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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, â€œThis 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 â€œSir 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 â€œAre 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.
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…
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 â€œnu 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.
So hands up, who thought that they’d find some way to bring Kylie back to life by the end of Voyage of the Damned? There has been an opinion I’ve seen expressed a lot in fan circles, that killing off a companion didn’t fit in with the spirit of the new show – the prime example of that being the ultimate survival of Rose back in season 2. Although obviously Astrid wasn’t going to leave with the Doctor at the end of the special, I’m sure most people were expecting some sort of plot device that meant that she couldn’t go rather than her ending up as she did.
Anyway, aside from that, what did we think of this years festive outing? As we did last year we watched this up at my parents, and it generally seemed to go down pretty well as a Christmas crowd pleaser.
The opening cliff-hanger with the Titanic crashed through the TARDIS wall was quickly resolved with the Doctor flicking a few switches to get the wall to rebuild itself and to bring the time machine into the ship. From there the scene is set as the Doctor finds himself on an alien theme cruise, visiting present day Earth. Once that is established the story quickly shifts into classic disaster movie mode as the Captain deliberately crashes meteors into the ship in an attempt to destroy it. From here we have all the classic disaster movie characters – the ones who don’t make it, either through accidents on the way, or by bravely sacrificing themselves so the others can escape. The really easy option – the TARDIS – conveniently gets blown into space in the initial explosion, and then automatically lands itself on the Earth below.
The show also references the previous Christmas specials, with a deserted London as a result of the two preceding Christmases – with it seems only the Queen opting to stay. This produces one of the big moments that really they could only have got away with at Christmas, with the plunging spaceship heading straight for Buckingham Palace.
All in all it was a pretty entertaining episode, just right for the family to sit down with. There are some thrills and spills, a few laughs, and I’m sure the hankies came out in parts too. I’m sure it’s not going to win masses of awards for being massively original, but it was entertaining none the less.
But what was there for the fans? First up was the new arrangement of the theme tune, which on first listen through seemed an improvement over the previous version. There was also the other traditional aspect of the Christmas special, the trailer for the new season. I think as with last year it will take until the end of the season in the summer to work everything out, but we got glimpses of the return of the Sontarans, glimpses of both Donna and Martha (who also popped up in the Torchwood trailer they showed afterwards). Based on previous trailers I think we probably were only looking at footage from the first few episodes – but it as always whetted the appetite for when the series comes around again later in 2008.
First off, for those of you outside the UK, the special episode has been posted to YouTube – well at least until it gets taken down again!
So I’ve just watched our little November snippet of Doctor Who in the form of Time Crash, this years Children in Need special. Now it has to be said that in the annuls of Children in Need there have been some real stinkers in terms of Doctor Who crossovers – Dimensions in Time anyone? But as with the special two years ago, this one has been produced by the current Doctor Who and fits into the established continuity, in this case it sits in the cut shortly before the end of the last episode.
This time round the mini-episode is written by Steven Moffat, who in the course of the seven minutes provides some laughs – including a couple of jokes about the celery, the glasses, and Belgium – a plot that vaguely makes sense that fits in with it’s point in the series, and even explains how the Titanic can crash into the TARDIS – something that caused much discussion in fan circles earlier in the year. He also manages to come up with an plot explanation as to how Doctor number five looks twenty-five years older, plus chucks in a stack of back continuity for the fans too. From a long time fan point of view it was great, and a good few were probably wiping away a tear at the â€œyou were my Doctorâ€? line at the end.
Hopefully it was entertaining for the non-fans and the new fans too – and of course hopefully raises a goodly amount of money for Children in Need too. If anything it certainly cements Steven Moffat as the best of the new series writers in managing to pull it all off. Incidentally, you can also check out the special behind-the-scenes video as well, where you can see several of the current team drop into total fanboy mode…
“To days to come…”
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…
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.