The Best Comedy Shows Should Make Us Cry As Well As Laugh

Escapism is an important part of life, particularly in these times of uncertainty, and for the vast majority of people one of the best forms of escapism is comedy television shows. Whether they’re sketch shows, sitcoms or stand-up comedians, shows that make people laugh will always be a critical cornerstone in the televised entertainment industry. I grew up watching shows like Red Dwarf, Spaced, Mock the Week and Monty Python, so these comedy shows are as much a part of the pantheon of my favourite shows as Doctor Who, TNG and Voyager are.

Something that sets a comedy show up above all the rest is when the writers and creative minds behind the scenes understand that their audience is as much attached to the characters in the program as they are to the jokes that they tell, and often the most memorable and emotional moments in TV come from comedy shows that will briefly lift the levity that cloaks the story and deliver a scene that, although not designed to make you laugh, is every bit as integral to the program as any of its funniest jokes.

Perhaps the most famous example of what I am talking about is the final few scenes from the last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, the Fourth Blackadder series that is set in the trenches during World War 1. It is understandable that some might find the setting of this series to be somewhat distasteful – after all, making light of the senseless slaughter of entire generations that took place during that conflict is difficult without coming across as callous, and the creators of the show clearly understood this.

Throughout the course of the series, Captain Blackadder desperately tries to come up with cunning plans to avoid going over the top, and his rival Captain Darling (who for the majority of the show holds a position behind the front lines in the safety of the General’s office) often attempts to outwit him. In the show’s final moments, we see that Captain Darling has been reassigned to the front line just as the order to go over the top has been given, and the four main characters of the series share a poignant scene together in which they discuss their predicament.

There are several lines here that hit hard. The usually upbeat George confesses his fear of what is about to happen, lamenting that he is the last of his schoolfriends left alive. We get a rare insight into Darling’s character, who tells us for the first time that he had a sweetheart back home. Baldrick and Blackadder share one final exchange about cunning plans before Blackadder, in a sobering moment of genuine compassion, wishes his friends luck. Then, they all go over the top and they don’t get very far. This sequence makes the entire series worthwhile – the true horror of the conflict is reflected in this episode, as these characters that we have come to know and love do their duty and die in the process, as so many brave people did during WW1. Such is the power of this scene that the episode famously once aired on Remembrance Day – and it received not one single complaint.

This is not the only example of a comedy series taking a serious approach to a topic that demands it – another great one hits us at the very of the sketch show That Mitchell and Webb look. At the last moment of this usually light-hearted and jocular series, Robert Webb and David Mitchell deliver an incredibly poignant and emotional scene in what is perhaps now their most infamous sketch, known simply as ‘Old Holmes’. The premise is simple. Sherlock Holmes is now an old man living in a care home, suffering from dementia. John Watson pays him a visit and, with the help of Chief Inspector Lestrade, they create a simple fake mystery for him to ‘solve’.

As it deals with the topic of dementia, this sketch can come across as facetious, but it is only when the other characters have gone and Holmes and Watson are alone together that this scene suddenly takes a turn. Holmes admits to Watson in a moment of lucidity that he in fact knows what Watson is trying to do for him, and that he is aware of his situation and that there is nothing he can do about it. What sells this scene is Robert Webb’s phenomenal acting, Watson’s face as he realises what is happening, you can see that he desperately wants to say something to his friend but he just cannot find the words.

Opinions on this sketch may differ. Unlike the previous example, there is not a clear-cut consensus on it, as although many agree that it delivers a heavy-hitting moment there are those who are less comfortable with the concept of making light of a serious condition like dementia. Early in the sketch the studio audience seem to take the sketch at face-value, laughing at the depiction of Holmes as a sick old man. However, the laugher soon dies as the audience realise what this scene represents. Whilst I would never condone making light of dementia, and I would seriously advise against any attempts to make a comedy sketch dealing with this topic, the sincerity of the final scene of That Mitchell and Webb Look combined with the fantastic line delivery from the actors means that, in spite of everything, it works.

The final scene we will discuss today comes from one of my favourite science fiction series of all time – Red Dwarf. A classic sitcom set on a mining ship stranded 3 million years away from Earth, Red Dwarf has always dealt with serious themes of depression, loneliness and self-worth, and nothing illustrates this better than the interactions between Lister and Rimmer. The friendship between these two characters is one of the most interesting ever put to screen, as although they loathe each other and appear to be polar opposites the underlying truth of their situation is that they both need each other and depend on each other for emotional support, even if it clothed in insults and petty banter.

There are half a dozen exceptional scenes that I will mention here – the scene in the Observation Dome after Rimmer discovers that his father died in Thanks for the Memory, the conversation between the two about their friendship in The Promised Land, and the short scene that they share talking about Kryten in The Last Day. But the moment that never fails to bring a tear to my eye is the final sequence of the last episode of Series 6, Out of Time. In this story, the Dwarfers discover a time machine, and are soon confronted by versions of themselves from the future who want to copy elements from the time machine to repair their own damaged drive. Unfortunately, the crew discover that their future selves are twisted versions of themselves who use the time machine to socialise with some of the most evil figures in history, and they are soon forced into an epic showdown with their future selves.

This scene is incredible for many reasons. For a start, the Dwarfers each individually commit to fighting a battle that they cannot win, even the cowardly Rimmer declares his intent to fight with the iconic line “Better Dead Than Smeg.” What follows is a great sequence in which the main characters are killed one by one as Starbug is ripped apart – Lister dies locking weapons onto the enemy ship, Cat dies because he takes the time to check to see if Lister is alright, and Kryten dies attempting to tell Rimmer what he needs to do to get them out of the situation. Then, in a climactic moment that represents the pinnacle of Rimmer’s subtle character development, he grabs a mining laser and rushes to the cargo hold.

The music, sound effects and set design emphasise the desperation as Rimmer charges heroically through the disintegrating ship to destroy the time machine and save the day. You can actually sense the live studio audience hold their breath as they witness this sequence, and although the episode ends with Starbug being destroyed and an infamous ‘To Be Continued…’, this episode could have been a satisfactory end to the series. This scene is less about words and more about the actions of a character, and admittedly it does perhaps lack the emotional depth of the other two scenes listed here if you haven’t seen Red Dwarf and so don’t know the characters, but at the very least it is a moving depiction of a coward facing his fear and bravely saving his friends.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about three of my favourite moving scenes from comedy shows – are there any other poignant, emotional or moving scenes from comedy shows that you like, feel free to post them down in the comments below as well as any opinions you might have about these three scenes. Thank you very much for reading my thoughts on why comedy shows should make you cry as well as laugh, follow our blog to see more content like this!

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Daleks! The Animated Series Announced as part of Time Lord Victorious

An unexpected yet exciting announcement by the BBC last week revealed that one of the upcoming releases in the Time Lord Victorious multimedia project is a 5-part animated series revolving around the Daleks that is set to be released on the Doctor Who Youtube channel in November. The trailers for this series have showcased the animation style of the series as well as some hints as to what fans can expect from this latest instalment in the Doctor Who universe.

One of the most interesting aspects of this series that can be gleaned from the trailers and promotional material that has been released so far is that the series seems to feature a diverse variety of Dalek designs, including several Classic and New Series Dalek designs and a modern take on the iconic comic series Dalek Emperor. This could imply that the series will feature several unique Dalek characters with individual personalities, which is always an interesting take on the Daleks that allows for more interesting Dalek dialogue.

This animated series also fulfils the life-long desire of the creator of the Daleks, Terry Nation, who since 1965 had intended them to helm their own spinoff series. Nation’s attempts to create a Dalek TV series failed, though he would go on to license the Daleks for the Peter Cushing movies and write several Dalek stories for Doctor Who in the 1960s and 1970s. Now, in 2020, his original vision is being realised as the Daleks get their own animated series.

Another very exciting aspect of this animated series is that it will introduce a lot more templates for Dalek customs, some of which have already been created by fans. Following on from the Asylum Project showcase of custom Daleks that has been showcased on this blog, more posts showcasing custom Daleks based on this animated series as well as the wider Time Lord Victorious story arcs will be listed at some point following the release of the series.

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Doctor Who – Should Big Finish Audios be Animated like Missing Episodes?

The practice of animating lost episodes of early Doctor Who has evolved significantly since the DVD release of The Invasion in 2006, which had its two missing episodes fully animated with simple flash characters. Since the release of the first fully-animated reconstruction of a classic Doctor Who story, The Power of the Daleks which was released in 2016, the reconstruction of missing Second Doctor stories has intensified both in scope and popularity, with several lost classics like The Macra Terror and The Faceless Ones receiving full animated reconstructions following its success.

The Power of the Daleks even received a full Special Edition release this year featuring updated animation and more special features, and the animated Fury from the Deep is scheduled to be released in September of this year. Both releases have been marketed heavily on the promise of more advanced animation for these two stories in particular that will set a new standard for Doctor Who animations to follow, and fans are eagerly anticipating the announcement that other missing classics like The Daleks Master Plan, The Wheel in Space and The Evil of the Daleks will receive the animation treatment. What was once a quirky substitute for missing content that often yielded inconsistent results is now being considered its own art form, and a potentially profitable endeavour by the BBC.

One has to speculate, therefore, whether the BBC intends to limit the practice of animating Doctor Who stories to simply missing episodes. Whilst the show does have nearly 100 missing episodes, if the rate of episode animation and reconstruction continues then it won’t be long before all of the missing episodes have received the animation treatment. This is without a doubt excellent news for fans, though it presents a potential problem for the BBC and the animation studios commissioned to animate the stories, as there are only a finite number of potential releases.

Shada received the animated treatment in 2017

One solution that many fans have suggested online is that the BBC should work with Big Finish to create animated visuals to accompany the full-cast audio dramas that the company have been producing consistently since 1999. The main reason why these audios could work just as well with the animation is that, in theory, the soundtrack of an audio drama – characters talking, incidental music and sound effects – is similar to the surviving audio tracks from the missing episodes that are used as the basis for the animated reconstructions, so the team could use the same techniques of approximating a character’s position, movement and interaction with the environment from the soundtrack.

However, this notion assumes that a Big Finish Doctor Who audio is essentially just an episode that lacks the visuals, which is rarely the case – Big Finish audios are created specifically with the audio drama format in mind, and there are some Big Finish audios that simply would not translate to a visual medium at all, such as Scherzo or The Natural History of Fear, as adding visual elements to these kinds of stories would detract from the episode.

That is not to say that there are no Big Finish audios that could not be animated, however, and there are some that have been commonly suggested by fans as prime candidates for a ‘prototype’ Big Finish animation – stories that are of a high quality, that would not be undermined by the addition of visuals and that are consistent with the tone of the show itself. These include:

  • Jubilee, which has essentially been adapted to screen already in the form of Dalek from Series 1 but is distinct from that story and lends itself to some very striking visuals. The Sixth Doctor and Evelyn work so well together as a Doctor-companion pairing that an animated Jubilee could make significant progress in improving the reputation of the Sixth Doctor in the eyes of the general fanbase.
  • Blood of the Daleks, a natural jumping-on point during the Eighth Doctor’s timeline as the first story in the Lucie Miller arc, that also includes Daleks and is formatted in the same style as a New-Who two-parter. This could also lead to a series of animated versions of the Eighth Doctor Adventures series, as there are some other strong stories in that series including The Zygon Who Fell To Earth, Human Resources, Lucie Miller / To The Death, the list goes on.
  • The Innocent, the first instalment of the Time War audios set starring the late John Hurt. This would theoretically allow for a War Doctor series, though some fans have argued that a visual depiction of the Time War would diminish the sense of incomprehensible mystery surrounding the conflict.
  • Spare Parts, the Fifth Doctor audio that depicts one account of the origins of the Cybermen of Mondas, and is well-known among the community for being a popular first-time audio for new listeners of Big Finish, not least because of the thrilling tale it tells but also because of the accessibility of the story.
  • Davros, a popular candidate for fan-made animations based on Big Finish audios, this story is easily one of the best Big Finish has produced and it has a nice balance of action and character moments, making it a prime candidate.

However, there are also some other Big Finish audios which, although not as accessible to new listeners, would still make excellent candidates for the animation treatment later down the line. These include:

  • The Sixth Doctor – The Last Adventure, a box set containing several stories spanning the Sixth Doctor’s era that have a story arc running throughout, which eventually culminates in the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration story, The Brink of Death. This box set requires a fair bit of background knowledge of the Sixth Doctor’s audio adventures, but it would be nice to have visuals for every regeneration story.
  • Order of the Daleks, another Sixth Doctor story that lends itself well to a visual medium, particularly due to the striking Stained-Glass Daleks that are present in the story.
  • Hour of the Cybermen, yet another Sixth Doctor story that is among the most recent outings for the Cybermen and features the return of the classic Cyber Leader voice actor David Banks and Cyber Lieutenant voice actor Mark Hardy.

These are just some of the incredible audios from Big Finish’s back-catalogue that could make excellent animated adventures in the future, and as the company has recently prompted fans on Twitter to post suggestions for the first animated Big Finish audio it is clear that the idea isn’t completely outside the realms of possibility.

This is an exciting notion for fans that cannot be ignored. Big Finish has a reputation for creating exceptional Doctor Who content, and making that more accessible to fans who are not accustomed to audio stories who require visuals is an interesting prospect. Creating animated versions of Big Finish audios would certainly not work for all of their releases, though it is possible that adding animated visuals could enhance some audios that depict large-scale conflicts such as The Enemy of the Daleks, Patient Zero or Last of the Cybermen.

So, to answer the question posed by the title of this article, yes, Big Finish audios should definitely be considered for animation in the future, regardless of whether or not the BBC chooses to animate all of the remaining lost episodes. However, the decision as to which Big Finish audios should be animated should not be taken lightly, as many Big Finish audios intended specifically for the audio format and choosing a story that can also serve as a jumping-on point for fans will help to set up a good long-term strategy for future releases. Animating a few initial stories will also encourage fans who were on the fence about listening to the audios to give Big Finish a try, as the quality of the stories speaks for itself.

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Doctor Who – ‘Time Lord Victorious’ Opens the Door for Infinite Storytelling Possibilities

When the BBC revealed their newest Doctor Who project, ‘Time Lord Victorious’, fan reaction ranged from excitement to curiosity – the initial cover reveal presented a lot of questions, even for die-hard fans who were taken completely by surprised at the announcement – but now that some time has passed and the BBC has revealed more about what the Time Lord Victorious is, now is the time to discuss what this project tells us about the future of Doctor Who, and what the BBC has planned for not just the series but the brand as a whole.

It is no secret that Doctor Who has been placing more and more emphasis on its periphery expanded media content in recent years, particularly the audio drama production company Big Finish but also BBC Books, Doctor Who comics and other Doctor Who novels. This has some fans worried, as if the BBC plans on taking Doctor Who off air again and relying on the expanded media to buoy the franchise in some kind of self-imposed second Wilderness Years, but the reality of the situation is that Doctor Who expanded media is of a consistent high quality, so there is absolutely no reason why the BBC shouldn’t promote Doctor Who audios, books and plays with as much enthusiasm as it does the mainline TV show, and the recently announced Time Lord Victorious is a perfect example as to why.

Although the initial reveal was vague, details have since been provided to fans through social media posts, and it is now clear that Time Lord Victorious is an umbrella project containing contributions from various contributors of expanded media that will come together to form one cohesive story. The scope of this project is arguably one of the largest Doctor Who productions in history, as there are likely going to be several audios and books related to this story arc as well as some more niche forms of media such as an escape room.

The initial reveal of the first two books in the Time Lord Victorious arc, titled The Night, The Fool and The Dead and All Flesh is Grass, have given us more of an idea of what is to come from this series – a seemingly shattered timeline, cross-over stories between the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Doctors, and a whole new pantheon of impressive Dalek designs. In honour of this momentous occasion, Sacred Icon proudly presents this custom of the black, red and silver Dalek from the cover of All Flesh is Grass, complete with a custom claw arm!

This Dalek was created using a standard remote control Dalek Commander, but with the eyestalk painted red, the base colour replaced with metallic silver and the slats repainted black. The spheres were painted red before being re-painted with black to give the red-rimmed effect seen on the cover of the book. Lastly, the claw was created using a metal pole, hot glue and small bent pieces of metal from the inside of a broken HDMI cable, topped off with black paint. This custom took several coats and is still in a rough condition, but it does the job of illustrating this striking colour scheme.

Needless to say, the Time Lord Victorious presents some interesting opportunities for storytelling in the Doctor Who universe, and if this is a sign of what is to come, fans can expect more stories in the future that are not tied down by canon and are free to explore completely new stories using the Doctor Who mythos, as well as more multi-media projects that involve contributions from various aspects of the Doctor Who expanded media.

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Doctor Who – Why do Daleks need their Casings?

Ever wondered why Daleks need their casings? Find out here on Sacred Icon:

The 2019 New Year’s Special of Doctor Who featured the return of the Daleks and the introduction of a new Dalek variant – the Recon Scout, a mutant with genetic modifications and extra abilities that allow it to survive in almost any environment, as well as allowing it to exist outside of its casing.

However, this does seem to contradict Doctor Who lore, as historically the Daleks have been confined to their casings, so is this a mistake? Well, to answer that question, let’s first dive in and explain why the Daleks actually need their casings to begin with.

Locked inside a Cold, Metal Cage

A Dalek with its casing open

The Daleks originated on Skaro, a planet ravaged by nuclear and chemical warfare, as the result of experiments conducted by Davros that focused on adapting the existing races of the planet so that they could survive in the polluted and ruined atmosphere. The idea behind this was that, once the war was over, some form of life had to survive to live on otherwise the entire conflict would have been meaningless. However, in the process Davros created a monstrous creature that lived to hate and required a life support machien to survive.

Though it might seem ironic that Davros’ attempts to create the ultimate creature ended up creating a race that were dependent on life support to exist, Davros countered this by also inventing the ultimate weapon – the Dalek shell, a self-supporting battle tank with extremely powerful weapons, armour and shields. In many ways, the Dalek mutant and the casing are intrinsically linked, to the extent that in the Big Finish Audio Story In Remembrance, an Imperial warrior states that “A Dalek is it’s casing”, further solidifying the idea that, to the Daleks, their casing is almost like an extension of itself.

Daleks and Their Casings

Nonetheless, the casing is not always necessary for a Daleks’ survival. In past episodes of the show we have seen that some Daleks are capable of surviving outside of their shells for some time, as was seen in Resurrection of the Daleks, Twice Upon a Time and Resolution. But how is this possible when the casing provides such essential life support? The answer to this question varies depending on the context and the episode – in some cases Daleks have been seen to adapt to life outside their casings over time, and in other cases the Daleks are capable of temporarily leaving their casings.

A Dalek creature inside the open casing

Either way, the primary purpose of the Dalek’s casing is to provide life support – that was its primary function before the Daleks even adapted for interstellar warfare. Daleks have also been known to use their casings to depict rank or allegiance. This was certainly the case with Supreme Daleks, and in the case of important individual Daleks such as the Dalek Time Controller or Dalek Sec. During the Imperial-Renegade Dalek Civil War, the different Dalek factions were denoted by their different-looking casings, that each sported their own unique colour scheme and overall design.

The Paradigm Daleks used bright colours to determine rank among their limited number, and their casing deviated radically from that of the standard Dalek of that era to denote their unique position in Dalek society. Despite these differences, the overall design of the standard Dalek casing has always remained constant. The Daleks have no desire to adapt the shape or design of their casings, and they see any attempt to do so as an abhorrent deviation, except in the most dire of circumstances. Daleks view themselves to be the supreme beings in the universe, so they revere imagery of their own casings, building skyscrapers in an image that resembles them, both on Earth and even on Skaro itself. Overall, it’s safe to say that the Dalek casing is an important part of the Dalek itself.

Battle Armour and Immense Firepower

In keeping with their philosophy of Extermination of all other life forms, the Dalek casing is built to be the ultimate death machine. The primary armament is a gunstick fitted into the left-hand ball-jointed socket on the front of the Dalek. This weapon fires an energy blast that can be tuned and modified to suit the needs of the Dalek in the current situation. Their first on-screen use was to stun humanoids by disabling their legs temporarily.

A Dalek fires its energy blast…

When used at full power, however, the Dalek’s death ray can instantly kill almost any life form in a single blast, which liquefies the internal organs of the victim causing intense agony followed by a sudden death. The blast can be altered in strength to quicken the death of the victim, disintegrate targets, cut through metal or cause intense explosions, or modified in delivery by either a projectile or beam-shaped blast.

…and the target is Exterminated.

Not only that, but the Dalek is also armed with a strong manipulator arm with a flexible gripper that can assume almost any shape, either to interface with complex mechanism or to crush the heads of humanoids in close-quarters combat. The Dalek is protected by an energy shield that absorbs energy-based projectiles and disintegrates incoming ballistic-based projectiles and vaporises living things that get too close when used at full power. Not only that, but the casing’s armour itself can withstand most projectiles. Needless to say, the Dalek’s casing is a catch-all tool for hunting down and exterminating prey on the ground. But the Daleks would never stop there.

Defeating the Flight of Stairs

The Dalek casing moves about using heavy lifters beneath the casing that can be intensified to allow the Dalek to fly. This allows Daleks to essentially become airborne fight craft, that can also double as bombers if their weapons are used at full power.

Daleks in Space

This feature also allows the Dalek to fly up stairs, navigate potentially difficult environments, and even function in space. When flying through space, Daleks are surprisingly fast, and are often deployed en masse from Dalek saucers and used in ship-to-ship combat.

Due to their enhanced mobility and ability to make their casings air-tight, Daleks can also function underwater if necessary. Certain models of Dalek are adapted specifically for underwater environments, as the Dalek Empire will conquer and destroy ocean worlds just as freely as any human colony or tropical paradise.

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Doctor Who – Where to Start with Big Finish’s Eighth Doctor Audio Dramas

New to Big Finish Doctor Who Audios? If you want to get into the Eighth Doctor’s era but don’t know where to start, this guide to Big Finish 8th Doctor Audios can help!

One of Big Finish’s most popular and most successful ranges among their Doctor Who back-catalogue is their extensive selection of Eighth Doctor audio dramas, and for good reason.

As he has historically been the Doctor with the fewest on-screen appearances, it is great that the Eighth Doctor was picked up by Big Finish – Paul McGann continues to add to the role he never got to play on TV, the writers have free reign to tell whatever stories they want as they are not constrained by a preexisting narrative for the Eighth Doctor, and fans have been treated to some truly amazing stories within the Eighth Doctor range, all told through the medium of audio,

However, as Big Finish have been producing Eighth Doctor audios since 2001, it can be difficult at this point to know where to begin with his series. With literally hundreds of audio plays to his name, the Eighth Doctor can seem a daunting Doctor to tackle for fans, particularly those that are just getting into Big Finish and the audio drama format as a whole.

This guide is designed to assist those who want to listen to the Eighth Doctor’s Big Finish audio dramas but are unsure of how to approach them. To begin, let’s simplify the Eighth Doctor’s era by dividing it into the distinct ‘phases’ that are generally accepted by fans to be the main pillars of Eighth Doctor audio content.

Phase 1 -Charley Pollard and The Early Years

The Eighth Doctor’s early adventures are bold, nostalgic, and stand the test of time – not only do they draw a lot from the best of Classic Who and therefore don’t feel out of place among the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors in the Monthly Adventures, they do an excellent job of firmly establishing the character of the Eighth Doctor post-TV Movie, as well as introducing us to the marvellous Charley Pollard, the Eighth Doctor’s companion for the majority of his Monthly Range appearances.

Rather like the first few Fourth Doctor TV episodes, the early Eighth Doctor stories depict the Doctor exploring the universe seemingly without a care, but hinting at an overarching plot beneath. This means that you can listen to each episode individually without a problem, but it is beneficial to listen to them in order. The saga begins with 2001’s Storm Warning, which introduces Charley, and highlights of this era include Embrace the Darkness, Neverland, Zagreus, Scherzo, The Natural History of Fear, and The Girl Who Never Was.

Although it is not necessary to listen to every single audio in this era, there are very few that could be considered downright bad. As this was an early era for Big Finish, a lot of experimentation was taking place, so this era of Doctor Who audio dramas can be forgiven for its occasional slip-ups as for every dud audio play Big Finish produced, there were three more that were truly excellent. The only audio that should probably be avoided is Minuet in Hell, although it has to be said that Zagreus is not for the faint-hearted.

Phase 2 – Lucie Bleedin’ Miller and the New Beginning

Since the first set of Eighth Doctor audios were part of the Monthly Adventures, they use the Classic Who format of 4 25-30 minute parts that make up a roughly 2 hour story. However, when the Eighth Doctor was given his own standalone series in 2007, Big Finish changed the format of his stories to single 45 minute episodes, some of which having two parts, to match the format that the televised Doctor Who used post-2005. This change makes the Eighth Doctor Adventures with Lucie Miller far more accessible to newer fans.

Not only that, but this series contains a huge amount of excellent content. Although not as experimental as the previous phase of Eighth Doctor audios, the Eighth Doctor Adventures are far more consistent in terms of overall quality. The tone and plots of the audios in this phase feel very much aligned to the New Series, specifically the Tenth Doctor era. Lucie Miller makes an excellent companion – almost like a cross between Rose and Donna, with just a dash of Ace thrown in for luck. Her strong personality and excellent portrayal by Sheridan Smith make Lucie an instantly memorable companion.

The villains of this era are also equally memorable. The notorious Headhunter is an excellent counter to the Doctor and Lucie’s positive outlook on their adventures, and as her character develops she becomes a fascinating anti-hero of sorts as well as recurring villain. There are also strong appearances for both the Daleks and the Cybermen in this era, and there are many returning Classic villains that make this phase feel like a love letter to fans of Classic and New Who alike. Highlights from this era include Blood of the Daleks, Human Resources, Brave New Town, The Zygon Who Fell To Earth, Hothouse, Wirrn Dawn and To The Death, although there are very few stories in this phase that fail to be either enjoyable romps or excellent sci-fi stories.

Phase 3 – Molly O’Sullivan, the Girl with the Dark Eyes

This phase of Eighth Doctor audios marks a significant transition into the format of 4 episode to a box set and 4 box sets to a series. The episodes are usually self-contained stories that connect together to form a 16-part story – think The Trial of a Time Lord but with less Brian Blessed and even more technobabble. This era sees a far more reserved and brooding Doctor team up with new companion Molly O’Sullivan – a World War I Medical Volunteer who possesses the ‘Dark Eyes’ that give the series its name.

Overall, this phase of the Eighth Doctor’s tenure is perhaps the least accessible to most fans, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has its own distinct identity, almost its own universe, and it creates its own galactic conflict to use as the stage for its space-opera-style story structure. Dark Eyes is certainly an immersive experience, though arguably its greatest weakness is that it relies too heavily on the combined story structure, meaning there are few episodes that stand out as individual stories in their own right.

One of the greatest strengths of Dark Eyes, however, is the Master – played excellently by the delightfully charismatic Alex Macqueen. This version of the Master is a treat, and his appearance in this series helps make it truly memorable. Highlights from this phase include The Great War, The Traitor, Eyes of the Master, A Life in the Day and Master of the Daleks.

Phase 4 – Battling Doom Coalition and Ravenous with Liv and Helen

After the intense and plot-heavy Dark Eyes, the Eighth Doctor’s life takes a sudden turn with the Doom Coalition and Ravenous storylines. The format relaxes the overarching plot meaning that the individual stories feel more unique and distinct from each other, meaning that it would theoretically be possible for a newcomer to listen to a random story from this series and enjoy it. However, as previously mentioned, at this point in the Eighth Doctor’s life there is a lot of internal lore and backstory within his stories, meaning characters, events and plot threads from previous phases play more of a part in these stories. There are even some elements of the New Series that are brought into play here, such as Missy, River Song, and the Weeping Angels.

And yet, arguably the best thing about this era is that the Doctor has a wonderful pair of companions in this phase – Liv and Helen, who come from completely different time zones, one from the 1960s, one from the far-future, and yet have perfect chemistry. Although not as dynamic as Charley or distinctive as Lucie, Liv and Helen fit the companion role excellently for this era of the Eighth Doctor’s life. Highlights from this era include The Red Lady, Scenes from Her Life, Absent Friends, The Side of the Angels, Their Finest Hour Seizure and Companion Piece.

This phase also features a character that is arguably the best villain in the Eighth Doctor’s entire era, and is perhaps one of the greatest villains in Doctor Who history – The Eleven. This insane Time Lord suffers from a condition called Regenerative Dissonance, meaning that his previous incarnations live on as multiple personalities inside his head. This leads to terrifying situations in which multiple psychopathic consciousnesses fight to control a single body and argue over the best way to murder their victim, with the primary Eleven personality vying for control.

Phase 5 – Bliss and the Time War

It was inevitable that the Eighth Doctor would have to face the Time War eventually, and Big Finish began producing the Eighth Doctor Time War stories before Doom Coalition had even finished – this represents a fresh start for the Doctor, and he has a new companion and even a new theme (borrowed from the late John Hurt’s War Doctor audios). These stories are often a lot bleaker than many of the previous Eighth Doctor audios, although this is to be expected with the Time War raging.

There are some interesting surprises in this era, as several aspects of the Doctor’s life come back to haunt him during the horrors of the Time War. This series also serves a secondary purpose – setting up the War Doctor audios which chronologically take place after this era from the point of view of the Doctor.

New companion Bliss makes an excellent impression in this series, establishing herself as a character who is just as affected by the Time War as the Doctor is, meaning she understands the nature of the conflict and aligns with the Doctor’s view of wanting to help but not actively fight. Highlights of this phase include The Starship of Theseus, One Life, Planet of the Ogrons, In the Garden of Death and The War Valeyard. Although the last phase in the Eighth Doctor’s tenure is quite disconnected from its predecessors, one must take into account the fact that Big Finish has not finished filling in the gaps as of yet. Still, those who enjoyed the legendary War Doctor audios will also enjoy the Eighth Doctor: Time War stories.

Extra Eighth Doctor Content

But wait, there’s more! The five phases might be the main eras of the Eighth Doctor’s audio tenure, but there are other stories that feature him that do not fit into any of these categories. Overall, the Eighth Doctor’s era is vast and daunting to the uninitiated, but hopefully this guide has helped to break down this enigmatic and elusive Doctor’s era into more manageable phases for those who want to take the plunge and experience the excellent audio adventures of the Eighth Doctor.

Travels with Mary Shelley

There are some audios that were released as part of the Monthly Adventures in 2009 and 2010 that depicted the Eighth Doctor at an earlier point in his life, before he even met Charley, in which he had several travels with Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. This era takes on a distinctly Gothic feel, and every one is worth a listen. The Silver Turk is arguably the best, and features the Mondasian Cybermen in 19th-century Vienna.

The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller

Acting as a pseudo-spinoff series for Lucie that is set between the first and second series of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, this box set tells various stories that primarily involve Lucie, although the Eighth Doctor is obviously present. So far only the first box set of this series has been released, but already the Further Adventures of Lucie Miller have given us a hilarious Dalek story in the debut story, The Dalek Trap.

Rage of the Master

The Eighth Doctor also appears in the third box set in the War Master series, which depicts the antics of Derek Jacobi’s incarnation of the Master during the Time War. The Eighth Doctor and the War Master bounce off each other well in their scenes together, and overall the story is highly enjoyable – but to say any more would give away some fantastic plot twists.

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Doctor Who – Speculation About the Return of the Cybermen in Series 12

If recent information from the Daily Mirror is to be believed, there will be Cybermen in Series 12 of Doctor Who. This doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise, after all, the Cybermen are among the show’s most popular villains, and fans are always happy to see them back – but given that rumours and ‘leaked’ information about upcoming series has often been misleading or downright incorrect in the past, many fans are wisely taking this news with a pinch of salt.

Similarly, there is another issue that has some fans worried – according to the same story that declared the Cybermen’s return, Mary Shelley will also be featured in this story, with her encounter with the Cybermen allegedly becoming the basis for her novel Frankenstein. If that sounds familiar to you, then chances are you’ve listened to (or at the very least heard of) the Big Finish Audio The Silver Turk, as this story has almost the exact same storyline.

So what does this mean for Big Finish? Hopefully, if these rumours are true, the writers will acknowledge the discrepency, as the worlds of New Who and Big Finish have been gradually drawing closer of late, coming to a head with the huge crossover The Legacy of Time that was released to celebrate Big Finish’s 20th anniversary of producing Doctor Who audios. However, many fans have already accepted that this will not be the case.

Where Doctor Who is concerned, it is always better to live in hope – even if it means accepting certain compromises. On the bright side, the premise to this story sounds delightfully spooky and borderling horror-inspired, so Chris Chibnall and the other writers of Series 12 might attempt to steer the Cybermen closer towards their original status as horrifying nightmare-fuel rather than heavily-armoured soldiers. The fact that The Silver Turk featured the Mondasian Cybermen made it a particularly effective horror story, but if the same idea was attempted with the modern Cybus or Cyberiad Cybermen then the end result would be far weaker.

However, what if the rumours of Mary Shelley are false, but the rumours about the Cybermen are true? What other ways could Chibnall and the writers use to bring the Cybermen into this new era of the show? Given how they took a back-to-basics approach with the Dalek in Resolution, could this same logic apply to a potential Cyberman story? Will the Mondasian Cybermen return, or will it be the modern incarnation? Perhaps, like World Enough and Time, we will get an alternate origin for a new sub-race of Cybermen. Or maybe Chibnall will throw in an unexpected curveball, and bring back the 1980s Cybermen that have been tragically neglected in New Who?

Endless speculation is fun, but ultimately unproductive. One thing that is clear, however, is that the Cybermen may be seen in a new light during Whittaker’s era. After all, the Cybermen were responsible for the Twelfth Doctor’s regeneration, and although the Doctor isn’t known to hold grudges, it would make for an interesting dynamic that could elevate the Cybermen to a new threat level, perhaps even surpassing the Daleks. One of the things we have been promised from this new series is a darker storyline for the Doctor, Graham, Yaz and Ryan – could the Cybermen end up responsible for the death – or worse – conversion of one of the Thirteenth Doctor’s beloved companions? Time will tell…

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Doctor Who – Into the Dalek Review

The Moffat era was somewhat sparse when it came to quality Dalek stories – which is surprising, considering Steven Moffat himself was such a fan of them. Throughout this era, particularly Matt Smith’s era, Moffat almost took the Daleks for granted, as when they did appear, the episodes were rarely about them specifically in the way that an episode like 2005’s Dalek was. As such, Into the Dalek, the second episode of the divisive Series 8, comes as somewhat of a refreshing change compared to earlier Moffat-era Dalek stories, as this episode is all about one very specific Dalek, and gives us a closer look at the inner workings of a Dalek than we have ever seen before. But how does this episode stand up, nearly five years later?

The Opening

It makes sense to start at the start, and one of the most eye-catching things about Into the Dalek is the opening scene, which immediately grabs your attention in a manner similar to that of Star Wars: A New Hope, as we are shown the tiny human ship desperately trying to outrun a massive Dalek Saucer in an asteroid field. The low angled shots of the Dalek ship effortlessly ploughing through the asteroids as the human ship dodges and weaves around them depict the near-unstoppable power of the Dalek Empire, and how ill-equipped the humans are to deal with the threat. The rapid cuts to the cockpit of the ship, showing pilot Journey Blue trying to radio her command ship, attend to her dying brother and fly the ship all at once furthers the idea that the Humans are vastly outgunned when compared to the cuts to the clean, efficient Dalek bridge.

We see a Dalek move towards a control panel, it shrieks its familiar cry, and Journey’s ship is finally destroyed. But the flash of her exploding ship morphs into the familiar spinning lights of the TARDIS, as she wakes up on the floor with the Twelfth Doctor stood at the controls, holding coffee. This image is one of the enduring impressions that this episode leaves, as it is a truly memorable opening sequence that is sadly underappreciated. Peter Capaldi gives a stern rebuke to Journey’s attempts to order him around at gunpoint, which serves as the introduction to the theme of this episode, the idea of the folly of the military and soldiers in general, and as if to ram this point home, following the title sequence, we immediately cut to Danny Pink in the playground of Coal Hill School, ordering children about like a drill sergeant.

Danny Pink

Opinions on Danny Pink and his relationship with Clara seem to vary among fans. On the one hand, he was an honest attempt at developing a character that was unaware of the space-and-time antics and had to be kept in the dark as a series arc, something that had not really been done since Series 4 as Moffat seemed to sway away from the Earth-based parental angle of the Russel T. Davies era and instead kept the majority of his domestics in the TARDIS. But on the other hand, although it is a refreshing change to introduce this kind of character, many have argued that his characterisation was painfully flimsy and that he was underdeveloped – which is hard to argue with. It has to be noted that the Earth-based scenes in this episode were written by Steven Moffat, and these few short minutes focusing on Danny are packed with Moffat tropes from conversational faux-pas to the classic cutting ahead and flashing back routine, so these scenes can be skipped if this sort of thing isn’t for you.

Clara and the Doctor

Another controversial thing about this era is Clara, as opinions on her are widely divided. The best way to think of Clara is as New Who’s Peri – her character is who she is, and is unapologetic about it, whether you like it or not. Ironically, she was first introduced as the most basic, generic, cardboard-cutout companion you could imagine, but during the Capaldi era she is given a chance to actually establish her own character, and Moffat takes the opportunity that any of us would as showrunner, and wrote a companion with serious personality flaws to play out how they clash with the Doctor. He did this knowing that kind of Doctor-Companion relationship doesn’t appeal to all fans, but took the chance, which is commendable. The result is a strange mix of genuinely heartfelt acts of kindness displayed by the Doctor and Clara to each other, to them arguing or falling out or manipulating each other.

As such, they are perhaps the closest thing that we will get to a Sixth Doctor and Peri homage in the New Series, and Into the Dalek shows this down to a tee – the Doctor is melancholy and brooding in the TARDIS, and the companion is attempting emotional support with little success. For those who have seen it, this scene mirrors a similar one in Vengeance on Varos, arguably the best Sixth Doctor TV story, although the topic in question is markedly different. In Varos, the Doctor is facing the idea that the TARDIS has died mid-flight and stranded them in the Vortex, whilst in Into the Dalek, the Doctor is confounded at the possibility of a ‘Good’ Dalek that has made him begin to doubt his own morality. In a way, it is a good problem to throw at a new Doctor, particularly a more grumpy incarnation who is unsure of himself. After all, if a more mean and standoffish version of the Doctor met a ‘Good’ Dalek, who would be the better person of the two? Speaking of the ‘Good’ Dalek:

Rusty the Dalek

Rusty is a rare example of a depiction of an ‘individual’ Dalek, arguably the best way a Dalek can be depicted in the series, as it is by far the most interesting way to portray them. All the best Dalek introspectives have focused on the morality or decisions of a single Dalek, be it the Dalek from Jubilee, the Metaltron, Dalek Sec, and in this case, Rusty. The title Into the Dalek is fitting for more reasons than just the obvious.

The Dalek philosophy is fundamentally challenged in this episode, and it is hard to decide whether Rusty’s sudden change of heart is madness or morality. There have been a few instances of the ‘single captured Dalek’ plot in past Dalek stories, such as Jubilee, The Dalek Transaction and Dalek. But Into the Dalek puts a unique spin on the idea, making Rusty a memorable Dalek in his own right. The effort that went into painstakingly constructing the Dalek prop for this story is impressive, and can be read about in detail in Dalek 63 88’s excellent segment on how Rusty was built using materials to hand.

Maximum Extermination

Another aspect to this story that makes it important in the chronology of Dalek episodes in Moffat’s era is the fact that it features the extermination effect, a staple of successful Dalek stories in early NuWho but sadly neglected during the tenure of the Eleventh Doctor. In fact, the extermination effect had not been used since Series 5. Rusty’s rampage through the Human ship, followed by the climactic battle between the Daleks and the Human soldiers, marks the first time the Daleks are seen doing what they are supposed to do on-screen in a long time.

Not only that, but the exceptional use of model shots during these action scenes is inspirational. The team used 12-inch RC Daleks for the bridge scene and again in the boarding corridor scene, and the results are really good. Practical effects are used for when Rusty turns on the Daleks and destroys them all, and the special effects team made excellent use of a stunt Dalek blown up in several different ways to depict the Dalek Assault Squad being destroyed one by one.

The result of this hard work is something truly special – a Dalek action sequence made in the spirit of Classic Who, but one that is exciting enough to be engaging for modern audiences. And overall, this same praise can be extended to Into the Dalek as a whole, as the episode does a great job of bridging the familiar with the unusual and its creative ideas are executed brilliantly thanks to the inspired work of Doctor Who’s behind-the-scenes team.

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Doctor Who – First Look at Series 12 Monsters – Judoon Confirmed to Return

Since filming for Series 12 of Doctor Who began in Gloucester, fans have been secretly hoping for a glimpse at what is going on behind the scenes of Jodie Whittaker’s second series as the Doctor. Fans are particularly anxious to learn what enemies the Doctor will face this series, as the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut series was noticeably lacking in threat factor aside from Tzim-Sha and a Dalek. It is good news then that the BBC seem to be more forthcoming about what this new series will feature, however, as they have revealed that the Judoon will be making a return through photos released of the filming in Gloucester.

The most interesting image depicts the Doctor in a standoff with a distinctive Judoon Captain, who sports a mohawk, flanked by Judoon soldiers who appear to be holding a brand new type of blaster. Since their introduction, the Judoon have been depicted as an intergalactic ‘police-for-hire’, stormtroopers with a strict legal code who are employed as hired thugs to execute criminals or carry out other security duties. As such, they often clash with the Doctor on the subject of ethics, as they are known to be brutish and single-minded in their task, and have even been known to execute people on the spot for any perceived crime.

However, the Judoon are not always a foe to the Doctor, and several instances have portrayed them in a positive light. The famous cameo in The Stolen Earth shows that the Judoon guard the Shadow Proclamation, the Galactic Lawmakers, and a Judoon aids Sarah Jane and her friends in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode Prisoner of the Judoon. They have also made the jump to audio, as Big Finish’s Classic Doctors:New Monsters audio Judoon in Chains depicts the Sixth Doctor defending a Judoon on trial for his life. As such, it is not yet completely clear whether or not the Judoon in Series 12 will act as an ally or an adversary to the Doctor, although judging by the released picture, it would seem they are butting heads over something.

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Doctor Who – Top 5 Monsters That Should Make a Return in Series 12

Chris Chibnall definitely delivered on his promise of featuring no returning monsters in Series 11, which was perhaps not the wisest choice for the debut series of a new Doctor and new showrunner. Usually, when a new Doctor is introduced, their first series will retain many recurring elements from the show’s history, to reassure viewers that it is indeed the same show. This is usually done by having the new Doctor face off against classic villains such as the Daleks, and is part of the reason why fans will always yearn for the show’s recurring villains to make continuous comebacks – as the show evolves, the essential aspects of the show’s identity must evolve with it, and there is no reason why new showrunners can’t introduce their own recurring villains, such as the Ood, the Weeping Angels or the Stenza.

Having said that, Series 11 featured a distinct lack of classic villains, and although Resolution turned out to be quite a good Dalek story, it ‘s status as a New Years Special means that it was not included as part of the eleventh series. This makes Jodie Whittaker’s debut series seem quite odd and out of place compared to previous Doctor debut series – and as a result of the lack of truly great villains in the series to stand in for the lack of classic monsters, the Thirteenth Doctor’s character came across as somewhat flimsy and vague compared to recent Doctors like Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi. Perhaps in response to feedback from fans, Chibnall seems to have lifted his ‘ban’ on including classic monsters in the series, as he has stated in several interviews recently that he intends to do more with the show’s iconic monsters – after all, there is no better way to define yourself as a showrunner than to present fans with your spin on the show diverse array of key elements – the Doctor themselves, the TARDIS, the Sonic Screwdriver, but also the classic monsters. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the Top 5 Monsters That Should Make a Return in Series 11.

macra

#5 – The Macra

Though they may seem a strange choice for a returning monster, the Macra are actually quite a topical choice given the recent release of the animated version of The Macra Terror. This fantastic recreation of a lost classic using the original audio manages to capture the essence of the Second Doctor’s era and finally does the concept of the Macra justice, as their previous appearances in the original version of the episode and then in 2007’s Gridlock never managed to truly present the idea to its truest potential due to the sheer lack of budget. One of the things that Series 11 showed fans is that Doctor Who now has CGI to rival that of other modern sci-fi shows, and so now with Series 12 the writers might finally have a chance to write a new Macra story with the CGI budget to justify it.

two-masters.jpg

#4 – The Master

Audio producers Big Finish have been doing some very ambitious projects involving the Master recently – the first canon multi-Master story, The Two Masters, starring Geoffrey Beevers and Alex MacQueen, the War Master box sets starring Derek Jacobi, the introduction of the Master’s first incarnation played by James Dreyfus in the The First Doctor Adventures box sets, and more recently the return of Eric Roberts’ Movie incarnation and Michelle Gomez’ Missy, the latter getting her own audio series. With so many incarnations of the Master ‘active’ in fan’s minds at the moment, and with the Master also being a time-traveller like the Doctor, there is no reason why Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor couldn’t come up against one, or even several existing incarnations of the Master. Particularly good choices for Masters to go up against Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor on-screen include Geoffrey Beevers, who could be featured in heavy makeup or even as the voice of a CGI version of the rotting corpse Master, and Alex MacQueen, who has never had a TV appearance before but would be a fantastic choice to portray the charismatic yet sadistic killer to contrast Whittaker’s good natured Doctor.

time of the cybermen

#3 – The Cybermen

Having been primarily responsible for the death of her previous incarnation, it would make sense that the Thirteenth Doctor would have a bone to pick with the Cybermen. Not only that, but her diverse cast of companions perhaps best portrays the Doctor’s love of individuality and diversity – something that the Cybermen seek to destroy. Given that so far we have only been given one insight into Chris Chibnall’s take on the Cybermen, and that was Torchwood’s Cyberwoman, it would be nice to see Chibnall’s take on the standard Cybermen in the main show. Whilst Cyberwoman did have some really creepy and unique concepts dealing with Cyber-conversion in it, the unfortunate error with the costume design trying to emphasise the show’s adult nature derailed the episode. Now that he runs Doctor Who, however, Chibnall now has a chance to portray a fresh new take on the iconic metal men.

sontaran

#2 – The Sontarans

Having been practically transformed into a comedic joke during Steven Moffat’s era through Strax, the Sontarans stand in a sort of limbo-state at the moment, as all of their appearances – even ones that were not down to Strax – have been for comedic effect since Series 7, and at the moment it remains unlikely that they will ever make a return that can scare or intimidate viewers anymore. Interestingly, there were rumours during the run-up to the release of Series 11 that it would feature an episode that delved into the origin story of the Sontarans, how a ‘clone race’ was actually created, and how their warrior ethos came to be. Although it turned it to be false, the story idea remains a good one – and certainly one that Chris Chibnall could harness given the popularity of the concept.

dalek fleet

Honourable Mention – The Dalek Fleet

Included here as an honourable mention are the Daleks, or rather their Fleet, who should not make an appearance in Series 12 per-say, except maybe have them hinted at as a recurring arc for foreshadowing, as it and, of course, the pepperpots themselves should definitely reappear in the next New Years Special. The Recon Dalek in Resolution was prevented from sending a full transmission to the Dalek Fleet, but given that it was using every single transmitter on Earth at once, it is more than likely that something got through to them, and having Daleks on New Year is definitely something that many fans would happily adopt as an annual tradition.

stenza

#1 –  The Stenza

To give credit where it was certainly due, the Stenza were an interesting race introduced by Chris Chibnall, and as the only recurring enemy in the series, they are effectively Chibnall’s ‘poster’ villain at the moment. All the more reason for them to make a reappearance in Series 12, particularly considering the fact that we only saw an individual member of the race in the series and not, say, their homeworld. An episode called ‘Planet of the Stenza’ would certainly be an interesting concept, particularly as each warrior would have a unique appearance given the fact that each one hunts on a different planet – and so each one would have wholly unique teeth implanted into its face, presumably. How Chibnall manages the Stenza, his flagship race at present, will give us some excellent insight into how he will fare as showrunner in the future. Also, having the Thirteenth Doctor once again come face-to-face with the responsibilities of her prior actions at the hands of the Stenza might become a recurring opportunity to see some development in her character in Series 12, something that the show definitely needs at the moment. So, to sum up, the Stenza might not be the most accepted or appreciated aspect of Doctor Who at the moment, but they certainly have potential – so in a way, they are representative of Chibnall’s Who as a whole, which is all the more reason for them to make a return in Series 12.

UPDATE – Judoon in Series 12

As of May 2019, it has been confirmed that at least one returning villain will appear in Series 12 – the Judoon. Although they originally didn’t appear on this list, the Judoon are an interesting race that have been explored somewhat in spinoffs like The Sarah Jane Adventures and several Big Finish audios, and their ruthless and single-minded nature will certainly contrast with the Thirteenth Doctor’s personality. The on-set photos from Gloucester show some interesting tidbits about the Judoon, such as their new two-handed rifles and the interesting haircut of their commander.

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