Monday, 14 July 2014

Doctor Who: A Look into Darkness - Series Eight Trailer Breakdown

The clock really is striking Twelve as the début of Peter Capaldi's Doctor is right around the corner, with more and more stuff coming out about this series (both officially and, ahem, illicitly). Yesterday, Who fans everywhere brought the internet down when the first full-length trailer for Series Eight was released (what do you mean there was some sort of big sporting event happening too?). So, in grand Scribble Creatures tradition, I'm here to breakdown the trailer to see what is in store for the new man...

Oh, but first, you might want to see it.

So, now that you know what I'm talking about, let's shed some light into this darkness... 

'Life Returns... Life Prevails!'

The most recent mini-trailer, which featured a Dalek voice talking about souls and beauty, started rumours that the Daleks' creator Davros could return. While I personally don't agree with said theory, we had more evidence for the new series featuring a more eloquent Dalek (or maybe a whole bunch of them) in the first dialogue heard in this trailer - 'LIFE RETURNS... LIFE PREVAILS!' went the Dalek voice with a more nuanced delivery and certainly a wider vocabulary than usual. Only time will tell what this means...

The trailer also offers us a glimpse at a revamped TARDIS interior. Unlike the transition from David Tennant to Matt Smith and then later Matt Smith to, um, Matt Smith, the console room hasn't completely regenerated but it is subtly different. The green glow of the Time Rotor has been replaced by an orange one and it can be seen that more home-y additions have been implemented such as bookshelves, suggesting the feel of Matt Smith's first TARDIS.
Plus, it's going to be on fire at one point. I hope they've added a fire extinguisher. 

Old Friends, New Foes

The only episode we know anything concrete about (and if you're someone who's sought out the episode online - everything about) is the series opener. Titled 'Deep Breath', it sees the newly-regenerated Doctor and Clara return to Victorian London and to their old pals the Paternoster Gang. Fun fact: in her one line in the trailer, Vastra says 'here we go again...' This is exactly what the Brigadier said upon the moment of the Third Doctor's regeneration into the Fourth. Yes, I do know too much about Doctor Who. But you're reading me meticulously picking apart a minute-long trailer so really you're just indulging me and it's all your fault.

Moving on. What would a new Doctor Who series be without new monsters? Nothing that's what. So let's take a look at the latest monstrous villains and alien enemies that the Doctor will face.

This cyborg (or perhaps robot covered in human skin) presumably appears in the opener alongside Vastra, Jenny and Strax going by their visibly Victorian clothing. They're the first of what appears to be a very cybernetic collection of monsters (more later). But this one has what looks to be a flame thrower for an arm so he might just pip the rest. Flame throwers are cool, as ol' Eleven would say! Oh, what did I go and do that for. I need a moment...

Robot number two here seems to be a fan of top Who monsters, the Cybermen and the Daleks, as its metal skin slightly resembles the Cybus Industries Cybermen while its striking blue eyes are the colour of a Dalek's eyestalk. You know, whimsicality aside, a monster that takes parts from the Doctor's other deadliest foes is quite an idea. Hmm, Steven Moffat, if you're reading this and something similar appears in the next series I want to be made co-Executive Producer. And be given a BAFTA. And perhaps a yacht.

This handsome fella is the only alien alien seen in the trailer and he seems to be rather a treat, with his eyes on stalks (but not in the Dalek way). In fact, it looks like the Doctor is giving it a staring contest. Expect that episode to be a tense forty-five minutes. Don't blink, indeed.

Say hello Robot Number Three! Going by the background, perhaps a castle or a monastery, it looks like this robotic ragamuffin has shacked up in a historical location, possibly the medieval setting said to feature in the Mark Gatiss written episode this year. Interestingly, the robot's helmet and prominent cross resembles the look of English Knights from the Crusades that went on in that period.

And finally, we have... dinosaurs! For such a popular extinct race of creatures, they're a surprisingly rare thing to find on Doctor Who. For instance, the last time they appeared was... last series. Ahem, yes.

Ah, I hear you cry (I mean, I imagine that you cry. Don't check behind that vase. I promise there is not a bug hidden there) those Dinosaurs were on a spaceship, this adorable little predator is trampling through the streets of London. That's never been done before.

To this, I have to awkwardly look away and mumble that you are mistaken. Third Doctor story 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' featured... Dinosaurs in London. Unlike that story, however, it seems Mr. T. Rex here will appear in Victorian London in 'Deep Breath', with the cyborg man and the Paternoster Gang (alongside Capaldi's first full appearance, this is turning out to be a packed episode!), going by the steam and hat seen in the image above. Also, there's this shot in the trailer of the skyline of a Victorian-looking London. Look close enough, and you may find something out of sorts...

'Into Darkness...' 

But you don't want to know about all this. The only question on your lips (apart from 'how did he get that bug in here?) is: what will Peter Capaldi be like as the new Doctor? The trailer, though only short, does give some hints. True to the rumours and scant comments we've had so far, he looks set to be a very different Doctor from the last two. A darker, more sombre Time Lord, who, rather than despair over the losses of his past, seems to actively want to atone for them. The heart of the trailer, and more tantalising than any of the clips of monsters and the new TARDIS (as fun as they are), is the short speech the Doctor gives Clara in the TARDIS - handily presented on this dinky photo for your pleasure. 

In dialogue presumably taken from the first episode or one of the first, even the Doctor seems unsure of his new nature asking Clara,'Tell me, am I a good man?' 

So while everything is still bathed in mystery until 23rd August (well, for most of us), only one thing is certain...

Capaldi is coming...

Friday, 11 July 2014

Doctor Who: Step Back in Time - Series Five

As the début of Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor materialises ever closer, we continue our retrospective on the past series of modern Doctor Who. This time, we've reached a new decade and it's time for a new Doctor. So as the clock will soon strike Twelve, let's look back at Eleven's first - and finest? - hour.

Starring: Matt Smith (the Doctor) and Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) with Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams) and Alex Kingston (River Song).
Produced by: Tracie Simpson, Peter Bennett and Patrick Schweitzer 
Executive Produced by: Steven Moffat, Beth Willis and Piers Wenger

Best Episodes 

The Eleventh Hour by Steven Moffat
Having the unenviable task of regenerating the series when it had never been more popular, Moffat pulls a blinder of an episode which not only introduces us to the twinkling talents of Matt Smith and Karen Gillan but also serves as a blueprint for the new incarnation of the show; fast-paced and as funny as it is clever. In just one hour, Doctor Who proved that you can better the best. 

Amy's Choice by Simon Nye
Amongst the wealth of terrific episodes in Matt Smith's début series, this quirky curio is oft-forgotten. Trapped by the enigmatic Dream Lord, the Doctor, Amy and Rory have to choose between dream and reality.In short, it has everything you could ever want from the show; an inventive premise, lots of heart in the form of Amy's declaration of love for her boyfriend and a corker of a villain. Truly, the Doctor Who episode from my dreams.  

The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang by Steven Moffat
Simply Doctor Who's most thrilling finale. Never before - or, arguably, since - had a single story been packed full of so many strong ideas. With the universe blown up by the TARDIS, the Pandorica, Rory brought back to life, the stone Dalek ETC, these episodes glut their audience on the magnificent amount of imagination on show. It may leave answers hanging but it certainly makes for a satisfying climax to the series. A big bang indeed. 


For only the third time in Doctor Who history (after numbers Three and Nine), the new Doctor was accompanied on his fourth-dimensional travels with a new companion. This time around the companion came in the form of Amelia 'Amy' Pond, an orphan girl who's known the Doctor all her life. As such, Amy's relationship with the Doctor differs as to her he is her imaginary friend brought to life, due to her never really growing up, while the Doctor still sees her as the seven year old he once met. Also, Amy is perhaps unique in having an ulterior motive to joining the Doctor aboard the TARDIS. She wanted to run away from something, something terrifying. Her wedding.
Superficially similar to Mickey Smith from Series One and Two, Rory Williams is Amy's under-appreciated boyfriend/fiancé who later on joins them on their travels. In Rory's case, however, unlike Rose who automatically chose the Doctor, Amy has trouble deciding between her two 'boys.' Although she does eventually decide and Amy and Rory become Mr and Mrs Pond. And, yes, it does work like that.
Series Five also saw one-off character River Song become a recurring character and exceedingly important person in the Doctor's life. Is that the cloister bell in the TARDIS I hear? Or is it wedding bells?

Story Arc

In strict contrast to the growing trend of the RTD era of lighter story arcs, Series Five employed the biggest yet with the developing threat of the Time Cracks. Rather than simply acting as Easter eggs for the audience to spot (although that element is present), the Cracks feature prominently in several episodes in the run-up to the finale, namely in the series opener when one is found in Amy's bedroom wall and in 'Flesh and Stone' where it actually key to the climax of the episode. Doctor Who was clearly evolving. No longer just a series of independent stories, this series could be seen as both that and one longer story.
What's more, for a first on the show, several plot points are left unresolved in the series finale, leaving them as ongoing questions asked for the next few years of the show. This was a Doctor Who more ambitious and audacious than ever before, aiming to keep its viewers on the edge of the sofa when they weren't hiding behind it. In many ways, this series was a taster for what was to come, with many greater changes just around the corner. After this cracking series of some of the best-told Doctor Who stories ever and an exceptionally talented central cast, the show had once again proved that change was not only necessary it was welcome. Geronimo!

Monday, 30 June 2014

Monthly Mini-Reviews: June - TV Special

Continuing on with the resurrected Monthly Mini-Reviews feature, this time around there's a cornucopia of goggle-box-based goodies for you to feast your eyes on. In other, less purple, terms - it's the Monthly Mini-Review TV Special! First up, speaking of resurrections...

In The Flesh (Series Two)

After the cancellation of Being Human, I was left bereft over the lack of interesting supernatural dramas on British TV - for about a month, that is, as right around the corner came In The Flesh, another BBC Three show which had a similar melding of the monsters with the mundane. Set in a small Northern village after the Zombie Apocalypse, it saw Zombies (or Partially-Deceased Syndrome sufferers) return home, having been treated for their conditions, only to be met with prejudice and hostility.
The second series really comes into its own, expanding the mythology of the show and deepening the characters. Luke Newberry as the put-upon Kieran continues to be a talented find, ably supported by Emily Bevan as the (ironically) lively zombie Amy and the obligatory brooding Irishman (I'm thinking Being Human's Mitchell) in Emmett Scanlan's Simon.
Despite the impending death-knell of BBC Three itself, as the series has just won a BAFTA and has been met with positive responsive and garnered a strong fanbase, I suspect that this Zombie show won't be easy to kill off...

Penny Dreadful: 'Night Work'

Since hearing about the upcoming Victorian gothic series, helmed by John Logan and Sam Mendes (the writer-director team behind the recent excellent Bond film Skyfall) I've been very intrigued. And, although, I've only got around to watching the pilot episode so far I would say that intrigue was justified.
In its premise, it's a dark and heady blend of the 19th century's most famous macabre works, featuring Dr Frankenstein and his monster, Dorian Gray, a hunt for a vampiric Mina Murray and an Egyptian curse, however, whereas previous riffs on this idea, namely Van Helsing, went all-action, from what I've seen so far Penny Dreadful sees itself as a good old-fashioned supernatural soap opera.
The stonking, and positively Bond-laden cast, is headed by Eva Green as seer Vanessa Ives, Timothy Dalton as game hunter Malcolm Murray and Josh Hartnett as American cowboy Ethan Chandler who all get a chunk of the action, or rather dialogue, in this opening hour which neatly sets up several threads of the series. Channelling the lurid, melodramatic stylings of its namesake but marrying it with a somewhat sombre, contemplative feel, Penny Dreadful is certainly one to watch.

Torchwood: Children of Earth

As easily the best instalment of the wildly uneven Torchwood (although don't tell my younger self I said that, he was obsessed with it), and one of my favourite individual television series ever, I was due a rewatch of 2009's Torchwood: Children of Earth for the first time in several years. Thankfully it did not disappoint.
To my mind, this is the Torchwood series which most satisfactorily reaches its mandate of being Doctor Who's mature sister show, examining the political and social effects of alien incursion far more than Who ever could or should. It also isn't afraid to push the boundaries far further than can be done on Doctor Who, producing some truly shocking, gut-wrenching, tear-jerking moments across its tightly-plotted five episodes. The main three cast members - John Barrowman, Eve Myles and Gareth David-Lloyd - are all on top form but Peter Capaldi (hey, whatever happened to him?) steals the show as pressured politician John Frobisher, a man who is forced to make difficult choices when placed as the ambassador of the human race. This is simply science fiction drama at its best.     

Bates Motel (Season Two)

While it is by no means needed, a prequel series to Hitchcock's seminal thriller./horror film Psycho that focussed on the teenage years of the crazed cross-dressing killer Norman Bates was something that caught my interest.
The best parts of the series are undoubtedly those that feature Norman and Norma, played rather solidly by Vera Famiga, who are embellished significantly beyond Hitchcock's, literally, 'psycho' characterisation to become three-dimensional people, with good and bad points. Particular praise should be given to Freddie Highmore (once the innocent Charlie Bucket from Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) who siphons off several of Anthony Perkins', the original Bates, mannerisms while giving the character his own spin. Inspired by Twin Peaks in its presentation of a suburban town full of secrets, it can be hit-and-miss but this second series improved upon the first, taking Norman further down the dark path. You wouldn't think it to look at him, would you? Why, he wouldn't even hurt a fly... 

You can read more of my televisual ramblings over on Whatculture where I chose 8 TV Finales That Left Major Unanswered Questions.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Doctor Who: Step Back in Time - Series Four

Our look back at the past series of Doctor Who - in time for the Twelfth Doctor himself's début series coming in a few months time - this month materialises on the final full-series of the last Scottish Doctor to play the part (fun fact: there's been three); the series that's never a bore and leaves us wanting more, that's Series Four.

Starring: David Tennant (the Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler) with John Barrowman (Captain Jack) and Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith). 
Produced by: Phil Collinson and Susie Liggat
Executive Produced by: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner and Phil Collinson

Best Episodes

The Unicorn and the Wasp by Gareth Roberts
After Series Three's 'The Shakespeare Code', Roberts proves himself as Doctor Who's wittiest and certainly funniest writer with a cracker of a pastiche on Agatha Christie mysteries, starring the queen of detective stories herself. Due to its whimsicality and breezy tone, it's an adventure that might not have the blockbuster factor of other episodes this series but should be equally celebrated none the less.

Turn Left by Russell T Davies
It is rare in Doctor Who that we ever see things get too bad as the Doctor is always on hand to save the day - although, not in 'Turn Left' he's not. One of the show's bleakest ever episodes, 'Turn Left' gives us a skewered version of the Whoniverse wherein every alien invasion goes right, delivering a number of striking scenes, great emotion and Catherine Tate's finest performance as Donna.

Midnight by Russell T Davies
Series Three arguably showcases RTD's greatest work on Doctor Who and that is no better demonstrated than in this chilling stage play of an episode. Bravely taking place largely in just one set, Davies cranks up the claustrophobia with the unseen entity that mimics its prey before possessing them. This is a Doctor Who that isn't afraid to be different and daring and is all the better for it.


To counteract his past two companions who had both harboured romantic feelings for him, the Doctor was now simply after 'a mate' - something he found when remeeting his old acquaintance Donna Noble. 
As with Rose and Martha, Donna's journey aboard the TARDIS is one of maturity and self-discovery as well as one around time and space. Although where they came to appreciate their own worth and skills, Donna is forever racked with a lack of self-confidence which bubbles under her fiery façade. Something which tragically comes to a head when she reaches the 'Journey's End'...
This being the last full series of the RTD era, the series finale has a suitably celebratory feel, bringing together not only Doctor Who with its offspring, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, in the return of Captain Jack and Sarah Jane, but also rounding up all the major characters from the past four years. However, the show still has Donna at its heart, providing the revived series stand-out saddest moment. Previous friends of the Doctor have exited the TARDIS, if not always of their own accord, then with a wealth of wonderful experiences behind them and as better people. The tragedy of Donna's story is that she has her entire time with the Doctor erased, as if it had never happened. Even though he has the biggest family on Earth, the Doctor ends the series alone once again. As he would be until the end of his life. Which was actually, right around the corner.  

Story Arc

Series Four has by far the loosest story arc of these first four series, completing the trend that had begun with Series Two's lighter approach to a linking narrative than Series One. In lieu of shadowy mentions of 'Torchwood' or 'Mr Saxon', we have ominous remarks about the Medusa Cascade, the bees disappearing, 'there is something on your back' and the like which all reference something to come later in the series. However, the recurring motif here is really more of a visual one. Across the series we see, hidden on screens that the Doctor doesn't see, the face of Rose Tyler, the Doctor's tragically lost best friend, screaming out the Time Lord's name. This is kicked off in the series opener when Donna inadvertently speaks to Rose on a street corner and builds to the series' penultimate episode 'The Stolen Earth' where the Doctor and Rose are finally reunited, just in time to face the Daleks yet again. This time, however, returning for the first time since the classic series, they also come head-to-horribly-scared-head-with-a-third-eye with Davros, the original creator of the Daleks, who plots to destroy the whole of reality. Just another day for the Doctor...
With the series basking in and drawing to a close its own mythology that had developed over the past few years, Series Four has a certain valedictory feel, and thankfully goes out with a bang. Ready for a brand-new incarnation of the show. Because the journey never ends...

Next month: Doctor Who may have regenerated but it's Still Got Legs...

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Monthly Mini-Reviews: May

Yes, it's back! That old regular feature of this blog, the monthly selection of four mini-reviews (oh, I know, it's nothing but pizazz on this site), has returned - and, boy, are you in for a treat. Here's a bumper crop of assorted goodies for you to... muse over my analysis of a certain example of modern storytelling. What better way could there be to party your way into the next month?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season Seven)

Me and BTVS have a peculiar relationship. About a year ago, we were having a good time, enjoying each other's company - it showing me what it could do, everything from playing with genre conventions to strong character drama, and me very much enjoying it - until one day we simply parted, without even a goodbye.
This was the case until I recently remembered I had not seen the show's final season, something I speedily put to rights. Said season sees the Slayer and her scoobies (try saying that three times fast) prepare for the end of the world at the (incorporeal) hands of the ancient entity known as 'the First Evil.' As a whole, it has its ups and downs but, thankfully, its downs are never too damning and its highs are very strong. Particular mention must be made to the season finale which rounds the televisual lives of our heroes off with aplomb. Now, there's no more left. You know, I think I remember why I put off watching the final series in the first place...

 V for Vendetta 

Any story by comic book supremo Alan Moore is notoriously difficult to adapt to the big screen - with the big, bearded man famously hating many of them. However, the film version of Moore's dystopian thriller V For Vendetta manages to be an entertaining and thought-provoking effort. It delivers much that deserves praise, most prominently the well-realised horrors of a future fascistic Britain and the consummate central performance from Hugo Weaving who makes us feel like we know the Guy Fawkes-flavoured V, one of my favourite comic characters for his charisma but morally dubious crusade, despite never seeing his face. Although the film makes missteps, notably the superfluous inclusion of a romance between V and his 'freedom fighter' protégé Evey,  I see no reason why a film as daring and deftly-executed as this should ever be forgot..ten.

Marvel 1602

One of my favourite things about Neil Gaiman's writing is his ability, when tackling a popular fictional universe, to celebrate that specific storytelling world, something he did for both Batman and Doctor Who. Another fine example is this skewering of Marvel comic characters which asks; 'What if the Marvel universe was set in Elizabethan England?' 1602 sees royal spy Sir Nicholas Fury, daredevil Matthew Murdock, Javier and his band of 'witchbreeds' plus sorcerer Dr Strange team up to stop nefarious villains despot Otto Von Doom and the corrupt Grand High Inquisitor and his brotherhood from reaching the secret weapon of the Knight Templar - which will apparently bring about the apocalypse. While this all sounds a heady mix and even a little alienating for comic newbies, Gaiman weaves a tale about the nature of heroism that manages to get to the heart of its many characters, making us realise why they have been so beloved from their creation in the sixties right up to now. And including the 1600s, of course.

The Simpsons: 'Brick Like Me'

Though I still love that overbitten yellow family as much as ever, I rarely make a special case to watch the latest offerings. However, this month, I made an exception as the series reached its 550th episode and was celebrating in a most eye-raising way; an entire episode made/filmed/animated (I'm uncertain of the appropriate term) with Lego. It could have been a cheap gimmick to attract viewers and sell a few Lego sets but thankfully it managed to be one of the funniest Simpsons in years (when king of slapstick Homer can fall apart without harm, you know that's going to be exploited) and, just like the good old days, greatly touching as Homer realises the pluses of living in a Lego world; that 'everything fits together and no one gets hurt.' It's delightful to know that, even after twenty-five years, The Simpsons can still build itself back up again (pun intended) to its best. It's just as I remember, in fact. A show where everything fits together and no one gets hurt.

You can read my own efforts to celebrate The Simpsons' quarter-centenary with my countdowns for both Homer's and Bart's greatest moments.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Doctor Who: Step Back in Time - Series Three

Well, it's that time again!

Time for you to actually post something?

Hey, who said that? No, it's time to take our TARDISes back through the time vortex to a bygone Doctor Who series. In this third instalment of our ongoing series, it's, well, Series Three...

Starring: David Tennant (the Doctor), Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones) and John Barrowman (Captain Jack).
Produced by: Phil Collinson
Executive Produced by: Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner 

Best Episodes

The Shakespeare Code by Gareth Roberts
One of Doctor Who's cleverest and funniest ever adventures, full of tongue-in-cheek references from everything to Shakespearean works to Back to The Future. As with the rest of Roberts' episodes, this is the perfect story to watch if you like your Doctor Who smartly-plotted and chock-a-block with laughs. 

Human Nature/Family of Blood by Paul Cornell
'What if the Doctor was human?' is the simple yet ingenious premise of this emotional pseudo-historical two-parter, the only Who story to be based on a novel. David Tennant gets to play an entirely different character in school teacher John Smith and the Family of Blood themselves are chilling monsters. As polished and accomplished an adventure as any you'll find in fifty years.  

Sound of Drums/The Last of the Time Lords by Russell T Davies
The most all-round entertaining Who finale thus far, with a quasi-political thriller feel, a post-apocalyptic Earth and the greatest villain in all of space and time, John Simm's deliciously demented The Master. While the resolution, featuring a magical messianic Doctor, may be a little hard to swallow it thankfully does not detract from the rest of this corking adventure. 

Read a brief write-up of my thoughts on Series Three's other great episode, Blink, here. 


After Billie Piper's Rose Tyler, a character as integral to the success of the show as the two Doctors she starred with and arguably the companion to make the most emotional impact on the Doctor, the series was hard-pressed to find a replacement. Cleverly, they decided to go for the exact opposite of shopgirl Rose in trainee doctor Martha Jones, whom the Doctor first meets while saving the Royal Hope Hospital from the swift justice of the Judoon.
Whereas the Doctor and Rose, for the first time in the series, shared more than just a friendly bond but a romantic attraction, Martha and the Doctor's relationship also breaks new ground by being one of unrequited love, with the lovelorn Doctor oblivious to Martha's feelings. More so than Rose, Martha's arc across the series is one of maturation and self-discovery. By the end of the series, she realises that she no longer needs the Doctor and returns to her everyday life a much stronger woman.
Conversely, the Doctor has perhaps never been so human. Dejected after the loss of Rose, he never seems to recover as he has with other companions, regularly comparing Martha to her predecessor. With Martha's help, however, by the end of the series the Doctor begins to move on...

Story Arc

Following on from the previous series smatterings here and there of the enigmatic organisation 'Torchwood', Series Three tones this down even more with the even-less regular mentions of 'Mr Saxon', a mysterious individual with political power. From 2006 Christmas special, 'The Runaway Bride', Mr Saxon seems to be behind a lot of the nefarious plots that the Doctor foils. Just who is Mr Saxon?
Harold Saxon it turns out is the newly-elected prime minister and, of course, the Doctor's ancient enemy the Master. As the revitalised series had done an excellent job of updating the classic series' biggest foes in the Daleks and the Cybermen it was a no-brainer that the Professor Moriarty to the Doctor's Holmes would be reintroduced. In many ways, the drama of the Doctor's character is never sharper than when pitted against his exact antithesis in the Master. With such an enemy back in the series, and with such a strong batch of stories as those on show here, Doctor Who was really claiming mastery over all television.

P.S. Mister Saxon is an anagram of Master No Six (as Simm is the sixth actor to the play the character). Oh, those fiendish writers.

Next month: The Most Important Series in The Whole of Creation continues...

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Doctor Who: Step Back in Time - Series Two

Taking a break from a celebration of all things comic (that's comic strips, not funny comic - this blog is always dedicated to the funny. No, don't laugh at that!), it's time to continue with a retrospective look at the series of Doctor Who, in preparation for the arrival of Peter Capaldi's début series later this year. This month, we look back at another (Scottish) Doctor's inaugural year in the TARDIS. It's Mr Fantastic himself (yes, I know I said I was giving the comic-theme of this month a rest), The Tenth Doctor!

Starring: David Tennant (the Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith) and Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler). 
Produced by: Phil Collinson
Executive Produced by: Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner

Best Episodes

Tooth and Claw by Russell T Davies
Often overlooked in the grand scheme of Doctor Who episodes, 'Tooth and Claw' is a fine adventure, mixing a simple story about an old werewolf folktale come to fruition with the 'true' personal history of Queen Victoria. This is an episode that Who's original creator, Sydney Newman with his dedication to education, would be proud of. 

Girl in the Fireplace by Steven Moffat
The episode that proved the Moff was not a one-hit wonder after 'The Empty Child' and could repeatedly deliver the goods. The writer's typical time-wimey shenanigans (on first display here) are used to tell one of the most heart-rendering romances in Doctor Who's history - and it involves the Doctor himself...

Army of Ghosts/Doomsday by Russell T Davies
I'd be remiss if I did not mention the series finale which sees the Doctor's hearts broken when Rose Tyler is lost to him in a parallel universe. Chuck in a war between the Daleks and the Cybermen and the spin-off series spawning Torchwhood and you've got one of the most memorable episodes in the whoniverse. 


Has there ever been a companion who has emotionally effected the Doctor more than Rose Tyler? In the time they travel together, he goes from a warrior suffering from survivor's guilt to a chirpy, dashing hero (it's a personal theory that the Doctor influenced his regeneration into a young handsome Londoner to impress Rose). With Rose at his side, this new Doctor is a lighter soul than his immediate predecessor but still feels the weight of being the last of his kind at heart. He also seems to have picked up Rose's humanity - what is it with Time War survivors and Rose? See 'Dalek' - as seen in his emotional farewell to Rose herself. Dear Rose made such a mark on the Time Lord that he mourned her loss for a long while; when it came to his regeneration many years later, his visited her immediately before dieing. The Doctor and Rose are such a perfect match, it's no wonder that the pair are often ranked at the very top of TARDIS teams. 
The only other frequent flyer joining those time-travelling love birds on their adventures this series is Rose's ex Mickey Smith who finally gets his dues here as he matures from 'Mickey the Idiot' to 'Mickey Smith: Defender of the Earth', fighting the Cybermen. Elsewhere, Jackie Tyler is still around to root the TARDIS to modern-day Earth while a parallel version of Rose's dad, Pete Tyler, is also discovered, meaning that when stuck on said alternate world, Rose has a complete family once again. And for a while, the Doctor did too. Unlike Number Nine, this Doctor definitely did domestic. 

Story arc

Taking its lead from the previous series' running references to 'Bad Wolf', Series Two makes several passing nods to the mysterious 'Torchwood.' As seen in 'Tooth and Claw', after being attacked by a werewolf, Queen Victoria creates the Torchwood Institute to protect her empire from all alien threat - including the Doctor. It isn't until a hundred years later that the Time Lord finally bumps into them - just as the Cybermen break through from their dimension into ours. Followed by another of the Doctor's old enemies, the Daleks, who have yet again survived the Time War. Before you can say 'pest control', the Daleks and the Cybermen cause worldwide destruction in the Battle of Canary Wharf, resulting in the dissolution of Torchwood. Or so the Doctor thinks...
In some ways, Series Two could be viewed as a large backdoor pilot for Russell T Davies' long-held dream of making an adult sci-fi show, an idea which became Torchwood, based around Captain Jack's version of the Institute run from Cardiff. Soon after this, another character who appeared in Series Two, classic companion Sarah Jane Smith, starred in her own spin-off show, The Sarah Jane Adventures. With the central show at the top of its game and in rude enough health to spawn two sister series, Doctor Who was truly travelling to brave new worlds.

Next month: Series Three... Have you met Miss Jones?
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