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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