Novel Review: Engines of War

We’re back, with another Doctor Who novel review! This week, I’m taking a brief break from the New Adventures series for a special reason. On Thursday, I’ll begin reviewing the first set of War Doctor audio dramas, Only the Monstrous; I had been planning this for a few months, but with the recent death of Sir John Hurt, it becomes suddenly and unfortunately timely. In conjunction with that plan, I want to take a look today at the first War Doctor story to be released after The Day of the Doctor: George Mann’s novel, Engines of War, which sets the tone for the audios and most War Doctor stories to come. Next week, we’ll return to the New Adventures; for now, let’s get started!

**Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not read this novel!  This novel is a fairly recent addition to the Doctor Who universe, so read at your own risk!**


It is late in the Great Time War.  For more than a century of personal time, the Time Lord once known as the Doctor has thrown himself into the war, destroying the Daleks at every turn—and in the process, losing something of the man he once was.  Now, he leads a fleet of Battle TARDISes into combat against the Daleks near a temporal anomaly called the Tantalus Eye—and narrowly escapes as the fleet is destroyed.

The Doctor (and though he doesn’t want to be called that, let’s face it, we have to call him SOMETHING) crashes on a human colony world near the Eye, called Moldox.  His arrival saves the life of a young freedom fighter named Cinder, but not in time to save her partner, Finch—Cinder is forced to watch as a new type of Dalek destroys him.  But something isn’t right; once he is gone, so are her memories of him.

Cinder goes with the Doctor to the local base of the Daleks; she is reluctant at first, but finds him compelling, for reasons she can only sense, not explain.  Once there, they find that the Daleks have created a new weapon: a version of a de-mat gun, which removes its target completely from the timeline as if it never existed.  As well, the Daleks plan to seed progenitors of this modified Dalek paradigm throughout history, creating legions of Daleks with this capability.  And there’s worse to come:  The Tantalus Eye is no ordinary structure; rather, it’s a fold in spacetime that creates a rupture, leaking temporal radiation into the area.  The Daleks have used that radiation to develop their weapons; and now, they are creating a colossal version at the eye, which will eliminate an entire planet—and they have aimed it at Gallifrey.  In one stroke, they can win the war forever, by removing Gallifrey from history.


The Doctor and Cinder manage to destroy part of the base, freeing many human captives.  They then leave in the TARDIS, heading for Gallifrey.  Meanwhile, the Eternity Circle—the leaders of the Daleks near the Eye—declare that this setback is irrelevant; their plans are ready to be activated.

On Gallifrey, the Doctor and Cinder are met by the Castellan and a Time Lord politician named Karlax, with whom the Doctor does not get along.  They meet with the Lord President Rassilon in the War Room, and the Doctor tells of his discovery.  Rassilon calls a meeting of the High Council, and determines to deploy a superweapon from the Omega Arsenal: The Tear of Isha, a stellar manipulator.  If deployed, it will close the Tantalus Eye forever, but it will also destroy the dozen human-occupied worlds in the vicinity.  Over the Doctor’s objections, the plan is approved.

Rassilon mentions consulting a “possibility engine”, which gets the Doctor’s attention.  Rassilon transmats away; the Doctor follows, leaving Cinder behind.  He finds himself in the Death Zone, outside Rassilon’s former tomb.  Inside, he learns the nature of the possibility engine:  His old mentor Borusa, now rescued from entombment, has been retro-engineered into a being in a state of constant regenerative flux.  His mind is opened to the vortex, allowing him to see all possible futures, and choose the best among them.  Borusa declares that the Tear will work, but that the humans cannot be saved.  Rassilon is undeterred by this.

Back in the Citadel, Cinder is captured by Karlax, and with the unwilling help of the Castellan, he subjects her to a mind probe, seeking to confirm the Doctor’s claims.  He succeeds, but injures her in the process, and hides her in a hidden room behind the council chamber.  When the Doctor returns and cannot find her, he visits the council in a rage, accusing Karlax of harming her; the Castellan caves in and reveals her presence.  The Doctor attacks Karlax, but is stopped by Rassilon; he declares he will stop the Time Lords from deploying the Tear of Isha, as it will make them no better than the Daleks if they kill billions of humans.  Rassilon declares him a traitor and has him imprisoned with Cinder.


It is Cinder who helps them escape; the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver won’t work on the cell lock, but Cinder’s low-tech lockpicking skills will—another testament to Time Lord arrogance.  They elude the guards and escape to the TARDIS, which has been sent to be scrapped.  It can’t escape Gallifrey, as the security protocols have been changed; but the Castellan, knowing the Doctor to be right, relents and allows them to leave, knowing he will be punished and possibly killed.  Karlax meets Rassilon at the possibility engine and finds that the path ahead is no longer clear; the Doctor’s involvement introduces a random factor.  Rassilon sends Karlax, with the help of the Celestial Intervention Agency, to kill the Doctor.

In the vortex, the Doctor finds several tracking devices and destroys them, but misses one planted on Cinder.  Karlax tracks them there, and attacks them with five Battle TARDISes; but they are ambushed by Dalek stealth ships and destroyed.  The Doctor is able to rescue Karlax, who is about to regenerate; he locks him in the Zero Room.  He then infiltrates the Time Lord fleet that is en route to deploy the Tear of Isha into the Eye.  He manages to land his TARDIS inside that of the leader, Partheus; after a quick fight, he takes control of Partheus’s TARDIS and pilots it to a star near the end of the universe, and launches the Tear into it, creating a black hole.  He releases Partheus, and leaves in his own TARDIS—but still has to defeat the Daleks somehow.

The Doctor and Cinder land in the Death Zone.  There they meet several of what Cinder calls “Interstitials”—Time Lords who represent Rassilon’s earlier experiments in creating a possibility engine.  They, like Borusa, are in constant flux, seeing multiple futures.  With their help, the Doctor liberates Borusa from the tomb, but agrees to let him die if he will help defeat the Daleks.  Cinder also sees a possible omen of her own death.


With Borusa aboard, they return to the Eye, and surrender to the Daleks.  Unknown to Cinder, the Doctor unlocks the Zero Room before leaving the TARDIS.  The Daleks take the Doctor and Cinder to the Eternity Circle.  The Daleks there reveal that they have had a plan on standby for the Doctor, whom they call the Predator:  they will lobotomize him, removing his memories and emotions, and make a Dalek of him, creating a more deadly version of the Dalek.  Before they can act, however, the TARDIS materializes around them…piloted by the newly-regenerated Karlax, who is still tracking Cinder.  He attempts to shoot the Doctor, but Cinder jumps in front of the blast, thus bringing about her death as she had foreseen.  The Doctor dematerializes the TARDIS without Karlax, leaving him to the Daleks, who kill him.

As Cinder dies, the Doctor realizes he can save her with the possibility engine.  He flies the TARDIS into the Eye, risking destruction…but he realizes that if he saves Cinder, he will miss his chance to save the billions on the worlds around the Eye.  He know it would invalidate her sacrifice, as well as make him no better than the Daleks or the Time Lords.  He asks Borusa, who is now supercharged by the radiation from the Eye, to enforce a future in which the Daleks do not control the Tantalus Eye or its environs, and in which the new weapons and new paradigm cease to exist.  Borusa releases the power of the Eye, and wipes all the local Daleks out of existence.  The release wipes out Borusa as well.

The Doctor returns to Moldox, and buries Cinder with the remains of her family, whom the Daleks killed long ago.  Standing at her grave, he makes a promise to end the War, encapsulated in two simple words:  “No more.”


It isn’t obvious until the ending, but this story is set very near the end of the War.  How near, exactly, we can’t tell; but knowing the Doctor, it won’t take him long to act on his new resolve to end the war.  I personally like to think that, from his perspective, this story ends just minutes before his actions at the fall of Arcadia (*The Day of the Doctor*); but from Gallifrey’s perspective, it can’t be immediately after, as there is no indication that the Daleks are in a position to attack Gallifrey in the manner we see in that episode.  Of course, it’s a time travel show; the Doctor can skip around as he sees fit.  I do think it’s curious that we never see the General here, or in any of the War Doctor audios I’ve heard so far; he seems to be a pivotal figure on the War Council, but he’s strangely absent.  It’s a pity; I like his character.

More than anything else, this story is an examination of why the War Doctor won’t travel with a companion.  The bottom line is that he fears losing them; he makes vague reference to having lost other companions and friends, and he directly says he can’t bear to let it happen again.  Indeed, it’s Cinder’s death that catalyzes his determination to end the War.  Cinder is truly a case of “right person, right place, right time”; beyond just simply being a companion, her personality sparks the Doctor’s own long-buried persona, and makes him want to, if not BE the Doctor again, at least be LIKE the Doctor again.  That aspect of his internal struggle—that is, his insistence that he can no longer be the Doctor—is actually downplayed here; we’re already at the end of it, and most of the internal debate is long past.  We’ll get much more of it in the audios (where he frequently bellows at anyone who dares to call him the Doctor—there’s none of that here).  Here, that part of him is just a means to an end—it gets him to the point of deciding to end the War.  In the meantime, he focuses more on the companion issue.  Although his time with Cinder is short—less than a full day, relatively speaking—he seems to care for her a great deal, and mourns her death as much as any other lost companion.

This story does a good job of tying in to various past stories.  It’s not just fanservice; it’s all well done.  The core of the Time War is that time itself is manipulated; and it makes perfect sense, then, that many incidents from the Doctor’s life would be mixed together here in a way that seems almost random.  For once, that’s not a flaw, but a feature—it makes sense in context, given the nature of the War.  Some examples:  The Doctor uses his John Smith alias, first seen in *The Wheel in Space*.  He refers to *Genesis of the Daleks*, which the Daleks themselves here state to be the beginning of the war—a theory I’ve always held, but had never seen confirmed in-universe.  The Doctor mentions searching for the Master, who has fled the War (*Utopia*).  The Doctor refers to his past as Lord President (*The Invasion of Time, The Five Doctors*).  Rassilon wears a gauntlet that doubles as a de-mat gun (*The End of Time*); de-mat guns were first seen in *The Invasion of Time*.  The Daleks use glass casings as incubators (*Revelation of the Daleks*).  Borusa is seen (*The Five Doctors*); other stories have given contradictory resolutions for him.  The Moment is mentioned (*The Day of the Doctor*).  The Daleks mention various names for the Doctor, most notably the Predator, first mentioned in *Asylum of the Daleks*; oddly, “The Oncoming Storm” is not used here.  Various TARDIS rooms glimpsed here have featured in other stories.  The Cloister Bell has been seen many times, notably in *Logopolis* and *Castrovalva*.  Skaro Degradations, mentioned in *The End of Time*, appear here; they are retro-engineered versions of Daleks with other capabilities.  Mind probes first appeared in *Frontier in Space*.  Bowships are mentioned by Rassilon; they first were mentioned in *State of Decay*, in use against the Great Vampires.  One of  the cave paintings made by the Interstitials shows the War Doctor and the Moment’s Bad Wolf interface, standing over the Moment’s flower-like button.  Partheus fears a time ram between two TARDISes (*The Time Monster*).  The Zero Room was introduced in *Castrovalva*.  Temporal torpedoes were first seen in the audio story *Neverland*.


Cinder is perhaps the most interesting character here, and much of the story is told from her perspective (of course, this changes at her death).  She strikes me as a bit of a cross between Ace McShane and Amy Pond (and not just with regard to her red hair).  She brings Ace’s resourcefulness, devotion to the Doctor, and readiness for action, and combines it with Amy’s variable temper, quick wit, and tendency to leap before looking.  Although I understand why her death is integral to the story, it’s a shame we won’t get more from her; she’s quite good as a companion, and I’d like to have seen her grow a bit more.  The other supporting characters aren’t as good; Rassilon is pure conniving evil, of course, but the other Time Lords are very much stock characters.  Borusa is nothing new, although his real personality is suppressed here; the other Interstitials are interesting, but don’t speak, and don’t get much screen time.

It will be interesting to see how this story relates to the War Doctor audios.  Series One of the audios, as we will see, will focus much more on the Doctor’s identity, and on how he feels he is no longer worthy to be called the Doctor.  It’s a constant struggle for him; he can’t change who he is, no matter how much he feels he must.  He believes himself a monster, but a necessary one.  We’ll also see some parallels between Cinder and his would-be companion in that series, Rejoice.


Next time:  We’ll return to the VNAs in the novel review series; but as well, in the audio reviews, we’ll look at War Doctor Series One, *Only the Monstrous*!  See you there.

Engines of War may be purchased from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Book Depository, Audible, and many other retailers, in print, ebook, and audiobook formats.

The Past is the Present: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Twenty

It’s been a hectic few weeks behind the scenes, but today, we’re back, with our Classic Doctor Who rewatch, season twenty! Let’s get started!

Omega, looking less than his best today.

I should mention at the outset that this is an anniversary season—twenty years, to be precise—and thus it’s a little different. This season is filled with appearances by villains and other references from the past seasons and incarnations of the Doctor, culminating with the very first official anniversary special, The Five Doctors. (The Three Doctors, while definitely an anniversary story, was technically not a special; it was a normal part of its season.) In our season opener, Arc of Infinity, it’s the villain and former Time Lord Omega, last seen in The Three Doctors—and once presumed dead. Here he returns, in a plan to retake our universe and punish the Time Lords—and he needs the Doctor to do it.

Welcome back, Tegan...were you gone?

Welcome back, Tegan…were you gone?

The plan is simple, but difficult. Omega wants to cross back into our universe, but as he remains in an antimatter state, he needs the body and biodata of a Time Lord to do so. In vengeance for his previous defeat, he chooses the Doctor as his target; but it quickly becomes clear that someone high in the Gallifreyan hierarchy is also involved, as only a Councilor can access the Matrix to retrieve the biodata. That someone, in the end, proves to be Councilor Hedin, who has been taken in by hero-worship of Omega, and wants to restore him, not believing the danger he represents. In the meantime, the High Council’s solution is simple and draconian: They will execute the Doctor. Without him, Omega cannot cross over.

I feel like I should know that face...

I feel like I should know that face…

By sheer coincidence—or perhaps not, given that Earth was the setting for The Three Doctors—Omega also has made contact with Earth in 1983 Amsterdam, and has hidden his (antimatter?!) TARDIS there. How he obtained such a TARDIS is never known, but it is clearly a more advanced model than the Doctor’s Type 40. Tegan Jovanka, having recently left the TARDIS and lost her job, stumbles into the situation and is captured by Omega for use as bait. In this manner she eventually rejoins the TARDIS crew. Omega is returned to his own universe, and the Doctor is permitted to go on his way.

Borusa: Man of Way Too Many Faces

Borusa: Man of Way Too Many Faces

Some observations: Borusa has regenerated again—he seems to go through them faster than the Doctor!—and has been named Lord President in the Doctor’s absence. There are also a new Castellan and a new Chancellery Guard Commander (played by a pre-Doctor Colin Baker!), replacing Andred. Neither Andred nor Leela are seen, though it is mentioned that they have married. Gallifrey seems to have relaxed its no-aliens policy, which I like to attribute to Leela. The High Council is considerably smaller in this era than it will be seen to be during the Time War (The End of Time); however it may be that, like the Senate and House in America, not every member must be present to be in session. The Doctor says to Maxil, “If I’m to die, I want to prepare myself mentally. For that I need to be alone.” This bit of dialogue could be taken as distant foreshadowing of the concept of a confession dial. And last, Peter Davison joins Hartnell, Troughton, and Baker in the tradition of playing both the Doctor and a villain in the same episode; he plays Omega’s short-lived form after transference, which shares the Doctor’s biodata.

Let's go in the snake-headed cavern. What could possibly go wrong?

Let’s go in the snake-headed cavern. What could possibly go wrong?

Snakedance takes us to the planet Manussa in the year 3426, though it takes some mental gymnastics to work out evidence that the date is in Earth years; the planet is a former Earth colony, but with a convoluted history of its own, with two separate empires in its past. One of those empires is the Sumaran Empire, ruled by another past enemy: the Mara. That being exerts its influence over Tegan here, causing her to pilot the TARDIS to Manussa, and then taking control of her to bring itself back to the corporeal world. On Deva Loka, it seemed to lack the strength to control more than one person; here it suffers no such restriction, and quickly spreads its influence. It cannot be beaten with mirrors this time, and must be destroyed by the Doctor, who requires the aid of an old mystic named Dojjen.

The Mara returns!

The Mara returns!

The Doctor’s behavior here is uncharacteristically frantic and excitable; it’s very similar to the Eleventh Doctor. At one point he’s stuck in a cell; too bad he doesn’t have some kind of sonic device to use as a lockpick…nah, that’s just crazy talk. (Never thought I’d get to use THAT joke again. Even Nyssa jokes about it!) Having rejoined the TARDIS, Tegan shares a room with Nyssa, which is odd given the TARDIS’s internal volume; they seem to just like the company. Overall this story is well-written, and along with its prequel Kinda, it has traditionally been well-liked and enjoyed high ratings. It’s not my personal favorite Fifth Doctor story (after some thought, that would probably be The Visitation), but it’s high on the list.

Welcome back, Brigadier!

Welcome back, Brigadier!

Mawdryn Undead takes us back to Earth, and brings back a familiar face: Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. With that reference, though, the serial touches off the infamous UNIT dating controversy. To put it briefly—and I won’t go into all the details here—if the dates given in this serial are accurate, then none of the previously-given chronology for the UNIT stories (and by extension, all the way back to The Abominable Snowmen) can add up properly. We could easily have an entire post about this controversy; therefore I’ll just give the dates as noted in the story, and I’ll say that I just simply consider them incorrect (specifically, too early by several years). I take the vast majority of UNIT stories to be roughly contemporary with their broadcast dates, which this serial would not allow. To me, discarding the dates here is the easiest and simplest solution.

Turlough and the Black Guardian

Turlough and the Black Guardian

The story begins in 1983; its flashback scenes are set in 1977. It’s the beginning of the Black Guardian Trilogy, which sees the return of that villain, who wants to fulfill his long-ago promise to destroy the Doctor for his defeat in the Key to Time incident. The Black Guardian enlists the aid of a teenage schoolboy named Vislor Turlough, who has a secret of his own: he’s not from Earth. His true origin will not be revealed until next season. Turlough happens to be a student at Brendon Public School, where the now-retired Brigadier teaches mathematics. In exchange for a promise of freedom from Earth, Turlough willingly helps the Black Guardian in this and the next two stories, but balks at killing the Doctor; he’s not evil, just young and desperate. The Brigadier can’t remember his previous involvement with the Doctor at first; he believes this to be the result of a nervous breakdown in 1977, but in reality, it’s the Blinovitch Limitation Effect. Put another way, his past and present selves encounter each other, and upon physical contact, they short out the time differential between them; the resultant discharge of energy temporarily affects his memory. He is eventually set right by the Doctor.

I hate to be THAT GUY, Mawdryn, but your brain is showing.

I hate to be THAT GUY, Mawdryn, but your brain is showing.

The subplot from which the serial takes is title is that of Mawdryn, a scientist of a race which attempted to steal regeneration technology from the Time Lords. It backfired miserably, leaving him and his fellow scientists constantly dying, but never dead. They, too aren’t evil, only pitiable; they want the Doctor to willingly give up his regeneration energy—all his remaining lives, in the first hint that regeneration energy is even a thing—to allow them to die. When his companions are affected, he agrees to do so; but the Brigadiers’ discharge of temporal energy at the right moment powers Mawdryn’s machine and saves him the trouble. Afterward, Turlough joins the crew.

A simple schoolboy problem gone catastrophically wrong.

A simple schoolboy problem gone catastrophically wrong.

I don’t often talk about behind-the scenes situations, but in this story, the production team inteneded for Ian Chesterton to make an appearance. William Russell proved unavailable, unfortunately; however, we got the Brigadier instead, so I am not complaining. But, what a missed opportunity! Ian has long been one of my favorite companions.

I don't even know what this thing is. It was a weird and dull story.

I don’t even know what this thing is. It was a weird and dull story.

Part two of the Black Guardian Trilogy, Terminus, takes us to the 35th century and the station of Terminus, parked at the approximate center of the universe. The TARDIS is sent there via sabotage by Turlough, who is still under the power of the Black Guardian. Terminus is allegedly a hospital facility for the sufferers of Lazar’s Disease, which has plagued the known universe. However, secretly it kills the sufferers. It used to have the ability to travel in time; it inadvertently created the universe when it traveled back too far and a hydrogen engine exploded, triggering the Big Bang. Tragically, that is NOT the story at hand here, and is only tangentially relevant; the Doctor must prevent a second such explosion which would destroy the universe. (The Doctor himself will be responsible for a “reboot” of the Big Bang in The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang.)

Not sure if they're reacting to Nyssa's exit, or to this dry story.

Not sure if they’re reacting to Nyssa’s exit, or to this dry story.

The Guardian again fails to kill the Doctor, and grows more impatient with Turlough. Nyssa opts to leave the TARDIS here; she is first infected with Lazar’s Disease, then cured, and subsequently she chooses to stay behind and help the other sufferers. The Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough travel on without her.

A sailing ship. In space. It's gonna be one of those stories, folks.

A sailing ship. In space. It’s gonna be one of those stories, folks.

Enlightenment wraps up the Black Guardian Trilogy, and sees the reappearance of the White Guardian for the first time since The Ribos Operation. It returns us to the Sol system, but not to Earth; rather it takes place on a collection of anachronistic ships in space, which are piloted by the Eternals. These beings are immortal, incorporeal (except by choice) and above mortal beings, but are not on the level of gods; they require a living being in order to think for themselves. In this, their only televised appearance, they race through the solar system in search of Enlightenment—true knowledge—which is guarded by the Black and White Guardians. One of them—Wrack, captain of the Buccaneer—is in league with the Black Guardian to cheat and win the race; Wrack will gain ultimate power, and the Black Guardian gains a final opportunity to destroy the Doctor. The tables are turned on him when the Doctor causes the death of Wrack, and Turlough uses the gem of enlightenment to destroy the Black Guardian (temporarily—as the White Guardian points out, he must always return).

The Guardians, watching over the cosmic egg cup--I mean, Enlightenment.

The Guardians, watching over the cosmic egg cup–I mean, Enlightenment.

To me this serial was the low point of the season, and I didn’t care for it. However, it sees Turlough, now free of the Black Guardian, join the TARDIS crew in truth, though he still has his own secrets. It adequately wraps up the Black Guardian arc, but felt flat as a story.

The Master and Kamelion.

The Master and Kamelion.

The King’s Demons is the true season finale, as the following story is a special which was released much later. It’s a historical, dealing with the signing of the Magna Carta, which happens offscreen. It sees the return of the Master, who brings with him a new companion, the robot Kamelion. Kamelion has the ability to impersonate anyone; the Master intends to impersonate King John and see him discredited, therefore preventing the signing, which will weaken human history. Okay, it’s kind of a weak plot for the Master. At any rate, Kamelion also has the weakness of being controllable by anyone with sufficient telepathic strength. As a result, at the end, he is freed by the Doctor and joins the crew; but he will only appear once more, spending the rest of his time hiding in the TARDIS to prevent being taken captive again.

En garde!

En garde!

The Doctor again shows off his swordsmanship, following in the footsteps of the Third and Fourth Doctors; while no other classic Doctor will do so, the Tenth Doctor will revive the tradition in The Christmas Invasion. The fight against the disguised Master was completed without stuntmen; Peter Davison and Anthony Ainley did all the sparring themselves. Again, the Master’s identity is concealed with a double anagram; the character is called “Sir Gilles Estram”, an anagram for Master, while the actor was credited as “James Stoker”, an anagram for “Master’s Joke”.

"Hey, Doctor." "Yeah?" "You think they'll figure out my identity this time?" "Not a chance, Estram, not a chance."

“Hey, Doctor.” “Yeah?” “You think they’ll figure out my identity this time?” “Not a chance, Estram, not a chance.”

This is an odd choice for season finale. In addition to being a fairly weak (but enjoyable) story for the Master, it’s also a two-parter, the only one of the season. On the other hand, part one is the 600th episode of the series; and it’s possible it may have been planned with the knowledge that there would be a special before next season.

That's a wax figure of Tom Baker in the background.

That’s a wax figure of Tom Baker in the background.

For the twentieth anniversary special, we return to Gallifrey for The Five Doctors. It truly is an anniversary special, being broadcast (at least, in America, though oddly not in the UK) on 11/23/83, twenty years to the day after the show’s premiere. (British viewers would have to wait two days for their broadcast.) It’s also the first Children in Need fundraising special for Doctor Who, though the revived series has greatly expanded this tradition. Though it’s called The Five Doctors, in fact only four appeared in new footage; Tom Baker declined to appear so soon after the end of his tenure, a decision he has since stated he regrets. Fortunately, footage from the unused Shada was present, and reworked to give him a bit of coverage in which he and Romana II were caught in a time eddy, much as the First Doctor was in The Three Doctors. Also, sadly, William Hartnell had since passed away, and therefore his part was played by lookalike Richard Hurndall (who, unfortunately, has also died in the intervening years). A number of companions appear as well: Susan (now visibly older), Sarah Jane, Romana II, Tegan, Turlough, K9 Mark III (never before seen on the show, but seen in the failed pilot for K9 and Company) and the Brigadier, as well as (in illusionary form) Jamie, Zoe, Mike Yates, and Liz Shaw. K9’s appearance sets the stage for his appearance in NuWho’s School Reunion. The Third Doctor and Second Doctor appear to be snatched from near the end of their lives; the Second Doctor is visiting a UNIT reunion and reminiscing with the Brigadier, and the Third Doctor knows Sarah Jane and is somehow aware of the Fourth Doctor despite never having met him. All of the above characters are collected by the Time Scoop and taken to the Death Zone on Gallifrey, a relic of Gallifrey’s bloodthirsty past, which contains the tomb of Time Lord founder Rassilon.

The Master, summoned!

The Master, summoned! (Could not find a clearer picture.  He is strangely absent from most of the pictures I found for this serial.)

The High Council summons the Master to rescue the Doctor, and promises him a new regeneration cycle as a reward. This is the first indication that they can grant such cycles. He takes them quite seriously, but most likely does not receive the regenerations here, although we know he will receive such a cycle in the Time War. It’s also an early indication that the Master’s relationship with the Doctor is deep and complex; he muses to the Council that “a cosmos without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about.” He is instrumental in helping the Doctor, but in typical Master fashion—that is, through trickery and deception—and he escapes at the end. For once, he’s NOT the villain.

Rassilon! The man, the myth, the legend, the corpse!

Rassilon! The man, the myth, the legend, the corpse!

The Villain, as it turns out, is Borusa. Nearing the end of his life, he seeks immortality, which it is said that Rassilon discovered. He uses the Doctor’s various lives to clear the way to Rassilon’s Tower and tomb, and there encounters the mind of the fabled Time Lord himself; however, it proves to have all been a trap, when he accepts immortality only to find himself a living relief carved on Rassilon’s sarcophagus. Immortality, it seems, is too dangerous for anyone. The Doctor—in all his forms—quickly declines immortality, and leaves via the time scoop (though an unused ending would have had them all, with their companions, crowding into the TARDIS—I would have liked to see that!). Meanwhile, the Fifth Doctor becomes Lord President by default—and nimbly frees himself from the office, going on the run from his people once again. “After all, that’s how it all started.”

Things I enjoyed this season: Snakedance was a pleasure to watch, though it required a lot of attention. (I’m watching these serials in between tasks at work, so sometimes that is a challenge.) Tegan makes a wonderfully haughty villain, given that her usual personality alternates between mousy and whiny. Mwdryn Undead was great as well, and it was wonderful to see the Brigadier again. The dating of the story may have been clumsy, but the execution was great; any story that directly relies on time travel has the potential to be unworkable, but this one worked out well. I didn’t care for the rest of the Black Guardian Trilogy; a dozen times I was thinking “oh come on, the Doctor MUST know what Turlough is doing by now, even Tegan sees it!” The King’s Demons was a lot of fun, and while I’ve complained a bit that it’s not a very worthy plot for the Master, it was also nice to see something on a smaller scale. I liked Kamelion, and think the character deserves more development than he gets; it’s unfortunate that the prop was so difficult to use, limiting his appearances. And The Five Doctors was great all around. I suppose I may be easy to please, but I’ve enjoyed every multi-doctor story I’ve ever encountered, and this was no exception. Of course I wish that Tom Baker had appeared; but I think they covered it well, and not clumsily. The interaction between the various Doctors and their mismatched companions was something I would love to see more of (attention BBC: Please write a thirteen-Doctor story while these people are still alive! Get on it!).

Next season: Deaths everywhere, and the Doctor too! See you there.

All episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; Links are Below

Arc of Infinity


Mawdryn Undead (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)



The Kings Demons

The Five Doctors