Saturday 29 October 2016

Class 1.3 - Reviewed

BBC 3 has just screened the third episode of Class - Nightvisiting. I have watched it on the i-player service. Don't read any further if you have yet to see it where you are.

The title refers to old folk tales of the spirits of dead loved ones knocking on your window at night, either to act as a warning, or to steal you away. I sat down to watch this episode expecting not to like it - as the idea of aliens using images of dead loved ones as a snare is far from original. It has been a Sci-fi staple for more than half a century. However, I found it to be a particularly creepy episode, that gave us the chance to learn far more about the main characters than we have seen so far. They were introduced brilliantly in the first episode, but only in broad brush strokes. Nightvisiting allowed us to get to know a lot more about them.

Plot-wise, the spotlight was primarily on Tanya. In the pre-credits sequence we got a potted history of her life with her family - including her dead dad Jasper. It's two years to the day since he died - and then he suddenly turns up in her bedroom that night, at the end of a long vegetable tendril. There's no attempt to hide this latter fact. We see these tendrils branching out all over. He claims to have come from a race called the Lankine, who gather souls and reunite them with their loved ones. Miss Quill also gets a visitant - her dead sister - and Ram gets his dead girlfriend. April doesn't get a visitor, nor does Charlie. He's too busy getting it on with his boyfriend, Matteusz, who has been chucked out of his house by his homophobic dad. Charlie tells him that he was never really loved by his parents - as a prince he was just a commodity - so when the Lankin tries to create them it fails. Ram scarpers the minute his dead girlfriend appears, and we get to see people all over the area engulfed by the obscene vegetable matter, as Mary Whitehouse would have been sure to have called it (again).

It's Miss Quill who sees that this is just a parasite, feeding on emotion. She particularly hates it as it has made her sister too nice. Tanya is the primary victim - the one that the creature needs most. She finally gives in to it - but instead of giving it her grief she gives it her hatred, poisoning and weakening it. That's hatred for it looking like her father - not hatred for his memory. Just when it looks like the alien will be vanquished by emotion - dreadful memories suddenly springing to mind of Cybermen having their heads explode thanks to the power of love - Miss Quill steals a bus and drives over the primary Lankine branch. Good old Miss Quill -still the best thing in this new series.
By close of play, Tanya has come to terms with the loss of her father; Charlie has moved the boyfriend in with him; Ram and April have snogged; and Miss Quill has decided that she is getting fed up with being a babysitter and ought to be a warrior again.
Overall, a very enjoyable episode. From the trailer for next week's episode, Coal Hill Academy gets a new headmistress, and the Shadow Kin are back, as we get to see the implications of April sharing Corakinus' heart.

The future started here

50 years ago today - which also just happened to be a Saturday - the Doctor Who production team did something very, very clever indeed. They found a way to continue the Doctor's adventures without the Doctor. Or at least without the man who had played the Doctor since the series' first episode. This one thing more than any other has meant that the programme continues to be made to this day - with more seasons still to come. And it is all the same programme. No reboots and remakes. Peter Capaldi plays the same Time Lord who walked out of the fog into a junkyard back in November, 1963, as played by William Hartnell. On 29th October, 1966, Hartnell collapsed on the floor of the TARDIS, and his features blurred and changed into those of Patrick Troughton. We had a second Doctor - meaning we could later have a third, and a fourth, and a fifth...
The rest is history - and the future.

Power of the Daleks DVD

After the shameful disregard shown to the last Doctor Who DVD release - The Underwater Menace - we have now been promised a wealth of extra material for the forthcoming animated Power of the Daleks. As well as a commentary track, you can also watch the story in telesnap form with soundtrack as well as the new animated episodes. There will be three different versions of the soundtrack, a making-of documentary, animation tests, plus some of the original Dalek voice recordings made at Maida Vale back in 1966. The DVD will have a booklet written by archivist Andrew Pixley.
If this sells well - either when it appears on-line in BBC Shop from 5th November, or when the DVD hits the shops a couple of weeks later, there is every possibility that other lost stories might get the animated treatment - presumably starting with Dalek stories. (Evil of the Daleks is the obvious candidate).
As I am going to be buying the DVD anyway, I will be prepared to wait that extra couple of weeks and will forego purchasing it on-line. We've waited decades for this. Two more weeks won't make much difference.

Thursday 27 October 2016

A is for... Ashley

One of the scientists at the North Pole research base, encountered by the Doctor and Clara after they had just met Father Christmas on the roof of Clara's house. Ashley (surname Carter) appeared to be in command of the base.
It transpired that this was all a dream construct by the alien Kantrofarri - aka Dream Crabs. These parasitical creatures latched onto their victims as they slept and produced vivid dreamscapes which acted as a diversion whilst they fed.
Ashley was really fast asleep in her bed back in England. She awoke in time to see the Dream Crab that had been attacking her reduced to dust, once the Doctor - and Santa - had helped break their influence.

Played by: Natalie Gumede. Appearances: Last Christmas (2014).

A is for... Ashildr

A young Viking woman, encountered by the Doctor and Clara when they were captured by warriors from her village. The Doctor immediately detected something strange about her. She was a bit of a day dreamer, who loved to make up stories. She could also be a bit of a tomboy. When the god Odin suddenly appeared in the sky above the village and summoned a group of warriors to his domain, Ashildr's defiance was recognised, and she and Clara were also transported. Odin was really commander of a group of Mire warriors. They harvested chemicals such as testosterone from their victims. Clara was on the point of getting Odin to release them when Ashildr threw down a challenge - her village would fight the Mire. The Doctor had 24 hours to forge the villagers into a fighting force, and he used Ashildr's storytelling abilities to help defend them against the aliens. She would use a captured Mire helmet to transmit false images to the warriors, so that they would see a carved dragon statue as a real beast.
The plan worked, but Ashildr was killed by the experience. The Doctor decided that he would save her - giving her a Mire medical patch. This didn't just bring her back to life, it made her immortal. He left her a second patch, so that she could create a companion to share the life she was about to live.

The Doctor met her again in 17th Century England. She was now Lady Me, and she got her thrills by posing as a highwayman - the Nightmare. She no longer recognised the name "Ashildr" - she was now just "me". The Doctor read some of her journals and learned how she had fought at Agincourt, almost been drowned as a witch for curing local villagers, and had lost three children to the plague. She allied herself with a leonine alien named Leandro. He had her steal an amulet during one of her highwayman raids. The Doctor also sought this, as it had great powers. Leandro claimed that it would help him flee Earth, and he would take her with him, but it actually opened up a portal to allow his species to invade. Ashildr sacrificed the second Mire medical patch to save the life of a criminal rival - Sam Swift. She informed the Doctor that she would make it her goal in life to help the people who were damaged by their encounters with him. When he was reunited with Clara back in the 21st Century, he spotted Ashildr lurking in the background of a photo on her phone.

Some time later, Clara and the Doctor met Rigsy, whom they had previously encountered during an encounter with the Boneless. He had woken up one morning to find himself with a tattoo on the back of his neck - a numeral which was counting down. Tracing where he had been, they found a Trap Street. This was a pocket of space / time hidden within London. It formed an alien refugee community. In charge was Ashildr. It was she who had given Rigsy the tattoo - really marking him for death by a Quantum Shade. This lethal shadow manifested itself as a large black raven. It was claimed that Rigsy had committed a murder in the Trap Street, but the Doctor proved that this was all a set-up to trap him. Ashildr was working for the Time Lords. They wanted to know what the Doctor knew about "the Hybrid" -  a being that it was claimed would destroy Gallifrey. After the Quantum Shade killed Clara, the Doctor was transported away, to be imprisoned for billions of years within his own Confession Dial.

Escaping the dial at last, the Doctor found himself on Gallifrey and he brought down Rassilon's regime. He rescued Clara in her last second of life, and then traveled in a stolen TARDIS to the end of the Universe to evade the Time Lords and to restore Clara fully to life again. There, as reality crumbled away, was Ashildr. The Doctor suspected that she might be the Hybrid - part human, part Mire, but she countered that the Hybrid was really the combination of the Doctor and Clara - their recklessness putting the Universe at risk. She joined them in the stolen TARDIS, where the Doctor's memories of Clara were wiped. He was left on Earth next to his own ship, whilst Ashildr and Clara traveled on to explore the cosmos - in a stolen TARDIS with a broken Chameleon Circuit...

Played by Maisie Williams. Appearances: The Girl Who Died, The Woman Who Lived, Face The Raven and Hell Bent (all 2015).

A is for... Ashe

Leader of the struggling community of colonists on the planet Uxarieus, in the year 2472. He was accompanied by his daughter Mary. Ashe was often at loggerheads with his young deputy, Wilton. This was particularly the case when a spaceship belonging to the Intergalactic Mining Corporation turned up, its captain claiming that the planet had been earmarked for mining.
Ashe was seen as weak by some of the colonists, blamed for their poor harvests, and for giving away scarce food supplies to the Primitives in order to keep them friendly. An Adjudicator was called in to decide on the opposing claims to the planet, and Ashe hoped to sway him by telling him about the Primitive city, which was of great archaeological significance. The Adjudicator was indeed influenced by this, as he was really the Master - out to claim a super weapon hidden somewhere in the city.
The IMC captain, Dent, took control and forced the colonists to leave the planet. Their ship was a poorly maintained, antiquated craft, and Ashe argued that it would not survive the journey. It blew up on take off - with Ashe at the controls. However, all the other colonists had managed to get off unseen. It is hoped that when the real Adjudicator finally turned up, he would have found in favour of the colony that Ashe helped to found.

Played by John Ringham. Mary played by Helen Worth. Appearances: Colony In Space (1972).

  • This was Ringham's third and final role in Doctor Who, the earlier ones being in the Hartnell era - Tlotoxyl in The Aztecs, and Josiah Blake in The Smugglers.
  • As of 2016, Helen Worth has starred in ITV soap Coronation Street for 42 years.

A is for... Arwell Family

On the eve of the Second World War, the Doctor met Madge Arwell after plunging to Earth wearing an alien impact suit. He had just escaped from an exploding spaceship, which had been about to attack the Earth. Madge helped him get back to the TARDIS.
Three years later Madge learned that her husband Reg, a bomber pilot in the RAF, was missing, presumed dead. His Lancaster bomber had failed to return from a mission. With Christmas fast approaching, Madge elected not to tell her two children - Lily and young Cyril. They would have one last happy Christmas together.
She received an invitation to evacuate and stay with Uncle Digby. He was not at home, but they were greeted by an eccentric caretaker - really the Eleventh Doctor. Madge had never seen his face, owing to the impact suit being on back to front. He wanted to say thank you to her for her help.
The Doctor had one special present for the family - a large blue box. The ever inquisitive Cyril sneaked downstairs on Christmas Eve and opened the box. It contained a portal to an alien planet - a snowbound forest world. Lily and the Doctor followed in order to find him. They encountered a wooden King and Queen in a massive tower. Finding her family missing, Madge followed them, and she encountered a team of loggers from Androzani Major. They were about to harvest the forest using acid rain. The trees actually contained alien intelligences, who had created the King and Queen in order to transport them to safety. Madge rejoined her children in the tower, atop which was a travel capsule. Madge piloted it off the planet by mental power. Her desire to see her husband once more brought them back to Earth, and the capsule was seen by Reg in his bomber - providing a means of guiding the aircraft back home. When Madge, Lily and Cyril emerged from the capsule, they were back at Uncle Digby's house - and Reg had landed nearby.
Madge talked the Doctor into going to visit Amy and Rory at home for Christmas, as he had not seen the for a couple of years.

Played by: Claire Skinner (Madge), Alexander Armstrong (Reg), Holly Earl (Lily), and Maurice Cole (Cyril). Appearances: The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe (2011).

  • The young boy in the following year's Christmas Special is named Digby, leading many fans to speculate that he is the absentee uncle in this story.

Monday 24 October 2016

Children In Need 1 - Born Again

In which Rose struggles to come to terms with the new Doctor. He has just regenerated, and is mainly interested in his new physiology and appearance. At first Rose thinks he is an imposter - perhaps even a Slitheen. He mentions various shared experiences, to prove he is still the Doctor. If given the choice, Rose wants him to transform back into the Doctor she knew. The Doctor suddenly starts to act bizarrely, belching Artron Energy. He becomes increasingly more and more manic, and speeds up the TARDIS. Instead of the planet Barcelona, he will now take Rose home for Christmas, but the ship is flying out of control...

This 7 minute minisode was produced for inclusion in the BBC's 2005 Children In Need telethon, broadcast on 18th November. Officially, it is titled Doctor Who: Children In Need. Writer Russell T Davies jokingly referred to it as the "Pudsey Cutaway" - recalling how Mission to the Unknown was often called "Dalek Cutaway". Pudsey is the telethon's mascot - a teddy bear with a spotted bandage over his eye. One officially licensed reference book referred to this under the title of Born Again, which is the one I usually use.
After a lengthy recap of events from Parting of the Ways, we get the short scene outlined above.

  • This marked the public's first proper view of David Tennant, one month before his proper debut in The Christmas Invasion.
  • You can clearly see that this was filmed by a different director from Parting of the Ways, as the lighting of the TARDIS is so much different.
  • Elements from the first series are referenced as the Doctor tries to convince Rose that he is the same man. He tells her that Captain Jack will be busy rebuilding the Earth - suggesting that he knows that he is still alive. Later he will reveal that he knew Rose had brought him back to life, and made him immortal, and he left hurriedly without him deliberately. 
  • The version released on the Series 2 DVD box set is slightly different in terms of music, and the cloister bell sound effect is missing.
  • The minisode does not have any end credits.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Class 1.1 & 1.2 - Reviewed

The first two episodes of Class have just been screened on BBC3. I just watched them courtesy of the BBC i-player service, where you can also view a number of behind the scenes videos.
Don't read this if you have yet to get the series where you live. Shhh - spoilers!

First of all, is it any good? I would say definitely yes - so no worries there then. The first episode - For Tonight We Might Die - sets the scene, introduces the characters, and links the show to its parent series.
The setting is what used to be Coal Hill School in Shoreditch, London - now upgraded to Academy status. This is where Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright used to work, and where the Doctor's granddaughter Susan was once a pupil. Later, it would be used as a base of operations by the Daleks, seeking the Hand of Omega. Ian Chesterton would go on to become one of the school governors, and Clara Oswald and Danny Pink would teach there. The latter two characters get an on screen reference, as the Doctor sees their names inscribed on a wall in a roll of honour. And of course the Doctor was briefly the caretaker at the school.
Another link to the parent series is the inclusion of head teacher Mr Armitage, who we first saw in a couple of Series 8 stories.

The basic set up is that all of the above alien activity has weakened space / time, and so there is a Cardiff-style rift in the area. The Doctor should have thought about that before placing a couple of alien refugees there. Or maybe he did. It's clear that Charlie is going to be an alien from the start, as he takes everything people say so literally, and doesn't know who Idris Elba is. He's the latest Unearthly Child to be schooled at Coal Hill. Turns out he's an alien prince, from the planet of the Preppies. Miss Quill comes from the same world. She was a freedom fighter / terrorist who has been linked to Charlie via some parasitical creature. As punishment for her crimes / freedom fighting activities, she must now protect him. She can only fight if his life is threatened, and can't use weapons. Charlie's planet was destroyed by the demonic Shadow Kin, and he and Miss Quill were rescued by the Doctor (possibly in his Ninth incarnation, judging from the musical score). The Shadow Kin have now used the tear in space / time to find Charlie. He makes friends of sorts with three other pupils - April, who can't get a date for the prom; Tanya, who is younger than her peers and has a rather domineering mother: and Ram, who is the star football player and is a bit of an arrogant lad. As well as Tanya's mother, we get to meet April's, who is confined to a wheelchair, and Ram's father - who at first looks like he is going to be the pushy dad, but who we see in a different light once Ram has shown him his alien artificial leg. Yes, we'll come to that.

The Shadow Kin attack the school during the Prom. Ram's prom-date gets skewered. He loses his leg. April loses her heart to the Shadow Kin king. The Doctor turns up after Quill calls him and the Shadow Kin get sent packing - threatening the usual "you haven't seen the last of us" bit. The Doctor then tasks the youngsters and Quill to protect against whatever might drop through the tear.
One of these is an alien dragon, as we see in the second episode - The Coach With The Dragon Tattoo. No guesses where that title came from.
Ram's struggling to come to terms with both his new leg, that won't kick a ball straight, and his girlfriend getting skewered by aliens. Understandable, I would have thought. Instead of paling up with the others, he goes all moody on his own. That's until he learns that they have also seen a flesh flaying dragon, which looks just like the tattoo on his football coach. Sadly, Mr Armitage is one of the victims, so doesn't make it beyond the second episode.
The gore factor is high. Poor Ram gets drenched in blood two weeks running as well as getting his leg severed, and we get brief glimpses of skinned corpses. Diversity-wise, all the boxes are ticked. Ethnically diverse characters, someone in a wheelchair, and Charlie has a boyfriend. Personally I thought that the tick boxing was a bit too blatant. Tanya bonds with Ram because they are both non-white. That would be all very well if they were the only non-white people in the school, but this is Shoreditch we are talking about for goodness sake.

The highlight of the show is Kathrine Kelly's Miss Quill. She gets all the best lines. She's permanently passive-aggressive, when not being just downright rude and condescending, and I love her. The second episode deals mainly with Ram and Tanya, but Quill gets a personal duel with an enigmatic OFSTED inspector who she just doesn't trust. With good reason, as it turns out he's an android belonging to some outfit called The Governors. This will obviously play out later, as will there be a return of the Shadow Kin, as their king and April share a heart. Don't ask.
It also looks like Charlie's race might not necessarily be doomed to oblivion after all, as he has a box known as the Cabinet of Souls, that might just turn out to be some sort of race bank.
Overall, a cracking good start to the latest spin-off series. One always worries with Young Adult material that it will alienate those younger and older than the target audience. Personally, I have always felt that Young Adults are the only ones totally uninterested in YA-targeted books / films. Older and younger people tend to be the ones who lap them up most. YA's are too busy off doing YA things.
I am well over the YA age limit, but will certainly be logging on for the next 6 weeks.
Best line so far: "He's from OFSTED. Of course he's evil."
Also loved the Doctor's expressed love of darts - the perfect combination of mathematics and heavy alcohol consumption.

Monday 17 October 2016

Story 166 - Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways

In which the Doctor and his companions suddenly wake to find themselves in deadly versions of TV game shows. The Doctor is in the Big Brother House - where evictees are vapourised. Jack meets robot fashionistas Trin-E and Zu-Zana, of What Not To Wear. After considering his wardrobe, they plan to use lethal weapons to refashion his physiognomy. Rose finds herself playing The Weakest Link, hosted by the Ann-Droid. Losing contestants are also vapourised. The Doctor realises that someone has removed them from the TARDIS. He deliberately has himself evicted - knowing that whoever is responsible isn't going to kill him. They could have done this before now. He takes with him another contestant - Lynda - after proving to her that she is unlikely to have survived to win the competition. He discovers that they are on Satellite 5 - now renamed the Game Station. It is run by the Bad Wolf Corporation. Lynda explains that 100 years ago, the news channels suddenly stopped broadcasting. Society on Earth collapsed. The Doctor is horrified to learn that he was responsible for this, as it is 100 years since his last visit here. Jack destroys his robot captors and joins them. They search for Rose and head for the Weakest Link studio. However, they are too late, and the Doctor sees Rose vapourised.

They are captured by security forces, who plan to imprison them in a lunar penal colony. The Doctor and Jack quickly break free and head for Floor 500, to confront whoever is in charge here. In the control room, one of the TV programmers has been detecting strange signals coming from the station. A young woman is linked to the station's computers, with all the channels being processed through her brain. She has been here since she was a child. The Doctor, Jack and Lynda arrive. Jack finds the TARDIS hidden in a side room. He goes in and checks the systems, and discovers the true nature of the signals that the programmer has been detecting. The contestants who are being vapourised are really being transmatted off the station. Rose is still alive somewhere. The programme controller tries to warn the Doctor but is transmatted away and killed. The Doctor has the station monitors focus on the region of space to where the signals are being broadcast. At first it appears to be empty, but then they see a vast fleet of saucer-like craft - Dalek spaceships. Rose is on the huge command ship, a prisoner of the Daleks. The Doctor signals to the fleet that he is coming to get her...

The Doctor pilots the TARDIS towards the Dalek command saucer. It materialises on board. Emerging, he and Jack are confronted by a vast army of Daleks, led by the Emperor. This is a massive static Dalek, with its own private guard of black-domed Daleks. It is a survivor of the Time War. It has spent centuries creating a new army, using cells from captured humans. It is quite mad, and the Daleks have been conditioned to worship it as their god. Rose is rescued, and the TARDIS returns to the Game Station where Jack begins to plan its defences. The Doctor has a scheme to destroy the entire Dalek fleet, but this will wipe out half the Earth. The fleet begins to advance on the Station. The Doctor tricks Rose into entering the TARDIS, which he has set to return her to London in 2006 by remote control. She is reunited with her mother and Mickey. The Doctor has left a hologram message that the TARDIS will simply shut down and eventually be forgotten about. Rose refuses to return to her old life and seeks a way of getting back to the Doctor. Eventually, Jackie and Mickey realise that she will never stay, so decide to help her. Recalling that the TARDIS console had opened when they were in Cardiff recently, she tries to make it open for her.

The Daleks arrive in orbit around Earth and begin devastating the planet. They invade the Game Station and begin working their way towards Floor 500. Jack and a number of station personnel try to fight them, but to no avail. Lynda is amongst those killed, along with the TV programmer. Jack is then himself killed. On Earth, Rose sees the phrase "Bad Wolf" written all over the place. She realises that this is a message to herself - that she can get back to the Doctor. Jackie borrows a tow-truck, and this is powerful enough to open the TARDIS console. The doors slam shut as Rose is filled with Vortex energy, and the ship hurtles back to the year 200,100. The Doctor is captured by the Daleks, and admits that he could never use his device to destroy the Daleks and half of the human race. He is about to be exterminated when the TARDIS materialises.

Rose emerges, now containing the entire Vortex. This makes her omnipotent. She brings Jack back to life, then takes the name of the corporation and spreads the words throughout time - as a message for herself. Finally, she removes the Daleks and their vessels from existence. The Doctor realises that she will die if she holds the energy for much longer, and so absorbs it into himself. He bundles her into the TARDIS and dematerialises. Jack arrives too late. Rose wakes to find the Doctor is seriously ill. He tells her that he is about to change, and he won't look like this anymore. The Vortex energy has triggered a regeneration. Rose sees the Doctor's body engulfed in a blaze of energy - and suddenly there is a different man standing where the Doctor had been. After a quick check on his appearance, he completes what the Doctor had been telling her. Rose looks on, dumbfounded...

Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways were written by Russell T Davies, and were broadcast on June 11th and 18th, 2005. It marks the end of Series 1 of the revamped show, and these are the last two episodes to feature Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. Naturally, it also features the first appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. It sees the return of the Daleks en masse, and brings the Bad Wolf story arc to a conclusion. It also lays the seeds for Captain Jack's further adventures, name-checking the new show he will soon have all to himself - which will also be Series 2's story arc.
Davies had planned a story with lethal versions of TV game shows for a while. It is a very New Adventures concept, and could easily have found a home in the show back in the McCoy / Cartmel era. Indeed, both The Happiness Patrol and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy feature deadly talent contests.
Sadly, Eccleston's departure from the series had been made public way back just after his first appearance, so viewers were denied a surprise regeneration. Tennant had been a life-long fan of the show and had just starred in RTD's Casanova, and everyone was recommending the young Scot to Davies as the next Doctor. Davies is on record as saying that had Eccleston not decided to leave at the end of the first series, he might have had Rose depart. There is a ready-made companion in waiting on show here - Lynda. Instead, she suffers a heartbreaking demise. It is a remarkable death scene. The Doctor has promised to keep her safe. She is in a sealed off room monitoring the movement of the Daleks through the station when suddenly a trio float up outside the window. We don't hear what they say, but the dome lights blink out the word "Ex-ter-mi-nate" and they shatter the glass. Poor Lynda with a Y.

In the past, Dalek stories were always hampered by the obvious lack of props available to represent armies. We had to make do with flat photo blow-ups to swell numbers, or watch as the same four Daleks went round the back of the camera a few times to make it look like there were dozens of them coming through a doorway. The paucity of Daleks is at its most extreme in the concluding episode of Day of the Daleks, when it is obvious there are just the three of them. Vast armies of Daleks were confined to our imaginations, or the pages of TV Comic. Now, finally, we get to see a huge Dalek fleet of comic-like saucers, and thousands of Daleks emerge floating through space to attack the Station. The CGI doesn't quite stretch to showing us the attack on Earth. That's dealt with on some monitors, as the continents are melted out of shape. Ironically, there are just a a few Dalek props here as well, but split screen work multiplies their numbers.
Rose's return to Earth, to have a tantrum in a fast food outlet, does rather break the flow of the final episode, but it does finally resolve the Bad Wolf story arc.
This series has had a lot of very emotional moments - which some fans have not liked as they think them manipulative. I defy anyone to watch the Doctor's hologram message to Rose and not be moved - especially when he turns and appears to look right at her.
Story Arc points: 

  • As I mentioned last time, under Boom Town, this has been by far the most successful of all the story arcs - in that it gripped the wider media. It wasn't just fans who were keen to know. Turns out it's Rose herself - at least one inhabited by the Temporal Vortex. Bad Wolf Rose will be back.
  • The events on Satellite 5 from The Long Game are seen to have had repercussions.
  • The Daleks appear to be totally destroyed, but we know now of at least two lots that have escaped the Time War - the lone one from earlier in the series and the Emperor.
  • The Extrapolator from Boom Town is used to create a force-field protecting the upper floors of the Station.
  • First ever mention of a deadlock seal, which the sonic screwdriver can't open.
  • One of the questions in The Weakest Link mentions Torchwood...

Overall, a remarkable conclusion to what has been a remarkable series. No-one knew just how well the revamped show might have worked. It could have been a total flop. 11 years later, we're impatiently waiting for Series 10 to begin, and the third spin-off series is just about to launch. A lot of this is down to Bad Wolf, and especially to Christopher Eccleston - who was a fantastic Doctor. Such a shame he can't be lured back.
Things you might like to know:
  • Jo Stone-Fewing, who plays the male programmer, had just been in one of RTD's last series - Mine All Mine. This featured "Dalek Supreme" John Scott Martin in one of his final TV roles. Martin offered his services as a Dalek wrangler for the new series.
  • Jo Joyner - the nearly companion Lynda - went on to become a mainstay of Eastenders.
  • Rose's obnoxious fellow competitor Rodrick is played by Patterson Joseph, whose name continually features when new Doctors are about to be announced.
  • I have always had a slight problem with the cause of the Doctor's regeneration. Rose holds the Vortex for a considerable amount of time, and is a mere human. She's up on her feet minutes later. The Doctor takes it only briefly, and is a Time Lord, yet it kills him. Doesn't seem quite right.
  • There's an unseen adventure mentioned. After dropping off Margaret Slitheen's egg, the travellers have been to medieval Kyoto.
  • Doctor Who novels are referenced amongst the Weakest Link questions.
  • The production team managed to secure the real presenters of all three game shows featured, to provide voices. Davina McCall is the Davina-Droid for Big Brother. Ann Robinson voices the Ann-Droid, and Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine voice their robot counterparts.
  • The female Controller (Martha Cope) is connected up to the Station's systems by thick piping. When she is transmatted away we see that this has a hexagonal pattern to it. This is a visual reference to the original Dalek Emperor from Evil of the Daleks
  • Cope is the daughter of actor Kenneth Cope, who had appeared in Warrior's Gate during Tom Baker's final season, and is best known for his ghostly appearances in cult detective series Randall and Hopkirk. Tom Baker had a recurring role in its short-lived remake.
  • The new Emperor - a model made by Mike Tucker's team - has black-domed bodyguards floating around it. Black domed Imperial Guards also featured in Evil of the Daleks.
  • Bad Wolf attempts to keep the appearance of the Daleks a surprise - quite unsuccessfully. First of all, Daleks were shown in the "Next Time" teaser at the end of the previous episode. Then we clearly hear the Dalek Heartbeat sound effect when Rose finds herself on their ship. You can clearly see Dalek reflections on the wall when Rose wakes up, and when the Controller is killed - the extermination effect being the same as that seen in Dalek.
  • The Dalek saucers are a homage to those 1960's TV Comic strips. Those who like to watch the DVDs with the new CGI effects will have seen them in action already in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Purists are weirdly content to stick with the pastry cutters dangling on strings in front of a photo of the Houses of Parliament. Sadly, the new CGI on that DVD hasn't corrected the Doctor and Ian looking at totally different parts of the sky...
  • That Extrapolator will be seen again. However, it seems to get left behind on the station. There is no time for the Doctor to disconnect it and bring it onto the ship.
  • Apparently it took nearly a year of negotiations to use Big Brother in this. The other two series referenced already belonged to the BBC. Once Endemol were on board, however, they were right behind it - allowing a remix of the music and the new logo with the starfield behind it. Then broadcasters, Channel 4, were referenced as this version is screening on Channel 44000. It is still struggling on in the UK, on Channel 5. The regular version is watched by no-one - so no new non-entities have been sprung on the popular media. The "celebrity" version does have a handful of viewers I'm told.
  • The big red chair we see the Doctor sit in was sold to Channel 4 and used in subsequent series of Big Brother.
  • It is said that Rose was going to be killed by the Vortex energy had Eccleston stayed on. However, Davies has always said that he would never kill the audience-identifying companion, and so her demise might have been a fake ending for preview versions of the finale. Had Rose been written out at the end of the first series, her departure would probably have been more akin to Donna's - in that the Vortex had damaged her and she had to lose all her memories of travelling with the Doctor to save her life.
  • John Barrowman celebrated his birthday on his penultimate day of filming - with the Trin-E and Zu-Zana robots (inhabited by Paul Kasey and Alan Ruscoe, who was also inside the Ann-Droid). He was given a remote-controlled Dalek as a gift. There was much argument about whether or not to show his naked posterior on prime time telly. Barrowman and Davies wanted it to be inflicted on the nation - nay, the world. The BBC said no. Another good reason to keep paying the licence fee.

Sunday 9 October 2016

A is for... Arnold, Staff Sgt.

A member of the army unit assigned to the Goodge Street fortress when London was hit by a strange dense fog. Anyone venturing into this was later found dead, smothered in a choking web substance. The city centre was evacuated. The fortress was constructed during World War II, and was built into the side of the London Underground network. The web began to take over the Underground. Arnold discovered Jamie and Victoria wandering in the tunnels and took them to the fortress, where they were reunited with Professor Travers, whom they had met in Tibet some decades before. He told them that the Great Intelligence had once more decided to attack the Earth. A new generation of Yeti were roaming the tunnels and the streets above. At one point Arnold went missing with his troops. He reappeared later, the sole survivor.
It soon became clear that someone amongst the fortress personnel was under the influence of the Intelligence - acting against the Doctor's efforts to defeat the alien entity. They planted Yeti control models in people's pockets - targeting them for attack - and they opened the fortress doors to let the web enter.
The Intelligence wanted to drain the Doctor's knowledge. He reprogrammed a Yeti sphere and placed it in a captured Yeti, which he planned to use to help him to reverse the draining machine - so that it would be the Intelligence that was drained.
At Piccadilly Underground station, the Doctor and his friends finally met the person who had become host to the Intelligence - and this proved to be Arnold. Failing to tell his companions what his plan was, they attacked the Intelligence's machine. It was ejected into space, and Arnold was killed - his body burned up.

Played by: Jack Woolgar. Appearances: The Web of Fear (1968).

A is for... Aridians

Amphibious inhabitants of the planet Aridius. This world used to be covered in oceans, but its orbit brought it closer to its twin suns and the seas boiled away. Now the planet is a desert, and the Aridians live in an underground city. They are preyed upon by carnivorous Mire Beasts. These creatures used to live in the slime at the bottom of the oceans, but now they are breaking into the city. Large sections have had to be blocked off to stop their spread. The Doctor and his companions arrived on the planet and found that they were being hunted by a Dalek death squad, who had a time machine of their own. Some Aridians were forced to dig the TARDIS out after it had been buried by a sandstorm. They were exterminated after they had completed their work. The Daleks then forced the Aridians to hand over the Doctor and his friends. If they failed to do so, their city would be destroyed. The time travelers escaped when Mire Beasts broke into the part of the city where they were being held. They fled the planet in the TARDIS, and the Daleks followed - leaving the Aridians to fight their losing battle against the encroaching Mire Beasts.

Played by: Ian Thompson, Hywel Bennett, Al Raymond. Appearances: The Chase (1965).

  • The Aridians feature in the second episode only - The Death of Time.
  • Clips from this episode are often shown in those "before they were famous" shows, as Hywel Bennett would go on to have a highly successful acting career.

A is for... Argolins

A highly advanced race from the planet Argolis. They had evolved from plant-life. In the mid 23rd Century they went to war with the reptilian Foamasi. The war lasted mere minutes, but Argolis was blasted with deadly radiation. This rendered the race sterile. In order to fund research into their plight, and to foster peaceful relations between alien races, the Argolins set up the Leisure Hive. This entertainments complex used the science of Tachyonics to create its attractions. Argolins have long life spans, but when they are dying the process is very rapid. Seed-like pods on their craniums drop off as they die. The son of leader Morix was Pangol. His existence surprised everyone, as he appeared to have been born after the war. His mother, Mena, revealed that he was created by the Recreation Generator - from genetic material belonging to the whole race. Pangol harboured ambitions to turn Argolis into a military super-power once more. He planned to recreate himself to form a huge army. Unfortunately for him, the Doctor had sneaked into the Generator, and it was he who was copied. Re-entering the Generator with his dying mother, Pangol was regressed into a baby - whilst Mena was rejuvenated. The Argolin race would survive by rejuvenation, giving them the time needed to cure their sterility.
A female Argolin was one of the visitors to the Iceworld complex, visited by the Seventh Doctor and Mel.

Played by: David Haig (Pangol), Adrienne Corri (Mena), Laurence Payne (Morix). Appearances: The Leisure Hive (1980), Dragonfire (1987).

A is for... Areta

An inhabitant of the planet Varos. Areta was the wife of a young man named Jondar who had discovered the luxury in which the elite lived, compared to the downtrodden miners. When he tried to speak out, he was branded a rebel and imprisoned. Areta arranged for a friend named Rondel, a member of the guard corps, to rescue him. The attempt failed, but Jondar and Areta were helped by the arrival of the Sixth Doctor and Peri. Areta was captured and, along with Peri, forced to take part in one of scientist Quillam's experiments. Both were subjected to a transmogrifying beam which turned them into animals which reflected their personalities. Areta began to turn into a lizard. She was saved by the Doctor and Jondar. Areta was with the Doctor when he defeated Quillam and the Chief Officer. With higher prices paid for their Zeiton 7 ore, life on Varos would have been much better after the Doctor's intervention.

Played by: Geraldine Alexander. Appearances: Vengeance on Varos (1985).

Friday 7 October 2016

The Return of Doctor Mysterio

The title of the 2016 Doctor Who Xmas Special has been revealed, and a behind the scenes teaser trailer has been released. We seem to be going all Marvel this year. The story is set in New York, and there's a kid with specs. People disappear leaving their clothes behind, and there are masked surgeon-like figures kicking about. Matt Lucas' Nardole wears some silly costumes. Plus we get the masked superhero above.

Also out now is a proper trailer for Class. This reveals that we won't be visiting Coal Hill School at all. Rather, it will be set at Coal Hill Academy. One new monster is glimpsed - a sort of demon. We'll also visit at least one alien planet. Capaldi features in a couple of clips.

October's Figurines

A third figurine for the second month running. First of the two regular releases is a Dalek (from Death to the Daleks) - referred to in the accompanying magazine as a "Machine-Gun Dalek". The second figurine is a Vervoid, from Trial of a Time Lord Parts 9 - 12.
Accompanying them is the latest of the Special Editions - a Mechonoid from The Chase.
Looking at the Dalek first, this was the one-off silver / black colour scheme, which I personally always liked. The machine gun replaces the usual exterminator. This Dalek is the one with the orange dome lights. The Daleks in this story never had a designated leader who was obvious on screen, and it has always annoyed me that they didn't make it the orange light one.
The Vervoid is very detailed, with its leaf-covered body. No Nike trainers on show.
The Mechonoid, which is obviously to scale with the Daleks, has been simply produced - the scythe-like arms and flame-thrower gun are not extended.
Next month - drum-roll please - we are going to get a Monoid!

Sunday 2 October 2016

Story 165 - Boom Town

In which the Doctor takes the TARDIS to Cardiff, so that the ship can refuel. It materialises in the Bay area, in Roald Dahl Plas. Here it will be able to soak up energy from the temporal rift which runs through the city - the same phenomenon which the Gelth had tried to exploit. Rose asks Mickey to come and visit them, claiming she needs her passport. He and Captain Jack do not hit it off straight away. They all go to a cafe for breakfast, as the ship will need 24 hours to refuel. The Doctor spots a copy of the local newspaper, and is shocked to see that Margaret Blaine - Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer Day Slitheen, in other words - has become the city's new Mayor. She has initiated a new scheme to build a nuclear power station in the heart of the city - the Blaidd Drwg Project. Everyone who has threatened this project has so far met with an often bizarre fatal accident.

The Doctor and his companions go to the City Hall. On hearing that the Doctor would like to see her, Margaret tries to escape. her teleport is over-ridden by the Doctor's sonic screwdriver, and she is captured. Studying the model of the proposed power plant scheme, they discover that it hides a piece of alien technology - a tribophysical wave-form macro-kinetic extrapolator. With enough energy, this can be used as a travel device to transport its user half way across the galaxy. The Doctor notices the name of the project. Blaidd Drwg is Welsh for Bad Wolf. He points out to Rose that this phrase seems to have been haunting their recent travels. He dismisses it as coincidence, and they take Margaret to the TARDIS. The Doctor and Jack realise that the nuclear power station has been designed to fail catastrophically. Margaret was planning to harness this massive release of energy to use the extrapolator to get her off the Earth. The Doctor plans to take Margaret back to Raxacoricofallapatorius, to be judged by her own people. She tells him that her whole family were declared criminals in absentia, and she will face an automatic death sentence on her return home.

The TARDIS will not be ready to leave until morning. Jack starts experimenting with the extrapolator, whilst Rose and Mickey go for a meal. The Doctor offers to take Margaret to a restaurant. She first of all tries to kill him, but the Doctor has read up on Slitheen habits and biology. She informs him that her death will not be a quick one, but the Doctor is unmoved. She is talking to him from the mouth of a woman she killed, and her family had almost destroyed the planet. The extrapolator suddenly comes to life, and begins to tear open the Rift. Everyone hurries back to the TARDIS where Margaret reveals that the extrapolator was a trap. She knew anyone finding it would activate it and so open the Rift. As the city is threatened with destruction, the TARDIS console suddenyl opens of its own accord. A blinding light emerges. The Doctor encourages Margaret to look into the heart of the ship. She vanishes. The console - and the Rift - close. They discover that Margaret has been regressed to her egg stage. Mickey has tried to get back together with Rose, but he now knows that this will never happen, and so wanders off into the night. The Doctor decides to take the egg back to Raxacoricofallapatorius, to be left with another family. Under a different upbringing, she now has a second chance.

Boom Town was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on Saturday 4th June, 2005. The eleventh episode slot, in Davies' original plan for the season, was to have been a story with a different town going boom - namely Pompeii. As it was, this was now to be a cheaper episode, with fewer CGI needs. Davies had felt that Annette Badland had been somewhat underused in the Aliens of London two-parter, and had sounded her out for a return visit. Her Slitheen version would only be seen briefly, and this would be augmented with some CGI to make the face more animated.
Davies had also wanted to show off the programme's new home - which was also his own adopted home. He lived in a flat overlooking Cardiff Bay where the story would be filmed.

There is a lot of humour in the story - mainly down to the interplay between Margaret and the Doctor. There are farcical elements to their diner date, as well as her attempts to evade capture earlier on. Underlying this are some serious themes, however. The Doctor reminds his companions - and the audience - that the TARDIS looks like a Police Box, which could sometimes be used to incarcerate prisoners. The ship fulfills that role with the captive Slitheen. The Doctor is challenged about always leaving before facing the consequences of his actions, but Margaret forces him to think about this when she points out that he will be taking her to her death. Elsewhere, the issue of those left behind when someone travels with the Doctor is revisited, as we find out what Mickey has been up to since Rose last left the Powell Estate. He finally accepts that he can never compete with the lifestyle she enjoys with the Doctor. His initial antipathy towards Jack is as much about jealousy as his dislike for his brashness.
Story Arc items: 

  • Blaidd Drwg being Welsh for Bad Wolf. This time the Doctor actually notices the phrase, only to apparently dismiss it as coincidence.
  • The story is a sequel to Aliens of London / World War Three
  • It also sees mention of The Unquiet Dead, as this is the Rift which the Gelth were using.
  • In hindsight, we know that the Torchwood Hub is built directly beneath the Plas. The spot where the TARDIS parks will retain its camouflage traces, and a lift from the Hub to street level will emerge here.
  • The TARDIS will park here for refueling once again in Series 3, which will tie in with the finale of Torchwood's first season.

Overall, what at first appears a slight, inconsequential adventure has a lot of serious things to say. Annette Badland is superb. You almost feel sorry for a Slitheen. Murray Gold provides a beautiful suite of music, which you can't help but think of if you ever visit Cardiff bay. Voted a lowly 179th in the DWM 50th Anniversary poll - undeservedly I think.
Things you might like to know:
  • As well as Annette Badland, there are just two other significant guest artists. One is Mali Harries, who plays Cathy, a journalist who is spared by Margaret as she is pregnant. The other is William Thomas, who plays the doomed Mr Carver - yet another expert who has spotted design flaws in Margaret's power station. Thomas becomes the first actor to have appeared in both the Classic Series and the New version. He was the undertaker in Remembrance of the Daleks. We will see him again soon as Gwen Cooper's father in the second and fourth series of Torchwood.
  • The Doctor Who Experience runs regular location tours, and these take in much of what you see in this story. Save your money and do your own tour. Everything's within a short distance, other than the City Hall - which you would be visiting on a day trip anyway as it is next door to the National Museum of Wales, which doubles for all the museums which you see in other episodes of Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
  • The fountain of the metal water tower next to where the TARDIS is parked is designed to switch off if the temperature falls too low. This happened on the nights they were filming, and the local council had to turn it on again specially.
  • What is it with the TARDIS needing to refuel? This has never been mentioned before. It has always been implied that the TARDIS has unlimited power. Some later stories say the same. Edge of Destruction had mentioned calamity if the console opened up, but other stories have seen the old console dismantled.
  • The Doctor is determined to take Margaret back to her home planet. In the past, however, he has been willing to take alien criminals to uninhabited worlds.
  • This story sees the first mention that the Doctor and Rose have had unseen adventures - the visit to Woman Wept for instance. Justicia is also mentioned - setting for one of the first of the Ninth Doctor novels.
  • Tribophysics was previously mentioned by Sarah Jane Smith in Pyramids of Mars. It has something to do with friction, apparently.
  • After asking the Doctor to give her some "Spock" in the last story, here Rose describes the Chameleon Circuit as a sort of "cloaking device". The Doctor is quick to correct her, though his Eighth incarnation seemed okay with the phrase.
  • Little did we know it at the time, but there are actually three Captain Jacks around at the same time in this story. Presumably the one that runs Torchwood 3 is out of town with his team when the TARDIS arrives - probably deliberately so Jack can avoid any nastiness with the Blinovitch Limitation Effect. However, there is still the third version in cryogenic suspension in the Hub from the finale to Series 2 of Torchwood.
  • The little office where Ianto Jones sometimes works will have a copy of that Western Mail front page from the top of this post hanging up, at least until the Hub gets blown up in Torchwood Series 3.
  • This story was made in a recording block of its own. It was recorded between The Long Game and the two part series finale.
  • The synopsis when released mentioned a returning character, and everyone at the time assumed it was someone from the Classic Series.
  • As it was broadcast, media and bookmaker speculation about who or what Bad Wolf might be was at fever pitch. For some reason Adam Mitchell was quite a popular notion - out to get revenge, but the reference to a wolf also saw the return of Fenric gaining a lot of support. Once the "Next Time" teaser at the end of this episode had been shown - telling us the Daleks were back - Davros became a favourite. No story arc has gripped the wider media than this first one.

Thank You!!!

Just realised that earlier on today this blog received its quarter of a millionth visit. Thank you to everyone who has ever stopped by for a read - especially those who are regular visitors. Hope you have enjoyed it and will come back for more. Here's to the next 250,000!