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

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

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Part 1 – The Mysterious Planet

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

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Part 2 – Mindwarp

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

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Part 3 – Terror of the Vervoids

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

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Part 4 – The Ultimate Foe

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

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Conclusion

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

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Doctor Who – Lost in Time – DVD Review

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

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The Crusade

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

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The Daleks’ Master Plan

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

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The Celestial Toymaker

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

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The Underwater Menace

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

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The Faceless Ones

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

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The Evil of the Daleks

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

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The Abominable Snowmen

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

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The Wheel in Space

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

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The Space Pirates

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

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

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Top 7 Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes

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

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7 – The Offspring

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

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6 – Tapestry

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

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5 – Yesterday’s Enterprise

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

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4 – Phantasms

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

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3 – Cause and Effect

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

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2 – The Inner Light

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

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1 – The Best of Both Worlds

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

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

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Star Trek – Ranking the Opening Titles

Whether you sit through them every time or use them as an excuse to grab a snack, the Star Trek opening titles are a staple of the series, and rightly so. The main themes of each version of the show are all fantastic for the most part, and the opening usually comes with some nice visual effects, be it model shots of the setting (usually a ship) or CGI renderings of various iconography related to the show (as in Discovery, but we’ll get to that). But the question remains – which opening is the best? So for convenience, we’ve ranked them all (apart from the movies), starting with:

6 – Discovery

Whilst it is clear that the idea behind the Discovery title sequence was to distinguish it entirely from prior titles in the series, the fact of the matter is fans would probably have preferred a showcase of the modern day special effects to create Discovery’s take on the classic style of Star Trek intro – that is, the ship flying around through space. Think something like the titles of Star Trek: Voyager, but with updated effects to show off the new ship. Instead, what we got was a strange blueprint/technical specifications manual in 3-D showing the ship and various pieces of Star Trek iconography like Phasers, Communicators and even the Vulcan Salute, coupled with high-resolution pictures of people (or at least parts of people – like a chin and an eye) who are presumably the crew. Regardless of whether you like this or not, what is undeniably the greatest drawback of Discovery’s titles is the theme itself, which is both uninspired and forgettable.

5 – Enterprise

The other standout of Star Trek title sequences that radically diverge from the normal formula to the point of being almost incomparable is Enterprise, which does a great job of establishing this show as the first in the timeline with specific focus on the progress that mankind has made between the early days of sailing in which the name ‘Enterprise’ was born to the first in what will be a long line of interstellar exploration vessels bearing the same name. This is also the general idea behind the theme, which for many is the primary drawback of this title sequence – it is a bit cheesey, particularly since it has vocals, something which thankfully has never been done again in Star Trek. One thing that Star Trek: Enterprise did do right, however, was the awesome variation of the title sequence used for ‘In a Mirror, Darkly’ for the Mirror Universe.

4 – Deep Space Nine

The first on this list from the ‘standard’ formula of Star Trek openings, The problem with Deep Space Nine’s opening titles is the fact that instead of a nimble ship that can zip around the screen, the crew in this show inhabit a giant space station that is, for the most part, immobile. For the first few seasons Deep Space Nine used a title sequence that did a very poor job of showcasing the station’s actual size, but this was later improved in an updated title sequence that was introduced as the USS Defiant became a staple of the series, that had lower angled shots of the station and more ships. One particular change that did wonders to better showcase the vastness of the station was the addition of a Nebula-class ship docked on to one of the pylons at the start, which fans of TNG will know is almost as big as a Galaxy-class ship, and yet it is dwarfed by the station. Although the theme of Deep Space Nine is somewhat of a slow march, it does have some real feeling to it that begins to reflect the content of the show itself as the series progresses.

3 – The Original Series

The original Star Trek title sequence set the staple for opening titles to come, and is also the first of two entries on this list that include the iconic “Space… the final frontier…” speech. The visuals are dated but that won’t bother anyone who is fond of the original series, and the main theme is upbeat and great for a sing-along. The only true drawback to the original opening titles is that by far the shortest of them all, hardly even topping a minute in length. Still, these titles have gone on to be a pop culture staple and those first four notes of the opening theme inspires excitement and awe in fans even over half a century later.

2 – The Next Generation

To get the obvious out of the way first, the main theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation is brilliant. easily the most bombastic of the themes, it really sets the tone for the blend of sci-fi and politics in TNG, and the model shots of the Enterprise-D give the illusion that the ship is huge. Patrick Stewart’s opening monologue is arguably better than William Shatner’s, and also replaces “To boldly go where no man has gone before” with “To boldly go where no-one has gone before”, which genuinely rolls off the tongue better as well as updating the line to be more in-keeping with the spirit of the show. Also, it is worth mentioning that TNG actually had two variants of the title sequence, with the later incarnation having updated effects and an altered theme, both of which were well-received by fans.

1 – Voyager

Sporting the best visuals of the four best opening titles, the opening to Star Trek: Voyager gives a sense of the isolation that comes along with the running plot arc of the show by dwarfing the ship against planets, asteroid fields and nebulae, showcasing the epic scale of the Delta Quadrant. Unlike the TNG opening titles, the ship is a CGI render and not a physical model, and this allows for some great angled shots of the ship. The music is definitely one of the best Star Trek opening themes, and like DS9 it has a melancholy aspect to it that is quite unlike the bombastic fanfare of TNG, reflecting the more dire situation that the crew of Voyager have found themselves in. Overall, Star Trek: Voyager is the one incarnation of Star Trek that has a title sequence that I will never skip.

So that concludes this ranking of the Star Trek Opening Titles, if you enjoyed then be sure to leave a like and you can see more content related to this article below:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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!

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Star Trek – First Impressions of Deep Space 9

I have been a lifelong fan of Star Trek, but often through watching the same episodes of the same series over and over again, primarily Star Trek: The Next Generation. I later went on to start watching Voyager, but after several Netflix marathons I had finished all the good episodes that I hadn’t already seen on SciFi, and so found that I had run out of new Star Trek to watch. So, after much deliberation, I finally concluded: I had to start watching Deep Space 9. Unlike practically all other Star Trek shows and films, DS9 was a show that had never interested me before due to it’s premise – rather than crewing a starship, the main cast instead man a space station guarding a wormhole, and I had always assumed – wrongly – that this would mean that the show was boring. But after watching some DS9 for myself, so far the highlights have been:

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The ‘friendship’ between Quark and Odo

Two surprise favorites of mine are Quark and Odo, who start as fairly bland characters but eventually gain a wealth of development in the first series. The two are initially rivals, having known each other already from the Cardassian occupation, but eventually learn to depend on each other for information and advice as the series continues. Interestingly, despite being framed as a potential antagonist, Quark does eventually come to care for the rest of the crew, particularly Odo.

Odo’s odd abilities and origins are also intriguing, and I am almost certain that what race Odo belongs to or what role he plays on Deep Space Nine will be an important factors in later seasons, and Quark gives us a unique insight into the Ferengi culture. Talking of which:

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The Ferengi

Throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation it is apparent that the writers never really knew what to do with the Ferengi as a species. Initially introduced as a replacement for the Klingons after they allied with the Fededation, the Ferengi were just not menacing enough to stick as effective villains and their role was reduced to mere comedy by the end, with the role of primary villain eventually falling to the Romulans and the Borg.

In DS9, however, the Ferengi become a direct focus as their presence on the station is benign – this gives us our first and foremost Ferengi recurring character, Quark, and so the Ferengi as a species are expanded upon a lot more, giving us better insight into their culture and how they operate.

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The Setting and the Politics of Bajor

DS9 deals heavily with the aftermath of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, a planet that is not a member of the Federation but has the potential to be inducted, and how Starfleet has to deal with the subsequent political, religious and economic impact of the discovery of a stable wormhole near Bajor that leads to the lucrative Gamma Quadrant just as Bajor begins to reassert itself as an independent power. The character of Major Kira, a Bajoran ex-freedom fighter who takes on the role of First Officer aboard DS9 to aid in the reconstruction efforts, and how her relationship with Commander Sisko and the other Federation characters blossoms shows how the benevolence and honorable intentions of the Federation can go a long way in bringing trust, order and stability to a highly chaotic region, explaining how the Federation has expanded so rapidly despite its dedication to pacifism.

What is also interesting about DS9 is how it refuses to shy away from depicting very real interpretations of political and religious debates, particularly in the context of a sensitive, deeply religious and politically charged former occupied territory. Many of the ethical and moral questions brought up in the early episodes revolve around how Bajor is going to adapt to survive in the new political climate, and this mostly focuses on Major Kira learning to accept and eventually trust her Starfleet colleagues.

 

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Miles O’Brien

Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation will know Miles O’Brien already, as he serves as the transporter chief and occasional bridge officer throughout the series. The first episode of DS9 depicts his transference from the USS Enterprise to DS9, alongside his faithful wife Keiko O’Brien who continues to be little more than a minor character throughout the series. By contrast, O’Brien takes on a ‘Scotty’ role, and fills the shoes of Chief Engineer more naturally than Geordi La Forge did in many ways.

Miles definitely plays a more prominent role in this show than he did in TNG, but the inclusion of Miles O’Brien in so many episodes of both TNG and DS9 gives him the honour of being the character with the second largest number of appearances – behind Warf who doesn’t feature in DS9 until later but featured in all of TNG as well as the movies – and the idea of bringing back a character who was less developed in the main series in one of the spinoffs is something that the newer Star Trek television shows should consider.

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Doctor Julian Bashir

In short – Bashir is hilarious. Intentionally or not, DS9 follows the Star Trek tradition of having Doctors with eclectic and quirky personalities, and Bashir’s many moments linking to a recurring subplot of his bizarre comedic obsession with Dax make him a distinct character among the rest of the Federation cast. I frequently found myself uttering the statement: “Oh Bashir, you idiot.” at various points throughout several episodes, although not all of his misfortunes and mishaps are his fault – occasionally he is possessed by evil entities or a victim of his obsessive fantasies of Dax made solid by a strange phenomenon in a strangely Red Dwarf-esque plot. Generally, episodes focusing on Bashir are great fun.

 

Overall Thoughts

Having finished the first series of DS9, I can conclude that DS9 is definitely worth the time and I am greatly looking forward to watching more. The characters are likeable, interesting and have good chemistry, and my personal favourites are definitely Bashir, Dax and Odo. For the rest of the casst, despite a few instances of hammy acting or underwhelming sub-plots, generally the first series has been consistently good, with perhaps a slight dip in quality roundabout the middle, although the quality goes back up towards the end of the series.

So those were my thoughts on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, series one. Have you watched Deep Space Nine? If so, did you like it? Leave your answer in the comments below, and be sure to leave a like if you enjoyed. Thanks for Reading!

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