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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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




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!


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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!


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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




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!


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!


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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