Doctor Who – Top Ten New Who Dalek Stories

As one of the most enduring icons of Classic Doctor Who, it was no surprise that the BBC decided to incorporate the Daleks into the modern version of the show as soon as possible, with Series 1 alone featuring them in three episodes including the two-part finale. Since then, the Daleks have appeared in every series of the revival, with varying success – sometimes a Dalek episode is exactly what a series needs to bump up the action and stakes, and other times the Daleks seem to be a drag on episodes that they could otherwise not even featured in. Due to their successes in the 60s, 70s and 80s, showrunners of modern Who assume that the Daleks will always be a big hit, but have the pepperpots enjoyed the same success in the 21st century as they had in the 20th? For this list, the focus will be primarily on how the Daleks themselves are presented in the various episodes in which they appear and how much of a threat they present, but also on other factors in the episodes that contribute (positively or negatively) to the overall quality of the story.

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10 – Asylum of the Daleks

At the very bottom of the list is Asylum of the Daleks, which will come as no surprise to any Dalek fans as Asylum is notorious for being one of the biggest let-downs in the history of the show. To those not in the know, the marketing for this episode was really exciting – fans knew from various ‘leaked’ photos (which were actually released as a deliberate ploy by the BBC) that classic Dalek props from a multitude of different eras of the show were all gathered together, and modified to look damaged and dusty, and the title of the episode suggested that this would be a love letter to the Classic series that delved into Dalek psychology and perhaps filled in some gaps in their timeline from the Classic era. Fans were wildly speculating that the Cult of Skaro, the Dalek Emperor, the Special Weapons Dalek or even Davros could feature in this episode, and it generated a lot of hype. This all turned out to be in vain, however, and what is truly baffling is why the production team went to the trouble of gathering together all these genuine classic Daleks (including the Special Weapons Dalek from 1988) just to have them all sit there and do absolutely nothing. Ultimately, the fantastic setup and exciting premise of this episode were wasted on a pointless and unwarranted divorce subplot involving Amy and Rory that is solved like magic in the last five minutes, and an arguably well-executed but similarly unwarranted debut of Jenna Coleman as ‘Oswin’, which was later revealed to be one of Clara’s splinters, and the combination of these two subplots distracted attention entirely from the thing fans wanted most of all at that point – a decent Dalek episode – and what we are left with is a mess of wasted potential that should have either been a two parter or had a complete rewrite from the ground up.

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9 – The Time of the Doctor

From one myriad of wasted potential to another, The Time of the Doctor serves as the confusing and overstuffed finale to the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure, and it was essentially Steven Moffat trying to bolt together all the answers to all the loose ends that had accumulated throughout Matt Smith’s era into one hour-long special because, apparently, he had originally planned for the Eleventh Doctor to have one more series until Matt Smith announced he was leaving the role. As a result, none of the ideas presented here get any real development and, like Asylum of the Daleks, many great ideas are either watered down to the point where they are forgettable or just go over the audience’s heads. Take Handles’ death for example – the scene is beautifully acted, the score is fantastic, and it is clear that the death of this Cyberman head really does affect the Doctor – but it doesn’t affect the audience, because we only met this character about half an hour beforehand. The Daleks in this episode are actually quite formidable – the episode describes in detail how the Daleks attacked the Church of the Papal Mainframe and slaughtered everyone inside, Humans and Silents alike, but it would have been better if the audience could have actually witnessed this for themselves as it would not only have made the Daleks appear more of a threat but it would also have solidified the idea that the Silents are good guys now (which, the first time I saw this episode, I didn’t even clock onto – that’s how fast-paced and convoluted the plot is). Yet, despite all this, Moffat still found a ten-minute space in the runtime for the Eleventh Doctor to make creepy and perverted sexual advances on Clara by running up to her stark naked and then proceeding to do the same thing to her relatives at Christmas dinner, too. Yes, this was a dark time for Doctor Who.

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8 – The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End

As previously mentioned in How to Fix – The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, this two-part finale of Series 4 has a fantastic setup but a poor conclusion. In fact, were these two separate episodes, The Stolen Earth would rank much higher whereas Journey’s End would definitely be lower, which gives an idea of how inconsistently the Daleks are presented in this two-parter. The Stolen Earth is a great opener – the Doctor and all of his companions from the previous two years, including Sarah Jane Smith, Captain Jack and the Torchwood team all come together to combat a full-on Dalek invasion of Earth, and it is glorious. Throughout this opening episode the audience is constantly reminded of how much of a threat the Daleks are to human society – we see Dalek Saucers bombing Manhatten, we see Daleks destroying houses to draw out human prisoners, we see Daleks slaughtering Human defences like UNIT HQ and the Master’s battleship Valiant, Davros returns for the first time since Remembrance of the Daleks in 1988, and as icing on the cake, a Dalek finally gets to shoot the Doctor dead. All of this is fantastic, but then Journey’s End comes along to spoil everything. As if by magic, suddenly the Daleks are spinning around, out of control, and all the threat and menace that was built up over the opening part melts away and Russell falls back on the most generic, flimsy ‘prophecy’ plotline ever contrived, and the Daleks are beaten. How difficult would it have been for Russell to let the Daleks win? The Doctor should have saved the Earth and stopped the Reality Bomb but at the cost of failing to destroy the New Dalek Empire, allowing Davros to escape with his new army swearing that he will return, and then we wouldn’t have been faced with…

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7 – Victory of the Daleks

In a similar vein to The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, Victory of the Daleks suffers from having a great opening and general premise, but also having a disappointing final act that essentially ruins the episode by leaving a sour taste in the mouths of the audience. This came in the form of the often-derided Paradigm Daleks, which debuted in this episode as a vain attempt by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss to ‘reboot’ the Daleks for their tenure as showrunner and resident weirdo respectively. To make things perfectly clear (and perhaps in contradiction to my earlier assessment of the Paradigm in my various Custom Figure Collection posts), the design of the Paradigm Daleks isn’t actually all that bad – true, there are some odd design choices, such as the hunched back, the flexi-straw neck and the oversized fenders, but if Asylum of the Daleks did one thing right by Dalek fans, it showed that with a new coat of chrome paint and a few modifications the Paradigm props could be made to look intimidating. Unfortunately for Victory of the Daleks, the Paradigm first appeared with matte paint in a disused matchstick factory that had the lighting of a primary school assembly hall that only served to make the new Daleks look more tacky and laughable than they were already. The real tragedy is that, aside from the Paradigm, Victory is actually a decent Dalek story – the Ironsides look awesome, the World War 2 setting complete with Winston Churchill works really well, and there are some great narrative links to Classic Who stories like The Power of the Daleks. It is a true shame that the first Dalek story in Moffat’s era was so disappointing.

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6 – Daleks in Manhatten/Evolution of the Daleks

Yet another episode on this list with its own article on how it can be fixed, Daleks in Manhatten and Evolution of the Daleks are the kind of Doctor Who episodes that take a lot of hate from certain fans of the show, despite essentially being episodes that are not meant to be taken all that seriously. The problem with this idea is that when using a monster like the Daleks, fans tend to take things more seriously than they should, which has led to this Series 3 two-parter being slammed by Whovians of all creeds for brutally cutting short the reign of the Cult of Skaro, creating a ridiculous and overtly phallic Dalek Hybrid creature, and featuring a musical number in a style designed to accompany a 1920s flapper dance routine. Surprisingly, the results are oddly glorious, with this episode slotting in nicely between a great homage to classic sci-fi B-Movies and an odd nod to sci-fi Noir, whilst also featuring some great Dalek scenes, most notably scenes involving Dalek Sec. Other highlights include the rest of the Cult scheming against Sec, the scene in which Solomon and Dalek Caan converse, the relationship between Tallulah and Lazlo and Martha generally just been cool and reliable, as usual. The final battle between the Daleks and the Hybrids is pretty cool as well, and although you don’t have to be Grand Admiral Thrawn to see the obvious flaws in both sides’ strategies (standing still and firing continuously regardless of how many casualties are inflicted on either side), a genuinely poignant moment is when the Doctor laments the eventual death of Dalek Sec, hailing him as ‘the cleverest Dalek ever’, probably due to his mercilessly roasting of the Cyberleader during their previous encounter.

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5 – The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar

Opening the divisive Series 9 is the equally divisive The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, a two-part episode that receives equal measure of love and hate from various factions of the Doctor Who fanbase. On the one hand, this episode does a much better job of showcasing the relationship between the Doctor and Davros than The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End did, to the extent that many have come to regard this episode as less of a Dalek story and more of a Davros story, as the Daleks themselves feature more as a background power at work rather than the main villain of the story. The scenes with Missy and Clara are all fantastic, and there are a handful of great Dalek scenes – most notably the Supreme Dalek’s ‘Maximum Extermination’ scene. On the other hand, the episode does its best to deliberately mess with the audience, in that it seems for the entire story as though the Doctor had done something terrible to Davros in his youth – perhaps even causing the horrendous injuries he is famous for – and yet this rising source of tension in the plot seems to suddenly deflate at the end, and although the moments between Davros and the Doctor are poignant, some fans saw right through the attempt to tug at the viewer’s heartstrings and labelled this episode a failure. Whilst both sides have good points to make, the justification for ranking this episode so highly comes primarily from the scenes with Missy, finally having Classic props in lighting that allows the audience to see them, and some great dialogue between Davros and the Doctor that are reminiscent of the kind of thing Big Finish have done in audios like Davros.

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4 – Doomsday

There are many important factors to consider when revisiting Doomsday now, after over ten years. At the time of airing, this episode shook the nation, and that fact cannot be understated – the hype for this episode was justified, and Rose was given a departure to remember as she is torn away from the Doctor whilst Daleks and Cybermen burn the city of London in an unprecedented all-out war between two of the franchise’s most iconic villains. From the perspective of the Daleks specifically, Doomsday has some fantastic scenes, especially thanks to the introduction of the Cult of Skaro, a group of Daleks with more distinct personalities than the standard drones fans are accustomed to. Stand-outs include the verbal demolition of the Cyberleader conducted by Dalek Sec as war is declared, some short but fast-paced action scenes as they tear up the Cybermen, and a surprisingly deep insight into the mind of a Dalek as the Tenth Doctor breaks down how lonely and painful their existence actually is. Over the years, the impact of Rose’s departure has somewhat lessened, particularly as her status as ‘most important companion’ was slowly transferred to Clara over the course of Moffat’s run, and this is perhaps what has hurt this episode the most – ultimately, Doomsday spends a lot more time focusing on the Doctor and companion than it does the Daleks, which is more justified in this instance than it was in Asylum of the Daleks but no less frustrating in hindsight.

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3 – Into the Dalek

Since this was only the second episode to feature the Twelfth Doctor, it was important at this stage that his character be firmly established lest the audience grow confused over what this new Doctor actually stands for. Whilst complaints of an inconsistent characterisation are often thrown against the Twelfth Doctor, Into the Dalek was the episode that firmly established Capaldi as the Doctor, as all the best things about the Twelfth Doctor really shine in this story. He struggles with his morality, he is merciless and rude but also caring and occasionally tender, and ultimately with help from Clara he realises the correct course of action and helps bring out the best outcome of a situation that was rapidly spiraling out of control. The Daleks in this story are fantastic, and the opening scene in particular does wonders to showcase the vast size of the Dalek Empire compared to the tiny and ill-equipped Human resistance. In fact, this is the first Dalek story in a long time to effectively convey the idea of a wider galactic conflict being waged against the Daleks in the future, a plot point that often featured in the Classic Series and Big Finish audios yet has been unfortunately absent from New Who until this point thanks to Russell’s Time War plotline. Whilst the basic premise of the episode requires some suspension of disbelief to go with, once this episode gets going it is almost perfect in its depiction of Dalek morality and philosophy, and it is a shame in hindsight that Capaldi didn’t get more Dalek episodes.

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2 – Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways

The finale of the Series 1 is perhaps the most exciting depiction of the Daleks waging war in the entire history of televised Doctor Who, as the Dalek Emperor returns from the Time War to enact a 100,000 year plan to destroy the Human race and wage war on the entire Galaxy. The Emperor himself is impressive, and credit must be given to both the artists and designers who worked on the prop and Nicholas Briggs, who provided the Emperor’s fantastic booming voice. The Emperor isn’t the only impressive addition to this episode either, as this is the first time we see a full Dalek Fleet in action on-screen and the scenes of the fleet bombing planet Earth as Lynda watches are particularly horrific. Speaking of Lynda, her untimely death at the hands of the Dalek Attack Squad provided another heavy-hitting moment in this already devastating episode, making this episode undoubtedly one of the darkest and most harrowing of the series, and a great showcase of just how threatening the Daleks are at the height of their power. Interestingly, this episode also takes a unique approach to the Daleks themselves – these are half-Human and have a concept of blasphemy, and view the Emperor as the God of all Daleks – and credit must be given here for a fantastic idea that is well-implemented, as this has a distinct effect on the characterisation of the Emperor himself that turns him from an already menacing Dalek into a full-blown deranged megalomaniac of a villain.

 

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Honorable Mention – The Day of the Doctor

As a brief aside, it is worth mentioning that the Daleks feature in 2013’s The Day of the Doctor, Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary special, and for the most part they are very strong in this episode. For the first time we get to see the final day of the Last Great Time War, and although this scene has been criticised for depicting the once-legendary dimension-rending myth-war as simply a generic sci-fi battle with lasers and explosions, it is somewhat understandable as by this point in the War the Time Lords had expended all of their timey-wimey weapons and were simply trying to hold out against what was now an inevitable wave of utter devastation – that is exactly why the War Doctor chooses to end it all with the Galaxy-Eater. The reappearance of Murray Gold’s soundtrack ‘The Dark and Endless Dalek Night’ works fantastically with this scene as we see the Daleks lay waste to Gallifrey’s second city, slaughtering soldiers and commoners alike in the streets. Immediately after this scene, however, the Daleks are reduced to mere fodder and do not feature as prominently in the 50th as many fans would have liked, with the honor of primary monster going to the… Zygons? Why?

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1 – Dalek

And finally, the number one – Dalek, the initial appearance of the Daleks in NuWho. Whilst the title does spoil the surprise somewhat, Classic Who fans rejoiced at the prospect of the Daleks returning to modern Doctor Who, and this episode certainly lived up to the hype. Robert Shearman, who had previously written for Big Finish audios before penning this episode, largely based the plot of Dalek on his Sixth Doctor audio Jubilee, which dealt with the idea of a single Dalek locked up in a prison only to escape and slaughter its former captors. Dalek has the edge, however, in that it was also written to flatten many previous criticisms of their design – particularly the inclusion of their rotating middle section and the reappearance of their ability to fly which had not been seen on-screen since 1988’s Remembrance of the Daleks, which makes their comeback all the stronger. This episode also features plenty of death, again to showcase the true power that even a single Dalek can unleash, but also features a rare example of Dalek character development – this particular Dalek gains human emotions from Rose, and the scenes between the Dalek and Rose, particularly the Dalek’s final scene, is surprisingly poignant. The scene that makes the episode, however, is the Doctor confronting the Dalek in its cell – arguably one of the greatest Dalek scenes in the history of the show. With compelling characters, a fast-paced story and some great action, Dalek is hands down the best Dalek episode in NuWho.

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Halo: The Flood – Book Review

When William C. Dietz was approached by Bungie to write a novelisation of Halo: Combat Evolved, a game that he had never played, he was initially reluctant. However, after going away and playing the game a few times, as well as reading the preliminary novel Halo: The Fall of Reach, he decided to take up the challenge. Following the book’s release, it received mixed reviews from critics – some said that it didn’t deviate enough from the games, some said that Dietz’s presentation of the character of the Chief wasn’t consistent with previous author Eric Nylund’s, and most said that the novel is rather repetitive – often consisting of little more than descriptions of gunfights repeated over and over again. Now that the release of Halo: Combat Evolved is but a distant memory, it is interesting going back and re-reading this novel for two reasons – first, I have not read this book since I was a child, and second, the book isn’t anywhere near as bad as many people have made it out to be.

In fairness, I am a massive fan of Halo, so perhaps the book appeals to me in ways that it would not for a casual reader. Also, there are some issues with the book that gripe me – the presentation of the Covenant, for example, is radically different from how they are presented in Halo 2, but that is hardly the author’s fault. In fact, many of the best parts about this book are actually segments that Dietz fought to have included – initially Bungie didn’t want a Covenant subplot, but Dietz felt (rightly) that it would add more to the narrative. The representation of events going on during Halo: Combat Evolved that the Chief was not present for is also particularly good, and the characters of Major Silva and Lieutenant McKay are particularly well-written. Other highlights of the book include Yayap, who provides some comic relief but is a strong character nonetheless, and the depiction of Captain Keyes and Wallace A. Jenkins’ horrific assimilation by the Flood, the former of which was adapted for one of the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary terminals.

Arguably the most engaging character is Zuka ‘Zamamee, an Elite who makes it his mission to hunt the Master Chief throughout the majority of the book. Interestingly, this subplot places Zuka in many of the locations that the Chief himself visits throughout the campaign of Halo: Combat Evolved but either too early or too late to actually encounter the Chief himself, save for a few encounters that don’t go well for the Elite – all the while, Zuka is being tailed by his unwilling assistant Yayap, who is perhaps the most developed Grunt character in the entire Halo franchise. There are also several one-shot Covenant characters that appear for only a chapter or two, which Dietz essentially uses as fodder against either the UNSC or the Flood, with varying degrees of effectiveness. An example of how this doesn’t quite work appears quite early in the novel – an Ossoona named Isna ‘Nosolee, who boards the Pillar of Autumn during the opening chapters and boards Captain Keyes’ lifeboat as the Autumn is evacuated, only to be shot in the head by Keyes during the descent. Whilst this is an interesting addition to the novel, it seems to set up a plot point that goes absolutely nowhere, as Keyes and his team are later captured anyway. The reason for this is that Bungie only accepted Dietz’s proposal to have a Covenant subplot in the novel on the condition that he kill every Covenant character that he introduces in the book, so that Bungie would not have to include them in any media that would follow.

This highlights one of the weakest elements of this novel, in that the fact that everyone has to die at the end of the novel – in a similar manner to Halo: Reach, the knowledge that eventually all the characters will die except for the Chief somewhat reduces the tension throughout. Still, that is perhaps this books most prominent weakness aside from an over-dependence on military dialogue and constant action sequences, which in all aren’t particularly bad – the book is a novelisation after all, and to complain that a book that retells the same story as the game doesn’t deviate enough from the story of the game is not a fair criticism.

One of the strongest aspects of this book is the depiction of the Flood, particularly through Private Jenkins and Captain Keyes who undergo the horrors of infection but still retain a glimmer of consciousness despite their ravaged bodies being host to the Parasite. Dietz’s depiction of how the Flood picks apart the memories of their victims is truly harrowing to read, particularly since readers of the previous book Halo: The Fall of Reach will have a particular connection to Keyes as a character that we didn’t really get from Halo: Combat Evolved, with many players finding Keyes’ habit of getting himself captured very frustrating. The finale of the book from the perspective of Major Silva and Private Jenkins is poignant and really shows just how close the Flood were to getting off Installation 04, making the tension of the Chief’s final run all the higher since the stakes are raised from the depiction of these events in the game.

Overall, Halo: The Flood is an effective novelisation, but perhaps not as strong of a narrative as Halo: The Fall of Reach and Halo: First Strike. It is an absolute must-read for Halo fans, particularly those who are intimately familiar with Halo: Combat Evolved, but is probably a stretch too far for non-Halo fans, to whom many of the game’s extended descriptions of weapons, vehicles and locations would mean absolutely nothing. Dietz’s strongest plot threads include the side plots involving Zuka ‘Zamamee and the Flood, with the story of Melissa McKay and Major Silva being an interesting inclusion but ultimately futile. The best way to read this book is by listening to the Halo Soundtrack alongside it, playing the songs that feature in the various levels to give atmosphere to their accompanying chapters, as the book does capture the spirit of the game and that is perhaps the biggest contributing factor to its success.

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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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