Tag: Doctor Who

Chairmen of the Voord – Four Writers, One of Doctor Who’s Oldest Monsters

Chairmen of the Voord Doctor Who

We don our flippers and take a swim with the curious monsters of the early 1960s that, though intended to be the new Daleks never to return to the television, but whose enigmatic appearance proved fertile ground for writers and creators in other media…

11 April 1964 and the fifth serial of Doctor Who screened on the BBC. Fans that the show had scooped up since its arrival the previous November had no idea that the 21st episode of the series, The Sea of Death, would originate an element that would become a recurring component of the show: the quest-based story arc, famously employed for a whole season with The Key to Time in the late 1970s and the Fifth Doctor’s tussle with the Black Guardian a half decade after that. It would also form form a simple, exciting framework for stories as diverse as The Chase, The Daleks’ Master Plan (1965) and The Infinite Quest (2007). Ideal for the show when it was in a tight spot. A simple story was enhanced by diverse mini-adventures, but the weight of those smaller stories was also bolstered by a light if compelling backbone. While the the concept would remain with the show, pioneered by the writer of The Sea of Death, the monsters of the piece wouldn’t be so lucky.

The Voord, the Milk Tray Men of Doctor Who, would never reappear on screen to attempt a chocolate delivery again.

Flipping stand ins

When rewrites of Malcolm Hulke’s Dr Who and the Hidden Planet pushed it out of the production schedule, script editor David Whitaker turned to Terry Nation, the writer who’d propelled the show into popular consciousness with its second serial, The Daleks, and was already lined up for its eighth. Confronted with a narrow window to write it, Nation was drawn to the idea of a quest and he and Whitaker settled on a light arc that would take the TARDIS crew to a number of varied settings. From the interior of the first two episodes the travellers would encounter a vast city, a courtroom, a jungle and arctic terrain. Linked to the overarching acr and waiting for them on the sea world of Marinus were the villainous Voord. Few were happy with how these monsters turned out. Carole Ann Ford, who thought the script took Susan’s character back to school, director John Gorrie who had eyes on boosting his career which allowed him to overlook issues with the speedily produced script, the audience and critics who gave it a mixed result – none were too impressed. But few could have been more disappointed than the Voord themselves.

As was customary, Terry Nation added very little description for the creatures to his script, so designer Daphne Dare used vulcanised rubber from prop builders Jack and John Lovell to sculpt heads of the monsters that sat atop a customised rubber wetsuit. Three costumes came in at under £70 which must have pleased the production. And while impractical and rather silly, their enigmatic and strangely effective appearance would provide ample opportunities to expand on the creations. Although, the reception of The Keys of Marinus put pay to them appearing on screen again.

Merchandise

Dalekmania had caught many off guard, while ensuring Doctor Who’s survival. The Pepperpots that had famously contravened show creator Sydney Newman’s “no bug-eyed monsters” rule had surfaced from nowhere and joined Beatlemania in setting a tone for early 60s Britain and ensuring a quick return. Hopes were high for a successor, but of the long line of pretenders who never reached that, the Voord were the first to fail. They got the merchandising deals and exposure, made it into the comic strips and even made their way to Amicus, who snapped up the rights to The Keys of Marinus along with the early Dalek serials. Neither the Keys nor the Voord made it to the big screen or back to the small. Though it’s important to note that Peter Stenson would later contribute his experiences of portraying a Voord in 1964 for a leather fetish magazine.

The Voord found a new, if not huge life in the show’s expanded universe, beyond the pages of fetish magazines. Let’s take a shifty through four of the interpretations of the Voord from four big names: Terry Nation, Grant Morrison, Andrew Smith and Paul Cornell.

Terry Nation – The Keys of Marinus (1964), BBC

The One Where:  They’re the new Daleks

“Choice? What choice?”

Doctor Who Voord - The Keys of MarinusThe Sea of Death is an ominous episode title and setting. The locale of the island of glass that the episode pores over at the start could come right from of the final act of Rogue One, the prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy that would bring its black suited, black-hearted antagonist back to science fiction almost 50 years later.

Flipper first, the dark and menacing Voord appear on this silent island, emerging from their craft backed by the flute flourish of Norman Kay’s score. A tidal pool, acid water – it’s a beautiful, idyllic locale with a dangerous undercurrent – a Nation set-up familiar from his Dalek story lines. The Voord’s mysterious arrival adds to the unease. Even as they stumble across crafts and structures that should be quite evident, they carry mystery with them. Chiefly, it’s an inexplicable assault. Continue reading “Chairmen of the Voord – Four Writers, One of Doctor Who’s Oldest Monsters”

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The Curse of Fatal Death at 20 – Setting up the Moffat era in 20 moves

Doctor Who The Curse of Fatal Death at 20

Doctor Who The Curse of Fatal Death at 20

Can it really be 10 Comic Reliefs since Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death? The sketch showpiece of the 1999 fundraiser that amused, reminded and affected 10 years after the classic series ended. A further 20 years on, it’s proved to be more than a novelty.

It told us pretty much all we needed to know about writer Steven Moffat’s time in charge of Doctor Who

“Die Doctor, Die!”

WHEN STEVEN MOFFAT TOOK ON SCRIBING A 20 MINUTE SKIT FOR CHARITY IN THE LATE ‘90S, HE NO DOUBT HAD ONE THOUGHT ON HIS MIND: THIS IS THE ONLY SHOT I’LL EVER GET AT WRITING DOCTOR WHO. Who cared if it was a short, standalone, or defiantly comedic… It was Doctor Who! A decade before he was asked it had limped to a ignobly-funded, underwatched end on BBC One. Three years before, it had failed to spark on an American network.

It wasn’t coming back anytime soon, right?

Of course, Who would return six years to the month after The Curse of Fatal Death’s broadcast. Triumphantly so, and with Moffat among its writers. Twenty years on from broadcast, Moffat stands as the most prolific writer of on-screen Doctor Who, contributing to 12 years of the rebooted show and steering seven of those, arguably providing the greatest single influence in its history – new villains, monsters, ideas, humour and… Head scratching. Perhaps then, it’s not surprising that a microcosm of those 12 years is found in the third of an hour broadcast on a  Friday night in March 1999.

“936 years in a sewer”

If you wrote a concise summary of the show under his guidance, you’d struggle to beat The Curse of Fatal Death, the last action Doctor Who realised in the twentieth century. In that unmissable chance, Moffat packs in not just great and knowing witticisms, but everything he loved about the show. He’d achieve a similar – although more serious feat – in 2010 with The Eleventh Hour – the regeneration story that had been running around his mind for decades. But with the astutely named Fatal Death, it was a punchy jab at respecting the past and predicting the future, telling us far more about what Moffat would do with the series proper than seems possible. Here we count an absurd 20 of them…

“Say hello to the spikes of doom”

1. A sense of humour

Fatal Death is a parody of Doctor Who, yes, but it’s a knowing one, written by someone who knew the show inside out. All those ‘knows’ mean someone who, er, knows the show is above parody. There was no continuing television franchise to scupper, no threat to be undermined or seriousness to break. There was just nostalgia for a show that had inherent comedy and was supported by huge goodwill. That’s what three or so decades will do for you.

Still, it runs a fine line, wringing comedy out of the thin plot at speed, rather than stapling plot onto comedy. The beats are all there, even the middle cliffhanger that stars a wonderfully obvious set of flashing toy Daleks.

The 50-odd episodes Moffat has penned for the show since its return retained that fine line of comedy and drama, as well as a willful mischievous with continuity. Moffat stories were happy to contradict each other and canon if it made for a better story (remind us, is regeneration more like death or a cold?), sometimes for a joke, sometimes in smart scripting that undermined a scene or character. It wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but overall Moffat balanced comedic and scary highs during his time. Perhaps we should count ourselves lucky that he had got lines like, “It will be the deadly vengeance… Of deadly revenge!” out of his system.

The name itself is a preposterous, hifalutin parody that played on people’s memory. But it’s also a tribute to the show’s high point and a bona fide franchise legend. 1976’s The Deadly Assassin got there earlier, from the pen of legendary Who writer Robert Holmes. Moffat’s script was always witty, something played on by his actors. Comedy an essential part of the show – Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith is among one of the greatest comedic actors to have taken the role and Capaldi wasn’t bad bad either!

But in Fatal Death, he had some comedy greats to delivery lines with exquisite timing. There’s barely a zinger that goes wasted in a skit with a higher joke scatter fire than many other Comic Relief sketches, astonishing considering how broad many are. Crucial to its success is the way Rowan Atkinson and Julia Swahala play everything wonderfully straight.

2. The timey-wimey

It’s a show about time travel  – that’s a phrase Moffat batted back to interviewers a lot during his early days as showrunner. Sure, the classic series had hardly let up on that, but seldom over-played the concept within serials (City of Death, The Time Monster, Day of the Daleks were key serials that did). Moffat’s era would play fast and loose between stories, in stories, and use it as a central plot propellent that created headaches the size of Professor River Song’s temporal footprint along the way. Fatal Death is probably only matched in its time-trickery-per-minute ratio by Moffat’s stunning contribution to Series 2, Blink.

3. Temporal paradox

It’s a big point, so we’ll take it a step further. It’s what some may call the meat and bones of the Moffat era. With the line, “You forgot I too have a TARDIS” we have the schematic for cheating all manner of mysteries around death and imprisonment during the Moffat years.

4. The Master Distortion

Series 3, Russell T Davies had freshened up the Master, returning Doctor and his foe to the Sherlock and Moriarty dynamic last seen at his arrival in the early-1970s. Moffat developed that further, finally bringing a redemptive female version to see off the Twelfth Doctor.

The friend and foe dynamic emerged as familiarity breeding contempt in 1999. The Master is a humiliated figure, always outfoxed, destined to fail, often insecure. Fatal Death’s version, is ramped up in wonderfully desperate fashion by Jonathan Pryce. While Fatal Death brought back the eternal loser, it also reminded us of how closely the character’s tied to his Time Lord foe. See how upset he is with the idea of the Doctor retiring – surely on many levels. The villain was ready to take a more prominent role than the 1980s or 1990s had allowed him, even if Moffat’s era could never agree on who the Doctor’s greatest foe is, or achieve quite the happy ending Fatal Death did.

That ending is a tiny bit The Doctor Falls though, isn’t it? Only with less death and deception.

5. Dalek cameo

Those were the days: When Daleks were a given in any Doctor Who. This time, brought in by the Master in a rather neat flip of the fingers to the events of 1996’s TV movie. They tick boxes (an overpowering cliffhanger and dramatic entrance) but struggle to ratchet up the threat level. They would continue to be similarly untroubling during Moffat’s tenure – a bit of a failing after Russell T Davies brought them back to planet-stomping glory.

The Moff would develop Dalek Technology with a fervour of the 1960s creators. “Augmented by superior Dalek technology” in Fatal Death emerges as a wonderful hand plunger and comedy bumps.

The Pepperpots do provide the cliffhanger as a lovely fleet of toy Daleks. While Moffat’s been known to question the repeat of the last few minutes of the previous episode during the classic era, the two-part version of Fatal Death is Doctor Who’s first summary – such a ‘90s conceit, and brilliantly reduced to the Master continually falling into the sewer system

6. A female Doctor

It was in Fatal Death – notably pre-social media – that we saw the first female Doctor. Up until that point, the idea had been restricted to sensational tabloid rumours (and possibly the odd mischievous office leak). As such, it was more a glorious in-joke than anything else. The Doctor’s rapid regenerations cycled through a tabloid’s dream list before the Lumley-Lord gave us the punch-line.

The Davies’ era may have played around with gender, but it was under Moffat that the true seeds of a female Doctor were set. That’s when we saw Time Lords change gender during regeneration, although he missed his shot to make the show’s definitive change himself.

7. The female companion

Oh, you’d be hard pushed to forget female companions in the TARDIS console room during the Classic Series’ 26 years. But memories of the Doctor and single female companion always exceed the reality of a busier Type 40  – thanks to icons like Leela, Sarah-Jane and the final companion of the era, Ace.

Moffat always professed to be a fan of the fuller TARDIS and certain stories depended on it during his era (River Song would have struggled to come into existence), but both his Doctors were defined by singular female companions  – Amy for the Eleventh and Clara for the Twelfth. They were so important, each appeared at their respective Doctor’s death.

On top of the succession of brilliant solo companions who’d travelled with Davies’ Ninth and Tenth Doctors, Moffat’s decision to go that extra mile and put them in a relationship in Fatal Death was a bit of a tawdry joke has only gained credence over the last two decades. Still, Julia Sawalha, inheriting the mantle in less enlightened times, shines in her naive ‘60s stylings.

8. Being reverential

Parody can’t work without reference, and as much as Moffat stove to create new monsters, mythology and time loops, his was the most reverential of all. Davies had eased into the show’s rich mythology, taking the subtle but satisfying route of the odd Macra or introducing the Doctor’s main foes in their original chronological order. But the Moffat era was happy to head back to the very beginning, and change our perception of the Doctor on Gallifrey.

9. The casting

Yes, that succession of dream Doctors is both a joke and curse.

Casting would be never more scrutinised than during the Moffat era, as names like Hugh Grant became strangely more possible as the gap between small and big screen lessened. Richard E.Grant, two decades on an Oscar nominee, would play the alternative Ninth Doctor in the anniversary webcast Scream of the Shalka (2003). The television revival would sadly wipe that from canon, although many elements (the TARDIS-bound Master particularly) would be echoed – quite rightly, as they were great ideas. Incidentally Shalka was written by Paul Cornell, who brought Moffat closest to Virgin’s New Adventures range, including him as a character in his original Human Nature.

10. The Planet Terserus

It’s an ominous planet, signalling destiny for the Doctor. It may be condensed parody, but it sure has a feel of Trenzalore, the planet that promised the end of the Doctor’s Eleventh incarnation in Series Seven, and delivered it in Time of the Doctor.

The inverted pyramid left by the doomed Tersurons population couldn’t help but remind us of the  pyramids that would help morph the Twelfth Doctor into an odd and unnecessary hybrid of Dracula and Sherlock during his final series (The Lie of the Land), but that’s more personal disgust.

In fact, Tersurus has a long and distinguished history in the wider Doctor Who universe of books, comics and audio, tying back to the plight of the worse for wear Master in none other than The Deadly Assassin. Even that incarnation, bug-eyed but menacing in 1976, didn’t fall in the sewer.

Moffat Davies New Doctor Who

11. TARDIS tampering

The Master’s TARDIS, cosy, and a lovely shade of green, is strobed by lightning when its owner cackles. He needs to get those lights fixed – much like the Eleventh Doctor who really should have looked into the “Silence will Fall” presence that cracked his TARDIS console screen at the conclusion of Series Five. Perhaps he never knew…

12. An alien twist

The Terserons unusual communication is pivotal to Fatal Death’s plot, but it would be Davies who brought bodily functions into canon for some light relief six years later (Aliens of London). The way Moffat took the effort to tie this into the resolution (Chekov’s – oh, never mind), and his predilection to search out imaginative hooks for his alien species does stick out.

13. Ageing fast

Again, this is nothing new in Doctor Who. Alister Pearson’s spectacular rendition of an aged Fourth Doctor on the paperback of The Leisure Hive sticks in the mind. But seldom has the lengthened time span and enduring patience of a Time Lord been been clearer than in Fatal Death. This would be taken to the extreme near the close of both the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor eras.

14. Legend of the Doctor

“I recently calculated that I have saved every planet in the known universe a minimum of 27 times” says the Doctor in Fatal Death, a prologue to announcing his retirement.

During his Eleventh Doctor run, Moffat would blow up this legend, before removing it entirely as that incarnation wiped himself from universal history. In Nightmare in Silver (2013), Neil Gaiman would gleefully rip that concept for pieces (You’d just have to look for the gaps). Coincidentally, he never wrote for the show again.

15. Cliffhanger

With three cliffhangers, Fatal Death almost rivals the whole of the Moffat run. We’re being facetious, but that may be true in terms of satisfyingly resolved ‘hangers. All-too-often, the Moffat era jumped them – even during the excellent opener of Series Six. That said, there was gold enough to wilt a Cyberman. The breaks that that met the end of The Empty Child and The Time of Angels are about as good as Doctor Who ever served up.  In Fatal Death, the first is a narrative follow-through, the second a leap to capture, the third the first ever regeneration cliffhanger. Not groundbreaking – but as the central one sets up a change of scene and tone for the special’s second half, there’s the hint that he saw differently to many other writers.

16. Starting the Mill

Founded in 1990, Post prod and visual effects company The Mill followed up work on 2000’s Gladiator with a huge contribution to the BBC’s fantasy output in the early 21st century. From the RTD-era title sequence to Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Merlin. They parted ways with Who in 2013 – mid-Moffat. Quite the shame when their first involvement with the show was providing special effects for Fatal Death.

17. Richard Curtis

Steven Moffat’s wife Sue Vertue produced Fatal Death, but he was invited to script it by Red Nose Day honcho Richard Curtis. 11 years later, Moffat would return the favour, with Curtis contributing the rather brilliant Vincent and the Doctor to 2010’s Series 5.

18. “I’ll explain later”

Less a judgement on exposition than explaining away some of the stranger parts of Who lore. It’s a joke that almost creates itself, Bad Wolf-style. That said, explanation would never be so relevant, or lacking, depending on your perspective, than during his time running the show.

19. “He was never cruel and never cowardly”

Well, goes without saying. Astonishingly it took until the 50th anniversary for this to become the shortened CV of the Doctor. Sod canon, you heard it here first people of the universe!

20. Retirement of the Doctor

Fed up with his tremendous success rate, this Doctor plans to “settle down and get married”.

Moffat’s Doctor slunk off more than once, in spite of companions’ best efforts to keep him in the game (most irritatingly in the middle of Series 7 when he didn’t pay any attention to what Amelia Pond told him). The impossible idea of the Doctor’s retirement was there at the start.

“Your mother’s going to get a surprise at the wedding”-  almost as though 2019’s Red Nose Day Four Weddings and a Funeral update was a 20th anniversary tribute to Fatal Death.

“Say Hello to the sofa of reasonable comfort”

Read more about Moffat’s time driving the TARDIS – starting with Five ways he set about remaking the Fifth Doctor era.

Doctor Who Series 10: The Final Verdict on the Twelfth Doctor’s Final Journey

Doctor Who Series 10 Joekrside Reviews

Doctor Who Series 10 Joekrside ReviewsIt’s a month since the Doctor fell. Jokerside took the final journey of the Twelfth Doctor head on with in-depth reviews of every episode. Here’s the digested series review…

THE TENTH SERIES OF DOCTOR WHO SWEPT THROUGH SPRING AND SUMMER LIKE MANY BEFORE, BUT THIS YEAR WAS TINGED WITH THE BITTERSWEET. Like the oily tears of a Cyberman or the salted pulp of a sewer Dalek, it was more bittersweet than most. There was the promise of a new companion, the co-opting of a mysterious, yet familiar, secondary companion, and then the demise of not just the Twelfth Doctor, but Missy too – a mark of just how significant the latest incarnation of the Master has become during this Doctor’s tenure. Or perhaps more pertinently: how significantly the show has spun towards strong and popular female characters since showrunner Steven Moffat’s first couple of series battled accusations of misogyny as much as the Children of Skaro. Central to that had to be Bill, undoubtedly one of the New Series‘ greatest companions.

While hopes were high for the Tenth Series, particular coming on the back of a still marginally inexplicable break and two weak, bordering, on torrid Christmas specials, the recent past posed its own challenge. The Twelfth Doctor’s first year, Series Eight, was crippled by a myopic investigation of the Doctor’s nature – and was rather morose as a result. To the point of ending in a rain-soaked graveyard. Series Nine was a blistering, two-parter packed adventure that flew past, hitting the spot more often than not, but was ultimately crippled by a failure to realise its long promised arc (Chekov’s Hybrid as we call it around here). So all too quickly, the Twelfth Doctor who promised so much, under the steer of the show’s most prolific writer, faced a final journey with an unnecessarily steep climb.

Following the final journey

Fortunately for everybody, Jokerside was there with a pen in hand to take on this final sequence. In-depth reviews of each episode broke down the running arcs, keeping a close eye on the Doctor, uncovering the everyday hooks that are essential to quality Who, and bolting on a Jokerside view askew.

Everyday hooks, a lifeblood of classic Doctor Who, ranged from the reflection that wasn’t quite right in The Pilot and the horrors of shared student accommodation in Knock Knock to hangovers truly getting worse with age in The Pyramid at the End of the World.

Our Jokerside reimaginings carried the flight of fancy from Smile as a remake of Red Dwarf’s Waiting for God, to the deep space perils of Oxygen as the Vashta Nerada chasing Moffat tropes around a space station for eternity, and repainted the rather torrid, mid-series Monk trilogy as an affable sitcom.

There was a distinct sense that this final Moffatt run took its chance to rework and reevaluate ideas plucked from his tenure as show-runner, to the point of veering to a Whisper Man, a Silent and an invading monk walking into a bar and taking a long, long time to order…

Completing the arc

But contrary as ever, perhaps the series greatest success was its arc. As a Norse and sea monster thread ran through the ninth year, a militaristic one through the eighth, the tenth series never wandered far from capitalism. At points, it was as sublime as it was illogical (Oxygen), but any power that came with its link to slavery early in the year were sadly frittered away by the time the last three episodes came around. It seemed that all the main series arc had to do was reach an end-point to beat Series Nine‘s. In fact, the vault arc was unbelievably vital. Jokerside may have guessed that the occupant was everyone from a Time Lord Watcher to a Spare Parts Cyberman. But by the time the astounding series finale came round, completing a series that had truly, really been all about friendship in general, and the Doctor and Missy’s in particular, it had effectively smashed through the idea of an arc. That arc had become the essence of the episodes itself, and ultimately showed itself, refreshingly, to be an utter failure.

Here’s our evaluation of every episode, with our contrary school-rating for each adventure. Stay to the end of the credits for our overall series score…

The Pilot

“Scared is good, scared is rational”

We said: “A seemingly effortless return to the essence of Doctor Who, although the shoe-horning of a safe science-fiction plot brought back as many bad habits as fantastically off the wall nods to the past. High successful and captivating box ticking, The Pilot is a great start. While deceptively morbid at moments, it’s mostly docked points for its return of a rather careless, destructive and unwarranted Doctor.”

Rating: B

Smile

“We’re in a utopia of vacuous teens”

We said: “Smile was more about reassurance than setting a new bar. At the heart there’s a concept too weak to maintain its early promise, and the slightest hint of a lack of confidence is carried in its pre-title sequence. It’s the perfect showcase for the increasingly impressive chemistry brewing in the TARDIS control room, and crucially it features a Bowie quote (“Hope you’re happy too…”). But the impression that there could have been so much more remains long after the ‘Next Time’ rolls. While Frank Cottrell Boyce’s first story for the series hid amidst the closing throes of a series, his latest is likely to remain hidden in the opening waves.”

Rating: C

Thin Ice

We said: “‘Despair, loneliness, a prisoner in chains’ — that’s the sorry centre of a glowing story. There’s an immensely Christmas vibe to Thin Ice, and that isn’t just found in the fair and frozen water below. It has the feel of a special. It tackles spectacle, contemporary issues and morality — from the ‘good guys’ constant five-fingered discounts, to the privileged discrimination and exploitation on the side of the bad. It’s quintessential Who, but that unfortunately also comes to bear on a (traditionally) undercooked aristo-villain. Still, 4th February 1814 done. Superbly done. From the show’s natural obsession with death to historical adventure, to ethics, to the challenges and changes of a time past. And all without the slightest mention of ‘Timey-Wimey’.”

Rating: A-

Knock Knock

“Mercy at last.”

We said: “It escapes the shadow of Blink, and its weirdly contrived student set up, but only just. Knock Knock leaves a veritable list of questions in its wake — or perhaps, whatever a collective noun for lists is. And that undermines a lot of its effective, atmospheric work, its guest cast, and costs it a rating. It’s saved by two impressively horrible scenes where being wooden is wholly jaw-dropping. But overall, while only mildly denting the quality of the current run of stories, and keeping the horror vein alive and twitching, it proves to be so much less than the sum of its parts. Here’s hoping that all who worked on it, return to fine-tune their next adventure.”

Rating: C-

Oxygen

“We’re fighting an algorithm”

We said: “But what an algorithm this series has hit. Oxygen’s based on a heavily layered idea, which requires a big explanation. But it rocks along in a claustrophobic, well-realised way that barely spares you time to question the logic of defining workers by breaths. Even if that aspect doesn’t quite cut the mustard, the heavy anti-capitalist sentiment is exactly what Doctor Who should be doing. Because: Why not?

Most astonishing, is that Oxygen cuts a sharp miserable and nihilistic note that reflects an emergent tone of the series. It’s “the end point of capitalism, the bottom line where human life has no value at all”. And the only good news is that having solved one minor battle, the damaged Doctor will lurk around for ”the human race (to) find a whole other mistake”. It’s bold stuff, and more than an exemplary example of the long-worn base under siege story. Its big win is providing a strong start and a true resolution. Like (Mathieson’s earlier) Mummy on the Orient Express, it takes those core issues that are simmering at the heart of the year and ties them up in a strong episode. Mathieson strikes again, elevating Moffat’s broad palette in a series that’s struggled to do the same so far.”

Rating: A-

Extremis

“Only in darkness are we revealed”

We said: “The Da Vinci Code, The Matrix, Harsh Realm, that time the cat next door jumped into your face twice… The construct of a false, AR world is well developed in popular culture and action science-fiction. But Extremis isn’t really about the concept as much as the set-up. For that reason, come the end it doesn’t quite feel that its heart is in it. In fact, it all hinges on an email, and that’s not quite enough to make up for the inner-misery and horrors the TARDIS crew are rather mean-spiritedly put through.

It’s a paradox, unfairly with the score and promise that comes with the arrival of a peak season three-parter, is that it seems wrong that the tenth series is kicking into gear with an episode so different from its predecessors. If it’s intended as a neater remake of the Eleventh Doctor’s arcs, Extremis is a great success. But let’s hope the real homage comes in the confirmation that this is all be part of something more. And I don’t quite mean AR.” Continue reading “Doctor Who Series 10: The Final Verdict on the Twelfth Doctor’s Final Journey”

Doctor Who: The Master through the decades – The New Series Compression Eliminated

The New Series Masters - 21st century

Bringing the Master’s journey up to the current day. For the past two years, Jokerside has tracked the Doctor’s arch-nemesis through time… Well, through the past five decades. From his suave arrival in the 1970s to her tussles with the Twelfth Doctor, Jokerside presents the summary… The 21st century: The Master throughout the New Series!

ARRIVING EIGHT YEARS INTO THE SHOW’S RUN, THE MASTER QUICKLY ESTABLISHED HIMSELF AT THE TOP TABLE OF DOCTOR WHO VILLAINS. The 18 years that followed saw mixed fortunes for the dastardly Time Lord, from volte faces to crispy husk, from zombie smarmy to a complete lack of priorities.

The suggestion remained however, that the foe would always return for the big moments. While the Daleks and Cybermen stole a spot in the show’s 25th anniversary season, it was the Master who backed the final story of the Classic Series. On many levels, brilliantly named Survival. Seven years later, it was the Master who took the role of antagonist in the Doctor’s short-lived foray into American television.

So surely it was a done deal that the show’s glorious return to British screens in 2005 was counting down to the greatest death-dodger’s next resurrection… It just took a couple of years. And when this Jokerside retrospective of the Master through the decades reached the 21st century, a few rules needed to be broken.

The schism caused by the Great Time War on screen and the machinations of the BBC behind it, led to two parallel glances for the first decade of the new century. The Who canon had split and the trail of the Master with it. Although it hadn’t appeared likely at the beginning of the decade, the 2000s would prove to be a pivotal decade for the despicable Time Lord. He was to take on three distinct forms, breaking out of his survivalist years with a bang, before plummeting back to them and helping to take out yet another of the Doctor’s incarnations on the way. And then things were really going to change.

But the confusion started, as Jokerside observed, with the villain’s demise at the close of the 1996 TV Movie, “an inescapable ‘curse of fatal’ type death, was subsequently picked up by two very different returns that resolved in two parallel universes. And of course, thanks to the ever-eccentric machinery of the BBC, they’re as co-dependent as they are incompatible. Yeah, and people wonder why fans are pre-occupied with canonicity… To make matters even more confusing, across the two realities there are some notable similarities to mull.”

So, let’s split the universe.

The Master in the 2000s – “Dear me, how tiresome” (A Tale of Two Jacobis)

Scream of the Shalka, online anniversary special (2003)

The Master in Scream of the Shalka and UtopiaNovember 2003 marked Doctor Who’s 40th anniversary, but there wasn’t to be much of a celebration or televised special as there had been around the show’s 10th, 20th or 30th birthdays. At least, not in the usual sense. Doctor Who was no longer a beast of television, but continued through an extended universe of audio plays, books official and unauthorised, comics, reprints, merchandise and in the of-their-time web pages of BBC Interactive.

The dream project of James Goss, then BBC producer now Who author, had to steer the production over rocky terrain to bring a new kind of special to dial-up internet across the world. Gs pulled a number of great decisions from the jaws of adversity, such as hiring Paul Cornell to pen the script. And Cornell’s take was no slavish continuation:

“Cornell crafted a classic and creepy tale in the Quatermass-mould, an innovative invasion that was in many ways a lighter precursor of the process Russell T Davies would undertake for the television reboot. It’s no surprise they came up with some similar solutions in the changed media landscape of the new century. Rightly ignoring regeneration, as Rose would, Shalka introduced a new Doctor with a notably sharper and fluctuating personality, coping with in-built angst as he struggled to shake off the grief of losing an unseen and un-named female companion. In this continuity, much to his chagrin and resentment he’s continually dispatched to problem areas by those unseen and unnamed… We can only assume that the Time Lords had a new PR team in.”

And alongside Richard E Grant’s new Doctor came was a refreshing if deceptively familiar Master in tow.

“In a series of short scenes, this Master cuts a memorable figure. Superbly voiced by Derek Jacobi, his is an incarnation very much in the Delgado mould. In many ways, this is Cornell’s love letter to that Master. But the trick here is that he’s never a major threat. As if he’s trapped in a time loop of the last few minutes of almost every one of the Delgado incarnation’s plots – forced into joining forces with the Doctor.”

Cornell managed the difficult feat of wringing classic menace and humour from the villain, enhanced by the flash-based but effective animation that often keeps, “this android Master’s silhouette in shadow amid stunningly shadowy imagery, as if to compound his mysterious constraint.” The links were never tied up, but there are clear assumptions to be drawn from this and his fate at the climax of the TV Movie. Best of all, it brought a ready-made new dynamic for the show’s leading Time Lords: Continue reading “Doctor Who: The Master through the decades – The New Series Compression Eliminated”

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