Thursday 30 November 2017

Story 186 - Blink

In which a young woman named Sally Sparrow goes exploring around an old abandoned house - Wester Drumlins - to take some photographs. In one of the rooms she spots some writing under the peeling wallpaper. She starts to tear the rest away, and is shocked to find a message apparently written to herself, from someone called the Doctor, back in 1969. It warns her to beware the Weeping Angel and advises that she duck. As she does so, a rock is thrown through the window and narrowly misses her. She looks out into the garden, where she had earlier seen a statue of an angel with its face buried in its hands. Returning home, she finds a naked man in her house. She wakes up her friend, Kathy Nightingale, who reveals that the man is her brother Larry. He has been watching a DVD on TV, which shows a bespectacled man in a suit saying odd disjointed things.
The next morning, Sally takes Kathy to the house to show her the message on the wall. There is a knock at the door and Sally goes to answer it. Kathy remains behind, and fails to notice that the angel statue has moved closer to the house. It is suddenly right behind her...

Sally opens the door to a man who gives her an envelope. He was asked by his grandmother to come here on this date and at this specific time. Within the envelope is a message from Kathy which explains that the man is her grandson, and that by the time Sally reads this she will be long dead. The note goes on to say that one moment Kathy was in the house with Sally, and the next she was on the outskirts of Hull, in the 1920's. She met someone, got married and had a family. Sally goes looking for Kathy, suspecting this is all a joke, but there is no sign of her friend. She goes upstairs and finds three angel statues identical to the one in the garden. One of them has a key in its hand, which Sally removes.
She goes to the graveyard, and finds Kathy's grave. She fails to notice one of the statues nearby. She then goes to the DVD shop where Larry works, to inform him that his sister has gone away. She sees that he is watching the footage of the bespectacled man, and at one point he seems to answer one of her questions. Larry explains that these cryptic clips are Easter Eggs, found only on 12 specific DVDs. Larry and his friends have been trying to work out their meaning. He gives her a list of the DVD titles. Her next port of call is the local police station, where mention of the house leads her to officer Billy Shipton.

He has been investigating Wester Drumlins for some time, as a number of cars have been found abandoned there - as well as an old Police Call Box. Billy takes a shine to her, and asks her for her phone number. Sally gives it to him, leaving him in the car park. She returns a few moments later to find he has gone, along with the Police Box. She then gets a phone message from him, asking her to go to the local hospital. Here she finds Billy, but he is now an old man, close to death. He explains that he was suddenly transported back to 1969, where he met the Doctor and Martha. He got a job in publishing, and it was he who was responsible for putting the Easter Eggs - which feature the Doctor - on the DVDs. Sally stays with him until he passes away. Leaving the hospital, she looks at Larry's list and discovers something strange about it. She calls him and tells him that these are the DVDs that she owns. They go to Wester Drumlins where Larry has a full transcript of what the Doctor says. They play the DVDs and Sally finds that he is giving half of a conversation - with her, here on this night.

The Doctor tells them of the Weeping Angels, a mysterious ancient race also known as the Lonely Assassins. They cannot be killed themselves as they are made of stone. They feed on potential energy - sending people back in time and living off the life that they would have led. The creatures are quantum locked, meaning that they cannot move when being observed, even by their own kind. This is why they shield their faces - to prevent them seeing each other. The Doctor and Martha had been sent back to 1969 by them, cut off from the TARDIS which is still in the present day. The transcript runs out, and the Doctor states that there is no more - meaning that he suspects they are about to come under attack. He warns them not to take their eyes off the Angels, not even to blink. Larry and Sally are attacked by the four Angels and seek refuge in the cellar, where they find the TARDIS. She realises that the key she found will gain them access. Once inside, an automated message from the Doctor asks them to insert the DVD of the conversation into the console. This causes the TARDIS to dematerialise and make its way to 1969. However, it is leaving them behind, surrounded by the Angels. As the Police Box vanishes, however, the Angels are facing each other, and so become trapped in their own gazes.
Some time later, Sally and Larry have become a couple and are working at the DVD store. Sally suddenly sees the Doctor and Martha rush past. She stops them and gives the Doctor all of the material she had gathered about the Angels. For them, the trip back to 1969 has not happened yet, so the Doctor is forewarned to set things up just as Sally has already experienced them...

Blink was written by Steven Moffat, and was first broadcast on 9th June, 2007. Setting aside the 50th Anniversary special, it is far and away the most successful of all Moffat's scripts, introducing as it does his signature monster the Weeping Angels. A recent poll had them more popular than the Daleks. This story marks the first use of the phrase "timey-wimey".
When the third season was being planned, Moffat was approached to write the two-part Dalek story (which became Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks). Busy on other things, Moffat declined this commission and agreed to write a single part story for later in the run. By way of penance for upsetting Russel T Davies' plans, he accepted the Doctor-lite story. These had become a necessity since the annual Christmas Special had been added to production on 13 regular episodes.
Back in 2006 Moffat had written a story for the Doctor Who Annual, entitled "What I Did on My Christmas Holidays, by Sally Sparrow". In this, a young girl is staying with her aunt in Devon and finds a message for herself under the wallpaper from the Ninth Doctor, dating from 1985. An old photo from that year plus other messages lead her to a videotape, which has half of a conversation from the Doctor. He has become separated from the TARDIS and needs Sally's help in getting it back. He knows all of this as she will write it down afterwards as her school essay.
This formed the basis for Blink, as you can clearly see. This format allowed the Doctor and companion to feature only briefly, in the video / DVD footage, whilst the young woman became the story's chief protagonist.

Moffat liked to use things which scared children - such as something lurking under the bed (used twice), cracks in walls, and creatures which had skull-like faces, or no faces at all. He had always found statues a bit creepy, and had been struck by a particular angel monument in a graveyard next to a country house hotel which he and his family had stayed at. This gave him the inspiration for the story's monsters. The notion that they could not move when observed derived from the children's game known as Statues or Grandma's Footsteps, where a child has their back to their friends and they have to sneak up - freezing when the first child randomly turns round. Anyone caught moving is "out".
Playing Sally we have Carey Mulligan, who has since gone on to greater things in major Hollywood movies. She pretty much carries the whole episode. Joining her are Finlay Robertson as Larry, and Lucy Gaskill as Kathy. Billy Shipton is played as a young man by Michael Obiora, with Louis Mahoney as the older version. Mahoney had appeared in the series twice before - as the newsreader in Frontier in Space, and as the Morestran Ponti in Planet of Evil. Kathy's grandson Malcolm is Richard Cant - son of the legendary Brian Cant who had himself played two roles in the series back in the 1960's. Thomas Nelstrop plays Kathy's husband, Ben Wainwright.

Overall, an exceptionally good episode. Mulligan and Robertson are very good leads, replacing the Doctor and companion roles. The Angels are a wonderful addition to the roster of aliens and monsters, and won't be anywhere near as effective in later appearances as they are here. This story won a Hugo Award in 2008, and it was voted second favourite story of all time in both the DWM Mighty 200 and 50th Anniversary polls.
Things you might like to know:

  • The house playing Wester Drumlins is on Fields Park Road in Newport. A decade later, some of the scenes for Knock, Knock were filmed at the property. In both stories a character describes it as a "Scooby Doo" house.
  • Wester is the name for a wind that comes from the west. A drumlin is a glacial landscape feature - an elongated hill with a steep edge at one end, tapering gradually down at the other.
  • This episode is directed by Hettie MacDonald - the first woman to direct a story since the series was brought back. The last time a woman directed a Doctor Who it was Sarah Hellings, with The Mark of the Rani.
  • The prologue, when Sally encounters the Doctor and Martha in the street, takes place one year after the rest of the story. Viewers in the UK knew this, but the caption was omitted when the story was broadcast in the US.
  • Investigating the house together, Sally points out that she and Kathy have names which, together, sound a bit "ITV". This is a reference to a number of shows in which a pair of characters have complimentary surnames - the most obvious example being the amateur sleuths Rosemary and Thyme, who both just happen to be gardeners.
  • All the DVD titles in the shop are false ones, the names and poster images being devised by the production team.
  • Moffat will have a dig at his own catchphrase when the War Doctor is exasperated by "timey-wimey" in Day of the Doctor.
  • A number of the later Weeping Angels stories will contradict this one, as looking at the Angel in the crashed Byzantium actually creates problems for Amy Pond. Here, Sally also gives the Doctor some photos of the Angels, whereas it's later stated that the image of one becomes one.
  • Moffat had originally intended to use the Weeping Angels in a planned story about an abandoned library, but brought them into Blink instead as he was rushed for time. This meant he had to devise the Vashta Nerada for the library story when it finally arrived in Series 4.

Monday 27 November 2017

C is for... Corakinus

King of the Shadow Kin, who originated on a planet of perpetual night in a domain known as the Underneath. The Shadow Kin could infiltrate a world as shadows, materialising in their solid form to attack. They invaded the planet Rhodia and wiped out its entire population - save for its prince and his Quill protector. The Doctor saved them and relocated them to Earth, the prince taking the name Charlie. He attended Coal Hill Academy, where Miss Quill took up a teaching post. Charlie had with him a device called the Cabinet of Souls, which Corakinus feared would be used as a weapon against his people. He launched an attack through the tears in the fabric of Space / Time centred on the area due to the TARDIS' frequent visits there. Corakinus killed Ram Singh's girlfriend, and severed the young man's leg before the Doctor appeared. He used light to banish the Shadow Kin back to their own domain. A freak shot from a displacement gun caused Corakinus' heart to merge with that of student April MacLean, however. They came to share the same heart, and this gave April a psychic link to the Shadow Kin ruler.

Corakinus employed his scientists to try to undo the link, killing them when they failed. This link grew stronger, and Corakinus then used it to try to break through to the school once again. April travelled to the Underneath and fought Corakinus in single combat. She won, and Corakinus was deposed. He managed to reassert his control and launched a further attack, targeting the family members of Charlie's friends. Charlie became infected with Shadow DNA. Corakinus was holding his boyfriend hostage but Charlie shot April through the heart at her instigation - killing her and Corakinus. He decided to use the Cabinet, even though it would mean killing himself. The Shadow Kin were destroyed in their entirety but Charlie survived. April appeared to have died, but she suddenly woke up in Corakinus' body.

Played by: Paul Marc Davies. Appearances: Class: For Tonight We Might Die, Co-owner of a Lonely Heart, Brave-ish Heart, The Lost.

  • Sadly poor April will be left in Corakinus' body, as the series is not going to be renewed for a second season. It would be nice if Chris Chibnall could find a way to wrap things up.
  • Davies had played the leader of the Futurekind in Utopia, and he was The Trickster in three appearances in The Sarah Jane Adventures.

C is for... Copper, Mr.

The resident historian on the SS Titanic spaceship which operated out of the planet Sto. He claimed to have a degree in Earthonomics, but the Doctor was bemused by his description of Christmas when he joined Copper and others on a trip down to the planet. For instance, Santa had fearsome claws, and the people of UK went to war with the Turkey people at Christmas, not long before boxing started.
Copper survived the impact of a trio of meteoroids which crippled the ship. He revealed to the Doctor that he was here under false pretences, as his degree had actually come from Mrs Golightly's travelling university and laundry service. He had been an itinerant salesman for a time, when he used to take shelter with cyborgs who were discriminated against on Sto. Passenger Bannakaffalatta revealed that he was a cyborg, whose electro-magnetic pulse emitter could disable the lethal Heavenly Host robots. Mr Copper took the pulse generator after Bannakaffalatta died and used it as a weapon against further attacks. Once Max Capricorn had been defeated Mr Copper attempted to help the Doctor save Astrid Peth, as she had been wearing a teleport bracelet when she was killed. This failed, and he convinced the Doctor to let her go.
A rescue mission was on its way from Sto, but Copper told the Doctor that he would end up in jail for his deception. The Doctor took him to Earth, where it was found that he had a credit card which would make him rich. He was advised to keep his head down and live a quiet life.
It later transpired that he had invested the money in setting up the Mr Copper Foundation. Its research led to the development of the Sub-Wave Network. Ex Prime Minister Harriet Jones used this to contact the Doctor and his associates when the Earth was moved across space to the Medusa cascade by the Daleks.

Played by: Clive Swift. Appearances: Voyage of the Damned (2007).

  • Swift had previously played the camp mortician Mr Jobel in Revelation of the Daleks (1985). Should you ever bump into him it's best not to mention his Doctor Who appearances, as he gave a rather ill-tempered telephone interview with DWM just after the 2007 Christmas Special had aired, clearly wanting to be recognised more for his other work.

C is for... Copley, Professor

Head of the powerful pharmaceutical company The Pharm, Prof. Aaron Copley had succeeded in obtaining a number of alien creatures which had come through the Cardiff Rift. He experimented on these in order to find new drugs. He had influential supporters who could shield his activities at government level. One of the drugs he was working on was called Reset. This was derived from a giant alien insect known as a Mayfly. Reset was found to treat incurable diseases. However, Mayfly larvae grew within the bodies of the trial patients and eventually killed them. Torchwood were alerted to the Pharm when a number of bodies began to turn up which had no apparent cause of death. Martha Jones of UNIT arrived in Cardiff to join Captain Jack and his team in investigating these. She and Owen Harper discovered the link between the victims - that they had all acted as guinea-pigs in drug trials, and that one of them had been cured of a disease that should have been untreatable. Copley had employed an assassin to eliminate the Reset trialists.
Martha went under cover to learn more, pretending to be a drug trialist at The Pharm. She broke into the secure area and saw the captured aliens. Torchwood raided the company when she was discovered. Copley pulled out a gun and fired at Martha, but Owen jumped into the path of the bullet. Jack shot and killed Copley, but they were unable to save Owen.

Played by: Alan Dale. Appearances: TW 2.6 Reset (2008).

  • New Zealander Dale first came to the attention of UK viewers thanks to his long-running role in the Australian soap Neighbours. He has since accrued a number of genre roles, appearing in Lost and The X-Files, as well as movie parts in Star Trek: Nemesis and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

C is for... Cooper, Gwen

A former Cardiff police officer who became a Torchwood agent. One evening WPC Cooper was attending a crime scene - the latest victim of a serial killer. The Torchwood team turned up and all the police were ordered to leave the area. Intrigued, Gwen ascended a multi-storey car park to watch them at work. She was shocked to see them apparently bring the victim back to life using a metal gauntlet. Captain Jack Harkness was aware that they were being spied upon. Gwen spotted Jack at the city hospital a day or two later and followed him to a section that was closed off. There she saw one of the savage Weevil creatures which attacked and killed one of the orderlies. Jack and his colleagues captured the creature and bundled it away. Gwen tried to follow them, but lost them at Roald Dahl Plas in the bay area. Back at the police station, Gwen discovered that no orderly had gone missing, and the only Captain Jack Harkness on record went missing back in 1941.

She returned to the bay that night and learned of regular pizza deliveries to Torchwood. She pretended to be a delivery person, and found herself in the Hub, built beneath the plaza. Jack was impressed with the way she had found them. He told her all about Torchwood, but later revealed that she would not recall any of this as he had given her the Retcon drug. However, in the police incident room she recognised the serial killer's weapon as one she had seen at Torchwood and returned to the bay, just in time to confront Suzie Costello - a Torchwood agent who was killing people in order to test the reanimating glove. Suzie killed herself after shooting Jack. Gwen was shocked to see him spring back to life a few moments later. Jack decided to recruit Gwen to his team. He insisted that she maintain her personal life - she had a long-term boyfriend named Rhys - and hoped that she could bring a little empathy and compassion to the organisation.
Torchwood tended to kill or imprison the alien threats it encountered, but Gwen insisted on understanding them and even allowing them to go free if they no longer posed a risk. This trust sometimes put her own life at risk, such as when she helped the reanimated Suzie Costello.
Gwen began a relationship with her colleague Owen Harper, as she found it frustrating that she could not discuss her work with Rhys. This began when Gwen and Owen had to hide in a morgue cabinet when the Hub was attacked by a Cyberwoman - when Gwen was almost converted - and was cemented when Owen saved her life after she was shot whilst investigating mysterious disappearances in the Brecon Beacons. After Owen had become infatuated with the pilot Diane Holmes, who had travelled through the Rift from the 1950's, the relationship ended. At one point Gwen told Rhys about the affair, only to then Retcon him.

Despite being the newest member of the team, Gwen took the lead when Jack disappeared soon after defeating the demonic Abaddon, which had been brought to Cardiff through the Rift by the enigmatic Bilis Manger. On his return Jack discovered that Gwen was engaged to be married.  Rhys finally discovered the truth about his fiancee when his haulage firm became involved in the transportation of alien meat, and he helped the team infiltrate the gang behind this. Once this was over, Jack expected Gwen to Retcon him, but she refused to do so. Rhys became an unofficial member of the team.
On the eve of her wedding, Gwen was bitten by an alien Nostrovite. She woke the next morning to find that she was pregnant with its young. The wedding took place, although the Nostrovite mother infiltrated the wedding party, impersonating her mother-in-law to be and Jack. Rhys used an alien device to destroy the Nostrovite foetus. Jack then arranged for the entire wedding party to be Retconned.

Gwen was later approached by her old colleague Andy, regarding a support group for missing persons. Gwen knew that they were people who had been snatched away by the Rift. She befriended a woman named Nikki Bevan, whose son Jonah had vanished. Jack warned Gwen not to investigate but she failed to take his advice, and followed him to an island out in the bay. This proved to be a hospital of sorts for those who had been returned from the Rift. Gwen reunited Nikki with her son, but he was now much older and horribly scarred - physically and mentally. Nikki told her she would rather not have known what had happened to him, and Gwen realised that Jack had been right.
Some time later, Gwen was heartbroken when Owen and Toshiko Sato were killed.
The Hub then came under attack by the Daleks when the Earth was removed to the Medusa Cascade, as part of Davros' scheme to create the Reality Bomb. Jack went to help the Doctor, whilst Gwen and Ianto Jones were trapped in the Hub. The Doctor and Rose recognised Gwen as looking very like the Cardiff servant girl Gwyneth whom they had met in Victorian times.

The Hub was destroyed by agents attempting to hush up the government's involvement with the aliens known as the 456. Gwen and Rhys had to go on the run and headed for London where the aliens had despatched an emissary. Ianto was killed, leaving only Jack and Gwen of the original team. Forced to sacrifice the life of his grandson to defeat them, Jack went away for a time, and on his return he found that Gwen was pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter - Anwen - and she and Rhys found a quiet cottage to live in on the Welsh coast. Their idyll was shattered when the cottage came under attack by more government agents, this time because of the "Miracle Day" event when people all over the world stopped dying. Gwen and Jack travelled to America, whilst Anwen went to Gwen's mother to be looked after. Rhys became involved in trying to keep her father, Geraint, out of the hands of the government as he had suffered a heart attack and was scheduled to be cremated alive.
technically, as an organisation, Torchwood no longer exists, but should they ever be needed again, Gwen Cooper is sure to return at Jack's side.

Played by: Eve Myles. Appearances: Torchwood Series 1 & 2, Children of Earth, Miracle Day (2006 - 2011), The Stolen Earth / Journey's End (2008).

Saturday 25 November 2017

Inspirations - The Moonbase

It's 1967, and producer Innes Lloyd is keen to find a replacement for the Daleks. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that the public have been getting a little fed up with them. Another is that Terry Nation has to be paid every time the BBC wants to use them, whether he writes the story or not. It's unlikely he will be the writer anyway, as he is too busy on more lucrative work elsewhere. The last time they were seen it was David Whitaker who wrote the story, and the time before that Donald Tosh, Dennis Spooner and Douglas Camfield did all the writing, as Nation merely submitted some sketchy episode outlines. It is known that Nation also wants to take the Daleks away from Doctor Who to feature in their own series. He's prepared to put his own money into this, but is looking for a production partner. He's sounding out the Americans and will even go knocking at the door of BBC 2.
The Tenth Planet had been deemed a success, and its format was one that Lloyd and Script Editor Gerry Davis were happy with. What we now call the "base under siege" stories allow for tense, claustrophobic action and rely on just a few sets - one large main area plus a few side rooms. Putting the base in some inhospitable location adds to the drama. Rescuers can't get to it, and those within can't easily escape.
The Tenth Planet had been an alien invasion tale, so the base had to be terrestrial. It could have been under the sea, but they went with the South Pole. They rather messed things up by having the action take place in December, as that is the middle of summer in Antarctica.

The Cybermen were regarded as a successful new alien and potential successor to the Daleks, and so a return was commissioned quite quickly. They had worked well in their debut story, and so something similar was sought for the follow-up. We've already talked about the Space Race in these posts. A manned mission to the Moon was the target, and everyone assumed that a permanent presence there would be the next thing to aim for. It would have been inconceivable in the mid 1960's that we would have gone to the Moon only a handful of times, then simply abandoned it. We finally got a space station (disappointingly not toroidal in shape), but in 2017 there is still no Moonbase - even one that isn't permanently staffed. It's just being talked about again, however, as interest in the Moon has been rekindled. However, it is China and India who seem most interested, rather than the USA or Russia.

The Moonbase is set in 2070 and the base in question appears to be a European affair. Americans are conspicuous by their absence. In a few year's time, Barry Letts and Terence Dicks will devise a series set in a Moonbase - one of three which have been constructed along nationality lines. If that is the case here, it is never mentioned. Everything points to the Gravitron base being the only one on the Moon. At least it is an international set up, although - coming from the BBC - naturally the boss is an Englishman. We even have a black crew member. You'll recall that one of the astronauts in The Tenth Planet was West Indian. No female crew, however.
The notion that the weather can be controlled centrally is a neat one, but of course one that will never come to pass. It is never explained how the Gravitron can affect those parts of the Earth which are facing away from the Moon. Later on we will see each country having its own weather control systems (in The Seeds of Death) - an even dafter idea. The problem with the weather that it is a series of interconnecting barometric / thermal systems. You affect one thing, and it has a knock-on effect somewhere else. To give a quick analogy. Many parts of the North Sea coast of England are suffering extreme coastal erosion. Some places have been strengthening their sea defences - the popular places where tourists visit or where there is a larger urban settlement. These have simply channeled the destructive powers of the sea to hit other areas along the coastline more severely, hastening the erosion. People who bought a house half a mile from the shore 30 years ago are now seeing their back gardens fall into the sea. Weather control is one of those futuristic Science Fiction ideas that just would never work in practice. Were you to make rain fall in one area, you prevent it from falling somewhere else.

2017 saw the return of the Mondasian Cybermen. Back in 1966, they were deemed to be a bit crude in their realisation, so Innes Lloyd decided that some money should be spent on redesigning them. They were going to become a recurring enemy, and so something more streamlined was decided upon. The accordion-like chest unit is retained, though it's made smaller and more compact. The light fitting on the top of the head is now built into the helmet, but the handle bars are also kept, even though they are no longer necessary. They have silver body suits with no human hands showing, and the surgical stocking faces are now blank, skull-like masks. The voices are also more robotic.
Basically, the redesign is to make them sturdier for future re-use. The ironic thing is that, unlike the Daleks, the Cybermen will undergo a constant redesign process - this particular version only really being seen on one further occasion (and even then they changed the footwear and some of the cabling). The Cybermen are mostly confined to the third episode (sadly one of the ones we no longer have), though there is some action on the lunar surface in Part Four. We never hear of how there can still be Cybermen, as the last time we saw them their entire planet was destroyed. Some material about their new home on Telos was ditched from the finished production.

These Cybermen are sneaky, and one of them even appears to have a sense of sarcasm. The previous ones were a bit sneaky as well, donning the parka jackets of the soldiers they had killed to get themselves into Snowcap Base. Here they begin a fine tradition of elaborate scheming, which will hit ludicrous heights when we get to The Wheel in Space. They land on the Moon and dig a tunnel into the base storeroom. Here, they infect the sugar supply with a neurotropic virus. The base doctor is among the first to succumb to this "space plague". Did they know that their tunnel would hit the store where the sugar was kept? How did they manage to incapacitate the doctor on their first attempt? They don't want to kill these humans. They want the infected people for another purpose. They sneak into the sickbay and abduct the patients so that they can place them under their mental control and use them as slave workers. Why? So they can be used to operate the Gravitron on their behalf. The last lot of Cybermen had a weakness when it came to radiation, but here we are led to believe that gravity is bad for them. Only humans can operate the Gravitron. Again - why? The only problem with the Gravitron control room is the noise - hence the tea-cosy head sets people have to wear. There is nothing in the script about gravitational forces being any different in this area than anywhere else on the base. The only gravitational forces being generated are those being zapped off into space to control the weather on Earth. As with just about every future Cyberman story, there is simply little or no justification for their over-elaborate plans. The Cybermen should simply blast a few holes in the base dome (well above tea tray blocking height) and kill the humans, then operate the Gravitron themselves.

As mentioned last time, Jamie has only recently been written into the series as a regular companion, and the scripts haven't quite caught up with him. Here, he gets concussed in the first few minutes and remains in the sickbay until Part Three. The Doctor was actually aiming for Mars at the start of this story - as we seen in the closing moments of the previous story. It is Ben who spots that they have landed on the Moon, which is very perspicacious of him as decent images of the lunar surface weren't all that common in 1966. The Moon-based movies of the 1950's (such as Destination Moon) tended to go for craggy vistas, but at least here they go for a flatter moonscape. Interestingly, the TARDIS' magic chest not only has four spacesuits in it, but they just happen to be of the identical design which the Moonbase crew use, down to the built-in design flaw of the misting up helmets.

Lastly, a word about the Doctor's doctorate. Throughout the Hartnell era, the Doctor stated quite categorically that he was not a doctor of medicine. Here, the Doctor mentions having studied medicine though he is vague on the details - and he never states that he qualified. He claims to have studied under Lister at Glasgow in 1888. Joseph Lister worked at Glasgow's Royal Infirmary where he developed his thoughts about sterile conditions in surgery. He tutored at Glasgow University but left in 1869 to move to Edinburgh, and by 1881 he had gone to London - so the Doctor's memories don't match the facts of Lister's career. Either the Doctor has got his dates wrong, or his Scottish universities, as he does definitely think that it was Lister he studied under.
Even more lastly, a word about the new TARDIS scanner function. At the close of this story, the Doctor reveals the hitherto unknown fact that he has a device that can give him a glimpse of the future - at least the near future of their next landing site. The question is, of course, why haven't we seen this before - or since? Well, the Doctor does state that it isn't terribly reliable - though it gets an encounter with the Macra spot on here. Some fans have postulated that the Doctor has built the Time-Space Visualiser into the TARDIS (last seen in The Chase). That could only ever show things that had already happened, however, whereas this is clearly supposed to be showing their future.
At this stage in the programme, the Doctor is a happy wanderer, and he can't really control the TARDIS, so presumably he never uses it again just because it would take the fun out of working out where he arrives next.
Next time: I could crack some crude joke about everyone coming down with an attack of the crabs, but I won't. We're off to Space Butlins and Jamie does the Highland Fling whilst Ben is turned to the dark side.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Combat - Torchwood 1.11

In which Captain Jack is pursuing a Weevil through the streets of Cardiff. Gwen is on a dinner date with Rhys and sees him. She runs to join him, much to Rhys' annoyance.  They are just on the point of capturing it when they see it being bundled into the back of a van and driven off. Tosh traces the van to a warehouse. When they arrive, they find a dead man - his body exhibiting wounds consistent with being savaged by a Weevil. His phone rings, and a man's voice warns them from investigating further. Another Weevil victim turns up at the hospital, but he refuses to say how he came to injured. The warehouse is found to belong to a local estate agency, run by a young man named Mark Lynch.
Owen has been depressed since the departure of Diane Holmes, and Gwen has now ended their relationship. He is talked into going undercover as a businessman seeking warehouse properties in Cardiff, in order to find out more about Lynch.

Gwen tells Rhys about her affair, only to then Retcon him. Jack decides to release their captured Weevil, which they have named Janet, in the hope that it will lead them to the abductors. The creature is captured, but they fail to trace the people who have taken it. Owen and Lynch have a drink together, and the estate agent invites him back to his flat once he realises that Owen is looking for some new excitement in his life. Owen has a look round the flat, and comes across Janet chained up in one of the rooms. Lynch takes Owen to a warehouse where a number of people are gathering. A large cage has been set up, and Owen discovers that men are paying to fight Weevils. Everyone puts down £1000, and whoever survives their fight wins the pot. Lynch explains that he and others like him who have wealth and influence are in need of more heightened experiences in their lives. The Weevil fights provide the ultimate thrill.

Owen refuses to join in, and is goaded by Lynch. He relents and enters the cage, at first refusing to fight the creature. It attacks him, but his colleagues have traced his location and arrive in time to rescue him. They break up the fight club, but Lynch enters the cage to show he has no fear. The Weevil attacks and kills him. Jack stands back and allows this to happen.
Owen recuperates in hospital, where Jack suspects that he was trying to kill himself in the cage. Back at work the next day, Owen goes to the cells and watches the captured Weevils held there. When they hiss at him he responds in kind - and finds that the creatures cower before him.

Combat was written by Noel Clarke, and was first broadcast on 24th December, 2006. Clarke was, of course, best known for playing Rose Tyler's boyfriend Mickey Smith in Doctor Who at the time, but he was already an accomplished screenwriter as well as an actor. Kidulthood had been one of the big British hits of 2006.
This is hardly the most original episode of Torchwood, as it shows its influence all too clearly. 1996 saw the publication of the novel Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk, which was filmed by David Fincher and released in cinemas in 1999. This also features a depressed individual meeting someone who draws him into a fight club whose participants are men seeking vicarious thrills in their lives.
The Weevils had featured in the very first episode of Torchwood, and publicity had suggested they would be that series' recurring monsters, but in reality they had rarely featured until this episode.
They will have a bit more to do in the second season, and the incident in the cells which forms the coda to this episode does prefigure Owen's apparent power over them after he has been brought back from the dead.

There's only one real guest artist this week, and that's Alex Hassell as Mark Lynch. Hassell is better known as a theatre performer, having played Caliban alongside Mark Rylance at the Globe, and Prince Hal / Henry V with the RSC. He played opposite Anthony Sher in the Henriad (Sher was Falstaff), and acted alongside him again in Death of a Salesman.
Overall, it is an exciting enough episode, designed mainly to set Owen up for the final section of the series. Gwen and Rhys get a couple of good scenes as well, moving them on a little, whilst Jack gets to demonstrate a real ruthless streak - first of all by allowing Janet to be used as bait, then allowing her to maul Lynch to death.
Things you might like to know:

  • Mark's company is called LynchFrost. This is a homage to Lynch / Frost Productions, the company behind Twin Peaks
  • Torchwood's low key story arc is in evidence as Lynch tells Owen about the darkness and something moving in it.
  • We never do learn anything about the Weevils and their origins. They are presented as a form of bipedal rat, of very limited intelligence, and yet they wear clothes - the exact same clothes, as though they were bred and maintained by some higher power.

Sunday 19 November 2017

C is for... Cooper, Geraint & Mary

Parents of Torchwood operative Gwen Cooper. We first met them on the occasion of Gwen's marriage to long-suffering fiance Rhys. It was clear that they did not get on with his mother, Brenda. Both were shocked to see that Gwen was pregnant, as she had not informed them she was expecting a child. She was really carrying an alien Nostrovite, having only been impregnated through a bite the night before. Gwen told her parents all about her work with Torchwood after the ceremony - only for Jack to later Retcon the entire wedding party so they would not remember any of the strange events of the day.

Some time later, the surviving members of Torchwood found themselves under attack following the events of "Miracle Day", when people suddenly stopped dying. Going on the run, Gwen and Rhys left their baby Anwen with Geraint and Mary. By this point, Gwen had finally revealed the true nature of her work with Torchwood.
Geraint had suffered a couple of heart attacks prior to Miracle Day, but on suffering a third after it took place he fell into a coma. His condition meant that he was one of those who were to be cremated alive. Gwen arranged for him to be smuggled out of the hospital and he was hidden at home by Mary and Rhys. A Government official investigated and found him - and he was sent to one of the holding areas awaiting cremation. When the Miracle was overturned, Rhys was at Geraint's bedside and was able to allow him to speak to Mary by phone before he died.

Played by: William Thomas (Geraint), and Sharon Morgan (Mary). Appearances: TW 2.9 Something Borrowed (2008), TW 4: Miracle Day.

  • Thomas had previously appeared in Doctor Who twice - as the funeral parlour assistant in Remembrance of the Daleks, and as Mr Cleaver in Boom Town. He was the first actor to appear in the programme in both its classic era and the new version.

C is for... Cook, Captain

The famed interplanetary explorer, whom the Doctor and Ace encountered on the planet Segonax. He and his companion Mags had come to visit the Psychic Circus, but had stopped to excavate a buried robot on the way. The Doctor and Ace found him to be a bit of a bore, but another visitor - Whizzkid - proved to be a big fan of the Captain's travels. The Captain later exploited this to make sure Whizzkid when into the circus ring to entertain the Gods of Ragnarok before himself. He also maneuvered the Doctor and Mags into going ahead of him.
Cook had found Mags on the planet Vulpana, and knew that she was a lycanthrope. Moonlight - even artificial moonlight - would trigger her transformation and the Captain used a theatrical light to create a moon effect. He hoped that Mags would kill the Doctor, and so please the Gods, but she turned on him instead. The Gods reanimated his corpse in order to stop Ace and Kingpin from getting a powerful amulet to the Doctor. He failed, his body falling into a deep chasm.

Played by: T P McKenna. Appearances: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1988).

  • Producer John Nathan-Turner had been trying to get McKenna into the programme for a number of years. In the previous season he had been considered for both the Chief Caretaker in Paradise Towers and Kane in Dragonfire.

C is for... Control

A female creature who travelled with the alien entity Light. Light was cataloguing all known life in the galaxy. When he arrived on a new planet, he would send one of his creatures out to interact with the native species, whilst the other would remain on his ship to act as a control comparison. Light would hibernate until the experiment was completed. In Victorian Perivale, Control found herself imprisoned as her colleague had taken on the role of Josiah Smith, and he intended to evolve into what he saw as the ultimate human being - the head of the British Empire. Control succeeded in escaping, and began evolving herself, turning into a Victorian lady.

She freed Light, so that he could put a stop to Smith's schemes. After the Doctor had defeated Light, and Smith had been locked away, Control elected to travel the universe in Light's ship with the explorer Redvers Fenn-Cooper and the Neanderthal Nimrod.

Played by: Sharon Duce. Appearances: Ghostlight (1989).

  • Duce is married to Dominic Guard, who had played Olvir in Terminus in 1983.

C is for... Constantine, Dr.

Dr Constantine was a physician at the Royal Hope Hospital in East London during the Blitz. He helped tend to a young boy named Jamie who was brought in, badly wounded by a falling bomb. The boy survived, miraculously, and Constantine studied him in Room 802 of the hospital. Soon, everyone who had come into contact with the boy fell into a coma and began to exhibit the same physical conditions as Jamie - even down to the gas mask which seemed fused to his head. Constantine stayed on alone at the hospital to care for those affected, but he too had caught the affliction. The Doctor saw him transform into a gas masked zombified being.
Later, Jamie called upon all the affected staff and patients of the hospital when the Doctor, Rose and Jack went to the Chula ambulance ship, whose nanogenes had caused his condition. Constantine had earlier indicated that Jamie's sister, Nancy, knew more about the boy than she was saying. She was, in fact, his mother. When the nanogenes recognised the relationship and worked out the correct genetic pattern, Constantine, Jamie and all the others were returned to normal.
Constantine had lost his family in the war, and he would have looked after Nancy and Jamie after the time-travellers had departed.

Played by: Richard Wilson. Appearances: The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances (2005).

  • Wilson is best known for playing grumpy pensioner Victor Meldrew in the BBC sitcom One Foot In The Grave - catchphrase: "I don't believe it!".

C is for... Connolly, Tommy

Teenage son of Eddie and Rita Connolly, who lived on Florizel Street in North London. He talked his father into getting a TV set, as the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was due. He was horrified when his grandmother was struck down by a mysterious condition - her face rendered smooth and featureless. Many neighbours were also afflicted. Tommy worked out that his father was reporting these victims to the police, who would turn up in the middle of the night and take them away. Tommy warned the Doctor and Rose about what was happening. Later, he rebelled against his father and joined the Doctor in his investigations, accompanying him and Inspector Bishop to the electrical store belonging to Mr Magpie, from where Eddie had bought their TV. He witnessed the Wire removing Bishop's features, and saw the creature's victims trapped in TV screens. He then accompanied the Doctor to the BBC transmitter at Alexandra Palace, and helped him trap the Wire onto a video tape.
The Doctor gifted him his scooter, and also advised him not to judge his father too harshly. Tommy helped his father move out of the family home.

Played by: Rory Jennings. Appearances: The Idiot's Lantern (2006).

  • Jennings was actually in his early 20's when he played Tommy. His youthful looks often had him playing younger roles. He now presents a Chelsea FC cable show alongside his acting.

Saturday 18 November 2017

Inspirations - The Underwater Menace

By Geoffrey Orme - his only contribution to the programme. This adventure had a troubled gestation - something which we will see happening a lot over the Patrick Troughton era of the show.
Initially known as "Doctor Who Under the Sea" or "In Atlantis" or "The Fish People", it was originally going to be the new Doctor's second story. Pencilled in to direct was Hugh David. These four episodes were going to get a larger budget as well. The production team decided that the script might be too ambitious to realise, so it was shelved in favour of a story by William Emms - "The Imps". This also proved to be rather over ambitious, and so the underwater story came back to the table. David contacted a friend of his who was then working out at Pinewood on the latest Bond movie, Thunderball - the one with the all the underwater action. The friend informed David that it was impossible to achieve by Doctor Who's usual production methods, even with an increased budget. David managed to get transferred onto The Highlanders, and its scheduled director - Julia Smith - was assigned The Underwater Menace.
The production was as troubled as the script development, with the cast openly deriding the story, and the director being reduced to tears. Michael Craze was unhappy that some of his part had to be apportioned to Frazer Hines, who had just joined late in the day with the previous adventure.

The story is set in the very near future. We have references to the Mexico Olympic Games - which were scheduled to take place the year after broadcast - as Polly finds a piece of souvenir ware on the coast of the rocky volcanic island on which the TARDIS has landed. This turns out to be the remains of the lost civilisation of Atlantis, the survivors of which are dwelling in a city deep beneath the surface.
Now, every Doctor Who fan is aware that a series that has lasted more than 50 years, with nearly a dozen producers / showrunners, and with more than a dozen script / story editors, is going to have some continuity problems. Some of these continuity problems have become the stuff of legend, such as the UNIT dating conundrum, and we have always loved to debate them. Recent writers have played with these, offering off hand comments that try to plug gaps or resolve the seemingly unresolveable. The authors of the Virgin New Adventures novels apparently laboured under the delusion that they were contractually obliged to address these issues, and write entire novels that might explain why Warriors of the Deep bears no relation whatsoever to either The Silurians or The Sea Devils (to give but one example). To be honest, we'd rather these continuity glitches were left alone. If anything, we miss them when they're gone.
One of the continuity arguments used to be about Atlantis. It looked at first glance like there were three mutually exclusive versions of its destruction - two of them by the same writers exactly a year apart. (That's how bad continuity can be in Doctor Who).
This story doesn't actually pose a problem, as it doesn't really say categorically how Atlantis came to be destroyed. We're simply seeing the aftermath centuries later. In The Magician's Apprentice, however, Steven Moffat has Clara and UNIT searching for the Doctor, and so they look to see where in history he is making the most "noise". There's a line - purely for the fans - about a triple paradox with Atlantis. As I've said, the Atlantis we see here comes much later, and could be the kingdom destroyed either by Kronos or by the Daemons - or both.
(When I reviewed this story many moons ago, I came up with the idea that Atlantis could be the name of a country / continent as well as that of a city on that country / continent. Kronos could have wiped out the city, and then the Daemons came along and destroyed the wider kingdom, or vice versa).

Enough of continuity squabbles. There's another 200 odd of these Inspirations posts to go, so we won't have heard the last of them.
The Underwater Menace has a real B-Movie feel to it, with its mad scientist villain. Had this been a movie, it would have been directed by Ed Wood, and Bela Lugosi would have played Professor Zaroff. If unavailable in rehab, George Zucco would have sufficed. A movie would probably have had some kind of giant monster - probably an octopus or dinosaur. The only octopus here is an ordinary sized one - pet to Zaroff. We do get some stock footage of sharks in Part One, as the Doctor and his companions are going to be sacrificed by being dropped into a shark-infested pool.
The only "monsters" here are the Fish Workers. The publicity might have highlighted them as the monster of the week, but they only feature briefly at the close of Part One, and then have their bizarre underwater ballet sequence in Part Three. They're really quite benign creatures.
The scene mentioned above about the sharks is reminiscent of something out of one of the old adventure serials they used to show at the cinema on Saturday mornings (or indeed on BBC TV on school holiday mornings) - most famous of which is Flash Gordon.
However, it's to another adventure serial of the same era that we need to look for inspiration for this story. The Undersea Kingdom was Republic's answer to Flash, back in 1936. The star is Ray "Crash" Corrigan. He's a navy lieutenant who just happens to be a sporting hero, who joins a mission in an atomic submarine to investigate the source of a spate of earthquakes. They're being caused by the villainous Unga Khan. Unlike Zaroff, who claims to want to raise Atlantis, Khan wants to sink the rest of the planet. You can see how well he fares just by going to You Tube, where they have the entire serial. Don't watch the episodes back to back, however. Play the game, and spend a week trying to work out how he's going to get out of that one...

If you are a fan of publications such as Fortean Times, you'll be aware that the legend of Atlantis is linked to all manner of yet-to-be explained phenomena. It has been written about since the time of Plato. If UFO's don't come from outer space then they originate from Atlantis. Its citizens were the ones who gave the ancients the knowledge to build the pyramids and other monumental structures, and people who have ESP are descended from them. Evidence for it has been (allegedly) found in the West Indies, the Aegean, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic Ocean. (The Pacific region has its own lost continent). Less fanciful theories look to the Minoan civilisation, and the cataclysmic eruption of the volcanic island of Thera (which returns us to The Time Monster). The Atlantis myth may be a garbled version of a real event, but it was a powerful local state that was laid low rather than a flying saucer-building super-race.

Now we have to talk about Professor Zaroff. Sorry, but we do. Cinema's earliest most famous mad scientist is probably Henry Frankenstein, as played by Colin Clive in the classic 1931 Universal movie. Technically, he only comes across as mad to his friends and family, as he is utterly obsessed with his work - which just happens to be trying to put God out of a job. He wants to create something (life from dead tissue), and will go to any lengths to achieve this. Sadly, Hollywood took him as a template, twisted it, and came up with decades of similarly obsessed scientists who instead want to destroy. This is where Zaroff comes from. Certainly, after the first A-Bomb, the public started to become wary of scientists, and thought that they were prepared do anything they liked just because they could. We fell out of trust with them. They no longer strove to help us, but experimented with things that could ultimately destroy us. Note how many of the 1950's monster movies revolve around mutation due to exposure to atomic testing - many of which feature a scientist who has brought things about due to his (and they were always men) obsession. Scientists in these movies are often portrayed as having good intentions, but care little for the consequences. They're sociopaths who want to benefit Mankind.
The problem with Zaroff is that he is simply Bonkers. That's the technical term - with a capital B. The Doctor thinks so too. Just look at the way he tries to describe Zaroff's state of mind to King Thous in Part Two. No deep psychological analysis needed. Zaroff has no good intentions whatsoever. You can't even excuse him as being "misguided". He plans to blow up the planet, just to see what it is like to blow up the planet. In a way Joseph Furst plays him the only way he can. A bit of background that existed in the earlier drafts had him grieving for his dead wife and child, killed in a car crash, and thus making him suicidal - damning the world along with himself. Unfortunately, there is no such motivation on view in the finished programme.

The inspiration looks like it comes from those old Saturday morning serials, but Ming the Merciless had a plan - to conquer the Earth / Universe - and Unga Khan wanted to make Atlantis great again by dragging down the rest of the world to his level. If any of them had intended to destroy the planet they were actually standing on, then there would have been a handy escape capsule hidden nearby.
Is it just a coincidence that Zaroff's name is just one letter out from that proto-hipster prof who appeared in all three of the Flash Gordon serials?
Some other potential inspirations before we sign off. In the 1950's & '60's there was as much excitement about us all living in underwater cities as there was about us living on the Moon or on Mars. The hugely popular TV series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau began its 10 year run in 1966, so we were all marveling at what went on beneath the waves then pretty much as we are at the moment watching Blue Planet II.
We also have the Cornish myth of Lyonesse - another sunken kingdom which has Arthurian connections, and which featured in a poem by Walter de la Mare (Sunk Lyonesse, 1922). 1965 had seen the release of the Vincent Price film City Beneath The Sea, inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe tale The City In The Sea. Note the film's Gill Men. It was made by the same team behind the Aaru Dalek movies, and featured dialogue written by one David Whitaker.
Next time: Brexit hasn't happened, or by 2070 we're back in, as the UK is bossing a load of Europeans about on the Moon. No-one's worrying about climate change, because we can control the weather now. Polly devises a new cocktail, Jamie has a lie-in, and Ben suddenly knows all about nuclear reactors. The Cybermen spot the similarities between this and an earlier story, so logic dictates that they have to make their return...

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Story 185 - Human Nature / The Family of Blood

In which a history master at Farringham School for Boys dreams that he travels through time and fights aliens. The maid who cleans his rooms - Martha Jones - assures John Smith that this is just his imagination. The year is 1913, and Smith and Martha have been at the school for around a month. The socially awkward teacher has taken a liking for the school matron, Joan Redfern, and decides to pluck up the courage to ask her to a ball that is going to be held in the village hall. He tells Joan of his dreams, and shows her a journal he has made of them - his Journal of Impossible Things. Martha tries to convince the matron not to heed Smith. Joan becomes indignant that a maid should interfere in what Smith does. That night, Martha goes to the TARDIS, hidden in a barn some miles away, and activates a recording which the Doctor had made.
Some weeks ago, the Doctor and Martha had encountered a hostile alien force called the Family of Blood. They exist in a gaseous form, and have a very short life-span. They want to take the Doctor's body so that one of their number - Son of Mine - can have a prolonged existence as a Time Lord. They have a stolen spacecraft that can travel in time, and the Doctor knows that they will hunt them down. To avoid detection, he decides to use a Chameleon Arch to rewrite his biology. He will become a human being, with a set of new memories grafted on. His Time Lord essence will be stored in a fob watch. They only need to hide for a month or so, then the threat will be gone as the Family will have died out by then. The Doctor has made a recording to help Martha cope whilst he is John Smith, but he had not reckoned on falling in love with someone.

That same night, the Family's spaceship arrives nearby. A pupil named Jeremy Baines comes across it whilst out hunting for alcohol, and he is taken over by Son of Mine. He returns to the school to seek out the Time Lord. A fellow pupil named Tim Latimer has mild telepathic gifts, and recognises the change in Baines. On a visit to Smith's rooms, he spots the fob watch and is drawn to it, slipping it into his pocket. The Family take on more bodies for themselves. Farmer Clark sees one of his scarecrows move. Thinking it is one of the pupils playing a prank, he investigates, only to find that it is just straw. He is taken over by Father of Mine. The Family can animate scarecrows to use as an army. They attack a girl named Lucy Cartwright, who becomes the host for Daughter of Mine. Jenny, a friend of Martha's who is also a maid at the school, is taken over by Mother of Mine. Tim is compelled to open the fob watch, and the Family sense the Time Lord's presence at the school. John Smith is walking with Joan when a little of the Doctor's character slips out, as he uses a cricket ball to prevent an accident. Martha discovers that Jenny has been taken over and runs off to the dance to warn the Doctor. Tim sneaks into the dance and sees the Family arrive. They now know that Smith is the Doctor, but he has no idea of his real self. Martha helps everyone flee the hall. Smith and Joan head back to the school to warn the staff and pupils.

The Family lay siege to the school with their scarecrow army and launch an attack. The pupils are forced to fight them. Martha attempts to convince Smith that he really is the Doctor, and finds an ally in Joan. She suspects that the Doctor's dreams may be true, and had noticed that his life seemed to be merely a list of facts. Smith is horrified that he will have to cease to exist for the Doctor to return. The Family seize the TARDIS, and then start to bombard the village. Hiding out at the Cartwright's home, Joan and Martha attempt to get Smith to accept who he really is. For a moment he gets to see what his life would have been like if he had remained as the teacher, marrying Joan and having children before growing old and dying in bed. Tim arrives with the fob watch, and tells them of the heroic Time Lord he has seen in it. Smith goes to the Family's spaceship to give himself up. He hands over the fob watch. However, it proves to be empty. The Doctor has returned. He has stumbled around the ship in his guise as Smith, pretending to be clumsy when he has in fact been sabotaging it. The Family flee before the vessel explodes. The Doctor then takes his revenge on each of them. Father of Mine is imprisoned in dwarf star alloy chains at the heart of the TARDIS, whilst Mother of Mine is left suspended on the edge of a Black Hole. Daughter of Mine is trapped in a mirror - every mirror. Son of Mine is left frozen in time and set up as a scarecrow, to guard over the fields of England for all time.
The Doctor asks Joan to join him in his travels, but she rejects him. She loved Smith, but the Doctor scares her. Would anyone have died in the village had he not come here, she asks him. The Doctor gives Tim the fob watch before he and Martha depart. Tim had frequently had a vision of a battlefield, and the watch had saved his life as he knew when to leap to safety from a falling bomb.
In 1914, Europe went to war. Tim one night found that his vision had come to pass, and the watch saved him. Many decades later, now an old man, he attends a Remembrance Day service, and sees the Doctor and Martha watching from a distance, wearing red poppies...

Human Nature / The Family of Blood was written by Paul Cornell, and was first broadcast on 26th May and 2nd June, 2007. It was adapted from Cornell's 1995 Virgin New Adventures novel Human Nature, which featured the Seventh Doctor and companion Bernice Summerfield. A poll to mark the programme's 35th anniversary had voted this book the fans' favourite. Cornell had developed the plot with fellow NA writer Kate Orman.
Cornell had previously written the Series 1 story Father's Day. To date, he has not written any further episodes for the series.
Russell T Davies loved the novel, and so approached Cornell about adapting it for Series 3. A well as the change of Doctor / companion, there are a number of significant differences between the book and the screenplay. In the book, the Doctor decides to become human in order to understand grief, as Bernice is mourning a character who was killed in the previous novel. He purchases the means to do it - rather than using a piece of TARDIS technology. His Time Lord essence is stored in a cricket ball rather than a fob watch. Joan is a fellow teacher. The enemy are called the Aubertides, and they are shapeshifters, rather than a species who possess people's bodies. It is slightly later in the novel as well - already into 1914. The scarecrow army are Davies' idea, as the series since 2005 had to include a monster each week. Cornell was not convinced, but the scene where the pupils gun down the scarecrows as the hymn To Be A Pilgrim plays is one of the strongest of the two episodes.
In the book, the Doctor rejects Joan at the end, rather than the other way round, as he cannot love her in the same way now that he is no longer human. A big change is the character of Tim. In the book he becomes a conscientious objector, and saves the man's life as a Red Cross orderly. He later wears a white poppy when revisited in the epilogue.

The main guest cast is headed by Jessica Hynes (known as Jessica Stevenson until 2007) as Joan. She was best known for starring in, and co-writing, Spaced, with Simon Pegg. She'll be back at the end of David Tennant's tenure as the Doctor, playing Joan's granddaughter Verity Newman.
Playing the Family we have: Gerard Horan (Father / Mr Clark), Rebekah Staton (Mother / Jenny), Harry Lloyd (Son / Baines) and Lauren Wilson (Daughter / Lucy). Lloyd was a regular in the first two seasons of Robin Hood (as Will Scarlett), and featured in the first series of Game of Thrones as Daenerys' brother.
Also from Game of Thrones we have Thomas Sangster playing Tim. He goes by the name Brodie-Sangster these days. He first came to prominence in the movie Love Actually, and is now a regular in the Maze Runner franchise.
One other guest of note is Pip Torrens as the headmaster, Mr Rocastle. He can be seen in the TV series Versailles these days.

The cliffhanger: The Family have arrived at the village dance and they take Martha hostage. Father of Mine aims his gun at Joan and Smith is offered a choice - the life of his friend or that of the woman he loves...
Story Arc: As the story is set in 1913, we don't have any Saxon references over these two episodes, but the Chameleon Arch is introduced, and the fob watch, and these will play a significant role in a few week's time.

Overall, a fantastic two parter which is deeply moving at times. David Tennant is wonderful as Smith (he won an award for his role in this story). Great performances all round really. Various polls have put it in the top 10 best Doctor Who stories ever. The DWM Mighty 200 had it in 6th place, whilst the 50th Anniversary poll placed it at 9th.
Things you might like to know:

  • One tiny thing that always spoils this for me is the very first shot after the opening credits, as I always get distracted by the schoolboy who can't march properly. Once you've noticed him you can't ever un-notice him. 
  • John Smith tells Joan that his parents were called Sydney and Verity - name checking the show's creator and first producer.
  • Talking of Verity Lambert, this is the first Doctor Who story since Mission to the Unknown back in 1965 to be produced by a woman, as Phil Collinson has stepped aside temporarily in favour of Susie Liggat.
  • To Be A Pilgrim was written by John Bunyan in 1684. The version we hear in this is the 1906 version, the fourth line of which is "Follow the Master". Just a coincidence?
  • The Journal of Impossible Things was illustrated by Kellyanne Walker, with text by Cornell. It features the first on screen acknowledgement of the Paul McGann Doctor since the programme returned. Prior to becoming the showrunner, Davies had always claimed that the TV Movie wasn't canon - even including this in the final episode of Queer As Folk.
  • Most of David Tennant's speech on the video gets fast forwarded, but he still had to talk to camera, and so expresses his love for band The Housemartins amongst other things.
  • When Tim opens the fob watch he sees glimpses of earlier stories - all ones from the Tenth Doctor's era.
  • Joan asks Smith where he learned to draw and, the Doctor's character once again slipping out, he says Gallifrey. She asks if this is in Ireland. This is an old Bob Baker & Dave Martin joke, which they used in both The Hand of Fear and The Invisible Enemy.
  • The Doctor has encountered animated scarecrows once before - though not on TV. In the comic strip The Night Walkers (TV Comic, November 1969), the Second Doctor investigates walking scarecrows but finds that these have been sent by the Time Lords to force him to regenerate and begin his exile on Earth in his third incarnation.