• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part II (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The End of Time, Part II originally aired in 2010.

I don’t want to go.

– the Doctor channels David Tennant and Russell T. Davies

The End of Time, Part II is an incredibly confident piece of science-fiction. It’s also fiendishly self-indulgent. “Where are you going?” Wilf asks the Doctor after the Doctor takes a fatal dose of radiation. “To get my reward,” the Doctor responds, as if he has earned enough credit and kudos that he can cash it in for one last victory lap around the cosmos. Cue an exceptionally sentimental sequence in which the Tenth Doctor visits most of his major companions (and a few minor ones) before he departs.

It’s a nice excuse to trot out the familiar characters from the Davies era one last time. Martha is there; Jack shows up; even Jackie Tyler gets a look-in. It’s not just the Tenth Doctor’s farewell tour of the universe, it’s a reminder of how skilfully Davies has built a world around his lead character. And this was really the last chance for the show to say goodbye to all of that. It makes a great deal of sense, and it’s well earned. Davies resurrected a television show that died a joke and turned it into a success story that was strong enough to anchor the Christmas and New Year schedules. He’s earned the right to be this self-indulgent.

Worlds apart...

Worlds apart…

The problem is that the show seems more than a little entitled, more than a little brash about what is owed to it. The universe owes the Tenth Doctor one last go around; the audience owes Tennant and Davies enough to put up with this sort of ham-fisted sentimentality. There’s a moment when the Doctor seems to honestly consider leaving Wilf to die from radiation poisoning, and rants against the cruelty of the universe. How dare the universe put him in a position where he has to make this sort of moral choice!

The problem is that the episode tries to present this a sympathetic moment. We’re supposed to emphasise with the Doctor as he considers walking away from a poor old man who has been nothing but helpful and trustworthy and friendly to him. The End of Time, Part II is clearly intended as a celebratory romp in the style of Journey’s End, a reminder of how Doctor Who conquered television. The problem is that The End of Time, Part II overplays its hand a bit, and over-estimates how much the audience loves the Tenth Doctor.

Not quite a blaze of glory...

Not quite a blaze of glory…

Continue reading

Doctor Who: Stones of Blood (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Stones of Blood originally aired in 1978. It was the third part of The Key to Time saga.

Doctor, might I ask you  a personal question?

Well, I don’t see how I could stop you from asking.

Are you from outer space?

No.

Oh.

I’m more from you’d call inner time.

Ah.

– Professor Rumford and the Doctor clarify things

Stones of Blood was a bit of a landmark for the television show. Not only was it the 100th Doctor Who story broadcast, but it also aired remarkably close to the show’s fifteenth anniversary. The Three Doctorshad demonstrated that the show could celebrate its anniversaries in style, but producer Graham Williams seemed to want a more restrained celebration of the show’s run – vetoing an early scene in the TARDIS where Romana and K-9 give the Doctor a birthday cake and a present (a new scarf). Instead, it was decided that the show would celebrate its time on the air by returning to two of its more defining genres, blending those two distinct types of story into one four-part adventure. So we end up with a story that is half gothic horror and half outer space adventure.

A celebration, out of the blue!

Continue reading

Doctor Who: Destiny of the Daleks (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Last of the Time Lords originally aired in 1979.

Oh, look! Rocks!

– the Doctor

Destiny of the Daleks is a bit crap. I know that there’s a whole bunch of “a bit crap” Dalek episodes, but Destiny of the Daleks doesn’t suffer because it doesn’t make sense, or it hangs on plot contrivance. Instead, it’s just a little bit dull. At least Resurrection of the Daleks bangs along making no sense in a reasonably exciting manner. In contrast, Destiny of the Daleks just sort of… is. In a way, it serves as the perfect opener to Graham Williams’ final year as producer, perfectly capturing the gap between the production staff the cast and the writers that so often led to bit of a mismatch in this part of the show’s history.

While I have a fondness for Terry Nation, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to argue that his style was hardly progressive or dynamic when he first wrote for the show in 1963. Indeed, my fondness for his work in the early years of the show is mostly down to how it harks backwards to pulpy classic science-fiction. If Nation wasn’t the most forward-looking of writers in 1963, then perhaps he really wasn’t best suited to open a season for Graham Williams and Douglas Adams in 1979.

Romana II goes through one of the oldest companion rites of passage...

Romana II goes through one of the oldest companion rites of passage…

Continue reading

Doctor Who: Shada (2003) (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Shada originally broadcast on the BBC website in 2003.

Doctor, a fool would realise that it was written in code!

Skagra, this thing is written in code!

– Skagra and the Doctor have some communication difficulties

Has a failed Doctor Who story every haunted the collective consciousness in the way that Shada does? There’s a wealth of adventures that were proposed and never produced, from the last Master story that never happened in The Final Game, through to the laundry list of unproduced adventures that would have made up Colin Baker’s second season if the show hadn’t been parked by the BBC. However, Shada is something different. So different, in fact, that it has been told quite a few times. In fact, it might be the only Doctor Who story I end up covering twice.

This was a webcast version, a very simply animated version of the tale produced for the BBC website, using an audio play adapted from Douglas Adams’ original script by Big Finish, the fan collective who produce a range of celebrated audio plays for the classic series. Starring Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor who never really got a chance to develop the role in live action, it’s an interesting glimpse at what might have been.

Lost in time...

Lost in time…

Continue reading