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Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion (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 Christmas Invasion originally aired in 2005.

Oh, that’s rude. That’s the sort of man I am now, am I? Rude. Rude and not ginger.

– the Doctor

Part of what’s remarkable about The Christmas Invasion is that it’s a great big important episode. Not only is it the first Doctor Who Christmas Special, the beginning of a BBC institution, it’s also the first full-length adventure to feature David Tennant in the title role, and so it comes with a lot of expectations. Whereas most of Davies’ Christmas Specials tended to be relatively light fare – enjoyable run-arounds aimed rather squarely at the kind of people who didn’t tune into the show week-in and week-out – The Christmas Invasion is a pretty big deal.

It’s a vitally important part of Davies’ Doctor Who, and one that really lays out a general blue print for where he wants to take the series over the next few years. The fact that so much of this winds up tying back into the final story of the Davies era – The End of Time – is quite striking on re-watch.

Song for Ten(nant)...

Song for Ten(nant)…

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Doctor Who: Born Again (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.

Born Again originally aired in 2005.

Can you change back?

Do you want me to?

Yeah.

Oh.

Can you?

No.

– Rose and Doctor

Davies revived Doctor Who devoted considerable time to reintroducing the core concepts of the series. Unlike The TV Movie, Davies saw no need to over-complicate Rose by featuring the regeneration from the previous Doctor to the current lead. The Ninth Doctor was introduced as-is to an entire generation of new viewers. Only a quick examination of his features in Rose seemed to hint that he was getting used to his new face.

The prospect of “regeneration” hadn’t been flagged too heavily by the time The Parting of the Ways aired. This makes sense. For one thing, there’s a sense that Eccleston’s departure was not something that the production team had accounted for – which makes it even stranger that the whole first season seems to be building towards his redemption in death. For another thing, it’s very hard to drop “by the way, I change into somebody else when I die” casually into conversation.

So the regeneration at the end of The Parting of the Ways was kind of a big deal, and a huge moment for the series. After all, the classic Doctor Who had enjoyed more than three seasons with its lead character before having to swap him out – Hartnell being the last member of the original ensemble to depart. And, given the rules of television narratives in 2005, there was no way that the show’s first regeneration wasn’t going to be a pretty significant event.

Somebody needs a Doctor...

Somebody needs a Doctor…

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Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor (Review)

Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.

– Clara sums up the Moffat era in a nutshell

The Day of the Doctor was a suitable anniversary celebration for Doctor Who, feeling like Moffat had borrowed more from The Three Doctors than The Five Doctors in piecing it together, allowing for multi-Doctor interaction grafted over a fairly generic Pertwee-era alien invasion tale. (“Not now!” the Eleventh Doctor protests as the multi-Doctor tale intrudes on his paintings mystery. “I’m busy!”) In terms of scale and spectacle, The Day of the Doctor falls a little bit short. While it looks lavish and clearly had more than a little bit of money thrown at it, the episode lacks a strong central narrative thread.

Instead, it serves as a meditation on who the Doctor is and what that means in the grand scheme of things – looking at the tapestry of his life and character, and trying to reconcile everything that the show was and ever could be. It’s the story of the War Doctor in the Time War, of the death of the classic show and the birth of the new, suggesting that the rift left by the cancellation can finally be healed, that the bridge can be crossed and that wounds might finally be closed.

Well, most of them, anyway.

doctorwho-thedayofthedoctor11

The Three Doctors…

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Doctor Who: Midnight (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.

Midnight originally aired in 2008.

And you be careful, all right?

Nah. Taking a big space truck with a bunch of strangers across a diamond planet called Midnight? What could possibly go wrong?

– Donna and the Doctor tempt fate

Midnight was the fiftieth episode of the revived Doctor Who to enter production. It had been intended to air as the fiftieth episode of the new series, but plotting similarities between Forest of the Dead and Turn Left forced Davies to shift the broadcast order of the episodes. As a result, we end up with the longest consecutive streak of Davies-written episodes in the history the show, stretching from Midnight through to The End of Time, Part II. In essence, although it’s not really intended as part of the over all arc, Davies’ swan song begins here.

And it’s the best episode that Davies has ever written. It might be the best episode of the fourth season. It might even compete for the best episode of show produced by Davies.

So it’s pretty great.

The long dark midnight of the soul...

The long dark midnight of the soul…

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Doctor Who: Doomsday (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.

Doomsday originally aired in 2006.

Daleks, be warned. You have declared war upon the Cybermen.

This is not war. This is pest control.

We have five million Cybermen. How many are you?

Four.

You would destroy the Cybermen with four Daleks?

We would destroy the Cybermen with one Dalek. You are superior in only one respect.

What is that?

You are better at dying.

– the Cyberleader and Dalek Sec compete for the title of “bitchiest Doctor Who villain”

Part of my frustration with Doomsday is the same problem that I have with the rest of the second season’s weaker episodes. Like Fear Her or Rise of the Cybermen, the second season finalé lacks ambition. It feels complacent, it feels comfortable. It feels like putting the Daleks and the Cybermen together in one episode is enough to merit attention, without anything more than exchanging pithy one-liners. It feels like the separation of the Doctor and his companion is the biggest and most important thing in the universe, without really convincing us that this isn’t the best possible outcome. It feels like the easiest way to make these threats palpable is to set them in modern London, without any real sense of consequence or scale.

The tears of a Time Lord...

The tears of a Time Lord…

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Doctor Who: Army of Ghosts (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.

Army of Ghosts originally aired in 2006.

How long are you going to stay with me?

Forever.

– the Doctor and Rose tempt fate

It’s only logical that anybody diving head-first into a fifty-year-old television show is going to have an opinion that radically diverges from the fandom consensus on a couple of stories. So, for example, I’ll concede that I like The Talons of Weng-Chiang, but less than most. However, the biggest divide – and the point on which I feel furthest from consensus – comes with Army of Ghosts and Doomsday, Russell T. Davies’ massive farewell to Rose Tyler, the companion he introduced all the way back in Rose. It’s generally acknowledged as one of the high points of Davies’ tenure and one of the truly great Tenth Doctor stories.

I am far from convinced.

The cracks are starting to show...

The cracks are starting to show…

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Doctor Who – School Reunion (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.

School Reunion originally aired in 2006.

You can tell you’re getting older. Your assistants are getting younger.

– Sarah Jane to the Doctor

Coming at the start of the revived show’s second season, School Reunion changed the way that the show related to its long and complex history, explicitly confirming what had been implied at least as early as Dalek and Aliens of London, that this was indeed the same Doctor who had had all of those adventures for all those years on British television. Bringing back the iconic pepper pots was one thing, as was name-dropping the paramilitary outfit from early in the original show’s run.

However, bringing back the most fondly remembered companion of the classic television show and affirming that she had travelled with this man for several years provides a firm anchor to the past. Looking back now, it’s hard to appreciate how dramatic a shift this was, and just what it represented. However, it’s hard to imagine that Doctor Who could get to the point where the Doctor could recruit a Silurian detective and her Sontaran butler in Victorian England without School Reunion.

It changed the game.

(Anthony Stewart) Head master...

(Anthony Stewart) Head master…

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