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Oxygen review: This series just gets better and better

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Well, this is slightly late.

In my feeble defense I have been doing exams and fortunately we have a three parter coming up so I can take a break from writing until the Monk story is finished. For now though, we have the best story in the series so far and the best in the show overall since probably Heaven Sent or Flatline.

This is just a spectacular episode in every way. For the first time this series the characters were in real danger and the tension was brilliant. There’s just a sense that the characters could die at any point and thanks to the brilliant final reveal this story has a lasting effect on the Doctor. Finally, the danger of the Whoniverse is back.

Look at this. Just look at this. This is such an awesome ship.

Even the mere premise is genius. The idea of oxygen as money is a fascinating idea similar to the ideas of Sleep No More last series, however Jamie Mathieson actually utilised his ideas well and incorporated them into the story without making the episode any less entertaining or tense. Doctor Who has done satire before- The Sun Makers springs to mind immediately- but New Who doing a very topical satire attacking capitalism (although the writers of Doctor Who didn’t know there would be an upcoming election otherwise we’d have a Peladon story) is not something that happens often. Unlike Kill the Moon, which stopped being a Troughton-esque base under siege halfway through, Oxygen never loses sight of the space zombies or the scares.

Wow, I’ve gone about the themes but haven’t even discussed the characters yet. This is easily the best the Twelfth Doctor has been since the Zygon two parter (like the Third Doctor, Twelve seems to fire on all cylinders during political scripts). He’s funny, cold, serious and most importantly, vulnerable. Even before he’s blind he is out of his comfort zone with no TARDIS and no sonic. After he is blind, the story’s stakes are raised to an even higher degree than before. It’s just like 42, where David Tennant being possessed by Toraji gave the episode a dramatic edge which made for truly compelling viewing. There is a reason Oxygen is so tense in the second half and that’s due to the vulnerability the Doctor is in. This episode also demonstrates one of the Doctor’s best aspects- his willingness to help anyone regardless of who they are.

The Doctor’s ability to survive in space has been established before but there’s never been consequences.

The companions were also on top form. This is Nardole’s first true adventure as a companion since the Christmas special and he worked very well in the already established Doctor/Bill dynamic. It’s so refreshing to have an alien companion and whilst many people feared Nardole would only be a comedic character, this episode proved them wrong. He has a defined purpose in the team and it looks like he’ll be taking a central role tonight. He’s easily the most unique New Series companion and I hope he sticks around. Bill continued to be the best companion since Donna and I can’t express how good it is to have a companion who experiences fear and can help the audience connect with what’s going on. I snarked whilst watching that she had died after the incredible losing oxygen scene but I honestly feel some kids probably thought she had died. That’s a mark of a great episode, where you care about characters you know will survive.

Honestly, with one exception which I’ll discuss later, I don’t think there was a single problem with the episode. It was perfectly based, the zombies were great (no aliens again but the faceless bureaucrats behind the killings were a great villain) and the direction was fantastic. The opening was perfect, with a scene of two astronauts being picked off by the zombies, setting the scene perfectly for the scares ahead. I personally wasn’t too scared but I can imagine kids being pretty terrified and unlike Knock Knock there was no happy ending. This was hard core sci-fi at its best.

These are the scariest monsters since the Foretold. The fact that they’re human is even scarier.

So, the one problem I had? I think the villain should have been Gus from Mummy on the Orient Express. It would have added continuity, made a great episode even better and solved a loose plot thread. The themes from Oxygen would not have been lost and it would have given the episode a tangible threat. Don’t get me wrong, I love the twist that there was no hack and the suits were just doing what they were programmed to do but Gus could have easily been controlling them. That said, it wasn’t an objective problem and not everyone would have liked that so I admit this is just a personal gripe that doesn’t actually make the episode worse.

What else is there to talk about? I feel I’ve discussed everything…

Oh yeah, the final scene.

What a genius idea this is. Making the Doctor blind will just make the upcoming episodes so much better if Moffat runs with it well. It also makes the question of how Peter Capaldi will regenerate much more interesting. As if the return of Missy and the promise of a three parter wasn’t already enough to hype me for tonight, we now have a blind Doctor and whoever is in the Vault will know that. I thought Knock Knock would be the arc based one whilst this would be standalone but I was completely wrong, as this episode will have lasting consequences on the series, making a fantastic episode even better.

So, a three parter with actual villains and Missy? Sign me up. I’ll be back in early June to tackle the biggest story since Series 3.

Doctor Who Knock Knock review

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We’re a third of the way through the series already- where’s the time gone? To be realistic, the weeks are going slowly due to my upcoming exams (HELP!) and Doctor Who is the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak.

I’ve made it no secret I’ve found this run of episodes to be very strong so far, but much like Series 8 and 9 we’ll have to wait to see if a dud comes around at some point towards the end (let’s hope not). Knock Knock continues the series’s strong run so far, and is reminiscent of stories like Ghost Light and Image of the Fendahl, two of my favourite stories. Whilst not as strong as those stories, this is still a very entertaining and well written addition to the already strong Series 10. It’s probably my favourite so far.

This is the first time this series where the Doctor and Bill are separated and this is where the episode shines. We see how far Bill has come in just four episodes as she basically tells the Doctor to go away and let her live her life, which is great although I’m not a fan of how Steven Moffat always has companions pop in and out of their daily lives. Whilst I like The Caretaker, we really didn’t need another similar episode in Series 10 dealing with the companion’s dual life so I’m glad that wasn’t the focus this week. Scaring children (and my mum who only watched because of David Suchet) and creating an entertaining story was the focus. It wasn’t as character based as last week, but I’m sensing themes and arcs throughout the series I’ll discuss later.

Haunted house, creepy bugs, body horror. This episode truly feels like a Guillermo del Toro film.

The Doctor was again fantastic (let’s hope Mike Bartlett is invited back in Chris Chibnall’s run) and I always love seeing him work independently and with other characters that aren’t the companion. He gets great lines (“Don’t be scared. It doesn’t help”) and I’m enjoying him every week. Thee most interesting aspect of his character is his interactions with whoever’s in the vault, which I’ll get back to later. Overall, another strong outing for the Twelfth Doctor, who is shaping up to be a truly great Doctor in his final series and it only looks better from here.

The best part of the episode for me was the Landlord. He’s the first truly complex villain of the series and I love how by the end of the episode you truly feel sympathy for him despite his villainous actions. His motives are understandable and he really is a tragic figure, as he’s so caught up with keeping his mother alive that he’s forgotten to live a life, in contrast to both the Doctor and Bill who have experienced loss and moved on. We’ve now had two human villains this series and the Landlord is a lot better than Sutcliffe last week. I’d honestly call the Landlord my favourite original villain since House from The Doctor’s Wife. To think I believed him to be a major character in the whole series when he’s just a one-off character.

One major criticism is that I wish all of Bill’s friends stayed dead (morbid I know but a kid died last week) or at least some of them didn’t come back. Maybe they’ll come back later in the series but I just wish there were some deaths in the episode to increase the stakes. Another problem which the episode shares with the rest of the series so far is the slightly rushed ending. The scenes with Eliza are the best of the series so far with brilliant writing, acting and emotion but there isn’t enough to let the emotions sink in before the tease about the vault. There’s also a lack of explanation about where the woodlice creatures come from or the full extent of their powers. The rushed endings have been a constant problem this series and I really wish the episodes were an hour long. There’s a three parter coming and a two part finale so I doubt this will be a constant problem but it’s been a recurring issue so far.

Not the episode’s fault, but I wish the marketing hadn’t given away Eliza in the trailer. It would have made the reveal in the episode terrifying.

A positive element of all the episodes have been the introduction of themes and character arcs I think will be expanded upon later on in the series. The main theme I think so far is about how to move on from loss or trauma, as it’s popped up in every episode so far-

  • The Pilot: Bill has to let go of Heather and the Doctor has to let go of his oath to accept his new companion.
  • Smile: The Vardi cannot let go of the grief that the colonists faced when the oldest member died and see grief as a virus.
  • Thin Ice: One of the main themes of the episode. Bill moves on from her trauma at seeing someone die and the Doctor admits that he moves on all the time.
  • Knock Knock: The Landlord is unable to move on from the promise he makes to his mother.

Could this go anywhere? I think so, and Steven Moffat is smart enough to bring together all the episodes thematically like he did with Series 5, 8 and to an extent 6. I think it could be to do with what’s in the vault, which I think could either be Missy, The Master, the Myrka, Frobisher the Penguin or Susan. Two of those guesses will definitely not be happening.

“And then there was that time when I fought the Abzorbaloff, but we don’t talk about that…”

In conclusion, Knock Knock is a great story that’s better on rewatch once you know what’s going on. I find it far superior to Hide but not as good as the Classic Who stories I mentioned earlier. This week it’s Oxygen, which looks so awesome I’ve decided to not read or watch anything linked with it. I want to go in completely blind.

Doctor Who Series 10: Thin Ice Review

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With it being slightly frosty this week, yesterday’s episode was very appropriate for the weather. Regardless of weather, this episode still continues the trend of fantastic stories from Series 10. I’m serious, if these early episodes are supposed to be the “weaker” ones, then I just can’t wait for the upcoming ones.

One of the best things about this episode is how it’s completely different from last week. We’ve gone from a sci-fi mystery with robots and lasers to a Regency-era costume drama with a big fish/snake thing. It’s this kind of juxtaposition that I love from Doctor Who, and this is probably the biggest contrast for consecutive episodes since Rings of Akhaten/Cold War.

The character work was superb this week, as both regulars got huge amounts of development. Sarah Dollard really knows how to write the Twelfth Doctor and he gets one of his best outings in a while, with his characteristic snarking, humour and cynicism mixed with humanity and warmth. The highlights are when he punched Sutcliffe for his treatment of Bill (I’ve seen people complain about this, but trust me, the Doctor is NOT a pacifist. Just watch any Jon Pertwee or Colin Baker story) and his speech about human progress.

Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life. A life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age, that’s… what defines a species.

There’s also the continued development of Bill, and this episode once again shows what Moffat and co should have done with Clara in Series 7- show that travelling with the Doctor was not always fun. In this story, she sees a child die (pretty dark considering Doctor Who is a family show) and is understandably upset about it. There were hints of this in Cold War when Skaldak was killing the redshirts, but Clara never had a moment to reflect on what she saw. By having Bill realise the darker side of the Doctor and respond in a realistic way, it makes her more human and relatable. There are plenty of fantastic scenes between them and all three episodes so far have essentially been just her and the Doctor learning about each other. I feel like beginning from Knock Knock, the stories will get larger and more plot based.

I really liked the villain, Lord Sutcliffe, and he was basically exactly what I wanted after two weeks with no villains. I said I liked him when it’s really more “love to hate”, as in he’s so evil and careless that I just couldn’t help but like him and hate him at the same time. He’s essentially a villain from the Jon Pertwee era and as a massive fan of that era, I appreciated the return the stingy, metaphorically moustache twirling, condescending, obnoxious figure of high power that just irritates the Doctor and the audience. He’s so evil that his death is immensely satisfying. It’s been a while since we’ve had a decent human villain on Doctor Who, and Sutcliffe is probably the best since Solomon from Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. I’d have liked to see more of him though and have his plan expanded.

I’d love to see this guy spar with Edmund Blackadder, considering he was also in Regency London. I’d call the episode Fish and Finality. I reckon Sutcliffe would not be able to stand a chance against Blackadder.

There’s so much more to love about this story. One of the best aspects was how it handled the racism of 1814 and taught the children watching that it is never appropriate to be racist, regardless of what time period someone’s from (just because nearly everyone in 1814 was racist doesn’t excuse it). Whilst I love the Shakespeare Code, it didn’t really deal with the obvious issues that Martha would be dealing with in the 16th century. Thin Ice deals with the issue of Bill facing racism in the past a lot better, even if it was just by the Doctor knocking Sutcliffe unconscious in anger. Part of Doctor Who’s original goal was to educate the kids, and this was a good way to do it. Throwing in a real historical event and giving it a Doctor Who twist also makes the historical aspect of the show stand out more than just stories which happen to be in the past (what did the Vikings and Stuart settings add to the Ashildr stories last season?)

Another interesting element was the lack of aliens (again). It’s never really confirmed whether the sea serpent is from Earth or not and I like it that way. Whilst it is yet another misunderstood creature, the presence of Sutcliffe means there was an actual villain, although I really want the monsters this week to be the “we will kill you all” kind. Comparisons to The Beast Below are obvious as well as the Torchwood episode Meat (I’ve only recently gotten into Torchwood and I’ve been watching the good ones with my dad). There were also elements of Kill the Moon (companion makes a choice that revolves around a moral dilemma) but it’s handled better here because there weren’t any one sided dilemmas and no giant flying moon babies.

Ice to meet you (I know, I know, puns are terrible. Eye won’t make any more)

Overall, we have yet another strong episode. I feel like I’m in the minority when I say Smile is my favourite of this opening trilogy (its sci-fi aspects, clever twists and great dialogue sell it for me) but Thin Ice comes a very close second. As one of my most anticipated episodes pre broadcast it didn’t disappoint. There wasn’t much about the story arc, but we got a hint towards what’s in the vault (my Master theory is getting stronger) and it appears that Nardole will become a regular from next week.

Speaking of next week, we have a mysterious landlord, a haunted house, tree dudes and things in the wall. It feels like Ghost Light and the SJA story The Eternity Trap combined. Before that though, I’ll be reviewing Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.

Smile review: All is forgiven Frank

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Well, another week, another Doctor Who. After the fast paced frenzy of last week and the introduction of a great new companion, this week took a much slower pace with an episode that evoked Classic Who, in particular The Ark in Space and The Happiness Patrol.

As I said in my Series 10 hype post, this was the episode I was the most worried about, considering Frank Cottrell Boyce’s only other Doctor Who script was In the Forest of the Night. Fortunately, Smile was a lot better, and I enjoyed it even more than The Pilot.

A big part of this was because of the Doctor and Bill’s interactions, with Nardole completely disappearing from the episode in the first scene. The episode played out like a Part One of Classic Who, where the characters explore the setting by themselves. This was especially important as we needed to know how this new TARDIS team functioned and how Bill adjusted to life in the TARDIS. Having no real action or supporting characters meant the story could have been dull, but due to the interactions and continued character development I was entertained throughout.

My thoughts on the episode in a nutshell.

I love the structure of this story, with the pieces slowly being unravelled and the plot slowly fitting together to form a very enticing mystery. Each plot point made sense and felt necessary, with every aspect of the story slotting into place by the end. I’ll admit the ending was a bit weak, with the Doctor essentially rebooting the robots with his sonic screwdriver, but the resolution still ultimately left me satisfied due to the great build up.

The emojibots worked well in my opinion. They weren’t particularly scary but I don’t think they were meant to be, especially considering the whole story was just a misunderstanding between the Vardis and the humans. It was quite brave to have a story with no real villain (The Edge of Destruction, Listen and to an extent Gridlock all show how a story with no villain can work, as does Smile) and I appreciated the small scale nature of the story and due to the lack of a real antagonist the emojibots served their purpose well as a physical threat to keep the story from being too boring. This is the second story in a row with no actual villain, so I’m hoping this week we see the return of the evil, slightly hammy doomsday villain, because sometimes that’s good.

This frowny face is hilarious and is basically my reaction to there being yet another election I can’t vote in.

I found the Doctor’s characterisation in this episode spot on. It’s so refreshing to have the Doctor not know what’s going on and he has to solve everything by slowly investigating the situation and putting the pieces together. Something even rarer was the Doctor making a massive mistake and almost blowing up the cryogenic chambers. The Doctor rarely makes mistakes and seeing him make one was very refreshing, especially in comparison to the know-it-all persona that Steven Moffat loves. The balance between the gruff Doctor of Series 8 and the more quirky Doctor in Series 9 has been very well balanced, so it’s once again a shame that this is Peter Capaldi’s final series. I call it Peter Davison syndrome, where a Doctor only really comes into his own in his final series.

The story had a very William Hartnell vibe, from the slow pace to the Doctor miscalculating to the awesome link to Thin Ice at the end. Much like a William Hartnell story, we have a story which is more about the characters and the setting than the alien threat. The supporting characters however weren’t the best, and they only really popped up in the final third. This is where the story dips slightly, as In the Forest of the Night syndrome hits and we get some forced moralising, albeit more subtly. I wish the story developed the misunderstanding more and delved more deeply into the ideas of emotion and grief, which was the instigator of the whole story. The more I think about it, the more Smile is really just a more macarbe Inside Out.

I love the contrast between the clean city and dirty spaceship. This whole set looks like something out of the Tom Baker era.

 

SMILE OR DIE!

However, these are just a few flaws in what is a very enjoyable story. Bill continues to be great (in a few episodes time she may end up being my second favourite New Who companion, if not number one) and if the quality remains this good, we could have the best New Who series, surpassing even Series 4 and 5. Considering Smile had the most potential out of all the episodes to be bad, the fact that it’s good bodes very well for the episodes that looked great from the start.

Such as this week, featuring elephants and a frozen Thames. I cannot wait for this Saturday.

Doctor Who Series 10: The Pilot review

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It’s finally here! After 16 months (excluding last year’s Christmas and the entirety of Class) Doctor Who is back without Clara! Yes!

It’s been so long since a new companion I actually had to rewatch the Bells of St John to remind myself of the last time a companion got introduced. To be precise, it’s been over 4 years, which is why The Pilot is so refreshing and feels so new.

As usual, this will contain spoilers, so definitely watch the episode first before reading.

Compared with the Bells of St John (which is a stupider title let’s be honest) this is a much more subtle affair. There’s no massive mystery surrounding Bill and the action is subdued for the first half. It’s more comparable to Rose or Partners in Crime, where the dynamic between the Doctor and the companion take centre stage over the alien plot.

I’ve complained in the past how many Capaldi era villains (Skovox Blitzer, moon spiders, Fisher King, Lenny the Lion and to an extent the Veil) have had no impact on the plot, been sidelined or are underwhelming. Here, I’m willing to let the lacklustre villain aside as there was a clear focus on reintroducing the world of Doctor Who and introducing the new companion. I will not be so kind on this week’s Emojibots if they end up being as stupid as some people think they will be.

So what about the rest of the story? Well, obviously this is Bill’s first story and in 50 minutes I already like her more than Clara. To be fair, I liked Nardole in one Christmas Special more than Clara and it’s pretty easy for me to like a companion more than Clara. Bill is the complete opposite of Clara, who was incredibly unrelatable as time went on and essentially became the Doctor by Series 9. Here however, we have a companion who is completely normal with a normal life and with no big mystery surrounding her, which is great. She’s a combination of Donna and Ace (my two favourite companions after Sarah Jane) and I like the fact that the Doctor acts like a father figure to her like the First, Third and Seventh Doctors were to their companions. This is the dynamic we should have gotten with Clara, and it’s a shame Peter Capaldi is leaving this year so this dynamic may be lost (depends who the new Doctor is).

This scene is awesome and it’s the best “companion enters the TARDIS” scene in my opinion.

Nardole returns yet again, and once again proves that a bit of comedy is never a bad thing. He and the Twelfth Doctor have very good physical comedy and character beats that remind me of the Second Doctor and Jamie. It’s clear from this episode that Nardole now acts as the Doctor’s conscience, as shown when he tells Bill “He doesn’t see the tears”. He doesn’t appear to be in the next one, so I can only assume he’s staying behind at the university to guard the vault, which seems to be the story arc of the series. Many people, including myself I’ll admit, were hesitant about Nardole’s presence in the series, but from his two stories as a companion I’m very happy with what I’ve seen. I loved the call back to Robots of Death when he explains the TARDIS dimensions to Bill and his “Wa-hay” when Bill says the famous line that all companions say when they first see the TARDIS.

What’s in the vault? My money’s on John Simm’s Master.

Another great thing about this story is that I actually got scared. Whilst the monster isn’t the most original concept (the Flood and the Midnight Entity come to mind as similar concepts) the scene where Bill is trying to figure out who’s in her house and she sees an eye in the shower plug was genuinely creepy and I had my knees up to hid the screen. My mum thought it was too scary, but that’s the point of Doctor Who in a way. As someone with fond memories of being scared of the werewolf, the faceless granny, the Empty Child, Weeping Angels, the Flood and the Silence, I think it’s great that a new generation have their own behind the sofa moments.

I’ll admit that I think the chase portion of the episode was the weakest aspect. We have a random trip to (CGI) Australia, a BBC quarr- I mean an alien planet and a war between the Daleks and Movellans (Steven Moffat has just outdone the Macra in Gridlock with “random Classic Who” villain returning. What next? The Malus?). This aspect of the episode is entertaining, it’s just a bit random and I wish the whole episode was in the university where the dark lighting could have kept the creepy tone throughout. On the subject of the Daleks, I think this confirms the popular belief that the Daleks have to be used every year otherwise the BBC use the rights (they appeared in the LEGO Batman Movie though so maybe the BBC do own them). Their appearance is very brief, even briefer than their cameos in Waters of Mars and Wedding of River Song, and are just there to add another scene to the plot. That said, I’d rather have a brief cameo than a rushed Dalek story taking up a slot in the series. I just hope Chris Chibnall uses them well.

I actually rewatched Into the Dalek thinking the Daleks would be important. How wrong I was.

Despite all this, the story was not the focus for this episode, and what it focused on worked very well. The new TARDIS team is great, the story arc is intriguing (how Missy, the Monks, the John Simm Master, the Mondasian Cybermen and possibly the Landlord fit into all this I don’t know) and it’s just great that Doctor Who is finally back on consistent schedule (I say consistent but this week’s episode may be delayed due to football. If that happens heads will roll). Introductory stories are never the best, but they’ve all been good, and The Pilot continues that trend.

Onto Smile, the episode with the Emoji Bots. Let’s hope it’s better than In the Forest of the Night…

Doctor Who Series 10- Let the hype begin

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Hasn’t this year gone quickly? It’s already April and the new Doctor Who series is on the horizon. So, like with the past two series, I’ll be going through the series and looking at which episodes I’m looking forward to the most.

  • The Pilot

So what’s with that title? I know Steven Moffat wants to have it feel like a brand new show, but that title’s weird. Anyway, this is the opening episode, which are never my most anticipated, but nonetheless this one is important as it’ll introduce Bill. From what I’ve read the Doctor is stuck on Earth like Jon Pertwee was and is doing lectures at Bill’s university. You’ve also got Nardole coming back as the second companion (I loved him in the Christmas Special and look forward to seeing more of him) and the Daleks returning. Again. This will be the second series in a row with a Dalek opener and I hope this isn’t a trend. Whilst the rest of the series sounds more exciting, this is the most important, as new viewers will be introduced to the Whoniverse and viewers who have gone off the show will want to be reminded why this show is awesome.

  • Smile

Out of all the episodes this series, this is the one I’m approaching with the most caution. While the idea of emoji robots is a silly concept, this show has done the Kandyman and superheroes so I’m fine with the idea. The switching faces remind me of the Smilers from The Beast Below (very underrated story may I add). The main reason I’m approaching this one carefully is the writer, Frank Cottrel Boyce, wrote the unmatched genius of In the Forest of the Night (it’s hard to be sarcastic while typing) and I don’t want a repeat of “We’re going to phone everyone on Earth and tell them to leave the trees alone”. The off world story is very important to new viewers as they need to see the diverse nature of the Whoniverse and End of the World, Gridlock, Planet of the Ood, Beast Below and The Rings of Akhaten are all great stories which showcase just how creative the show can be with alien planets and cultures. I just hope this episode matches up to them.

  • Thin Ice

Now we’re talking. The pseudo historical is my favourite genre of Doctor Who, and this one set in 1814 (Regency Period, the same as Blackadder III) is right up my alley. It once again has stiff competition in the “first trip companion has to the past” department against The Unquiet Dead, The Shakespeare Code, The Fires of Pompeii and Cold War (I really liked this one on a rewatch) but considering Sarah Dollard wrote Face the Raven we should be in for good things. This is set in the last Frost Fair and is rumoured to be about a giant snake in the Thames. Much like the off world story, the historical story needs to show viewers the variety of the show and demonstrate the BBC’s massive costume department. This is one of my most anticipated of the series, and it seems to be a standalone story with everything I want from an episode, especially the giant snake. Incidentally, I really hope the monsters this year are scarier and more intimidating that Lenny the Lion and walking sleep dust.

  • Knock Knock

I really hope that picture matches the episode. Not much is known about this one except for the fact it introduces the Landlord (played by one of my mum’s favourite actors David Suchet), who may or not be a Time Lord. This is written by Mike Bartlett in his first Who script, so we should expect ideas outside of the norm. Rumoured to be one of the scariest of the series, this story will supposedly answer why the floorboards creak. Giant woodlice are also supposed to be involved, so I’m hoping for the Tractators from the great Peter Davison story Frontios to return. How the wood people tie into all this is a mystery, but I hope they don’t have a connection to that terrible Christmas special which I can’t be bothered to type out because it’s too long (the one with the trees. Doctor Who and trees don’t get along well). I’m expecting this to be tied to the story arc in some way due to the Landlord being a heavly promoted character.

  • Oxygen

Again, really hope that picture matches. We once again have a story where we don’t know much, however I love what we do know. It’s set on a spaceship and appears to be similar to a Troughton base under siege and the underrated Series 3 story 42. It’s written by Jamie Mathieson who wrote the brilliant Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline in Series 8 and co wrote the slightly less awesome but still fun Girl Who Died in Series 9. This appears to be another scary one and the clips of the Doctor and Bill in space appear to be from this story. I’m hoping that this turns out to be one of the best, as this also seems very standalone and character based. There’s no monster I can much to this episode, so maybe they’re too scary to put in the trailer like the Foretold was or they’re being hidden. It’s been ages since I’ve been scared by Doctor Who (it’s not the fact I’m older, as Waters of Mars still terrifies me) so hopefully this will truly be behind the sofa stuff.

  • Extremis/The Pyramid at the End of the World/The Lie of the Land

This is where things start to get really interesting, as there is a three part epic right in the middle of the series. This is my most anticipated of the series for many reasons. My favourite Master is returning, there’s some awesome looking new villains and it’s a three parter, which is very rare for the New Series. Whether this is going to be a full on three parter or a trilogy of linked like the Black Guardian trilogy or E-Space trilogy from Classic Who we don’t know. There’s three different writers, so my money’s on the second option. Part 1 is by Steven Moffat (mostly reliable), Part 2 is by Peter Harness (as long as he writes something like the Zygon Inversion and not Kill the Egg we should be fine) and Part 3 is by my favourite Doctor Who writer Toby Whithouse, so at least one part of this story will be awesome. Having a story this big in the middle of the series should be great as it will build momentum rather than lose momentum as a series often does, so let’s hope this story deserves a quarter of the series.

  • The Empress of Mars (WHAT a title)

As I’ve mentioned, I liked Cold War a lot more when I rewatched it a month ago. I didn’t like it when it first aired but I’ve come to the conclusion it’s a pretty good, if slightly rushed Ice Warrior story with an awesome setting and Matt Smith is great in it. The Ice Warriors are a very complex species so hopefully we will see good Ice Warriors, the awesome Ice Lord and the Grand Marshall in this episode. I like most of Mark Gatiss’s episodes and hopefully this one won’t slip under the radar due to its placement in the series. This one will be set on Mars (a potential return for the Flood?) and will also somehow have Zulu warriors. I’m looking forward to this one a lot more having rewatched both Cold War and watching their Classic Who stories (The Seeds of Death is really really fun and Curse of Peladon is one of my favourite Jon Pertwee stories). The Ice Warrior seen in the trailer appears to be the Empress of the Ice Warriors. This isn’t one of my most anticipated, but I think it’ll end up being one of my favourites.

  • The Eaters of Light

The first story in the New Series to be written by a Classic Who writer, Rona Monroe. She wrote the fantastic final story of Classic Who, Survival, which I highly recommend to anybody interested in checking out Classic Who as it’s very similar to Russel T Davies’s take on the show. Not much has been revealed apart from the title, but it appears to be set in ancient times (Romans are involved so probably the Roman conquest) and is said to be set in Scotland. Here’s hoping Peter Capaldi channels Sylvester McCoy in this one. This may end up being a pure historical, but judging by the title it’s probably not. As it’s the story before the finale, it needs to keep the momentum of the show going as Fear Her, In the Forest of the Night and Sleep No More all killed the momentum of the series which it needed before the finale. It may end up connecting to the finale like Utopia or Turn Left, but seeing how we don’t know anything about the arc it’s only speculation at this stage.

  • Episode 11 & 12

The original Cybermen from the Tenth Planet are back for what should hopefully be a fantastic finale. Steven Moffat’s track record with finales is patchy (Series 5, 7 and 8 have amazing finales, Series 6’s is meh and the less said about Hell Bent the better) but as this is his final one I’m expecting good things. We have Cybermen from the Tenth Planet as well as the new ones and the Cybus ones returning, so all we need are the Tomb of the Cybermen ones, the Invasion ones and the Exxxcellent ones from the 80’s. Missy is also returning, which is great as there’s always room for more Missy, and everything indicates that this will be one of the best finales of New Who. The Cybermen are my favourite monster and I’ve been longing for a finale in which they take centre stage, so I was so happy when I heard the news. Before this finale, watch the Tenth Planet and listen to the Big Finish audio Spare Parts for background on the Mondasian Cybermen. They’re so creepy with the cloth faces and sing-song voice and I hope Steven Moffat does them justice.

All in all, I am obviously very excited about Series 10. Unlike most of the other seasons, there doesn’t seem to be any obvious filler or cheap episodes, which is fantastic. We’ve got great writers, fantastic sounding episodes and a wide variety of monsters old and new. Add on top of that a new companion and a Doctor at the height of his powers and we should be in for what I hope is the first truly perfect series of New Who, because a perfect series is possible. Peter Capaldi deserves to go out on a high.

Here are my rankings from most to least anticipated-

  1. The Missy/Monk three parter
  2. Oxygen
  3. Thin Ice
  4. The finale
  5. Knock Knock
  6. The Eaters of Light
  7. The Pilot
  8. The Empress of Mars
  9. Smile

Thirteenth Doctor: Should the Doctor be female?

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Yeah, it’s time to talk about that elephant in the room.

vastra

Well, Peter Capaldi has left the TARDIS, after what only seems like a few days. While there’s a time and place to discuss the Twelfth Doctor (when he leaves this Christmas I’ll be doing a massive post on my views on his era as a whole, which will be interesting considering he followed my favourite Doctor), right now the question on everyone’s lips is: Who is the Thirteenth Doctor?

This then leads into the largest talking point: after 53 years of white males, is it time for a woman?

Now, speaking as a male Whovian who has grown up with three Doctors, experienced all of them and loves this show, I can safely say that I, personally, would not mind a female Doctor, BUT at the same time I don’t particularly care either way. As long as the character remains the same lovable Time Lord, the Doctor can be male or female, black or white. For me, it matters about the writing and whether or not I’ll like the Thirteenth (I don’t know who I’d cast, but as a Benedict Cumberbatch fan the thought of him as the Doctor is glorious. Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson would also be fantastic).

So, there are two main talking points here. First, let’s look at whether the Doctor can change gender in the context of the show and second, whether it’ll be good for the show.

  1. CAN the Doctor be a woman?

missy

In the context of the show, yes. The show has slowly been building towards the idea of a female Doctor for years since Steven Moffat took over. In fact, one of Matt Smith’s first lines after regeneration was “I’m a girl!”. In the brilliant story The Doctor’s Wife, the Doctor’s friend the Corsair was established to have changed gender and in the Night of the Doctor, Paul McGann was given the choice “Man or woman”. Even Hell Bent, which I usually avoid talking about for fear of hitting something in anger, set this up with the General regenerating from a white man into a black woman.

And of course, there’s Missy. She is the main point of argument that people use when saying that a female Doctor would work. Missy is my favourite Master, but that’s got nothing to do with her gender. I love her for reasons I’ll dive into when she returns in Series 10. Her inclusion in the series has been warmly received by most fans and this once again shows that it’s not about the character’s gender, it’s about the writing. The Master is a character that is 45 years old and predominantly male (he was designed to be Moriarty to the Doctor’s Sherlock) but Missy shows that a male character can be changed into a female and still be the same character. Before Missy, I wasn’t sure about a female Doctor, but I’m now firmly supportive of one.

2. SHOULD the Doctor be a woman?

By this, I mean is it right for the show to do it now? Once again, I say, why not?

The Doctor isn’t like Sherlock Holmes or James Bond, The Doctor’s an alien whose species, as mentioned above, has no set gender. Yes, James Bond has changed actor, but Bond is a very masculine character defined by male sterotypes and tropes. Sherlock has gone through countless iterations but the character is still a male figure. The Doctor, on the other hand, is a time travelling alien with a magic police box who travels through time and space fighting monsters. He may be a male, but nothing about the character is specifically male. His humanity, his sense of justice, his humour, his code of conduct has nothing to do with his gender. As long as a female incarnation sticks with those ideals, go for it.

But will it be good for the show? Now, contrary to what the tabloids are saying the show is not dying. Peter Capaldi may not have been as loved by the public as David Tennant or Matt Smith (I really hope the BBC haven’t done what they did to Colin Baker on Capaldi), but the show is watched by millions worldwide and is critically adored. However, it has slipped past the public consciousness in recent times. Could a female Doctor be so discussed and so shocking that people will be interested in the show and check it out? Journey’s End received over 13 million viewers because people couldn’t stop talking about the surprise regeneration. A female Doctor could bring in a new audience and interest, and provided she’s good could keep that audience.

As for whether it’s right, of course it is. Pop culture is gradually shifting to be more equal. The Force Awakens, one of the biggest movies of the decade, has a female lead, as does Rogue One. There’s a Wonder Woman movie this year and a Captain Marvel movie in two years. There was an all female Ghostbusters (although that was pretty controversial to put it mildly). Female heroes are popping up more and more, so while it’s not necessary, a female Doctor would keep with modern pop culture.

Another criticism against a female Doctor is the fact that the boys watching will lose their role model. Well, I grew up watching The Sarah Jane Adventures and didn’t feel alienated, so I fail to see how having a different gender will make a portion of the audience completely lose faith in the show. Besides, lots of girls watch the show. Wouldn’t you say it’s time they had a role model they could be in the playground? I don’t think they want to be stuck playing the companion all the time. Speaking of companions, having a female Doctor doesn’t mean we have to lose Bill. All we need is a male companion to balance things out (I can’t be the only one who prefers multiple companions). Then, when Bill leaves we can have the traditional dynamic of male/female, just reversed.

So overall, this debate needs to be looked at fairly on both sides. I can see why someone would be against it, but for me I can’t see why it would ruin the show. I hope I’ve addressed both why a female Doctor can work and why it may/almost certainly will happen. Again, I’m not asking for one as a necessity. However, I have a strong hunch that we will have a female, or at least someone who isn’t a white male, for the Thirteenth Doctor and I feel like this needs addressing.

Why a superhero in Doctor Who is NOT too silly

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OK, my next post was going to be about my Harry Potter read-athon, but seeing how I still haven’t finished Deathly Hallows yet, that’s been delayed somewhat. However, something has propped up which is worth talking about- the Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio.

the-return-of-doctor-mysterio

Now, the common criticism I’m hearing from people is that the premise- the Doctor teams up with a superhero to save New York- is too silly and too outlandish for the show. Then cue angry fans using this as an excuse to attack Steven Moffat, complain the show was better with David Tennant/Matt Smith, unlimited rice pudding etc etc.

Right… so a show with a two thousand year old alien who changes faces and travels through time and space in a police box that’s bigger on the inside is acceptable, but a superhero is where people draw the line? This isn’t even the silliest Christmas special. Remember A Christmas Carol, with Dumbledore flying a shark? Or Voyage of the Damned, with a replica of the Titanic hijacked by robot angels? Or Last Christmas, which had FATHER CHRISTMAS? This isn’t even the first superhero in the show. Case in point, I give you the Karkus, from the Second Doctor story The Mind Robber-

karkus

In this instance, the Karkus is a fictional superhero from a comic strip which the Doctor’s companion Zoe reads in the almighty future of the year 2000. The Land of Fiction where the main characters are trapped in brings fictional beings to life. The story has a cliffhanger where Jamie and Zoe are crushed by a giant book, Jamie loses his face and the Doctor accidentally gives him the wrong one, and a unicorn. This story, incidentally, is awesome, and makes total sense in context.

Yet, a superhero in Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who is totally pushing the boundaries of the show.

I haven’t even mentioned The Gunfighters, which is a musical set in the Wild West. Or The Happiness Patrol, where a robot made out of sweets forces people to be happy and the TARDIS is painted pink. Or maybe the Pirate Planet, where a cyborg pirate with a robot parrot controls a hollow planet to crush smaller planets. How about Amy’s Choice, with killer grannies? Or perhaps I should refer the naysayers to Smith and Jones, where rhinoceros policemen move a hospital on the Moon and hunt down a vampire disguised as an old lady who sucks people’s blood with a straw. Doctor Who has always been inherently silly and a superhero is absolutely not the worst thing linked with the show.

Uh huh, Steven Moffat’s tenure is totally the only time the show got really really silly. I actually really like this story, but it is ridiculously silly.

Yes stories like Heaven Sent, Inferno, Vincent and the Doctor, The Seeds of Doom, The Waters of Mars and The Curse of Fenric are all fantastic and among the show’s best, but we can’t have body horror, mental illness, and the whole world being torn apart every week. Sometimes we need some light hearted, fun and occasionally comedic scripts to balance the mood. Stories like City of Death (which is possibly the silliest script the show has ever had), The Unicorn and the Wasp, Robot of Sherwood, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, The Romans and Carnival of Monsters are all delightfully absurd and wacky.

nom-nom-nom

Need I remind the “Doctor Who must always be serious” brigade that one of the best stories of all time, Genesis of the Daleks, has giant clams? I think that’s a lot sillier than a superhero.

Some Doctor Who fans just can’t get to grips with the fact that sometimes the show needs to be light hearted. People complain that the show is too comedic now but I’m sorry, I don’t see it. In the past two years we’ve had scripts involving cyborgs gouging people’s eyes out, creatures under the bed, a mummy that slowly murders people one by one, two dimensional beings that flatten people, Cybermen being resurrected from graves, ghosts, a Zygon terrorist group, Clara being killed (I don’t care, Face the Raven is the end of her story), not to mention the Doctor being trapped in an endless maze and being murdered billions of times over and over again. We’ve had stories dealing with genocide, war, psychological horror and grief.

mummy

Yup, this is a totally funny and lighthearted romp through time and space with a nice and fluffy monster isn’t it?

If anything, the show is a lot darker than the David Tennant and Matt Smith years. There have been comedic scripts such as Robot of Sherwood (which contained a darker and mature subtext), In the Forest of the Night (OK, that was terrible), The Girl Who Died (which dealt with the Doctor coming to terms with who he was) and The Husbands of River Song (which was emotionally linked with Silence in the Library), but they are infrequent compared to the serious stories.

kandyman

This is an actual monster from an actual story of Doctor Who. I also really like this story, but it is once again really really silly.

This year’s Christmas special will be comedic, but Series 10 will be (hopefully) the balance of comedy and drama that the show is known for. Part of the reason 80’s Who is disliked by some is because there was no comedy. Just look at Peter Davison’s final season- nearly every story was a total bloodbath with little to no laughs. Conversely, Tom Baker and Patrick Troughton were both really funny and embraced the silliness of the show as well as the serious side. Just like the characters and stories, the variety in tone is what makes Doctor Who great. Sometimes a comedic script like City of Death can be awesome, whereas sometimes a serious script like Kill the Moon (shakes fist in rage) can be absolutely terrible. All that matters is the story- the way it’s told is mostly irrelevant.

warriors-of-the-deep

A pretty accurate image to sum up the doom and gloom of the Fifth Doctor’s final season. Warriors of the Deep isn’t exactly liked by fandom, but it has a “so bad it’s good” quality for me.

So this Christmas, don’t approach The Return of Doctor Mysterio (nice title) with apathy. If you enjoy City of Death or any of the other comedic scripts in the show’s history, you should have no problem here. Just remember that there’s a whole series of adventure just around the corner.

I love 60’s Doctor Who!

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My Doctor Who marathon has brought me to the end of Doctor Who in the 1960’s. Before this marathon, I had barely seen any Doctor Who from the 60’s. Now, I wish I had started earlier. In a year when the latest episode is still over three months away, Classic Who is my way of coping.

My favourite aspect of this era of Doctor Who is the sheer imagination at play. It puts the new series to shame. Most of 60’s Who is the definition of high concept sci fi, which is what I think is what the show should be. I don’t want convoluted plots, bland drama with no tension or lazy villains. I want science fiction. Stories like The Space Museum, The Ark, The Edge of Destruction, The Web Planet, The Enemy of the World and The Mind Robber are just so imaginative and clever. That’s not forgetting the awesome Cybermen stories. Sure, not all of them are great, but the imagination and storytelling is prevalent. Alien planets, messing about with time, detailed worlds and clever plots are all present in 60’s Who. Sure, they happen in the rest of the Classic Series and the New Series, but the black and white limitations of the 60’s means that they could go nuts with silly costumes and sets and it just felt so genuine.

A story entirely set in the TARDIS? Sure. A planet with giant ants? OK. A land where fictional characters come alive? Why not? A politician who looks like the Doctor tries to destroy the world with volcanoes and the Australian government try to stop him? See what I mean? The imagination and ambition is simply brilliant. Quite why the New Series can’t reach these heights is beyond me. I grew up with David Tennant and Matt Smith so obviously I love the New Series. It’s fantastic and in terms of emotion, character development and production values, it’s in some ways superior (not saying there wasn’t any in Classic Who). But I feel like the storytelling was more risky and brave in the Classic Series, especially the 60’s.

ooo wooo ooo

Now why the New Series don’t have the ambition baffles me. It’s not the budget problems, as the show has a big budget to create alien worlds and fascinating concepts. The audience is smart enough to have high concepts thrown at them. Examples of high concept storytelling in the new series include The Beast two-parter, 42, Silence in the Library, Midnight, Turn Left, The Beast Below, Amy’s Choice, The Doctor’s Wife, The Girl Who Waited (is it too late for me to have a complete change of heart over this story?), Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, Listen, Flatline, Before the Flood, Sleep No More and Heaven Sent. All these episodes either have imaginative premises, clever time travel or risky ideas. Whether they’re any good is a matter of opinion, but these are the type of episodes I’m looking for.

So anyway, back to 60’s Who. Watching the entire show from 1963-1969 is difficult because of the amount of lost stories, meaning many companions such as Ben (the companion with my name has two surviving stories- urgh), Polly and Steven barely have any stories, making it hard to judge them. Fortunately, the original companions Susan, Ian and Barbara are awesome. OK, mainly Ian, although Barbara did destroy Daleks with a truck. The missing stories are legendary in the Who fandom, and the discovery of the Enemy of the World and Web of Fear recently brings back hope that the 12 part epic The Dalek’s Master Plan (they could do an epic universe spanning threat in the 60’s, why can’t they do it now?) Fury from the Deep, Patrick Troughton’s first story The Power of the Daleks, The Evil of the Daleks and many more can be discovered.

So, what about the Doctor himself? Well, before watching all the remaining 60’s stories, neither Hartnell nor Troughton were particularly high on my favourite Doctors list because I hadn’t seen much of them. While William Hartnell still isn’t among my favourites, despite the fact he is an awesome Doctor for being THE Doctor, Patrick Troughton has risen to my favourite Doctors list alongside Matt Smith, Jon Pertwee, David Tennant and Sylvester McCoy. Watching the Second Doctor, it’s clear that most of the Doctors that followed took something from Patrick Troughton’s Doctor. He is easily the most important actor to play the Doctor, as without his performance the show would have struggled to continue after William Hartnell left due to his poor health. The Second Doctor’s mannerisms are shown in future incarnations. Tom Baker has the eccentric side, Peter Davison has the caring side, Sylvester McCoy has the cunning side, Paul McGann has the optimistic side. Matt Smith in particular took most of his Doctor from watching Tomb of the Cybermen, and it shows, as both the Second and Eleventh Doctors are like that really strange but cool uncle or imaginary friend.

Now I’m going to discuss my favourite stories from the First and Second Doctor eras. Some of the stories here have become some of my favourites-

First Doctor

first doctor

  • The Edge of Destruction- This story is one of the aforementioned high concept stories that I love. The basic story is that a mysterious force has taken over the Tardis and the Tardis crew are slowly losing their minds over it. This is a fascinating story as it is purely a character piece- except it’s a character piece done really, really well as their is no contrived monster or heavy handed plot. The character arcs from the past two stories come full circle here as the four Tardis members blame each other for the scenario. It also has one of my favourite monologues from the show-

  • The Aztecs- This is my favourite William Hartnell story. It’s a pure historical, so it might put people off who are used to the semi historicals of the New Series where history is combined with an alien threat, but in the First Doctor’s era pure historicals were combined with high concept sci fi. The Aztecs establishes a rule that has stuck with history- time can’t be rewritten. The drama from this story comes from Barbara, a history teacher, trying to change the Aztec’s ruthless ways. There’s also some really good comedy in this one, like this brilliant moment-

  • The Dalek Invasion of Earth- This is one of the most iconic Doctor Who stories of all time, thanks mainly to the promotional photo of Daleks on Westminister Bridge.

dwexp-daleks-westminster-gall5

This was the first reappearance of the Daleks and the first story to be a classic Earth invasion type after the experimental nature of the earlier Hartnell stories. There’s a really epic feel to this story and while the plot is silly (the Daleks want to drill into the Earth to pilot it as a ship), the tone of the story and the threat of the Daleks make it worthwhile. There’s also the moment when Barbara rams into Daleks with a truck, which is so awesome it needs to be mentioned twice. This is also the first companion departure story, when the Doctor leaves his granddaughter Susan behind to live her own life in another one of the most famous scenes in the show’s history-

  • The War Machines

Doctor Who has a trend of using London’s new and fancy buildings as alien hideouts, from the Shard to Canary Wharf. The first use of this trend was in the War Machines, which used the BT Tower, at the time the tallest building in London. This story was unique to the First Doctor in that it was set on modern Earth and featured the First Doctor in an action type role continued by his successor. It served as the prototype to the UNIT stories of Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee. I also really like the monsters in this one, the titular War Machines. Not much to say about this one really, it was just a really fun story.

war machines

Second Doctor

oh my giddy aunt

  • The Tomb of the Cybermen- The story that inspired Matt Smith’s Doctor and probably the most iconic Second Doctor story. The image of Cybermen emerging from their tombs is simply unmatched by any subsequent story and the atmosphere in this one is fantastic. This is the earliest complete Second Doctor story and it is a great starting point, as it defines this incarnation as a playful, jokey type who acts like a bumbling cosmic hobo to trick his enemies into falling into his traps. Despite the Cybermen being a powerful presence here, the main villains are merely humans who want to use the Cybermen, without realising the Cybermen are too powerful for them. There’s also a really great scene between the Doctor and Victoria which shows the Classic Series had just as much character and emotion as the New Series-

  • The Enemy of the World

enemy of the world

Whoever found this story deserves a whole wad of jelly babies. This was an amazing story partly due to its unique nature. There are no aliens or monsters here and it’s basically a James Bond movie with the Doctor. Patrick Troughton plays two roles here really well- the Doctor and Salamander, the ruthless politician who is set on his diabolical schemes. There is a very cinematic scale to the story, which is surprising given that it’s nearly 50 years old. My favourite part is when the Doctor pretends to be Salamander, so it’s basically Patrick Troughton playing the Doctor playing Salamander. This story was in Season 5, and every other story in this season was the “base under siege” type which I love, and this one broke bonds to be truly unique and to this day there is no other story quite like it.

  • The Mind Robber

the mind robber

This is about as bonkers and high concept as Doctor Who gets. The Tardis finds itself in a strange reality where fictional characters such as Gulliver from Gulliver’s Travels and Rapunzel are real. It’s not a particularly complex or thought provoking story but it’s so absurd and unique that it’s impossible to be bored. The amount of ideas here are fantastic and the Land of Fiction, despite being a world where there are no rules, is surprisingly well thought out. I would love to see a return to the Land of Fiction in the new series. The BBC have plenty of shows with their own versions of fictional characters such as Sherlock, and the setting of the Mind Robber allows for crossovers. Seriously, why hasn’t this happened?

  • The Invasion

the invasion

Another iconic story with the image of Cybermen walking down St Paul’s being easily their most famous moment. That doesn’t happen until Episode 6 however, but the rest of the story is just as good. Once again the scope is epic and grand for the 60’s and the threat of global domination is ever present. It starts low key, with a simple trip to Earth and a mystery surrounding missiles on the Moon before escalating into full on war against the Cybermen. The human villain, Tobias Vaughn, is fantastic. He’s so delightfully and obviously evil and the Doctor’s interactions with him are a major highlight. The Cybermen in the sewers of London are also a highlight, and this is probably my favourite Cyberman story, alongside Earthshock.

  • The War Games

I’m just going to come out and say it- The War Games is my favourite story in the whole of Classic Who, and is my second favourite of all time just under The God Complex. It is over 4 hours long yet never feels boring or padded, which is a feat considering how many single part episodes of the new series feel padded. The plot is perfectly paced- what starts off as a simple trip to what appears to be World War One turns into a massive conspiracy involving mysterious aliens kidnapping Earth soldiers to recreate famous wars for nefarious purposes. There are so many good parts to this story. I adore the villains in this story- the War Lord, the War Chief and the Security Chief, all with their own goals and motivations. However, the true brilliance comes in the final episodes. As the situation spirals out of control, the Doctor is forced to call on his own people for help, and the Time Lords make their perfect debut. The Doctor knows asking the Time Lords for help will result in his capture and punishment for stealing the Tardis and interfering in time and space, but he does it because it’s the right thing to do. It speaks so much about this character and why he has endured for so long. All this and more makes the War Games my favourite story in the entire Classic Series.

And that was my love letter to the Doctor Who of the 60’s. I’m currently on Jon Pertwee’s first series and when I’m done with him (I started with Planet of the Spiders) I will have finished all of Classic Who in time (hopefully) for Series 10.

5 wishes for Doctor Who Series 10

Tonight’s episode of Doctor Who, Face the Raven, is going to be a very important one. At the Doctor Who Festival last week the writers and actors all discussed Face the Raven as a game changer. So naturally, I’m hyped. But one thing is certain; by the end of Series 9, Clara will be gone, almost certainly dead. Series 10 will hopefully see the return of a darker Doctor, one who has lost his companion and who is angry at the universe, which should hopefully change the style of storytelling.

I thought about writing this article after the series had finished, but I thought before tonight’s episode will do, given its importance. Any of the wishes I say here could happen by the end of the series. So here goes, 5 wishes I have for Series 10.

  • An interesting and new companion

face the raven

With Clara leaving, the new companion is of course going to appear soon. Now my hopes for a new companion is for someone completely different from the other New Series companions. Part of the reason I love companions like Romana and Jack are that they are so unique from all the others. I hope the new companion is either a male companion who travels independently with the Doctor (a Second Doctor/Jamie dynamic could be established) or an alien companion. Someone from the Earth’s past could be interesting as well. While I haven’t hated any New Series companion, they are all pretty similar in origins and there are several similarities between them. I love Donna because she was a break from the RTD era mould, so the third companion of the Moffat era should be a break from this era’s mould (a feisty girl with a mystery around them).

Clara’s departure should not impact the new companion either. Part of the problem I have with Series 3 is that the Tenth Doctor just wouldn’t shut up about losing Rose, meaning Martha’s introduction was like “new companion, yeah, but the old one is better”. This is partly why I find the Series 4 dynamic of The Doctor/Donna much more satisfying. I understand that Clara’s departure will be devastating for the Doctor (and the audience) but he shouldn’t be mourning for a whole series. Clara’s introduction worked because the Doctor got over Amy and Rory’s departure and accepted Clara, so the audience automatically did. The companion is the surrogate for the audience, so it is important the Doctor treats them with respect. Yes, Series 10 has to have an angry and upset Doctor, but the new companion needs to be treated as their own character, not just as a replacement for Clara.

  • Bring back more old monsters and have better new ones

zygon

Series 10 needs to be braver when it comes to reviving older monsters. This year, the Zygons returned with a bang after only two appearances (one of which wasn’t focused on them) and Davros returned after seven years. This was much more refreshing than just the Daleks, Cybermen or the Master, although two out of three of them have already appeared. I love the Daleks and the Cybermen, but they need a break to make their appearances have more impact. The show needs to revive older monsters, preferably ones who haven’t appeared for a while.

The Zygons have already been successfully revived, so I think it is time for the Rutans, the Mara, the Ice Warriors or the Autons to have a revival. The Rutans and Mara haven’t appeared in the New Series yet, and they have plenty of potential, while the Ice Warriors and Autons are monsters who have appeared but can be used better than how they were. Cold War was a very rushed re-introduction to the Ice Warriors who deserve a two parter (as I write I’m listening to a Sixth Doctor audio featuring them), and the Autons haven’t been used since 2010, when they are a fascinating threat. On that note, why didn’t Closing Time use them? It’s set in a shop! Even the Sontarans haven’t had a story focused on them since 2008.

More monsters I would like to see include the Terileptils, Sil, the Mandragora Helix, the Fendahl and Omega. If the Macra can re- appear, then I see no reason why he can’t.

omega

Omega versus the Third and Second Doctor. I still have a long way to wait for this story in my viewing marathon but I can’t wait to watch it.

However, Series 10 needs cool new threats as well. In the whole Capaldi era, only the Teller, the Foretold and the Boneless have had a huge impact from Series 8, while Series 9 has lacked an awesome new alien. The ghosts were great, but the Fisher King should have been better than he was, and the other new monsters have barely made an impact. Christopher Eccleston had the Slitheen and the Empty Child, David Tennant had the Ood, Weeping Angels, Judoon and Vashta Nerada, while Matt Smith had the Silence. Capaldi’s era needs a truly iconic and terrifying threat. Series 9 could potentially have the weakest rogues gallery of the revival after Series 7, which barely had villains at all.

  • More focus on story

I have loved the new focus on character and emotion recently, and the idea to make nearly every story a two parter is great. However, often the story gets lost in the muddle. The plot, villains and action of a story is just as important as the character and emotion in my eyes. Stories like Kill the Moon have suffered because it forgot the plot and became a talky episode about killing a moon baby (facepalm) and while the Woman Who Lived was significantly better, the plot still got sidelined to the point where the villain literally exploded for no reason.

Episodes like The Waters of Mars, Mummy on the Orient Express, Vincent and the Doctor and The Satan Pit are all great examples of a story has an equal balance of character drama and emotion and also having a great story and threat. Yes, the Krafygis wasn’t needed in Vincent and the Doctor, but it still functioned in the plot and didn’t feel sidelined, to me at least.

Other examples include The Waters of Mars, which is both a great base under siege story and a powerful character drama while Human Nature is a basic plot made into a story full of strong themes and ideas, with the threat still intact and the story in place.

 

underthelake

Under the Lake is another great example from recent memory with an equal balance of story and character.

In short, the story telling needs to be written alongside the character work, not written separatly and bunched together.

  • The Doctor needs to have a consistent costume
doctor-who-12-doctor-who-series-8-6-reasons-why-it-ll-rule

This awesome promo picture is on my wall and is how I want the Twelfth Doctor to look.

A bit minor, but still an issue I want to address. When Capaldi was introduced, he had that awesome buttoned jacket and plain white shirt. Simple, but effective. So why does it keep changing? I don’t mind costume changes, as Pertwee changed costume all the time, but all his costumes were regal and posh. Capaldi has worn hoodies, boring jumpers and loose white shirts. It doesn’t really scream “Lord of Time” when the main character has a polka dot shirt, hoodie or baggy trousers. Yes, I know Troughton wore baggy trousers but that was in character with his Doctor. Capaldi is a harsh and uncompromising Doctor, so it really doesn’t suit him.

Imagine being a Dalek and confronting the Doctor when he is dressed like this. Not very intimidating, is it?

Thankfully, tonight’s episode has got the Doctor wearing a gorgeous purple velvet coat, similar to his original one.

purple coat

This evokes class and is reminiscent of Pertwee. I love it.

This screams “Lord of Time” and I think he should coordinate between this one and his original coat. It’s a minor point, but I fail to see why the Twelfth Doctor has so many stories where he looks so un-Doctorly. Why is he wearing a baggy white shirt with a pink one underneath when confronting Davros, his archenemy? Into the Dalek, Flatline, Death in Heaven and now Face the Raven have had Twelve at his most regal and impressive, like he should be. Although the First Doctor esque costume in Mummy on the Orient Express was great.

  • Alien worlds

I can’t stress this enough, but I am really tired of Earth in Doctor Who. I understand the budget may not be able to accommodate an alien world every week, but if the Classic Series can have unique worlds and planets every series, then I fail to see why the New Series can’t.

krop tor

Krop Tor from the Impossible Planet is one of my favourite alien worlds in the show.

Capaldi has had two stories fully set on alien planets (Time Heist and The Witch’s Familiar) while Tennant and Smith has had plenty of interesting ones. The Doctor Who universe is so huge and vast, so quite why Earth is always visited baffles me. I won’t even mind a space station or a space ship, but Earth is really getting dull as a story location, especially London. If Earth stories are going to be the norm, then they should be set somewhere like Japan, Australia (the only story ever set there is the Enemy of the World) or Chandler’s Ford to shake things up a bit (OK, maybe not that last place). I understand location filming is expensive, but locations can be mocked up, and for the benefit of an interesting story I want a more diverse set of locations next year away from Earth.

Sydney opera house

I think I speak for all Australian Whovians when I say that a story set there would be awesome, and I’m not even Australian.

So those are my five wishes for Series 10. There are still three weeks to go of Series 9 so some of this may become outdated but I think now is a good time to say what I would like from the show next series.

Oh, and a theme tune change. I want awesome time travelling, not strangled cats. The variation from Before the Flood is what Capaldi’s Doctor needs every week-

Until then, it’s time to Face the Raven…