Doctor Who Re-Watch: Daleks in Manhatten/Evolution of the Daleks

Argh apologies all for the delay in getting this one up. Ben did his bit but I had some sad news about a friend and didn’t touch anything writing or blogging related for a full fortnight. Also, let’s be honest. We all know this Dalek two-parter sucks balls …

The Pre-Title Sequence

Ben: The pre-title sequence in Daleks was, well, kinda weird. It featured show girls, a sad clown and some very strong Noo York accents. Our loved-up couple Tallulah and Laszlo seem to have the best ahead of them, the world is their oyster! And then Laszlo goes and gets himself got by a weird pig man. Yeah … I wouldn’t say it’s one of the better openings to an episode.

Maureen: Yep. Pretty much my thoughts. Egad! It’s Miranda Raison! Egad! Her bad accent! Egad! Le corny romance! Admittedly, the theater corridor and the creepy wax hand was good, but the pig thing ruined any credibility the story had earnt up to that point.

daleks

The Companion/s

Ben: Poor Martha really doesn’t do much on her own in these episodes, unfortunately. And the stuff she does do … Well … On the bright side, she does have one rather sweet conversation with Tallulah where they talk about boys and Tallulah decides the reason he and Martha aren’t together is because he’s “into musical theatre”. Which, same. The next scene Martha’s in is just weird and unnecessary – while Tallulah is performing a cute little showtune number (Inkashlings interjection: I actually love this song on the soundtrack) she spots Laszlo in the other wing, and instead of going around backstage to find him she has to go across the stage and mess up the performance? Like, why? There are so many easier ways to get her kidnapped by a pig man. Hell, the only reason it happened was so she could be a damsel in distress, forcing the Doctor back into the sewers to rescue here so the story could move forward. Talk about lazy writing.

Maureen: Yeah, this two-parter felt a lot like a kitchen sink had been thrown at it. I’m not too sure the Tallulah sub-plot was at all necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Miranda Raison on Spooks, but she hung in the background for most of the first part of the two-parter for the story to catch up to her. The whole thing felt oddly paced and like a lot of the plot twists were sign-posted a mile off. I did enjoy Martha knowing her history, however. She really is one smart cookie companion which I find refreshing! Also, she got a traditional companion scream!

Ben: With The Doctor taken captive by the Daleks, Martha is left to figure out what to do. And like, The Doctor gives her his psychic paper but doesn’t tell her what to do with it? It’s been established in The Shakespeare Code that Martha is susceptible to the paper, so surely you’d use it to leave her a message? And then we get yet another “so tell us how you met The Doctor” Tallulah talk with Martha. It’s getting a bit annoying hearing the same “I don’t really know him etc etc” conversation episode after episode. What I would consider to be Martha’s one big contribution to the episode would be electrocuting a lift full of pig men, but even that made not one lick of sense.

Maureen: I hate the stupid Martha un-requited love bullshit. She is so much better than Ten. Just saying. Also, yeah, it was super weird that The Doctor was so unhelpful because … plot reasons …

Ten: I’m sorry Martha, but you’ve got to fight.

Frankly, Doctor, how un-illuminating!

Also, I felt like every time the episodes had an interesting idea, they’d run away from the idea five seconds later. Take, for example, the below exchange:

Martha: They were people and I killed them.
Laslo: No! The Daleks killed them long ago.

Well, Laslo, way to kill off an interesting concept.

Also:

Martha: And I’m telling you I’m not going.
Ten: That’s an order.
Martha: What are you? Some kind of Dalek?

And then it’s not discussed further. Fine then.

Ben: Frank (played unexpectedly by Andrew Garfield) was a real sweetie and does a much better job of world-building than Solomon in my opinion. He doesn’t do much this episode (not that anyone does, really) but this must’ve been one of Andrews first acting credits, therefore it’s worth a mention.

Maureen: I got Frank mixed up with Laszlo. There are way too many superfluous characters in this episode. I liked Frank, but yeah, he was just there. Also, I found it odd that everyone was sad about leaving Frank behind but immediately forgot about him when they joined Tallulah. Like, OK then.

Ben: Solomon was I guess created to be the two parter’s moral compass and boy did he have a lot to say. Not that they weren’t valid points, but it all came across as incredibly preachy. Also, not that I’m an expert in 1930s America, but is a black man leading Hooverville realistic? But then he isn’t really developed beyond that, and then he dies. Even his death felt pointless. Hell, the whole attack on Hoovertown felt like padding.

Maureen: So much padding! I found Solomon so over the top I couldn’t take his morals seriously. I’ve googled Hooverville and apparently one did exist, but I can’t find a reference to a black leader either. I’m assuming the name of Solomon is a biblical reference. As I said earlier, kitchen sink. Also, I did not give a damn about the humans vs. daleks conflict in the episode.

Ben: Tallulah and Laszlo were just so unnecessary too, although her assertion that some men are pigs but not her Laszlo was kinda funny considering how it was supposed to be all ominous and foreboding. It’s a shame because she was a really sweet character, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care about her. And then in Evolution of the Daleks we had Laszlo insisting that he was fine when we just had Dalek Sec explaining that the pig men only last a few weeks before dying. Like, I get wanting to be stoic and see the mission through or whatever, but just stop brushing off everyone’s concerns. And then of course The Doctor had to go and save the day and stabilise his biology or whatever. Like they’re gonna be 1930’s America’s version of Beauty and the Beast or something and have a happy ending living in Hoovertown. You just know that people are gonna get hungry and he’s gonna end up as bacon.

Maureen: A bad taste joke, Ben, but no doubt true!

The Doctor

Ben: The Doctor quoting the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty was a bit depressing, considering our current political climates. The huddled masses are forced to go elsewhere these days. Beyond that, in Daleks in Manhattan he doesn’t really do anything worth writing about. He does a bunch of generic Doctoring and investigating, but for most of this episode it seems like we’re just treading water until the interesting part of the story comes around. That happens around the start of the next episode, Evolution of the Daleks.

Maureen: Yeah, I feel like this should have been a one shot story. So much felt like random padding and the audience being five steps ahead of The Doctor and Martha because the story contrived it so.

Ben: We open the second episode with a great confrontation between the Doctor and Dalek Human Sec, perhaps the highlight of this two-parter. They have further conversations once the Doctor is kidnapped, all of which I feel could have been used as the seed from which to build a more interesting episode where humanity and Daleks and their similarities and differences are explored.

Maureen: Again, I can’t help but agree. Moffat did take up these seeds in some of Twelve’s better Dalek stories and it made for a more thoughtful time. As I said earlier, every time something interesting happened, the episode shied away to the next thing. I really enjoyed the part where the Dalek was talking to megalomaniac foreman saying something about how humanity was fascinating because we hide from the dark yet build great cities and have out-lived the Daleks. I wanted more of that dialogue!

Ben: But then in the end his dramatic solution to stop the new human daleks from being created in the gamma ray strike didn’t make a whole lot of sense. How did Time Lord DNA get spliced in from the lightning/gamma strike? And how was the Time Lord part of them so strong that it overwhelmed the Dalek part? And to make matters worse, the Dalek controlling them could have destructed them at any time, so the two Daleks died needlessly. Hell, they didn’t even need to attack them! The hybrids could have been killed remotely, and then the Doctor and his companions would have been defenceless. And then in the most BS of endings, he saved Lazlo from death – and condemned him to life as a pig/human hybrid. It was a nonsensical end to a nonsensical two-parter.

Maureen: I have to be honest. I have no idea what happened at the end. It was a lot of shouting and explosions and hand waving to me. My notebook comment was, ‘how does any of this denouement make an iota of sense?’ Also, why is Ten cool with helping a Dalek-human hybrid, but not Harriet Jones #stillbitter.

The Alien of the Week

Ben: Well, they sure didn’t waste any time introducing the Daleks as the baddies of the week, but what interest do they have in the Empire State Building? And why the pig men? Mr Diagoras has shown that the threat of unemployment is enough to keep the builders risking life and limb. They do make for a rather scary enemy to be chased by through sewers.

Maureen: I think the pig people were failed Dalek hybrids or some shit. I don’t know. I stopped paying attention to the logistics of the plot pretty soon in.

Ben: Anywho, after a bit of back and forth between the Daleks about how the humans are weak but also strong and how Daleks have to change to survive but also have to remain pure, Dalek Sec finally unveils it’s plan to further the Dalek race! Merging with Mr Diagoras and creating a new type of Dalek. It looks like it would have been very painful for Mr Diagoras, that’s for sure. Well, at the end of the first episode we get introduced to the new human-Dalek hybrid in a very dramatic matter, but honestly, I wasn’t paying attention to anything but the truly horrific design they came up with for the Dalek Human.

Maureen: That design was so distracting. Also, his voice got on my tits.

Ben: Admittedly, things did get a little interesting in the second half of the two-parter when Dalek Sec decides to spare the Doctor, because having him on their side is better than having him dead. Again, something that could have been more interesting to explore in another setting. Unfortunately, the other Daleks decide Dalec Sec is an enemy of “true” Daleks, so things quickly became less interesting. Even when the new human Dalek army awakes, it ends with more of a fizzle than a bang. There’s just so much potential in these episodes. It’s maddening to see it squandered like this.

Maureen: I know right? It’s like there’s about five good ideas here buried in total dreck.

Ben: Yeah, this new hybrid storyline could have been so much more interesting in the right setting, especially with the old Daleks questioning the new hybrid. Instead the episode ends with one dead Human Dalek (and honestly, considering how annoying I found his cadence when talking, I was glad when it happened), a bunch of dead Human-Dalek-Time Lord hybrids, and one regular Dalek making an emergency temporal shift.

Maureen: Basically, everything sucked. Also, the human Dalek learning empathy was so bloody predictable. Oh, like 90% of this episode actually.

Final Thoughts

Ben: Bad. Just so bad. There was no reason for this to be a two-parter – the number of scenes that existed purely to pad out the episode’s lengths can attest to that.

Maureen: OMG YES. The stupid scene where Tallulah looks at the New York sky from atop the Empire State Building and says stuff that’s meant to be insightful and touching but just sounds dumb for example.

Ben: Furthermore, why even are the pig men necessary? They have enough humans working on the Empire State Building, and the foreman, Mr Diagoras has shown he can keep them under thumb working 24/7. Surely you could have just taken over a few gangs and put them to work? The number of extras in these two episodes, and they couldn’t find a couple extra dumb looking white guys with bad NY accents? The large cast of extras and ensemble characters this episode seemed to really dilute down the opportunity for individual characters to move the story forward in substantial ways, or play anything other than a stereotype. I really do think if they’d cut this down to one episode and eliminated a bunch of characters and then completely overhauled the story there could potentially be a good episode in here somewhere.

Maureen: Yeah, I started losing track of characters relevance to the story which is a bad thing. No one had time for any flesh to their bone.

Ben: Also, the elevator had some awfully erratic trip times; in the first episode it brought one of the daleks up in 10 seconds flat, but the elevator trip carrying the pig men up took 6 minutes! And the final egregious act was the Doctor somehow magicking up a potion to save Laszlo in 30 seconds flat, showboating the whole time. I’m giving this stinker of a two-parter a 1/10.

Maureen: I think I’m with Ben on this. Some potential, but too many characters, a refusal to explore interesting ideas, a weird propensity for filler, bad acting and stupid hand-waves make this a tough two-parter to stomach. Still, it’s less shit than the Season Two cybermen two-parter so there’s that I guess. 1/10 inky stars

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Doctor Who Re-watch: Gridlock

Ah Gridlock, the intense traffic jam episode with bonus Face of Boe, how I’ve always enjoyed you! Really, this season is quite good!!! Fair warning re this review: Ben got a bit carried away with his write-up and was so enthusiastic, I let him dominate in this week’s review 🙂 He has a lot of great stuff to say.

The Pre-Titles Sequence

Ben: This episode opens with a strange mix of old-timey fashion – the couple is very American Gothic – mixed with futuristic tech – it feels very Blade Runner (yes, I know Blade Runner was very fashion forward, but it’s more the mix of new and old I’m talking about). Anyways, the scene ends with the couple dying what sounds to be a painful death at the hands of something unknown. Cue The Doctor to come save the day!

Maureen: I know what you mean about the Blade Runner vibe, Ben. This is one of the Doctor Who sci fi concept episodes that does a lot of world-building very quickly. It’s a proper old-style Who episode! Even the smiling bureaucrat reminded me a little of Blade Runner!

Gridlock

The Companion

Ben: Poor Martha has a bit of a bad run this episode; first she asks The Doctor about Gallifrey, then he takes her to a place he’s already been with Rose, and not even to the nice parts! And then, to add insult to injury, she gets kidnapped! She’s doing a pretty good job managing on her own until her kidnappers drop the bombshell that their 10-mile trip to Brooklyn is going to take them 6 years!! According to her captors they’ve brought enough supplies to last them the trip, including such fun things as artificial muscle stimulants to fight off atrophy. What a world Martha and The Doctor have found themselves in!

Maureen: I just loved all the little world-building add-ons like the artifical muscle stimulants and that awfully disturbing scene where a woman bought mood pills to forget her own parents. But no, Martha was NOT having a good time. I love that The Doctor can’t help himself – he claimed he’d only take Martha on two adventures but now he can’t stop! I quite enjoyed the Gallifrey speech Ten made and his quip that going home wouldn’t be any fun and then whoops, Martha is kidnapped! I actually noted that this set-up reminds me a lot of Australian sci-fi shorts I’ve read. This episode really shows how often Doctor Who opts for fantasy tropes over sci fi ones. Though I enjoy both, it’s nice to have a change.

Ben: Things really start to go pear-shaped when the car Martha’s in makes it down to the fast lane at the bottom of the highway. And with all the turnoffs closed, there’s no way out of the fast lane and whatever else lives down there. It takes a black cat lady in what appears to be fetish gear invoking Jehovah’s name and then dying in the fast lane 50 yards behind them for Martha’s kidnappers to accept there is in fact something down there with them, and by then it’s too late to get out of the fast lane. (maybe that’s supposed to be a metaphor for living life in the fast lane … nah I’m probably overthinking things). Anyways, Martha’s quick thinking buys them some time when the Macra start attacking them, she’s the one who powers down the car – the Macra can’t detect them when they go dark.

Maureen: I am really loving how clever Martha is. I can’t believe I never appreciated this element of her character as a teen and a young adult. She feels much more consistently written than Rose so far. Even the irritating Doctor love is at least consistent with everything that’s come before.

Martha: You’ve got your hymns. I’ve got The Doctor.

That quote by the way, fits pretty neatly with the Season Three finale. This is probably one of the reasons why Season Three was always my overall favourite of the RTD era, even with the Doctor Jesus flaws.

Ben: Next, we get a great scene with Martha where she muses on the possible mistake she made in travelling with this strange man who calls himself The Doctor – she doesn’t know anything about him, her parents have no idea where she is. She could die billions of years into the future on a distant planet and nobody would know what has happened to her. This kind of reflection is completely different from anything we got from Rose, who jumped at the chance to travel with The Doctor and never looked back. She’s put her life in the hands of a complete stranger (who isn’t a medical doctor and therefore automatically trustworthy).

Maureen: I wonder how old Martha is meant to be? Early twenties vs. Rose’s nineteen? She feels a lot more mature and again I love how her musings here fit in with her finale exit. I suspect that if Martha ever met Rory, she’d get on with him like a house on fire.

Ben: After her introspective speech, Martha needs to get the power back on so she and her kidnappers don’t suffocate, so it’s back to dodging gigantic crab claws as best she can. I know they can’t move properly into the next lane up, but surely they can move up a little bit, just to be out of range of the claws. Luckily The Doctor manages to save the day, and Martha finally puts her foot down and gets some proper backstory out of The Doctor – he’s not just a Time Lord, he’s the last of the Time Lords. It’s been a while since The Doctor has gotten this serious, and it’s a great way to end the episode, mirroring how it started, with The Doctor telling Martha about Gallifrey.

The Doctor

Ben: Tennant does some pretty great acting at the start when Martha asks the Doctor about Gallifrey. The sad music playing as the Doctor describes the planet he lost to the Time War was getting close to tear inducing.

Maureen: God, I love the season three soundtrack! And the Gallifrey theme Murray Gold wrote for it is one of the best until ‘I am the Doctor’ came along in Season Five and blew everything that came before out of the water … but I digress.

Ben: The Doctor’s introspection doesn’t last long, as he chases adventure to defer grief. Bring on the 15th New York! After a very dramatic introduction to the city, the Doctor rushes off to rescue Martha – but not before pulling his angry holier-than-thou act on the street vendors who sell the emotions. Sure, going for the little guys is really gonna solve shit, Ten!

Maureen: Ah, Ten. This is why you’re not my favourite. You’re just so sanctimonious at the drop of a hat. Like, maybe try a little empathy for these people and the harsh world they live in? But then, The Doctor can be judgmental and at least Ten managed violent emotion, which is more than Thirteen managed in her entire season :/

Ben: Anyway, cutting to the motorway, The Doctor manages to hitch a ride with a lovely catman, his human wife and their kittens! Such an adorable little family THAT’S BEEN DRIVING ON THE MOTORWAY FOR TWELVE YEARS?!? Anyways, thanks to the assistance of a little old lady (I wonder how long her and her wife have been on the motorway for) who likes to carspot, the Doctor is able to pinpoint the car that Martha is in. The question now is how to get to her. It’s also the Doctor who realises what no one’s been wanting to say – that the highway has been abandoned by New New York – no police, no ambulance, just the motorway. I particularly loved the sequence of the Doctor jumping through car after car to get down to the fast lane – all the different car interiors and passengers was just really fun. Anyways, once The Doctor gets to the row of cars just above the fast lane we finally get a look at what’s really down there, and we find out the cat lady Boe sent to find the Doctor is hot on his tail! Novice Hame catches up to the Doctor just as he discovers the Macra and whisks him away to the Overcity of New New York. And THAT is when shit gets real.

24 years ago the entire population of NNY was wiped out by a new chemical called Bliss – a virus mutated inside Bliss and became airborne, killing everyone in 7 minutes. The only way to save the Undercity was to seal it off. The highway has been running on automatic for 24 years, with the Face of Boe and Novice Hame keeping everything running as best they can. Hell, Boe even wired himself to the mainframe, giving his lifeforce to keep things running and prevent the Undercity from falling into the sea. They couldn’t even call for help because the planet is under quarantine for 100 years.

Given this new information, The Doctor struggles to work his magic with what little power there is left in the system, which is when the Face of Boe gives everything he has left to power the system – enabling The Doctor to open the roof of the motorway and free everyone who’s been trapped there. Before Boe dies he gets to say his tearful (for everyone else) farewells, and impart a final secret to the Doctor – that he’s not alone, he isn’t in fact the last of the Time Lords.

Face of Boe: You are not alone, Doctor!

Maureen: Well, I have nothing to add to Ben. He’s on fire this week!

The Monster of the Week

Ben: Right from the beginning of the episode we know there’s something big and bad out there, big enough to break through a transport to get to the people inside. First, all we hear is some ominous creaking and groaning from below the car carrying Martha and we’re assured it’s just the air vents (which Martha points out are obviously non-functioning considering all the smog). Although we do then get a folk tale about how there’s in fact a huge scary monster down there who’s the reason a whole bunch of people have gone missing. I wonder which of the two reasons will turn out to be true … Well, if you guessed option B you’d be correct! Turns out it’s giant crabs called Macra that thrive in gas – the filthier the better according to The Doctor. Apparently, billions of years ago they used to rule the galaxy, with humans as their slaves. I dunno how crabs without opposable thumbs can rule anything, but I guess stranger things have happened. Anyways, they’ve devolved somewhat since then, but they’re still enough of a threat to the occasional carload of people who get within claw range. They don’t really suffer a defeat in the climax of the episode so much as everyone is able to move far enough away that they’re no longer a problem. So, victory? I guess?

Maureen: I sort of feel like there wasn’t really a villain this week. The Macra were minding their own business in the smog. It was only when humans got too close that they attacked. The humans with the synthetic emotions were making money off trauma, but well, why shouldn’t they in such a bleak dystopia? Maybe it was a civil service. As to the cat lady and the Face of Boe, they are ambiguous as to their innocence or villainy at first, but by the end of the episode we know the traffic jams have been caused for the greater good in a move of ultimate sacrifice on the part of Boe. Incidentally, I thought it was incredibly chilling when Martha and The Doctor walked through the skeletons of The Senate (how prequel Star Wars). That scene really showed why Boe did what he did, even if that meant consigning humanity to a boring and cruel existence in the smog indefinitely.

Final Thoughts

Ben: The Face of Boe showing up was a happy surprise, and initially with his cat companion arming her weapon I though he had nefarious designs for The Doctor. Turns out, no! And then adding to this vision of a dystopian future, there’s street vendors selling synthetic moods and feelings. 21st century drugs have nothing on them, that’s for sure. Selling a young woman ‘forget’ so she could forget her parents who went on the motorway? Oof. The world-building in this episode is insanely good. All those cars, spitting all those fumes inside a tunnel for decades! No wonder there’s a monster down there picking off cars. We get some more excellent world building in the second half of the episode with the dead Overcity, and a great dramatic conclusion to the episode with the Face of Boe making the ultimate sacrifice to save the city (and Martha). All in all, I really loved this episode, and any faults I have with it are relatively minor. I’m going to give it a 9/10.

Maureen: I think this is a weird Doctor Who episode. It’s not showy. It’s not wildly ambitious like some of Moffat’s work, but it tells an interesting future-set story with great world-building and doesn’t shy away from tough moral choices. And yes, I was happy to see the return of Boe. I also think this episode works hard to set-up Season Three’s overarching themes about what it is to be the last of your kind, what it is to travel as a human companion with The Doctor and why The Doctor matters. I loved this episode from the first time I saw it and my opinion on it has never changed. I also give Gridlock 9/10 inky stars

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Doctor Who Re-watch: The Shakespeare Code

Boy do I enjoy these historical throw-back episodes. I didn’t remember how this one panned out to be honest, though I remembered it dealt with the colour of Martha’s skin early on in and was pretty funny. Ben and I had a blast watching this one!

The Pre-Title Sequence

Maureen: Some witches! First rate cackling after a rather violent death! A witch who reminds me vaguely of The Master’s wife, Lucy Saxon, and it turns out, was in Casino Royale for a couple of seconds. What’s not to enjoy?

Ben: This whole sequence was giving me strong BBC Merlin vibes, to be honest. It’s very supernatural entity of the week, and it culminated in a good evil laugh, which I appreciate. The question is, how will they make it sci-fi …

The shakespeare code

The Companion

Ben: Martha continues to be so inquisitive! The Doctor may not appreciate her curiosity at how everything works, but I love her and her keen scientific mind. She does have a point about the causality of time and the butterfly effect … And she continues to have witty comebacks for every occasion! Her joke about getting sectioned for telling people she’d met Shakespeare, for one.

Maureen: I’m pleasantly surprised by how funny Martha is. It’s not something I’d remembered about her run at all. I also lol’d at the sectioning comment. I like her innate toughness too. She’s completely unfazed by sewerage everywhere, citing her experiences in A and E as good training for the situation she’s found herself in, for example. I also laughed at Martha’s enteprising nature when she finds herself able to get her hands on an original Shakespeare play.

Martha: We can sell it when we get home and make a mint!

Then there’s the odd Shakespeare/Martha shipping in-show, because this episode is having a ball and wants you to have one too!

Ben: Yeah, wow when Shakespeare calls Martha … well a lot of words that I’m impressed the BBC let the scriptwriter include.

Maureen: I thought it was pretty funny later when Martha said she couldn’t bring herself to kiss Shakespeare because of his bad breath. This chick takes no shit and gives no fucks. I forgot just how likeable Martha is.

Ben: The scene with Martha and The Doctor in bed was painful to watch, with poor Martha getting her crush squished in one blow. Ahh well, better to get it out of your system early so you can enjoy your adventures through space and time.

Maureen: I really wish the Rose spectre had been laid to rest around this point. Alas, it haunts all of the RTD era. My comment was, ‘no moon-eyes Martha. Bed-sharing is lame.’ And The Doctor claiming Rose would know exactly what to do and how to comfort can fuck right off.

Ben: Now, Martha doesn’t do a great deal in the last half or so of the episode except sit back and enjoy the ride, but she does get to contribute at critical moments (again with the CPR, expelliarmus, etc etc) and generally have a good time. And! She get’s compared to a summer’s day. Now that’s a story worth getting sectioned over.

Maureen: I loved the Harry Potter episode. It dates the episode, but in a fun way for this millennial who grew up waiting for each new book to come out.

Martha: It’s a bit Harry Potter!
Ten: Aw, you wait till Book Seven. I cried all night.

Final thing I want to say: Martha’s tats are damn hot. Bite me.

The Doctor

Ben: I did quite enjoy how much the Doctor was having the time of his life showing off for Martha, giving her the Doctor Who special and all that. Although it wouldn’t be a Doctor Who special without everything going wrong in the first 10 minutes. It’s just as Martha said, you shouldn’t meet your idols, and there’s no reason why Shakespeare would be exempt from that rule given his swarmy racism.

Maureen: Yes, though I liked that the scriptwriter (I think this one was Gareth Edwards?) was brave enough to mess with the Shakespeare deification. It’s a risk, but I think it pays off. Shakespeare doesn’t feel overly liberated and a-historical here.

Ben: Yeah, and he does quickly redeem himself, seeing through The Doctor’s psychic paper for one. Then, with a drowning on dry land the mystery is properly afoot, and The Doctor is in his element. Investigating ensures, to the detriment of Martha’s romantic overtures. But! Shakespeare got enough flirting in for everyone. The Doctor’s confrontations with the Carrionites were very Merlin, with the naming and the rhyming and all that jazz. And that brings us to the final confrontation! It was all very over the top, with a tornado of evil witches and their laughter, with a dramatic final sonnet to undo what was done, and to top it all off, a JK Rowling reference. End scene, cue applause, off with his head and all that. Maureen has informed me that the bit with Queen Liz was only properly explained quite recently in an episode I haven’t yet seen, I am quite curious to see what he could have done to deserve such a warm welcome.

Maureen: How the fuck did you not see the 50th anniversary, Ben? HOW? Anyway, I feel like The Doctor and Martha didn’t actually do a lot this episode to solve the alien of the week problem. The focus was more on light froth fun (which I was down with) and then revelations thick and fast towards the end. In addition to the J.K references, I kind of liked the trip to Bethlam. It reminded me of Sweeney Todd, and anyone who knows anything about me knows how much I love that musical.

In other news, I liked The Doctor being a bad TARDIS driver reference too.

Martha: Isn’t there a driver’s test?
Ten: Yeah. I failed it.

Oh, River Song. I can’t wait for your later zingers.

Ten got to be quite funny again this episode with his introduction as ‘Sir Doctor of TARDIS’ and Martha of ‘Freedonia’ where black skin and tight clothes aren’t blinked at (we can dream). Also, in a repeat of Eccleston in his period piece episode with Dickens, the many times Ten ‘inspires’ Shakespeare with his own lines.

The Alien of the Week

Maureen: These Carronites were pretty nasty critters. I counted the body count at three about ten minutes into the episode!

Ben: It’s an uncommon episode where the aliens are so heavily featured in the pre-title sequence, that’s for sure! Right from the get-go you know they’re Bad News and that they also have Unknown Powers they can bring to bear at the blink of an eye (although this is really just making me nostalgic for BBC Merlin again). The death of the head play person was well done, honestly, I found it pretty horrific. Drowning on dry land, what a way to go. Anywho, they continue to speak in rhyme and cast magic with abandon to further the plot while the Doctor does his investigating. Turns out they’ve been planning this for quite some time! Putting little ideas in the architect’s head while he was sleeping. And then, with their name comes their history, a species older than time, locked away by the Immortals, using the power of words to break once again into this reality. It’s a great fantasy storyline, that’s for sure. And they got a great fantasy ending too! With their spell cut off by Shakespeare they all ended up trapped in their crystal ball for all eternity.

Maureen: Sometimes The Doctor can be unbearably cruel, but this time, I think the Carronites, despite their lonely last of our kind attempt to win The Doctor over, deserved his ire. To be trapped screaming in the TARDIS for all eternity though? So harsh. It is a great fantasy storyline, Ben, but unfortunately, this is where the episode falls apart a bit for me. It went too far into fantasy for believability to hold. I didn’t really buy those witches as aliens. They looked and acted like, well, witches.

Final Thoughts

Ben: This episode can most accurately be described as a fun romp of an adventure. The aliens this week were very much magical and non-sciencey. I know The Doctor uses that quote about any sufficiently advanced technology looking like magic, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. The lead witch lady even refers to it as magic herself! Still, the three wicked witches were really fun to watch. On top of the witches, just having Shakespeare around as a character was good fun, and all the jokes referencing his works or the theatre were well done. In the end, I really enjoyed this episode, but it loses points for being an episode of the wrong show (and also some clunky acting at moments). I’m going to give it a 7/10.

Maureen: I’m the same as Ben. I really enjoyed the episode’s ride and the light-hearted laughter-filled romp the scriptwriter achieved, but it isn’t as good to my mind as Gatiss’ The Unquiet Dead in terms of moving character and drama forward. I also feel like the plot went for frothiness over substance so that Martha and Ten didn’t always feel that necessary to the story. I did enjoy this more than last week’s episode however, so I’m going with a solid 8/10 inky stars.

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Doctor Who Re-watch: Smith and Jones

And it begins. The Martha Jones series. Back in my teen years, this was where I hit the height of my RTD era Who obsession. I don’t like Doctor Jesus in Last of the Time Lords, but otherwise, I think this was RTD’s strongest run of episodes and strongest over-arching story arc. Freema Agyeman wasn’t the strongest companion in my memory, but a lot of that was the writing, rather than the actress herself, and I found her humour quite refreshing and her Series Three exit awesome. Onwards to Martha’s pilot …

The pre-title sequence

Ben: LOL. In a shocking twist, there was no pre-title scene this episode!

Maureen: I wonder if Rose was the same? I can’t remember. If not, how random!

smith and jones

The Companion

Ben: From the get-go Martha demonstrates herself to be an intelligent, capable woman. She deftly navigates family drama (what a tosser her dad is) while weaving her way through crowds of commuters.

Maureen: I’d forgotten about the whole Jones family dynamic with Martha stuck in the middle. It made a nice breakaway from Rose’s family, even if Martha’s mum upholds the whole RTD has mummy issues thing. Also, the second wife thing was a bit much with, “she’s spending all our inheritance on fake tan.”

Ben: Also, she doesn’t immediately go blabbing on about two hearts when she tries to listen for the Doctor’s pulse!

Maureen: I found this scene eerily relevant. I’ve read about three articles in as many weeks about Doctors bullying junior Doctors in the workplace.

Ben: I love that Martha takes her sudden transportation to the moon in her stride while everyone else breaks down in a panic. It’s easy to see how The Doctor is intrigued with her. And we get an explanation for Freema Agyeman’s first appearance in the Cyberman arc of the finale.

Maureen: I lol’d at the Freema explain away line (I had a cousin). But more seriously, as a teen, I didn’t give Martha enough credit for being a smart companion. I think I was too bitter about Rose leaving, but Martha certainly holds her own in this pilot. I loved that both Martha and The Doctor are, well, doctors and I loved that Martha put Ten in his place when she needed to do so.

The Doctor: Very clever. Brilliant in fact. Fancy going out?
Martha: Okay.
The Doctor: We might die.
Martha: We might not.

Also:

Martha: As far as I’m concerned, you’ve got to earn the title (of Doctor).

And:

The Doctor: I’m a Time Lord.
Martha: Right. Not pompous at all.

Ben: Things start to get really exciting when Martha discovers Mrs Finnigan standing over the body of the dead douchey doctor and has to literally run for her life. In amongst all of this, it’s clear Martha is having a blast, running more on adrenaline than oxygen. She ends up playing a critical part in getting Mrs Finnigan apprehended too, actually taking one of the scanners off of a Judoon. And she successfully revives The Doctor after he’s had who knows how much blood sucked out of him.

Maureen: I don’t know if it’s the script or Freema’s unadulterated excitement at being cast in New Who, but her joyous love for everything she’s doing is infectious. I love the shot towards the end of Martha looking out on the moon, followed by this exchange:

Martha: Blimey, it’s a bit bumpy.
Ten: Hold on, Ms Jones.
Martha: With pleasure, Mr Smith.

I’m less keen on the Martha crushing on The Doctor sub-plot, but it plays a minor part in this episode thank God. Final thoughts on Martha: God, I identify with her so much more now … passing medical exams, paying rent, dealing with family crap. She’s so much more adult than Rose in many ways.

The Doctor

Ben: We come across one John Smith (ie. The Doctor) at the hospital Martha works at. He immediately has a good banter going with Martha, which leads to them having a proper introductory conversation on a balcony overlooking the Earth. The discovery that the Judoon are hunting for an alien entity really gives the Doctor the motivation to get Doctoring, and his hair seems to be trying to engineer it’s own escape for parts of this episode too. The silliness continues with the Doctor expelling a whole lot of radiation into a shoe using a rather silly jig. And then throwing the other shoe away ‘caus wearing just one shoe is silly. So much silliness, which continues when the Doctor gives Martha a big sloppy kiss to distract the Judoon with alien residue on a human. Like, you couldn’t pull out a tuft of hair or something?

Maureen: I quite liked Ten this episode. Perhaps it’s that David Tennant feels more comfortable in the role or he isn’t saddled with the true love sub-plot of him and Rose, but I enjoyed his humour and found Ten less douchey than I normally do. I liked the shoe scene, though I agree the kiss was a bit of an un-necessary ship-tease.

Ben: I did rather enjoy the Doctor playing dumb with Mrs Finnigan. Stupid dumb self-sacrificing Doctor ends up as a blood thickshake for Mrs Finnigan, who played right into his little plan! I don’t know how much he expected her to drink, but I’m kinda suspicious that after straight up dying from blood loss he could be revived with a little poorly done CPR? Ahh well, who knows how Time Lord anatomy works. Anywho, the Doctor saves the day at the last second, everyone (mostly) lives, and the Doctor gets a new companion! And gets to show off the TARDIS with a cheap trick involving a tie (linking back to the first time we saw The Doctor this episode).

Maureen: Re that TARDIS scene, my only note is ‘re The Doctor mouthing “bigger on the inside?” Wanker.’ Otherwise, there were so many great Ten exchanges, like the one below, to love.

Martha: What else do you have? A sonic spanner?
Ten: I did, but Emily Pankhurst took it.

And:

Ten: A platoon of Judoon on the moon!

Also, I thought Ten’s plan was genuinely clever for once.

The Alien of the Week

Ben: We get two aliens this week! What a treat. In one corner we have the Judoon, come to apprehend the alien in the opposing corner, one Mrs Finnigan! And the Mrs Finnigan actress is quite the powerhouse, turning a little old lady into quite the terrifying bloodsucking alien. One who supplies her own straw too! The Judoon seem to have good intentions, even if they lack bedside manner, and also any sense of moderation. They go, for example, from 1-100 when hit over the head with a vase. And they can only operate within the jurisdiction they’ve been assigned, hence bringing the hospital to the moon before they can invade.

Maureen: I saw a lot of The Eleventh Hour in terms of the alien plot in this episode (got to love all those Moff call-backs). Prisoner Zero is similar to Mrs Finnigan with The Judoon the prison ship aliens. I too, found Mrs Finnigan every bit as creepy as say Olivia Coleman in TEH. What a brilliant actress clearly having the time of her life!

Ben: It turns out Mrs Finnigan is an internal shapechanger assimilating human blood to pass through the Judoon’s scans. Clever, but not clever enough to assume there’s another alien who can pass as human in the hospital. Interesting that her last line is that she’ll see the Judoon burn in hell with her. I guess she spent enough time around humans to pick up some concepts. That or hell is the English translation of whatever concept of eternal punishment plasmavores have. She did successfully engineer her final revenge in the MRI going critical, which of course The Doctor was able to thwart in about 15 seconds. All in all, a successful mission for the Judoon, with only two casualties (that we know of) during the operation. But it might not hurt to splash out on some more intelligent militia next time.

Maureen: I quite liked that the alien of the week wasn’t straight bad (The Judoon) and that RTD explored the concept of a space police force and how morality and justice for an alien race might work. I also understood Mrs Finnigan’s motivations even if I disagreed with her actions. I thought the aliens here were more nuanced than most RTD ones are. It’s a nice break from the hundredth earth invasion plan.

Final Thoughts

Ben: On the whole I enjoyed this episode. It’s definitely a better companion introduction episode than Rose’s. But to be fair, Martha didn’t have a Mickey to contend with. Martha and the Doctor immediately had good banter going, and some sparks flying too! It wasn’t a perfect episode of Who, but it was a fun, silly (if over silly at times) romp. I’m giving it 7/10

Maureen: I agree with Ben. Because there was no Mickey, this episode felt more consistent than Rose. It also was funnier and I’m not sure if that’s down to Freema, a more comfortable Tennant, better writing or all of the above. I’m giving this 7/10 inky stars.

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Doctor Who Re-watch: The Runaway Bride

Wow, it took me an age to get started on reviewing this odd beast of a Christmas special in which plastic santas make a come back and Donna Noble makes her debut entrance. Every time I re-watch, I oscillate wildly between enjoying the experience and passionate loathing (a not uncommon experience for me with RTD era Christmas specials). This time was no exception. Onwards!

The Pre-title Sequence

Maureen: Quick aside: God, I hate that Thirteen doesn’t have pre-title sequences. They are just so silly and fun. Anyway. The Runaway Bride. I love the earth shot they start with every new series y’all. It makes me unreasonably happy inside. Also, even though I think Catherine Tate took some time to find her feet and definitely over-acted in her opening number (vanishing from her own wedding in gold light, materializing in the TARDIS), she was at least refreshingly different in her reaction to finding herself with The Doctor. Also, the Donna theme is gorgeous. Go Murray Gold!

Ben: Yeah, this episode certainly started off with a bang, with Catherine Tate screaming her way down the aisle in a truly hideous wedding dress, followed by her screaming at The Doctor when she suddenly vanishes from her wedding and reappears inside the TARDIS mere moments after he said goodbye to Rose. Talk about whiplash! It was, I guess, an acceptably interesting introduction to the episode.

Maureen: LOL. My summary was, ‘The Doctor repeats ‘what?’ over and over like a right numb skull and CT overacts.’ Moving on.

the runaway bride

The Companion

Ben: Look, I’ll be honest, I hated Donna in this episode. She was shouty and over dramatic and scenery chewing in the worst kind of way. The best way for me to describe her is that she was acting as a caricature of the Donna we meet in Season Four with all the worst parts over-exaggerated. And the wedding dress was hateful.

Maureen: This is the first time in ages we’ve disagreed about something, Ben! When I was younger, I really hated Donna, including most of Series Four (the first time round I never finished it), but now I find her kind of refreshing. Yes, the humour was overdone this special. Yes, it took Catherine Tate time to figure out how to play things, but overall I liked Donna. What I didn’t like about her and about this episode was more to do with RTD’s writing, than the character herself.

Ben: Her ‘it’s smaller on the outside’ moment was all right, I guess, but it didn’t make up for all the attitude she gave The Doctor. Maybe she can blame it on the Huon particles?

Maureen: This is where we differ. I liked her saying the TARDIS was smaller on the outside (it’s a change!). I liked her being a bit freaked out by an alien and hey, if you were at a wedding and then suddenly on a spaceship, it would feel like an abduction. I thought a lot of the dialogue was quite funny upfront.

Donna: My husband, when he is my husband, him and I are gonna sue the backside of ya!

And:

Doctor: Human?
Donna: Yeah. Is that an option?
Doctor: For me it is.
Donna: Are you an alien?
Doctor: Yeah.

And:

Donna: How many women have you abducted? [in relation to Rose] … where’s she gone? For a space walk?

But even leaving aside the humour, I think sometimes Ten is a right wanker and he needs someone like Donna to put him in his place. I didn’t mind her slapping him. He deserved it.

Ben: I guess, but my main gripe was that none of the jokes/comedy involving Donna were remotely funny, and a fair few of them were just plain offensive. The joke about Donna missing all the previous alien escapades on Earth for ridiculous reasons was really the only exception to that, but it was then followed up with a ‘joke’ about how Donna is basically worthless and not special apart from the mysterious Huon particles, so it didn’t really count.

Maureen: OK, I see your point of view here. I didn’t like this either. Ten being a sanctimonious arsehat again. Woot.

Ben: And then there’s the scene with Donna harassing Lance into marrying her? Like, was that meant to be incredibly unfunny and cringe-worthy?

Maureen: Yeah, I don’t know what RTD was going for here. I quite liked Donna till this scene and then that turned me right off her. Harassment is never funny. I feel like aside from this moment however, the rooftop scene was quite beautiful and Catherine Tate calmed down enough to deliver her lines sans shouting. That whole scene was like a promise of what was to come with her friendship with Ten later. I wish the whole episode could have been this.

Ben: And honestly, the less said about the reception scenes the better.

Maureen: Oii, what was wrong with them? I didn’t like Donna’s Mum (does anyone?), but RTD has some weird thing about writing bitchy Mum’s so *shrugs.* I thought it was sad, showing how bland and poor Donna’s life is, but also the scene where she fake cried shows she is cleverer than she acts, another hint as to the depths she will achieve in Series Four.

Ben: Meh. The scene where Lance is revealed as a double crosser was incredibly brutal, and perhaps the only good scene in the first forty minutes of the episode. Really, this whole episode was like a ‘let’s everyone pile on Donna’ that everyone was in on except her. And the to add insult to injury she sees her fiancé die, and then is swung into a metal something by The Doctor. Which, again, is played for comedy and not ‘Gee Donna, you basically fell from the roof into a hard metal surface, are you all right?’

Maureen: I agree that the everyone piling on Donna thing for cheap laughs was weird and icky, but I think that was less about Donna the character and more about how the writer, RTD, positioned her in the story. Here is why I think RTD is more sexist than Moffat by the way. His sexism is far more insidious and permeates every story line. In my opinion, Moffat’s sexism comes down to crack writing nine times out of ten, rather than actual sexism, but that’s an essay you can read elsewhere.

Ben: At least by the end of the episode the caricature of Donna had settled down somewhat, and we got a good serious conversation between her and The Doctor. There may have been talk about how Donna was nobody special throughout the episode, but she fully has The Doctor’s number, talking about how he needs someone to travel with to tell him when to stop. Oof. Even the shouting at the end of the episode was better. All I can say is, I’m excited to see more of this Donna in season four!

Maureen: Me too! The end scene was aces!!! I loved Donna claiming she would go see the world (even though we know she won’t), I love Ten telling Donna to be magnificent and I love Donna telling Ten he needs human companions to keep him in line. Ironically, I think Donna understood The Doctor more than any other new who companion bar maybe Amy Pond.

The Doctor

Ben: The poor Doctor was really put through the ringer this episode by this over-dramatic woman who was hell bent on getting to her wedding. There were a few moments that I think were supposed to be funny? Or something? Like when the Doctor was in a hurry to get cash and had to wait behind some slow person using the ATM.

Maureen: I also had question marks over this scene. I really noticed The Doctor over-relying on the sonic this episode, but also with him getting cash from the ATM, who exactly was giving him that cash? Was he robbing other people? Inquiring minds wish to know. Also, when him and Donna flagged down a taxi and realised they didn’t have money so were turned out, my first thought was, ‘Y U no pay at the church?’ The amount of times I have paid a taxi driver at the end of a trip running into the house to find cash isn’t even funny.

Ben: Mostly, it felt like all these ridiculous scenes were padding out an episode that really had nothing going for it. I’m not sure if the TARDIS flying down the highway was supposed to be funny or impressive, but I just found it nonsensical. How did he even find Donna? The whole scene with the bio-dampener in the shape of a ring was just so on the nose, another scene with an attempt at comedy that just fell flat? I guess we’ll never know. Plus, the whole absentminded mutterings about how she’s not special as he scans her were really frustrating. Anywho, moving on to the reception, where the less said about the scene at the reception the better. You’re gonna supercharge a phone to find out more about HC Clements and then just hand it back?

Maureen: As usual, Ben thinks through the story logic more than I do (which is ironic really!). I didn’t think of any of this at the reception scene. I was more thinking, OH LOOK PLASTIC SANTA, OH LOOK CHRISTMAS TREE, OH LOOK BAUBLES FLOATING AROUND THE PLACE. IS THIS CHRISTMASSY ENOUGH YET, IS IT? Also, I feel like the reception song was significant. It sounded like its lyrics alluded to Ten/Rose with, ‘coz my body’s tired of travelling and my heart don’t wish to roam,’ and ‘Now, all I have’s this anguished heart, for you have vanished too. Oh, my girl, my girl, my precious girl, just what is this man to do?’

Ben: One thing I did appreciate is that the technobabble this episode had some logical consistency, e.g. The Doctor’s analogy and usage of the Huon particles made sense. And, on the plus side, Donna calls out The Doctor on him enjoying the danger too much and gives him a well-deserved slap or two.

Maureen: I counted three slaps in total this episode and I was cheering Donna on!

Ben: I appreciate that The Doctor treated Donna with kindness after the betrayal of Lance, and really after that scene I noticed a marked improvement in the overall quality of the episode. I’m not sure if the production team decided that because Catherine Tate, comedienne extraordinaire was in the episode they needed to ramp up the comedy, but it really just didn’t work in any way, shape, or form. Anyways, the conclusion of the episode was quite satisfactory, we got some good Dark Doctor faces as he drowned the Racnoss babies, and a touching conversation with Donna at the end where he asks her to travel with him.

Maureen: I actually hate that bit where Ten drowns The Racnoss. He just looks so damn whiny and I just know the angst gets dialled up to eleven in later episodes. I’m so glad Donna came back to call him out on his shitty behavior in a later season! PS: Sorry guys, I don’t like Ten.

The Alien of the Week

Ben: The Santa army is back! Such shenanigans and tomfoolery abound. And of course, the killer Christmas Trees return too. In continuing with the nonsensical slapstick humour, one of the party goers gets hit by one of the killer tree baubles and goes face first into the wedding cake? Time and place, people …

Maureen: Damn, I forgot about that! Thanks for bloody reminding me!

Ben: Also, how does the queen alien lady (correction, Empress of the Racnoss) know that it’s Christmas Eve? She has a strangely comprehensive knowledge of Earth. And what was with the over dramatic camera shots of her over acting at the camera? It was all very unnecessary. Plus!! She laughs at the ‘this time, it’s personnel’ joke. And then she makes a wedding joke! She really was a very naturalised alien.

Maureen: She was definitely not the strong point of the episode, that’s for sure. The SFX have really dated and her voice was grating and her jokes kind of weird. As you say, Ben, a lot of the jokes don’t land properly this episode. I did kind of lol at the ‘I do,’ ‘I don’t,’ bit in a cheesy B grade horror movie kind of way. Also, I dig the delivery of Catherine’s ‘a spider’s just a spider and an axe is an axe,’ line. I don’t know why actually.

Ben: I’m not entirely sure how the Racnoss babies and ship survived for billions of years under immense pressure inside the core of the Earth, or why it took the Queen of the Racnoss so long to initiate her plan for global domination, or even why Lance decided to be her consort or whatever, but she did come to satisfying end. But like, is it not worth checking out the Racnoss ship to disable things or something? Surely that can’t be the end of that.

Maureen: The Lance thing is really under-developed. Like the episode claims he did it because the Queen showed him how small human life was in the scale of the universe or some shit, but like, what? Surely he’s smart enough to know she’s going to bump him off at the first opportunity. I really feel like Lance got short-changed in the characterization department. My notebook comment on The Racnoss storyline is, ‘the whole alien of the week storyline is a bit ridic.’

Final Thoughts

Ben: I really didn’t enjoy this episode (except for the last 20 minutes or so). Donna was awful. None of the jokes have aged particularly well. And like, why could the Doctor not just take Donna back to just after she vanished? This ‘not going back on someone’s personal timeline’ is such rubbish and is only used as a clumsy plot device whenever the writers get lazy. The whole episode just reminded me of Rose. The Doctor rescues a damsel in distress, there’s her boyfriend that she has no chemistry with, the ditzy caricature of a mother, a secret base hidden underneath a London landmark, and an alien who’s the last of their kind and has decided Earth is the ideal planet from which to repopulate. Unoriginal, unfunny, and just horrendous treatment of Donna as a character. And why, oh why, did they think having them use Segways as transport was going to age well. Another example of a scene that I think was supposed to be funny when it aired but just reeks of disappointment and wasted air time now. Things picked up in the final twenty minutes, and we got some really good moments from Donna and The Doctor, but it really wasn’t enough to make up for the truly awful first forty minutes. I’m giving it a 3/10

Maureen: This is the first time in quite some time I’ve disagreed with Ben. I don’t think this was a good episode. I think it highlights a lot of RTD’s more problematic writing styles and choices. I think the alien of the week story was silly and that Lance and Donna’s Mum were boring caricatures, but I like Donna, even with Catherine Tate over-acting in parts. I liked the scene on the roof-top when Donna gives up on making her wedding, and the scene at the end, and I like that Donna doesn’t just succumb to Ten’s charms immediately. She displays some critical thought, which I liked. Also, I liked the Torchwood references and re the use of segways as transport. I liked it. My notebook comment is, ‘Donna/Lance/Ten riding segways is true zany Who personified and I unreasonably love it.’ I oscillate wildly between hating and enjoying this episode every time I re-watch it so I’m going to give this 5/10 inky stars.

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Doctor Who Rewatch: Doomsday

Wow. All the feels. And I say that as someone who doesn’t ship Rose/Ten. I guess time has made me kinder to this finale. Also, sorry for the blogging delay, but t’was the silly season.

Pre-Title Sequence

Ben: As is usual with these two-parters, the pre-title sequence was a recap of the previous episode, ending with the ominous words from Rose of the excellent eyebrows – “this is how I die.” Onwards!

Maureen: Much drama! Also, clever cop out that doesn’t feel like a cheat, RTD!

doomsday

The Companion/s

Ben: Rose pulls some excellent stunts when facing down the Daleks – standing up to them and name-dropping the Time War in the process. That did take nerve. She was pretty badass when she dropped the bombshell that not only is The Doctor in the building, but that she met and killed the Dalek Emperor!

Maureen: This was probably my favourite part of the episode. Rose did have courage and backbone. Too often she allowed herself to be defined by her relationship with The Doctor instead of her own strengths which is why she grew to annoy me as a companion. Still, didn’t mind her here. I also dug her in this exchange:

Dalek: Which of you is least important?
Rose: No. We don’t work that way.

Though I have to admit, the Daleks sucking the Torchwood lackey’s brain cells to kill him was not a sight for the kiddies (or for me. How scary!)

Ben: Of course, there’s the obligatory awkward conversation between her and Mickey who’s acting more like Ricky. Though that does turn out to be a rather juicy conversation – Rose correctly deducts that they need time energy to activate the Genesis Ark, and Mickey foreshadows an important feature of the time travel devices – they can only carry one person. Rose doesn’t do much more until the end of the episode, and I honestly wasn’t prepared for how traumatic that ended up being. It’s a lot to get thrown on you in one hit – The Doctor’s saving the day and part of the plan is you leaving and never existing in the same reality as the Doctor ever again. I mean, The Doctor has been her life for two years or so, but even then she chose The Doctor over her own mum! That’s young love for you. I’m sure inkashlings will have better words for this part, I’m no good with the emotional stuff 😛

Maureen: I have such a weird relationship with this ending. I alternate between love and hate every few years. I like that Rose is stubborn and determined in her youth and she foregoes safety for love. Back in the parallel universe I don’t mind the goodbye scene, even if I was like ‘omg hurry up and spit it out, Ten. Are you trying to while away precious seconds?’ I actually think my irritation with the Rose thing is because of what came after in terms of her continued impact on story and The Doctor’s relationships with his new companions. I wish she’d been left on that beach to discover her abilities with Torchwood, tragic but able, courageous and wise about aliens, her future left to the viewer’s imaginations and the show able to move on. Alas, that’s not what happened so I’ll move on …

Ben: Billie Piper sure did pull out all the stops when it came to the emotional scenes at the end of this episode. Talk about an emotional gut punch! There were some powerful, swoon-worthy lines said about collapsing universes and not caring if it meant they could be together. And of course, their goodbye happened in Bad Wolf Bay. Even re-watching this scene to write the review has me tearing up, the way Rose’s last words to the Doctor end up being her declaration of love for him. Oof.

Maureen: I shed a tear this re-watch. I cannot deny it. Billie Piper is a brilliant actress, which certainly helps, and I think one of her strengths are these kind of high melodrama scenes.

Ben: On to Jackie. She had a rough time of things. First she doesn’t know what’s happened to Rose and then she faces being turned into a cyberman. Even worse, she sees the Torchwood lady getting turned into a cyberman too!

Maureen: I’ve never listed it in order before, but by jove Ben, you’re right. I wonder how much therapy Jackie needs now? In the parallel universe is she like Katniss in the conclusion of The Hunger Games? Is it Pete that talks her through the nightmares when she can’t sleep? Someone write the fic!

Ben: YEAH AND THEN AFTER ALL OF THAT she sees her husband basically return from the dead! It was a very sweet moment, that reunion. It’s really nice to see the development to Jackie’s character. When we first met her, she was a bit of a caricature. But she gets something of a happy ending! The Tyler’s reunited again, with another Tyler on the way!

Maureen: I think Jackie came into her own in the second part of this season and surprisingly, it was Love and Monsters that helped me to understand her behavior the most. When she says to Pete she never loved anyone but him it’s true in its way. She may have had one night stands with men, but they meant nothing to her beyond the physical. I think Jackie has changed with Rose away and Pete dead. She nagged too much. She shouted too much. She cared about the superficial too much, but it was to try to fill the emptiness within. Perhaps adventures with The Doctor and Rose have helped her to get some priorities sorted. I also love the symmetry of Pete dying in our world and Jackie dying in Pete’s world and I too found their reunion sweet.

The Doctor

Ben: In a different move for The Doctor … for a big part of this episode he’s just a spectator! First, he’s held captive by the cybermen, and then after he’s rescued from them, he’s taken back to Parallel Earth! Back on Earth II we get the low down on how the cybermen made their way over to Earth thanks to Pete Tyler – plus the interesting little easter egg that Harriet Jones is the President in this reality. And then! Then we’re off to the races!

Maureen: Yes, you’re right, but I think this was a general tool of RTD when he wrote finale’s anyway. He did like to throw the kitchen sink aka every guest star and big threat and reference into his finales which by necessity meant character’s had to take turns to take a backseat. Sometimes the RTD approach worked and sometimes it didn’t. I think it was fine this finale.

Ben: Hmmm. About halfway through the episode, The Doctor makes alliances with Cybermen and tries to get Earth II Pete Tyler to rescue Jackie even though she’s not his Jackie. Anyways, The Doctor serves some sick burns to the Daleks before attempting to drop a cyberman augmented trap on their heads. Shame it didn’t quite work out.

Maureen: Haha there were so many Doctor and Rose Dalek directed sick burns. Those two were on fire! Also, plus points to RTD for fitting in some humorous Ten/Rose banter.

Ten: How are ya?
Rose: Oh, so so.

And:

Rose: Which one’s shiver?
Ten: I’m shake.

Ben: And then we get to The Doctor’s master plan. Tricky, this void stuff, although I’m not entirely sure how the Daleks who were trapped inside the Genesis Ark got covered in it. Surely Time Lord technology isn’t that leaky. But still, it’s a good plan, and I’m being nit-picky.

Maureen: I gave up on following whys and wherefores and enjoyed the character stuff. I have a theory about TV drama actually. I think you can break plot rules, or you can break established characterizations or you can break with tone, but not all at the same time and two is pushing it. I’m also more forgiving of plot when the script has something true to say about character. So basically, I didn’t care about the plot mcguffin get out of jail reasoning because I was enjoying the character stuff too much to care.

Ben: The Doctor should have seen Rose being non-compliant from a mile off re his plan to tackle the Daleks alone. I mean he’s traveled with her for two years or so by this point! I understand he’s doing it for noble reasons, but still.

Maureen: Yeah, it was kinda funny how easy it was for Rose to reverse that plan. Like, did The Doctor and Rose’s family seriously think she wouldn’t press the button and go straight back? She isn’t stupid.

The Alien of the Week

Ben: Cybermen AND Daleks! The shark has truly been jumped this week. For starters, how did the cyberman broadcast their face/background to all frequencies of the world without a camera? And like, the first time we see a Dalek, it downloaded all of the internet through a computer terminal, surely they could have done that instead of sucking the information out of the brain of a Torchwood agent.

Maureen: Ah, Ben, how do you think of these things? They never occur to me till you point them out.

Ben: The stand off between the Cybermen and the Daleks was pretty hilarious/petty.

Dalek: This is not war. This is pest control.

And

Dalek: You are better at dying.

And, it turns out these Daleks are of the Cult of Skaro! I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it sounds impressive. And, thanks to Mickey touching it, the Genesis Ark was successfully activated! Anywho, we now we have all out war happening between the Daleks and the Cybermen, with all Cybermen units converging on Torchwood Tower. Which, considering how slowly they walk, is not really a threat the Daleks need to concern themselves with. And then, the grand reveal. The Time Lord technology that is the Genesis Ark? It’s a prison ship housing millions of Daleks. The wonders of Time Lord science. It’s a shame they didn’t get to enjoy their freedom long, on account of the Doctor opening a doorway to the Void and them all getting sucked in. But at least one of the Dalek’s of Skaro managed to sneakily temporal shift their way out of danger, living to fight another day.

Maureen: I love the concept of a Dalek cult. I wonder if Big Finish did something with this? Probably. PS: I found the Daleks scary when they killed Torchwood man, but the cyberman weren’t bad either. The bit where Torchwood’s leader repeats, “I did my duty,” over and over as they rewire her is really disturbing because the process is left up to your imagination. Poor Jackie having to watch! Like I said, so much therapy needed. And it was so sad when cyberman Torchwood leader repeats later, “I did my duty,” as a tear falls from her cyberman groove eye. I reckon if I’d been younger when this came out, I’d have been behind my sofa.

Final Thoughts

Ben: This was an excellent follow through from the previous episode. It had highs, lows, funny bits, sad bits. Everything you want in a Doctor Who episode, in fact! And! It redeemed the absolute wreck that was the two-parter that introduced the Cybermen. I was truly devastated to see Rose go in the end. Her and The Doctor had great chemistry. It’s a shame it never worked when they tried to introduce a third companion (with the exception of Captain Jack Harkness), but I guess they’re jealous lovers. But I digress. Their goodbye scene left me a wreck, only for the appearance of Donna Noble to whiplash me back to reality. In the end, I think I’ll give this a 10/10. Onwards to the Christmas Special!

Maureen: I’ll probably change my mind a year later, but I did enjoy this a lot this time around. It’s not this finale’s fault that Rose grew to outstay her welcome and that her ghost haunted the show to its detriment. Also, interesting thing. Someone was talking to me the other day about how New Doctor Who is way more fantasy than it is sci-fi and I agree with that, but I often see Eleven as fantasy archetype territory, rather than Ten. The whole dream sequence and final goodbye was something out of a fairy story. 10/10 inky stars

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Doctor Who Re-Watch: Army of Ghosts

Well, what can I say? As an angst riddled teen I loved this finale. Then I re-watched in my uni years and found the whole thing irritating melodrama. Then, um, Ben and I re-watched and well, I kind of like, enjoyed this first part of the finale. Read on to find out why …

So what went down? Rose and The Doctor greet Jackie in her modern day London estate home, only to find out ghosts have been returning … only the footprints aren’t a boot and bam it’s another threat altogether. Plus bonus aggressive Torchwood (which feels oddly prescient on the topic of make Britain great again given Brexit) and non-Martha Freema Agyeman guest appearance episode.

army of ghosts

The Pre-title Sequence

Ben: “Planet Earth – this is where I was born, and this is where I died.” What a dramatic way to open the first episode of this two-part finale! Although the number of humans who have died off earth you could probably count on one hand so like, Rose you’re not that special. Still, this recap was nice, and really adds to the inevitability of the tragedy about to unfold.

Maureen: Yep, I too was all, hello angstalicious Rose. But also, I love Billie. What an actress! So all is forgiven. But also, the below quote is stupid:

Rose: For the first nineteen years of my life, nothing happened at all. Nothing.

Enough with telling the viewer companions are nothing without The Doctor, RTD!

The Companions

Ben: Jackie was excellent in this season. I love how she’s developed as a character. She’s gone from flirting with The Doctor to stealing a kiss or two off him! And she’s pulling off double denim like the fashion icon she is. Apart from the few moments of ‘oh god she thinks her dead father is back from the dead is she going senile?’ Rose comments, Jackie is incredibly sharp this episode, calling out both The Doctor and Rose on their shenanigans. Rose gets the biggest smackdown, when Jackie says once she’s dead Rose will have nothing to return to earth for. The whole speech she gives describing this future version of Rose losing her humanity was pretty grim. But I get the feeling Rose would be fine with that outcome as long as she had The Doctor. And! Jackie gets to be the companion for a bit!

Ten: When Torchwood comes to write up my history, don’t mention I travelled with her mother.

Maureen: I love the transformation of Jackie Tyler. She started out as such an annoying whore style stereotype. I feel like the second half of this series has upped the characterisation stakes and made the core gang of The Doctor, Rose and Jackie all a lot more understandable in terms of motivation. I also liked the opening with Jackie where we see Rose wearing a back pack like she’s been travelling to another country rather than through space. Rose gifts Jackie a souvenir that tells the weather and Jackie doesn’t care because she’s too busy loving Rose so hard because she’s been worried. This felt like such a realistic little scene to me.

Ben: As to Rose, the Rose we get this episode is Rose at the peak of her companionship with the Doctor. Having not seen any of her run I imagine this is where Sarah Jane Smith was at when she was abandoned by The Doctor. Rose has learnt how to use the TARDIS’s equipment, investigate on her own, and thinks it’ll last forever. To be honest, in this first episode Jackie contributes more than Rose, but this is still an important part of her journey.

Maureen: I was struck by the great chemistry between Rose and The Doctor again. It’s not a ship that always works, but when it does, damn it’s a lot of fun. Billie and David have a lot of chemistry when the script doesn’t weigh them down with stupid jealousy sub-plots! I loved the Ghostbusters moment especially! I also enjoyed Rose having fun with psychic paper and having the whole thing backfire because Torchwood has training y’all. Also, lol at Rose thinking the ghosts could be Gelth related, The Doctor’s look and Rose’s subdued, cheeky smile as she says no.

Ben: Then this episode also introduces Yvonne of the fabulous hair – the leader of Torchwood and a woman who I imagine got on very well with Harriet Jones. Although her talk of British Empires and imperial tonnes was a bit concerning. Still, it’s nice to see a charismatic woman in power. Plus, it does take some nerve to call The Doctor out when he’s in his element, even if it is to tell him he’s gone left when he should have gone right. The Doctor does make some very valid points that you don’t need to poke every anomaly you find with a stick to see what happens, but this does come off as a bit sanctimonious and hypocritical when that’s exactly what The Doctor does on a regular basis.

Maureen: I loved the Torchwood stuff. Great call back to Queen Vic and of course she would have left instructions about The Doctor that were less than flattering! The scene were Yvonne and Torchwood lackeys cheer on The Doctor were so disconcerting and Ten was off-kilter completely. Yvonne was such a powerhouse CEO type, who genuinely believed she was doing the right thing for her country. I hated her morals, but she remained oddly likeable throughout the episode.

Ben: Finally, Mickey returns! I don’t know how he got through to this reality/got through early enough to get a position at Torchwood and work his way up the ranks to be working at what I would guess is one of their higher-level projects. He also felt more like Ricky than Mickey, and of course in his first sentence to Rose he calls her babe. Eww. Also, he barely even looks at Rose! War against the cybermen has changed him, and not necessarily for the better. He’s become like Rachel from Animorphs (which is a bit of an obscure reference these days, I know), a soldier who loves war. Also, how the hell did Mickey hide such a huge gun in what is supposedly such a secure building?

Maureen: I thought the point of Mickey replacing Rickey in the parallel universe was to give him a chance to become that stronger, more confident version of himself. ‘My name is Mickey. Mickey Smith. Defending the earth.’ I didn’t begrudge him his moment of limelight or think too hard about hows and wherefore’s, though I agree the babe was a bit much.

The Doctor

Ben: Another episode where The Doctor’s nowhere to be seen when something starts to go awry on Earth! Maybe Harriet Jones was onto something …

Maureen: Yes, this is why I really dug the Series Three finale back in the day. The Doctor was given some big consequences for his Harriet Jones holier-than-thou-even-tho-I’m-clearly-wrong actions.

Ben: Still, his “a footprint doesn’t look like a boot’ response to Jackie saying the ghosts look human was memorable.

Maureen: I thought it was rather poignant when Jackie describes the smell of her Dad and The Doctor and Rose reveal they can’t smell a thing. She’s wished her father onto the image of the ghost, which is deeply sad to me.

Ben: Anywho, we get some general Doctoring as Ten investigates the ghosts, paired with the usual technobabble. And then we get the debut of both allons-y and the usage of 3D glasses as he discovers the source of the ghosts! Now for a Bad Wolf reference and we’ll have bingo.

Maureen: I very much enjoyed Ten with his allons-y and 3d glasses and huge ass technology to trap ghosts with this episode. Holy shit, he be growing on me!

Ben: The Doctor’s demonstration at Torchwood Tower of what happened to the fabric of reality when the Void Ship came through was impressive, because even though I knew the glass was going to shatter I was still holding on to every word he said. Ten really does have a commanding charisma.

Maureen: I don’t always agree, but this second half of the series, Tennant has been superb. I thought he was pitch perfect in the scene you describe.

Ben: To nobody’s surprise it all goes to hell and there’s nothing The Doctor can do about it because this is part one of a finale. And we end the episode with The Doctor surrounded by cybermen! Not the best position to turn things around from!

The Alien of the Week

Ben: Ghosts! RTD really got the foreshadowing right this week, with the man on the television talking about the ‘military parade’ of ghosts at Westminster. I did love the little scene of Team TARDIS changing through the tv channels with ghost mania taking hold of the planet. I’m not sure how this psychic link is pulling the ghosts through, if they have that link then why the particle accelerators in Torchwood Tower?

Maureen: Damn it, Ben! I didn’t even think that plot hole through to know it was one. Why must you always pick up on these things?

Ben: Speaking of Torchwood Tower, the IM flirting between Not-Martha and Gareth was pretty cringeworthy. It definitely brought back memories of talking to people on MSN Messenger.

Maureen: It was very Renee Zellweger/Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones Diary!

Ben: But the payoff was worth it as we got the reveal of the real alien of the week – the cybermen are back!

Maureen: How cool was the Freema scream as she faced off a cyberman. That must have been so fun to act, and just so iconic too.

Ben: How no one noticed Not-Martha and Gareth were looking like total douchebags with ear pieces in both ears is beyond me. The dramatic music that played every time they did something cybermen related was a bit heavy handed – I kept having to turn my headphones down whenever it played.

Maureen: Ah yes, the beginning of Murry Gold being played up to eleven every time something dramatic is happening because we idiotic audience members won’t know it’s dramatic UNLESS THE MUSIC IS VERY LOUD DUM DUM DUM.

Ben: It’s a bit of a nit-picky point, but I also found the dramatic scene with the levers rather annoying – the idea of having physical levers to activate something is so that if something goes wrong software wise you still have a way of shutting things off. There shouldn’t be a way for the levers to be moving by themselves! But maybe there’s cybermen shenanigans involved in that somehow. Also, Torchwood doesn’t have any armed guards in this room, the room containing their most important project? Or any meaningful fail safes?

Maureen: I didn’t think about this at the time, but maybe it’s a sign of the Torchwood hubris at play. Yvonne and Co. are so cocksure of themselves and their ability to fend off invasions and things going wrong, they figure they don’t need extra security and fail safes because no one could ever get that far.

Ben: Hmm, another thing I don’t understand is the random cut to the tv channels discussing the increase in ghost activity after the cybermen activate the ghost shift. There was a police chief there! Those kind of press conferences don’t just happen instantaneously. And the time it took for the ghosts to appear/manifest as cybermen wasn’t that long a time.

Maureen: Eh, I’m not sure I follow you here. I thought the reason for the news stations and the chief of police was because there was an unusual increase in ghost activity. The police commissioner was on air to reassure the public everything was fine, but then the cybermen attack and it’s obvious things aren’t fine. I kind of enjoyed these scenes and the scenes of cybermen mayhem. If I’d been a little kid, this would have been hide behind my sofa scary!

Ben: And then we have the mysterious sphere in the basement of Torchwood Tower, that gets in your head and doesn’t seem to exist. Of course, The Doctor knows what it is instantly – it’s a Void Ship. A ship that exists outside of time and space. So, kinda like a TARDIS but not. And surprise, surprise, it’s packed full of Daleks! It doesn’t do much this episode but loom threateningly over everyone, but it was a great B-plot.

Maureen: And now Rose, Mickey and random Torchwood lackey are trapped in a sealed room with hundreds of Daleks! How will they escape??? What an old school, classic cliff hanger. Love it.

Ten: It’s not an invasion. It’s too late for that. It’s a victory.

Final Thoughts

Ben: I absolutely loved this episode. I don’t know what else to say beyond what I’ve already written. I’m giving this episode a 9/10.

Maureen: Aside from Mickey’s ‘babe’ moment and The Doctor sniping at Jackie in a rather ageist way, I enjoyed this immensely. Enough that I didn’t notice half of the plot holes Ben has pointed out in this review! I’m giving this 9 outta 10 inky stars too and am mad keen for next week.

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