Tagged: A Doctor A Day

A Doctor A Day – “New Earth”

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.

A trip to the future, a return of a foe presumed dead (get used to THAT one) and a moral conundrum.  And it all happens on…

by Russell T Davies
Directed by James Hawes

“It’s like living inside a bouncy castle!”

The Doctor and Rose travel back to the five billions, to the time after The End of The World, to New Earth, the city of New15 York. The Doctor got a message from someone via his psychic paper, asking him to come to his aid at a nearby hospital.  But someone is watching, and as soon as the pair try to enter the elevators, they are separated.  Rose is sent to the basement, and is confronted by Lady Cassandra O’Brien, the last pureblood human, and the baddie behind the events on Platform One.  Saved from her apparently grisly death by cloning a new “body” from leftover parts (parts from the …back), she barely survives in the basement of the hospital, and has made plans to move on.  And for Rose to come along, another pureblood human, specifically one responsible for nearly killing her…well, when the fates hand you an opportunity like that…  Cassandra uses a device to transplant her mind into Rose’s body, and begins to take stock of new assets.

The Doctor, meanwhile, was summoned by The Face of Boe, who he met on Platform One as well.  The Face is dying, and his nurse, Novice Hame, explains that legend says that as he dies, he will impart great knowledge to someone like him, “A traveler, a lonely god”.

Amazingly, Cassandra’s not the real threat.  The Sisters of Plenitude, a feline race who run the hospital, have been breeding clones expressly to infect with every disease known to man, for the purpose of finding cures for them.  They maintain the clones are not sentient, but as soon as they’re awakened, that’s immediately proven untrue.  The Doctor starts to investigate, and also starts to notice that Rose knows a bit more about technology of the year five billion than she should.

So The Doctor has to find out the secrets of the hospital, get Rose back in charge of her own body, shut down a sect of cat-nuns, and stop a horde of disease-ridden clones from overrunning the place.  Not a bad first day out…

The Christmas episode was a bit different from later ones would be – it was the first appearance of the new Doctor, and was more “in continuity” with the rest of the season, as opposed to being a stand-alone adventure. It also features other recurring characters, as opposed to later specials that would only feature The Doctor and all-new characters. Functionally, it’s the first episode of this season.  So this episodes starts shortly after the special, with The Doctor and Rose off on new adventures, already with a much lighter tone.

Both Billie Piper and David Tennant get to camp it up a bit as Rose and The Doctor get inhabited by Cassandra, with the requisite fun and silly accents.  Davies excels at keeping a balance between drama and humor in his stories, and this one’s a good example.

One could argue that this plot is an argument against various forms of experimentation.  I prefer to stand by Dr. Mordin Solus’ philosophy from mass Effect – “Use of sentient beings in scientific tests disgusting. Have personal standard – Never experiment on species with members capable of calculus. Simple rule, never broke it.”

We see a new emotional side to The Doctor here.  Not only is this the first time he’s “Sorry…so sorry” at the site of the clones, it’s also the first time he gives a foe who truly deserves it a merciful end.  One of the things we see him do many times is offer threatening aliens a chance to leave in peace.  Sometimes they refuse, and his judgment is swift and hard, sometimes others pull the trigger (like Harriet Jones did last episode) and he’s just as merciless on them, but sometimes, if they deserve it, he helps them.  Cassandra really did try to help at the end, and once she came to peace with her fate, The Doctor gave her a chance to at least die happy.

The payoff to the promise from the Face of Boe wouldn’t come till next season, tying into the Big Bad for that season.  So even though Moffat is doing it with more deliberation, Davies was also setting up multi-year plotlines, teasing events quite a ways off.  Looking back like this, it’s amazing how many things we ascribe to Moffat were already being done from the beginning.  More fodder for the “who’s a better showrunner” argument, certainly.

A Doctor A Day – “The Christmas Invasion”

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.

A new tradition, a new series, a new Doctor, a new threat, a new Prime Minister, and all happening just in time for…

by Russell T Davies
Directed by James Hawes

“What about Torchwood?”

After being forced to regenerate, The Doctor returns Rose home to Britain.  Jackie and Mickey both here the TARDIS’ wheezing engines, and race outside to meet it as it comes crashing down in the center of the plaza.  The Doctor comes barreling out, raving and dazed, collapsing in a heap at Jackie and Mickey’s feet.  Rose has to explain what little she knows about the regeneration process, and they bring The Doctor back to their flat, changing him into pajamas (lucky girls…) and making him as comfortable as possible.

While Rose has been away, people have moved on. Harriet Jones, former MP of Flydale North was voted Prime Minister after her stirring speeches after the events of the Slitheen “hoax”.  She spearheaded Britain’s first solo space probe, Guinevere One, which will soon be broadcasting pictures of Mars.  Or it would do, if it wasn’t for the Sycorax spaceship that grabs it, analyzes its contents, and uses it as a Michelin Guide to the Earth.  They hie hither to our blue marble, and by using a biological sample included on the ship, take control of everyone on Earth with Type A-positive blood and effectively hold them hostage.

While that’s happening, the aliens are also trying to make sure The Doctor can’t stop them, and attack him and his friends with yuletide-themed weapons – robot Father Christmases with 44 caliber trombones, rotating killer Christmas trees…you know, as aliens do.

More than a few changes going on here. First off, this is the first of the series’ Christmas specials.  Save for a moment where William Hartnell broke the fourth wall and wished the readers Merry Christmas, the show’s never done a Christmas special, something quite common on British television.  But the new show proved so popular, the BBC asked they write one.  Russell T Davies was in the process of writing this script while they were recording the commentary tracks for the First Season DVD, so he talked quite a bit about what he had planned for everyone.  Also part of a new tradition was the prequel scene they recorded for the annual Children In Need appeal.  It was the first opportunity viewers had to see the chemistry between Tennant and Piper, and didn’t it just sparkle.  The scene, readily available on YouTube, is of course included with the DVD set.

It’s always a risk when you change actors in a role. The folks who do the Bond films can tell you all sorts of stories.  Just recently, a TV station in India elected to cancel an outrageously popular soap opera when the male lead elected to leave – they decided any new actor would generate outrage from the fans.  So to have to bring in a new Doctor after only one season back on the air was a risk indeed.  Luckily, David Tennant took the part and ran with it.  The whole tone of the series got lighter with him at the helm. Eccleston’s Doctor was dark and brooding, often angry, while David is much more positive and happy. Judging from the way the popularity of the show skyrocketed, it was clearly successful.  And the fun part is, he’s barely in the episode.  It’s much more an opportunity for the backup cast to step forward and shine.  Tennant gets a delightful scene in the early part of the episode, and shows up at the end, in rather a nice parallel to Rose’s last-minute save in The Parting of the Ways.  In a dressing gown, yet.

We get to see U.N.I.T. back in full strength this episode, a position they’ll keep more than a few times in the next few seasons.  Originally the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, it was quietly updated to “Unified Intelligence Taskforce” after a request not to connect it to the proper U.N.  One must assume requests to update the name of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. went unanswered.

Penelope Wilton is a treasure.  The flibbertigibbet back-bencher she played in Aliens of London / World War Three is now a sure of herself Prime Minister, and the performance she gives changes just a shade, while still keeping that seam of daftness that made Harriet Jones such a glorious creation the first time around.  And at the end of the episode, when she takes the step The Doctor forbade, she actually takes a heel turn in his eyes.  Don’t worry, she gets a chance to redeem herself in a season or two, and quite right, too.

And speaking of the events of the earlier episode, there’s a very nice bit of continuity in this adventure – as they cut to a shot of London, Big Ben it surrounded by scaffolding, still under repair from the crashing spaceship from that past event.

While most people think this is the first mention of Torchwood, it’s the second.  The Torchwood Institute was the answer to one of the questions from Anne Droid in last episode’s Weakest Link game.  Nobody was listening for it, so it went right over everyone’s heads.

A Doctor A Day – “Bad Wolf / The Parting Of The Ways”

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 Doctor’s on Big Brother, Rose is on The Weakest Link, and Captain Jack is on What Not To Wear.  IN SPAAAAaaaaace.  And behind it all, following them, is the…

by Russell T Davies
Directed by Joe Ahearne

100 years after the last visit to Satellite Five in The Long Game, the GameStation, a subsidiary of the Bad Wolf Corporation has gone from broadcasting the news to broadcasting entertainment TV, specifically reality shows.  So clearly, the hope that mankind will go back to rising to its height has gone wrong somewhere.  The TARDIS-traveling trio all wake up in different locations, having been abducted via a transmat beam.  The Doctor is now the latest Housemate on Big Brother, Rose is up against the host “Anne Droid” on The Weakest Link, and Captain Jack is getting along quite well with a cybernetic Trinny and Susannah.  That is, until each show takes a grisly turn.  Contestants don’t walk off with parting gifts, they’re disintegrated, and the hosts on WNTW offer Captain Jack quite an extreme makeover.

The Doctor gets himself evicted from the Big Brother house, and when they don’t scatter him to atoms, he knows he’s been brought there on puspose.  He escapes from the house and into the body of the GaneStation, formerly Satellite Five.  Hundreds of reality and game shows are broadcasting constantly all with the same very final endings.  As before, the advancement of the human race is being held back by the broadcasts from this station; formerly with carefully controlled news, now with the more base stratagem of bread and circuses.  Earth has become a pollution-choked mess, far from the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire it’s supposed to be.  The Doctor realizes that by shutting down the news feeds from Satellite Five, he cause a global panic that ended in this sad state of affairs.

Captain Jack catches up with The Doctor, and they find Rose…seconds too late.  The Anne Droid fires, and Rose vanishes.  Fighting their way to Floor 500, they find the TARDIS in an out of bounds archive closet, and a very important piece of information – People aren’t being disintegrated, they’re being transported.  To the new Dalek fleet.  The Doctor has to fly straight into the fire range of 200 Dalek saucers, rescue Rose, defeat the Daleks, and set mankind back on its proper route.  No wonder this was a two-parter.

The Dalek emperor’s ship survived the Time War, sent back in time.  It’s he who’s been behind the activities of Satellite Five, grabbing humans from earth as raw material for new Dalek mutants.  Through the centuries, the Emperor and his creations have gone mad – the Emperor has declared himself a god.  And with their disguise gone, they make their move on the Earth

This was the first season finale of the new series, and as such presented the culmination of the new narrative format of the series.  The entire season is part of a larger story arc, with plot threads laid in earlier episodes that tie up here.  More then simply the Bad Wolf meme, the events of both Dalek and Long Game were important factors that set up events that ended here.  Even Boom Town presented the idea of the heart of the TARDIS, which allowed the deus ex machina that brought the story to an end.

Well, an end for Christopher Eccleston,  anyway.  Citing differences of opinion with higher-ups in the series (which rather suggests Davies and producers Gardner and Collinson), Christopher decided to leave the series after only one season, and the plans for his departure were set in place well before the final episode.  Which basically means that as he gave all those interviews about how exciting the new series was, he’d already left it.

This only presented new possibilities – only one season in, and the new audience would be able to experience a regeneration.  The effects were a far site better than the simple dissolves of the old days – indeed, they went to great lengths to link the effects design of the regeneration and the energy from the heart of the TARDIS.  The energy is connected to all facets of Time Lord technology – it powers the TARDIS, and allows a Time Lord to live impossibly long.  and as we learn in this episode, it’s more than a human being can withstand.  In fact, even though she doesn’t get a name till Neil Gaiman’s episode, Rose communes with the sentient soul of the TARDIS that inhabited Idris here.  “I want you safe…My Doctor” – those are her exact words.  And just as with Idris, the power is killing Rose, and The Doctor saves her, at the expense of this regereration.

Patterson Joseph, who played Roderick in the Weakest Link game, played the Marquis de Carabas in the mini-series adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.  He was one of the people rumored to be up for the role of The Doctor when David Tennant left the show, which of course went to Matt Smith.  Both Davies and Moffat have made a habit of bringing back actors for larger roles later on in the series, or on one of the spinoffs.  We’ve seen a few examples of that this season, and we’ll see more in seasons to come, including several companions.

We meet the new Doctor, David Tennant for just a moment, along with a promise that he’ll be back in the first Christmas special, which we’ll look at tomorrow.  It’s amazing how much happened in just this first season, and how much more is to follow.

A Doctor a Day – “Boom Town”

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.

A recent enemy returns, as does a recent friend, and Cardiff’s new Mayor is determined to turn it into a…

by Russell T Davies
Directed by Joe Ahearne

“They were French – It’s not my fault that ‘Danger – Explosives” was only written in Welsh.”
Six months after the events of Aliens of London / World War Three, the TARDIS lands in Cardiff, last seen in the past on Christmas Eve.  The rift under the Sneed Mortuary is still there, sealed, but still leaking energy, perfect for refueling the TARDIS.  Of course, the chance of a do-nothing holiday on Cardiff Bay is out of the question. Margaret Blaine, former MI5 higher-up, liaison to the Prime Minister, and one of the few survivors of the destruction of Number 10 Downing Street, has become lord Mayor of Cardiff, and has pushed through plans for a massive nuclear power station to be built in the center of town.  Margaret is also Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen, last survivor of the alien family who had planned to destroy the earth and sell it for scrap in the aforementioned adventure.  Cardiff is Plan B.  A nuclear meltdown right over the Rift would work like hitting the flaw of a diamond with a chisel – it will, in short, end badly.  Her plan was to use the resulting energy to power a stolen teleporter, to get off the planet, and not care much about the danger in her wake.

The plan now is to take her back to Raxacoricofallapatorius, but when they learn that the family Slitheen were all sentenced in absentia to the death penalty, their resolve is shaken.  Over a long evening of re-charging the TARDIS, Margaret talks The Doctor into taking her to a local restaurant for a last meal.  She pleads her case that she’s changed…in between attempts to kill him, of course.  Just as she begins to weaken his resolve, her trap is sprung – the teleporter starts to feed off the power in the TARDIS, resulting in the same getaway and end of the world scenario.  Only one thing can stop her, the TARDIS itself.

(Witty tmblr-pics via expelliarmus.tumblr.com)

Davies does a good job of showing the softer side of a Slitheen (obvious physical attributes aside, of course) – the scene where she chose to spare the young reporter who’s learned about the danger of the project once she learns she’s with child is rather touching.  And it’s that hesitation that affords her a second chance at the end, as opposed to the fate of her brothers.

The rift in Cardiff makes a number of reappearances in the series, including being a recurring plot device in Torchwood.  Timeline-wise,  Captain Jack Harkness is likely right under the current one’s feet – Torchwood Three is hidden directly under the Millennium Center, and Jack has (will be…has been…) been the head of it since 2000.  At this point in history, the events we’ve seen in the spin-off series have yet to occur, but Jack’s down there, making trouble. and secretly saving lives. It’s fair to assume they stayed out of the way of these events, Jack already knowing it’ll get sorted by his earlier self.

It’s become somewhat common for the episode before the season finale to be more light-hearted, sort of as a sorbet before the last course.  Even with the threat of massive death, this episode is packed with laughs, from the witty dialogue to the wonderful slapstick of Noel Clarke as Mickey.  It’s also the opportunity to bring the “Bad Wolf” theme out into the open.  “Blaidd Drwg”, the name of the project, is Welsh for “Bad Wolf”, and while The Doctor waves it off, it’s clearly mentioned to bring it into the light for the audience’s sake. It’s also our first exposure (not directly, thankfully) to the heart/soul of the TARDIS, who we’ll meet in a much more personal form in a few seasons.  So even thought it’s not obvious, this episode does a good job of setting up the info needed for the finale.  It’s also the last time we won’t know what the pattern is.  With the next season, the search began for clues to the Big Bad theme before it even began.  Details are now pored over as to what they could mean, and the Internet’s desire to know everything right now becomes harder and harder to fight.  the latest season has tried to buck the tradition by not featuring a carry-through theme, but rumors are already circulating that the Christmas episode will feature an enemy that will carry through the rest of the season.  We’ll know in a couple week’s time, but till then, it’s fun to just enjoy the episodes one by one, not worrying about how the story will be carried through weeks away, just enjoying this one.

A Doctor a Day – “The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances”

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.

It’s mauve, and dangerous, and thirty seconds from the center of London.  The London of the Blitz, where one more metal canister falling from the sky barely got noticed.  But this one is a bit special, as it creates..

by Steven Moffat
Directed by James Hawes

“Gimme some Spock, for once! Would it kill ya?”

Chasing a mysterious drone ship through time and space, the TARDIS lands in London during a German attack in the Blitz.  A band of homeless children are sneaking into homes during raids and eating people’s dinners, Rose meets up with a staggeringly handsome time agent from the 51st century (I know, what are the odds?) and a young boy in a gas mask is looking for his “Mummy”.

The drone ship is a mobile alien ambulance, the young boy is transforming people into empty zombielike creatures like himself, and the head of the homeless children has quite a secret to hide. Captain Jack Harkness has grabbed the remains of what he claims is a Chula warship, and dropped it into the timestream to attract the attention of a passing Time Agent. His plan is to sell it to them, but before they can inspect it, he’s placed in a spot where it’ll be blown up by a German bomb.  It’s basically a con job, to get back at the Time Agency for deleting two years of his memories.  Problem is, the ship wasn’t empty; it was filled with nanogenes, programmed to repair living beings.  the first one they found on earth, a small boy killed in the crash of the ship, was badly damaged, and once they fixed him, thought he was the proper template for the rest of humanity.  Only by showing the nanogenes how humans actually work can they fix things, and there’s only one person who can do it, if she makes a very brave choice.  And for once, nobody dies.

An absolutely chilling pair of episodes.  Using the darkness of a blacked-out London in an air raid, the mood of the story is dark and tense. The transformation of the victims of the child is one of the scariest bits of work the series has had. They actually edited out some additional sound effects of cracking and groaning flesh, because they thought it went too far.

Steven Moffat first offered his services to the BBC as a writer for Doctor Who at the age of eight. His entire career has been aiming toward the chance to finally do so, and this was his official shot, and he brought his A-game.  I say “official”, because as most fans know, he got to write the Comic Relief sketch “The Curse of Fatal Death”, starring Rowan Atkinson (et al) as The Doctor.  Moffat was able to keep to a promise The Doctor made in all of the episodes he wrote before taking over the series – “Everybody lives”.  For a show with a surprisingly high casualty rate for children’s entertainment, Moffat kept his death toll to zero for his entire series of episodes. Not something he was able to do once he took over; indeed, some say he made up for lost time.

This two-parter also features the first appearances of what may be the most popular new character of the new series, the inimitable Captain Jack Harkness. Jack Harkness plays a perfect foil to The Doctor, with plenty of tension and pissing contests for all. Russell took him and ran, bringing him on as a Companion, making him immortal, and then over to Torchwood, where he had quite a run indeed.  John Barrowman fit the role like a glove, and he gained the popularity an actor of his ability deserves.  In addition to being a host and presenter for many British TV shows, he’s made it to these shores on Desperate Housewives, and currently on Arrow as Malcolm Merlyn.  He is also firmly on my “‘I’m not gay, but” list.

A Doctor a Day – “The Long Game”

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.

Making the same move for new Companion Adam he did for Rose, The Doctor takes the trio to the year 200,000 – the middle of the fourth great empire, mankind at its height.  So when everyone seems to be not a lot further up the social advancement scale than the 20th century, he suspects something’s wrong.  Someone is trying to change things, very slowly, playing…

by Russell T Davies
Directed by Brian Grant

“Time travel’s like visiting Paris; you can’t just read the guidebook, you gotta throw yourself in. Eat the food, use the wrong verbs! Get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers! Or is that just me?”

jagrafess-300x198-4119236The Doctor and co arrive on Satellite Five, news center for the empire, streaming information from everywhere, to everywhere. Journalists and techs are all angling for promotion to Floor 500, where it’s said the walls are made of gold. They’re off by one letter – it’s deathly cold, to ensure the health of the mysterious “Editor-in Chief”, the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe. The Jagrafess has been stunting the advancement of the human race, keeping them from achieving its potential.  His assistant, played with style by Simon Pegg, works for a consortium of banks who are manipulating the news, and as a result, the people, to make things better for their investments.

(Eerily prophetic, isn’t it?)

And meanwhile, new companion Adam has decided to take advantage of the opportunities that access to 198,000 years of future history can provide, and attempt to download enough info to make his former employer look like the owner of a lemonade stand.

A simple done-in-one episode with a strong message and a solid monster, It’s a great example of how much Russell could get into his stories.  The set is both well designed and very efficient, budget wise – a bit of redressing and it takes the role of several separate floors.  And it’ll return later in the season as the plot threads of the season start to get tied up.

Russell T Davies made a running gag of the alien and planet names getting progressively more complex, all culminating in next season’s “cheap episode”, Love and Monsters, where the baddie is from the planet Clom.

Simon Pegg is the first big name to appear in the series, the first of a still-growing list who are all too happy to become a part of the show’s history.  Simon also narrated the first season of Doctor Who Confidential.  While she’s not as well known in the US, Tamsin Greig is a popular comedic actress in the UK. She recently played Sacharissa Cripslock in the two part mini-series Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal.

Interestingly enough, in an earlier draft, Adam has quite a different reason for doing the old Back to the Future Sports Almanac trick.  Originally, it was written that Adam’s father has a disease of some type, and he tries to access medical information in the hopes of saving him. It’s an interesting idea, but for The Doctor to take the information away and chuck him out of the TARDIS in punishment would make him the jerk.  It’d be warranted for breaking the laws of time and space and all, but it would still come off as a dick move.  The idea that he simply wants to profit works much better, and it shows that once again, this new Doctor is not infallible.

A Doctor a Day – “Dalek”

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.

Mr. Henry Van Staaten owns the Internet.  He also has a museum of alien artifacts under Utah, including a Slitheen claw, a Cyberman head, and a…

by Robert Shearman
Directed by Joe Ahearne

“Broken…broken…hair dryer…”

The TARDIS lands in 2012 (!) in Utah, or more precisely, under it.  They’re in the personal horde of Henry Van Statten, an impossibly rich American who obtains alien artifacts, reverse engineers their technology, and sells it for profit.  The Doctor picked up a distress call from his one living exhibit, a mysterious creature that Van Statten calls a Metaltron.  Only when The Doctor sees it does he realize what it truly is – a Dalek, which somehow survived the Time War and fell back in time to Earth, damaged and alone.  The Doctor immediately tried to destroy it, but Van Statten, not wanting his most valuable item damaged, stops him.  But when Rose tries to reach out to the creature, touching it, the Dalek is able to user her DNA, charged with the energy of time travel, to restore its systems.  In seconds it breaks free of his chains, absorbs the power grid of the western United States, and downloads the Internet, searching for information about his people.  Finding nothing, it resorts to the primary command of all Daleks: exterminate.

Pretty much as soon as the new show was announced, questions came up as to when the Daleks would appear.  The show was shot into the stratosphere once the Daleks appeared, and they’ve been linked inextricably ever since.  The Daleks almost didn’t make it to the new series of Doctor Who, and it was all Steve Martin’s fault.  When he was to appear in the film Looney Tunes: Back in Action, he insisted they include a Dalek in a madcap scene full of old movie aliens.  He was a big fan of the series, and thought it’d be a nice tip of the hat.  Permission was asked, but the estate of Terry Nation, who controls the rights to the characters, was not.  This caused offense, so when the BBC asked to bring them back for the new series, the estate originally refused.  When Steve Martin heard about it, he wrote a personal letter to the estate explaining the situation, and apologizing personally.  This calmed everyone down, and the proper paperwork was signed to allow the characters to appear.  But for about a month, Robert Sherman was forced to work on a draft of the script with another alien.

The new Dalek was designed to match the height of Billie Piper, so she could look it in the eye.  Similarly, the New Paradigm Daleks were designed to match Karen Gillan’s eyeline.  But in a recent interview on the BBC website, Steven Moffat wonders that making them too big was a mistake. “They’re scarier when they’re wee”, he says.  The scene of the Dalek at the bottom of the stairs was a clear reference to the classic gag about not being able to climb stairs. But of course, in the original series, Daleks had found a fix for this long since. They had anti-gravity mats in Planet of the Daleks, but the big reveal in Remembrance of the Daleks as the Imperial Dalek slowly floats up the stairs was the scene that had fans laughing and squeeing.

Nicholas Briggs, the voice of the Daleks, got his start working on fan productions and the Big Finish audio dramas.  He’s also provided voices for the Cybermen, the Nestene and the Judoon.

Eccleston played the episode as positively bloodthirsty.  After several episodes of offering the aliens a chance to leave in peace, he does not hesitate to try to kill it.  His rage at the Dalek, and later at Van Statten is a sight to see.  Billie Piper has equally good scenes against the Dalek from the other side of the spectrum, trying to help the unstoppable tank who is trying to get the hang of feelings.  This could have been a perfect final Dalek adventure, but as you’ll see, they’re far from gone.

There are a lot of parallels between this episode and the first of this season, Asylum of the Daleks.  Both this Dalek and the tragic prisoner in Asylum are kept in chains, and both are more than a little conflicted by being a mix of human and Dalek.  Both are capable of amazing destruction all on their own, even as far below the surface of their respective planets.  The idea of human and Dalek hybrids has been a theme as far back as Evil of the Daleks, where The Doctor introduces a “Human Factor” into a number of Daleks to start a civil war between factions.

A Doctor A Day – “The Unquiet Dead”

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. This is not a mere shadow play.

If you want to get picky, this is a Christmas episode before they started doing them officially.  On Christmas Eve in 1869 Wales, The Doctor, Rose and of all people, Charles Dickens, join together to fight…

By Mark Gatiss
Directed by Euros Lyn

“In what way do you resemble a means of  keeping oneself cool?”

Having shown her the future, The Doctor plans to show Rose the past.  Aiming for 1860 Naples, they land in 1869 Cardiff. Now, as a rule, the TARDIS doesn’t land where there’s nothing going on, and this was no exception.  At a local funeral home, the dead are rising again, and at an increasing rate.  This evening, an old woman rises and continues on with her planned events of the day, which included a trip to the theater to see Chares Dickens live.  This causes some consternation at the theater, which draws the attention of The Doctor.

Apparently it’s been happening from some time.  But they’re not ghosts, but aliens, known as the Gelth, a gaseous lifeform who inhabit the bodies of the dead as temporary accommodations.  Falling through a rift in spacetime, conveniently located in the basement of the funeral home, their request is simple – let them use the bodies of the recent dead so they can survive.  But like so many times before, the aliens beg for an inch, and they want to take over.  A simple chambermaid is the key to both their arrival, and their stopping.

Mark Gatiss

Mark Gatiss (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Second only to Moffat (who will be joining us in a day or two), Mark Gatiss is the writer who is the closest to being genetically bred to write Doctor Who.  Writing for many fan productions and acting in a couple as well, he brought decades of love for the series to the table, and his story is both a great Victorian adventure as well as a solid and emotional Doctor Who script.  It’s peppered with tips of the hat as well, from the Dickensian name of the mortician, Sneed, and the door knocker that takes on a ghostly visage as the Gelth pass through it.  And not to mention the idea that after seeing a series of ghosts on Christmas Eve, he’s inspired to change his life. One of the extra’s on the disc is a video blog of Gatiss talking about the process of writing the script, from the first meeting on.  It’s interesting to hear about early ideas for the story, not to mention how seriously he’s taking the idea of bringing back a show he loves so much.  A big moment includes a gang of four including Rob Shearman, Paul Cornell, and Steven Moffat, before and after the first readthrough. The level of suppressed glee among the four is priceless.

Simon Callow, the prominent stage and screen actor, is possibly more associated with Charles Dickens than any living performer.  Appearing as the writer in several different works and media, he hesitated at playing the character in Doctor Who, fearing it’s be a simple cameo or camp parody. Only after reading Gatiss’ script did he agree, realizing he’d done a stellar job of getting Dickens’ character right.

This is also the second episode in a row where Rose talks to the service class folks, as equals.  She has a nice conversation with a plumber in Platform One, and with Gwyneth here.  In both cases, she gets them to open up a bit about themselves, and both seem quite appreciative to get a chance to just chat.  Interesting that things don’t change much in five billion years – people don’t notice the help.

Once again we see that this is a very different Doctor from before.  While everyone sees the idea of “spirits” taking over corpses as anything from shocking to blasphemous, The Doctor sees as perfectly reasonable, an extreme form of recycling.  His practicality is…well, alien. Of course, the emotional response when he hears that once again, this is a race almost destroyed by the Time War, named for the first time here, colored that choice. And once again, he makes the wrong choice, and as a result, people die.  That takes some getting used to.

Three episodes in, and we’re already starting to see the beginnings of the spinoff series, Torchwood.  Eve Myles plays Gwyneth, the maid and assistant to the funeral home.  Centuries later, her descendent (well, not HER descendant, clearly) Gwen Cooper will become a policewoman and become involved with the mysterious organization.  Russell T Davies referred to Myles as Wales greatest hidden treasure, and begorrah, he’s not far wrong.  This episode also introduces the rift under Cardiff, a source of extradimensional energy that will return as a plot point for both series, a fuel source for the TARDIS and a source of McGuffins for Torchwood.

A Doctor A Day – “The End of the World”

Cassandra (Doctor Who)

Cassandra (Doctor Who) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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. Travelers are advised against the use of weapons, teleportation, and religion.

In this episode, it looks like it’ll be a fabulous evening’s apocalypse, but The Doctor and Rose find out that there’s a chance they may be in danger during…

The End of the World
by Russell T Davies
directed by Euros Lyn

“Moisturize me, moisturize me!”

Rose wants to visit the future – The Doctor takes her to the year 5.5/apple/26, five billion years on, the day the Earth will be destroyed by the sudden expansion of the sun as it dies.  Humanity has long since moved on throughout the galaxy, and the death of their homeworld is seen as more of a celebratory experience.  Platform One, a massive force-shielded spacestation is the floating ballroom for a huge party to watch the planet get the finger, and that’s where Rose and The Doctor have landed.  Enjoying the opportunity to hobnob with extraterrestrials, Rose begins to notice that some…THING is wrong on Platform One.  The force fields are brought down, and Lady Cassandra stands revealed as behind a plot to put everyone in danger solely to collect on a massive compensation suit.  As The Doctor says, five billion years later, it all comes down to money.

We’ve seen in the first episode how well the new Who crew can do a story set on Earth, so they chose to impress us quickly and go big with a quick trip into the future.  A wide assortment of wonderful makeup, mechanical effects and CGI provide a solid and believable experience, with no “wobbly sets” as they playfully reference in the commentary and on confidential the occasional cheesiness of the original series.  Davies keeps a good balance of the dramatic and the silly here.  Billie Piper gets some great scenes as she comes to grips with the fact that she hopped into the proverbial car with a total stranger, and stands a severe chance of getting burned over it. Literally.

There’s quite a few first appearances in this episode.  In addition to recurring characters like the Face of Boe and Cassandra O’Brien, it’s the first appearance of the Psychic Paper. Another brilliant little idea to explain how easily the Doctor can get into any situation so smoothly, it’s a tool that’s rapidly become as commonplace and popular as the Sonic Screwdriver.  It’s also the first time a running concept was used clearly – when the TARDIS travels into the future, the Time Vortex is red, when they travel into the past, it’s blue.  When Tennant and Smith take over the role, that color theme carries through to their costumes – check the colors of Ten’s outfits, and Eleven’s bowtie.  And assuming you already know how the season ends, you might notice this is the first mention of “Bad Wolf” – two aliens are chatting, and one mentions that this is “The bad wolf scenario”.

Davies starts another tradition going here as well – spectacular characters who appear once alone yet appear fully formed.  Jabe of the Forest of Cheem is the first person to sacrifice herself to help The Doctor,  She’s also the first to reveal a bit more about the Great Time War. It was mentioned in the previous episode; the war was the reason the Nestene food planets were lost, and The Doctor admits he couldn’t stop it.  But here we learn that the rest of the Time Lords are gone, and his world is destroyed.  The details are yet to come, but it’s a major departure from the previous series.  The Time Lords were always seen as unassailable, undefeatable.  For them to fall shows that no one in the universe is infallible.  And that carries through to The Doctor.  In the new series, he makes mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes put people in danger.  It gives the Companions a chance to save the day, and generally increases the sense of drama: The Doctor will not always have the answer.