Tagged: Vinnie’s Doctor Who Beat

New Who Review: “In the Forest of the Night”

A great actor once said “never work with children or animals.”  This episode features both, and once again, the axiom proves true.  The students of Coal Hill School have a sleepover in the museum of natural history, and wake up…

By  Frank Cottrell-Boyce
Directed by Sheree Folkson

London, and indeed the whole world, ha been engulfed by dense, fireproof forests overnight.  The Doctor assumes it’s an act of aggression, but with the help of the kids of Coal Hill School, including one very sensitive girl, the real threat to Earth is identified.  But are they too late to realize they’ve been attacking the wrong side?

DoctorJungleThis is another episode where the main plot and the threat of the week is almost overwhelmed by the staggering character work.  Wonderful camera work from the director (the steadi-cam run around the top deck of the TARDIS is wonderful) as well as fabulous work bringing varied and mature performances from a raft of your people.  There’s quite a bit that goes unexplained in the episode, but like many great stories, the true star of the week are the emotions and reactions of the main cast.  Sometimes you have to let those refrigerator moments pass – it really doesn’t matter where the Harlequin got the jellybeans.

The episode features the return of a common theme in the new series – threats that aren’t threats at all.  In the case of this one, it’s actually a benevolent event, misunderstood by everyone, much like the star whale from The Beast Below.  Once again The Doctor was wrong about his assumptions.  In this case, if he’d done nothing at all, everything would have been fine, save for any small areas the pudding-brains exposed to damage by successfully taking down small areas of ttrees,

GUEST STAR REPORT – Frank Cottrell-Boyce (Writer) has won a Carnegie medal for his novel Millions (and wrote the script for the film) and has written several films with Michael Winterbottom, including Welcome to Sarajevo, 24-Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.

Sheree Folkson (Director) There may not be any female writers for Doctor Who in the new series, as Neil Gaiman so adroitly hung a lampshade on, there’s been at least a couple female directors, including Ms Folkson.  She directed the David Tennant film The Decoy Bride, and the mini-series that brought him to fame, Casanova.

THE MONSTER FILES – While the forests of the world certainly seemed to be the baddie of the episode, it turned out not to be the case.  But we’ve seen other plantlife on the show as well.  The Krynoids in The Seeds of Doom turned out to be quite a threat, as did the Ice Warriors’ biological weapon in The Seeds of Death.  The Forest of Cheem evolved from the plant life of ancient Earth, as we learned at The End of the World, and the mysterious sentient forest from The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe didn’t want to harm anyone, but also didn’t care how they got what they wanted.


SET PIECES – It turns out if you want to show London covered with forest, it’s cheaper to find a forest and cover it with bits of London. a forest near Newport was the location chosen, which was given the feel of London with selectively chosen icons.  The red phone booth, traffic light and entry to the Underground were there, but the double decker bus (with an ad on for the new series of Doctor Who) was only a large photo on a backboard.

NIGHT IN THE MUSEUM – Nice bit of foreshadowing in the museum – we see stuffed versions of a tiger and two wolves, which we see live versions of later on.  Tempting to think they came to life somehow, but The Doctor’s theory of the Zoo getting destroyed makes a bit more sense.

“When you drink a glass of Coke, it’s only this big, but it’s actually got THIS much sugar in it. Works a bit like that.” This is the second-best explanation of the TARDIS’ dimensional transcendentality ever.  The best one was given to Leela at the beginning of Robots of Death, where The Doctor shows two boxes of differing sizes explained fairly easily how you can place the bigger one inside the little one just by placing it farther away.  The Doctor twice gets to be gleefully frustrated by people seemingly being unimpressed by the bigger-insidiness of the old girl.

“Who do you want to talk do, Monty Don?” Monty Don is a TV presenter in Britain, best known for segments on Gardener’s World.

“No circuits, no mechanism…wood” – That’s the first logical explanation we’ve gotten for why the Sonic Screwdriver won’t work on wood, something that’s been the case since at least the Tennant years.

“Not everything can be fixed with a Sonic Screwdriver, it’s not a magic wand” – More lampshade-hanging – it was clearly being used as such in the past series, and as mentioned previously, is used much less so now.

“Furious, fearful, tongue-tied – all superpowers if you use them properly” – There’s a surfeit of bookends in this series – this is a callback to The Doctor’s speech to young Danny about how fear is a superpower in Listen. And as we see in the episode, the “Gifted and Talented” kids all start to come out of their shells and help in their own way, from Maebh’s talking to the forest to Ruby’s literal-minded observations of important things.

“Trail of breadcrumbs, Hansel and Gretel” –  The connection to fairy tales and forests recurs through the episode – Clara asks if they slept like Sleeping Beauty and fears they’ll find a gingerbread cottage. Maebh leaves a trail, she is wearing a red coat (with a hood) and is pursued by the Big Bad Wolf.

“This is a massive solar flare headed for Earth” – Earth suffers from attack by solar flare more then a few times in the history of the show – aside from the final one in The End of the World, there’s the one that Nerva Beacon tries to survive in The Ark in Space, and the one that Starship UK escaped from in The Beast Below.

DoctorKid“The thoughts…they go so fast” – Maebh’s hand-waving gestures are sometimes a symptom of autism, a repetitive action it’s believed helps calm the person.  The autistic person can often feel overwhelmed by the sensory input we take for granted.  To take those gestures and turn them into a literal attempt to wave errant fleeting thoughts away is quite illuminating.  Maebh is described as being “tuned to another channel”, which is also a pretty good description of Autism.  That other way of seeing things is presented a number of ways in the episode, from being sensitive to the communication from The Green (to take a description from DC’s Swamp Thing) to being the only who notices there’s a gate just a few feet down the fence that The Doctor and Clara are trying to get her over.

“But we saw the future – lots of futures” – This is the first of two bookends to Kill the Moon – Clara asks again how the Earth can end now when they’ve both seen it so many times in the future.

“This is my world too. I walk your Earth, I breathe your air” – and this is the other.  He’s parroting what Clara said to him in anger, and he’s saying it earnestly.  And while in Kill the Moon, The Doctor says he can do nothing and walks away so humanity (through Clara) can make the right choice, here humanity (again through Clara) tells The Doctor to leave, because he can do nothing.

Which is, if you think about it, rubbish.  The TARDIS is powered by the full output of a dying start housed in the Eye of Harmony, and has the power to pull the Earth physically through space.  It seems to me that it could either absorb or deflect the solar flare, or just drag the Earth out of the way of the flare and pop it back after it passes.  But of course, that would leave us with no story, so I should just shut up and move on.

Also, both stories also feature truly outlandish saves to global catastrophes that should cause humanity to undergo a change to its shared human zeitgeist, but are virtually forgotten a galactic-scale tick of the clock later.  Truly we are short-sighted creatures.

“There are wonders here” – This little speech is on par with Tony Randall’s speech in The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, and I am not being sarcastic.

“If you remembered how things felt, you have stopped having wars…and stopped having babies” – We are pretty good at romanticizing trauma, to the point that we’re keen on trying them again.


“Let him call – this is more important” – If the subtext theme of the last two episodes was lying, if you had to name the theme in this episode, it would be “Priorities.”  Clara calls The Doctor before she calls the school or any of the kids’ parents.  More than once in the story, she’s more fascinated about what she’s seeing than in the safety of the kids – something she was chastising The Doctor about doing not too long ago.  And while Danny does stop things once or twice to discuss the fact that Clara is clearly still in touch with The Doctor, and still traveling with him, his priority is protecting the kids, a mindset Clara can’t deny she finds alluring.  Clara is more worries about Danny finding out about her still being on the TARDIS than the news that a solar flare is headed for Earth.

“I thought Miss Oswald told me to go find The Doctor, but it wasn’t her – it was just in my head” – There was no exact explanation for Maebh’s abilities – the voice of the plants said they had no idea who he is, so it seems unlikely they’d be behind her seeking him out.  Clara wasn’t even aware there was a problem when Maebh went off, so it wouldn’t have been her.  It’s possible this might be the subtle hand of Missy, guiding the young girl to The Doctor to make sure he doesn’t stroll off.

“…like the one that destroyed the Bank of Karabraxos” – The mention of the Bank from Time Heist specifically suggests a connection between the two – both were apparently a surprise to the planets in question.  One has to wonder whether Missy was behind the solar flares, here as well as on Karabraxos – bad guys seem to love big powerful weapons

“I didn’t try too hard to survive, but somehow, here I am” – Almost as if there was someone watching over him, perhaps?

“Well, that was surprising…and I love surprises” – Was Missy just watching the events, as we did, or did she have a hand in it somehow?  Well, we’ve not got long to wait to find out…

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO:  Not the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, and not the remake of the Japanese horror movie. Dark Water comes marching your way, as does the beginning of the end. of the season, that is.

New Who Review – “Flatline”

It’s the premise of a classic short novel by a Shakespearian scholar and at least a half dozen EC Comics.  What happens when beings based in a differing number of dimensions interact?  Usually it’s the higher dimensions assaulting us, but if the invasion comes from the ground up, one would hope your defensive wall could be a…

By  Jamie Mathieson
Directed by Douglas Mackinnon

A mysterious force is causing the dimensions in a council estate near Bristol to collapse, resulting in people vanishing, with only distended and partial projections left behind.  The TARDIS is affected by the distortion, and when it lands, the connection between the interior and exterior of the ship is…oddly affected.  Reduced to half-size, and then smaller, The Doctor is trapped within the ship, leaving Clara as the one with boots on the ground to discover the source of the attack, save everyone, and get the TARDIS back in shape – literally.  It sounds easy-peasy lemon squeezy, but it turns out to be difficult-difficult lemon…difficult.

Possibly one of the best mixes of humor and horror in an episode in quite a long time.  The magnificent distensions of the human form created by the art department are perfectly counterbalanced by the truly hilarious sight of Peter Capaldi’s hand reaching out the door of a tiny TARDIS to drag itself across the ground.  And once again, the theme of the series shines through once again – lying.

GUEST STAR REPORT – Christopher Fairbank (Fenton) most recently played The Broker in Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s had parts in genre classics like The Fifth Element and the Underworld TV series, as well as voices in video games like Puppeteer.

John Cummins (George) worked on Steven Moffat’s series Coupling, though on the production end.  He’s been seen before the camera on The Hour in a couple of roles, and a member of Parliament in the most recent 24 series Live Another Day.


BUT I KNOW WHAT I LIKE – Writer Jamie Mathieson got the job for writing this episode with a unique pitch – he drew a series of pictures based on the stories, including for the one that would become this episode.  As opposed to the previous episode where Moffat handed him the title and told him to write a story around it, this one was all his idea, and Steven liked the idea of the monster enough that he asked Jamie to, ironically, flesh it out.


A good idea of how a Flatlander would see broccoli.

YOU’RE NOT THINKING TWO-DIMENSIONALLY – Edwin Abbot wrote the novela Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, as satire of Victoran culture, but it accurately described how a three-dimensional creature would be perceived in a two-dimensional world.  Carl Sagan discussed the concept in the original Cosmos, summarizing the mathematical bits of the story with visual aids.  The three-dimensional extrusions of the flatlanders are a pretty good example of how they’d us “three-deers” – a series of slices.  They took that idea and mapped it to a 3-d form, the end result being what looks like the “people” traveling through physical space with those slices making up their form.  Creative, and chilling.

UP AGAINST THE WALL, MOTHER… – There’s at least two recent videogames that use the idea of becoming two-dimensional as part of the game mechanic.  The PS3 platformer SIDEWAY: New York allows you to flatten against walls the make your way around buildings and collect graffiti tokens, and the latest Legend of Zelda game A Link Between Worlds lets Link step into cracks between light and dark lands in the adventure for the Nintendo 3DS.

DOCTOR-LITE – As has become traditional and required, this episode featured a reduced appearance by The Doctor to allow Peter Capaldi and the production staff to produce more episodes in less time. Starting with Love and Monsters, each series has featured episodes where some of the cast appeared in limited capacity to allow for what’s called “double banking”.  This episode was a reverse of The Lodger, where Amy Pond was trapped in the TARDIS while The Doctor had to work alone with only audio connection to his friend.  In both cases, this allowed the actor on the standing set to film their scenes in a short time, leaving their schedule open for other episodes’ filming.  Tennant and Tate each got a largely solo adventure in the episodes Midnight and Turn Left.

LET’S GET SMALL – The TARDIS has had issues with shrinkage before.  The Hartnell story Planet of Giants was sparked by the TARDIS materializing at the wrong size, resulting in both the ship and its inhabitants ending up the wrong size. A small error in calculation resulted in the TARDIS being reduced to 50% in size in Logopolis.  The Doctor flipped the script on the idea when fighting The Monk in The Time Meddler – he removed the dimensional control from The Monk’s ship, so while the outside of the ship remained the same, the interior reduced in size, so The Monk couldn’t enter it.

“It’s called the 2Dis…why do I even bother…” –  One of the things I was hoping for this series was a reduction of the use of the Sonic Screwdriver as a catch-all fix-me-up, and we’ve gotten that.  We’re back to seeing The Doctor create slapdash gadgets to achieve the results required, like The Machine That Goes “ding” When There’s Stuff.  That they don’t always work right is more logically explained by the fact that he’s usually literally built them on the run with anything he can lay his hands on.  Considering the TARDIS is able to instantly

BIG BAD WOLF REPORT – The theme from last episode carries through to this one – Lying.  The Doctor Lies all the time, and here we see Clara finding out why.

“Excellent lying, Doctor Owsald” – Clara’s lie from last episode is exposed to both people it affected – The Doctor learned that she lied about Danny being “Okay with it” them continuing to travel, and Danny has certainly been made open to suspicion that she’s not kept her feet safe on the ground.  And as a rule, lying to people doesn’t usually go well, especially in people with whom you’re in a relationship. And both gentlemen meet that description, however different those relationships may be.

Also, that’s a nice parallel to Donna Noble being referred to as “The DoctorDonna” near the end of her run on the series as she merged minds with the Meta-Crisis Doctor,  resulting in the first human Time Lord.  She got to do the swooping in at the end and saving everyone with all the switch-flipping, and Clara had to do the hard lifting of keeping everyone together and safe until a plan came together.

“Lie to them…give them hope” – The Doctor feels quite uncomfortable about how plainly his tactics are being exposed and explained to him by Clara.

“You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara…’goodness’ has nothing to do with it” – This is the mindset of The Doctor in this series and this incarnation in microcosm. Look at what she has to do – establish dominance in a panicked crowd, take no time to mourn those who die during the fight, and spend every moment puffing everyone up so they think they have a chance of surviving.  That’s been Capaldi’s job all year.  And she did it beautifully.

“My Clara…I have chosen well” – Missy is back, watching the action via an iPad that’s positively HUGE in her hands.  Now of course, this only begs the question, how does she define “chosen”?  We might suspect we’re back to thinking she’s the one who gave Clara the phone number to the TARDIS, but it might be more a case of just choosing who will be the one to help The Doctor the most.  It would be quite a frustrating turn of events if it turns out Clara was a mole all along (as well as patently contradicting her reason for existence for most of the series), so any connection would be, one would hope, non-complicit on her part.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – Clearly the governmental “go green” initiative has gone too far.  In The Forest Of The Night, coming this Saturday.

New Who Review – “Mummy on the Orient Express”

There’s one of two things you can be almost guaranteed of when you see a story that takes place on a train – romance, or a murder.

By  Jamie Mathieson
Directed by Paul Wilmshurst

As a farewell fling, The Doctor takes Clara on a trip aboard the Orient Express in space, exactingly copied from the original, except for the bit about being spaceworthy.  It becomes quickly apparent that all is not well on the craft – a mysterious unseen beast is killing people exactly 66 seconds after the victim sees it – and no one else does.  It turns out this particular journey is a massive two-fold trap – the ship is filled with scientists versed in areas of research that pertain to the beast, and are pressed into service to capture it, by any means necessary.

The Doctor quickly joins the press gang, understanding that the only way to gain data is to have the next victim detail as much as they can before they are killed.  Clara does not take well to this process, but when she is asked to bring to him the person they predict to be the next victim, she does what all The Doctor’s friends do – what she’s told.

A tight thriller with a new look at a classic monster, with a massively emotional line running through the story, resulting in one of the most naked-baring dialogue at the end ever seen.  The new season of the series of amazingly dark, especially in the analysis of the relationship between The Doctor and his friends.  By story’s end, we realize Clara has been doing something all season, and is totally at peace with it – lying.

GUEST STAR REPORT – It’s an interesting week, with only one exception, the entire major guest cast has appeared on Doctor Who in one form or another in the past, including the audio plays.

Frank Skinner (Perkins) is a well-known stand-up comic, TV presenter, and regular on Britain’s massive number of panel shows like QI and Have I Got News For You. A long-time fan of Doctor Who, he’s been campaigning for a role on the show since its inception.  He had a cameo in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot as a Dalek operator.  He’s also a major fan of British music hall legend George Formby, and hosted a documentary about the man in 2011.

Foxes (lounge singer) is a pop singer making quite a name for herself in the UK with her experimental style electronic pop.  She appeared on the song “Clarify” by Zedd, which won the 2014 Grammy for Best Dance Recording.  Her latest album, Glorious”, came out in February to positive reviews.

David Bamber (Captain Quell) appeared with David Walliams and Mark Williams in the adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s Blandings, and in the recent project by the two thirds of the League of Gentlemen who aren’t Mark Gatiss, Psychoville.

Christopher Villiers (Professor Moorhouse) is one of a pair of Who-lumni this episode, appearing in The King’s Demons from the original series. He played Sir Kay in First Knight, and a favorite in our house Nigel in Top Secret! (“How do we know he’s NOT Mel Torme?”)

Janet Henfrey (Mrs. Pitt) Last appeared in Doctor Who as Miss Hardaker in The Curse of Fenric. She had a part in the revamped version of Randall and Hopkirk (deceased), a show that featured the work of a large number of people who went on to work on Doctor Who.  She’ll next appear with matt Smith in the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (and Zombies).

John Sessions (Gus) was a regular panelist on the original British version of Whose Line is it Anyway, and is a recurring guest on QI.  He’s done quite a lot of voice work for Doctor Who, in the Big Finish audio plays and the webcast Death Comes to Time.  He’ll be playing Hunpty Dumpty in the upcoming Alice in Wonderland sequel.  He joins a growing number of well-known actors to lend their voice only to the series.

THE MONSTER FILESThe Foretold is a wonderful example of taking a classic monster and giving it a modern sci-fi twist.  The Doctor has seen his share of Mummies in the past.  The Osiran race took up residence on Mars (a very popular planet in the series’ history) and influenced the growth of Egyptian culture, an influence that attempted to make a jump to the present in Pyramids of Mars. We’ve seen other classic Universal monsters as well – werewolves in Victorian England (Tooth and Claw) alien races who were quite pleasant when they weren’t in their alternate form (The Greatest Show in the Galaxy) and various other wolf-like transformations like from Inferno and Planet of Evil. He even met Frankenstein’s Monsters, albeit only an android copy, in a disused fun fair during The Chase.


FoxesKILL THE QUEEN! – The lounge singer performing what is by now a centuries old song (“Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen) which is certainly supposed to represent the contemporary music of the period of the original Orient Express is a callback to Lady Cassandra playing a “traditional ballad” during The End of the World, namely Britney Spears’ “Toxic”.

BOW TIES ARE…WELL… – The Doctor is wearing a bow tie again, but it’s the style he wore back in the Hartnell years, keeping with the style of dress he’s been wearing all season.

WOULD YOU LIKE A… – Eschewing the traditional rumpled paper bag, The Doctor now carries his Jelly Babies in a dashing cigarette case.  That’s not the only Tom Baker reference in the episode – when The Doctor has the conversation with himself, his “other voice” takes on just a tinge of the booming tone of the fourth Doctor.

HOW LONG CAN YOU HOLD YOUR BREATH? – The Doctor can go without oxygen for quite some time, thanks to the Gallifreyan respiratory bypass system, first referenced in the Tom Baker adventure The Ark in Space.

“It’s a sad smile, it’s two emotions at once” – The Doctor once admitted to be confused at “happy crying” in the company of the Ponds.  He’s had trouble understanding Human emotion in the past, he’s just made more of a career of it this season.

“The number of evil twice over” – While most modern people acquaint 666 with evil, 33 appears in a number of religious doctrines, and pops up in an interesting number of coincidental places in a plurality of schools of knowledge.  This website lists a great deal of them.

“It’s full of…bubble wrap” – Bubble wrap has a long association with the series, usually as a material for making monsters and sets.  Most famously it made up much of the skin of the growing Wirrn creatures in The Ark In Space.

“Even the smallest details might help us save the next one” – Once again, we’re seeing The Doctor having no remorse of sadness for someone’s passing, wishing only to use them as a tool to solve a larger problem.  It’s what Clara assumes he’ll do to Maisie later in the story.

“Are you my mummy?” – I honestly thought they might choose not to go with this line.  A reference to the Eccleston thriller The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, he made a similar joke while wearing a gas mask in The Poison Sky.

“That job could change a man” – Perkins was referring to how travelling like that could change passengers in the TARDIS, and The Doctor was referring to himself.  Both are correct.

BIG BAD WOLF REPORT – Danny is only heard from via the phone, but once again, his and Clara’s relationship are where the big moves in the narrative take place.  While there’s still a dangling mystery as to the identity of Gus, there’s no being sure that he’s working with Missy, Queen of Heaven.

“He even phoned the TARDIS” – The Doctor got a call at the end of The Big Bang about an incident on the Orient Express In Space.  The details were a bit off from what we’re seeing here, but the point it clear – Gus has been trying to get The Doctor’s attention to solve this problem for a very long time, and is fully aware of who he is.  We’ve had mention of the difficulty of getting the number to the TARDIS already, so this person has access to very secret information.

“But thanks for lying” – It’s the second line spoken by The Doctor in the episode – and it’s the main theme of the episode.  It’s spoken about, referred to, and joked about right through to the end of the story. Maisie accuses The Doctor of lying as soon as she hears the first thing out of his mouth, The Doctor Lies about why he asks Clara to eventually actually lie to Maisie. The Doctor claims he’s lying about getting everyone way safely, but he’s lying about that.  And at the end, Clara flat out lies to The Doctor about her turnaround about travelling with him, which means she will go right on lying to Danny about not doing it anymore.

“I am so sorry” – It’s key to note that now it’d The Doctor’s companion who is doing the apologizing, what Ten used to do so often it became a meme.

“So you were pretending to be heartless” – There such amazing levels going on in these final scenes.  The Doctor has clearly gotten more brunt in his attitude, using dying people as stepping stones to a solution.  But in the next moment we learn something important – for a guy who claims to be terrible with names, he remembers the name of each person he couldn’t same. He’s still keeping count, even through he’s hiding it better than ever.

“Is it like…an addiction?” – Let’s analyze Clara’s behavior throughout the season.  She’s keeps trying to convince herself that she can “handle it”. She attempts to restrict her access by only doing it occasionally.  She puts herself in danger to get what she wants. She lies to those she loves about what she’s doing, and after swearing this is the last time, she decides it’s not.  So…you tell me; how good is her analysis?

NEXT ON DOCTOR WHO!  Experimentation by an unknown alien source is leaving some people feeling a little…Oh, I just can’t DO it!.  Flatline, coming this Saturday.

New Who Review: “Kill the Moon”

It’s the classic time travel question – would you kill a dangerous killer in their crib, before they’ve actually done anything?  Well, what is you weren’t sure the baby was going to do anything?  What if you were asked to…

By  Peter Harness
Directed by Paul Whilmshurst

Clara speaks to the entire Earth – they run the risk of the Earth being destroyed if they don’t kill an innocent being.  “The man who normally helps” is nowhere to be found, and a decision must be made.  Flashing backwards, we learn that Coal Hill student Courtney Woods has not reacted well to her brief run on the TARDIS.  The Doctor told her she “wasn’t special”, a comment she’s taken to heart.  Clara asks him to apologize; he instead offers her a chance to be the first woman on the Moon.

Alas, all is not well there.  In 2049, the moon has mysteriously gained 1.3 billion tons of extra mass, causing staggering tides on Earth.  It turns out the moon is something altogether new to The Doctor’s eyes, and rather than help…he walks away.

This was a very dark episode with a bright ending, only to reveal that light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.  I expect we’ll see this story used in argument for certain social issue quite soon now.  Fabulous performances all round.

GUEST STAR REPORT – Hermione Norris (Lundvik) is well known to British audiences for many regular TV appearances in series like Spooks and Cold Feet.

Tony Osoba (Duke) – is one of a smallish group of actors who’s appeared in both the new and original run of the series.  He had roles in both Destiny of the Daleks and some years later in Dragonfire.

Paul Whilmshurst (director) will be back next week, and will be directing the Christmas episode.  He has a long resume of TV directing, both drama and reality/documentary.

Peter Harness (writer) has been writing for British television for nearly a decade now.  He wrote and appeared in a TV movie about British comedy legend Frankie Howerd, who was played by Who-lumnus David Walliams.

THE MONSTER FILESThe Moon has been the setting of many Who adventures over the decades. It first threatened the Earth millions of years ago, where the dominant life form of the Earth, who would come to be known as Silurians, feared a monstrous asteroid would crash into the planet.  They set themselves up in massive hibernation cities to sleep through the disaster, only for the heavenly body to be trapped by the Earth’s gravity and become the Moon.  That change to the delicate balance of the orbital mechanics of the solar system was enough to allow the planet Mondas to break free of its orbit, returning millennia later as The Tenth Planet.  There have been many bases on the Moon, built and manned by both human and alien forces.  The Cybermen tried to attack one in an appropriately titled episode.  It would be used as a penal colony, house River Song’s alma mater, and eventually, we’d haul in four more for additional real estate.  Needless to say, there’s never been any mention of it hatching a titanic alien and leaving another one in its place, but that’s the sort of thing that gets forgotten when you’re trying to fight off Draconians.

Doctor Who has had its share of spiders as well, even if in this case they’re just bacteria that resemble spiders, by some mad coincidence.  Brought with human explorers in the future, spiders would evolve to control the world of Metebelis III, eventually known as the Planet of the Spiders.  The Racnoss were a semi-arachnid race who planned an overthrow of the world, stopped by the able assistance of The Runaway Bride.


SET PIECES – Rather than go for the old reliable stone quarry, the production team traveled to Lanzarote, part of the Canary Islands off Africa, to duplicate the surface of the Moon.  It was last used in the Davison adventure Planet of Fire.

I WEAR THE CLOTHES OF THE REGENERATED – Capaldi is wearing David Tennant’s spacesuit from The Satan Pit, a suit which is rapidly becoming the most recycled prop on the show, gaining on that rock used on almost every alien planet in the classic series.

“No being sick and no hanky-panky” – Considering the last time there was…you know, what-not… on the TARDIS, it resulted in River Song, a clear example of a result which caused both happiness and hardship.

“You’ll have to spend a lot of time, shooting me, because I will keep on regenerating” – The Doctor may be bluffing when says he might keep on regenerating forever – he made a similar comment on The Sarah Jane Adventures when he was asked how many times he could do it.  But the new energy infusion given him by the Time Lords is something new – it’s not known if it was enough for one, a whole new cycle of twelve, or a potentially infinite number.

“What is wrong with my yo-yo?” – The Doctor used a yo-yo to test gravity force during the Baker years, with the same color yo-yo, yet.  I’ve mentioned before that this Doctor is using more gadgets, large and small, to get things done, not just relying on the Sonic Screwdriver, a change I love campaigned for.

“That’s what you do with aliens, isn’t it? Blow them up?” It’s not The Doctor’s primary method, but it’s come up a couple times.  Prime Minister Harriet Jones, (Yes, we know who you are) contacted Torchwood to destroy the retreating Sycorax spaceship at the end of The Christmas Invasion.  And after Leela recommended it the whole time, The Doctor suddenly “came up with the idea” of blowing up The Invisible Enemy.

“High tide everywhere at once” – Well, no. It’d be tides far higher than normal for parts of the Earth both facing and pointed away from the moon, and calamitous low tides at the sides.

“When I say run…run” – So much fun to see bits of the old Doctors pop up again. That was one of the second Doctor’s catch phrases, like in this clip from Tomb of the Cybermen.

“There are some moments in time that I simply can’t see” This is a new take on the old reliable “Fixed Point”, where crucial points in history exist, chronal tipping points that cannot be changed.  But here, rather than just walking away, here he forces three humans to make a choice that will damn the world, either physically, or by making them party to genocide.

“My Gran used to put things on tumblr” There actually is a girl named Courtney Woods with an account on tumblr, and I expect she’s getting an amazing increase in traffic right now.  The Doctor Who tumblr community is amazingly vast and creative, featuring animation, art and filk music.  It’s neat we’re finally getting a shout out.

“The last time you said that, she turned up on the wrong side of the planet!” – Clara is referring to the events of Cold War, where the TARDIS popped off to the south pole because The Doctor turned on the HADS, or Hostile Action Displacement System.

“There’s some DVDs in the blue bookshelf – just stinck on in the TARDIS console, it’ll bring you to me” There are exactly seventeen DVD titles containing the program that will automatically return the TARDIS to The Doctor’s location.  They are the seventeen DVDs owned by Sally Sparrow, as revealed in the classic Blink.

“We didn’t nip out after pudding and kill Hitler” River Song, or rather Mels certainly tried that one time.

“Turn your lights off” – Real world physics get in the way here. Luckily, when they see the moon from Earth at the end of the episode, it’s full, which means it’d be behind the Earth. That’s backed up by the fact that the Moon is fully lit throughout the episode. This means when they were looking at the Earth, they’d be looking at the side in night   If they were on the other side, they’d never be able to see the lights. But unless my math is wrong, 45 minutes is not close to enough time for the light-up votes of the entire Earth to be seen – only an additional sliver of the Earth’s circumference would com around.

“Mind your language, please – there are children present” I count one child. Whoever could The Doctor be referring to in the plural? Patronizing, indeed.

“You made your decision…humanity made its choice” Assuming the vote is the same on the bright side, the Earth chose to kill a beautiful and innocent creature to save themselves.  That’s more than a bit similar to the choice the denizens of Britain made when they built the Starship UK in The Beast Below. Considering they made themselves all forget they did it then, maybe that’s a viable explanation why it’s so rarely mentioned in future history.

“Not bad for a girl from Coal Hill School” I for one am perfectly ready for Courtney Woods to come on full time as a companion.  We’re seeing her make a massive change in just these two episodes.  She’s not well educated, she’s an average kid.  And as such is a more perfect avatar for the viewer than any of the adult companions we’ve seen in the entire new series.  Companions are often younger in the comics for that reason. It’s likely the extra issues of a minor working on a TV show, especially one as intensive as Doctor Who that precludes such a casting choice, but for a girl for this this is her first professional acting job, Ellis George is more than up for it.

BIG BAD WOLF REPORT – Clara’s arc is once again the only one furthered this week.  The blowout argument with The Doctor, combined with the heart-to-heart with Danny, certainly points towards a change of affiliation in the future.

“It’s time to take the stabilizers off your bike” there may be two levels of action happening here.  The Doctor is forcing Clara to make a staggering decision.  He is also causing a rift in their relationship.  What are the odds that this is another attempt to push Clara to safety?  It’s plainly obvious that Clara will do everything in her power to help The Doctor – she hung onto the outside of the TARDIS for an eyes-open trip through the time vortex in The Time of the Doctor. She’s already spent an unknown amount of time racing through his timeline, fixing what The Great Intelligence set wrong.  Perhaps he knows she deserves a rest, and knows the only way she’d leave is if he all but pushes her away.  As here, The Doctor is forcing Clara to make a massive choice.

“You wanna have babies?” Courtney’s teasing mention of Danny is spot on.  Assuming he’s not something Clever and surprising from Moffat’s dark evil heart, the budding relationship between Danny and Clara is almost a certainty.  There’s not much that could stop it – death, perhaps, or as mentioned, an inability to leave The Doctor.

“I’ve got Grey areas” “Yeah, I noticed” It sure sounds like a hair joke, but on further rumination, it’s pretty clear Clara is talking about the grey areas in The Doctor’s personality.  This is an extension of that first question – “Am I a good man?”

Clara Doctor copperfield
That’s the quote from David Copperfield on Clara’s board. Once again, the choices of quotes Clara selects are amazingly prescient.

“I had a really bad day” – Yes, there’s absolutely a very big story to be told here, and there’s still a chance it may not be a good one for Clara and their relationship.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – The Doctor tests the little grey cells.  Mummy on the Orient Express, coming this Saturday.

New Who Review – “Time Heist”

“Are you in or out?”

The Doctor and Clara wake in the company of two strangers and are quickly told they are to rob a bank.  Everything is planned so well, almost as if the planner knows what’s going to happen, that The Doctor quickly realizes that this isn’t a mere bank heist, but a…

By Steve Thompson and Steven Moffat
Directed by Douglas MacKinnon

The Bank of Karabraxos is the single most secure bank in human history.  A loyal staff, redundant security systems, and a guard dog that literally smells guilt in the customers.  When The Doctor picks up the phone of the TARDIS and suddenly recovers from a blackout in a strange room with two criminals, it’s too tantalizing not to move ahead with.  Being chased by the bank’s security at all times, the quartet must breach unbreachable security, all the while not actually know what they’re supposed to steal.

A solid thriller with questions and puzzles all the way through.  Once again, the idea of breaking into the perfect bank is not new, but with the right character work and a delightful twist at the end, it works wonderfully.

GUEST STAR REPORTKeeley Hawes (Ms. Delphox, Mme. Karabraxos ) is best known to genre fans as the voice of Lara Croft in seven games to date over nearly ten years.  She’s played Lady Agnes Holland on the new version of Upstairs Downstairs, and DI Alex Drake on Ashes to Ashes, the sequel to Life on Mars.

Jonathan Bailey (Pai) appeared with David Tennant in the murder procedural Broadchurch and had the titles role in Leonardo.

THE MONSTER FILESThe Teller is a magnificent beast, both in design and ability.  Unlike a number of creatures in the new series, it was made with practical effects, which meant it was on set with the actors and they didn’t have to imagine what it looked like.  Like the Crooked Man from Hide, the being was driven by the loss of its mate, and once they were reunited, its rage and malice abated.  There have been plenty of telepathic species in the show, though few with such a weaponized form.  The Sensorites could affect the minds of other beings, and their planetary neighbors the Ood could communicate at amazing distances from each other.


THE FACES OF THOSE HE’S WRONGED FLOAT UP AT HIM – In that fast flip of hardened criminals, more than a few recognizable faces can be seen.  There was a Sensorite from the Hartnell adventure, a Tereliptil from the Davison years, an Ice Warrior, a group of Slitheen, and a Weevil and John Hart from Torchwood. But most interesting is a character from the Doctor Who comics – Absalom Daak, Dalek Killer. Created by Steve Moore and Steve Dillon, Daak enjoyed a long run in the Doctor Who Weekly.

BECAUSE IT ORBITS URANUS AND LOOKS FOR KLINGONS – One of the treasures in Madame Karabraxos’ vault is quite valuable to episode director Douglas MacKinnon.  It’s a rocket ship made from a toilet paper tube, made for him by her daughter for Christmas.

ONE CAN DO THE WORK OF TWO – They only made one Teller suit.  Even the last scene as they walk away was a double-exposure, the suit actor playing both the male and female.

“It’s a memory worm” – First seen in The Snowmen, the memory worm is a creature whose slimy coating has the defensive ability to erase the past hour of memory from any being who touches it.  In the aforementioned adventure, Sontaran Strax keeps touching it, as he is a boob.  Here, they’re used to erase the memories of The Doctor’s gang (he has a gang now) before beginning their little expedition.  The effects of the worms seem to have changed a bit, or at least clarified – here it’s shown that the memories are not erased as much as blocked. Not exactly a big change, and effectively no difference when attempting to get away from a predator.

“Why are we not using the TARDIS?” – It’s always fun to get to answer the questions the viewer are already thinking of.  Let’s them know you’re a step ahead.  Solar Storms affected the navigation of the TARDIS in The Rebel Flash, so there’s precedent for keeping away from the interference.  Of course, as we’ll find out later, there’s a more ulterior motive for not using it – to make things more fun.

“He’s gone already, it’s over” – Once again, while the Tennant or Smith incarnations would sweat and suffer over not being able to save someone they’ve not even met, this Doctor is a pragmatist.  Even when it looks like their own compatriots are killed, he moves forward, eyes on the prize. Of course, one could note that Clara seems to have rather quickly gotten over the loss of Psi and Saibra once that big tantalizing vault opens.

“Basically, it’s the eyebrows” – Not to mention the air of knowledge and authority The Doctor gives off.  He uses a trick yr. obt. svt. uses whenever he can – act like you’re supposed to be there.  Nine times out of ten, people take your unspoken word for it, and follow your lead.

“You can delete your memories?” – Psi’s story is somewhat of a mirror to Captain Jack Harkness’ original backstory, which has since been somewhat forgotten.  While a Time Agent, he had a large part of his memories deleted, and was trying to find who did it, and if possible recover them.

“Don’t think” – Once again, a simple act is made scary. From trying not to Blink, to Clara having to hold her breath at the beginning of the season to trying not to think of anything here, they’re all things that the viewer can’t help but trying not to do along with her as they watch. We can only hope that nobody thought of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

“It’s a neophyte circuit – I’ve only ever seen one once before” – And I’ll lay odds this is the same one. The Doctor set this entire adventure up – the request from Madame Karabraxos could have been done any number of ways, but he chose to set it up in a way that would not only be the most interesting for himself and Clara, but to help cure/repair two people who he’d clearly never met before he did his research and found them.

“I hate the Architect!” – The theme of the episode is the idea of not being able to trust, or even stand, someone who looked exactly like you.  It’s why Saibra couldn’t touch anyone (“Could you trust someone who looked like you, out of your own eyes?”), it’s why Madame Karabraxos’ relationship with her cloned employees was to tense, and why The Doctor thought The Architect was such a bossy prat.  At that point he didn’t know he’d planned all this, he only suspected, based on an analysis of the mysterious man’s personality.  It’s not the first time he’s displayed such a low opinion of himself – once he realizes who the Dream Lord was in Amy’s Choice,  he said there was only one person in the universe who could hate him that much.

BIG BAD WOLF REPORT – Not much mention of the plot in this episode, save for a brief appearance by Danny Pink, who is certainly (OK, hopefully) not the Big Bad, but is certainly setting up to be important to Clara.

“I’m giving you my telephone number” – At the beginning of the episode, The Doctor once again mentions that there’s only a handful of people who has the phone number to the TARDIS, including a mysterious lady in a shop who gave it to Clara back in The Bells of St. John.  Madame Karakraxos is now a member of that group, which also includes most of of The Doctor’s recent companions (like Martha Jones who used it to call him to stop The Sontaran Stratagem), Winston Churchill (from well before Victory of the Daleks) and, apparently, Marilyn Monroe, whose marriage to The Doctor did not count.  And apparently, he’s STILL been too busy to re-route the line to the control panel, as he asked Handles to remind him to do.

“Beat that for a date” – And right there, all the questions about “Why would The Doctor go through all that rigmarole” are answered.  He set the whole thing up as a game to give himself and Clara something to do that day.  In DC Comics, wealthy socialite Sue Dearborn Dibny would get the ultimate Birthday present for her husband, Ralph Dibny, AKA The Elongated Man.  She would set up an elaborate mystery game for him, usually with the assistance of other members of the Justice League, to give him an adventure he’d not soon forget. It’s entirely likely that’s the motivation for The Doctor here.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – Clara tries to give Danny more of her time, but The Doctor finds a problem that needs solving by any means necessary.  The Caretaker starts his new job this Saturday

Nick Frost Tops Doctor Who Christmas Special Guest List

Confirming recently circulating rumors, the BBC announced today that Nick Frost will guest-star in this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special.

Nick comments: “I’m so thrilled to have been asked to guest in the Doctor Who Christmas special, I’m such a fan of the show. The read-through was very difficult for me; I wanted to keep stuffing my fingers into my ears and scream “No spoilers!” Every day on set I’ve had to silence my internal fan boy squeals!”

Nick’s frequent partner in crime Simon Pegg appeared in the Eccleston adventure The Long Game as the Editor of Satellite Five, and servant of the Mighty Jagrafess of the Editor-in-Chief, the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe (And yes, I used cut and paste, there’s none of us perfect). Other members of the Pegg / Frost / Edgar Wright repertory company who have appeared on the series include Michael Smiley in Into the Dalek and Jessica Hynes as Verity Newman in Human Nature, and again as Verity’s descendant Joan Redfern in The End of Time.

Michael Troughton, son of Patrick (a.k.a. Doctor Two)  will appear in the special as well,  making a return to a long acting career after a break from 2002 to care for his wife, who suffered from MS. During the break he also earned a degree in science.  Michael may be best know in the US for his role in The New Statesman against former Young One Rik Mayall.  This marks his first on-camera appearance on Doctor Who – he drove a Dalek in one of father’s adventures. Michael ‘s brother David has made a number of appearances on the show, most recently as Professor Hobbes in Midnight.

They will be joined by Natalie Gumede (Coronation Street, Ideal, Strictly Come Dancing), Faye Marsay (Pride, The White Queen, Fresh Meat) and Nathan McMullen (Misfits, Casualty).

Steven Moffat, lead writer and executive producer, says: “Frost at Christmas – it just makes sense! I worked with Nick on the Tintin movie many years ago and it’s a real pleasure to lure him back to television for a ride on the TARDIS.”

The Doctor Who Christmas special will air on BBC America. Written by Steven Moffat and directed by Paul Wilmshurst (Strike Back, Combat Kids), it will be shot in Cardiff at BBC Wales Roath Lock Studios.

New Who Review – “Listen”

“The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…”

The idea is so close to implausible, it only makes it more plausible.  What if there really is someone in the shadows?  What if that isn’t just a passing breeze across the back of your neck?  What if there is something under the bed?

The Doctor is unreasonably convinced of something, Clara is a non-stop chatterbox on dates, and Danny Pink’s real name is Rupert.  And if you want to learn more, you have to not be worried about spoilers, and just…

By Steven Moffat
Directed by Douglas MacKinnon

The Doctor is roaming about the TARDIS alone (we assume) slowly convincing himself of a patently ridiculous concept – the idea that there are invisible creatures who follow people around, and it’s they were are talking to when we are alone, and talking to ourselves.  He’s doing quite a good job of it.  Meanwhile, Clara has met new teacher and former soldier Danny Pink for drinks and dinner, and she’s done a proper mess of it.  So when The Doctor picks her up to investigate his theory, her slight distraction causes The Doctor’s experiment to go awry – specifically in the sense of the subject.  They travel back, not to her childhood, but Danny Pink’s, who is having a bad dream…possibly…in his room at an orphanage.  The adventure proceeds to other members of Danny’s family, the end of time, and a barn that we didn’t know we’d seen before.

For all the things people like to say about Moffat (mostly bad), when he gets it right, it’s almost unholy how good it is.  By going back to the ideas he loves to hit – making something commonplace patently terrifying – he’s made another classic.  He’s like the boorish boyfriend who eats all your spinach dip and leaves the seat up, and you wander why you’re going out with him, but then he shows up with flowers, puts exactly the right song on the stereo, and you remember.

THE MONSTER FILES – There’s quite a bit of argument if there was any monster in the episode at all, but the concepts touched on are very much a recurring theme for Steven Moffat.  The idea of there really being something under the bed was first touched on in The Girl in the Fireplace, where The Doctor first tries to protect young Reinette.  Things in the dark became the Vashta Nerada in Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead.  The Silence and Prisoner Zero are both examples of beings you only see out of the corner of your eye.  And they ALL started in a prose story of the same name Steven wrote in 2006.  “Corner of the Eye” was a story for The Doctor Who Storybook 2007, and introduced us to the Floofs, a race who, exactly as The Doctor has theorized, evolved to be perfect hiders, so much so there’s no record of their existence.

The out of focus figure we see in Young Rupert’s room seems to match the description in the story, that of a short bald humanoid.  But again, the story is left tantalizingly nebulous enough that yeah, it could have been one of the other kids.  Note that every other seeming example of “evidence” is (potentially) explained – the chalk just rolled off the book, The Doctor took the coffee, etc.

Oh, yes, the TV…I forgot about that one…

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details

The quote that starts this article is the first (and last) line of the story “Knock”, written by Fredric Brown.  It’s based on a nugget of an idea found in the notes of novelist Thomas Bailey Aldrich,  One could draw comparisons between it any any number of classic sci-fi and horror stories involving Armageddon and such things. the first adaptation of Matheson’s I Am Legend was literally called The Last Man on Earth. 

“TARDIS telepathic interface” – This is one of the sections of the control panel that was redesigned for the new series and Doctor.  Aside from the new bits on the walls, the control panel was made much sturdier, built to last.

“…to the moment of your death” – This is a dark version of the conversation Clara had with Strax in Deep Breath – he saw all the “young men doing sport” in her subconscious, and was about to announce her age at death, were like here, she stopped him abruptly.  Two scene where Clara doesn’t want to know about her death.  That leaves one more before we can declare it enemy action.

“Isn’t it bad if I meet myself?” – It caused the church where Rose’s parents were attending a wedding to be sealed off from reality when she held herself as a baby in Father’s Day. There’s been a number of moments where The Doctor and/or one of his companions met and even spoke to each other for a few moments, but most of them were within, or in the proximity of the TARDIS, which likely prevented any timey-explodey results.

“Your door must be faulty” – This is the first appearance of the psychic paper in this series.  That, combined with the relative absence of the Sonic Screwdriver is another sign of the rules of the show changing.  People were getting quite upset with the two items being used like magic wands at every opportunity.  Save for the over the top uses last week, we’ve seen the Screwdriver used much more sparingly, and more back to its initial (for the new series anyway) job of opening doors and assembling/dissembling wiring and the like.

“Wally…he’s nowhere in this book” – In England, the character we know as Waldo is called Wally.  And the idea that there’s an unseen character in every book is a hilarious microcosm of the plot of this episode.

“Turn your back on him” – This is The Doctor’s first conversation with a child in this incarnation, something that as a rule he’s well known for.  He’s kind and helpful, but hidden behind the pep talk is just a desire to get your Rupert to be brave enough to turn around.  Once again, true motives disguised by flowery prose.  Perhaps not changed too much.

FEAR WOULD BE THE MAIN PROPULSION – The Doctor’s speech about fear is perfectly correct – the fight-or-flight mechanism has gotten humanity out of a lot of jams.

“Once upon a time…The End” – aaaand piano. This is the response The Doctor was expecting when Vastra asked him to project an image of perfect calm into her mind Deep Breath.

“Mind you…Rupert Pink” – Could you hear the glass dropping in the background? Perfect sound design.

“Last Man Standing in the universe – I always thought that’d be me” – As with the Who’d Die Last contest last week, we’re seeing a lot more of The Doctor’s competitive nature coming out.

“DO AS YOU ARE TOLD!” – That’s what The Doctor’s friends do, as pointed out by River Song.

“It’s not a plan, it’s a thing” – The Doctor has a Thing in Vincent and the Doctor, which he described as “Like a plan, but with more greatness”

“This is just a dream” – The Doctor spent a long time talking to the young Amy Pond in her sleep at the end of The Big Bang, telling her about his life and how grand it’ll be.  Clara spends her whole life saving The Doctor over and over – now we know it started quite early.

BIG BAD WOLF REPORT – The advance of the season’s narrative was much more in the further introduction of Mr. Danny Pink.  He’s clearly a very sensitive man, as in he’s sensitive about his past, and reads too much into things said to him.  Also, he seems to be all thumbs and elbows when talking to Clara, and she to him, usually a sure sign that a pair are going to become a couple.  The

“Family stuff” – But we learned in this episode…Danny’s an orphan.

“Make a promise…you’re never going to look” – These events as a kid can color your experiences in your future. Both psychiatrists and readers of Dianetics believe that.  Remembering it or not, Dan the Soldier Man got quite a kick in a particular direction this evening.

A soldier so brave he doesn’t need a gun.. He  can keep the whole world safe” – Clara, in her Victorian iteration, once told a fairy tale about a man who rides around on a cloud in the sky keeping everyone safe.  Clara is very good at making people feel protected.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – To break into the best bank, you need to assemble the best crew.  By any means necessary. Time Heist, coming up this Saturday.

New Who Review – “Robot of Sherwood”

Robot Hood, Robot Hood, riding through the glen,
Robot Hood, Robot Hood, and his band of men…

Clara wants to meet someone legendary, The Doctor tells her they’re all made up, so when he actually shows up, The Doctor is convinced he’s a…

By Mark Gatiss
Directed by Paul Murphy

Clara admits she’s always wanted to meet Robin Hood, who The Doctor waves off as merely a legend.  But as we’ve learned, one does not simply tell Clara Oswald she can’t have something, so off they go to Sherwood.  The Doctor is shocked to discover Robin Hood show up and attempt to appropriate his conveyance.  The Doctor is naturally convinced this is all a trick or plot of some type.  He is at once right, and wrong.  There is a plot, but it’s on the part of the (also real) Sheriff of Nottingham, who has allied himself with a race of robotic spacefarers whose ship is secreted within his castle.  The district-wide canvassing for gold is to built circuitry for the alien craft, to allow it to generate enough power to take off, from which the Sheriff will (dare I say it) rule the world.

The episode is simply too charming and funny to call it anything from a delight.  The dialogue, especially the pissing contests between The Doctor and Robin are hilarious, and for of his claims that he hates banter, The Doctor is very good at it.

At its core, however, it’s far too similar to the series opener – a spaceship, lost in time, crashing to earth and needing help from the locals to take off again, albeit the stuff it needs to repair itself is a bit different.

THE MONSTER FILES – The Robot Knights are more of a minion than a monster, but they’re far from the first.  From The Robots of Death to the Heavenly Host in Voyage of the Damned, they’re powerful and useful.


Tom Riley (Robin Hood) is known for playing another historical figure; Leonardo Da Vinci on the show Da Vinci’s Demons,.and Oh My God he was in the second St Trinian’s movie as well, a film whose venn diagram with Doctor Who is rapidly approaching a single circle.

Ben Miller (Sheriff of Nottingham) looked way too much like The Master for it to have been anything but a massive in-joke by the crew.  He was going to be a physicist before he met Alexander Armstrong, with whom he went off to start a very successful career in comedy.  He played Johnny English’s assistant Bough in the first film, and appeared

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details

A PICTURE IS WORTH… – That one photograph in the middle of the montage of interpretations of Robin in the alien computer?


Yeah, that was Patrick Troughton.  before he was the second Doctor, he was the first person to play Robin Hood on television.

 WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO CUT THIS ONE SHORT – This episode originally featured a scene of a beheading, specifically, that of the Sheriff of Nottingham, who is as a result revealed as a cyborg (and presumably puts the head right back on).  Due to recent events featuring actual beheadings of two journalists by terrorists in the Middle East, it was decided such a scene might be traumatic to some, and the scene was edited.  However, the episode also featured a robot’s head being severed and falling to the floor, not to mention The Doctor joking about the idea of Robin Hood’s head still laughing after it was removed from his neck, so clearly the desire to avoid triggering was somewhat limited.

“Old fashioned heroes only exist in old fashioned storybooks” – And that right there is the theme of the episode.  What happens to Robert of Loxley – to sink into myth and legend – is exactly what The Doctor tried to do to himself in the previous season.  He attempted to erase himself from history and all the databases in the universe.  He naturally had a harder time of it as while Robin Hood only operated for a few years, tops, in one area of England, The Doctor has been poking it in and shaking it all about all over the universe throughout time.

“What about Mars?  The Ice warrior Hives!” – Clara met the Ice Warriors last season in Cold War, and The Doctor of course met them a few times before.

“…or we might be inside a Miniscope!” – The Miniscope is a device designed to allow appreciative audiences to observe the activities of captive (tho unaware of same) beings in a miniaturized and sealed natural environment. The Doctor and Jo Grant were briefly trapped in one in the adventure Carnival of Monsters.

“And this is my spoon” – The Seventh Doctor played the spoons, though he didn’t use them in the more defensive manner he did here.  This scene is much more a Robin Hood reference than anything else – it’s a tip of the hat to the iconic quarterstaff(*) battle between Robin Hood and Little John, as portrayed in too many iterations of the tale to count.

“I’ve had some experience –Richard the Lionheart” – Indeed he has – back in the first Doctor’s adventure The Crusade.  The story was preceded by The Web Planet, the last episode of which had been recovered from a Middle Eastern broadcaster. As a result, it was edited to not include the “next episode” card for The Crusade, as for obvious reasons, that episode was not sold to the Middle East.

“Hai!” – Another callback to the Pertwee era, The Doctor strikes Robin with a Venusian Akido blow.

“Who will rid me of this turbulent Doctor?” – Henry II, King of England once famously asked “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” in reference to Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.

BIG BAD WOLF REPORT – Further increasing the similarities to this episode and Deep Breath, this alien ship is also heading for “The Promised Land”, just as the main Clockwork Droid said he was aiming to reach in the earlier episode.  While we don’t see Missy back, The Doctor did notice the similarity.  What’s interesting is that The Doctor assumed the Droid was speaking metaphorically, based on the humanity he’d picked up over the years, but this ship had a course set for it, as if it were a physical location.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – …and gentle be present…to all you’ve ever close kept in your loving heart.  Listen, coming up this Saturday.

* – “Actually, it’s a buck-and-a-quarter quarterstaff, but I’m not teillin’ HIM that…”

New Who Review – “Into the Dalek”

“Demons run when a Good Man goes to war,” went the ancient line.  But the problem is, The Doctor is no longer sure he’s a good man.  Further problem is, neither is Clara.  So The Doctor’s not quite sure what he’s going to do when he’s invited to go…

By Phil Ford and Steven Moffat
Directed by Ben Wheatley

Human rebel fighter Journey Blue is about to have her ship destroyed by a Dalek saucer when The Doctor saves her by materializing the ship around her, a move for which he expects and demands a thank you.  Returning her back to her command ship, he’s quickly arrested, until Journey tells them he’s a Doctor…which is lucky because they have a patient.  The patient is a Dalek, who is malfunctioning.  As in, it has become good – it is raving that the Daleks must be defeated.

The Doctor retrieves Clara, who is on Earth, having just met Danny Pink, new teacher at Coal Hill School.  The Doctor and his companion are miniaturized so they can physically enter the wounded Dalek and fix it.  The Dalek is suffering from a radiation leak in its power source that was causing its mind to open to new ideas.  Witnessing the birth of a star, it recognized it as beautiful and had a epiphany.  Life will win – no matter how many stars the Daleks have destroyed, new ones are born, in greater number.  The Doctor has a fleeting hope that if he could heal this Dalek and still keep it “good,” he could turn the tide of the future.

Alas, once the radiation leak is fixed, the Dalek’s systems come back on line and it reverts to form.  But Clara insists there more they can do, and with the help of a couple of clever things, they attempt to awaken the goodness this Dalek experienced for just a moment of its horrific life.

All told, and episode that came close to some great moments, but mostly. only close.  It was a story that served to illuminate the relationship between The Doctor and The Daleks in a new way, a connection that deserved a few more lines than it got.  It opened up a possibility for a couple of returning characters, and showed us more of The Doctor’s new, cold demeanor.  I enjoyed it, but it could have been so much more.

THE MONSTER FILES – It’s the Daleks.  You could walk up to any drunken Sterno bum in the UK and they could tell you who they are.  At this point, a fair amount of American bums could.  Bork on Skaro as the end result of a war of attrition between the Kaleds and the Thals, battle-scarred scientist Davros mutated sample of his people’s DNA into what he declared was their final, perfect form (a tentacled blob of flesh that hates everybody) and put them into wee, almost indestructible tanks.

The Doctor met the Daleks in his second televised adventure, and there’s little argument that Terry nation’s creation was what sent the popularity of the show into orbit.  They’ve been back too many times to try to calculate.  The show tried to stop using them twice, once in a story that somewhat paralleled this one, but the allure of such a perfect enemy (not to mention the requisite ratings) is ever too tempting.

WELL EXCUUUUUSE ME – The Daleks almost didn’t make it into the new series, and it’s all comedian Steve Martin’s fault.  He was to appear in Looney Tunes: Back in Action as the head of the Acme Corporation.  There’s a scene in a secret government base where a bunch of aliens escape and wreak havoc.  Being a big Doctor Who fan, Steve thought it would be funny if one of them was a Dalek.  Warner Bros contacted the BBC for permission, and someone at the BBC gave it.  Problem: the BBC don’t own the Daleks, the Terry Nation estate does (Insert long tirade about how much better creators’ rights are handled in other countries here).

The estate was very put out that this was done, and a couple years later when the new series was in pre-production, they considered refusing permission to use the iconic monsters.  Steve Martin wrote a letter to the executors of the estate, personally apologizing for the mess-up.  The estate relented, and The Doctor got to face his greatest enemy again. And again.

The Dalek antibodies are technically the new monster for the episode, and they serve the same purpose as ones in a human body do – stopping invading organisms from damaging anything.  We saw antibody machines in the Teselecta in Let’s Kill Hitler, serving largely the same purpose they did here – to provide an additional threat.  The City of the Exxilons created antibodies to protect itself in the Pertwee adventure Death to the Daleks.

GUEST STAR REPORT  – Phil Ford (Co-writer) has a long history with the new series. He wrote the animated adventure Dreamland, as well as the Tennant adventure Waters of Mars. When Russell T Davies began The Sarah Jane Adventures, Phil worked with him, moving up to head writer for series 2.  He’s most recently worked with RTD on Wizards vs Aliens.  He was also the main writer for the recent CGI remake of classic Supermarionation series Captain Scarlet.

Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink) like most British actors (remember, there’s only 47 of them) has an interesting Venn diagram with other Doctor Who stars.  He was on Emmerdale which also featured Jenna Coleman, and Gavin and Stacey which starred James Corden, a.k.a. Craig Owens from The Lodger and Closing Time.

Michael Smiley (Colonel Morgan Blue) has appeared in several of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s collaborations, including Spaced and two third of the Cornetto Trilogy.  He was Benny Deadhead on Luther, and was in BBC America’s series Ripper Street.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details

“Good idea for a movie” – Hanging a lampshade on a classic trope takes the curse off it.  Aside from the obvious, the Fantastic Voyage (and Innerspace) plot has been done on almost every science fiction show you can think of, not to mention plenty of cartoon series.  Heck, it’s been done on the show already: The Doctor was able to shrink clones of himself and Leela into his own brain to fight The Invisible Enemy, and fellow Time Lord Drax shrinks himself and The Doctor in The Armageddon Factor.  Just a little way back the Teselecta had a crew of shrunken humans  as it caught criminals through time.

“He was dead already” – This is another aspect of the more “alien” feel of the new Doctor. Gone, gone is the “I’m so sorry” mindset of Tennant who would sturm and drang over each being he couldn’t save, this Doctor is pragmatic, to point of being callous.

“I saw beauty” – in the adventure Asylum of the Daleks, we learned that the Daleks see beauty in hatred.  “Perhaps that is why we has always had trouble killing you,” the leader Dalek then theorized.  This Dalek saw what it recognized as true beauty in the birth of a star, but at the end of the episode, it sees the hatred The Doctor has for the Daleks, and his head is turned again to that which he has recognized as beauty for so long.

“The Doctor is not the Daleks” – This moment, and this scene, really needed a bit more emphasis.  As I’ve said before, The Daleks largely defined what kind of show Doctor Who was to be.  Sydney Newman had a “No bug-eyed-monsters” ban on the show, initially seeing the series as educational in nature, visiting historical moments to teach history of a sort to kids.  Once The Daleks hit as big as they did, the focus of the show shifted, away from the pure historical adventures and on to the fantastic.  It’s in this speech that that “definition” of The Doctor is applied to the character as well.  It acknowledges that before meeting the Daleks, The Doctor didn’t know what he wanted to do, or what kind of person he wanted to be.  He realized if there was an evil this great in the world, there had to be a good that great to combat it.

“You are a good Dalek” – The sheer hatred The Doctor has for the Daleks was made clear in the Eccleston episode Dalek.  In it, the lone Dalek in Henry van Statten’s collection listens to The Doctor’s wish that it “just die” and says “You would make a good Dalek.”

The parallels between that episode and this are numerous – a lone Dalek, broken and damaged, repaired by The Doctor (or Rose in the first of the two) and then being forced to combat it.  Both point out exactly how powerful a single Dalek is.

“If I can turn one Dalek, I can turn all of them. I can save the future.” –This is not the first time The Doctor has tried something like this.  In The Evil of the Daleks, The Doctor is pressed into finding the “Human Factor,” the mysterious brew of ingenuity, creativity and will to succeed that if added to the Dalek mind, would render them able to win any fight.  The Doctor, however, injects (infects, if you will) a series of Daleks with the human attributes of freedom, the desire to question authority and a grasp of justice, creating an army of  “Human Daleks” which immediately begin fighting with the “real” Daleks, a battle that The Doctor called “The final end.”  Indeed, it was supposed to be – that was supposed to be the last Dalek story, and it was for about five years, into the Pertwee years.  Genesis of the Daleks was also intended to be a “final” Dalek story, and like Evil, started a multi-year Dalek-free period, ending with Destiny of the Daleks.

“Gretchen Alison Carlisle. Do something good and name it after me.”


And henceforth, this Dalek’s name is Gretchen Alison Carlisle.

“I just wish you hadn’t been a soldier” – The Doctor’s disdain for soldiers and the military mindset was set in stone back in the Pertwee years.  He would constantly mock the small-minded literalness of soldiers, most members of UNIT, and The Brigadier in particular.  Tennant got a bunch of good digs in during The Sontaran Stratagem.  Tying into the cold nature of this new Doctor, his disdain is much more absolute.

BIG BAD WOLF REPORT – Missy is back, here meeting brave soldier Gretchen for a splosh of tea.  So the initial thought that she’s collecting The Doctor’s enemies is incorrect.  It now appears she’s collecting people who have died because of The Doctor.  While the jury is still out on whether the clockwork droid died at his own hand in last week’s adventure, Gretchen clearly sacrificed herself to make sure The Doctor’s plan worked.

Near the end of Tennant’s run, The Doctor is thinking about his life while chatting in a cafe with Wilfrid Mott (Bernard Cribbins).  “I’ve killed,” he said “But then I got clever – I convinced people to kill themselves.”  What we are seeing here are people who are the victims of The Doctor’s cleverness.  Depending on which side Missy is on, both of these people so far could be talked into believing they were responsible for saving the lives of countless people by a hero, or that they were callously killed by a madman.

“I thought you might have a rule against soldiers” – Clara clearly doesn’t, but one wonders how much this budding relationship with Danny Pink will be colored and affected by The Doctor and his mindset against soldiers.  Danny will be playing a much more active role in the proceedings in the near future; it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll be more of an Ian Chesterton type of fellow on the TARDIS… or a Turlough.

– NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO Don’t you worry, never fear –  Robot of Sherwood will soon be here, namely this weekend.

Doctor Who Minecraft on Xbox. DOCTOR! WHO! MINECRAFT! ON! XBOX!

One of the most popular virtual building blocks games ever is about to get more timey-wimey.  BBC Worldwide and Mojang announced today the first of a series of official Doctor Who add-on packs for Minecraft on Xbox devices.

The first pack, due in September and priced at $2.99 in the U.S. (or £1.99/€2.85/$2.95AUS) – will include a character inspired by the Twelfth Doctor as well as five other Doctors, each of their on-screen companions and some of the Doctor’s most well known adversaries including his arch-nemeses, the Daleks.

The deal will bring more packs as time goes on, introducing many of the most recognizable characters from the past 50 years of Doctor Who. Each skin pack will feature at least six Doctors and will be released regularly following the broadcast of the first episode.

Rikesh Desai, Digital Entertainment and Games Director at BBC Worldwide UK, says, “We’re constantly looking for new and innovative ways to bring Doctor Who content to our loyal fans. Working collaboratively with Microsoft, we’ve created an exciting new product which will allow Doctor Who fans to create their own brand new adventures in the heart of the iconic world of Minecraft.”


If you can’t dig up Dalekanium blocks with a diamond Sonic Screwdriver, I quit the Internet forever.

After years of custom mods and fan-made designs, Doctor Who has been seeing increasing official representation in games and other electronic media.  The strategy-based tablet game Doctor Who: Legacy has just added the Twelfth Doctor to the game, as well as numerous characters and costumes from the new series.  Sony‘s Playstation platform features Doctor Who-related areas and props for its online virtual world Playstation Home.

Now, if we can finally see some official costume packs in Little Big Planet, I’ll be set. Hop to it, Beeb.