Doctor Who – Big Finish – 5 Davros Stories Ranked

Since the first appearance of the Daleks in the Big Finish Monthly Range, it seemed only a matter of time before Davros himself would make an appearance. Terry Molloy, the actor who portrayed Davros in many of his appearances in Classic Doctor Who (specifically the 1980s) later reprised his role in the Big Finish audios, often appearing alongside the Daleks. As fascinating a character as Davros is, fans had definitely had enough of the character by Remembrance of the Daleks as he had appeared in every Dalek story since Genesis of the Daleks at that point, which was a contributing factor to Big Finish leaving Davros out of many of their early Dalek stories. Since Davros has appeared in five of the Monthly Range audios up until now, how do these appearances rank against each other? Is the character of Davros still alive and well, or should he have died on the bridge of his flagship in Remembrance?

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Daleks Among Us

This story features Davros at some point after the events of Remembrance of the Daleks, and yet his presence in this story is nowhere nearly as effectively executed as in Terror Firma, despite actually being set before that audio in Davros’ personal timeline. One of the major problems with this audio is that there are plenty of good ideas, most notably the idea of a colony that was so deeply socially divided by a Dalek invasion that following their liberation they outlaw all mention of the word ‘Dalek’, yet none of the ideas in this audio are developed to their full potential. The story goes through several ‘phases’ before finally settling on the concept of a pureblood Kaled attempting to usurp Davros’ mantle, which is another great idea, but the added storylines of Davros’ attempted rebellion and Elizabeth Klein’s origin story mean that there is never enough focus on each individual plot thread. That being said, Terry Molloy as Davros is definitely the highlight of this audio, as all of the scenes between him and Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor are fantastic.

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The Curse of Davros

This Davros audio is unique in two ways. Firstly, it takes place partially in a historical setting – namely, the Battle of Waterloo – the Dalek’s latest plan is to swap the minds of Humans and Daleks in order to help Napoleon win against the English, thereby rewriting the course of Human history, and for the most part this element of the story is well executed, with great portrayals for both Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington. The other aspect of this story is a body-swap plot involving Davros and the Sixth Doctor, which allows for some great potential for both Colin Baker and Terry Molloy as both have to pretend to be the other’s character, and the results are magnificent. Colin Baker does a great job of altering his demeanour for this audio to make the idea that he is actually Davros genuinely believable, and Molloy also makes use of his great voice-work to play the Sixth Doctor through the Davros voice, a feat that has to be heard to be believed.

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Terror Firma

The Eighth Doctor faces Davros immediately following his complex Divergent Universe arc that began with Zagreus, and as a result of his recent freedom from the alternate universe he is ecstatic at the thought of returning to a universe of Time. It seems fitting, therefore, that Davros would be waiting to ruin his day, and Terror Firma presents what is perhaps Davros’ most insidious scheme as the insane Kaled scientist uses his new Daleks to conquer the Doctor’s favourite planet – Earth. Davros and the Doctor have some great scenes in this audio, particularly since Davros is also dealing with the invasive ‘Dalek Emperor’ personality that is attempting to take over his mind and body. Ironically, as a result of this Davros proves quite un-Dalek like in this story – he shows true fear at the prospect of becoming a fully-fledged Dalek, and the juxtaposition between his personality and that of the Dalek Emperor helps highlight the most prominent ways in which Davros is nothing like his creations.

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The Juggernauts

Serving as a bridge between Revelation of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks, this audio presents an interesting take on Davros’ character, in that he spends the majority of the story pretending to be a kindhearted scientist called ‘Professor Vaso’ who happens to be one of Mel’s employers on the human colony Lethe. Secretly working for the Daleks, the Sixth Doctor is sent to Lethe to investigate Davros’ actions, although both he and the Daleks actually have ulterior motives. This story is full of twists and turns, and Davros is at his best – scheming and manipulating others from behind the scenes whilst putting on a face of goodwill, in a fashion very reminiscent of Genesis of the Daleks. Speaking of Davros’ schemes, the plot he concocts in this story is delightfully sinister, particularly since he forms such convincing personal relationships with the staff of the Lethe colony – only to secretively kill them off one by one for use in his monstrous ‘Juggernaut’ program.

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Davros

Arguably one of the best Doctor Who audios of all time, Davros is the second in the fantastic ‘villains trilogy’, which aimed to explore and humanise three of the most famous recurring villains in Classic Doctor Who – Omega, Davros and the Master. Of the three, some might argue that Davros is the best (although Master is perhaps the more popular choice of the trilogy) as the story uses the character of Davros but without the inclusion of the Daleks, giving this audio a truly unique setup that it does a great job of utilising. Davros’ history is explored to a degree, eventually paving the way for the more in-depth I, Davros, and the parallels between Davros’ long-dead potential lover Shan and the Dalek historian Lorraine is a fascinating sub-plot.

Clearly, the character of Davros is alive and well (despite appearances) and Terry Molloy does a fantastic job of bringing his vibrant performance to the audio format. Fans in the know will notice that this ranking is essentially the reverse of the release order of audios featuring Davros, but that isn’t simply because of the law of diminishing returns – Davros and The Juggernauts are both so fantastic that few other audios would beat them in any contest, and the others simply fall in behind – every audio featuring Davros is an instant classic.

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Doctor Who – Is Big Finish Canon?

The idea of ‘Canon’ in Doctor Who is a unique one, most notably because of how fans of the show interpret the idea differently to that of other shows. In the conventional sense, a franchise’s ‘Canon’ is the established set of works that are a part of the ‘official’ story or universe of that franchise. Normally franchises headed by a single writer will have a strict set of rules as to what is considered ‘Canon’, examples being the Harry Potter universe and the Lord of the Rings series, which both have installments either written or partially written by other authors, meaning that their ‘Canon’ status is debated among fans. Other franchises have experienced controversial alterations to the established ‘Canon’, either via the introduction of alternate universes as in Transformers or Marvel, or a complete behind-the-scenes upheaval of the timeline, such as what Disney did to Star Wars.

‘Canon’ in Doctor Who, however, has a slightly different twist to it – since the show deals with the concept of time travel, paradoxes, re-writing history and alternate universes on a weekly basis, it is a generally established fact within the Doctor who fan community that, as time can be rewritten, anything and everything written or produced for Doctor Who has the potential to be ‘Canon’ in the sense that they once happened, but were overwritten within the show’s history – examples of this include the original Dalek origin story with the Dals and the infamous ‘Dimensions in Time’ Children in Need Special. This essentially opens the floodgates and renders the concept of ‘Canon’ in Doctor Who obsolete, since even within the televised show itself there have been instances of the events of certain episodes being wiped from the timeline. Even so, the debate over whether productions created by companies that the BBC licences to create Doctor Who media should be considered ‘Canon’, most notably, the Big Finish Audio Series.

Since their inception, the Big Finish Audios have attempted to fill narrative gaps or exploit untapped potential from the Classic Series, and this is one of the biggest draws to the series for Classic Who fans who yearn for more episodes from their favourite Classic Doctors. There are instances of the timelines of specific Doctors relying heavily on the Big Finish audios, such as the Sixth and Eighth Doctors, and without those audios in the ‘Canon’ these Doctors would have incomplete tenures. As Big Finish’s range of audios grows, their influence on the established timeline of Doctor Who grows also – a clear example of this is their release of The Brink of Death, which is the Sixth Doctor’s official regeneration story. The same phenomenon is true of the more recent Big Finish productions related to the revived series, such as the new U.N.I.T. series and the Time War series, and the fact that the BBC has granted Big Finish the rights to the New Series as well as the rights to use the new logo and branding suggests that they have been firmly entrenched in ‘Canon’ status.

Nevertheless, for the many fans who have not experienced the Big Finish audios, they seem more like optional extras than an essential part of the Doctor Who timeline, and it all really boils down to personal experience and opinion. But in many ways, that is what is so great about Doctor Who’s ‘Canon’ – it is entirely personal to one’s experiences with the show and its associated media. Those who grew up reading the Doctor Who books are far more likely to consider them to be as ‘Canon’ as the televised series itself, particularly since many of the Doctor Who books are superb, and yet those who have not read the books can still get full enjoyment out of the show and the audios, and so on. This is indicative of the flexible and accessible nature of Doctor Who as a series – although the sheer mass of televised episodes, audios, books and other associated media can seem daunting, the show can actually be accessed quite easily across its many eras and formats thanks to the diverse range of stand-alone stories.

And finally, should the matter of ‘Canon’ really impact ones enjoyment of a piece of media? After all, the recent decision by Disney to rebrand the Star Wars Expanded Universe as the ‘non-Canon’ Legends series may have caused controversy among the fanbase, but that is only because they loved those stories so much – yet the stories themselves are still there, and can still be enjoyed just as easily whether they are ‘Canon’ or not. In answer to the overall question of whether the Big Finish Audios are canon or not, there is realistically only one answer – yes. The BBC has accepted Big Finish’s continuity with open arms, even giving them the rights to almost all of the characters in the revival including the Tenth Doctor, Rose, Donna, Osgood and the War Doctor, and Big Finish is slowly beginning to influence the main show too – the Eighth Doctor recites all of his Big Finish companions in the 50th Anniversary minisode The Night of the Doctor. But ultimately, the question of ‘Canon’ in Doctor Who is an irrelevant one, particularly given the temporal or ‘timey-wimey’ nature of the show, and Doctor Who fans should simply enjoy the vast array of visual and audio media available to us.

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Doctor Who – The War Games Review

The Second Doctor finale The War Games is now almost 50 years old, and marks several important milestones in Doctor Who’s history – it is the final episode of the Classic era to be broadcast in monochrome, and it is the final episode in the distinguished run of the Second Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton. Unusually for a Classic Doctor Who story, this episode is ten parts long, giving it a total run time of almost 250 minutes, making it quite the epic. But almost 50 years later, how does this climactic finale hold up?

The vast majority of the early parts of this episode can be summed up in three words all too familiar to fans of Classic Who – ‘capture and escape’. This method of storytelling can get somewhat tiresome, but in fairness to this story, the setting and characters vary dramatically throughout the early episodes thanks to the intriguing and fantastically executed central premise – the idea that the TARDIS lands in what seems to be the First World War, that is actually another planet upon which various wars from throughout human history are being played out in the titular ‘War Games’, allowing for some dramatic variations in setting that keep things interesting.

Most of the first 5 episodes revolve around the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe finding their bearings in this strange setup – at first, the episode takes its World War 1 setting very seriously, and it should be noted that the writers and producers took extra time and care to ensure that their depiction of the Great War was both respectful and accurate. This is complicated somewhat as the story progresses, however, and as the truth unfolds the World War 1 setting falls away to make room for depictions of the American Civil War and the War Lords’ headquarters. Speaking of the War Lord, both he and the War Chief are great characters – the dialogue between the Doctor and the War Chief in particular is fascinating, especially given what we know in hindsight about Gallifrey. The War Chief is somewhat of a ‘prototype’ for the character of the Master, who would debut on the show just 2 years later in 1971’s Terror of the Autons, but this does not mean that the War Chief lacks his own distinct personality – his lack of a prior relationship with the Doctor allows him to be manipulated in a way that the Master would never have been.

As usual, Jamie and Zoe are both fantastic in this story, a fact that is made all the more tragic by the fact that this is their final story. The eventual fate of the duo is heartbreaking, but anticipation of this does not overshadow the entire story in the way that, for example, Adric’s death does for an episode like Earthshock. One of the best things about The War Games is how varied it is, and although it is a whopping ten parts long, the format takes full advantage of the unique setting to keep things refreshing every couple of episodes. In a similar fashion to a story like The Trial of a Time Lord, the episode’s unusual length is warranted thanks to a good use of setting and using changes in location to advance the story. Jamie and Zoe do just as much to advance the plot as the Doctor does, and Jamie in particular shows just how much he has learned during his travels with the Doctor in some fantastic scenes, making this episode an essential for fans of these companions.

This story also features the departure of Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor, and his regeneration is perhaps the strangest of them all. The seemingly omnipotent Time Lords in this story appear far more benevolent than how they are depicted in later media, and the circumstances behind their appearance present a turning point in the Doctor’s character as he finally realises that he has encountered a problem that is beyond his ability to resolve. The War Games does a great job of maintaining tension, and there is a continuous sense that the stakes are high as the Doctor and his companions make their way through Earth’s various wars – in fact, this may be one of the most divisive Doctor Who episodes in terms of engagement – on the one hand, ten parts is definitely too long for any single Doctor Who story, and yet The War Games seems to defy this by effectively breaking the runtime into distinct sections, each with their own individual setting, villains, obstacles and outcome, that all roll together at the end and blend seamlessly onto one long narrative. This episode is similar to Genesis of the Daleks in the sense that on paper it would seem as though the run time is too long, and yet the actual execution subverts expectations for an overlong Doctor Who story and turns it into an epic that maintains the engagement of the audience throughout thanks to clever narrative techniques.

Overall, The War Games is a great watch for so many reasons, and whilst it certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea either due to the subject matter, the length or the era from which it originated, for fans of the Second Doctor this is definitely a must-watch, and fans of Classic Who in general should definitely give it a chance. The final episode in particular is heartbreaking but hopeful at the same time, and given the hindsight of knowing that great things are yet to come, the ending is as bittersweet as it is dark and gripping.

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Top 10 Halo 2 Glitches

It is a well known fact within the Halo community that Halo 2 was rushed to release, and although the finished product is a great game, it wasn’t as polished as the developers would have liked, particularly in some areas of the campaign. This is great news for players, who in the time since the game’s release have found a multitude of ways of exploiting glitches in the game’s physics engine to explore outside the levels in the campaign, which the developers actually filled with Easter Eggs knowing that this would happen. Some of the glitches in Halo 2, however, are less to do with the lack of level boundaries and quirks with the physics engine and more to do with specific objects or enemies in particular levels that, to the uninitiated, may come across more like Easter Eggs – and for all intents and purposes they are, albeit unintentional ones.

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10 – Needler Sentinel – Quarantine Zone

The origins of this particular glitch are somewhat unclear – either Bungie originally intended for Sentinels to carry and use weapons other than their usual energy beams, or it was simply a one-off error with the coding of this particular Sentinel – but either way, in a particular room on the game’s eleventh level, the player encounters a massive firefight between Sentinels and Flood combat forms that can get pretty hectic. In the chaos, it can be hard to miss this one particular Sentinel that fires Covenant Needler rounds instead of the Sentinel Beam, and when it is destroyed, it drops a Needler. Interestingly, the Sentinel Enforcers do use a weapon similar to the Covenant Needler, but that weapon fires red shards instead of purple, and Sentinels are never seen wielding that weapon either. Bungie employees have given varying explanations for this, from an accidental ‘slip-of-the-mouse’ when the level was being coded to an entirely cut feature in which Sentinels would use their own version of the Needler on occasion – regardless, it is an interesting glitch.

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9 – Sergeant Johnson Drops Dead/Four Sergeant Johnsons – The Great Journey

This glitch is actually two (or perhaps even three) glitches at once, all in the same place on the same level, but they essentially amount to the same result. If the player can manage to maneuver a Covenant Spectre into the final room of the final level of Halo 2 – no small feat – one can actually use the vehicle in the final boss against the Brute Chieftain Tartarus, and can even convince Sergeant Johnson to climb aboard. As Halo 2 veterans will known, Johnson is crucial in the final fight against the Chieftain – he uses a Covenant sniper rifle to lower the creature’s shields, thereby allowing the player to deal the fatal blow. Due to a strange glitch in the design of the three-tiered arena, however, crouching on the lowest level will cause the player or any other character to drop dead instantly, because you technically intersect with the death barrier that prevents you from falling beneath the floating structure. If one can maneuver Johnson in the Spectre onto the bottom level and cause him to climb out, and because Johnson always crouches after exiting a vehicle, the normally invincible Sergeant will drop dead, allowing you to loot his weapon.

Also, using the same method of getting Johnson in the Spectre, the player can amass a small army of Johnsons since the game automatically spawns a new Johnson when the old one moves too far away from his sniping spot – undoubtedly to keep the battle fair in case Johnson somehow falls. With one Johnson on the powerful plasma turret and two Johnsons riding shotgun, plus another Johnson occupying the sniping spot, this glitch can seriously tip the balance of the boss fight in the player’s favor.

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8 – Bullying the Heretic Leader – The Arbiter

For those who played the first two Arbiter levels and thought “How is the Heretic Leader always one step ahead?” and aren’t quite satisfied with finally killing him at the conclusion of the level The Oracle, on the original version of Halo 2 for the Xbox it is actually possible to reach him early and essentially beat him up – you can toss grenades at him, throw him into a chasm, or even drop a Banshee on him, and yet he will simply refuse to die. For this to happen, you must equip an Energy Sword in the scene in which the Heretic Leader is visible through a window giving orders to his men and then climbing aboard a Banshee to escape your wrath once again. If you time it right, it is actually possible to use the sword’s lunge attack to clip straight through the window and hit the Heretic Leader directly. Now simply use a grenade to render his Banshee inoperable and he will just stand there, as if accepting his fate. It should be noted that doing this makes the level impossible to complete, and as previously mentioned this only works on the original Xbox version of Halo 2, so it might be more trouble than it is worth at this point. Still, a fun time-wasting glitch that is actually one of the few glitches in the game to be patched in later re-releases.

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7 – Exploring ‘Lake Regret’ – Delta Halo/Regret

Who doesn’t love exploring outside level boundaries? This particular glitch can allow players to not only explore outside the usual confines of the levels Delta Halo and Regret, but it also demonstrates the Master Chief’s less-well known ability to breathe underwater indefinitely, something that comes in very handy when walking across the bottom of a deep lake Pirates of the Caribbean-style. To accomplish this, one has to simply use a grenade to propel the player onto the hills around the final part of Delta Halo or the first part of Regret, and then simply walk around the lake to find a point in which it is possible to walk into the water. Falling into the lake is not a good idea, since fall damage will usually kill the player on contact, but another method that involves using a Ghost to climb the grassy verges around the level can speed things up a bit. (This is easier with the Sputnik Skull enabled that allows the player to propel themselves further with explosives). Once in the lake, the player is free to wander around, study the architecture of Regret’s temple that seems to float on the lake with the supports cutting off about 3 feet beneath the water’s surface, listen for the sound of invisible Whales, and find a large and ominous hole in the floor that seems to serve no real purpose whatsoever.

It should be noted that, although not included here, the well-known ‘Vacations’ that can be taken on almost every Halo 2 level (using similar methods to exploring Lake Regret) constitute their own ‘sub-category’ of fun and interesting glitches. In fact, that might be the subject of another article later down the line…

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6 – Knock the Prophet out of his Throne – Regret

Speaking of the Prophet of Regret, another fun glitch allows the player to temporarily remove the shriveled Covenant hierarch from the safety of his Gravity Throne. During the boss fight with him at the end of the level Regret, the throne must be boarded in order to injure the Prophet as his shields absorb anything the player can throw at him from overcharged Plasma-Pistol shots to both barrels of a Rocket Launcher. However, since Regret;s throne is treated like any other vehicle in order for the boarding mechanic to work, with enough explosive force the player can flip the throne over and, like all occupants of a flipped vehicle in Halo, Regret will be forcibly ejected. Interestingly, the Prophet will simply sit on the floor in the same position as if he were occupying his throne and then attack the player with a Plasma Pistol of all things. This alludes to the fact that in the Halo novels he and most other Prophets are depicted carrying at least one Plasma weapon as a sidearm, and the Prophet will actually drop this pistol upon death whether he is in or out of his throne. This glitch is tricky to pull off, and it is recommended that either the Scarab Skull or weapons like the Fuel Rod Gun or Needler are used since only these can create enough inertia to bounce Regret out of his seat.

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5 -Miranda in Space – Cairo Station

For those who are not convinced that Miranda Keyes is an unmitigated badass, this glitch confirms that Miranda Keyes can actually breathe in space. Using an Energy Sword on the level Cairo Station, it is possible to push Keyes (or Johnson, for that matter) past the point in the level in which they would usually leave the Chief and through an airlock, and as they are programmed to be invincible the repeated strikes will not kill them. By eventually pushing them into a section of the level that they are never supposed to enter, the player can actually push the naval officers into space, as the next section of the mission requires Chief to exit the station and fight Covenant EVA troopers. Though they need the player’s help to get through the level, Keyes and Johnson will attack enemies that are nearby and speak to the Chief, despite the fact that they are in a near-vacuum without any protection whatsoever. Oddly, they will de-spawn if the player attempts to push them back into the station later in the level, and nudging them off the station and into the vast abyss of space will cause them to drop like a rock, still adopting a combat-ready pose as they plummet into the Earth’s atmosphere.

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4 – Plasma Grenade Fountain – The Oracle

This is another glitch that exploits the Heretic Leader, specifically one of his holo-drones. At the start of the game’s seventh level, the player encounters a hologram of the Heretic Leader that taunts you and your allies before disappearing. However, in the game’s code, this hologram is treated as an enemy – and if you melee it with the Piñata Skull on in Halo 2: Anniversary, it will drop Plasma Grenades in abundance. Using the faster swing of the Energy Sword means that in the brief time the hologram is present the player can spawn dozens of grenades, and this can cause a massive explosion if they are all detonated at once.

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3 – Permanent Invisibility – Chief Levels

In the original Halo 2 for the Xbox, Skulls had to be found and activated in levels on Legendary, and the effects of the skulls only lasted until the console was switched off. This was done because, at the time, there was no menu option to activate and deactivate Skulls, they were merely included by the developers as wacky Easter Eggs. As a result of this, acquiring the Envy Skull in the original Halo 2 and using it just as a checkpoint passes, saving and exiting, and then restarting the Xbox and loading up the level will cause the Chief to be permanently invisible. This works because the Envy Skull trades Chief’s flashlight for Arbiter’s active camouflage, a feature that he can never acquire in regular gameplay, but only for the time in which the Envy Skull is activated. Because switching off the Xbox deactivates the Skull, saving and exiting a level while Chief is still invisible means that, after the Skull is deactivated, the game cannot revert him back to normal visibility and the player will be able to sneak up on unsuspecting enemies and eliminate them at their leisure. This glitch is most useful on Legendary, but it can only be used in levels in which Chief is the playable character.

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2 – Cortana’s Scary Face – The Great Journey

This glitch is a result of the feature in Halo 2: Anniversary that allows players to switch back and forth between the classic graphics and the updated, remastered graphics created by 343 Industries and Blur Studios. At the conclusion of the final cutscene of Halo 2 when Cortana accepts Gravemind’s offer of answering his many questions about Humankind and the Covenant, switching from new graphics to classic graphics at the last second of the cutscene after it cuts to black will present the player with this abomination – clearly Cortana’s rampancy is taking its toll. This is caused in part by the fact that the remastered cutscene is longer than the classic cutscene was, and so switching back shows the player the models after the cutscene has technically already finished, and is also due to the fact that the camera has panned inside Cortana’s head, leaving only her eye visible. Hilariously, this glitch is also accompanied by the spooky final few notes of the Halo 2 Soundtrack’s Epilogue.

Honorable Mention – The ‘Ghosts’ of Halo

This phenomenon caused quite a stir when it was first discovered in the early days of Halo 2 on Xbox Live. According to legend, players on maps such as Lockout on Xbox Live began reporting sightings of strange characters that resembled other players but lacked a gamertag, movement animations or a place on the scoreboard – these ‘Ghosts’ would reportedly kill players by sliding around the map and tossing grenades in all directions, and in certain cases they were apparently un-killable. Various explanations for this odd occurrence were suggested throughout the fanbase such as the ‘Ghosts’ being a result of a glitchy network connection, but other more ludicrous theories sprung up such as the idea that Bungie employees had programmed bots into the game, that Microsoft were spying on players or that the maps were legitimately haunted. Ultimately, confirmed sightings of the so-called ‘Ghosts’ that haunt various multiplayer maps of Halo have been scarce since Xbox Live has improved, which would suggest that the phenomenon was a result of little more than a bug in Xbox Live or a dodgy network connection, or that the entire thing was a hoax. Either way, the ‘Ghosts’ of Halo are still regarded among the game’s most infamous glitches.

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1 – The Honour Guard Councilor – Gravemind

Halo 2 had numerous boss battles in the game, ranging from our old friend the Heretic Leader to the Brute Chieftain Tartarus, but one boss fight in the game was actually created by accident as a result of a glitch in the game’s code. The final enemy of the mission Gravemind is an Elite with a unique set of armor that changes each time the level is played – sometimes the Elite will have an Honor Guard helmet, a Councilor helmet, or even no helmet at all – but the armor will always be white with the gold and black spurs of the Honor Guard. This mini-boss with unique randomised armor is actually the result of the game trying to spawn an Elite Zealot that was coded with the wrong tags, causing the Elite to spawn with widely varying armor and much higher shield strength. Strangely, the Elite can sometimes spawn with the face of Rtas ‘Vadum, an ally to the Arbiter throughout the Halo 2 and Halo 3 campaigns, and sometimes the Elite spawns with a strange and unique helmet that was coded into the game but never allocated to any characters. This visually unique accidental mini-boss is arguably the best example of how good some of the glitches in Halo 2 actually are – although the game is riddled with bugs like these, it doesn’t negatively impact the gameplay, and instead serves to make the game that bit more interesting.

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Doctor Who – The Trial of a Time Lord – 30 Years Later

It has been over 30 years since Colin Baker’s final series, The Trial of a Time Lord. The unusual format of this season means that, technically, it is one long 14-part story, framed as a trial conducted by the Time Lords to determine if the Doctor has broken the first law of time. Leading the prosecution is the mysterious Valeyard, who is essentially the Doctor’s nemesis throughout this season, and each individually named story is a piece of evidence brought forward by either the prosecution or the defence. At the time this series was allegedly poorly received – according to many of the contemporary reviews, audiences at the time regarded this season as a weak attempt at saving the show from its eventual cancellation. Today, reviewers may have been somewhat kinder to this season, but still regard it with a hint of distaste. However, 30 years later, how does this 14- part serial hold up? And did it save the show from an imminent cancellation in 1986?

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Part 1 – The Mysterious Planet

As far as the opening to a 14-part series goes, The Mysterious Planet is not half bad. Despite many reviewers at the time calling this story ‘boring’, it seems in hindsight that they were wrong, as this story seems to embody everything that is inherently good about a Doctor Who story. For a start, it was written by the late Robert Holmes, one of the legends of the Classic Who era, and his mastery of making every supporting character interesting really shines here. Sabalom Glitz is a great example of this, and he has some great lines that are delivered brilliantly. The mystery that permeates throughout this story is an interesting one, and the Doctor is significantly less of a jerk which definitely helps, it seems that the writers and producers were really trying to pull out all the stops. An example of this is the impressive opening shot, a wide zoom towards the humongous Time Lord space station that is a fantastic use of model shots.

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Part 2 – Mindwarp

This story is dark. Really, really dark. The story is a complex web of intrigue and deception, as the Doctor pretends to work for scientists attempting to use brain transplants to discover the secret of immortality, funded by Sil to save the Mentor leader Kiv from a painful death. But what really makes this story dark is that scene – particularly the Sixth Doctor’s reaction to it, and for those who have not seen this episode, it is well worth a watch just for one of the most memorable cliffhangers in Doctor Who history. As far as the actual episode goes, the characters are well-defined with clear motives, and there are some great performances here – particularly Brian Blessed as the over-the-top but oddly likeable King Yrcanos. The only real criticism of this story is the fact that most of it takes place in very similar-looking dirt tunnels, or the same few laboratory sets, meaning that there isn’t much visual variety aside from the occasional flashy costume. Still, the episode’s story feeds in well with the trial, scenes of which are still strong, and there is some genuine emotional weight to this story, making it perhaps one of the strongest of the season.

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Part 3 – Terror of the Vervoids

Our first proper introduction to Mel as a companion is certainly a strange one – after all, this was before Big Finish came along to refine her character, meaning she does have a few high-pitched and prolonged screams in this episode, usually at the cliffhangers. Oddly enough, at the start of each episode when the repeat of last week’s cliffhanger plays, often her scream is edited out, meaning that if this serial were to be condensed into one long unbroken movie, most of her screams would be omitted. Even so, Terror of the Vervoids does have a few moments that are genuinely creepy – the scenes in the pod growth room are particularly creepy – but overall this story lacks realism, as the audience are somewhat disassociated from this adventure by the fact that it takes place in the Doctor’s future with a companion that has never been before seen. Also, the version of the Doctor who is on trial admits that the footage has been doctored, meaning that anything could essentially happen and it have no real consequence. Speaking of the trial, the framing device becomes increasingly tiresome the episode goes on but there are some good moments. Generally, however, Terror of the Vervoids is a significant step down from the episodes that preceded it, and the worst is yet to come…

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Part 4 – The Ultimate Foe

Originally a two-part story written by Robert Holmes to tie together The Trial of a Time LordThe Ultimate Foe was unfortunately left unfinished by the writer’s death in May 1986. Although Eric Saward was able to finish the script for episode 13 of the season, an argument with then-showrunner John-Nathan Turner over the ending caused Saward to quit, and Turner instead hired writers Pip and Jane Baker to write the final episode. In all honesty, this was a terrible mistake, as although part one of The Ultimate Foe establishes a creepy and sinister side to the Matrix and features the return of Sabalom Glitz, in the end that is all that is good about the story. The undoing of one of the greatest moments in the season coupled with the idea that the Valeyard is a future Doctor make this episode seem like glorified fan-fiction, and although Anthony Ainley’s Master features to stir up trouble, overall the episode seems a lacklustre conclusion to the season. The Valeyard himself is boring and predictable, the method by which he is defeated makes little sense, Mel and the Time Lords in the trial room do very little, and the infamous ending scene serves as a less-than-fitting sendoff to the Sixth Doctor.

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Conclusion

Overall, whilst The Trial of a Time Lord has a strong opening, the quality wanes as the season progresses starting with Terror of the Vervoids, and the finale is disappointing and almost sad in retrospect. What makes this season particularly frustrating is that Big Finish were able to successfully redeem the Sixth Doctor in their audios, yet neither John-Nathan Turner or Eric Saward seemed capable of making Colin Baker appealing to audiences at the time, and the series was forced to undertake some radical changes following this season’s transmission. Still, both The Mysterious Planet and Mindwarp are worth a watch, and whilst Mel’s introduction as a companion is less than remarkable, she does go on to become more bearable during the Seventh Doctor’s tenure. The season is therefore worth a watch, it doesn’t hold up as well as one might like but it is still a significant turning point in the show’s history, and does help to contextualise a lot of the great Big Finish audios featuring the Sixth Doctor, Peri and Mel that were to come.

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Doctor Who – Lost in Time – DVD Review

Due to the unfortunate junkings of video tapes in the BBC archives during the late 1960s and most of the 1970s, there are a significant number of classic Doctor Who episodes from the 1960s that are missing, leaving several serials incomplete. As of now, there are 97 missing episodes, but at the time of the release of the DVD set ‘Lost in Time’ in 2004 there were 108, and since then some of Galaxy 4, The Underwater Menace and The Web of Fear, and all six episodes of The Enemy of the World, have been recovered. What ‘Lost in Time’ provides is a variety of episodes from many of the remaining incomplete serials, including The Wheel In Space, The Evil of the Daleks and The Daleks’ Master Plan. There are also many special features and a detailed documentary on missing episodes and their fragmented remains included in the DVD. But since many of these episodes will likely be all that is left of these episodes unless more miraculous recoveries are made, how do these glimpses into the stories that once were stand as a sequential viewing experience?

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The Crusade

The first set of episodes featured are of the historical episode The Crusade, which is one of the few episodes in this collection to have all of its episodes featured, albeit with parts 2 and 4 as audio tracks. Watching just the episodes alone can be enough to satisfy fans of historicals as there is plenty of intrigue and interesting conflict between the Saracens and the forces of King Richard, but for those who want the full story the audio tracks are there to fill the gaps. Overall The Crusade is a strong entry in the collection and is a treat for fans of Vicky, who was introduced midway through Season 2 as a replacement for Susan, and a great example of the historical episodes that were common in the early years of Doctor Who.

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The Daleks’ Master Plan

The three remaining episodes of The Daleks’ Master Plan give only a brief glimpse into the vastness of this story – at twelve parts long, it is difficult for only episodes 2, 5 and 10 to make an impression of what the entire story was about. However, thanks to the tradition at the time to include roundups of the basics of the plot in each individual episode (to ensure that, had people missed an episode, they could catch up easily) the broad story of this lost 12-part epic can be inferred from the fragments left behind. Clearly, the Daleks are pursuing the Doctor as they attempt to construct their ultimate weapon, the ‘Time Destructor’, and they make use of several allies along the way including the sinister Mavic Chen. The Daleks’ Master Plan also features the Meddling Monk, a Time Lord who had previously appeared in The Time Meddler, and he shines here as a foil for the Doctor’s companions and also for some comic relief in what is otherwise a serious story. Overall, the three surviving episodes of The Daleks’ Master Plan are among the most enjoyable of the episodes included in this collection, particularly since many of the individual parts have their own small self-contained stories in a similar fashion to an episode like The Chase.

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The Celestial Toymaker

Only the final part of The Celestial Toymaker exists, and it is a strange experience. With absolutely no context the viewer is thrown into a seemingly nonsensical story involving Steven and Dodo playing an elaborate dice-rolling Snakes ‘n’ Ladders-type game with a man dressed like Tweedledum, whilst the Doctor (at least, a ghostly floating hand that the Toymaker addresses as the Doctor) balances triangular pyramid blocks in a seemingly random pattern. If that sounds totally insane, that’s because it is, and overall The Celestial Toymaker is one of the weaker entries in this collection. Had more episodes been found, or if there were some kind of recap to give an idea of the story before the episode plays, perhaps this would be a more enjoyable episode.

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The Underwater Menace

The first example of a missing episode in the Second Doctor’s era is included here despite being given its own separate DVD release, and the reason is that the DVD release of The Underwater Menace is notoriously bad, featuring merely a reconstruction of the missing episodes with stills rather than animation in a similar fashion to the only episode remaining missing in The Web of Fear. As such, watching it on this DVD gives several options for viewing – the surviving footage included in the special features (most of which appears to be from censorship archives) and the single remaining episode, part 3. The costume design in this episode is wonderfully strange, and a general idea of the plot can be gleaned quickly even just from this single part. Not included here is the surviving two parts of The Moonbase, with the other two featured in this collection as audio reconstructions. Since the release of the ‘Lost in Time’ collection, The Moonbase has had a separate release on DVD with the missing episodes animated, which may be reviewed on this blog at a later date.

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The Faceless Ones

That fact that only episodes 1 and 3 of the six-part Second Doctor story The Faceless Ones is a terrible shame considering that it is the episode in which Ben and Polly depart the TARDIS. Given the number of episodes featuring them that are missing coupled with their exclusion from the recent Twice Upon a Time one would be forgiven for thinking that the BBC had it in for Ben and Polly, for some reason. Regardless, the two surviving episodes of The Faceless Ones are enjoyable in themselves, with the Chameleons proving to be quite sinister and the acting quality and set design make this a competent story in terms of production value. The Second Doctor, Ben and Polly are all great in the surviving parts, and the monster is interesting and sinister, and that’s the best you can ask for from a set of orphaned episodes.

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The Evil of the Daleks

The Evil of the Daleks is perhaps the most tragic of the lost episodes, particularly since so little of it remains. Only episode 2 and a handful of clips are included in this collection, and since then no more material has been found. This episode features the introduction of Second Doctor companion Victoria, and thankfully episode 2 gives her plenty of screen time. Unfortunately, there isn’t much Dalek action in this story, which is to be expected of such an early episode in the serial. Nonetheless, there are some interesting scenes, and there are surviving clips of the Dalek Emperor that can be viewed in the documentary features included in this collection, which is a nice touch and helps to fill out the lack of remaining full episodes.

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The Abominable Snowmen

The episode that featured the debut of the Yeti, The Abominable Snowmen is another episode in this collection that suffers due to lack of context. There are many plots going on at once, but all that really matters to the viewer of this episode alone is the Doctor being held prisoner by men hunting the Yetis and scenes with the others trying to explore and find the Doctor. Given that only episode 2 of 6 survives, the story is established but decipherable, and there are some great scenes between Jamie and Victoria, but unfortunately there just isn’t enough of The Abominable Snowmen remaining to give a good impression. Since they were recovered in 2013, The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear will not be included in this article despite being a feature of the collection and their appearance here is superfluous since they have now had separate DVD releases.

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The Wheel in Space

This episode is a particularly significant installment in the Second Doctor’s era, since it features the introduction of companion Zoe Heriot, and also the reappearance of the Cybermen for the third time in the Second Doctor’s era (but not the last). Unfortunately, their voices are nowhere near as cool here as they were in The Tomb of the Cybermen, as it seems the vocoder has less of a presence in the voices of the standard Cybermen. Thankfully, the Cyber-Planner still has voice of the Cyber-Controller from Tomb, and it gets quite a bit of screentime in the two remaining episodes. Speaking of screentime, new companion Zoe gets a lot of attention in these episodes, as well as her growing relationship with Jamie and the Second Doctor, which is fortunate given that two thirds of the episode are missing. Episode 3, the first of the surviving parts, actually depicts Zoe’s first meeting with the Doctor, and the surviving Episode 6 shows how she joins the TARDIS crew, making this episode essential for Zoe fans – this is made better by the fact that both episodes 3 and 6 are made easy to understand and Episode 6 in particular works as almost a standalone story, which makes The Wheel in Space one of the highlights of the collection.

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The Space Pirates

An ambitious story for the era, The Space Pirates uses some great model shots throughout the surviving Episode 2, which is sadly the only episode that still remains in the BBC archives. As this is the last episode on the collection, it is unfortunate that it has to be such a seemingly random installment – like many of the other examples of orphaned episodes, the single surviving part of The Space Pirates does not stand well as its own story, but there are some comedic scenes between the General and the old Spacer that are worth a watch. Overall, very little actually happens in this episode and it does seem a disappointing end to the collection.

Doctor Who – Lost in Time is a fascinating look at what many of the lost episodes were like, and the selection is both diverse and interesting. It is a shame that there are so many single episodes that don’t stand up on their own, but it is to be expected from the random selection of episodes that remain. The bonus features are a delight, with an entire documentary on the history of the missing episodes that includes other surviving clips and interviews with cast members, experts and lost episode discoverers, and overall the collection is well worth picking up.

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Top 7 Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes

Often regarded as the best series of Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation (or ‘TNG’ for short) had a long run – seven seasons puts it in the higher band of Star Treks when it comes to longevity – and there are dozens of fantastic episodes to choose from. However, I have decided to narrow down my Top 7 best Star Trek TNG episodes – and it’s only 7, no Honorable Mentions this time, and for the sake of fairness two-parters count as one episode. So, coming in at number 7:

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7 – The Offspring

Who doesn’t love a Data-themed episode? The Offspring depicts a crucial step in Data’s journey to becoming more human as he tackles the challenges of parenthood, having created an offspring based off his own specifications in the ship’s lab. It is truly fascinating to see how Data manages his daughter’s development, and when Starfleet threatens to separate the two his urge to defy their instructions to remain with his child marks a highlight of this episode that showcases just how far Data has come as a character. This is a key episode for Data fans and deals with the classic sci-fi concept of the paternal aspects of the role of creator that can also be seen with Dr. Soong and Data, and is now presented through Data and Lal. The poignant ending serves to hammer home the emotional weight of this episode, and easily puts it in the top ten for being the perfect transition from lighthearted to tragic.

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6 – Tapestry

For many of his episodes, Q’s appearance is somewhat of a mixed bag. On the one hand, having an omnipotent entity serve as an obstacle to the crew is an interesting concept, one that classic Star Trek dealt with on occasion, and it opens some intriguing narrative possibilities. Unfortunately, in many cases, these opportunities are rarely realised, particularly in Q’s later appearances in Deep Space Nine and Voyager. However, the Season 6 episode Tapestry is a perfect example of the potential of Q as both a character and a plot device being met, with a strong story that delivers some really interesting character development for both Q and Picard. The premise is essentially that Q appears to Picard at a moment when he thinks he is going to die and offers him the choice to change things about his life that he disliked – particularly his rash actions as a young man in Starfleet Academy. Picard quickly realises, however, that altering the past can have severe ramifications for the present, and the method by which this episode conveys this theme is brilliant. Overall Tapestry is a great example of a character-driven TNG episode that still manages to get the best out of its sci-fi concept.

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5 – Yesterday’s Enterprise

From one time-travel based episode to another, Yesterday’s Enterprise also deals with the idea of history changing, and presents its events as being almost akin to the mirror universe episodes of the original series and DS9. This episode gives us an idea of the history that unfolded between the original series and TNG, as the crew of the Enterprise-D encounter the earlier Enterprise-C thanks to a time anomaly, and this results in an alternate timeline in which the Federation and the Klingons are still at war, and we finally get to see the Enterprise-D go up against a squadron of Klingon warbirds head on. This episode also sees the surprise return of Tasha Yar, who in this alternate timeline is still alive and replaces Worf as tactical officer, which is a nice surprise for Tasha fans and leads to a fantastic scene between her and Guinan, who retains the ability to detect how different the alternate timeline is from the original, allowing for some interesting moments with her as she tries to figure it all out. Ultimately, Yesterday’s Enterprise is a classic with a great sci-fi concept executed perfectly.

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4 – Phantasms

Some of the best episodes of TNG are the spooky ones, and the ones that deal with psychological threats that cannot simply be solved by diplomacy or weaponry. Phantasms presents some bizarre and memorable imagery in the form of Data’s dreams involving the crew and other strange characters in a complex subconscious metaphor for the issue that also happens to be affecting the ship at the time, and it makes for great viewing. One of the best things about Phantasms is just how accurately it portrays what dreaming is actually like, particularly a recurring dream, and the idea of the crew being able to use the holodeck to enter Data’s dreams was a stroke of genius. Definitely an episode that should be watched at night, Phantasms is a great mix of wacky and wonderful.

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3 – Cause and Effect

As far as mysteries that unravel slowly as the plot progresses go, you don’t get much better a case than in Cause and Effect. The seemingly insignificant goings-on of a relatively ordinary day on the Enterprise become crucially important when they are revealed to culminate in the total destruction of the ship, only to be repeated again and again in a seemingly infinite loop. The best thing about this episode is how gradual the story develops – Cause and Effect keeps its cards close to its chest (ahem) until the last minute, and every scene is critical to the crew figuring out how to save themselves from destruction.

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2 – The Inner Light

Arguably one of the most mind-boggling episodes in Star Trek history, The Inner Light is both tragic and moving, as Picard lives out an entire life on a seemingly alien planet that has been lost to time, and is given haunting memories of a world long gone. This is one of those Star Trek episodes that leaves a lasting impact, particularly on the first viewing, because it just comes out of nowhere yet it carries such a huge emotional weight – so much in fact that the events of this episode go on to be discussed by Picard as a major event in his life that he cannot forget, which is unusual for Star Trek which tends to brush major psychological damage to their characters from the trauma they face on a day-to-day basis under the rug. That being said…

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1 – The Best of Both Worlds

Yes, the obvious choice for number one, ‘The One Where Picard Gets Assimilated’ is without doubt one of the greatest episodes of Star Trek of all time, and it trumps all other Borg appearances to date. As discussed in a previous article on How to Fix – Star Trek: First Contact, the Borg experienced severe villain decay over the course of their appearances on Star Trek. In the early days, however, the Borg were a truly sinister threat, and the episode The Best of Both Worlds is a perfect demonstration as to why. The Best of Both Worlds doesn’t pull any punches as Picard is taken by the Borg and used to effectively wipe out an entire fleet of Federation starships at the Battle of Wolf 359, an experience which haunts him for the rest of his life, and the psychological aftermath of which is depicted in the next episode, Family. What is interesting about The Best of Both Worlds is that the production team toyed with the idea of using this episode as a means of killing Picard and having Riker take his place as Captain of the Enterprise-D, and at the time of the episode’s airing it must have seemed to fans as though Picard’s fate was truly hanging in the balance, which is perhaps what gives this episode more stakes and suspense than many other episodes of Star Trek in which you can be reassured that no-one will die. Even with the hindsight that Picard obviously survives, this episode has lost none of its grit and great character moments between the crew in Picard’s absence drive the story relentlessly forward.

And that concludes the Top 7 Star Trek: TNG Episodes, do you agree with this list? Post your favourite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the comments below, and be sure to check out other articles below:

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