Prose Review: Defending Earth Charity Anthology: Gifts for Good, by M.H. Norris

We’re back, with another Doctor Who charity anthology review! Today we’re continuing our tour of the Sarah Jane Smith anthology, Defending Earth. You can catch up on previous posts via the links at the bottom of the post. Today we begin the fifth and final portion of the anthology, titled “Family”, with entry number eleven: Gifts for Good, by anthology editor M.H. Norris. Let’s get started!

As always, there will be spoilers ahead! You can find my reason for this in the first entry of this series, linked below. As well, you can find links at the end to purchase the anthology, and to learn about and support the charity which the anthology supports, the Cancer Research Institute. Sales of the anthology come to a close TODAY, 2 April 2019, so if you would still like to purchase a copy, act soon! (I will be finishing this series even after the sale period closes—we’re near the end now!)

Defending Earth (Cover)

Sarah Jane Smith loves a good show as much as anyone else; but she has no patience for charlatans, especially of the “psychic” variety. It’s no surprise, then, that she is grumpy as she takes her seat near the back of the grimy, worn theater; but her old friend the Brigadier is the one who invited her—as well as her son Luke and his friends Rani and Clyde—and so she bears it for his sake. The act, consisting of four young people who bill themselves under the name Mimir, from the old Norse mythology, aren’t bad as these things go; but Sarah is convinced their predictions for various audience members are just a product of cold reading, or perhaps—in this Internet-savvy age—careful research rather than any kind of power. She is less than enthused when one of their members, Lynx, stops and promises her that she will meet an old friend from a time of adventure in her past. After all, Sarah has had many adventures—but only one old friend comes to mind, and she’s already seen him again in recent years…

The Brigadier, for his part, is not disturbed by Sarah’s ranting. He patiently explains that a contact at UNIT has expressed some interest in the group: not enough yet for UNIT to take an active role, but enough to prompt some off-the-books investigation. Who better than Sarah Jane to handle such a job? After all, he muses, better her than those people down in Cardiff…and it’s not like Sarah is alone, even if her allies are children.

They are interrupted on the way back to Bannerman Road by a call from her living computer, Mr. Smith, who advises her to hurry—because a spacecraft has landed in her attic. Sarah Jane races home with her friends in toe and vainly warns the children to wait downstairs. She heads up to the attic, her senses on high alert…and drops her guard when, to her utter surprise, she sees a familiar, white-haired man.

The Doctor—her Doctor, the Third Doctor—has, after so many years, returned.

Over the course of the evening, catching-up ensues. The Doctor’s TARDIS has been pulled out of the vortex by a strange confluence of temporal influences. His Sarah—the much younger version—is away at the moment, visiting the 1970s version of Aunt Lavinia while the older woman is on a brief visit home. Sarah and the Brigadier introduce the children, who have of course heard all about the Doctor; and they catch him up on some of the things that have happened (but certainly not all—Sarah carefully avoids mention of any later incarnations, including the recent visit by the Tenth Doctor). Finally, as Clyde and Rani return home, and the Brigadier does likewise, the Doctor falls to discussing the situation with Mimir, mostly with the precocious Luke. He assists Mr. Smith with running and refining a program that will help them track any temporal disturbances associated with the group—which, it increasingly appears, is also what is holding him here. He recruits Luke to help.

Later, during the night, Luke approaches the Doctor and talks about a more personal matter. He describes his own situation, and the lessons he has learned in his time with Sarah Jane—and those he still needs to learn. The Doctor perceives that one thing Luke lacks is confidence; and so, to build the boy’s confidence, he gives him an impromptu fencing lesson. As the morning approaches, Clyde joins them.

In the morning, Mr. Smith’s efforts come to fruition: there are temporal anomalies surrounding Mimir. It all began when they mysteriously won a lottery jackpot more than a year before, which they have used since to fund their tours. However, in addition to the good coincidences surrounding them, others close to them are suffering unusually bad luck. The Doctor theorizes that one of the group may be a member of a temporally sensitive race—the Vainkrons, the Tiqai, the Cadels, or perhaps the Bulvins. Such races can manipulate probability by viewing a person’s potential futures, then nudging them toward a preferred outcome. But, whoever is doing so here, isn’t doing a good job of it.

They are interrupted by Mr. Smith. Another kind of anomaly has become apparent: a Sontaran has been spotted in downtown London! The children have met these aliens before, and know what they can do; and so Sarah warns them to stay behind while she and the Doctor tackle the threat. Of course, no one listens; but at least the children give her the courtesy of a head start before following her.

The Doctor and Sarah interrupt the lost and confused Sontaran, who is causing chaos and holding a female hostage—perhaps not coincidentally, another audience from the Mimir show, Sarah notes. She challenges the Sontaran, while the Doctor moves in to physically attack; but they seem to be outmatched. The situation is only resolved when Luke, armed with his fencing foil, charges out behind the Sontaran and lands a blow on its probic vent, knocking it out. It’s a great lesson for the boy…but of course, that won’t stop him from being in trouble with his mother for disobeying. A kid is still a kid, after all.

With UNIT handling the return of the Sontaran to its people, and the crisis averted, attention returns to the matter of Mimir. Sarah has arranged an interview with the group, and will be taking Luke with her. Meanwhile, the Doctor gives her a detector that will let him pinpoint the source of the temporal anomalies. He is almost certain now that the culprit is secretly a Tiqai, a humanoid race with temporal sensitivity. They can be identified by their golden eyes, though this one is probably wearing colored contacts.

While Sarah interviews the group, Luke notices that Lynx has wandered off. He finds him sitting on the theater stage—and realizes that the young man appears to be wearing contacts. He takes the plunge, and asks Lynx directly if he is a Tiqai. In the process, he confides the truth about his own alien origins. Lynx admits it, and reveals that he is an orphan, adopted by humans after his own world was caught in the crossfire of two warring races. He knows what he is doing—he only wants his friends to be happy—but he knows it isn’t working out right. He admits that he can’t fully control his powers. He also admits to knowing of Sarah Jane before coming to Earth; it seems she and the Doctor once, many years ago, visited a world near his own, and dealt well with a situation there. Tales of their exploits ultimately made their way to Lynx, though he never expected to meet Sarah Jane! But none of that helps with his problem.

Someone can help, though—and the Doctor joins them on the stage. He graciously offers to teach Lynx how to use his power without harm, and without getting on Time’s bad side.

Later, with the anomalies resolved, the TARDIS is back to normal, and the Doctor is free to leave. He says his goodbyes again to Sarah Jane, and the Brigadier, and the children. Over Sarah Jane’s nostalgic tears at the memories of their times together—both good and bad—he acknowledges what they both know to be true: That it’s the good times and the bad that made each of them what they are; and that, after it all, the world needs Sarah Jane Smith.

Norris Title Card 1

We’re nearing the end of our adventures with Sarah Jane! This story, the eleventh of fifteen, takes place during the events of The Sarah Jane Adventures–specifically, during Series Three, as it is stated to take place in 2009. This places it after the Tenth Doctor’s appearance in The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith, as she mentions early in the story.

Unlike some of the other spinoff materials referenced in this collection, I have watched some of The Sarah Jane Adventures, though I have yet to complete the series. I can say that this story is very much in keeping with the tone of the series; it’s lighter, more child-friendly, but still quick and action-oriented. It’s a bit of a reunion episode, bringing together not only Sarah Jane, the children, and the Brigadier—but also the Third Doctor, in what is most likely Sarah’s last meeting with him. If I have counted correctly, it makes for six encounters between the Doctor and Sarah in the era of the revived series of Doctor WhoSchool Reunion, Tenth Doctor; the Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, Tenth; The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith, Tenth; an unseen encounter connected to The End of Time, Tenth (still in the future); this story, Third Doctor; and Death of the Doctor, with the Eleventh Doctor, also still to come as of this story. (If I’ve overlooked any, please comment below!)

I’ve always been a great fan of the Third Doctor; I think he may be a bit underrated in the face of such characters as the Fourth, the Eighth, and the revived series Doctors. It’s wonderful to see him again here, though it’s certainly bittersweet, knowing that there isn’t much room left in Sarah Jane’s life to have any more such encounters. There’s a poignant scene at the end where the Doctor, about to depart, wipes a tear from Sarah’s cheek, harking back to his regeneration scene—which, though history for her, is still to come for him. It’s haunting in its effect.

With all that said, this is still a fairly lighthearted, low-stakes story. It’s a bit contrived; it’s not really explained how the time-sensitive Lynx’s powers conspire to drag the TARDIS from the vortex, when it seems his powers are of a low-impact nature; and it’s never really explained how the Sontaran gets to downtown London. But if you get hung up on those details, you’ll miss out, because the story isn’t about those details. It’s a story about family, and memories, and hope, and—especially for Luke and Clyde—confidence.

There isn’t much in the way of continuity references here; while there are a few references to old adventures, they are to adventures that were created specifically for this story. However, there is an interesting bit, almost small enough to miss, where Luke tells the Doctor how he was created. The Doctor speaks with familiarity on the subject, and one gets the impression this may be a nod to the idea of Gallifreyan Looms—minor, but a nice touch, if that’s how it was intended.

Overall: A good segue into the “Family” portion of the collection. It’s both fun and sentimental, nostalgic and fast-paced. One would think those qualities wouldn’t go well together; but one would be wrong. Check it out!

Next time: The Circles of Drel, by Harry King! See you there.

Defending Earth: An Unofficial Sarah Jane Smith Charity Collection is edited by M. H. Norris, and is produced in support of the Cancer Research Institute, researching the immune system as a weapon in the battle against cancers of all types. You can find the Cancer Research Institute here, and you can purchase the anthology here. The anthology is available until TODAY only in ebook formats and a print edition (preorder only on print edition).

The Sarah Jane Adventures may be purchased on DVD from various retailers, and may be streamed on various streaming services.

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

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

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not seen these episodes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sontaran Stratagem

The Poison Sky

The Doctor’s Daughter

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Sixth Sense: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Twenty-Two

We’re back, with a brand new Doctor! Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor is on the scene in season twenty-two of our Classic Doctor Who rewatch. Let’s get started!

The Doctor gets violent.

The Doctor gets violent.

We’ve reached the point of maximum controversy in classic Doctor Who history. Season twenty-two was heavily criticized for a number of reasons, which I think contributed heavily to the general low opinion of the Sixth Doctor’s era. A few important changes occurred this season; and though they were later rolled back, the damage was done. First, this season changed from the standard “4 episodes/25 minutes” format (or at least, most commonly four episodes) to “2 episodes/45 minutes”. The series experimented with this format once in the previous season, but now made it the standard; it was not well received at the time, although of course in the modern series 45-minute episodes have always been standard. Second, this season ramped up the violence, which was badly received given the longstanding nature of the series as a family show. The first serial in particular, Attack of the Cybermen, was held up by executives as an example, and used in their arguments for cancellation of the series.

Season 22 2

Peri and the Cryons.

Attack is set on Telos, sometime after Tomb of the Cybermen, and on Earth, contemporary with the broadcast. The Telos portions aren’t precisely dated, but estimated to be around 2530, about 65 years after Tomb. From the Doctor and Peri’s perspective, it’s shortly after their previous adventure on Jaconda (The Twin Dilemma), probably within a day or so. In the course of (shoddily) repairing the Chameleon Circuit, the Doctor returns to 76 Totter’s Lane for the first time onscreen since An Unearthly Child; this will happen again with the Seventh Doctor, and several times in the revived series (and of course the new spinoff, Class, is set at Coal Hill School, in the vicinity of Totter’s Lane). The circuit will, in fact, change the TARDIS’s appearance a few times, but it will be broken again by the next series (the actual breaking occurs offscreen). Here he encounters the Cybermen of the future, who have stolen a timeship; they want to go back and destroy the Earth in 1985, one year prior to Mondas’s destruction waaaaay back in The Tenth Planet, but they can’t control their ship very well. With the Doctor in range, they want the TARDIS instead. Covertly aiding them in this venture are the Cryons, the original inhabitants of Telos; if they succeed, the Cybermen will never have come to Telos, and the Cryons can keep their world. The Cryons are not true villains; they’ll take any solution to the Cyberman problem, and so they readily switch sides and work with the Doctor. They bring with them an unstable mineral that spontaneously explodes in warm temperatures.

Terror is a bad look for Peri.

Terror is a bad look for Peri.

Peri is very scared of the Doctor here, and continues to behave as such for a long time to come. It’s very sad; she never really seems to recover from her assault at his hands in the previous story. She states that the Doctor’s memory isn’t right; and indeed it isn’t, as he calls her by various companion names. We also get a return of the treacherous Lytton from Resurrection of the Daleks, who has since been living as a petty criminal on Earth; he takes advantage of the Cyberman incursion to get himself offworld and back to the future, but in the end gets himself cyber-converted and killed. He’s not a shallow villain at all, and the serial treats him well; he’s opportunistic, but secretly also undermines the Cybermen. In this story we also see—for what I think is the first time; if I’m wrong, please let me know—partially converted humans. This will be more common in NuWho and Torchwood.

Sil, the Governor, and the Doctor.

Sil, the Governor, and the Doctor.

I had seen Vengeance on Varos before, and somehow had it in my head that it was a Fifth Doctor story. It’s one of the better Sixth Doctor serials, though, and I enjoyed it the second time around. After a series of breakdowns (mostly attributable to the Doctor’s clumsy incompentence), the TARDIS is forced to land on Varos, a world that is the only source of Zeiton-7, a valuable mineral required to repair the TARDIS. Peri says that she’s from 300 years before the time of the Varosians, placing it probably in the 23rd century; a straight 300 years would be 2285. The Doctor and Peri stumble into a political/commercial struggle, as the alien Mentor Sil, a representative of the Galaton Mining Corporation, seeks to take control of Varos and obtain the Zeiton-7 for vastly under-market prices. (“Mentor” is the name of Sil’s species.) The planet’s Governor opposes him, but not without consequence; the world’s barbaric government-as-entertainment system brings punishment to him for every unpopular decision. We get an early glimpse of such punishment with the torture of the rebel Jondar at the beginning; it’s very reminiscent of the torture of the Ninth Doctor in Dalek.

Can't you just picture these two laughing on a balcony?!

Can’t you just picture these two laughing on a balcony?!

This serial contains a couple of interesting characters in the private citizens Arak and Etta. They serve as a sort of Greek chorus for the story, never interacting with anyone but each other, and providing commentary. I jokingly called them the Statler and Waldorf (of Muppet Show fame) of this story.

Gallifreyan Class Reunion?

Gallifreyan Class Reunion?

The Mark of the Rani introduces another controversial character: the Time Lady called the Rani. She’s a classmate of the Doctor and the Master, and in fact her second appearance in a few seasons will reveal that she’s the same age as the Doctor. (Given her mostly-evil personality and her status as a renegade, it makes one wonder what the Academy was teaching those years!) She rules a world, making her in one fell swoop more successful than the Master; and indeed, he comes to ask her for assistance. The Rani is a bit campy, and there’s been much argument among fans over the years as to whether she should ever come back; in fact, every Time Lady of any significance in NuWho has had some early debate as to whether she would prove to be the Rani.

The Rani's very cool TARDIS.

The Rani’s very cool TARDIS.

This story, set in Killingsworth, England, in the early 1820s, is the first since The Gunfighters to feature an actual historical figure, in this case Lord Ravensworth and George Stephenson. (The King’s Demons came close, with King John, but it wasn’t actually him being portrayed; rather it was Kamelion impersonating him.) All other historicals since then have been historical in settings and events only. It’s a fairly straightforward story; the Master wants revenge on the Doctor through changing Earth’s history, and the Rani wants to further her own projects on her planet. To do this she requires a chemical that is produced in human brains; the process of procuring it causes the titular mark, and also disastrous side effects of personality. The Doctor thwarts them both, as he usually does. It’s not a bad story, but it has its silly moments; as a fellow fan pointed out, the mines that turn people into trees are pretty ridiculous. A couple of TARDIS oddities: The Doctor’s TARDIS key fits the Rani’s TARDIS, which is odd; however, it seems that her TARDIS may be the same model as his (with a heretofore-unseen desktop theme), so it’s not totally impossible. As well, she has a remote control for recall of her TARDIS, of which the Doctor is jealous. (More on that in the next serial.)

Doctor, meet Doctor.

Doctor, meet Doctor.

Just two seasons after The Five Doctors, we get another ratings boost, I mean, multi-Doctor story, with The Two Doctors. The Doctors in questions are the Sixth and the Second; in fact there’s a nice tribute to the Second Doctor’s era in the opening scene, as it begins in black-and-white and fades to color. Jamie is the companion present with the Second Doctor; Victoria gets a mention, but she has temporarily left the TARDIS to pursue a learning opportunity. As the original TARDIS console room is long gone, the prop used here is the most recently-replaced prop, from the Fifth Doctor’s first two seasons; the budget would not allow a rebuilding of the original prop. Still, it’s different enough for a bit of a retro look.

Now here's a fashion statement for you!

Now here’s a fashion statement for you!

This story is set on Earth and the alien space station Camera in 1985; the villains lack time travel, therefore the two locations must be at the same point in time. This helps explain why it’s the Sixth Doctor who feels the effect of the Second Doctor’s torture and potential death; he’s the only Doctor who—by chance—is present in the same time period when it happens. Given an actual death and enough time, the others would have felt the effects and ceased to exist, as well. This is similar to how the Eleventh Doctor onsite at the moment is the one who feels pain when the Great Intelligence enters his time stream in The Name of the Doctor. Also, there’s an interesting bit early on where the Doctor talks about not having synchronized yet. It seems this is a rare glimpse of what it’s like when he has had a multi-doctor encounter, with unsynchronized time streams, and therefore lost memories, but now the memories begin to sync up for his later self. Although we know this happens, we’ve never really seen it happen.

Companion, meet companion.

Companion, meet companion.

The Doctor makes an actual kill in this story, which is very rare; often people die during his involvement, but he kills with his own hands in this story. He gives cyanide to the Androgum Shockeye. In fact there’s a high body count in general in this serial, as only the two Doctors, Peri, Jamie, and one civilian survive. It was for that violence that the serial was criticized, but there’s an actual plot hole as well; the Sontarans want the Doctor’s Time Lord symbiotic nuclei because it gives the Time Lords enough molecular stability to travel through time, but that ignores the fact that many others of various species have been seen to travel safely through time. In fact, NuWho will give the lie to this idea completely by having Strax, a Sontaran, travel through time (or at least it’s implied that he does so on multiple occasions). Oh, and that TARDIS remote of the Rani’s, of which the Doctor was jealous? The Second Doctor has one. Why the Sixth Doctor would not remember this—or even still own the device!—is a mystery.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Wells. It's always like this, I promise.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Wells. It’s always like this, I promise.

Timelash gives us an homage to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, in that Wells is a character in the story, and clearly is posited to have drawn inspiration from this adventure. It’s set on the planet Karfel in the far future; the date is totally unknown, but, continuing the homage, A History of the Universe places it in 802,701, the same year as the Morlock scenes in Wells’ novel. There are also scenes in Scotland, 1885; this is the other end of the titular Timelash, a sort of spacetime tunnel. It’s the exceedingly rare case of a historical figure in a non-historical story; something similar will happen with Queen Nefertiti in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.

An old familiar face on the wall...

An old familiar face on the wall…

This story is a strange thing: it’s a sequel to a story that never happened. That is, it makes frequent reference back to a visit to Karfel by the Third Doctor and Jo Grant, but that story was never recorded. Therefore it relies heavily on info-dumps and references. It’s not a good plot device; this story ranks consistently very low, often just above the universally-reviled The Twin Dilemma. It’s another take on the Loch Ness Monster story, as the Borad is banished back in time; it doesn’t actually conflict with the series’ previous take on the legend, as the Borad (in a spinoff story) dies prior to the arrival on earth of the Skarasen. On the plus side, the Sixth Doctor, in his better moments here, is much like the Tenth; and the TARDIS has safety belts! Detachable ones, at any rate. We’ll only ever see these again with the junk TARDIS in The Doctor’s Wife.

Fake Davros, real Dalek.

Fake Davros, real Dalek.

We end with what will prove to be the penultimate Dalek story of the original series. Revelation of the Daleks picks up sometime after Resurrection of the Daleks, therefore after the 38th century at least; the actual date is unknown, though some conflicting estimates have been made for the entire “Davros cycle” of stories. We do know that Davros, having survived the Movellan virus, has had time to build a new army of Daleks, the so-called “Imperial” Daleks, using the population of nearly-dead individuals housed in the Tranquil Repose cryogenic facility. Also we know that the mainstream Daleks—hereafter called “Renegade” Daleks by Davros—have reoccupied Skaro, as I proposed waaaaaaay back in their very first appearance in The Daleks, most likely reabsorbing or destroying the remnant of more primitive Daleks that had long occupied the Dalek city there. (Remember that the scenes on Skaro in Destiny of the Daleks didn’t represent an invasion force, but rather, an expedition to find Davros; they likely never approached the city, which is separate from the Kaled bunker where Davros was buried.)

Davros can fly?!

Davros can fly?!

For the first time, we see a Dalek—and Davros as well, with his chair—levitate unassisted. From this point on, it will be a standard feature for the Imperial Daleks, and for all Daleks in the new series. Another reference for the future: we see Daleks in the sewers under Tranquil Repose, which I suspect may have inspired the Dalek sewer scenes in The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar. We see as well that Davros somehow knows the Sixth Doctor’s face, although he’s never met him before; oddly, the renegade Daleks don’t. It works in the Doctor’s favor though, as the renegades arrest Davros, but let the Doctor go free.

Glass Dalek? It's a bold strategy, Cotton.

Glass Dalek? It’s a bold strategy, Cotton.

The Doctor sees his face on a statue here, implying that he is buried there at some future point in his own life. It’s the Sixth Doctor’s face, and he takes it to mean that he will never regenerate; given that his regenerations are at stake all throughout the next season, it makes for a neat bit of foreshadowing. Of more interest to me is his reaction; he’s clearly very afraid to die, and doesn’t handle it well. There’s a clear contrast with the way he reacts to his tomb as the Eleventh Doctor; I think the difference is simply one of age, maturity, and resignation. As Eleven, he knows he’s on his last life and therefore death is, to some degree, imminent; as Six, he knows he has a lot of life ahead of him, and he rebels against dying.Season 22 16

I’ll speak more about this in my wrapup post at the end of my rewatch; but overall I’m not thrilled with this season for the Sixth Doctor. It’s clear that the character and the actor are fighting an uphill battle with the writing staff. I understand that each Doctor must be different, but choosing to make this one effectively spoiled and self-centered essentially handicaps the character. In addition, I think I could have overlooked some of that if there had been a good companion; but Peri is just incredibly whiny. Even as she does, at last, start to warm up to the Doctor again, she seems able to do nothing for herself. Nicola Bryant and Colin Baker play their roles impeccably; but the characters leave a lot to be desired. This is disheartening, to me; I WANT to like the Sixth Doctor. There is some hope on the horizon, however, with my viewing being a bit ahead of my posts, I can say that he does get better next season. We’ll be back then, with the Doctor’s latest trial…see you there.

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

Attack of the Cybermen

Vengeance on Varos

The Mark of the Rani

The Two Doctors

Timelash

Revelation of the Daleks (note:  this video is missing about seven minutes in part 1)

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Just Trying to Get Away: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Fifteen

With the war criminal from the future now just a memory, the Doctor and Leela are free to explore the universe! First, though, we make another stop on Earth, in Horror of Fang Rock. Let’s get started!

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The Doctor at Fang Rock

 

It’s 1902, and the location is the small island of Fang Rock off the southern coast of England. While the year is not actually stated, there are some context clues that narrow it down to that year.  The Doctor was aiming for Brighton, but—as usual—missed the mark.

Fang rock 2

A Rutan.  Scared yet?

 

The enemy here are the Rutans, the ancestral enemies of the Sontarans. This is their only appearance onscreen, although they are mentioned many times.  They are an entirely different brand of alien, more like amorphous jellyfish than the humanoid Sontarans (who don’t appear here; in fact, the two adversaries have never appeared together); they have the power to impersonate others, though the Rutan in the lighthouse mentions that this technique is new.  It crash-lands on earth in the course of a “strategic withdrawal”, and is stranded, but quickly summons its people, forcing the Doctor to use the lighthouse—with a little tinkering—to destroy the invasion craft.  Morbid, but noteworthy:  This is the final classic serial in which everyone but the Doctor and his companion(s) die.  It will happen again many years later in NuWho’s The Parting of the Ways, in which only the Doctor, Jack Harkness, and Rose Tyler survive.  Some things are just too dark for this show.

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Just made for a murder mystery!

 

I do remember watching this serial before, and I remember liking it. It follows the base-under-siege format, but with such a small cast, it feels more like a “bottle episode”, or maybe a locked-room mystery.

Invisible Enemy 1

So, uh…THAT’S what a virus looks like?

 

After a couple of sad stories on Earth, the Doctor and Leela flee to space; but they don’t get far, as The Invisible Enemy takes place on and near Saturn’s moon, Titan.  It’s the year 5000, as stated by the Doctor, but this is curious; he also calls it the “Year of the Great Breakout”, when humanity escaped the solar system for the larger galaxy.  We’ve seen before that the 51st century is a significant time for humans; however, many serials have indicated that the first galactic expansion happened much earlier, probably in about the year 2100.  Like the Mandragora Helix and the Wyrrn before it, the enemy here is spaceborn; this time it’s a virus called the Swarm; its nucleus, which controls the rest of the Swarm, invades the Doctor’s brain.  It infects humans, Time Lords, and even machines, but curiously, Leela is immune.  Later, after being expelled from the Doctor’s brain, it is enlarged to the macroscopic scale, and looks like an insect or reptile.  The idea of the Doctor losing control of  his mind is reminiscent of Series Seven’s Nightmare in Silver, in which the invading entity is a Cybercontroller.

Invisible Enemy 2

More personality than a dozen Rose Tylers!

 

The Doctor obtains a new companion here: the robotic dog, K9! More correctly, this is K9 Mark I.  He is the creation of Professor Marius, but is given to the Doctor when Marius can’t take him back to Earth due to weight restrictions.  K9 was always one of my favorite companions, and still is; I’m not sure what that says about me.  His personality is condensed irony, and I think it’s hilarious to watch him verbally spar with the Doctor (“I am without emotional circuits!”  Which is a lie, as smugness is most definitely an emotion).

Invisible Enemy 3

Inside the Doctor’s brain.  No, really.

 

The original console room returns, having had some minor upgrades; it’s handwaved in the story by the Doctor, who says it was being redecorated, but in the real world the switch was due to the warping of the wooden wall panels of the secondary control room while in storage. Ironically, the Doctor refers to the original set as the secondary control room.  We also see that the TARDIS, by way of its dimensional stabilizer, has the ability to shrink people, much like the device in Into the Dalek.  We’ve seen hints of this possibility as far back as Season Two’s Planet of Giants, but we’ve never before seen that it can be done deliberately, or independently of the TARDIS itself.  As well, this scenario gives us a view of the inside of the Doctor’s brain, which is pretty interesting.  Not so interesting are his phagocytes, the defensive cells that roam his brain; it’s a cool idea, but suffers from the limits of the practical effects of the day.

Image of the Fendahl 1

The book that gave me nightmares at ten years old.

 

Image of the Fendahl is the only contemporary story of the season, set in 1977 Fetchborough, England.  The date isn’t given onscreen, but it was given in a trailer for the serial, released at the end of the preceding story, and nothing contradicts it.  I vaguely remember reading the novelization as a child, and being scared by it, but I couldn’t remember anything from the broadcast version.

Image of the Fendahl 2

Thea Ransome, becoming the Fendahl core.

 

K9 is seen to need repairs already, but it’s not clear why, as he was fine at the end of the previous story. I take this as a possible indication of one or more offscreen adventures in the interim; it’s one of the last times that the Fourth Doctor can possibly have those, as we will soon enter a period where the successive serials are clearly linked.  In the real world, K9 was portrayed this way because the serial was written prior to the decision to retain him as a character; therefore a reason was needed to keep him offscreen.  Notable guest star in this serial:  Thea Ransome, who becomes the core of the Fendahl gestalt, is played by Wanda Ventham, the mother of actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

Image of the Fendahl 3

A Fendahleen

 

The Fendahl is an ancient being with godlike powers; it is a group entity or gestalt, composed of a core being and thirteen Fendahleen, lizardlike creatures that protect the core. In the course of destroying it, the Doctor weakens it by destroying one of the Fendahleen, thus preventing the full creature from manifesting.  It originated on the then-fifth planet of the solar system, which was destroyed by the Time Lords, thus creating the asteroid belt.  This occurred prior to their non-interference policy, which will be further explored later in the season.

The Sun Makers 1

Are we SURE this is Pluto?

 

In The Sun Makers, once again the Doctor tries to leave the Solar System; and once again he doesn’t get far.  This time, he lands on Pluto, but in the far future.  No date is established, but contemporary promotional material for the story placed it “millions of years” in the future.  It’s not your father’s Pluto; this is a world of Earthlike atmosphere and light, due to the six artificial suns  surrounding the world, hence the title of the serial.

The Sun Makers 2

The Collector

 

The plot here is a rare political allegory, dealing with unfair taxation. The Company in control of the planet are flagrantly oppressing the humans who live there, imposing exorbitant taxes at will and seemingly at random.  As it turns out, the Company is run by Usurians (a play on the word “usury”, for unjust taxation), a fungal species.  It won’t be the last time humanity is secretly oppressed; later it will be the Daleks and the Jagrafess, in Series One’s The Long Game/Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways.

The Sun Makers 3.PNG

Wrong target, Doctor!

 

Some noteworthy items: Gallifrey and the Time Lords are known to humanity and the Company at this point in history; in fact, the Collector claims to have knowledge of the Doctor’s past, although this is doubtful.  The Doctor is taken down at one point by Balarium gas; he seems to have forgotten that he has a respiratory bypass system which should have kept him safe.  Finally, there’s a hilarious scene where the Doctor hypnotizes a guard to sleep, but accidentally hypnotizes Leela as well.

Underworld 1

At the edge of the cosmos

 

Finally we see the larger universe in Underworld; and we don’t do it halfway, as the TARDIS arrives at the absolute edge of the universe—or as the Doctor puts it, “the boundary between what is and what isn’t”.  We don’t know the date; however, events are referenced which took place in Gallifrey’s history 100,000 years earlier.

Underworld 2

In hindsight, they do kind of resemble the little yellow guys.

 

In the far past, the Time Lords worked with a race called Minyans (no, not the little yellow guys from Despicable Me).  They gave the Minyans Time Lord technology, including the ability to regenerate; in return, the Minyans violently ejected the Time Lords from their world, went to war with each other, and destroyed their planet.  They regard the Time Lords as gods, but consider their gods to have failed or betrayed them.  This event is the prime cause for the Time Lords’ non-interference policy.  The story, set millennia later, takes place on a pair of Minyan ships: The R1C, which has been traveling all this time, and the P7E, for which it has been searching.

Underworld 3

The Doctor, Leela, and the Minyans

 

The Minyans can regenerate, and can even do so endlessly; it differs from Time Lord regeneration in that their appearances and personalities do not change, and in that they require mechanical assistance. However, this helps justify later notions that the twelve-regeneration limit is artificial, and can be countered by the granting of a new cycle of regenerations.  The Minyans cannot breed, however, and therefore they require the race banks aboard the P7E to save their species.  To gain them, they must overcome the Oracle, the P7E’s megalomaniacal computer, and liberate the slaves who are the descendants of the original crew (and never mind that the crew should not have been able to produce descendants—there’s no logic here).  The story is based on the legend of Jason and the Argonauts, which the Doctor makes explicit at the end.

The Invasion of time 1

The Chancellor and the President

 

The Doctor returns to Gallifrey in The Invasion of Time.  Here he claims the presidency—which he won in The Deadly Assassin—only to immediately leave Gallifrey defenseless and invaded by mysterious aliens, known as the Vardans.  Several dates are noted, but they are in Gallifreyan notation and can’t be matched to real-world dates; however, this doesn’t appear to be long after The Deadly Assassin, as the position of president is still vacant.  In the interim, Borusa has ascended from Cardinal to Lord Chancellor, ruling in the absence of a president; he has also regenerated, though his appearance is similar to his previous body.  The Doctor treats him—and Leela as well—rather roughly at this time; it’s the only time I’ve ever felt sorry for him.

The Invasion of time 2

The De-Mat Gun

 

The Doctor’s betrayal, of course, is a ruse, designed to open the Vardans to attack. He defeats them by locking their world in a time loop, possibly presaging the hiding of Gallifrey at the end of the Time War.  However, the victory is short-lived, as the Vardans’ allies are revealed: The Sontarans.  To defeat them, the Doctor and his allies must first survive; then, they must obtain the Great Key of Rassilon and use it to construct a powerful and forbidden weapon: the De-Mat Gun, which removes its target—and itself—from time permanently.

The Invasion of time 3

The Fun Side of the TARDIS

 

Notable in this serial: This serial is briefly seen in the Doctor’s timeline in The Name of the Doctor, where Clara Oswald’s echo is seen to be present.  The Time Lady Rodan is the first female Gallifreyan seen since Susan (though she is a bit at odds with Time Lord philosophy).  We get our first glimpse of Gallifrey outside the Citadel, though we won’t see that structure from outside for many years.  We get to see many interior areas of the TARDIS, which have a brickwork appearance (including the infamous pool, which is definitely NOT in the library at this point!)  With the effects of the De-Mat Gun, the Doctor is left not remembering anything of this adventure, though it seems likely he was told of it after the fact.

Leela and K9

Goodbye, Leela and K9

 

Finally, Leela and K9 both opt to leave—or rather, to stay behind on Gallifrey. Leela has fallen in love with the guard commander Andred, and is given special permission to live on Gallifrey with him.  K9 chooses to stay to watch over her.  It’s an emotional goodbye for the Doctor; but it is mitigated by the appearance at the end of K9 Mark II, who possesses all the memory and personality of his precursor.

Next time: The Key to Time!  See you there.

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

Horror of Fang Rock (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

The Invisible Enemy

Image of the Fendahl

The Sun Makers

Underworld (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

The Invasion of Time

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Fourth and Long: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Twelve

With the exit of John Pertwee last week, we’ve reached the longest-running Doctor of the classic series, Tom Baker! It’s a record that has yet to be surpassed even in the revived series.  Personally, I’m a little too young to have seen him in first run—I was born at the end of the seventies—but courtesy of a very slow and laid-back public television station, this is the Doctor I grew up with, and I always considered him to be “my Doctor”.  (To the best of my memory, the local station dropped broadcasting of Doctor Who at the same time as the first-run termination of the show by the BBC, but we had only reached the Fifth Doctor at that time—at least, I don’t recall Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy from those days, and when the movie was released in 1996 I recall being very surprised that Paul McGann was the eighth Doctor.)  Let’s get to it!

robot 1

Doctor meets doctor

 

After a momentary cameo last season, the Fourth Doctor makes his real debut in Robot.  He and Sarah Jane are immediately joined by new companion (and doctor) Harry Sullivan, the first true male companion since Jamie McCrimmon.  It’s also the final regular appearance for the Brigadier (whose middle name, Gordon, is first mentioned here), though not his last overall; we’ll see him again next season, plus a bit in the eighties.  The same goes for Sgt. Benton (here promoted to Warrant Officer), though with slightly different future appearances.  As for the Doctor, it was an unusually smooth regeneration, perhaps balancing out the turmoil that led up to it, and most likely due to K’anpo Rimpoche’s assistance.  Tom Baker even resembles a young John Pertwee a bit, though their personalities will prove to be very different.

robot 2

Couldn’t get a shot of the day pass.  Here’s Sarah Jane, the Doctor and Bessie instead.

 

We get a sort-of specific date for this serial: April 4th, as seen on Sarah’s Think Tank day pass.  Her thumb obscures part of the ticket, and we aren’t sure if it’s supposed to be 1974 or 1975 (the original broadcast spanned both years).  I expect it’s 1975, as that is more consistent with the rest of the season.

Robot 3

K1, doing a mean King Kong impression

 

We get a sympathetic villain in the titular robot, K1 (I want to make a K1/K9 joke here, but it’s just not coming together). He’s being used, but he doesn’t want to be, and he suffers greatly for it.  He’s the victim of a plot by misguided scientists to rule the world, and nothing good comes of it in the end.

Robot 4

Until next time, Brigadier

 

Some oddities: We’re beginning a run of more than a full season in which the TARDIS interior is never seen, though the Doctor does use the TARDIS.  At some point, the Doctor has an offscreen visit—alone, it seems—to the planet of the Sevateem from season fourteen’s The Face of Evil; it’s suggested it happens here, in part one, while Harry is incapacitated and the Doctor is in the TARDIS (we even hear the dematerialization sound, and it’s proposed that he is returning, not leaving, when the others enter the room).  If so, his post-regeneration confusion might account for why he later has trouble remembering the trip.  Finally, it’s mentioned that the USA, USSR, and China all gave their nuclear launch codes to Britain for safekeeping. While I can believe in a seven-foot transformable robot, that proposition stretches credit a little too far for anyone who grew up during the cold war.

Nerva beacon

Nerva Beacon

 

The Doctor, Harry, and Sarah land in the far future—approximately the year 15,000—on the space station Nerva Beacon in The Ark in Space.  Nerva will be the “lynchpin” of the season, as they return travel to and from the station.  At this time in history, Earth has been abandoned for about ten thousand years due to solar flare devastation around the year 5,000; it’s the same diaspora that spawned the Starship UK in NuWho’s The Beast Below.  Nerva is populated with hibernating humans whose mission was to repopulate the planet.  The station has been partially taken over by the Wirrn, a spaceborne insectoid race that wants to assimilate the humans for their knowledge.  I remember being absolutely terrified by the Wirrn as a child; they’re still an effective enemy today.

Wirrn infection

You should get that looked at, dude

 

I never cared for the way this serial presents Sarah Jane. She comes across as weak, another screaming damsel in distress, which is very different from her time with the Third Doctor.  Although this serial is the high-water mark for that portrayal, it’s something that will continue for the rest of Sarah’s time with the Doctor.

Sontaran Experiment 1

Sontaran Bondage Games?

 

After freeing Nerva from the Wirrn, the Doctor and his companions transmat down to the supposedly-empty Earth to repair the transmat receptor beacons—a one-way trip if they can’t fix them—in The Sontaran Experiment.  (The date, of course, is the same, as this serial immediately follows the previous one.)  It’s a short adventure, only two episodes long—in fact, it’s the shortest serial of the 1970s, a product of script editor Robert Holmes’s aversion to six-episode serials.  He preferred four-episode stories, but with the next serial, Genesis of the Daleks, he had no choice but to accept the longer version; therefore he compensated with this brief contribution.  The Sontarans return in the person of Styre, another clone warrior; though genetically identical to Linx from the previous Sontaran story, he looks different, as the costume had to be replaced.  (Kevin Lindsay, the actor, suffered from a health condition exacerbated by the original costume; six short months later, the same condition would claim his life.)  This story, along with Genesis of the Daleks, is one of the eight TARDIS-free stories that I’ve previously mentioned; after Genesis, it won’t happen again until 2008’s Midnight.

sontaranexperiment

The Doctor challenges Styre to combat

 

Here we find that Nerva isn’t the only place where a remnant of humanity survived; in fact, they’ve spread through the stars and become a vast empire (not, though, one of the four Great and Bountiful Human Empires—the dates don’t match up). Nerva, in fact, is considered something of a lost colony, the future’s Atlantis or Roanoke Island.  Earth itself, however, is still not reinhabited; its only occupants are a crashed human expedition, and the Sontaran who would use them as slaves and experimental fodder.  The Doctor fights Styre hand-to-hand at one point, and actually wins, though with some help from an energy feedback; either Styre is a terrible Sontaran, or the Doctor is a much more capable warrior than we’ve been led to believe.

Do I have the right

Do I have the right?!

 

In Genesis of the Daleks, we get one of the classic series’ most famous serials.  The Doctor is intercepted en route back to Nerva by the Time Lords and sent to Skaro at a point in its distant past (about 4,000 BC, it seems).  He’s given a mission:  Stop the creation of the Daleks before they grow to destroy all other life.  Failing that, he is to change them in some way that reduces their aggression, or find some weakness to exploit.  Let’s get it out of the way:  though he fails to destroy them (with the famous “Have I the right?” line), he sets their development back by a thousand years; however, the timeline we’ve been seeing all along incorporates that change, meaning that past appearances of the Daleks won’t change retroactively.  It can also be argued that he inadvertently saved Davros’s life, thus later creating a schism in the Daleks that arguably weakens their ability to conquer.

Davros and Nyder

Nyder and Davros

 

This entry is getting long, so let’s mention some noteworthy things in this serial. The Dalek raygun visual effect is first used here, though we can assume previous serials implied it.  The scenes of the war between Kaleds and Thals will be famously recapped in Series 9’s The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, where the Twelfth Doctor saves young Davros, thus answering the dilemma he poses to Sarah Jane and Harry about killing a child you know will become a monster. The Kaleds are unusually ignorant for an advanced race, believing there are only a few stars and that those worlds have no inhabitants.  The Thals make their final (or technically, first!) onscreen appearance here.  The Kaleds (except for Davros) only appear here.  Davros appears to die, but don’t be fooled; he does that often.  The Daleks don’t seem to require any kind of power transmission; there’s a theory that says that the Daleks from early appearances (The Daleks, et al.) were mutants left behind when most of their race fled Skaro, and only had access to inferior prototype machines until their cousins later returned.  And last, Davros’s assistant Nyder:  That man is terrifying.  He’s one of the most unquestioningly evil characters we’ve ever seen.  While the Daleks scared me as a child, Nyder scares me as an adult.

Genesis of the Daleks

One more matter, and it’s crucial to the revived series: The Doctor’s actions here are often considered to be the opening salvo of the Last Great Time War.  Although the Daleks lack time travel at this point, Davros’s hatred for the Time Lords begins here, and will eventually—in the era of the Eighth Doctor—blossom into the war.

Revenge of the Cybermen

Cybermen on Nerva!

 

In Revenge of the Cybermen, The Time Lords aren’t done with the Doctor; instead of sending him back to the time he left, they send him to Nerva somewhere earlier in its history. (A History of the Universe gives a date of 2875, but this seems inaccurate; it is more likely to be shortly before the year 5000, some brief decades or centuries before the solar flares.)  The station has not been repurposed as an ark yet; it is a warning beacon near an errant asteroid called Voga.  Unknown to its crew, Voga is a remnant of the legendary planet of gold, which was destroyed by the Cybermen during humanity’s wars with them; Cybermen are vulnerable to gold, as we learn here.  Although this is still far in our future, these are Mondasian cybermen, not the hybrid version seen in Series 7’s Nightmare in Silver.  This is the final appearance of the Cybermen until Earthshock in the mid-1980s, though they may get an occasional mention in the meantime.  We see a new type of Cybermat, as well, one that is more like a snake than a rat.  It’s a simple story; the Cybermen are in league with a human on Nerva to bring about the destruction of Voga.  The Doctor, working with the Vogans, puts an end to their plans.

Vogans

Welcome to Voga

 

Some final thoughts about the Fourth Doctor: This season demonstrates that the nice, polite Third Doctor is well and truly gone.  Baker’s Doctor can be arrogant and cruel to his companions; he’s capricious in a way we haven’t seen before, even while working for a good end.  Looking back, it’s painfully obvious that this was a growing-up phase for him—his adolescence, if you will.  He certainly has the same sense of responsibility, but it bothers him to have it; he wants to just roam around, enjoy life, and be idle.  It’s no coincidence that he continually gets forced into responsibility.  Unlike the Third Doctor, he’s bored by his work with UNIT (though he never really quits!  Eleven later acknowledges that he still has the job, which incidentally may explain how he bought Amy and Rory’s house despite never having pocket money—he probably had pay accruing and drawing interest in escrow for years).  This is very much his teenage rebellion phase, though we’ll see some growth by the time he regenerates again.

Next time: Zygons, evil gods, and seeds of doom!  See you there.

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

Robot (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

The Ark in Space

The Sontaran Experiment

Genesis of the Daleks (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

Revenge of the Cybermen

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Goodbye to Three: Classic Doctor Who Rewatch, Season Eleven

It’s that time again! This week in our classic Doctor Who rewatch, we say goodbye to another version of the Doctor, as the Third Doctor becomes the Fourth.  Let’s get started!

The Time Warrior 1

Come on guys, just hug it out.

 

Having said farewell to three-season companion Jo Grant (now Jo Jones), the Doctor begins the season back at UNIT and working alone in The Time Warrior.  It begins as a UNIT story, but ends up as a pseudohistorical, taking place in the late twelfth to late thirteenth centuries.  Based on several suggestions in different, sources, it appears to be no earlier than 1190 AD, and no later than 1273 AD.  The serial introduces both a new companion and a new foe:  On the one hand, the Doctor faces off for the first time against the Sontarans, the warrior race best known in NuWho for disgraced nurse (and fan favorite) Strax.  On the other hand, he has the help of fan-favorite companion Sarah Jane Smith, who bluffs her way into the middle of this case.  The Sontaran in question, Linx, is stranded in the past, and using a knockoff version of time travel to kidnap modern scientists and make them repair his fallen ship.  Meanwhile, he’s also giving advanced weapons to the locals, thus threatening to upset the course of history.  When he accidentally scoops up Sarah Jane as well, the Doctor follows to put an end to his plan.

The Time Warrior 2

Sarah Jane and the Doctor

 

It’s a bit jarring to me to see Sarah Jane so young—by her own admission, she’s twenty-three years old at this time. My most recent experiences with her are in NuWho, and also in occasional episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures, where of course she’s decades older.  Still, as companions go—and after three years with Jo—she’s a breath of fresh air, though she doesn’t know yet what to make of the Doctor.  Also notable in this episode:  For the first time, the Doctor’s homeworld is given a name.  That name, as we all know, is Gallifrey—and the rest, as they say, is history.  Interestingly, it was first named in print shortly before this serial was released, but both uses seem to have resulted from the same decision rather than one prompting the other.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs 1

Not the most convincing dinosaurs, but we’ll take it.

Sarah and the Doctor return to 1970s London in Invasion of the Dinosaurs.  They land in the middle of a crisis: Dinosaurs have been appearing at random and causing havoc, resulting in martial law (enforced partly by UNIT) and the evacuation of the city.  It’s all part of the plan, though, for the secret conspiracy known as Operation Golden Age; they want to regress Earth through time to a pre-human state, saving only their own selected group of people (who secretly believe they are on sleeper ships to a new planet) to repopulate.  I wasn’t impressed with that plan; it’s both ambitious and pointless, as the level of work involved to let modern humans survive in a prehistoric world would prohibit the creation of the utopia they seek.  But, what do I know?

Mike Yates

The face of a sad betrayal.

 

 

Mike Yates makes his penultimate appearance here, and it’s a whopper: haunted by his experiences in The Green Death, he betrays UNIT and, indeed, the world, by aiding the conspirators.  However, due to the factors that led to his damaged state of mind, he is allowed to exit quietly on a medical discharge rather than criminal charges.  We’ll see him one more time, in the season finale.  On the technology front, the Doctor’s second car, known among fans as the Whomobile, makes its first appearance; this hovercraft-like vehicle was actually the property of Jon Pertwee, and left the show with him.  It’s a very James Bond type of vehicle, and I wish it had appeared more often; we’ll only see it twice, both in this season.

wqhomobile

The Whomobile

 

There are environmental themes here, as in The Green Death; but here, the message seems to be that environmental causes can be taken too far.  We also see time-travel as a theme again; the Doctor, as a Time Lord, demonstrates some immunity to manipulation of time, as he is not frozen by the time field.  This is consistent with how the First Doctor wasn’t visibly affected by the Time Destructor in The Daleks’ Master Plan, though at that time it wasn’t clear whether he suffered any aging or not.  One more thing:  London has the politest looters in history apparently.  Not a single thing was damaged!

Death to the Daleks 1

That title wasn’t joking!

 

Giving in to the Doctor’s persuasion at the end of Invasion of the Dinosaurs (a very NuWho thing for him to do, much more common with Ten and Eleven), Sarah Jane consents to travel with him in Death to the Daleks.  They travel to the planet Exxilon in approximately the year 2600 AD.  It’s a vague date, but we do believe it occurs after the early wars between Earth and the Daleks—that is, after most of the Dalek stories we’ve seen so far.  (They should possess time travel, but we don’t see it in use here.)  Here, a living city drains the power of every ship in range, including the TARDIS.  It’s a similar thought to the setting of NuWho’s The Doctor’s Wife, though unlike House, this city doesn’t consumer TARDISes, just their power.  Interestingly, it drains the power from the Daleks’ weapons, but not their machines in general; this is handwaved by the statement that they operate using psychokinetic power—telekinesis—but this seems odd given that their clearly-electric vocalizers and headlamps still work.  At any rate, this version doesn’t seem to last long in Dalek history, as later iterations use more conventional sources of power.

Exxilon city

The Exxilons and their city

 

This story is a bit of a base-under-siege in reverse; here, it’s the Doctor, his allies, and even the Daleks that are doing the besieging. Along the way, he helps the native Exxilons, who long ago lost most of their civilization and culture.  The city produces numerous traps; notably, it creates artificial “antibodies” for security, a concept that will be later reused in NuWho for both the Tesselecta (Let’s Kill Hitler, et al.) and the Daleks themselves (Into the Dalek).

Thalira and her court

Thalira and her court

 

We revisit old friends in The Monster of Peladon.  This is the last television story to take place on Peladon, and the last to feature the Ice Warriors until NuWho series seven’s Cold War, but both would appear in various spinoff media.  It is fifty years after the Doctor’s last trip to Peladon, placing it in 3935 by that reckoning.  The planet is now a Galactic Federation member in good standing, and the Federation is at war with Galaxy 5 (not clearly defined here, but a later novel establishes it as a terrorist organization).  The Federation needs Peladon’s trisilicate mineral for the war effort, prompting the plot here.  Peladon is now in the hands of Thalira, the daughter of the previous King Peladon; and Alpha Centauri is still around, though promoted to the post of Federation ambassador to Peladon.  (Why they need embassies to their member worlds is beyond me.)

Ice Warriors 1

Farewell, Ice Warriors.  We’ll meet again in a few decades.

 

In the previous story, the Ice Warriors were mistakenly thought to be the villains; here, they actually are. To be fair, the group in question don’t represent the Ice Warriors as a whole; the bulk of the race is still holding to its pacifist ways, as mentioned before.  This splinter group, however, can cause enough damage on its own.  There are minor themes of sexual equality here, as well, as Sarah tries to persuade the queen to stand up to the men in her court; she utters the famous line, “There’s nothing only about being a girl.

Great_One

Spiders and Time Lords and caves, oh my!

 

And now, we come to the end for the Third Doctor. In Planet of the Spiders, having returned to Earth, he is summoned by Mike Yates to the Buddhist monastery where Yates has been recovering.  Yates has become aware of something odd about a cult-like group that meets in the basement; and he is right.  The cult summons an entity that they cannot control:  an intelligent spider from the planet Metebelis III.  Unknown to the Doctor, it’s his fault:  his theft of the blue crystal on his recent visit to the planet has prompted the spiders to take action.

gyrocopter

A gyrocopter.  Because of course it is.

 

Random, but noteworthy in this serial: The Brigadier first mentions Doris, the woman he will eventually marry (his second wife, and stepmother to Kate).  Mike Yates makes his final appearance, and redeems himself, though he is not reinstated.  The Doctor again spends some time in a coma, but recovers quickly.  The Metebelis crystal is returned by Jo to the Doctor via the mail; it will appear again with the Eleventh Doctor in Hide, where it enhances Emma Grayling’s powers much as it does here with the Eight Legs (though not fatally).  We get a chase scene between Bessie and the Whomobile!  Oddly, the Doctor isn’t driving either one; he’s piloting a gyrocopter.  This serial is weird, what can I say.  It’s also the final appearance of the Whomobile.

K'anpo Rimpoche

K’anpo, post-regeneration.  A decent Time Lord if ever there was one.

 

Finally, the regeneration. It’s called regeneration for the first time here; the term is still with us today.  Like the Tenth Doctor after him, the Doctor absorbs a lethal amount of radiation, but takes some time to die.  He’s preceded in regeneration by K’anpo Rimpoche, the abbot of the monastery, who reveals himself to be a Time Lord known to the Doctor as the Hermit; he was once the Doctor’s teacher, his guru, in the Doctor’s youth on Gallifrey.  He’s a consummate regenerator, choosing his own appearance and even projecting it as a separate entity beforehand; the Doctor will learn something of this trick himself.  His presence here makes this the only dual-regeneration episode (involving the Doctor at least) in the series’ history.  K’anpo also aids the Doctor by triggering his regeneration inside UNIT headquarters; this is most likely the first instance of the transfer of regeneration energy, though we don’t actually see the energy here.  The Doctor himself will do the same in his later life, for River Song, for the TARDIS itself, and—shockingly—for Davros, the creator of the Daleks.  It seems to work well, here, as the regeneration is unusually smooth and calm.

Third-doctor-regenerates

A little change will do you good.

 

Next time: Back to my own childhood, as we meet the Fourth Doctor!  See you there.

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

The Time Warrior

Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Death To The Daleks (parts 1, 2, and 4; for part 3, click here)

The Monster of Peladon

Planet of the Spiders

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