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Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermen (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.

Delta and the Bannermen originally aired in 1987.

Hey, this doesn’t look like Disneyland.

No, well, according to my reckoning, it seems to be somewhere in, er, Wales.

– Murray and the Doctor get in touch with the “real fifties”

Delta and the Bannermen is quite terrible. That said, it’s not terrible in the same way that, say, Timelash or Attack of the Cybermen or The Twin Dilemma is terrible. It doesn’t offer a demonstration of everything intrinsically wrong with this era of the show, and the frustration isn’t compounded by the sense that nobody producing the show seems interested in watching it and maybe learning from their mistakes.

While that is certainly a promising thing from the perspective of the show, it doesn’t really do the viewer that much good when they are watching it.

Large ham, incoming!

Large ham, incoming!

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Doctor Who: Paradise Towers (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.

Paradise Towers originally aired in 1987.

Oh, I see. It’s some sort of robotic cleaner with automotive bicurval scraping blades. Impressive workmanship.

You don’t understand.

No, I don’t, but I intend to.

– the Doctor and the Deputy Chief Caretaker

Paradise Towers is brilliant. It’s crazy, it’s overstated, it’s an hour too long and it suffers from the fact that nobody really knows what they’re doing, but there’s a sense of genius at work here. Script editor Andrew Cartmel took over at the start of the season, with no scripts. Time and the Rani came from John Nathan Turner’s reliable Pip and Jane Baker, so Paradise Towers is the first script where Cartmel has been allowed to make his mark.

And it’s precisely what the show needed. The execution is significantly flawed, the pacing is all wrong and there’s a sense that not everybody between the script and the camera realised what was going on, but it has a distinct energy to it. Time and the Rani was essentially Doctor Who struggling to keep its head above water. Paradise Towers sees the show diving right into the eighties.

"... where the grass is green and the girls are pretty..."

“… where the grass is green and the girls are pretty…”

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Doctor Who: The God Complex (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 God Complex originally aired in 2011.

It’s time we saw each other as we really are.

– The Doctor

It really is like the McCoy era all over again, isn’t it? The Impossible Astronaut gave us a scheming and manipulative Doctor. Night Terrors felt like it was drawn from the same cloth as Survival, with the faintest trace of Paradise Towers. Here, we get to revisit the ideas at the heart of The Curse of Fenric. Moffat’s second season has really been about the writer defining his own way of making Doctor Who, following a debut season that followed the same structure as the four years overseen by Russell T. Davies.

Here, Moffat is deconstructing the myth of the Doctor, in a way that draws on and contrasts with Davies’ “the Lonely God”, without going to the excess of “the Time Lord Victorious.” Indeed, with the whole dynamic between the Doctor and Amy drawing on one careless miscalculation the character made, changing a young girl’s life forever, one can’t help but wonder if there was more than a hint of truth in what the Doctor confessed to Amy to break her faith in him. “I took you with me because I was vain,” he tells her, “because I wanted to be adored.”

More than ever, it seems there’s a bit of truth in the Doctor’s admission that, “I’m not a hero.” Russell T. Davies has the Doctor follow a similar trajectory, albeit on a larger scale – episodes like Midnight and The Waters of Mars represented massive failings on the part of the Doctor. Moffat draws on the same sort of idea, but renders the Doctor’s failures much more intimate. It isn’t so much that the Eleventh Doctor fails to save the world or defeat the monster, it’s that he fails the people close to him so frequently and thoroughly.

You can check out any time you like, but you may never leave…

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