Sad news today for the forty-fourth anniversary of the first episode of Doctor Who, with the news that Verity Lambert, the first producer of the series, has passed away aged 71. When she got the job back in 1963 she was the youngest, and only female producer at the BBC. Known for standing up to her superiors, and one of the people most often credited with the early success of the programme, probably the best example is when she introduced the Daleks, despite being specifically advised not to by Donald Wilson, head of serials. One of the great unanswered questions – would Doctor Who still be so well known forty-four years later had she done what she was told?
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.
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.
So there we have it, the hybrid Dalek is no more, ousted by the original Daleks who now regard it as impure. Those who were grumbling about why the Daleks created pig men when in previous stories they have created Robomen got their wish, with the ‘final experiment’ mentioned in the previous episode which I, like I guess most viewers assumed was the hybrid Dalek proving to be somewhat more extensive, with thousands of humans kept in stasis until a solar flare causes enough gamma radiation to merge human and Dalek DNA. Unfortunately the Doctor gets in the way, and what are produced are human/Dalek/Time Lord hybrids who won’t obey orders. Then of course at the end we have the customary escape scene with the last Dalek shifting away to give the opportunity for another Dalek encounter.
Although it was fairly predictable, it was none the less an entertaining episode – lots of chases including some funky Dalek shots as they chase the escaping Doctor through the sewers. We also get some aerial destruction as Daleks attack Hooverville. It also includes Solomon, one of the main characters from the first episode getting ruthlessly despatched. He tries to reason with the Daleks, saying that they are outcasts, just like the people in Hooverville, giving a grand stirring speech. There is a pause, just long enough for you to think that maybe they will agree, before the reply comes, and Solomon is dead. The rapidly changing hybrid Dalek, still in charge at this point steps in and saves the Doctor, but that action leads to the other Daleks questioning his position even further, before ultimately they push him aside.
So, whilst it was good to see a scheming Dalek plot-line, perhaps it is time to give the Daleks. Although the title of the episode was Evolution of the Daleks, perhaps there needs to be some evolution of the plot-lines to do something original with the creatures from Skaro before they next appear…
Incidentally, I mentioned in my posting last week that none of the actors got a trip across the pond – whilst the producer Phil Collinson joined the special effects team when they were putting together background shots. Doctor Who Confidential featured the filming of the actors for the Statue of Liberty scenes – in the car park of Penarth Leisure Centre. During a piece interviewing Phil Collinson, where the sequence is doing some self-congratulation about having found a suitable bit of wall that matches, David Tennant comes over to grumble about the fact that the producer, and even the Doctor Who Confidential crew got a trip across the pond, but he didn’t. Probably fair as even in the cash strapped days of the old series Tom Baker got a trip to Paris, and Peter Davison was taken to Lanzarote. I guess he thought that if they could afford to send the producer, they could have done a few shots of their star in front of New York sights!
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.
Doomsday, the final episode of the series of Doctor Who, which was broadcast on the BBC last night was very much an episode of two halves. On the one side you have the big battle of the enemies, with the Daleks and Cybermen doing battle, the Cybermen looking to conquer the Earth, and the Daleks very much focused on their own mission to activate the Genesis Ark. Alongside this we have the much more personal stories of the Doctor and Rose, and also the Tyler family who thanks to a bit of jumping between parallel worlds, are finally brought back together.
As to the discussion as to whether the episode could live up to the hype, I think it did. If you look back to the discussion in the comments following my posting last week, you’ll see that there were a number of theories based around whether the death of Rose would be metaphorical. Russell T did play with the audience somewhat, in the way that as he has done before he tries to get Rose to a place of safety, but she comes back to help, and then she is saved from death just in the nick of time, but in such a way that she can never get back to the Doctor. Interestingly in the Doctor Who Confidential following the episode Russell T confirmed that they never considered actually killing the character. In a comment that certainly reveals some of the ethos behind the current series he stated that he wants the series to be about hope, and that killing a popular companion would not fit with that. However he then went on to describe their difficulty in finding a way to split the Doctor and Rose, as it would have been totally out of character for Rose to leave willingly. Certainly it is at this point that you realise quite how much work has been put in to getting all the Tyler loose ends tied up nicely, even down to the fact that the parallel Jackie Tyler and Mickey are put out of the picture ready to provide a nice happy end to the whole Tyler story-lines. Indeed the moment when Jackie finally meets Pete definitely raised a smile around here.
In terms of the Dalek and Cybermen story-line, this gave us quite a bit of action, with Cybermen taking on human soldiers, and later the Daleks taking on the Cybermen. There were also, as Beth commented, some pretty catty lines from the Daleks at times, probably considered unnecessary by a number in the fan community I would guess. One good thing was that there wasn’t the Dalek/Cyberman team up. The moment when the Cybermen offer an alliance in the trailer actually occurs when the Cybermen realise that they cannot match up to the firepower of four Daleks – indeed the comment is made that they couldn’t survive the firepower of just one – and offer an alliance. The Daleks turn it down point blank, and continue with their mission to activate the Genesis Ark, which turns out to be a Time Lord prison ship holding millions of Daleks. After this, the Daleks and Cybermen are swiftly dealt with thanks to the rift, with the Doctor setting things up so the two armies are sucked out of this dimension. Needless to say, the tradition of leaving things open for a rematch is maintained, with the Black Dalek escaping just in the nick of time.
This then leaves a good chunk of the episode to tie up the Rose story-line. At the height of the battle, Rose has fallen towards the rift that is sucking the Daleks and Cybermen out, but is at the last moment saved by Pete, who appears from the parallel world one last time and takes her back. A split second later the rift is closed and she cannot get back.
After this we find out why Rose is stood on a beach at the opening of the episode – she has heard the Doctor’s voice calling, and this is where he appears to say his good-bye. In typical Doctor fashion it is actually a beach in Norway, rather than the UK, resulting in the Tylers going running across Europe. But the Doctor says that he has enough power to send this last communication, and Rose declares her love for the Doctor, but the transmission ends with the Doctor in mid-sentence of his reply.
Having said that, we immediately are straight in to the set-up for the Christmas episode, with barely a pause for breath, as the Doctor looks up from the console to find a bride (played by Catherine Tate) stood in the console room. Bearing in mind that the TARDIS is millions of miles from Earth at this point, in orbit of a super nova to power the transmission, it will certainly be interesting to find out how she got there – only about 170 days to wait!
So after two episodes which were to a large extent filler, last night we got the first of the two part finale to series 2 of the new Doctor Who. If, like my brother in law youâ€™re reading this having not seen the episode, Iâ€™ll urge you to stop now, as a little further down Iâ€™ll get into a discussion about next weeks episode that gives out the big part of the end of this episode. I have to say that I did spot the clue to what it was last week, but when I watched Army of Ghosts for the first time Iâ€™d actually forgotten, and was definitely an edge of the seat moment when it happened!
You could certainly see where the budget had gone this week. The opening sequence was actually a voice-over from Rose, firstly talking about her boring life before she met the Doctor, then you get a quick flashback to her meeting with the Ninth Doctor, before some new footage of Rose and the Doctor, including a really impressive composite shot looking down on the two of them stood outside the TARDIS on an obviously alien planet, surrounded by mountains, with strange winged creatures flying around. Sadly that was the last we saw of that planet, as we then get a very subdued looking Rose stood on a beach, with the voice over talking about the Army of Ghosts, a war, and this being where she â€˜diedâ€™.
At this point, some may be wondering why Iâ€™ve put died in quote marks, when it has been pretty widely leaked that Rose is to be killed off in the next episode. The reason is that it struck me when watching the episode again, that it trailing it so obviously at the beginning of this episode implies that her death may not be quite as people are expecting. Bear in mind that Billie Piper at one point this year confirmed that she was coming back next year â€“ so maybe her death is actually going to be metaphorical. Perhaps something happens next episode that changes her opinion of the Doctor so much that she is heartbroken, and unable to continue travelling with the Doctor. This then explains the standing on the beach scene, the fact that it is Rose doing the voice over in the past tense, that she is still alive to tell the story, rather than speaking from beyond the grave. Of course that would also have given her the opportunity to have come back for a third season if she had wanted. Anyway, weâ€™ll have to wait and see until next week, as there is nothing this week to indicate one way or the other how her characterâ€™s story will be resolved.
After the credits, weâ€™re a long way from the strange alien planet, as weâ€™re back in contemporary London, with Rose returning home with her dirty washing (obviously no washing machines in the TARDIS) so we get a little bit of domestic stuff to introduce the ghosts of the title.
The ghosts have apparently been appearing, quite harmlessly for a number of weeks, with Jackie believing that hers is the ghost of her dead father. The Doctor flicks through the channels on the TV, determining that it is a global phenomenon. This also gives an opportunity for the Barbara Windsor cameo, as in a nod to the ex-Eastenders actors in the cast for this weeks episode, particularly Tracey-Ann Oberman, who played Chrissy Watts, the Doctor flicks over to an episode of Eastenders with Peggy Mitchell demanding that the ghost of Den Watts, who of course Chrissy killed off in Eastenders, leaves her pub. Certainly for those fans who were having nightmare visions of the Doctor walking into the Queen Vic or something, it was probably at most an annoying interlude, and certainly the Doctor and Jackie exchange afterwards raised a giggle here.
Anyway, the Doctor of course is sceptical, and realises that these are something leaking through from a parallel world, and sets about trapping one of the ghosts to track down the source of the dimensional disturbance. Having located the source, he takes the TARDIS, with Jackie an unwitting passenger, to try and find out what has been going on.
The source is in fact Torchwood, the organisation set up by Queen Victoria back in Tooth and Claw, and one of whose purposes is to protect the British Empire from the Doctor. However, they also have a mystery that they realise that the Doctor is the only person who can help them to solve. This leaves the Doctor in a slightly odd position, in that he is effectively a prisoner, but at the same time being treated well. This gets to the point where he asks at one point â€œAm I a prisoner?â€? â€“ â€œOh yes!â€? comes the matter of fact reply.
The mystery is a large sphere, which although it is visible, can not be detected by any sensors. It is giving off no heat, no radiation, nothing. It seems that it is this that is partially responsible for the Army of Ghosts. The sphere came through a rift, high above London, resulting in Torchwood building a giant tower (Canary Wharf in London) to reach the rift. In the basement is the sphere, with Torchwood scientists trying to find out what it is. However Torchwood have discovered that the rift is also a source of energy, and are experimenting, trying to harness the energy of the rift to generate power for the UK. The Doctor identifies the Sphere as being a void ship, a ship that could travel between universes. However he urges Torchwood to send it back through the rift and not to open it.
It transpires that as a side effect of the Torchwood experiments over the past couple of months, ghosts have started to appear whenever the rift is opened. It quickly becomes clear to the Doctor that the ghosts are not as benign as everybody thinks especially as even when the order is given to stop one of the experiments some of the staff carries on regardless. After this he quickly discovers that it is the parallel universe Cybermen that he first met earlier in the series who are using the rift to invade parallel worlds, and that the millions of ghosts that appear are in fact millions of Cybermen. The Cybermen succeed in completing the transfer, providing an almost instant victory without even a shot being fired.
However, then comes the twist. As the transfer reaches full power, suddenly the inert sphere becomes active, with Rose, a Torchwood scientist, and Mickey â€“ who has followed the Cybermen through the rift â€“ trapped in the same room. The Doctor realises that the Cybermen do not have the technology to create the sphere. This is confirmed by the Cyber-Leader, who says that they do not know the source of the sphere, but have merely followed in its wake. So with Mickey and Rose expecting something Cyberman like to step forth from the sphere, it is a bit of a shock when something else, but just as familiar comes out of the opening sphere â€“ a group of Daleks, including our first sight in the new series of a black Dalek.
Although this probably comes as a surprise to many non-fans, this is the first time in the TV series that the two monsters have appeared together on screen. However from the glimpses of next weeks episode, they certainly arenâ€™t working together. In amongst the shots of Cybermen and Daleks fighting each other, we get tantalising hints as to what is going on. Whilst the Cybermen are intent on world domination, the small group of Daleks are up to something else. In one of the clips we see them moving a large container, which gets referred to as â€˜the Genesis Arkâ€™, possibly an attempt to resurrect the Daleks wiped from the universe at the end of the last series? Of course if the Daleks have survived outside space and time, maybe that gives hope to the Doctor that his people, the Timelords have survived too.
So how was the episode? All in all I thought it was pretty good. Torchwood wasnâ€™t overly impressive, partly because aside from Tracey-Ann Obermans somewhat annoying character, most of the other Torchwood staff were fairly swiftly taken over by the Cybermen, Torchwood mainly being there as a vehicle to bring the Daleks and Cybermen together ready for Doomsday next week. Certainly it does leave quite a lot to be sorted out next week, and with the confirmed departure of one major character, some really big questions over who is going to be left by the end of the series. Indeed the only confirmed person remaining is David Tennant himself!
Incidentally, did anyone else spot the Mac laptop in the episode? For some strange reason the IBM desktops in use, still had prominent IBM logoâ€™s visible, however the Mac laptop had a Torchwood logo slapped over the top of the Apple logo on the lid â€“ very strange.