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?

the-mysterious-planet.jpg

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.

mindwarp.jpg

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.

terror-of-the-vervoids.jpg

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…

the-ultimate-foe.jpg

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.

trial

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.

See More

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?

the-crusade.jpg

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.

the daleks master plan

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.

the-celestial-toymaker.jpg

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.

the-underwater-menace.jpg

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.

the-faceless-ones.jpg

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.

the evil of the daleks

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.

the abominable snowmen

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.

the-wheel-in-space.png

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.

the spare pirates

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.

See More

 

How to Fix – Revelation of the Daleks

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

Since one of the very first posts on this blog was an opinion piece on how good Remembrance of the Daleks is, it seemed only fitting for me to attempt to write a similar piece on the previous Dalek episode from the 80s, the ‘prequel’ to Remembrance, the Sixth Doctor story Revelation of the Daleks. However, upon re-watching the episode after not having seen it since I was young, a few flaws become immediately apparent, particularly when comparing the story and execution of this episode with other 80s Dalek stories as well as Big Finish releases featuring Daleks. So, without further ado, let’s get right into how to fix Revelation of the Daleks.

revelation-of-the-daleks-davros.jpg

Totally rework the focus of the story

Before getting too far into criticism of Revelation‘s focus, it has to be said that the final product would be perfectly fine – if the show it was an installment of wasn’t called ‘Doctor Who’. Because of all the various colourful characters in the episode, the Doctor himself receives possibly the least screen time. In fact, the Doctor doesn’t even get involved in the main plot of the story until the second part (technically the third part, had Revelation used the standard classic series format) and this creates a strange feeling of disassociation for the audience. Whilst the denizens of Necros and the goings-on of the strangely technicolour funeral parlour are mildly interesting, and the in-depth look at Galactic politics and the activities of scheming assassins even more so, Revelation seems to put what should be the primary focus of any episode of Doctor Who – the Doctor and the companion – on the back seat, behind even the most minor of secondary characters.

Ironically, this creates an even bigger problem for this episode – the fact that the writers seemed obliged to insert scenes of the Doctor and Peri trudging around the exterior of Tranquil Repose makes these scenes seem like distractions from the main story, as if Doomsday had frequently cut to scenes of Canary Wharf janitorial workers, or if Blink had frequent scenes involving the man who owned the video store watching his crime films. Whilst Doctor-lite episodes have worked in the past, Revelation is not wholly committed to the idea, and so the first part ends up as a bit of a jumbled mess. The Doctor and Peri should have far more screen time in order to link the various plot elements together. Talking of which…

revelation-of-the-daleks-glass-dalek.jpg

Put more emphasis on the ‘Revelation’

Whilst Resurrection of the Daleks was named almost as a pun, reflecting the fact that the Daleks had not been used in the show for some time beforehand regardless of the fact that there was no ‘resurrection’ of any kind in the episode, Revelation of the Daleks does at least have some kind of ‘revelation’ involved – the idea that Davros has created a whole new faction of Daleks, an idea that would be critical in the setup for Remembrance. Unfortunately, this idea is somewhat buried in amongst the sheer mass of plot elements going on in this story. To briefly summarise, this episode devotes somewhat equal time to at least 3 different subplots – the activities in the funeral home surrounding Jobel and Tasambeker, the mission undertaken by Natasha and Grigory to find her father’s body (now metamorphosed into the Glass Dalek), and Davros’ plan to manipulate Kara and her company into distributing his cannibalised food in the guise of the ‘Great Healer’ with Kara’s subsequent plan to hire Orsini to assassinate Davros.

This is a lot of ongoing plot threads to be contained within one episode, and this isn’t even mentioning the smaller subplots of the Doctor and Peri wandering in the wilderness, the beginning of the Dalek Civil War, or the cringe-inducing broadcasts of the infamous DJ (more on him later). What makes this even worse is that most of these threads seemingly go nowhere – what exactly was the point of Jobel and Tasambeker’s significant screen time when they ultimately both end up dead, having contributed nothing to the main story? Why did Natasha and Grigory get so much focus after finding the Glass Dalek, when this is really all they were needed for in the narrative? Why wasn’t more focus placed on the Kara-Davros-Orsini dynamic, the only major plot thread that actually amounts to anything overall? The episode should have condensed the Jobel and Tasambeker story into the first episode, with the Doctor’s involvement being accelerated so that he meets Natasha by the end of the first act. Also, whilst they are excellent, Davros’ interactions with Kara should have fed into the cliffhangar of the first episode – perhaps have the ‘Great Healer’ persona be a more effective disguise for Davros instead of simply a rubber duplicate of his horribly deformed and instantly recognisable face – so that the reveal of Davros is more of a surprise. This would ultimately lead to the ‘revelation’ of the new faction of Daleks being a more critical plot development rather than simply being buried in the mix.

revelation of the daleks dj

Hang the DJ

We all knew this was coming. What on Exxilon were the writers thinking? Well, the character of the DJ was apparently designed to parody 80s DJs at the time, making this entire character tailor-made to lose his effectiveness as time goes on, but the problem of his inclusion runs deeper than this. Ultimately, despite the relatively signifcant amount of precious screen time dedicated to him, the DJ character goes nowhere other than as a means to distract Peri from the main story. Even if one ignores the fact that his entire reason for being in the facility is totally useless (quite literally playing music for the dead) things take a turn for the worst when he uses a ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ gun to destroy Daleks. If you thought Captain Jack destroying Daleks with a laser designed to get people naked was ridiculous, this is on a whole other level.

Ultimately, it is difficult to reconcile this character without a complete rewrite from the ground up, so the only realistic recommendation is to axe this character completely, and spend the time wasted on him to focus on more important plot points. However, for the half-dozen or so people out there who actually like this character, at the very least he should have two to three scenes maximum, and cut out the idea that Daleks can be destroyed by a gun that fires concentrated Rock ‘n’ Roll. Where did he even get that thing, anyway?

In Conclusion

Overall, Revelation of the Daleks is no masterpiece. Whilst the episode in its current state stands at a respectable 6 or 7 out of 10 according to the majority of fans, the concepts and ideas along with most of the characters and plot developments should have made this story a solid 8 or 9. Unfortunately, bad pacing, lack of clear focus and an abundance of irrelevant or poorly executed subplots drag this story down.  Hopefully this installment of How to Fix can give an idea of what could have been…

So that concludes the latest How to Fix, I hope you enjoyed and if you did be sure to leave a like. Check out the links below for more Doctor Who related content and other installments in the How to Fix series. Thanks for reading!

How To Fix

More Doctor Who Posts

Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part Five

In my last Best of Big Finish article I mentioned that I had finished most of the second series of Eighth Doctor audios, and I had only a handful of audios (including the infamous Zagreus) remaining in the Eighth Doctor’s first batch of stories. What makes these audios so fascinating is that, other than the less-than-stellar TV Movie from 1996 and the fantastic but brief Night of the Doctor from 2013, they are the only medium through which fans can experience the Eighth Doctor. Whilst we can all live in hope that one day the BBC will give Paul McGann a spinoff or mini-series of his own, in the meantime the stellar audios that he has been a part of can suffice for fans of McGann. All of these audios can be picked up on the Big Finish website for just £3 each, so they are definitely worth checking out.

time-of-the-daleks.jpg

The Time of the Daleks

This audio is essentially a re-imagining of the lost Second Doctor episode The Evil of the Daleks, which is by no means a bad thing – since Evil can no longer be experienced, it makes sense to attempt a remake eventually – but the story is perhaps in places a little too close to Evil. Regardless, McGann and Fisher are brilliant as always, and the Daleks prove to be as menacing as ever.

What truly makes this audio worth the time is the fact that the Daleks quote Shakespeare throughout, something that is unnerving in context but hilarious to listen to, particularly since the plot revolves a fair amount around the Daleks attempting to remove all of Shakespeare from time, but in order to do that they have to learn Shakespeare themselves.

neverland.jpg

Neverland

Neverland concludes the story arc involving Charley Pollard and the time-phenomenon that has pursued her and the Doctor since they met, and also leads into Zagreus, making it a fairly important audio in the Eighth Doctor’s early years. The audio features Lalla Ward as Romana II in her first encounter with the Eighth Doctor, and also features some interesting developments on Time Lord society, specifically their early methods of capitol punishment.

All in all, Neverland is essentially the ‘setup’ for the next audio, and given its successors infamous reputation it goes without saying that this audio is an important chapter in the Eighth Doctor’s adventures.

zagreus.jpg

Zagreus

As strange as it is, I actually quite liked Zagreus. I am aware of this audio’s controversial nature, and its placement as the ‘Marmite’ audio for most fans – they either love it or they hate it. To its credit, Zagreus attempts to do something radically different for a Doctor Who story, and it plays with some really interesting ideas. By far one of the best features of this story is the abundance of classic cast members, everyone from Louise Jameson to Jon Pertwee (the latter as a prerecording taken from a fan production). In a strange twist, however, the entire group of regular cast have been given totally random roles in this story, making it an interesting ride for those who are familiar with them all.

The first of two main weaknesses of Zagreus is the length – in fact, its length is its Achilles heel in many ways, as the second main weakness of Zagreus is the meandering plot – but the story could have been tightened up a lot more as the final product is a whopping four hours long – twice the length of a standard Big Finish production. True to Classic Who form, this means filler galore.

—- WARNING: SPOILERS FOR ZAGREUS TO FOLLOW —-

scherzo.jpg

Scherzo

This is a strange one. Scherzo is set directly after Zagreus and is the first in the ‘divergent universe’ arc that makes up the second major plot arc in the Eighth Doctor’s era after Charley. After the somewhat hectic and tragic conclusion to Zagreus, the Eighth Doctor and Charley end up in a totally new universe in which time no longer exists, and for most of the audio they cannot see or feel anything but each other – they are totally trapped in a universe in which the only thing that exists is sound.

This audio really showcases what the format of audio stories can do that the televised show could not, and really amps up the horror factor to the extent that this might be the scariest of the Big Finish audios that I have listened to so far, in a strange way. As the only two cast members, Paul McGann and India Fisher do a fantastic job here, and they are quickly becoming one of my favourite Doctor/Companion pairings.

So that concludes my thoughts on the next round of Eighth Doctor audios from Big Finish. If you enjoyed, be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

See More

 

 

Doctor Who – Ranking the NuWho Finales

Due to the change in the format of Doctor Who between the Classic Series and NuWho, a lot more emphasis is placed on the ‘Series Finale’, i.e. the final episode of a series, usually a two-parter, that often involves big shakeups or changes in the status quo for the show. These include, but are not limited to: regenerations, the death or departure of the current companion, big plot reveals or appearances by well-known recurring villains. Since these episodes are so important to their respective seasons, it seems only fair to rank these episodes against each other to see which is the best. It must be noted that I am ranking these episodes based on their quality but also their effectiveness at tying up the plot elements of the series they conclude, so it may not simply be the case of the better episodes being higher. So, to begin:

hell-bent.jpg

10 – Hell Bent

Perhaps a predictable choice as there is no shortage of hate for this episode within the fandom, Hell Bent is a classic example of wasted potential. Regardless of any personal feelings towards the episode (which I actually feel is a lot better than many give it credit for) Hell Bent comes bottom of this list because it fails almost all of its tasks to round off Series 9. What was the Hybrid? Hell Bent tries to give us an answer – but ultimately it boils down to Moffat using the Hybrid as a buzzword throughout the series to make people think there was an arc, only for the curtain to be pulled back at the end to reveal… nothing. This episode is also hurt by its context – following on from the mighty Heaven Sent, Hell Bent just seems weak by comparison and lacks the emotional impact that the previous story had. Not only that, but Hell Bent also includes some highly questionable writing decisions – why bring the Doctor back to Gallifrey if by this point he doesn’t even seem to care about it? Why waste the amazing departure of Clara in Face the Raven only for her to come back to life here? Why have the Doctor shoot a man in cold blood, even if by this point he has gone insane? Clearly, Hell Bent raises more questions than it answers, which is never a good thing for a finale.

journeys-end.png

9 – Journey’s End

Speaking of wasted potential, here is another classic example of a finale episode that is vastly inferior to its predecessor. Unlike Hell Bent, Journey’s End is actually praised by the majority of the fanbase (probably because it is a Tennant episode) but what most people fail to realise is that the episode didn’t deliver anywhere near what the fanbase deserved, and we know this because the previous episode, The Stolen Earth, was basically perfect. I mentioned in my How to Fix article on this finale that one of the main reasons why Journey’s End seems lackluster is that it takes what The Stolen Earth set up and throws it all away – All of the cliffhangers that were set up are resolved almost immediately with little effort, The Daleks were a real threat in The Stolen Earth but by Journey’s End they are reduced to being spun around like malfunctioning dodgems, and Davros lacks all the subtlety to his character that Russell had written in The Stolen Earth, instead appearing as a ranting raving lunatic who cackles like Emperor Palpatine. Another major thing that hurts this episode is all the stakes from the previous one are gone. Did anyone actually think the Doctor would regenerate, or that the TARDIS would be destroyed? Of course not. And to top it all off, the Tenth Doctor shows his true colours by using his mind powers to wipe Donna’s memory against her will, even though she had his intelligence and so should have been able to make the decision to live or die herself. Overall, Journey’s End disgraces the Daleks, Davros, the Doctor and the show all in one, but it definitely gains points for having the most returning companions in a single episode, including Sarah Jane Smith, Martha, Rose and Captain Jack, as well as crossing over into the spinoff shows The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood.

the-wedding-of-river-song.jpg

8 – The Wedding of River Song

It has to be said that, for all this episode’s faults, it does actually deliver a plot resolution that was satisfying and added to River’s arc. Since we had already found out in A Good Man Goes To War that River was Amy and Rory’s child, it was unexpected that we would get another big reveal about her character so soon, but the reveal that she is the Doctor’s wife rounded off an arc that had been started all the way back in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. In typical fashion for Eleventh Doctor finales, the entire episode takes place in a strange alternate universe, but this doesn’t necessarily hurt the episode in any way as it allows for some really interesting and satisfying concepts to play out – for one, Amy brutally murders Madame Kovarian, a villain I despised, so that definitely works in this episode’s favor – also, the idea of Amy and Rory falling in love even when they have only just met seems strange at first but actually works really well in the episode. Overall, whilst not a particularly strong episode, The Wedding of River Song definitely delivers as a finale, although it is not among the best.

the-name-of-the-doctor.jpg

7 – The Name of the Doctor

With the 50th Anniversary on the horizon, The Name of the Doctor had more to do than other NuWho finales – it had to not only conclude the Series in a way that was satisfying, but it also had the task of setting up The Day of the Doctor, which was no small feat. Overall, it succeeds at both tasks in some ways, as it does provide a conclusive answer to who Clara Oswald is an why she is important, whilst also giving us a great reveal of the War Doctor, which came as a huge surprise. Not only that, but it even manages to set up the Doctor’s regeneration in The Time of the Doctor by giving us a look at the planet ‘Trenzalore’, alleged to be the Doctor’s grave. The Name of the Doctor also brought back the Great Intelligence, a relatively minor Second Doctor enemy who (for some reason) got special attention as a returning villain in the Eleventh Doctor’s era despite Moffat claiming that ‘forgettable’ villains like the Rani don’t deserve a comeback. Seriously, Moffat? But I digress – The Name of the Doctor, like The Wedding of River Song, is definitely not one of my favourite episodes of NuWho, but as a finale it serves its purpose whilst also setting up the 50th Anniversary special effectively.

last-of-the-time-lords-e1530024750780.jpg

6 – Last of the Time Lords

This episode can be summed up in one word – strange. Concluding the three-part ‘Master Trilogy’ containing Utopia and The Sound of Drums, Last of the Time Lords does a great job of showing just how much of a threat the Master can be when he puts his mind to conquering the world. For all the faults in the characterisation of the ‘Saxon’ Master that is not consistent with his appearance in the Classic Series, he is a formidable foe in this episode and the stakes are really high, and the twist at the end and how the Master achieves his ‘victory’ came as a genuine surprise to a lot of fans who expected the character to pull a classic ‘I’ll get you next time’ and somehow escape. Whilst the ‘time-reversal’ technique is about as sloppy as the writing gets on Doctor Who, in this episode it is somewhat justified and set up from the very beginning, making it forgivable – although the final scenes that cross Return of the Jedi with Flash Gordon have not aged well at all, particularly given the Master’s lackluster return in The End of Time. One of the best things about Last of the Time Lords is Martha, who really shines in this episode, proving her worth as a companion and essentially saving the Doctor, her family, the planet and all of human history, as well as being the only Tennant-era companion to depart the show with a shred of dignity.

doomsday.jpg

5 – Doomsday

Children of the nation were ecstatic at the prospect of an episode featuring a war between the Daleks and the Cybermen in the run-up to this episode, and generally on that front it didn’t disappoint – Doomsday delivers quite an action-packed episode considering the BBC budget, and the episode delivers a heavy-hitting emotional ending that keeps Tennant fans weeping to this very day. The only thing that brings Doomsday down is the sloppy focus – the episode had so much going on: Torchwood, the Cult of Skaro, Cybermen, Jackie and Pete’s relationship and Mickey and Jake coming back – all whilst trying to deliver the Doctor and Rose’s final adventure together. Overall, though, the stakes are high throughout, there are some great scenes with the Daleks and the Cybermen, and as finales go, Doomsday‘s ‘companion departure’ scene is both brutal and beautiful at once. Highlights of this episode are definitely the brief but intense battles between the various factions at play in the story, and the reveal of the Genesis Ark as a dimensionally transcendental prison that spews millions of Daleks across the nation definitely stands as one of the greatest Dalek moments of all time.

the-big-bang.jpg

4 – The Big Bang

The first finale of Steven Moffat’s run as showrunner gave the fanbase an insight into how his methods of conclude a series vastly differed from that of Russell T. Davies – who preferred to conclude his seasons with a bombastic action-packed finale – in that The Big Bang is a far more low-key and personal episode that any NuWho finale we had seen prior. In sharp contrast with the armies of Daleks, Toclafane and Cybermen we had seen in Russell’s tenure, this episode contains only one Dalek, and a classic runaround in a deserted museum that just so happens to be on the cusp of the end of the universe. The relationship between River and the Doctor is explored a little more (without giving too much away) and Rory gets to stay as an Auton for a day, giving him an awesome character-defining moment as he saves Amy and Amelia from the Stone Dalek with his hand-blaster. In keeping with the theme of the universe collapsing in on itself, The Bing Bang has some quite spooky moments in it to, and some that leave an eerie feeling that something is wrong – particularly the distinctive “You know there’s no such thing as stars”. This finale ties the arc of Series 5 together wonderfully, and the inclusion of the scene in which the Doctor speaks to Amy on the Byzantium (that had appeared in the episode Flesh and Stone, albeit out of context) proves that Moffat does understand the concept of a flowchart of events, who would have thought?

death-in-heaven.jpg

3 – Death In Heaven

As far as episodes ending on both a reveal and a cliffhangar are concerned, few beat the conclusion to the Series 8 penultimate episode, Dark Water. Thankfully, the finale Death In Heaven follows up on the fantastic reveal that Missy is the Master with an action-packed finale that would have brought a tear to Russell’s eye. Moffat proves he can write a wonderful Doctor-Master dynamic as Twelve and Missy work wonderfully together, and this episode also provides a satisfying conclusion to the ‘Welcome to Heaven’ arc that had permeated throughout the series. Not only that, but the episode actually follows through with the death of Danny Pink in the previous episode, going so far as to convert him into a Cyberman and providing some really heavy-hitting emotional moments as he battles with his intense shock and horror of being dead while Clara desperately tries to save him. This episode proved quite controversial at the time due to the dark tone and horror themes threaded throughout, but in hindsight this only adds to the episode’s shock factor and emotional weight. Overall, Death In Heaven showcases some of the best that the Moffat era has to offer, and is certainly in the top 3 finales of NuWho.

the-parting-of-the-ways.jpg

2 – The Parting of the Ways

The original NuWho finale, The Parting of the Ways established several important factors that would become staples of most NuWho finales in the future, and yet it still ranks higher than its immediate successors simply because of the masterful ways in which it depicts the final moments of the Ninth Doctor’s life. The final battle in the Game Station remains one of the best plot devices for a finale of all time – each scene builds the tension higher and higher as the Dalek army slowly crushes all resistance and closes in on the Doctor as he is forced to make some heartbreaking choices to save both the Earth and his companion Rose. One of the highlights of this episode is the Emperor Dalek, now completely insane and convinced that he is a God, as he rants and raves with his deep, guttural take on the standard Dalek voice (that makes it clear Nicholas Briggs had a blast recording), gloating at the horrendous acts he has committed. Christopher Eccleston’s time as the Doctor was short-lived but he manages to leave his mark on the show’s history here more than anywhere, as his defining character moment at the climax of the episode proves just how much the Doctor has learned since the Time War and shows that he is no longer the vicious warrior that the Time War forced him to become. Any doubt that the public had about a new series of Doctor Who were swept away once and for all after The Parting of the Ways, and Tennant’s cheeky grin as the closing theme’s howls drew the episode to a close left audiences wanting more. So the question remains – what NuWho finale could beat this?

the doctor falls

1 – The Doctor Falls

From the first NuWho finale to the most recent, the obvious choice for number one is The Doctor Falls. Jam-packed with just the right amounts of action, heart, fanservice, emotion, terror and hope, this finale had a tough job following on from the equally legendary World Enough and Time, and yet The Doctor Falls met expectations (and in some ways surpassed them) giving fans a finale that helped catapult Series 10 to the top of many ‘Best Series’ lists. For a start, this episode is the first televised Multi-Master story,  and although Big Finish had done a Multi-Master audio in 2016, the chemistry between Simm and Gomez gives this story the edge – the entire arc of Missy’s story as well as the Master’s arc in NuWho in general culminates in this episode, and it does not disappoint. Secondly, this episode is perhaps one of the most emotional yet – everything from Missy’s demise, Nardole’s departure, the Twelfth Doctor’s death and, of course, the aftereffects of Bill’s traumatic Cyber-conversion in the previous episode all coalesce to make this finale arguably the most heavy-hitting. The only factor in The Doctor Falls that brings it down is Heather’s seemingly random appearance at the end – many fans have compared Bill’s ultimate fate with that of Clara’s from Hell Bent, and although the circumstances are similar, Bill’s situation was set up in advance and seems far more warranted, as Bill was definitely a more likeable character and deserved a happy ending, at least in my opinion. The highlight of the episode, by far, is Capaldi’s speech on kindness – not only does this speech conclude his arc as the Doctor as he finally understands what kind of man he is and what his place in the universe is far, but it also links this finale all the way back to The Parting of the Ways whilst also defining the character of the Doctor overall in an impactful speech that will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest Doctor Who moments of all time. Ultimately, The Doctor Falls concluded Series 10 on a high note, proving that Moffat can write a consistent two-part finale once again, has some of the best performances in Doctor Who, and delivers the fantastic finale that Series 10 deserved.

So that concludes our list ranking the NuWho finales. Do you agree with this list? What was your favourite NuWho finale? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and if you enjoyed be sure to leave a like, or follow Sacred Icon either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

See More

Silver Nemesis: A Hidden Classic?

As far as ratings go, reception for 1988’s Silver Nemesis is generally quite poor. The Discontinuity Guide puts this episode down as lacking ‘pace and character involvement’, which could be saying more about the shortcomings of the three-part format than anything else. Regardless, Silver Nemesis does commit the cardinal sin that many post-1960s Cybermen stories are guilty of – including the Cybermen in the story, without doing anything interesting with them. But surely amidst all this negative criticism, there must be something worthwhile to talk about from this story. After all, for better or worse, it will forever remain Doctor Who’s 25th Anniversary episode.

So to begin my analysis of Silver Nemesis, let’s start with the obvious – Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred are fantastic in this episode. The Seventh Doctor is regarded as unpopular, but in reality he is simply overlooked – for those who watch his episodes, a darker, more exciting and more serious side to the Seventh Doctor becomes clear. Once he drops his comic facade, the Seventh Doctor is cunning and devious, but never strays too far from his good nature. In this episode the Seventh Doctor pulls off a daring feat of strategy and manipulation to ensure that neither the Cybermen, the Neo-Nazis, or an insane lady from the past achieve their goals.

Speaking of an insane lady from the past, there is a strange subplot involving a certain Lady Peinforte, who has apparently at some point in the past encountered a Time Lord weapon and managed to bend it to her will (even making it take on her appearance) and has somehow discovered the secrets of alchemical time travel, all whilst being a cavalier from the 1500s. Whilst the character of Peinforte may seem like an odd addition, her presence in the story provides an interesting method by which Cybermen are destroyed – her arrows, which she believes are effective due to being laced with poison, are actually useful for killing Cybermen due to the fact that the tips are made of gold (for some reason.) Ultimately, Peinforte is mostly in the episode for comic relief, and her death is as anticlimactic as her role in the story turns out to be.

The Cybermen in this story are about as effective as they have been throughout the 80s – so make of that what you will. They do prove their effectiveness in combat by annihilating many of the Nazi soldiers, but seeing Cybermen being felled by arrows and tiny rocks of gold flung at them by Ace’s slingshot effectively completes their devaluation as villains that had been in process throughout the decade. After being destroyed by the spears of the Raston Warrior Robot in The Five Doctors it seems that arrows was the next logical step. Nonetheless, the Cybermen do present a threat in the parallels that are drawn between those and the Nazis. Hearing the Cyberleader and the Nazi commander negotiating the division of dominion over Earth in terms of labor camps is chilling.

Ultimately though, having recently read the novelisation of the unmade Season ’27’ episode Illegal Alien, it has to be said that the plot of that book is somewhat superior to this episode. Oddly, both involve Nazis, and one of the reasons why Illegal Alien didn’t make it to Season 26 is due to the fact that there was already a World War 2 episode planned. Silver Nemesis does have some big positives, particularly Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred’s performances as the Seventh Doctor and Ace, who are always a great Doctor/Companion pairing. As with the rest of Season 25, Silver Nemesis is worth a watch for the novelty factor alone.

So there were my thoughts on Silver Nemesis, if you enjoyed be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

See More

 

 

Doctor Who – The Best of Big Finish, Part Four

I have been listening to Big Finish for just over two months now, and yet already I have made my way through swathes of episodes by listening to them daily – whilst out and about walking around the park or to the gym, whilst cooking or doing housework, and also during long car journeys. The series has been very rewarding to listen to as a Doctor Who fan and I would thoroughly recommend any who have not already to check out Big Finish on their website. Many of the earlier audios are very cheap for a digital download and the bundles of the first dozen or so stories for each Doctor periodically go on sale so it is really easy to pick them up cheap.

Following on from my Best of Big Finish, Part Three comes the next installment in my Big Finish reviews series, as I make my way through Big Finish’s main range. Unlike most Big Finish audios, most of these require previous episodes for context and understanding, so to begin:

mutant-phase-e1528990833828.jpg

The Mutant Phase

The first audio on this list is the third in the ‘Dalek Empire’ series, that also includes The Genocide Machine, The Apocalypse Element and the conclusion The Time of the Daleks. Featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa as well as a Dalek Emperor and Thals all attempting to prevent a history-altering mutation in the Dalek genome that could destroy both the Dalek race and the universe. The scope of this episode is larger than any in the Dalek Empire arc so far, and it links quite heavily with the 12-part First Doctor story The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but don’t let that put you off.

The Mutant Phase does a great job of maintaining the high stakes due to the temporal nature of it – usually when Big Finish does a ‘the Daleks invade this planet for this reason’ can get stale over time, but having a story in which the Daleks try to change all of history to rid themselves of a plague is fairly interesting, although there are more twists that make the reasoning by this and the Doctor’s motives more convoluted.

invaders-from-mars.jpg

Invaders from Mars

The fact alone that Simon Pegg is part of the cast tells you that this is going to be a fun one, but Invaders from Mars is a contender for funniest audio I have listened to so far in the series, although I am yet to listen to The Holy Terror. The story partly revolves around the 1938 Halloween radio transmission of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds perfomred by Orson Welles, but some comical twists add to the surreal humour of this story. Likewise, as this is an episode that is perhaps meant to be taken less seriously, there appears to be a higher amount of ‘silly voices’ involved in the production of this audio, and not all of them can be Simon Pegg.

In typical Big Finish style, however, there are some dark elements, and the story is not without its fair share of death – but Invaders from Mars is definitely worth a listen for fans of the Eighth Doctor and Charley, and also for fans of historicals. Interestingly, this audio is written by Mark Gatiss, who would go on to write a lot of stories for the new series including The Unquiet Dead and Empress of Mars, so he clearly has a thing for historicals and episodes with Mars in the title.

 

seasons-of-fear.jpg

Seasons of Fear

As far as ‘returning monsters’ go, you don’t really get more obscure than the return of the Nimon to Doctor Who in Seasons of Fear. The Nimon featured in just one episode of Classic Who, and yet still managed to get a return in NuWho in The God Complex (sort of), but that wasn’t before Big Finish had already granted them their glorious return here in a surprisingly standout episode featuring an almost comical relationship that develops between the Doctor and an immortal who serves a legion of Bull-people who want to supersede the Time Lords and become Masters of the universe.

The premise of this story is notable as it uses the time-travel elements of Doctor Who a lot more than most stories might, and the early parts almost give us a new location and time period each episode. The story flows consistently throughout, however, and the development of the character of Sebastian Grayle is both humorous and fascinatingly dark. Overall this is well worth a listen as it provides crucial development for the arc of the Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard.

embrace-the-darkness.jpg

Embrace the Darkness

When Big Finish does creepy well, it does it really well, and and Embrace the Darkness sums up creepy – its essentially a sinister horror in audio form that also features a helping of sci-fi concepts and great characters and voice acting. The story is a basic ‘base-under-siege’ formula, but the execution makes it notable as the aliens in this are by no means as malevolent as one might expect from a sci-fi horror story.

It cannot be understated how good India Fisher is as a companion, particularly as she is able to bring her audio-only character Charley to life, and her chemistry with Paul McGann makes every audio with the pair acting together a treat.

As this is the third Eighth Doctor story on the list, it is important to note at this point that I am on an Eighth Doctor binge, and my next Big Finish Review will feature the next few Eighth Doctor audios as well as the infamous Zagreus.

So that was my list of the Best of Big Finish, Part Four. If you enjoyed then be sure to leave a like, and you can follow Sacred Icon either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

See more: