Tag Archives: Dalek

Tying Up the Loose Ends

In talking about episode twelve of Doctor Who last week, I expressed the hope that we wouldn’t get a total cop out of a resolution to the Doctor regenerating cliff-hanger – so what did we get? A total cop out of a solution where the Doctor directs his regeneration energy into his hand in the jar. If the Doctor is able to partially heal and then stop the regeneration by redirecting remaining regeneration energy somewhere else, why hasn’t he done it before? It’s not as it it hasn’t been established that the Doctor has special healing capabilities before – the climax of Frontier in Space leading in to the beginning of Planet of the Daleks for example – however it wouldn’t have had quite such a big climax to lead into Journey’s End if they had done that. The regeneration energy is also needed as a vehicle for the creation of another Doctor from the hand in the jar, and to give Donna the abilities to save the universe, but also the reason why she must leave the Doctor.

Sadly, much as with last year, the cop outs extended to the way that the threat of the Daleks is dealt with. As the Doctor and his companions are trapped by Davros and the Daleks it becomes clear that Davros is very much not in charge – however this idea once started is just abandoned as the whole plan to destroy reality is defeated by a technobabble based solution revolving around a convenient machine in the Dalek base that allows Donna, now embrued with all of the Doctor’s knowledge having touched the hand in the jar, to remotely disable all of the Daleks, and for the half-human clone of the Doctor to destroy them all.

The previously unknown powers that might have been useful previously pop up again after this with the TARDIS hauling the planet Earth back home (although don’t thing too much about the effect of the Earth vanishing and then being hauled back into place might have on the rest of the solar system) and then in the final scenes the Doctor seems to be able to telepathically erase bits of Donna’s memory, again something that has not been seen before. This scene is equally frustrating because it is just rushed through – indeed it could be argued that Donna was mentally violated by the Doctor in that she is not given any choice about what happens – whether to die as a result of the effect of the merger with the Doctor’s mind, or to have those memories and all her memories of the Doctor removed, but to live. Certainly I think there would have been more pathos to the whole thing if Donna herself had to choose.

However, like much of the ending, it was rushed, as there were quite a lot of farewells to get in. First off, Sarah Jane heads off, then Jack heads back to Torchwood apparently taking Martha and Mickey with him. Rose and her mother are deposited back into their parallel world, along with the clone of the Doctor – when you think about it, a bit of a lousy consolation prize for the girl who has declared undying love for the Doctor, being left with his potentially unstable clone. All of this then leaves the Doctor heading off alone once again, as he has done at the end of each season aside from the first.

I think what bugs me most about this, is that much as with last year, and probably more than episode twelve, this is a reminder that Russell T Davies was a childhood fan of the show, and through his series finale episodes in particular he produces the kind of massive spectacular stories that most childhood fans produce. But having to produce a vaguely coherent story he then has to resolve all of these spectacular ideas, which is where the whole thing falls down. When you look back at episodes such as Midnight it is apparent that he can produce a good story, however all to often he goes for the big spectacle ideas that end up coming over as being not much more than fan fiction with a budget. When looking back at the last four years it is interesting to note that the well respected writers such as Steven Moffat and Paul Cornell are the ones that are producing stories that push the format with new ideas, and who generally avoid dealing with established characters or monsters. Whether Steven Moffat will continue to eschew established monsters, and especially avoid the kind of end of season spectaculars we have come to expect remains to be seen. If he doesn’t, we can only hope that Steven Moffat will realise that at the heart of the story we still need a coherent plot.

So were there any redeeming features? Once again, Julian Bleach delivered a fantastic performance as Davros, and certainly I hope he gets the opportunity to reprise the role, perhaps with a bit better plot to work with. Bernard Cribbins again gave a good performance in the closing scenes as the Doctor returns his granddaughter. Certainly you can’t help wishing that perhaps the character would have got at least one journey in the TARDIS during his time on the show. There were a few laughs during the programme too, with a running joke between Donna and Jack, and the return of characters such as Jackie and Mickey giving the opportunity for some reminders of previous relationships.

All in all, with the departures of Phil Collinson, Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner, this was very much a swan song episode for the three of them, tying up a load of loose ends and finishing up the stories for characters created during their era in charge of the show. Much as in the past, when the next full series returns in 2010, I’m expecting that it will feel rather different, as Steven Moffat makes his mark. Whilst there may be elements that will be carried over, certainly other things will be rather different – getting rid of fanfic style finales for a start we hope.

Missing Daleks

Looking at the next episode coming up in the UKTV Drama Doctor Who episodes I was expecting part one of Genesis of the Daleks – but tonight they seem to be skipping straight to part one of Revenge of the Cybermen… Strange decision to drop the Dalek story, as it’s always been regarded as one of the classics and looking at the upcoming episode list they are showing all the subsequent stories in order, unless of course it’s a repeat of the problems with the Terry Nation estate again that nearly scuppered the return of the monsters in the new series…

Very British Sci-Fi

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It is perhaps an indication of the renewed popularity of Doctor Who, that UKTV Drama has kicked off a new year with a daily teatime showing of some of the classic shows not in the omnibus format in which they used to show the programme at weekends, but as it was originally made in 25 minute episodes.

The one difference though is that whereas in the past they always started at the start of the colour era, with Jon Pertwee stories, this time they’re kicking off with Robot, Terrance Dicks reworking of King Kong – probably most obvious in the final episode – that marked the beginning of Tom Baker in the title role.

Although there are some really obvious bits of model work at times, it’s still quite an entertaining watch, including some classic bits of script that mark it out as very British, such as the conversation between the Brigadier and the Doctor about how Great Britain was the only possible choice as the country to hold the nuclear secrets of the superpowers…

So why start out at this point? The answer is fairly simple if you look at what comes up later in the first Tom Baker season. After The Ark in Space next week we then get a run of classic monsters.

First off is The Sontaran Experiment – monsters who are going to appear again in the next season of the new Doctor Who. Then we get the classic and fan favourite Genesis of the Daleks where the Doctor is sent back in time to destroy the Daleks before they are even created – where Terry Nation makes absolutely no attempt to hide who he based the creatures on – and where the Doctor makes a fateful decision. After that we have the Revenge of the Cybermen, which it has to be said, isn’t regarded by a classic by a lot of fans, and finally that season finished off with the first and only appearance of the Zygons – favourite monster of the current occupier of the TARDIS, David Tennant.

So compared to the modern series it may have some really dodgy special effects, and wobbly sets, but this was the era that was enough to inspire most of the current production team, and of course David Tennant himself, to the extent that more than a decade after it’s demise they brought back the series that is so successful now. If alternatively you’re only interested in “nu Whoâ€? as SFX christened it, you’ve only got a couple of weeks to wait before Torchwood returns on 16th January – this time with a pre-watershed re-edit to help in those homes where the content of the show was ruled unsuitable for the younger Who obsessives and they were banned from watching – and Doctor Who itself is due to return for a fourth series in the now familiar late spring/early summer run.

Daleks do Manhattan

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So blow the whole cliff-hanger why don’t you… There is a comment from Russell T that he couldn’t very well turn down a Radio Times cover, which I guess is true, but you can do it without blowing the entire climax of the episode by doing so!

Anyway, aside from having the shocking revelation of the Hybrid Dalek ruined by the Radio Times, the rest of the episode was really good. The new Doctor Who stories are quite often either fairly frenetic, or fairly straightforward with their plots in order to fit into the 45 minute stories, however thanks to this being a two-part story, we at least got some better pacing, and a broader range of characters, this is apparent right from the start.

The pre-credit sequence starts back-stage at a theatre in 1930’s New York, with the star of the show Tallulah with her boyfriend Laszlo. As Tallulah goes on stage to do her act, Laszlo hears strange noises coming from a store room and goes to investigate, finding a strange pig faced man who kidnaps him and takes him into the sewers.

The Doctor and Martha arrive on Liberty Island. We discover later, two weeks after Laszlo’s disappearance. They find a newspaper which is reporting mysterious disappearances of people from Hooverville, the shanty town built in Central Park by people who have lost their homes as a result of the Great Depression. Ever one to be intrigued by a mystery, the Doctor and Martha go to investigate.

Meanwhile, in the nearly finished Empire State Building, although work is continuing quickly, it’s not quick enough for the new owners of the building. Through Mr Diagoras they are trying to get the mast on the top of the tower finished by night fall – when the foreman says that it isn’t possible, the new owners of the building are revealed to be the Daleks, and the uncooperative foreman is taken away by a Dalek and two pig faced henchmen. The Daleks are in the midst of a series of experiments, and need more humans, so Mr Diagoras is despatched to Hooverville to recruit workers for a ‘job’ clearing a blockage in the sewers.

Arriving at the Hooverville, Mr Diagoras recruits the Doctor and Martha along with two others, and they are sent off to find the apparent blockage. However there is no blockage, and as the Doctor starts to wonder what is really going on, the group is cornered by a group of pig faced men.

All in all, the production team have done a great job of producing something that looks like New York in the thirties, all without having to do much filming outside Wales. (Although I note from the behind the scenes stuff that Phil Collinson, Helen Raynor and the effects team got a jolly to New York even if the actors didn’t!) There are also a number of impressive vistas of the city, as part of the action takes place on top of the Empire State Building itself.

This is a bit of a different Dalek story for the new series too. Aside from the appearance in Dalek, there have only been vast armies of Daleks. Here we have a much smaller, scheming Dalek plot. The only Daleks present are the four members of the Cult of Skaro who have managed to escape at the end of Doomsday and realising that they are alone are trying to preserve the Dalek race by a series of genetic experiments. They have also created the pig faced henchmen from the people who aren’t considered intelligent enough, in order to help them in their work. In many ways this is reminiscent of Dalek stories back in the sixties and seventies where the Daleks are a malevolent force in the background using henchmen to do much of the work. In this case, Dalek Sec believes that the purity of the Dalek race has been a hindrance, indeed one of the other Daleks in a rare moment of conversation with Mr Diagoras states that humans always survive. As a result Dalek Sec is trying to produce a Hybrid Dalek using himself as the guinea pig.

Alongside the Daleks we get some nice characterisation from the other actors. Mr Diagoras is very tough with the human workers, but at other times is obviously frightened of the Daleks, especially when he discovers that the Daleks are effectively going to reward him by killing him to become part of the Hybrid Dalek. There are also some good characters in the Hooverville with the two episode format allowing for a bit of background explanation as to what is happening. We also have the love story between Tallulah and Laszlo, with both of them joining with the Doctor in the later part of the episode. Interestingly the Doctor also actively avoids any sort of confrontation with the Daleks throughout the episode, even getting Martha to step forward to challenge them at one point rather than draw attention to himself. We also get to see his frustration in that ‘they always survive’.

As with so many of the two part stories, this episode was essentially laying out the pieces for the conclusion next week. Although we got to see the Hybrid Dalek, this didn’t explain the reasons for the modifications to the mast on the top of the Empire State Building, and exactly what is going to occur that night that required it to be completed. It will also be interesting to see whether the three remaining non-hybrid Daleks survive, in an obvious way, such as the ’emergency temporal shift’ that was shown in Doomsday, or whether they’ll all be apparently wiped out. Whatever happens though, I’m sure we’ll be seeing the Daleks again – having won the recent online vote for the scariest monster and Russell T admitting on a number of occasions that they are his favourite, we’re sure to see them back whatever happens.

I Bet Battlestar Galactica are Annoyed By This…

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You might have missed the news, but the first series of Doctor Who, which has recently been shown in the US, did rather well at the Hugo Awards.

Three stories from the series were nominated in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category in a total field of seven, including an episode of Battlestar Galactica, and Jack-Jack Attack the Pixar short that featured on the DVD of The Incredibles. The Doctor Who episodes nominated were the Steven Moffat two-parter The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances, Robert Shearman for Dalek, and Paul Cornell for Father’s Day.

Last year, Galactica won the category, and they were favourite to do it again this year. However, this year they were beaten into fourth place, with the episodes of Doctor Who taking the first, second and third places – Steven Moffat taking the prize, with Robert Shearman in second and Paul Cornell in third. Certainly a great result.

However, things get interesting when you see the voting breakdown, and certainly if I were involved with Galactica I’d feel a bit annoyed. The voting appears to operate on a single transferable vote system, with multiple votes. In the first place vote, Battlestar Galactica got the most votes in each count, right up to the final round where the Doctor Who episode sneaked ahead. The same happened with the second place vote – Battlestar Galactica again got the most votes in every round until the final round where the Doctor Who episode went ahead. In the third place vote, it happened again, with Doctor Who being behind, until in the final count it beat Battlestar Galactica by one vote. After that, Battlestar Galactica won the fourth place vote after just two rounds, getting more than 50% of the vote.

Paul Cornell went along to the ceremony to represent the Doctor Who writers, and his account of collecting the award can be seen on his blog. You can also read his pre-ceremony posting where he is “reassuringly certainâ€? that Doctor Who can’t win.

All in all it was a great showing, and an interesting counter-balance to the aborted American Doctor Who, that changed elements of the show on the basis that a purely British Doctor Who wouldn’t go down well in the US.