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New Escapist Column! On “Loki” as an American Riff on “Doctor Who”…

I published a new column at The Escapist today. Following the latest episode of Loki, it has become very clear that the show is an interesting American counterpoint to Doctor Who, specifically the version of Doctor Who overseen by showrunner Steven Moffat.

Loki carries over a lot of the imagery of Doctor Who, often with an interesting specificity – the purple world from Mindwarp, the fugitive pulled out of time to face trial for meddling with the timeline from The Mysterious Planet, the exploding moon from Kill the Moon, the former villain encountering different gendered versions of themselves from The Doctor Falls, the notion of “Volcano Day” from The Doctor Dances. It’s interesting to see such a major property drawing so directly from an eccentric British television show.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Doctor Who: Mawdryn Undead (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.

Mawdryn Undead originally aired in 1983. It was the first instalment in the Black Guardian Trilogy.

Oh look, it’s all a long time ago, Doctor. I mean, surely what’s past is —

Very much in the present, Brigadier. You never did understand the interrelation of time.

– Brigadier and the Doctor have a bit of time travel trouble

Mawdryn Undead is a bit of a strange beast. It’s written by director Peter Grimwade, who last wrote the script for the unbelievably bad Time-Flight, which is a serious contender for the worst Doctor Who adventure of the eighties – no small accomplishment in a decade that gave us The Twin Dilemma and Timelash. Still, Mawdryn Undead is an entertaining little romp with a clever central concept that is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that Grimwade seems to have been given a laundry-list of tasks to accomplish with his script. With the serial featuring the Brigadier, introducing Turlough and kick-starting The Black Guardian trilogy, you can understand why the rather nifty little time-travel story tends to get overshadowed a bit.

Faithful companion?

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Doctor Who: The Brain of Morbius (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 Brain of Morbius originally aired in 1976.

How did you get her here, by the way?

The power of the Sisterhood.

Really? What, you mean you still practise teleportation? How quaint. Now, if you got yourself a decent forklift truck–

Doctor, you have but a little time left. Will you waste it prattling nonsense or confess your guilt.

What do you mean, I have but a little time left?

Before you die.

But I’m only seven hundred and forty nine. Life doesn’t begin until seven hundred and —

At the next sun. That is agreed.

Not by me, it isn’t. I haven’t even been consulted.

– The Doctor, Ohica and Maren are clear on a few things

The Brain of Morbius continues the trend of phenomenally strong episodes in Baker’s sophomore season. Barring The Android Invasion, it’s a fairly stellar run of adventures, and I think that it’s these stories that a lot of people (casual follower and hardened fanatic alike) think of when they remember Tom Baker’s celebrated tenure in the role. Producer Philip Hinchcliffe continues his “gothic adventures… in space!” trend from Planet of Evil, this time offering a futuristic take on a Hammer-Horror-style Frankenstein. And the results are as fun, as wonderful and as grotesque as you might have imagined.

They did the monster mash…

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Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars

Of all the people to survive, he’s not the one you would have chosen, is it? But if you could choose, Doctor, if you could decide who lives and who dies… that would make you a monster.

– Mr. Cooper, Voyage of the Damned

The Waters of Mars is a lot more intense than I was expecting. It started out as a standard base under seige story with more than an echo of the era of the fourth Doctor about it, but then something happened. The Doctor made the decision that he’s made before – and which he explicitly compares in the episode to the decision to watch Pompeii burn in The Fires of Pompeii – the decision to walk away. And then the episode kicks it up a notch and becomes a fantastically appropriate penultimate story for this incarnation of The Doctor.

waters

A Mars attack...

Note: There are naturally spoilers for the episode under discussion below. If you want a recommendation, then here it is: this is the best episode of the new series since Midnight over a year ago. It has some pacing issues and a very standard opening half. But the finalé is a perfect dovetail of the core themes of Davies’ run on the show.

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