New Earth

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Writer: Russell T. Davies

Director: James Hawes

Producer: Phil Collinson

Companion: Rose Tyler (Billie Piper)

Series: 2, ep. 2

Summary: The Tenth Doctor and Rose go to New New York (actually New New New New…..you get the idea) because he’s received a message on psychic paper from The Face of Boe. While there they run into two problems: Cassandra has returned and the Sisterhood, a race of cat people who are nuns have cloned humans and injected them with several diseases so that they can cure them.

Review: This is the first sequel episode of the new series, which was a practice that happened quite a few times in Classic Who.  Cassandra is a rather silly villain this time around, spending most of her time possessing both the Doctor and Rose. This does lead to some comedy, but it also brings down the episode a few points for me. What I did like was seeing the Face of Boe again, even though this time around it’s kind of a letdown because he just tells the Doctor he has to wait and see him one last time to get the message. This was an okay start to the new era, but it does get better later.

Overall Review: 7/10

Continuity: The Doctor and Rose first met Cassandra in “The End of the World”. The Doctor’s final encounter of the Face of Boe happens in “Gridlock”.

Trivia: Zoe Wanamaker, who voices Cassandra, also played Madame Hooch in the Harry Potter movies.

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The Light At the End (Big Finish 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who)

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Writer and Director: Nicholas Briggs

Producer: David Richardson

No of Episodes: 2, on 2 discs (Running Time: Approximately 2 hrs.)

Summary: The first eight Doctors are all interrupted in the middle of their latest adventures by a warning light in the TARDIS. What’s so unusual about that? How about the fact that this particular warning light doesn’t seem to have existed before? The light leads each doctor to 59A Barnsfield Crescent, Totton, Hampshire, England, Earth on 11/23/1963 (the day the very first episode of Doctor Who, “An Unearthly Child” aired). But the whole thing is really a plot set in motion by The Master.

Review: While I did enjoy “Day of the Doctor”, the TV celebration of Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, I felt there just wasn’t enough looking to the past. I realize that not every Doctor or companion could be present for the show, but I felt there should’ve been more than just quick cameos for the Classic Doctors. This story, however, pulls out all the stops. We get EVERY single Doctor Big Finish has rights to, as well as nearly every companion from the classic days too. (the only ones who don’t show up whose actors are still alive are Romana, K-9, and Mel.) The story is a lot of fun, filled with much nostalgia from the classic days. It’s definitely worth a listen if you’re familiar with Classic Who.

Overall Review: 9/10

Continuity: The Master that is in this story is portrayed by Geoffrey Beevers. This is the infamous “Crispy Master”, who appears in “The Deadly Assassin” and “The Keeper of Traken”.  Charley Pollard is the only companion exclusive to Big Finish who appears in this story. Her first appearance was in “Storm Warning”.  In fact, if you haven’t listened to any of Big Finish’s previous stories, you’re in luck–Charley and Straxus (from the 8th Doctor’s range) are the only big references to Big Finish. (There’s a minor reference to the Sixth Doctor play “The Wishing Beast”) It’s almost as if Nicholas Briggs wanted this story to be as accessible to newcomers as possible, which is welcome for people like me.

Trivia: Kevin Dovie, the youngest child of Bob Dovie, whose family resides at the address in the story, is portrayed by Benedict Briggs, the son of Nicholas Briggs. In addition to this story, Big Finish also released a trilogy called 1963, which crosses the 5th, 6th, and 7th Doctors’ timelines. They also released a trilogy of Companion Chronicles, and an 11-part story called Destiny of the Doctor. There is also a special edition of Light At the End which comes with an exclusive Companion Chronicle and a booklet. I only reviewed the Standard Edition. (There’s a vinyl edition, but that’s sold out.

The Silurians (aka Doctor Who and the Silurians)

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Writer: Malcolm Hulke

Director: Timothy Combe

Producer: Barry Letts

No of Episodes: 7

Season: 7, ep 2 (5-11)

Companions: Dr. Liz Shaw (Caroline John), Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney)

Summary: An experimental nuclear power research center has been experiencing power drains and UNIT is called in to investigate.  The Doctor explores the caves near the center and discovers that they are home to the Silurians, a race of lizard-like people who hid in the caves when the moon was brought into Earth’s orbit.  The Silurians feel that they are threatened by the humans, but the Doctor attempts to negotiate with them. However, one of the Silurians decides to use a chemical that proved toxic to apes back in prehistoric times, and discovers that it is just as toxic on humans. The toxin creates a plague all over London, complicating the Doctor’s attempts to negotiate.

Review: Each of the first three Doctors introduced recurring alien races. Hartnell’s introduced the Daleks and the Cybermen. The Second Doctor introduced the Ice Warriors. The Third Doctor introduced the Silurians. What is most interesting about the Silurians is that unlike the others I mentioned, the Silurians do not wish to conquer the humans. They really only wish to be left alone and only retaliate because they feel threatened. I do feel that the current era of the show does a much better job with the Silurians than Classic Who. The costumes look less silly and more lizard-like.

This episode is the best example of how the Brigadier serves as a heroic foil for the Doctor. While the Doctor prefers diplomacy, Lethbridge-Stewart prefers direct action. I thought it was great that the story did not end happily, but with a bittersweet ending that would continue to have impact on the Brigadier and the Doctor’s relationship for a good part of the Pertwee era.

Liz Shaw is also well done here. She is a big help to the Doctor from the beginning. In fact, I believe this is one of her best stories.

If you’re interested in finding out how the Silurians started out in Doctor Who, I would suggest watching this story.  It does have some pacing issues, but it’s not a bad story.

Overall Review: 7/10

Continuity: The Silurians appeared in two more stories in Classic Who before the series was cancelled. They returned to the show in the Eleventh Doctor’s era, in the two parter: “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood”. This story also marks the first appearance of the Third Doctor’s yellow automobile Bessie. At the end of the episode, it is said that the Silurians would not resurface until 50 years later, which is why their return in modern Who takes place in 2020.

Trivia: This is the only story in the history of the show that actually has “Doctor Who” in its title, not counting the adaptations published by Target books. Previously, an episode of the Hartnell serial The Chase broke the taboo when it was titled “The Death of Doctor Who”. This was an error caused because most of the scripts were titled Doctor Who and the and that part of the title was not removed. Barry Letts and Script Editor Terrance Dicks make cameos as rail passengers, while Production Assistant Trevor Ray makes a cameo as a ticket collector struck down by the plague.

The Macra Terror

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Writer: Ian Stuart Black

Director: John Davies

Producer: Innes Lloyd

Companions: Ben Jackson (Michael Craze), Polly (Anneke Wills), and Jamie McCrimmin (Frazer Hines)

No of Episodes: 4

Season: 4, ep 7 (17-20)

Summary: The Doctor and companions find themselves in a human colony where everyone is happy. However, this is a ruse: they are all slaves to giant alien crabs called the Macra. The crabs need them to mine gases.

Review: Classic Doctor Who was actually pretty good at the alien monsters, and The Macra Terror is no exception. I thought this story was pretty good. This is one of the best stories for Troughton’s Doctor. His comical antics were almost absent, but his crafty nature signs through, allowing him to outsmart his enemies. Which is good, especially since two of his companions are under the Macra’s sway. It’s just a shame that not one part of this story has been recovered.

Overall Review: 7/10

Continuity: The Macra returned in the Tenth Doctor episode “Gridlock”.

Trivia: This story was the first to feature the Doctor’s face during the opening sequence. However, it still used the Ron Grainer arrangement of the theme because of a production error.