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15 Apr 2013, 7:05 am

REVIEW: Cold War by Mark Gatiss

SERIAL:
7.9, 1X45 minute episode

SEEN IT BEFORE?: No (Reviewed the repeat)


I have to confess to being disappointed with many of Mark Gatiss' episodes for the new series of Doctor Who. While The Unquiet Dead was great, and Night Terrors good, both The Idiot's Lantern and Victory of the Daleks were disappointing in the extreme. So I have to confess to a certain amount of trepidation as well as excitement for Cold War. After all, an Ice Warrior on the loose within a nuclear submarine at the height of the Cold War seems like a winning combination, but would it work?

1983, and the Cold War is reaching a high in the tensions between East and West. In the Arctic Ocean, a nuclear submarine under the command of Commander Zhukov is undergoing launch drills, shortly after finding a mysterious object frozen in the ice. Professor Grisenko thinks it is a mammoth, but when a crewmember, against orders, defrosts it, the creature within rampages through the ship, causing it to sink. Into this mess land the Doctor and Clara, having intended to head for Las Vegas, and soon, the TARDIS dematerialises, stranding them in a submarine with suspicious Russians. More than that, the Doctor not only recognises the creature attacking them as an Ice Warrior, but the Ice Warrior is none other than Grand Marshall Skaldak, a famous war hero of the Martians. And Skaldak, attacked by the crew and believing his race to be long dead, thinks he has lost everything, bar revenge...

The Ice Warriors were introduced in the series at a time when the 'base under siege' stories were in vogue, and their debut story was an example of this. So it is fitting that this story is a tense and tight version of this very same story, and set in the very heart of the Cold War, with themes about war and warmongering. There's some good humour (including a scene where Grisenko tries to winkle out Clara's future knowledge in a funny and heartwarming way), but this is almost Alien on a submarine. It's also refreshing to have the Doctor state the truth about his origins for once, and there's more than one intriguing continuity nod, including one as far back as The Krotons. This is easily Gatiss' best script for the series.

The Doctor and Clara are both good, although I have to confess that, despite Jenna Louise-Coleman's good performance, Clara as a companion is a little bland, though preferable at times to Amy. Skaldak's characterisation is said to be inconsistent in other reviews, but I put that down to his despair and desperation, and Nicholas Briggs and Spencer Wilding manage to invest pathos into an otherwise potentially monstrous character. The other characters are, for the most part, rather undeveloped, but this is more than made up for by the performances of the actors. David Warner (appearing for the first time in the main series) as Grisenko is a charming character, especially for an actor who normally plays villains, while Liam Cunningham plays Captain Zhukov fairly closely to his Game of Thrones character of Davos Seaworth (by no means a bad thing).

The story's production angle is excellent. The sets feel authentic, even if they aren't strictly accurate as some have noted, and the Ice Warrior costume is a brilliant reimagining. The direction is atmospheric to the extreme, bringing the script to the next level. There are, however, two disappointments. The first is very minuscule: we only see the Ice Warrior's sonic gun effect briefly in the initial part of the episode, and what is seen briefly pales in comparison to the old effect using mirrorlon (a flexible reflective material) in the classic series. The second is showing the Ice Warrior's true face. The design is excellent, I have to say that. But the CGI is somewhat obvious. Which is unfortunate, because as I said before, the design of the Ice Warrior face is excellent.

Cold War is an excellent episode that just stops short of perfection. A bit of better characterisation and work on the effects would have just pushed it there. But as it stands, it's already excellent.


SCORE: 9.5/10


The next episode will be Hide...


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21 Apr 2013, 5:46 am

REVIEW: Hide by Neil Cross

SERIAL:
7.10, 1X45 minute episode

SEEN IT BEFORE?: No (Reviewed immediately after transmission)


Neil Cross' initial offering, at least in transmission order, was the average The Rings of Akhaten. It was all right, but not really meaty. So I had to confess, despite the intriguing setups, to being a bit trepidatious with the next offering, actually his first script, Hide. Haunted houses, ghosts, and psychics have been done before in the series. But can Cross do it right?

1974, and Caliburn Mansion is the centre of an investigation by Professor Alec Palmer and his empath assistant, Emma Grayling. Their investigations into a ghostly figure are interrupted by the Doctor and Clara, but soon, the four in the mansion realise that this is more complicated than a simple ghost hunt. This is a haunting that echoes through the same place, throughout the entire history of Earth, but in order to save the ghostly figure, the Doctor must undertake a dangerous journey, one that will tax not only him, but all of the others to their limits...

Although this story has plenty of antecedents earlier in the series (Ghost Light, Image of the Fendahl, and The Unquiet Dead all spring to mind), this story also brings to mind Nigel Kneale's play The Stone Tape. Indeed, Cross made no bones about using Kneale as inspiration, using both The Stone Tape and the Quatermass serials. But this is by no means a bad thing. The story is a good one, but unfortunately, the twists involved do rob the story of the horror element, and the twist at the end seems slightly tacked on. In addition, the TARDIS not seeming to like Clara, while in keeping with The Rings of Akhaten, seems almost too much like a plot device rather than heralding some secret about Clara. Or making the TARDIS more bitchy than she was in the TV series (though the novels and audios are another matter entirely...).

Matt Smith as the Doctor is excellent, showing some excellent fear late in the story, while Jenna Louise-Coleman seems to be getting better material of late as the otherwise somewhat bland Clara. Dougray Scott was fine enough as the damaged Professor Palmer, as was Jessica Raine as Emma (and who, incidentally, is playing Verity Lambert, the first producer of Doctor Who, in the docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time, to be transmitted later this year). But they weren't the most rounded of characters, especially Emma, and the other main character, the ghost, doesn't have that much personality in the end. A pity, that.

Production-wise, there's a lot of atmosphere that helps keep the horror elements going, even as they drain out of the story. The direction helps ramp up the tension, and for the most part, the special effects work well. While the Crooked Man creature works when it is only seen briefly, they go and spoil it all with one shot too many, of a sustained look at an admittedly hideous creature. A pity, really.

Hide, while far from perfect, was certainly an improvement on The Rings of Akhaten, and despite some faults, is nonetheless a worthy entry into the supernaturally-themed stories of the series. It's not quite at the level of Ghost Light or Blink, but not every story can make it that far.


SCORE: 9/10


The next episode will be Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS...


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30 Apr 2013, 12:12 am

REVIEW: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS by Stephen Thompson

SERIAL:
7.11, 1X45 minute episode

SEEN IT BEFORE?: No (Reviewed two days after transmission)


According to one source, Steven Moffat had this episode commissioned because one of the few times we saw substantially throughout the TARDIS was The Invasion of Time, much of it using an abandoned hospital, something which Moffat wished to rectify. Certainly, with the exception of The Doctor's Wife, almost no new series episode has ever explored the TARDIS beyond the console room and maybe another room. But would Stephen Thompson succeed?

Clara is concerned about that TARDIS seeming to hate her. The Doctor gives Clara a chance by bringing the TARDIS to basic mode. Problem is, the van Baalen brothers, unscrupulous salvagers, and their android Tricky, have found the TARDIS in space, and intend to scrap it. With the TARDIS damaged by the van Baalens' illicit equipment and Clara lost somewhere in the depths of the TARDIS, the Doctor cons the salvagers into helping him find Clara. But deep within the TARDIS, things are stirring, and the van Baalens are willing to cut the TARDIS apart for scrap, whether the Doctor wants them to or not, not caring that the TARDIS can fight back...

Okay, so this story is pretty much an extended romp through the TARDIS. In a way, it's like The Edge of Destruction with one more person and a trio of monsters. But there is little of the psychodrama that made The Edge of Destruction so good here. Instead, it exists to showcase parts of the TARDIS, and while it does it well, the actual story is rather thin on the ground. We also have once again an ending that is very nearly an arsepull. But there's nice continuity nods throughout, as well as some fascinating looks within the TARDIS.

The Doctor and Clara are fine enough, although I do feel that the attempts to put some conflict into their relationship was a bit like Rory and Amy's divorce in Asylum of the Daleks, albeit somewhat better handled. Certainly, Amy and the Doctor got to ask each other some telling questions, although it does feel a little affected. The van Baalen brothers are a different matter entirely, with both being terminally and idiotically greedy, although Ashley Walters' Gregor does show some decency. Jahvel Hall as Tricky is somewhat better, and one of the more interesting characters in the episode. And the TARDIS seems to be also all too willing to harm both the Doctor and Clara at times, although this gets an explanation later on.

The star of this show is the production values. We see the TARDIS library, presumably the bath/swimming pool, the engine room (with the Eye of Harmony getting a namecheck once more), and corridors galore. Sets are wonderful, and most of the special effects are good too. The time zombies are at their most effective when being blurred by digital effects, giving them an eeriness not unlike the Crooked Man from the previous episode, Hide. Unlike Hide, while the time zombies, when not masked by effects, still look like men (and a woman) in rubber suits, at least the costume looks far more realistic, and thus horrifying.

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS was not a tour-de-force, and certainly is one of the weaker stories this season. But it's certainly an intriguing look deep within perhaps the least explained stars of the show: the TARDIS.


SCORE: 8/10


The next episode will be The Crimson Horror...


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05 May 2013, 5:47 am

REVIEW: The Crimson Horror by Mark Gatiss

SERIAL:
7.12, 1X45 minute episode

SEEN IT BEFORE?: No (Reviewed immediately after transmission)


Doctor Who has seen its fair share of guest stars before, including from another Sydney Newman-created series, The Avengers. Honor Blackman played the vicious but ultimately good Professor Laskey in Terror of the Vervoids, and many notable regulars and writers for Doctor Who have appeared in The Avengers. So it was maybe only a matter of time before Diana Rigg played a role. But she wouldn't play a role alone: her daughter Rachel Stirling would play her fictional daughter in Mark Gatiss' The Crimson Horror...

Yorkshire, 1893, and Madam Vastra is investigating the mysterious Sweetville factory complex run by Mrs Gillyflower. Victims of a mysterious death known as 'the Crimson Horror' have been found nearby in a river, with waxy crimson skin and the images of the last thing they saw imprinted onto their eyes. One of the victims saw the Doctor shortly before his death, and Vastra, along with her wife/assistant Jenny, and their belligerent Sontaran butler Strax, must investigate. Gillyflower seems convinced that the apocalypse is nigh, and that her workers at the Sweetville mill, the brightest and most beautiful in the land, will be the only ones to survive. Meanwhile, her scarred and blind daughter, Ada, keeps a monster locked up in a secret room. What happened to the Doctor and Clara? Who is Gillyflower's mysterious silent partner Mr Sweet? And why does Madam Vastra find the Crimson Horror so disturbingly familiar?

Well, after the past few years since The Unquiet Dead, and Mark Gatiss having written average or below-so stories, it was a relief to watch Cold War and enjoy it so. And it's even more so to watch The Crimson Horror. Gatiss' love of Victoriana is given full reign for the first time since The Unquiet Dead, and it shows. He does pretty much rework the plot of Moonraker to a degree, which is by no means a bad thing, though it is hard to discern what Gillyflower's motivation is, beyond some sort of semi-religious self-righteousness. And it's enjoyable to have the Doctor in need of rescuing for once, with Vastra and company getting an emphasis.

Matt Smith gets some good acting here, despite the slightly lessened role of the Doctor, although Jenna-Louise Coleman's Clara doesn't get as much. But the stars of the show are really Neve McIntosh, Catrin Stewart, and Dan Starkey as Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, with Jenny getting perhaps more of a chance to shine, and show off more of her skills both as a spy and as a combatant, ala The Avengers, funnily enough. Diana Rigg clearly relishes the role of Gillyflower, despite the somewhat opaque motives, but of the guest stars outside of the main cast and recurring characters, it is her daughter, Rachel Stirling, as the sinister but ultimately good Ada who is outstanding.

The BBC show themselves once more to be superlative period drama producers, with the story feeling like Victoriana. Maybe it could have done with a tad more atmosphere, but certainly it's still quite a creepy story, with the crimson bodies looking suitably horrific, and the venom looking suitably grotesque and alien. There's even a flashback done like on an old film.

The Crimson Horror is Mark Gatiss' masterpiece for the series. It is virtually perfect, and manages to do so without the Doctor as much. Kudos to Mark Gatiss. Now, here's hoping Neil Gaiman can pull off the same thing for Nightmare in Silver...


SCORE: 10/10


The next episode will be Nightmare in Silver...


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12 May 2013, 5:52 am

REVIEW: Nightmare in Silver by Neil Gaiman

SERIAL:
7.13, 1X45 minute episode

SEEN IT BEFORE?: No (Reviewed immediately after transmission)


Of all the decisions Steven Moffat made when he took over the reins of being the showrunner, one of the best ones was to hire Neil Gaiman, noted fantasy author and fan of the show. The Doctor's Wife was easily one of the best of the sixth series, and certainly one of the best in the entire run of the series, period. So when he came to write for the second half of series seven, I was excited, but I also felt some trepidation, even though he was writing for one of my favourite monsters, the Cybermen. Could lightning strike twice? Or would Neil Gaiman's second effort for the series be a downgrade?

Blackmailed by Clara's charges, Angie and Artie Maitland, into taking them on a trip through time and space, the Doctor takes them to Hedgewick's World, once the finest theme park in the galaxy. However, it has long since been abandoned, with only a dysfunctional punishment battalion, and Webley, a showman who has a chess-playing Cyberman suit operated by the diminutive Porridge. The Cybermen have been gone for a long time, or so they think. But there is a new, deadly breed of Cyberman at the ready. Angie and Artie are soon imperiled, and when the Doctor follows, he is forced to become the beginning of a new Cyberplanner. Meanwhile, Clara and Porridge must contend with the Captain of the battalion, who is all to willing to blow the planet up, and anyone else on it, to destroy the Cybermen. Who exactly is Porridge? Can the Doctor stop the Cyberplanner from taking him over? And what defence can be mounted against a new model of Cybermen that can adapt to any strategy used against them with frightening speed? It's a brand new nightmare in silver, and not everyone will get out alive...

Compared to the raw magic of The Doctor's Wife, Nightmare in Silver doesn't quite have it as much. There is still magic in the story, with some very good set pieces, including a chess game between the Doctor and the Cyberplanner taking him over (aka 'Mr Clever'), and a very clever reinvention of the Cybermen, making them even scarier, not to mention more clever with their tactics. Indeed, this story is certainly better than the norm in the series. I just wish, given that it came from the pen of Neil Gaiman, that it was just that bit better.

Matt Smith is great not only as the Doctor, but as the Doctor being taken over by the Cyberplanner, while Jenna Louise-Coleman is doing really well as Clara. I have to confess, though, that I thought Eve de Leon Allen's Angie was too annoyingly bratty (to the point that I hoped that the Cybermen would kill her), and Kassius Corey Johnson as Artie is just not in it enough to judge properly. Most of the platoon are fine enough, save for the Captain, who I don't like. However, it is perhaps Warwick Davis' Porridge who steals the show alongside Matt Smith, giving some real depth and pathos to his character who could have otherwise been just another oddity.

Given the deficiencies of script and character, the production seems almost flawless at times. There is substantial atmosphere in the direction, and with the exception of the final explosion of the planet (which looked too flat than a 3D image), the special effects are all quite good. Special praise should go to the redesigner of the Cybermen, going for a middle ground between the armoured behemoths of the new series and the relatively slender ones of some of the classic series. They also look creepier, and the new voices are reminiscent of those used for The Wheel in Space, albeit creepier.

Nightmare in Silver wasn't the masterpiece I expected. But it's certainly a damned good story, enjoyable, and successful in making the Cybermen scary again...


SCORE: 9/10


The next episode will be The Name of the Doctor...


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19 May 2013, 5:41 am

REVIEW: The Name of the Doctor by Steven Moffat

SERIAL:
7.14, 1X45 minute episode

SEEN IT BEFORE?: No (Reviewed immediately after transmission)


A lot of hype was given about the season final. Moffat teased that the greatest secret of the Doctor would be revealed, and because of the title of the season final, people assumed that it would be the Doctor's name that would be revealed. With the leak of the Blu-Ray causing a scare, there was an understandable desire to keep a tight lid on things. But would the revelation of the Doctor's greatest secret be a firecracker? Or a damp squib?

Madame Vastra has received word about a man who claims to know a secret of the Doctor's, one he will take to his grave. From Victorian Britain to the devastated fields of Trenzalore, the Doctor, Clara, Vastra, Jenny, and the data ghost of River Song must travel to try and prevent the Doctor's most grave secret from being discovered. But the Great Intelligence is one step ahead, and he has a deadly plan to destroy the Doctor for once and for all. What plan to kill the Doctor involves opening the Doctor's own tomb? What is his most grave secret? And how does this tie in with the destiny of Clara Oswald?

Let's start with what's wrong with The Name of the Doctor. It is too simple and lacks a certain complexity that should have been there, and it is, as some fans put it, self-indulgent twaddle. And yet, not only is this a good culmination to the Great Intelligence's plans that have been brewing since The Snowmen, but it certainly resolves Clara's story in a similar manner to the Bad Wolf story arc, only far more satisfying. And there's a great twist at the end that does reveal a major secret of the Doctor's, albeit one that doesn't involve his name.

Matt Smith is on a roll as the Doctor, with one of his best speeches towards the end to River, along with a very emotional sequence when he explains to Clara why going to Trenzalore is a bad idea. Jenna-Louise Coleman is good as Clara, but never stellar. The actors of the Paternoster Gang get good roles as well, with Neve McIntosh in particular showing wonderful pain when Vastra loses something very dear to her, although Alex Kingston as River Song seems rather underwritten here, though the character does get some development (despite being a post-Forest of the Dead data ghost River). Richard E Grant is excellent as the Great Intelligence at its most evil, while John Hurt gets an unexpected and brilliant cameo as a man with a link to the Doctor's past.

The production of the story is quite good, but there are more than a few flaws. When Jenna-Louise Coleman and Richard E Grant are integrated into old footage from the series, the result is often far from seamless. They did better with the body doubles. And the Whisper Men are filled with potential, but are never quite explained or even used enough. All the same, it's still quite a good production in the end.

The Name of the Doctor could have been much better. But it's still quite a good season finale, and one that promises much for the series ahead...


SCORE: 9/10


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19 May 2013, 11:06 am

I'd just like to say that I really enjoy reading your reviews of each episode.

My only criticism is that you are quite generous with your marks- an episode you are quite critical of can get 8/10. I know that I pick up on minor flaws in artwork if I know that the creator is capable of producing even better, but there isn't really much differentiation. You're essentially using a 4 point scale, 8 being "poor", 8.5 "average", 9 "good" and 9.5 "great", with 10 and <8 being reserved for very rare stories.



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19 May 2013, 7:17 pm

The last episode was my favourite of the series. And there are theories aplenty as to John Hurt's Doctor.



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20 May 2013, 1:52 am

The_Walrus wrote:
I'd just like to say that I really enjoy reading your reviews of each episode.

My only criticism is that you are quite generous with your marks- an episode you are quite critical of can get 8/10. I know that I pick up on minor flaws in artwork if I know that the creator is capable of producing even better, but there isn't really much differentiation. You're essentially using a 4 point scale, 8 being "poor", 8.5 "average", 9 "good" and 9.5 "great", with 10 and <8 being reserved for very rare stories.


Yeah, sorry. It's a derivative of a similar system I used for a book-reading blog. I did give three stories 5/10: The Ark, Four to Doomsday, and The Twin Dilemma.


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20 May 2013, 5:49 pm

:makes a mental note to never watch serials deemed worse than Love And Monsters:



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21 May 2013, 2:29 am

The_Walrus wrote:
:makes a mental note to never watch serials deemed worse than Love And Monsters:


:lol:

Of course, how bad The Ark and Four to Doomsday is a matter of opinion to all fans. But The Twin Dilemma is considered by general consensus to be the worst story of all time. What makes it even more painful is that it's meant to be the debut of the Sixth Doctor, and yet, before the first episode is through, he tries to throttle his own companion in a paranoid delusion. Scary thing is? It was actually rewritten heavily from the original scripts by Anthony Stevens, so it could have been much worse.

Anyway, here's the DVD trailers. They're probably making the shows look better than they really are.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shJozwGz4SA[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnbkTNxIC3I[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXBp1UpDo_0[/youtube]

Keep in mind that there is no Doctor Who story that is completely unwatchable. Even those mentioned above have a few enjoyable aspects. Then again, I have never watched Dimensions in Time... :?

Have you watched any of the classic series, Walrus?


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21 May 2013, 9:18 am

Not very much. Earthshock, The Space Museum, maybe a couple of others that I can't remember. I read Justin Richards' companion books to the first two revived series which also explored classic series monsters and serials featuring revived monsters, and I watch clips on the BBC website, so I sometimes get references to the classic series.

Are there any serials you'd particularly recommend, especially Tom Baker ones? Currently I'm watching Caves Of Androzani, but I'd like to see a Fourth Doctor story next. Maybe City Of Death?



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21 May 2013, 7:38 pm

The_Walrus wrote:
Not very much. Earthshock, The Space Museum, maybe a couple of others that I can't remember. I read Justin Richards' companion books to the first two revived series which also explored classic series monsters and serials featuring revived monsters, and I watch clips on the BBC website, so I sometimes get references to the classic series.

Are there any serials you'd particularly recommend, especially Tom Baker ones? Currently I'm watching Caves Of Androzani, but I'd like to see a Fourth Doctor story next. Maybe City Of Death?


Oooh, The Caves of Androzani! Excellent choice! Perfect, save for the dicky magma creature. So too is City of Death, which is also one of the few good stories of its season.

Okay, well, I'll discuss my top three (I'll exclude The Caves of Androzani, City of Death, and Earthshock from the list) for each classic Doctor. I'll try to avoid those stories that are in boxsets, but if you can get stories from the library, then that's good. It's also worth pointing out that a company called Big Finish does audio stories with Doctors 4-8, many of them excellent. I'll give some recommendations for those if you like, but for now, just three from each Doctor...

(*Marks DVD trailers can be found. ** Indicates trailers as part of a Boxset)

FIRST DOCTOR:

The Aztecs:* One of the best surviving historical stories, The Aztecs has Barbara attempting to change history. The Aztecs have mistaken her for the divine reincarnation of one of their priests, but when she tries to stop the tradition of human sacrifice, she makes a mortal enemy in Tlotoxl, High Priest of Sacrifice...

The Dalek Invasion of Earth: A silly plot towards the end and a few dodgy special effects here and there are relatively small impediments to the second Dalek story, and the best surviving one of the Hartnell era. Set sometime in the 22nd century, the Doctor and his companions find an Earth occupied by the Daleks, with only desperate bands of resistance against them...

The Web Planet: A simple, almost childish story, and more than a few wobbly sets. Even so, this is the first, and really only attempt by the series to create a truly alien, human-free world (barring the Doctor and company), and does so with real poetry. The TARDIS is dragged out of space and time to the planet Vortis, an eerie world where insects rule. There is a war between the moth-like Menoptra, and the ant-like Zarbi, the latter of whom is controlled by some malevolent force...


SECOND DOCTOR:

The Tomb of the Cybermen:** One of the best Cybermen stories, let down by some dated attitudes and special effects. The Doctor and his companions join an archaeological expedition to investigate the Tomb of the Cybermen on Telos, but find that the Cybermen are far from dead...

The Mind Robber: While trying to escape a flow of lava, the Doctor is forced to activate an emergency procedure that takes the TARDIS out of space and time. But in the void is a malevolent entity, and after trying to escape it, the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe are separated when the TARDIS explodes, leaving them stranded in a world of fiction. Very surreal, weird, and wonderful story.

The Invasion: Eight part monster (with two episodes missing, but these were animated for the DVD release) that nonetheless is a historical one, introducing UNIT, reintroducing Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (a colonel in missing story The Web of Fear, and now a brigadier), and hinting at the Earthbound format to come. The Doctor and company land on Earth and try to have a scientist acquaintance look into repairing part of the TARDIS. Said acquaintance is abroad, and another scientist who can help him is at mysterious corporation International Electromatics. IE's mysterious leader, Tobias Vaughn, seems to be good-natured, but in reality, he is the figurehead for an invasion of Earth by old foes of the Doctor, foes that the Doctor must team up with UNIT to stop.


THIRD DOCTOR (These were amongst the most difficult to choose: most of the good ones are in the first season of the Third Doctor, but I needed balance somewhere)

The Ambassadors of Death:* Quite a strong story, despite the ridiculous amount of writers it went through. An expedition to Mars has gone wrong, and when the recovery mission meets up, a strange noise is broadcast. The recovery capsule comes back to Earth, but the capsule is promptly stolen by agents working against UNIT. What's worse is that whatever came back is not only alien, but so radioactive, they can kill with a touch...

The Daemons:* Written by then producer Barry Letts with Roger Sloman, this story has a few bits here and there dodgy, but is otherwise a great story. The Doctor learns of an archaeological dig that is cutting into an alleged burial mound outside the village of Devil's End, which already has a reputation for mysterious goings-on. He becomes obsessed with stopping the dig, like local white witch Miss Hawthorne, but the new vicar of Devil's End is also determined to stop them both, for he is the Master...

The Green Death: AKA the one with the giant maggots. Better than you'd think. UNIT has been assigned to do security for Global Chemicals, a controversial oil company in Wales, while Jo has decided to join the protestors against them. The Doctor is initially having none of this, having a short trip to Metebelis 3, on a dangerous expedition to obtain a powerful crystal from that world. But he soon realises what Global Chemicals is up to, with a deadly green slime causing people to die glowing green, maggots to grow huge, and with the mysterious BOSS behind it all...


FOURTH DOCTOR:

Genesis of the Daleks: THE beginning of the Time War, although they didn't have a conception about it then, the first Davros story, and one of the very best of all time. The Time Lords charge the Doctor with going to the distant past of Skaro and either stopping or hindering the development of the Daleks, before they dominate all life. But pre-Dalek Skaro is not a nice place, consumed by a deadly war between the Kaleds and the Thals. There are no heros here. While Sarah and a group of Mutos, people affected by the biological, chemical, and nuclear warfare, are pressganged by the Thals as slave labour to work on a devastating rocket, the Doctor and Harry are brought to the Kaled dome, and from there to the bunker of the Science Corps. There, they meet Davros, the creator of the Daleks...

The Deadly Assassin:* A violent story, but also one of the best showing Gallifrey and the Master. The Doctor is summoned back to Gallifrey, but ends up being pursued as a criminal. But he is also having visions of the President being assassinated. But when he tries to stop the real assassin, he is found with a gun in his hands, and the President dead. In order to prove his innocence, the Doctor must travel into the repository of the minds of the Time Lord's dead, the Matrix, and battle a mysterious opponent to the death. But said opponent is merely the pawn of the Master, wasted, burnt, and decaying, living only by willpower, hatred of the Doctor, and a plan to save him, at the expense of Gallifrey...

The Talons of Weng-Chiang:** Despite a dodgy giant rat and some unfortunate implications involving the Chinese, this is my personal favourite of all the Tom Baker era. The DVD is available either separately as an older edition, or as part of a Revisitations set with The Caves of Androzani and the TV Movie. The Doctor and his latest companion, the savage Leela, arrive in Victorian London, where the Doctor intends to educate Leela, descended from a human colony, about her people's past. However, they interrupt a group of Coolies trying to dispose of a body, and soon find out that a number of young women have been disappearing. They are linked to stage magician Li H'sen Chang, but even he is the pawn of the vicious and deformed Weng-Chiang, otherwise known as Magnus Greel, a war criminal from the future...


FIFTH DOCTOR:

Kinda:** One of the most complex and incomprehensible stories of the series, but also one of its best and darkest, and in a boxset I'm afraid. The Doctor and his companions land on Deva Loka, a peaceful jungle world, and while Nyssa rests in the TARDIS, traumatised by the previous adventure's events, the Doctor, Tegan, and Adric explore. Tegan soon falls asleep under some wind chimes, while the Doctor and Adric are captured by an expedition from Earth. The leader of the expedition Sanders and his unhinged second in command Hindle are suspicious of them (as many other members of the expedition have gone missing), and believe the natives, the Kinda, to be mute savages. But Dr Todd, the scientist of the expedition, believe the Kinda to be advanced in knowledge. Soon, Sanders leaves to try and find the others, leaving the paranoid and deranged Hindle in charge, who promptly imprisons Todd, the Doctor and Adric. But it is Tegan who is in the most danger, as she is assaulted in her mind by aspects of the Mara, an evil entity that dwells within the dark places of the mind...

The Five Doctors:* Great anniversary special, if a bit too much crammed in there. The first five Doctors are taken out of time, with the fourth trapped in a time eddy. The other four end up on Gallifrey, specifically in a misty, devastated landscape known only as the Death Zone, formerly used as an arena for lower lifeforms to die for the pleasure of the ancient Gallifreyans. In the centre is the Dark Tower, where the Tomb of Rassilon resides, but between the Doctors and the Tower stands a Dalek, three squads of Cybermen, and other foes. The Master has been recruited by the High Council to help the Doctors, but someone is pulling the strings from behind the scenes. And at stake? Immortality...

Frontios:* Let down a little by the costumes of the monsters, but otherwise a good and dark story. Far in the future, a ship of humans fleeing from the destruction of Earth have crashed on the planet of Frontios, much of their technology having been damaged beyond repair. The Doctor is reluctant to interfere, as interference this far into the future might draw the Time Lords' attention, but soon he has no choice. A gravitational force drags the TARDIS to Frontios, and a meteorite shower shortly thereafter seemingly destroys it. Stranded with scared and paranoid colonists, the Doctor must solve the mystery of why meteorites pummel the colony on a regular basis and why bodies seem to be dragged into the very soil. It is Turlough, however, who recognises the culprits in a traumatic revisit of ancestral memory: Tractators...


SIXTH DOCTOR:

Vengeance on Varos:* Violent, but prescient, making comment on reality TV before it caught on. In order to solve a power malfunction in the TARDIS, the Doctor is forced to travel to Varos in the future, a former penal colony, now an oppressive dictatorship, where the masses are kept in check by televised torture and executions. The Governor of Varos is trying to negotiate with the unprincipled Sil, an evil mining corporation alien, for a fair price on Zeiton-7, the very mineral the Doctor needs. But Sil is working with the Chief Officer to remove the Governor from office, and to prevent the Doctor from telling anyone about the true worth of Zeiton-7...

The Mark of the Rani: Okay, this didn't get a better than average score, but I'm including it here because Trial of a Time Lord takes a long time and I was trying to think of another good Sixth Doctor. And it's still not a bad story. Killingworth in the 19th century, and the Doctor has traced a temporal disturbance to that era. But there is a rather more mundane disturbance, in the form of Luddites smashing machines and being violent, all with a red mark on their neck. The cause is the Rani, a Time Lord scientist who needs chemicals from human brains for her own purposes. But the Master is present as well, and he coerces the Rani into a scheme to not only kill the Doctor, but disrupt history...

Revelation of the Daleks: One of the best Dalek/Davros stories, ever, despite the Doctor not getting to the main action until halfway through the story. Davros is subtle, even jokey in this one. The Doctor and Peri come to Necros, a world where people come to be interred in suspended animation at Tranquil Repose. The Doctor's old friend Arthur Stengos has been interred here, but the Doctor is suspicious. So too is Stengos' daughter, who has been unable to have the body released to her, and soon finds that not only has his head been turned into a Dalek, but that the authorities refused to hand over the body because those frozen are a threat to those in power. But there is also the Great Healer of Tranquil Repose, a famous doctor and scientist who saved the galaxy from famine with the help of corporate executive Kara. But Kara has hired mercenaries to kill the Great Healer, known by another name: Davros!


SEVENTH DOCTOR:

Remembrance of the Daleks: Another good Dalek story, and the moment when the Seventh Doctor began to really do his thing. Travelling to Earth in 1963, the Doctor and Ace investigate strange goings-on at Coal Hill School and 76 Totter's Lane, places that a military group are interested in as well. Daleks are there, two factions, and both want a powerful Gallifreyan superweapon, the Hand of Omega, a superweapon the Doctor left behind...

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy:* Very good story. The Doctor and Ace travel to Segonax, where the Psychic Circus, the self-proclaimed Greatest Show in the Galaxy, is currently ensconced. But the circus is luring audience members in to perform for a mysterious trio, and if they don't entertain, they die. While Ace confronts her fear of clowns, the Doctor teams up with the mysterious Mags, companion to selfish and talkative explorer Captain Cook, to get to the bottom of the mystery...

The Curse of Fenric: Good story, but if you get this on DVD, watch the special edition, it's easier to understand and has better effects. The Doctor and Ace land at a naval base during World War II, where brilliant cryptologist Dr Judson is working with the ULTIMA machine. But there is a plan to allow a group of Russian commandos to steal the ULTIMA machine, booby-trapped with a chemical weapon. And the dead rise as vampiric Haemovores when an ancient curse begins to unfold. But even this is part of the culmination of a deadly game between the Doctor, and the eons-old evil entity known only as Fenric...


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Rorberyllium
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21 May 2013, 10:27 pm

Why does everyone always hate on Love And Monsters? Yeah I guess everyone remembers the slapstick goofiness and the concrete blowjobs, but it's a fun memorable episode with likable characters and it illustrates how their day-to-day lives are affected by the Doctor in a unique way. I actually kind of remember the characters from Love & Monsters, and I don't remember anyone from Blink.



The_Walrus
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22 May 2013, 4:35 pm

Rorberyllium wrote:
Why does everyone always hate on Love And Monsters? Yeah I guess everyone remembers the slapstick goofiness and the concrete blowjobs, but it's a fun memorable episode with likable characters and it illustrates how their day-to-day lives are affected by the Doctor in a unique way. I actually kind of remember the characters from Love & Monsters, and I don't remember anyone from Blink.

You don't remember Sally Sparrow? Or Billy, who had until the rain stopped? Or "the angels have the phone box"?

I hate on it because it was really terrible. I can't remember why I hated it, because I don't tend to revisit things I've already seen if I didn't like them the first time.

Quatermass: thanks for the recommendations! I am preparing for my A-Levels (which decide whether I will get into university) so I don't have the capacity to watch loads of serials right now, but I have a long summer holiday this year. I recognise the names of several stories (particularly the Fourth Doctor ones). Many of the serials are on Metacafe, which is like YouTube but not as scrupulously checked by copyright holders, so I shall watch them there and maybe look at buying the best ones in the future.