Doctor Who episode 676: Remembrance of the Daleks – Part Three (19/10/1988)

‘We’re reliant on the Doctor because only the Doctor knows what is going on.’ This is a great Part Three – often they’re the ones with the exposition and a pause in the action, but this gets the balance right. There’s exposition, including some intriguing bits of Time Lord history, but it opens and closes with two Dalek attack sequences at the school, plus a fun Dalek hunt in the middle.

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Doctor Who episode 675: Remembrance of the Daleks – Part Two (12/10/1988)

‘I’m beginning to wish I never started all this.’ The script does a good job of balancing the Doctor’s newly proactive approach with much self-doubt, notably in the cafe scene between McCoy and Fresh Prince‘s Joseph Marcell. None of this is original in the scheme of things (it’s essentially a play on “Do I have the right” from Genesis of the Daleks), but it has been rare for the Doctor to spend a scene pondering his own choices. It would be tiresome every week, but here it adds some weight to the story, the idea that he’s dragging the Earth into the middle of his war with the Daleks. Maybe that explains why he’s so maudlin and snappy. John has the right idea: ‘Just get on with it.’

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Doctor Who episode 674: Remembrance of the Daleks – Part One (5/10/1988)

‘That’s the point Group Captain. It isn’t even remotely human.’ The 25th anniversary series begins with a story that, like The Day of the Doctor, presents a different perspective on familiar events with hints that the first Doctor was up to something more than lurking about in the fog inspecting picture frames when he last visited 1963. He left something called ‘the Hand of Omega’ behind, and now two factions of Daleks have converged on the Earth to claim it.

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Doctor Who episode 673: Dragonfire – Part Three (7/12/1987)

‘Don’t come all clever dick with me.’ Ian Briggs’ script is full of allusions that sound clever but don’t quite add up to anything substantial. Here, there’s a lengthy sequence that plays like a pastiche of Aliens, except this time it’s the xenomorph that rescues the little girl from the tough woman with a gun. It’s nice to have another Doctor Who story where the “monster” turns out to be one of the good guys and it’s people who are the real threat – it’s been done, but not so often it’s boring and the difference between Dragonfire and something like The Creature from the Pit is that here the dragon is pretty much established as something to be protected from the beginning.

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Doctor Who episode 672: Dragonfire – Part Two (30/11/1987)

‘Ah, an existentialist.’ It’s fun in a different way from the rest of Season 24, furry dice in the Nosferatu cockpit excepted. The erudite guard who spouts lit crit like a PhD student is a neat subversion of the usual grunts, a joke that works on the superficial level of confounding audience expectations, and then on a fannish level for anyone who got The Unfolding Text reference (I only know because I’ve been told). I’ve half-jokingly compared Season 24 to Season 17 before, and while I wouldn’t die on that hill, I do think there’s a playful, witty strand in this that’s not a thousand miles from what Williams and Adams were up to.

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Doctor Who episode 671: Dragonfire – Part One (23/11/1987)

‘This is the real McCoy, this is.’ The idea of an evil supermarket manager plotting the conquest of the 12 galaxies from his freezer department in between arranging for the sliding doors to be fixed is exactly the kind of premise that would have been at home in a Doctor Who Magazine comic strip. That sensibility inhabits the story, which is full of ideas that could have come straight from the strip: the mark of Kane, the singing crystals, the space cantina, even the planet Svartos itself. Kane is a comic strip villain, imagined as Ice Dracula (he sleeps in a coffin, has a widow’s peak and captures a spaceship called Nosferatu). This shouldn’t be a surprise given Cartmel’s interest in 1980s comics, but this, even more than Paradise Towers, nails the style.

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Doctor Who episode 670: Delta and the Bannermen – Part Three (16/11/1987)

‘It’s a superfood created by the bees themselves. It has the ability to change an ordinary worker bee larvae into a queen.’ I enjoy the way the plot is explained not through the usual rushed exposition or “I’ll explain later” but by an elderly Welsh man whose enthusiasm for bees figuratively explains the entire life cycle of the Chimeron. Or perhaps he’s actually as manipulative as the Doctor, with a few well-chosen words prompting Billy to transition to ensure the survival of the Chimeron species. I’m left with the sneaking suspicion that in the end Billy’s future might not be quite as he expected: he’s not going to be Delta’s sweetheart but the young princess’ stud – that’s definitely the implication of Gornowy’s parting shot: ‘The new young queen comes along and the whole colony swarms all around her, and off they go to find a new hive. A new hive and a new life.’ I can believe Delta’s in on this too: look at the little smile she gives when she kills a Bannerman at Goronwy’s farm. She’s cold as ice. I wouldn’t be surprised if she turned out to be a tyrant queen that Gavrok was rebelling against.

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Doctor Who episode 669: Delta and the Bannermen – Part Two (9/11/1987)

‘Who will stop me? You, with your puny flag and your appeals to fair play and justice, huh?’ Again, there’s a surprisingly brutal streak underneath the whimsy, with Murray and his Nostalgia Tours passengers exploded by Gavrok and the Bannermen in a shockingly Sawardian massacre. Don Henderson makes a much more credible baddie than Richard Briers did, disgustingly feasting on raw meat as he studies everyone intently like a predator contemplating prey. I like the little touches of make-up on the Bannermen – red-rimmed eyes, scarlet tongues, piggy hooves – even if they largely remind me of the Robomen from the Dalek Invasion of Earth movie.

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Doctor Who episode 668: Delta and the Bannermen – Part One (2/11/1987)

‘I don’t just kill for money. It’s also something I enjoy.’ This is different: a historical set within living memory, practically within the show’s own lifespan. And not for the last time in the McCoy years. Again, this all unfolds with a pleasing sense of fun even when some of the subject matter is grim (the corpse strewn battlefield at the start includes a grisly moment when one of the bodies is blown up). The holiday camp setting isn’t unique (The Macra Terror and The Leisure Hive), but it’s a sensible choice – a microcosm of 1950s Britain. Alien tourists visiting Earth’s history for larks is such an obvious idea you wonder why Graham Williams didn’t get there first.

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Doctor Who episode 667: Paradise Towers – Part Four (26/10/1987)

‘Bring them all out, all the nasty human beings. The Caretakers, the Residents, the Kangs, all of them.’ I think it’s mostly Briers as Kroagnon that really irks fans. The Chief Caretaker was a heightened version of his Ever Decreasing Circles character, in keeping with the other inhabitants of the Towers. But Kroagnon is just a joke performance that’s only occasionally funny (the look he gives Pex when they’re hurrying through the corridors). A more interesting choice might have been to tone it right down, so that Kroagnon and the Doctor suddenly become the only characters in this world with any gravitas, worthy opponents. Instead, it equals Graham Crowden’s death scene in The Horns of Nimon without the excuse that Briers didn’t know it was a take rather than a run-through. Fittingly, for such a rubbish villain, he gets a rubbish death scene – pushed through a door and exploding, rather than anything more creative.

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