included the activation of security protocols; and now, twenty-nine deadlocked, password-protected doors lie between them and the auxiliary controls that can save the ship. The Doctor sends Martha and another crewmember, Riley, to unlock the doors one at a time—and he goes with the others to the medical bay. And time keeps ticking away.

McDonnell’s husband, Korwin, is in the medical bay. His temperature keeps rising, and he shouts about burning inside; he won’t open his eyes. The Doctor orders him into a stasis chamber which will cool his body and sedate him.

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The passwords are actually security questions—trivia, for the most part. Martha calls her mother for answers at one point, and argues with her. The Doctor goes to work on the problem; Abi, the crewmember left with Korwin, is stunned to see him awake, and calls the Doctor. Korwin tells her to “Burn with me!” and opens his eyes, revealing a bright light that kills her. Korwin puts on a helmet with a dark visor. The Doctor and McDonnell find that Abi was vaporized; the readings she got on Korwin reveal he has been taken over by an alien life form. Korwin, meanwhile, kills another crew member.

The Doctor realizes Korwin can’t be saved, but McDonnell won’t accept it. Elsewhere, Korwin takes a third victim, Ashton; but instead of killing him, he spreads the infection to him. Ashton dons a similar helmet. Ashton confronts Riley and Martha, but they escape into an escape pod. Riley keeps Ashton from jettisoning the pod, as Martha warns the Doctor. Korwin confronts McDonnell, who tries to get through to him; another crew member, Scannell, releases coolant onto him, temporarily freezing him. Ashton is affected by it as well, and abandons Martha and Rile, but smashes the launch panel, jettisoning them as the Doctor watches. They fall toward the star.

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Martha calls her mother again, to say goodbye; and we see that she has an official-looking eavesdropper in the background. McDonnell gets Ashton into the stasis chamber and freezes him. The Doctor goes out onto the surface of the ship beside the airlock, and activates the magnetic recall, pulling the pod back at the risk of his own life; but he looks on the surface of the star, and realizes it is alive. When the pod arrives, Martha discovers that the living stellar matter has invaded the Doctor, like Korwin and Ashton; he is holding on, but barely, as it burns him and tries to take control. Riley and Scannell run back to work on the sealed doors. The Doctor gets Martha to put him in stasis; the cold killed Ashton, but the Doctor can handle it briefly. He tells her to go dump the fuel, which was supplemented from the star by the ship’s (illegal) fusion scoop system. The fuel contains living matter, which wants to return to the star. She freezes him, then goes.

McDonnell finds Korwin. She admits that this is her fault; she ordered the fusion scoop to be used. She embraces him, but jettisons the two of them out of the airlock, sacrificing herself to end the threat. Meanwhile, the Doctor escapes the stasis chamber, but loses control to the entity inside him. Martha reaches the controls with Riley and Scannell, and vents the fuel; as the reserve tanks engage, and the ship escapes the gravity well, the entity leaves the Doctor as well, returning to the star.

Once safe, Riley and Scannell send a distress signal, as they lack the fuel to complete their journey. They resolve to tell the truth, and admit the illegal use of the scoop system; as the Doctor points out, the star is alive, and deserves protection. As they leave in the TARDIS, Martha calls her mother to apologize for hanging up earlier. Her mother tells her it is election day, and begs her to come home for dinner, to which Martha agrees. After the call, the eavesdropper collects her phone, and expresses Mr. Saxon’s gratitude.

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42 has always been one of my favorite Tenth Doctor episodes. (I will admit that, on first glance, I expected it to be a Hitchhiker’s Guide reference…) It’s the first—and as far as I know, only—episode to function in real time, with the plot taking no longer than the running time. It’s a clever device, but one that could easily become gimmicky (for reference, see some of the insanity that 24 got up to in its later seasons). Here, it gives the episode a great deal of urgency, and shows us what the Doctor and his companions can do under pressure. That’s a role that David Tennant plays very well, possibly topped only by Matt Smith (disagree if you like, but Smith was great at fast-moving, rapid-fire stories). I understand that there is a prologue available in the form of a short story, but I haven’t read it; having only discovered its existence while researching for this post, I’ll try to find it later. While the idea of a living star is far-fetched, it would be used again in modified form in The Rings of Akhaten. More compelling are the flame creatures that result from possession here. They’re menacing, utterly deadly, and impossible to reason with; in short, everything that makes a good one-shot monster. I wondered if their method of killing is a historical reference to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; historically, those explosions left a sort of shadow of some of the victims on the walls behind them, much as we see with the first death here. (I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but I’d rather leave it vague; such references can be very sensitive, even after several decades, and I’d rather not disrespect anyone.)

We don’t know the name of the ship for sure; one of the trivia questions seems to indicate it may be the Pentallian, but there is also a component of the ship called a “Pentallian Drive”, which dates all the way back to Revenge of the Cybermen (Pentallian drives were part of Nerva Beacon’s transmat). The illegal fusion scoop is an interesting concept; though we don’t see it in action here, it seems to be very similar to the stellar refueling system aboard the Destiny in Stargate: Universe. The ship’s spacesuits are the same as the ones used on Sanctuary Base in The Satan Pit; this story is set in the 42nd century, which may be the same as The Satan Pit. The spacesuits will appear in several other episodes, but mostly owing to the fact that the Doctor kept his; therefore there isn’t necessarily a connection with any other time period.

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The Doctor starts to tell Martha about regeneration here, but doesn’t complete the explanation; it won’t matter to her, as she will not be present for his next regeneration. He reveals that he can handle cold temperatures down to -200 C, if only briefly; this was first seen with the First Doctor, waaaaay back in The Space Museum. He can also handle high temperatures briefly, as well as the attendant solar radiation; ironic, as radiation will eventually kill him, but nothing new (see also Smith and Jones). His math skills are considerable, as he rapidly solves a series of happy prime numbers. He also, again, demonstrates the ability (unintentional, I’m sure) to inspire people to sacrifice their lives; McDonnell dies in the same manner as Katarina once did (The Daleks’ Master Plan), though in heat instead of cold. There’s another Saxon reference, despite the future setting; Martha’s mother deals with Mr. Saxon’s agent, who mention his name. (We’ll see that character again, as well.)

I really don’t have any complaints about this one; as I said, it’s one of my favorite episodes. While it doesn’t contribute much outside of itself (that is, to the overall arc), it’s simply a good story at a reckless pace. Go watch it, and enjoy!

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Next time: Three more episodes, as the following week we’ll tackle the three-part season finale. We’ll be watching what are widely regarded as some of the Tenth Doctor’s best episodes: Human Nature, The Family of Blood, and Blink. See you there!

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

The Lazarus Experiment

42

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Daleks In Manhattan: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Three, Part Two

This was supposed to be posted on Friday, but I ran out of time…made it as far as Reddit, but not here on the blog.  Apologies. ~Timewalkerauthor

 

We’re back, with our New Doctor Who rewatch! This week, we continue Series Three with the series’ first two-part story, Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks. We find out what happened to the Cult of Skaro after the end of Doomsday. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not watched these episodes!

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A Manhattan showgirl, Tallulah, meets with her boyfriend Laszlo before a show. Moments later, Laszlo is attacked by a piglike creature.

Taking a detour en route back to Martha’s home, the Doctor takes her to visit New York, landing in 1930. The Doctor is quickly sidetracked by a rash of disappearances from Hoovertown, a shantytown in Central Park. They meet Hoovertown’s de facto leader, Solomon, who tells them about the construction of the nearby Empire State Building, which is nearly complete. The construction project’s leader, one Mr. Diagoras, orders an increase in construction speed at the cost of safety; his foreman complains. Diagoras introduces the foreman to his true masters: the Daleks. Specifically, it’s the Cult of Skaro, recently escaped from the Battle of Canary Wharf. Rather than exterminate him, they take him away for experimentation; they tell Diagoras to obtain more bodies for the experiment.

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At Solomon’s tent, a young man named Frank drops in, and warns them that Diagoras is nearby. Diagoras recruits volunteers to clear a sewer collapse; some are skeptical, but the Doctor and Martha volunteer. In the sewers, there is no collapse, but a strange mass of tissue, which the Doctor learns is of Skaro origin. The group is ambushed by the pig slaves, and chased through the sewers.Frank is captured; the others escape into a theatre basement, where they meet Tallulah, who tells them about Laszlo. Solomon returns to Hooverville and prepares the camp for trouble. Meanwhile, Diagoras orders the workers to attach strips of Dalekanium to the mast at the top of the building. Dalek Caan orders Diagoras to be taken for the final experiment. The experiment is for the purpose of evolving the Daleks for survival, by merging with humans to obtain their survival skills. The Daleks don’t agree completely; but Dalek Sec, their leader, sacrifices himself for the process, and merges with Diagoras.

Martha discovers a pig slave that is less devolved that the others, and follows it; she is captured. The Doctor and Tallulah chase her, and meet up with Laszlo, who escaped the Daleks before his conversion was complete. Martha is added to a group of captives, which includes Frank. The captives are divided by intelligence, some to become pig slaves, some for the final experiment. The Doctor joins Martha in the final experiment group, losing track of Tallulah in the process. In the Daleks’ lab, they witness Dalek sec’s transformation; he is now a humanoid hybrid of human and Dalek, and announces that he is a human Dalek, their future.

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Continuing in Evolution of the Daleks, the Doctor reveals himself to the Daleks. Dalek Sec refuses to let the others kill him. He uses his sonic screwdriver and a radio to create a blast of sound that disorients the Daleks and the pig slaves, and gets the captives out via the sewers, collecting Tallulah on the way. The other Daleks, meanwhile, question Dalek Sec’s orders.

Back at Hooverville, the camp is prepared for battle; and the pig slaves attack. Daleks Jast and Caan arrive and join the attack while Sec watches from the Empire State Building. Solomon tries to reason with the Daleks, and is exterminated. The Doctor steps forward, and is nearly exterminated, but Sec stops them and orders that he be brought in alive. He secures the safety of the humans, and leaves his psychic paper with Martha before going.

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Sec explains to the Doctor about the hybridization, and what they wanted to accomplish. A solar flare is coming soon, with a gamma strike that will provide power for the final transformation. In addition to transforming the four of them, they will transform humans as well into similar hybrids, using a genomic solution from the Daleks. The Doctor is forced to help. However, the Daleks interfere minutes before the flare, causing a malfunction. Caan captures the Doctor and Sec, determining that Sec is no longer a true Dalek; they change the gene solution to eliminate more of the humanity from their subjects. The Doctor escapes and joins Laszlo, heading to the top of the building.

Martha and Tallulah use the psychic paper to get into the building, and discover the additions to the mast. With Frank, they regroup with the Doctor and Laszlo. The Doctor climbs the mask to remove the Dalekanium, but is unable to do so; and the gamma strike arrives. The new hybrids awaken, and the Daleks order them into the sewers with weapons. The group heads back to the theatre.

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The Doctor faces the Daleks and the hybrids there, with Sec in chains. They try to kill the Doctor, and Sec takes the blast instead, and dies. The Daleks order the hybrids to kill the Doctor, but their humanity reasserts itself, and they rebel. The Doctor says that the gamma strike went through him, adding Time Lord DNA to the mix, restoring their freedom. The hybrids destroy Dalek Thay and Dalek Jast, but Caan activates a command that causes them to die.

The Doctor confronts Caan in the Empire State Building. He offers him mercy, but Caan activates an emergency temporal shift, and vanishes.

Laszlo is dying (as the pig slaves have a short life span); but the Doctor, determined to allow no more death today, finds a way to save him. Frank arranges for him to join the people of Hooverville; he can continue his relationship with Tallulah, as well. As the Doctor and Martha leave, they consider whether they will see Dalek Caan, the last Dalek in the universe, again.

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While I consider this a standard, middle-of-the-road story for the Tenth Doctor era (which is not a bad thing at all; it’s in the middle of a great season), it’s absolutely vital for the sake of things to come. Without spoiling too much, I will say that next season’s finale could not happen without the events of this story. Here we see the Cult of Skaro again; and here we see their near-total destruction. Essentially the story is returned to the status it had in Series One’s Dalek, with only one Dalek remaining in the universe. Enjoy it while it lasts; soon enough they’ll be back, and in force.

This is also Martha’s first exposure to the Daleks, and her reaction is spot on; she’s horrified at their disregard for life, and at the experimentation they conduct so freely. While Martha doesn’t have a large role in this story—she’s very much just along for the ride—it’s building her character for things to come. She begins to face her budding feelings for the Doctor, and her envy of Rose, courtesy of some pointed conversation with Tallulah; for his part, he’s still oblivious to it. I recall thinking when I first saw this story, “oh no, not her too!” But that’s a bit unfair; while she does fall for the Doctor, EVERYONE falls for the Tenth Doctor, and her arc will end quite differently.

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The Daleks are the real focus here; this is the first time the new series tries to change anything about them, and it’s fascinating to watch. There are echoes of the human-factor issues in the classic series’ later Dalek stories; and like those stories, this one contains the beginnings of a civil war. It won’t come to fruition however, with only Caan left; there are other trials ahead this time. In many ways, this story is Remembrance of the Daleks writ large, but it ends differently, of course; and while I won’t say it’s better, it’s certainly good in its own right. (And of course, it won’t be the last time we see the idea of Dalek hybridization!)

I’m going to forgo the references this time, as I’ve already covered them, in a sense; most of them are references back to previous Dalek stories, mostly within the new series. I’ll end this entry a little shorter than most; I’ll simply say, while it’s not the best Dalek story, it’s a vital one, and worth a watch.

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Next time: After exploring the nature of the Daleks, we’ll explore humanity, with The Lazarus Experiment and one of my favorite new series episodes, 42! See you there.

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

Daleks In Manhattan

Evolution of the Daleks

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Smith And Jones: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Three, Part One

We’re back, with our New Doctor Who rewatch! Last week we looked at the second Christmas special of the series, The Runaway Bride, which gave us the first appearance of future companion Donna Noble. This week, we begin Series Three with three episodes–Smith and Jones, The Shakespeare Code, and Gridlock. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not seen these episodes!

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Martha Jones, a medical student, is en route to work when the Tenth Doctor bumps into her, making a point of showing her his tie. He thinks nothing of it, until, while making student rounds at Royal Hope Hospital, she sees him there as a patient named John Smith—but he doesn’t remember the earlier meeting. What’s more, he appears to have two hearts. Martha also encounters a leather-clad biker entering the hospital, and a salt-deficient patient named Florence Finnegan. Elsewhere, Martha’s family is planning her brother’s birthday party for the evening. While Martha is on the phone with her sister, a sudden rainstorm happens only over the hospital—and suddenly, it vanishes from Earth, and reappears on the moon.

The Doctor reveals himself to Martha, whom he sees as very resourceful and unintimidated by the situation. They learn that a dome of air is shielded around the hospital; but with as many people as are present inside, the air won’t last long enough. They then see ships land, and aliens emerge and invade the hospital. They are Judoon, a form of interplanetary police. Elsewhere in the hospital, Miss Finnegan is joined by the biker and another just like him. Together they hold down the head physician on duty, and kill him—by way of Miss Finnegan drinking his blood (through a straw, no less). The Judoon begin scanning everyone for species, looking for a nonhuman; the Doctor knows they may kill everyone present as accomplices if they find the criminal they are looking for. He tries to help them by checking the records for anomalies, but they have stupidly wiped the records. Martha goes in search of her head physician for help, but catches Finnegan in the act, and has to run, taking the Doctor with her. The Doctor alters an X-ray machine and uses it to kill one of the bikers, which he calls a Slab—not a true life form. The radiation doesn’t harm the Doctor—his physiology can handle this kind. However it destroys his sonic screwdriver.

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He realizes Finnegan is a plasmavore, a blood-feeding creature (though not exactly like a vampire—nothing supernatural, just alien). She is feeding now so that she can assimilate human DNA from the blood and pass the Judoon scan—meaning they are searching for her. He discovers she has gone to the MRI room. He kisses Martha, then leaves her to distract the Judoon—they will detect traces of non-human DNA on her, and be held up assessing her. He goes to find Finnegan. Finnegan is rigging the MRI to blow up, killing everything in a 250,000 mile radius—which includes Earth—except her, as she will shield herself in the controller’s booth. Then she will take a Judoon ship and escape. Knowing she will be scanned again, she “tops up” her DNA by feeding on the Doctor, leaving him almost dead.

Martha leads the Judoon to the MRI lab, where they scan Finnegan again, and find she is alien—she did not know the Doctor was not human, and now she has absorbed his blood. They charge her with the murder of a princess on another planet, and she admits it. They kill first her second Slab, then her—but there’s still the MRI, and the Judoon choose to leave instead of helping. Martha saves the Doctor, doing CPR on both hearts, and he in turn shuts down the MRI. Before leaving, the Judoon return the hospital to Earth.

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At the party, Martha’s family fights due to her father’s girlfriend. Martha slips away and asks the Doctor to explain himself, which he does; he asks her to come with him, and tells her about Rose. To prove he is a time traveler, he momentarily goes back to that morning, and shows Martha his tie, then returns. He agrees to take her on one trip, and she leaves with him.

This story introduces us to new companion Martha Jones, played by Freema Agyeman, who previously appeared as Adeola in Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. That references is accounted for here, as Martha states that Adeola was her cousin. At this point, Martha isn’t particularly different from Rose with regard to her character and behavior, though she is older by a few years (as evidenced by her position as a late-year medical student). She will distinguish herself later, however, by refusing to let her feelings for the Doctor dictate her path as Rose did. Her first few episodes will include some tension with the Doctor as he continues to grieve over Rose, leaving Martha feel shortchanged in comparison. Unlike Donna in the previous episode, Martha remembers various alien incursions, including the Slitheen ship that struck Big Ben in Aliens of London, and the Battle of Canary Wharf. We also get a good scene where the Doctor subtly puts Martha to the test, judging her suitability as a companion; it’s not as clinical as I make it sound, but it’s very obvious.

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We have two villains here, in a manner of speaking. The Plasmavore is the main villain, and a creepy one at that; vampires are one thing, but drinking blood through a straw is one step too far. We also get the first appearance of the Judoon, who, while not evil, are villains by negligence here. The Doctor says they are police for hire, but the next time we see them, they will be working solely for the Shadow Proclamation. In a possible nod to Star Trek, they have a form of universal translator; meanwhile, their own single-vowel, mono-syllabic language becomes a sort of running joke. Another running joke, which we’ve already seen once, is the Doctor’s obsession with the “little shops” in hospitals, previously seen in New Earth. We also get the groundwork for an unintentional tertiary villain, in the form of Martha’s family; while they aren’t evil either, their dysfunctionality is going to cause problems down the road. It’s almost enough to make you miss Jackie Tyler. Almost.

While the Doctor can absorb Roentgen radiation without lasting harm, the Sonic Screwdriver isn’t so lucky; it’s destroyed, but he replaces it at the end. (Behind the scenes, the prop was upgraded at some point, and though I couldn’t confirm, I suspect that that switch occurs here. It’s a subtle change, though, and not easily noticed onscreen.)

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References are thin on the ground here, except for the obvious references to Rose’s departure. Slabs will reappear in The Sarah Jane Adventures. The Sonic Screwdriver has been destroyed before, onscreen in The Visitation and in the comic story The Flood. Martha’s first scene in the TARDIS is a mirror of Peri’s in Planet of Fire, a possible deliberate nod; it won’t be the last time there are parallels between the Fifth and Tenth Doctors, and in fact the next major one will happen immediately after Martha’s exit scene (Time Crash). In fact, it was also the Fifth Doctor whose screwdriver was destroyed in The Visitation, and he too mourned its loss. With regard to the series arc, there are background references to the Saxon campaign for Prime Minister, but nothing stated aloud. Overall, a decent episode, but nothing to write home about; mostly it lays the groundwork for the series ahead. Moving on!

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The Shakespeare Code opens with a girl named Lilith, who is serenaded on her balcony by a lute-player. When she invites him in, he discovers that she is really an ancient hag, and two more like her are there—and they kill him. They discuss their impending freedom, and the death of Earth.

The Doctor takes Martha to 1599, where—to her delight—they attend a showing of Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare at the Globe theatre. He announces a sequel for the next night, called Love’s Labour’s Won; the Doctor knows it from a list of works, but in Martha’s time, it’s nonexistent. Intrigued, he takes Martha to meet Shakespeare and talk about it; the meeting goes well, and Shakespeare is enamoured with Martha. They are interrupted by Lynley, the Master of the Revels, who furiously refuses to let the new play be performed. However, Lilith is nearby, and overhears this; she steals a strand of Lynley’s hair and uses it in a voodoo doll of sorts, and with the other witches, she uses the doll to cause Lynley to die in the street. The Doctor is alarmed to see that he dies while drowning, but without any water source. He secretly tells Martha that it is, in fact, witchcraft that killed Lynley.

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They take a room in the inn where Shakespeare lives, and he bids them goodnight, and goes to finish the ending of the new play. In their room, the Doctor appears to flirt with Martha, but then switches to talking about Rose, whom he is clearly not over. Elsewhere, Lilith uses another doll to control Shakespeare, ensuring that the ending of the play uses words of her choosing. She unintentionally kills the landlady, allowing Martha to see her fly away, visibly as a witch.

In the morning, talk with Shakespeare leads them to Peter Streete, the architect of the Globe, who is now mad in an asylum. They deliver the new play to the actors, and then visit Streete. He explains that he was forced to build the 14-sided theatre to “their” satisfaction. One of the witches realizes this is happening, and goes to stop them; the Doctor deduces their identity and names them: Carrionites! Using the name causes her to disappear, but not before she kills Streete. The Doctor explains about the Carrionites; they are ancient creatures that vanished long ago, but clearly these three survived. Their magic is actually a technology based on words. They have manipulated the play so that it will bring back the rest of their species, who will then destroy humanity and build an empire from Earth. The Doctor sends Shakespeare to stop the play, which is just beginning, and he takes Martha to confront the witches.

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Two of them are already at the play. When Shakespeare bursts in, they use their power to render him unconscious, and the play continues. The Doctor confronts the third Carrionite, but she escapes, stopping the Doctor’s heart—not knowing he has two. Martha restarts his second heart, and they return to the theatre. It’s too late; the play is just ending, and the portal is opening. Only Shakespeare can stop it; the Doctor gets him to improvise a new ending, ruining the spell, which he does, with Martha’s help. The three Carrionites—and all copies of the play—are sucked into their own crystal ball, where they are trapped. The Doctor takes it to store in the TARDIS.

The next morning, Shakespeare flirts with Martha; but they are interrupted by guards escorting Queen Elizabeth I, who wants to see the play from last night…until, that is, she sees the Doctor. She declares him her sworn enemy, and wants him dead, forcing him to flee with Martha back to the TARDIS. The trouble is, he has no idea why she wants him dead!

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It seems strange in hindsight, but this is actually Shakespeare’s first real onscreen appearance (except for a cameo on the viewer in The Chase, and a comic appearance written by the same writer as this episode, Gareth Roberts; the Fourth Doctor also stated in Planet of Evil that he had met Shakespeare). It follows in the footsteps of Charles Dickens’ appearance in The Unquiet Dead; and thematically, it’s very similar to that episode, with displaced, supernatural, and ill-intentioned aliens trying to break through from another place and take over the world. This isn’t a good thing, in my opinion; personally I don’t care for stories that mix historicals with supernatural monsters, for reasons I can’t really explain. (I’d also include Tooth and Claw and next season’s Vampires of Venice in that category, with Tooth and Claw being the best of the bunch.) still, this is a clever and well-done episode, I have to admit. It’s Martha’s first trip in the TARDIS, and her reactions are great; there’s a subtle reference to a possibility of racism toward her, history not being kind to people of color, but the Doctor successfully brushes it off, and it works out for her here. (She won’t be quite as lucky later in the season, with Human Nature.)

There’s a lot of playing with cause and effect here. The Doctor several times drops lines and phrases from Shakespeare’s work, which Shakespeare boldly says he will appropriate; but then, the Doctor got them from Shakespeare, so where did they originate? It’s a bootstrap paradox, but we’ll let it slide, because the episode does. In particular, the Doctor mentions the Sycorax, referring to the aliens; Shakespeare will later use that word in The Tempest. Martha also argues that the world didn’t end in 1599, mirroring Sarah Jane’s comments in Pyramids of Mars; the Doctor explains that time can be changed. There are a number of references to Harry Potter, with the Doctor commenting about reading book seven (which was only released two months after this episode’s air date), and Martha supplying the word “Expelliarmus” to Shakespeare for his altered ending. There’s a reference to the Eternals having trapped the Carrionites in the distant past; the Eternals last appeared in Enlightenment.

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Most interesting is the appearance of Elizabeth I at the end, where she tries to have the Doctor killed. He had met her as far back as his second incarnation; the Third Doctor mentions having met her in The Mind of Evil, but he had not been able to travel in that incarnation, so it must be an earlier Doctor that met her. However, future episodes will reveal that it’s the Tenth Doctor she knows and hates. It will be a very long time before we learn the full story, however.

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In Gridlock, the Doctor takes Martha to the year 5,000,000,053 and the city of New New York, last seen in New Earth, which was thirty years prior in local time. He had promised her one trip, but now he stretches it—one to the past, one to the future. He describes Gallifrey, and then admits to having brought Rose to New Earth, prompting Martha to chide him for being on the rebound. In the city, the Face of Boe waits with Novice Hame, formerly of the Sisters of Plenitude; he realizes the Doctor has arrived, and sends her to find him. The Doctor is intrigued by a reference to the Motorway, where most people are gone; he is shocked when a girl buys a memory-loss patch from a street pharmacist, and promises to shut down all the pharmacists.

Martha is kidnapped by a young man and woman, who drag her into their hovercar—they are going to the Motorway, and need three people for the carpooling fast lane. The Doctor chases after her, making his way on foot to the Motorway—a deep track under the city, full of hovercars and smog on many levels. He makes his way to a car owned by a cat-man named Brannigan and his human wife, Valerie, and learns that people have been in the Motorway for years, trying to escape to a better life. In twelve years, Brannigan has only traveled five gridlocked miles. Meanwhile, Martha’s kidnappers head down to the bottom level, the fast lane; cars have allegedly disappeared from there, but they go anyway.

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At the bottom, they are attacked by massive crablike creatures that can hardly be seen for the smog. They flee, but are nearly killed. Martha realizes the creatures hunt via vibrations and light, and has the car shut off. It works, but affords them only eight minutes of air without the recirculation system. Meanwhile the Doctor goes car to car until he gets to the last level above the fast lane. He activates enough ventilation to clear the smog and look down, and sees the crabs. They are Macra, once-intelligent and telepathic creatures, but billions of years have made them beastly and brutal. Novice Hame catches up to him, and teleports him up into the city, where he meets the Face of Boe again. She explains that she was assigned to the Face’s care as punishment, and has since repented of her past crimes. She further says that years ago, the street pharmacists accidentally unleashed a virus that killed the entire planet in a matter of minutes; the Face of Boe managed to seal the underlevels and the motorway, saving everyone there. He then arranged for them to be sent gradually into the motorway so they would survive; there is in truth no goal, it just circles, though no one knows it. How the Macra got there, no one knows; but there is no power left to bring everyone back, even though the virus is long gone. The Face asks the Doctor to save them all.

Martha’s car has to power up, but that puts them back in the claws of the Macra. The Doctor tries to power up the city, but can’t; the Face sacrifices the last of its own life energy to provide power. The Doctor then unseals the motorway, giving everyone a way out, and summons them to the city. Clearing the way allows Martha’s car to escape as well. As the people begin to reoccupy the city—where they will be able to repair and rebuild—the Face of Boe is dying. As promised once before, it gives the Doctor its final message: “You are not alone.”

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Back at the underlevels, the pharmacists are gone. Martha refuses to leave until the Doctor explains what the Face said. He tells her about the Time War and the death of his people—but even he doesn’t know what the Face meant.

This is the final story in the very loose New Earth trilogy, which began with Cassandra O’Brian’s appearance in The End of the World. It brings back the cat people and the Face of Boe, and we get the promised last meeting between the Face and the Doctor. (I personally still favor the theory that the Face is an evolved Jack Harkness, but what do I know?) The Face’s last words, You are not alone, provide the second thread in the series arc, and won’t be explained until the end. More interesting to me are the pure humans that are abundantly present here. The preceding episodes firmly established that Cassandra was the last pure human, and this is only thirty years later; so where did they come from? While I believe that humans still exist elsewhere in the universe, I suspect that these humans are the Flesh clones liberated by the Doctor in New Earth, and also their descendants (many of them are younger than thirty). Mostly, however, the show seems to be simply distancing itself from its past statements about the lack of humans; which is fair enough, as that creates a difficult situation for the writers.

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The Macra are an interesting villain. The first time I watched this episode, I hadn’t seen The Macra Terror; since then I have, and it’s almost sad to see them so devolved. As yet we haven’t seen them in any other episodes. Interestingly, with the Macra reduced to the status of a force of nature, there really is no villain here; the Doctor makes a gesture at considering the pharmacists the villains, but it’s not really carried through.

Some references: The Doctor describes Gallifrey twice here, and refers back to the Time War; his description is very similar to Susan’s in The Sensorites. The episode is clearly immediately after the previous story; in addition to the Doctor’s statements to that effect, the arrow that stuck in the TARDIS in that episode is removed here. There’s a subtle Bad Wolf reference; it appears on a poster, but written in Japanese kanji.

Overall, this is not a bad start. I consider Series Three to be one of the most consistently strong seasons, and it’s hard to find a flaw. My least favorite episode is The Shakespeare Code; it’s all moving upward from here.

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Next time: This entry ran long, but next time we’ll look at just two episodes: the two-parter Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks! See you there.

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

Smith and Jones

The Shakespeare Code

Gridlock

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New Series Rewatch: The Runaway Bride

We’re back, with our New Doctor Who rewatch! This week, as we prepare to begin Series Three, we’re looking at the second Christmas special, The Runaway Bride, which introduces us to my favorite NuWho companion, Donna Noble. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not watched this episode!

We open with a glimpse of a wedding—and suddenly, the bride disappears. From there, we see her materialize inside the TARDIS, at the moment we left off at the end of Series Two, just seconds after the Doctor says goodbye to Rose Tyler. He’s as shocked as the bride is, though she is more vocal about it—a pattern that we’ll see with them time and again. Her name is Donna Noble, and she has no idea how she got here—but she demands to go back to her wedding!

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Cue the Doctor trying to get her to the church. He can’t seem to get the TARDIS there—it seems to be recalibrating, or possibly suffering some kind of interference—so he opts to send her in a cab (engaging in some petty theft to get the money, I might add). He sees her off, and is just about to heave a sigh of relief…when everything goes wrong. He notices a squad of the “pilot fish” robotic Santas, last seen in The Christmas Invasion–and one of them is driving the cab!

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He pilots the TARDIS after it—a first, I think; I don’t recall any past instance of the TARDIS reliably flying in atmosphere (although it did float and then sink once, in The Chase)—on a high-speed chase. He tries to persuade Donna to jump from the cab to the TARDIS; and finally, she does.

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Realizing they’ve missed the wedding, they take a moment to regroup. The Doctor can’t figure out why she’s so important, when she’s so unimportant; but he gives her a bio-damper ring so that she can’t be tracked. He tells her, as well, about Rose (though not by name); clearly he is mourning her loss, though he has already stated that she isn’t dead. In turn, Donna tells him about her fiancé, Lance; he was the head of human resources at her employer, HC Clements, and brought her coffee every day for months, leading into their relationship and engagement. Finally, he gets Donna to the church, where she is shocked to discover that they proceeded with the reception without her!

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Donna joins the party anyway, even though the wedding isn’t final yet, and dances with Lance. The Doctor does some quick research, and finds that HC Clements is actually owned by Torchwood. He prepares to leave, but sees the robot Santas arriving; they attack (using another killer Christmas tree), and he destroys them, then scavenges the remote control system that is manipulating them. The source of the signal is in the sky, unseen.

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The Doctor takes Donna and Lance to HC Clements, seeking more information. He reveals that Donna’s body has been dosed with Huon particles, a long-extinct form of particle from the distant past. This is what caused her to materialize in the TARDIS; its engine also contains Huon particles, and the two attracted like magnets. It’s also how the robots tracked her; the particles aren’t concealed by a bio-damper. He learns there is a floor missing from the plans, and takes them down to it.

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Underground, the tunnels lead them to the Thames flood barrier system, where they find a hidden laboratory. The lab is being used to manufacture and extract Huon particles. Donna has been serving as a living incubator for the particles. He is interrupted by a voice, and the lab opens to reveal a hole drilled deep into the Earth—all the way to the core, in fact. Lance sneaks away. The voice reveals itself as a huge, spiderlike creature: the Empress of the Racnoss. The Racnoss are creatures from the Dark Times of prehistory, known to the ancient Time Lords, and long thought extinct. The Empress somehow survived, but her children are trapped at the Earth’s core. Donna, with her load of Huon particles, is the key to reviving them. Donna sees Lance creeping up with an axe, and yells to him to hit the Empress; but he is on the Empress’s side. He has been dosing her with particles for six months via her morning coffee; he started the relationship to keep her close by. Her love for him made it easy to deceive her, when he actually hates her for her triviality. The Empress intends to kill the Doctor, and tells her robots to open fire on him; but he uses the attraction between the TARDIS and Donna to summon it around them, letting them escape.

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They travel back in time to Earth’s formation, and learn the truth: a Racnoss web ship formed the core that sparked the gravitational accretion of the Earth. It’s not at the Earth’s core, it IS the core. However, the Empress is not idle; she force-feeds Lance enough particles to create an attraction, pulling the TARDIS back. The Doctor uses the extrapolator (from Series One, and now incorporated into the TARDIS) to divert them into a corridor instead of the pit room. They run back toward the Empress, but Donna is captured, and strung up in web with Lance. The Empress extracts the particles from them and sends the particles into the pit, beginning the release of her children. She calls her webstar ship down above the city, and drops Lance into the pit, killing him. However, she knows the Doctor has arrived, disguised as a robot, and calls him out. He reveals himself and frees Donna, and then reveals that he is carrying the remote for the robots, and turns them off. He tells the Empress he is from Gallifrey, sending her into a rage. He then activates bombs planted in the flood barrier, releasing the waters of the Thames to pour into the pit, drowning the Racnoss children (and draining the Thames).

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As Donna and the Doctor escape, the Empress beams up to her ship…but, “by order of Mr. Saxon”, a military tank fires on it and destroys it. The Racnoss are no more.

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The Doctor returns Donna home, though she is unhappy. He causes it to snow using the TARDIS’s energy, and offers Donna the opportunity to travel with him. She turns him down, stating she couldn’t live his life; but she cautions him to find someone who can, because he needs someone to stop him sometimes. She asks the name of his lost friend, and he tells her: Rose. She asks if she will see him again, and he says she will, if he is lucky. Then he departs, leaving her behind.

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We’re still early in the tradition of Christmas specials, and the specials are still finding their feet. However, this story continues the custom in which the Christmas specials tend to be more humorous—slapstick, even—than regular episodes. Many things are played for humor here: Donna’s relationship is wildly different from the way she describes it; her banter with the Doctor leaves him sputtering; the Racnoss Empress has a blunt wit; and so on. It’s perhaps overdone at first—Donna is a real harpy for the first quarter-hour—but it evens out and becomes entertaining in short order. It seems unfair at first that Donna only has one appearance this series; but some good will come of it. For one thing, we get the first in a series of one-off companions (as Donna wasn’t yet expected to return), including the likes of Astrid Peth, Lady Christina de Souza, Adelaide Brooke, Wilfred Mott, and (debatably) Sally Sparrow. For another thing, the rapport between Ten and Donna when she returns in Partners in Crime is much enhanced by the fact that they are meeting again rather than for the first time; absence does make the heart grow fonder, I suppose.

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Not that you can tell by looking at these two, of course.

 

It’s easy to overlook, but this episode is full of grief and sadness for everyone. The Doctor has just lost Rose, literally seconds earlier, and he’s mourning her loss (though not her death, as he makes clear). In fact, his grief is out of control here, due to the lack of time to process the loss; he handles it well, but it’s still a raw wound for him. Donna loses the man she loves—twice, actually: once when she learns the truth about him, and once when she watches him fall to his death. Her own family, dysfunctional as they are, will probably grieve as well, as will Lance’s family. And even the Racnoss suffers loss and grief, when her children drown; evil as she may be, she deserves a moment of pity for this. I know it’s just a story, but I like to view it as a nod to the fact that Christmas isn’t a happy time for everyone, and many people suffer tragic losses at this time of year.

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We get the beginning of Series Three’s “Mr. Saxon” arc here. Much as Series One had the Bad Wolf references, and Series Two had Torchwood references, references to “Mr. Saxon” will be prevalent all season. It may not be a spoiler at this point, but still, I’ll hold off on discussing who he really is; the reveal of that character is one of my absolute favorite moments in NuWho, and I’m looking forward to it. In this episode, the reference is in the form of radio chatter from the tank that takes out the webstar; it’s acting on orders from Mr. Saxon. (There’s allegedly a print reference as far back as Love and Monsters, on the newspaper that the Absorbaloff is reading, but I didn’t go back to confirm.)

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It’s worth mentioning, though it doesn’t factor directly into this episode, that the Torchwood spinoff series was already airing by the time this episode—and the subsequent Series Three—aired. Although we won’t have much direct involvement now, we will get the occasional reference, such as the Torchwood-owned HC Clements and laboratory here; and then, at the end of Series Three, the two series will cross over in a definitive way. I mention it now so as to account for any references we pick up along the way. I may try to watch and review Torchwood Series One if I can, so as to provide context, but I’m not sure yet; I have a number of review series going on right now. Alternatively I may rewatch it and post a single highlights post for the series.

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Some connections to other episodes: The extrapolator from Boom Town, now integrated into the TARDIS, reappears. The robotic Santas first appeared in The Christmas Invasion; stranded on Earth, they have been picked up and used by the Racnoss Empress. There are references to Rose, naturally, with the Doctor specifically reminiscing about her as seen in New Earth. The Doctor references the Sycorax (The Christmas Invasion) and the Battle of Canary Wharf (Doomsday; the actual phrase, “Battle of Canary Wharf”, comes from the Torchwood episode Everything Changes), but Donna doesn’t remember either one; although she has personal excuses, this is also a hint at the ongoing theme of humanity’s forgetfulness regarding alien incursions. The Doctor last used the sonic screwdriver to get funds from an ATM (or similar device) in The Long Game. The Doctor asks Donna about a zip on Lance’s forehead, a reference to the Slitheen, last seen in Boom Town and last referenced in Love and Monsters. Gallifrey is named for the first time in the revived series; although the Time Lords have been named, and the planet has been referenced, it was not stated previously that it was Gallifrey.  Most connections, however, are with future episodes; but as most of those episodes are in Series Three, I’ll hold off on discussing them until we get there.

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Throughout Series Four, I intend to point out the events that will be critical in that series’ Doctor-lite episode, Turn Left, which presents an alternate history. We have some time before we get there; but this episode is the first of those events, and should be noted. Overall, this is a good episode—not phenomenal, but good. Just today I saw a comment on another post that referred to “Donna Noble Syndrome”, in which a character’s first appearance is average or worse, but later appearances redeem the character and make him or her beloved by fans. That’s an apt description here; while there’s nothing about Donna or this episode that can really be called bad, it’s average, to be honest. She’ll be much better represented in her later appearances.

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Next time: Series Three has two two-part stories and one three-part story, which require some juggling in the distribution of these reviews. Therefore, next time, we’ll look at three episodes: Smith and Jones, The Shakespeare Code, and Gridlock! See you there.

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

The Runaway Bride, Part 1  (Note: Episode is single-length, but this site has divided it into two parts.)

The Runaway Bride, Part 2

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Cybermen Vs. Daleks: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Two Finale

  

We’re back, continuing our New Doctor Who rewatch! This week, we’re wrapping up Series Two with the final three episodes. We’ll examine the two-part Series Two finale, Army of Ghosts and Doomsday, in which we say goodbye (for now) to Rose Tyler; but first, we’ll examine one of Doctor Who’s most hated episodes, Fear Her. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not watched these episodes!

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TARDISode 11 sets up the story with a clip from a sensationalist crime-tip show called Crime Crackers. It gives a quick overview about a case of several missing children, and also gives us the name of the street on which the story takes place, Dame Kelly Holmes Close. It closes with a glimpse of the monster in the closet of the main character.

It’s 2012, and London is hosting the summer Olympic games! In less than a day, the Olympic torch will pass through the neighborhood of Dame Kelly Holmes Close on its way to the stadium. The residents are preparing, but all is not well; several children have gone missing, all very suddenly. Rose and the Doctor arrive to see the games, but are distracted by missing-child flyers.

A girl named Chloe Webber lives on the street with her mother; her father is out of the picture, ostensibly long dead. Chloe loves to draw, but she has a secret: When she draws someone, they disappear, transported into her drawing. Rose, meanwhile, is attacked by an odd creature, resembling a large pencil scribble; the Doctor stops the creature, and determines that it isn’t real, but resulted from a strange residual energy. It’s not of Earth—and it leads them to Chloe. They talk with her and her mother, and the Doctor hypnotizes Chloe; he learns that she is being inhabited by an alien creature called an Isolus, which gives her her strange power. The Isolus are a long-lived swarm race; they are empathic, and thrive on their bonds with one another. This one, a juvenile, was separated from the swarm, and crashed its pod ship on Earth; it bonded with Chloe, craving emotional contact. It chose Chloe because they were both very lonely. It’s not evil, only hostile; and even so, it’s simply a defensive mechanism as carried out by a scared child. There’s a problem, however. Chloe’s loneliness is a result of years of abuse at the hands of her now-absent father; and she has drawn him on her closet wall—and the drawing has come to malevolent life.

The Doctor discovers that the pod ship can heal itself with enough heat and empathic connection. He returns to the TARDIS and puts together a device to locate it. However, the Isolus, clinging to Chloe, fears to leave; it makes her draw the Doctor, and he and the TARDIS vanish, breaking the device in the process. Rose is left to solve the crisis alone.

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She deduces that the pod, when it crashed six days earlier, was attracted to the nearest heat source—a patch of fresh pavement. She digs in the spot, and finds the pod. She returns to Chloe, but the Isolus is trying to draw the whole world—six billion people—so it will never be lonely. She sees the drawing of the Doctor, which has changed—he is showing her the Olympic torch, which is passing by at that time. Rose throws the pod into the torch, which is not only representative of heat, but also the emotional attention and connection of everyone watching—and it restores itself. The Isolus leaves Chloe and returns to the pod, releasing everyone in the drawings.

One thread remains unresolved. The malevolent drawing in the closet, no longer restrained, is now coming to kill Chloe. Rose is instrumental in helping Chloe to use the last of her power to banish it.

Still, the Doctor is missing. Rose thinks he is lost forever—until she sees him on television, reclaiming the dropped torch, and lighting the Olympic flame.

Although I wouldn’t call it a favorite episode, I’ve struggled to understand what it is that makes this episode so reviled. It seems very average to me. It’s hampered a little by the fact that it lacks a cohesive villain; Chloe and the Isolus are lonely and damaged children, but they aren’t evil—the harm they cause is more selfish, and more of a defensive mechanism. I suspected that the dislike was due to the absurdity of the episode; but there are far more absurd stories out there (like, for example, Love and Monsters, which I covered last week). The episode does concern child abuse as a secondary theme, which I will admit does not translate well to television entertainment (and rightly so); but it’s downplayed somewhat here. In fact, it could have been omitted entirely without harming the story; the subplot with the drawing in the closet was unnecessary at best, and awkward at worst. (The drawing and its behavior is a bit overdone, but that makes sense in context—it’s not what really happened to Chloe, it’s her childhood perception of it.) But again, this is nothing new—many episodes try to do too much in the allotted time, many of them better received than this.

This is another episode, like Father’s Day, where the Doctor actually loses, and it’s up to the companion to save him. Those stories don’t come often, but they’re always interesting to me; the Doctor’s life, phenomenal as it is, truly hangs by a thread sometimes. Here, Rose wins the battle, but it’s more or less by chance; it hangs on the fact that the torch procession was passing by at that moment, which is a little too much coincidence perhaps. I did have to wonder why Chloe removed the Doctor and the TARDIS, but not Rose; as Rose was the one who invaded her bedroom earlier, I would think she would see Rose as an equal threat.

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In the real world, David Tennant of course did not appear at the Olympics in 2012, or carry the torch; however, Matt Smith (as the Eleventh Doctor) did, giving a bit of poetic finality to this appearance. In universe, the Doctor makes a Star Trek reference to the Vulcan hand sign; when he hypnotizes Chloe, he does it in a way that mimics the Vulcan mind meld. We get a few continuity references: the Doctor refers to the nuns from New Earth, and says he’s not a cat person. He mentions the Shadow Proclamation, as he has done a few times before, notably in Rose. He refers to his lost family, stating that he was a dad once; the last such reference was in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. The year 2012 was last visited in Dalek and its sequel, The Long Game; failed companion Adam Mitchell hails from that year.

This episode, I will admit, is logically weak, for reasons that I cited above. It is an engaging story, in my opinion; it’s made all the more emotionally weighty by the realization that our villains are really just scared, lonely children. It could benefit from some tightening, however, and from trimming out the closet-drawing plotline. Otherwise, it’s not too bad—the low point of the series, perhaps, but still acceptable.

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TARDISode 12 is a brief recap of the Torchwood references throughout the series. It is presented as a journalist submitting a story to his editor; at the end, the journalist is taken away by Torchwood agents and committed as insane.

In Army of Ghosts, the Doctor and Rose return to 2007 to visit Jackie Tyler; but they are shocked when Jackie reveals the presence of a visible ghost, ostensibly that of her father. The ghosts are all over the world, and appear at the same times every day, remaining for a few minutes at a time. It’s been going on for months, to the point that people accept the ghosts as normal now.

Strange things are happening elsewhere in the city, as well. At the Canary Wharf skyscraper—called “Torchwood Tower” by its insiders—a strange sphere resides in a sealed lab, under analysis by scientist Rajesh Singh. It has no mass, no radiation, and all scans fail to detect it—it’s as if it doesn’t exist. It does display some kind of barrier that prevents touch. Elsewhere in the tower, it is revealed that Torchwood is responsible for the presence of the ghosts; under leader Yvonne Hartman’s direction, a large machine with two levers is used to make them appear and disappear in an event called a “ghost shift”. Two of her workers, Gareth and Adeola, are clandestinely seeing each other; on one of their rendezvous, they go to a plastic-sheeted area under construction. Adeola vanishes, confronted by a Cyberman. Later, she and Gareth return to their desks, now wearing Bluetooth devices on both ears.

Jackie confronts Rose about her potential future, and they argue. The Doctor assembles a device; and at the next ghost shift, he traps one of the ghosts briefly for analysis. He traces the disturbance to Torchwood; but Torchwood has also located him, and recognized the TARDIS. The Doctor and Rose—with Jackie unwittingly still aboard—take the TARDIS to Torchwood tower, where the Doctor is promptly taken prisoner. He passes Jackie off as Rose, leaving Rose on the TARDIS, which is moved to a basement. Hartman claims the Doctor and the TARDIS as property of Torchwood; their motto is, “if it’s alien, it’s ours.” She also claims credit for destroying the Sycorax, using alien technology.

Adeola leads another worker to be taken by the Cybermen. Meanwhile, Hartman explains about Torchwood’s existence, and takes the Doctor and Jackie to view the sphere. Several times, beginning here, the Doctor wears 3D glasses, though he doesn’t explain it yet. He explains that the sphere is a voidship, which travels through the void outside the universes; the Elementals once called the void the Howling, and others have called it Hell. He recommends sending it back where it came from, but how? Hartman explains that it came through at a point now housed in the building’s upper floors, behind the mechanism seen earlier; she shows him. She says the ghosts came after it, and they have been experimenting since. The Doctor cautions them to stop the ghost shifts, as it may destroy the universe with a little more strain; finally Hartman breaks and cancels the next shift. However, Adeola and the other converted workers restart the countdown.

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Rose—the real Rose, that is—sneaks into the sphere lab, but is caught. However, she gets a shock: Singh’s lab assistant on hand is Mickey Smith! He explains that the Cybermen were nearly defeated in his world, but that they suddenly vanished, only to be detected here. With the sphere having opened the breach, not only can the Cybermen pass through, but also, his world’s version of Torchwood developed a technology to pass through—and Mickey is here on reconnaissance. He believes the sphere is occupied by Cybermen, and prepares to blast them—just as the sphere starts to open.

Upstairs, the ghost shift starts. The Doctor realizes what has happened, and stops the earpods on the workers; they collapse, already dead. But the shift is already under way, at higher power than ever before. The ghosts appear fully, all over the world, and are revealed to be Cybermen. They begin to attack.

Downstairs, the sphere opens, revealing a terrible sight: a strange machine, and four Daleks. Their leader gives the command to exterminate the humans.

TARDISode 13, the final entry for the series, shows a new broadcast about the Cybermen incursion. It is interrupted…by Daleks.

As Doomsday opens, the Daleks are about to kill Singh, Mickey, and Rose, when Rose reveals her knowledge of the Daleks and the Time War, causing them to stop. The Dalek leader decides to keep her alive, but kills Singh after extracting information from him. It refers to the machine as the Genesis Ark.

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The Cybermen have likewise captured Jackie, Hartman, and the Doctor. They broadcast a message demanding surrender, stating they will upgrade everyone on Earth; but a battle is breaking out between the British Army and the Cybermen in London. The Cyberleader notices the presence of the Daleks, and sends a few Cybermen to investigate. The Doctor watches the confrontation—which represents the height of attitude on the part of both Cybermen and Daleks, incidentally—and realizes the stakes have just risen. Declining an alliance, the Daleks determine to destroy the Cybermen as well as the humans; they kill the advance Cybermen. Seeing Rose’s reactions, they press her for information, and she identifies the Doctor, which scares the Daleks (as much as they ever feel fear, anyway).

Jackie and Hartman are taken for conversion. Hartman is converted, but before Jackie can be upgraded, a group of soldiers appear and take out the Cybermen in the breach room. The group is led by Jake, formerly of the Preachers, from the alternate universe. Jackie gets free and escapes. Jake fills the Doctor in on the transport devices they use, and recent history. Pete Tyler arrives, and takes the Doctor back across to his world’s Torchwood Tower, where he explains further: though Britain is enjoying a golden age, temperatures are rising catastrophically, which they have determined is due to the breach. He enlists the Doctor’s help in defeating the Cybermen (and the Daleks too, though Pete doesn’t know them) and closing the breach. He explains that in his world, it’s been three years, where here it was only about one year. They then return.

The Daleks reveal that the Genesis Ark is of Gallifreyan origin, and that it contains “the future”. They try to get Rose to touch it—thus providing time energy to open it—but are unsuccessful. The Doctor arrives, and banters with them, identifying them as the Cult of Skaro, a Dalek “think-tank” of sorts that disappeared from the Time War. Now he knows how they escaped, in the voidship.When they threaten him, he uses his Sonic Screwdriver to destroy the doors of the lab and let the team from Pete’s world in to fight the Daleks. Mickey is bumped into the Ark; as he has also been a time-traveler, this is enough to open it. It levitates into the sky, and it is revealed that it is bigger on the inside; it disgorges millions of Daleks who were imprisoned inside. The Daleks and Cybermen begin to battle each other.

Jackie reconnects with them, and sees Pete for the first time, instantly upsetting his determination not to connect with her. Pete wants to escape back to his world, considering the situation lost; but the Doctor reveals that his glasses show a sort of trace of the void on everyone who has traveled into it. He can use the machine to suck those traces—and everyone who carries them—back into the void, eliminating both Daleks and Cybermen; but the humans must get clear first. He sends Jackie and Rose with the others, against Rose’s will—she knows that when the breach closes, she will never see the Doctor again. He himself may be pulled in, too. She instantly teleports back, and begins to help him with the machine. Meanwhile, the converted Hartman guards the door, her sense of duty overpowering her conversion. (It’s not shown what happens to her afterward, but presumably she is pulled through—she never traveled through the void, but her cyber body would have been brought through with the advance guard.)

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The Doctor puts magnetic clamps on the walls to cling to; then he and Rose activate the levers. Daleks and Cybermen are pulled in. Rose’s lever breaks free, however, and she is forced to grab it and lock it in place. She loses her grip and is pulled in; but Pete teleports across at the last second, grabs her, and teleports back out. She is left trapped in the alternate universe as the breach seals.

Months later, in Pete’s world, Rose sees the Doctor in a dream. She follows his directions to a beach in Norway called Darlig Ulv Stranden, which translates to “Bad Wolf Bay”. She sees the image of the Doctor there; he is using a rapidly-closing crack in the universal wall to contact her, burning up a supernova to do so. He tells her goodbye, and she admits to loving him; he is about to say the same, but vanishes before he can get the words out.

In the TARDIS, he takes a moment to mourn the end of their time together; but he is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a woman in a wedding dress. “What?!” is all he can say.

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This series finale rivals The Parting of the Ways in many ways. While we don’t see the Doctor regenerate, we do so a total change in supporting characters. Rose departs (quite against her will, I might say), taking with her Jackie, Mickey, and Pete, all of whom had reached semi-regular status. We’ll see some of them again in cameo form, but their traveling days are over, so to speak. Interestingly, both of the Tenth Doctor’s future regular companions appear here, in one form or another; Freema Agyeman, who will play Martha Jones, plays Torchwood staffer Adeola Oshodi, who will later be retconned as Martha’s cousin. Catherine Tate makes her first appearance as Donna Noble, though her name is not yet revealed. This story also provides the resolution of the season-long Torchwood arc, ending with the downfall of Torchwood One. That destruction, later called the Battle of Canary Wharf, leads to the rise of Torchwood Three in Cardiff, which features in the spinoff Torchwood, and features the return of Captain Jack Harkness. (In related news, keep an eye out for Big Finish’s upcoming “Torchwood: Before the Fall” audio set, which is set at Torchwood One prior to this story. Personally, I’d love to see Yvonne Hartman square off against Kate Lethbridge-Stewart of UNIT—Big Finish, get on this!)

I find it interesting to observe how series finales go in Doctor Who. The classic series, with its more episodic/serialized format, rarely used season-long story arcs, and when it did it was often not well received (Trial of a Time Lord, anyone?). The revived series does use such arcs, but I can’t help feeling that it lives with the memory of cancellation; therefore every series arc neatly wraps up all of its threads. It doesn’t always end happily, as is evident here; and sometimes some of those threads are picked back out by later specials (I’m looking at you, Time of the Doctor, with your crack in the wall); but every series finale constitutes a point where, were the series as a whole to end, we could be mostly satisfied. This one is no exception; again, as far as we know, the Daleks and Cybermen have all been wiped out, and the Doctor is alone, with Torchwood visibly destroyed, and with no companions with whom he has unresolved business. The appearance of Donna at the end doesn’t negate that resolution; it just gives us a tag on which to hang the next series, should the next series come.

I won’t go into references to this series’ episodes, as we’ve discussed them as they came up. However, there are some references to previous episodes. The cutting-through-plastic by the Cybermen is a nod to The Tomb of the Cybermen. The Time War gets a significant reference, and the Fall of Arcadia is first mentioned here; it will be expanded upon in The Day of the Doctor. The Void, under one name or another, will be mentioned in several future episodes (Daleks in Manhattan, The Next Doctor, The Big Band) and several audios. The Elementals were last referenced in Enlightenment; they call the Void “the Howling”, which may be a reference to the “Howling Halls” mentioned in Love and Monsters. Rose mentions the Gelth, last seen in The Unquiet Dead. We get a flashback glimpse of a planet we haven’t seen before, as Rose is talking to Jackie—that adventure was never recorded. Harriet Jones is mentioned, having maintained her rise to power in Pete’s world. The Doctor mentions being at Pete and Jackie’s wedding; but if this is a reference to Father’s Day, it’s incorrect, as that was someone else’s wedding. We get the first appearance of the Doctor’s “Allons-y!” catchphrase, which appears many times in the future. While the rift at Torchwood Tower is not the same as the one at Cardiff, the idea of opening and closing it at will is carried over into the Torchwood series.

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There’s little to complain about here. This episode will have echoes through several upcoming series of Doctor Who, and through Torchwood as well. Overall, it’s a strong, emotional exit for Rose and company, and it adds depth to the Doctor, as he deals with the loss of Rose through the next few companions. Otherwise, at this point, the future is unknown, and the sky is the limit—and we have a wedding to catch.

Next time: The 2007 Christmas Special, The Runaway Bride! See you there.

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

TARDISode 11

Fear Her

TARDISode 12

Army of Ghosts

TARDISode 13

Doomsday

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Monster Movie Tributes: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Two, Part One

I owe everyone an apology; while doing some research, I discovered that I never posted this entry.  I put it on Reddit, where these entries are cross-posted, but somehow failed to post it here.  Therefore, a few weeks later, here it is: the beginning of Series Two.  Thanks for reading!

We’re back, with our new Doctor Who rewatch! Last week we checked out the first Christmas special, The Christmas Invasion, and got a proper introduction to the Tenth Doctor. Today we begin Series Two, looking at New Earth and Tooth and Claw. We’ll also take a look at the related TARDISodes, the mini-episodes which accompany each episode of Series Two. Let’s get started!

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 of two or three episodes each for the sake of length.

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has never seen this episode!

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New Earth gives us the Tenth Doctor’s first excursion to another world. The planet is called New Earth, and the year is 5,000,000,023, twenty-three years after the events of The End of the World. I don’t reference that episode lightly; we’ll wrap up some threads from that episode here.

The Doctor and Rose view the city of “New New York”, actually the fifteenth after the first. He then reveals that they haven’t come here by accident; they were summoned via psychic paper. Their summoner is unknown, but he can be found in a nearby hospital, which stands outside the city. The Doctor and Rose go inside, and find it is run by the Sisters of Plenitude, a religious order composed of a catlike race of genetically altered humans. The Doctor explores a bit, sending Rose on ahead to Ward 26, the source of the summons; but she is diverted into the basement. Meanwhile, the Doctor arrives at Ward 26, and finds something remarkable: a range of deadly diseases, all subject to near-miraculous and instantaneous cures.

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Rose warily enters the basement, and gets a shock in the form of an old enemy: Cassandra O’Brian dot Delta Seventeen, the last pure human. She has survived her apparent death on platform one, and received a new skin interface. Now, however, she and her servant, the forced-growth clone named Chip, capture Rose, and transfer Cassandra’s mind into her body. She goes in search of the Doctor.

The Doctor and Cassandra-in-Rose meet their summoner: The Face of Boe. However, he too is dying, and can’t speak to them. As they start to leave, Cassandra—still undetected—leads the Doctor to find the intensive care section. Inside, they discover to their horror that the hospital’s miraculous cures have a sinister side: The Sisterhood has grown a multitude of clones, then infected them with every known disease, for use as lab rats. They believe their clones are insensate, but this isn’t the case; they are quite alive, and aware. The Doctor confronts the Sisterhood, and also accuses them of altering Rose somehow; they deny it. Cassandra ultimately tires of it, and—facing attack by the matron of the Sisterhood—she sets off an alarm, and unleashes the clones.

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The clones flood the hospital, chasing the Doctor and Cassandra to the higher floors. The Doctor forces Cassandra to leave Rose’s body, causing her to possess him instead. After some debate, Cassandra finds she can inhabit the clones as well, and discovers that they are not hostile, but horribly lonely; they just want to be touched. Unfortunately, their touch is deadly. The Doctor is forced to a solution: He takes all the cure solutions and places them in a tank which feeds a chemical disinfection chamber…and then he invites the clones in. Soaked in medicines, they spread the cures like wildfire among themselves, and are cured.

With a new form of life—pure humans, in the form of the clones—now filling the hospital, the police arrive and arrest the sisters. The Doctor meets with the Face of Boe, and finds him also miraculously recovered; he tells the Doctor that he has a final message for him, but this is not the time. They will meet one more time. The Face of Boe teleports away.

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Cassandra is still inhabiting Rose. The Doctor orders her out, and she admits she has nowhere to go, and does not want to die. However, Chip appears, having hidden from the clones, and offers himself to her. She accepts, and joins him in his body. Being force-grown, however, he has only half a life, and the strain of the day is about to kill him. She makes a final request.

The Doctor takes her back in time to a point in her own life prior to her conversion to a skin form, a moment at which a stranger at a party called her beautiful, then died in her arms. It is a treasured memory for her. Now it becomes apparent that the stranger was Chip, or rather, Cassandra in his body. The Doctor gives her a final moment of peace, and she passes away.

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Tooth and Claw finds the Doctor and Rose traveling to 1979…only to be diverted to 1879, in Scotland. They are immediately captured by a guard unit, which is protecting an important person in a coach: Queen Victoria. The Doctor introduces himself as James McCrimmon, and via psychic paper, convinces the queen that he has been sent by the local lord to help protect her on the road. They travel to a nearby manor: the Torchwood estate.

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They are received by the estate’s owner, Sir Robert MacLeish; but they quickly find that he is under duress, and the estate has been taken over by an odd order of monks. The monks have a singular purpose: they want the throne.

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As the full moon rises, the monks reveal their secret. They have brought a man to the estate, but he is no ordinary man; under the moon, he transforms into a werewolf. He pursues the Doctor, Rose, the queen, and Sir Robert through the estate, killing several servants, until they barricade themselves in the library. Inside, in the books, they discover that a spaceship crashed to Earth in the area sometime in the past, and the wolf originates there. It is a sort of parasite, surviving by moving from host to host. Now, it wants to infect the queen, and create an Empire of the Wolf.

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The queen reveals that she is carrying a valuable treasure: the Koh-i-Noor diamond. She is taking it to the royal jewelers to be recut. Seeing it, the Doctor concocts a plan, but he needs time. Sir Robert sacrifices himself to buy him that time. The Doctor realizes that Sir Robert’s father new about the wolf, and planned for this. He built a telescope, but with too many lenses. The telescope is actually a light chamber, designed to magnify the moonlight; and the diamond, which his friend Prince Albert had cut down, is the final piece. The wolf may live on moonlight, but too much will drown it.

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The wolf breaks in, and is caught in the light in the nick of time, and dies, reduced to nothingness. Still, there is one disconcerting remnant: the queen is bleeding. She denies that she was bitten, but Rose later speculates that perhaps the royal family are werewolves in her time. The Doctor acknowledges that it is unknown how haemophilia entered the family line.

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The next day, the queen knights the Doctor and Rose…and then banishes them. After sending them back to the TARDIS, she declares the founding of a new institute, named for the estate, which will exist solely to counter strange and wonderful things from outside the world, things such as the Doctor himself. That estate will be called Torchwood.

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New Earth was an early new-series episode for me, though not my first (I missed Series One in its first run, and began with The Girl in the Fireplace, then quickly started catching reruns of missed Series Two episodes). As such I remember enjoying it quite a bit; and it still holds up well, in my opinion. It has the distinction of being the first new series episode set on an alien world, something that I missed in first watch; all of Series One is set on Earth or near it via space stations. It links back to The End of the World by bringing back Cassandra and the Face of Boe, though the setting is of course different; and the city of New New York will—and the Face of Boe—will reappear in Gridlock, which wraps up this loose arc. (He’ll also appear in Utopia/The Sound of Drums, but only in flashback.) It also introduces the cat people, and specifically the Sisters of Plenitude, who will reappear as well; interestingly, these aren’t the first race of cat people the Doctor has encountered, as the Seventh Doctor and Ace met a similar race in Survival.

This episode is Doctor Who’s take on a zombie story. While the plague carriers aren’t zombies in the traditional sense—or even quite in the Walking Dead sense—they function essentially the same way; they shamble along with reduced intelligence and crave the contact of the living, and though they may not eat them, they certainly kill them. It’s a uniquely-Doctor Who approach; everyone else wants to exterminate them (no pun intended—no Daleks here!), but the Doctor has compassion on them and wants to save them. He does it, too, even if the science stretches credibility a bit. He has compassion on Cassandra as well, at the end, although he was more than willing to let her die at first; the show handwaves that by giving him lines about how her time is up, but essentially he’s condemning her to death. It’s been a huge but quick step from the Ninth Doctor’s “Just this once, everybody lives!” to the Tenth’s cold willingness to let someone die. Still, he makes up for it at the end, and lets her die—not at his hand, but against his will—with dignity; and in doing so, he sets the course of her life prior to this, by creating a very formative experience. It’s not quite a paradox, but it’s poetic at least.

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The Face of Boe sends a message via the psychic paper, establishing a property of that item which will be reused again in the future. His mysterious illness is not explained, nor is his recovery. I keep saying “he”, because the other characters seem to consider him male, but I’m not forgetting his pregnancy as announced in The Long Game; there’s a lot we may never know about the Face of Boe.) Other diseases mentioned include Marconi’s Disease (a play on the inventor of radio), Pallidome Pancrosis (which kills within minutes of infection, establishing a basis for the instant deaths we see later in the episode), and Petrifold Regression (which turns its victims to stone). The Doctor states he dislikes hospitals; which is understandable, as he once died in one (see the television movie).

Outside of this story’s previously-mentioned arc, there are not many references to be had here. A few other planets have been called New Earth, but that hardly counts as a reference, as they are unrelated. Petrifold Regression is mentioned in the novel The Stone Rose, which also involves Ten and Rose and therefore refers back to this mention; Amy Pond will believe she has a similar-but-unnamed condition in The Time of Angels.

The TARDISode for this episode is fairly simple; it constitutes a television advertisement for the medical services of the Sisters of Plenitude.

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Tooth and Claw is a significant episode, in that it formally introduces the Torchwood organization. Torchwood would make its television debut six months to the day after the release of this episode; this story would establish its origins in 1879 Scotland. (One wonders why the Scottish branch isn’t referred to as Torchwood One instead of the London branch…) Although Jack Harkness should be on Earth at this point, he does not appear, being recruited sometime after the turn of the century by Torchwood. It’s interesting that Torchwood exists specifically to counter the Doctor (and other threats like him); in the 21st century, UNIT seems to have taken up that mission, maintaining contingency plans while also keeping a good working relationship with the Doctor.

Queen Victoria, thus, becomes a very significant character for the future of the series, though she doesn’t appear again (to my knowledge, at least). However, the Doctor has met her before, offscreen; in The Curse of Peladon, the Third Doctor admits to having been at her coronation. She doesn’t seem to remember it here, or at least she does not connect it with the Tenth Doctor, and he doesn’t mention it either. She knights him, and Rose as well; it isn’t his first time, having been knighted in The King’s Demons, but that time was a sham, having been perpetrated by an impostor king. He’s wanted to be knighted as far back as The Crusade, when Ian Chesterton was knighted by Richard the Lionheart.

We get more references here. The obvious one is the assumed name of “James McCrimmon”, which is a reference to Second Doctor companion Jamie McCrimmon. (Playing the role, David Tennant used his real-life Scottish accent, the only time he does so as the Doctor; Queen Victoria later comments on his accent changing when he reverts to his usual English accent.) Werewolves have appeared in several stories across varying media; on television they appeared in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, though those werewolves did not appear to be related to this one. The wolf refers back to The Parting of the Ways when it sees Rose; it says it sees something of the wolf in her, and that she burns like the Sun. There is another new aspect of the psychic paper, which we will see again: the Doctor himself doesn’t always know what people see on it.

The related TARDISode gives us a bit of backstory, involving the spacecraft crash that brought the werewolf cells to Earth in the first place. It ends with the wolf’s first murder.

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Overall, not a bad start for the Tenth Doctor, and for Series Two! With these early episodes, there isn’t much to dislike. Next time: School Reunion, and The Girl in the Fireplace! (Although my goal is to have three episodes whenever possible, The Girl in the Fireplace is immediately followed by a two-parter which I don’t want to split up.) See you there. [Note:  As I mentioned, I’ve accidentally had to post this out of order, so we’re past those upcoming episodes already.  The next post will wrap up Series Two with Fear Her, Army of Ghosts, and Doomsday.]

Split-Personality Demons: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Two, Part Four

We’re back, with our New Doctor Who rewatch! Last time, we reviewed Series Two’s Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel, which reintroduced classic villains the Cybermen to the series, and The Idiot’s Lantern, which laid the groundwork for several future episodes. This week, we’re looking at another two-parter, The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit, and finishing up with one of Doctor Who’s most reviled episodes, Love and Monsters! We’ll also look at the related TARDISodes, mini-episodes which served as preview teasers. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has never seen these episodes!

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TARDISode 08 gives us some background on the episode and its secondary villains. We see the captain of the episode’s expedition receiving his orders, which include an ancient book. The book contains a map of sorts, drawings of a black hole, and strange writing in rune-like characters. We see an alien called an Ood standing by to serve him, and hear it issue a morbid comment about a Beast rising from a pit. This is the first appearance of the Ood in the series, kicking off a loose arc that will continue all the way to the very death of the Tenth Doctor in The End of Time.

The TARDIS lands inside a sealed base on a distant planet. Rose and the Doctor are immediately disturbed when they see the words “Welcome to Hell” written on a bulkhead, underscored by strange characters that the TARDIS won’t (or can’t) translate. They are met by several Ood, and a misunderstanding briefly results, but is quickly sorted out; then they meet the crew of the station. The Doctor recognizes the Ood, but doesn’t seem to have actually encountered them before. The crew’s captain (from the TARDISode) is dead, replaced by Acting Captain Zachary Cross Flane; also present are Science Officer Ida Scott, Security Chief Jefferson, Maintenance Officer Scooti Manista, and Archaeologist Toby Zed; a few unnamed crew also appear, mostly as security guards. An earthquake briefly interrupts them; then the crew reveals that they are orbiting a planet called Krop Tor, which should not exist. It is orbiting an enormous black hole at a distance that should have seen it fall into the gravity well long ago. There is a power source below the surface, placed there by a lost civilization, which keeps it orbiting—and the humans want it. Hence they are drilling a shaft down to it.

The Doctor and Rose wants to leave, but find that the earthquake collapsed the storage area where the TARDIS was parked—it is now lost inside the planet. With no alternative, they join the crew. Meanwhile, Toby is hearing a malevolent voice; others are hearing similar things, including Rose when an Ood tells her that “The Beast will rise”. After hearing the voice, Toby finds the ancient runes all over his skin. Rose then gets a similar voice over her phone, saying “He is awake”. The Ood then start to say similar things. It is revealed that they are a low-level telepathic race; their telepathic field usually sits at a reading of Basic 5, but now it has risen to Basic 30.

Toby, now possessed, goes out onto the surface, which has no atmosphere. Covered in the symbols, and possessed by something, he breaks a window, causing Scooti to be sucked out and killed. He returns inside, just in time for another quake. The group sees Scooti floating overhead, being pulled toward the black hole; Zach enters her death into the log.

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The drill has reached the core, which seems hollow. The Ood are confined for the next phase of the mission, and the Doctor volunteers for the expedition down the shaft, along with Ida. The lift takes them down to an enormous, ornately carved cavern. Inside, they locate a large disk in the floor, which seems to be a door—but it is sealed.

The telepathic field has reached Basic 100, which should kill the Ood, but doesn’t. The Doctor asks Toby if he has translated the symbols, which are repeated on the door in the cavern. Toby’s possession manifests again, and he says they are the words of the Beast. The symbols leave his face and enter the Ood, whose eyes turn red, and they advance on the humans. Toby passes out and is dragged along. The Ood call themselves the legion of the Beast. They kill one guard via electrocution, and the others run. Underground, another quake occurs, and the door opens. The planet begins to fall toward the black hole, and the crew is backed against a sealed door, with the Ood approaching. The Doctor and Ida hear a voice proclaim “The pit is open, and I am free!”

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TARDISode 09 gives us an early scene from the expedition. An unidentified crewmember sorts the dead captain’s belongings, and finds the book with the ancient runes. It burns to ash in his hands, and then hears lines about the Beast rising. He is then found by another crewmember, possibly dying, but with a few symbols on his face. Neither person is seen in the episodes, so presumably both die offscreen.

The Satan Pit opens with the crew killing the three Ood that are advancing on them. In the control room, Zack discovers that the orbit has stabilized. The rest of the Ood continue to advance, killing another guard on the way. Some approach the control room; Zack has no weapons, only a bolt gun with a single bolt. He orders “Strategy 9”, which involves gathering everyone in a safe place, and opening all the airlocks, sucking the Ood out of the base. Accordingly, he orders the Doctor and Ida back to the station; they return to the lift. Rose saves Toby from execution, as the possession seems to have left him for the Ood. The power fails briefly, and the Beast speaks through the Ood and the displays. It claims to be the source of all devil myths, and says it was imprisoned before this universe by the Disciples of the Light; it brings up everyone’s hidden fears to try to weaken them. It breaks the ten-mile-long lift cable, stranding Ida and the Doctor and cutting off their communications, leaving them with just 55 minutes of air. With no options, they rig the cable to abseil into the pit, and the Doctor insists on going down.

With no power, Strategy 9 won’t work. Zack borrows power from the station’s rocket, and approves a plan to disable the Ood with a telepathic flare from their control monitor; but the monitor is in the Ood habitat unit. He sends the others through the airless service tunnels to get there, using emergency bulkheads to pump atmosphere into the successive sections. Along the way, they lose Jefferson when he is cut off. The Ood follow, and nearly get Toby, but he shows them that he is still possessed, and he escapes with Rose and Danny. The Ood nearly get Zack, but are disabled when Danny activates the flare. Zack joins the others.

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The Doctor reaches the bottom of the cable, and—to Ida’s horror—disconnects himself and falls.

The crew and Rose head for the rocket. They cannot save the Doctor or Ida now, and intend to escape and make sure no one can come here again. Down below, the Doctor has survived his fall; he finds a record of the Beast’s history, and decides its claims are true. He then finds the Beast itself, chained to a wall. However, he realizes that it’s only the body—the mind has gone somewhere else. He finds two jars that not only maintain the atmosphere in the pit, but maintain the gravity field keeping the planet in orbit. Unaware that the crew is escaping, he doesn’t want to destroy them, as it would let the planet be destroyed with Rose on it. However, he decides that Rose is no victim, and he believes in her—and he smashes the jars.

The planet begins to fall in, and the Beast’s body bursts into flames. However, the rocket begins to be pulled in too. Toby is fully possessed by the Beast. Rose grabs the bolt gun, tells the Beast to go to hell, and shoots out the cockpit glass, then unclips Toby’s harness. He is sucked out, toward the black hole. Zack raises the emergency shield, saving the rest of them—but they are still being pulled in.

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But all is not lost. The Doctor returns to the cavern to find it collapsing—and finds the TARDIS, which has fallen this far. He rescues Ida, then tows the rocket to safety, and reclaims Rose. The episode ends with Zack recording the final log entry, with the names of all the dead—including the Ood.

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This two-parter is a great story, in my opinion. It’s one of the earliest episodes of the new series that I saw, and it’s probably the first one that I took seriously (The Girl in the Fireplace, my first episode, is a bit on the fluffy side, and I didn’t see the Cybermen two-parter until later). The idea of a historical source for demonic ideology is not new; we’ve had it as far back as The Daemons, and in other places as well; but rarely is it done this convincingly. If New Earth was Doctor Who’s take on a zombie story, and Tooth and Claw was its werewolf, this is its take on the entire horror genre, complete with jump scares and possessions. The horror-movie tropes are actually a bit overplayed here, almost to the point of parody, but there’s good reason for that: it makes the twist near the end, where the Beast is seen to be split into two entities, that much more brilliant. You think you have it all figured out, but then you find out just how wrong you are. I know nothing about Matt Jones, the writer of the episode, but I give him credit for that.

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We are introduced to the Ood here, or rather, in TARDISode 08. Their appearance is rather bizarre; and I can’t help wondering how much of their future arc was planned in advance, as their spheres would eventually be revealed to be artificial second brains. They’re quite different as both villains and allies; as individuals they are all much the same, but as a species they exhibit a lot of variety in characterization over the course of the series. They appear in a number of Tenth Doctor episodes, and get a mention in the audio Babblesphere, which I reviewed yesterday, when the Eleventh Doctor lists them with other villains. They will eventually be revealed to hail from the same planetary system as the Sensorites from the serial of the same name; they appear to be somewhat related, as there are definite similarities in appearance, abilities (both are telepathic), and even planet name (Ood-Sphere versus Sense-Sphere).

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 Beast could easily have been a stock villain (aside from its split nature, as I mentioned); but it is distinguished by its technique of turning its victims’ own internal doubts and guilt against them. It’s brief and unsuccessful here, but it goes a long way toward making this villain frightening indeed. A similar thing occurs in the audio The Shadow of the Scourge, which I reviewed on Monday (I promise the timing was not planned, but it seems to be a good week for it).

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Some references: Rose mentions having been a dinner lady, seen in School Reunion. The Doctor refers to the TARDIS suffering indigestion, mirroring a line from the television movie. The Beast has a son, Abaddon, which appears in Cardiff in the Torchwood episode End of Days. The Beast itself returns in the comic story The Beast is Back in Town. Draconia gets a mention; the Third Doctor visited it in Frontier in Space, and it has been referenced often since. Daemos is mentioned, having been referenced in The Daemons. The Kaled God of War is mentioned as well. The TARDIS tractor beam appeared twice in the classic series (The Creature from the Pit, Delta and the Bannermen). The Doctor claims the Time Lords invented black holes, echoing claims in The Three Doctors and other classic stories. There’s a reference to the Beast being from a time before this universe, along with its ancient enemies the Disciples of Light. The more references I get to that time, the more fascinating it gets; eventually I’ll compile a list of pre-universe entities, both verified and possible. This also gives me my only complaint about this story, and it’s a logical one: Why would the Disciples of Light go to the trouble of creating such an elaborate trap, when they could have just let the Beast fall into the black hole and ended it? Also, when did they do this—before the universe? Then how did the planet and black hole exist? But then again, who can predict the logic of pre-universal beings?

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TARDISode 10 shows us a glimpse of the villain of the upcoming episode, as he researches the Doctor, and finds the minor detective group called LINDA. He then is interrupted by his secretary, who brings him tea—and catches him at a very bad time. She appears to be killed offscreen.

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Welcome to Love and Monsters, one of the most hated and reviled episodes in all of Doctor Who! We’ll take a look at why—but first, the plot.

We meet a young man named Elton Pope, who is in the middle of a life-changing event: He sees the TARDIS, then meets the Doctor and Rose Tyler. They are pursuing a monster called a Hoix; and the Doctor seems to recognize Elton. Elton runs away.

A scene cut reveals the frame story of this episode: Elton is recording a series of videos, narrating his story. He met the Doctor once before, while a child; the Doctor appeared in his house on the night his mother died. He then recounts other strange happenings; he recalls the Autons, the crash of the Slitheen ship into Big Ben, and the Sycorax ship over London last Christmas. The one common thread is the Doctor. His investigations introduce him to other people who are intrigued by the Doctor: Ursula Blake, her friend Bliss, Bridget Sinclair, and Colin Skinner. They form a group, with regular meetings, and call themselves “LINDA” (London Investigation ‘n’ Detective Agency). Eventually, with their investigation tapering off, they transform into a social group, exploring other interests.

They are interrupted by Victor Kennedy, a strange man with an aversion to physical contact. He muscles in and takes over, calling them back to their quest for the Doctor; he makes them work harder toward that goal. After their first meeting with Kennedy, Bliss disappears.

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Elton finds the Doctor—in the encounter from the beginning of the episode—but runs away. Kennedy changes tactics; now, they will search for Rose instead, as she is associated with the Doctor. Elton is able to do so with ease, and meets Jackie Tyler, who quickly takes a liking to him. Over several visits, he learns more about Rose, and Jackie begins to flirt with him. This brings out his love for Ursula; but he is exposed when Jackie finds a picture of Rose in his coat, and throws him out. Meanwhile, Bridget has vanished.

Elton confronts Kennedy, saying he has destroyed the group; he also asks Ursula out. They leave, but Skinner, concerned about Bridget, stays behind; he then disappears too. However, Ursula has forgotten her phone, so they return to the meeting room. Inside, they find that Skinner has disappeared, and Kennedy has transformed.

He is revealed as an unsightly monster, who is responsible for the disappearances; he has absorbed the others, leaving only their minds and their faces on his skin. Elton calls him an Absorbaloff, which he likes. He wants to absorb the Doctor, in order to gain access to his mind and memories. He absorbs Ursula, and chases Elton into the street.

In an alley, he is about to kill Elton; but the TARDIS appears. The Doctor and Rose emerge, and—ignoring the alien—Rose confronts Elton for upsetting her mother. The Absorbaloff demands that the Doctor sacrifice himself to free Elton, but the Doctor refuses; he offhandedly remarks that the others might have something to say about that. The victims throw their effort into stopping the Absorbaloff, and he drops his cane; Elton breaks it. The Absorbaloff collapses into slime. The Doctor reveals that the cane was emitting a field that held him together; now the absorber is being absorbed into the earth.

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The Doctor explains about his first meeting with Elton; he was hunting an elemental shade, and caught it, but not before it could kill Elton’s mother.

Later, Elton tells the camera that meeting the Doctor is dangerous; but he credits the Doctor with saving Ursula, sort of. He was able to separate her from the dying Absorbaloff, but not from the paving stone in which she was absorbed. Her face remains, and she now “lives” with Elton, in the best relationship they can manage. Elton is a bit depressed in the end, but reflects that the world, with all its problems, is better than he thought.

Few episodes have been as maligned as this one (though we’ll get another next week!). It’s hated mostly for its silly and ridiculous monster, as well as other humorous aspects. I’ll go ahead and say up front: I actually love this episode. However, that’s because I’m fine with occasional humorous stories, even if they are ridiculous. Such stories haven’t been entirely unheard of throughout the show’s history, and in all media; they’re usually a breath of fresh air to me, and a nice change. It’s mocked, as well, because the show had begun to take a more serious turn in Series Two; this story would have been at home in Series One, which is often derided for its silliness. I’m okay with that, though. I don’t particularly enjoy very grim stories, and more so in Doctor Who; if you think at all about the implications of the Doctor’s actions, you’ll find there’s enough darkness already built in without adding any.

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That brings me to the theme of this episode (and yes, it does have one!). It asks the question: What’s it like for the Doctor’s bystanders? The answer appears to be “terrible”. LINDA was composed of innocent people, but their association with the Doctor, however tangential, got most of them killed. No one was untouched, not even Elton, who just had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and at an age when he could hardly be responsible, too. However, his summary at the end says what we as fans often say: that no matter how difficult the universe may be, and even when the Doctor is part of the difficulty, it’s better with him in it. It’s a theme we’ll see again and again; but this was, as far as I can tell, the first time it appeared on television. (We’ve had similar ideas from companions—Tegan, in particular, left because of the death she kept witnessing—but rarely if ever from a bystander.)

This episode introduced two concepts that continue to this day: The “Doctor-lite” and “Companion-lite” episodes. (This episode qualifies as both.) The idea was conceived to increase the number of episodes that can be produced; with the Doctor and/or companion mostly absent, two episodes could be filmed at once. While this episode is not considered great, it was successful enough to continue the concept, giving us future masterpieces such as Blink, Midnight, Turn Left, and Heaven Sent.

For an episode that is mostly disconnected from the series arc, there are a surprising number of references. Elton remembers the Auton attack (Rose), the Slitheen spaceship crash (Aliens of London), and the Sycorax ship (The Christmas Invasion). Kennedy mentions the Bad Wolf virus, which the Doctor gave to Mickey (though not by name) in World War Three, and which subsequently corrupted Torchwood’s files. The Hoix would later appear in Torchwood’s episode Exit Wounds. Jackie mentions Mickey Smith, and says that he is gone now (The Age of Steel). The Absorbaloff hails from Clom, the sister planet of Raxicoricofallapatorious, which is one of the stolen planets in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End. He is therefore similar to the Slitheen, in much the same way as the Ood are similar to the Sensorites; even Rose comments on it (although: why would he know them as the Slitheen, given that that is a family name?). And, most interestingly to me, LINDA will in the future be referenced…by the Fifth Doctor, in *Time Crash, indicating that other incarnations were aware of them (although they only ever encountered Ten). Though that minisode was played for a little humor, I’m fine with accepting it as canon.

I personally don’t have any complaints, but it’s worth mentioning some of the things for which others have complained. The scene with the Hoix has a door-running scene reminiscent of Scooby-Doo, which is rather silly. There are a number of pop culture references, sometimes accomplished with momentary cutscenes. The dialogue can be silly at times, especially from Elton and Ursula; and the veiled reference to their sex life at the end is just creepy. And of course, the Absorbaloff itself is truly ridiculous, though again, I’m okay with occasional forays into ridiculousness.

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Next time: We’ll look at another oft-hated episode, Fear Her; and we’ll finish out the season—and say goodbye to Rose Tyler—with Army of Ghosts and Doomsday! See you there.

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

TARDISode 08

The Impossible Planet

TARDISode 09

The Satan Pit

TARDISode 10

Love and Monsters

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Enter the Cybermen: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Two, Part Three

I usually post these on Fridays, but I’m deviating this week for the sake of another post to be made. We’ll be back on schedule next week.

We’re back, with our new Doctor Who rewatch! Last time, we reviewed Series Two’s School Reunion and The Girl in the Fireplace, which reintroduced some old friends, and gave us a new look at the progress of time. Today, we’re checking out three episodes: The two-part story Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel, and also The Idiot’s Lantern. We’ll also look at the related TARDISodes, mini-episodes which accompany each episode of Series Two. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has never seen these episodes!

TARDISode 05 gives us something exciting: a transmission via internet from an unknown person to a radical group called the Preachers. It orders the Preachers to take down a man named John Lumic before the project he is heading can be finalized.

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Rise of the Cybermen opens with the aforementioned John Lumic, a wheelchair-bound mad scientist in bad health (there’s really no other fitting description). A scientist on his staff, Dr. Kendrick, reports to Lumic about a robotic form, declaring it to be alive; but then Kendrick says that if it is life, they must report to the authorities in Geneva. Lumic orders the robot to kill Kendrick; then, he departs for Great Britain.

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The Doctor, Rose, and Mickey are in the TARDIS, reminiscing about a past adventure, and generally making Mickey feel left out. Something goes wrong with the TARDIS, and it lands violently, then loses all power. The Doctor declares it dead, and says they have fallen into another universe. The TARDIS draws power from the universe, but this alternate universe is incompatible, like diesel in a gasoline engine. He is shocked, then, when Mickey finds that they are in London. It’s not the same, though; there are zeppelins in the sky, and everyone wears strange electronic pods—earpods—in their ears. Rose discovers that her father, Pete, is still alive in this universe; but the Doctor warns her not to meet with him.

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Pete Tyler, as it turns out, works for John Lumic; his own health-drink company was bought out by Lumic’s Cybus Industries. As such his star has risen, and he is acquainted with the President of Great Britain (yes, president—different universe), who will be attending Jackie Tyler’s 40th birthday party that night. In the meantime, Lumic meets with the President, promoting his system of “upgrading” humanity (i.e. the robotic forms seen earlier), but is rejected.

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The Doctor finds a single remaining power crystal in the TARDIS, and literally breathes new life into it (using regeneration energy—he claims to have given up ten years of life). In 24 hours, it will be able to power the TARDIS enough to go home. Mickey takes advantage of the situation and runs off to explore. Rose, meanwhile, taps into the local internet—which is run by Cybus—and learns that everyone gets daily downloads straight into their brains via the earpods, which are also a Cybus product, and practically ubiquitous. She also researches her parents, and finds out about Cybus, and about Jackie’s party. Now intrigued, the Doctor takes her to infiltrate it.

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Mickey visits his grandmother, who in his own world is deceased (he is otherwise an orphan). She recognizes him, but calls him “Ricky”. He is abducted by two people in a blue van, who also mistake him for his counterpart in this universe, Ricky. They take him to meet the real Ricky, who is their leader after the loss of their previous leader. They prove to be a resistance group called the Preachers, which is opposing Cybus’s plans, although they don’t know exactly what those plans are. They do know that Cybus—via a dummy company called International Electromatics—has been abducting the homeless; they have an informant inside Cybus. And tonight, they will be crashing the party to try to get to Lumic.

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Rose and the Doctor have infiltrated the party, and Rose has unsuccessfully conversed with both Pete and Jackie, whose marriage is on the rocks. They are interrupted when a group of the robots crash the party, kill the president and others, and begin rounding up the guests. The guests will be converted into robot forms themselves. The Doctor, Rose, and Pete escape, and meet up with Mickey and the Preachers, but are intercepted by the robots, whom the Doctor recognizes: they are Cybermen.

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TARDISODE 06 flashes back briefly, to show John Lumic issuing an order for his Cybermen to commence upgrading of the entire population.

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The Age of Steel picks up immediately from the cliffhanger. The Doctor uses the power from the TARDIS power crystal to destroy the Cybermen detaining them, and the group escapes. This won’t stop the crystal from recharging, but will set it back by four hours. In the Preachers’ van, the group compares notes; the Doctor explains about the Cybermen, which originated from another source in his universe—a parallel evolution of sorts. Pete wants to rescue Jackie, but can’t. He also reveals that he is the mole that has been giving information to the Preachers. The Doctor declares that the Cybermen will be stopped tonight. Lumic has a cyberconversion factory inside the former Battersea Power Station. There, he broadcasts a signal which will initiate cyberconversion of all of London. It won’t require force—the earpods will take control of their users and cause them to come to the factory. Jackie is among the victims.

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The Doctor’s group splits up to escape. Mickey and Ricky run together, but are cornered by Cybermen, and Ricky is killed. Eventually, the group meets again outside the factory and sees the crowds entering for conversion. Rose suggests removing the earpods, but the Doctor declines; it will kill the users.

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Inside the factory, Lumic’s chief assistant, Crane, has removed his earpods before the signal. Lumic questions him, and he claims a malfunction, but it is only a ruse to get close to Lumic. He damages the life support systems on Lumic’s chair, sending him into shock. The Cybermen kill Crane, and then take Lumic—against his will—to be converted.

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The group splits up again to infiltrate the factory. Rose and Pete go in the front door, disguised as earpod victims, to find Jackie. The Doctor and Mrs. Moore, one of the Preachers, go in through the cooling tunnels beneath to try to sabotage the conversions. Jake, the remaining Preacher, is sent to Lumic’s zeppelin to cut off the signal broadcast. Mickey once again is ignored by the Doctor; but this time he refuses to stay behind and be “the tin dog”. He chooses to go with Jake.

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Mrs. Moore tells the Doctor her real name—Angela Price—and that she has a family. She once worked for Cybus, but saw plans for the upgrades, and fled, hunted by Lumic. She joined the Preachers to fight back. The Doctor reveals that the Cybermen have emotion suppression technology; otherwise they may go insane at what has been done to them. He realizes that they can be defeated by overriding the suppression and releasing their emotions; this requires a code, however. They are then confronted by Cybermen, and nearly escape; but Moore is killed, and the Doctor is apprehended. The Cybermen detect his Time Lord physiology, and take him Cybercontrol to be examined. Pete and Rose are also apprehended; but the Cyberman that captures them is revealed to be Jackie, now converted. She takes them to Cybercontrol.

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Lumic is revealed to be the new Cyber Controller. Meanwhile, Mickey and Jake successfully cut off the transmission, allowing the unconverted humans to escape. Lumic is undeterred; he has factories around the world, and will force conversion on everyone. The Doctor is aware that Mickey is watching by monitor, and makes a monologue that contains clues obvious to Mickey; Mickey takes the hint and breaks into Lumic’s computer, and finds the code that will unlock the emotion suppression. He sends it to Rose’s phone, and the Doctor activates it, destroying all the Cybermen in the area. The factory is damaged in the process, and set afire. The group flees to the roof and up a rope ladder to the zeppelin; but Lumic follows them. The Doctor gives Pete—the last in line—his sonic screwdriver; Pete uses it to break the ropes, sending Lumic falling to his death.

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Later, with the TARDIS temporarily restored, Rose tries to persuade Pete to join them, but he refuses, and rejects her as his daughter. Mickey also chooses to stay. He has found purpose here—there are more Cybermen to be destroyed—and his grandmother is alive as well. Rose no longer needs him, as she has given her heart to the Doctor. The Doctor warns him that they can’t return for him; the hole in the universes must be repaired when they leave. He leaves Rose’s phone with Mickey, for the code in its memory.

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On the original Earth, the TARDIS materializes in Jackie’s apartment, and Rose reunites with her mother. In the alternate universe, Mickey promises Jake that he is not Ricky, and won’t try to be him; but will remember him by fighting in his name. They leave for Paris, where another cyber-factory waits.

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I can’t overstate the importance of this story to the new series. First, it reintroduces the Cybermen to the series, much as Dalek and Bad Wolf did with the Daleks in Series One. These aren’t your father’s Cybermen, though; the original Cybermen came from the planet Mondas (and later Telos), the rogue twin of Earth, as far back as the First Doctor’s The Tenth Planet. Interestingly, we will see later that the Cybus Cybermen, once established in the main universe (or N-Space, to borrow the classic series terminology), will eventually encounter and merge with the Mondasian Cybermen, yielding the version we see in Nightmare in Silver. These Cybermen lack the oft-exploited breathing apparatus of the classic series; their primary weakness is in their emotional suppression. Mondasian Cybermen share this feature (as seen as far back as The Invasion), but it is much more emphasized here. The use of electricity as a literal hand weapon dates back to Tomb of the Cybermen. As well, International Electromatics is a reference to The Invasion, where a company of the same name was used by the Cybermen; it is unclear whether this is the same company, or just a reference for the audience.

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Second, this story sets the groundwork for Rose’s eventual departure. I won’t say too much, as we’re approaching that story soon; but this is not the last we’ve seen of Pete Tyler or his universe. It also sets the groundwork for every Cybermen story for the next several seasons, as all future appearances are either Cybus Cybermen or the hybrid version I mentioned earlier. Interestingly, it’s not actually the first we’ve seen of them in the new series; a Mondasian Cyberman head was seen in Henry Van Statten’s museum in Dalek, and Rose comments on it here.

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This is Mickey’s goodbye story, as he chooses to stay behind. It’s the fulfillment of his character growth from the whiny coward of Rose, to a strong and capable man and—dare I say it?—warrior. When next we see him, he will be an accomplished hero. It’s unfortunate that he was never able to get respect from the Doctor—he certainly deserves it—but this is a good route for him, and a great exit. (It’s also the culmination of the running “Ricky” joke from Series One—turns out he really is Ricky, in a sense.)

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Torchwood gets not one, but two references, implying it exists in Pete’s world as well. That’s odd, as there are no Time Lords, and Torchwood was (in N-Space, anyway) established in response to the Doctor. On the subject of Time Lords, the Doctor states that travel between universes was once possible, but that with the death of the Time Lords, the walls of the universes closed, and now it is mostly impossible. This is also the first story since Black Orchid to feature no extraterrestrial elements other than the Doctor and the TARDIS, given that the Cybermen here originate on Earth. There’s also a reference to The Five Doctors; the Doctor refers to approaching the factory “above, between, below”, which is a reference to the nursery rhyme about the Tomb of Rassilon in that story. The Doctor asks if he has the right to destroy the Cybermen, echoing a similar dilemma with the Daleks in Genesis of the Daleks; there’s a further similarity with that story as well, in that John Lumic very much resembles Davros, with regard to his physical condition and his goals.

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This story was directly inspired by a Big Finish main range story: Spare Parts, #34 in the main range, written by Marc Platt (author of Ghost Light and the novel Lungbarrow). That’s not to say the ideas were stolen, however; Platt was paid a fee for the reuse of his concepts. That story covers the origin of the Mondasian Cybermen in N-Space; and I think it’s worth a look in comparison with this episode. Therefore, my plan is to review that audio drama tomorrow, with an eye toward comparing the two.

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TARDISode 07 shows us an elderly woman, whose face is stolen by a strange energy from her television. In the episode, she will be revealed to be Mrs. Connolly’s mother. The Idiot’s Lantern takes us to London, 1953, the day before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. A brief flashback introduces us to Mr. Magpie, owner of Magpie Electricals, a failing electronic shop that specializes in televisions. Mr. Magpie is attacked by an energy from the television; it seems to be alive.

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The Doctor and Rose, expecting to land in New York for the Ed Sullivan show, instead find themselves in London. They witness a blanket-wrapped person being swept into a car by several men in black. They follow the car, but lose it at an apparent dead end, leaving them bewildered. Meanwhile, Mr. Magpie is seen in his shop, and is unharmed; but the announcer on the screen is speaking to him, saying her time has come.

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The Doctor and Rose pose as royal inspectors, and return to the home of the Connollys, neighbors of the kidnapped person. Mr. Connolly is something of a bully, and verbally assaults the Doctor; the Doctor outmatches him, and forces Mr. Connolly to allow him to see the old woman in the attic—who has no face. They are interrupted when the men in black return and force their way in, stealing the woman away. The Doctor chases them, and this time finds his way into the place where they have gone; inside, there are a large number of faceless people locked in a cage. He is suddenly captured by the men in black, who are police investigators.

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Rose has seen something strange from the Connollys’ television. Mr. Connolly ejects her from the house, but not before she sees the Magpie label on the television. She goes to Mr. Magpie’s shop and confronts him; but he allows her to be captured, and her face stolen, by the thing in the television, which calls itself “the Wire”. It feeds on brainwaves; the face theft is a side effect.

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The inspectors question the Doctor, who turns the interview around and convinces them that he can help. However, Rose is brought in at that time; the Doctor swears to get to the bottom of it. They return to the Connollys’ house, where Mr. Connolly’s son, Tommy, reveals that his grandmother was watching television when her face was stolen. They go to Magpie’s shop, and find him absent. The Doctor finds a bank of televisions, which display the missing faces. Magpie returns, and the Wire appears; it states it was executed by the people of its world, but survived in this energy form. Now, it wants to absorb enough mental energy to reconstitute its body—and the televised coronation will give it the opportunity, courtesy of the altered televisions that Magpie has been selling at discount prices. It tries to absorb the Doctor, Inspector Bishop, and Tommy, but flees when it detects the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver; it realizes he is also an alien, with superior technology. However, it absorbed Bishop before fleeing.

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Magpie transfers the Wire to the television broadcast antenna at Alexandra Palace, so that it can absorb all the coronation viewers. The Doctor hastily assembles a device that can stop it, but he must get there. At the antenna, he climbs its tower, and confronts the Wire; it has already killed Magpie. With Tommy’s help, he traps the wire on a Betamax cassette tape (which is thirty years ahead of its time). With the Wire defeated, its victims are freed and restored.

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The Doctor tells Rose he intends to record over the tape, ending the Wire forever. Meanwhile, Mrs. Connolly has had enough abuse; she reveals that her mother, rather than her husband, owns the house, and kicks him out. However, Rose encourages Tommy to forgive his father and go to him; if the boy can save the world, perhaps he can save his father, too.

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While this story is usually not rated highly—and indeed, it’s not particularly great; I’d call it average at best—it does establish some concepts that will be revisited. The idea of wirelessly absorbing people will be used to greater effect in The Bells of Saint John, where the true villain is the Great Intelligence. Magpie Electricals will long survive its founder, appearing in a great number of stories, such as The Magician’s Apprentice; Before the Flood; The Runaway Bride; Day of the Moon; The Sound of Drums; Voyage of the Damned; The Beast Below; and the audio story Hunters of Earth, as well as The Sarah Jane Adventures. In fact, it becomes something of an inside joke for the crew, as the Magpie label appears in ever more unlikely places.

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We have a secondary villain in Mr. Magpie, though it can be argued he’s more victim than villain. More interestingly, there’s a tertiary villain in Mr. Connolly. While he himself is a rather sad figure, he does give us the prominent “I AM TALKING!” line, which will be used to far greater effect by the Eleventh Doctor in The Pandorica Opens.

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Overall, not a great episode, but not terrible, either. My main complaint is that there’s no logical reason that the faceless people should be restored when the Wire is defeated; it would be akin to having the Absorbaloff from the upcoming (and much-maligned) Love and Monsters regurgitate its victims upon death. Still, it’s a decent story with a fair bit of human interest.

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Next time: Tomorrow, I’ll post a review for Spare Parts (out of order, but relevant). Next week, we’ll look at two of my favorite episodes: The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit; and if there’s time, we’ll check out the aforementioned Love and Monsters! See you there.

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

TARDISode 05

Rise of the Cybermen

TARDISode 06

The Age of Steel

TARDISode 07

The Idiot’s Lantern

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Tin Dogs and Clockwork Robots: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Two, Part Two

I made my last post early; this one is late.  Although I got it written on Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holidays, I wasn’t able to get it posted that day.  My apologies; hopefully we’ll be back on schedule this week.

We’re back, with our new Doctor Who rewatch! Last week, we reviewed the first two episodes of Series Two: New Earth and Tooth and Claw, which took Rose Tyler and the Tenth Doctor into the past and the future, and to another world. Today, we’re looking at School Reunion, which reintroduces some old friends (and also sets up for another spinoff series), and The Girl in the Fireplace, with a new enemy! We’re also looking at the related TARDISodes, mini-episodes which accompany each episode of Series Two. Let’s get started!

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 of two or three episodes each for the sake of length.

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has never seen these episodes!

School Reunion’s TARDISode, #4 in the series, finds Mickey Smith on the internet, where he’s researching strange happenings at a nearby school, Deffry Vale High School. He’s stonewalled by Torchwood’s software at one point (and again during the actual episode), but he finds enough to call Rose and the Doctor, and ask them to investigate. We end with a glimpse of one of the show’s monsters.

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The episode finds Rose and the Doctor already on scene, having infiltrated the school via some time-travel-related shenanigans a few days earlier. The Doctor, in his John Smith persona, is acting as a physics teacher, while Rose is filling in for a lunchroom attendant (and eating an exorbitant number of chips). The Doctor immediately discovers that certain students are exhibiting intelligence and knowledge—especially computational skills—far beyond the level they should have obtained.

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The headmaster, Mr. Finch, introduces the staff—including the Doctor—to a journalist who has been assigned to write a profile about him: one Sarah Jane Smith. The Doctor immediately recognizes her; she has aged since he last saw her, but is still the same to him. She doesn’t recognize him, however. Meanwhile, he discovers that a total of fourteen staff—including the headmaster and seven teachers—were recently replaced, prior to his arrival with Rose. At the same time, a child named Kenny enters the wrong maths classroom, and glimpses a batlike monster…which seems to become one of the teachers.

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Sarah Jane, being Sarah Jane, is here for more than what she says. She breaks into the school that night, unaware that the Doctor, Rose, and Mickey have done the same; the Doctor sends Mickey to investigate a rumor about the maths classroom and its odd computers. They meet, and introductions are made; immediately there is tension between Sarah Jane and Rose. Together, they then discover something horrifying: thirteen batlike creatures, asleep in a classroom. One of them awakens, unseen, and follows them out.

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Rose has discovered there is something sinister about the oil in which the food is being cooked. The Doctor says they will need to return to the TARDIS to analyze it, but Sarah Jane calls him off; she has something that will help. In her car, she reveals another old friend: K9 Mark III, now deactivated. He lived with her for years, but eventually broke down, and she lacked the parts to repair him. The Doctor does so, and K9, now reactivated, determines the oil is Krillitane oil—a byproduct of a biologically-composite race called Krillitanes. The Doctor also talks with Sarah about why he left her behind long ago; in the process, he reveals he is a Time Lord. The lone Krillitane, watching, relays all of this to Finch, who is their leader.

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The next day, they return to the school. The Doctor sends Sarah Jane and Rose to look more closely at the computers, and puts Mickey on sentry duty outside with K9. The Doctor goes to confront Finch. Finch reveals himself to be a Krillitane called Brother Lassar, and admits he has permanently adopted human form, unlike the others. He says that the Doctor will soon join him. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane have an argument over the Doctor, but quickly realize their foolishness, and begin to get along better.

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Lassar and the Krillitanes lock down the school with the children inside, moving to the final phase of their plan. They then devour the remaining human staff. The Doctor finds the computers are all deadlocked sealed. The Krillitanes get the students working on the computers, deciphering a strange formula that the Doctor recognizes as the Skasis Paradigm. If solved, it will grant its user godlike powers over reality, space, and time. Lassar tempts the Doctor, saying that with it he could resurrect the Time Lords. The Doctor is tempted; but Sarah Jane talks him down, and he leads Sarah Jane and Rose to try to escape.

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K9 persuades Mickey to use Sarah Jane’s car to break through the doors and into the building. He and Kenny run to get the other students out, shutting down the program. As the students flee, Mickey and Kenny meet up with Rose, Sarah Jane, the Doctor, and K9 in the cafeteria, where K9 holds off the Krillitanes, but dangerously depletes his power. The others hide in a lab. The Doctor realizes the oil is the key; the Krillitanes have evolved so much that their own oil now harms them. He gets everyone out except K9. K9 volunteers to ignite the oil, but he knows it will be a sacrifice; he will have to be close when it explodes. The Doctor says his goodbyes, calls him a good dog, and leaves. As the Krillitanes and Lassar arrive, K9 shoots the barrel of oil, detonating it and destroying the school, himself, and the Krillitanes.

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Sarah is heartbroken for K9, but she acknowledges his sacrifice. Later, at the TARDIS, the Doctor offers her the chance to travel with him again, but she declines, choosing to find her own life instead. However, Mickey asks to go instead; this time, the Doctor accepts, though Rose is not happy with it. As the TARDIS leaves, Sarah sees something left behind: A brand new K9, with the memories of the old, but updated systems. Overjoyed, she takes him home—after all, they have work ahead of them.

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I will unashamedly say that this is one of my favorite episodes of new Doctor Who. This is mainly because I’m a huge classic series fan, and Sarah Jane and K9 were some of the earliest companions I recall from my childhood; but the episode is good in its own right as well. It was one of the earliest NuWho episodes I saw (though not the first—that honor goes to the next episode), and I’ve been delighted with it ever since. It’s hard to describe the feeling of seeing old favorite characters again after so many years; I felt something similar when the Master returned (albeit in a different body) in Utopia and when the Brigadier (albeit dead, sort of) made a cameo in Death In Heaven).

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This story is littered with references, so I’ll try to be brief. Most of them come from Sarah Jane’s argument with Rose: Mummies appear in Pyramids of Mars; robots from a variety of episodes, but most notably Robot; Daleks from Genesis of the Daleks and Death to the Daleks; anti-matter monsters from Planet of Evil; dinosaurs from Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and the Loch Ness Monster from Terror of the Zygons. Rose counters with ghosts (The Unquiet Dead), Slitheen (Aliens of London/World War Three), the Dalek Emperor (The Parting of the Ways), zombies (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances), the year five billion (The End of the World), and werewolves (Tooth and Claw). The Doctor mentions the year 5000 in connection with K9 (The Invisible Enemy), and the Sycorax ship (The Christmas Invasion). The TARDISode and the episode both show Torchwood software blocks on Mickey’s computer, a reference that will later play into the spinoff series. Sarah Jane makes reference to the car she drove in K9 and Company, the failed spinoff which established how she acquired K9. She hints at adventures that were never seen onscreen; the Doctor also says he has seen Krillitanes before, in a different form. He says he has regenerated a half dozen times since he last saw her (though some spinoff materials contradict this, as does The Five Doctors); this would naturally not include the War Doctor, whose memory he has suppressed. The Skasis Paradigm seems very similar to the Block Transfer Computations used by the Logopolitans; indeed, the techniques the students use to decode it, though executed via computer rather than by hand or verbally, seem very similar to those of the Logopolitans. Finch is aware of the Time Lords, and that the Doctor is the last, but doesn’t seem to know about the war; he still thinks of the Time Lords as peaceful and indolent, as they were before the war. K9 recognizes the Doctor despite his regenerations. There were also several tie-in websites in the real world; both Deffry Vale High School and its fictional surroundings had sites, as well as Mickey’s website, which featured tie-in material in an in-universe style. Most of all, though, this episode sets up for the eventual spinoff, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

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Some great lines: “Oh my god…I’m the tin dog!” from Mickey; this realization prompts him to take a more active role and travel with the Doctor, which will cost him soon. He gets another great line when Sarah Jane and Rose are arguing: “Oh! The Missus and the ex. Every man’s worst nightmare!” The Doctor calls K9 a good dog just before his death, and he replies with Affirmative; moments later, Finch calls him a bad dog, and he gives the same reply, smugly, I might add. Sarah Jane’s farewell speech is also an emotional moment; she tells K9 that the Doctor replaced him with a new model, and then reflects, “He does that”. The Doctor tells her earlier in the episode that the reason he left her is because humans age and die, but he never does, and he can’t watch that over and over. It’s a harsh and well-done line, but a terrible reason.

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The Girl in the Fireplace picks up shortly thereafter; Mickey comments that this is his first time traveling with the Doctor. It is the 51st Century, and the TARDIS has landed aboard a heavily-modified spaceship; but no crew are to be found. They quickly find a curious anomaly: an 18th-century French fireplace, leading…somewhere off the ship. A child appears on the other side; her name is Reinette, and she says the year is 1727, in Paris. She is surprised to see the Doctor, and more surprised when—weeks later from her perspective, but only minutes later from his—he comes through and awakens her. He finds a menacing, clockwork android under her bed; it wants to kill her, but says she is not complete yet. He tricks it into returning to the ship, then freezes it with a fire extinguisher. It soon recovers and teleports away.

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The Doctor, Rose, and Mickey begin to investigate, with the Doctor periodically returning through the fireplace. Time is moving on the other side, but very quickly, covering years in what amounts to minutes on the ship; each time, he finds that she has aged by a number of years, and is now a young woman. He learns, too, that she is not just any woman; she is Reinette Poisson, the future Madame de Pompadour, future mistress of King Louis XV and uncrowned queen of France. She is also falling for him. To her view, she has known him all her life.

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He finds that in addition to the fireplace, which allows time to progress for monitoring of Reinette’s life, there are various “time windows” on the ship, leading to different points in her life. When the droids find the correct one, they will come for her. Rose and Mickey find that the ship is riddled with human organs, serving as replacement parts. The Doctor deduces that something happened to the ship and crew; the droids are repair droids for the ship, who butchered the crew after the accident to use them as organic spare parts. They lack only one part: a brain for use as a processor. For this, they want Reinette…but why her? And why must she be a certain age?

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That age is 37. The group finds a window leading to that moment; but so do the droids, who move in to claim Reinette. The Doctor sends Rose through another window, five years earlier, to warn her; but she follows Rose back onto the ship, and is duly alarmed by what she sees and hears. She chooses to return and wait. Meanwhile the Doctor finds that the ship is 37 years old, hence the correlation in age—but still, why Reinette?

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He finds the window to the correct time closed. He can break through, but doing so will break the connection to the ship for all the windows, and will trap him there. And, because he is already part of events, he can’t use the TARDIS to infiltrate the time stream. He chooses to go anyway, using a horse that wandered aboard ship to break through, interrupting a party at which the droids are attacking. He tells them they are trapped as well, and have failed; with no purpose left to them, they deactivate.

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Later, while talking with Reinette, he admits that he chose to be stranded so as to save her. Then, she reveals that she has kept the fireplace from her childhood, and transported it to the palace in one piece. Moving it broke its link to the ship, prior to his destruction of the windows…he is able to reactivate it and return. Before he goes, he offers to take Reinette with him, and she accepts.

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He returns minutes later…but it is too late. From Reinette’s perspective, five years have passed…but history records that she died of an illness at age 42. He misses her funeral procession by five minutes. She left him a letter, though, saying goodbye, but pleading for him to return while there is time. He cannot do so.

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On the TARDIS, he severs the link between times, closing the fireplace. As the TARDIS dematerializes, we see what the Doctor never knew: a portrait of Reinette on the ship’s wall, and outside, the name “SS Madame de Pompadour” on the hull. This is why the droids considered Reinette to be the same as them; the ship was named for her.

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The TARDISode gives us a flashback to the event that damaged the ship, and shows the droids beginning to cannibalize the crew.

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This episode is the first NuWho episode I saw, though I missed the ending at the time (I was running late for something). It was great then, and I still think it’s great now, although it’s a bit of a disaster for internal continuity (seriously: That fireplace portal is absolutely inconsistent regarding the passage of time! Two minutes at the beginning equate to a few months of Reinette’s life, but at the end, an equal time equates to about five years. Also it synchronizes with Reinette’s flow of time when he is speaking through it, but only then. This sort of thing happens continually.)

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This episode is the first historical for the Tenth Doctor, although perhaps that’s overstating it, given its split time periods. It does, however, involve an actual historical character, in Madame de Pompadour, which adds some credibility. It also plays havoc with the idea that the Doctor can’t go back and change events he is part of; he says he can’t take the TARDIS back to France, but there seems to be no reason for that to be true. He can’t go back and change things already established further back in Reinette’s past, certainly, but he should be able to go to the moment of the party at the end, given that he hasn’t been there or done anything to contradict its events. Fortunately, this aspect of the “part of events” rule seems to have been discarded in later episodes. Clearly this is an episode that is better for the sake of story, but demands that you not look too deeply into the technobabble.

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Reinette’s story is a sad one; although the Doctor saves her, he loses her in the end, and more to the point, she loses him. It’s our first indication that the Tenth Doctor is far from perfect, and indeed, makes mistakes quite well, a theme that we will see come to a head in The Waters of Mars a few series down the road. Indeed, sometimes I think his entire run is setting up for that story, in small ways; in the last episode, we had him drawing a distinction between himself and humanity for Sarah Jane, setting up for his eventual “Time Lord Victorious” moment. Here as well, he calls himself “the lord of time”; it’s tongue-in-cheek now, but foreshadowing worse things to come. This is a very fallible Doctor we are dealing with.

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We are lacking in references here, perhaps making up for the glut of them in School Reunion; but Rose does reference the TARDIS translation circuits, last discussed in The Christmas Invasion, and calls the Doctor the Oncoming Storm (The Parting of the Ways). The Doctor mentions using Zeus plugs as castanets; these items appeared in The Hand of Fear, incidentally the final Sarah Jane episode of the classic series (with the exception of The Five Doctors). He mentions Cleopatra, but his encounters with her have been offscreen thus far.

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Overall, both episodes are good, and I don’t have many complaints other than the fireplace’s issues. The Clockwork droids will appear again in slightly different form in Deep Breath; the Twelfth Doctor clearly connects them to this incident. Sarah Jane and K9, as well, will soon have a spinoff, and will appear again here in crossover format. These are well worth your time.

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Next time: A two-parter gives us the return of the Cybermen in Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel; and if we make it there, we’ll also cover The Idiot’s Lantern! See you there.

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

School Reunion

TARDISode 3

The Girl in the Fireplace

TARDISode 4

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