Tag Archives: the Doctor

The Poison Sky

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The conclusion of the current two part Doctor Who story – The Poison Sky – proved to be just as enjoyable as the first. Chief amongst the spectacular moments was the first time on screen we’ve seen Sontarans in battle – in the original series more often than not we only ever saw one or two of the creatures at any one time. This time, although the humans later fought back, initially they were totally outgunned – as Sontaran Commander Skorr is heard to say at one point, “This isn’t war, this is sport!â€?

Needless to say the Doctor defeated the attack on the Earth by using the terra-forming equipment that was mentioned only in passing in episode one to ignite the Sontaran gas that was polluting the atmosphere. However, in the end it was former Sontaran ally Rattigan who pushed the button that destroyed the Sontaran battle cruiser.

The episode was full of references to both old and new Doctor Who – it seems that now there is enough of the new series to allow writers to reference other stories, the production team are a lot less afraid to reference classic elements. For example the Brigadier is mentioned at one point (referred to as “Sir Alastairâ€?), when the Doctor bemoans the fact he has to deal with Colonel Mace and that the Brigadier would be better. Amongst the more amusing moments, when asked to put on a gas mask, the Doctor references The Empty Child when he says “Are you my mummy?â€? The other significant reference, which is definitely a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, was the brief appearance of Rose on the TARDIS view-screen – definitely something that will be explained later on in the series, and certainly related to her earlier appearance in Partners in Crime.

The conclusion of the episode was also a bit of a cliff-hanger, providing the reason that Martha, who had been saying throughout both preceding episodes that she wanted to stay on Earth, ends up travelling in the TARDIS again, as just as they are finishing their good-byes the TARDIS is gripped by an unknown force that sends it travelling across the universe. The big clue being that the jar containing the Doctor’s hand bubbling furiously, much as it has done at key moments in previous episodes. We then get a tantalising glimpse of what is to come in The Doctor’s Daughter next week.

The episode next week certainly has got the fans speculating due to the title, but the production team are being typically vague in what they have given away. We have been told that it is the Doctor’s daughter, but not much else – whether it will tie in to the only other relation that has been seen, the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan, and maybe gives an explanation as to why the Doctor and Susan were travelling together remains to be seen. Of course the other, totally deliberate piece of casting is that the part of the Doctor’s daughter herself is played by Georgia Moffett, daughter of Peter Davison who played the fifth Doctor.

Calling Doctor Jones

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It’s funny, however many times I see Alan Dale playing the bad guy, as he has done in a number of shows, and does again in the second of this weeks Torchwood episodes, I still think of him as nice old Jim Robinson from Neighbours

Anyway, in Reset, the episode of Torchwood that went out on BBC3 straight after Adam, he was anything but nice old Jim Robinson. Dale plays Aaron Copley, an ambitious research scientist who heads up the Pharm, a medical research company that have developed a drug called the Reset, that can cure any known disease instantly. Torchwood start investigating Copley and the Pharm after a random selection of people start turning up dead – with their medical records wiped. After some investigation they discover that one victim has been cured of his diabetes, and another person having survived her attacker claims to have been cured of HIV.

By this point, Torchwood have already called in the cavalry, in the form of Martha Jones, who has now completed her medical degree, and thanks to the Doctor it seems, is now a medical specialist for UNIT.

Working with resident medic Owen, Martha and he discover that the miracle cure is thanks to an alien parasite that hosts it’s larval form within the human body – a larval form that cleanses the body of anything harmful in order to protect itself. Unfortunately, the larval form eventually develops into a giant insect – hence the Pharm is going around assassinating the former test subjects and wiping their medical records before the insect aliens hatch.

The Torchwood team pay a visit to the Pharm, detecting vast numbers of alien creatures on the site – and opt to send Martha in undercover to obtain more information.

After the relatively character and concept driven Adam, Reset was very much back to the action with needle wielding assassins, giant mayflies, contact lenses worthy of James Bond, and with the arrival of Martha, lots of Doctor Who references for the fans to spot. There was even a big shock at the end, certainly one I wasn’t expecting…

In some ways the episode explored a similar theme to Meat in that it was showing humans exploiting aliens for their own gain – this time for medical and scientific advancement. What is interesting to note though is the change in Jack’s attitude this time around. Whereas in Meat he was very much for saving the giant alien whale, and seemed genuinely upset when Owen kills it out of mercy, this time Jack’s plan when faced with a research lab filled with exploited and in Jack’s words tortured aliens, he instead opts to destroy the whole facility, killing all the aliens in the process.

The big difference though is that in Meat the alien creature is being exploited purely for the financial gain of the humans involved. Here, Aaron Copley argues for the higher purpose – that the ends justify the means – as he is exploiting the aliens to provide cures for incurable diseases, to help humanity.

Torchwood certainly seems to have come a long way since the Welsh cannibals of last season…

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.

The Last of the Timelords

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So after all the speculation, we now know what happens. The Master has been defeated and is dead (or maybe not), Martha is back with her family, Jack is back with Torchwood, and the Doctor is back travelling the universe.

As the episode opened, time had moved on by a year from the cliff-hanger at the end of A Sound of Drums. The Master and the Toclofane have absolute control of the world, enslaving the human race to build a fleet of war rockets to take over the universe. The Doctor, having been aged by the Master has been kept almost as a pet, humiliated. Meanwhile Martha has been travelling the world on a mission to save the world.

One of the big questions outstanding from last week was who or what were the Toclofane. The answer was perhaps the most straightforward, especially when you remember that the Doctor said last week that the Master could only travel between the twenty-first century and the end of the universe. The Toclofane were all that was left of the human race – not surprisingly Utopia wasn’t an escape, and the Master had travelled to the far future and offered to ‘save’ them by bringing them back in time. This also explained the paradox machine created by the Master which was needed to hold everything together as the Toclofane changed their own past. Ultimately it was the paradox machine that held the key to resolving what had happened – with the machine holding the paradox removed, everything reverted to normal.

As with last season and with many series, the major plot was resolved relatively early on in the episode, giving a chance to ‘reposition the pieces’ ready for Christmas.

Having captured the Master, there is a nod to Scream of the Shalka which included an android Master – voiced by Derek Jacobi – who lived in the TARDIS in that the Doctor decides that despite what the Master has done, he can’t allow him to be executed, and as the only other time lord, the Master is his responsibility, and he is going to imprison him in the TARDIS. However this plan is curtailed by Lucy Saxon, the Master’s wife, who shoots her husband. Whilst the Doctor begs his enemy to regenerate, the Master appears to deliberately stop himself from regerating, and dies in the arms of the Doctor. The interesting comparison to this is a scene mere moments before, when the Doctor has grabbed the Master as he attempts to escape using Jack’s vortex manipulator. Having failed to escape, and finding themselves near the fleet of rockets, the Master then threatens to blow the ships up killing both himself and the Doctor. However, the Doctor calls his bluff, saying that the Master would never do it because it involved his death. The Master hands over the control to destroy the rockets, and returns with the Doctor. Then moments later he is goading people to shoot him, almost as if he wants to die – and when someone actually shoots him, he doesn’t regenerate all a bit odd…

Alone, the Doctor takes the body of his former enemy and places it on a funeral pyre. However, then the odd behaviour and rocket scene make a bit more sense. In a scene reminiscent of many classic sci-fi serials you see a woman’s hand retrieve the Master’s ring from the pyre, and hear a familiar chuckle. Perhaps, as he has done before, the Master has cheated death, and by letting his time lord body die (remember the Doctor appeared to know the instant the Master became time lord again two weeks ago) managed to evade the Doctor to return again.

That is not the only revelation in the last few minutes. I’ve commented a couple of times on the paradoxes included in this series. Back in episode 1 there was a minor paradox when Martha meets a future Doctor, then in the Shakespeare Code, the Doctor has to leave in a hurry as he is chased by troops for something his future self has done. Blink also includes a paradox that is key to the whole story. However as the Doctor drops Jack off in Cardiff they discuss the fact that he is ageing but will never die, and then Jack comments that in his home era living on the Boeshane peninsula, he became a poster boy, and was known as the Face of Boe – perhaps explaining how the Face of Boe knew how many times he would meet the Doctor, and also the fact that the Doctor was not alone.

After that revelation, there was one final twist as Martha decides that she is not going to leave with the Doctor. Whilst he tries to act as if nothing has changed, having spent a year away from the Doctor, she knows that everything has changed. Having said that, she apparently isn’t out of the series, and may well also be appearing in Torchwood too. This neatly arranges everything for this years Christmas special, where the special guest companion is apparently going to be Kylie Minogue. Much as with last year, we also get a Titanic cliff-hanger – as it appears that the ship has smashed it’s way into the TARDIS.

All in all I found it a really enjoyable episode, and a definite improvement over last week. I was a lot happier with the characterisation of the Master too, with the zany moments of last week toned down. The relationship between the Master and the Doctor being at the heart of the episode, and some very moving scenes between the two. There were also some great references back to previous battles with both time lords mentioning the Axons. Amusingly after a whole series of moments where I expected the Master to not be dead, the moment where the hand picks up the ring and you hear a familiar laugh did produce a big smile. Also the reason for having Jack around became clear – although I don’t think I can cope with a million years of Torchwood waiting for him to age…

Can You Hear the Drums?

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When Doctor Who returned two years ago, outside the basics, the team behind the programme seemed to quite deliberately avoid too many references to the old series. Wind forward to the present series and the situation is almost the reverse. Following on from the sight of images of all the previous faces of the Doctor in Human Nature, to the voices heard by Professor Yana in Utopia last week, we get a positive overdose of fan pleasing moments in the first part of the finale, The Sound of Drums.

Taking the plot first of all, it is all a relatively straightforward affair. The Doctor repairs Captain Jack’s vortex manipulator allowing them to escape. Whilst the Doctor had been unable to stop the Master escaping at the end of Utopia, he had managed to jam the TARDIS controls causing it to return to the same place it left – twenty-first century Earth. However they quickly realise that the Master has returned somewhat earlier, and that the mysterious Mr Saxon is in fact the Master – the mysterious Mr Saxon who has just been elected Prime Minister.

The Master is working with a race of aliens that he calls the Toclafane – although the Doctor believes this to be a made up name. The Master has also prepared traps for the Doctor, and has arrested Martha’s family. He has managed to win the election through the mobile phone network – the same technique that he has used to hide from the Doctor over the preceding months.

The Doctor and his companions manage to sneak onto the secret UNIT airship where the Master is to reveal the Toclafane to the world. However they fail to stop the Master’s plan, indeed the Master uses technology created by Professor Lazarus to age the Doctor, and incapacitates Jack, with only Martha managing to escape. The Master uses the TARDIS – which he has significantly modified and cannibalised, to open a rift and let in the Toclafane – ordering them to immediately destroy one tenth of the population of the world.

Alongside the main plot, there were a lot of back story and references, some very definitely for the fans. Chief among them is an explanation of how the Master comes to be alive and able to regenerate in the first place. Back in the TV Movie the Master manages to escape extermination by the Daleks but has to take over a human ambulance driver to do so. With his new human body decaying, he tries to take over the Doctor, but in the final climactic battle is sucked into the Eye of Harmony at the heart of the TARDIS. During the course of tonight’s episode we find out that during the Time War the Time Lords resurrected him in order to fight, giving him a new life-cycle much as was promised to him for helping the Time Lords in the Five Doctors. However, having been present during a key battle he fled and hid, using the Chameleon Arch to hide his identity. This explanation throws up interesting questions about what involvement the Doctor had in the Time War as he was unaware of the Master being resurrected, perhaps implying that the Doctor only becomes involved later on, after the Master has fled.

There are also several moments that hark back to well remembered Master scenes – for example at one point the Master is seen watching the Teletubbies, harking back to a scene in the Sea Devils when the Master is seen watching The Clangers.

Perhaps the biggest moment from a fan point of view is the first appearance of Gallifrey and of the Time Lord’s themselves as the Doctor describes the origin of the Master. Thanks to modern CGI, we see a panning shot from snowy mountains towards the gleaming Time Lord citadel covered by it’s protective dome. We also see a young Master surrounded by Time Lords, staring into the abyss of the time vortex. There is a definite effort to ramp up the Time Lord mythology, with the sequence reminding me very much of the epic style of movies such as the Lord of the Rings. From comments made by Russell T in the subsequent Doctor Who Confidential the return of the Master was on his list to do, and he implies that there are other things still to do – a return for Gallifrey and the Time Lord’s? Next weeks episode is called The Last of the Time Lords – whether this is because the Doctor has to destroy the Master, or is ironic due to the Doctor rediscovering his people remains to be seen.

It wasn’t only Time Lord references. After the Master has announced to the world that he is going to make first contact, the President of the United States arrives to take over control with UNIT citing that thanks to an agreement in 1968 – a reference to the episode The Web of Fear. Amusingly, considering that the real United Nations has asked that it’s name not be used in reference to UNIT, there were a number of points in the episode where the two organisations were referred to closely together, without ever explicitly stating what the acronym stood for! Having said that, the big budget has also extended to UNIT, with their base of operations this time being The Valiant, a vast airborne aircraft carrier, designed in part by the Master.

However, I’m suspecting that maybe not all the changes will be so welcome. Probably chief amongst the complaints will be the character of the Master, who is even more insane than he has been on previous appearances. Whilst at times there are elements of the dark and brooding character of before, at others he is cracking jokes, and being almost comic, showing many of the traits of David Tennant’s interpretation of the Doctor that so infuriate elements of fandom. John Simm mentions in his Doctor Who Confidential interview that he played the part exactly as written, perhaps passing the buck somewhat in advance of criticisms from the long term fans. Having said that, whose to say that being resurrected and then being long term disguised as a human didn’t unhinge him significantly?

So what is coming up next week? The trailer implies that there is a resistance movement to the Toclafane – but really I’m expecting that that is only going to be a small part of what is going to happen. Return of the Time Lords? We’ll have to wait and see…

Continuity Error? Or Something Else…

Watching Doctor Who didn’t seem to do anything to resolve the apparent continuity error between End of Days and Captain Jack turning up at the beginning of Utopia.

This You Tube video highlights the issues:

If anything tonight’s episode adds more to the error as during Utopia it transpires that Jack is carrying the Doctor’s hand in his bag – and yet as the camera pulls back at the end of End of Days, the Doctor’s hand is still sitting in the hub.

There has been quite a bit of speculation as to whether the TARDIS appearing at the start of Utopia and Captain Jack leaving in End of Days are the same, or different events. I was leaning towards them being the same event, but with a continuity hiccup between the two series. However with the Master taking the TARDIS at the end of Utopia, which includes the container with the Doctor’s hand – plus the knowledge that the Master is Mr Saxon and has been around for a while on Earth, maybe Gwen’s line at the end of End of Days is absolutely right – he has been taken, deceived by the the Doctor’s hand reacting to the presence of itself – and the Captain Jack who climbs aboard the TARDIS in Utopia is a future Jack

Of course, it could just be one great big continuity mistake, but with the somewhat intricate plotting that Russell T puts in place for these story arcs – references to Mr Saxon go right back to Love and Monsters – I’d be surprised if he let such a significant continuity error through.

He’s Back

Lets be clear, in Utopia the apparent main plot, about the last of humankind trying to escape a dying planet on a rocket was really an irrelevance. This episode was about one thing, and one thing only – bringing back the Master.

The rumours had already let slip key facts, that John Simm was going to be the Master, and that Derek Jacobi was playing a character who could be a Timelord – possibly the Master, however tonight was when all the pieces were put together. Rolled into the mix was the return of Captain Jack who quite literally jumped onto the TARDIS for the ride.

Having picked up Captain Jack the TARDIS is sent hurtling into the future where they find a group of humans barricaded in a rocket silo, hunted by ‘Futurekind’ the de-evolution of humans to savages. Inside the silo kindly Professor Yana is struggling to build working rocket to take the humans to Utopia, a legendary place believed to be a colony of humans.

The Doctor and Professor Yana quickly build a rapport, as the Doctor helps the professor fix the problems with the rocket. The professor drifts away into his thoughts at times, and says he hears the sound of drums, but has done since childhood. He does not know his origin, aside from being found as an orphan on the home planet of the Face of Boe – the creature who told the Doctor he was not alone back in Gridlock.

The Doctor asks to have the TARDIS retrieved and brought into the silo, which the humans do, but this produces a strange reaction in the professor. It seems some how familiar – he starts hearing voices (voices that would certainly be familiar to fans of Doctor Who…) but is still confused as to what is happening. Then Martha sees that he has a pocket watch – a watch that is identical to the watch used by The Doctor to become human to hide from the Family of Blood. She tells Professor Yana enough to get him to examine the watch, and then Yana starts hearing another voice insisting that he open the watch. Martha runs to tell the Doctor, and whilst she is telling him of the watch, Yana gives in to the voices and opens the watch. Gone is the kindly personality, and the Master is released. As the effects of the Chameleon Arch are reversed the Doctor senses that he is no longer alone – another Timelord now exists.

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As the Doctor races back to the professor’s lab, the reawakened Master tries to block his way by shutting down the doors, and letting in the Futurekind. Confused as to what is happening, the professor’s assistant pulls a gun on the Master, but is murdered by the Master by electrocution. The Doctor reaches the lab in time to see the Master shot by his former assistant with her dying breath, and stagger into the TARDIS and lock the door.

Inside the TARDIS the Master regenerates, and taunts the Doctor over the intercom. The Doctor begs him, telling him that they are the last of their race and to put their old battles behind them – Martha says that she recognises his new voice. However despite the best efforts of the Doctor to stop him, the Master takes off in the TARDIS leaving the Doctor and his companions stranded at the end of the universe.

All in all it was a fantastic ending. Despite the spoilers, the production team had managed to keep enough secret that even though you knew the Master was returning, the kindly Professor Yana threw you off the scent, and the rest of the action kicked along enough that you didn’t get a chance to think back until the pocket watch is revealed. You were also thrown off somewhat by the return of Captain Jack and the need to resolve issues left over from The Parting of the Ways.

In terms of the return of the Master, there are some unresolved questions. One of the memories that Professor Yana hears from the pocket watch before he opens it is of the final battle between the Master and the Eighth Doctor, at the conclusion of which the Master is sucked into the core of the TARDIS, having survived the death of his Timelord body at the hands of the Daleks using a creature that has allowed him to possess a human body. How did he escape the TARDIS? Perhaps during the events of The Parting of the Ways – but that still doesn’t quite explain how he has returned as a Timelord with a renewed power to regenerate (the goal he was seeking over many of his previous appearances) and with access to a Chameleon Arch. Perhaps all will be explained in what now transpires to be parts two and three of the final three part story, The Sound of Drums, and The Last of the Timelords.