The Day of the Doctor

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Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Nick Hurran

Producer: Marcus Wilson

Series: 50th Anniversary Special

Companion: Clara Oswald

Summary: The Eleventh Doctor meets the Tenth Doctor and The War Doctor when he discovers an “impossible painting” of Gallifrey, which is actually Gallifrey suspended in time. Is it possible that the Doctor can change history and free Gallifrey?

Review: Was this special worth the hype? I’d say yes!  It was great to learn the mystery of the War Doctor, who was played very well by John Hurt. He captured the angst and the struggle with the decision to go against everything he believed in. It was fun to see the three Doctors interact, and there were so many humorous moments, like the “confusing the polarity” line.  Seeing the Zygons again was excellent, as they are among my favorite monsters and I’d been wanting more stories with them for ages.  I loved all the nods to the past, like the more subtle ones like showing that Clara teaches at Coal Hills School, the same school where Barbara and Ian taught; to the more overt ones like the TARDIS console room shorting out and turning into the classic console room. And best of all was seeing Tom Baker. I’d heard him spoil things, but my Facebook friends dismissed the idea as another rumor, so seeing him actually turn up was such a joy.  This was a great story and a great celebration of the show’s past and present.

Continuity: Clara teaches at Coal Hills School, where Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton taught.  Ian Chesterton is now chairman of its Board of Governors.  Clara rides a motorbike into the TARDIS console room, mirroring a policeman doing the same thing in the Doctor Who movie.  We’ve also seen the Tenth Doctor and Rose ride a moped out of the TARDIS in “The Idiot’s Lantern” and the Eleventh Doctor rode a motorcycle out of the TARDIS in “The Bells of St. John”. Clara can now open the TARDIS by snapping her fingers, just like the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors have done on numerous occasions, beginning with “The Forest of Shadows”. (The TARDIS must love her now!) The Eleventh Doctor is still wearing Amy’s glasses.  Malcolm, the scientist who worked with UNIT in “Planet of the Dead”, is mentioned.  The Doctor uses the phone outside the TARDIS again, just like he did in “The Bells of St. John”.  The War Doctor’s catchphrase “No more” was said by Dalek Caan in “Journey’s End”.  Both the War Doctor and the Tenth Doctor seem to like red buttons (cf. “The Christmas Invasion”) When Kate Stewart notices there are three Doctors, she asks for the “Cromer file” referencing the “The Three Doctors”. The Doctor wishing to intervene for crying children was mentioned in “The Beast Below.”  “The Three Doctors” and “Time Crash” also had scenes where a returning Doctor criticized the TARDIS’s current console room. The Tenth Doctor says his last words when the Eleventh Doctor mentions Trenzalore.  Before regenerating into the Ninth Doctor, the War Doctor’s final words are “This body is wearing a bit thin”, the final words of the First Doctor before he said “Keep warm” and collapsed in “The Tenth Planet”.

Trivia: This was the first Doctor Who episode to be released theatrically, unless you count the Dalek movies from the 60’s.  The story uses the very first opening for the show.  It was also the first Doctor Who episode to be shot in 3-D and set the record for the largest ever simulcast of a TV drama, airing in 94 countries and 1500 theatres worldwide!

 

 

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The Name of the Doctor

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Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Saul Metizen

Producers: Marcus Wilson and Denise Paul

Series: 7, episode 13

Companions: Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman), River Song (Alex Kingston)

Summary: Madame Vastra visits a murderer named Clarence DeMarco, learning from him that the Doctor’s “greatest secret” has been discovered.  She assembles the Paternoster gang for a “conference call” and contacts Clara in a dream to tell her. When the Doctor and Clara arrive on Trenzalore, where the Doctor’s grave is located, they find the Great Intelligence. It wants to enter the time scar created by the Doctor’s journeys to rewrite his history, turning all his victories into defeats. This is the moment Clara realizes her purpose: she was born to save the Doctor. She jumps into the time stream to save him, splitting herself into echoes all over the timestream. The Doctor is eventually revived by her efforts and jumps in after her. When he saves her, he shows her “the most important leaf in history”. At the end, however, they stop and notice an unfamiliar figure: The War Doctor, an aspect of the Doctor he has rejected.

Review: Despite all the vitriol surrounding this episode before I viewed it, I was optimistic.  I had been intrigued about Clara from her first appearance and was only wanting to watch in order to solve her mystery.  Richard Grant was excellent as the Great Intelligence. I loved all the call backs to the show’s past and even the fact that some footage was retouched didn’t bother me. This made me anticipate the special so much more.

Overall Rating: 10/10

Continuity: The cold open contains several scenes from Classic and new Who, including “The Five Doctors”, “The Invasion of Time”, “Dragonfire”, and “Arc of Infinity”. The “time scar” also has several lines of audio from previous adventures, both classic and current.  The Sixth Doctor was duped into thinking that he had encountered his own grave in “Destiny of the Daleks” The Great Intelligence mentions several names for the Doctor, including the Ninth Doctor’s boast that he is “The Oncoming Storm” (cf. “Bad Wolf”) and the Valeyard, an evil version of the Doctor introduced in the “Trial of a Time Lord” arc.  He also mentions enemies he has killed, such as the leader of the Sycorax in “The Christmas Invasion” and Solomon the Trader in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. Clara regains her memories of being trapped in the TARDIS in “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS”. By now, River Song only exists as data, indicating that this takes place after the episodes “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”. Clara receives the leaf that brought about events that led to her birth, which was chronicled in “The Bells of St. John”. This leaf was lost to her in “The Rings of Akhaten”. The Doctor was also killed prematurely in “Turn Left.” River again mentions that the Doctor hates goodbyes, which she said in “The Angels Take Manhattan”. Madame Vastra mentions several events that are being undone, including “Asylum of the Daleks”, “The Caves of Androzani”, “The Snowmen”, and “A Good Man Goes to War”. The First Question prophecy that was first stated in “A Good Man Goes to War” is mentioned. Clara repeats “I don’t know where I am”, which she screamed repeatedly when the Spoonhead captured her in “The Bells of St. John”. Clara again attempts to make souffles, which she was seen doing in “Asylum of the Daleks”. Vastra and River both tell Clara that the Doctor doesn’t share secrets, which was told to Amy in “Amy’s Choice” and Ace in “Silver Nemesis”. The Whisper Men repeat Col. Manton’s calling the Doctor “the man who lies” in “A Good Man Goes to War”. The Doctor mentions the Fast Return Switch, first mentioned in “The Edge of Destruction”. The War Doctor’s origin was explored in the web-episode “Night of the Doctor” (note: I don’t review web episodes because they are too short.)

 

Storm Warning (audio drama)

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No of Episodes: 4, on two discs

Writer: Alan Barnes

Director: Gary Russell

Producers: Gary Russell and Jason Haigh-Ellery

Companion: Charlotte “Charley” Pollard (India Fisher)

Summary: The Doctor is going through his library in search of his TARDIS’s manual.  Suddenly, he sees a time-ship on his scanner. It’s caught in a time-loop, causing it to repeatedly crash.  Vortisaurs (pterodactyls who scavenge the vortex of space and time) have begun to swarm the ship.  The Doctor spins his TARDIS around to intervene, but the vortex causes him and a vortisaur to fall in.  The TARDIS materializes inside the R101 airship on its maiden (and sadly only) voyage.

The Doctor meets Charlotte Pollard, “Charley” to her friends.  Charley has disguised herself in order to stow away. He also meets Lord Tamworth (the captain), Lt. Col. Frayling (who designed the R101), and Rathbone.  Rathbone is harboring a Triskele.  Triskele are an alien race who have three personas: the Engineers (good), the Un-creators (evil), and the Law-givers (authority). Can the Doctor intervene before chaos ensues?

Review: I was interested in the Eighth Doctor’s audio dramas from Big Finish after having seen the web-episode “Night of the Doctor”, which chronicles his final adventure before regenerating into the “War Doctor”. Although there are some stories set before “Storm Warning”, this is first audio adventure if you go by production order. It’s a good place to start.

The story flows very well, with no signs of padding. Alan Barnes has created a story that seems like it would fit right in with the Classic era’s pseudo-historicals like “Talons of Weng-Chiang” or “The Time Meddler”.  India Fisher is great as Charley, giving her an elegant air.  I’m not quite warming up to her as a character, but then there are a few companions that I didn’t like away (like Leela for instance). She seems a good fit for the Doctor, a woman eager to embark on an adventure, no matter the risk.

Barnaby Edwards is another star as Rathbone, a brash man filled with British pride.  He is a great antagonist for the Doctor, and I like the way they play off each other.

If you’re curious about Big Finish, this is a great place to start.  It has no tie-ins to their other stories (actually, at this point, the continuity of their universe was just starting). And yes, I do plan to review more audio dramas than just the Paul McGann range.

Overall Rating: 10/10

Continuity: The time ship is encountered again in Terror Firma, which reveals that the Doctor was actually amnesiac at the beginning of this story. He finds a book by Mary Shelley, which foreshadows In the Company of Friends (a four-part anthology).  Charley’s final story with the Eighth Doctor is The Girl Who Never Was, which closes the first series of adventures.  She also travelled with the Sixth Doctor beginning with The Condemned and ending with Blue Forgotten Planet. She met the Fourth Doctor as well in the 50th Anniversary story The Light at the End. (which features Doctors 1-8).  The Vortisaur that follows the TARDIS into the vortex is named Ramsey by Charley and becomes an unofficial pet until Minuet in Hell. The Vortisaurs themselves are similar to the demonic creatures who fed on time distortions in “Father’s Day”.

Trivia: Gareth Thomas plays Lord Tamworth. He is best known as Blake in BBC’s cult sci-fi series Blake Seven (created by Terry Nation, who also created the Daleks). India Fisher has actually played other characters for Big Finish besides Charley. In Winter For the Adept (a Fifth Doctor drama), she plays Peril, and in the Gallifrey drama A Blind Eye, she plays Cecelia Pollard, Charley’s younger sister. She’s also the narrator on BBC’s Master Chef series.

 

Terror of the Zygons

zygonsNo. of Episodes: 4

Writer: Robert Banks Stewart

Director: Douglas Camfield

Producer: Phillip Hinchcliffe

Season: 13, ep. 1 (1-4)

Companions: Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter), Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney)

Summary: The Doctor is called by the Brigadier to investigate a series of oil rig sabotages near Loch Ness.  He discovers that they are the work of an alien race called the Zygons.  The Zygons can change appearance and have a cyborg that they call the Skarasen, which is actually the Loch Ness Monster itself.  The Zygons have been kidnapping people in the nearby town in order to infiltrate the rigs and to invade the Earth.

Review: The Hinchcliffe period of Tom Baker’s era is well-known for its monsters.  Stories like “Terror of the Zygons”, “The Pyramids of Mars”, and “The Brain of Morbius” all came from this period.  Hinchcliffe was largely influenced by the Hammer Horror films.  The Zygons are great aliens in this story, and are among my favorite alien races.  Sarah Jane is written well again, with her snooping around in the castle revealing the aliens’ base of operations. And I really like how organic the Zygon technology looks. Sullivan is still as useless as ever, though. (sorry, Harry Sullivan fans, but I don’t share your enthusiasm for this character) I also have to say for its time, the Loch Ness monster’s stop-motion isn’t too bad.

If you’re curious about the first appearance of the Zygons after having watched “The Day of the Doctor”, I strongly suggest checking this out. It’s a solid story with no signs of padding and paced quickly enough to keep your interest.

Overall Review: 10/10

Continuity: The Zygons were also mentioned in “Mawdryn Undead”, “Remembrance of the Daleks”, “School Reunion, the Sarah Jane Adventures episode “Death of the Doctor”, and “The Power of Three”.  They returned to TV in the 50th anniversary episode “Day of the Doctor”. This is the final UNIT story of the Classic Era, although the Brigadier made three more appearances without them: “Mawdryn Undead”, “The Five Doctors”, and “Battlefield”.  UNIT eventually returned in New Who, sadly without the Brigadier, in “The Sontaran Strategem”. This story also marks the departure of Harry Sullivan, although an android impersonates him in “The Android Invasion”.  The Zygons also appear in two Eighth Doctor stories from Big Finish: The Zygon Who Fell to Earth and Death in Blackpool.

Trivia: This story was originally intended to close season 12.

 

 

The Web Planet

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No. of Episodes: 6 (“The Web Planet”, “The Zarbi”, “Escape to Danger”, “Crater of Needles”, “Invasion”, “The Centre”

Writer: Bill Strutton

Director: Richard Martin

Producer: Verity Lambert

Season: 2, ep. 5 (eps. 16-21)

Companions: Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), Ian Chesterton (William Russell), and Vicki (Maureen O’Brien)

Summary: The Doctor and his companions find themselves on the planet Vortis, which is populated by insects divided into various tribes. The Menoptera, who look like giant moths, are attempting to free Vortis from the god-like Animus, who has already turned the ant-like Zarbi into his mindless followers.  The Doctor and companions align themselves with the Menoptera to eliminate the threat Animus has over them.

Review: This was the first episode from the Hartnell era I ever watched. One thing you have to realize about his era is that it was starting from scratch. Much of the stuff we’re used to–the sonic screwdriver, Gallifrey, the Time Lords–didn’t exist yet.

For me, what I really like is the ambition of this story.  The costumes look great for their time.  They even hired someone to design the speech and culture.  Animus is a good villain because it seems like a genuine threat and Catherine Fleming plays the part well.

You can see shades of a typical strategy that the Doctor would use in later stories. Here he attempts to trick Animus into believing it has already won and that he is trying to appease the god.  But in reality, he is secretly plotting and analyzing Animus’s weaknesses. Ian and Barbara also do good here, with Barbara attempting to form a plan with the Menoptera while the Doctor is in peril.  Vicki, however, seems to take up space, which often happened with her anyway.

The story is not without its flaws.  The lens was distorted to make the world seem more alien and to show how thin Vortis’s atmosphere was supposed to be, so that may make things blurrier than it should.  To be honest, the story hasn’t really aged well, and the costumes may seem silly by today’s standards, but I like the effort that was put into making Vortis seem as alien as they could within the limits of their budget. Is it a perfect story? No. But I enjoyed it.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Continuity: The Doctor tells Ian that Vortis is in the Isop galaxy, which in New Who is home to the Face of Boe (cf. “The End of the World”).  The Fifth Doctor revisited Vortis in the audio drama Return to the Web Planet, available from Big Finish. Barbara wears a bracelet she received from Emperor Nero in the preceding story, “The Romans”.

Trivia: Roslyn de Winter designed the Menoptera’s movement and speech.  As thanks, she was invited to play Vrestra, the only female Menoptera in the story.  In the novels based on Doctor Who, Animus is supposedly an elder god from Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos, just like the Great Intelligence.