The first retrospective of the new series finds the lonely Ninth Doctor on his short travels. In particular, a look at his complete adventures involving the new series first recurring villains. Bold and unforgettable maybe, but were they any good: The family Slitheen.
New-Whovember, the sequel to Whovember as Doctor Who Series Eight returns…
#9: The Return of the Returning Monster: Aliens of London, World War III and Boom Town
IT’S APRIL 2005 AND THE DOCTOR’S ADVENTURES HAD PROVED AN UPROARIOUS SUCCESS. Four episodes in, after visiting the past and far future with new companion Rose, he returns to London for the first time. We’d already learned about the Time War, the TARDIS, the Time Lords, met old rogues in the Autons and new villains in the Gelth. But now there was something more crucial. Episodes four and five formed a two-parter. The first two-parter of the New Series. This wasn’t just show runner Russell T Davies’ chance to create a feature film for Sunday afternoons (ahem, still not happened BBC…) but also the return of the one giant and so far missing Who staple… The Cliff-hanger. Continue reading “Doctor Who: Slitheen – The Green, the Good and the Ugly (Whovember #9)”
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A rather sad and unexpected first post in the #Who-ly series…. On the leaked Doctor Who Series 8 scripts and THAT question… Clue: It has to be a no. Why is that Doctor..?
“There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things, things which act against everything that we believe in. They must be fought. “ – The Moonbase
A QUICK POST WRITTEN IN ANGER WITH AN OLD ‘TOON – WISTFUL AS EVER AND THE SEVENTH TO BOOT. CRUCIALLY, PERHAPS HE WAS THE LAST DOCTOR IN A FULL, OR EVEN MINI-ADVENTURE, WHO DIDN’T HAVE TO ENDURE THIS… THE INTERNET.
There is absolutely no excuse…
Today saw the BBC apologise for the biggest lapse of ‘New Doctor Who’ era. Yes, more than that American DVD release last year, more than the premiere plot point reveals in 2011, more than any ill-thought out appearances by Graham Norton, deliberate or otherwise… This time the scripts of five episodes of the new series have been leaked to the masses. The BBC’s response was contrite regret. Mea culpa was all they could cry, kicking themselves with a giant and very public shoe.
It seems that in the sprawling growth of one of the Corporation’s big brands, it once again came a cropper of its own success, and the need of its constantly static/constantly beleaguered sole owner to wring the most from its own properties across the globe. The lapse lies with the BBC, the apology was correct, but yet again fans and television lovers alike are left with the same conundrum: Not ‘should the scripts be tracked down on the web?’ or not, but ‘how do we spend a good run in until late September avoiding spoilers?’
Because of course, there is absolutely no excuse to read the scripts.
A Poisoned Chalice
Wasn’t it worth it?
I have known BBC whistle-blowers I believe, heard of financial whistleblowers, but this is more destructive than revealing the Beeb’s idiosyncrasies. It’s all small-fry compared to the ongoing Yewtree investigation of course, and not to the detriment of that, I’ll keep matters closely defined to this intellectual property leak.
If it’s an act of love, it’s a misguided one, if it had good intentions, they laid down a path to The Satan Pit. Of course, once they’re out there, why not, eh..?
Well… It’s been almost two years since the last nominal series debuted, this is the most anticipated Doctor, and it’s a full five episodes. With a feature length opener that’s feasibly 250 minutes of storyline to complete the spectacle. Could there be a more anticipated time? Or to twist it around, a time when the storyline should remain the greatest kept Who surprise of all time?
Of course, that’s why these scripts should be avoided at all costs, who’d want to ruin that? Steven Moffat will no doubt be apoplectic once again. Let alone the craft, graft, the hard work, the perseverance to get these episodes to screen – from him and hundreds of others – it’s the effort in maintaining those secrets. Maintaining those secrets in a show where secrets are crucial.
Remember the look on Moffat’s face last 23rd November, utterly petrified before the world simulcast. I was lucky enough to ask him a question that day, the answer playfully batted back under the towering auspices of BBC PR. And then there was the relief that the faith in fans and press everyone else had kept those secrets. And then the telling truism: ‘wasn’t it worth it?’
Surely, after the events of last November’s secret operation it wasn’t overconfidence that led to this leak. But whatever the cause, what’s the excuse for reading those scripts that find themselves lost and cold in the public domain? Love? Starvation? Love and starvation of the show? Believe me, I along with many others believe this is a fundamental show, one that’s been a crucial part of this country’s make-up, played an active part in my existence as a person, an Englishman, a writer – it’s potentially morally affected me growing up as I’ve gone to some lengths to explain. I’m not alone. And that’s why there is no excuse.
Praise for the Beeb
She is unique.
I have railed against the BBC splitting episodes, splitting seasons, creating the illusion of continuity with specials and season breaks obscuring budget and other issues. All the while American networks, writer strikes aside have easily pushed out 13 episodes a year of genre TV, often 26. But then, this is the BBC. Very few broadcasters match them in scope and even then, with not nearly as many debilitating fronts of defence. For all the faults that come with the organisation, a civil service organisation despised by the ‘ruling’ party it is crucial to add, they are unique and a jewel not just in this country’s crown but the world’s. What the BBC represents is precious, as a Brit, and even – if incomprehensible to many – as a human in the 20th or 21st century. Of course there are bigger issues, crippling, destructive issues, for the BBC and humanity. There are many humans, and many billions more who will never know the name.
But she is unique.
And for all the effort she’d put into retaining a commodity she crafted by accident, she will never and should never give it up for want of all the baying capitalists who poke and prod.
Blame for the Geek
Anathema to what Doctor Who’s fundamentally about
Perhaps there’s something worse than the uncontrollable need to give into this temptation; the inevitable fan snidery that comes with it. There’s no science-fiction fan who shouldn’t feel that they could write and create better than the crafters of their favourite shows, novels and properties. That’s part of the deal. But go out there and do it. For all the friends I have who delve and snob between Wells, Asimov, Lem or Gibson to Trek, Who, V or goddamit even Andromeda, there will always be a tipping point where you can choose to give into this.
And often for unfortunate reasons I find. The arrogance and pseudo-intellectualism may be self-confessed. But why does it always seem to simply be so that you can pass judgement first? While, as in this case you may have a unique chance to see the script prior to premiere, I fail to see how that’s different from looking back at the well distributed scripts of past adventures, especially of the RTD era. To reach for what I pretentiously tried to call out to day as ‘Eliotian transformation’ seems anathema to what Doctor Who’s fundamentally about.
“I just hope that guy never watches my show again” – Steven Moffat, 2011
True, it’s spun across the time vortex, using literature, scripts and journalism as its iron lung at points, but it’s no Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. There, one-time Doctor Who script editor Douglas Adams created a different copy for radio, television, book and by proxy film. Doctor Who is, and ever was an immovably televisual phenomenon. It should be watched and judged first and primarily on the small screen. I think that’s fundamental. Quick, responsive unpretentious. Reading filming scripts just doesn’t count. And to read those scripts seems mean and self-satisfying at the very least.
Not that I’ve ever resisted turning a novel a few pages further on, but I’ve never jumped to the final page. This script leak for me is not about recapturing that band at a point before they’re mainstream. The ‘I knew them’ first and ‘I’ll know this first’ culture is the entropy of fandom as I see it. Or as Moffat rather pointedly summed up ‘slighter’ plot leaks in 2011:
“It’s heartbreaking in a way because you’re trying to tell stories, and stories depend on surprise. Stories depend on shocking people. Stories are the moments that you didn’t see coming, that are what live in you and burn in you forever. If you are denied those, it’s vandalism. So to have some twit who came to a press launch, write up a story in the worst, most ham-fisted English you can imagine, and put it on the internet, I just hope that guy never watches my show again, because that’s a horrific thing to do.”
And true, what a shame it is. For all the bile poured at the BBC for letting paying customers in America see footage of the 50th anniversary special last year, before us ‘license fee payers’, BBC One has uncharacteristically set down a near-two month campaign of promotion. This leak is no publicity stunt, for a few it is really heartbreaking.
“In years to come, you might find yourself revisiting a few. But just the old favourites, eh?” – The Great Curator, The Day of the Doctor, 2013
For context: This year is the 40th anniversary of Tom Baker. The greatest Doctor (certified once again in Doctor Who magazine #474), now the curator infinitum. For all the years I’ve been a fan, for all the chance I’ve had, I’ve put myself in the position of never seeing two Baker stories. Two left: one that’s gleefully ridiculed, the other an apparent bona fide classic. I’ll have to reserve judgement as that classic, though it’s sat on my shelf for a great while, will not be watched until the 40th anniversary of Robot comes around. To find out what that is, tune in this December – if you can wait. I can’t mention it, because obviously someone will feel fit to rather pointlessly spoil it.
Being a fan isn’t about gorging, even with content 30, 40 or 50 years old. It’s hard to choose a quote about moderation, there are so many. But “Moderation is the silken string running through the pearl-chain of all virtues” works as good as any.
Try it, the benefit’s there. It really is.
In paraphrasing Robert Louis Stevenson in The Sensorites, perhaps the Doctor’s Granddaughter summed it up best:
“Isn’t it a better thing to travel hopefully than arrive?”
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Nine of the Ninth Doctor’s best moments on the ninth anniversary of his arrival… Yes, the anniversary was on Wednesday the 26th, but new Doctor Who’s all about Saturdays, just as it should be…
IT SEEMS LIKE JUST A FEW DAYS SINCE THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON’S CASTING AS THE DOCTOR… AND IT WAS. And sure as that Type-40 TARDIS is still stuck as a Police Box, just over a year later he made his first appearance on prime time BBC1. The build-up was lovely if a little understated, fuelling long-term and fair weather fans alike as they grasped for snippets of the theme song and story hints as this new leather jacketed character leapt around shouting “Do you want to come with me?” “We already are” we might have all shouted in unison if we weren’t asking “When the hell are you going to start?” instead.
It was unclear then (though it never should have been) how or if this Doctor would fit in. Would it really be the same Doctor, linking directly to the classic series? Would some elements change? Would the show be rebooted, chucking off millions of hours, pages, CDs, strips of continuity..? Sure enough, was screened on 26th March 2005. And it didn’t really answer any of those questions. True to the classic series, we’d have to wait…
So as after respite from last November’s Whovember, what better time to get back on that British wagon train to the stars: The Ninth Doctor’s top nine.
Astonishingly not all of these are from The Parting of the Ways, still I consider, by way of massive hint, the new series finest hour.
9. Rose – “Run”
A rare remake
A great entrance, and no doubt something showrunner Russell T Davies had thought about at length. Like his successor, current showrunner Steven Moffat, Davies must have toiled over this for years. It was crucial that this Doctor stepped out of his Police Box just as fully-formed (yet mysterious) as he had when he emerged in the fog of Totter’s Lane in 1963. Here the scrap yard was replaced with a department store, the granddaughter replaced with a, frustrated but ambitious London teenager.
And the story, brilliantly, was lightly drawn from Classic Who’s greatest writer Robert Holmes. Yes, he created The Sontarans, much of the Time Lords, the Master… But the Auton mannequins sat motionless on the high street, the personification of Hitchcockian suspense… Until they surprise a Bobby… Were one of his best. Here they make for a rare remake for the series (only bested in content by the underwhelming Silurian debut) and why not? A strong build-up of tension (broken only by Graham Norton) and then that hand in the dark…
8. The End of the World – “I’m a Time Lord, the last of the Time Lords”
And then off for chips
I pondered that Time Lord moment, but in the context of the show nine years and seven seasons on, it sticks out a mile. The show’s all about the Time Lord, but not the super Time Lord.
In Rose, you may strain to hear the dying Nestene Consciousness scream “Time Lord”… But here he said it.
Yes, the moment from that second episode has to be executive producer Julie Gardner’s favourite. That speech to Rose, that confession… Those keywords checked off in the midst of commuters all unaware how this figure had saved them, their descendants, their ancestors many, many times… And then off for chips. ”You think it will last forever…” It’s another moment that Moffat impressively managed to expand during the anniversary. Back then he was the impossible alien. Now he was discovered. It was the concept that the show would be built on…
7. Bad Wolf – “Would the Doctor please come to the Diary Room”
A light start to a pivotal episode
Popular Culture can’t ignore itself. This light parody checked all the boxes, managing to involve Davina but not aping the reality behemoth too exactly or too much (see the disappointing Dead Set for that). Davies, quite rightly a long-term fan of Big Brother had hinted at some kind of Who/Big Brother parody for some time. But here it was a light and familiar start to pivotal episode.
For Big Brother critics it was a particularly dicey move, but nine years on while Trinny and Susannah-style fashion shows and The Weakest Link have disappeared from the schedules… Big Brother’s back to its heady heights. Alongside Doctor Who.
6. The Unquiet Dead – “At such a cost, the poor child”
The Doctor’s darker hue
After the disposable plot setting of Rose and the nonsense whodunit of the majority of The End of the World, The Unquiet Dead did far more than establish a present, future, past season template. It really hinted at what Doctor Who could do while making a good stab at the horror that has always been at the heart of the show. It wasn’t perfect… Often criticised for being a light attempt at a classic story, later period pieces would add more spectacle and of course, this is this episode that supposedly lost us Eccleston.
But there are highlights, not least the Doctor’s darker hue, his fallibility and the hard decisions that should be woven into every story. Death is a heavily woven into Who’s fabric of course, coming every episode – but as the mid-70s and mid-80s showed, it needs to be handled correctly. The Unquiet Dead did that and also, it premiered on my birthday. Darker Who on my birthday. Fantastic. But it would get better…
5. The Empty Child – “Nobody here but us chickens”
An irresistible mystery
Mark Gatiss’ The Unquiet Dead had stoked some Who horror flames, but its zombie-ghost facade was cartoonish compared to this. Negating ghosts, period celebrities and zombies Moffat’s first Who classic had a comfortable two episodes to ramp up the pressure, the mystery and the horror. Here the Ninth Doctor has time alone to stalk around a mystery.
From a telephone that shouldn’t work to a door side encounter with classic ‘haunted’ house tropes. This Doctor is caught in an irresistible mystery, that instantly tests his instincts. “Ain’t nobody here but us chickens” he says, laughing sever-so-slightly nervously as he’s torn between protection and running. Failure to do either would be dereliction of the Doctor’s mantle…
4. Dalek – Eye to Eye
The lone Dalek concept was a left perfectly by the Classic Series
To think that there was a chance that Daleks wouldn’t appear in that first series, or at all… After pondering that, it’s worth considering this story with its back-up aliens. The Toclafane would later show up in the series three finale as the chilling coda of humanity.
As it is, this loose adaptation of Big Finish’s Jubilee and penned by that play’s author Rob Shearman himself, improves with every viewing. A siege story in the classic sense, this meeting of aliens must be one of Who‘s most watched moments. The lone Dalek concept was a left perfectly by the Classic Series, and perfectly set up by the Alien comparison.
In hindsight the last the Doctor saw of his copper nemeses were some ravaged Dalek shells as he grafitti’d Gallifrey with “No More”. Both species were destroyed… And then, the last remaining members of each came face-to-face in near-future Utah. The Doctor at his most vengeful, a Dalek at its most duplicitous… The ultimate destroyer and then unstoppable force but not always the way you think.
And to start, a fan pleasing surprise. A wonderfully simple, empty cyber head, oddly a Revenge of the Cybermen iteration … the Cybers almost met the new Doctor first… if only they’d stuck with that classic design a season later.
3. The Doctor Dances – “Just this once, everybody lives!”
A true fan wrote this
The myth of the Doctor being the most dangerous man in the universe took five seasons to grow, but it was clear from the beginning that his travels were fraught with danger. After seeing more than a few characters, not least in The Unquiet Dead fall foul of his intervention… Or solution… This was joyous. A true fan wrote this and packed the plot with hard science-fiction to boot.
2. Bad Wolf – “Rose, I’m Coming to get you…”
This was about the Doctor and his companion.
Arguably the greatest moment in modern Doctor Who. Packed with promise and its unavoidable recall to the Time War. Jumping forward to the cliff-hanger resolution, imagine those Dalek missiles hurtling against a fleet of fully manned TARDISes during that war, weapons and crafts zapping through time zones while in fully manned console rooms Time Lords fly this way and that, regenerating in an endless domino effect around a central console… But of course, this wasn’t really about the Time War.
This was about the Doctor and his companion. Many co-travellers have brought the Doctor back into the fold, ever since the original crew quite reasonably created him. Oddest of all is the most recent, where despite a pleading afterword from Amy Pond, it took a mystery as deep as The Impossible Girl to pull him back in. Again, with recent hindsight, Rose is the Doctor’s first companion since he lost Cass in *that* crash on Karn… Eight or so years before we saw this Doctor’s origins, the show had recovered its confidence and swagger.
The pitch is never better – it’s simple and effective: the Doctor is happy to warn them: he’s going to storm into the heart of the Dalek ship and rescue Rose. Because that’s what he does.
1. The Parting of the Ways – Saving Bad Wolf
What was Bad Wolf’s cost?
As 2013’s The Time of the Doctor showed once again, Bad Wolf is a concept too good to be constrained by one season. There’s no doubt that such a light arc benefitted from coming in the first series, but it was the fantastic pay-off that made it.
Having taken a holiday while plot arcs took a firm grip on television science-fiction, New Who had time to unfold mysteries one by one. Bad Wolf, as light as a line of dialogue, a glimpse of a German bomb, or a smudge of graffiti scattered across a few episodes was perfect fodder for Whovians. No arc since, certainly not recent complications, would recapture that simple delight.
But in the end, what was Bad Wolf’s cost? The Daleks survived, Rose as well… The true cost was the Ninth Doctor. A short, rather miserable existence that wouldn’t know the redemption of the 11th Doctor (nor temporarily the 10th). Locked in a war with the Daleks, his only comfort was that the Daleks were destroyed once and for all.
It’s very unlikely we’ll see the Ninth Doctor again, thank goodness we’ll never forget him. Three Doctors and seven series on, his departure isn’t showy or nostalgic – his regeneration really is fantastic.
A glorious end to the classic Whovember viewings as the anniversary hat is put on for a selection of six stories. Multi-Doctor stories are woven into the fabric of the show and when it comes to Doctors plural, there’s one common link – the Time Lord who made regeneration possible – the Second Doctor.
#2: Six Multi-Doctor Specials… The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors and The Two Doctors (with special cameos by Dimensions in Time, The Light at the End and The Day of the Doctor.
UNTIL SOME LATER FELLOWS CAME ALONG, THIS YEAR’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY WAS ALL ABOUT THE SECOND DOCTOR. The timely rediscovery of missing episodes put him firmly at the centre of thebuild-up – And why not? He’s the man who made it possible, who introduced the Time Lords, who banished straightforward historical romps, who meant that there could be undeniably, more than one Doctor.
Beyond the “before history” of the First Doctor, he’s the Doctor who gave us the first real continuity conundrum, with the potential of a missing season dreamt up based on countless paradoxical references and continuity blips. As the only iteration to bring his mop top to every multi-Doctor story so far he’s had had plenty of chances.
It was an accident at first of course, that tradition of the multi-Doctor story. The Three Doctors may have started the tenth season of the show, but it was broadcast almost a year before the tin anniversary itself. It was dreamt up as more of an attempt to out-do Day of the Daleks, the season opener a year before. Somehow though, it set a trend that would see multi-Doctor tales and anniversary years intertwine.
The Three Doctors (Season 10, 1972/1973)
The Three Doctors was certainly one way to start a season with a bang. An episodic serial sat within the tenth season, it’s been described as a pantomimeand for all intents and purposes, yes it is. From the bright colours, squabbling, humour and shouty pantomime dame, sorry, Omega.
Perversely, it set a number of odd patterns within multi-Doctor stories. In barely any do viewers get the number of Doctors that they were expecting. Here it’s far more the Two Doctors than The Three Doctors. Due to William Hartnell’s ill health he appears briefly but memorably and only ever on a video screen having been trapped in a time eddy in the adventure.
These The Three Doctors are not only the three originals, but also the most bickering of the Doctors incarnations. We never see that level of inter-Doctor rivalry between any other Doctors, although each of them display their various levels of disdain and dismissal. It almost necessitated a splintering of the original three, something that would become a tradition in its own right from The Five Doctors all the way along to Big Finish’s 50th anniversary adventure The Light at the End.
Another curious tradition is the reverence the First Doctor carries from his successors. They may grumble, but he borders on having a greater knowledge or certainly rationale than his older versions. Certainly his problem solving is carried off with great authority. Perhaps this is a primacy rule in Time Lord society, perhaps because the First Doctor had the longest life…
It’s not made clear that previous Doctor’s forget this story, although that idea would be loosely suggested later – with the exception of the Doctor seemingly on a concurrent time stream (the latest – Fifth in TheFive Doctors, Sixth in The Two Doctors and 11th in Day of the Doctor).
The Time Lords presented here are certainly an extension of those seen earlier, but not totally at odds to the over-bureaucratic race of prudes that Robert Holmes would create in The Deadly Assassin. Predating Day of the Doctor, it’s not the High Council of Time Lords that dictate play here. Instead they’re floundering amid their strict, un-bending roles and it takes a maverick hope to get them out of a total black out.
In the story itself, the Doctor is chucked into it before the Time Lords triple his efficacy – the old coincidence meets message to the Time Lords. While the First Doctor is picked up in some form of time capsule, the Second Doctor rather interestingly fades into the Third Doctor’s TARDIS (“I’m just a temporal anomaly). Presumably this appearance and the capsule are equivocal with a TARDIS dematerialisation but it’s not a trick that’s seen again. Similarly, the “Connection” head-shaking method the Doctors use for rapid telepathic conflab is never seen again – although it does have a successor in the Eleventh Doctor’s method of quick information discharge. The method of the Second Doctor’s arrival also precludes companions, although that’s something that UNIT personnel can more than make up for.
Of course, the scale of the adventure had to be huge and warranted a huge rule to break: The First Law of Time. That’s the rule that forbids a Time Lord from meeting his earlier self. Of course while I say Time Lord, it’s a rule imparted by the Time Lords that applies to anything and anyone, for the very good of the universe. It’s not linked to generations, but any temporal difference. Robert Holmes would have some fun dismissing Doctor meets over a decade later with a casual “it’s inevitable”. It is strange that one exact season on from Day of the Daleks the far more devastating Blinovitch Limitation Effect is over-written by a law that sounds far more legal than physical.
Special mention must also go to Omega himself. It’s only fitting. In a world of rather weary and staid Time Lords, he’s a breath of fresh air – just look at the poor beardy-Lord in need of a good regeneration at the control panel on Gallifrey. The wannabe tyrant’s costume isn’t quite explained away, but leads to a neat and rather off-structure reveal. Omega clearly is far heavier in the Time Lord mental stakes than the Doctor(s). Madness is only to be expected and his random scenery stomping shouts of “What is this!?” is later matched by the Ali Baba Rassilon of The Five Doctors. Those Ancient Gallifreyans certainly had far more fun.
Omega has a prescience that’s rather necessary for the plot. While he may well have developed a way to observe the Time Lords in the millennia following his disappearance, he seems all to conscious of the fact that he’s become a bit of a legend. Perhaps most perplexing is his quick comprehension of regeneration and crucially, the First Law of Time. It’s quite possible that regeneration and the Rassilon Imprimatur was developed concurrently with Omega’s stealer engineering, but had the Time Lords developed the Laws of Time prior to gaining time travel? That sits uneasily with other tales, including The Five Doctors. You may have thought that alongside having a great deal of fun and spoiling Minyans, the Ancient Time Lords made quite a few mistakes first.
The Three Doctors bring big concepts that befit such an adventure. The brilliantly bizarre transportation of UNIT HQ after the strange invasion sits alongside the subtler set-pieces like the Brigadier’s long overdue arrival in the TARDIS. But then there’s the story itself. Full of black-plot-holes it may be, but the concept of travel beyond the event horizon, relativity, faster than light-speed travel and anti-matter matched with a core-concept denouement make for strong sci-fi stuff.
It’s impressive that what could easily become another Frankenstein homage is left alone. Omega’s in much more of a mood for laying out his victory feast than creating creatures he can have a chat with. Jelly’s rather crucial here. It’s not only the personification, rather oddly, of antimatter – but at one point the Second Doctor offers round a jelly baby! He really was a trend-setter.
By the end, two brilliant things have happened. The villain’s been defeated by his own hubris and the Brigadier’s gone almost the whole adventure thinking that the Doctor simply changed his face to a previous model.
A pelting little homage to 10 years, there’s even a bit of time for dream-scape Venusian Akido, and you can’t say fairer than that. (though quite what the Second Doctor was doing during that section is anybody’s guess…) And when it comes to creating a super-deranged Time Lord villain in the show’s tenth year, omega’s not a bad stab at it. A villain of pure will, a Time Lord myth not involving vampires – it’s just a shame that Omega never quite reached his potential. Although there’s always the new series…
The Five Doctors (Special, 1983)
One of my first DVD purchases, how over-used that clip from The Dalek Invasion of Earth looks now… But still, it is very good. Similar to its use on the recent An Adventure in Time and Space though, I can see the token reference but it does slightly diminish the other actor(s) playing The First Doctor.
The Five Doctors had a rather tortured production with Robert Holmes’ initial The Six Doctors script eventually getting the better of him. Some of those ideas would be picked up in his script for The Two Doctors a few years later, but in 1983 it was left to the inimitable Terrance Dicks to step into the breach. Casting ‘issues’ further tortured the production – with one Doctor deceased and one declined, the team were back in The Three Doctors territory. With the First Doctor recast (rather well), further companion shuffles mean that the Second Doctor is once again rather hard done-by in terms of assistance, although he at least gets some banter with the Brigadier.
The canon part? Well, when are these Doctor’s from? The Second Doctor is clearly doing slightly more than bending the First Law of Time when he visits a Brigadier clearly established to be in the Fifth Doctor’s time stream a few stories earlier.
Much has been made of the Third Doctor having some apparent pre-cognition of his future beyond his regeneration. While some theories about regenerative memories are confusing (This is a post-regeneration Third Doctor!?) it’s far more likely that… Sarah’s hand signals are enough to prompt him. That in itself is astonishing considering that she survived that terrible cliff fall… The Third Doctor is wonderfully casual about his next self (surely two iterations who wouldn’t have got on). But if he’s not a post-regenerative version (as Day of the Doctor’s Great Curator may very well be), when are these Doctors from? They look far older than when they regenerated (pick, pick, pick – it’s the time differential you know…). In the case of the Second Doctor, we know that there’s an adventure involving The Terrible Zodin taking place in the Brigadier’s future, likely with multiple Doctors and that’s significant – She must be the premier never seen Who villain… But maybe there are further clues to that in the Second Doctor’s next appearance…
With no Omega (he’d popped up a few stories before) it’s left to a rather sad reversal of a known character. The idea of regeneration lying behind Borusa’s devilish turn is an interesting one, although must make for a very paranoid society (“You never know what you’re gonna get!”). Perhaps it’s more likely in a Time Lord like Borusa, who speeds through his regenerations like fish fingers dissolving in custard (that would happen)..
Having established a new Time Lord elite just the season before, it seems a bit wasteful to squander it all. It wouldn’t be corrected either. When the Time Lords next returned they’d be anonymous jurors…
Another tradition is continued in this Time Lord biopic. It’s implicit that the Death Zone was active when after the Time Lord’s mastery of time travel. They were certainly a nasty bunch at the beginning of that, despite their care in establishing Laws… And re-establishes that the Doctor/ Time Lord’s involvement with Cybermen massively predates that of the Daleks. Still, the Game of Rassilon (Rassy himself, settling into being a nicely ambiguous figure in Gallifreyan-lore) is a simple device to get as many companions, Doctors and monsters together as possible.
Perhaps the worst miss? The light greeting Susan receives from the Fifth Doctor is pretty much all the acknowledgement she gets from the other Doctors! While recognising the Dark Tower is the most overtly Time Lord (or Gallifreyan) thing she’s ever done the Doctor’s granddaughter soon settles into the role of simpering companion. Perhaps she’s used up all her regenerative juices and there’s just none left for her ankle…
With the demands of such an endeavour and the problems that it encountered during its production, it’s rather unsurprisingly that the end result is a bit of a bloody shambles. In many ways, it’s pretty damned awful actually. Compared with some of the finer moments of Who – recent and soon to happen plots included – it’s frothy, plot-holed nonsense, far ropier than The Three Doctors. But then again, it’s The Five Doctors and it’s a feature-length 20th anniversary special. And for that reason it’s fantastic. But the flip-side of that celebration is that such acceptance forces awkward inconsistencies into Doctor Who canon. I won’t touch on the fact that it premiered in the United States first…
The Two Doctors (Season 22, 1985)
At last a multi-Doctor story where the Time Lords don’t appear. Or do they? They may just be a little more ominous about their absence than the story suggests (Holmes would pull of a similarly effective trick with Ravalox in The Trial of a Time Lord the following season all you The Deadly Assassin haters…)
For once we do get the right number of Doctors – not a Doctor more, not a Doctor less. Not that it isn’t left until the final part for them to meet…
The broadcast structure at the time hides the fact that this is Colin Baker’s only six-part story. While much of it is padding, it’s effective – particularly the stomping around the future space station. While his creations, the Sontarans, may have been forced on writer Robert Holmes, he still manages to rinse out some lovely science fiction and time related points, some picked up from his aborted Six Doctors script.
In fact, in many ways, The Two Doctors feels like the jumping off point for the Virgin New Adventures and Missing Adventures ranges.
Even with the casual dismissal of the First Law of Time and similarly sketchy disposal of temporal displacement, the Second Doctor’s appearance here is one of his most interesting. What a wonderful thing that Patrick Troughton enjoyed The Five Doctors so much that he volunteered to come back. While his character does look noticeably greyer than he did in The Five Doctors, a timing for the adventure is almost given. The TARDIS crew have dropped Victoria off, so in season terms it would clearly takes place during the first portion of Season Five.
The horribly confusing element comes from the fact that the Doctor has been dispatched, with companion no less, on a mission for the Time Lords. It’s this total contradiction of the The War Games that led to speculation that there was a Season 6b – a suggestion now taken to be as near as possible to canon. Of course, this builds on his presence in front of Time Lords in both The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors (The First Doctor too). It also helps explain – or doesn’t at all if you think about it – how the Second Doctor knows that Jamie’s memories were wiped when the Dark Tower tried to deceive him in The Five Doctors. There’s also the small fact thatthe Second Doctor’s TARDIS looks a lot different in this adventure. (There’s one of the oddest things – that the adventure starts off with the Second Doctor in flight, in black and white – not the greatest reflection on the Sixth Doctor). As a recruit of the Time Lord’s Celestial Intervention Agency, it seems a fair enough explanation for the Second Doctor getting his hands on a Stattenheim remote control device that the Sixth Doctor can’t remember.
Surely the only feasible explanation is that following the War Games (or just before the end), the Second Doctor and Jamie are used as agents by the Time Lords, during which they pick up Victoria again and all the Second Doctor’s multi-Doctor stories take place. Phew. Presumably they knew that a sentence would be carried out at the end of this, but were happy to become agents anyway.
It does raise a few neat points – that, while part of the civil service establishment, the first Doctor undertook various diplomatic missions for the Time Lords. There can’t have been that many. And it’s not worth considering how that Gallifreyan timeline fits in with these advanced non-humans of the third Zone. While it’s imperative that little is revealed about the Doctor, Holmes continues to build up Time Lord civilisation– this time bringing the Rassilon imprimatur and murky levels of observation and control to temporal intrigue. It wouldn’t be a multi-Doctor story, nor an anniversary nod, without a little addition to the myths of Rassilon, Omega and the Ancient Gallifreyans. As usual, and as would be picked up in his next and final script for the series, there are few Who writers who can dig out such dark aspects from the Time Lords.
Sure, the Jamie as marooned and feral beast plot may be overlooked, but Holmes doesn’t overcook it. It makes for a mean and neat line running through the piece, accompanied by the staple computer versus intruders and simulated deaths. The Androgums are a wonderfully sketched primitive species, mainly down to casting, but Shockeye also highlights some of the series’ faults. The death of Oscar is all very well and Hamlet, but it’s also shockingly violent. Unfortunately, Holmes and Saward’s agenda just fed the show’s critics.
On the whole, the Two Doctors is considered favourably in the Sixth Doctor’s short run. It’s a solid and fascinating story, even if it could have made an easy four-parter and the Seville filming is rather unnecessary. It’s a shame that the Doctors don’t see more of each other, but that allows for companion swapping and an easy sense of menace. No fading out of existence here, it’s all down to Colin Baker’s performance. And when the Doctors do meet it’s a bit of a delight. Few Doctors lend themselves to mangling tenses and pronouns like the Sixth Doctor and in that initial “snap” meeting – just catch the quick glance that the Second Doctor flashes over his successor’s coat. Patrick Troughton, a delight as ever. In fact we’re rather lucky to have The Two Doctors at all – and at least it claimed a prize figure when Holmes, rarely, adapted it to be the 100th TARGET novelisation.
Dimensions in Time (Special, 1993)
Special or, maybe, travesty. But, there is a lot to forgive in John Nathan Tuner’s only Doctor Who script. Sadly, one of those is not the plasticine heads used to cover the passing of Messrs Hartnell and Troughton. The most explicable thing is the time hole that the Rani traps the first two iterations in… But best not look at that logic too carefully. The canon of Eastenders and Doctor Who co-existing in the same universes has been subsequently ruined by the fact that many on the Square watch Doctor Who on Christmas day. That’s a shame – because surely the Doctor’s one of the few people who could deduce what Mitchells and Brannings watch on Christmas Day when Eastenders is on…
The Light at the End (Big Finish 50th Anniversary Special, 2013)
Big Finish’s 50th stab actually brought all the Doctors (up to their last, the Eighth) together. As such, the polished and finely produced production extolled the best and the worst of Big Finish’s take on the Time Lord, particularly since the series returned to television. A combination of fiction-physics and time rams, hyped far beyond the classic television series’ remit, it’s not really the most inclusive tale. The first three Doctors are present and correct and in a surprisingly effective homage to The Three Doctors, they’re kept rather at arm’s length, boxed up and packed off to bicker and squabble between themselves. It’s not surprising that it’s the range’s flagship Doctors Four and Eight are thrown together in the first instance, but they certainly don’t get straight down to insults, even when Five, Seven and – particularly Six – turn up. Lovely stuff, but we had to leave a simpler take on The Five Doctors to Peter Davison and the BBC Red button after the 50th anniversary’s main event…
The Day of the Doctor (Special, 2013)
Alas, the Second Doctors only appearance in this year’s biggest special is near the end, from stock footage… But what a scene, what a ‘Moment’. All 13 Doctors working together, wilfully allowed to dodge the Time Locked fate of Gallifrey, breaking every possible Law of time and setting their final self (until The Time of the Doctor) and his successors a pleasing conundrum. Day more than ever gets to grips with two inherent puzzles around multiple-Doctor stories. It is the past Doctors who have no or muddled memory of multi-Doctor stories, while the current time stream Doctor (latest – although Capaldi’s interference muddles it slightly, who’s complaining!) retains (records) the memory. In Day it’s more interesting as the guilt we’ve seen the Doctor carry since the Time War (John Hurt’s War Doctor clearly regenerating into Christopher Eccleston’s) was simply assumed. He remembered the moment, but had no idea that he’d chosen not to – there’s no suggestion that Day is writing a reversal of that original decision. It’s takes slightly too much assumption on the side of the audience, but then that’s a Moffat standard.
The appearance of the Great Curator at the end must sit squarely with the infamous Morbius flashbacks – wonderful fan fodder. There’s every suggestion that it’s a future Doctor, although I find the idea of a alternate Fourth slightly more engrossing – that a personality could retire, rather than a far distant Doctor who’d returned to an “old favourite”. As Russell T Davies may say, that’s he’s the 508th Doctor…
And so the Second Doctor is even further removed from the current – although, thankful for small mercies, his cameo is much better than The Five Doctors grab seen in The Name of the Doctor.
As time spirals on and over 50 years and the Doctors suddenly reach 14… There’s little chance that the Second Doctor’s future appearances will be more than those brief cameos. So much hope must lie with the quest to rediscover his missing serials. Still, with so many classic adventures lost and following his near-takeover of the 50th anniversary with The Web of Fear, there’s certainly life left in the Cosmic Hobo yet. He always carried more hope than most.