Tagged: A Doctor A Day

A Doctor A Day – “Army of Ghosts / Doomsday”

Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode, The Snowmen.

The mysterious spectral shapes that have been appearing across London are not what they appear.  What becomes a Doctor Who fan’s greatest wish come true starts as an…

ARMY OF GHOSTS / DOOMSDAY
by Russell T Davies
Directed by Graeme Harper

“Daleks have no concept of elegance.” “This is obvious.”

Returning to Earth, The Doctor and Rose are surprised to learn that ghosts have been appearing all over the world.  Rather than being met with fear, they’ve become a national phenomenon.  People await their by-the-clock appearances and disappearances daily, and happily discuss the visitations with each other and on the TV.  What they don’t realize is they’re actually being caused by experiments at the Torchwood Institute, attempting to perfect a machine that would cross dimensional barriers to obtain new energy sources.  But even that is only means to an end, to open a mysterious sphere that resists all testing and analysis.  As The Doctor attempts to analyze the ghosts, Torchwood detects the shift in the field and realizes he’s in the area.  So when he identifies the source and heads there, they’re ready for him.

Following from Queen Victoria’s dictate, Torchwood exists to study alien technology as a defense for the nation, and they view The Doctor as an enemy, regardless of the number of times he’s saved the world.  He’s immediately taken into custody and the TARDIS impounded.  Showing him the sphere, he identifies it as a void ship, designed to travel, and hide, in the space between dimensions. He convinces them to stop the testing, but the people (well, I say people…)  behind the breach have been slowly taking over the staff, and they initiate a final breach, and stand revealed as…Cybermen.  The ghosts across the world fully materialize as Cybermen, and almost immediately seize control.

Ah, so they’re hiding in that void ship sphere, right?  Wellll, no.  The Void Ship was what pushed through to our world first, a weakness the Cybermen took advantage of.  It’s a life raft for a race that thought they would not survive its final battle.  It’s the Daleks.  Carrying a Genesis Ark, they plan to repopulate the world with new Daleks, and with no Time Lords to stop them, nothing should stop them from conquering the universe.

Well…ONE Time Lord.  And luckily, a small army from Pete’s world, who cobbled together technology to follow the Cybermen through the Void.  But is that going to be enough to fight the two most powerful enemies The Doctor has ever faced at once?

The Doctor Who team did a great job keeping the return of the Daleks secret, basically by making it blatant that the Cybermen were returning.  There’s not a Whofan on Earth who hasn’t considered how cool a Cybermen/Dalek team-up would be, and to finally see it was a surprise indeed. The first discussion between the two foes is absolutely hilarious.

A great close of the season, and a happy ending for Rose and Jackie.  Following up on the idea of alternate universe replacements, Pete has almost no hesitation in accepting “our” Jackie and Rose as his new family, and since it meets the happy ending parameters we want, we do as well.

The Cybermen got a small upgrade in this adventure, the retractable wrist-cannon.  They had no offensive weapon in the earlier adventure, and had to “delete” their enemies hand-to-hand.  We also saw a rather big change to the Daleks as well, with the Cult of Skaro, three Daleks bred to have independent thought, to come up with ideas that a normal brute-force Dalek never could.  It’s an idea that had been addressed before, with the need to find Davros in Destiny of the Daleks.

The original “Ghostwatch” was a very controversial one-shot special presented on the BBC in 1992, and never repeated in the UK.  Presented as a reality/documentary show about ghosts, it was in fact a staged drama.  British chat show legend Michael Parkinson  hosted what was to be a live investigation of spectral activity in a house in North London eventually resulted in the ghosts taking control of the broadcast and remotely possessing Parkinson as the show ended.  Even though it was touted as a drama, complete with “written by” and cast credits in the opening, the show was met with a reaction similar to the classic War of the Worlds broadcast.  There’s copies of it floating about the Internet, and is well worth a look.

Musical motifs from what would become the Torchwood theme appear in this episode’s score, which rather makes sense since Murray Gold provides the music for both.

Yes, that is Freema Aygeman as a worker at Torchwood.  Doctor Who has become almost legendary at choosing from its own for larger parts— Eve Myles will be back shortly for Torchwood, and Karen Gillan made her first appearance as a prophetess in The Fires of Pompeii.  It didn’t start in the new series, either.  Colin Baker, Doctor number six, first appeared as Commander Maxil in Arc of Infinity.

Merry Christmas from ComicMix!

May you all have a very merry Christmas, and may the Doctor keep you safe from any and all snow goons today– particularly the ones that try to trick you by sounding friendly like Gandalf! (Tricksy snowmen… we hates them!)

Hat tip to James Hance, whose artwork gave us the inspiration. Go buy his prints!

A Doctor A Day – “Fear Her”

Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode, The Snowmen.

Children are disappearing on a suburban street, and a certain being seems intent on making us…

FEAR HER
by Matthew Graham
Directed by Euros Lyn

“I can’t stress this enough – ball bearings you can eat…masterpiece!”

Three children have vanished in the course of a week, cars are cutting out in the middle of the street, and everyone has been reduced to paranoid panic.  Not a good state of affairs for the day of the opening ceremonies of the London Olympiad.  The Doctor and Rose arrive just in time to help, luckily.  There’s an odd residual energy in the spots where the kids have vanished, which suggests it’s not some common human crapsack.  One girl named Chloe stays indoors and draws.  She draws the other children in the street.  Just before they vanish.  …yeah, The Doctor and Rose made the same assumptions…

An alien creature, the Isolus, has latched onto Chloe and used her raw emotions from a lifetime of abuse from her father (now dead a year) to try and get back to its family.  The alien is too weak to do so, and Chloe doesn’t know how to help, so she draws the kids in the street, who get teleported to a nondescript somewhere else, to attempt to assuage the alien’s loneliness.  She has the power to create things in her drawings as well – she angrily crosses out over one drawing, and the scribble comes to life, and a huge and choked thing with the emotion of her abusive father is gaining power in the back of her closet.  The Doctor has several goals – save the trapped kids, separate the alien from little Chloe, help it get back to space… and crash the Olympics?

This episode is…bad. It’s a weak shadow of the classic Twilight Zone episode It’s a Good Life, with no real sense of direction. The alien is innocent and unaware of its effects, and we end up being more afraid of Chloe’s father, who’s been dead a year. The scene with them collecting up al the pencils and crayons in the house as if they’re knives is ridiculous, is immediately surpassed by the scene where Chloe reveals she’s got pencils hoarded inside her dolls like Ray Milland hid whiskey bottles. The acting’s good, the music is great, but the premise is just so blah, and the look of the crayon monsters so silly that there’s no surprise that this is universally considered the worst episode of the new series by a long length: Doctor Who Magazine did a poll of the 200 most popular stories of the show’s run, and this one came in 192nd, only barely beating out Paradise Towers.  By contrast, Daleks in Manhattan, the story that resulted in the Daleks getting put in the cupboard for two years, came in at 152.  Of course, that just beat out the sublime Love and Monsters, so I imagine no poll is perfect.  Even  the idea of a living scribble was even done before, and better, on an early episode of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. In the episode The Trouble with Scribbles, it’s learned that scribbles are the almost universal form of babies’ first imaginary friends, and they mount up quickly.

There’s a bit of fun in the beginning of the episode – the idea of 2012 being the “Near future” gave them a moment to to skewer new X-Factor winner Shayne Ward with a poster for a Greatest Hits collection.

But it was this episode that fueled Doctor Who fandom’s hope… nay, belief that David Tennant would be carrying the Olympic torch at the 2012 ceremonies.  Even after Matt Smith started it off in the relay, the desire for Ten to close out this little time loop was unassailable.  Indeed, in Danny Boyle’s spectacular opening ceremonies, there was originally to be a sequence featuring Doctor Who; each of the living actors had to authorize the use of their photos, but it was dropped.  The whooshing sound of the TARDIS, barely audible over the din of the mix, is the only mention.

A Doctor A Day – “Love and Monsters”

Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode,The Snowmen.

If Lars von Trier had thought of it, it would have been one of the Five Obstructions.  Make a Doctor Who episode, but don’t use The Doctor. It rather limits the drama, doesn’t it?  far from it, it gives you a chance to do a story about friends and mystery, and…

LOVE AND MONSTERS
by Russell T Davies
Directed by Dan Zeff

Elton Pope (Not that Elton, and not that Pope) is relating his adventures on his video blog.  He’s just met The Doctor, who was fighting an alien in a disused industrial building…as he does.  Elton begins to relate his history a bit – he remembers seeing The Doctor in his kitchen back with he was a toddler, as well.  He grew up rather normal and has a pleasant life, until a couple years ago when London started getting regularly attacked by aliens.  The Autons, the Slitheen, the Sycorax, all seen through his eyes.  He begins to search about the Internet, and finds a blog by a young woman named Ursula Blake, with recent photos of The Doctor, who looks no different than when he appears in Elton’s kitchen decades ago.

Ursula introduces Elton to a group of her friends, fellow Doctor-sighters and searchers, who meet regularly in the local library.  They all share the tidbits they’ve discovered about him throughout history.  After meeting for some time, Ursula suggests the club needs a name. Elton suggests “LInDA” – The London Investigation ‘n’ Detective Agency.  LInDA slowly become more of a social club than a tin-hat society, and the all become proper friends.  That is…until Mr. Victor Kennedy appeared. A strange man suffering from a skin complaint (Exceezma…like Eczema, but far worse).  He claims to have information about The Doctor, and shows them that they’ve lost their way in their investigations.  Kennedy has access to a staggering amount of information about the Doctor, including data from Torchwood. He hands out pictures of Rose Tyler, and sets LInDA off on the task to find her. And  in amongst the investigations…the members of LInDA are slowly going missing.

Friends are made, loves are lost, and a monsters stands revealed. Oh, and The Doctor shows up, eventually.

There’s been bits of humor in every episode, but this is the first episode that’s elbow-deep hilarious.  The episode was created by necessity – the BBC asked for a Christmas episode with this season, but didn’t add any time or much money to the budget.  So the producers were forced to find a way to force a fourteenth episode into the schedule, one that would have very little of The Doctor and Rose, as the actors simply wouldn’t have time to shoot another full episode.  So with a short sequence at the beginning, an appearance at the end, and photos and mentions all in between, you get a great bit of sleight of hand that feels like a full Doctor appearance.  The acting in the episode is wonderful as well, featuring British comedy star Peter Kay as the baddie, and Camille Coduri making a return as Jackie Tyler.

LInDA is a name Russell T Davies had made up for a earlier children’s show he’d written years back called “Why Don’t You?”,  The Absorbaloff was created by a child as part of a Blue Peter competition. Russell begged for one more alien for the alien, with the opening sequence, and they gave him one.  He even gave it a name – the Hoix.

A Doctor A Day – “The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit”

Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode,The Snowmen.

Humanity’s natural response to the order “no” is “why?”  Put up a sign marked “wet paint”, and count all the people who touch what it’s hanging on.  And if you bury the devil, it’s a poor idea to put him on…

THE IMPOSSIBLE PLANET / THE SATAN PIT
by Matt Jones
Directed by James Strong

The Doctor and Rose land on a space base orbiting around a black hole (this is of course impossible), filled with writing so old the TARDIS can’t translate it (this is of course impossible).  The crew of the base explain that there’s an ancient power source at the core of the planet so strong it’s not only holding the planet in place, but generating a safe path to and from the planet (this is of course impossible).  After a bit of investigation, it’s discovered that a being who claims to be The Devil (The definite article, you might say) is imprisoned at the core, and this mad geostationary contraption is its eternal prison (this is of course, even if the other stuff was possible, which it isn’t, impossible).

The beast cannot escape his prison, but his mind can, and successfully takes over one of the crew, as well as its stock of alien slaves, the Ood.  While The Doctor spelunks down to the cavern in the planet’s core, Rose and the crew fight the now quite violent Ood in the station.  The Doctor is left with a terrible choice – destroy the beast’s prison and doom Rose, or let her and the crew escape, along with the beast’s mind.

A very moody episode, with a well-designed set that allowed for lots of corridor runs and corner turns.  The Doctor even comments at the beginning that a lot of these bases look the same, and are made from kits. It’s got a very haunted house feel, which is basically what the classic sci-fi film Alien is, as are all tributes to it. The Doctor gets a number of very nice speeches about how amazing humans are, boldly rushing in where angels fear to tread, and wanting to do things solely because they’ve not been done yet.  It’s a recurring idea for the Doctor, interspersed occasionally with his comments about how blind and small-minded they are.  We’re clearly his favorite race, and not simply because humans are cheaper to portray in a TV show.

It’s the premiere of another new recurring alien, the Ood.  They return a few time over the course of the new series, including a much more Ood-centric story in the Donna Noble season. The Ood are played as an unintelligent hive-minded race here, a “perfect slave race” as they’re described, and there’s simply no time for the story to address that.  Rose makes a passing comment about it, but it’s quickly waved off, especially after they went all red-eyed and scary, and could be classified as a threat.  It’s not until the next Ood story do we get a real idea of their situation, and a more proper addressing of their status as slaves.

An Ood appeared in Neil Gaiman’s story The Doctor’s Wife, mainly because they didn’t have money in the budget to make a new alien.

While The Doctor had never met the devil himself before, he’s come close.  The Demoniacs, Sutekh, and other races were believed to have interacted with humanity  in the past and give it the idea of devils.  Tom Baker was supposed to have fought the devil, in the guise of Scratchman, in a film written by Baker and Ian Marter titled Doctor Who meets Scratchman.  It had a mad throw-everything-at-it plot, but never got past the talking stage.

A Doctor A Day – “The Idiot’s Lantern”

Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode,The Snowmen.

The Queen’s coronation increased sales of televisions in Britain faster than Howdy Doody did in the US.  But when one store sells sets for less than could possibly be profitable, The Doctor fears they may have an ulterior motive to expose everyone to…

THE IDIOT’S LANTERN
by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Euros Lyn

“Are you sitting comfortably?  Good! They we’ll begin…”

The proprietor of Magpie Electricals is near bankruptcy until a strange new partner offers a way to turn his business around.  With the queen’s Coronation coming up, he suddenly finds a way to make TVs available for the outrageous price of five pounds a pop.  Needless to say, they’re selling like mad.

The Doctor and Rose arrive (accidentally, of course – they were aiming for Elvis’ appearance on Ed Sullivan) as sales are skyrocketing.  But at the same time, people are being taken from their homes, under blankets, by people claiming to be police.  Clearly seeing the proverbial Something is Going On, the pair investigate by visiting a family with one of Magpie’s tellys.  The husband is a right boor, controlling the family with an iron hand, but the wife and son are distraught.  Their grandmother has been transformed to a mindless, faceless shell.  Apparently, it’s been happening all over town, and it’s they who the police have been collecting up.

The Doctor finds where the victims have been collected and convinces the Detective Inspector to help solve the mystery as opposed to just cover it up. And Rose confronts Mr. Magpie, only to learn that he’s under the electronic thumb of an energy being called The Wire, who has been draining people of faces and brains via the new TVs.  Alas, she’s shortly in no position to impart this knowledge, as she’s promptly wiped.  When the police find her and bring her in, The Doctor goes cold and scary, vowing that there’ll be no stopping him.

They break into Magpie’s shop and find a number of odd things – a portable television set some three decades ahead of its time, and trapped in the televisions in the shop, the faces, and presumably the minds, of the victims of The Wire, including Rose.  The Wire plans to transfer itself to the portable set and connect up to the transmission station at Alexandra Palace, where it will be able to feed on everyone watching the Coronation.   Can The Doctor stop the plan in time?

Mark Gatiss’ episodes so far have had a very personal feel – large stakes, but ultimately featuring a small cast.  This one has London in the balance, but ultimately it’s about one family, and how the members of the family respond to the horrific changes around them.

The Doctor has had bad experiences on tall broadcast towers; he fell off one to his death, or at least regeneration, in Logopolis.  He’s faced more than a few energy-based foes as well—the Nestene Consciousness, the formless Gelth in The Unquiet Dead, and there was this foe from the Troughton days…oo, showed up twice…can’t seem to summon up its name now, can’t imagine why…

Magpie Electricals makes many more appearances in the series— since Mr. Magpie himself came to an unfortunate end, it’s presumed someone bought the brand name and used its notoriety to turn it into a powerhouse brand for literally centuries to come.  The Magpie brand shows up in all sorts of Earth-based technology up to and including the launch of Starship UK.  There’s been no suggestion there’s anything untoward going with them (tho one can never be sure), it seems more like it’s become a brand like the various products of KrebStar Industries on The Adventures of Pete and Pete, or the various food and cigarette trademarks in Quentin Tarantino’s films.

A Doctor A Day – “Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel”

Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode,The Snowmen.

Surpassed only by the Daleks, the Cybermen are the Doctor’s greatest foes.  So like the former, it was only a matter of time before we would see…

RISE OF THE CYBERMEN / THE AGE OF STEEL
by Tom MacRae
Directed by Graeme Harper

“If you want to know what’s going on…work in the kitchen.”

The TARDIS falls out of the time vortex and crashes…in London.  Well, no, not quite, it’s a parallel Earth, one where Zeppelins are an established mode of transportation, and Rose’s dad Pete is not only alive, but one of the most successful businessmen in England.  The Doctor cautions her that this Pete is not her father – there may be another Jackie or even a parallel Rose in this world.  He’s partly right – Pete and Jackie are married, and fighting, but there’s no Rose Tyler.  With the TARDIS recharging, the trio does a bit of investigating.  Pete Tyler has sold his company to John Lumic, owner of Cybus Industries, who make the earbuds that literally everyone wears, a replacement for the smartphone.  Intrigued at anyone with that much influence, The Doctor gives in to Rose’s wishes, and they plan to visit Pete.  Mickey, on the other hand, visits the home of his grandmother, who on their world, raised him but died five years ago, only to learn that here, she’s still alive.  The Mickey, or rather the Rickey of this universe, however, is a freedom fighter against Lumic’s Cybus corporation, which has become so a part of society it makes Apple look like Onkyo.  Lumic has a new process for preserving the human brain and “upgrading” human beings. when the UK President refuses to allow the procedure to be tested, Lumic takes the law into his own hands.  He lures a number of forgotten men into a truck and uses them to create his new humans – Cybermen.

A solid pair of episodes, bringing a classic foe back in a new way. These are not the Cybermen from our universe – they appeared on the planet Mondas, Earth’s twin that shot out of orbit eons ago.  This gives them a chance to re-introduce an old enemy without having to educate the new fans about their history.  Daleks are so endemic to British culture, there was no need to re-introduce them, they could just hit the ground running… or rolling.

As more and more Cybermen appearances have stacked up, there’s been some confusion as to whether we’re still seeing the Cybermen from “Pete’s World”, or the ones from ours. The “C” logo has disappeared from the chest, suggesting we may now be looking at native Cybermen. It’s hoped that Neil Gaiman’s upcoming episode, tentatively titles “Last of the Cybermen” will address this issue.

The episode was inspired by a Big Finish audio adventure, “Spare Parts” by Marc Platt.  While the final script was quite different from the original story, Davies made sure Platt was paid a fee and got a “Thanks to” credit in the episode.

Mickey’s departure is the first voluntary one for a Companion in the new series.  In the old days, willing departure for The Doctor’s friends was the rule – in the new series it’s the exception.  So far only Mickey and Martha Jones were the only ones to leave the TARDIS by their own choice, and in both cases they came back to help again.  Noel Clarke brought Mickey to new places in the episode, finally becoming his own man, both in how he handles himself, and being able to come to terms with his relationship with Rose.  Getting to play a dual role also showed off his breadth as an actor.  We got to see alternate Roses and Petes as well, but not both at the same time.

This story(and an upcoming one that addresses this world again) are a classic example of the TV Tropes about parallel universes, specifically that the alternate version of a main character doesn’t really count.  Rickey dies, but that’s okay, Mickey’s ready to take his place.  Even the Jackie of Pete’s World dies, which sucks for Pete, but since The Doctor has spent the whole episode reminding Rose (and the audience) that “She’s not your mother”, it’s no big deal, just good for a moment of pathos.  And they drive that home by making sure we see “our” Jackie at the end of the episode.  Pete’s the only one we really care about, because “Our” Pete’s already dead.  Besides, the other Jackie was a bitch.

They also do a good job of skewering a trope or two as well – note that when looking for the transmitter controls in the zeppelin bridge, Mickey says he doesn’t know what he’s looking for, and Jake annoyingly comments that maybe it’ll be in a big box with “transmitter control” in big red letters.  Later on, they find it… in a big box with “transmitter control” written on in big red letters.

A Doctor A Day – “The Girl In The Fireplace”

Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode,The Snowmen.

For a person as long-lived as The Doctor, all his relationships seem to go by quickly.  This one goes by REALLY quickly…for him, that is.  But quite a long time for…

THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE
by Steven Moffat
Directed by Euros Lyn

“What do monsters have nightmares about?”  “Me.”

A young  woman in 18th-Century France is calling into her fireplace for The Doctor.  And after the opening credits, the narrative shoots 3000 years later, where the TARDIS lands on a spaceship light years from Earth.  Mickey is fascinated at the view, Rose is enjoying showing him the ropes, and The Doctor is wondering why there’s an antique fireplace in a derelict spaceship.  Looking into the hearth, he is rather surprised to see a young girl named Reinette looking through the other side.  She is even more surprised, because her side of the fireplace in in 18th century Versailles. After a brief talk, he examines the fireplace, and finds a latch, causing the whole thing to rotate around to the other side, into the 18th century.  The young girl is there, but she explains confusedly that their chat was months ago.  The Doctor examines the room briefly, noticing the clock on mantle is broken…but he still hears ticking.  He finds the sound under Reinette’s bed, and discovers a mysterious figure, clearly from the ship, but clad in period dress.  The creature has been scanning Reinette’s brain, and The Doctor can’t imagine why they’d expend the energy to cross time and space to scan a seemingly normal young girl.  Rather than spend time placing her in danger, The Doctor lures the thing back over the fireplace portal and onto the ship, quickly incapacitating it.  It’s an intricate clockwork android whose design The Doctor can’t help but admire, but it teleports away before he can inspect it.

Telling Rose and Mickey to stay put (because that ALWAYS works), he spins the fireplace back around, only to discover that Reinette has grown in QUITE the attractive young lady…specifically, the one we saw calling for hope in the pre-credit sequence.  She chats with him, catching up with her childhood friend, and plants a quite passionate kiss on him.  It’s only after she leaves, and he’s confronted by a guard that she realizes that young Reinette is the Madam du Pompadour, possibly one of the most famous (certainly the most successful) courtesans in human history.

Back on the spaceship, Mickey and Rose are off exploring, and The Doctor finds a horse, clearly having wandered onto the ship through another transfer point between the ship and Versailles. Walking through that one, The Doctor sees his now slightly older and even MORE hot friend in the garden of the palace. Meanwhile, Mickey and Rose have discovered that human body parts have been used to repair and maintain the ship – a human eye in a camera and a heart running as a pump.  The part they need the most is Reinette’s brain, which they will take on her thirty-seventh birthday.

Why does a spaceship from 3,000 years later think the brain of a French courtesan will be compatible with its computer system?  Well, that is a rather good bit of the story.

This is one of Moffat’s best episodes, mixing the complex time-travel plot that he will soon become (in)famous for, and a simple love story. Others clearly thought so as well, it’s the first of his Hugo wins for the show as well. What’s interesting is that he really only spends a couple hours with Reinette, but it’s across most of her life.  We’ll see this theme pop up a couple times – it’s basically the same way the Eleventh Doctor met Amy Pond.  And the idea of the out of sync timelines will re-appear with Amy again, in The Girl Who Waited.

The sets were built in a very unique way for this episode.  The spaceship and bedroom sets were actually next to each other, so the fireplace could actually rotate between them.  The rest of the rooms of the palace connected as well, for the various moments of moving between rooms.  One of the most complicated effects shots in the episode was The Doctor crashing through the mirror.  A number of elements, including CGI glass, the jump being done at a different location, and all the people in the room.  Sometimes the stuff that looks the best and takes the longest doesn’t look like an SFX shot at all.

A Doctor A Day – “School Reunion”

Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode,The Snowmen.

Dear Sweet Sarah Jane.  She was the queen of the companions, and when she showed up on screen again, decades vanished.  The Doctor and Sarah are up for a…

SCHOOL REUNION
by Toby Whithouse
Directed by James Hawes

“Oh my God…I’m the tin dog.”

Mickey has called The Doctor and Rose back to earth after learning about strange goings on at Deffry Vale High School. The Doctor is posing as a teacher, and Rose is posing as a lunch lady.  The Doctor has met students who possess knowledge that outstrips Earth Technology, let alone an eighth grade textbook, and Rose watches a fellow lunch lady taken into a back room after getting what looks like toxic waste poured on her.  So there certainly seems to be something going on.  But things take a nostalgic twist when journalist Sarah Jane Smith comes to the school to investigate the school as well. The Doctor doesn’t tell her who he is right away, but when she finds the TARDIS while snooping around the school at night, it’s not hard for her to connect the dots.  After a very emotional meeting, and a scream, they’re off and running.  Rose and Sarah start off quite catty, each making fun of the other’s age, what Mickey calls “Every man’s worst nightmare — The Missus and the Ex”.

The school has been taken over by batlike aliens called the Krillitanes.  The team makes their way out of the school, but The Doctor think he needs to head back in to analyze the mysterious oil the aliens have been sneaking into the food.  Sarah Jane has another alternative – in her car is K-9, albeit in need of repair.  While The Doctor repairs K-9, he and Sarah Jane have a heart to heart talk about what it’s like to travel the universe one day, and be back on Earth the next.  The Doctor looks guilty, but says nothing.

The Krillitanes’ plan is to use the mentally advanced schoolchildren like a massive shared-processing biocomputer, all of them running code on their PCs, attempting to crack the Skaksas Paradigm, AKA the unified field theory.  If they can do so, they will have the cheat codes to the universe.  And their leader comes to The Doctor, and offers him a chance to join them, letting his wisdom guide their new power.  He refuses of course, which starts the running up again  Chased to the kitchens, The Doctor realizes the oil they’ve been using on the kids is a perfect weapon against the aliens – their form has changed so many time, the product of their own planet is now poisonous to them.  K-9 volunteers to remain behind and set off the vats, an act that will likely result in his destruction.

There’s a lot of emotion in this episode. When Rose and Sarah Jane are introduced, the emotions are priceless.  They start off snipping at each other, and as soon as they get a chance to bond, they turn their commentary about The Doctor.  They’re perfectly written as if they’re the new and old girlfriend, each jealous of the other.  The explosive laughter when The Doctor bursts into the room after they start dishing was legitimate – David Tennant had a moustache painted on, which was hidden since his back was to the camera.

Mickey also goes through some changes as well — as he says himself, he’s not the tin dog, and he does do a good job of helping out.  But look at the look on Rose as Mickey asks to come along.  She’s not happy about it.  She’s just gotten used to the idea that she wasn’t the only person The Doctor traveled with, and she doesn’t care for the idea of Mickey sharing it with her.  It’s another sign of the rather new and unique vibe that she and The Doctor have.  But the part to realize is that no matter what he says about how he’d never leave her and all that, he does, and he’ll do it again, and come Christmas, we’ll see him find a new friend, and it’ll be off for another ride.

Elisabeth Sladen was glorious.  Coming back to Doctor Who connected the new series to the old better than any villain or baddie or witty reference ever could  Her spinoff series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, was glorious.  It’s amazing to realize that for a couple years there, we were no more than a couple months between new Doctor Who material.  she was taken from us too, too early.  But we had her for a time, and then a second time, and that’s more than we can say about a lot of people we like.

A Doctor A Day – “Tooth and Claw”

Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode, The Snowmen.

Kung-Fu Monks, a werewolf, and Queen Victoria.  Rest assured that when someone threatens his friends, The Doctor will fight them…

TOOTH AND CLAW
by Russell T Davies
Directed by Euros Lyn

“Am I being rude again?”

Aiming for 1979 and an Ian Dury concert, The Doctor lands in 1879, and in Scotland.  The TARDIS lands in the course of Queen Victoria, who is on the way to have the Koh-I-Noor, the prize diamond of the crown jewels, recut.  Quickly presenting his psychic paper, he and Rose join the party as it stops off at Torchwood House, home of Sir Robert MacLeish and his family.  What the royal coterie don’t know is that the house has been taken over by a band of monks who are in possession of a honest to Harry werewolf.  They plan to have the beast bite the Queen, infect her, and through her, take over the nation, and the Empire.  Sir Robert is forced to cooperate as the monks have taken his wife and most of the female house staff hostage, and if he disobeys they will be slaughtered,

It’s revealed that Prince Albert and Sir Robert’s father were friends for years, and shared an affinity for both science and folktales.  Sir Robert’s father had designed what appears to be a massive telescope, but The Doctor quickly notices it’s oddly designed – too many mirrors and prisms.  As the evening proceeds, Sir Robert desperately tries to clue the party to the danger, and over dinner, as he tells the tale of the werewolf that’s been haunting the moors for almost 300 years does the Doctor make the connection.  As the full moon rises overhead, the werewolf begins his transformation, and the monks, posing as the staff, overpower the soldiers.

It turns out that the house has been prepared for this assault.  The library has been warded with the oil of the mistletoe plant, which the werewolf cannot bear to touch.  And the telescope is just the opposite – it’s a light cannon, powered by moonlight, and the Koh-I-Noor is the focusing device.  So with the help of the planning of Prince Albert and Sir Robert’s father, the monster is defeated.  Queen Victoria is happy to have been saved, but is horrified at The Doctor and the life he leads. She banishes The Doctor from England, and founds the Torchwood Institute to study the stars and defend the Empire from its threats… including The Doctor.

As opposed to last season where the arc plot was barely mentioned, just nearly subliminal mentions of the “Bad Wolf” phrase, this season the concept is in plain sight. Torchwood was mentioned as a plot point in The Christmas Invasion, and now we see its inception.  Not a bad start for a word that was nothing more than an anagram to disguise the tapes going back to the BBC.

Of COURSE when The Doctor has to pick a Scottish name, he’s going to pick Jamie McCrimmon. Jamie was a Companion during the Troughton years, and came back for both the twentieth anniversary adventure, and the Colin Baker adventure The Two Doctors.  The other half of the joke is not as obvious to American viewers – “Balamory” is a BBC children’s show set in the titular town, on an island off the coast of Scotland.  And of course, David Tennant is Scots, so we actually hear his proper accent in this episode when The Doctor is “affecting” one.

This is the second time that a diamond was used as the focus of a light weapon, as opposed to a more scientifically accurate ruby.  The Horror of Fang Rock featured a cruse laser cannon made from a lighthouse and a diamond by the fourth Doctor.

That mad crazy Crouching Tiger stunt near the beginning of the episode took a full day to film.  Quite an extravagance for a TV show, but well worth it for the moment.