David J Richardson, Site MapBack to Main IndexBack To Area Index

Doctor Who — Review: Season 27 (the 2005 return)

First Published:
Online here, later serialised in Sonic Screwdriver #145 and later

Publish Date:
From April 2005

Comments:
These are not reviews. They are my instant reactions, my gut feels, my personal idiosyncracies, recorded as I watch the new series of Doctor Who for the first time. For better or for worse, they are meant to stand alone and largely unedited as the rest of the series rolls on; perhaps I’ll see things differently later, and perhaps I won’t. Either way, it’ll be ‘the trip of a lifetime’.

(As of World War Three, the official BBC site now has a similar approach to my “reviews” here: they call it Fear Forecasters, and it documents the reactions of four children between four and twelve years old, and their parents. Good stuff.)

Rose
The End of the World
The Unquiet Dead
Aliens of London
World War Three
Dalek
The Long Game
Father's Day
The Empty Child
The Doctor Dances
Boom Town
Bad Wolf
Parting of the Ways

The Final Verdict

Rose

Sixteen years. Half my life. Half my life since Doctor Who was a series, and — to barely avoid a cliche — it’s back.

When people ask “where were you when the series started?”, I will finally have a definitive answer. As you likely heard, a rough copy of this first episode snuck out onto the internet several weeks early, so I got to watch it on Sunday March 6 — having just returned from near Bendigo where I had just won the Victorian Boomerang Championship, for the first time. So it was a great day all round!

Having said that, and it was an immense buzz watching it at the time, let’s comment on the finished product. Even from the other side of the world, I could appreciate — and marvel — at the incredible media blitz that preceded the new series debut. All this fuss, and still a nagging voice at the back of my head saying ‘What if it’s crap? What if no one watches?’. Scary times indeed, but happily the two doubts were rapidly blasted away. While they may not all have had this idiotic grin on their face as they watched, as I did, my faith in the brain-washing mass media was restored as ten million people tuned in.

To the start, and I was relieved to hear a pretty traditional theme rendition. I’d heard an “official version”, played on at least one radio station in the week leading up to the debut, and it had been completely different, and not in a good way… Phew! I really do like the wuh-huh-huh-hoo interstitial bit in the second half of the theme, and (if it’s still around) I heartily recommend you have a look at the video interview with composer Murray Gold on the official BBC site, as he makes some quite insightful points.

To the real thing and after the show-off zoom from space, we get the Boppy Music of Doom as Rose goes about her day. Opinions were split massively on the music, but I fall strongly in favour of it. You wouldn’t want it for the next twelve episodes, but here, it’s fun. The elevator shot is gratuitous, but it’s all part of the pretty swishes bringing you to the bump-in-the-dark-scene with the monsters. Of course, that scene was utterly bungled on the initial BBC1 screening with the sound from a BBC3 dance show coming through unexpectedly. The equisite timing of the audio bleed (right at the start of the quiet spooky scene, and then right at the climax of it) certainly made it look a bit suss though!

And then ‘Run!’, and you cheer as the Doctor arrives on the scene. Some more Boppy Music of Doom (it makes me laugh) and our intro is over as we cheer again for the return of the TARDIS. I think it’s a great introduction, a pacy self-contained teaser that just makes you want more.

Back to Rose’s home, and we get the first of the really obvious bloopers, as the TV news time is stuck on 20:45 for at least 80 seconds! When the Doctor arrives the next day (‘What are you doing here?’ ‘I live here!’ ‘What do you that for?’ ‘… Cause I do.’) it’s a laugh, but also an early reinforcement of the theme of the episode, and indeed the show — why trap yourself in one small place or routine, when you could have the Universe and all of time?

‘You can’t just go swanning off!’
‘Yes, I can, this is me, swanning off. See ya!’

The Doctor and Rose walk off on their ridiculously long single-shot scene, and for a moment I’m wondering who the hell we have as the Doctor, as Eccleston swaggers along like he’s Alexei Sayle on speed. There’s this buffoon grin he gives the air just before Rose asks ‘Is that supposed to sound impressive?’ which worries me greatly at the time, but in retrospect makes me laugh. The Doctor doesn’t actually do much other than talk to Rose in this episode, so it’s hard to judge Eccleston’s portrayal, but that moment was a worry for such a supposedly “professional” actor. Mind you, there have been much worse debuts — Tom Baker was terrible in ‘Robot’ despite mastering the role by the end of his first season, so I’m not too worried yet.

Onto the wheelie bin scene, and it’s the little details I’m noting again — Mickey’s number plate starts with ‘ALF’, one of which he is shortly to meet! I don’t mind the scene at all (though I wish it could have been done at dusk, or at night) but again I’m distracted by a blooper, one which few seemed to notice: as Mickey battles with the bin, look at his car behind him. The person controlling the lights has massively overdone it, causing huge shadows and reflections to be seen on the car (the sun is behind both Mickey and the car, so there’s no way to rationalise it away!)

A little later, and again there’s a great moment to guffaw, as the pizza patron screams when Mickey’s detatched head keeps talking. This episode has flaws, I know, but if you’re laughing and being swept along with the action, it can hardly be a bad thing. When you break it down, it is a brilliantly crafted introduction to the series, something that was sorely needed after sixteen years (apologies to Paul McGann, but anyone born in the last twenty years would regard the telemove as a blip in their life; Doctor Who is not necessarily the universal cultural icon and common knowledge us oldies recall it being).

Speaking of McGann, the Doctor’s cry of “Oh no no no no no!’, as Mickey’s head melts, sounds chillingly similar to him, and again I sport a silly grin because of it. Moments later, and I have this massive sense of deja vu, as Rose sticks her head out of the TARDIS door — for a moment you’d swear it’s Lalla Ward, from a quarter of a century ago. There must be a shot where she does exactly that motion!

There can’t be any fan’s heart who didn’t melt at the Doctor’s fond noting of the TARDIS being in disguise, and Rose’s bemused reaction to it. On the other hand, some heartily bitched about the introduction of the “magic” anti-plastic, but really, how less scientific is it from the doo-dad the third Doctor used at the end of ‘Spearhead from Space’? We have about 21 minutes of Auton story here (yes, I’m a sad fan, I counted that — it was a long wait till the second episode appeared!) and we’ve been dumped directly into the end of the story, so what do you expect?

‘Fantastic!’

It’s a personal preference, but the hand-holding, and Rose’s huge smile, as they run over Westminster Bridge again puts a little thrill though me, saying ‘This is Doctor Who’ to me. It’s a show where the story can be serious, but the telling of it isn’t necessarily, and hooray for that. I don’t want bland, I don’t want serious mundanity like in the new Battlestar Galactica, I do want some silliness.

For some reason, I guffaw again at Rose’s ‘Wot ‘bout down ‘ere?’ — I guess it was just as far as could be from the good old “Received Pronounciation” of the traditional BBC, even more so than Eccleston’s hugely publicised Doctor’s speech patterns.

The rest of the scenes with the Doctor and the Nestene Consciousness are fairly unremarkable (lots of apparent backstory into mystery wars, which I’m sure left many casual viewers wondering what they’d missed, and how this was relevant to the current story. Clumsy!), but we finally get to have shop dummies going on a rampage, which is fun. And I dare anyone to go to a night club and do the Auton Dance!

And to the end, where the Doctor trots out his pick-up lines, and puts down Mickey (‘He’s not invited’). It’s hardly a surprise given how unlikable he’s been made (knowing several actors are due to return throughout the season — causing some people to pre-emptively scream ‘soap opera!’ — I’m grimacing badly at the thought of his return).

But with a slo-mo run to the TARDIS and a huge smile on Rose’s face (did you notice her reaction as she entered the TARDIS to escape the Nestene lair?) and a pre-credits sting of the theme, it’s all over, and, again, that idiotic grin is back on my face. Because, thin story or not (for example, the whole Clive thing is irrelevant to the fans, who need no such introduction) it was great fun, the Doctor seemed OK, Rose was great, and there were lots of little moments that screamed: yes, this really is Doctor Who once more, in spirit as well as name.

Rating out of 10, with 5 being a pass mark: 7 for me as a fan, but I can see how it is an beautifully targetted gem when you consider its primary (non-fan) audience

The End of the World

‘…Slash Apple…’

To quote our new companion: ‘What’s that all about then?’

For the second time in a week, we get a show-off shot above the Earth to start the story. This time they’re really overdoing it, but in a good way when you’re trying to overcome traditional impressions of the show. And then they bring in a dozen different alien types — amusingly gratuitous as well.

Ooh, spider non-Daleks! They’re so cute!

Rose’s look and words of realisation that’s she run off with a stranger are really well done, and close to unique for the show. She’s probably just realised that if she was freaked out by the alien procession, and utterly lost when it came to “common knowledge” such as the origin of the little blue munchkins — then who, or what, the hell is the Doctor then?

There’s a clever moment when a four-legs “runs into the camera” in the duct. It’s disconcerting because it’s a really subtle way of implying they’re not just CGI images, but actual physical models.

The Doctor and Rose meet again, and their little bitch fight over the Doctor’s origin grates badly on me. While later the full context of the Doctor’s statements will be explained, at the time it seems to be conflict for conflict’s sake, as petty a padding as the worst Sixth Doctor and Peri arguments. Even on later viewings with the knowledge of Gallifrey’s fate, it still doesn’t really gel for me, partially because I don’t think Eccleston quite gets his part right.

Luckily it’s rescued by the jiggery-pokey sequence — simple but surprisingly sweet, and with a great line by the Doctor at the end: ‘You think that’s amazing, you want to see the bill’.

And now excuse me while I go have a puke, as the Doctor cries and the music swells to a crescendo. This must be what it’s like being hit on the head with a sledgehammer (minus the pain — well, sorta). Unfortunately, after a nicely written start, I have to say the story pretty much falls apart in the middle section, mostly because there really isn’t much of a plot: someone blows up a rich party to get money, and the Doctor has to hit the magic “reset” button. It’s actually got less plot than the first episode, and that had the excuse that it was laden down with exposition on the characters. Not good!

Luckily, it is restored at the end as we join the masses of clueless humans of today once more. The contrast with the bright colours and non-stop action of the past twenty minutes make the closing two scenes (‘It’s gone. We were too busy saving ourselves… no one saw it go’ and ‘My planet’s gone. Dead. It burned, like the Earth’) all the more powerful, and this scene is everything that the one with Jabe wasn’t. It’s a stunning last three minutes, even on repeated viewings, and an emotional kick in the guts as Rose exits the TARDIS back to a “restored” Earth. The little breath she takes before blurting out ‘There’s me’ is equally heart-breaking.

And on the flippant side, it’s good to see we once again have a companion who can rival Peri in the nostril-flaring stakes!

Rating: 6/10, punished for the interminable middle — but the closing minutes, without exaggeration, are as good as any others in the show’s history.

The Unquiet Dead

And to the past, as we continue with Rose’s, and the viewers’, education. The week leading up to this story had seen some rave previews, including the audacious statement in The Guardian that one reviewer thought ‘it may be the single best piece of family-oriented entertainment BBC has broadcast in its entire history’. You should never read stuff like that in advance; it always leads to disappointment, and for a number of reasons I ended up more disappointed than most, as the brevity of my comments here perhaps indicates.

While the three guest characters are all immediately likable, and some admirable discussions and drama comes their meetings, the problem with this story is the lack of threat, and lack of plot. We never really learn anything of substance about the Gelff, and why (until the Doctor lets them loose) we should particularly care.

Again, the Doctor’s portrayal is a bit worrying: he apologises too much, he’s too gullible, he overtly succumbs to fear, and he gushes distractedly over Charles Dickens and Rose during moments of peril, or while someone else is saving the day. Speaking of Dickens, I do, however, love his line at his moment of peril: ‘I hope that this theory will be validated… soon!’

I have to credit Eve Myle’s serene little smile at the end; it rather saves the climax to the story. But it’s still all rather tame — some decent dialogue comparing three different ages of morals and attitudes is not enough to give it the drive or spark of the previous two episodes, flawed as they both were.

Rating: 6/10, the same as The End of the World, but for completely different reasons

Aliens of London

This is an odd one. On first view, I really didn’t like this episode. It seemed far too silly. But on subsequent viewings I really like it. What seemed silly is either incredibly funny, in a good way (eg. ‘Pigs in Space’), or much subtler (the whole fart thing). Unfortunately, most people only ever have the first screening, so I imagine this story just perpetuated negative stereotypes of the show — hell, it even has monsters in (human) rubber suits!

But to the story itself. I love when the TARDIS first arrives — it displaces the loose paper, rather than materialising over them. An incredible attention to detail, like the settling-of-snow shot at the end of The Unquiet Dead.

Shortly afterwards, the Doctor gets to say the word ‘Fantastic’ again. That’s all four stories so far, and only a daring person would now bet against it happening all the way through the season, and thus the incarnation! We also get a nice little reference back to the opening episode Rose, as she suggests ‘We could always do what everyone else does… watch it on TV.’ Ha! Speaking of which, I love the subliminal programming as the spaceship cake has Dalek bumps — coming in two weeks!

Back to the TARDIS, and a classic moment as the Doctor kisses the Hammer of TARDIS Fixing. A truly Doctor-like moment, and indeed this episode finally settled my doubts over Eccleston as the Doctor. He’s still manic, but there are no moments to make you cringe, and several rather Doctor-like moments: indeed, not much later we get three in rapid succession: him shushing the sonic screwdriver, picking into a room full of troops, and then his rapid claiming of control despite their many guns pointing at him.

And then to the best, or worst, part of the episode: ‘Pigs in Space’! It’s either one of the funniest things you’ve ever seen, or an embarrassment. For me, it was both, but in the opposite order, as a re-watch totally changed my viewpoint on it.

I half expected, however, that the female doctor would faint as the mortuary door blew open, and for the pig to then fall to its knees, bathed in blue light, screaming ‘Who… am… I?’

Mickey turns up, and surprisingly he’s very watchable this time around. His bitterness and new knowledge is well portrayed, and the gradual development of http://www.whoisdoctorwho.co.uk/ ties in nicely (if you didn’t see it at the time, don’t bother — but basically Mickey took over the website from the now dead Clive of the opening episode). The stuff with Rose’s mum is also well very done — indeed, I have no complaint with the potentially soap-opera-ish scenes of Rose with Mickey and her mum. Nice stuff, and with the space of an old four-episoder to play with, not a hindrance to the story.

There’s also a return line for Rose as she races out of the TARDIS after her mum — ‘Don’t start a fight’ was previously used by the Doctor in The End of the World.

And then, finally, to our first cliffhanger for the series — and a triple banger at that! Good stuff, but it is promptly ruined by the incredibly stupid “Next Week” trailer. You’ve got a great cliffhanger, and the trailer indicates bugger-all new stuff happens next week, so why include it? Argh! It’s not to say they’re always a bad thing: for example, the trailer for this episode itself had included the Doctor manically laughing at the appearance of the crashing spaceship — and now we know why, as it was the pay-off to Rose’s line ‘Aliens and spaceships: I’m the only person on Earth who knows they exist’.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new leader for best episode of the new season…

Rating: 8/10, on second viewing

World War Three

And here we are, at part two of the first extended story. Will it maintain the standard?

Um, what a dud of a resolution to the cliffhanger, and as a teaser! Isn’t there supposed to be a threat, or an enigma posed, or something?

Nice touch for Mickey to be taking photos of the alien — though there is little correlaton with the shot ending up on his website

The contrast between the running rubber-suit and CGI Slitheen is pretty big, unfortunately. Some tighter direction on the rubber-suiters would have been nice.

Ooh, another lift shot. Now I have to go back and compare it to the one in Rose, and see if they’re identical, or not…

You’d think the ‘Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North’ joke would be old by now, but no, it’s still a laugh when she introduces herself to the fire-extinguishing-wielding Doctor.

‘Slitheen is not our race. Slitheen is our surname!’

Unfortunately, Rose’s mum seems to have reverted back to a fairly unappealing nature, but Mickey is again quite agreeable, though not agreeable (if you see what I mean).

The Doctor: Acetic acid! Vinegar! Mickey, have you got any vinegar?
Mickey: How should I know?
The Doctor: It’s your kitchen!
Rose: [something something], middle shelf!

Oh, that’s so accurate — as a single man, I couldn’t say if I had any vinegar either… And then it’s followed by another pearler:

Mother Tyler*: Yes! Onions! Eggs!
The Doctor: And you kiss this man?

* Not that I’m saying she’s a witch…

And then followed by the Doctor’s reaction to the presumably off wine — the best sequence of the episode so far! It’s certainly better commentary than the following bit about ‘massive weapons of destruction’ — geez, could we get any less subtle?

Hmm, why do the Cabinet security shutters close so slowly this time, compared to the sudden slam the first time?

The ending (hmm, three out of the four stories so far in this season have directly involved the Doctor resolving problems by blowing things up) is kinda lame but it is a rather British thing to do. If you’re not aware, there’s a prominent statue of Boudicca just opposite the Parliament building, as a warning that the people will rise against tyrannical rule. Here, the people, as explicitly envoked by Harriet Jones, once again utterly destroy the seat of power. How much you enjoy this bit probably depends on your political point of view on the war in Iraq…

‘But right now, there’s this plasma storm brewing in the Horsehead Nebula. Fires are burning, ten million miles wide. I could fly the TARDIS right into the heart of it, and ride the shock wave all the way out. Hurtle right across the sky, and end up anywhere.’

So, as per the trailer for next week, why do we end up back on Earth again?!

I lied: my new favourite bit just came up — the reference to the ‘Colly Wobbles’ on Mickey’s newspaper. Given my team is playing Collingwood tomorrow (the huge Anzac Day match) in the football, and it’s the battle not to be last on the ladder, I’m really hoping that disease strikes them down! Hopefully it will look something like this classic Essendon victory two years ago…

[Update: ooh looky, the Colliwobbles did strike, again!]

Ooh, they did it again: you’ll note that the TARDIS leaves a dry spot when it dematerialises. Detail to love.

But not really an episode to love. Really, not all that much happens, there is little of the dramatic direction or lighting of the previous episode, and the stuff about Rose returning and then re-leaving just isn’t as interesting or well-done.

Also, the Doctor never said ‘Fantastic’, so I look like an idiot!

Rating: 5/10 — a passing mark, no more

Dalek

‘An old friend of mine. Well, enemy. A thing of nightmares, reduced to an exhibit.’

Well, the tone has been sent already, with the exhibit of the title yet to come. For the picky, you have to ask how the Revenge of the Cybermen head got here, given that happens well in the future…

The Doctor is certainly not shy, blabbing on about his alien knowledge despite Rose’s warning that he’s set to be the new #1 exhibit.

‘Doctor? The Doctor?’

That put a thrill down the spine, even though I’d seen it as a trailer previously. And then we get ‘Fantastic’ as well, twice, as if they feel guilty about last week’s absence. Either that, or they’re mocking me.

The discussion about the Dalek race being destroyed, and the Doctor’s insistence that new orders could never arrive, is our first really concrete tip that the Time War was indeed, a Time War. The Daleks, and presumably the Time Lords, are wiped from time, not just killed at a given spot in time. Otherwise, the description of being truly alone is just not accurate. But even now, as in The End of the World, the Doctor describes Gallifrey as physically destroyed, not temporally. Or maybe I’m reading too much into a few words. Wait and see!

I really like the close-up on the Dalek’s blue eye — the window to its soul…

Ooh look, it’s the obligatory Rose-has-a-deep-and-meaningful-to-the-servant scene! In another repeat, Van Statten reveals his motives, and gosh, it’s yet another villain in it for the money.

The first scene of Rose with the Dalek is great, because it reminds us that Daleks may be killing machines but they’re not stupid. It plays Rose brilliantly. Unfortunately for the fan side of me, we never get to hear the term ‘artron energy’ when discussing how Rose boosted the Dalek from its slumber.

‘Whatcha gonna do? Sucker me to death?’

I jump ahead here a bit, but while the above quote led to a nice visual (and it, and the door scene, shows how the oft-maligned plunger could be practical), there’s a disturbing amount of Daleks-can-so-do-that scenes in this story. It’s all a bit too literal — yes, we see the plunger is useful, yes, we see the Dalek can conquer stairs. The viewers don’t need to be overtlyreminded of forty-year-old jokes.

‘That Dalek just absorbed the entire Internet. It knows everything.’

COOOOOL! Rotating gun turrett! Ooh, and zoom lens. The Doctor may have earlier used the dreaded D word (‘dustbin’) but at least it’s being portrayed as a practical package, and OMIGOD, that electrocution tactic was so cool. I am “marking” like I’ve never marked before for a Dalek (though the Special Weapons Dalek blowing the gates up in Remembrance was close).

As for the troops, they used the good ol’ Irish 360 death squad approach: good thing the bullets were being melted and not riccocheted!

‘You would make a good Dalek…’

Now that’s a bitchslap and a half, one that Russell T Davies (not writing this one) would be proud of!

For the second time in the episode, we get reminded of Rose’s age, and that she (probably) came from 2005. So all the people arguing about whether Rose was set in 2004, and Aliens of London was set in 2005, give up already!

‘I feel your feer… Daleks do not feer, must not feer. You gave me life. What else have you given me? I am contaminated!

Not sure about that, though the ‘must’ clarification is significant.

‘What use are emotions, if you will not save the woman you love?’

It’s not a question, and it’s not a sign of contamination. It is, again, straight-out manipulation by the Dalek, and good on “him” for it. Even if other emotions have been driven out, they (like the Cybermen) understand their power.

Interesting that the Doctor is off to get a Big Frickin’ Gun; somewhat un-Doctorish, but I guess the point is that, as noted several times, this incarnation of the Doctor is Dalek-like at times…

The scene when the Dalek confronts Van Statten is un-nerving: when all goes quiet, and the only sound is the little motor rotating the eye stalk, you hold your breath.

To the final climactic scene, and I have to say it all seemed better the second time around (like many episodes so far). The parallels are more obvious, the Dalek seems less New Age and soppy. It has an emotional punch to it, and I’m glad I didn’t know we would see the creature inside, because it had a great impact.

The self-destruction is stupid-looking though, and I don’t buy Eccleston all the time. His acting can be as erratic as his character, mostly when he’s called upon to do vulnerable. Then he sucks, as much as Sylvester McCoy did when asked to do anger.

Rose: Adam was saying that, all his life he wanted to see the stars…
The Doctor: Tell him to go stand outside then.

Such a relief, after all the grimness, to get a trademark Ninth Doctor joke. Adam clearly can’t see the obvious though, looking into the TARDIS and still complaining about them standing in a box… Um, hello? Looks like the makers of the show forgot their expensive show-off shot at the end of Rose, and have reverted back to an “airlock” view of the TARDIS entrance!

Overall, my immediate reaction was to puke at the latter stages of this story, but as noted it’s very re-watchable, and treats the Dalek magnificently (including in the final scene — note the Doctor’s ‘Not for a Dalek’ line).

(And then the teaser for next week came on, and it looked near identical to The End of the World one, with the Doctor introducing Earth on the big screen, and the ‘that’s not meant to happen’ lines. Hmm…)

Rating: 9/10, just

The Long Game

And welcome back, at our half-way mark of the season. And this time we start as we did all the way back in those opening minutes — welcome back, Boppy Music of Doom!

As per my comments a few paragraphs ago, we get a gratuitous repeat of the overlooking-Earth shot from The End of the World — maybe I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt in that they're trying to make a comparison between Rose and Adam, but geeeez: it feels cheap.

This gets followed up with the ‘He’s your boyfriend’ barb (and perhaps Rose’s response indicates such a comparison was meant) but I’m finally going to tee off on this one: GET OVER THE WHOLE BOYFRIEND / WIFE / PARTNER / CONCUBINE / PROSTITUTE THING ALREADY! Every bloody episode goes on about it, and it’s getting very old by now… I have no objection to that sort of line (and it made sense in The End of the World, as Rose was just beginning to ponder who she’d run off with) but having it in every episode, multiple times, is starting to get a bit creepy…

Onto the credits, and after a couple months of listening to it, I can’t imagine anything but this music — now, when I hear the Tom Baker theme on the ABC every weeknight, it just sounds hollow, flat, not quite there.

‘Time travel is like visiting Paris: you can’t just read the guidebook. You’ve got to throw yourself in. Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double, and end up kissing complete strangers. Or is that just me?’

The Doctor flashes his mind-altering ID card, and once more I swear we’re in TEOTW — I wonder what anyone who missed that episode made of that moment? The sonic screwdriver is obviously a tool, no explanation needed; flashing a blank piece of paper just makes you look like one!

OK, this repetitive stuff has to be deliberate, as they repeat the “phone home” scene, with Rose now the worldly (universely?) one.

I like Simon Pegg as the Editor. He’s absolutely taking the piss out of his role, and dead-set getting away with it.

The scene with Adam having his cry about being inadequate would have been so much more satisfying if it had ended with Rose patting him on the head…

Ooh, talk about a mood shift as we go to the fabled halls of gold (not) and thankfully we pull off a good four minutes oozing in its cool atmosphere being we're back to the colourful and distracting world down below.

Cathica: You’re not management, are you?
The Doctor: At last, she’s clever!
Cathica: … Yeah, well, whatever it is, don’t involve me. I don’t know anything.
The Doctor: Don’t you even ask?
Cathica: Well, why would I?
The Doctor: You’re a journalist… Why’s all the crew human?
Cathica: What’s that got to do with anything?
The Doctor: There’s no aliens on board: why?
Cathica: I dunno, no real reason. They’re not banned or anything.
The Doctor: Then why don’t they?
Cathica: I suppose immigration’s tightened up. It’s had to, what with all the threats.
The Doctor: What threats?
Cathica: I dunno, all of them, usual stuff… And the price of space warp doubled, so that kept the visitors away. Oh, and the government on Traffix 5’s collapsed, so that lot’s stopped coming, you see. Just… lots of little reasons, that’s all.
The Doctor: Adding up to one great big fact, and you didn’t even notice?
Cathica: Doctor, I think if there was any sort of conspiracy, Satellite 5 would have seen it. We see everything.
The Doctor: I can see better. This society’s the wrong shape.

Now that’s a billion times better take-off than the massive weapons of destruction being 45 seconds away.

Also, at this time, I feel the need to note that Christine Adams as Cathica is really really hot.

Meanwhile, the stuff with Adam is interesting (but not because of him), though at this stage of the story it does seem somewhat irrelevant.

The Editor is so cool. But he also gives me a slight tinge of David Brent, the idiotic boss from The Office. Not sure how those two statements can co-exist!

I get a slight surprise when I see that ‘Max’ literally oversees everything; for whatever reason, I had a definite impression this was like BOSS in The Green Death — just an empty voice, coming from elsewhere.

Hmm, the Doctor is a by-stander, again, as the story reaches its climax; but perhaps (if, again, I’m feeling charitable) that’s the point. He empowers humanity, wherever he goes. And he even has to be un-buckled by his pet human, Rose.

‘Well, actually, sir, if it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll resign. Bye then!’

I wish he’d escaped…

For a moment, Rose is about to say that phrase (‘Now don’t start a fight’) again — but this time, it’s well and truly too late as the Doctor goes postal on Adam. And it’s instantly relevant, as the ‘Next Week’ reveals that another stupid ape is going to try fiddling with time…

Rating: 7/10; it feels restricted in some ways (count the sets, all in the studio), but the performances of all but Rose (adequate) and Adam (well, he’s not meant to be liked) are sensational, and it throws ideas at you so quickly. And Adam's mis-use of information, as part of his own “long game”, does turn out to be relevant to this story, as well as the next one.

Father’s Day

Pre-credit, and it’s slightly disconcerting that they start and end with similar but different photos: what is the joke Pete Tyler is laughing about in the second one? Is he laughing at the Doctor’s ‘But be careful what you wish for’…

Goddamn, the scene with young Rose and nostalgic Jackie is scary, what with the HUGE cow eyes on display by both of them. The kid is perfect though.

‘Can we try again?’

Oooooooooh shit…

The Doctor’s description of past himself and Rose is disconcerting: ‘he’ and ‘she’, rather than ‘me’ and ‘you’. The panning shot over the two is cool though, and while it partially gets contradicted later, it is nice that the problem is not her Dad surviving, but rather Rose’s more direct interference in her immediate past timeline — because the “first” Doctor would never have taken the “second” Rose back again if he’d seen her rescuing her Dad. Hence the contradiction.

Or maybe I’ve taken that wrong: because her Dad hangs around, she never ends up at the Harrick’s store, never meets the Doctor, and neither he nor she ever go there in the first place. And then he dies, and we have a contradiction. The “second” Rose and Doctor have an immunity of sorts, as shown in previous stories such as The Pyramid of Mars (where Sarah exists even after 1980 Earth is a wasteland). But even this explanation has problems, as we’ll see later…

And then, speaking of problems, she is sooooo in trouble as we switch to the Doctor’s glare, with a nice musical sting.

Rose: So it’s OK when you go to other times, and you save people’s lives, but not when it’s me, saving my Dad?
The Doctor: I know what I’m doing!

Ooh, ooh, the Doctor mentions his ‘family’! Almost forty years since we had that mentioned last, as I recall.

OK, now I’m confused. Is the problem because ‘two sets of us being there made that a vulnerable point’, or is it because an ‘ordinary man’ is ‘the most important thing in creation’? If it’s the latter, every episode has got to be dodgy…

And now more bitchiness about ‘the most important man in my life’: oh please. Spare me. Followed up with the otherwise fine (if oft-repeated) ‘we’re not a couple’ line, it’s just a bit tacky (and says more about Rose’s, rather than the Doctor’s, attitude).

‘Stop! Right there. I know what you’re saying, and we’re not going there. At no point are we going anywhere near there. You weren’t even aware that there… exists. I don’t even want to think about there, and believe me, neither do you. There, for you, is like… the Bermuda Triangle.’

Off to the church, and www.whoisdoctorwho.co.uk provides a little bit of extra backstory, and explanation for the father’s reluctance about the wedding: poor girl from the slums marrying up in the world. Indeed, the sameness of everything is part of this story, and indeed the season. Same flat, same surrounds, same people (eg. Mickey): there is no escape from here, unless you meet a rich boy at 2 am in the morning.

Or a Doctor.

Ha, a TARDIS more or less the same size inside as outside! Mind you, shouldn’t it have a police box’s interior too?

Cool, dragons!

‘Oh, I might have known you’d argue. Jackie, I’m sick of explaining everything to you. I haven’t got time to … Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve waited a long time to say this: Jackie Tyler, DO AS I SAY! Go and check the doors! … I should have done that ages ago.’

Oh, most satisfying, for all of us, as Jackie is as annoying then as she will always be…

‘Now Rose, you’re not going to bring about the end of the world, are you?’

And the Doctor apologises again (after the corker line of ‘DON’T TOUCH THE BABY!’) and confesses he’s useless. A constant refrain during this series, and very annoying. It’s just not Doctor-like. Besides, he does have plans (it is pretty funny, but worth it, to try to brainwash the baby Rose into not stuffing up 18 years later!), he just has little confidence in them. So why go out of the way to make him appear so so weak?

We’ll have to come up with a term to parallel Peter Davison’s ‘the wet vet’ — but even more disparaging.

Nice note that the Time Lords usually clean up stuff-ups like this — it makes the entire premise of the story a lot more legitimate.

‘I am. I’m sowwy.’

Ah, that just cracks me up, in the middle of a dramatic scene: I can see why Terrance ‘Unca Tewwy’ Dicks likes this new series!

There’s a direct parallel of father and Doctor cupping Rose’s right cheek, but I’m ambivalent on whether it works. However, it is nice to see Pete work out who Rose is, and then why she is here; well done for a “useless” guy. In fact, all the stuff with him in the church is gold: there’s nothing complex here, but it’s just extraordinarily well done by both Shaun Dingwell and Billie Piper.

Oh flippity flip flip (or f-words to that effect): Rose meets Rose, and then the stunning shots of the reaper hovering in mid-air, the Doctor legit killed, Rose’s reaction in subtle slow motion, and the beautifully framed shot of the reaper dispelling the TARDIS.

Ooh, note the repeated musical sting as Pete watches the car outside, and he realises what must be done — it’s exactly the same as when the Doctor gave Rose the afore-mentioned glare when Pete was rescued. Nice.

Pete: Who am I, love?
Rose: My daddy…

And, including on repeat viewing, that’s the moment it kicks in, and I start bawling. It was always inevitable that he would be sacrificed again, but this is the moment that drives a dagger into your heart. Knowing the end should build that up gradually, but it seemingly hadn’t for me, until this. Bawling, I tell you!

‘I never read you those bedtime stories, I never took you on those picnics. I was never there for you… But I can do this for you. I can be a proper Dad to you now. I’ve had all the extra hours. No one else in the world has ever had that. On top of that, I got to see you. And you’re beautiful. How lucky am I, hey? So, come on… do as your dad says… You’re gunna be there for me, love? … Thanks for saving me…’

And save him, she does, albeit not in the way she did at the start of the episode.

However, the trapped, looping, car of death is a problem, and a big one. What is making it jump around in time and space (and doing different things each time)? We’re told there’s no supervising of time rifts any more; we’re told that the reapers are mindless antibodies. So do we have to accept some mystical influence, or give the Universe a soul of sorts, trying to resolve the problem? It’s clumsy, and the editing is crap, if it’s trying to suggest a loop of some sort — for example, when it is following them it drives straight, and when it nearly head-ons them, it continues on for most of the block before disappearing, unlike later. And it turns right instead of left as at the beginning, despite us being led to believe things should be similar, per the driver always throwing his arm up. And the editing on the final collision is ludicrously loose. Urgh.

More to the point, to extend Pete’s life, why would Rose and the Doctor go to the original site to save him now? It’s a fact that he dies elsewhere. Rose now has a different agenda to attend — who was the girl? — so it fits that way, but this third set of Doctor and Rose would never actually save Pete, and so we go back to the second Doctor and Rose having to save him instead, and then we have to go back to the third Doctor and Rose because they know he dies at the church, so…

I know paradoxes are that — paradoxes — but this stinks. It’s not internally consistent, which is always the best part of twisted time travel tales, and we’ve been told that rifts like this get purged. So why doesn’t it? Double urgh.

It annoys me. Much of the story irked me as I watched, as you can see above. And yet, it totally sucked me in during those closing minutes, so I don’t know what to assess it overall as.

My brain hurts.

(As an aside, there are lots of parallels with previous Paul Cornell stuff: for example, with his ‘New Adventure’ book Timewyrm: Relevations. In that book, our companion goes back in time to avert a death (hers, in this case), we spend plenty of time in an old church, the rest of the world is being destroyed outside (much better realised in Revelations than here, where it’s just a throw-away line from Pete), and inside we have a young couple with a baby on the way.)

Rating: 8/10

The Empty Child

I thought the days of the TARDIS wobbling through space were gone! Thankfully, here, the speed makes it look less like a little toy (though, related, I do wish the opening credits were a bit slower — note that the closing credits are over a slow tunnel effect, as with many of its predecessors.)

The Doctor: You know how long you can knock around space before having to bump into Earth?
Rose: Five days? ‘Cause that’s when we’re out of milk.
The Doctor: All the species in the universe, and it has to come out of a cow.

And while the Doctor bumbles around, Rose floats off — and I don’t care whether it’s historically accurate, the shots of her floating through a bombing raid are just gorgeous, ridiculously ambitious, and gratuitously expensive. I love it.

Back to the TARDIS, and the phone rings, bringing me back to ‘Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible’, an early and horrible Marc Platt New Adventure book. The sole redeeming factor in that book was, when the TARDIS locks the Doctor out by refusing to show its doors, he calls up the emergency phone, therefore forcing a front to the TARDIS to appear as the phone rings. That was cool, and it definitely happened in this Doctor’s ‘900 years of phone box travel’. Ah well, it obviously wasn’t good enough to be canon…

‘How can you be ringing? What’s that about, ringing?’

Hmm, when did the Doctor inherit Rose’s lines?!

‘Oi, keep your voice down, will ya? There’s an air-raid on!’

It’s a pity the first shot of Nancy inside the house so obviously places a chunk of food in the foreground; it quickly knocks out any idea that she’s anything mysterious (or even the cat!)

Jack: I’m just programming your descent pattern. Stay as still as you can, and keep your hands and feet inside the light field.
Rose: Descent pattern?!

It’s good to see Rose is a fan of George Carlin — it could have been worse, I guess; he could have said descent process…

Rose: Probably expecting me to faint, or something.
Jack: You look a little dizzy.
Rose: What about you? You’re not even in focus!

After a flippant start in the nightclub and TARDIS-ringing scenes, the Doctor is once more nicely accomplished, and in fine fettle for the whole episode. Much of that is bouncing off Nancy, who gets as many good lines and dismissive glances as he does, as she plays the very local equivalent to the Doctor and Earth.

The Doctor: Soon as the sirens go, you find a big fat family meal, still warm on the table with everyone down in the air raid shelter, and BINGO: feeding frenzy for the homeless kids of London town! Puddings for all! As long as the bombs don’t get you.
Nancy: Something wrong with that?
The Doctor: Wrong with it? It’s brilliant! Not sure if it’s Marxism in action, or a West-end musical…

Ooh, I love the shot as the sillohuetted boy walks to the front door — it is beautifully framed and coloured, and absolute 100% horror direction.

The Doctor: What’s this then? It’s never easy being the only child left out in the cold, you know.
Nancy: Cause you’d know?
The Doctor: I do, actually, yes…

And now we have a reverse shot, with the Doctor looming over the phone, and Nancy shrunk into the background. This is hitting all the right spots for me…

The two pairings (Doctor and Nancy, Rose and Jack) continue, and they’re totally different, and both beautifully pitched.

‘This isn’t business. This is champagne.’

We’re half an hour in, and it’s been all night scenes, virtually all scene-setting and mood. You can just about wallow in it. Never illustrated better than with the huge swing shot of the Albion Hospital gates and a crescendo of Gothic horror music.

Mind you, it is a little distracting, again, that the details are different: the sonic screwdriver will get you out of this one (a mechanical lock), and it does medical examinations. But it doesn’t matter, as it’s not a cop-out, or deus ex machina, but rather a harmless quickening of the pace.

However, why does Doctor Constantine not even blink when the Doctor gives a quick and thorough diagnosis with, apparently, a little penlight? There doesn’t seem to be indication he’s not from this time and place, so his blase attitude is a little off. Still, it’s an awesome performance — he sucks you in, even though previous trailers and news articles had given away his punch line, and fate. It’s still a corker when he transforms; the eyes are particularly off-putting.

And oh boy, nice cliffhanger (even if it’s far too similar to the ‘Aliens of London’ one) — I’d have preferred it chopped right on the face of Jamie as he chanted ‘Mummy, mummy’, but it is still freaky as all hell, and guaranteed to cause kids of all ages nightmares!

Rating: 9/10 — better than Dalek. Who knows whether the pay-off next week will be worthy of it, but that was just so stylish, so well-acted, so bloody weird and engrossing (40 minutes? it seemed like forever, in a good way though) that you can’t rate it as anything but near perfect. ‘Mummy… Are you my mummy?’ is going to be one of those lines that will never go away.

The Doctor Dances

Well, it’s been a week now, and I’ve figuratively been holding my breath, hoping against hope that part two of this story will live up to the standard the first half set — because if it does, we’ll have a genuine certified Top Ten Ever story here. Let’s see how it went…

We start with a recap of last week, which amuses me as it has a juxtaposed (intentional?) message that the Doctor is looking for Rose, who ‘fell from the sky’. The failure to distinguish the recap from the opening moments of the new episode is a little disorienting, especially given the rather under-stated resolution. I imagine it makes bugger-all sense to someone who missed the first episode (and plenty did, given its timeslot was moved to accomodate the soccer grand final).

Cut back to Nancy leaving the house, and BLOODY HELL you’re not supposed to do scary crap like that right at the start of an episode. Caught me off guard, and she suffers the same fate.

The Doctor: Sonic blaster, 51th century, weapon factories in Villengarth?
Jack: You’ve been to the factories?
The Doctor: Once.
Jack: Well, they’re gone now, destroyed. Main reactor went critical, vapourised the lot.
The Doctor: Like I said, Once. There’s a banana grove there now… I like bananas. Bananas are good.

And the little fued between the Doctor and Jack is well on its way… We get to Room 802, and for a moment it’s sheer X-Files, and I mean that in a good way.

Nancy gets another self-assured scene with Mr Lloyd the black-market operator, which works so well in demonstrating her panic at other times.

And another jolt as little Jamie creeps up on the Doctor and co in ‘his room’. It works even better as the Doctor has just blithely told us (and consequently him) of his previously unknown powers…

And we get more banter on bananas and sonic tools. It could be silly, it could be forced, it could be awkward, but it’s not — smooth dense dialogue, all more or less on the one theme, as we, and Rose, compare the Spocks and Frocks of this world.

Jack: Who has a sonic screwdriver?
The Doctor: I do!
Jack: Who looks at a screwdriver, and thinks, ooh, this could be a little more sonic?
The Doctor: What, you’ve never been bored? Never had a long night? Never had a lot of cabinets to put up?

And it gets funnier, as they get cornered with no battery packs courtesy of the Doctor having blown up said weapon factories. Stuck, and trapped, unless you’re a Spock. Magic buttons like free teleportation are supposed to annoy me, and kill the suspense of stories, but here it’s just gently advancing the plot and themes, just like the sonic screwdriver did in the previous episode.

The Doctor: Well, I’ve got the moves, but I wouldn’t want to boast…
Rose: You got the moves? Show me your moves.
The Doctor: Rose… I’m trying to resonate concrete.

Now that is a classic line!

For a moment, we toy with the Doctor dancing, but it’s side-stepped elegantly with little distractions, subtle enough that you don’t feel cheated.

Back to Nancy, and another rather chilling scene as she is locked up next to our soon-to-be latest victim. You know we’re going somewhere, she’s dominated scene after scene over the past twenty minutes despite having no interaction with our main cast, but buggered if I know what they’ll do with her…

Nancy: Who are you? Who are any of you?
Rose: You’d never believe if I told you.
Nancy: You just told me that was an ambulance from another world. There are people running around with gas mask heads calling for their mummys, and the sky’s full of the Germans dropping bombs on me. Tell me, do you think there’s anything left I couldn’t believe?
Rose: We’re time travellers, from the future.
Nancy: Mad, you are.
Rose: We’ve a time-travelling machine, seriously.
Nancy: It’s not that. Alright, you’ve got a time-travelling machine, I believe you. I’ll believe anything, me… But what future?
Rose: Nancy, this isn’t the end. I know how it looks… it’s not the end of the world or anything.
Nancy: How can you say that? Look at it!

And angry Doctor is spelling it out — yes, I’d guessed the reason a little earlier, but now the scale of the problem is here, and the lack of malice behind all of the happenings is nastier than you’d think. It’s contrary to his comments in the story Rose just mentioned (The End of the World) — maybe the human race will indeed get wiped out through bad luck — but chilling nonetheless. It’s a Doctor Who story without a monster, without a real enemy, and it doesn’t matter; in fact, it’s better without one.

‘What’s life? Life’s easy. A quirk of matter, nature’s way of keeping meat fresh.’

And – urgh – the Doctor says he doesn’t have a plan.

Nancy: He’s just a little boy!
The Doctor: I know.
Nancy: He’s just a little boy who wants his mummy!
The Doctor: I know. There isn’t a little boy born who wouldn’t tear the world apart to save his mummy… And this little boy can.

And the Doctor works it out, and oh my god, ‘Are you my mummy?’ is suddenly so much more poignant. It’s come to this, is she, and will she? And the Doctor is back in control, of everyone and everything, be it by psychology, persuasion, or even, let the bananas forgive him, with a bit of Spock as he chats to the nanogenes.

‘Oh, come on. Give me a day like this. Give me this one… Everybody lives, Rose, just this once! Everybody lives!

Wow. That’s gut-wrenchingly and manically inspirational (kudos Eccleston), and I can’t say much more than that. From my groan a couple of paragraphs back, to the perfect demonstration of this, and the, Doctor’s power and character. It leaves me breathless.

Mrs Harker: Dr Constantine!
Dr Constantine: Mrs Harker, how much better you’re looking.
Mrs Harker: My leg’s grown back. When I came to the hospital, I had one leg.
Dr Constantine: Well, there is a war on. Is it possible you mis-counted?

The ‘welfare state’ reference breaks the mood a little (the Marxism reference in the first episode was better), but I’m not in a mood to argue at this point. And the Doctor is still on a high, and it’s infectious, and once more the scenes are rolling along ever so smoothly (you’ll miss a lot of references if you’re not paying close attention), including the lovely transition from Jack’s ship to the TARDIS.

(Note to self: don’t watch Doctor Who Confidential before stories, especially two-parters, finish. But I now realise the shots of the ship in space were hardly spoilers, and I didn’t even pick up that Jack’s ship set was always locked up with the TARDIS set…)

TARDIS as disco hall. Now I’ve seen everything.

‘Close the door, will you? Your ship’s about to blow up, there’s gunna be a draft…’

And they dance (get your mind out of the gutter), the Doctor smirks, and all is well with the Frocks of this universe.

Rating: 10, yes, 10/10 — well, what the hell have I got a scale of 1 to 10 if I can’t reward the truly amazing stuff, and this is exactly that. The story has seriously scary moments, it has a killer tag-line, its night filming and direction are gorgeous, it has the emotional kick of a mule, and it builds to the most glorious celebration of the Doctor's character, ever. The sixteen-year wait (apologies McGann) was worth it.

Boom Town

So here we are, with an apparent dual sequel to two stories in this very season (The Unquiet Dead and Aliens of London/World War Three) — hmmm…

Re-fueling off a rift. Reasonable enough, given we are in a Universe post-Time Lords, with no captive black hole at their beck and whim. A nice reminder.

Mickey: What are you captain of? The innuendo squad?

Oh, it’s so true. While I haven’t commented on it much so far, innuendo, particularly sexual, and often homosexual, has been a staple food all year in this series. Most of the time, on its own, it’s innocuous enough (and sometimes it’s important), but geez, there’s an awful lot in total. I will say no more except that, like all foods, moderation is king, and too much of even good things can grate badly…

We get a bit more Spock-bashing, as the Doctor corrects Rose’s use of the term ‘cloaking device’ with the traditional ‘chameleon circuit’, and there’s a nice parallel in that as he says so, Rose is possessively and proudly hugging the front right pillar — just like the Doctor was when he first explained it all to Rose in that first episode.

Cut to the Mayor and reporter, and I can’t help but be inspired by the casting of Annette Badland again, as she actually looks a lot like the creature within: snub nose, big dark eyes, rolls of skin, and a similar jutting chin. It’s uncanny. On the other hand, the whole idea of maintaining the same body is ludicrous: why has our future Prime Minister, member for Flydale North, not noticed Margaret’s rise to Mayor of Cardiff, let alone her plan to create another bloody great radiation source? Slack!

And I mustn’t be the only nostalgic one here, as we have a little spin back to the music of Rose again, as the A-Team march on Town Hall. Good to see, by the way, that we finally got Rose into a skirt.

Jack: She’s got a teleport! That’s cheating!

Nice to see that Jack is happily transitioning to the Frock approach to the Whoniverse (see my comments on the previous episode), presenting mobile phones as “weapons”, and with that comment.

Now if someone can explain to me how naming a nuclear power station project ‘Bad Wolf’ is not a public relations disaster, I’ll be impressed. But then I can’t work out how they’ve captured, and more importantly, continue to hold, the Slitheen, especially when they’re not in public — so I gather logic is not our strong suit today. Why doesn’t she just unleash an arm and rip their heads off?

‘Raxacoricofallapatorius’

I do like the direction within the TARDIS — long shots, rich and contrasting colours. The episode has certainly taken a turn from what we might have expected, which is probably a relief. However, and this is somewhat odd given the theme of the episode, they don’t comment at all on the status of the crashed Slitheen spaceship, back in London. Was it just left there, for governments, or really rich guys like Henry van Statten, to plunder? Surely that has implications?

Jack gets to fiddle with the TARDIS mechanics. Huh? Obviously the Doctor is much more trusting of Jack the con-man now, but to let him fiddle deep in the TARDIS’s innards? Just doesn’t seem right. Mind you, some time may have passed, as Rose tells Mickey of alien planets she has now visited. This leads to the whole ‘Trisha Delaney’ scene, and to be honest, while it is both a contrast and parallel (and, in a way, a relief) to the Doctor and Margaret’s discussions on death and consequences, it seems rather trite. This would be the closest the series has come to the dreaded “soap opera” tag, and you have to wonder what the point is: didn’t we do this all, much better, in Aliens of London?

Talking of the Doctor and Margaret’s deep and meaningful, it’s decent enough once the slapstick is over, though I generally prefer my storytelling to be “showing” rather than “telling”.

And — shock horror — we get some action for a change. It’s good to see that Jack has no idea how to avert the catastrophe at the TARDIS. Margaret’s explanation is a bit crappy, but her role — she goes from cuddly to vicious so easily — is being played with such relish that I’ll forgive her.

The Doctor: There she is!
Rose: She’s an egg.
The Doctor: Regressed to her childhood.
Jack: She’s an egg…
The Doctor: She can start again. Live her life from scratch. If we take her home, give her to a different family, tell them to bring her up properly, she might be alright.
Jack: Or she might be worse.
The Doctor: That’s her choice.
Rose: She’s an egg.
The Doctor: She’s an egg.

And Rose runs off to find Mickey, in the most ungainly way (maybe skirts do that), cut down from her level of intrepid adventurer, and still just a little girl from the housing estate. To no avail, and if that’s the end of our pissed-off Mickey, it’s very unsatisfying.

No less unsatisfying than the story’s resolution, mind you; while the whole “rehabilitation over execution” thing is nicely resolved by ‘she’s an egg’, the steps — well, step — that led to it remains really rather crap. And it can’t be defended via the usual “Doctor inspires human to greater things” theme, unless the TARDIS is going to be half-human too! It’s the perfect deus ex machina — perfect, of course, not being a compliment in this case.

But as I write that, despite having immediately tagged it as such several days ago, I abruptly see that the writer meant it to be seen exactly as such. Literally as such. Literally. We’ve been told the Doctor is a god earlier in the episode. Well, maybe he is just that: a “god from a machine”. A god from a machine, lowered onto the set of a thousand worlds in a thousand times, who pops out and miraculously — I use that word very precisely — saves the day.

We just don’t appreciate it as such, as we get to see the inner workings of the god, and his machine.

And that’s odd. What was meant to be an utter slag-off to the episode has turned out, in the few minutes that it took me to compose these closing paragraphs, to be a grudging “damn, that’s clever. That’s REALLY clever”.

Argh!

Is that the right reaction?

Rating: 5/10 — bumped up a point at the last moment! It’s too preachy, the plot is ugly, and Mickey is seemingly irrelevant, but it still has a charm of sorts, and as you can see I’ve just convinced myself out of a fail rating due to a couple of throwaway words.

(And just another note, on the trailer for next week’s episode: they’ve got it wrong, badly badly wrong. Why could you now give a toss about the whole killer game show thing once you know the Daleks are coming? There’ll be media coverage aplenty of their return anyway — so why undercut the (apparent) bulk of next week’s episode so glibly, and so early???)

Bad Wolf

Pre-credits section, and: again? Another sequel? OK, now this series is seriously serial…

‘You are live on Channel 44,000. Please do not swear.’

And our three travellers are split between three shows, which we have to accept are timeless enough to last 198,000 years. Or do we? If the transmat beam owner can rip open a TARDIS, I’d guess they could target the choice of shows they end up on. Mind you, the whole year 200,000 thing is still silly — where do you think we’ll be in just one more millenium, let alone 198 of them! It will all be different, from the junk food containers to the clothes, and it does annoy me slightly that they’re going new Battlestar Galactica on us with the “it could be the modern day” approach.

‘I’m not just some passing traveller. No stupid little transmat gets inside my ship. That beam was fifteen million times more powerful, which means… this isn’t just a game. There’s something else going on. Well. Here’s the latest update from the Big Brother house: I’m getting out, I’m going to find my friends… and then I’m going to find you.’

Nice. The whole Big Brother thing (that place would be seriously claustrophobic with 10 people in it) is going alright, but I’m less enthused about the lengthy renditions of Rose’s and Jack’s shows. It’s one thing to tailor the shows around our three abductees, but if anyone is watching them (especially Jack’s What Not to Wear) what the hell are they supposed to make of all the very-non-topical references (‘very twentieth century’, President Schwarzenegger, Hell’s Angels, Oklahoma farm boy, and so on)? Or maybe, if there are thousand of channels, they’re very targetted.

Anyway, so I go educate myself at the BBC site for that show (if only to see the basis of the different breast sizes and shapes!), and find the line ‘Combining black with bright colours makes the black look boring and the colours look cheap’. Close enough to the script for me!

Anyway, at last it gets a bit morbid, as the first weakest link gets blasted. At least this show seems somewhat topical for me, as in 2001 ‘You are the weakest link — goodbye!’ was the hot catchphrase of the entire Doctor Who Club of Victoria committee. It cracked us up then, and it still has that effect now.

‘Thanks for the food, you’re a smashing cook.’

In retrospect, it’s a rather tasteless (ooh, I didn’t mean that) line, given she’s ABOUT TO DIE. It’s rather amusing that they walk down a corridor of light beforehand, though.

And at least we get a pay-off to Jack’s show, as he pulls his rescue weapon out of his, well, arse!

The Doctor’s escape is satisfyingly quick and logical, and with a final barb at the show in question:

‘Lynda, you’re sweet. From what I’ve seen of your world, do you think anybody votes for sweet?’

And they chat on, with a slightly disconcerting line when Lynda (‘with a Y’) asks who the Doctor ‘really’ is — disconcerting because it’s so close to what Rose asked, in the very first episode; and indeed it’s just before she asks if she can come with the Doctor.

Argh — for the fourth time in the series, we get to overlook the Earth via that big window!

The Doctor: But it’s all gone wrong. I mean, history’s gone wrong, again. This should be the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. I don’t understand. Last time I was there, I put it right.
Lynda (‘with a Y’): No, but that’s when it first went wrong. A hundred years ago, like you said. All the news channels, they just shut down overnight.
The Doctor: But that was me. I did that.
Lynda (‘with a Y’): There was nothing left in their place. No information. The whole planet just froze. The government, the economy, they collapsed. That was the start of it. One hundred years of hell.

So can someone remind me why we bothered with last week’s episode — we just summed it up in 30 seconds!

FARRRRRRRRRRK. So that’s why we were auditioning potential new companions… It’s not quite at the level of Peri’s demise (instant chills, no matter how many times I see it, and even knowing they’ll cop out later), but… FARRRRRRRRRRK.

And a numb minute later, angry ninth Doctor emerges, and this story has gone right off the rails, but in a good way. Up to the top, and thankfully he rapidly divests himself of the gun, and things are progressing rapidly. A huge chunk of exposition, and again ‘the long game’ is clear, and there’s a reason beyond the budget to come back to the same place.

‘Doctor… Rose is still alive!’

And even before you see anything, the “heartbeat” background noise gives it away – we’re in Dalek territory. Surprisingly, then, especially given the last week’s trailer and the mass media coverage, they’re a little coy to actually show them. The Controller makes a lot more sense now; tech-wise, she’s rather similar to the creepy little girl in Remembrance of the Daleks (get ‘em in young), while visually, with all those hanging connections, she’s a huge throw-back to the Emperor in Evil of the Daleks.

Oooooooooh crap. That’s a lot of Dalek ships!

Dalek 1: I will talk to the Doctor.
The Doctor: Oh, will you? That’s nice. Hello!
Dalek 1: The Dalek strategm nears completion. The fleet is almost ready. You will not intervene.
The Doctor: Oh really? Why’s that then?
Dalek 1: We have your associate. You will obey, or she will be exterminated.
The Doctor: … No.
Dalek 1: Explain yourself.
The Doctor: I said ‘no’.
Dalek 1: What is the meaning of this negative?
The Doctor: It means ‘no’.
Dalek 1: But she will be destroyed!
The Doctor: No! ‘Cause this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to rescue her. I’m going to save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I’m going to save the Earth, and then, just to finish off: I’m going to wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!
Dalek 1: But you have no weapons, no defences, no plan.
The Doctor: Yeah… and doesn’t that scare you to death? Rose…
Rose: Yes, Doctor?
The Doctor: I’m coming to get you.
Dalek 1: The Doctor is initiating hostile action.
Dalek 2: Our strategm must advance. Begin the invasion of Earth!
Dalek 3: The Doctor must be exterminated!
Daleks: Exterminate… Exterminate… Exterminate… Exterminate… Exterminate…

WHOA! Now that is a bloody good cliffhanger! It leaves you trembling, and on an adrenaline high; the Doctor, with some help from the Dalek, spells out his entire (lack of) approach, up against a kick-arse number of Daleks who you can truly believe would wipe out a world. Eccleston is again perfect for this bit — his manic nature makes his threats credible (though his promise to wipe out every last Dalek is a bit too Abslom Daak). The music is marvelous, too — it was also particularly good in the crucial Weakest Link scenes, helping to make them successfully dramatic rather than silly.

And much as I find trailers for next week when you’re half-way through a story to be ludicrous, here it works, reinforcing the hopelessness of the humans and the Doctor — and we know (do we?) that he dies — and throwing up the big question: who just said ‘They survived through me’? A million and one theories are floating around (Adam, the “last” Dalek in Dalek, Davros, the Emperor Dalek, even Mickey or the Master or Henry van Statten — the last of which being more or less based on him being a megloamanaic who gets his memory at least partially wiped and sent to somewhere beginning with ‘S’: eg. Skaro!). You can see how this season has been, apparently, one long lead-up to this point. Also, it’s one thing for the Controller to want to leave hints for the Doctor to investigate ‘Bad Wolf’ — it’s another to actually set them all up, unless you have access to time travel… Have we all glibly accepted Captain Jack, and forgotten the time-traveller’s two-year memory loss? Mind you, some of it (eg. Gwyneth apparently picking the phrase out of Rose’s mind) are not simple contrivances. And how did the Controller know of the Doctor, and particularly that the Daleks fear him, given that just one hundred years ago there was no record of his existence? Did the Controller give away that Rose was the Doctor’s ‘associate’, or did they know already? If so, how? I think I’ll have to be very careful looking around until the episode is in my grubby little protruberances (or my hard drives’, whatever).

Puzzles, more puzzles, and DAMN — another 150 hours to wait!

Rating: 8/10 — a difficult one. There’s an awesome ending that changes your viewpoint drastically, and I guess you have to consider this as part one of a two-parter — and I don’t want to repeat the mistake I made previously of being overly cautious and not giving The Empty Child a 10, as it deserved. It has much higher highs than its counterpart The Long Game, but pretty much the whole What Not To Wear thing was a lower low. I will give next week the benefit of the doubt, and give this one the nudge, past The Long Game’s 7.

Parting of the Ways

Well, those 150 tortuous hours have passed. Let’s see what we shall see…

Hmm, gratuitous missile firing and explosions. Funny how the TARDIS now conveniently has no protection — unless we accept that the ultra-powerful transmat beam of the previous episode shredded it?

The Dalek creature they blow up at the start has two eyes — hmm… Anyway, with Rose’s rescue completed in record time, it’s time to pop out of the TARDIS with a convenient force field and dump a huge amount of exposition on the viewers. Clumsy, very clumsy.

The Doctor: It’s alright, come on out. That forcefield can hold back anything.
Jack: Almost anything.
The Doctor: Yes… but I wasn’t going to tell them that.

And I’m pissed off, as we get a direct contradiction on the Dalek’s tag for the Doctor: ‘The Oncoming Storm’. Stuff that, I want ‘Ka Faraq Gatri’ back, which is alternately translated as the ‘Bringer of Darkness’, or the ‘Destroyer of Worlds’.

The ‘Emperor of the Daleks’ (not ‘the Emperor Dalek’) is a rather literal translation to the screen of the big boss, but I’m just glad at the moment it isn’t Davros, again. It doesn’t take long to resolve — sort of — the query on how Daleks could stomach human bodies as their basis, and we get all sorts of comments about religion and the detesting of one’s body.

Lynda (‘with a Y’) gets an awkward send-off; not sure what that was about, but it’s amusing to watch Rose as they fumble around self-consciously. Jack’s departure hits exactly the right note, though; “moral crusaders” be damned.

The Doctor and Rose discuss time-cheating their way out of danger, and we get the music from Father’s Day again, underlying the Doctor’s message. Now, almost at the end, you can see the hugely serial nature of the season — like the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you can see how the producers were, perhaps, preparing to be chopped after just one short season.

And that’s the other thing both of those inaugural seasons did — repeatedly and massively kick you in the guts, as the Doctor tricks Rose into returning to her safe world of getting up, catching the bus, going to work, coming back home, eating chips, and going to bed. Horrible and beautiful simultaneously, and you get the chills when the Doctor’s image turns to tell her to ‘have a good life’. I feel sick.

Back to the “present”, and the Doctor and the Emperor (of the) Dalek(s) trade barbs. And now I’m thinking: why didn’t they use Davros? It would add extra bite to the whole delta wave debate. ‘Yes. Yes. To hold in my hand, a capsule that contained such power. To know that life and death on such a scale was my choice. To know that the tiny pressure on my thumb, enough to break the glass, would end everything. Yes. I would do it. That power would set me up above the gods. And through the Daleks I shall have that power!’ Surely that’s exactly the dilemma the Doctor now faces?

Mickey: Have you tried that new pizza place on Midnight [sic] Road?
Jackie: What’s it selling?
Mickey: Pizza.
Jackie: Well, that’s nice. Do they deliver?
Mickey: Yeah.

Oh, it’s so weird to have this contrast, and Rose finally has to say so. It works doubly well as we criss-cross between these scenes and the very few volunteers defending the space station. Human nature hasn’t changed.

‘That’s been there for years, it’s just a phrase, it’s just words.’

This annoys me, given what Mickey has written on www.whoisdoctorwho.co.uk, and especially given he was in Cardiff to directly see the Doctor and Rose wonder about them previously.

‘You lied to me! The bullets don’t work!’

The whole idea of ripping open the TARDIS console with a Mini is ludicrous. I think that’s why it works — just like the police motorcycle in the Fox telemovie. What happened to the Volkswagen Mickey had in the very first episode though?

Oh sweet, the “chips” brigade of the future get done over. And despite her delivery of the truck: oh, why couldn’t that fate have been for Jackie as well?

Lynda (‘with a Y’): Australasia’s dead… gone.
Emperor of the Daleks: This is perfection. I have created heaven on Earth.

Now, that’s making it a bit personal!

‘My vision is impaired. I cannot see!’

My heart swells with pride at that line, even if it’s a mere blip on the Dalek invasion of the station. It’s a very nicely filmed invasion, given they only had three real Daleks to play with, and any time you see more than that it’s trickery (no cardboard cut-outs this time!) And Lynda’s death: oh, that was soooo cool…

Damn it! For a moment, I saw the TARDIS returning, and materialising in precisely the TARDIS-shaped space between Jack and the Daleks. I guess this really is a kill-everyone episode after all. As it turns out, it wouldn’t have helped, as there were multiple entrances to Floor 500. Would have been cool though!

Jack was ‘much better off as a coward’; and the Doctor is too. Not that it necessarily makes Jack the alternative: ‘killer’.

And now, the big pay-off, and I’m hugely ambivalent on it. Within the context of this individual story, it’s a massive cop-out; but in the context of the entire season (the Time War, access to the TARDIS’s innards, the implications of paradoxes, the ridiculously broad spread of ‘Bad Wolf’ references — even ones that ‘get in your head’ — and, of course, the whole “chips” saga), it’s an immensely logical and planned one.

‘I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself. I take the words; I scatter them, in time and space. A message… to meet myself here.’

And now that I brought them up, I’m distracted again by Buffy parallels, or coincidences: Rose’s tussled hair could have come directly out of the last few minutes of Prophecy Girl, and we get a Cordelia-Doyle kiss.

‘I can be all things: a destroyer, a healer, a creator. I am beyond good and evil as you know it.’

Yeah, that’s from elsewhere too: it’s Kronos at the end of The Time Monster. Seemed apt though.

‘They’ve got dogs with no noses… imagine how many times a day you end up telling that joke — and it’s still funny!’

I wonder how many people didn’t get that one. Seems that regeneration trauma brings out all the best lines: I always liked Tom Baker’s ‘Why is a mouse when it spins?’, which has annoyed people for probably the best part of a century (especially my Aunt, who was one of the few to know it pre-Robot).

Before I go, I just want to say: you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And you know what? So was I!

And the season is nicely tied up with that verbal bow (ooh, a pun), and we roll to credits with the notice that ‘Doctor Who will return in The Christmas Invasion’. Which is topical, given that’s the wording popularised in the credits of another British regenerator, James Bond.

And then: it was over.

Rating: 7/10 — I love the whole “final battle” thing, and Rose being sent home is gut-wrenchingly good, but her rescue at the top of the episode, and the info-dump that accompanied it, was plain bad writing and plotting. As for the ending: it’s logical (though treading heavily on the toes of paradox) but not all that satisfying.

The Final Verdict

Well, here we are, having just completed our return season. What is the ultimate verdict?

As noted earlier, I was scared for the series when it returned. This was “do or die”, the last roll of the dice, surely. But to expect the critical acclaim and huge ratings it got (it never left the top ten rated weekly programs in the UK) was just about unthinkable (forty years ago, it set the previous record: two weeks in a row).

Of course, being popular is no guarentee of quality. And there’s no doubt we are looking at a different beast now: a ludicrous increase in budget, scripts that are necessarily much denser, a season arc, a genuinely large role for our female companion, and, perhaps most significantly, a big dose of emotion. Some people don’t like that, and call it soap opera-ish, but in almost all of the cases it worked for me.

We got one dead-set classic story in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances (in the top five of all time for me), a couple handy second-stringers (Father’s Day, despite its inconsistencies, and Dalek) and a real variety of other stories. A notable part of the series was the tone changes between stories, which made up for the constant Earth background. And due to the denser stories, I have to say that there’s not an episode there that doesn’t stand up to re-viewings (a good thing given the viewing I did while writing all of this!)

And from here? Well, we almost start again, with a new Doctor. Hopefully his end of season introduction in The Christmas Invasion won’t be a Twin Dilemma set-up, but I have more faith than I did just a few short months ago.

On the other hand, we get to keep Billie Piper — the surprise stand-out element of the first season, eclipsing even the Doctor she ended up out-lasting. Which is not to say Eccleston was a bust: when he was good, he was very very good.

We have Cybermen to look forward to; and we have Jackie to put up with. Surely the whole “bravely leaving home to make a better life” story has been played out now?

But in sum, I’ve really happy with what we got, and a few niggles aside, optimistic for the future. Now, if someone can just send Russell T. Davies to a plot-making course over the break…

End of Review

Here’s the list of the Doctor Who reviews available here:
Benny Adventure: Beyond the Sun
Benny Adventure: Deadfall
Benny Adventure: Ghost Devices/Mean Streets/Tempest
Benny Adventure: The Sword of Forever
Fanzines: Mag Bag #1
Fanzines: Mag Bag #2
Fanzines: Mag Bag #3
Fanzines: Mag Bag #4
Fanzines: Mag Bag #5
Fanzines: Mag Bag #6
Fanzines: Mag Bag #7
Fanzines: Mag Bag #8
Fanzines: Mag Bag #9
Fanzines: Mag Bag #10
Fanzines: Mag Bag #11
Fanzines: Mag Bag #12
Missing Adventure: Dancing the Code
Missing Adventure: Downtime
Missing Adventure: Invasion of the Cat-People
Missing Adventure: Lords of the Storm
Missing Adventure: Scales of Injustice
Missing Adventure: Shadow of Weng-Chiang
Missing Adventure: System Shock
New Adventure: Bloodheat
New Adventure: Death of Art
New Adventure: Dimension Riders
New Adventure: Eternity Weeps
New Adventure: Falls the Shadow
New Adventure: Legacy
New Adventure: No Future
New Adventure: Sleepy
TV: The Curse of Fenric
TV: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
TV: The Happiness Patrol
TV: Season 25 Review
TV: Season 27 Review (the 2005 return)
TV: The Twin Dilemma
→ Or just head back to the Doctor Who Index


David J Richardson, Site MapBack to Main IndexBack To Area Index

This page last updated by David J Richardson on Thu, 28 Jul 2005.