End of the Line: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Four, Part Five

We’re back, with our new Doctor Who rewatch! Today we wrap up series four with the two-part series finale, The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End. It’s not quite goodbye to the Tenth Doctor yet…but we’re getting close. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not seen these episodes!

Stolen Earth 1

The Stolen Earth: After the “Bad Wolf” scene at the end of the previous episode, the Doctor and Donna rush home to Earth, to find that it is a normal Saturday.  Yet, if Donna met Rose, that means the walls of the universe are breaking down.  They return to the TARDIS, where the Doctor’s severed hand is bubbling in its jar; outside, things begin to shake.  The TARDIS shakes violently, and the Doctor finds they are in space—but the TARDIS didn’t move; the Earth did.  It’s missing, like several planets before it.

On the other side of the universe, the Earth is intact, but rattled.  At UNIT, Martha Jones learns that the sky has changed.  In Cardiff, Torchwood Three—Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper, and Ianto Jones—also notice the strange sky.  At Bannerman Road, Sarah Jane Smith checks on her son Luke, and finds it is dark outside; her computer, Mr. Smith, refers her outside for a better look.   Wilfred Mott and Donna Noble see it outside their home as well; all parties have now seen the impossible in the sky.  And on a street in London, Rose Tyler materializes, carrying a large gun.  She looks up to see other worlds looming large in the sky—twenty-six of them, to be precise.

Donna fears for her family’s lives, and the Doctor can’t reassure her.  Instead, he seeks help from the Shadow Proclamation.

Mr. Smith detects two hundred ships heading for Earth.  UNIT receives notice of a Code Red Emergency; and Martha can’t reach the Doctor by phone, as the signal is being blocked.  The fleet reaches orbit as Gwen urges her family to stay safe.  Sarah Jane detects a massive space station at the center of the worlds.  Rose evades looters, then sees a screenshot of the approaching fleet.  Martha calls Jack, and determines that no one can contact the Doctor.  They discuss a UNIT plan called Project Indigo, for which Martha is in New York.  Mr. Smith detects an incoming message from the ships, which reaches everyone on all frequencies:  “Exterminate”.  Everyone panics; the Daleks have returned.

The Dalek ships invade, attacking all over Earth and killing many people.  Geneva sends a message to UNIT, placing the Earth at war via an “Ultimate Code Red”.  Aboard the space station—the Crucible—the Supreme Dalek declares it will soon be ready, and declares the Daleks to be the masters of Earth.

The Doctor and Donna reach the Shadow Proclamation’s space station, and are confronted by its Judoon guards.  Meeting with one of the Proclamation’s leaders, he finds that 24 planets are missing, not just Earth; he probes for more information, and adds Pyrovillia, the Adipose breeding planet, and the lost moon of Poosh, bringing the total to 27.  It seems planets aren’t just disappearing from space, but from time.  The Doctor adjusts the model of the missing planets, and suddenly the worlds move into a formation that sets them up likes cogs  in a machine.  The Doctor suddenly recalls that someone once tried to move Earth before.

The Daleks disable the Valiant, causing its crew to abandon ship.  Worldwide, military bases are being targeted.  UNIT pulls Martha from her post as her base is invaded by Daleks, and sends her away with Project indigo, a teleport backpack reverse-engineered from the Sontarans; her commanding officer gives her something called the “Osterhagen Key”.  As she teleports away, Jack thinks she has died, as the backpacks lack stabilizers.  The Supreme Dalek announces that Earth has been subjugated, and a voice asks it for a progress report; it reports that the Crucible is nearly ready, and the Doctor has not been reported.  The voice belongs to a figure with a clawed hand; and he has the mad Dalek Caan in restraints.  Dalek Caan predicts that the Doctor is coming.

Donna has an odd encounter with the Proclamation leader, who is aware of the beetle that was on her back.  She announces that Donna is something new, and predicts a loss yet to come for Donna.  Donna reminds the Doctor that the bees were disappearing in recent months; the Doctor says the bees are actually from another world, and were evacuating home, but they emitted a frequency that matches the transmat that moved the planet, giving them a trail they can follow.  With that clue, the Proclamation declares war, and tries to seize the Doctor and the TARDIS, declaring that he must lead them into battle; but he dematerializes before they can act on the declaration.

The Daleks round up humanity in the streets, but Wilfred intends to fight back.  He only has a paintball gun, but he knows that he can blind the Daleks with it.  Another man tries to fight back, but the Daleks destroy the man’s home with his family in it, causing Wilfred to retreat with Sylvia.  Another Dalek catches them, and he shoots its eye, but it dissolves the paint.  Just before it can kill them, Rose destroys it from behind.  She collects them to help her contact Donna and the Doctor.

The TARDIS lands in space at the Medusa Cascade.  The Doctor reflects on coming there as a child of 90 years, to visit the rift there.  The planets aren’t there, and the trail ends.  Torchwood listens as Earth surrenders and the Daleks take control of Earth.  However, Rose hears a signal on Sylvia’s computer—a familiar voice, communicating by subwave.  Mr. Smith and Torchwood catch it as well.  The voice calls Jack Harkness down for his despair—and the image resolves into Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister (yes, we know who you are).  She can communicate with everyone except Rose, who can’t make herself heard, as Sylvia lacks a webcam and microphone.  Martha Jones joins the circuit as well; no one is aware of Rose, but Rose can see and hear everyone.  Martha says that she was teleported to her mother’s home, where the laptop suddenly activated; Harriet claims responsibility for connecting everyone, using sentient subwave software which is allegedly undetectable.  Harriet forbids Martha to use the Osterhagen Key, and focuses on the Doctor instead, despite his destruction of her career.  She sets them up as “The Doctor’s Secret Army”.  Jack realizes they can boost the phone signal using the subwave and their various systems; however, this will expose Harriet to the Daleks, but she doesn’t care about her own life—only about saving the world.  The teams connect the Cardiff rift generator (for power) to Mr. Smith via the subwave, and Martha provides the Doctor’s number; Sarah Jane initiates the call.  The TARDIS receives the signal, and the Doctor tracks the signal; but the Daleks track it to Harriet’s location.  The mysterious figure warns the Dalek Supreme about the “Children of Time”, the Doctor’s friends, who stand against them.  Rose, Wilf, and Sylvia send the number as well, adding to the signal. The Daleks burst in on Harriet.  The TARDIS takes damage, but moves one second out of phase, into the future.  Harriet transfers control of the subwave to Jack, just before the Daleks confront her, and kill her, and her signal goes dark.  Around the TARDIS, twenty-seven worlds—and one massive space station—phase into existence.  The Medusa Cascade was put out of sync with the universe, but now they have found it.  The TARDIS gets the subwave signal and makes contact with everyone but Rose, who can still see them all, but can’t make contact.  Meanwhile, the mysterious figure breaks into the subwave network on audio only, and confronts the Doctor; he is revealed to be Davros, creator of the Daleks, striking fear into the Doctor and Sarah Jane, who both remember him.

The Doctor believes Davros was destroyed in the first year of the Time War, but Davros explains that Caan rescued him via emergency temporal shift.  Since then, Davros created new Daleks from his own cells, so as to keep them pure of genetic contamination.  The Doctor breaks contact and takes off, headed for Earth.  Davros sends the Daleks to find his companions on Earth; they locate Torchwood and send an extermination squad.  Jack gets a teleport base code from Martha and uses it to activate his vortex manipulator, and teleports away with a large gun.  Seconds later, the Daleks break into the Torchwood Hub on Gwen and Ianto.  Sarah Jane leaves Luke and Mr. Smith at home to go find the Doctor.  Rose, meanwhile, contacts her own support staff, who teleport her to the TARDIS’s location.  The Doctor and Donna land in London and exit the TARDIS, and find it empty.  He sees Rose arriving, and runs toward her…only to be shot down by a Dalek.  Jack teleports in and destroys the Dalek, but the damage is done…and the Doctor begins to regenerate.  They carry him into the TARDIS.

Sarah Jane is stopped by Daleks.  Daleks enter the Torchwood Hub, where Gwen and Ianto open fire on them.  The regeneration begins.

Journey's End 1

Journey’s End:  The Doctor suddenly redirects his regeneration energy into the hand in the jar, and remains unchanged.  He explains that it is a matching biological receptacle, allowing him to siphon off the remaining energy and avoid changing after healing himself—much to Rose’s pleasure.  Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler appear and save Sarah Jane from the Daleks, while searching for Rose.  At Torchwood, the guns are ineffective; but the bullets are seen hanging in the air, and the Daleks aren’t moving.  Ianto explains it is a time lock, developed by Toshiko Sato before her death—but, though it saves them, it traps them inside.  Suddenly the TARDIS loses power, and the Daleks teleport it to the Crucible while Sarah Jane, Mickey and Jackie watch.  Mickey explains that their teleports take a half hour to recharge.  Sarah Jane, Mickey, and Jackie surrender to the Daleks, and are taken to the Crucible as well.  Martha leaves via teleport to activate the Osterhagen Key, refusing to tell her mother what it does.  She lands in Germany, and avoids German-speaking Daleks to get to a UNIT station.  The Doctor questions Rose about the future she saw in her universe, and she admits that the stars were going out.  Therefore her team built a device to transport her here, which she could do suddenly, because the dimensions began to collapse.  She says that all the timelines seem to converge on Donna.  The TARDIS lands on the Crucible, and the Daleks call the Doctor out.  He explains that he has to go out, because these Daleks are at the height of their power, and know how to overcome TARDISes and their defenses.  The others agree to step out with him, though Donna is experiencing a strange sort of trance.

The Doctor, Rose, and Jack step out to confront the Daleks, but Donna hangs back, sensing something strange—and the door closes on her, locking her in.  The Daleks deny responsibility, but intend to destroy the TARDIS anyway; they drop it through a hatch into the Crucible’s heart, where its Z-neutrino energy will destroy the TARDIS.  Things begin to burst into flame around Donna.  The Daleks make the Doctor watch the destruction.  However, Donna sees the hand in the jar start to glow, and touches it; regeneration energy floods into her, and the jar explodes.  The hand begins to regenerate, and expands into a full figure—another Doctor?!  In ten rels, the TARDIS will be destroyed; but the new Doctor makes it dematerialize.  The Daleks believe it has been destroyed, and gloat over the Doctor.  Jack opens fire on the Dalek Supreme, which kills him; the Doctor pulls Rose away, remembering that she does not know about his immortality.  Jack winks at him as he the Doctor is escorted away.

The TARDIS is safe, and the new Doctor explains that he is different—he’s a biological metacrisis, created with some of Donna’s traits when she touched the jar.  He only has one heart, as well—part Time Lord, part human.  He reminds Donna that she is special—and realizes he can see her thoughts, and knows that she really believes she is nothing special.  He concludes that they were inevitably heading to this moment, in some kind of destiny—and it’s not over yet.

Martha reaches the station, and meets its lone guard, and gains access to the Osterhagen Key control room after disabling the guard.  She connects with the other Osterhagen stations, which are already ready.  Meanwhile, Sarah Jane, Jackie, and Mickey are added to a group of prisoners on the Crucible.  The Doctor and Rose are placed in energy cells and confronted by Davros.  The Doctor realizes that Davros, too, is a captive; he is not in charge of the Daleks, and the Doctor calls him their pet.  Davros turns toward Rose, and claims to own her; he explains that Dalek Caan prophesied her presence here.  Caan predicts fire coming.  Davros explains that Caan was driven made by his view of time in his time travels, but gained some prophetic powers.  He predicts the death of one of the “children of time”; the Doctor takes this to be Donna, believing her to be dead.  Davros reveals the Daleks’ plan:  they have built a reality bomb.

Sarah Jane and Mickey escape the prisoner group, but are forced to leave Jackie behind.  The Daleks set up a test of the reality bomb, to be used on the prisoner group.  The planets align, and the field they produce together channels Z-neutrino energy in a single stream into the Crucible’s prisoner chamber, wiping out the prisoners as though they never existed.  Jackie’s device recharges at the last second, and she teleports away to join Mickey and Rose, but is unable to save any of the others.  The test is successful.  Davros explains that it cancels the electrical field of the matter it affects, dissolving the matter.  Released into the universe, the energy will break through the Medusa Cascade’s rift; all universes will fall to the field, and literally everything—reality itself—will cease to exist.  Only the Daleks will be left.  The Dalek Supreme recalls all the Daleks to the Crucible.

Fully recovered, Jack reconnects with Mickey, Sarah, and Jackie.  Sarah Jane reveals a secret: a special gem called a Warp Star—not a true gem, but a powerful explosive.  Meanwhile, Martha connects with the other stations, and prepares to activate the device, but waits.  She intends to give the Daleks a chance to surrender.  The new Doctor has a plan as well; he has a way to reverse the explosion onto the Crucible, killing only the Daleks.  Martha appears on the screen in Davros’s chamber, where the original Doctor can also see, and explains what the key does:  It will destroy the Earth, rupturing the machinery of the reality bomb in the process.  It is a final failsafe, a form of mercy on the human race if their suffering is too great.  Martha and Rose meet for the first time in this manner.  Jack also tunes in with his group, and threatens to use the Warp Star, which is wired into the Dalek mainframe—it will destroy the entire Crucible.  Davros confronts Sarah Jane, and gloats over her.  Davros tells the Doctor that, though he abhors violence, he transforms his friends into weapons, who then sacrifice themselves for him.  Already today it’s happened, with Harriet’s death and (ostensibly) Donna’s.  The Doctor thinks over the many who have died for him and in his adventures—LINDA, the Face of Boe, Astrid Peth, Luke Rattigan, River Song, and many others—as Davros declares his final victory:  he showed the Doctor himself.

The Daleks counter both plans by transmatting Martha, Jack, and the others into the Vault with Davros.  All are imprisoned at once; and Davros orders the Supreme Dalek to detonate the reality bomb.  Detonation will take 200 rels.

The new Doctor activates his plan, and the TARDIS materializes in the Vault.  However, Davros shoots the new Doctor with a stun weapon and traps him in an energy cell.  The weapon they were carrying is destroyed, with only 19 rels remaining.  The countdown begins—but Donna shuts down the process at the last second, and reverses Davros’s stun weapon onto himself.  He sends in the Daleks to exterminate her, but she shuts them down, spewing technobabble explanations the entire time.  She reveals that the biological metacrisis that created the new Doctor ran two ways; she herself acquired some Time Lord traits, including the Doctor’s technological skill.  The real Doctor realizes that this is what the Ood meant when the referred to “the DoctorDonna”.  She deactivates the holding cells and seals the vault.  She keeps the Daleks at bay while the two Doctors begin work.  Together the three of them begin sending the planets home using the Crucible’s systems while Jack and Mickey keep Davros at bay.  Martha and rose get rid of the Daleks in the room.  Donna explains that it was Davros’s stun beam on her that activated the Doctor’s knowledge in her brain; the Doctor explains that this is what the converging timelines were leading to.  Davros is angry at Caan for misleading him; but Caan denies wrongdoing.  He admits that he saw the Daleks throughout time, was disgusted, and decreed “No More”, leading him to manipulate timelines to lead to this moment.  The Dalek Supreme breaks in, and Jack destroys it, but destroys the magnetron system in the process; only Earth remains, but the real Doctor will have to use the TARDIS to get it home.  He heads to the TARDIS.  Caan tells the new Doctor to bring about the end of all things Dalek.  He agrees; the Crucible alone is a threat even without the bomb, and the Daleks are deadly enough on their own.  They must be destroyed.  He sets the Crucible to self-destruct.  It horrifies the real Doctor, however, who would not have committed genocide.  He gathers everyone in the TARDIS, and tries to save Davros as well, but Davros refuses, and calls the Doctor the Destroyer of Worlds.  Caan’s last words tell the Doctor that “one will still die”.  They escape just as the Crucible explodes.

The Doctor calls the Torchwood hub, where Gwen answers; he also calls Luke and Mr. Smith.  Mr. Smith is to use the rift power to link the TARDIS to Earth; K9 appears and provides the necessary TARDIS basecode.  The Doctor places five companions on the panels of the TARDIS, and takes the sixth himself—as the TARDIS was designed for six pilots—and they tow the planet back to its normal orbit.  Despite some turbulence, it arrives safely.

The TARDIS lands on Earth, discharging its various occupants back to their lives.  Sarah Jane chides the Doctor for acting like a loner, when in truth, he has an enormous family on Earth.  Mickey opts to stay on this Earth, as Rose has moved on, and his grandmother in Pete’s World has since passed away.  The Doctor deactivates Jack’s vortex manipulator again, and tells Martha to get rid of the Osterhagen Key.  He then takes Rose and Jackie back to Darlig Ulv Stranden—Bad Wolf Bay—in Pete’s World.  Jackie says goodbye, and tells the Doctor about her baby, whom she named Tony.  The real Doctor tells Rose she has to go back despite her objections; he intends to send the metacrisis Doctor with her, as he cannot tolerate a version of himself that would commit genocide, and the metacrisis Doctor needs someone to keep him humane.  It’s better for Rose, as well; she will have the Doctor she always wanted, but he won’t regenerate, and will age and die with her.  The walls of the universe are closing, and the Doctor must leave with Donna; Rose is still not convinced, and she asks both Doctors what he intended to say at their last parting.  The real Doctor refuses to say, but the new Doctor whispers it in her ear; and she answers him with a kiss.  In that moment, the real Doctor and Donna depart in the TARDIS.

Donna is enjoying her new knowledge, but the Doctor is concerned.  As he watches, her mind seems to glitch repeatedly, and she falls into distress.  She knows what is happening; her brain can’t tolerate the stress of the metacrisis.  They both know they only solution.  She fears to go back; but she must.  The Doctor tells her at the last minute that he is sorry; and then he hypnotizes her, and seals away her new knowledge.  To do so, he must also seal away all her memories of him and their time together.

He takes her home, and tells Wilf and Sylvia that the knowledge was killing her.  She will be fine now, as long as she doesn’t remember.  Remembering will burn up her brain, and so they can never tell her.  To her it must all just be a story that she missed.  He gives her credit for her deeds; but she can never know that for one moment, she was the most important woman in the entire universe.  Sylvia insists that she still is; and he tells her that perhaps she should tell Donna that sometimes.  Donna awakens and walks in, and the Doctor briefly introduces himself as John Smith, then slips out, noting that she safely does not remember him.

It is raining outside as he leaves.  Wilfred asks the Doctor what he will do now; he promises to watch out for the Doctor, and to keep his secret from Donna, but to remember on her behalf.  The Doctor departs in the TARDIS.

Stolen earth 2

In my opinion, this story is and remains the best series finale to date. It does, I admit, have some stiff competition; Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways is very good, as is Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords. Eleventh Doctor series finales are good, but don’t seem to have as much punch as this one, in my opinion. It helps that we get nearly every major cast member from not only the revived Doctor Who, but also Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures; if there’s going to be the proverbial fanwank, this is a good way to do it. Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper, and Ianto Jones fill out the roster for Torchwood (as this story comes after the deaths of Owen Harper and Toshiko Sato). Sarah Jane Smith, her son Luke, the computer Mr. Smith, and K9 stand in for The Sarah Jane Adventures. From Doctor Who, of course we have the Doctor and Donna; but we also get appearances from Martha Jones, Rose Tyler, Jackie Tyler, Mickey Smith, Wilfred Mott, Sylvia Noble, Francine Jones, Harriet Jones (I am beginning to think the DW universe only has three last names…), the Daleks, and Davros, as well as Jack, Sarah Jane, and K9.

Many story arcs are revisited and/or concluded here, from the very minor to the critical. Harriet Jones dies in this story, though she goes out in the most honorable way possible, having fully redeemed herself; it’s also the final instance of the “Yes, we know who you are” running joke that pertains to her (even the Daleks make the joke!). Rose makes her final appearance in the current timeline, though we’ll see an earlier version of her briefly in an upcoming episode. Martha makes her final major appearance, though she too will get a brief appearance in an upcoming story. K9’s final appearance is here, though he persists on The Sarah Jane Adventures. We finally get to see the Shadow Proclamation onscreen, and they’re kind of useless. The Cult of Skaro meets its final end in the reappearance and subsequent death of Dalek Caan. The series arc—regarding the disappearing planets and the missing bees—is resolved, and the planets are ultimately restored. The Doctor’s severed hand is resolved, in the form of the Metacrisis Doctor—this is perhaps the longest-running plot, covering three seasons and a season of Torchwood. An explanation is finally given for the TARDIS console room layout (and the Doctor’s bad piloting)—it is meant for six pilots, which had been hinted before, but not confirmed. Donna’s story arc reaches its end, drawing in threads all the way back to The Runaway Bride, although she will get a coda of sorts in The End of Time. Mickey returns from Pete’s World, though Jackie and Rose stay; he too will get an upcoming cameo, but is otherwise finished. The ongoing thread regarding the Doctor’s conflict—that he claims to be a man of peace, but shapes his companions into suicidal weapons—reaches its resolution here.

There’s been an escalating series of threats in each series finale to this point. The Parting of the Ways sees the Daleks threaten Earth of the future, and destroy a great part of it. Doomsday doubles the threat by adding the Cybermen to the Daleks, and threatening two worlds. Last of the Time Lords makes it a universal threat by putting the Master in charge of a universe-conquering fleet. This story takes one look at those, scoffs at them and calls them amateurs, and decides to crank up the threat to the ultimate heights by threatening existence itself. It’s a fantastic story, but it creates a problem: Where do we go from here? Indeed, the next several finales will hover around this level. The End of Time (not a true finale, but serving as one for the upcoming specials) also threatens existence, but through time rather than space. The Big Bang does the same, but from the beginning of time rather than the end. The Wedding of River Song does the same, but by attacking causality instead of a point in time. The Name of the Doctor capitalizes on that concept by attacking the Doctor as a specific form of causality. Once we get to the Twelfth Doctor, we get a bit of a reset, and go back to smaller threats, because honestly, what’s left at that point? We’ve exhausted the universal threats for now, I think. This is, to put it bluntly, as extreme as it gets.

I have to give credit to Catherine Tate and David Tennant for their acting skills here. Both were required to play two parts here—their usual characters, and the hybrid versions. Both pulled it off flawlessly. Tate absorbs the Doctor’s phrasing and mannerisms as if they were her own. Tennant does the same, and adds a degree of shock at himself—he’s stunned that he’s behaving this way, it seems. In a performance of this size, it would be easy to lose those details in the multitude of scenes that had to be filmed, but they never miss a beat.

Some noteworthy things about this story: The Stolen Earth is the 750th episode of Doctor Who since its premiere in 1963. It also technically contains the Doctor’s eleventh regeneration, though that is unclear at this point, as the War Doctor had not been revealed; either way, he uses up a regeneration without actually changing here. As that regeneration is the cliffhanger between the two episodes, there is no “Next Time” preview; this had only happened once previously, in Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel. The opening credits had a record six names: David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman, and Elizabeth Sladen. Several other guest stars are credit over the opening scene. Oddly enough, Bernard Cribbins (Wilfred Mott) and Jacqueline King (Sylvia Noble) are not so credited. Richard Dawkins makes an appearance as himself; he already has a tangential connection to Doctor Who, in that he is married to Lalla Ward, aka Romana II, who was previously married to Tom Baker. Adding to the coolness factor, Ward and Dawkins were introduced by Douglas Adams. The Time War is noted to be time-locked; I am not sure, but I think this is the first time the term is used. It actually appears twice; the Torchwood Hub is time-locked as a final defense measure, developed by Toshiko Sato before her death. Part two, Journey’s End is the longest season finale episode to date, at 65 minutes in its uncut version.

There are far too many continuity references to mention here, which is to be expected in a story of this type. However, a few that are easy to overlook: There have been references to the Medusa Cascade as a possible destination for the Doctor for some time, beginning in Last of the Time Lords. Jack’s gun (used against the Daleks) is the same one he carried in The Parting of the Ways. The Doctor’s disabling of Jack’s vortex manipulator is practically a running joke by now; it began in Last of the Time Lords, and will continue until The Day of the Doctor. The Doctor mentions someone trying to move the Earth a long time ago; this is intended to refer to the Daleks in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but also happened at the hands of the Time Lords in The Mysterious Planet. The Doctor makes an early reference to the Nightmare Child, which will be repeated in The End of Time. Most of the missing planets were only mentioned this season, but Woman Wept was first mentioned in Series One’s Boom Town; its freezing oceans, unexplained at that time, were probably connected to its relocation here. Callufrax Minor, another missing planet, may be a reference to Calufrax, which became a component of the Key to Time in The Pirate Planet. The Doctor and Rose hint that Gwen looks familiar, a reference to Gwyneth from The Unquiet Dead, to whom Gwen is ostensibly related. The entire story is a sort of answer to Genesis of the Daleks, where Davros said he would destroy all life for the sake of the power it gave him; here, he tries to do just that. The reality bomb’s function is similar to the Valeyard’s partical disseminator (The Ultimate Foe), which is an interesting coincidence, given that many fans speculated that the Metacrisis Doctor would become the Valeyard. (I, for one, am in that camp, and would love to see that happen.)

Overall: Not the best season (though by no means bad!)—that honor still goes to series three—but by far the best finale. I could watch this one over and over. If you’ve not yet watched it, give it a try.

Journey's End 2

Next time: We move into the “year of specials”, in which there is no full series, but simply four consecutive specials. I intend to tackle each one separately, giving us a little more time with the Tenth Doctor. We’ll begin with The Next Doctor. See you there!

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

The Stolen Earth

Journey’s End (part 1)

Journey’s End (part 2)

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Donna, Meet Martha: New Series Rewatch, Series Four, Part Two

We’re back, with our new Doctor Who rewatch! Today we’re continuing Series Four, with three more episodes: The two-part The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky, and The Doctor’s Daughter. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not seen these episodes!

sontaran-stratagem-1

In *The Sontaran Stratagem*, journalist Jo Nakashima is thrown out of Rattigan Academy after trying to expose the danger of the ATMOS system.  She leaves a message for Colonel Mace of UNIT about it.  Luke Rattigan recommends her death to his unseen allies.  The ATMOS system takes over her car and drives her into the river, killing her.

The Doctor is teaching Donna the basics of flying the TARDIS, when a call comes in on Martha’s old phone.  Martha is calling, summoning the Doctor back to Earth.  She takes the Doctor and Donna to join a UNIT raid on the ATMOS factory, led by Colonel Mace, and tells him about a string of ATMOS-related deaths.  ATMOS is ostensibly an emissions-reduction system, but it with 800 million cars on Earth, that’s a lot of coverage if it should be weaponized.  Meanwhile, in the depths of the factory, two soldiers encounter some zombie-like workers outside a sort of biolab, inside which is a sarcophagus-like machine.  Inside the machine is a green solution…and an incomplete, human-like creature. The soldiers are intercepted by General Staal of the Tenth Sontaran Battlefleet, “Staal the Undefeated”, who disables their weapons by using a cordolane signal to expand the copper jackets on the ammunition.  Staal then captures them for “processing”.  When they emerge, they are under Staal’s control.  Staal transmats back to his ship.

The Doctor determines that ATMOS does work as advertised.  Martha chastises the Doctor for his belligerent attitude toward UNIT—“You can come and go, but some of us have to stay.”  Donna discovers that the factory has never had a sick day, which is conspicuous at best.  The Doctor inquires about ATMOS’s creator, Luke Rattigan.  Martha counsels Donna to keep in touch with her family, and tells her about the things her own family suffered while she traveled with the Doctor.  Donna opts to go visit her family while the Doctor checks out Rattigan Academy.  Martha examines captured workers, and finds them to have strange vital signs and to be under some kind of compulsion.  However, en route to tell Colonel Mace, she is picked up by the two enslaved soldiers.  They take her to the biolab for processing.  Donna meets up with her grandfather and tells him where she’s been, but he cautions her not to tell her mother.  She tells her mother that she’s been travelling.

The Doctor is dismayed to see that ATMOS is also in UNIT’s jeeps.  With UNIT soldier Ross Jenkins, he meets with Luke Rattigan at the Academy, with whom there is instant tension; he intentional provokes Rattigan, who isn’t used to being contradicted.  He points out that a piece of “art” in the building is actually a teleport pod; and he teleports himself to the Sontaran ship.  Staal follows him to Earth, and is stunned at the Doctor’s knowledge of the Sontarans.  The Doctor uses a ball to hit Staal’s probic vent, temporarily disabling him, and uses the opportunity to escape with Ross; he temporarily disables the teleport as well, but Staal quickly fixes it, and takes Rattigan to the ship.  He declares them to be on a war footing.  Rattigan learns for the first time that the Sontarans are clones.  He reveals that the devices are in about 400 million cars on Earth, more than enough.  Staal sends his lieutenant, Commander Skorr “the Bloodbringer”, to Earth to start the final process.  On Earth, Skorr oversees the creation of a clone of Martha in the biolab, which will be attached to her mind via a headset so that it can mimic her.  Meanwhile Staal realizes that he is facing the Doctor; he has never gotten over the fact that the Sontarans were not allowed to fight in the Time War, so he will relish the Doctor’s death.  He activates the ATMOS in the Doctor’s jeep, and the vehicle takes control of itself; it is deadlocked, trapping the Doctor and Ross inside, and drives toward the river to drown them.  The Doctor uses a reverse psychology trick to disable it and escape; Staal believes it works, and assumes the Doctor is dead.  The Doctor goes to recover Donna, and Ross calls for a vehicle without ATMOS; the Doctor properly meets Wilfred for the first time, and meets Sylvia again.  The Doctor calls Martha, but unknowingly gets the clone, and warns her about the Sontarans; she hides the warning from Colonel Mace.  The Doctor tries to disable ATMOS on Donna’s car, and finds the system has secrets; it contains a converter that expels poison gas.  When the converter system trips the alarm on the Sontaran ship, Staal realizes the Doctor is alive, and sends his troops into battle.  Donna realizes that all the ATMOS systems on Earth are enough to poison the atmosphere.  Wilfred becomes trapped in the car, as all the ATMOS units activate at once.

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Picking up in *The Poison Sky*, UNIT seals off and clears the factory and the command center, while Donna uses an axe to break open the car.  Sylvia tries to get Donna to stay with them, but Wilf encourages her to leave with the Doctor, which she does, using an elderly UNIT car that is ATMOS-free.  The Doctor gives Donna a TARDIS key of her own, and sends her to the TARDIS.  Meanwhile the Martha clone taps into NATO’s defensive systems to obtain strategic data for the Sontarans; while on the ship, Luke Rattigan is overcome with excitement at the onset of war.  Just before the Doctor arrives at the command center, the clone gives Mace the Doctor’s tip about the Sontarans, so as not to arouse any suspicion.  The Doctor arrives and warns Mace not to attack directly.  The Sontarans teleport the TARDIS aboard their ship.  Rattigan returns to Earth to rally his own “troops” at the Academy; Donna, spying from the TARDIS door, overhears the Sontarans commenting that Luke is acting according to plan.  Meanwhile, the Doctor—with the Martha clone in tow—searches for the TARDIS, and finds it missing.  He begins to suspect that something is amiss with Martha; he lies to her and tells her that Donna has gone home.  At the Academy, Rattigan unveils the truth to his students—that all their work has been for the purpose of starting a colony on another world after the Sontaran conquest—but against his expectations, they are horrified rather than thrilled.  He begins to have a breakdown, and pulls a gun on them; but they walk out on him, calling him “sick”.

UNIT locates the Sontaran ship, and plans a strike, but the Doctor warns them off.  He commandeers the communication system and contacts the ship, contacting Donna in the TARDIS as well; Donna briefly sees Rose on the viewer before switching to the Doctor.  He accuses Staal of cowardice for their plan, and deduces that the war with the Rutan Host is not going well.  Staal counters by revealing the TARDIS.  The Doctor drops hints for Donna to pay attention, and to call him from the TARDIS; he tells the Sontarans he can control the TARDIS remotely, causing them to end the communication and move the TARDIS out of the war room.  As the news broadcasts the scale of the tragedy, Donna calls her mother and Wilfred, who have sealed all the windows.  Again Sylvia lectures her, and again Wilfred encourages her; she defends the Doctor’s actions.

The Doctor gets an analysis of the gas from the clone Martha.  UNIT intends to launch nuclear missiles at the Sontaran ship despite the Doctor’s warnings; the Sontarans have anticipated it, and negate the launch codes.  The Doctor knows the missiles wouldn’t hurt the ship, and asks the clone why the Sontarans would stop the launch in that case; she denies knowledge.  Skorr’s squadron moves in toward the command center, and Mace orders his troops (led by Ross) to fire; they are quickly killed.  Finally Mace orders a retreat, though too late to save many of the troops.  The Sontarans take the factory.  As the gas concentration rises, Rattigan returns to the ship; Staal admits he never intended to save the students, and would have killed them—he admits to using Rattigan.  As the Sontarans move to kill Rattigan, he teleports back to Earth, and breaks down completely.  The Sontarans close off the teleport links to Earth.

Mace still intends to fight back somehow.  The Doctor calls Donna, and persuades her to reopen the teleport link.  At his direction, she takes down the guard outside by striking his probic vent.  After a close call with the Sontarans, she locates the link.  Mace introduces bullets without copper jackets, which will fire despite the cordolane signal; and he calls in the Valiant to use its massive engine turbines to dispel the gas over the area.  The Valiant fires on the factory; and UNIT ground troops pour in with the new ammunition, successfully pushing back the Sontarans.  The Doctor takes the Martha clone with him to find what the Sontarans are hiding; he infiltrates the basement, and finds the biolab.  Inside he finds the unconscious real Martha, and the clone pulls a gun on him; she admits to stopping the nuclear launch, but the Doctor says that serves his purpose as well.  He admits that he had known all along that she was a fake; and he pulls the plug connecting her to the real Martha, causing the clone to die slowly.  Donna calls him, and he tells her how to reactivate the link.  Meanwhile Martha interrogates the dying clone about the purpose of the gas; she describes the gas, and the Doctor realizes the gas is clone feed.  The Sontarans intend to turn the Earth into a giant cloning facility for new Sontarans.  Before the clone dies, it commends Martha on her life; Martha recovers her engagement ring from the clone’s body.  The Sontarans find Donna, but just as they fire on her, the Doctor teleports her to him; and he teleports the TARDIS back to the alley from which it was stolen.  He then teleports himself, Donna, and Martha to the Academy; Luke pulls a gun on him, but the Doctor snatches it away.  He deadlocks the teleports open.

The Sontarans know the plan is nearly complete, and the world is nearly ready.  The gas begins to seep into Donna’s house despite her family’s efforts.  Meanwhile, the Doctor tells Martha, Donna and Rattigan that the gas is flammable, which is why the Sontarans stopped the missiles.  He constructs an atmospheric converter from Rattigan’s equipment, and launches it as a rocket; the resulting fireball spreads around the world, burning off the gas in rapid fashion.  In retaliation, the Sontarans prepare for a standard invasion.  The Doctor takes the converter and recalibrates it for Sontaran air, then prepares to teleport to the ship; he will kill the Sontarans if they don’t surrender, but he expects not to survive.  He offers the Sontarans the choice, but they decline to leave.  In the last seconds of the standoff, Rattigan—seeking revenge for the Sontaran betrayal—teleports himself up and the Doctor down; and he presses the button, destroying the Sontaran ship.

Donna visits her family again; and Wilfred secretly encourages her to continue traveling with the Doctor, but to return when she can.  At the TARDIS, the Doctor and Donna say goodbye to Martha; but before Martha can leave, the door slams and the TARDIS takes off violently, under its own control, destination unknown; and his severed hand in its jar begins to bubble.

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I was very critical of The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky in first watch (and even in my last rewatch a year or so ago); but it’s grown on me. The Sontarans are becoming one of my favorite villainous races. Although it’s usually a problem if a villain or species (or any character really) is one-dimensional, in the Sontarans it’s different, because it’s a design feature of their race. Their warlike nature, coupled with their singlemindedness about it, means that they can challenge the villain tropes head-on, even in dialogue; there are scenes here where General Staal does exactly that, telling the Doctor that he won’t glibly reveal his plan, and won’t hesitate to shoot while the Doctor talks—all common villain clichés. He follows through with it, as well. When he betrays Luke Rattigan, it’s only a great revelation to Luke; to the Sontarans, it’s just business as usual, and of course a warrior would do that. The Sontarans here behave a little differently from their classic series counterparts, but not much; and the costumes have improved over the years, such that I like this version better. This is Dan Starkey’s first appearance as a Sontaran, here playing second-in-command Skorr; he will later reprise the performance as Strax, of the Paternoster Gang, in addition to playing various Big Finish roles. While Strax is comical in a fish-out-of-water sense, Skorr is dead serious; Starkey plays both roles equally well. In a nod to the classic series, Staal’s actor, Christopher Ryan, previously played Lord Kiv in Mindwarp, and will later return in The Pandorica Opens.

The selling point of all three of the episodes we’re reviewing today is the return of Martha Jones. Here, she spends most of her time out of action while connected to her clone; but in general, she’s doing well, having joined UNIT and graduated on an accelerated program. She’s pulled in two directions, between the Doctor and UNIT, as his perspective on soldiers has changed because of the Time War. In the end, she turns down the opportunity to travel again, but isn’t given the chance to leave, as the TARDIS takes off with her aboard, under its own control. We see Donna’s family again, and get a good look at the tension in the household; Sylvia constantly tries to get Donna to stay (does ANY NuWho companion ever have a good mother? They’re all either harpies or dead, I think), while Wilfred encourages her to go on with the Doctor. He’s an incredibly sympathetic character, and we begin to see why he’s such a popular companion, even though his turn hasn’t happened yet. This is UNIT’s first proper NuWho appearance, not counting the aborted view of it in The Sound of Drums; it’s on good footing, but hasn’t settled into a consistent cast yet—that will come later. We do get confirmation that the Doctor is still technically on staff, however. Luke Rattigan is purely insane, the poster child for psychosis; but he does make a self-sacrifice in the end, although for vengeful reasons. He’s a sad character, and one wonders what the Doctor could have done with him if he had met him earlier in life.

My only real criticism is the science here. If the gases were worldwide and flammable, shouldn’t the fireball have consumed all the available oxygen? I could be wrong, but it seems untenable. As for the reason for the plan: The Sontarans want to use the planet as a cloning world. It isn’t stated why, but it’s possible they also lost a world, as the Adipose did—if so, it would make this part of the season arc. To that effect, we also get a glimpse of Rose Tyler, on the TARDIS viewer.

References: Sontaran mind control was first seen in The Time Warrior. Their sonic baton weapons were first seen in The Two Doctors. Sylvia references Donna’s wedding (The Runaway Bride), and Wilfred references Voyage of the Damned, when he previously met the Doctor. Martha met her fiancé Tom Milligan during Last of the Time Lords. The Valiant also last appeared in Last of the Time Lords. The Doctor makes an “Are you my mummy?” joke (The Doctor Dances). A building marked “Butler Institute” is visible in New York (a nice nod to the VNAS, Cat’s Cradle: Warhead).

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In The Doctor’s Daughter, the TARDIS lands in a cave on an unknown world.  The Doctor, Donna and Martha are immediately captured by a group of well-armed humans, who immediately “process” the Doctor; they force him to give a tissue sample, which is genetically extrapolated to create a female human clone of sorts, with memories and combat skills already implanted.  The process is nearly instantaneous; the Doctor declares the clone to be his daughter.  The clone is quickly provided with weapons, and a group of fishlike aliens called the Hath attack and kidnap Martha before anyone else can be processed.  The clone activates explosives to seal the tunnel, cutting them off from Martha and the TARDIS.  The one surviving soldier, with the clone, takes the Doctor and Donna to meet his leader, General Cobb.  Meanwhile Martha patches up the one surviving Hath, whose language she does not speak, but who seems to understand her.  Other Hath arrive as she resets the survivor’s shoulder; they take her to their command center.

Donna calls the clone “Jenny”, for “Generated Anomaly”; she adopts the name.  The soldier tells them they are on the planet Messaline.  Cobb explains about the war as he knows it; it has been going on for many generations, and both sides use the cloning technology to maintain their ranks and breed new generations.  The colony was supposed to be harmonious between the colonists, but relations broke down; everything is underground because the surface is inhospitable. A map shows the entire city, including the Hath side; the Doctor wants to use it to find Martha.  Cobb says they are searching for the Source, which is the source of creation in their world; whoever finds it will control the world’s destiny.  The Doctor unlocks another layer of the map, with more tunnels; the Hath computer terminal gets the upgrade as well, and both sides decide to move for the source.  Cobb intends to destroy the Hath, and orders the soldier, Klein, to lock up the Doctor and Martha, and Jenny as well.  Donna sees numbers on several walls, and debates their significance.  In the cell, Jenny argues that the Doctor is a soldier despite his objections, making him uncomfortable.  The Doctor upgrades Donna’s phone and calls Martha; Martha reports that the Hath are on the march as well as the humans.  Donna argues with the Doctor over Jenny; to prove her point, she demonstrates that Jenny has two hearts, and is therefore a Time Lord, though the Doctor tries to deny it, as he is offended by her identity as a soldier. He tells her about the Time War.

Martha and her Hath accomplice work with the map to find a shortcut to the Source, and she determines that she can cross the surface despite its dangerous environment.  She finds the surface more hostile than expected, but she and the Hath head out.  Meanwhile Jenny flirts with Klein to steal his gun, and forces him to let them out.  Disabling the next guard, they chase after the soldiers headed for the Source.  Cobb, following after, finds Klein in the cell, and brings up the rear to stop the Doctor.  Donna starts recording the numbers on the walls, and realizes they are counting down along the path.  She tells Jenny more about the Doctor and how he saves planets and lives.  They reach a laser defense grid; the Doctor shuts it down while Jenny holds off their pursuers, but it reactivates before she can get through.  She is forced to acrobatically vault through it, leaving her gun behind.  On the surface, Martha’s Hath is killed saving her from a pool of mud.

Donna wants the Doctor to take Jenny with him, and he grudgingly agrees, finally accepting that she is not just a soldier.  He is not happy, however, and explains to Donna that he was a father once before, but it ended badly.  On the surface, Martha at last reaches the temple of the Source—which is clearly a spaceship of some sort.  Meanwhile the Doctor and the others arrive there as well from inside, with the soldiers right behind them; the Doctor locks the soldiers out, and quickly realizes they are in a ship.  He sees that the Hath are cutting in from another door.  He finds the ship’s log, which explains the history of the colony; it ends with the splintering of the human and Hath factions.  Donna finds another number, this time electronic yet, and determines the numbers are the date, in an odd format; the Doctor recognizes it as the New Byzantine calendar.  The dates count outward from the ship with the expansion of the colony.  However, the earliest dates are only a week ago—the war has only been going on for seven days.  The “countless generations” Cobb cited are correct, but only by merit of the progenation machines, which need little time to produce a generation—up to twenty or more a day.  The colony isn’t in ruins; it is still waiting to be populated.

Martha meets up with them, but the troops on both sides are about to break in.  They smell flowers, and follow the scent; they find an arboretum of sorts—the ship’s biological cargo.  In the center they find the Source:  a third-generation terraforming device, with the power to transform the world.  The troops arrive at that moment, and the Doctor gets them to stop long enough to explain about the terraforming device.  It is for bringing life, not ending it.  The Doctor declares the war over, and smashes the device, releasing its terraforming powers.  The soldiers lay down their weapons, but Cobb can’t accept it, and shoots at the Doctor; Jenny takes the bullet, and dies in the Doctor’s arms.  He hopes she will regenerate, but there is no indication of it; and he is forced to let her go.  He angrily confronts Cobb, and draws a gun on him, but puts it down, and tells him that “I never would.”  He charges the soldiers to remember it, and make it the foundation of their society—a man who never would kill.

As the world transforms, they leave Jenny’s body in an empty church, where the colonists will give her a funeral.  The Doctor concludes that Jenny was the reason for the TARDIS bringing them there.  He leaves to take Martha home; Martha warns Donna that one day she too will choose to leave, though Donna denies it.  On the colony world, Jenny suddenly revives in a burst of regeneration energy, though she doesn’t change form; she steals the colony ship’s shuttle and leaves the planet to explore the universe and follow the Doctor’s example.

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The Doctor’s Daughter has proven to be one of the more controversial episodes of the revived series. Now that the Time War has been resolved for a few years, and Gallifrey’s fate is known, and the Time Lords have made multiple appearances, it’s difficult to grasp just how much stir the character of Jenny, the “Generated Anomaly”, created at the time. Was she a Time Lord (or Lady, as Donna points out—“What do you call a female Time Lord?”)? Could she, or did she, actually regenerate (given that she didn’t change form)? What happened to her afterward? Was this Russell T. Davies’ way of bringing the Time Lords back to the series—essentially by replacing them? Would we see Jenny again? Now, of course, we know that that wasn’t the plan, or at least that it didn’t work out that way; and although she has at least one appearance in the comics (The Choice, Endgame), Davies has since joked that she crashed into a moon and died immediately upon leaving the planet Messaline. Take that as you like; sources conflict on the matter.

I like stories that tinker with perspective, and this one does so in a unique way. As we near the end of the story, we find out that the scope of the story—in a temporal sense—is not at all what we were led to believe; and the net effect is that it somehow raises the horror level, rather than lowers it as one might have expected. The story also hints at—but never really addresses head-on—the question of what it means to be real; the Doctor challenges Jenny on whether she is a real person, and Donna defends her. The Doctor does it for his own reasons, but they aren’t good reasons; he thinks he’s doing it out of respect for the memory of his race (referring to the history and culture that Jenny lacks), but really I think he’s doing it because he’s become used to the idea that he’s the only one left. Throughout two incarnations, he has shaped his own identity around that point, and to take it away might leave him rudderless. To his credit, he does begin to come around near the end, and although calling her his daughter was essentially a throwaway line, he comes to take it very seriously. It’s all doubly interesting when we compare it to his reaction to the Master in Last of the Time Lords; there, he was willing to take on full, long-term responsibility for the Master, and was heartbroken at his death, all because it was another Time Lord—“You are not alone”. Here, he’s burned by that experience, and he WANTS to be alone with regard to other Time Lords, at least at first; but by the end, he’s just as heartbroken all over again. The first time he mourns; the second time, he very nearly snaps, drawing a gun—a gun! The Doctor, with a gun!—on the man who shot Jenny. He does pull back, but it’s a close call.

Two themes show up over and over this series. One is the rivalry between the Doctor and Donna. It’s a good-natured rivalry—unlike Clara Oswald some years later, Donna doesn’t want to BE the Doctor, she just wants to challenge his thinking. We saw it in The Fires of Pompeii, when Donna wanted to save everyone, or at least someone. It was less prominent in the other stories so far, but it shows up again in this story, with her conflict with the Doctor over Jenny. The other theme, I think, is that of “the man who never would”, as the Doctor describes himself. We saw it in Partners in Crime, where he tried desperately to save Matron Cofelia; in Planet of the Ood, when he refused to sacrifice the Ood for the humans; in The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, when he refused to fight back against the Sontarans in military fashion, and then hesitated to push the button at the end; and we see it here, spelled out when he spares General Cobb. I’d argue we’ve seen it at least as far back as the end of Last of the Time Lords. The real question is, how many shocks can a man like that take before he would? We’ll get the answer to that in the series finale, and in the specials at the end of this series.

References in this story: I’ve already mentioned how reminiscent Jenny’s death scene is of the Master’s (Last of the Time Lords). Martha tells Donna about the Doctor’s hand, and the events of The Christmas Invasion during which it was severed. The Doctor mentions having been a father before, which he has done in several stories both classic and new (The Tomb of the Cybermen, Delta and the Bannermen, Fear Her, The Empty Child, and any number of New Adventures novels, as they seem to favor reminiscing about Susan). Martha gets kidnapped on a semi-regular basis (Gridlock, The Sontaran Stratagem, The Choice although the latter involves many companions being kidnapped).

Overall: Not bad episodes, although the latter is perhaps still controversial. Jenny is an endearing character, and her actress is charming (and David Tennant must have thought so, as he married her). I should mention here, as I didn’t mention it before, that Georgia Moffett is also the daughter of Peter Davison, making her literally the Doctor’s daughter; there have been any number of jokes about that. The Sontaran Stratagem gave us Dan Starkey, if not his more famous character of Strax; and The Poison Sky is the first episode to feature Rose, Donna and Martha all in one episode (they previously managed it in separate parts of a two-parter, Army of Ghosts/Doomsday).

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Next time: We take a detour into history for The Unicorn and the Wasp, before meeting another character with a huge impact on the Doctor in Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead! See you there.

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

The Sontaran Stratagem

The Poison Sky

The Doctor’s Daughter

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Return of the Master: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Three, Part Five

We’re back, with our new Doctor Who rewatch! This week, we wrap up Series Three with the revived series’ first three-part story: Utopia, The Sound of Drums, and Last of the Time Lords! We’ll say goodbye to Martha (for now), and hello to another classic villain. Let’s get started!

One quick note: Beginning next week, I’ll be changing up the format of these posts to eliminate spoilers as much as possible. (I can’t promise there won’t be any at all; that’s the nature of a review—but we’ll eliminate the plot summaries, at least.) However, I opted not to begin with this week’s post, as today’s post marks the end of Series Three, just as yesterday’s post wrapped up the Destiny of the Doctor audio series. So, for today, we’ll continue as we’ve been doing, and institute the changes on Monday. Thanks again!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not seen these episodes!

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As previously seen in Boom Town, the TARDIS returns to the Cardiff spacetime rift to refuel—a shorter process than last time, as the rift has been active. Jack Harkness runs to the TARDIS and grabs onto the outside as it dematerializes. Something goes wrong inside the ship, and it begins to hurtle toward the end of time, finally coming to rest in the year 100 trillion (or perhaps beyond)—further than the Time Lords ever dared to go. Outside, Martha and the Doctor find Jack, who is dead from his exposure to the vortex—until suddenly, he revives. After some uncomfortable reintroduction, the trio sees a man running from garish humanoids, the Futurekind. They rescue him, but are forced to abandon the TARDIS and run themselves, ending up inside the nearby, human-occupied Silo base.

Inside, they meet an elderly man called Professor Yana, and his insect-like assistant, Chantho. They are welcomed warmly, as the Doctor is also a scientist; Yana eagerly enlists him to help with the final hurdles on his work in progress. There is a massive rocket inside the Silo, with a majestic purpose: it will carry the last humans to Utopia. Yana means it literally; there is a signal coming to them across the dying stars, calling the humans to a home where, hopefully, they will find a way to survive the end of the universe. The Doctor asks a departing patrol to recover the TARDIS, and sets to work, while Martha gets to know the humans and Chantho, who is the last of her kind.

While the Doctor and Jack work on some electronics near the rocket, the TARDIS arrives, and Martha assists Yana and Chantho. He tells her his life story, and of the memories he lost before he was found by the last humans. He shows her a fob watch that was found with him; and to her horror, Martha recognizes it as a chameleon arch receptacle, much like the one the Doctor possesses. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Jack cannot die, or at least not permanently, and he goes into an irradiated chamber to make repairs needed for the rocket. He survives, but as he comes back, Martha arrives. She tells the Doctor and Jack about the fob watch, theorizing that Yana is a Time Lord in disguise, a survivor of the Time War like the Doctor. Unbeknownst to them, the comm channel is open, and Yana can hear them; and their words stir memories in him. As the Doctor gets the rocket running, and it loads up and blasts off, Yana overcomes the watch’s perception filter and opens it…and learns his true identity: the Doctor’s old friend and nemesis, the Time Lord called the Master. At that moment, Martha reminds the Doctor of the Face of Boe’s last words: You Are Not Alone…YANA.

The Master locks the lab door, with the TARDIS inside with him. He opens the front gate, allowing the Futurekind inside to ravage the base. Chantho, appalled, stands up to him, and he electrocutes her; but before she dies, she shoots him. He enters the TARDIS, taking with him the an item from Jack’s travel bag: a container that holds the Doctor’s hand which was severed by the Sycorax. Just as the Doctor, Martha, and Jack get the lab door open, he locks the door, then regenerates, becoming young again. He taunts the Doctor, then leaves in the TARDIS, leaving them to die as the Futurekind break in.

In The Sound of Drums, the Doctor, Martha, and Jack materialize on 2007 Earth, courtesy of Jack’s vortex manipulator. He reveals that the Master will be here; as the Master was leaving in the TARDIS, the Doctor used the sonic screwdriver to fuse the controls so that it can only travel between 100 trillion and 2007, give or take a year or two. Martha realizes where she has heard his voice before: he is Harold Saxon, a politician with a recent and sudden rise to power—and today, he is assuming the position of Prime Minister. They see him on television making a speech; not only is he Prime Minister, but he has married a human woman, Lucy, as well. At 10 Downing Street, the Master meets with his new cabinet, and promptly kills them all with poison gas.

Martha takes Jack and the Doctor to her apartment, and they research Saxon’s rise to power. At Downing Street, a reporter meets with Saxon’s wife, Lucy, and confronts her with evidence that Saxon is not who he seems; Lucy admits it, and is in on it. Saxon enters the room, and summons several spherical robots, which kill the reporter in dramatic fashion.

The Doctor questions Martha about what she knows about Saxon, but her answers are vague, and he catches her tapping out a four-beat rhythm with her fingers. Saxon comes on the television, and they realize he is aware of them and targeting them; they escape just ahead of an explosion in the apartment. Against the Doctor’s will, Martha calls her family, not knowing they are being monitored by Saxon’s people; they try to get her to come home. She takes the Doctor and Jack to the house, where they see Saxon’s people take her parents into custody (and later her sister as well), and shoot at them. They escape, but barely. They abandon the vehicle, and Martha calls her brother, but Saxon breaks in on the call. The Doctor talks to him, and tells him how the Time War ended; he explains how he escaped. He reveals he can track them via security cameras, and they are forced to run again.

The ball-shaped creatures are the Toclafane, and they have an agreement with the Master. It will be executed at 8:02 the next morning. Meanwhile, the Doctor explains about the Master’s insanity and broken childhood, and Martha explains about the ubiquitous Archangel cell phone network, which has implanted the four-beat drumming sound in everyone’s mind. The Master himself hears that sound, and has since childhood, and it is what has driven him mad. The Doctor alters three TARDIS keys into perception filters so that they can travel unnoticed.

The Master has announced on television that the Toclafane have made contact, and will arrive in the morning. The US president arrives and assumes control of the situation under UN authority. He relocates to UNIT’s flying aircraft carrier, the Valiant, and the Master and Lucy join him there. The Doctor, Martha, and Jack sneak aboard with the vortex manipulator. They find the TARDIS aboard, but it has been transformed into a paradox machine—a device for maintaining an otherwise-unstable paradox.

When the Toclafane arrive, they will only deal with the Master. He orders them to kill the president, and resumes control. He captures the Doctor, Jack, and Martha, having been unaffected by the perception filters. He kills Jack, with his laser screwdriver—an improvement over the sonic, allegedly—and gloats about getting to do so repeatedly. He brings in Martha’s family to watch his victory. He reveals that he funded Richard Lazarus’s experiments in aging, then engineered the technology into the screwdriver. He uses the screwdriver to age the Doctor into an old man. He activates the paradox machine, opening a massive rift to the future in the sky, and billions of Toclafane pour through; he orders them to kill one-tenth of the population. Unseen, Jack revives and gives Martha his vortex manipulator, and she teleports away.

In Last of the Time Lords, a year has passed. The Master has built a fleet of ships, and is preparing to send them out to conquer the universe. Each one has the power to create a black hole, destroying any opposition. He plans to create a new Gallifrey and a new empire, forged in his image. Earth is enslaved and largely ruined. Aboard the Valiant, the Doctor, with Martha’s family and Jack, surreptitiously stages an attack on the Master, but it fails.

Martha has walked the earth for a year, and her legend has grown. She returns to Britain and meets a man named Tom, who takes her to meet one Professor Docherty, who can help her capture a Toclafane. With difficulty, they do so, and manage to get it open; they discover that the misshapen being inside was once human. The Toclafane are the human remnants from Utopia, transformed and regressed, and totally devoted to the Master. Martha reveals she has a gun that uses four chemicals, which will kill a Time Lord and suppress his regeneration. With it she plans to kill the Master. However, Docherty betrays her presence to the Master, who has her son in custody. That night, Martha is captured by the Master, who destroys the gun; he is about to kill Martha when Tom sacrifices himself to save her. The Master reconsiders, and delays her death until the Doctor and her family can watch, as the fleet launches. He takes her back to the Valiant, and prepares for his moment of triumph.

Moments before launch, Martha laughs at him. The gun was a ruse, and the resistance was aware that Docherty would betray her; it was all a ruse to get her here, now, with the Doctor. Her year of travel was used to plant one order in the minds of the people: at the moment the fleet is activated, everyone on Earth will think one word together: “Doctor.” The Doctor, meanwhile, spent the last year attuning himself to the still-active Archangel network. The combined psychic intent of humanity, amplified by the network, sends a surge of power into the Doctor, restoring him to health and youth, and letting him deflect the Master’s attacks. He backs the Master into a corner…and embraces him, forgiving him. Meanwhile, Jack breaks free and takes some loyal soldiers to destroy the paradox machine, but the Toclafane delay him. The Master uses the vortex manipulator—taken from Martha—to teleport himself and the Doctor to Earth. He has a remote for the fleet, and will activate their black hole convertors—if he can’t have the world, no one will. The Doctor manages to teleport them back to the Valiant, just as Jack destroys the paradox machine. Instantly time reverts to the minute when the machine was activated a year earlier, leaving no casualties except the just-killed president—and no Toclafane can come through the rift except the few that were already present. Only the Valiant and those aboard are unaffected; no one on Earth will remember the year that never was.

The Doctor declares that he will take the Master in custody and be responsible for him. However, Lucy Saxon—now long since disabused of her loyalty to the Master—shoots the Master. The Doctor begs him to regenerate, but in a final moment of selfish victory, he chooses not to, and dies.

The Doctor cremates the Master, but later, an unidentified woman takes the Master’s ring from the embers of the fire. Jack explains that he will stay on Earth with Torchwood, as the Doctor cannot reverse his immortality. However, the Doctor disables the time-travel and teleport functions on the vortex manipulator, ensuring he will get in less trouble. Jack leaves the Doctor and Martha with a cryptic comment that indicates he may one day become the Face of Boe.

Finally facing her feelings for the Doctor, and that they will never be resolved, Martha chooses to stay on Earth as well, and return to her life, family, and studies. However, she leaves her phone with the Doctor, and insists that he respond if she calls him. The Doctor—who has recovered the severed hand from Jack—prepares to leave—and as he does not have his shields up, he is rattled when the TARDIS crashes…into the Titanic.

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I’m a lifelong fan of the Master, and when I learned that he would be appearing in the revived series, I was thrilled. I wasn’t disappointed when the episode aired, and Utopia has become one of my favorite episodes. Derek Jacobi’s portrayal of the elderly Master is, in a word, terrifying, even though he doesn’t do much. He’s ruthless and evil as though he has to make up for lost time, which I suppose he does. He’s very much like the classic version of the Master, especially during the Delgado years, bitter and cold and full of rage. It’s a shame that we didn’t get more time with him in the role, although I understand that he plays a different incarnation in the Big Finish audios (I haven’t reached them yet, but I am looking forward to it). John Simm gets much more flak for his portrayal, I suspect because he is the polar opposite of Jacobi, Delgado, and others. Where they are reserved, he is unleashed. In them, the insanity glows; in him, it blazes. I, for one, love both versions, though it goes against popular opinion; no one should expect one incarnation to be the same as the others, as we know from years with the Doctor. It doesn’t seem strange to me that Simm’s Master should be unhinged, capricious, or wildly cruel. He’s still the Master—still very evil, and still very much in control of the situation, even if not entirely in control of himself. It’s completely brilliant, coming and going. (We’ll deal with the other side of Simm when we get to The End of Time.)

Simm’s version of the Master is more than just a maniac, though. I talked in last week’s post about the religious metaphors in this season’s presentation of the Doctor, especially as seen in Human Nature/The Family of Blood. I stand by what I said there, and I think it was leading up to this story, where the messiah imagery is fully executed. If the Doctor’s experience with the Chameleon arch represents his death, temptation, and resurrection, then this story represents his second coming, in the form of his restoration from old age. I find it interesting that when Martha refers to the population’s thoughts about the Doctor, the Master refers to it as “prayer”. And in true messianic fashion, he chooses not to judge, but to forgive. (That’s not entirely consistent with the biblical narrative—all the parts are there, but in the wrong order—but that’s a topic for another time.) If all that is true, then the Master is the antichrist in this metaphor. I’ve mentioned in other places that “anti-“ doesn’t simply mean “against”, it also means “in place of”, and here we see both aspects. The Master is certainly against the Doctor, and even makes early attempts to kill him; but he’s also very similar to the Doctor, and would supplant him if he could. He’s young, of similar stature and physique to the Doctor, and dresses similarly (suits and ties). He has his own screwdriver. He has a fob watch like the Doctor’s. He eats Jelly Babies, a dig at the Doctor’s past lives. He even mimics the Doctor’s mannerisms; when Lucy challenges him on the success rate of the Archangel network, we get this… Lucy: “You said Archangel was 100%!” Master: <sharp intake of breath, tilting head> “Well…99…98?” It’s a mannerism and mode of speech that we’ve seen the Tenth Doctor use a dozen times or more.

In light of those points, I noticed something else here, though I doubt this was intentional. It’s long been theorized—and canonized in the VNAs—that the Leader in the Inferno universe was a version of the Doctor, who took power in Britain. I think that the Master, here, is an exploration of the same idea: What would happen if the Doctor went dark and stole power? This series wasn’t ready for a dark Doctor, something that has only been sincerely attempted once, via the Valeyard; but by substituting the Master, we can play with the idea, without committing.

This story is, naturally, the revelation of the Saxon arc that’s been playing out slowly since Love and Monsters. I won’t call it the resolution, because…spoilers for The End of Time–we’ll get there. Some recapping takes place, especially with regard to his involvement in shooting down the Racnoss Webstar. There’s also acknowledgement of Torchwood, though the team doesn’t appear here, Saxon having sent them “on a wild goose chase in the Himalayas”. We will, however, see them in Journey’s End. This story fits in the middle of an arc that really began with The Parting of the Ways, runs through Torchwood series one, and will not conclude until The End of Time, depending on your perspective. I wonder how much of that was planned in advance.

Some random observations and references: Jack knows a lot about regeneration, but I don’t recall it ever being explained to him in detail, and he has not witnessed it. The scene where the advisors are killed is reminiscent of Aliens of London with the Slitheen. The Doctor and the Master are a creepy sort of bromance, and it could only get creepier if one of them became a woman…oh wait. The Master refers to the Dalek Emperor taking control of the Crucible during the War; this will be expanded in Journey’s End. The Master’s monologue at the end of The Sound of Drums is echoed in Rassilon’s monologue (slight spoiler, sorry) at the end of The End of Time, part one. What an impossible coincidence, that the Toclafane Martha takes down should be the one child that she spoke to in the Silo! This is unintentionally a Doctor-lite episode (Last of the Time Lords), as David Tennant only actually appears at the beginning and end, with a CGI mini-Doctor in the middle. There’s a lot of foreshadowing of next season, with the recovery of the ring, and mentions of the Medusa Cascade and Agatha Christie. Lucy exists solely to mock the Doctor’s habit of taking companions; the Master even partially acknowledges this. As well, there are indications that he may have abused her during their year on the Valiant, which helps explain her betrayal at the end.

There’s more I could say, but I think that’s enough. Again, it’s one of my favorite stories, and I could go on much longer. What a way to end an excellent series!

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Next time: In addition to some format changes, we’ll look at the Time Crash mini-episode, and then we’ll examine the Christmas special, Voyage of the Damned, before launching into Series Four. See you there!

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

Utopia

The Sound of Drums

Last of the Time Lords

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

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

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

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not seen these episodes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never cruel nor cowardly,

Never give up; never give in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human Nature

The Family of Blood

Blink

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

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

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not watched these episodes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lazarus Experiment

42

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

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

 

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

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not watched these episodes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daleks In Manhattan

Evolution of the Daleks

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

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

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not seen these episodes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smith and Jones

The Shakespeare Code

Gridlock

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