Archive for the ‘Doctor Who’ Category

Yes, yes, ok, I should have known.

When I wrote last week’s post, I commenced with:

I swear, when I did the post last week, I had every intention of making it a one-off.

I really should have know better.

Not the first post that turned into a three or four parter, or even the first post that ran away with me; I’m sure it won’t be the last.

But after writing a few ‘Ten Things’ posts, I wrote a few on Doctor Who, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

So, two weeks ago, I listed ten Doctor Who stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch. And of course, of course, I got to nine, realised I could list a dozen more… and did another ten last week. But still ran out of slots.

So, here, finally, are another ten.

Yes, yes, ‘past budgie’ is a fucking idiot.

So, here are ten more. Again, no real rules, other than that they’re in chronological order for the most part.

And again, same caveat as before: I’m not sayin these are the best ever episodes. They’re not even my favourite episodes/stories, necessarily. They’re just another ten stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch again.

But, since the past two weeks’ posts finished with Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, most of those below are going to be from Peter Capaldi’s and Jodie Whittaker’s runs…


OK, time to start.

Deep BreathThe Twelfth Doctor
I wasn’t that impressed with this episode when I first watched it. I’m not sure why. I mean, ok, it was the new Doctor and there’s always – as I’ve said before – that tough thing that a writer and director has to do: introduce the new fella, have some fun, show how he’s different but ultimately the same character.

So why, if I only thought it was ok… have I watched it and rewatched it quite so often? Because it’s a lot better than I gave it credit for the first time I watched it is the obvious answer. Capaldi’s having a blast, setting up the new setup, and there’s so much thrown into the mix, that I’m surprised they fit it in. The Paternoster Gang are always fun to have around, and Clara’s mystification at the new fella is well played as well. And there’s a mystery, and there’s a mystery woman, and a call back to a previous story, to a couple of stories in fact, and you’re not quite sure how cold a bastard this new Doctor actually is.

The final-ish scene is clever, mawkish, and… original. I think that’s it; no one had done it before, the whole ‘the Doctor knows it’s going to freak out his companion, even if she’s met past selves, so does something about it’ thing.

It continues the run of the very good first episodes for the new Doctor, and that’s always welcome.


 


 
Dark Water/Death In Heaven – The Twelfth Doctor
A spot perfect two-parter. This is when everything came together for Capaldi’s first season, exactly as and when it should: the season finale.

The return of a classic villain, the return of another classic villain that had been hinted at for ages, a very good clifhanger (well, two, really), the return of UNIT, of Osgood, and the pacing is just about perfect. Never a boring moment, some genuinely scary bits, and very clever misdirects throughout. Oh, and Chris Addison.

A couple of bits that don’t make sense, a couple of plot holes, but I’ve watched this two-parter time and again, and I’ll no doubt watch it again in the near future, just for fun.

And, nicely for once, both parts are essential. You couldn’t cover the first part in a ten minute catchup. That doesn’t always apply.


 


 
The Woman Who LivedThe Twelfth Doctor
The second part of a kind of two-parter, and unlike the story immediately above, while I’ve watched the The Woman Who Lived more than a few times, I don’t think I’ve rewatched the first part at all. Masie Williams was kind of ok in the first part but she shines as Me here. She’s the kind of person that the Doctor forgot existed, someone who is so long lived that she’s forgotten most of what happened to her in earlier days.

A clever concept, played well. (If you can barely remember what happened in the past, why on earth should be feel any loyalty to old comrades or even friends; they only die in the end, after all… )

Capaldi and Williams are obviously enjoying playing against each other and while the plot isn’t the strongest, the acting alone takes this onto the list.

And this scene says so, so much,


 


 
ExtremisThe Twelfth Doctor
I wasn’t sure about this episode when I first watched it; I’m not sure why. Because it’s fantastic. I can only assume I was having a rough day or something, and wasn’t paying attention. I mean, there clues throughout when you look for them, but cleverly done, so that you write them off as ‘well, it’s Doctor Who‘. And when the pennies start to drop, the reveals start to come, even when you know they’re coming, they’re still just enough of a surprise to give you a start.

I’m unconvinced by the final seconds of the story, but that’s a tiny quibble. I love the characterisations, the dialogue, and the sheer ‘what the hell is going on?’ of this story. It rewards rewatching.


 


 
Twice Upon A TimeThe First And Twelfth Doctors
Damn, this was clever. There’s almost nothing wrong with this final episode of Capaldi’s run. David Bradley is just about perfect, playing the First Doctor (which is pure chutzpah on the part of the casting director, for a reason I’ll expand on in a moment). Not so sure about the plot itself, but as a ‘farewell’ to the Twelfth Doctor, it’s spot on. You get Bill back, you get Nardoll back, you get to see the 1960s Doctor really, really out of place, while utterly mystified at the latest version of… himself. Mark Gatiis is wonderful, but they telegraph the ‘twist’.

But yeah, the fun comes from two Doctors who should never have met… meeting.


 


 
Demons Of The PunjabThe Thiteenth Doctor
No, I’m not going to have the first episode of Jodie Whittaker’s run; it’s a great introduction for the new Doctor, eventually. But I really wasn’t interested until she showed up.

And this is the only bit I quite like rewatching.

So, no, this was the first episode of Whittaker’s run I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish and have rewatched a couple of times. I love the idea of somoene finding something in their parents’ or grandparents’ lives they just want to know more about and, hey, their friend has a time machine, so why not?

(There’s certainly been things I’d have wanted to discover.)

And everyone’s just about perfect in this story; the plot works brilliantly, the ‘villain’ isn’t, quite. No-one’s uncomplicated, no=one’s entirely good or bad. And from the best of motives, things can go a bit screwed up.

And the plot wraps up nicely, though not without consequences.


 


 
It Takes You AwayThe Thiteenth Doctor
With most of the stories I’ve listed here and in the previous posts, I know why I like rewatching so much. Sometimes, however, I’m entirely puzzled. Such in the case with this one. The acting is great, but no more than in lots of other stories. The plot is great but the ending is a bit meh. And the resolution isn’t exactly satisfying.

But maybe that’s why I enjoy it, because sometimes it’s nice not to have everything wrapped up in a neat bow.

Whatever the reason, I keep rewatching this just for the pleasure of rewatching it.

And yeah, it’s a bit weird. Which is never a bad thing.


 


 
OK, that’s eight. I’ve got two spaces left and I knew the moment this went to three parts what the final two were going to be.

I almost included the Peter Cushing movies but I’d said everything I wanted to say about them in the Doctor Who post I wrote a while back.

So, two very different stories for the final two:

An Adventure In Space And Time The First Doctor, kind of
Yeah, if you didn’t see this coming, I don’t blame you, though I did kinda hint it above. This is one of the finest Doctor Who stories around, for obvious reasons. It’s drenched in love for the who, and of all the various ‘this is how the show you love came to the screen’, it’s one of the finest examples.

The actors and producers are people, not legends. They’re not perfect, they’re not villains or heroes. They’re people working at their jobs to the very best of their abilities. They’re imperfect and that makes the story of what happened even better.

Get hold of this if you haven’t seen it; it’s a story that’s wonderful in tyhe telling and as with the others, rewards the rewatch so bloody much.

And though it’s very much set alone, and done as a one-off, one day… one day, I’d very much like to see a multi-episode history of Doctor Who…


 


 
One more:

And again, if you think you know me, and haven’t seen this one coming, you really don’t know me.

No details, no reasons. Just the video.

Enjoy.

 
 
See you for the usual tomorrow.

I swear, when I did the post last week, I had every intention of making it a one-off.

There wasn’t going to be a second post on the subject; of course not. OK, sure, I knew today would be a “Ten Things” post… because I like the format and, with 75 posts to write, it’s useful to have a series of regular ‘ok, it’s Tuesday? It’s fiction. It’s Friday? It’s ‘Ten Things’,” type posts, to structure the run.

But, no, last week’s was supposed to be just one, and then today I’d find a different subject. I dunno: Ten legends about British politics that aren’t true, or Ten cop procedural I like. Ten other things, anyway.

After all, I’ve made a habit of these, the past few months.

And I did write a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

So, last week it only seemed sensible to combine them, and list ten Doctor Who stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch.

And of course, of course, I got to nine, realised I could list a dozen more… so promised another ten this week. Past budgie is a fucking idiot.

Anyway here are another ten. Again, no real rules, other than that they’re in chronological order for the most part.

And again, same caveat as last week: I’m not sayin these are the best ever episodes. They’re not even my ten favourite episodes/stories, necessarily. They’re just ten stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch again.


OK, time to start.

Day of the DaleksThe Third Doctor
I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the first time I encountered the Daleks, but it’s the one that scared me; between the Daleks and the Ogrons, oh, eight year old me was very scared indeed. Classic “behind the sofa’ watching.

(And, upon checking, I see that this was the first Daleks story for five years, so I suspect the first time I saw the Daleks would have been in the Peter Cushing movie. Huh.)

The story is pretty standard: time travelling soldiers come back to kill someone to prevent a bad timeline taking place; wasn’t that original even fifty years ago (oh gods, it was broadcast almost fifty years ago), but it’s done with style and panache, and the only thing that’s kind of odd is… I’m not sure why the Daleks are included. They really weren’t necessary. There’s nothing about the story that requires their inclusion, and if there once was, it was cut in the edit. But while they’re there, while they’re on screen, they’re fun. And they set up the ‘The Doctor is [always] an enemy of the Daleks’ quite nicely for a new generation of fans like yours truly.

But it’s the Ogrons that I truly remember as terrifying me; strong, brutal, thick as pigshit. Which meant they couldn’t be bargained with, couldn’t be persuaded. Yeah they scared me. And a proper sf time travel story, complete with complexities.


The Ark In Space – The Fourth Doctor

The first story after Tom Baker’s regeneration tale (Robot), and the companions and the viewers are still figuring out what to make of this new incarnation of The Doctor.

And of course it’s another Harry Sullivan episode; there’s something that was just much more… fun… about the Fourth Doctor’s early run, when Harry was there, blundering around and basically being an idiot from the best of motives.

But again, the story’s a cracking one, there’s more than one genuinely cool sf idea being played with, almost thrown around i fact, and the baddie, the baddie, what can I say about the baddie that… shouldn’t be said if I have any respect for Doctor Who. Yeah, it suffers from 1970s-itis. Let’s just say it’s far scarier when you don’t actually see it, or see just a bit of it, or even see just a bit of transformation.

But even though this is arguably the first part of a four part season long mega-story (comprising this story, The Sontaran Experiment, Genesis Of the Daleks and Revenge of the Cybermen) it stands up well on its own, and there are some glorious backs and forths of dialogue. And the story goes out of its way to distinguish Baker’s Doctor from Pertwee’s. The scene attached, in which The Doctor… motivates Sarah is a case in point.


The End of The World – The Ninth Doctor
Ok, straight to the NuWho now. (Yes, yes, I know, your favourite Doctor is Peter Davison’s or Sylvester McCoy, or maybe even Colin Baker’s run is your thing. Cool. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it would be a bit difficult for me to have stories from any of their runs in this, to claim that I’d happily rewatch this story or that story… for the simple reason that I’ve seen only some of Davison’s run, a couple of episodes of Baker’s and almost none of McCoy’s.)

So, yes, straight to the Ninth Doctor, and – cleverly – RTD continued the ‘this is dangerous, this is weird, this is stuff you didn’t expect, and oh, did I mention it’s dangerous? I did? Good, because that’s important. Also? It’s worth it…’ attitude. We learn more about this Doctor, where he comes from, and more about how his devil may care attitude is just that… an attitude. He’s a deeply damaged character, and there’s the first hint that Rose not realising that is going to cost her… hugely.

And then of course, there’s a deliciously evil baddie whodunnit, a classic-style Who sacrifice, and a denouement of the mystery that shows us, shows the audience for the first time, what a bastard the coldly angry Doctor can be… which is something most of the audience had probably forgotten, what with all the clowning.

Ecclestone knocks it out of the park in this episode, and the final moments are a mixturere of mawkishness and essential lesson learning, for both the Doctor and Rose,

The story’s clever, the acting delightful, and the silliness just about perfect.


The Doctor Dances – The Ninth Doctor
I’m sure there’s a reason there’s a part one to this story, to which this is the second part. But I’m buggered if I know what it was. A Stephen Moffatt tale that’s creepy and nasty and just a little bit very, very dangerous, but about 30 minutes too long at 90 minutes. Of course, this is the story that introduces Cap’n Jack Harness to the Who universe, but he’s quite a different character here than how he developed, both in later episodes and later though Torchwood. (I’m still wondering whatever happened to those two years of his life, the memories of which he ‘lost’, by the way.)

But I dunno; there’s very little to me that marks out the first part (‘The Empty Child‘) as a particularly important episode. You can gather pretty much everything you need from the “previously…’ before the second part’s opening titles, especially since the opening seconds dispose of the cliffhanger.

But it’s the interplay between Harkness and the Doctor, the final resolution – oh, you clever bastard, Moffatt – and the growing maturity of Rose, hugely developed since the opening episodes, that mark this out. Oh, and a special nod to Richard Wilson who steals the screen every time he appears and yet somehow never quite appears enough.

And it has one of the finest ‘bigger on the inside’ moments in Who history.


The Girl In The Fireplace – The Tenth Doctor
Oh yes. Not sure how this one got missed last week. Sophia Myles is incredibly good in the episode, and again it’s proper sf, with a nasty twist. And a clever, nasty, beautiful ending.

Oh, and a horse. I should probably mention the horse. Unfortunately, the ‘mystery’ is so bloody obvious you kind of have to pretend it’s not there, as you do the ‘oh, this Doctor’s impulsiveness can really fuck things up for others unless you’re very, very lucky’.

After a couple of episodes when the Doctor was the undoubted hero, he really isn’t in this episode. He’s foolish and silly and entirely unaware of just how much danger he exposes his companions to. And it’s beautifully portrayed as if his annoyance is justified, while letting the audience know it’s really not.

Cleverly written and acted. Very nicely done.


Smith & Jones – Tenth Doctor
Martha’s first story, which is fun, and a bit scary, had a great monster/baddie, a completely silly ‘getting rid of radiation’ scene. And Roy Marsden. Lovely.

I really like this story; cleverly and correctly shows Martha as a completely different character to Rose, sets up the relationship between the Doctor and Martha in two clever scenes, and ends with not only a nice call-back to the first scene of the show (which answered a long standing disagreement: what’s the fastest way to convince someone you can travel in time?) but a ‘you get one trip as a thank you’ setup that everyone knows ain’t gonna last.

Clever plotting, hugely enjoyable overacting throughout and you really really do sympathise with Martha for ohso many reasons by the end.


Blink – Tenth Doctor
When the show does a Doctor-light episode, it often doesn’t work that well. Except this story and the next one I’m listing, when it absolutely does work, and works beautifully. This isn’t a story about The Doctor, not really. This is abut what happens when your world collides with a world you have no idea existed, and you still come out stronger the other end.

It’s Carey Mulligan’s episode and she deserved every plaudit she got from it. The story’s clever, the baddies – the Weeping Angels – are terrifying, the plotting is immaculate and the resolution very clever. Moffatt adapted his own story from a Doctor Who annual and did it beautifully. The pacing is perfect; there’s something ‘new’ every five minutes; the threat and the suspense don’t let up for a moment.

For a story that barely features The Doctor or Martha, it’s one of the best Who stories ever.


Turn Left – Tenth Doctor
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for ‘What If…?’ stories. For obvious reasons, Doctor Who doesn’t do many of them specifically in that genre. Well, let’s face it, the whole show is pretty much a ‘What If…?’ story. But this takes it further.

Basically, it’s Donna Noble’s life had she never met the Doctor… and the Earth’s story had the Doctor died before he met Donna… and how everything turns to shit.

Oh, and Rose Tyler’s back, but this is a Rose the viewer’s aren’t sure they know or trust. (That’s horribly cleverly done)

And just as you think the story’s over, just as there’s a ‘ok, you can relax now’, the cliffhanger hits you in about 60 seconds of ‘oh shit’.

Very nicely done, indeed.


The Name of The Doctor – The Eleventh Doctor
This shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does. Honestly, it shouldn’t. I mean, it’s clever, it brings together characters that shouldn’t be together. It melds comedy and tragedy, nastiness and silliness, history and continuity (in a show where some continuity is always optional). It shouldn’t work.

And yet it does. It works perfectly. And – as far as the show was concerned at that point – it also brings an end to the River Song saga. (I’ve avoided River Song so far for a deliberate reason, but more of that in a future entry.)

But it’s the first story in Clara’s tenure with the Eleventh Doctor where I actually cared what happened to her. I never liked her that much as a character. The occasional story, sure, but she seemed far better as an occasional focus rather than having so much of the season rest on her.

But here? Yes, here her character works beautifully.

Oh, and yes, the whole final ten minutes is very, very good tv. You’re not sure what’s happening, when it’s happening, how it works… you’re just very pleased it does.

And the final thirty seconds with that reveal. Yeah. That just topped off the ‘what the fuck?’ And made everyone watching desperate for the The Day of the Doctor that was coming that November.


Oh bugger. We’re back at nine again.

I only have one more to choose.

OK, one more set next week, solely from Deep Breath onwards, ok?

HideThe Eleventh Doctor
The basic plot is ok. The resolution’s ok. The dialogue’s ok. the ‘baddie’? Ok.

The acting? Off the charts. Seriously, everyone in this story, Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman, sure, but Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine are the starts of this episode. And they show it with every gesture, every glance, every word. I don’t think I’ve seen either of them quite as perfect as they are in this episode, in this story, to the point that it’s a genuine pleasure to to watch them on the screen individually and together.

There are three or four genuinely clever set pieces and the ‘fake’ ending is better than the actual one. But yes, it’s the acting that blows the one off the charts.

 
OK, one more set next week.

And the usual tomorrow.

OK, on the past few monhs, I’ve written about stuff I like re-reading or rewatching, about individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts.

And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

So, time – sorry! – to combine them. 

Now, there are loads of ways I could do this; one story from each of the first ten Doctors, say. Or ten stories from NuWho; there are certainly enough of the latter.

And if I do most of them from the ‘classic’, the pre-1987 run, it’s kind of unfair on the first, second, sixth, seventh etc., since I didn’t watch most of their episodes, or hardly any in the Seventh Doctor’s run, to be fair.
 

So, no ‘rules’, no only one story per Doctor, no rules other than one: these won’t be the ‘best’ Doctor Who stories, nor necessarily the ten Doctor Who stories that are the best television.

They’re not even my ten favourite episodes/stories. They’re just ten stories I’ll quite happily watch, and rewatch. And then, later, rewatch.


OK, time to start.

The Sea Devils – The Third Doctor
I don’t really remember the episodes with the Silurians. I mean, I probably saw them; as I mentioned in the run of Doctor Who posts, I watched the show from when Pertwee took over.

And while I remember some of Liz Shaw not really that much. (I’d include Inferno in here, but I dunno; something about that story, excellent as it is, doesn’t work for me.)

But The Sea Devils had everything that made Doctor Who watchable back then: UNIT, The Master, Jo Grant being… well, being Jo Grant, and the Doctor getting to show off his anger, his compassion, his knowledge, and his grudging respect for The Master. Oh, and Roger Delgado being as Master-y as he ever was. Everything worked in the story; there was a decent plot, a great script and some nice nods and winks to the viewers.

Oh, and this as well.


The Three Doctors – The first Three Doctors

Lord knows what they were thinking; let’s do a multi-Doctor story. Sure, I mean, there had been crossover stories on tv before, and the US Western Maverick had loads of them. But this was something new; the same character, at different times in his life… and get this: they don’t get on. They don’t actually much like each other. Oh, as an effective tenth anniversary gift for the viewers, it was wonderful.

A better than decent baddie, squabbles between the Doctors, confused companions, Leithbridge-Stewart’s exasperation, and special effects that… yeah, ok, let’s not talk about them. They’re actually almost painful to watch now.

But the script is great, the acting is fun, and Patrick Troughton is obviously having enormous fun being back as The Second Doctor.

What no one knew at the time, of course, was that William Hartnell was so very ill, that this would be his last contribution to Doctor Who, and indeed, it may have been unfair to force him to do the story.

But for a nine year old me… I think it was the best thing I’d ever seen on television. And if for no other reason, it goes on the list.


Genesis Of The Daleks – The Fourth Doctor
There’s a reason why this story appears in the ‘best Doctor Who stories’ lists. I’ve watched it I don’t know how many times, and while, yes, there are plot holes, and yes, some of the dialogue is a bit ropey, the damn thing holds together despite that. No. It does more than ‘holds together’. It works, far better than it had any right to. Now, ok, I’ve a soft spot for Ian Marter’s Harry Sullivan. I always liked him as a character and he’s particularly good in this. But it’s the Doctor and Davros around who this story hangs. And the Daleks. We see the creation of the Daleks.

Sometimes, when a series – whether it’s comics or tv – gives in to temptation and reveals the origin of a character that’s been either shrouded in mystery, or just had multiple explanations, but says this is the definitive origin, it doesn’t work.

The two that spring to mind from comics are Wolverine and Cable; when they’ve tried to give definitive origins, they’ve never quite worked.

But this does. (And it’s not like Doctor Who hasn’t tried with others, like the Cybermen.) But this is how to do it… right.

By making the actual creation less important than the motivations of the creator and giving the Doctor the dilemma below.

I can’t say there’s nothing wrong with the story; there is. I can’t say there’s nothing wrong with individual episodes. There are. Still and all, it’s a favourite of mine, and if you somehow have never seen it, I recommend it without reservation.


Rose – The Ninth Doctor

Yeah, I’m leaping straight to NuWho, now. After sixteen years off the telly (apart from the tv movie which everybody seemed to be slightly embarrassed about for some reason), Doctor Who was back. Decent promos, a pretty good set up, and in fifty minutes, Russell T Davies brought back The Doctor for a new… well, not fair to say a new generation, because there were as many ‘old’ fans watching as newer fans who wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

But sure enough, Saturday 25th March 2005, me and my then nine year old lad were both sitting on the couch, watching the opening credits. Which were very snazzy, I’ll admit. The story is pretty good, the introduction of the other characters was pretty much everything you needed to know about them, and Ecclestone’s Doctor was everything I’d wanted: stripped back to the basics, even with the ‘costume’.

And the story itself was… ok. I mean, again, it introduced the who, what, where, how… efficiently, and the acting is fun. Even Billy Piper’s character grows during the episode. And that final few moments is pure delight.

But yeah, it belongs on the list.

Oh, and it’s got a spot perfect “it’s bigger on the inside” moment that explains stuff, and just how The Doctor is… different.


The Christmas Invasion – The Tenth Doctor

It can be tough to pull off regeneration episodes, the first story with a new Doctor. Apart from anything else, you run the risk of the Doctor doing something and the audience thinking ‘yeah, the other fella would have done that faster/better, and would have dealt with it better’.

The temptation is to make the Doctor’s character completely different, to emphasise the differences… which to be fair most do.

But this story is smarter, somehow. For most of the episode, the Doctor is… recovering, unwell. And when he does reappear, it’s pretty much perfect. A fully working Doctor, knowing what he’s doing, but entirely unsure of who and what he is yet. The plot’s fairly standard, the acting is great from everyone concerned, and the dialogue is genuinely ‘different’.

And Tennant pulls it off in spades. Great baddies, superb coda to the tale when he really shows he’s a different man.

A couple of patented RTD wince-inducing moments, to be sure, but it”s great, and a story that I can – and have – rewatched any number of times.

And it started a tradition of pretty good ‘Doctor picks a new outfit’ scenes in the new run. All of them have been pretty good in the run, I’ll be honest.


School Reunion – Tenth Doctor

Another tenth Doctor episode, and one of my favourite in the entire Tenth Doctor’s tenure.

From the moment Doctor Who was brought back, the fans were begging for… overt and specific references to the earlier run. There were hints, and yes of course there were the classic baddies; Rose above had the Nestene Consciousness, after all. But what everyone wanted was some reference to the old companions.

(One of my favourite moments in the ensuing The Sarah Jane Adventures was, at the end of an episode, Sarah Jane tells the kids what happened to some of the other companions of the Doctor.)

And of all the companions to bring back, Sarah Jane Smith. And the episode is pretty much perfect. Anthony Head as a spectacularly evil baddie, the return (briefly) of K-9, the pleasure and pain of The Doctor meeting Sarah Jane again. The sparks between her and Rose. And a reminder to viewers once again that travelling with the Doctor has costs, sometimes huge ones.

A smart script, great acting and fun dialogue. Yeah, I like this story.

And Sarah’s reaction to seeing the TARDIS? Oh yes.


Utopia – Tenth Doctor

The new run of Who has in the main concentrated on single 50 minute stories, with a season arc. Sometimes that’s worked better than others, sometimes it hasn’t worked at all. And occasionally, there are two parters. Or, on one occasion, a three parter.

I’m not the hugest fan of The Sound of Drums, nor of The Last Of The Time Lords, the second and third parts of the The Master Returns three parter.

But the first part… oh, that one I like. I mean I shouldn’t. It’s mostly setup for the remainder of the story but I do like it a lot. The return of Jack Harkness to the show, and the relationship with the Tenth Doctor that develops, Martha wholly out of her depth for most of the episode, the nice sf concept of ‘ humanity at the end of the universe’ and, of course, Derek Jacobi as Professor Yana. I mean, ok, it’s RTD, so yes of course YANA means something and teh penny drops just before it’s revealed, which is good writing.

But it’s the basic plot and the acting that set this episode apart. Everyone acts their socks off, and their actions and reactions make perfect sense in the circumstances. Mistakes are made by characters and it makes perfect sense that they”d make them. There’s not a moment wasted in the episode and the pacing is just about perfect.

And the moment when Derek Jacobi turns from lovable old buffer into… oh yes.


Eleventh Hour – Eleventh Doctor

Yes, another regeneration episode. Very definitely.

Because it’s great. It’s clever, it’s fun; Amy and Rory are character you instantly want to know more about, and the solution to the problem is clever. And the final two bits of the episode are similarly clever, and fun.

Nothing more to say, except I defy anyone to watch this and not start counting.


The Day of The Doctor – Tenth, Eleventh and War Doctors

Pure fun, from start to finish. Genuinely. There’s nothing wrong with this special. Everything just… works. It shouldn’t. I mean, it really shouldn’t. But it does.

And that final guest star.

I think I might watch it again tonight.


Oh hell. That’s nine already.

I only have one more to choose.

ONE MORE.

IMPOSSIBLE.

Oh, wait. It’s not impossible. Not at all.

I can do another one next week, can’t I?

OK, one more today.

Ten more next week.

I’ll end with.…

The Doctor’s WifeThe Eleventh Doctor

Yes, ok, I’m slightly biased here. Full disclosure. I mean, anyone reading this is likely to know, aren’t they. I mean, I remember this story, and think so fondly of it… because of a personal connection.

I mean, it was broadcast the night of the very final hypotheticals panel. So I came out of that, having enjoyed the final panel, the culmination of twelve years’ work., enjoying the nice words everyone was saying about it, and me, and… then I got to watch this fun episode.

Oh, and yes, Neil’s a friend. There’s that as well, I suppose.

But yeah, I do enjoy this episode a lot. Fun acting, great dialogue, and a cracking baddie. And we get to meet the TARDIS, and say hello to the TARDIS. And, have to say goodbye to the TARDIS. While Amy and Rory and put in real danger.

And it’s funny. And silly. And clever, and just a bit scary. Just scary enough.

Oh, and there are so many nods to old school Who fans.

Yeah, I think I might rewatch this as well.


 
 
Some more next week.

And the usual tomorrow.

(Previously: part 1; part 2; part 3, part 4.)

As you really should have expected by now, this final post in this series on Doctor Who left far too much to sensibly write about in a single post, so a longer one today… and one additional post on Wednesday that’s not about the individual Doctors, so not really part of this run. Another ‘½’ post, if you will.

The Twelfth (?) Doctor – Peter Capaldi
Twelfth Doctor - Peter CapaldiSometimes, in the course of a long running drama, whether it’s told in comics, on movies, or on television, the continuity gets a bit wobbly. Whether or not that bothers you is a personal thing. Me? I’m less worried about the strict following of continuity until or unless it affects a story or a thing that I particularly like. Yes, it’s’ entirely arbitrary and perhaps a bit hypocritical, but hey ho.

An inevitable consequence of the wobbly continuity though is when a writer puts something in that then becomes rigid, an unshakeable part of the series long storyline… which buggers it up for future writers.

There’s no way, when the writers of The Deadly Assassin stuck in the rule that Time Lords can only regenerate twelve times, that they ever expected Doctor Who to last long enough to ever need number twelve. And, in a way, they were right, as the series ended in 1986. Before, well, you know.

And that’s leaving aside whether it was thirteen lives or just twelve.

But in strict continuity, you already had a problem: Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Baker, Davison, Baker, McCoy, McGann, Eccleston, Hurt, Tennant, Tennant again (don’t ask) Smith: no more regenerations left.

So how could you have another Doctor? It meant that when Peter Capaldi was cast, everyone knew the writers would have to come up with something. And they did, nicking an old throwaway idea from way back, that the Time Lords could grant a new regeneration cycle, as they had once done for the Master.

So, is he the twelfth or the thirteenth? (Well, before you say it’s an obvious answer, how many Presidents of the United States have their been? everyone regards Trump as the forty-fifth president… but Grover Cleveland was President twice, separated by Benjamin Harrison and is counted twice, as the 2nd and the 24th Presidents…)

It’s a moot point; he’s The Doctor, just as Daniel Craig is James Bond, not the [insert whatever the hell number he is}-th Bond

Huh; that got away from me a bit. Anyways, as it’s useful to say in such circumstances, Capaldi was the Doctor. Back to the older character, back to being very alien, back to being torn between admiration for the human race and disgust at it. But still, very much Earth’s protector. I said yesterday that i had no idea what kind of Doctor he’d be, and that after the first few episodes, I still didn’t.

A brave move by the producers and writers to treat the first of his seasons as very much a ‘let’s try him out, take him for a spin, see what we end up with’.

The problem was that by the end of the first season, we still didn’t know. Capaldi’s Doctor – and I loved his portrayal in the role -never quite settled into a character you could sum up in the same way you could with previous incarnations. The Doctor could be silly, funny, furious, sensible, irrational… whatever the story demanded, and the character was made to fit into that.

It never quite worked; you didn’t know which Doctor you’d be getting… right up until the final season when he began to come into focus a bit: fiercely intelligent, utterly ruthless, selfish – oh, extraordinarily so – arrogant, but once he’d decided he was ‘right’, then he’d fight hell itself for the cause.

To steal a line, nothing so became him as the manger of his leaving.

I was sorry to see Capaldi’s Doctor go; I’d have liked to have seen far more of this darker, more manipulative, more secretive Doctor. But that’s just me, and as I said about Eccleston, when an actor wants to go, it’s probably for the best.

But before he left, the wonder, the joy, the sheer fun of Twice Upon A Time, with the return of the First Doctor, in a cracking story, bubbling with fun, with a horrible dark subplot running through it.

Some additional bullet points.

  1. I loved how they tied up the River Song story; the Christmas Special was fun, and celebratory and just a little bit sad at the end. A perfect christmas special.

  2. I wasn’t sorry to see Clara go, although I utterly loved Masie Williams’ guest spots in the season.

  3. Missy was fun, and dangerous and it was great having her as a character in the show. (I guessed who she was precisely ten seconds before the reveal, which is of course the perfect time to guess a plot twist.) And thank you thank you thank you for finally giving us a multi-Master story. It’s been needed for far too long.

  4. I was a huge fan of Nardol in the series. A good foil for the Doctor, and the implication that he’s been the Doctor’s companion for a very, very long time before we meet him again.

  5. I liked Bill, a lot, but feel that she was wasted in the stories that season. Terrible ostensible end, in every sense, to her story, and I hope we see her again at some point.

The Current Doctor – Jodie Whittaker
Current Doctor - Jodie WhittakerYeah, I’m sticking with my earlier point. No need for the numbers right now. So, apparently some people had an issue with a woman being cast? Idiots. The concept that a Time Lord can be either man or woman after regeneration had been set ages again in the series, and made explicit during both Matt Smith’s run and in Capaldi’s. Was it ‘time’ for The Doctor to be a woman? Dunno, to be honest.

Was I pleased that the Doctor was a woman this time? Kind of, to be honest, but more pleased at who was cast. I was aware of Whittaker both from Broadhurst – in which she acted with… you were expecting me to say David Tennant, weren’t you? Weren’t you? well, yes, ok, she acted with Tennant but also – more interesting to me – she was married to Andrew Buchan, the same Andrew Buchan who played Matt Smith’s brother in Political Animals. That pleased me enormously for no reason whatsoever.

(I was also delighted by the casting of Bradley Walsh. I’d been a fan of him as an actor since Law & Order: UK where he took the ‘Lennie Briscoe’ role and absolutely nailed it.)

I was ok about the introductory episode. Seemed too little about The Doctor and too much about everything else, but I never once doubted her as The Doctor, and I did like the whole ‘creating a sonic screwdriver from scratch’.

As for the rest of her first season, I give it an 8. Out of 10. No, I didn’t like 8 of the episodes but I don’t expect to like every episode. For every episode I loved (The Ghost Monument, Demons Of The Punjab) there was an episode I really didn’t like (Kerblam!, the Witchfinders). BUT, more importantly, I liked her in the role, never once doubted – once the initial surprise you get with any new Doctor had passed -that she was, that she is, the Doctor. She didn’t’ need to tell me she was the Doctor. She showed me.

If only the writers had had her confidence. If there’s one problem with thsis year’s run, it’s not the actors, nor the characters, nor the casting. definitely not the set designs. (I’m not a fan of the new TARDIS interior, but it’s solely personal choice; theres notthing objectively ‘wrong’ with it.) But my heavens the writers think the audience are thick: there’s so much infodump, so much

“Doctor, what is this?”

“What, this?”

“Yes, this!”

“Ah, this. Well this is [infodump] and the reason it’s important is [infodump] because [infodump]”

“But wait, Doctor!”

“What?”

“Look at THIS, Doctor!”

“Look at THAT?”

etc, etc.

So, yeah, I like this Doctor; I just hope they give her better scripted and dialogued stories next year.

(Oh, and I bloody love her outfit.)

So, that’s it, all the Doctors? Hardly…

The Movie Doctor – Peter Cushing
Movie Doctor - Peter CushingI’ve got a soft spot for the movies’ Doctor, played by Peter Cushing. Completely different form the versions, which is just as it should be, I like the acting in the movies, I like the stars, and I like the comedy relief with both Roy Castle and Bernard Cribbins, the latter reasonably more so than the former. (And yes, I love that they got Cribbins into Tennant’s run, as – admittedly sadly – another character.) But there’s little to dislike about the movies. So I don’t dislike them.

Ther have been various attempts to put the movies – and the Cushing Doctor -into continuity, without breaking the tv continuity, and it’s always been done thourgh love for, and enjoyment of, the movies. Steven Moffat put him into one of the recent novelisations, suggesting that the movies were of the Doctor’s adventures and the Doctor even lent him his coat. Tony Lee went another direction, suggesting he was a separate character inspired by the Doctor. Both work for me.

The other Doctors

The Curse of Fatal Death
Curse of Fatal DeathI put the video into Saturday’s Smile and there’s nothing to say about it other than it’s enormous fun and I recommend rewatching on a regular basis just for twenty minutes of quiet enjoyment. As with the movies, I don’t care that they’re ‘out of continuity’; they’re fun.

And Jonathan Price is a superb Master, just superb. Add in the sheer fun everyone’s having playing their roles, the in-jokes for the fans of the show, the delightfully nonsensical playing with time travel, it’s a joy from start to finish.

Scream Of the Shalka – Richard E Grant
Shalka Doctor - Richard E GrantNever got around to watching it, I’m afraid, not in full. But the parts I saw? I didn’t enjoy them at all. Which is probably why I’ve never made an effort to see the rest of it. I kind of liked the idea and the design of the Doctor, but everything else? No. Sorry. The dialogue – again, that I heard, anyway – was hokey, the designs other than the Doctor weren’t to my taste and the.. just the whole thing, No.

Just… no.

So, moving on.

Unbound
Third Dictor, Unboiund - David WarnerFrom 2003 to 2008, Big Finish made a series of Doctor Who Unbound, in which they reasonable asked What If…? And had some fun with changing some continuity. They were all pretty good, but David Warner as an alternative Third Doctor was fat out fantastic, and Michael Jayston as The Valayard (again) was just wonderful. I recommend them without hesitation.

Anyway, to reward you for making it through it all today, here are two videos.

To start with, a new way for the TARDIS to dematerialise and materialise… I love this concept…

And the opening sequences to Doctor Who through the years.

Anyway, something else, finally, tomorrow.

(Previously: part 1; part 2; part 3.)

OK, so a couple of weeks after Christopher Eccleston landed the role of the Ninth Doctor, it was revealed – by exactly who and for what reasons remain a matter of controversy – that he was only doing one season of the show, and would regenerate in the final episode. I didn’t have as big a problem with this as many. Eccleston did what he needed to in the role, re-introduced the character to the audience, introduced the Doctor to a new audience, and supplied a hell of a lot of the series mythos to both of them. I would have preferred to see more stories with this oh-so-damaged Doctor, but it was Eccleston’s call to do only one set of stories, effectively an origin story for the Doctor, and I’m ok with the actor leaving at a time of his choosing.

The Tenth Doctor – David Tennant
Tenth Doctor - David TennantI’m not sure I was that aware of Tennant before he landed the role. Oh, I’m pretty sure I’d seen him here and there, but my usual attitude of ‘well, let’s see him in the role first’ applied. And my heavens did he land it. His first appearance in the closing seconds of the final episode of Eccleston’s run made an instant impression, a very different impression to Eccleston. The ‘new teeth, weird’ line was beautifully written and cleverly delivered.

And, smartly, BBC chose to do a special five minute insert into Children In Need that year showing what happened immediately after the regeneration. But – to be brutally honest – it was entirely unneccessary bit; the Christmas Special showed what was necessary. This was an entirely different Doctor, and oh boy, was he – and the writer – eager to show it. Once they’d been through the ‘he needs to sleep for a bit’ and he was back, with a great entrance, they showed him charming, silly… and utterly ruthless.

Have to say, I really wish they’d have explored more of that, the utterly ruthless bit, because they really, really didn’t.

Tennant is for many their equivalent of the generation after me’s Tom Baker. The Doctor, the best there’s ever been, the best there ever will be. And I’m the exception because I really dont think he was. Great stories, fantastic effects, and some great personal interactions, some great dialogue.

But Russell T Davies really, really wanted him to be ‘sexy’, and to be fair, for a lot of the audience he was, but the very deliberate sub-plot that ran through Tennant’s run of

Rose – hopelessly in love with him, and he starts to fall for her

Martha – in love with him, and he is entirely oblivious

Then Rose comes back and she loves him and he loves her and then whoopee, there’s another Doctor so he and Rose can live happily ever after…

No. Just… no.

Once you remove the love story, and remember he’s almost a thousand years old, there were some genuinely great stories in Tennant’s run. Very clever sf concepts explored, the return of genuine absurdity to the show, which was arguably needed, and his almost patronising air of ‘the human race are very talented pets, and you sometimes need looking after’ which the Doctor always needs to remind the audience that he’s, y’know, an alien.

And we got loads of new aliens, and new civilisations, new cultures. That was nice. And we had the return of The Master, genius casting with both Derek Jacobi and especially John Simm.

And Steven Moffat had two superb stories playing with the idea of the Doctor being a time traveller so meeting people in the wrong order. In Blink, adapted from a prose story he wrote for The Doctor Who Annual, we meet Sally Sparrow (an episode-stealing performance by Carey Mulligan), and then he introduced River Song in a glorious story that finally did what I’d been wondering for years: if he’s a time traveller, sooner or later he’s going to meet someone who knows his later regenerations, and someone who knows stuff about the Doctor that he doesn’t know.

And then they sucker punched the audience with The Next Doctor, by asking ‘ok, we’ve seen the Doctor meet his past selves before, what happens when he meets his future self…?’ Beautifully done. Clever episode, smartly done.

So, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Tennant’s run enormously, but it was just another run in the show, not The Way It Must Or Even Should Be Always Done.

After five years, Tennant decided to leave the role. It was probably the right decision and the writing on the final few shows, including the return of the Time Lords, returned the character to Big Stories. There were problems with the final story itself, plot holes you could drive a flock of TARDISes through, and John Simm’s final – for the moment – appearance wasn’t that great, to be honest.

(Unlike many, I really didn’t object to the final 20 minutes, when the Doctor went on a ‘tour’ to see what his companions were up to. I kind of liked it, to be honest. I wanted to see what they were up to, as well.)

I didn’t even mind the ‘I don’t want to go’ line as he regenerated. Seemed perfectly in keeping with the character, and a reminder to the audience both that each regeneration matters, but so does the next one.

So, anyway, he left…

The Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith
Eleventh Doctor - Matt SmithWhen they announced Matt Smith as the new Doctor, the almost universal reaction was ‘Who?’

I mean, that was my reaction as well, kind of. I only knew two Matt Smiths. One was an editor of 2000AD and I was pretty sure it wasn’t him. The other was a young actor who was superb in the tv drama Political Animals about lobbying in UK politics.

And surely it wasn’t him? I mean, he was so young and… oh… I see.

The moment I realised it was him, I got very interested in the idea of this very old time travelling alien in this very young-appearing body. I wondered how far they’d take that. As it turned out, not as far as I’d have liked, but yeah, they played with it a bit.

And they fairly quickly turned the ‘companion fancies the Doctor’ on its head by making Amy (and then Rory) a couple, the first time there’d been a couple on board as companions since… maybe Patrick Troughton’s era (the second) Doctor? (Yes, they had Mickey Smith on board with Tennant, at the same time as Rose, but Rose and Mickey weren’t a couple by then.)

I liked the new dynamic, a lot. I liked Amy as a character and I liked Rory as a character, and especially that we were finally back to the Doctor liked these people and regarded it as his responsibility to keep them safe… well, not as safe as possible, but at least to bring them home alive.

I even liked the while River Song storyline, and the ‘mystery’ and the resolution.

I think there were a couple of episodes in the Doctor/Amy/Rory run I didn’t like, but that was about it. It was back to must-watch tv for me, with clever plots, an engaging character, and smart, sensible companions who got completely out of their depth on a regular basis.

And then there was Clara. And we went straight back to the ‘I’m not saying he’s my fella, but he’s my fella’ stuff.

Yeah, wasn’t impressed by that at all. And though there were some fun episodes, I started to wonder…

But the 50th Anniversary was coming up. And all sorts of rumours started doing the rounds. A multi-Doctor story? a multi-Master story? Getting all the NuWho Doctors back? Including Chris Eccleston? A Doctor we’d never seen before? Maybe the return of a classic Doctor, or a classic villain?

What we got was first The Name of The Doctor, then The Night of the Doctor (referenced the other day), and The Time of the Doctor. And inbetween Night and Time, we got The Day of the Doctor, a multi-Doctor episode bringing back Tennant’s Doctor, UNIT, the Zygons, the Great Time Warand a new Doctor we’d not seen beforethe War Doctor, the Doctor who’d fought in The Great Time War. We saw the Eighth Doctor’s regeneration, and why it happened, who came out the other end, and why.

And they got John Hurt to play the role. Fuck me, that was brilliant casting.

As a 50th Anniversary celebration and a gift for the fans of the show, it couldn’t have been better, or done better… Clever, funny, smart, serious.

Three more points to make about Smith’s tenure:

  1. The first story was the best ‘first story of a doctor’ I’ve seen thus far. Clever, great dialogue, great baddie, fantastic introduction to the ‘new’ Doctor, and a decent introduction to the new companion(s). And had the best ‘new clothes, I’m the Doctor’ bit as well.

  2. There’s one episode that’s extra special to me for all sorts of reasons, and I’ll probably mention that one tomorrow…

  3. The ‘regeneration into Capaldi’ sequence was, I have to acknowledge, pretty ropey. Good speech, but that was pretty much the only good bit about it.

The War Doctor – John Hurt
War Doctor - John HurtOf course the War Doctor has now appeared in several books, several comic books, some audio productions… but with the exception of the comics, I haven’t seen any. I kind of want to read the books, but just haven’t gotten around to it.

I liked the character as he was shown in the 50th anniversary special, a story of redemption and of yearning. I’ve not much else to say other than I loved Hurt in the role. Not a line wasted, nor a glance.

You could, for the first time, understand. Just why Eccleston’s portrayal was so haunted, and why the survivor’s guilt, and arguably the death wish, was so bloody strong.

Yeah, I really should read the books, now.

The Twelfth Doctor – Peter Capaldi
OK, so when they announced Peter Capaldi would be taking over from Matt Smith, I didn’t know what the hell to think. I was very grateful for once that my usual ‘ok, I’ll wait to see how he is in the role’ applied, because although I was very aware of his skill as an actor, I certainly wasn’t that familiar that I knew what sort of Doctor he’d be.

And even after the first couple fo episodes, I still didn’t. And I’ll say why tomorrow.

Part 5 tomorrow.

Figured, given the various times people read this blog, and the various time zones they’re in, it was only fair to give people a multiple-choice option.

Nothing at all to do with the specific subject matter of this Saturday Smile and that it’s a wince inducing reference to Doctor Who or anything…

Long before I started the countdown blogs, every so often, on a Saturday, I’d put up some YouTube videos or some single panel editorial cartoons, or even some ‘funny newspaper headlines’… some silliness, anyway.

Silliness, even in the roughest of times, the worst of days, is never unimportant. Indeed, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate silliness as one of the best, the most superlative, things about humanity.

But yeah, if you’ve paid attention, you’ll have seen that I’m in the middle of doing a run of posts on Doctor Who, so I thought, what would be more fitting than to include – as part of the Saturday Smile that falls within the middle – some Doctor Who related silliness? Especially since Doctor Who is and should always be on Saturday evening.

So here’s some Doctor Who related silliness.

 
 
When Doctor Who returned in 2005, after a nineteen year absence from the television screens, other than the movie, Mitch Benn was ready. So, so ready, in fact that he had a warning for friends and family…

 
 
 
 
Now, lets be fair, I doubt there’s anyone who’s both a) reading this, and b) hasn’t ever seen this before, but this is always worth a rewatch: Comic Relief does Doctor Who

 
 
And since I repeated the previous one, I’m going to repeat this as well… this glorious piece of wonder is beautifully executed: Celebrating 50 Years of American Doctor Who

 
 
erm… There are no words.

 
 
So, Moving Right Along

 
 
Oh, It’s Bigger On The Inside

 
 
To finish off, Mitch Benn, once wrote a song entitled Be My Doctor Who Girl

 
 
But of course, he updated it for 2018:

 
 
See you tomorrow, with more proper (?) Doctor Who stuff.

(Previously: Part 1; part 2.)

OK, so Colin Baker left the role, and we had a new Doctor.

The Seventh Doctor – Sylvester McCoy
Seventh Doctor - Sylvester McCoyI haven’t seen all of McCoy’s work, which I keep meaning to address, because what I have seen, I very much liked. I’ve especially enjoyed the very deliberate and overt darkening of the character, signified both outwardly by the changing costume through McCoy’s run, and the revelation of what a cold heated bastard he could be on occasion.

Early episodes of the run depict the Doctor as a clownish fool, which as usual, leads to him being underestimated, always to the baddies’ cost. But then, once Mel Bush left as a companion, and Ace joined, the Doctor’s character became more secretive, crueller, and more manipulative. Previous incarnations of the Doctor would manipulate when necessary, or when it was expedient, but you never got the impression they did it for fun, or as the most direct route to a solution.. Tease for fun, certainly, all of the regenerations did, and have done, that. Trick a baddie? Sure, again, they all did that on frequent occasions. In fact, ‘tricking the bad guy’ is such a trope of Doctor Who, I’d be surprised if there was a single season that didn’t have three or more examples of it.

But ruthlessly, cold-bloodedly, manipulate? That was rare before McCoy’s Doctor, or at least rarely so blatant. What was cockiness venturing into arrogance became a full blown attitude of ‘I’m the smartest fella in the room, and the fact that everyone doesn’t immediately acknowledge that… is their biggest mistake.’

McCoys tenure, of course, was the final in the 1963 – 1989 continuous run. A final scene that could have but almost certainly didn’t inspire the final strip of Calvin & Hobbes, and that was it.

Doctor Who was over. It had a good run… well, a decent run, with a few stumbles along the way but it was over.

Definitely over.

Except of course it wasn’t.

Books, fan fiction, comics, oh Doctor Who continued… just not on television.

Until it did.

The Eighth Doctor – Paul McGann
Eighth Doctor - Paul McGannI have no idea when I first heard that there was going to be a Doctor Who movie. I know that I was aware of the rumours and stories about it because at the time I was writing for Radio 4’s Weekending, and I wrote a gag for the who on the then current rumours that Sylvester Stallone – no, really – was interested in the rights.

As I recall, the gag was something like “The BBC deny that Sylvester Stallone has purchased the rights to Doctor Who and is retitling the show Doctor Huh?

But, then they announced the television movie, and basic premise, and the cast. Wasn’t sold on the rest of the cast but they’d gotten Sylvester McCoy back for the start of the movie, and Paul McGann in for the post-regeneration Doctor? Oh yes. I was definitely sold.

Then I saw the costume. Hmm. Wasn’t sold on that either.

Having rewatched the movie recently, I was probably too harsh on my initial review. It’s a perfectly serviceable plot and script (leaving aside the whole ‘half-human’ debacle) and the set design of the TARDIS is lovely. Eric Roberts does his best as The Master but if there’s any furniture left unchecked at the end of the film, it was only because Roberts didn’t see it.

But McGann is superb in the role, and if they take some time to explain how different regeneration leaves the Doctor, how screwed up his head is for a while, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

But of course, there was the movie, and then… nothing. Nothing on tv, that is, because McGann’s Doctor then appeared in dozens of books, and audio presentations. (I’ve a particular soft spot for a novel entitled The Eighth Doctor in which he visits each of his previous regenerations in order to get back various memories he’s missing. Obviously episodic it works beautifully and I’d have loved to have seen it adapted in some form or another. Tony Lee came close with an entirely different take on the same basic premise with The Forgotten comic book, which again is a fun read and is very true to the character, all of them.)

OK, I’m about to jump forward in time, which seems eminently appropriate given the subject matter.

When the show returned in 2005, about more of which in a minute, there was no explanation about what happened to McGann’s Doctor. The assumption, very deliberately encouraged by the show runner, was that he’d died during The Great Time War, while ending The Great Time War in fact, and that the new guy was not only very new, but he was the immediate successor.

It was a fair assumption because that – it later turned out – was exactly what the show runner planned to reveal at some point.

However, Ecclestone chose not to return and so [because of stuff that’s coming] for the 50th anniversary, Paul McGann returned for a four minute mini episode that’s… it’s glorious, is all I can say.

It’s fun, and wonderful, and the reaction to seeing it from many was “OH, GODS I WANT TO SEE MORE PAUL MCGANN!”

Anyway, here it is..

Damn, the Doctor Who stories we could, and should, have seen with McGann in the role.

But anyway, we didn’t. The movie didn’t spark a new series, so that was it.

Doctor Who was over. Definitely. Complet– Naah, not going to do that again. You all know that Doctor Who returned in 2005.

The Ninth Doctor – Christopher Eccleston
Ninth Doctor - Chris EcclestonI don’t know what I expected when I sat down to watch the first episode with my then almost-ten year old son. I don’t know what he was expecting; his old man had been looking forward to the first episode for weeks, had been looking forward to the return for years. But Phil? I just think he was looking forward to sitting on the couch with his dad to watch something he’d been told he would enjoy. Oh yeah, I was hoping like hell that the show wouldn’t make a liar of me.

I loved it. I loved almost everything about it. A few qualms about the whole ‘family life’ side of Rose’s story, but other than that? Oh yes. He was definitely The Doctor. Strange enough to make him interesting, kooky enough to make him fun, deadly serious enough to make him dangerous. Oh yes. Oh very definitely yes.

And as the run continued, I didn’t lose any of that. But the ‘damaged, so very damaged’ aspect wasn’t there in the first episode. They waited for the second to drop that… and then they ran with it. He brought back the ‘in turns thrilled by what humans are capable of, and disgusted by the same thing’ in spades, but he was scared by what he’d seen in the war. Scared, and scarred. And someone who sought to make amends for his those far unrevealed actions by doing what he could to stop others being harmed.

Bloody hell, this was a Doctor I could have watched for far longer than the single series Eccleston did. I bloody loved his portrayal of the Doctor. I really really liked the redesign of the TARDIS main room, taking the idea of an expanded area from the movie, and the big budget the show had wasn’t wasted. 21st Century special effects, and storytelling made the 50 minute length of each episode just about right.

And I thorough approved of the ‘this is actually dangerous, you know’ attitude of the relaunched show. There’s a cost to travelling with the Doctor. And yes, not everyone who helps the Doctor makes it out alive. That was always the case before, but the new show and the writers made you care about the supporting characters, and then killed them, the bastards.

Part 4 on Sunday. Part 3½, kind of, tomorrow.