Category: Doctor Who

Doctor Who episode 714: Aliens of London (16/4/2005)

‘Aliens are faking aliens. Why would they do that?’ This, even more than Rose, establishes all the standards of the RTD years. The Earth invaded in plain sight as BBC News and Blue Peter react; the monsters invading the companion’s home; Trinity Wells; not-so-veiled jabs at contemporary politics: it’s all here, and pretty much fully formed. For the first time the TV series has a budget that means ideas can be realised on screen rather than as noises off, and the result is giddily ambitious. Even so, once RTD has got the money shot of a spaceship demolishing Big Ben before crashing into the Thames everything takes place in confined locations (Albion Hospital, Downing Street, Jackie’s flat) without massive crowds of extras.

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Doctor Who episode 713: The Unquiet Dead (9/4/2005)

‘She’s not fighting your battles.’ On the surface, after two episodes of reinvention this comes across as the first “trad” episode, consciously evoking Hinchcliffe’s House of Horror: the Victoriana, classic horror story tropes given a sci-fi polish, the companion in period costume, even a warning that ‘time is in flux’ and Rose’s present, like Sarah Jane’s in Pyramids of Mars, is not immune. Plus, it’s the first Christmas episode since The Feast of Steven. Everything about it is reassuringly cosy, like a comfort blanket for the old fans who might have been discombobulated by Rose and The End of the World.

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Doctor Who episode 712: The End of the World (2/4/2005)

‘I’m the last of the Time Lords.’ Essentially Part Two of Rose, this focuses more on the new Doctor, including his first scenes without Rose as he instead partners with Jabe to investigate sabotage on Platform One. This means Rose spends a lot of the episode fulfilling the more typical companion role of getting menaced by the monsters and locked up in mortal peril, but even this feels like part of her character’s story: initial culture shock and uncertainty about what she’s got herself into. If this were a George Lucas production, Rose was all about her ordinary world, the call to adventure, meeting the mentor and crossing the threshold, this is her facing tests, allies and enemies.

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Doctor Who episode 711: Rose (26/3/2005)

‘I mean, you lot; all you do is eat chips, go to bed, and watch telly, while all the time, underneath you, there’s a war going on.’ I’m still impressed that Davies, Gardner and Tranter chose to make this a continuation of the 1963 series. In retrospect, it’s a genius move – franchises like Star Trek benefit from their ability to pull on a hinterland of heritage material – but at the time reboots like Battlestar Galactica, retellings like Smallville, and even stripped back prequels like Enterprise were much more the norm.

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Doctor Who: Ninth Man Unbound

The period between the TV Movie and news of the show returning in 2003 was strange time to be a fan. In one respect, there was more Doctor Who than ever before. Taking a lead from Virgin’s New and Missing Adventures, BBC Books were publishing two original novels (one eighth and one past Doctor) per month; the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip was better than ever; BBCi were broadcasting new episodes, and from 1999 Big Finish began releasing audios with the last four Doctors. Plus, most of the series was available on videotape.

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Doctor Who episode 710: Shada – Episode Six (6/6/2003)

‘The great mind revolution shall begin.’ Blimey, what a mess. The resolution involves the Doctor somehow creating a tunnel between Chronotis’ TARDIS and his own, sneaking into his workshop, building a helmet (based around the second Doctor’s stovepipe hat, charmingly) which allows him to use the copy of his mind in Skagra’s sphere to wrest control of the Krarg army, and turn them against Skagra. Then everyone goes back to Cambridge for more tea.

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Doctor Who episode 709: Shada – Episode Five (30/5/2003)

‘I’ve met your sort before. Any moment a mad gleam will come into your eye and you’ll start shouting, “the universe shall be mine”.’ After more chat and cups of tea, Skagra’s motives become clear: he wants to join all the minds in the universe under his control, sort of like the Great One but with a grey sphere instead of a blue crystal. To do this, he needs to free the Time Lord mind criminal Salyavin from the ancient prison planet of the Time Lords: Shada.

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Doctor Who episode 708: Shada – Episode Four (23/5/2003)

‘What is the one thing that stands against entropy, against random decay? Life.’ Everyone seems to have been obsessed by entropy and the decline of Western Civilisation in the late 1970s – hence, I suppose, the White Guardian, the Logopolitans and now Skagra. It says a lot about the defining mood of the decade.

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Doctor Who episode 707: Shada – Episode Three (16/5/2003)

‘Have to be a complete re-write.’ After two episodes of amusing inaction (bike chase aside) we get… another episode of mostly amusing inaction. Rather than being stuck in Chronotis’ study chatting about a book, now the Doctor and Romana are stuck in Skagra’s spaceship chatting about a book. By this point in City of Death, they’d run round Paris, visited the Louvre and uncovered a plot to steal it, been captured and escaped, nipped back to the 16th Century to discover a time-travelling alien, and then back to 1979 in time for a showdown. This is moving at an entirely different speed.

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Doctor Who episode 706: Shada – Episode Two (9/5/2003)

‘Rassilon had powers and secrets even we don’t understand.’ It’s amusing so much time is spent mucking about looking for a book. This largely lends itself well to BBCi’s primitive animation because the script is full of little verbal jokes and digressions, rather than relying on action sequences. It’s a story where the villain is accompanied by a ‘babble of inhuman voices’, where Chronotis beats out messages in Gallifreyan Morse Code, and even Skagra’s computer is well-spoken.

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