• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

Doctor Who: The Reign of Terror (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 Reign of Terror originally aired in 1964.

Hush, child. Say your goodbyes and remember, we shall be leaving almost immediately

– the Doctor, about two minutes into the first part of a six parter

The Reign of Terror represents a fairly disappointing conclusion to a reasonably solid first season of Doctor Who. I won’t argue that the show’s first year can be ranked among the finest in the fifty-year history of the show, but I do think that the stories generally did quite a decent job of introducing the characters and concepts and setting them up so that they could support a lot more. It’s interesting to compare the title character introduced in An Unearthly Child to the version presented in The Sensorites.

While The Sensorites is still a story far too long and far too generic for its own good, it still feels like it solidifies a version of the character who – broadly speaking – resembles the Doctor we know and love. While I’d argue the Doctor was only absolutely solidified as a hero in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, there’s a very clear through-line from An Unearthly Child to The Sensorites which charts the evolution of the character. The Sensorites would make a decent (if unspectacular) place to end the first season.

Unfortunately, the first season continues on for one more episode. The Reign of Terror is just as over-long and just as padded out as The Sensorites, but it suffers because it feels like a massive step backwards in a season that has been very clearly moving forwards.

An animated sort...

An animated sort…

Continue reading

Doctor Who: The Rescue (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 Rescue originally aired in 1965.

Oh, but Doctor, the trembling’s stopped.

Oh, my dear, I’m so glad you’re feeling better.

No, not me, the ship.

– Barbara and the Doctor

The Rescue is a surprisingly sturdy two-parter, following directly on from The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Despite the fact it’s noticeably brief, the adventure is fairly important in the grand scheme of Doctor Who, representing the first time that the show has a recruited a new companion since our bunch of time-travelers departed Earth. However, it’s also a well-told little story, and one which emphasises the relatively subtle shift in the Doctor’s character and role in the story.

While An Unearthly Child and The Daleks presented the character as a cantankerous and untrustworthy trickster, the show has gradually pushed the character into the role of the hero, culminating in the Doctor’s successful attempt to save the whole planet Earth in The Dalek Invasion of EarthThe Rescue continues this trend, presenting the Doctor as a genuinely sympathetic and compassionate old man, pretty far from the grump we first met.

The version of the Doctor we see in The Rescue feels a lot more like the character we’d come to love over the rest of the show’s fifty-year history.

Here' there be monsters...

Here’ there be monsters…

Continue reading

Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (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 Dalek Invasion of Earth originally aired in 1964.

We are the masters of Earth. We are the masters of Earth. We are the masters of Earth.

– who are the Daleks trying to convince?

Watching the early years of Doctor Who, I often find myself struggling to measure the quality of a show as against its importance to the series as a whole. Sixties Doctor Who has perhaps an unfair reputation when it comes to quality. In fact, as a rule, I’ve been pleasantly surprised on my trips back to the archives for these reviews. However, it’s often much more interesting to look at the context and the legacy of these classic episodes, as the show begins to define what it is and what it isn’t, what it can do and what it can’t do.

In that context, The Dalek Invasion of Earth is a massively important story. It features the first returning monsters of the series (go on, guess!), the first departure of a companion, the first invasion of Earth, the first aliens in London. The list goes on and on. There’s an incredibly vast influence that The Dalek Invasion of Earth has on the half-century of Doctor Who that follows. It’s nearly impossible to deny the shadow that this adventure casts.

However, it’s also a very flawed piece of television, for all its iconic status. Indeed, watching these six episodes I’m more often struck by what is important rather than what is good.

The Daleks of London...

The Daleks of London…

Continue reading

Doctor Who: The Sensorites (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 Sensorites originally aired in 1964.

There’s one thing about it, Doctor. We’re certainly different from when we started out with you.

That’s funny. Grandfather and I were talking about that just before you came in. How you’ve both changed.

Well we’ve all changed.

Have I?

Yes.

Yes, it all started out as a mild curiosity in a junkyard, and now it’s turned out to be quite a, quite a great spirit of adventure, don’t you think?

Yes. We’ve had some pretty rough times and even that doesn’t stop us. It’s a wonderful thing, this ship of yours, Doctor. Taken us back to prehistoric times, the Daleks.

Marco Polo, Marinus.

And the Aztecs.

Yes, and that extraordinary quarrel I had with that English king, Henry the Eighth. You know, he threw a parson’s nose at me.

What did you do?

Threw it back, of course.

– Ian, Susan, Barbara and the Doctor discuss character development

The Sensorites feels like a bit of a mess of an episode. It’s a six-part adventure, but one that feels quite a bit longer than it should be. The trip to Skaro in The Daleks ran for seven episodes, but it never felt quite as padded as this. There are some decent ideas and some nice character moments to be found in The Sensorites, if you’re willing to look hard enough, but there’s also quite a lot of padding, quite a lot of nonsense, and some plot developments that feel just a little bit convenient or contrived. This isn’t Doctor Who at anything approaching its best, but there’s still some measure of potential here.

Using your head...

Using your head…

Continue reading