Doctor Who – First Impressions of Big Finish

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

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The Genocide Machine

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

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

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Storm Warning and Sword of Orion

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

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

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Dust Breeding

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Halo – Ranking ALL the Halo Games

Eventually, it had to be done. A comprehensive ranking of every Halo game, so that’s Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians. Not included are Halo Wars and Halo Wars 2, because comparing strategy games with first person shooters is ultimately pointless. So, to begin:

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7 – Halo 4

I can’t express how hard it is to actually rank Halo 4 as the lowest. I compare ranking Halo games to ranking Doctors from Doctor Who, in that they’re all good in their own way so picking a worst one essentially comes down to picking what everyone else considers the worst one. In ranking the Doctors, this means that Colin Baker usually comes last, and when ranking Halo games, it’s Halo 4. Why? Well, because Halo 4 seemed like the biggest missed opportunity in Halo history. It was a decent game in it’s own right, and the multiplayer was prematurely killed off by rapid release of various DLC until the release of The Master Chief Collection, but what really brought Halo 4 down was the campaign. The story was ultimately quite good if you bothered to read the multitude of deep-lore novels (which the average player does not) but without the added understanding of the in-game terminals and a very acute knowledge of the Halo expanded universe the story was baffling to most players, with the Didact appearing as ‘just some guy’ instead of the threatening villain he was supposed to be. Added to this is Cortana’s death, which in the narrative of the game is a beautiful and emotional ending to a fairly moving (if nonsensical) sci-fi story, but in the wider context of the Halo universe seemed like a cheap ploy to make 343i’s first game somewhat memorable. Added to that is the music, art and sound design radically changing from the previous game, again to make 343i’s games seem more distinct from Bungie’s games, when it really didn’t need to. Why does everything suddenly look totally different from how it did at the end of Halo 3? The Anniversary games showed us that it is possible to update graphics without changing the overall look of a game, so why was this sudden and unexpected change necessary? If anything it only served to distance Bungie fans even more from 343i’s games, which is ultimately what it came down to with Halo 4 – it split the userbase between new and old fans, with a growing number of Halo players backing the ‘it was better how it was’ camp rather than accepting 343i’s takeover of the franchise.

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6 – Halo 3: ODST

If you haven’t already, be sure to find some way of checking out Firefly, a fantastic Space-Western orientated series that aired on Fox between 2002-2003, it’s an absolutely fantastic show even accounting for the fact that because it was unfairly cancelled the last few episodes of the first season were never made. Some of the cast of Firefly later worked on a game called Halo 3: ODST, including star Nathan Fillion. Like all the Halo games, Halo 3: ODST had an engaging story, interesting characters and a swath of fun gameplay. The problem with Halo 3: ODST is that it is just too short. The campaign consists of Halo’s first (and until now, only) open-world experience, as you awaken in an enemy occupied city and try to figure out what happened to your squadmates by finding and activating certain ‘memories’ related to them, that take the form of flashbacks to your squadmates prior missions in the city. These flashbacks are essentially the levels of the game, but there are not many of them and they are often short compared to normal Halo levels. For some context, in Halo: The Master Chief Collection the par time is used to determine how quickly a Halo level should be finished in, even for someone who isn’t speed-running. Normally, a par time in The MCC is about 10-15 minutes, but many of the Halo 3: ODST levels would struggle to hit 5 minutes. Added to that is the lack of multiplayer, and although ODST does contain the debut of the Firefight mode, Halo: Reach did this much better without sacrificing a multiplayer mode.

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5 – Halo 5: Guardians

The most recent 343i-made Halo game was not without its fair share of controversy – from microtransactions to updates that really just added in the bits of the game that were missing on release, Halo 5 somewhat divided the Halo community. But, in many ways, it also somewhat united it too, since it added features into a Halo game that the community had never seen before, such as a Custom Games File Browser that allows players to search for player-made games online, and the most advanced Forge system to date that also got its own port on PC. The campaign is what really let this game down, with a story that didn’t live up to the hype that the trailers whipped up around the game, and characters that barely meet the standards for being described as ‘paper-thin’. Other than Buck, who had received development in Halo 3: ODST, practically every squad member – even Master Chief’s Blue Team from the novels – felt under-developed and underused. Overall, if it weren’t for a pretty decent multiplayer (once all the updates were released) and a fancy new engine (that apparently got split-screen removed) Halo 5: Guardians would hardly be worth considering. But with such a strong potential for community-driven direction and a platform for user-created content, Halo 5: Guardians has pushed 343 industries further in the right direction for what to do next with the franchise.

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4 – Halo: Reach

The controversial younger cousin of the Bungie games, Halo: Reach has the dubious honor of being the final Bungie game of the series and is therefore seen by many fans as a turning point in the franchise. Despite the inclusion of several questionable additions such as Armor Lock, Halo: Reach stands out as a shooter that has maintained its population for nearly ten years and experienced a renaissance following the release of its backwards-compatibility on the Xbox One. One of the best aspects of Halo: Reach is the campaign, which tells a relatively simple story but in a way that draws the player close to one particular team of Spartan soldiers among hundreds, and depicts their fate with startling stone-cold sincerity as characters that it is easy to feel close to are killed off one by one. Add to this a vast variety of interesting levels that often use in-game events to embellish the melancholy story with visceral detail, such as the destruction of the civilian transport in the level ‘Exodus’ or the annihilation of the frigate Savannah in the level ‘Long Night of Solace’ that add to the sense of helplessness as the player watches the tragic events play out. A lingering standout feature of Halo: Reach is its multiplayer, which served as the epitome of community involvement for the Bungie era, as the heavily modified Forge mode allowed for more intricate map creation. Also, the variety of gamemodes and the ability to customise the character’s armor allowed for a vast freedom that few Halo games before or since ever offered the player.

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3 – Halo: Combat Evolved

The game that started it all cannot be underestimated, even nearly 20 years after its initial release. The story is intricately woven throughout the campaign levels that are specifically designed to invoke a feeling of wonder and intrigue as the game takes the player on a journey through an ancient and mysterious fortress-world that combines stark, metallic structures and caverns with rolling hills, tall forests, snowy valleys and festering swamps. The campaign is structured so that as the locations advance, so to do the difficulty levels of the enemies, ensuring that a smooth learning curve guides the player through the variety of levels and enemy types. Add to this the incredible music, that served as the inspiration for many tracks on Halo soundtracks afterward, and perfectly sets the tone of every level with a provocative soundtrack that enhances the alien-ness of the setting. The only real drawback to Halo: Combat Evolved is the multiplayer, which was designed for system link and is woefully unbalanced, meaning that online play via The Master Chief Collection is largely pointless. Whilst the MCC does a great job of transitioning the game to the next generation, the best way to experience Halo: Combat Evolved is in its original form, on an original Xbox, and preferably with the original Duke controller that gave everyone RSI.

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2 – Halo 3

Halo 3 is considered by many to be the definitive Halo experience, and it has definitely earned that title. This game delivered the immense hype that built up prior to its release in 2007, and it rounded off the story of the original Halo trilogy with dignity. The multiplayer was and still is stellar, with a wide variety of maps and modes and even an inclusion of a rudimentary Forge mode, since this game was the initial debut of the mapmaking system that Halo: Reach would eventual expand greatly upon. The greatest thing about Halo 3 is how all the elements come together, both from a production and marketing perspective but also from an in-game story perspective, since this game sees the Master Chief and the Humans in the UNSC side with the Arbiter and the Elites of the former Covenant, which has now been taken over by the Prophet of Truth and his Brutes. The campaign picks up where Halo 2 left off and although it doesn’t quite meet the level and enemy variety that Halo 2 did, Halo 3 still delivers an action-packed campaign in which almost every level is definitive, apart from that one we all hate.

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1 – Halo 2

Halo is indeed a great series, and Halo 2 is what made it so. Aside from being the biggest video game of all time on its release, Halo 2 gave the first person shooter genre its big break on consoles, with the inclusion of a revolutionary online and matchmaking system that allowed players from all over the world to battle each other online on Xbox almost instantly, and also a ranking system that introduced a competitive side to online play that drove gameplay hours up. Halo 2 also had a much more cinematic campaign experience, with a story that built on what had already been established in Halo: Combat Evolved and pushed Halo further into the grounds of high-concept science fiction whilst keeping the gameplay fun and refreshing. An overhaul of the health system from Halo: Combat Evolved made the gameplay more fast-paced, and Halo 2 saw the inclusion of the most diverse and varied selection of enemies yet, from the Heretics with their Grunt-Needler army, the Sentinels with their massive Enforcers, the Flood with their newfound ability to drive vehicles and the debut of the Brutes who play a vital role in the story. Halo 2 also saw the surprise inclusion of the Arbiter as a playable single-player character, with his own story that runs in tandem to Master Chief’s throughout the game and offers a new insight into the Covenant and their society. Overall, although the game itself has been dwarfed by subsequent releases, the impact of the release of Halo 2 on the gaming market at the time was great, and to this day it remains the greatest Halo game.

So that was my ranking of the Halo games, I hope you enjoyed, if you did be sure to leave a Like and you can Follow us either here or on Facebook, and to read about more content like this see the ‘Read More’ section below. Thanks for reading!

How to Fix – Star Trek: First Contact

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.

Of all the Star Trek: The Next Generation films, First Contact is definitely the least terrible, objectively speaking. In many ways, it could actually be considered one of the better Star Trek movies, but there are just a few things about the film that definitely hold it back, not least the fact that it shifted the tone and focus of Star Trek ever closer to action and further from its lore-heavy sci-fi roots. With that said, here are just a few ways in which First Contact could be improved. To start:

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The film should have been set on the Enterprise-D

This one is early on the list because it isn’t really fair to First Contact to criticise it on this point, since it was the previous film (the godawful Generations) that committed the ultimate crime of destroying the Enteprise-D in the stupidest way possible. Nonetheless, the impact of First Contact is lessened thanks to the Enterprise-D’s conspicuous absence, because as far as the audience is concerned this film could have taken place on any random Federation ship and it wouldn’t have made a difference. We don’t know the Enterprise-E well enough to care about it being assimilated by the Borg, which is a huge part of what drives the narrative of the film. After all, the majority of Picard’s conflict throughout the movie is related to his unwillingness to destroy the Enterprise to stop the Borg, and this would have connected with the audience if the ship he was talking about was the vessel we had come to know and love throughout the show rather than a recent replacement that we had barely seen yet.

Imagine an alternate version of this film in which it was the Enterprise-D that was being attacked and not the E. It would have been more poignant to see the D’s engine room infested with Borg, or to have the argument between Picard and Worf happen on a damaged version of the D’s bridge instead of the bland set they cobbled together for the E. And if it really was the intention of the writers to destroy the D, it should have been done here rather than in Generations, as sacrificing the Enterprise-D to destroy the Botg Queen would have been a much better sendoff for the ship than having it crash after being attacked by a ship less than a tenth of its size.

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Expand on the character of the Borg Queen, or at least explain what she is

Many cite First Contact as the beginning of the end for the Borg, since it was just after this film that the threat of their constant attempts to assimilate Starfleet began to wane. This was made all the worse by their constant overuse in Voyager, but that can be a topic for another day. What threw the Borg ‘off-track’, so to speak, was the introduction of the Borg Queen without any attempt to explain why she actually exists in the first place. The film essentially turns everything we already understood about the Borg on its head, without giving any satisfying reason as to why, simply to introduce a fairly uninspired villain with confusing motives.

The Borg are a hive-mind, and by definition have no leader, and yet the writers of First Contact obviously decided that the Borg were a hive in the literal sense, as in a hive of bees, and by that logic they needed a Queen. In theory, this could work – the Borg might need one particular individual drone to store command data, or provide an imaginative insight into how the Borg should expand, or even as a variant of ‘Locutus’ that is required to communicate with other races. What we got in First Contact was a Queen who seemed totally detached from the Borg, almost as if she was some other entity that had taken control of them, and no concrete explanation as to why the Borg even need a Queen. Data himself expresses his confusion over the concept, but the Queen just brushes it off and quickly moves on. In order for this antagonist to work, it must first be explained what her motives are and why she exists in the first place.

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Make Picard more like Picard

Since this was a movie and not an episode on a TV show, Picard seemed to suddenly develop a Rambo complex in this film. He brutally murders a fellow Starfleet officer in cold blood to prevent him from becoming a Borg drone, despite the fact that he himself was once assimilated and was later rescued and returned to normal. He screams like a maniac when firing a machine gun at the Borg (which definitely shouldn’t affect them since earlier in the film Data is shot with a machine gun and, strangely, suffers no damage whatsoever) and then later screams the infamous ‘NOOOOO’ while smashing up his office. And, to top it all off, at the end of the film he just snaps the Borg Queen’s neck, despite the fact that she had been beaten and was essentially a harmless spinal column writhing around on the floor.

So what should he have been like? Well, more like how he was in the TV show. He shouldn’t have been driven by hate of the Borg or a desire for revenge, because that is totally outside of what we have come to expect from his character. In fact, the entire ‘Picard has Borg PTSD’ was invented entirely for this movie – even after he was assimilated Picard fought the Borg many times, and even had a chance to totally destroy them, and yet he showed none of these feelings of anger that have suddenly cropped up for no explainable reason. If anything, it would have been far more interesting to see a character like Data go through this arc, since his newfound emotions are still somewhat unstable and he clearly finds the idea of the Borg disgusting as they want to eradicate humanity, the very thing that he looks up to.

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Remove the Earth sub-plot

Admit it, nobody watches this film for Zefram Cochrane. The Earth subplot is cheesey, makes no sense in terms of the temporal Prime Directive and only serves to create a cliche tension-built climax at the end, when it looks like the Borg are about to destroy human history by ensuring they never discover Warp Travel. Admittedly, the character of Lily is an interesting inclusion, and having someone with no knowledge of starships, Borg, the Federation or phasers bumbling around on a ship in the middle of a Borg attack seems like something that The Next Generation would have done on the show. However, Lily could have ended up on the ship for any number of reasons, and then dropped off on Earth at the end while promising to tell no-one of what she saw, which would have spared the audience scenes with awful dancing, dated music, cringe-inducing dialogue and Deanna Troi getting drunk.

Alternatively, those scenes could be replaced with more of the action that is happening on the Enterprise, which is what people are actually watching the film for. If the subplot with the Phoenix has to be a focus, then perhaps Lily could be written as a character who is somehow crucial to the launch, and it is imperative that the crew get her back to Earth unharmed before the launch is scheduled to occur.

In fairness, First Contact is the best of the TNG movies, and it certainly defeats its predecessor hands down. But with just a few tweaks, it could have been one of the best Star Trek movies of all time. If you enjoyed, you can follow us either here or on Facebook and be sure to leave a like. Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

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Keep The Stolen Earth basically the same

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

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

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

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

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Make the Daleks a consistent threat

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

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

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

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

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Completely Change the Ending

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

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

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

 

 

 

Doctor Who Theories – Top 3 Dalek Theories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Theory 3 – Daleks are actually descended from Humans

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

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

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

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

 

 

Doctor Who – Who is the ‘Best Doctor’?

Looking around the internet for polls or lists on the topic of ‘Best Doctor’ in Doctor Who is essentially the equivalent of opening the Whovian equivalent of Pandora’s Box. Not only will any given list undoubtedly be wrong because it contradicts your own predetermined idea of who the Top 5 Best Doctors actually are, but any such list or poll that has a readily accessible comments section will, without fail, erupt into a war zone of competing opinions. But ultimately, is this all totally futile? How can anyone determine who the ‘Best Doctor’ actually is? What criteria do you use? Surely anyone who tries to rank the Doctors will be confounded by their own personal bias? To analyse this issue, I will be focusing on several trends that I often see in these lists that, whilst not necessarily unpopular, can be criticised nonetheless. To begin, a trend that disappoints me more than any of the others…

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The 80s Doctors are Always at the Bottom

The more mainstream lists on outlets like WhatCulture and the Radio Times obviously try to stir up as little controversy as possible with their lists. Unfortunately, this also means relegating the more unpopular Doctors to the bottom of their lists, notably Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. At first glance this does seem to be the most logical move – their eras were mired with production issues, inconsistent storylines and direction from a certain John-Nathan Turner that ran the show into the ground thanks to the extreme bias of Michael Grade, Margaret Thatcher’s puppet in the BBC. But when assessing who is the ‘Best Doctor’, should outside factors like production value and relative success of the seasons factor in? After all, anyone who has seen any of Sylvester McCoy’s episodes will agree that he makes a fantastic Doctor – in fact in the 1990s, during the wilderness years, he consistently topped polls of ‘Best Doctor’ because fans of the show were genuinely devastated that it had been cancelled – Seasons 25 and 26 were a notable improvement over their predecessors and it has essentially been confirmed now that Grade cancelled Doctor Who in the 80s based primarily on his own personal bias against the show, and little more.

Similarly, Peter Davison enjoyed a fairly successful run as the Doctor, with episodes like The Caves of Androzani, The Five Doctors and Earthshock being among the shows most popular DVD releases, even today. He was almost the ‘David Tennant’ before David Tennant was the Doctor, in that he was a younger, more energetic Doctor who was popular among female fans. Interestingly, David Tennant himself has stated that Davison was his primary inspiration for how he handled the role of the Doctor, and maintains that Davison is one of his favourite Doctors, so it seems ironic that he would consistently come at the bottom of more recent ‘Best Doctor’ polls. The oddball in all of this is Colin Baker who, unfortunately, is more justified in coming near the bottom of the polls – whilst he enjoyed an excellent run of Big Finish audios, it is understandable that they do not factor in as audiobooks are arguably the most niche of the Doctor Who expanded media, and his televised episodes are among the classic shows weakest, although there are some standout entries. The question remains – why the bias against 80s Doctors? It could mostly come down to taste – whilst 80s Who has some fantastic storytelling, the production values do let the show down in the eyes of many fans, and in the end the decision comes down entirely to personal taste. John-Nathan Turner’s campy style of set and costume design do not sit well with modern audiences, particularly compared to the more extravagant NuWho. One cannot help but shake the feeling that Doctors like McCoy and Davison coming bottom in the polls is down to little more than ignorance, however, since fans of NuWho are less and less likely to give their eras the chance that they deserve.

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The Relative Positions of Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee

This one is entirely dependant on the list in question, since some revere the position of Hartnell’s Doctor as ‘the one that started it all’ and others are based solely on fan voting input, which unsurprisingly gives Troughton a boost. In many ‘home made’ lists, however, particularly those made by fans who have self-confessed to never having seen any Classic Who, Hartnell and Troughton are used as ‘filler’ for the lower end spots despite their relative popularity. Whilst this may come as a surprise to some, Patrick Troughton in particular in one of the most popular Doctors, despite the fact that his era has huge gaps due to missing episodes. Stories like The Power of the Daleks, The Tomb of the Cybermen, Fury from the Deep, The Mind Robbers, The Invasion, The Evil of the Daleks and several others are considered essentials of Doctor Who’s monochrome era, and yet Troughton’s position in polls fluctuates more often that Steven Moffat’s script quality. Why is this?

Again, it comes down to simply ignorance. Many fans are put off by Classic Who as it stands and so are even less likely to watch Classic Who in black and white, regardless of how well the episodes are received. Still, at the end of the day, it’s their loss, and the relative position of Troughton on ‘Best Doctor’ lists has become a sort of litmus test for stalwart 60s Who fans to determine the extent of Classic Who that the creator of the list has actually seen, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, a similar occurrence mires Jon Pertwee’s era, which is due in part to the format changes that occur during this time – grounded on Earth for his first few seasons, Pertwee’s Doctor foregoes a lot of the space-time exploration to instead hold his ground on Earth, working with UNIT to fight off many alien invasions. The show morphed into more of a James Bond meets X-Files theme, as Pertwee’s Doctor took a more physically violent approach to dealing with menacing aliens, most notably his use of kung-fu and the occasional stolen alien blaster to dispatch his foes. Pertwee’s era also introduced us to fan-favourite companions like Jo Grant and Sarah Jane Smith, so the impact of thie era cannot be underestimated. Another factor to consider in his era is the introduction of The Master, and Roger Delgado expertly fills the role of the Moriarty to Pertwee’s Holmes. It’s great fun, but again, it comes down to personal taste – and it would seem that more recently the odds have not favoured the Third Doctor in fan polls, despite some genuinely fantastic episodes in his era like Frontier in Space, Terror of the Autons and The Time Warrior. 

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David Tennant at the Top

One of my previous articles on David Tennant may have given the impression that I don’t rate him very highly as a Doctor, but that isn’t the case. David Tennant was the Doctor that I grew up with, along with Eccleston and McCoy, so in many ways he is ‘My Doctor’, and I look on his era with fondness, despite the disproportionate amount of criticism that I dish out against it. Regardless, it does not sit right with me that Tennant regularly tops lists of ‘Best Doctor’ – obviously he is a lot of people’s favourite Doctor, that much is clear, but it seems that a lot of lists put him at the top to avoid controversy rather than to actually celebrate him as a Doctor. After all, his run was good, but was it consistent? Tennant took the Doctor to a dark place, essentially transforming him from a simple space-time traveller into an allegory for Space Jesus, with prophetic (and shamelessly and tediously repeated) arc words of his death, many episodes before it actually happened. Russell treated the end of his run as if Doctor Who itself would die with the Tenth Doctor, and unfortunately as a result many fans turned off when Tennant left, buying into the hype.

David Tennant played the Doctor well when he was actually playing The Doctor, but a big problem with his characterisation is that he would often forget who he was playing. For the self-proclaimed ‘Man Who Never Would’, Tennant’s Doctor dabbled in an inordinate amount of genocide, cold-blooded murder and insane megalomania, which in many ways unravelled his mandate as the Doctor in a way that most other actors who played the role did not have to contend with. It is also impossible to ignore that whilst Tennant had a handful of stellar episodes like The Girl in the Fireplace and Midnight, he also played host to many of Doctor Who’s most embarrassing episodes, ones like Fear Her, Love and Monsters, The Unicorn and the Wasp, Partners in Crime and New Earth. Again, this is down to personal opinion, but if people who have never even seen the majority of Doctor Who can attempt to rank the Doctors based on anecdote, rumour and affirmed negative consensus, then I can objectively rank episodes of David Tennant’s run that I feel are bad, thank you very much. Is Tennant a popular Doctor? Yes. Is he a good Doctor? Yes. Is he the best Doctor? Doubtful.

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Baker and Smith, the old Second Best

In light of the ‘Tennant Problem’, more self-aware lists have deliberately denied him the top spot in favour of an equally safe alternate choice for number one – Tom Baker or Matt Smith. The word ‘overrated’ is often thrown around to refer to the trio of Baker, Tennant and Smith, but this isn’t entirely fair – all three have legitimate reasons for coming in the top five, as they are all brilliant actors – if anything the continual reappearance of any of these three in the top spot has just become annoying, mostly because, as anyone who has seen most of Classic Who will tell you, all of the Doctors are played by brilliant actors. After all, this entire issue comes down to personal opinion, both in how you rank the Doctors and also how you decide the criteria for ranking the Doctors. Target Audience is a massive factor too – ask a group of hardened Big Finish fans to rank the Doctors and Tennant will undoubtedly come near the bottom, with Colin Baker usually appearing near the top. Ask the same of a group of NuWho fans and the positions will be reversed. So why not shake things up a bit?

If it has just become the norm to always put Tennant at the top, Smith and Baker in second and Davison, McCoy and poor old Colin at the bottom, then what is even the point of doing a ‘Best Doctor’ list at all? Fans could debate endlessly over the fact that McCoy is an underappreciated gem, or that Colin Baker is much better in the audiobooks, or that David Tennant is overrated, or that NuWho is better than Classic Who, or whatever the debate happens to be, but at the end of the day, there will never be a consensus. And why is that?

Well, its because Doctor Who is so vast and so diverse, and it spans such a colourful and controversial history that it has attracted fans of all different walks of life from all over the world, and getting such a huge amount of individuals to agree on such a widely spanning range of different factors is simply impossible. After all, how many other shows have such a diverse audience? To many, the Doctor Who fandom comes across as more like a religious cult than a fanbase – and their religion has many different sects, each with their own unique beliefs and customs. Big Finish fans, NuWho fans, Moffat fans, Davies fans. Classic fans – they are all fans of Doctor Who for different reasons, they all enjoy the same franchise via radically different mediums, and many cross over many of these – I consider myself to be a member of all of these creeds, some more than others, so within the fanbase I find my loyalties divided – but at the end of the day, one must remember that all of these factions come under the monolithic umbrella-term of simply being a Doctor Who fan – something that requires dedication but is an enormously rewarding experience. So if NuWho fangirls love Tennant, let them. If Big Finish fans love Colin, let them. And I’ll happily enjoy Sylvester McCoy episodes in spite of where he might rank on ‘Best Doctor’ lists, like many more who are certain, regardless of what anyone else says, that whoever happens to be ‘their Doctor’ is the best.

So there’s my rambling thoughts on the idea of the ‘Best Doctor’, if you enjoyed then be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!