Review: “Moon Man”, Peter Capaldi Charity Zine

It’s review time again! Today we’re covering…something a little different!

After my recent review of the Defending Earth charity anthology, I received an email from Ginger Hoesly, the host of a charity ‘zine (do we still use the apostrophe? Or is it just “zine” these days?) titled Moon Man, focusing on everyone’s favorite (twelfth) Time Lord, the esteemed Peter Capaldi. Ginger asked me if I would be willing to review the project, which is on sale now (see below for a link!). This corner of the fandom is really something with which I have no experience, and so—partly for the cause, and partly for my own curiosity—I gladly agreed. And, here we are!

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Moon Man Cover Art by Rhiannon McGuiness

This zine (we’ll go with that spelling—take that, punctuation!) is, as I said, focused on Peter Capaldi rather than the Twelfth Doctor. However, the prose portion of the zine is a unique Twelfth Doctor story, and so it fits with the theme of this site. The story is accompanied by forty-one illustrations of various roles from Peter’s career, submitted by many artists in a variety of styles—I’ll be featuring a few as we go. All proceeds from the sale of Moon Man will go to the Glasgow School of Art, Peter Capaldi’s alma mater; sales are open until 29 April, and can be accessed at the link below.

As always when I cover charity projects, there will be spoilers ahead! My reason for including more spoilers in this type of review is that charity projects, unlike licensed work, don’t get the kind of long-term availability, or documentation, that licensed works get. To a very real degree, once it’s over, it’s over. I believe, though, that many charity stories are rich contributions to the greater Whoniverse, and deserve to be recorded in some way—and so I document them here as I can. But, don’t be fooled—no summary is a substitute for actually purchasing and reading the material. Check it out!

Moon Man 2 Local Hero

Danny Oldsen from Local Hero, art by Arianna Climaci

When I sit down to summarize the plot of a story, it’s a straightforward—if sometimes tedious—affair. You start at the beginning, point A, and work through points B and C, all the way to point Z, the end. I can’t do that today, though; because the story contained in Moon Man is something different: if I may borrow the term, it’s a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. (I’m sure that term is copyrighted, so let me say that it’s me using it to make a comparison; the term isn’t used anywhere in the zine.) Over the course of about a dozen possible selections, the story builds through various scenes at the discretion of the reader. In the first scene, a quick trip to the shops turns into a disaster in the making for Clara Oswald and the Twelfth Doctor, as the TARDIS tries to pull itself apart. The ship is attempting to land in at least a dozen places and times, all at once! The Doctor is able to narrow it to two, but Clara is forced to make a snap decision as to which they will visit. In each of the scenes that follow, the TARDIS shuts down and refuses to budge—in one case, locking them out—until they do…something. What they must do, remains to be seen.

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Randall Brown from The Hour, art by Emma J. Goddard

In one scene, the TARDIS takes them to the Happer Institute, a combined sky-and-sea observatory—but it lands them in the past, shortly before the construction of the observatory, where Clara briefly encounters an oddly familiar young man. In another, while the Doctor constructs a micro-artron detector to help them track their progress, Clara encounters a late-evening office worker named Randall Brown, who has no time for her at all. A third takes them to 1992 Scotland, where the TARDIS promptly locks them out—until they help a stranded motorist named Gavin Bellini. Clara starts to see a pattern in their stops, and snaps a picture of Gavin with the strangely-oblivious Doctor…

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Gavin Bellini from Soft Top Hard Shoulder, art by Valentina Mozzo

Cardiff, 2013: The zombie apocalypse is on, despite the Doctor’s dour insistence that he’s never done this before (a lie, I might add—see my recent review for White Darkness). The TARDIS lands at a World Health Organization facility, where a few survivors wait. The Doctor ultimately leaves Clara secured in the TARDIS while he impersonates a more traditional doctor—a WHO Doctor, one might say (though Clara is having none of that!). Another place, but not far off in time: Windsor Gardens, 2017, the Doctor impersonates a Mr. Curry to get close to a strange, anthropomorphic bear…which is decidedly not of alien origin. A surge of guilt, courtesy of Clara, makes him rethink his plan, and the duo withdraw. Back to Derbyshire, 1988, where they are accosted by a young man in traditional Scottish garb, desperately seeking a set of bagpipes, much to the Doctor’s disgust—and Clara’s astonishment that the young man’s face is not familiar to the Doctor.

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WHO Doctor from World War Z, art by Sochika

The TARDIS seems to be growing tired—if that is possible—as it takes them to Paris, the 1600s. And yet it’s not Paris outside when the door opens; rather, it’s Prague, 2013—but with a rather large number of people in 1600s period dress. Perhaps the TARDIS is confused? As it turns out, it’s a film shoot, for a new version of The Three Musketeers. Clara is distracted by the filming as the Doctor encounters the actor who plays Cardinal Richelieu…and criticizes his appearance. Doctor to the end! But at any rate, the TARDIS pulls itself together for another trip. This time, it travels to Rome, 1st Century A.D., where it lands in a rather colorful villa. The Doctor stays inside to work on the TARDIS while Clara has a look around; but she is stunned to see a man with not only an approximation of the Doctor’s face and voice, but exactly the same face and voice! As soon as she is free, she races back to the TARDIS, but before she can take the Doctor to look, the TARDIS lurches into motion again.

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John Frobisher from Torchwood: Children of Earth, art by Sirlsplayland

2010 London finds the Doctor sitting in the office of a man who looks just like him…a spin doctor named Malcolm Tucker. He plays the role reasonably well, just oddly enough to confuse Malcolm’s coworkers as he quizzes them on events of the last two weeks. Not coincidentally, that’s how long the TARDIS has been present; but it is not the only alien presence in the area—and why is everyone getting strange headaches? Why are there new security updates on every computer first thing each morning? Still, he only has a little time to work here, as Clara keeps the real (and rather abrasive) Malcolm Tucker busy. He’s nearly successful; but he is found out by one of the coworkers, Sam, who recognizes him for his profound lackof swearing—did I mention that Malcolm could be abrasive? He confides in her that the government—perhaps all the way up to Downing Street, where there is currently an unusually high concentration of artron energy—has a virus, and not only the computers, but the individuals, are being affected. As he prepares to wage war on the virus, Sam throws in her lot with him.

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Mr. Curry from Paddington, art by Sophie Iles

Fans of Capaldi’s long and storied career will have no doubt caught on long ago to what is happening in this story. I was not so lucky; I grew up in the US, and never heard of Peter Capaldi until he was selected to be the Twelfth Doctor. I still am unfamiliar with most of his work (though I’ve picked up a bit of The Thick of It, which is remarkable and fun and too vulgar to watch with the kids, meaning I don’t get to watch it often). As a consequence it took me about three or four scenes to realize what was happening. That’s not a complaint about the presentation; it’s more a lament about my own lack of foreknowledge.

Moon Man 8 The Lair of the White Worm

Angus Flint from The Lair of the White Worm, art by Tousle

I’ve presented the scenes in a certain order above; but that’s only a concession to the summary format, and it is almost certainly the wrong order. Each “path” through the story is about four scenes long, and some endings can be reached in different ways. Because this story is a tribute to various roles, none of the scenes dig deep in terms of plot; they pass quickly. Likewise, none of the endings seem like traditional endings; rather, every scene and ending feels like the jumping-off point for a new adventure. Indeed, I’d be thrilled to see fanfiction writers (or professional writers, for that matter, in other charity projects) pick up these threads and run with them; some of them, especially the scene with Malcolm Tucker and the “zombie apocalypse” scene, seem especially promising, and I’d love to see where they go!

Moon Man 9 The Musketeers

Cardinal Richelieu from The Musketeers, art by Melissa Dow

But, none of that is necessary here, because this is a tribute rather than a single story—and a great tribute it is, as well. The story serves as a tribute not only to the various roles, but also and especially to the Twelfth Doctor. The characterization and dialogue are spot on; Clara, especially, is as witty as ever, the Doctor as socially awkward and overbearing as ever. I’ve been uncharitable to Clara in the past; but this is early-stage Clara (the story, based on descriptions, seems to fit best in early Series 8), when she’s still very likeable, before tragedy strikes in the form of the doomed Danny Pink.

Moon Man 10 The Thick of It

Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It, art by Raine Szramski

What stands out most of all, though, is the artwork. The range of styles is impressive; the sheer number of artist contributors caught me off guard. I’ve included a few—those connected to the story, and those most relevant to Doctor Who, but the zine is worth picking up simply for the art. (I don’t have room to credit every artist here individually, but I have tried to do so with the selections I’ve featured here.)

Moon Man 11 The Fires of Pompeii

Lobus Caecilius from Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii, art by Jose Rod Mota

Overall: I didn’t know what to expect, this being my first experience with this type of work. I was pleasantly surprised. Moon Man is an entertaining story, accompanied by a phenomenal set of illustrations, and it’s worth adding to anyone’s collection. Check it out!

Moon Man, a charity zine tribute to Peter Capaldi, may be purchased here. All proceeds go to support the Glasgow School of Art. Thanks to Ginger Hoesly and her talented group of artists for putting this project together!

Partners in Crime and Other Hijinks: New Doctor Who Rewatch, Series Four, Part One

We’re back, with our New Doctor Who rewatch! This week, we begin Series Four, David Tennant’s final series as the Tenth Doctor. We’re gaining a new (old?) companion, and watching three episodes today: Partners in Crime, The Fires of Pompeii, and Planet of the Ood. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not seen these episodes!

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In Partners in Crime, the Doctor is investigating Adipose Industries—but unknown to him, so is Donna Noble. Donna seems to have pulled her life together since their last meeting, and even their investigative techniques are nearly the same. As they observe a press conference with the company’s manager, Miss Foster, they learn that the Adipose pills bind the body’s fat together, then flushes it out. Independently they each obtain a list of customers who have bought the telephone-marketed pills; and each obtains a golden pendant in the shape of the pill, which is given out with the first order for each customer. The Doctor visits a customer named Roger Davey, who says that he has lost exactly one kilogram every night for two weeks; and more, it is gone by 1:10 AM. He knows this, because every night at that hour, his burglar alarm awakens him, with no clear explanation. Meanwhile, Donna visits another customer, Stacey Campbell—and while Stacey is in the restroom, her body collapses into a collection of small, white creatures, which appear to be made of fat. The creatures escape before Donna finds the woman’s now-empty clothes. Elsewhere, Foster sends a team to collect the creatures, who are the children of a race called the Adipose. The Doctor has a device which also detects the eruption of the creatures, but he is unable to arrive in time to locate the Adipose, or Donna for that matter—he misses her by just feet. Foster, meanwhile, discovers a pendant is missing—and in fact it was responsible for the unscheduled “birth”—and checks the security footage, to find the thief.

At home, Donna’s mother nags her about her lack of a job, until Donna goes up the nearby hill to visit her grandfather. Wilfred Mott has also met the Doctor, at his newspaper stand on Christmas Eve, and he believes Donna’s stories, but he can’t properly console her, or help her find him again. However, she asks him to keep an eye out for the TARDIS as he watches the sky through his telescope. In the TARDIS at that moment, the Doctor is analyzing readings, and uncomfortably reminiscing about Martha.

The Doctor and Donna separately return to Adipose Industries in the morning, still unaware of each other; and both hide until the office closes. Donna hides in the restroom, until Foster arrives with guards; she thinks she has been found, until it is revealed that there’s another spy, a reporter named Penny Carter. The Doctor and Donna watch Penny’s interrogation by Foster from opposite door windows—and suddenly see each other. They mouth greetings to each other, until Foster catches them, and they run. They descend the outside of the building in a window washing cradle, until Foster—with a sonic device of her own, cuts one of the cables. The Doctor shorts out her sonic with his (although not fatally) long enough to escape back into the building. The Doctor frees Penny, but shortly all three are caught again. Foster reveals that she is actually Matron Cofelia, and that she was hired by the Adipose First Family to breed and prepare their next generation after their breeding planet, Adipose 3, was lost. The Doctor points out that, aside from the occasional deaths from the process, seeding a Level 5 planet like Earth is a crime against galactic call, and he threatens to notify the Shadow Proclamation. Having obtained Foster’s sonic pen, he matches it with his to create a sonic burst that stuns the guards, allowing him to run with Donna. Foster then starts the birthing process for all the million affected humans early. She uses a machine called an inducer to send a signal to all the pendants, initiating the process. The Doctor finds a secondary inducer terminal in the basement, and counters the process with the pendant and his sonic screwdriver. He needs a second pendant to complete the process—and Donna, as it happens, has one. Most of the humans are saved; only ten thousand Adipose are formed. And the nursery ship is on approach to collect them.

As the ship arrives, it begins to beam up the Adipose. It picks up Foster as well; the Doctor begs her to stop and return to the building. After all, the Adipose committed a crime, and they’ll want to cover it up…and who needs a nanny when the parents have come for the children? Just as she realizes her mistake, the Adipose cut the beam, and she plummets to her death. The ship departs.

Donna reminds the Doctor of his offer to travel with him—and this time, she insists, much to his consternation. Still, he agrees, and learns—to his shock—that she’s been waiting and hoping for this for a long time, to the point of keeping luggage in her car. She leaves the car for her mother, and leaves the keys in the care of a blonde girl…a girl named Rose Tyler. Rose disappears moments later.

Before leaving the here and now, Donna asks to go a short distance in the TARDIS. The time machine appears in the night sky over Wilfred’s hilltop, and she catches his attention—and joyfully, he wishes her the best as the TARDIS departs.

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In The Fires of Pompeii, the Doctor and Donna arrive in Rome, or so they think. Donna wonders how it is that she can understand the locals, and the Doctor explains that the TARDIS translates for her. Shortly after, they realize that this isn’t Rome at all—and the sight of a rumbling mountain tells them where they really are: It’s Pompeii…and tomorrow is volcano day!

The Doctor is determined to leave; Donna wants to save everyone. He insists that it isn’t possible; this part of history is fixed. While they argue about it, they discover a problem: The TARDIS is gone. The merchant at whose stall it was parked has sold it to a marble merchant, Caecilius, who has taken it for modern art. As they go to find it, a red-robed junior oracle, a sister of the Sibylline Sisterhood, watches them. Using a telepathic power, she reports her findings to her sisters and their high priestess, who have the “blue box” in their book of prophecies. However, this prophecy portends destruction.

Caecilius and his wife Metella have a son named Quintus, and a daughter, Evelina; Evelina has the gift of sight, and is an acolyte of the Sisterhood. The Doctor and Donna join them at home, passing as marble inspectors to get to the TARDIS, but they are interrupted by the arrival of the town augur, Lucius Petrus Dextrus. Lucius is here to claim a piece of worked marble; but the Doctor stops short of leaving when he sees that the piece is an electronic circuit. He ends up in an argument with both Lucius and Evelina, whose prophecies are both true and disturbingly close to home—and they verify them by exposing the Doctor and Donna’s true identities.

Donna stays to check out a skin problem that Evelina suffers, and finds that Evelina is turning to stone. She warns Evelina—and inadvertently, the Sisterhood—about the eruption. The Sisterhood kidnaps Donna for use as a sacrifice. Meanwhile, the Doctor investigates the hot spring venting system which emits the vapors that give the oracles their power. Since the system’s installation, the oracles have all become accurate—and the gods’ goals are taking tangible form. And yet, the oracles can’t foresee the eruption. The Doctor gets Quintus to take him to Lucius. There he finds more circuits, which together form an energy convertor. He is forced to escape, but not before learning that Lucius’s arm has turned to stone. At Caecilius’s home, the Doctor is menaced by a large stone creature, burning with flame—but water thrown on it causes it to fall apart. The Doctor goes after Donna. At the Sisterhood’s temple, he interrupts the sacrifice and saves Donna, then confronts the high priestess, who is almost completely stone. He forces a confrontation with the creature inside her, and finds out that the creatures under the mountain are Pyroviles: aliens from a volcanic world, trapped on Earth. Surrounded by the Sisterhood, he and Donna escape into the vents, into Vesuvius itself. There they find a Pyrovile construction—an escape pod which brought them here. They don’t intend to escape; they want to conquer Earth, which will make it inhospitable to humans. They can’t return home, as their planet was “taken”. The energy converter is part of their plan. The Doctor and Donna get in the escape pod. There he finds that if the plan is executed, Vesuvius’ power will be bled off and the eruption won’t happen—but everyone will die. If he stops the plan, then the Pompeiians will still die in the eruption…together, they make the latter choice, and shut off the machine. The first moment of the eruption hurls the pod free, and they return to the city for the TARDIS, outracing the building eruption. The Pyroviles are destroyed in the blast. At Caecilius’s house, they board the TARDIS, but Donna begs her to save someone, anyone—if he can’t save everyone. Finally, he returns, and retrieves Caecilius and his family, who are otherwise about to die. He lets them out in the hills, and explains that the visions were a result of a momentary crack in time, retrograde from the explosion—but it has closed now, and there will be no more visions. The Doctor and Donna leaves, but he acknowledges that Donna was right—sometimes he needs someone. Six months later, Caecilius and his family have moved to Rome, and founded a new life—but their new household gods are in the image of the Doctor and Donna.

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In Planet of the Ood, a businessman involved in the sale of Ood servants is killed by one of his “products”. The Doctor and Donna land on the Ood-Sphere, the home planet of the Ood. They meet a dying Ood in the snow, and then learn that they have landed near an Ood sales and distribution center, one of several spread across the three galaxies of the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire. As a group of potential buyers arrive, the Doctor and Donna join the group so as to investigate. They find that the Ood are purported to be born for service, but the Doctor knows that isn’t possible; and it quickly becomes clear that something is wrong, as they learn of Ood with a condition that causes red eyes and dangerous, hostile behavior. Another Ood goes feral while they are present, and is hunted down; it will be taken for research, but first it is killed. Meanwhile the facility’s manager goes to check something in a remote warehouse, Warehouse Fifteen; he refers to it as the Ood’s “Daddy”.

Investigating further, the Doctor and Donna infiltrate the shipping building, which is filled with shipping containers full of Ood ready for shipping. The guards, having learned that they are not legitimate buyers, track them there, and nearly kill the Doctor, but the sales manager stops them, as the boss wants the Doctor and Donna alive. All the Ood in the building suddenly develop red eye, causing the guards to divert to killing them; the Doctor and Donna escape. As the crisis escalates, they find the sales manager, but she betrays them, and they run again. They find a group of captive, unprocessed Ood, and find that they lack communication spheres, but have a secondary brain outside their heads; this brain is replaced with the comm spheres during processing. The Ood insist that “the circle must be broken”.They are then captured and taken to the boss. However, all turns to chaos when all the Ood become feral at once, and break out of their cages.

The boss knows the facility is lost, and will be investigated after the authorities sterilize it. In retaliation, he leaves the Doctor and Donna chained up for the mercies of the Ood. Before he goes, the Doctor insists there must be a third element to the Ood’s mental capacity—a hive brain of sorts. The boss insists it soon won’t matter, and leaves them to die. He dismisses his own servant Ood as he leaves. A group of red eyed Ood come to kill the Doctor and Donna; but the captive, unprocessed Ood exert their mental power and restore the red eyed Ood to normal, and the Ood accept the Doctor and Donna as friends, and free them.

The facility is now a battleground. The Doctor and Donna head through it, and follow the boss and his lead scientist, Doctor Ryder, to Warehouse Fifteen. The boss intends to destroy the hive brain which is hidden there, behind an electronic barrier, knowing that doing so will kill the Ood. The Doctor breaks in with Donna and observes this, and realizes that the barrier is the circle that must be broken. However, Ryder reveals that he is responsible for the current difficulties; he is part of a terrorist organization called Friends of the Ood, and he lowered the barrier to its lowest setting, allowing the Ood to regroup and rebel. The boss kills Ryder by dropping him onto the brain. However, before he can kill the Doctor and Donna, something begins to happen to him; and his servant, Ood Sigma, offers him a drink. It seems the drinks he has been having all along—which he believes are hair tonic—are a serum which will slowly, and under the influence of the Ood brain, convert him into an Ood. He transforms before their eyes. Ood Sigma insists they will take care of him. Donna doesn’t handle the events well, but holds up. The Doctor, with Ood Sigma’s permission, shuts down the barrier, breaking the circle, and allowing the Ood their freedom, and the restoration of their minds. Their telepathic song forces the guards to lay down their weapons, ending the battle.

The force of the song echoes across the galaxies, and both humans and Ood hear it—and the Ood will return home. However, the Ood have a prophecy for the Doctor, in the form of a new song: they predict that the Doctor’s song will soon end, but the “DoctorDonna” will be remembered forever.

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Partners in Crime is always a delight to watch. In my opinion, New Series season openers are usually good episodes; and I suppose that makes sense, as the production team would want to put their best foot forward for the first episodes. Rose is debatable, but certainly not terrible; New Earth is compelling, Smith and Jones is suspenseful, and Partners in Crime takes the humor angle. It’s certainly not humorous in the sense of being unbelievable; but there’s almost a slapstick comedy aspect to it, with the Doctor and Donna taking identical actions and continuously just missing each other. That scene, incidentally, may be a nod to The Romans, where the First Doctor and Vicki kept just missing Ian and Barbara.

I will say in advance that I don’t think this series is as good as Series Three. That series hit every high note it could find, and it would be tough to beat. However, Donna is my favorite NuWho companion, and so I don’t consider this series to be very far behind Series Three. After three seasons of companions who mooned after the Doctor in the romantic sense, we get a refreshing break from the melodrama with Donna, and it feels like fresh air. She’s witty, but not perfectly so; but where her wit fails, her volume and the sheer force of her personality prevail. The production team went out of their way to establish right from the beginning that this would be no romance; there’s the entertaining “You want to mate?!” scene, where the Doctor makes it clear that this time, he just wants a friend. It may be heavy-handed, but it was a good call. As a consequence, Donna stands in a class by herself, and I would argue that we have yet to have another companion like her. Amy—once she gets past her initial bout of lust after the Doctor—is more of a little sister character to him, with Rory being the brother-in-law (and never mind that the real, legal relationship is even more bizarre—thanks, River!), while Clara is…something else entirely, in that she wants to BE the Doctor. I’ll probably rave more about Donna as we proceed, so for now, back to the episode.

The Adipose are certainly different, and I admit that the concept is disgusting on paper—creatures that form from human fat while it’s still on the individual. Still, these things are so adorable, it’s hard to be angry at them (and besides, as the Doctor points out, they’re just children, and not responsible for how they are born). We have yet to see an adult Adipose, and I doubt we ever will. On a personal note, this is the episode that got my now-ten-year-old daughter interested in Doctor Who; she loves the Adipose. I imagine some adult fans probably ridiculed the episode as silly based on these creatures, but I don’t recall the reaction at the time; they ARE a bit silly, but not overwhelmingly so, I think. As far as the series is concerned, the Adipose are a means to an end; they give us our first hint of the series arc, in that the Adipose have lost their breeding planet, Adipose 3. It’s not yet stated how it was lost, so stay tuned. We also get a mention of the bees disappearing, which is a real-world concern as well, but here is a part of the arc.

When we consider past and future together, we actually get a group of companions here. Wiilfred Mott returns, and it’s revealed now that he is Donna’s grandfather. The original intention was to bring back Donna’s father from The Runaway Bride, Geoff Noble; however, actor Howard Attfield passed away in the interim (this episode being dedicated to his memory). Therefore Bernard Cribbins’ Wilfred, fresh off of his appearance in Voyage of the Damned, was retconned into Donna’s grandfather, and will eventually be a companion in his own right, albeit briefly. We also get a cameo at the end from a familiar face: none other than Rose Tyler, who appears briefly for a momentary encounter with Donna—who of course doesn’t know her by appearance—before disappearing again.

Some additional references for this episode: Donna refers back to her previous meeting with the Doctor (The Runaway Bride) and the Racnoss. The two-sonic-device effect (a sonic burst) was used in the Torchwood episode Fragments, and also in the audio The Light at the End. The Doctor mentions cat people (Survival, New Earth, Gridlock), though it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. The Shadow Proclamation is mentioned (Rose, et al) and is implied to be an organization, not just a treaty. Donna mentions the starship Titanic (Voyage of the Damned).

The Fires of Pompeii is a particularly noteworthy episode, though not so much at its time of release (although it was the first story to have primary photography filmed outside the UK since the television movie, being filmed in part in Rome). It’s notable for casting not one, but two actors who would go on to much larger Doctor Who roles. Karen Gillan, later to play companion Amy Pond, here plays a priestess of the Sibylline Sisterhood; and Peter Capaldi, the Twelfth Doctor himself, appears here as Pompeiian marble merchant Caecilius. The latter’s similarity to the Twelfth Doctor actually has an in-universe explanation as of The Girl Who Died; when regenerating, the Eleventh Doctor subconsciously chose the face of Caecilius for his next form, as a reminder to himself to save people when he can.

Pompeii on Volcano Day is a busy place for the Doctor; this is his third visit there. The Seventh Doctor visited with Mel in the audio The Fires of Vulcan, and visited again with Ace in the novel The Algebra of Ice, both of which were released prior to this story. I haven’t read the novel, but I suspect that the audio drama influenced this story, contributing such elements as the theft of the TARDIS. However, this story takes a more direct involvement in the events; without spoiling too much, I’ll say that the Tenth Doctor’s actions cause the eruption, albeit for ultimately good reasons. This story also serves as the Tenth Doctor’s Father’s Day; it’s the first Tenth Doctor story to directly grapple with the idea of history being fixed and unchangeable, just as Father’s Day was for the Ninth Doctor. The Doctor and Donna argue the point, as she wants to save everyone; he insists that it can’t be done. As it turns out, he could prevent the eruption…but at a cost that is unacceptable. However, she successfully persuades him to save someone, anyone—and that choice gives us the face of the Twelfth Doctor, centuries later. While it could never have been planned so far in advance, it’s a hugely satisfying payoff when it happens. The Doctor’s struggle with fixed points will come to a head in The Waters of Mars.

There is another link in the series arc here; the villainous Pyroviles have also lost their home planet, and thus want to conquer Earth. Still no mention is made of just how this planet was lost. We get a second bit of foreshadowing from the Sisterhood and the town augur, Lucius; they predict that “she is returning” (a reference that will soon have meaning for the Doctor) and they tell Donna that there is something on her back (Turn Left). They also hint at the events of The Waters of Mars, exposing the Doctor as a “Lord of Time”. The Sisterhood bears a strong resemblance to the Sisterhood of Karn (The Brain of Morbius, Night of the Doctor, et al) and the Pythia and her acolytes on old Gallifrey (Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible), even possessing a book of prophecy that resembles the Gallifreyan Book of Future Legends.

Planet of the Ood revives the sub-villains from The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, and gives them a surprisingly sympathetic twist. The story takes us to the Ood Sphere, the home planet of the Ood, which is located near (and probably in the same system as) the Sense-Sphere from The Sensorites. This was a deliberate nod, though I don’t know how far in advance it was planned; however, the Ood bear a definite resemblance to the Sensorites, and have similar telepathic powers. It’s a snowy planet, and in-universe, it’s the first New Series episode to include real snow (although, behind the scenes, it was artificial); technically The Runaway Bride had real snow, but it was artificially induced by the TARDIS. We don’t get many such snowy scenes in the television series.

Donna is rapidly becoming something of an activist; after trying to expose Adipose Industries, and save Pompeii, she now wants to free the Ood. For once, the Doctor is one hundred percent with her; he admits to feeling that he owes the Ood a debt because he was unable to save them last time. However, he actually has surprisingly little to do with saving them here; they have a plan in place, and are already carrying it out. Truthfully, the Doctor only releases the forcefield around the Ood Brain at the end, and Ood Sigma was certainly expecting to do that himself. I’d call the Doctor and Donna active spectators here; they aren’t really necessary, but they sit in on a great story anyway. It’s a story we need, as well; there is a lot of foreshadowing here, given by the telepathic Ood, who predict the end of the Doctor’s song…and say they will always remember the “DoctorDonna”. More of that to come.

We’ve seen a massive brain before, in Time and the Rani, although that one wasn’t natural. AS for other brains: We learn here that the Ood have secondary brains, fragilely located outside their bodies, which are mutilated and replaced with communication spheres when the Ood are processed for service. It seems like a biologically terrible design, but what do I know?

Overall, these episodes are a good start to the series. It won’t last forever; the next few episodes are, in my opinion, the low point of the series; but we’re off to a good beginning. With a new companion, some soon-to-be-familiar faces, and some great locations, it’s a roller-coaster already, and there’s a lot more to come this series. Definitely a good way to get going.

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Next time: Three more episodes, with the two-parter of The Sontaran Strategem and The Poison Sky, followed by The Doctor’s Daughter! See you there.

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

Partners in Crime

The Fires of Pompeii

Planet of the Ood

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Final Thoughts: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch

Heads up, folks; this is a long one.  The alternative was to split it up over a few days and a few posts, but we all have things to do, so we’ll just put it all up at once.  Here we go!

eight classic doctors

Eight months ago, give or take, I started something that was, for me, pretty ambitious. I decided to watch all of the classic series of Doctor Who. It was a lot to take on; I’m not good at following through and completing a series, even if it’s all available for streaming at once. I can’t count the shows I’ve attempted and then quit halfway. But Doctor Who is different, I told myself; it’s the show of my childhood, and besides, I had already seen the entire revived series to that point (or almost anyway; I held off on a bit of Series 8 for my girlfriend to catch up, and likewise with Series 9). So I decided to give it a try.

Where it all began.

Where it all began.

Now here we are, eight months, twenty-six seasons and one movie later, and it’s over. I missed a collective total of about thirty minutes, I think; there was a single episode (not a serial, just one part) I couldn’t locate, plus about seven minutes missing from another. Of course many of the early episodes are only available in reconstructions, but I was able to find recons for all of those missing episodes. So, I wanted to put together a final thoughts post for the series, and see what people think. I appreciate all the comments (and karma) from the previous posts; this fandom is great, no matter what anyone outside it may say, and the discussion is what I was after most of all. I’ve learned a lot about the series just from the conversations that have resulted, and it’s convinced me to give Big Finish and the various novels a try, as well. If this gets a little long—and who am I kidding, I know myself, of course it will—I’ll split it into parts, but I’ll post them as quickly as I can. (If you’re reading this on my blog, some of what I’ve just said may not make sense; I’ve posted these reviews on Reddit.com’s /r/Gallifrey subreddit, as well, and some things are specific to that site.) With that, let’s get started!

First doctor companions enemies

My very first observation as I started this rewatch is that the series has changed immensely since William Hartnell was the First Doctor. I suppose I expected that, given that the show is fifty-three years old; but I wasn’t expecting it to have changed in the ways I saw. It’s gone from being a somewhat-educational children’s show to being a family show with adult overtones; but it’s more than that. The Doctor we first met was not a nice guy, nor likeable. He really wasn’t even the hero of his own show—that would be Ian Chesterton. (All respect to Barbara and Susan, but it was the 1960s—women weren’t often the heroes of anything on television. They were great, and I liked them, but they existed to support Ian, mostly.) The Doctor was there, basically, to put Ian and Barbara and Susan into a bad situation every week, and occasionally offer a solution. Nowadays that would never fly—he’s the Oncoming Storm, the Madman with a Box, Time’s Champion, even the Time Lord Victorious. He’s the star of his show, now.benpolly

It might be tempting to say that that change happened with the revival, but it was happening long before that. I’ve theorized as I watched—well, it’s not so much a cohesive theory as just an observation—that there’s a visible pattern of growth to the Doctor as the series goes on. Every incarnation adds to his character, makes him something new—he doesn’t just change, he increases. The First Doctor was hardly the Doctor at all for most of his life. He became the Doctor, I believe, in The War Machines. I’ve talked about this a few times before, and I can’t claim total credit for the idea—sorry, I’ve lost the link to the original post that inspired the idea—but my headcanon is that the Doctor didn’t consider himself to be the Doctor until he met Ian and Barbara. (The short version is that Ian mistakenly calls him Doctor, and he lets it stand so he won’t have to tell them his real name; eventually he sees noble qualities in Ian that he wants for himself, and takes the name on as a promise to himself to live up to that example. Then, later, his name leads to the use of the term for a healer—it’s a bit of a paradox, but hey, this is Doctor Who, paradoxes are what we do here.) I think the turning point onscreen is when he faces down the War Machine in the street, willing to sacrifice himself if necessary to save the others—but confident that he can meet the challenge.

The War Games

And then, not long after, he regenerates. Patrick Troughton is the Doctor right from the start, there’s no doubt about it. For him, growth means learning not to let things go to his head. He’s just learned all this confidence and taken on this self-assigned responsibility; now he has to be humble. And the Second Doctor is definitely humble. He does all the things that a class clown does: He’s self-effacing, he uses humor to redirect attention, he’s always evaluating everything and everyone. He moves from passive to active: He’s not just a wanderer in time anymore; instead, he’s getting involved, making things happen. And he cares, far more than the first Doctor ever did. My first memory of the Second Doctor—before I started this rewatch—is from The Mind Robber, with the Doctor running through the Land of Fiction, frantically searching for Jamie and Zoe because he’s so utterly worried about what might happen to them. He comes across as sullen, sometimes, simply because he worries so much.

Doctor Who the seventies

And then, he gets caught. The runaway gets dragged back home to an as-yet-unnamed Gallifrey. His companions get their memories removed—what a waste!—and get sent home, and he is forced to regenerate again. In Patrick Troughton’s place, we get John Pertwee, the Third Doctor. Further, he’s banished to Earth; the newly-named Time Lords pull out parts of his TARDIS and parts of his mind so as to keep him there. He’s immediately scooped up by UNIT, so he’s not homeless or purposeless; but his wandering days are over for now. This Doctor is the responsible one, but it chafes him to be that way. He wants to be free, but he has to learn patience. In the meantime, he’s calm, dignified (mostly), and smooth. He’s cared for his companions before, but this is where he learns to love humanity in general; when he first lands, he looks down on them. He knows he’s smarter, knows they’re not on his level. But by the time he gains his freedom back, he doesn’t look down on them anymore—in fact, his opinions are reversed; in Planet of the Spiders, he’s happy with his friends and companions, and looking down on himself for his own foolishness. It’s humility, but a different kind of humility from that of the Second Doctor: He knows he’s not infallible.

The Android Invasion 1

All of that seems to go right out the window when Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor comes on the scene. Several times I’ve called this his adolescent phase. He’s the rebellious teenager here. He’s no longer content to meet his responsibilities; he wants to get out and see the universe. He spends a lot of episodes trying to run from duty, whether it be to UNIT, the Time Lords, the White Guardian, or his companions. He works on his TARDIS the way some teenagers soup up their cars. He gets so rebellious that he has to have a nanny, essentially, to keep him on track, and so Romana joins him. He’s changeable and moody and high-strung and unpredictable. He’s faced with huge decisions and freely admits he isn’t ready to make them. Genesis of the Daleks shows his immaturity (where rather than make the right decision, he more or less blunders into it); it’s not until The Armageddon Factor, when he dismisses the Key to Time, that he begins to grow out of it. And then, near his death, he gets Adric, and becomes something of a mentor to him. I feel like that relationship is what leads him to subconsciously choose the pattern of his next incarnation. He dies doing what he never could have done at the beginning: being a real hero, sacrificing himself for not just those close to him, but the universe at large.

Season 21 10

Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor takes that mentoring aspect and cranks it up to eleven. Young though he appears to be, he’s the fatherly type; he treats his companions less like friends and more like family, or like his own children. Adric’s death in Earthshock breaks him, and he becomes a little harder afterward; but instead of giving him a dark side, that hardness just makes him try that much harder to be the protector, the mentor, the leader. This is the phase of his life where he becomes, as Ohila will later say to the Eighth Doctor, the good man. He finds something of an equal in Nyssa (though it’s never a romantic relationship), but she ultimately leaves out of goodness—she chooses to stay behind on Terminus to help the survivors of Lazar’s Disease. He takes Turlough under his wing, and saves him; he tries to do the same with Kamelion, but fails. It hurts him quite a bit when Tegan leaves; he tries to make it up with Peri, and ends up dying to save her.

Trial 13

I want to say that Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor came as a reaction to something about the Fifth Doctor. I want to say that, but I can’t. I labored over the question of why he should be the way he was—at first at least—but I just couldn’t come up with a satisfactory answer. It just seems that when you’re changing personalities with every regeneration, every once in a while you get a dud. It’s almost a reset, a throwback to Tom Baker, but with the bad qualities exaggerated and the good minimized. How often do you get a Doctor that tries to kill a companion? Not often. That, at least, is how he starts out. But if this were elementary school, I’d give the Sixth Doctor the award for “Most Improvement”. The change between the beginning of his (admittedly short) era and the end is just amazing. While he never stops being arrogant, it goes from unapologetic and vicious to self-aware and, well, able to laugh at himself. While he started out thinking of himself as being supremely capable in any circumstance, he really wasn’t—think of all the times he was outwitted by his circumstances, or the times he tried and failed to fix the TARDIS. Yet, by the end, when he learns not to focus on himself as much, he really IS capable—it’s almost like a bit of humility unlocked his abilities.

And then he’s unceremoniously dumped by the BBC. Oh. Well, that’s not good.

Season 26 10

Sylvester McCoy, as the Seventh Doctor, didn’t get the benefit of any buildup whatsoever. He had to step into the role and be the Doctor with no in-universe preparation. He met that challenge; no other Doctor has so immediately been the Doctor. From the minute he wakes up in the Rani’s lab, he commands the role, and never looks back. That’s literal as well as figurative; he’s the only Doctor never to be involved in any capacity in a multi-Doctor story, at least in the classic series. As far as the classic series is concerned—and with its end approaching—he is the pinnacle of the character: Capable, smart, mysterious, caring, wise, powerful, cunning. He meets his match in Ace, who is likewise the pinnacle of what a companion should be: Energetic, realistic, versatile, adaptable, happy, devoted, and above all else, human. With them, we get some of the best stories—and we get the difficult task of closing out the series for cancellation. Somehow, it all comes together perfectly.

movie 11

It’s unfortunate that the Seventh Doctor dies as he does—in gunfire and pain—but one thing that was NOT unfortunate was Paul McGann’s selection as the Eighth Doctor. This Doctor is the hinge on which the classic series turns, paving the way for the new series; and as such, he’s a little of both. He’s a survivor, but also a lover, at least to some degree. He puts thought into what it means to BE the Doctor—and he takes a stand accordingly. He dies trying to balance those aspects of himself, fighting destiny all the way to the end—and in his ashes is born the War Doctor. We’ll talk more about him somewhere much further down the road.

old and new dw

I made a point as I watched of looking for similarities and connections between the classic series and the revived series. Many of those, I pointed out as I came to them. It was interesting to see how plot points reappeared, and how relationships and personalities in one series mirrored those in the other. I suppose it’s inevitable that a five-decade series would repeat itself, but it’s uncanny sometimes; clearly the writers didn’t plagiarize, but they hit the same notes just the same. It never feels repetitive, somehow; instead, it just goes to make these characters feel like real people, with real personalities that stay consistent from one appearance to another. That’s no small feat, considering that there have been dozens (if not hundreds) of writers, and that it was almost certainly unintentional.

ninth doctor 2

One specific connection I looked for was the various ways in which later Doctors drew inspiration from earlier Doctors. I didn’t research the subject; I know some modern actors have spoken about how they designed their portrayal, and in at least one instance (Ten with Five from Time Crash) it’s actually canon; but I didn’t look into that. These are just my guesses and opinions based on what I saw of the characters. With that said, Nine doesn’t owe much to anyone—or rather, he’s a little bit of everyone. That makes perfect sense, considering he’s a brand-new Doctor, fresh off the Time War, and in a sense the first of his line. He had to carry the weight of the revival single-handedly, and so it made sense for him to show a little something from everyone—the harshness of Hartnell, the energy of Troughton, the severity of Pertwee, the willfulness of Tom Baker, the paternalism (sometimes) of Davison, the mercurial whims of Colin Baker, the determination of McCoy, and the responsibility of McGann. His costume didn’t even relate directly to anyone; it was something new, although we would eventually find that it relates to the War Doctor.

time crash

Ten, of course, owes much to Five; that much is official within the series. He gets his wit from Four, but his attitude toward his companions is all five—in fact, his companions themselves have a lot in common with Five’s companions. Rose is his Adric (though it eventually went to romance more than mentoring); Donna is his Nyssa; Martha is his Tegan, right down to the “I can’t do this anymore” departure; and Wilfred is his Turlough. Astrid Peth, in her one appearance, is his Kamelion—the one he tried to save, but failed; or you could make the same observation about Lady Christina de Souza, as she was both hero and villain.

eleventh doctor 1

Eleven owes his characterization to the Second Doctor, but also—oddly—to the Sixth. Bear with me. He shares Two’s general humor, many of his mannerisms, his flawless loyalty to his companions, and his calm self-assurance (which admittedly is the ONLY thing calm about him). At the same time, he has a proud and arrogant streak that is pure Six; sometimes he’s even as fickle as Six. He also has a scene at his tomb that parallels Six’s scene at his ostensible tomb in Revelation of the Daleks, though Eleven’s attitude about his impending death is much more mature than Six’s (and understandably so). Having a few audios with Six under my belt now, I see the way that character grew offscreen, and I can’t help thinking that Eleven is what Six might have been if he had had to face the Time War.

twelve and one

Then there’s Twelve. I’ve been vocal in various comments sections about my disappointment with the Twelfth Doctor thus far. I have the utmost respect for Peter Capaldi; his acting chops are second to none. What I don’t like is the direction the character has taken, mostly due to Clara Oswald. With that said, it was harder to nail down influences for him; but I feel like he mostly owes himself to the First and Third Doctors. He shares One’s disdain for his companions, or in his case, companion; I don’t mean that he hates Clara, but there is a lot of rivalry there, and also some looking down on her when he feels she’s inadequate. (It’s only fair, I guess; she does the same to him.) He also has One’s arrogance and willfulness, though it’s not as pronounced as, say, Six. He shares Three’s flair and fashion sense (sometimes anyway), love for tinkering, chafing at restrictions (Three toward the Time Lords, Twelve toward Clara), and sense of responsibility toward Clara and toward UNIT.

Doctors banner

We fans of the show are fond of declaring a certain Doctor to be “MY Doctor”, and that’s fine; I’ve done it too. Now that I’ve seen them all, I thought I would try to rank them according to my preferences. This ranking isn’t any kind of evaluation of their qualities; it’s strictly a ranking of who I liked, most to least, though I may make a comment or two along the way. I’m including the new series Doctors as well, because it’s a short list, and I feel like it’s best judged with everyone included.

  1. Tenth Doctor—David Tennant. I didn’t expect him to unseat Tom Baker, but what can I say.
  2. Seventh Doctor—Sylvester McCoy. I was surprised at just how good he was. The series ended in good hands.
  3. Fourth Doctor—Tom Baker. I grew up watching him, and he was always the standard for the Doctor, in my opinion. I was surprised and a little disappointed to see him slip in my personal rating.
  4. Eleventh Doctor—Matt Smith. He gets a lot of controversy among fans, but I thought he was great.
  5. Third Doctor—John Pertwee. Just a great performance all around.
  6. Fifth Doctor—Peter Davison. I wanted to be more impressed with him, and he wasn’t bad; but he wasn’t as good as I expected at first.
  7. Ninth Doctor—Christopher Eccleston. Great guy, great Doctor, but all too soon gone.
  8. Second Doctor—Patrick Troughton. I liked him, but for reasons I can’t pin down, I had trouble following a lot of his episodes.
  9. Eighth Doctor—Paul McGann. Just not enough material to rank him higher, though what we have is pretty good.
  10. First Doctor—William Hartnell. It was a different time; the First Doctor is easy to respect, but hard to love.
  11. Sixth Doctor—Colin Baker. Such a victim of bad writing and bad politics. I really feel like he would have done much better with more time.
  12. War Doctor—John Hurt. Great performance, but very little screen time.
  13. Twelfth Doctor—Peter Capaldi. Yes, I know, placing him last is controversial. I hope he’ll improve with a new companion. I have high hopes for him next series.

tenth doctor 1

So, there you have it—if I can call anyone “my Doctor”, it’s David Tennant.

Not a perfect list, but closest I could get. From top left: Susan, Barbara, Ian, Vicki, Steven, Dodo, Polly, Ben, Jamie, Victoria, Zoe, the Brigadier, Liz, Jo, Sarah Jane, Harry, Leela, K9, Romana I, Romana II, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan, Turlough, Peri, Mel, Ace, Grace, Rose, Jack, Mickey, Martha, Astrid, Donna, Jackson Lake, Lady Christina, Adelaide Brook, Wilfred, Amy, Rory, River, and I really don't know who that last one is.

Not a perfect list, but closest I could get. From top left: Susan, Barbara, Ian, Vicki, Steven, Dodo, Polly, Ben, Jamie, Victoria, Zoe, the Brigadier, Liz, Jo, Sarah Jane, Harry, Leela, K9, Romana I, Romana II, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan, Turlough, Peri, Mel, Ace, Grace, Rose, Jack, Mickey, Martha, Astrid, Donna, Jackson Lake, Lady Christina, Adelaide Brook, Wilfred, Amy, Rory, River, and I’m unsure, but I think that last one is supposed to be the personified TARDIS.

Finally, companions. As this list is considerably longer, rather than talk first about the various companions, I’ll just put this in ranking order, and make comments along the way. If you’ve read this far, congratulations! But this last part is likely to be the longest—the Doctor has had a lot of companions. As with my Doctor ranking, I’m including NuWho companions as well. I’ve mostly followed the Wikipedia list, but with a few exceptions for totally arbitrary reasons: I’ve left out Mike Yates and Sergeant Benton because they only appear with the Brigadier for the most part, and lumping them together with him doesn’t really change his ranking. I’ve included Chang Lee even though he was technically a companion of the Master, because he ultimately sided with the Doctor and was mostly inseparable from Grace Holloway. I’ve listed the two versions of Romana separately because the performances were very different; by the same logic, I’ve combined the two K9s into one entry. I didn’t include Jackson Lake because he (for all practical purposes) functions as a separate Doctor, complete with companion of his own; or Adelaide Brook, because she more or less traveled under duress, and clearly did not want to be with the Doctor. I also have left off incoming companion Bill, since we don’t know anything about her yet. In every case, I’ve tried to give the most complete name that I can; in some cases a surname wasn’t given onscreen, but has arisen in other materials. I’m using the versions that can be found on the TARDIS wiki. In total, using this ranking, there are 46 companions; 15 are male, 29 are female, and 2 are robotic. So, without further adieu, here’s my companion ranking.

  1. Ian Chesterton—First Doctor. I have a lot of respect for Ian. He’s a good man, even before the Doctor proves himself to be one as well; and he set the pattern for many companions to come. I would love to see William Russell reprise the role in a few episodes of Class, as Ian is hinted to be on the Board of Governors for Coal Hill School.
  2. Dorothy Gale “Ace” McShane—Seventh Doctor. I earlier described her as the pinnacle of what a companion should be, and I stand be that. She was fantastic in every regard.
  3. Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart—Second, Third Doctors, plus several cameos. Possibly the most loyal of all companions, in the sense that his loyalty existed in spite of having a clear view of just how crazy the Doctor could be. Every single appearance onscreen is great. Has a wit that cuts like a knife.
  4. Jamie McCrimmon—Second Doctor. More episodes under his belt than any other companion, and I’m still angry that he had his memory wiped. He’s the only companion to ever be present for a Doctor’s entire run (with the exception of Clara, if Series Ten goes as planned).
  5. Donna Noble—Tenth Doctor. Hands down, my favorite NuWho companion, and just as tragic at the end as Jamie. She was the one true equal in personality that the Tenth Doctor ever met.
  6. Nyssa of Traken—Fifth Doctor. If Donna was Ten’s equal, Nyssa was Five’s. They both essentially give up their life with the Doctor for the sake of saving people, though Donna doesn’t know it. Nyssa was the loyal, stable one while Adric and Tegan—and later, Turlough and Tegan—were fighting it out.
  7. K9—Fourth Doctor, and a cameo with Ten. A companion’s companion, literally, in that he ended up with Leela, Romana, and Sarah Jane in various incarnations. I loved K9 as a kid, and still do; his obliviousness and bluntness plays perfectly against Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor.
  8. Elizabeth “Liz” Shaw—Third Doctor. She didn’t get enough credit, and didn’t stay long enough. She was a much better match for Three than Jo Grant ever was, though he would never have been able to be paternal toward Liz like he was to Jo.
  9. Wilfred Mott—Tenth Doctor. Wins the award for “most lovable companion.” He summarizes how the rest of the universe relates to the Doctor—they want to trust him, but they can’t keep up with him, and in the end, they just want to survive and live a good life.
  10. Leela—Fourth Doctor. It always bothered me that the Doctor treated her rather badly, when she didn’t deserve it. Still, their relationship wasn’t all bad, and she was loyal and strong to a fault.
  11. Sarah Jane Smith—Third and Fourth Doctors, plus a cameo and two spinoffs. If I had only had her classic run to look at, I would have ranked her lower; she’s fairly whiny and weak. She gets a great redemption, though, in School Reunion and in The Sarah Jane Adventures.
  12. Dorothea “Dodo” Chaplet—First Doctor. Likeable, fun, and energetic. Her tenure felt very short to me.
  13. River Song—Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors, with suggestions that she met them all. River generates a lot of controversy, but I always liked her, even when she was being infuriating.
  14. Romana II—Fourth Doctor. Lalla Ward is the definitive Romana. Once the character and the Doctor learned to get along, they made a great team (and of course their real-life relationship added some chemistry, both good and bad).
  15. Vislor Turlough—Fifth Doctor. He’s another who gets some criticism, but I liked him once he stopped acting like a spoiled child and started standing up for himself.
  16. Jack Harkness (just as a companion, not based on his Torchwood performance)—Ninth and Tenth Doctors. Jack has a unique gift for grasping the situation instantly and adapting to it. A good man to have in a fight, and of course he’s charming as can be. Early Jack is almost more interesting than his Torchwood portrayal.
  17. Martha Jones—Tenth Doctor. There’s only one Martha, and I’m so glad she didn’t end up in a relationship with the Doctor. She turned out much better for walking away.
  18. Susan Foreman—First Doctor, plus a cameo. Susan gets a bad reputation because she was poorly written, but I always felt like the character had so much potential. I want to see her come back and get a regeneration scene while Carol Ann Ford is still with us.
  19. Zoe Heriot—Second Doctor. Zoe gets credit for matching so well with Jamie. They were a great duo, and together they perfectly balanced the Second Doctor. I wish she had stayed longer.
  20. Victoria Waterfield—Second Doctor. This was always going to be a difficult role to play; she was essentially a teenager with PTSD. Nevertheless, the role was executed well.
  21. Jo Grant—Third Doctor. I gave Jo a lot of flak in my reviews, but she turned out fine; I was just feeling burned by the loss of Liz Shaw. In the end, she made a great choice and picked a great cause when she left the Doctor. She grew on me over time, but I admit to thinking she was stupid at first.
  22. Harry Sullivan—Fourth Doctor. Harry is one of those incidental companions who never chose this life; he’s just along for the ride. He absolutely makes the most of it, though, and isn’t scarred by it at all—kind of a rare thing among companions.
  23. Adric—Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Not the first death in series history, but the most traumatic. He had a great arc, with considerable growth…and then, dead. Just like that.
  24. Romana I—Fourth Doctor. I liked Mary Tamm’s performance, and though I also liked Lalla Ward, I was sorry to see Romana regenerate. She was excellent at reining in the Fourth Doctor.
  25. Mel Bush—Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Mel was the best thing to happen to Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor. After the doom and depression of Peri’s final appearances, Mel was a breath of fresh air, and it clearly made a difference to the Doctor. Her performance was good enough that the transition to Ace felt like a handshake between friends rather than a change of watch.
  26. Tegan Jovanka—Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Tegan loosened up considerably after leaving her job; it was a great direction for her character. Unlike many companions before her, she didn’t leave because she missed home, or found other involvements; she left because of the horror of what life with the Doctor could entail. I compared her to Martha Jones in that regard, and I still think it’s a fair comparison.
  27. Grace Holloway—Eighth Doctor. Such a short performance, and unfortunately we’re not likely to get her back in any capacity. She may not have been a good long-term match for the Eighth Doctor, but she was certainly what he needed at the time.
  28. Chang Lee—Eighth Doctor. An excellent counterpoint to Grace. Had the show persisted, I could have seen him becoming another Adric. A good kid in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  29. Mickey Smith—Tenth Doctor, though also present around the Ninth. Often rejected from lists of companions, but I feel that’s unfair to him. He had a difficult path to walk, watching Rose reject him in favor of the Doctor, and yet still focusing on the bigger picture of saving the world (two worlds, actually!). He ended up with Martha, and I can’t imagine a better ending for him.
  30. Rory Williams—Eleventh Doctor. It’s difficult to tie yourself to a person with a very strong personality, but there’s no question about his love for Amy. I felt a great deal of sympathy for him. He could teach the Doctor a thing or two about being a good man.
  31. Craig Owens—Eleventh Doctor. And now, here’s an everyman! It may be a bit stereotypical, but Craig played the part perfectly. I’m not sorry he only had a few appearances; making him a regular would have ruined him, and that’s a fate I don’t want to think about.
  32. Amy Pond—Eleventh Doctor. I wanted to hate Amy for a long time. She ordered the Doctor and Rory around constantly, and just made life miserable. Then we got Clara, and I realized I never knew how good we had it with Amy. She’s by no means a bad character or a bad person, but she’s headstrong to the point of death, possibly literally. She did improve with time, though.
  33. Astrid Peth—Tenth Doctor. Earlier I called her Ten’s Kamelion, because of her short term and her death. Also like Kamelion, she had been manipulated by a worse villain, but she absolutely made good on it.
  34. Vicki Pallister—First Doctor. Vicki was quiet and unassuming, and basically just there—and for her, those were good things. She made no demands, just quietly worked and helped and served. I really appreciated her for that.
  35. Steven Taylor—First Doctor. I recall commenting that Steven was the victim of having his parts written initially for someone else. As a result, his character was all over the place. It’s a pity; he had the makings of greatness, but he just never had the chance to shine, being caught in the middle of things.
  36. Barbara Wright—First Doctor. I only ranked her low because she was the victim of her time. A female character in 1963 was pretty much doomed to do a lot of screaming and make a lot of bad decisions. Her heart was in the right place, though, and she had some good moments.
  37. Lady Christina de Souza—Tenth Doctor. We’re reaching the point where characters just don’t have enough material to rank them higher (well, with a few upcoming exceptions). Lady Christina deserved a redemption story arc, but she never got the chance to get it.
  38. Rose Tyler—Ninth and Tenth Doctors. I’ve been very hard on Rose over the years, mostly because of her love affair with the Doctor. While I’m not of the camp that says the Doctor should be asexual and anti-romantic, seeing this eighteen-year-old child fawning over him was just sad. She had a lot of good moments, but mostly they were the ones that didn’t involve the Doctor. We do owe her something for being the first companion of the revived series, but I feel like she squandered it.
  39. Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown—Fifth and Sixth Doctors. Poor Peri. She started out happy and hopeful, and then the Doctor tried to kill her. She never recovered from it. For the rest of her tenure, she’s a trauma victim; she’s paranoid, easily frightened, distrustful, and whiny. I hated that for her. It was almost a relief to see her go.
  40. Ben Jackson—First and Second Doctors. I’m ranking Ben and Polly (you never get them separately) low chiefly because I don’t remember a lot about them. They came and went fairly quickly, and though they were present for some good stories, they didn’t make much impact on me. Otherwise there’s nothing wrong about them.
  41. Polly Wright—First and Second Doctors. Polly didn’t even get a last name onscreen, which tells you more about her character than I could say in a paragraph. She was definitely underused.
  42. Clara Oswald—Tenth, Eleventh, War, and Twelfth Doctors, with cameos with all of them. Yes, I’m ranking her low. She’s the only companion ever to inspire me to rage. I will give her credit for her early appearances with Eleven; from Asylum of the Daleks to The Name of the Doctor, she was fantastic and compelling. The “Impossible Girl” storyline was great, and had a great resolution, introducing the War Doctor as well. After that, she took over the show and turned the Doctor into her lapdog. I’ve ranted extensively about this in other places, so I’ll let it go for now.
  43. Katarina—First Doctor. Just too short a term to say much about her. She was in over her head to begin with. However, she did make a noble sacrifice in the end, thus becoming the first companion death.
  44. Sara Kingdom—First Doctor. Has the dubious distinction of being the second companion to die in the same episode as another. She could have been a good character, given enough time; and she was the first enemy to then become a companion.
  45. Adam Mitchell—Ninth Doctor. I kept him on the list because the idea of an evil companion is fascinating, but let’s be honest, he’s slimy and despicable.
  46. Kamelion—Fifth Doctor. Ranked last for his severe underuse. It’s not his fault; it’s hard to use a prop when no one knows how it works. Unfortunately he came and went with barely a blip on the radar, although The King’s Demons is a good—if insane—story.

The last thing I wanted to mention are my favorite serials for each Doctor (or the first seven, anyway—not enough material for choice with McGann, really). Someone had asked about this; I tried to get into it season by season, but really ran out of time in most cases. Anyway, for better or worse, here were my favorites for each Doctor, and a bit about why:

  • First Doctor: The Space Museum. I know, it’s an odd choice, especially when I’ve talked so much about The War Machines. But favorites aren’t just based on seminal moments in the series; they’re based on how enjoyable they were. This serial gets a lot of flak for various reasons, but it was fun to watch, and it created a few ideas that have shown up again in surprising places, like the idea of a mind probe device, or the idea of being out of sync with time. And Hartnell is at his funniest here, which is awesome.
  • Second Doctor: Oh, man, so many good choices. Patrick Troughton really is the Doctor who defined the role. But when all is said and done, I’d choose The Tomb of the Cybermen. It’s full of iconic scenes and moments, and brought the Cybermen back from what seemed like the dead after the end of The Tenth Planet. In some ways, Cybermen have always been scarier than Daleks; all a Dalek can do is exterminate you, but the Cybermen can make you one of them, and steal away your humanity.
  • Third Doctor: Inferno. Again, probably an uncommon choice, but hear me out. Here you get the Doctor in extremis; he’s alone, in a hostile world, racing the clock, feeling the burden of not one but two worlds, with no TARDIS, no companions, no UNIT—and he wins. Yet, even as he wins, he loses some people he would rather have saved, and it’s clear he’s not perfect, and he can’t do everything. Also, it’s a bit downplayed, but there’s some suggestion that the Leader in the inferno world is the Doctor, or rather, what he would have become had he accepted one of the forms the Time Lords offered him in The War Games.
  • Fourth Doctor: Again, so many choices! But I’m going with The Face of Evil. Not only did it introduce Leela, but it also showed us just what happens if the Doctor has to go up against himself (or rather, the computerized version he left behind). It’s an irresistible plot, and one that would be mined again under the Eleventh Doctor (Nightmare in Silver). This is one from my childhood, too, so there’s some sentimentality there as well.
  • Fifth Doctor: I’m tempted to say The Visitation just based on the awesome Richard Mace, but the rest of the story wasn’t that strong; and it cost us the sonic screwdriver. So, I’ll go with Kinda. There’s not much to hate about it; the Mara are a great and unique villain; Tegan is fantastic here; and it is dealt with chiefly due to the relationship between the Doctor and his companions, which is the essence of what the Fifth Doctor is about. I didn’t enjoy Snakedance quite as much, but it was also a great complement to this story.
  • Sixth Doctor: No, I’m not going to say Trial of a Time Lord; that would be cheating. If it were going to be that season, I’d break it down into its parts. Actually, in general I do prefer that season over the preceding one; but for an individual story, I’m going with Revelation of the Daleks. It’s the first place where the Sixth Doctor really started to come into his own, and Davros is one of my favorite villains.
  • Seventh Doctor: Battlefield. No hard decision here. Yes, I know it was rated low, but this is my list, so there. It’s the seventh Doctor at the top of his game; UNIT and the Brigadier still at the top of theirs; an actual battle scene, which is something we rarely ever got in UNIT stories for some reason; a great take on the King Arthur legends; Ace being fantastic; and Bessie, who we all know is my one true love. Just kidding. Still cool to see the car again, though.

So, there it is. Twenty-six seasons, one movie, eight Doctors, thirty-two companions (classic series), one hundred sixty stories, and one blue box—classic Doctor Who in its entirety. There’s far more that could be said, and has been; after all these years, there’s no bottom to this well. Still, this rewatch has given my thoughts on these decades of stories; now, what are yours? This has always been about discussion, and I love seeing everyone’s thoughts and reactions. Feel free to comment!

Season 26 feature

Some future plans: I’ve already begun an occasional series of reviews of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas, and I intend to continue it. It won’t have anything near the regularity of this series; it will just be as I manage to listen to the audios. That series is open-ended; I don’t have a goal in mind, as Big Finish is constantly adding new material. Nor will it be in any particular order; as they add materials for all Doctors, it’s not practical to take them in numeric order as I did with the television series. As I can get my hands on the novels, I may do the same with them; but that series is likely to be even more infrequent than the audios. I have given some thought to continuing with a rewatch of the revived series, and I may do that; but I don’t want to get it mixed up with /r/Gallifrey’s official rewatch series, so I may wait a bit and title it differently. If I do continue, I won’t do an entire season in a single post; there’s just too many stories per season for that. I’ll probably do about three episodes per post.

Doctors banner

Thanks for reading! I’m glad this series was well received, and I look forward to everyone’s comments.

 

All seasons and episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below. Note that these links are not the individual serial links I have previously posted, but rather, links to the entire collected seasons, arranged by era. For convenience, I have included links to the revived series as well.

The First Doctor, William Hartnell, 1963-1966

The Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, 1966-1969

The Third Doctor, John Pertwee, 1970-1974

The Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, 1974-1980

The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, 1981-1984

The Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, 1984-1986

The Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, 1986-1989

The Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, 1996, 2013

No episodes dedicated solely to the War Doctor have been produced; however, to make up for it, I’ll give you something special: the fan film created to promote the War Doctor charity anthology, Seasons of War

The Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, 2005

The Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, 2006-2010

The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, 2011-2014

The Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi, 2014-Present

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