Doctor Who episode 815: The Day of the Doctor (23/11/2013)

‘Gallifrey Falls No More.’ I watched this in NFT1 at the BFI with an audience including Sir John Hurt before wandering round the corner to watch them recording the surreal Afterparty. It was the capstone to an incredible anniversary weekend which started with An Adventure in Space and Time and included a trip to the Doctor Who event at the ExCel. The audience response was tremendous, particularly the gasp that went up when Tom Baker’s voice declared, ‘You know, I really think you might.’ It’s as good an anniversary celebration as The Five Doctors, which is the highest praise I can give.

Continue reading

Dr Who: An Adventure in Space and Time (21/11/2013)

‘Now, they’ve all gone. None of them ever understood.’ This dramatization of the origins of Doctor Who smooths some of the rough edges (Hartnell’s attested racism, homophobia and antisemitism), and conflates a few events, but the end result is a remarkable, moving tribute to the pioneers whose make-do-and-mend approach created a legend.

Continue reading

Doctor Who: The Night of the Doctor (14/11/2013)

‘I’m not part of the war, I swear to you, I never was.’ Seven minutes of brilliance that dropped as a surprise a week ahead of the anniversary. For viewers left speculating for months on the identity of the John Hurt Doctor – theories included a pre-Hartnell incarnation, or ‘The Other’ – the question was answered: a hidden regeneration in between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston. Which meant by implication the anniversary special would concern itself with the Time War (confirmed by the trailer that played immediately after this).

Continue reading

Doctor Who episode 814: The Name of the Doctor (18/5/2013)

‘The trap is set for the Doctor’s friends. They will travel where the Doctor ends.’ Although The Wedding of River Song positioned ‘the fields of Trenzalore, the fall of the 11th, and the question’ as the next big story arc, they’ve largely been forgotten in favour of Series Seven’s central mystery: ‘the impossible girl’. The Name of the Doctor brings them back into play in an episode that in theory ticks all the boxes: the TARDIS (and the 11th Doctor) falls onto the battlefields of Trezalore, and the answer to the question ‘Doctor who?’ is the secret to accessing the Doctor’s tomb – allowing the Great Intelligence to rewrite history.

Continue reading

Doctor Who episode 813: Nightmare in Silver (11/5/2013)

‘You’re the impossible girl. He’s very interested in you.’ Neil Gaiman’s first Doctor Who episode was a largely successful experiment. This is an unmitigated disaster. What happened? I can see that this is trying to do for the Cybermen what Rob Shearman did for the Daleks – making them a relentlessly scary force. It does this by using a lot of the same tricks (tricks we already saw again a few weeks ago in Cold War), starting with a decrepit, forlorn survivor of a great war turned into a piece of entertainment before it regenerates into a Borg creature continually upgrading, resistant to the usual attacks, and able to spin or separate different parts of its body (just like Shearman’s Dalek).

Continue reading

Doctor Who episode 812: The Crimson Horror (4/5/2013)

‘Hey, that’s good, isn’t it? “The Crimson Horror”.’ Mark Gatiss’ best script to date plays to all his strengths in macabre comedy, like the Curse of Karrit Poor section of the League of Gentlemen Christmas Special. He also throws in elements from Carry On Screaming (people being turned into mannequins after a dip in some bubbling liquid), and – probably in tribute to Dame Diana Rigg – The Avengers (Jenny going undercover and changing into a leather fighting suit). The result doesn’t tread new ground, but it’s the most straightforwardly entertaining episode since Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.

Continue reading

Doctor Who episode 811: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (27/4/2013)

‘How big is this baby?’ So far, Series Seven hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, but it’s mostly been fine. There haven’t been many new ideas on the table – we’ve had RTD, Shearman and Roberts pastiches – and episodes that haven’t quite landed the ending. But this, from the writer of the unloved Curse of the Black Spot, seems to me like a complete misfire, even if it’s bad for different reasons.

Continue reading

Doctor Who episode 810: Hide (20/4/2013)

‘You are the only mystery worth solving.’ On paper, this should be in my Top Ten Doctor Who episodes. Practically the only thing I’m more a fan of than this series is the ghost stories of M.R. James, and especially the 1970s Ghost Story for Christmas adaptations. This leans heavily into that aesthetic, with Professor Palmer’s name seemingly inspired by Whistle And I’ll Come To You’s Professor Parkin, and a grotesque, barely-glimpsed revenant flitting through the background and chasing our hero through a misty landscape.

Continue reading

Doctor Who episode 809: Cold War (13/4/2013)

‘The world didn’t end in 1983.’ This feels like the kind of story Eric Saward was striving for: a claustrophobic setting; military personnel without first names; an Alien scuttering through the shadows, and an updated version of a 1960s monster. It’s Warriors of the Deep meets Resurrection of the Daleks. But there’s also a smattering of Andrew Cartmelisms to leaven the mix: the Doctor challenges the Ice Warrior to look him in the eye, and Clara’s final appeal to Skaldak’s compassion and the horror of nuclear war is a rewrite of the seventh Doctor’s showdown with Morgaine.

Continue reading

Doctor Who episode 808: The Rings of Akhaten (6/4/2013)

‘I’m not a bargain basement stand-in for someone else. I’m not going to compete with a ghost.’ This is an odd one. It fulfils the same function as The Beast Below and there are some similarities – the space city setting; the focus on children; a society complicit in sacrifice; the hungry beast only sated when the new companion perceives a solution. The difference is that while The Beast Below was a mystery gradually unpicked, this plays out as a bunch of stuff that happened.

Continue reading