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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 Twin Dilemma (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 Twin Dilemma originally aired in 1984.

Whatever else happens, I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not. 

– the perfect sentiment on which to enter a nine-month gap

Some mistakes only seem obvious in hindsight. Some errors are easy to judge with the weight of experience and history behind you. Some calls are easy to dismiss and ridicule retroactively, completely divorced from the context in which they were made.

Of course, some mistakes should have been blindingly obvious when they were made in the first place.

Go on, guess which one The Twin Dilemma was.

Hardly a moment of triumph...

Hardly a moment of triumph…

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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: Timelash (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 (and not-so-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.

Timelash originally aired in 1985.

I don’t trust you. You’re being too reasonable.

– Peri’s on to him

Timelash is on the short list of serials broadly agreed to be “the worst Doctor Who stories ever.” Given how prone science-fiction fans are to bickering about absolutely everything, and how impossible it is to find consensus, that’s really saying something. More than that, it ranks with quite a few Colin Baker stories among that list. I can’t help but wonder if part of the problem with Baker’s tenure isn’t a lack of classic episodes (Revelation of the Daleks and Vengeance on Varos surely count), but the batting average skewed by so many truly terrible stories.

Any season containing Timelash would be ridiculed, but it’s hard to imagine that any year of television containing Attack of the Cybermen, Timelash and The Mark of the Rani couldn’t help but raise questions about the show’s future at the BBC.

The face of evil...

The face of evil…

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Doctor Who: The Leisure Hive (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 Leisure Hive originally aired in 1980.

Look what you’ve done.

What have I done?

You’ve got the century wrong, you’ve got the season wrong and you’ve got K9’s sea-water defences wrong.

Well, I can’t get everything right.

Just something would be a help.

– Romana and the Doctor really do seem like an old married couple, don’t they?

The Leisure Hive represented a bold new beginning for the show, as it saw John Nathan-Turner move into the role of producer, very quickly putting his mark on the show with a new theme tune and opening sequence, a stronger emphasis on science-fiction and arguably a very “gimmick-y” approach to the show itself. Nathan-Turner would go on to be the longest-serving – and most controversial – producer of the show, serving in the role until the series’ untimely cancellation in 1989. It really is quite tough to discuss The Leisure Hive without getting side-tracked on to any number of tangents, isn’t it?

Is Baker getting to old for the role?

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Doctor Who: The Bells of St. John (Review)

There’s something in the wifi.

– the Doctor does his best Jaws impression

The Bells of St. John is an intriguing piece of Doctor Who. This is the first time that the show has had to manage a companion swap in the middle of a season. That said, it doesn’t really work to think of the seventh season as a single cohesive entity.

The first five episodes are something of an abridged season, akin to the 2009 season of specials starring David Tennant. They are dedicated to tidying away lingering plot threads from the last two years of the show, and resolving Moffat’s lingering plot threads. The Power of Three and The Angels Take Manhattan are very much about tidying up the Doctor’s lingering connection to Rory and Amy.

In contrast, the second half of the season has a much more celebratory feeling to it, tied together by the over-arching mystery around Clara. While Clara pops up in Asylum of the Daleks, she’s very much a teaser of a mystery to come rather than a character in her own right. Instead, the themes of the season start in The Snowmen, introducing (or reintroducing) the Great Intelligence and Clara, and outlining the mystery of “the twice-dead girl.”

As a result, The Bells of St. John feels very much like a season opener to an unfortunately brief season of celebration.

Maybe that should be "thrice dead"?

Maybe that should be “thrice dead”?

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