Doctor Who Book Review – Illegal Alien

Illegal Alien was among the first of the BBC Past Doctor Who Adventures novels which ran from 1997-2005 and actually began life as a potential TV story for Season 26 and later the unmade ‘Season 27’ which would have aired had the BBC not cancelled the show in 1989. Written by Mike Tucker, a visual effects assistant on Classic Who and model unit supervisor for NuWho, and script editor Robert Perry, this book is essentially a direct novelisation of the script for the unmade TV story, and is therefore split into four parts. With the end of each part being equatable to the cliffhangers seen in the TV show, a nice addition.

The book features the Seventh Doctor and Ace facing off against the Cybermen in Britain in World War II, a concept that works really well and can draw off several Nazi-related themes in a similar fashion to the TV story Victory of the Daleks does with the Daleks and Churchill. But for the first few chapters, the book reads almost like a detective story – the first-person narration of detective Cody McBride makes this story read like a Noir in some places, making it even more of a shame that this was never adapted for television.

illegal-alien-2.jpg

The version of the Cybermen that are intended to be represented in this novel is unclear – the original cover depicts a Cybermen from The Wheel in Space, whereas the republished version from The Monster Collection in the 2010s features a Cybus-Industries Cyberman, as seen from 2006’s Rise of the Cybermen. However, the descriptions in the novel as well as the era it was set in would suggest that the Cybermen are a more upgraded version of the kind seen in Silver Nemesis. Interestingly, this book depicts Cybermats, the entire cyber-conversion process and the concept of a critically damaged Cyberman scavenging humans for parts long before NuWho did. If this episode had ever been produced, it would have required a monumental budget.

The setting of the Second World War also allows for some interesting character development for Ace, who encounters Nazis in the flesh having already fostered a growing hatred of them since her best friend from her childhood was murdered by Neo-Nazis, showing a continuation of her character arc from Season 26. Ace also spends the majority of this book separated from the Doctor, and figures out what is going on independently, showing a wealth of character development since Remembrance of the Daleks.

monstercollection.jpg

As previously mentioned, this novel was recently made a part of The Monster Collection series, which also included re-releases of Tenth Doctor novels like String of the Zygons and Prisoner of the Daleks, and reviews of those novels will follow.

Overall, Illegal Alien is a great read with some truly memorable characters and a story that gives us a unique insight into what the unmade ‘Season 27’ would have been like. Undoubtedly, had this story been made, it would have been one of the most ambitious Doctor Who stories to date.

 

How to Fix – Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks

Welcome to the latest article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises, in this case I will be focusing on a specific New Series Dalek two-parter in a similar fashion to my previous installment. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.

The divisive Series 3 two-parter Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks took some truly great sci-fi concepts and executed them in the style of a B-Movie. The episode is infamous for several reasons – the song-and-dance routine, the strangely phallic face of the Human-Dalek Hybrid, and the premature destruction of three-quarters of the Cult of Skaro. Considering that their last appearance had been in Series 2’s Doomsday, an episode that was not only hard-hitting emotionally but also featured the first instance of individual Daleks escaping at the end, presumably to get revenge on the Doctor at a later date. Overall, Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks had a lot to live up to and, despite its potential, it just didn’t stand up to previous Dalek stories in the revival. So, to begin:

evolution-of-the-daleks-3.jpg

Do more with the concept of the ‘Cult of Skaro’, and the character of Dalek Sec

By far the most interesting aspect of this two-parter is the individual Daleks themselves, and tragically the episode does little to capitalize on their uniqueness as characters. The concept of having a secret order of specific Daleks that have the adaptability and intelligence to scheme beyond the capacity of an ordinary Dalek is interesting enough, but to have this small number of Daleks used as antagonists throughout multiple seasons is an even more interesting idea. For one, it would eliminate the problem that the early NuWho series’ had with Daleks apparently finding more and more inconceivable ways of surviving the Time War, as having a tiny number of survivors reappear as recurring villains is better than having to come up with a different excuse as to why Daleks are around each series. Unfortunately, Evolution of the Daleks in particular does away with this concept a little too early, killing three out of the four Cult members in their second story.

Admittedly, the character arc for Dalek Sec in this story is spectacular, and the execution is fairly effective as well (apart from the phallic protrusions on the Hybrid’s chin, but the less said about that the better). Having Sec sacrifice himself at the end to save the Doctor illustrates just how far a bit of Human DNA can go in rehabilitating a Dalek, even one as committed to the cause as Sec, and his hybridization and subsequent struggle with gaining human emotions is both an interesting concept for a Dalek story and a great spanner to throw into the works of the hierarchy of the Cult. The problem is that, upon killing Sec, Evolution of the Daleks disposes of Daleks Thay and Jast as well, in a pointless firefight that ultimately solves nothing, when realistically these two Daleks should have escaped with Dalek Caan as their characters had barely been developed when they were unceremoniously killed off.

evolution-of-the-daleks-5.jpg

Do more with the supporting characters

Although Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks constantly reminds the audience that it is set in New York, with the presence of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Hooverville serving to ground the audience in both the location and the time period, unfortunately the supporting cast of this episode are given strangely little to do in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, the only real purpose that Martha, Tallulah, Lazlo and Frank serve in the final episode is discovering the the Daleks have attached Dalekanium to the Empire State Building, and this discovery is ultimately pointless as the Doctor fails to remove it in time anyway. Daleks In Manhattan manages to give its supporting cast a little more to do, but overall following the death of Solomon the Doctor assumes all the main narrative roles in this story, which is odd considering usually Dalek stories rely primarily on the companion to figure things out whilst the Doctor strikes up an ideological debate with his foes.

Unfortunately, at the crucial point at which this might have been useful, the Doctor totally fails to engage with the potential of the Dalek Sec Hybrid. It should be noted that, upon the death of the Hybrid, it is truly unclear whether or not the Doctor actually trusted him at all – he does refer to Sec as ‘the cleverest Dalek ever’, but in typical fashion the Tenth Doctor seems to be totally indifferent to the destruction of this opportunity to recreate the Dalek race from the ground up, instead being seemingly more focused on berating the Daleks for their lack of foresight rather than genuinely grieving the reformed Sec.

evolution-of-the-daleks-2.jpg

Rework the Dalek’s plan so that it makes sense

Clearly whoever scripted this episode had no idea how genetics actually work, or how DNA and life relate to each other in the real world. As many fans will already know, Doctor Who has always been about suspending disbelief for the sake of narrative enjoyment, but in the case of Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks this actually hurts the story as the suspension of disbelief is simply unnecessary. The Daleks would surely have the know-how  to create Human-Dalek hybrids even with primitive technology, but the logic of ’emptying’ human bodies to be ‘filled’ with Dalek DNA is about the stupidest way of presenting this concept. Why not just have the Daleks growing the new Hybrid soldiers in tanks, and requiring the lightning strike to bring them to life? Or, heck, just have the lightning strike be there to power their Emergency Temporal Shift to escape to the future – the Daleks could have just revisited the concept of Robomen and indoctrinated Humans into doing their bidding rather than using the seemingly redundant Pig Slaves.

Overall, most of what makes Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks is the mishandling of the Daleks themselves as the main villain – it would be easy to tweak this story to save the Cult of Skaro storyline whilst still keeping its emotional impact, and circumventing some of the stranger concepts in favor of more familiar Dalek concepts would make this story more popular with Dalek fans.

So those were my thoughts on how to fix Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks. I hope you enjoyed, and if you did then be sure to leave a like and you can follow Sacred Icon either here or on Facebook, and for more content like this have a look at the Read More section down below. Thanks for reading!

 

Doctor Who – Ranking the NuWho companions (2005-2017)

NuWho has been on the air for some time now, and has accumulated quite a sizeable array of companions to its name, spanning several eras. Time to rank them all!

#10 – Rose

Yep, Rose is at the bottom. Those who have read previous articles on my site will know that I am not exactly Rose’s biggest fan, and this is mostly due to her erratic and unpredictable behavior – be it laughing and giggling after having just witnessed someone being brutally murdered in Tooth and Claw, or being a total bitch to Sarah Jane Smith in School Reunion, or having a go at Elton for upsetting her mum in Love and Monsters when she herself basically ruined a year of her mum’s life by disappearing and not bothering to tell her. What is frustrating is that this character gets special treatment in the Russell tenure, with basically the entire arc of the era being based around one character – she even got to come back after being gone for a season and a half. So yes, Rose is right at the bottom for just shoddy character development.

#9 – Clara

In a similar vein to my dislike of Rose, Clara stole the show a bit too much when she finally came along. In fact, even before she came along – Jenna Coleman played two distinct versions of Clara before appearing permanently as the genuine article, and this sparked the retch-inducing ‘impossible girl’ storyline that was essentially a more contrived storyline than the whole Bad Wolf thing. The only reason why Clara ranks higher than Rose is that she became slightly less insufferable during her time with the Twelfth Doctor – although she continued to try and take over the show, even getting her face in the title sequence at the end of Series 8 instead of the Doctor’s – the Twelfth Doctor bounced off her better character-wise, and Clara gained more of a personality in Series 8 and 9 compared to the ‘Impossible Girl’ arc that basically carried her through Series 7. Once her character began to emerge, she is really good in some episodes, and once Moffat had got out of his Cbeebies phase Clara was able to meet the more serious and darker aspects that the show took on leading into Capaldi’s era, even having a particularly fantastic death scene in Face the Raven. Although she gets a copped-out immortal lesbian time-travelling spinoff show at the end of Hell Bent she still has to eventually go back and die, which is a pretty dark concept if you think about it.

#8 – River Song

I can genuinely appreciate what Steven Moffat was trying to do with River – the notion of a fellow time-traveller that is encountered out of order and married to the Doctor is a great idea in theory, but the execution was less than spectacular – because her appearance in Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead was so good as a standalone idea for an episode, people were almost disappointed when her return was announced just one series later. Overall, although River herself was a strong character played excellently by Alex Kingston who also had great chemistry with Matt Smith, her reveal was ultimately a bit of a let down and although she is the Doctor’s wife it is strange that so much emphasis was placed on revealing her ‘secret identity’ only for it to turn out that she is the daughter of the current companions. Despite all this, her departure in The Husbands of River Song is still a defining moment in the Twelfth Doctor’s characterisation change for Series 10 so River can ultimately be thanked for inadvertently influencing the best series of the revival.

#7 – Mickey

Poor Mickey. The strange thing about this character is that he was a genuinely good person – he cared deeply for Rose, he was loyal to his friends and was pretty brave by the end of the show, yet for some reason that defies explanation the Doctor just really seems to dislike Mickey at first, probably because Russell had it in his head from the beginning that the Doctor would fall in love with Rose, but what reason is given for the Doctor’s disdain for Mickey? All Mickey did was get captured by the Autons and then be understandably shaken when the whole thing was over, and yet Rose totally abandons him. Throughout the series Mickey jumps from our universe to a parallel universe and back again, again a symptom of the writers not really knowing what to do with him, and eventually ends up with Martha in an unfortunate ‘match the spares’ situation of the ilk of Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood in the eighth Harry Potter film. Ultimately, Mickey’s best qualities are apparent in Series 2, in which he joins the TARDIS team and spends time fighting Cybermen in a parallel universe, eventually becoming a badass.

#6 – Amy and Rory

Although their era spiraled further and further into the nonsense that was Series 7, Amy and Rory are a standout because their relationship gave the show a whole different dynamic that almost makes every episode seem like a continuation of the same story, just framed differently against the backdrop of traveling through time and space. Amy may be bitchy at times and Rory takes a while to find his feet as a character (similarly to Mickey, in many respects) but once he becomes the Roman he becomes one of the most likeable characters on the show. Their best episodes include Amy’s Choice, The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang, The Impossible Planet/The Day of the Moon, The God Complex, The Doctor’s Wife and A Good Man Goes To War so there is a fairly strong selection there alone, and whilst it could be argued that their combined character was irrecoverably ruined  by the abysmal Asylum of the Daleks they at least got a good send off in Angel’s Take Manhattan.

#5 – Donna

As companions go, Donna is definitely going to be among the best-remembered in years to come, possibly even on the same level as companions like Jo Grant and Sarah Jane Smith, in that they all take a very unique perspective on the companion role. In Donna’s case that is the role of a loudmouth with an attitude but who has a heart of gold and, in many ways, is very like the Doctor in some ways. Considering the recent trend that started with the Eighth Doctor TV Movie in which the Doctor has a more romantic relationship with his companion, Donna was a refreshing change as it was made clear from the start that she and the Doctor had absolutely no romantic feelings for each other. This makes episodes in Donna’s era seem more concise and better trimmed, as time isn’t spent on a half-baked romance story in every single episode like in the Rose era.

#4 – Nardole

An ex-criminal cyborg from the future, Nardole is primarily used for comic relief in his initial appearances but the fantastic Series 10 molds him into a well-defined character in his own right, who was an unexpected fan-favourite at the time, who is expected to return at some point in the future. His great relationship with both Bill and the Twelfth Doctor made his inevitable departure all the more tragic, particularly with the manner in which it was carried out – essentially, he was doomed to protect the Mondasian children from endless waves of ever-adapting Cybermen with no hope of escape, which is a pretty dark way to go. Thankfully, we do eventually learn that Nardole survived for years and was eventually inducted into the Testimony system, so Nardole fans can rest easy.

#3 – Captain Jack

Who doesn’t love Captain Jack? Apart from being the first representation of an LGBT character on-screen, (not counting Ace because, although intended, that aspect of her character was never directly addressed by anyone on-screen), Captain Jack is unique among the majority of other NuWho companions as he does not originate from modern-day London, instead originating from the 51st century. As such he is more clued up on the various alien races and technology. The best thing about Jack’s character is that he bounces really well off basically any other character, and is one of the few characters in Russell’s era that I believe is due a temporary return, as he worked so well with both the Ninth and Tenth Doctors and I see no reason why he couldn’t work really well with the Thirteenth Doctor.

#2 – Martha

If there is another companion from Russell’s era that is deserving of a return, it’s Martha. Despite her time in the TARDIS being somewhat overshadowed by her romantic feelings for the Doctor, these didn’t get in the way of her character development or story involvement half as much as Rose’s romantic backstory with the Doctor did, and Series 3 gives Martha a chance to shine in some fantastic episodes like The Shakespeare Code, Gridlock, Human Nature/Family of Blood, Utopia and Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords, in the latter of which she proves her mettle by saving the world and the Doctor from certain destruction. Her departure, on her own terms, sets her above her contemporaries – particularly Donna and Rose – and her comeback in The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky allowed Freema Aygeman to return to her original character Adeola Oshodi’s defining trait of being a human controlled by an evil invasion force.

#1 – Bill

The personification of wide-eyed wonder and enthusiasm, Bill is one of the cornerstones of the masterpiece that is Series 10. Her relationship with the Twelfth Doctor was totally unique and hearkened back to the ‘Professor/Student’ relationship that Ace had with the Seventh Doctor, although in Bill’s case this is taken a tad more literally, as the Doctor takes on a tutor role both in the real-world, marking Bill’s assignments and teaching her in classes, and also on their adventures. Bill’s reputation as a companion who flaunts her sexuality is, in my opinion, undeserved – although Bill does mention the fact that she is gay in numerous episodes, often this is in response to things other characters insinuate, and even the seemingly random remark she makes to the Doctor before they part ways in The Doctor Falls about liking girls is obviously because the Twelfth Doctor appears so oblivious that they probably hadn’t even talked about it before. Ultimately, Bill is one of the most likeable companions in NuWho and Pearl Mackie does a fantastic job of bringing the character to life.

So that concludes my list ranking the NuWho companions, 2005-2017. If you enjoyed be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Doctor Who – First Impressions of Big Finish

Since I have loved Doctor Who all my life, it seems odd that I had never listened to any of the Big Finish audios until now. I first heard of the audio dramas years ago, particularly when researching the more niche corners of Dalek lore, but a combination of the format of the stories and the price of each adventure caused me to consider the Big Finish audios inaccessible, at least if I was going to purchase physical copies. Thankfully, many of the early Big Finish stories are now very cheap, some as cheap as £3 each, and I recently decided that it was time to take the plunge. I initially thought that there was a possibility that the lack of visuals would make the experience less enjoyable, and so I only bought a handful of audios at first – I quickly realised, however, that I had been worrying over nothing, and the audio drama genre is not as hard to get with as it might seem. After listening to my first audio, The Genocide Machine, I knew I wanted to hear more, so I purchased a bundle on the Big Finish website of nearly 40 of their earlier audios, and I even got some of the newer ones in CD form.

genocide-machine-e1526843191408.jpg

The Genocide Machine

Rather than taking advice online on which audios to listen to first, I decided to simply start with the first Dalek story that Big Finish produced, the seventh installment of their monthly range, The Genocide Machine. This story is a real blast, a quirky, funny and occasionally dark tale about an attempt by the Daleks to break into a library of all things, and steal the wealth of data stored inside. Starring one of my favourite Doctors, Sylvester McCoy, alongside one of my favourite companions, Sophie Aldred as Ace, this was definitely a good starting point for me and I would recommend this as a Big Finish starting point for other Dalek fans since this is not only their first appearance but also the start of a loose Dalek story arc that continues throughout their appearances in the early audios. Not only is this the Daleks’ debut in the audios, it is also the debut of Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs, who went on to voice the Daleks in the New Series.

Although it may seem a small detail, one of the most crucial aspects to Big Finish’s audios is how they set each scene. Considering the fact that the voice actors and actresses are sat in a booth in front of a microphone, creative and effective use of sound effects, echoing, and positioning make it really feel like you’re listening to the audio of an episode, akin to the surviving audio tracks of the lost episodes of the 1960s. The Genocide Machine is a great example of this, as the varied locations showcase just how resourceful the Big Finish team can be. It is immediately apparent when the characters are in the jungle, the library and the TARDIS, and listening through earphones can be highly therapeutic.

storm warning sword of orion

Storm Warning and Sword of Orion

Another selling point for Big Finish is the inclusion of the Eighth Doctor in their pantheon, giving Paul McGann a much-deserved platform through which he could prove himself after the mixed reception that the 1996 TV Movie. Making his debut in Storm Warning alongside the fantastic India Fisher as new companion Charley Pollard, McGann’s charisma and distinctive character as the Doctor facilitate a strong debut for his Big Finish career that, according to those in the know, went on to spawn some of the best audios and storylines like Dark Eyes and the Time War series. Storm Warning is a great historical about the disaster of the R101 airship, and sets in motion a temporal story arc involving Charley that continues throughout her era.

Just as The Genocide Machine is the debut of the Daleks and Storm Warning is the debut of the Eighth Doctor, Sword of Orion is the first Big Finish audio to feature the Cybermen and references many previous Cyberman stories such as Earthshock, Tomb of the Cybermen and The Invasion, but also divulges vital new information about the Cybermen as a race, including a detailed look at the conversion process itself and how it works. In a particularly morbid scene, the Doctor encounters an ancient Cyber-conversion facility that had lost power while in full production, leaving many half-converted victims trapped, and over time their organic parts have rotted away, leaving only the robotic parts behind. This showcases yet another strength of the format of audio dramas, in that they can explore themes and plot elements that would never be shown on the main show – at least not without invoking the wrath of Mary Whitehouse.

dust-breeding.jpg

Dust Breeding

Returning to the Seventh Doctor, Dust Breeding is another famous first – Geoffrey Beevers, who played the Master in The Keeper of Traken in 1981, brings the character to Big Finish twenty years after his one and only portrayal of the character. It might seem like an odd choice, considering the fact that Beevers is probably the most overlooked incarnation of the Master, but unfortunately at the time he was the only living actor who had played the Master – this was years before Jacobi, Simm and Gomez, and years since the tragic deaths of Roger Delgado, Anthony Ainley and Peter Pratt. Beevers does the role justice, however, and the powerful presence that his distinctive voice gives the character makes me wish he could play the Master on-screen again. Interestingly, the Master presented here is not at a point in his timeline before he steals his Trakenite body, but rather after – establishing the idea that the Ainley incarnation was actually Beever’s Master all along, and having discarded that body, the Master has reverted to his true form. Dust Breeding is a far more subtle presentation of conflict between the Seventh Doctor and the Master than Survival, but it is by no means dull, and an essential for fans of the Doctor’s arch-nemesis.

So that concludes this initial review of my first impressions of the Big Finish audios. My next review will cover The Chimes of Midnight, Spare Parts, Jubilee and Davros, and in the meantime I strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t listened to Big Finish yet to do so – its a fantastic and rewarding experience that opens up a whole new world of Doctor Who media, and whether you choose to listen in chronological order, tour the greatest hits or pick out ones with returning villains as I have, the Big Finish audios will never disappoint.

Read more in this series with the links below:

And check out more of my Doctor Who opinion pieces here:

 

 

 

Doctor Who – Summing up the Moffat Era, or ‘The Tale of Two Moffats’

What is the scariest thing ever imaginable to a Doctor Who fan? A Dalek? A Weeping Angel? The possibility of a second 15-year-long hiatus? Perhaps any or all of these could be considered, but the undoubted victor is the thought that, if one Moffat wasn’t enough, there might actually be two Moffats, and when one of the Moffat’s tenure as showrunner comes to an end, the second Moffat moves in to take his place. Those who reacted to that statement with the appropriate cold dread need not worry, however, as this process has already occurred, we just didn’t realise it at the time…

As Summer 2018 begins to show itself, it really does seem as though a new era is dawning for Doctor Who fans, who recently witnessed the departure of one of the longest running (and most controversial) showrunners in the history of the series. Steven Moffat, the man who at the time of his announcement as showrunner seemed to be the perfect choice to take on the responsibility, has now proven after 8 years at the helm of one of the most well-known and beloved franchises in history that regardless of raw talent, budget, direction or sociopolitical context, the ultimate key to maintaining a reputation is consistency. Most of the British public first heard of Steven Moffat following his string of fantastic episodes throughout the Russell T. Davies era, namely The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink and Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead, and it was because of the consistent quality, scare-factor and thought-provoking premises of his episodes that Steven Moffat earned the reputation for one of the greatest writers that the show had seen, and perhaps even of all time. But what happened during his tenure as showrunner that seems to have split a fanbase, that already had lasting divides, into the camps of ‘pro-Moffat’ and ‘anti-Moffat’?

The answer is, of course, not exactly clear. From a basic perspective, the tone of Moffat’s era differed drastically from that of Russell’s, in that whilst Russell focused on grand epic battles, emotional drama and the impact of the Time War on the Doctor, Moffat shifted the focus dramatically onto a much smaller-scale side to the Doctor’s life – the domestic life that he elects to pursue with Amy, Rory and River Song, whilst also changing the way the show itself presented the Doctor – rather than having the idea of the Doctor as a wanderer who amassed power through influence that Russel went with, Moffat instead constructed the idea of the ‘fairy-tale’ Doctor, a mad magician who saves the day in the most whimsical way possible. This encapsulates the earliest divide in the NuWho fanbase, as many fans who were used to Russell’s incarnation of the show lost interest as Matt Smith’s era reached its sixth or seventh series because the show simply wasn’t the same anymore. From a modern point of view, this split is easily spun to signify the ‘death of Doctor Who’ – naysayers at the time predicted that the show would never reach its fiftieth anniversary – but as most Doctor Who fans know by now, Russell’s era was just an era. It was a popular era, no doubts there, but as with all the best eras of Doctor Who, it had to end eventually. Unfortunately, many fans who were dissatisfied with Moffat and had only watched NuWho up until this point decided that Doctor Who would never be the same again, and so jumped ship.

However, this only explains how the ‘anti-Moffat’ camp first came to be, and there is certainly a lot more to the school of Moffat criticism than just preferring Russell’s era. It must also be pointed out that, amongst a sea of Moffat critics in the early 2010s, there were a vocal minority who believed that the show was better off without Russell and that although Moffat hadn’t exactly delivered a batch of 13 episodes that could all rival something like The Girl in the Fireplace in quality, Series 5 was still a very strong series. Even today, Series 5 is highly regarded as one of the best outings of NuWho, which is made all the more interesting when one factors in the idea that Series 5 is one of the few NuWho series that does not rely on any pre-existing marketable material – aside from one episode with the Daleks and a cameo of some old monsters in the finale, Series 5’s series arc revolved around something entirely original, something that Russell had never even attempted. In a similar manner to the change in focus, Moffat also seemed to change how the show treated its recurring elements – rather than relying on the Daleks for finale-filler like Russell did, Moffat instead put faith in his own ideas. Things like River Song and The Silence became much more prominent in the early years of Moffat’s era whereas races like the Daleks and the Cybermen barely got a look in. This would seemingly mark the next step in evolution for ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ Moffat factions – the idea that the show needs to rely on the Daleks and Cybermen is ultimately self destructive, and yet fanboys like myself simply cannot bear to see a series of Doctor Who without them, and thanks to a series of lacklustre cameos and the abysmal Asylum of the Daleks many Dalek fans opinion of Moffat turned sour.

Of course, there are many more reasons why the fanbase split on Moffat, and even more explanations as to why his writing quality appeared to decline between Series 6 and 7 – blame is often put on the attention dedicated to Sherlock, the poor characterisation of new companion Clara Oswald as well as a general lack of direction in the Silence/River Song story arc. But following the success of the 50th Anniversary Special and the regeneration of Matt Smith into Peter Capaldi in 2013, hindsight tells us that the old Moffat must have given up and walked out, with the fresh second Moffat ready and waiting to take over the show and make it his own, because when Doctor Who came back in 2014 it was totally different from anything NuWho had seen before, and the changes wouldn’t stop there. Capaldi’s first series was still very much a Moffat creation – it contains his narrative mannerisms, his method of misdirection when it comes to revealing crucial plot points, and his… ‘unique’ way of writing dialogue between men and women. But the focus of the show shifted again, and for many it seemed to be shifting back to the same things that Russell had focused on. Whilst Matt Smith’s era practically ignored the Daleks, Capaldi faced them in his second episode that drew heavy inspiration from the first Dalek episode of Russell’s era. Cybermen appeared in the finale of Series 8, this time as a worldwide and present threat rather than as a babysitter to James Corden’s baby or as a fairground attraction as they had been in Matt Smith’s era. And not only that, but Capaldi’s era saw the return of two essential classic series villains who had featured in Russell’s era – the Master, this time in the form of Missy, and Davros. Capaldi’s era still had lingering elements of the ‘fairytale’ interpretation of the Doctor from Matt Smith’s era, but the universe it presented dropped any pretence of the whimsical feel of Moffat’s tenure that we had seen so far and instead seemed to ‘reboot’ the modern Doctor Who universe, bringing it more in line with what Russell constructed throughout his tenure and allowing fans who disliked Matt Smith or his era to make a ‘clean break’ and pick the show back up.

Ultimately, this is where the notion of the ‘two Moffats’ comes from – on the one hand you have Matt Smith Moffat, whose era is seemingly self-contained, has little impact from either the classic series or Russell’s NuWho, aside from a handful of obvious examples, such as the cameo appearance of an Ood and the Russell era control room in The Doctor’s Wife, a mention of the battle to save reality from Journey’s End in Victory of the Daleks and the appearance of an Ice Warrior in Cold War, to name a few. Generally, however, Matt Smith’s era relied on its own internal logic, its own original villains and its own original characters to get by, almost like a show within a show. On the other hand, Peter Capaldi Moffat came along after Smith’s era was done and decided that Doctor Who needed to wake up and resume many of the ongoing plot threads that had been on hold during the Smith era – namely, the Doctor’s relationship with the Daleks and Davros, the Doctor/Master friendship/rivalry, the impact of the return of Rassilon and the fate of Gallifrey. Capaldi’s era also sees many reappearances from races or characters in the show’s history that serve as more than just cameos – the Mondasian Cybermen and John Simm’s Master in the Series 10 finale being the most significant. But what can be gleaned from all of this? It is hard to compare the two Moffats, since both have caused their fair share of controversy within the show’s fanbase, and ultimately the decision comes down to personal preference between Matt Smith’s era and Peter Capaldi’s. But next time the inevitable debate over ‘who is better: Russell T. Davies or Steven Moffat’ pops up, remember that the actual debate should be ‘who is better: Steven Moffat (2010-2013) or Steven Moffat (2014-2017)’

And that concludes the terrifying tale of the Two Moffats. I hope you enjoyed, if you did be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Be sure to check out the ‘Read More’ section below, and thanks for reading!

 

 

How to Fix – The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End

Welcome to the latest article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.

Well, here we have an example of something that certainly isn’t broken… or is it? For years I held both The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End in quite high regard as far as Doctor Who episodes go, and it had all the essential elements that my teenage self looked for a great Doctor Who story – returning characters, planetary invasion, death, Daleks – everything you could possibly ask for. Upon more recent reflection, however, it occurs to me that this two-parter, or more specifically the second part of this two-parter, isn’t all that it was cracked up to be. After showing this episode to some friends who had never really seen much Doctor Who before (if at all) I got a more objective view on why this episode doesn’t really hold up, and so I now present my latest ‘How to Fix’, this time focusing on the subject of David Tennant’s last series finale (technically): The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End. And to start with, arguably the easiest point to make:

stolen-earth3.jpg

Keep The Stolen Earth basically the same

Okay, so this is cheating a bit. When I say basically the same, I mean keep the fundamentals of the plot intact, because honestly The Stolen Earth is pretty fantastic, its just its successor that lets it down. Aside from some more specific details regarding Martha, which we will get to later, this episode does a great job of building up the tension of an imminent Dalek invasion that the Doctor is not there to prevent or even help mitigate. We get a very real idea of how threatening the Daleks can be as they bomb Manhatten, attack major military bases to exterminate anyone who might stand against them, critically damage the Valiant and assassinate the US President. Whilst my instinct is to always suggest that more screen time be dedicated to the Daleks causing havoc on-screen, I can begrudgingly accept that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and the producers of The Stolen Earth did a great job with the budget. Likewise, all of the setup for the finale with all the NuWho companions (and Sarah Jane) teaming up is brilliant, and Harriet Jones’ death was done with dignity and purpose. Essentially, the only thing that should be changed about The Stolen Earth relates to more pressing points that I will get to later, so to move swiftly on:

martha.jpg

Expand Martha’s Role, and make her more in-character

The greatest crime Russell T. Davies ever committed was writing the fantastic character that is Martha Jones and then wasting her on an arc that essentially amounted to her being the ‘rebound companion’ from Rose. My thoughts on both Rose and the Tenth Doctor have already been made clear, and to reiterate once again, I do not hate the Tenth Doctor. I simply find it baffling that people will regard him as their favourite without accounting for some of the more questionable actions he takes during his tenure. Similarly, I find some of Russell’s executive decisions to be equally as baffling – he clearly understood the misstep in writing Martha out of the show so quickly, and then found no less than three ways to bring her back – first as a stand-in for a generic UNIT commander in The Sontaran Stratagem, then later in the same series for this two-parter, and finally The End of Time. Yet in none of these sheepish reappearances does Martha live up to her potential, as she seems to be a completely different person than who she was in Series 3.

Admittedly, a lot has happened for Martha in this time – she had to spend a year on a devastated Earth, battling the various forces that the Master set against her during his time as ruler of Earth (which, although was later undone, the memories of which are still retained in her mind). Also, since she now works for UNIT, it is possible that more militaristic training his taken precedent over the life lessons that she gleaned from her time in the TARDIS, but still – the idea that Martha Jones would intentionally attempt to destroy Earth in a mass-genocidal nuclear apocalypse is not only outrageously stupid but also a monumental insult to her character. Instead of concocting the idea of a secret UNIT plan to destroy Earth, Russell should have had Martha focused on finding and uniting all of the Doctor’s companions scattered across Earth, since she was a member of UNIT and the person in the best position to track them down. Instead this role goes to Harriet Jones, and as I said previously, she is well used in this episode – but rather than transferring the ability to locate the Doctor’s friends to Torchwood (an organisation buried underground in South Wales) why not give it to UNIT? That way Martha could have been the one to use the teleportation harness to gather together everyone who could lend a hand, rather than expecting them all to somehow make their own way to the Dalek Mothership. On that note:

dalek-supreme-e1510587065348.jpg

 

Make the Daleks a consistent threat

This is always an issue with Doctor Who, but it is plainly obvious here – sometimes the Daleks appear in an episode as a major threat, and in others they appear as laughable imbeciles. Russell achieves the extraordinary with this two-parter in that he manages to make the Daleks shift from the latter to the former in the space of one story – in The Stolen Earth, the Daleks appear as an unstoppable intergalactic power, capturing and invading  planets and bombing entire cities into submission. By Journey’s End, however, they are reduced to fodder, and are all destroyed in one of Russell’s most unwarranted and outlandish deus ex machinas yet. So what happened?

As usual, it comes down to focus – Journey’s End spends far too much time on exposition and not a lot on action, so the end product is anticlimactic. It seems laughable now that Russell wrote this entire episode in order to get the companions all together in one room, but didn’t write the episode with enough gravitas to give any of them anything to do, so despite all the wild and increasingly nonsensical plans that Jack, Sarah Jane, Martha and Donna all come up with to stop the Daleks, they all end up just sitting in those ‘ray shields’ from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Surely a better idea would be to have the Daleks actually doing something that required the companions to be out fighting them, allowing the Doctor and Davros to have their dialogue in a setting that was more suitable? Ironically a Davros episode that handles this much better is Series 9’s The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar, as whilst the Doctor and Davros have their obligatory hearts-to-heart, Missy and Clara are out fighting Daleks. But I digress…

stolen-earth2.jpg

Have at least one Classic Who companion return, even just as a cameo

Whilst this isn’t essential to fixing this episode, I thought I might as well include it since it always bothered me. If Harriet Jones’ subwave network was designed to seek out anyone and everyone who could help the Doctor, why did it only end up contacting companions who had appeared in previous David Tennant stories? Again, it all comes down to pacing and focus – the episode is already cluttered enough as it is, and surely shoehorning in a classic companion would just ruin the pacing. But the episode manages to incorporate pointless scenes of Martha’s mother who, in this ‘fixed’ version of events, wouldn’t be necessary, so perhaps a short cameo from Sophie Aldred or Kate Manning wouldn’t seem so bad. And for anyone who uses the argument that kids wouldn’t know who these old characters were, my rebuttal is: who cares? Nobody knows who any of the characters in anything are until they are introduced, and since this episode manages to coherently place Harriet Jones into the narrative (a character we hadn’t seen for two years at the time of broadcast) then it could have done the same for an aged Ace or Jo Grant, even if it was literally in the capacity on showing up on the screen to facilitate the delivery of a single plot point (the location of the Dalek Mothership, for example?) in a similar manner to the appearances of Harriet Jones, Sarah Jane, the Shadow Proclamation and Rose. Anyway, back to the actual plot-relevant fixes:

doctordonna.png

Completely Change the Ending

Even aside from the ridiculous ending that essentially elevates Donna to this years ‘most important person on Doctor Who until the next most important person on Doctor Who’, the conclusion to her ‘DoctorDonna’ arc is, for lack of a better word, disturbing. And not in the way that Doctor Who is supposed to be. For one, surely the entire point of Donna as a character was for her to not end up being nothing more than a plot device? After all, Russell had attempted to subvert a lot of the pre-existing NuWho companion tropes with Donna – she made it clear early on that she didn’t want a romantic relationship with the Doctor, she reacted to situations with much more anger and ‘sass’ than previous companions had, and she actively hunted the Doctor down rather than simply being swept up in an adventure. But it seems for her sendoff Russell just couldn’t bring himself to not ruin her character, so we got the nonsensical premise that because Donna wasn’t good enough to save the day on her own, she needed the Doctor’s mind to do it for her, and as icing on the cake, the Doctor then forcibly removes himself from her brain and essentially resets her back to factory settings, removing all the character development she had had over the previous series.

The scene is undeniably tragic, and when you try not to think about the horrible implications of the Doctor’s actions, it leaves a dark and melancholy tone that really works for Doctor Who. It is how it was done that many people take issue with, to the extent that Moffat wrote not one but two subversions of this scene into his run – the first in which Clara refuses to allow the Doctor to wipe her memory, instead opting for a 50/50 chance that one of them would lose their memory of the other (Spoilers: its the Doctor who ends up suffering this fate), and the second when Bill outright refuses to allow the Doctor to wipe her mind in her first episode and he eventually repents, probably after realising that wiping Donna’s mind when she clearly expressed the desire to remain how she was essentially amounted to assault. After all, she had all of the Doctor’s intelligence, and so was more capable than ever at that point to make a decision on whether or not she wanted to stay that way, regardless of what it would do to her.

So those were my thoughts on how to fix The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End. I hope you enjoyed, and if you did then be sure to leave a like either here or on Facebook, and for more content like this have a look at the Read More section down below. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Doctor Who Theories – Top 3 Dalek Theories

For those who read my previous Doctor Who Theories – What Became of the Paradigm Daleks?, this list is essentially a ‘spiritual successor’, in that that list article and this one were originally combined, but I felt that I had so much to say about the Paradigm Daleks alone that they deserved their own separate article. But since Daleks have become someone of a recurring theme on this blog, it seems only fitting that I continue with my original concept and group together some wild and outlandish fan theories that I have regarding my favourite sci-fi monsters.

For those like me who love the Daleks, their timeline and history become an immediate point of interest – like most of the lore surrounding Doctor Who, it is disorganised, inconsistent, and lacks any real direction. Even when their real-world creator, Terry Nation, was still alive, the Daleks lacked a consistent timeline and the temporal meddling that takes place within the canon of Doctor Who has rendered any attempt to explore or explain Dalek History totally futile. This is great news for Doctor Who fans, however, as it opens the door for endless speculation and essentially opens the concept of the Daleks up for an ‘anything goes’ policy when it comes to theories, stories and ideas, especially considering the wacky concepts that have been used on the show itself. So it is with great pride that I present my Top 3 Dalek Fan Theories, since none of them can compare to the level of nonsense we saw in Asylum of the Daleks

cult-of-skaro.jpg

Theory 1 – The Cult of Skaro appeared in Series 9 alongside Peter Capaldi

NuWho fans who have been with the revival since at least 2006 will remember the Cult of Skaro, a secret order of Daleks that were given individual names and tasked with using creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to outwit their opponents. Led by the razor-witted Dalek Sec, the Cult unleashed all hell on planet Earth in the Series 2 finale Doomsday, which saw the departure of fan-favourite Rose Tyler as London played host to the first on-screen conflict between the Daleks and the Cybermen. Despite laying waste to the city and annihilating the Cybermen to such an extent that it took them until Series 7 to regain their fear-factor, the Cult were eventually defeated and their army was destroyed, although they managed to escape to 1930s New York where they began experimenting on themselves in order to keep the Dalek race alive – at least, that it what Russel T. Davies originally planned.

Oddly, despite being killed as a result of the said experiments, Dalek Sec appears in the two-part opener to Series 9,  The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar – in reality this is explained as a result of the production team for that episode hiring several home-made Dalek props to bolster the ranks seen on screen, and one of those was a screen-accurate recreation of the Dalek Sec prop, complete with his unique identification code. The presence of this code on this particular Black Dalek, however, means that in-universe this Dalek can be none other than the Dalek Sec, which seems odd as he is now both a Human-Dalek hybrid and also quite dead. However, could it be possible that Sec and the other members of the Cult were somehow in the Dalek city, at some point in time before they were destroyed?

In the episode Evolution of the Daleks, in which Dalek Sec (as the Human-Dalek Hybrid) explains to the Doctor that he and his Cult used an ‘Emergency Temporal Shift’ to escape the battle in Doomsday, referring to it as a ‘slaughter’. However, at this point he could just as easily be referring to the fact that the Doctor destroys the Dalek city in The Witch’s Familiar, and in many ways it might actually justify the Cult leader’s reasoning for his actions in Evolution of the Daleks – after all, if my theory is correct, he will have just witnessed an entire city of Daleks consumed by regenerated mutants free of their casings and fused with non-Dalek DNA, namely, the Doctor’s regeneration energy. Could this be what gets him thinking about whether or not the Daleks are better off inside their casings or not?

destiny-of-the-daleks.jpg

Theory 2 – The Daleks in Destiny of the Daleks are a Renegade Splinter Group

In an ideal world, Destiny of the Daleks should have been fantastic. It was written by Terry Nation, the original creator of the Daleks, and even had legendary science fiction author Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, as a script editor. But despite some classic comedic scenes involving Tom Baker’s Doctor and the newly-regenerated Romana, now played by Lalla Ward, Destiny just doesn’t shape up to the masterpiece that it Genesis of the Daleks, the previous Dalek story. Among the many missteps of this episode, both the Doctor and Davros refer to the Daleks as robotic – rather than the cyborg life forms that they had been consistently established as. It even becomes a crucial plot point in the episode that the Daleks require the assistance of their creator to break the stalemate that has rendered them unable to destroy their current adversary, the Movellans. If this sounds like nonsense, that’s because it is – for one, the Daleks are definitely not robots, and as we saw in the 2017 episode The Pilot, proper Daleks have no trouble simpy boarding Movellan ships and slaughtering them all. So the question remains – what on Skaro was going on in Destiny of the Daleks?

Many theories have emerged to attempt to explain away this glaring inconsistency – some claim that at some point in the Dalek evolutionary timeline, they completely did away with their biological components and were actually robotic for a time, before the revival of Davros turned them away from this path and returned them to their Kaled roots. Others say that the Daleks were attempting an elaborate trick, and even the Doctor bought into it, even though this makes no sense. My personal explanation for all of this is the idea that the specific group of Daleks that we see in Destiny of the Daleks are a splinter group, that may or may not be aligned with the Dalek Empire but were originally a ‘subspecies’ of entirely robotic Daleks that were assigned to guard what remained of Skaro, and were later reprogrammed to run the work camps designed to uncover the Kaled bunker that contained Davros. At some point these Daleks either forgot their robotic origins or were programmed to believe that they were real Daleks, and this explains why Davros is able to sway them into suicide bombing so easily – he simply reprogrammed them, immediately seeing through the ruse but saying nothing about it.

This explanation does not account for the wider Movellan War, however, which seems to imply that the entire Dalek race is robotic – but this could simply be a result of the Daleks becoming overly reliant on their robotic counterparts to do fighting for them, as we later discover in Resurrection of the Daleks that the Movellans used biological and chemical weapons against the Daleks to eventually win the war. Ultimately, it could be possible that the robotic Daleks are actually a Renegade faction, who believe that they are the true Daleks, and the Movellans simply exploit this conflict to inflict maximum damage on the pure Daleks. Ultimately, since both Nation and Adams are sadly no longer with us, we may never know what the actual point of this strange arc was in the first place, but we can speculate as Doctor Who fans are known to do.

dalek-mutant.jpg

 Theory 3 – Daleks are actually descended from Humans

This is a theory that has been around for quite some time now, and it even played in to a potential origin story for the Daleks written by Terry Nation in 1973, in which the Daleks are revealed to be humans from the far future who underwent accelerated evolution in a similar manner to the future humans in the 2007 episode Utopia, who are altered to become the Toclafane by the Master. Clearly this story, despite being written by Terry Nation, contradicts what we see in Genesis of the Daleks and so must be considered non-canon. However, the idea that it presents is an interesting one – could the Kaleds and Thals actually be humans from the future?

There are two major points that could discredit this theory – firstly, the Kaleds and Thals are proven to be biologically different from 20th=century humans in Genesis when a Kaled scanner registers Sarah Jane and Harry as ‘aliens’. This would suggest that Kaled biology is distinctly separate from that of humans, making it unlikely that they are the same race. Secondly, the war between the Kaleds and the Thals takes place in the past, relative to Human evolution – despite their more advanced technology. However, both of these points can be explained away with time travel – after all, Kaleds could be different to 20th century humans because they have thousands, perhaps millions, of years of evolution between them, and this combined with the highly irradiated planet on which they live could account for their biological differences. Likewise, if humans from the far future went back in time and were stranded on Skaro, this would explain why they have been there for over 1,000 years by the time Genesis comes around.

This theory has profound implications for the rest of the Doctor Who universe, however. For one, it finally explains why the Daleks are so focused on the human race, and why Earth seems to be both the planet they want to conquer the most and also the planet they have the least luck in conquering – perhaps the Daleks have a latent innate idea that Earth is somehow valuable to them, but no real understanding as to why. If the more popular fan theory that Time Lords are also humans from the future is true, this creates a ‘triumvirate’ of species that are all interlinked – Humans, Daleks and Time Lords, all the same species just with vastly different evolutionary histories.

So there’s my list, if you enjoyed then by all means leave a like or comment telling me what you thought, and if you want to see more content like this then be sure to like us on Facebook or Follow us here on WordPress. Thanks for reading!