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BlipViews: The Minimalist Dr Who Reviews Page

By Tim Harris, prize-winning author of the Doctor Who Magazine Star Letter Issue 514

     Season 10 minimally reviewed here    

    Twitter: @TimHarris

First posted to the internet: Friday 5th August 2011. Last updated: Saturday 1st July 2017.


I have spent many, many happy hours watching Doctor Who stories over and over again and I certainly don't want to spend the same number of hours writing about them, so here it is, small, sparsely worded, vacuous and trivial.

Where stories / episodes don't exist my views are based on soundtracks and more likely the brilliant reconstructions that have been created by dedicated fans. I have attempted, where possible, to spare any kind of effort in cobbling this together and have been careful to avoid the use of any swear words in spite of provocation from The Twin Dilemma, The Two Doctors and The Caretaker.

When I re-watch a story I often update my views in the text below but generally leave in my original scribblings so that it builds up a history of how my views change over time.

For ease, the original series run is numbered Series 1 to 26 and the revived series is numbered Season 1, Season 2, etc.

Scores: 5 is average, 6 to 10 are good to excellent with 1 to 4 more Myrka than Dalek. There's only one story rated 0, the honour for which goes to 2014's The Caretaker.


Bookmarks: (1963-1996) Series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 1996 Movie

(2005 onwards)  Season 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5 Overview, 6, 7The Time Of The Doctor8, 8 Overview, 9, 9 Overview, 10

Also: Torchwood: Miracle Day


My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 1 (1963 to 1964)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 An Unearthly Child A brilliant beginning.

A very mysterious first episode gives way to a  sombre story set in the stone age.  An absolute classic.  This was the very first appearance of the Dr, and is a fantastic start to the series.   It was directed by Warris Hussein who also directed my joint all-time favourite film Melody, starring Mark Lester, Jack Wild and Tracey Hyde.

10
2 The Daleks A surprisingly early re-imagining of the series. A great adventure.

Update Sunday 1st June 2014: I watched this again a few weeks ago and concluded that it's a story of two unequal halves: the first four episodes are excellent and the last 3 meander on and on with the long journey taken to get into the back entrance of the Dalek city. It's beautifully made though and the Daleks are brilliant.

8 (prev 10)
3 The Edge of Destruction

This story makes as much sense even if watched in the wrong order (as per Galaxy Channel's Doctor Who Weekend 1990). Dull as ditchwater.

A 2 part story that feels longer than many with a higher episode count.

Two episodes of pointless arguments and a potential homicidal stabbing incident involving a pair of scissors could have been avoided if only the Tardis had had a decent enough error message system in place at that time to warn that a button on the console had become stuck.

Extract taken from the Doctor's 500-year Diary: "Yes, yes, I really must remember to install an aut, aut, er, hmph, automatic, yes, that's it, automatic error message for avoiding major catastrophes, oh dear dear dear! Dear me, no more poppycock from that scamp Chesterfield about leaving things on the console. Closeted, cloistered fool, hmm, yes, cloistered, yes, that's what I'll call it, the Cloister Bell! Ho ho, Cloister Bell indeed!".

Update Saturday 20th September 2014: Having watched this again today I think my criticism of this is based on the wrong assumption that the arguments / paranoia prevalent throughout are entirely unnecessary in light of the reason, a stuck button upon the Tardis console. It's more that in light of the mystery / strange happenings, it's the revelation that it's a stuck button being the cause that is out of place; it's the wrong reason for such happenings and not that impressive.

What is impressive are Carole Ann Ford's performance when holding the scissors up to both Ian and Barbara, and the Dr's back-to-the-console-with-mood-lighting speech in part 2, both of which are stand-out moments from the series' history.

I also realised (well after most people I suspect!) that this is the first time the Tardis is shown to be more than a mere space / time machine, perhaps a sentient being in its own right. I also had not before picked up the fact that the power source of the Tardis being underneath the central column was established in this story and was referred used to advance the plot to two stories many years later in Boom Town and The Parting of the Ways.

I still take issue with such things as the four main characters all having had some kind of memory loss for what seems no reason and for the Dr and Susan having pains on the back of their necks (similarly unexplained) and have assigned these unexplanations to the appendix titled 'Earlier Examples' to the rapidly growing file titled 'Photo in the Children's Home and Other Unexplained Moffat Mysteries'.

This is a much better story than I had ever given it credit for; it's of interest even if it has a decidedly trivial resolution.

5 (prev 2)
4 Marco Polo First and best story based on real historical events. 10
5 The Keys of Marinus I like the Voords but there's not much of interest here. 5
6 The Aztecs Intelligent and tense. 7
7 The Sensorites Stodgy, wobbly, flabby aliens in story of same description. 4
8 The Reign of Terror Starts off interesting, was bored by the end. 5

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 2 (1964 to 1965)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Planet of Giants A desperately uninteresting scenario.

6th April 2013: I have a lot more respect for this story since recently watching it on DVD. I watched the reconstructed episodes 3 and 4 and I felt this was a better story than I'd originally thought.

6 (prev 3)
2 The Dalek Invasion of Earth A very interesting story that excels on many levels.

The second appearance of the Daleks who appear in another highly intelligent and exciting adventure.  It's very well acted and visually superior to many stories around it.

10
3 The Rescue Oh dear, this is as Timeflight is to Earthshock. 3
4 The Romans Fluffy fun. 7
5 The Web Planet Underrated and grandiose. Intelligent, mostly well acted (aside from one character who has a French accent), mysterious and different. 8
6 The Crusade Yeah, it's not bad. 7
7 The Space Museum Episode 1 is genius, the rest is pure hokum. 5
8 The Chase Why why why why why.

The Daleks go to the trouble of creating a robotic double of the Doctor that doesn't look anything like him and fools nobody but his myopic companions of the time.

3
9 The Time Meddler Dull-ish. 4

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 3 (1965 to 1966)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Galaxy Four Not my cup of tea.

6th April 2013: I watched the reconstruction and Air Lock episode that is on The Aztecs Special Edition DVD today: I enjoyed this albeit it has one of the flimsiest plots to appear in Doctor Who to date. I don't understand why a full reconstruction wasn't completed however, but I enjoyed what there was.

5 (prev 3)
2 Mission to the Unknown Wowser what a good start to an epic. 9
3 The Myth Makers Captivating. 7
4 The Daleks' Masterplan Starts of brilliantly, goes off the rails, rallies at the end. 8
5 The Massacre If you watch EastEnders for anger and arguments, watch this, it's non-stop. It's also non-stop boredom. 2
6 The Ark Great fun, love those Monoids. 7
7 The Celestial Toymaker Over-rated nonsense. 3
8 The Gunfighters Underrated nonsense. 7
9 The Savages S'ok. 5
10 The War Machines Nicely filmed intelligent story with chunky robots; 21 years later and there'd been little improvement in chunky robot design by the time Paradise Towers was broadcast.

6th April 2013: Okay, here's my theory on why The Doctor is called 'Doctor Who' at times in this story...

Known facts are that Torchwood is created in 1879 during Queen Victoria's reign (2006's Tooth and Claw) with at least part of its existence relating to keeping an eye out for The Doctor. Captain Jack Harkness uses a time bracelet to go back in time to find The Doctor after the events of 2005's The Parting of the Ways but ends up earlier in time than he expected. Stuck there, he works for a fledgling Torchwood.

Theory: Whilst working for Torchwood and whilst Torchwood accumulates information on The Doctor, a large project file is created titled 'Doctor Who' as in the very obvious and often-spoken question 'Doctor Who?'. Wotan, a super-intelligent computer, is able to hack into any computer in the world, does so, and is able to retrieve, or cause to be retrieved, secret information on The Doctor. Wotan however reads the project title literally and calls the Doctor 'Doctor Who'. All right, Wotan's not all that intelligent.

It basically doesn't bother me that in this story he is sometimes called 'Doctor Who', I believe it's generally likely that fictional characters / computers in the Doctor's omniverse could easily make that mistake in the absence of all facts.

As to the episodes themselves, the characters of Ben and Polly are excellent and this is a marvellous introductory story for them. I only wish they'd been allowed to stay on longer than The Faceless Ones.

7

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 4 (1966 to 1967)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 The Smugglers Un-engaging, old fashioned type of adventure. 3
2 The Tenth Planet Flimsy Cybermen voices aside, enjoyable.

Update: Sunday 8th November 2015. I finally watched the DVD for the first time and apart from realising that nothing (much) would have altered whether the Dr Ben & Polly had turned up or not I thought it stood up really well. The Cybermen look sinister and even though the voices perhaps don't match the image it is a distinctive voice that reinforces their de-humanisation. The animation for episode 4 was effective and preferable to the type of telepic reconstruction presented with The Underwater Menace.

In terms of story this must, at the time of first (last) broadcast, have seemed a vastly different kind of story to those that had gone before (well, maybe War Machines aside) and for the first time had the whole of Earth truly in peril (well, maybe Dalek Invasion of Earth aside). It's highly intelligent and excellently filmed.

This is a story of firsts: first Cybermen, first regeneration, and it's written by a person who'd never written for the series before; that's incredibly impressive. It's always the boss writer who writes regeneration stories since the series' return in 2005 so this was, back then, even without the then production team perhaps knowing it, a bit of a gamble. It's a triumph.

Long before the 7th Doctor, this Doctor knew in advance what was going to happen at this location at this point in time. He knew of the twin planet, he knew Earth would be visited. He must have known of the Cybermen and of their place in Earth history. Where once the Dr would have walked away (it's Ian who wants to help the Thals in The Daleks) the Doctor is very much intending to be involved and is determined to help. He knows that Mondas will be destroyed yet he tries to warn the Cybermen, to re-write that line of history: what could the Cybermen had been had they listened to the Dr; this is what the Dr is trying to achieve. This is a Doctor who had met Ian and Barbara and been influenced by them; before, the Dr wouldn't have helped, but Ian showed him it was right to do so; before, the Dr wouldn't have interfered with history but Barbara questioned why not as they had the opportunity to do so.

By the time of his regeneration this is a very different Doctor from the one first seen in An Unearthly Child, though where humour had crept into the Dr's character over the three series, in this one the Dr is deadly serious. Even Ben and Polly sense they're in the middle of something more serious than usual, the acting of the characters imply they're only just learning how mysterious the Dr is and it's all done so well.

The regeneration is brilliant and at the same time sad, it's exactly like the Dr is dying and this must have been quite scary for children watching at the time. What exists of the regeneration sequence is quite haunting and is a tremendous farewell to a great First Doctor.

8 (prev 7)
3 The Power of the Daleks One of the best stories ever, with a nicely oppressive atmosphere. 10
4 The Highlanders I struggle with this one. 4
5 The Underwater Menace Good grief !

Update: Sunday 1st November 2015

I like it now, it's got a simple plot sure and the fish people look more psychedelic than fishy but it's got a plot one can follow and it's not all about the companions. Contrast that with more recent Who which is all about the companion and / or the Dr and of gimmicks and this one is ok by that standard.

Plot on a pinhead: Zaroff wants to put Atlantis above the sea once more but his plan could crack the Earth in two. The Dr turns up but likely didn't need to as Zaroff's plan goes wrong anyway. I think.

Joseph Furst is actually good in this I think, save for that line to the that ending of that episode but he plays Zaroff with conviction: thank crikey episode 2 turned up because it gives a better view of his acting. Yes, I like his performance now. It's great to see the episode anyway, and I hope the rest of this one, as well as all the others, turn up.

The DVD itself is good and bad: the episodes are wonderfully restored and sharp, and the extras that were created for the original release some time ago are fine and dandy. The reconstructions of episodes 1 and 4 however are lacklustre in comparison to these, having been constructed quickly and with the instructions not to use anything but the telepics in the order that they were taken. I'm assuming this was so that the long-time-delayed release could be rush-released as a response to growing fan irritation at the lack of release.

It wouldn't have hurt BBC Worldwide to have kept fans in the loop as to what if anything had been planned for this release over the years and it's likely due to lack of news that fan irritation grew. Had Worldwide wanted to take their time and produce a top-knot release they could have said so but silence was golden. So the inference was that there was going to be no release. Hence the fan petition, hence the rush release.

One doubts that Worldwide were going to release this at all, they'd spent money on animators who went bust, they seemed to have no other (cheap?) animators to go to but ruling that the reconstructions should be made with minimum effort to rush release this smacks of sour grapes on their behalf. The fans have had a go at us, we'll give them what they want but we're spending no more time on this.

So it's good to finally get all the currently existing classic episodes on DVD and a disappointment that BBC Worldwide continued to treat this particular release and the fans in a highly dismissive way.

5 (prev 3)
6 The Moonbase Gripping. 8
7 The Macra Terror Excellent idea but seems to last forever. 5
8 The Faceless Ones Too long for such a boring idea (doppelgangers indeed; yeesh, when will that corny idea stop being used?) 2
9 The Evil of the Daleks A surprisingly simple and over-rated story. Episodes 1, 2, 6 and 7 are very good though. 4

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 5 (1967 to 1968)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 The Tomb of the Cybermen Great atmosphere. 7
2 The Abominable Snowmen Jolly good fun. 8
3 The Ice Warriors Yes yes yes. 8
4 The Enemy of the World Nothing about this one grabs me.

13th April 2013: I watched a reconstruction of this story recently: the first episode had little substance but I enjoyed the rest of the story. It's a very different kind of Doctor Who story from any era of the show, it starts off as an ITC adventure serial (with a foreign dictator, guns, blackmail) and little sci-fi, then becomes a bit more sci-fi later on (underground nuclear shelter, futuristic machinery). The main basic plot (evil villain using science to cause earthquakes) is submerged beneath the adventure plot and is highly refreshing. The change of setting to places outside of Britain is also refreshing. Patrick Troughton's Salamander didn't interest me at first but by episode 3 was looking forward to his appearances. This story is simply great fun. It also features Bill Kerr and his performance is immensely rewarding to the viewer. There was some padding though, albeit great fun: episode 3's plot can be summed up as "Down in the kitchens Victoria offers to make cakes but is told to peel the spuds instead".

7 (prev 2)
5 The Web of Fear Superb. 10
6 Fury from the Deep Absolute classic.

Update Sunday 24th August 2014:

Oh no it isn't.

I found this to be a slow-moving incident-light adventure about some gas creature wanting to take over the world without feeling the need to kill anyone when I watched the reconstruction recently.

And after several episodes of Victoria whining away about wanting a different life to the one she had with the Dr and Jamie, I wasn't all that upset when she stayed behind at the end. Had I been the Dr or Jamie I'd have booted her out.

5 (prev 10)
7 The Wheel in Space

So-so.

Update Sunday 24th August 2014:

Oh no it isn't.

I watched the superb Loose Cannon reconstruction recently and it brought back memories of watching this as a kid in the late '60s and I really enjoyed it. There aren't many Cybermen around but the human characters are well cast and well written so that you get to like them all and a nice cosy warm feeling of nostalgia more than raises this from a so-so story to a great one. I'll be watching this one again and again.

Wendy Padbury as Zoe is simply wonderful, I liked her  a lot as a kid and I find that Zoe's still a compelling character now, she's not a scream queen and she has a light, refreshing air about her.

8 (prev 4)

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 6 (1968 to 1969)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 The Dominators One to miss over and over again. 2
2 The Mind Robber Mostly excellent. This is probably the earliest Doctor Who story that I can remember watching as a child.

Update Saturday 20th September 2014:

Oh no it isn't. I go back to The Ice Warriors albeit only with a hazy recollection of watching it. I'd certainly seen Deborah Watling play Victoria the year before.

8
3 The Invasion Oh yes, this is what we want. 10
4 The Krotons Annoyingly wrong in many ways but highly watchable.

Update Saturday 20th September 2014:

The scene with  the Dr taking the intelligence test is among my favourite scenes of all time.

6
5 The Seeds of Death Good stuff. 7
6 The Space Pirates Such a wrong story to do.

Update Saturday 20th September 2014:

I've watched the Loose Canon reconstruction recently and whereas the Target Book adaptation had failed to bring back any memories of watching this as a child, the reconstruction brought it all back. I can remember the ship splitting into compartments and believing that the actors were actually inside one of them.

I liked Lisa Daniely as Madeleine Issigri at the time, sporting the metal headpiece and she is still wonderful now. I would have liked Milo Clancey's character as a kid too but that character simply grates now. A cowboy in space? With pirates in space? Both concepts are corny and contradict the realistic model shots effectively used throughout the story.

The story itself is overlong and overall dull in spite of a good cast.

The three leads are wonderful as ever though, Troughton, Hines and Padbury being a particularly favourite combination of mine. As a kid I'd liked Deborah Watling as Victoria but Wendy Padbury played the better companion, as Zoe Herriot would show herself to be intelligent and not simply scream / whine at the camera.

Even the three leads couldn't ultimately save this one from being dull.

3 (prev 2)
7 The War Games

Epic and wonderful.

10

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 7 (1970)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

  Spearhead from Space Fantastic.

The Autons were the only Dr Who monsters that frightened me as a child.  A fantastic first story for Jon Pertwee's doctor.

Updated 19th April 2014: I watched the Blu-Ray DVD recently and still can't quite take in just how brilliant this story is. It's one of my top three and it is so well made, possibly the best made story ever.

I loved the tribute specials to Jon Pertwee and Caroline John on this DVD, both were professionally made to a level I'd not seen before for Doctor Who DVD extras and along with the simple menu structure of the DVD was the first time I felt that we DVD-buying fans were being treated as adults first, fans second. Magnificent.

10
  The Silurians Highly gripping. Very clever, very adult. 9
  The Ambassadors of Death Another classic. 9
  Inferno This gets better each time I watch it. 8

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 8 (1971)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Terror of the Autons Disappointing though it has its moments.

6th April 2013: I recently watched this on DVD and was unusually disappointed by the picture quality. It hadn't been a great colour release on video back in the '90s and this didn't look much (if any) better. I wish, in hind-sight, that the existing, sharp, black and white version that appeared on UK Gold many years ago had been included with this release. I did enjoy watching the story though.

6
2 The Mind of Evil Likeable if long for what it's about.

Updated 19th April 2014:  I finally saw the colour version recently and this is a very well made story with an intelligent script. It would have worked better as a four-parter, and is likely of a style that would have fitted in well with the previous series but it does hold interest for the most part.

6 (prev 7)
3 The Claws of Axos Dependable time passer. 8
4 Colony in Space Imaginative. 7
5 The Daemons Fondly remembered. 8

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 9 (1972)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Day of the Daleks This, Spearhead From Space and Genesis of the Daleks are my favourites of all time.

This one tops the other two though, I like the fact that the Daleks are kept behind the scenes for a lot of it, I love their slaves the Ogrons and I think the Earth Controller (played by Aubrey Woods) is one of the best characters to ever appear in Dr Who.

10
2 The Curse of Peladon Even power cuts in 1973 couldn't save me from having to watch at least some of this story. I like it more now than I did then, but not much. 4
3 The Sea Devils Another of the real classics of the series. Good monsters and the best story to feature the Master. 10
4 The Mutants I love this one. 9
5 The Time Monster The most boring story of all time.

This was the first story I watched that seemed to outstay it's welcome long after the budget ran out and long after the 100th long and terminally dull lab scene. I would cite Terminus and Ribos Operation as even more boring stories than this but they do everyone the favour of being two episodes shorter than this one.

1

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 10 (1973)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 The Three Doctors Entertaining and loveable. A jolly romp with good monsters (Gell Guards), a good villain (Omega) and a lot of humour. 9
2 Carnival of Monsters A story that's grown on me a lot since I saw it first in 1973. 8 (prev 7)
3 Frontier in Space Not as dull as some people would have it. 7
4 Planet of the Daleks A nice romp. 7
5 The Green Death One of the strongest stories of the entire series from '63 onwards. One to appeal to minors and miners alike. Contains very memorable giant maggots and is the last story to feature my favourite companion Jo Grant (played by Katy Manning).

Updated 19th April 2014: The first 3 episodes are excellent, the 4th part has the Doctor dressed as a cleaning woman and is not so excellent, and parts 5 & 6 have too much Boss, too little maggots. It's still one of the best though. You get the sense of Jo growing up and growing away from the Doctor. In retrospect I wish Professor Jones had been introduced in an earlier story then got hitched to Jo in this one. It's still very well done though, you get a sense that Jo will be leaving right from the beginning, it's as important a plot point as the one with the maggots. Jo has very few scenes with the Doctor throughout the story and this helps to set the scene for her departure. The time and intelligence taken in this story to set up Jo's leaving is a complete contrast to the tacked on leaving scenes for Sarah Jane Smith, Leela and Mel for instance. Jo's leaving story remains the best of the leaving stories.

10

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 11 (1974)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 The Time Warrior The character of Linx set such a high standard as a Sontaran that successive production teams have always failed in utilising Sontarans that match him in any way, not even The Sontaran Experiment (and it's the same actor). More importantly, it always seems that they try to steer so far away from this blueprint that you'd think they've never seen this story (and they blooming well should do).

6th April 2013: Ha! Nice to be proven wrong. Strax who appears as of A Good Man Goes To War is simply brilliant too.

9
2 Invasion of the Dinosaurs The special effects always seem to get bad press but they're good enough for me as the actual plot is brilliant. One of my all-time favourite scenes appears in this story: The Brigadier standing up to General Finch in episode 6 and ordering Benton to shoot anyone who stops him is simply awesome. It's brilliant in that it's the only time? that the Brigadier steps outside of his fairly rigid adherence to command chain and duty. 9
3 Death to the Daleks Loved this on transmission and struggle with it now.

10th June 2012: How wrong..?! It's extremely brilliant! The Doctor having an alliance with the Daleks? Incredible! New weapons? Excellent! Encore! Encore!

8 (prev 5)
4 The Monster of Peladon Found this dull on transmission until the Ice Warriors turned up. I like it a lot now. 8
5 Planet of the Spiders Incredibly strong story. The last Jon Pertwee story, this features giant spiders and is fantastic. 10

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 12 (1974 to 1975)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Robot Loved it then, love it now. Tom Baker's first story, amusing and with great pathos. 10
2 The Ark in Space Strong stuff. Space creatures use humans as host bodies. Great stuff. 9
3 The Sontaran Experiment It's a nice try, but for a clone army the Sontarans are yet again under-represented. The Time Warrior had a valid reason for that, whilst this one makes no sense. Still watchable though. 6
4 Genesis of the Daleks First story to feature Davros, probably my third favourite Dr Who story of all time. This story needs no other words from me, I shall clam up now. 10
5 Revenge of the Cybermen Oh dear, this is as The Rescue is to The Dalek Invasion of Earth. 5

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 13 (1975 to 1976)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Terror of the Zygons Great monsters, great story, well acted.

One of the best-designed set of aliens ever, why have we never seen them since??? Except for that BBV film with the nudity (and then only for a few seconds, unlike the nudity of which there's plenty).

6th April 2013: They did get a small return (not in their real form though) in 2012's The Power of Three and I loved the fact it happened.

Update Saturday 20th September 2014: The also returned in 2013's Day of the Doctor but were submerged beneath a load of tosh so as to have been side-lined.

9
2 Planet of Evil I dis-liked this one for many years but grew to like it enough not to mind when the same basic plot turned up years later in the episode "42". 8
3 Pyramids of Mars This one never seems as good as how I thought of it when watching it on transmission. Still, it's ok. 7
4 The Android Invasion Not a strong entry in the series. 3
5 The Brain of Morbius Dis-liked this for years but now appreciate it for the moody story it is. 8
6 The Seeds of Doom I don't get why people like this one so much.

Updated 19th April 2014: I watched this for the third time only recently and much as I still detest Tom Baker's unwarranted grouchy / rude performance in this particular story it is a tour de force for Tony Beckley and John Challis as Harrison Chase and Scorby.

The story seems more of an Emma-Peel-starring fantasy episode of The Avengers than Doctor Who but has some charm. Compared to Terror of the Zygons which began this particular series it is a complete let-down. 6 episodes on a story about a vicious plant? One that's supposed to be a big threat to Earth but which simply gets blown up towards the end of part 6? Not great.

Tony Beckley and John Challis play characters that are so well written though. They don't play a traditional / typical combination of boss and henchman, both have their own intelligence and are more like business partners. What is great is that John Challis' character Scorby holds the reins in the first two episodes, making decisions independent from Beckley's Harrison Chase and remains an intelligent character once back in England. Harrison Chase is in the background of the first two episodes and becomes prominent from the third episode. It's very well written. Scorby is the thinking henchman and he is an enormous change from the norm.

So, a silly story with a non-too-threatening plant but made up for by Chase and Scorby.

Tom Baker's portrayal of the Doctor is a million miles away from the character he plays in the rest of this series and is barely recognisable as the same character from the previous series. He is so unlikeable in this story that one has far more empathy towards characters like Scorby: it is the Doctor one hopes will get wiped out by the Krynoid. Had the Krynoid been a serious threat to Earth then perhaps the Doctor would have had reason to be a bit cranky, but the Krynoid is of absolutely no threat to Earth at all and Baker's performance is simply horrible. The charm in this story belongs to Harrison Chase. I imagine it will be some time before I watch this one again! It is purely because of Baker's performance that I don't like this story, hence the low esteem (and marks out of ten) that I hold for it.

4

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 14 (1976 to 1977)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Masque of Mandragora Trivial. 4
2 The Hand of Fear Lightweight. 4
3 The Deadly Assassin My feelings ebb and flow on this one. I think, overall, that it still sucks as a portrait of the Doctor's planet but had it been set on any other planet I would appreciate the story more. 5
4 The Face of Evil Immensely underrated.

Update: 6th February 2016

It still is.

I watched this again recently and the core story is intelligent even if we're faced with a regressed civilisation VS advanced civilisation-type plot. This was a story that upon first viewing I disliked very much, featuring natives, invisible monsters, artificial jungle set and Leela. I didn't warm to Leela until she left the series, and in fact it was many years later that I realised just how good Louise Jameson was in the role. I generally had a downer on the series by the time Elisabeth Sladen left anyway so no matter who took over I'd have found difficulty warming to. After Pyramids of Mars I didn't like any stories on first viewing until The Robots of Death, and after that one it was The Sunmakers followed by The Leisure Hive. Yes I'd carried on watching but I didn't enjoy much of what I saw. The Horns of Nimon almost saw me give up altogether but The Leisure Hive brought me right back.

I'm saying this to put everything into perspective, because time brings new perspective and over the years I've warmed to the stories I disliked back then, and I've warmed to Louise Jameson & Mary Tamm very much over that same time. I liked Lalla Ward from the second she appeared as Romana even if I didn't like her first five adventures when I first saw them but I judged Louise and Mary poorly back on first viewing, and the fact they only made 15 stories between them is in retrospect very sad. Louise is simply brilliant and just as I underrated The Face of Evil back then, so I underrated Louise, and following her, Mary.

I really like the Leela stories, some of them are near classics, at least one is a classic, and I find them all very entertaining. Season 15 in particular started to appeal to me back in the '80s when I read Target Books' adaptations of those stories and once I saw grainy black and white copies obtained via the Fan circuit grew to admire them. The Leela era as a whole is underrated but for me is as good as the best of other eras. I would never have said that back in the '70s.

Louise Jameson's Leela has become one of my very favourite companions over time, her acting is so believable and her emotions are played with conviction. Such it is with this story which gets better and better each time I see it.

First time around all I could see was a predictable corny Shaman of a village having undue influence over his fellow natives but this story is far more clever than that. The basic plot that the tribe are descendants of a crashed spaceship with words, phrases and names that have been altered throughout the years is just clever.

The idea of the Dr fixing a computer but which in fact turns it insane is another clever idea. If this were made today just think of the angst the Dr would go through in knowing he'd created a monster; it's underplayed here, perhaps as if the Dr doesn't really want those around him to fully appreciate what his own previous involvement has wrought, even if they are pursuing him as 'The Evil One'. Or he's too afraid to face up to it himself. Either way he comes up against a very dangerous enemy because half that enemy is himself. The use of Tom Baker's face as Xoanon along with the various voices make this a very chilling enemy indeed (the end of Part 3 is suitably fantastic) and one I now wish would return. A tormented Computer playing havoc with civilisations is a very scary concept.

So when did the Dr first meet Xoanon? I can remember that people used to say it was set at at time near the 4th Dr's first appearance, that, soon after regenerating from Pertwee's Dr and before going off with Sarah and Harry to The Ark In Space, that Tombo had gone off in the Tardis all disorientated and made a right old mess of it with Xoanon before popping back to the Tardis for the rest of the adventure with the Robot. This because the Dr is with Sarah & Harry much of the time after that. Having now watched 1000s of years of the Dr's lives slip away throughout the Moffat area another theory is possible. It could be that he first meets Xoanon after The Deadly Assassin and prior to The Face of Evil. Who knows how much time slipped away between those two stories that we were not party to? Another theory is that whilst Sarah, or Sarah & Harry were asleep in the Tardis between adventures, a nocturnal Dr slipped away to have adventures on his own. Not interested? Ok let's move on.

Invisible monsters, or monsters that appeared in outline only such as those that appeared in Planet of Evil and Face of Evil used to make me groan at the cheapness of them. I thought it was a cheap device to use in place of more expensive rubber monsters. Now I like them because they're rarely used, they're imaginatively used and they do make a change from rubber monsters. Also, the ones here that look like a Zardoz-ian head with Tom Baker as the template actually work well, it's a clever device.

The jungle works for me now too. Yes it's not the most realistic but it's the story that counts and the jungle is only scenery for a mighty fine story.

8
5 The Robots of Death Fabulous. Atmospheric, chilling story of murderous robots. 10
6 The Talons of Weng-Chiang Good atmosphere. 8

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 15 (1977 to 1978)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Horror of Fang Rock This gets better on repeated viewings. 8
2 The Invisible Enemy I like it a lot.

Updated Sunday 24th August 2014:

I still like it a lot.

When it was first broadcast I didn't hold a lot of love for it, I only noticed the prawn and the bushy eyebrows, but every time I've watched it since then I've noticed the plot and it is a mighty fine one: small creature controls humans into assisting it to grow to big proportions to take over the universe. Great stuff. Watching this again recently I was hooked on what is actually an ambitious story.

Louise Jameson as Leela is wonderful too, I'd not been to keen to see her take over from Elisabeth Sladen at the time but she is a brilliant character thanks to the sublime performance from Louise.

8
3 Image of the Fendahl Very strong and highly watchable story.

Update Saturday 20th September 2014:

Still highly watchable but perhaps not quite as strong as I'd remembered it.

When first watching this back in 1978 I had found this to be dull, with unexciting cliffhangers for the first two episodes. The idea of a skull being a threat didn't interest me and it all seem hokum to me at the time.

This is a story that then grew on me, firstly when I read the Target Books adaptation then as I got to watch it again in the late '80s. It maintains a good and sinister atmosphere throughout the four episodes even if we're denied a viewing of a Fendhaleen even when characters are killed off early on.

The cast is well chosen and although Denis Lill's accent as Fendelman comes across as hammy, Daphne Heard and Geoffrey Hinsliff's accents as Martha and Jack are particularly well done and these are two of my favourite characters to have appeared in the series.

Louise Jameson's Leela had not appealed to me in the '70s as a) she wasn't Sarah and b) she never would be but as with all good things, many years have passed and now I wish she'd stayed in the series longer as Louise's performance is so subtle and strong that Leela is entirely endearing. Although Leela may not have too much to do in this story Louise nevertheless puts in an incredible performance, the way she looks at the people she speaks too is amazing. Leela only appears in 9 stories but she's right up there as one of the best ever companions for me.

Upon first transmission I wasn't as fond of series 13 to 17 as I had been of series 6 to 12 but over the years series 15 has become a stand-out series to me, even with the incalculably weak Underworld.

7 (prev 9)
4 The Sunmakers Yes, very good. A witty, satirical take on tax collection. 8
5 Underworld I watched this a week ago (at the time of writing) and yet again, as always, I struggle to remember much about it. When I first saw the Target book based on this story I thought it must be the first of a new series of adventures written purely for the books. The good side to this is that it always feels like I'm watching a newly-unearthed Tom Baker story each time I watch it.

6th April 2013: Two years or so on from when I last watched it, I can remember slightly more of what happens in it so have decided to sit on the fence and give it a score of 5.

5

(Previously I found this hard to rate)

6 The Invasion of Time The Vardans are dreadful, the Sontarans are disappointing. There's so much to dislike in this story but I like it anyway. 7

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 16 (1978 to 1979)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 The Ribos Operation This is just about a jewel robbery isn't it? I am right aren't I? Just a jewel robbery?

A jewel robbery doesn't seem an inspiring choice of story to start an epic Key To Time series. Very dull. Third most boring story of all time.

2
2 The Pirate Planet This one seems very silly now. 5
3 The Stones of Blood Best of this particular series but that's not saying a lot. 7
4 The Androids of Tara Excellently cast, sumptuously designed, boring as heck. 3
5 The Power of Kroll Gotta admit this one is growing on me. 5
6 The Armageddon Factor I don't get why the fake war is going on but It's all naff anyway. 3

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 17 (1979 to 1980)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Destiny of the Daleks Such a disappointment even after all these years.

Sunday 30th April 2017: I watched this again fairly recently and have to remind myself that I watch this one more than a lot of 'em so there's something about it I must like. There are certain sequences that are well filmed. It's perhaps that it's a simple story in contrast to Genesis that has always made it seem pale by comparison. However, I think it's a good time-passer.

6 (prev 5 & 4)
2 City of Death Nicely crafted and a breath of fresh air. A very clever, humorous tale with a realistic villain. 7 (prev 3)
3 The Creature from the Pit Hated this one back in 1979 (and for many years afterwards) but I have gained a lot more respect for it since watching it on DVD. Once upon a time I would have given this story a score of 2 out of 10, but now... 7 (prev 2)
4 Nightmare of Eden An interesting idea or two cannot mask the rubbish creature costumes or the very silly script. This one annoys me for having wasted its potential. 3 (prev 2)
5 The Horns of Nimon This one, on top of the previous stories of series 16 and 17 almost killed my interest in watching Doctor Who at the time. It was especially gutting that this was the last story to be broadcast in this series. However, I have since grown to despise it less. Once upon a time I would have given this a score of zero out of 10, but now... 2 (prev 1)
6 Shada An uncompleted classic or a complete bore? A complete bore. 4

Series 17 Overview

This was the series that almost finished off my interest in Tom Baker and Doctor Who. I quite liked episode 1 of Destiny.. and the ending to part 1, whilst exasperated at the Daleks for ordering Romana to stay still time and time again, was a highly memorable one. Part 2 had a similarly memorable one when Davros' alarm clock went off at exactly the time our heroes got close to him. The story itself was simply dull though and the Daleks looked terrible. At the time (and even now) it was hard not to compare it with the previous Dalek story Genesis of the Daleks and it compared badly. This was a story of little substance, of naff Movellan robots and poor plotting. I disliked it greatly.

City of Death did not do a lot for me back then either, it was a dull affair set in Paris about a human-looking villain, paintings and comedy policeman and was of little interest. Worse was to come as The Creature from the Pit really was the pits and I used to refer to it as The Creature is the Pits for many years afterwards. The wolf weeds were the least of its problems, and yet more human-looking villains bored me very much. Nightmare of Eden continued a trend for silliness in the series and the Mandrells, reported in the press at the time as being scary, failed to be either scary or remotely interesting. The silly accent sported by the main villain helped to put me right off this one.

Then came the story that almost put the icing on the cake, The Horns of Nimon. I literally found this one hard to watch at all, it was an appallingly cheap, silly, ridiculous story and I was further astounded when the BBC announcer said it was the last in the series. Where was the 6 part story that usually ended recent series? To say I dis-liked this story is a reasonable understatement and I likely would have given it 1 out of 10 at that time (surely no story deserves a zero...?). Shortly after that episode ended I said to myself that if the series came back as bad as ...Nimon I would not carry on watching it. That's the closest I've ever come to stop watching the series.

My scores for the stories at that time were, according to my falling-apart records, 4, 3, 2, 2, 1, giving an average score of 2.4 out of 10 for the series. It was easily my least favourite series and had followed another poor series, The Key to Time adventures of series 16. Tom's portrayal of the Dr bored me by this time too, he seemed to be playing a completely different Dr to the one that had arrived in Robot. The changing of companions every series or so also added to my dis-appreciation of the series at that time.

I've warmed to most of the stories since though, Destiny... is fairly entertaining and I've now watched it many times, as is City of Death which is a fun romp. Creature... turns out to have an intelligent idea at the back of it and the humour doesn't grate on me now. The human villains are also interesting now. Nightmare... still doesn't do a lot for me but I quite like the idea at the back of it and also for ...Nimon too. I learnt about Shada from Doctor Who Magazine and eventually got to see a fan-produced edit of the existing footage. The footage looked well filmed and the basic idea was very good but it still came over as a bit...dull. The eventual BBC edit with Tom Baker providing linking explanations proved similarly dull but at least that missing 6-part story was represented.

It's still a bad series overall though, much as I prefer it to series 16 these days, and thankfully along came series 18 where it all changed for the better. Less silly humour, Tom was back on form and the stories were more interesting.


My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 18 (1980 to 1981)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 The Leisure Hive Re-birth of a series! 8
2 Meglos The whole 'Doctor-Versus-Giant Prawn' escapade of The Invisible Enemy and 'Doctor-Versus-Giant Squid' escapade of The Power Of Kroll are put into perspective when compared to this story's 'Doctor-Versus-Cactus' plot.

Doppelganger time in the Tardis. Hated it back then, quite like it now.

7
3 Full Circle Similar idea to The Mutants? Very enjoyable whether 'tis or 'tis not. 7
4 State of Decay Found this corny at the time, but s'ok now. 7
5 Warriors Gate Couldn't believe how intelligent the series had become. Highly watchable. 8
6 The Keeper of Traken Simply brilliant. Absorbing and exciting. 10
7 Logopolis Intelligently brilliant. 10

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 19 (1982)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Castrovalva Not a strong plot. 6
2 Four to Doomsday Watchable but not one I'd want to watch very often. 5
3 Kinda One of the all-time greats, it is hard not to over praise this one. Then again, what about that snake? 10
4 The Visitation An all-round enjoyable experience. Good sets, good cast, good story. 10 (prev 8)
5 Black Orchid Unique. 8
6 Earthshock Brimming with atmosphere from the first second. Full of menace and pace. 10
7 Timeflight Oh dear, this is as Revenge of the Cybermen is to Genesis of the Daleks. The first two episodes are quite good though, the next two are simply dreadful.

An interesting, but heavily disguised Eastern-style sorcerer Kalid is revealed to be the predictably-dressed, predictably-giggling Ainley Master, the purpose of which is never explained and which renders that purpose about as useful as a Plasmaton.

3

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 20 (1983)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Arc of Infinity A failure on many counts. 2
2 Snakedance This takes a while to get going but it's ok. 7
3 Mawdryn Undead There's good and bad amongst this. 6
4 Terminus The second most boring story of all time. 1
5 Enlightenment Didn't like this for many years. It's now raised up to 'average' in my mind now. 5
6 The King's Demons I like this but wish it had been a four-parter. Yes, I know I'm alone in that.

Sunday 30th April 2017: No, two episodes is fine.

5 (prev 7)
7 The Five Doctors A brilliant though simple plot and it all gels together right up until Rassilon appears. Very enjoyable overall. 9 (prev 8)

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 21 (1984)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Warriors of the Deep

Having apparently met the Myrka before (no he didn't), the Doctor fails to explain to the Sea Base crew that the best way to survive it would be to walk away from it at a steady pace (no need to run) and that in no way should they go right up to it and poke it with a gun as this would ensure their death by electrocution.

The Myrka probably just beats the tall, bald, skinny rubber chicken that appeared in Arc Of Infinity as worst Doctor Who monster ever.

I'm fairly sure the Doctor Who series Bible doesn't say "When all else fails, get a character to kick-box a pantomime horse in order to achieve a great death scene". This death just pips Kylie Minogue's 'Death By Falling From Fork Lift Truck' (as seen in Voyage Of The Damned) as silliest death in Doctor Who ever.

Having previously told Jo Grant that the Silurians should have really been called Eocene's, the Silurians make the mistake of calling themselves exactly that: didn't they read their history / science books? Likewise, the Sea Devils obviously liked being referred to as Sea Devils in their previous encounter with the Doctor and adopted the name.

Having forgotten that the third eye in their head was useful previously for killing (and opening doors), the Silurians now boringly use the 'third eye' in Dalek copyright-breaching use for showing which one is talking at any one time.

This batch of Sea Devils, having woken up from millions of years in suspended animation, don't bat an unlikely eyelid when, within minutes of awakening, they are expected to wipe out the latest dominant species of Earth: I'm fairly sure if I woke up to this news I'd be saying "Whoah there little guy, back up a little, what's this about a new dominant species? Who are they good buddy? And when's lunch? I'm starving like a new born baby Myrka! Union regs and all that...".  Sea Devil Warriors: now who were they meant to have appeared as warriors to all those millions of years ago anyway?

Loathed this for years but I'm grateful to 2010's Silurian story to finally establish that there are different colonies of those creatures: I'm therefore happy to accept that Warriors is a sequel to an un-transmitted story rather than a sequel to The Silurians / The Sea Devils. It's still pants though.

4
2 The Awakening A cracking adventure that packs a lot into such a short time. 8
3 Frontios Seemed good at the time, have struggled to watch it again ever since.

6th April 2013: I watched Frontios recently and I thought it had a strong plot, excellent characters and impressive effects / locations.

8

(prev 4)

4 Resurrection of the Daleks There's no overall defining plot in this one so although it's directed / acted very well, it always comes across as a mess to me.

Sunday 30th April 2017: I think it's the 'send duplicates to Skaro and let's leave the Dr alone so he can escape' bits that weakens this. Plus Stein is miss-cast, I can't get away from that. However, the atmosphere and general plot is pretty good.

6 (prev 5)
5 Planet of Fire Lots of scenes where nothing happens. 4
6 The Caves of Androzani Wildly inventive. Davison's last story, and very gritty it is too.

Update Sunday 1st June 2014: I watched this for the first time since 2001 a couple of weeks ago and this remains a completely brilliant story. The cast is almost universally flawless and Sharaz Jek is one of the most interesting characters to appear in Doctor Who.

10
7 The Twin Dilemma You have got to be joking; wake me up, I'm dreaming.

You can't help thinking that, whilst previous story Caves Of Androzani had a lot of grit, the only grit this camp story could hope for would likely be found at the bottom of the birdcage the bird-like Jocondans probably inhabit.

1

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 22 (1985)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Attack of the Cybermen Similar to Resurrection of the Daleks in that many plots collide into one such that it's a right old mess. 4
2 Vengeance on Varos Sil is brilliant in concept, design and acting. One of the best cliff-hangers ever too. I still don't go entirely overboard on this one though. 7
3 The Mark of the Rani Ghastly. 3
4 The Two Doctors

Having successfully re-created his role of the 2nd Doctor in The Five Doctors, the production team immediately felt it would be great to get Patrick Troughton back for a story in which he would have rice crispies stuck to his face, bushy eyebrows, a silly hair do, the chance to camp it up and the chance to play at least two different characters from the one the audience expected him to actually play i.e. the Doctor. His Doctor is sadly missing from this story.

The setting of the story is crucial to the cast / production team enjoying a week or two in the Spanish sun but it in no way enhances the story. 

Far from the days when a Sontaran taking his helmet off could make kids run for cover behind the sofa, the director for this story concluded that a long shot of a Sontaran ambling along in the sun would have the same effect, which it didn't. 

Instead of the usual 'Doctor-Meets-Doctor-For-A-Fun-Adventure' story, we get a visually gory, rat-eating, blood licking, cannibalistic themed horror story with a nasty stabbing murder that somebody forgot was going to be shown at tea-time on a Saturday. 

In the same way that blood / violence / gore is gratuitously laced throughout the story, the shot of Nicola Bryant in a bikini top is gratuitously wasted by use of a long shot.

15th April 2013: Despite quite remarkable competition from The Twin Dilemma, Time and the Rani and Fear Her, this remains my least favourite story of all time. It may not be the most boring story of all time (see The Time Monster, The Ribos Operation and Terminus for this - or rather, don't) but the poor direction alone suggests that this is wrongly handled, alongside the dreadful plot and questionable homicidal motives of the characters. The treatment of the 2nd Doctor (with the continuity-crushing mention of Timelords to Jamie being only the smallest example, the furry eye-brow sporting glutton being the worst) help make this an excruciating viewing experience. Simply awful. I've still watched it more times than Father's Day though.

Update Saturday 27th September 2014: It's taken 29 long years but, jiminy crickets, there's finally a worse story than this one. Plaudits go to 2014's The Caretaker for the high calibre of terrible-ness that managed to out-aghast even this one.

0.5
5 Timelash

I never knew that the sight of tinsel could induce such fear in fictitious TV characters. 

Continually running up and down the same corridor easily explains the fact that none of the unhappy populace ever found or attempted to storm the Borad's lair until the arrival of the Doctor and Peri. 

Like everyone would, the disfigured Borad fakes the image of an old man for the frightened populace and has a clone of his real disfigured form in reserve in case one is needed to be killed as a sacrifice, to bluff the enemy before ending up as the Loch Ness Monster, it happens everyday. 

As per Caves Of Androzani, Timelash has a disfigured bad guy lusting after Peri: get to know her first chaps, the whiney voice and whingeing'll soon change your minds about her. Haven't you suffered enough as it is??

Possibly getting his own back, Paul Darrow out camps Colin Baker in much the same way that Colin Baker out camped Paul Darrow when he appeared in Blakes 7. Fair's fair. 

I like this story by the way, I find this light and pleasant viewing.

7
6 Revelation of the Daleks This one really didn't need to have the Doctor in it at all with the way it's written. It is a fantastic story though, even if the white Daleks look (and sound) cheap and nasty.

Although the Daleks look terrible, this is a clever story.

Update Saturday 20th September 2014: Not as terrible as the Daleks that started appearing as of 2010's Victory of the Daleks.

10

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 23 (1986)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 The Trial of a Timelord

The Mysterious Planet

Awful. Mostly. But at least the Doctor and Peri don't seem to be arguing much now. 2
2 The Trial of a Timelord

Mindwarp

This one gets better on repeated viewing. The last part is especially effective. 8
3 The Trial of a Timelord

Terror of the Vervoids

Good bits, boring bits, just like a salad. 5
4 The Trial of a Timelord

The Ultimate Foe

Nicely made but nonsensical.

Nicola Bryant's Peri and Brian Blessed's Yrcanos getting married?! Never! It's impossible to believe, even when you take into consideration that this only happened due to JNT's decision to give everything in 'Trial' a 'happy ending', that anybody so over the top, bolshy, loud and overbearing would end up with Brian Blessed's Yrcanos.

3

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 24 (1987)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Time and the Rani

Having evaded the Rani's exploding man-traps to reach the Pleasure Dome, the Lakertians' Pleasure Dome is invaded by Tetraps armed with guns who threaten the Lakertians with death by killer insects if they refuse to wear ankle chains that will kill them if they ever disobey. Eh? How many ways to kill a Lakertian? Many. There are almost more ways to kill a Lakertian than the number of Lakertians there are left to kill. 

Bonnie Langford's character Mel screams her way through the story in exactly the same way I scream my way through the scenes where Kate O'Mara impersonates Bonnie Langford. 

We get to see Sylvester McCoy's rendition of the rare art of playing the spoons and not only do we get the chance to see this in part one, we get the chance to see it again in part two. You can have too much of a good thing you know, but seeing too much of a bad thing is just rubbing it in. The reason it's a rare art is because people don't want to see it, let alone see it twice. 

In terms of deaths the score equals Tetraps 1, Lakertians loads. This explains why nearly all the bad guys survive / escape at the end of the story, probably optimistically (but unrealistically) looking forward to a return appearance.

Puts The Twin Dilemma into some kind of perspective. On second thoughts, they're as bad as each other.

Update Saturday 6th September 2014:

The story does contain one of my favourite moments in Who history though, and for that reason alone puts it above The Twin Dilemma for me. That moment is when Sylvester's underrated Doctor performs a Charlie Chaplin hat-holding impression when running from a room. I simply enjoy that moment very much.

Sylvester makes an instant highly likeable impression in this story even if I don't enjoy the story too much and I was immensely pleased with his characterisation of the Doctor from first viewing. He impressed me from the start and I remain warmly fond of his Doctor to this day.

2 (prev 1)
2 Paradise Towers Such a good idea and it almost works. Description of Mel: computer genius obsessed with locating swimming pools. 7 (prev 6)
3 Delta and the Bannermen Highly likeable. 8
4 Dragonfire The scene where the alien baby snaps at the Doctor remains my favourite funny moment in Doctor Who. I like this story, though the crassness of the 'cliff-hanger' ending to part 1 is simply embarrassing to watch. 8 (prev 7)

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 25 (1988)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Remembrance of the Daleks I've watched this more times than most: it's brilliant.

The Daleks have never looked or sounded worse than in this story but the story itself is highly enjoyable.

Update Saturday 20th September 2014: Not as terrible as the Daleks that started appearing as of 2010's Victory of the Daleks.

10
2 The Happiness Patrol I may be in the minority but this is great stuff and I only wish the story had been longer (6 parts or more).

At the time this was a story that probably embarrassed a lot of Dr Who fans as it featured a villain who looked like Bertie Bassett - it was hardly the kind of story you'd want to try and convince somebody who didn't already watch it to watch it.  Over the years though I have warmed to it very much, and now regret that the Kandyman didn't appear in it more and that it wasn't a 6 part story.   It's a very stylised, clever parody of politics gone mad, and is entirely unique.   Despite it's candy coloured style, it is a very intelligent story.

9
3 Silver Nemesis I detested this for years then warmed to the thought that it was so bad it was great. I could watch this every day and gain something new from it. Highly enjoyable for all the wrong reasons. It's must-watch TV.

The Cybermen's plan to destroy gold-strewn Voga in Revenge Of The Cybermen as a matter of self-preservation seems a little pointless when they have little defence against gold coins catapulted at them by a teenager from Perivale. 

In no way should anybody concerned with the production be embarrassed by the use of a poor Queen impersonation before being embarrassed at the duplication of the same plot as Remembrance Of The Daleks from the same series. 

As the Cybermen wander unnoticed around the countryside after having slaughtered a bunch of policemen, you can't help wondering if their cricket-gloved hands will be practical for handling the bow and arrow they're so keen to find. 

A witch from the 17th Century has no trouble in getting to the 20th Century but feels the need for a lift in a car once she's there. Like the Cybermen, Lady Peinforte also feels the need to wander around the countryside and encounters two thugs who, to be fair, don't look out of place hanging upside down from the tree they'd taken their acting lessons from. Gripping stuff indeed. 

Cybermen phrases such as "You will be deleted / upgraded!" and "You will become like us!" convey menace in the same way as "Give me the bow!" doesn't. 

The story was made to *celebrate* 25 years of Dr Who, *snigger*, and is all the more (unintentionally) funnier for it. Don't get me wrong, I get a lot of enjoyment out of this one, I've watched it many times. The extended version which is sadly not available on DVD simply extends the enjoyment.

I like this for all the wrong reasons, in much the same way that the story was scripted and filmed in  the wrong way.  Cybermen wandering throughout the country (sporting cricket gloves) without so much as a by your leave, Cybermen who seek a bow and arrow and have 'menacing' dialogue such as 'Give me the bow', Cybermen who die after being hit by gold coins catapulted at their chest, a witch who gets in bother with two feeble thugs, a Queen impersonator (complete with Corgis), a radio that can pick up signals/pictures from space and the same basic plot as Remembrance Of The Daleks, a story from the same series!  This, for me, is the Dr Who equivalent of infamous film legend Plan 9 From Outer Space, a misshapen mess of a fiasco, almost as if the entire production team had been replaced by Ed Wood.

9
4 The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

Some very good moments but there's a lot of bad stuff too.

6

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Series 26 (1989)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Battlefield The extended DVD release shows this in a better light: it works better as one than in four parts. 8
2 Ghostlight Very clever. 9
3 The Curse of Fenric Cracking.

An enjoyable romp despite the obvious rubber-made fingernails of the Haemovores.  The story has faults but is clever enough to be fast paced enough so you don't notice & question the plot holes.

9
4 Survival

Ainley's Master puts his ambitions of would-be universal dictator (as in Logopolis) on hold to referee a motorbike competition in Survival

Nobody in the production team seemed to notice that Will Barton cannot act, in the same way that nobody realised that an animatronic toy-looking black cat probably couldn't menace a toy mouse let alone the audience. 

The appearance of Hale and Pace in a cameo role was very welcome as it was exactly that, a cameo. 

For some reason the playground scenes looked as if filmed by amateurs; hmm, perhaps it is a little unfair to say that as most scenes in this one looked as if filmed by amateurs. 

I enjoyed the end speech of McCoy's though: however, there's a lot to suffer before that gets heard.

The end narration is the sole reason for watching, a melancholy ending. Overall I really don't like this story though.

3
       
  Dimensions in Time Well I enjoyed it! 7

My Minimalist Review of the 1996 'Doctor Who' American TV Movie

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

  Doctor Who (USA TV Movie) (The Enemy Within)

A great Doctor in a load of hokum.

4

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Season 1 (2005)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Rose Brilliant! Apart from the bin. 9
2 The End of the World Not fussed about this one, it's not great. 4
3 The Unquiet Dead Atmospheric, and full of great performances. 8
4 Aliens of London Better on repeated viewing. 7
5 World War Three Good stuff. 7
6 Dalek Right up there with the best of them. Seen this loadsa times.

This builds up nicely to the revelation that the captured alien is actually a Dalek. The Dalek dialogue is excellent, Eccleston's Doctor shows fear, and Billie Piper's Rose shows sympathy. The most intelligent Dalek story to date and the voice provided by Nick Briggs is brilliant. The Dalek itself looks excellent.

10
7 The Long Game Trivial fluff. Pointless Adam plot. 4
8 Father's Day First time I watched Doctor Who and thought 'This ain't Doctor Who'. Good performances though. 5
9 The Empty Child A great story full of imagination. Didn't like Captain Jack (ass) at the time though. 9
10 The Doctor Dances A happy ending that was a bit too treacly to take. 7
11 Boom Town Another one I struggled with at the time though it's ok I guess. 5
12 Bad Wolf Seems a lot of effort just to kidnap humans but what the heck. 7
13 The Parting of the Ways Good regeneration, good CGI, not much else. 7
  Children In Need Scene Minimalist. (5)
14 The Christmas Invasion Very good fun. 10

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Season 2 (2006)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 New Earth Never found this one very interesting. 4
2 Tooth and Claw Has some atmosphere and is better on second viewing. 6
3 School Reunion Sarah and K9 back, fantastic. 8
4 The Girl in the Fireplace Took me a while to warm to this one. 7
5 Rise of the Cybermen Utterly compelling. 10
6 The Age of Steel The best one since the series' return in 2005.

A very adult story with real tension throughout. The revelation that Jackie Tyler has been turned into a Cyberman is astonishing for a family show. This remains, so far, the best story since the series returned in 2005.

10
7 The Idiot's Lantern Maureen Lipman aside this is just naff. 4
8 The Impossible Planet Dull on first viewing, superb on second. 9
9 The Satan Pit Gripping stuff indeed. Another very adult, intelligent story. Evil Toby is excellent and one only wishes the possessed version had been given more air time. The effects of the Beast are brilliant, the Ood are a very good creation and the pace of the story is spot on. 10
10 Love and Monsters Greatly enjoyable as it's good fun. Elton Pope and this off-beat story is a very different kind of Who story and was a very enjoyable twist on the series' rationale. 9
11 Fear Her Oh dear Lord.

A gripping, claustrophobic story set in a dark Victorian house encompassing a girl whose drawings trap people within them, with the threat that her wicked dead father could all-too frighteningly come back from the dead at any time, would have been good: 'Fear Her' is, however, a cheap story shot in a modern, brightly decorated un-menacing two up, two down semi in London. 

The chance for such a gripping story set in an old house having been laid to one side, the chance for a scene involving the Doctor carrying the Olympic torch to the 2012 Olympic Games is a natural successor.

Update Saturday 27th September 2014: By crikey there's a worse episode than this one now! Who'da thought! 2014's The Caretaker is magnificently dreadful!

1
12 Army of Ghosts Good fun, leading up to an epic... 7
13 Doomsday ...which failed to happen. Good ending though.

"Welcome to Torchwood" exclaims Yvonne Hartman as she flamboyantly opens the double doors for the Doctor. "Is this it?" surely thinks the Doctor as he sees an ordinary warehouse-type set up complete with empty cardboard boxes. Not even interesting cardboard boxes. Mind you, are cardboard boxes ever interesting? No. Disappointing.

The Genesis Ark, what a build up to that one too. What could be in it? What could the four Daleks of the Cult of Skaro possibly have hidden away inside the Genesis Ark? Davros? The Emperor having survived after all? Some new wildly amazing Dalek-created menace? Nope, just more Daleks. CGI ones at that. Bad CGI ones at that. Disappointing on any level. Not Davros then?

"Before the war.." says Rose Tyler in her introduction, hinting that big battles were to come. Well, that's what war suggests to me anyway. Some soldiers, a bazooka, a car & Cyberman blowing up, a bit of action in and around Canary Wharf, that's a war? Disappointing.

Cybermen that were excellent in their previous 2-parter now come across as wet-paper-bag residents when up against the Daleks. Disappointing.

The warehouse scenes are, in particular, (as) flat (packed) as the (un-flat-packed) boxes that appear in them. An unusually flat Graeme Harper-directed production overall. Except, except, that the last 10 minutes of 'Doomsday' are excellent, beautifully written, beautifully directed, beautifully scored. The surprise appearance of the already excellent Catherine Tate was very welcome too: I thought "Yes!" but then with the next thought I mused that "Oh, but she won't be a companion..." so I felt disappointed at that thought at the time.

Overall I think that this 2-parter lacked the effects (budget?) to go with the imagination that fed it: the underlying story is good but the execution of it is an 'ouch' moment for what has been a triumphant return of the series from 2005. Oh well, a not-so-good Dalek story out of so many isn't a bad feat over 45 years, there's always likely to be another Dalek story, the next one could turn out to be a classic.

Definition of 'disappointing' as used above: Disappointing by Doctor Who's standards. Doctor Who is still the best series on television by all standards.

6
14 The Runaway Bride Disliked on first viewing (though I liked Donna a lot), much better on second viewing. 7

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Season 3 (2007)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Smith and Jones Mostly good though I found the idea of a vampire-type creature derivative and dull. 7
2 The Shakespeare Code Excellent, where's the sequel? 9
3 Gridlock Great concept, great everything in fact. 9
4 Daleks in Manhattan Man, what are these Daleks doing? 4
5 Evolution of the Daleks Unbelievably poor treatment of the Daleks.

The Daleks, having tired of using human Robomen and ape-like Ogrons as enslaved servants, go to the trouble of augmenting Manhattan down-and-outs into pig-headed slaves: no idea why. A tip to story writer Helen Raynor; just because Russell T Davies says it's a good idea to use pig imagery within a Dalek story doesn't mean he's always right

The idea that the Daleks should leave the protection of their invincible body armour would have probably led to the Emperor Dalek regretting his great 'Thinking-Outside-The-Box' idea for the Cult of Skaro. Did Dalek Sec take him too literally? 

one wonders how long it took the production team to choose the most recognisable, iconic building in the world for the Manhattan setting, the Empire State Building.

4
6 The Lazarus Experiment Main plot dull overall. 4
7 42 Excellent re-make of Planet of Evil. And this time the Doctor's afraid, truly afraid... Brilliant. 10
8 Human Nature One of the greatest. 10
9 The Family of Blood Wow.

A clever idea, albeit borrowed from a 'Doctor Who New Adventures' book, very well written, filmed and acted.

10
10 Blink Positive proof that new creatures can be as good as any old ones.

The Weeping Angels are an awesome enemy, and Carey Mulligan makes a fantastic Sally Sparrow.

10
11 The Infinite Quest Animated? Animated all right, with too many ideas rushing around to be of much interest. 3
12 Utopia I expected nothing from this based on the trailer so was on the edge of my seat throughout most of it. I'd not been this excited whilst watching an episode of Doctor Who since 1982's Earthshock part one.

A story that appears to be going one way then turns into something entirely different. The return of The Master is done so very cleverly, and Derek Jacobi makes for a very real menace. In story terms I love the fact that Professor Yana is helping the human race only for his real persona to be utterly against it. The next two episodes with John Simm as The Master are very good too but it's this first episode which steals the crown.

10
13 The Sound of Drums John Simm steals the show. 9
14 Last of the Timelords Everything is reset which eats away at what is otherwise a fine episode. 8
15 Time Crash Good to see two Doctors together and pleased it works so well. More! 8
16 Voyage of the Damned

The Doctor and Astrid look at each other, the Doctor screams no! and Astrid plunges with the forklift truck to her death, having sacrificed herself in order to save the Earth. Now, I like a good laugh as much as anybody else but this is one of the silliest deaths to ever grace the screen, big or small.

Voted No.1 Greatest Death Scene ever to appear in Doctor Who, by Doctor Who Magazine (No. 393 dated 2 APR 2008): life'd be boring if we all agreed on everything.

I'm usually mostly bored when watching this one.

Update: 22nd April 2017: I watched this again last December and I thought it was great fun. Sometimes it just takes me a while to get to like an episode. Astrid's look at the Dr before slow-motionally falling to her death did have me laughing out loud though. Gets me every time :)

7 (prev 4)

My Minimalist Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Season 4 (2008 / 2009)

  Story Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Partners in Crime A fantastic return for Donna Noble and a marvellously fun episode. 9
2 The Fires of Pompeii Shockingly good, the series has reached great heights with its CGI. 9
3 Planet of the Ood Wish this had been a 2-parter, didn't want this one to end so soon! 9
4 The Sontaran Stratagem This is good overall. 7
5 The Poison Sky Yes, ok, not bad. 7
6 The Doctor's Daughter Highly original plot very well constructed and underrated. When's she coming back?

Another clever story, and it gets better with each viewing.

9
7 The Unicorn and the Wasp Not that great is it? 6
8 Silence in the Library Did not like on first viewing but rate it highly now. 9
9 Forest of the Dead Immense.

Upon first watching the first part I thought it was dull, didn't look forward to part 2 and then found part 2 to be highly enjoyable. Watching both episodes again it is excellent. The Nashta Verada represent one of the best kind of enemies, those that aren't seen but which have an effect.

10
10 Midnight Disliked on first viewing but kept thinking about it the week after transmission so concluded there was more to it than I'd given it credit for. On second viewing this is a classic.

The evolution of a species the Doctor hasn't encountered before, and one he doesn't know how to deal with, now that's good.

10
11 Turn Left An instant favourite. 10
12 The Stolen Earth Fantastic atmosphere and it has everybody in it, everybody! 10
13 Journey's End Great episode but find the resolution to Donna's plight rather depressing.

6th April 2013: I watched this recently and I stopped watching at the point when The Doctor and Donna are alone after dropping off Rose, it's too depressing to watch the rest of that episode. When I'd previously watched the complete episode twice before I'd find that it put me off watching any other Doctor Who episodes for months at a time. Crazy huh?

9
14 The Next Doctor The best Christmas one since The Christmas Invasion.

6th April 2013: Not any more. Since watching 2010's A Christmas Carol a second time I absolutely prefer that one to this one.

8
15 Planet of the Dead Zoe Slater aside this is forgettable fluff. 5
16 The Waters of Mars Original and extremely atmospheric. A sequel to this would be very welcome. 9
17 Dreamland Much better composed than The Infinite Quest, this is great stuff. 8
18 The End of Time Part One There's something missing from this one even beyond it missing an interesting plot. 6 (prev 5)
19 The End of Time Part Two Overlong, bloated and plain dull. Until the last 25 minutes that is. But Mickey and Martha? No way. The Ood singing the Doctor to his sleep? Puh-lease.

Sunday 30th April 2017: Watched again recently and found it to be more interesting. The stuff with Tennant looking broody and weepy from time to time was dull though and just seemed out of character for someone who can regenerate. The character could have chosen to regenerate into himself so why didn't he? Naff. However, overall I enjoyed this much more than I ever have before. Except for that Mickey & Martha being married nonsense. That still sucks.

7 (prev 6)

My Concise Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Season 5 (2010)

  Episode Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 The Eleventh Hour Magic. 7
2 The Beast Below Oh. 4
3 Victory of the Daleks No no no no no

The Dalek progenitor thing won't recognise Dalek-looking Daleks as Daleks but will take the recorded words of an alien curly-haired boy who says that, they are, in fact, Daleks. Eh? Then the new, out-of-shape, lacking-in-detail, Dapol-emulating toy-looking Daleks, who didn't accept those Daleks as being real but who then take the word of an alien that they are real, then destroy those Daleks as being inferior?  What?

Sporting (hardly scary!) multi colours, the new, wrong-sized Daleks look as if produced by somebody who'd never seen a Dalek before. Eh? Honestly, I forgive the pig heads and human Daleks in Daleks In Manhattan over the abuse of the creations in this story.

The themes of 'last of the Daleks' and of Daleks 'slipping back through time' are really beginning to wear out their own clichés now.

I'm still looking for the logic whereby Daleks slip back in time to WWII and think "Let's look up ol' Churchill, infiltrate the Cabinet War Rooms with an android, go in ourselves, make tea for the soldiers and see if that won't get ol' Churchill phoning the Doctor up to come and prove we're Daleks! He's bound sure to be in touch with The Doctor ain't he? Ha, we'll teach that Progenitor device not to think we're real Daleks! And then wait 'till the Doctor sees the all-new Daleks in bright shiny colours! That'll scare the c**p out of him! Victory will be ours!"

I wonder if the armies of the world will use the "You're not a bomb, you're a human being" technique to persuade any deadly devices not to activate?. It's a new one on me and I bet it's not in any manual.

I find it mildly amusing that more time is given to the Cabinet War rooms in the corresponding edition of 'Doctor Who Confidential' than in the episode itself.  It's almost like the Cabinet War Rooms were actually important to the plot *snigger*.

Amy Pond's self-declared staring contest continues in this episode and gives her great practice for the next one where she should not have any problems facing up to the Weeping Angels. Doctor: "Amy, whatever you do, don't blin...oh, no matter!"

You wouldn't think an episode with such a short running time could be so bad but I really wish there was a 'forget' button for this one.

6th April 2012: Recently watched this again, and I've watched it several times since 2010. I still hate the new Daleks but I really like the first half of this episode. Except... Daleks who look like Daleks and who were created from the DNA of their Kaled creator should be recognisable as Daleks to the barely recognisable plastic hump-backed 'as if designed by Dapol' Daleks. I mean, if these are the superior Daleks, why are they afraid to come out and show themselves to the other Daleks? If they're not afraid to come out for their arch-enemy, why are they afraid of the other Daleks???

Pluses for this episode: the war stuff and the excellent CGI. Bracewell is a great character too.

5 (I used to give this 4, and previous to that 1 but it has grown on me - except for those ridiculous-looking Daleks oh and the plot)
4 The Time of Angels Brilliant. 10
5 Flesh and Stone Magnificent.

Even a cartoon version of Graham Norton couldn't ruin the ending of episode 1 for me. This one simply oozes menace and contains Smith's best performance so far (his first to be filmed in fact). I've watched this many times already.

10
6 The Vampires Of Venice Not bad. 7
7 Amy's Choice Clever! Bur cheap. Cheap cheap cheapity-cheap. 8
8 The Hungry Earth Small scale. 5
9 Cold Blood Bored, bored, bored. 2
10 Vincent and the Doctor Beautiful. 9
11 The Lodger Sweet. 8
12 The Pandorica Opens Eventful. 8
13 The Big Bang Oh yes.

10th June 2012: Amy finally gets back the parents who'd disappeared through the crack in her wall...and immediately goes back off with the Doctor in the Tardis.

8
14 A Christmas Carol S'alright.

6th April 2013: No, no, no, it is a whole lot better than merely all right. This is a very beautiful episode, possibly now the best of the Christmas specials so far. The casting is excellent, the story is excellent and the whole set-up is excellent.

10 (previously 5)

Matt Smith 2010 Series Overview by Tim Harris, Sunday 27th June 2010.

Matt Smith has been excellent throughout this series, he is far for Doctor-ish for me than David Tennant was (much as I'd liked Tennant). His eccentricity evokes memories of both Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker, whilst also evoking the sense of seriousness and urgency displayed upon occasion by those two Doctors.

Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) is probably my least favourite companion since the series returned in 2005, but she's not a poor companion at all, I simply like the fact that she is overshadowed (as is Arthur Darvill as Rory), by Matt Smith's superb presence. This, for me, is what it should be like, the Doctor in control with the companions helping. It took me a while to understand why Rory came along for the ride at all I but have come to like him now, and I'm very happy with the concept of the Doctor having two companions.

Steven Moffat has helmed a budget-reduced series and made a classic out of it. The Weeping Angels story is as great as many a classic from the old days and one I'll be watching again and again. The Vincent Van Gogh episode written by Richard Curtis was simply astounding and The Lodger was a rare step outside the box that worked successfully. Amy's Choice was another great episode that was character led. The last two episodes of the series were entertaining, with The Big Bang the better of those two episodes. I'm still not sure why, in The Pandorica Opens, a bunch of old enemies want to gang together to trap the Doctor in a box when anyone of them could have done it on their own, nor why they didn't simply choose to kill him but that aside, it was all very, very good. I will still have to watch The Big Bang again though as there are still bits that are whirling around my head that need clarification, but that scene where he's reversed back to a point in Flesh and Stone and you realise what it was you actually saw in that episode, wow, that's a revelation I can't believe anyone would have seen coming. Brilliant. Also, apart from the stone Dalek, there wasn't a specific adversary in this episode, no mastermind behind it all, and that's pretty unique in Doctor Who: an enemy-lite episode. This was a brave move considering it was the last episode of the series, and it worked because of the inherent threat contained within its narrative: you don't notice it until you think about it afterwards. As for the preceding episode, it took me three viewings of The Pandorica Opens for me to decide whether Steven had written that episode as the fanboy or professional within him (lots of enemies ganging up together, etc) but conclude that it was the latter: just.

River Song has become a very eagerly-awaited fixture of the series, although I think another use of 'Hello Sweetie' as a message left somewhere for the Doctor to read might get a bit tiresome. She was also left with little to do in The Big Bang but she is brilliant, I can't wait for her to turn up again and we're gonna find out who she is next year. Alex Kingston is excellent as River, showing the same feistiness and powerful characterisation as that of Yvonne Hartman (played by Tracy Ann Oberman in Army Of Ghosts/Doomsday - 2006), and they would pass for sisters. Maybe they were. I originally thought that River could have been a regenerated version of the Doctor's daughter (played by Georgia Moffett in 2008) but with the kind of dialogue spoken at the end of The Big Bang this doesn't seem likely. What I particularly like about the meetings between the Doctor and River is that every time he meets her it is further back into River's own past, until we find out who she really is: I'm guessing that at some point they're are going to meet at a point set between Flesh and Stone and Silence In The Library. Great stuff.

The change in style that I'd expected of this series was that it would be darker overall but in fact it has had many light moments with Matt's Doctor often at the centre of those. The real change this year I think is that the series has gone back to having smaller casts set within more confined settings. The Lodger is set in a house, Tardis and playing field, Vincent and the Doctor involves very few characters and The Big Bang revolves once again around a small amount of characters (including the regulars), even though the stakes are as high as any overblown Russell T Davies end-of-series epic battle. I like this way of producing tight dramas around a tight cast (budget?).

Nothing's ever perfect though, and my least favourite aspect of this series was the unnecessary, tight-budget-wasting re-design of the Daleks, a folly that makes the Daleks look entirely ridiculous now. That money could have been spent elsewhere methinks. The Silurian story was a bit of a disappointment too, having taken out the third eye, taken out the electronically-treated voices and instead given them boringly familiar human-like faces and traits. The word boring sums this treatment up, but it's one plus point is that it makes clear that there are different sub-species of the same creature: this helps me forgive the re-designs that had been made for the Peter Davison story Warriors Of The Deep. Sadly, the creatures that appeared in this year's story are likely to be back as I doubt the budget wouldn't stretch to leaving them to gather dust in a storeroom somewhere in favour of a new race of creatures (everything in Doctor Who gets re-used again at some point). I can definitely wait for that story to appear, (presumably next year in a sequel set 100 years later), just as I can stand the excitement of Daleks ever appearing again.

The last 'oh dear' aspect of this year's series was The Beast Below. It just didn't seem very original, though I'm damned if I can remember where I think I've read it before. I also didn't like Liz Ten, come on now, did she have to sound just like anybody? Was that really clever and cool? No. Was the vomit scene hilarious? No. This drably directed episode followed the almost film-like style of The Eleventh Hour and fails by comparison.

Overall then, aspects of the series that worked were where originality lay, of Moffat's Weeping Angels, of River Song, of clever time travel twisting stories, of The Dream Lord (bring him back!), of clever, lighter moments (The Lodger). Aspects of the series that failed were the unnecessary, annoying re-inventions of older aspects of the programme's heritage (Daleks, Silurians) and where cleverness couldn't mask a fairly basic plot (The Beast Below).

I preferred this series to David Tennant's first series, and overall it falls just after Tennant's second and third series in my order of preference. Daleks and Silurians aside, I am really looking forward to next year, with at least one more appearance of River Song, once again set further into her past, and the explanation of what caused the Tardis to explode. 'Silence will fall' in next year's story arc: Fantastic. Here's hoping Amy and Rory stay for the ride for a while, and hope that Matt's Doctor stays for at least another four series.


My Not So Minimal Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Season 6 (2011)

  Episode Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

  Space and Time Short, sweet, clever. 7
1 The Impossible Astronaut I've now seen these first two episodes of the series three times and by crikey they simply get better and better on each viewing. The creatures belonging to The Silence are a fantastic creation, and whilst they are sparingly used, are amongst the greatest-designed aliens of the series in its entirety.

There is so much going on in these episodes but they do not feel as cluttered as, say, Big Bang or The Wedding of River Song.

8
2 Day of the Moon But, what happened to the girl immediately after Amy fired the gun at the end of the previous episode? What happened during the three months? Why is none of this explained on screen? Annoyances on this aside, another great episode. 8
3 The Curse of the Black Spot Shades of Anne Droid. Not very interesting.

6th April 2012: Recently watched this again; I like it now, though why the Doctor is happy to help somebody who's murdered lots of people is questionable. Is it hinting that the Doctor used to be the same then changed his ways and can see that Avery can do the same? No, thought not. Raised from 3 to 5 anyway.

5 (prev 3)
4 The Doctor's Wife Highly imaginative and highly effective. But: OMG, they killed Rory! Again! Whether for real or imagined, this is getting tedious. If Rory ever permanently dies it's really not going to feel very effective. Rory is always dying. 9
5 The Rebel Flesh Dreary, with a highly predictable cliff-hanger.

6th April 2012: Recently watched this again: as with ...Black Spot this is better than I first thought, it has atmosphere, a good cast and tight script. Raised from 3 to 6.

6 (prev 3)
6 The Almost People Almost interesting in places, with a highly unpredictable cliff-ganger.

6th April 2012: Recently watched this again: this is even better on second viewing, I just wonder if the whole thing could have been done in one episode rather than two. The use of doppelgangers is such a boring / unoriginal idea yet The Doctor's Wife was an excellent, original idea squeezed into one episode: should have been the other way round? Raised from 5 to 7.

7 (prev 5)
7 A Good Man Goes To War Cybermen really are easy to wipe out aren't they?

Although the 'revelation' about who River Song is was hardly a surprise it was nicely handled. Aside from this the episode was a bit flat; the episode builds up to the Doctor's appearance then, once he appears it comes across as business as usual. There's some anger displayed, but not enough to live up to the title.

I really liked the Silurian and maid, they would be welcomed back should they ever appear again. The Sontaran, much as I winced at first when I saw he was almost a jokey character, I also grew to like a lot and he, for me, is second only to the great Lynx from The Time Warrior.

Negatives about this episode: establishing the background of a married couple only to have one of them killed virtually straight away. The point being? The other main negative is that the episode seems only to exist to establish who River Song is, it is not a particularly epic episode with which to take a mid-series break. My thoughts at the end of watching it seemed only to consist of the words 'So what?'

6th April 2012: Recently watched this again for the 3rd time: Once again, much better on repeated viewing, raised from 6 to 8.

30th August 2014: I recently got around to watching Season 7 extra Demon's Run - 2 Days Later in which it's revealed how Strax survived his supposed death in A Good Man Goes To War. I loved it. It was such a cheeky explanation yet so authentic that I bought into it straight away. I wonder perhaps though if it would have been better served as a flashback explanation in the series proper. No? Ok.

8 (prev 6)
8 Let's Kill Hitler Rather more background info given than I expected (I thought it might be given in episode 13) and River was brilliant. I loved this.

DW Confidential shows the filming of the scene where Mels lays 'dying' and contains extra lines (in black below):

 

Mels: When I was little I was gonna marry you

Doctor: Oh. Good idea, let's get married. You stay alive and I'll marry you, deal?

Mels: Cross you heart and hope to die?

Doctor: Yeah, yeah, of course, twice.

(which would then presumably be followed the the next line as broadcast:)

Mels: Shouldn't you ask my parents' permission?

(I mention this mostly because I liked those lines and wish they'd been left in.)

9
9 Night Terrors Very atmospheric though I wish the dolls had turned up sooner. If only Fear Her had been given such treatment. 8
10 The Girl Who Waited Karen Gillan gives a brilliant and authentic performance as the older Amy who has waited and waited for the Doctor and Rory to find her. Bitterness, sadness, what a great actress. Whereas other productions (either in Doctor Who, Star Trek or any other series) have used excessive (unconvincing) layers of makeup and hair to suggest age, here the makeup for the older Amy is unusually subtly applied and is all the more real because of it. This episode ends on such a downcast ending it reminds me of when William Hartnell's Doctor leaves Susan behind on Earth to what must have been an unknown future, albeit here Matt Smith's Doctor knows only too well the future of older Amy. This episode has such a small cast (the three main Tardis inhabitants, older Amy and hospital voice) and yet in terms of intent, emotion, and depth it is virtually without parallel in Doctor Who. 9
11 The God Complex I really did not like the bulk of this one, I liked the last few minutes though. Easily my least favourite 11th Doctor episode so far and only just beaten by 'Fear Her' as least enjoyable episode since the series returned in 2005. I would find it a struggle to make the effort to watch this one again.

10th June 2012: Recently watched this again and I liked it a whole lot more this time! There's a lot of interesting imagery in this one and has a good cast.

6 (prev 1)
12 Closing Time A light funny episode and very good it was too. A nice touching scene was where the Doctor sees Amy and Rory in the shop, and sadness also came through at times with the Doctor emoting his lack of time left to live. It was nicely and subtly done and this episode achieved more in setting the tone for a final adventure for the Doctor than the dreary The End of Time did for the tenth Doctor.

The Cybermen were yet again defeated oh-so easily but, for once, this does not jar too much as this is a story about the Doctor and Craig, and of the Doctor's supposed last day.

8
13 The Wedding of River Song Like The Big Bang this was a jumble of images and ideas with the Doctor at the centre; like The Big Bang everything was reset at the end. Like The Big Bang there was a wedding.

The Silence are one of the most interesting enemies in the history of Doctor Who and whilst they are sparingly used yet again, they were effective when used.

Amy's very real response to allowing the kidnapper of her daughter, Kovarian, to be killed by the species she works for was also very effective and showed that River got some of her characteristics from her mother. Having said that, if everything is reset did Kovarian even die?

Due to the jumble of assaults on the senses one or two things do almost pass you by: the death of The Brigadier for instance. Had this been the focus of the episode at the start it might have come across as more than a throwaway scene that you forget the moment the next assault on the senses comes along. It was a nice idea to do something to mark the passing of The Brigadier though, and I'd like to think that, whilst the 11th Doctor only got to hear about his death, in a former incarnation the 7th Doctor had been by his bedside when it happened.

So the Doctor tricked River into 'marrying' him just so he could reset everything (again)? Great stuff. I really like the relationship though, and look forward to more encounters.

As for how the Doctor got out of his own death, whilst not wildly surprising, it was still deftly handled.

I was hoping we'd find out about how photos of Amy and a baby end up in an orphanage in America but this, like the explanation for the exploding Tardis from the last series, are yet to come. (Update Saturday 20th September 2014: Nope, the photo was never explained).

Overall, I thought everything had been thrown into this one, that there were too many unnecessary distractions and that a simple battle against Kovarian and The Silence would have been more effective.

The corresponding Doctor Who Confidential was a good one to finish on; I liked the section with River telling her history so far but as per her timeline, it was a nice Coda to the last three series, and was as much a mini episode as Death Is The Only Answer, the Script to Screen episode written by school children.

Farewell Confidential, we'll soon be bidding farewell to The Sarah Jane Adventures too, and Torchwood, well, who knows? Doctor Who will return however, and even though it's over 40 years since I first started watching the series, this is something to look forward to.

7
14 The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe

I suspect this will be one I'll enjoy more on second viewing; it's well cast, it has a very polished look about it but by halfway through watching it my attention span was wandering onto other matters and found myself not engaged enough to care what happened. The last scene with the Doctor, Amy and Rory was nicely done and easily the highlight of this special. I only wish they had been in it more: it seems to be the case now that a guest star is more important than the regular companions and it is a trend I wish would stop.

The audience figures and appreciation index show how popular this special was, and it's pleasing that, even if I didn't particularly enjoy it, that I seem to be in the minority.

(Update written 12th January 2014): I watched this again a week or so before The Time of the Doctor and I appreciated it more on second viewing. It's nicely cast and is beautifully presented. The only question I really have is what happened to Bill Bailey, Arabella Weir and the other one's characters? Were they killed when Sue Brockman tipped over their craft?

I'd like to see Claire Skinner return as the same character perhaps as a regular companion in future episodes / series (leave the rest of the family behind love) as the character is strong enough and able to adapt to new situations. She would work well with Peter Capaldi's Doctor as an older companion to an older-looking Dr. Not that I'm in a rush for Jenna No-Hyphenated-Name-Anymore Coleman to leave though: just saying.

6 (prev 4)

My Not So Minimal Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Season 7 (2012 to 2013)

  Episode Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Asylum of the Daleks A visually impressive episode and very good it was too, here's how it could have been even better! I'd have preferred a 2-parter with the subplot say of either Thals or humans (or combined forces) attempting to reach Oswin in order to alter the Daleks in the asylum to help defeat the non-insane Daleks. The Doctor would have been at odds with their motives. The subplot that the episode did go with just seemed out of place.

I'd have also liked Pond Life to have been shown as part of this episode as it contained humour that would have counter-pointed the darkness of the rest of the episode.

Those nano-genes: haven't the Daleks now created the ultimate weapon that they could use to take over the entire existence of everything with? Yes.

I've only watched this one 3 times so far but have enjoyed it every time. Jenna-Louise Coleman is going to be a great addition to the series, no matter how many different characters she ends up playing.

7
2 Dinosaurs on a Spaceship Brilliant, enjoyable, great fun. Brian was excellent and the entire cast were on great form.

This should have been a 2-parter.

8
3 A Town Called Mercy Second only to 1966's Gunfighters as the best western ever in Doctor Who.

If you were affected by Susan The Horse's story, please phone the Horse Transgender Hotline on...

2
4 The Power of Three Brilliant, enjoyable, great fun. Brian was excellent and the entire cast were on great form.

This should have been a 2-parter.

8
5 The Angels Take Manhattan Even by Rory's previous standards, dying three times in one episode is an impressive achievement. Amy only managed it twice.

Why were the Angels so keen on Rory though?

This should have been a 2-parter.

8
6 The Snowmen Text message I rec'd prior to broadcast of this episode: "Just half an hour 2 go. Cunningly what's been kept under wraps is that they're showing that long lost Troughton classic the abominable snowmen :)".     This was sent as a joke and I still didn't guess that this was going to include The Great intelligence! A great surprise though.

I love the visuals for the latest title sequence (the best since the series returned in 2005), I love the title music (though why was the end theme still the version as previously used, eh, eh?) and I loved the new Tardis interior. I also liked the idea of the Tardis being at the top of a staircase on a cloud. Nice.

JLC is a very competent actress and I think her characters are great.

"Do not make any attempt to escape or you will be obliterated. May I take your coat?". What can I say? Strax is back and I am immensely pleased. He is a great character (don't care if he was killed last time, I'm glad he's back) and he had some great lines. I find this alliance of former enemies (Strax the Sontaran and Vastra the Silurian) a more realistic alliance than when the Doctor had the Ice Warriors on his side in The Curse of Peladon: how I cursed back then.

It was nice that the guest star didn't dwarf the story and I felt that this was a great special. Now that just about all the Christmas icons have been used (Santas, trees, angels and snowmen), hopefully future Christmas specials can really be inventive.

Just one thing missing from recent and probably future episodes: cliff-hangers. Doctor Who is: The Doctor, The Tardis, companion/s, threat/menace, theme and cliff-hangers. In years gone by the UK produced cliff-hanger serials where the USA rarely did, now the USA produces many multi-part series and Doctor Who now consists of single-episode stories. The advantage of single-episode stories are that if they consist of weak plots, it's over and done with in one episode. The advantages of 2 / 3 part stories is that cliff-hangers are usually remembered and bring the audience back, that characters/plots can be better developed, and that budgets can be better stretched. Please bring back the cliff-hangers. Series 6 only had 3 x 2-part stories but the series managed to have 7 cliff-hangers. More please, more. Thank you and good night.

8
7 The Bells of Saint John It looks like the budget really has been increased with this series, there are more extras than for the previous two series, more locations, more effects. This was a great-looking episode though the base-station idea, and the copy-Doctor going up the side of The Shard didn't really ignite much excitement. The cameo by Richard E Grant as an aspect of The Great Intelligence was very welcome though and hopefully the Yeti will soon appear.

JLC continues to delight in her role as Clara and completely fits this series. Much as I felt that Amy / Rory were booted from the series too soon JLC just about makes you forget they were ever in it. There are great signs that Clara will become part of the pantheon of best-loved companions.

Matt Smith truly is The Doctor, one can imagine him as a younger version of William Hartnell's Doctor (albeit not as likely to get 'involved' until he meets Ian and Barbara) and he also strongly references a younger-seeming version of Patrick Troughton's Doctor; playful, serious, brave, afraid.

I just wasn't grabbed by this particular episode overall though.

4
8 The Rings of Akhaten 6th April 2013: What a fantastic-looking episode with a great many alien types walking around. The aliens were more realistic than those that appeared in 2005's The End of the World and this impressed me very much. Lots of extras once again, actually showing that there is a great deal of life throughout the whole existence of everything in the same way that episodes such as The Girl Who Waited and Amy's Choice do not.

I felt uncomfortable with the pre-credit sequence however, the idea of The Doctor effectively invading someone's privacy (even with the mystery surrounding Clara/s), in effect becoming a time-stalker, feels unpalatable to me.

My attention span, as with the previous episode, did wander from time to time, I felt the scene between Clara and Mary first meeting / talking went on far too long, that the various scenes involving singing was as cringe worthy as The Ood singing the Doctor to his sleep in 2010's The End of Time Part 2 and that even the simple sort-it-all-out resolution was overlong and dull. Beautiful effects and an apparent richness of budget throughout though.

5
9 Cold War 13th April 2013: Likeable and atmospheric. I guess we will see the same Ice Warrior Skaldak in future episode / s when I suspect he'll be accompanied by others of his race. The mild re-design of the Ice Warrior armour is pretty good and the idea of him getting out of the suit was quite well done even if his appearance reminded me of a race of creatures from Star Trek: Deep Space 9. The return of HADS was interesting in that it was another reference to the 2nd Doctor's era, references that began in the previous series and continues in this one (Time Lord thought boxes, Great Intelligence, Ice Warrior, HADS, where's it all going to end eh?)

What's the obsession with singing though?

How this one could have been even better: a 2-parter in which the Ice Warrior ship turns up at the end to part 1 with part 2 consisting of a battle to save Earth from a number of Ice Warriors.

Who can predict just how many future Big Finish 11th Doctor CDs will feature the currently untold adventures of The Doctor, Clara, Captain Zhukov and Professor Grisenko on their way to the South Pole?

7
10 Hide 20th April 2013: I don't tend to look forward to ghost stories in TV series' in the same way I don't get excited when I hear of vampire and werewolf stories turning up. This episode initially seemed to bear all the hallmarks of a typical ghost investigation and I wasn't impressed in spite of the fine guest cast. Then, 15 minutes in it all suddenly got interesting, beginning with the Doctor taking the photos throughout time: from that point I warmed to this episode greatly. It's yet another one I think I'm going to enjoy more on second viewing. It was a fine time travel escapade and yet another visually impressive episode. A small cast was what the story needed, though for a while I felt there was more character than plot. Overall though, probably a balanced episode.

Update Sunday 30th April 2017: I enjoyed it less on second viewing. It's just dull even with a fine cast and gloomy atmosphere. How did the Dr get involved anyway? As for mentions of Metebelis 3, who cares that the 11th Dr pronounces it differently from the 3rd Dr? Maybe he'd since re-visited the planet and the inhabitants had told him he was mispronouncing the name. Mind you, it could all have been sorted out way back at the first read-through of the script couldn't it, so why wasn't it?

5 (prev 7)
11 Journey to the Centre of the Tardis 27th April 2013: Flippin' 'eck, that were brilliant. Except for the jibber jabber regarding the android not being an android and anything relating to the relationship between the brothers. What were all that for?

It was a small-cast episode, but that was perfect for this story.

An amazing episode with yet more fantastic visuals. I felt that the previous high for visuals was the Donna Noble series and that the first two Matt Smith series lacked in comparison but this batch of episodes is really matching those previous highs.

The trip through The Tardis was brilliant, seeing it through eyes that had seen similar attempts in The Invasion of Time and Logopolis but acknowledging that this was the ultimate experience. Fantastic.

The sets were amazing, and seeing The Tardis in such a damaged state certainly gave the impression that she had suffered a calamitous and perhaps near-fatal end.

Watching this I had a sense that this episode was going to lead to consequences in future episodes; a damaged Tardis leading to an uncertain future. However, everything was reset in very quick time by the Doctor crossing his own time stream.

Wasn't the act of the Doctor crossing his own time stream in The Big Bang the reason the Tardis exploded in that episode? Yet here that same act is used to stop the Tardis exploding? Isn't this a paradox? Eh? Eh?

This really should have been a two-parter or at least had consequences that followed on from it into the next episode. I really liked this one though.

Update Saturday 30th August 2014:

Tried watching it a second time in 2013 and gave up 'cos I got bored. I then watched it again all the way through a couple of months ago and still couldn't see what I'd thought was so good about it the first time I'd watched it but it does have good production values. Still, not so good overall.

5 (prev 8)
12 The Crimson Horror 4th May 2013: This had an interesting atmosphere and held my interest throughout. I enjoyed it and the fine script was more than served justice to by the gargantuan presence / acting of Dame Diana Rigg. Her acting was a stand-out performance in the entire history of the series. And yet this was another bloody 1-parter!!!!

Okay, I wasn't overly fond of Mr Sweet but I did like the resolution! I also enjoyed Vastra, Strax and Jenny once more, although the Strax 'Tom Tom' scene was a bit too forced.

7
13 Nightmare in Silver 11th May 2013: The Cybermen got a makeover and looked no better / no worse / no more  or less scary than the previous design but it's quite astonishing that they've now taken an interest in chess: my impression of this episode is that the Cyberwhatsit's a bit miffed about losing at chess and unleashes 3 million Cybermen on the small cast because he's a sore loser.

In addition to their new-found chess-skills, the Cybermen have added the Star Trek Borg trick of adapting to weaponry used on them, also the Borg trick of taking over a major character (in their case Captain Picard, in Doctor Who's case The Doctor) and the trick of moving very fast (presumably they learnt that trick from their experience of the Raston Robot in The Five Doctors): you wonder how it's all going to end. Well, as usual with every Cybermen story, it ends with an army of Cybermen being all-too easily wiped out no matter what upgrade they've had.

Now, tell me, what happened in this episode that could possibly lead to Emperor Porridge asking Clara to marry him? Was this some kind of homage to King Peladon asking Jo to marry him out of the blue in The Curse of Peladon back in 1973? It can't have been for that reason could it?  Really?? It was a pointless moment no matter what the reason and it escapes me how this scene even got to the draft script stage let alone the screened episode.

I'm also not sure what the kids contributed to this episode: had they not been in a coma for a chunk of it, it might have been fun / scary to have had them pursued by Cybermen, but once they're under Cyber control any sense of danger was immediately lost.

The fact that there's a lot of Doctor-to-CyberDoctor talking in this episode also takes away the inhumanity of the creatures themselves; it's irritatingly jarring that the Cybermen speak without emotion while the CyberDoctor is completely emotional. Makes no sense. Matt's acting is brilliant though, and if this had been about The Doctor fighting against a possessive creature such as The Mara, the emotion would have made more sense.

In spite of these weaknesses the episode still manages to shoot itself further in the foot by being of 1-part duration. As with the Daleks and Ice Warriors before them, the Cybermen deserve to be in stories of at least 2 episodes duration: It is pure waste to put them into rushed 45 min (max) disposable throwaway episodes. This would have been a better story by building up the menace during the course of part 1 and having a mass of Cybermen (30 say, not 3 million) turning up at the castle at the end of the first episode. The more Cybermen, the more easily they're wiped out. A smaller number would have felt more dangerous. Part two would then consist of our heroes trying to save the universe.

The next episode looks to reveal important info about The Doctor and Clara but where was the build up to that in this episode? I can't help but feel that even next week's episode will seem rushed and disposable once the 45 mins (max) are over. Bring back the cliff-hangers, bring back the sense of epic in it's truest sense: 45 mins (max) is not epic.

Pluses for this episode were Warwick Davis, Matt Smith and the trailer for the next episode.

5
14 The Name of The Doctor 18th May 2013: "The season finale" as per the BBC announcements: I don't remember them ever getting this excited about parts 4 of The Horns of Nimon or Timeflight but it's a sign of how things have changed - the audience expects a big ending to whet their appetites for more to come.

It was a case of one hero holding their own against impossible odds and in the end Bonnie couldn't hope to win Eurovision 2013 but in the case of The Doctor a few hours before there's never really any doubt that The Great Intelligence isn't just going to walk and talk to his / its death. Assuming he's / it's dead.

Why was T.G.I. that fussed about the Doctor's name anyway? Why was that convict at the beginning able to know the co-ordinates of the Doctor's unlikely final resting place? Who cares, there's so much to like in this episode.

The final episode to feature River? Well, it's a time travel series so anything's possible, but this did come across as the final meeting between the two characters, with Clara seemingly about to become the next more-than-a-companion in the Doctor's life.

It was the turn of Strax and Jenny to go the Rory way of supposedly dying and being resuscitated and this really diminishes any character's death. I think Jenny dies twice in this episode and this death / back to life gubbins seems to have become an established clichéd standard trick of the series.

I liked the Clara / previous Doctors stuff and it was astonishing to have her conversing with the first Doctor. It was also nice to see The Tardis in it's non-chameleon circuit state.

The name of The Doctor? John Hurt apparently. This was a cheeky but admirable tease and quite quite amusing. Now, what I don't get is that the Doctor avoids Trensalore because he doesn't want his suspicions of his future to be correct yet makes it very plain that he already knows his future when he meets John Hurt... Eh?

So the 50th anniversary special features the 10th and 11th Doctors and a character who was once known as The Doctor. Is John Hurt a re-cast Valeyard or will he have another name? And how does this fit in with the shape-changing-can-look-like-anybody Zygon who will be making an appearance? I'm wondering how this is going to celebrate 50 years of the series but hope that it manages to at least celebrate more than just the last 8. John Hurt as the next Doctor? At 73 years old? I don't believe it for one second.

Series Overview

Splitting a series into 2 or 3 sections didn't please me for 3 Tom Baker series in the 1970s and it doesn't please me now: it's harder to judge a series as a whole when you feel you've been watching 2 different series. The subsequent lack of cliffhangers for this particular series has also been a weak point and I really hope this changes with the next series.

Some stories need room to breathe and confining them to merely 42 minutes or so stifles them. A great many episodes from this particular series seemed to have been sold short of air time and this further weakened the series as a whole. The one episode from this series that this does not hold true for is The Rings of Akhaten which seemed to have run out of plot 20 minutes into it and was padded out for the rest.

More people are choosing to watch Doctor Who on catch-up services, and whilst it is good that audiences still seem to care enough to watch at all, does show that the series is less of a 'must watch it now' series and this has got to be bad in the long-term. The less who watch on the night, the less interest there will be in the series. It is the lack of cliffhangers and the lack of episodes made in total that is likely to be leading to this increasing disinterest.

The main adversaries including Daleks, Cybermen and Ice Warriors are not best served by appearing in 1-part stories: an audience is surely better served / gained when that audience believes it is watching an epic. An epic 1-parter is a contradiction in terms.

Matt Smith remains brilliant in the role and he really should be given longer stories to really flesh the character out. Jenna Louise Coleman as Clara has become an instant favourite and I don't miss Amy or Rory at all.

8
15 Night of the Doctor (Written 24-Nov-2013) Very good to see Paul McGann back on screen as the Doctor at last and this was an interesting mini episode. What is unfortunate is that the 8th Doctor rapidly changes his mind from saying he doesn't want to be involved in the Time War to agreeing to regenerate into a warrior with the purpose of absolutely interfering in the Time War. That makes the 8th Doctor appear very fickle and I don't buy into it.

The downside to inserting a hitherto unknown Doctor (Hurt's) as the Doctor who then participates in the Time War is that it takes everything away from McGann's 8th Doctor. As a viewer I believed, in the absence of facts, that it was the 8th Doctor who had fought the Time War, then regenerated into Ecclestone's 9th Doctor. That, although we had seen very little of the 8th Dr on screen, that he had been actively involved in events whilst off screen.

That thought had at least given the 8th Doctor some kind of place in the Whoniverse other than just that of the American TV movie. Now I have to accept that the only contributions that the 8th Doctor made to the Whoniverse were the TV Movie and this mini episode. That truly takes something major away from the 8th Doctor, and hands it all over to a Dr we haven't even known about until recently. This jarrs too much.

This was a likeable mini episode however in terms of atmosphere and for the presence of Paul McGann.

5
16 Day of the Doctor (Written 24-Nov-2013): Some nice touches here, with Ian Chesterton getting a mention, beginning titles that harkened back to the earliest days of the series, an appearance by Tom Baker as a future retired Doctor and John Hurt's Doctor treating his older selves as if they were school children or as adults in a mid life crisis. Added to this were some excellent special effect sequences and a great updated design for the one-costume-used-to-represent-several Zygons.

The plot was incredibly terrible though, a timey-wimey load of nonsense that re-wrote even more of the Time War than Night of the Doctor did. As a story it 'celebrated' the previous 8 years 8 months of Doctor Who and not the full 50 years that it should have.

The scenes between Smith and Tennant were nicely played and had the right amount of humour but the whole Zygon stuff played out then disappeared in a puff of nothing. The Time War was re-written at the stroke of a thought but the execution of it stopped the episode dead in its tracks. Tedious and utterly dreadful.

John Hurt remains one of the greatest actors ever but I care not a jot for his Warrior / War Doctor. Nearing the end of his incarnation, he did not seem ravaged by the Time War in his attitude and nothing in that episode gave me the impression he had ever been a warrior. Such an awful sketch of a character. It should have all been left well alone to the 8th Doctor.

Let's talk about Rose: wasn't Rose though was it? This was as similarly disappointing as when 'phantoms' of old companions appeared in The Five Doctors in 1983. I will only be concerned if I ever hear of cast members returning to the series after this.

Massively disappointing overall and not one I'm likely to watch again for a very long time. Perhaps, for me, it's time for a change of direction within the series, one that veers away from 'timey-wimey' & 'wibbly-wobbley' to 'simple-dimple' & 'scary-warey' (piss-take intended).

In imaginings of infinite possibilities there's always a chance that in an alternate parallel universe / reality there was a different  50th anniversary story that did justice to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. If so, does anybody have a copy?

(Update written 12th January 2014): I watched it again three weeks after it was first broadcast and by golly-gosh strike me pink if I didn't think pretty much the same as when I first saw it. Except that I thought the effects were even better than I originally thought and that the Tom Baker sequence was simply wonderful. The Zygon resolution managed to irritate me even more on second viewing and that's got to be a first in all the decades I've been watching Doctor Who. Still, I'll watch it again (and again and again) because I remain what I've long been, a fan of the programme.

So where the 'eck does the Valeyard fit in now? Or doesn't he? Or does he? Or..

What would this episode have been like if McGann and Ecclestone had been involved? Would it have been McGann's Doctor who would have 'pressed the button' as usurped by the fake Hurt Doctor? I suspect so, and it would all have been a whole lot more acceptable and satisfactory if he had. Ecclestone would have been a fantastic addition too and I hope he does play the role again at some future time.

Just read the latest Doctor Who Magazine (issue 469) in which Steven Moffat says he wanted to use the film posters of the Peter Cushing films as backdrop to a scripted line: this would have been brilliant as I too would have liked Cushing represented in the special: he was as much a part of my childhood as Patrick, Jon and Tom. Never mind though eh! At least you tried Steven and how much it shows you care.

(Update Sunday 1st June 2014): I've seen this 3 times now which is twice more than I'd originally thought I would. The last time I saw it I saw it in 3D and it did look pretty good in places. The plot still hasn't won me over however.

The darn thing's now been voted 'Best Story Ever' by Doctor Who Magazine readers (issue 474): let's just agree to disagree on that one.

I'd hope that in 5 years time that the next poll will show this story placed at a more considered level once the coat tails of the 50th anniversary have long faded into the dim distance.

(Update Saturday 30th August 2014): I've finally drawn breath and stopped laughing at this story being voted best story ever by Doctor Who Magazine readers and in return I'm pleased that Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition No. 38 states that the Hurt Doctor was only created as a result of Christopher Ecclestone pulling out of Day of the Doctor. This cheers me up a lot as it explains why we've got another sparsely-seen Doctor: how clever Moffat was at coming up with a solution to that problem and I have a feeling I will like this episode more next time I watch it. Doesn't let the whole Zygon-plot-just-ends-and-ends-terribly-badly affair off though.


An Adventure In Space and Time

My absolute favourite programme of 2013 that had an extremely likeable cast in an extremely authentic-seeming potted history of the early days. It could have been even better had it been at least 30 minutes longer but overall this was simply fantastic. David Bradley gave an incredible performance and yes, I hope they get him to play the first Doctor in an upcoming story. The cameos by William Russell and Carole Ann Ford were welcome but were also an unwelcome reminder that they were wrongly left out of Day of the Doctor. Other cameo appearances by Jean Marsh and Anneke Wills were also very welcome. Sacha Dhawan was excellent as Waris Hussein and I was particularly fond of Jessica Raine's Verity Lambert. 10 / 10.


The Five-ish Doctors (reboot)

A massive thank you to Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy for this. This was incredibly funny and I loved all the cameos. It was good that so many people were able to send themselves up and this was nicely packaged together. Indeed it would be interesting to see Davison, Baker and McCoy team up for a comedy series of some kind as they worked so well together in this. 10 / 10

4
17 The Time of the Doctor

(Written 12th January 2014): I liked this one, it answered most questions and sometimes even answered them quite well. It was a reasonable (and different) way to say goodbye to one of the very best Doctors to date.

One question (at least) remains though: how did that picture of Amy and child end up in the children's home in the US back in Day of the Moon? One can hardly imagine Madame Kovarian saying 'Hold on love while I take a picture of you and the babbie' before whisking Melody off. Not that she had time to either. Why does a picture exist? These and possibly other questions will never likely be answered on screen where they belong.

This was well directed and even though the great battles of Trenzalore took place in a 50 square metre area you could just about accept this, if you accepted it as a grand fairytale.

I chuckle to think it took up to four years to explain why 'Silence will fall', a statement that until this episode actually meant nothing, while the 30+-years question of how the Doctor would regenerate beyond his 13th incarnation was dealt with within seconds. Such an obvious answer too and one that had been foreshadowed a long time ago in The Five Doctors: so simple it's a stroke of genius.

So he's gained 13 more lives then? Good on the face of it but actually he lost two of his previous lives at the stroke of a keyboard when Hurt's Doctor and The Other Tenth Doctor were claimed to be full and proper incarnations of the Doctor. So he's actually only gained 11 more lives.

Of course, who knows if there have been other Doctors between McGann and Ecclestone, The Clown Doctor, The Ballet Dancing Doctor and The Shell-Suit Doctor for instance, and that he's already lived through more incarnations than The Doctor would like to admit. Only the keyboard of a similarly talented future writer-producer knows the answer to that mindboggle-ingly daft question. In fact, what about the Valeyard? Wasn't he somewhere between the Doctor's 12th and final regeneration? Does that count (somehow!) as one of his 13 previous lives or part of his next 13 lives? Has he lived 14 lives up to the end of Matt Smith's Doctor or is this one to come? Or has time been re-written somewhere? Or...

Thankfully the paradigm Daleks did not make an appearance in this episode, though the limited notion of the Daleks not remembering who the Dr was as at the end of Asylum of the Daleks did and was quickly dealt with as though it had meant nothing. Actually it had meant nothing at the time as it was obvious at the end of that episode that a) this was a stupid idea as the Daleks aren't 'robotic-like' as the Cybermen who in recent years have been mind-linked in a hive way and that b) that as soon as they met him again  they'd soon learn to remember him. I've only seen Time of the Doctor once so far but my impression of what was said was "Hold on how do you remember me?" which was answered by "A man told us about you while we were chatting over tea and biscuits".

Clara and Christmas. What an amazing coincidence that Clara and her family were celebrating Christmas at exactly the same time the Doctor was going to a snow-bound place known as Christmas! It's almost like this episode was a Christmas special rather than the last episode of the current Doctor! I wonder how Logopolis and Caves of Androzani would have looked had they been shown on Christmas Day: there would probably have been tinsel all over the tower at the Pharos Project and Spectrox would have likely been sourced from 50-centuries old mulled wine vats kept by the Santa-suited Magma Beast.

The make-up for the ageing Dr was less impressive than that of Amy in The Girl Who Waited and surprisingly Matt didn't come across as being old: it looked as if he could have tossed away the walking stick at any time, but this was a nice idea. Another 300 years of his life passed by though? Really? Not in any believable way, no sir-ee.

Handles. A nice idea of the Doctor becoming fond of a Cyberman head, perhaps this was his only link with the universe at large for the majority of his time on Trenzalore, and it came across well. I grew to like, feel sad at the loss of, and miss Handles in short succession in exactly the same way that I've never cared for dear old 11-stories-strong dead Adric.

The regeneration was both long and short (yeah, I know) in that from the time he goes from all brighty-lighty to lots of talking in the Tardis to Clara / Amy lots of time passes, then whoosh he's Capaldi in less than half a second. Well, at least this is a different way of doing things and the whole standing-with-your-arms-outstretched Ecclestone-Master-Tennant way is so last decade. Nice touch having Amy appear in a never-the-less unsurprising cameo (albeit I'd avoided everything, papers, social media, etc before the episode and didn't actually know she was appearing) but where was River? You know, his like, wife? And Rory? And Brian?

Capaldi. "We're probably crashing". I write this line here because after transmission I had to play this line back several times to understand what the latest Dr had actually said at this point: the sound was such that Peter was drowned out. I only hope that his voice is able to counter such noise in future episodes because he needs to be able to be heard!!! I like the accent though and I'm glad he's using it. To be known as the 12 or 14th Doctor though? 12th, but he's (at least) the 13th Doctor so far in reality (actually, none of this is reality, what am I talking about?)


The word is that the next two series seasons will have un-interrupted runs. That's good news, I only hope that means they're not short series seasons!!!! 10 episodes or more is fine, batches of 5, 6, 7 or 8 are not so fine!!! And please bring back the cliffhangers!!!!!!!!!

7

My Not So Minimal Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Season 8 (2014)

  Episode Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 Deep Breath There are some great bits of enjoyment to derive from this one: Vastra, Strax and Jenny are delightful, with Vastra finally proving to have a sense of humour. I've more or less given up on thinking that Jenny will turn out to be a regenerated Doctor's daughter (remember how kick-ass she was in the last series just as The Doctor's Daughter Jenny had been?) but this is a trio of characters that deserve to at least have their own family-friendly special (if denied a whole series) from time to time.

The telephone call from Matt Smith's Doctor was a nice touch and thankfully he didn't ring while Clara was holding her breath but instead managed to time it conveniently for when Clara had finished her first adventure with the latest who-knows-what-number-he-is Doctor. I can imagine that the fifth Doctor phoned Peri up after her first adventure with the sixth Doctor only to have to interject the words "I did..he did what?!" into the middle of Peri's very likely excitable explanation of recent events.

The episode flew by and some of the time was even spent on a bit of a plot involving self-repairing clockwork droids. The plot was entirely trivial though, or rather, so much in the background that it felt trivial. The basic idea of clockwork droids repairing / replacing parts is actually a creepy idea but was submerged under the weight of explaining the 'This is the Doctor in spite of the fact he looks different and has aged a lot' gubbins.

I'm assuming that time was re-written shortly after the events of this story as news of a dinosaur in Victorian London would most surely have made it to all the scandal rags of the time. So, not even that important a plot to be considered a 'fixed point' in history. Says it all.

This was another small-cast episode with The Doctor, Clara, Paternoster Gang and an android doing most of the talking throughout, and it's going to be a tedious series if that's the way it works throughout the other 11 episodes plus Christmas special. Does the budget just go on effects and the look of the show? It seems to me that if you have a space / time travel series it's of more interest to have the main characters meet other characters than for them to merely converse amongst themselves. Otherwise you could literally set the episode / s anywhere or drop the space / time travel element totally.

The latest titles are ok and one wonders if the watch idea is a link to something that happens within the series. The Tardis looks very cartoon-y though and is somewhat of a surprisingly poor representation in a series that seems to put visuals above plot and cast size. The theme tune is as ok as all the previous ones since 2005 and no better / worse.

I liked Peter Capaldi and his Doctor will be even more likeable if his Doctor is allowed to speak to people other than Clara, the Paternoster Gang and the villain of the week. It will also be interesting to find out why his Doctor has a face he recognises and which he himself believes he's copied from somebody else's. The choosing of who to regenerate into (fixed into continuity when Derek Jacobi's Master regenerated into John Simm in Utopia) explains why the Doctor chooses to look like Maxil from The Arc of Infinity when becoming Dr No. 6 (does the Dr like strong-willed men? or ones with helmets containing feathers?) and why the Dr chooses to look like comedian Sylvester McCoy when becoming Dr No. 7. He even managed to inherit Sylvester's talent for playing the spoons when he did so.

5
2 Into The Dalek Had to keep the phone / s switched off 'till I'd watched this one 'cos I got delayed in watching this one on the night. It was broadcast at 7:30pm and I didn't get to watch it until 9pm.

It was well worth the wait though, this was Doctor Who in an exciting adventure with the Dalek / s and it was the best one in ages. This had the feeling of a traditional Doctor Who story of the distant past albeit with character introspection idly thrown in from time to time.

This was a well-made episode and the few extras managed to look like they were differing people by use of their faces not always being on show; this worked in providing the illusion that there were more soldiers on board the ship than there actually were.

Peter Capaldi put in a grand performance as a genuinely mesmerising Doctor and this is a Doctor who is proudly alien to the humans whose lives he wanders through. I'm going to use the word 'gravitas' at this point as this will undoubtedly be one of the words overused in the coming years to describe Peter Capaldi's Doctor and I want to be amongst the first to use it, having written this on the day of first broadcast of this episode, Saturday 30th August 2014.

The story had shades of 2005 episode Dalek in that a damaged Dalek is repaired and then goes on a rampage and I should probably think in terms other than 'who cares' when it comes to it but I enjoyed watching this one so much I almost forgot to think 'thank crikey those awful looking Daleks first seen in Victory of the Daleks aren't in this one' but I remembered just in time.

It was good to be reminded that the less Daleks there are in a story the less easy they seem to kill and this helps them regain their power. I was also pleased not to see them flying through the air, they seem more powerful when they're on the ground. I also admire that aspect of their species which says "We've got enough firepower to destroy any human spaceship but let's get up close and personal so we can exterminate them face to face"; this makes them a far more interesting race of despots than a shoot-from-the-safety-of-a-spaceship type.  They also seem to be reluctant to use their ultimate nano-gene technology (Asylum of the Daleks) that could easily give them complete victory over every living creature and I think this is mainly down to the fact that this would simply spoil their fun.

I'm no too fussed as to who Missy is as one gets used to studying / questioning / speculating upon Steven Moffat's ideas / raised questions only to find them explained in a throwaway line later on in a future episode. Best simply to wait and see what happens.

Danny came across as a likeable character who had no place in this episode other than to interrupt the flow of the main plot but of course he will have a proper place in future episodes and I look forward to that. Will his solder character be as Captain Jack'd to death by a Dalek and then resuscitated? Nah. Mind you, who out of the main cast / partially recurring characters hasn't died and not been resuscitated since Rory in 2010 / 2011 / 2012?

6
3 Robot of Sherwood Excellent production values, witty characterisation and a cracking plot made this more enjoyable than I would have thought possible from the trailers I saw.

Another episode I thought that could have benefited from an extra episode as I liked Robin, The Sheriff and robots very much, but what an enjoyable episode. The Sheriff managed to look like Anthony Ainley's Tremas from The Keeper of Traken which was an interesting if accidental nod to the past and the double-bluff to the audience of whether Robin was a robot or not was nicely done.

Peter Capaldi's Doctor is wonderfully likeable and he and Jenna Coleman's Clara are perfectly paired. I like that Clara can admire / hero worship the Doctor yet not be afraid to tell him to shut oop every now and then.

The line from Clara regarding "the two words sonic screwdriver" has become an instant favourite for me and already one of my all-time favourite moments in Who history.

I loved this one.

8
4 Listen Must be terrible being the Doctor and having a nightmare involving the presence of Clara under his bed but I for one (of many) likely wouldn't find this a problem.

Barns were certainly made to last on Gallifrey weren't they? Got the impression the barn that John Hurt's Dr was in during Day of the Doctor was there right at the end of Gallifrey's supposed destruction so that's some impressive kinda time-bonded construction they've got going on there.

There was a lot to recommend this episode as worst so far of this series and topmost amongst them was the already terminally dull relationship between Clara and Rupert The Bore. Maybe it's just me but I just don't care if they will / won't get together as that's the province of continuing-drama series' and soaps. I'd quite like this series to get back to focusing on space / time travel / monsters / villains / other characters. Does it really make Clara a fully-rounded character for us to witness her love life or is that just completely not what I watch Dr Who for and have I answered my own question within this question? Or not?

The makeup / hair for Orson was unusually artificial-looking, though it's reasonable to think this is how today's obsession with looks will develop over the next 100 years.

Infinite planets, infinite time, and this was yet another episode that concentrated purely on the Tardis-associated inhabitants. Whenever this happens I get the same sinking feeling as when I used to watch Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea having differing members of the Seaview crew being possessed / copied / meeting look-a-likes every week. The more it happened the weaker the series became.

Humans will be time travelling in the next 100 years? Hope that's true in real life but in Dr Who terms it seems to me that everybody's getting in on the old time travel act such as to render the Dr as Last of the Timelords as almost irrelevant. If everyone can travel in time how does this make the Dr special? Daleks, Cybermen, now humans, where will it all end? Right out the window in a time-can-be-re-written way hopefully.

It's a telling sign that Clara likes spending more time teaching at a school than space / time travelling so could the Dr please find a companion who would actually rather travel with him than mark homework? Teaching is possibly a wonderfully important profession but seriously, how many teachers wouldn't drop their school registers in the bin in a second in order to travel with the Dr? Clara's likely the only one who'd ask "Can you drop me off after we've kicked some Weeping Angels butts because I'm taking detention tonight?"

Onto the plot itself and to sum it up: the Dr decides, having felt the need to sit on top of the Tardis at one point and say the word "Listen" to no-one in particular, to wonder if everyone has the same dream and finds out that they do, especially those of the only other three main characters in the episode. Gripping stuff indeed.

The Doctor effectively decides there's an issue to sort out then sorts it having invented it in the first place. Gripping stuff indeed. Oh I've said that already.

We've had the concept of clockwork robots back in Deep Breath and now we've got the concept of 'something under the bed' back too, both from The Girl in the Fireplace. Gripping...oh.

Shades of Midnight too, a creature unknown to the Dr and of attempts of that creature to enter a spaceship. Not that it was a creature? Who knows, 'cos we'll never know 'cos the explanations were missing and will remain in the the file marked 'Photo in the Children's Home and Other Unexplained Moffat Mysteries'.

It was a genuine surprise that it turned out to be the Dr as a child in the bed in the barn and this was brilliantly and exceptionally under-emphasised  into insignificance shortly after the initial gasp at that revelation. Jenna was excellent in this scene though, reassuring the Dr and once again becoming part of his timeline. Very well written and superbly acted.

It's just the dream of the Dr that helps create the thing in the bed in the children's home? Yeah? No? Discuss amongst yourselves as it doesn't make any sense to me. Honestly, give me something as crass as Timeflight over this kind of nonsense any day.

On the plus side there were the odd one or two good lines of dialogue between the Dr and Clara, and my cat got unusually more fuss than is usual during the viewing of a Dr Who episode.

5
5 Time Heist

I love playing the 'Spot the previous story' game with this particular series in which I try to recognise which stories ideas for the latest episode came from but I've only spotted two this time, Hide and The Beast Below, Hide referring to  the creature finding a creature and The Beast Below with the voluntary 'forget' device. Oh wait, there's also the memory worms, which came from...I forget. Something recent though, something to do with snow and men, had the word 'The' in the title. What was it?

Unlike the opening of The Genesis Ark from Doomsday and the moment the Pandorica opens in The Pandorica Opens I didn't get my hopes up that there would actually be anything remotely interesting inside the vault and I can only applaud the writers for ensuring my pessimism wasn't mistaken. I'd actually thought we might be leading up to a cliffhanger to a 2nd part though and they caught me by surprise by doing exactly what they've been doing for an extraordinary amount of time, not having a 2nd part to a story. Do I feel foolish.

Slow motion. Slooooooow motion. Slooooooow moooooootion. Boring when used for little or no purpose and that was the case with this episode.

I wasn't fooled by the supposed death of Saibra the shape-shifter and decided, as I sat on my sofa and said "Double-bluff" to no one in particular, to wonder if we were all meant to have been fooled by this and without wasting anybody's time at all decided that this was indeed the case.

This might be a record in sci-fi / soap / continuing drama history but I can't think of any other time I've seen two reasons for duplicates in the same episode of anything, those reasons comprising shape-shifter and convenient-budget-stretching-because-it's-Keeley-Hawes-and-she-likely-costs-a-packet-so-lets-make-her-play-two-roles-and-hopefully-people-will-think-we're-being-clever clone.

I'm sure Danny's going to be an important character but could he please just stick to the episode / s where this will actually matter rather than appearing in every episode because it's just not that interesting to see Clara and he go on dates and to have the excitement of space / time travel get in their way. If this is a long drawn-out way of writing Clara out of the series give me the 'Leela says she's marrying Andred in a very quick tacked-on scene at the end of a story' method any time. Look how long it took Porridge to ask Clara to marry him (out of the blue!) and at least he was interested in space / time travel. If Clara wants ordinary then she should stick to Earth and let Claire Skinner's Madge back into the series (an older companion, now there's a novelty).

Mind you, reckon Psi and Saibra are gonna be back for more, they're almost interesting enough to want to see back too. Not as much as I'd want to see Sergeant Benton, Captain Yates and Jo Grant back to be fair but I still live in hope.

Ooh, wait! Just thought! The creatures in this episode were the last of their species! If you can spot at least 5 other stories from 2005 onwards that involve 'the last of their kind' (whether it was or not) you are likely not the last of your kind.

I'm getting in the mood for an epic that I don't believe is on the way.

5
6 The Caretaker

The good news for the 2006 story Fear Her is that it's not now the worst episode of the series since its revival in 2005. It's also taken 29 years, but 1985's The Two Doctors is no longer my least favourite Doctor Who story of all time either! Congratulations to The Caretaker for this remarkable and unexpected out-of-the-blue feat. It's also a member of that thankfully sparse group of stories / episodes titled 'This Ain't Doctor Who' which was previously only inhabited by 2005's Father's Day.

Where or why do I begin?

Clips of Clara having possibly interesting adventures with the Doctor that we the viewers only get brief glimpses of in favour of a tedious character play? Yes, let's start with that. Actually, that's pretty much the entire episode on a pinhead.

We've already had dull scenes of getting to know Danny and of Clara's growing relationship with him during previous episodes, did we want or need a whole episode of it? It wasn't on my own wish list.

This was yet another episode where the menace of the episode is only the background story to excessive and dull characterisation. I've no idea (or care) what the robot thing was after, it didn't matter anyway as the episode clearly wasn't about that or anything else remotely interesting.

Tedious character interplay infested throughout, and I found myself wishing Clara were gone from the Tardis for the first time and, also for the first time, didn't much care for Peter Capaldi's Doctor either. She was dull, he was dull, they were dull. Even the various attempts at levity between those two (and Danny) failed to come across as anything but turgid.

Danny's over the top "Yes Sir, no Sir" reaction to the Doctor made for unpleasant and embarrassing viewing and was further hindered by the non-belief that Danny is an ex-soldier in the first place; he simply doesn't seem to be that at all, not even when indulging in slow-mo acrobatics.

This was a terrible episode that was poorly executed and by golly if the entire series was like this I never would have watched it this long. This is a unique distinct story in that I cannot find one single redeeming quality about it. For the first time in my life, I hated a Doctor Who episode. In fact, I don't think are any words that adequately describe my feelings for this episode so I'm going to have to make one up. This, therefore, was a skovoxblitzerpink of an episode, the first of its kind.

This was not Doctor Who by any standards.

0
7 Kill The Moon That old 'moon is an egg' chestnut of a plot never gets dull does it?

Memo to self : when introducing anybody new to Dr Who, don't use Kill The Moon as the story to introduce them, they'll think you're silly afterwards, and, just as importantly, never mention this episode in front of Star Trek or Star Wars fans, they'll quite rightly take the mickey.

The main cast meet three disposable characters in small-cast episode with silly plot.

Only 2 of the 3 disposable characters get killed so it doesn't matter if you show one giant germ spider or millions because you know there aren't many people that are potentially going to be killed off in the episode anyway. Therefore there's no real threat.

Courtney was fun and Clara's line regarding her and the psychic paper was very funny.

The creatures were visualised very well and it might be fun to see those again but on an Earth-in-peril basis where there's quite a large cast battling the monster.

The 'moon is an egg' background to the plot is likely the most silly reason for anything ever to happen in Dr Who which makes this series unique in all the worst ways. I'd be rightly embarrassed if I'd said to somebody beforehand who had never watched Dr Who before that they should give the series a try but then ended up watching this episode.

The hatched egg is then replaced by another egg in a further stretching of belief and reality's gone right out of the window. All good fun.

Not for one second can I buy into the human race saving the creature being hatched from the egg by leaving their lights on and I have no idea why Clara would even think to try. Still, that's nothing compared to the Dr deciding, in this story out of all stories, not to decide the fate of a creature not born of Earth. He says it's Earth's choice whether that alien lives or dies: why, what's different between this and any Dalek / Cybermen invasion of Earth story? He's more than happy to interfere then.

I also don't get why Clara would put the whole of humanity under threat to a creature not born of Earth with the logic? that it's just a baby. How insane is that?

Clara has a go at the Dr and decides she doesn't want to see him again. Well, frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. She never seems to want to travel with him anyway, or at least likes to have her cake and eat it. Silly perhaps? But look at the episode I've just waffled about, how silly was that.

2
8 Mummy on the Orient Express

If Enlightenment, Voyage of the Damned and this one are anything to go by, I can't wait for a story featuring The Hindenburg In Space as it seems every so often a writer likes to take a well-known form of transport and shift it into space. It'll happen.

Frank Skinner's small, pointless and insignificant role in the episode was a waste as his character was almost quite likeable in a 'didn't-expect-much-from-him-anyway' sense. It's like the production team decided to get Who fan Frank in then didn't know what to do with him once they got him.

The mummy turned out to be a soldier so has that got anything to do with Dire-Danny or don't I care? I was sat with a friend watching this one and even he groaned when Danny came on screen at one point. I'm with you on that one pal. The one time I myself groaned was when reference was made to "Are you my mummy?" but then I laughed afterwards so I can't really take the mickey there.

This was actually quite a good episode and had a plot that was both interesting and even made sense in places: a mummy on a train in space may sound like yet another bonkers idea but compared to Kill The Moon it seems almost normal.

What where how why does Clara change her mind about travelling with the Dr again and why does she lie about it to Danny? Beats me but then I didn't understand how the Egyptian Goddess as referred to at the end of The Big Bang turned out to be a soldier either. Was that somebody enticing the Dr in that an Egyptian Goddess running around on the Orient Express in space sounded more exotic than a bloke wandering around in bandages? Wonder why it took him many years / regeneration to go and investigate anyway? And what exciting adventure were we denied watching after The Big Bang that prevented the Dr from investigating at that point?

Don't stop me now, I'm having such a good time.

It's amazing to know that in the future there could be a singer on a space train who will be covering a cover version of a Queen song who looks exactly like the singer who did the original cover version for a BBC Dr Who tie-in promotion back in 2014.

6
9 Flatline

Original, imaginative, creepy, atmospheric and very entertaining.

The plot was at the forefront of this episode and there was a larger cast than has been true of most episodes of late, with worthwhile effects and a sense of menace that has been missing for some time.

Even an appearance by Danny couldn't damage this episode and it was a return to form overall.

For a Doctor-lite episode this was another triumph of imagination over necessity, just as Blink was for the tenth Doctor.

This would have made for another good 2-parter and I truly believe the series would be stronger with less stories for the same episode count. Just make those stories count.

Rigsy was well acted and it would be interesting to see him again, and, for the first time, even Missy began to interest me. My hopes are (finally) raised for the rest of this particular series.

Only one question bites and that's why does the basic (cuboid) Tardis look different to the basic cylindrical Tardis that we saw in the recent-ish The Name of the Doctor?

Overall, well done to all involved with this one.

Update Sunday 26th October 2914: As Andrew O'Day pointed out to me, was the shrunken Tardis a reference to Logopolis or mere coincidence? Well, a lot of ideas for this particular series seem to have come from the Used Before bucket but whether this is coincidence / part of a story arc / drawing on the series' past strengths is a question not likely to be answered in the rest of this series?

7
10 In The Forest Of The Night This was a story the Doctor didn't need to turn up for as, even if he hadn't turned up and youmans had somehow started removing the vegetation, nothing would have ended differently. The light creatures would have done what they did and not enough of the vegetation would have been removed for the solar flare to have done much damage to Earth. I can only wish that the Earth had been left to get on with it while the Dr went off and had an interesting adventure somewhere else to which we'd been witness to.

I say 'the Doctor' and not 'the Doctor and Clara' as Clara was somehow able to get a sleep-in with Danny and some children in a museum when it started kicking off. They allow that these days? What exactly would be the point?

The science behind the protection / safety of the Earth was interesting in the same way as the explanation for the vegetation growth was absurd on a Kill-The-Moon scale.

Am I the only one to realise that surely the Dr missed the point that the light creatures weren't creating the vegetation just to bounce solar flares off Earth (thereby saving it) but was part of a world-wide effort to liberate all animals from zoos? Nice to see even this Dr can be naive as he so easily bought their explanation!

Adric would be even more horrified to have known that the space freighter he was on when bumping into Earth unnecessarily wiped out the dinosaurs as they could have been saved by creatures who've always been around and who chose not to do so. Maybe they  wanted to make sure Adric really didn't get out alive. The inhabitants of Space Beacon Nerva would also likely be perturbed to find out that light creatures didn't choose to grow so much as a twig when solar flares damaged the Earth prior to their own incarceration.

The Doctor may have been an unnecessary inclusion in this Doctor Who story but for a story about Coal Hill School teachers and kids, where was Courtney? She got an appearance in Into The Dalek and 2 other episodes but somehow managed to miss out on this one: she would have been great fun. The kids who did appear were well chosen actors though and likely helped create a different kind of atmosphere for a Dr Who episode.

Danny of course got a larger appearance in this episode and whilst I still don't see him as being an ex-soldier he came across as more likeable (yeah, you 'eard me) even if he's still anti-Doctor.

I'm probably as surprised as the girl with the voices as to why the creatures chose her to speak to out of everybody (unless they were speaking to others throughout the world too? or because of the Dr's connections to the school?) and why they recreated? her sister? Or had kidnapped her sister then brought her back? Lots of questions surrounding an un-interesting plot point?

Definitely not a 9-out-of-10 story was it? :)

1
11 Dark Water I did not see that coming!

This was an episode of explanations and re-explanations with the plot somewhere in the middle but it held the attention and was almost quite good; it was certainly clever.

Danny's dead goes the explanation, Danny's not dead goes the re-explanation. Clara's destroying the Tardis keys goes the explanation, Clara's not destroying the Tardis keys goes the re-explanation. Missy is a robot goes the explanation, Missy isn't a robot goes the re-explanation. It's a place for the recently deceased, it's not just a place for the deceased goes the re-explanation. Nothing is as it first seems in this one.

Doctor, Clara, Danny, Missy, Clara's mum, Dr Chang, Ollie from The Thick of It, some woman on a mobile. That's at least 8 speaking parts in one episode and could perhaps be a recent record. In terms of where the plot was taking place, there weren't a lot of people wandering around the vast spaces or offices were there? Dr Chang had such a big office, it might have been nice to have had some other people in it.

Whilst nobody watching would have been surprised that the skeletons were in fact Cybermen hidden in plain site by use of Dark Water, the question arises as to why Missy felt it necessary to do this. As soon as the Dr turns up all is revealed anyway. Eh?

As with the everybody-has-the-same-dream scenario in Listen, the Dr decides to look for something then finds it straight away: he decides to wonder if there's an afterlife and almost immediately finds out there is some kind of afterlife. Mystery solved there then.

Missy turning out not to be The Rani was a bit of a surprise, I figured that with the scientific explanation it would turn out to be her so was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was The Master having undergone a gender change. I'm fairly sure the explanation for this will be slight and almost pointless but it did at least take me if nobody else by surprise. She's a good actress ol' what's-er-name so this might be fun.

Steven Moffat does like to find different ways of spinning the same wheel, so re-inventions of Daleks, Cybermen and now The Master are his way of doing this. He's certainly right to do this with The Master, a character who, post Roger Delgado, is only interesting in his / her first re-appearance then pretty dull the rest. The score so far from 2005 onwards: 5 new Doctors, 3 new Masters.

The eventual realisation that a lot of it was going on inside a Tardis was a biggie, and the scale of the city was very well realised, albeit not with many people seen on screen throughout.

Dark Water is a good name for an episode, and the idea behind that term was certainly clever. If only there'd been more characters to witness the Cybermen appearing from under the water and not just the Dr as this would have made for a tense scene.

It looks like the Cybermen are going to go for another stroll around London but I doubt this will seriously take up much time in the next episode as this isn't Moffat's style. Invasions don't really happen in Dr Who anymore so the Cybermen are likely just guest stars in this one. It's bout the Dr and Mistress, and about Clara and Danny.

There was a cliffhanger of sorts as Danny was seen to be contemplating the Delete button that he'd been contemplating as of his previous scene but at least it was an attempt at keeping the audience hooked for the next episode.

6
12 Death in Heaven Nice of The Brigadier to finally make an appearance in the revived series but guessing that Adric was still annoyed about the lack of attention he got from the Doctor  to bother turning up.

Osgood is dead but for how long? Doesn't she represent fandom so is Moffat really killing off fandom? Am I thinking too deeply about this one? Anyway, Osgood is great fun and hope she comes back (nobody stays dead long in Dr Who). Or is she a Cyberman too? No I don't know either.

This would have been a mighty fine 3-parter but made for a very good 2-parter anyway. It would have been nice to have seen more of Missy before being popped by the Brig. Quite glad it was the Brig who did it as it was he / UNIT who were on world-wide alert for The Master back in the '70s. I liked he salute by the Dr to The Brig too, these were all very nice touches.

This actually was a bit of an epic wasn't it and had more than a few speaking roles this time so it was nice to have one's prior expectations well and truly biffed. Didn't get the whole point of the World President thing though, it just seemed they rode around in the sky until it was time in the plot for Cybermen to attack.

The Invasion cyber-head was a very nice and welcome reminder of the past and my mental wish-list contains having a story with those design of Cybermen in again. Never gonna happen though.

Missy wanted to be friends with the Dr again (awww) and quite readily handed over the means for the Dr to end the story conveniently 10 minutes before the end of the episode to give lots of time for talk-talk-talk between the Dr and Clara, with the gazillions of Cybermen once again easily disposed of. Thank God Missy was stupid eh?

I liked Missy a lot and assuming the actress is cheaper to hire than John Simm then we just may see her again, though Masters rarely stay interesting beyond their first story, which is why I'd have liked this story to have been longer.

With a lot of this particular series being very weak this was a nice change and I only wish they would do more stories on this scale and with more cliffhangers. Yes I'm obsessed with cliffhangers. Wasn't this story much better than episodes about school trips, trees, nightmares-as-a-child, and baby moon creatures? Yes it was, so why was a lot of the rest of the series so poor?

Clara will be back of course, the 'Tardis doesn't trust her' plot hasn't been concluded or even remembered in this particular series but too many goodbyes can also be dull.

Haven't mentioned Danny yet so here goes; the plot stopped still once the graveyard scene came on and boy didn't it drag on. Just press the bloody switch Clara and be done with it. Still, the overall point that even in death Danny does the right thing did come through quite nicely and he did send back the boy (awww).

The revelation that Clara had never existed and that she was the Dr didn't fool me or likely anyone else for one second and the altered title sequence was therefore redundant. It would have made more sense had that been the cliffhanger to Dark Water then the altered title sequence for the subsequent episode would have been far more effective; just think what amount of Twitter-ing would have been going on in the week between episodes if the cliffhanger to Dark Water had been of Clara announcing she was the Dr, and the impact the subsequent episode's title sequence would have had. Just saying.

The imagery of the Cybermen coming to life in the cemetery was very good and I suspect these images will have burned in the minds of younger viewers on the scale that Cybermen emerging from tombs back in the '60s did. Very impressed, and the overall story was highly enjoyable.

8
13 Last Christmas This BlipView Written Sunday 15th February 2015.

I liked this on second viewing as much as I'd liked it on the first, only this time I didn't have a mouth abscess, antibiotics and hadn't fallen asleep by the time it began: it took a phone call to wake me up. In fact I was fairly groggy watching it the first time so I had to watch it again before writing this. It just took me a while to do it.

The idea of a dream-within-a-dream is hardly new territory having been used in many series' in the past but this was a notch above all the others, almost enough to forget Forest of the Dead, and I enjoyed it.

There I was thinking Shona might end up replacing Clara only to be fooled by Clara replacing Clara. I liked Shona and her dancing to Slade's Merry Xmas Everybody is one of my now fave moments in Dr Who. It was this moment in particular that I had been looking forward to seeing again. Such a good actress, I hope she comes back.

The Dream Crabs were nicely executed albeit the script felt it necessary to point out the Alien similarities. The audience knew it before the lines were even spoke anyway and those lines therefore came across almost as an apology rather than a homage.

Shona's Christmas Day itinerary consisting of 'Thrones marathon' made me chuckle and another nicety was having Dan Starkey playing an Elf called Ian, once again he's such a good actor and it was fun to see him play a character other than Strax.

Nick Frost was competent as Santa Claus and even the deceased Danny Pink was used to good effect, his character making Clara admit that she was dreaming. Nicely done.

The make-up for the older Clara was as over-the-top unrealistic as that used for Matt Smith in The Time of the Doctor however the scene itself was nicely written and nicely performed.

Clara's not gone then, but now they've said goodbye so many times, will the effect be lost when she really does leave. As with Rory and Amy who died so often, how can you ever be so sure the character's truly gone. I do hope Danny's gone for good this time though, even though he was used to good effect this time, I hope they draw a line underneath that 'plot' now.

One really wonders what more can be done with Christmas specials set at Christmas, but this one was one of the best.

There, a BlipView written almost 2 months after the original transmission. Was it worth the wait? No, I don't blame you.

7

Season 8 Overview by Tim Harris (Sunday 9th November 2014 - Mildly amended Sunday 1st November 2015)

Not my favourite series of Doctor Who sadly, it's way down in the doldrums and it's mostly because of the plots and the Clara-Danny relationship tedium.

Plots were often either trivial (In The Forest of the Night), silly (Kill the Moon), pointlessly feeble (Listen) or immensely dull (The Caretaker). That's already four stories in one series / season and that's quite a lot. Other episodes I found average (Deep Breath, Time Heist) and there were no episodes I could really call a classic. Only one cliffhanger appeared this series and I still feel the series overall is weakened because of that.

I could see that the production team were trying to be wildly inventive this season with mad ideas brimming throughout but nothing save incredulity could be my reaction to the idea that the moon is an egg, and that Earth can grown trees to save itself from meteors. These are two episodes where wildly inventive tripped over into plain silly.

Clara's character acted nonsensically at times, swearing at the Dr one episode, lying to Danny the next, travelling again with the Dr the next. This really put me off the character in spite of what the writers hoped to achieve. Danny was a waste of time in all senses, I barely warmed to him throughout and will never understand why a series about space and time travel had to spend so much time on such a mundane 'plot' featuring him and Clara. This is not Doctor Who.

Ever since Doctor Who Magazine's preview of The Wedding of River Song which said Simon Callow would appear as Charles Dickens I have not read any further previews as I couldn't understand what I was to gain from knowing about episodes before they were broadcast. Better to be surprised as I was when the Macra appeared in Gridlock. I did still look out for episode titles, writers' names, directors' names, guest names and generally still had an idea of what was going on but kept thinking 'What if I knew nothing about what was coming up like when I was a kid?'.

I had also started getting into series such as The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory, series that I was aware of but without in-depth knowledge. All these series therefore came up with surprises as I caught up with the first 4 series of Walking Dead, 2 (so far) of  Game of Thrones, and most of The big Bang Theory. I got hooked on each of those series and encountered many surprises along the way, all without prior knowledge. If I could enjoy such series without knowing a thing, couldn't I therefore enjoy my all-time favourite series Dr Who even more without knowing anything about the episodes coming up? So I stopped reading Doctor Who Magazine (I still buy it and will read them later), and cut down on looking at Facebook and Twitter so as to know a lot less about the series of Dr Who that was to come.

I already had some prior knowledge of this series though as I had been skimming through DWM up to that point. I knew there would be 12 episodes, I knew The Paternoster Gang were in the first episode, and someone who will remain nameless and who I'd told not to tell me anything he knew texted me the name of the second episode which was a big clue as to what it was about. I guessed (correctly) that Coal Hill School would be involved, that there would be a younger man in the series (this turned out to be Danny) and that Steven Moffat would write the first and last episode/s. But that was pretty much it; I didn't know who the writers for most episodes were, or directors, or any guest cast, or most plots. On the day of broadcast of Deep Breath I did foolishly go onto Twitter and the first thing I saw was a picture of a dinosaur so that was the last time I went on Twitter prior to broadcast of an episode. I also became very cautious about going on Facebook.  I also stopped looking at TV listings magazines.

I suspect that had I known about such episodes of Listen, The Caretaker and The Forest of the Night I would not have looked forward to them or indeed the entire series. I did struggle with this series, and there thankfully haven't been many ever that I can say that about. The Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi has been very good, though I haven't warmed to him as much as I have the previous three Drs, his Dr has been at times so far in the background to Clara and Danny's turgid relationship that it wasn't like the series was actually about The Dr anymore. Not enough Dr, way too much Clara-Danny.

No, I didn't really like this series, it didn't appeal to me as a 48 year old or as the 8 year old that still likely resides within. I doubt I gained much from not knowing as much about this series in advance than previous ones, it just stopped me anticipating disappointment along the way. The disappointment came with most episodes most weeks and I will be looking far more forward to watching new episodes of The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory. The first two of those series are epic in nature, often feature cliff-hangers and have yet to feature a 'moon is an egg' plot. At this time they appeal to me far greater than Dr Who does and that's a crying shame. The magic is missing from Dr Who and I seriously hope it regains it again soon.

Odd to think I seem to be in a minority regarding this particular series though, my impression from friends, acquaintances, the internet (in general) seem to indicate this was a widely admired series. I can't see it myself.


My Not So Minimal Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Season 9 (2015)

  Episode Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 The Magician's Apprentice Broadcast: 19th September 2015.  BlipView written 20th September 2015.

Fear The Walking Dead, the sequel series to The Walking Dead is really slow and dull without much incident isn't it? Yes it is. Which is why I'm glad that I liked this episode of Doctor Who more than that series.

There was lots going for it, Kate Stewart turning up just to ask Clara if she knew what was going on was a nice touch, the woman from The Shadow Proclamation turning up just to tell Snake Man absolutely nothing was an unexpected touch, Missy turning up just to ask if she could be involved with the plot somehow  was fun, and Davros making a not-too-surprising re-appearance just to have one last chin-wag with the Doctor before he popped off was an okay touch.

Plot on a pinhead: Davros invites the Dr for a last chit-chat so the Dr goes to see him on Skaro but Missy and Clara go along too and the Daleks, bored with nothing to do as Skaro no longer has any instrument panels to play with, kill the women and destroy the Tardis. And some timey-wimey thing to do with Davros as a kid.

Actually I'd said to a friend of mine, prior to the episode and based on the various trailers on TV, that the boy in the hand-minefield might be the Master as a boy but once the episode began I sat on top of my Tardis and said "Davros" to no-one in particular,  so when the adult version turned up later, nice as it was, it was none-too-surprising.

Davros, on Gallifrey, as a kid, in a Hand-Mine Field. Not time-locked. Nobody on Gallifrey thought of this during the Time War?!

Snake man, what's-is-name, made for interesting visuals but if he's been sent to fetch the Dr why feel the need to go all snake-y anyway? He wasn't going to kill him anyway? Nah didn't get it but it was fun to watch anyway.

Lots of Daleks again, not CGI ones but the Real Thing, in all different types from past to present and for no reason at all that we're likely to get explained on screen so let's have fun with this: is it supposed to represent that even now the Daleks / Kaled scientist Davros are still in an attrition-al state at this point? To invoke memories to the long-term audience of how The Daleks were created in the first place? No? Is it because the Daleks have different regiments of Daleks that are sent to different parts of the cosmos-esses? No? Is it because Davros likes to try out different patterns on Daleks?

The Daleks stood (stood's not really accurate but how's best to describe it?) as if they had nothing to do all day (hello, conquer-the-universe, enslave-every-being-and-all-that?) and only got to kill Missy and Clara before destroying the Tardis before next week's put-it-all-back-to-the-way-it-was-again restore point is activated. Dead again huh Clara? No worries, see you next week.

Re: Davros's ship not being a ship and on Skaro all the time: nope, me neither.

The cliff-hanger is a very welcome return to form for the series, hurrah! and I don't believe for one second that the Dr will shoot Davros as a kid. The Dr is the Dr and the Genesis clip of Tom Baker only emphasises that the Dr won't do this even if he's an older person now. The clip of the 4th Dr was a nice insert but the Dr is presumably now kicking himself that he, Sarah and Harry went to all that trouble to get back a reel of audio tape from Davros & Nyder only to now realise that Davros had it all filmed on CCTV as well anyway! Doh!!!

Hopefully the Daleks will have something proper-Dalek-like to do in the next episode, or that they'll stay out of the way in the background waiting for a good plot in a future story whilst Davros, Missy, Clara and the chap known as the Dr have some kind of plot of their own to deal with.

In a mini cliff-hanger of my own the next review / s won't appear here for four weeks or so as I'll be tending to a project of my own.

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2 The Witch's Familiar Broadcast: 26th September 2015.  BlipView written 18th October 2015.

3 2 1, back in the room.

No idea who The Witch's Familiar is so I'll skip past that and onto why Davros has apparently always had the ability to open the eyes he was born with but chose not to. Nope, no idea there either.

What a great episode, the corridors on Skaro looked wonderful and were highly evocative of the very first Dalek serial and this was greatly appreciated. Missy was great fun and was everything that the so-called psychopath River Song should have been (and wasn't).

The explanation of how Missy & Clara survived extermination was clever if not entirely complete when failing to explain how the extermination (skeleton) effect still occurred even though they had actually been transported elsewhere. The HADs explanation of the Tardis surviving wasn't a surprise and had been used (or mentioned) in recent times. Surprised the Daleks didn't know about this trick.

Julian Bleach as Davros was brilliant, his acting was one of the best performances ever in the entire series' run and he was utterly convincing. No idea about the eyes but the scene was effective and you really did get the feel that these two old enemies actually did have some kind of bond.

I'm glad that the Dr wasn't the cause of Davros becoming who he is as that would have made the whole of time and space too small a place to inhabit but made for a very clever back-door revision of the Daleks; the use of mercy. I liked that. Pity no, mercy yes.

Plot on a pinhead: Davros wants to chat further and tricks the Dr into saving his life & upgrade the Daleks but in turn the Dr has actually tricked Davros and the Daleks as ancient Dalek tissue (eh?) existing in Dalek sewers then turn on them for some reason. And something about Davros as a kid.

Clara ending up inside a Dalek casing is very clever or repetitive depending on your point of view as a version of Clara had already done this in Asylum of the Daleks (kind of) and I'd prefer to say it was very clever, as in fact it was exactly that. The attempt by Missy to have the Dr destroy the Clara Dalek does make me query why Missy would go to all the trouble of pairing them up only to have Clara killed by the Dr but then that's what a Timelord psychopath would do and I'm not going to spend too much time querying that one.

Humour prevailed throughout the episode and was enjoyable on that level, with Davros proclaiming the Dr to be privileged and the Dr wondering what Davros is on about only to find Davros is on about the chair the Dr is sat on is one of the most witty moments in Who history. Loved it, laughed both times that I've seen this episode so far.

The Dr was given much more to do in this story and the balance between Dr & Companion was put back into its proper place as had been absent during much of the previous series.

It was between this episode and the next one that the out-of-the-blue news was received that there was going to be a new Doctor Who spin-off commissioned by BBC 3. Out of all of us who'd ever expected the more obvious UNIT or Paternoster Gang spin-offs, who could have been the most surprised to be told that the spin-off is going to be called Class and set at Coal Hill School? Not the most obvious of Dr Who spin-offs is it but thankfully it's not a replacement for Waterloo Road, no this one will have sci-fi elements (whew) along with aliens in it. No Clara though, and I'm not expecting Courtney either. Aimed at teenagers and who knows how good it will be. Certainly not the people who have already criticised it before it's even been cast. Watch it first. My only un-asked for advice to the production team is to call the series something more interesting than Class: Coal Hill would be a better title. Oh, and have Ian Chesterton turn up at some point. Has the school ever been ascribed to being in a particular part of London? If not then Coal Hill would be a good name for the area that Coal Hill School is in.

7
3 Under The Lake Broadcast: 3rd October 2015.  BlipView written 18th October 2015.

How nice to have a story set under water and not feature Silurians, Ice Warriors or any other previous old enemy of the Dr.

The episode had great atmosphere, a good-size cast and a proper menace and it really felt I was watching 'proper' Dr Who again. Heck, there were even running-down-corridor scenes to bring back happy memories of watching Timelash.

It didn't take a genius to realise that deaf character Cass was going to lip-read the ghosts silent words so this did come across as convenient as when Hexachromite Gas, lethal to reptilian creatures, was found to be on the Seabase being invaded by reptilian creatures in 1983's underwater adventure Warriors of the Deep. However, I liked Cass and all the characters in this one, it was about time there had been a larger cast anyway, and was almost amusing that they should appear in a small-base-under-siege plot.

The manipulation of the night and day cycles was scary stuff and I can imagine this story being the kind to be remembered by young viewers who will go on to become Dr Who writers / producers themselves one day, it's that good.

Once again the Dr gets centre attention, a relief after last year's Clara-Danny hijacking of the series and this is brilliant. Clara is also likeable again as she seems to want to travel with the Dr instead of moaning at him for being everything he isn't. This is much better.

Plot on a pinhead: Ghosts talk but no one is listening. One person who cannot hear sees what they're saying.

The idea of the ear worm is perfect, and I hope this is used to great effect again at some point, there really is a whole plot itself there; humans being manipulated without a clue; scary. It wouldn't even have to be an alien menace behind it, a human villain would likely be more effective there, maybe a Thinktank-type organisation. Perhaps to create a The Blue and The Green type scenario. I digress.

This was a very visually impressive episode that had the plot firmly at the front and one of the strongest stories for many a day.

8
4 Before The Flood Broadcast: 10th October 2015.  BlipView written 18th October 2015.

The Doctor talk to the audience?! Unthinkable! Liked it, and the Dr can wish a Happy Christmas to all of us at home anytime he likes as well (well, maybe at Christmas time anyway).

The guitar-ified theme tune was excellent and amusing at the same time and I hope it turns up on the next soundtrack CD. Talking of soundtracks, I've been watching 1975's The Changes again recently and Paddy Kingsland's soundtrack for that remains one of the best ever: I'd love that to be released on CD and if ever the magnificent Murray Gold ever takes a break from Dr Who (unthinkable!) I'd be intrigued if Paddy were asked back to Who to score the odd story or two: his previous work on Dr Who during the 1980s was equally as impressive as Murray's particularly Logopolis which was the first story I ever watched that made me want to a) know who'd scored the music and b) want to get hold of it. Murray's music in this particular story seemed to emulate '80s Who music, it could have come straight out of that era (not a bad thing I add quickly) and I loved it. Murray's work since 2005 hardly needs praising as it is all self-evidently speaks for itself but even by his high standards this is one of his best.

This was another great episode that really cranked up the tension even if I hadn't a clue what was going on and the Fisher King whatever it was looked incredibly good. I've not been so impressed with a creature design since the Destroyer from 1989's Battlefield.

I liked the Cass & wass-is-name getting together scene, it was nicely done and very well acted by both parties. It's almost redundant to say it was very well written but it would be wrong to miss that point out just because that's the case.

Thankfully the story managed to be timey-wimey without it seeming  like it had all been done before and I believe this story will be even better on second viewing.

Sonic Glasses v Sonic Screwdriver? Who cares, they're both devices designed to short cut the Dr through the plot and I doubt we've seen the last of the Screwdriver anyway.

Once again the effects were terrific but only served to dress the plot rather than be the focal point and that works for me; plot first, then think how that plot can be realised, not how can we make this look really good then decide what plot can go with it.

Plot on a pinhead: How the ghosts were created and then stopped. And something to do with something called Fisher King.

This is the 7th episode of Dr Who in a row that I've liked (or loved) and things are now really looking up.

8
5 The Girl Who Died Broadcast: 17th October 2015.  BlipView written 18th October 2015.

To cast Maisie Williams as Ashildr (have I spelt that anywhere near correctly?) was an intelligent piece of background production as Game of Thrones is really really big on the outside and it's good she has been cast as an important character (she is going to be important isn't she?).

Let's forget she's  another character who can live forever a la Captain Jack Harkness and try instead to wonder if Ashildr's going to be a companion at some point.

The Mire were nicely designed and were possibly too good for what was a very simple plot.

Plot on a pinhead: Bad guy needs human.. something in order to live and his minions raid a Viking village to get it. They get it but after being unable to resist an un-wise challenge from a defenceless youngster get electrocuted or something and the bad guy is embarrassed out of retaliating by the threat to post a potentially viral video showing him and his minions running away from an illusion. The youngster dies but the Dr brings her back to life seemingly forever by using some kind of chip-thing. To be continued.

This isn't so much a 2-parter as two stories connected by one character and if it weren't for the words 'To Be Continued' seen on screen at the end of the episode who'da even thought it was a 2-parter at all. I look forward to the next episode.

Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow was nicely explained; he more or less says it means nothing, it just sounds good. Which is likely what Jon Pertwee thought all those years ago.

Who knew that the big revelation of who the current Dr had modelled his face after would turn out to the character Peter Capaldi had previously played in The Fires of Pompeii? The answer had always been blindingly obviously in front of our faces all the time and I should have guessed from the whole Astra-Romana II thing way back in the day that this was going to be this answer. Clever though and very welcome. I'd always thought PC had been given too small a role in his Tennant episode and now it all fits in nicely. You have to chuckle (no?) that the latest Dr can easily dismiss people's names or re-name people but manages to remember someone he met briefly two regenerations / hundreds of years ago. Well I chuckled anyway.

Now that that question has been answered are we heading for another regeneration in the next year or so. Hopefully not as this could prove to be too many Drs too soon.

Talking of faces / taking after someone, is the obvious 7th Doctor question "Why does the 7th Doctor have a Scottish accent?" answered with "Because the 3rd Doctor enjoyed watching spoon-playing Sylvester McCoy on Tiswas during his incarceration on Earth in the 1970s and chose to look & sound like him in order to remember to have a sense of humour?"

Let's have a quick look at the ratings so far. I remember back in 2005 somebody somewhere connected to the series saying that before Eccleston's series was broadcast the hope had been for 4 million viewers such that it was a very big and pleasant surprise to get 10 million viewers instead. Now Dr Who's overnight figures are around 4 million or so and a big deal is being made about it; what's the fuss about, It's still high in the ratings and it's still getting high audience appreciation figures. The series is not getting more than 7 million viewers but this is extremely good when you consider that series such as Doctor Foster are being praised for achieving similar ratings.

The number of overall viewers has gone down, but this is more likely a reflection of people's opinions of the previous two series than of this one; you are judged by what you have done not by what you are doing. The last series, along with the over-hype of the 50th anniversary Day of the Doctor along with the over-hype of 2014's Deep Breath have likely played a part in the overall drop in viewer numbers but, frankly, if the series is still getting 7 million viewers a week across all viewing platforms whilst achieving very positive viewer reactions I don't see this as a problem. If the rest of this particular series holds up as well as the first five episodes then it will become highly regarded in time, and word-of-mouth will ensure it is watched time and time again by those who have already watched it and by those who have yet to watch it.

There's also a more-than-reasonable chance that putting the series up directly against ITV ratings juggernaut X-Factor might be having an effect but that's like saying there are better TV series' than Doctor Who which is of course absolute rubbish. The timeslot might be the thing though, putting it on at 8:25pm or thereabouts pushes it into times associated with programmes more suited to adults and this is unfortunate as Doctor Who is for the family not just for adults (not just for children either).

5
6 The Woman Who Lived Broadcast: 24th October 2015.  BlipView written 25th October 2015.

Another not-much-happened-but-was-fun-anyway episode that put character before plot what plot.

Plot on a pinhead: The Dr hunts for an alien object in the 17th century, re-meeting Ashildr from the previous episode along the way to justify the 'To Be Continued' caption from the end of the last episode. They find the object and there's an alien lion creature who wants to do something bad with it and Ashildr who says she doesn't care does actually care about this and reverses the polarity of the neutron flow by saving a thief with a chip-thing from the previous episode thereby stopping some adequate special effects in their tracks.

Gosh knows how many exciting adventures the Dr had between this latest adventure and the previous broadcast one or how many years have passed in the Dr's timeline since he first met Ashildr but for me only 7 days have passed so it seemed like a blooming great coincidence that the Dr would meet Ashildr again so soon having not met her in any previous or future incarnations along his or her way. Summat to do with the Tardis sticking her nose in? These are two separate stories and would have been better separated by other stories methinks.

Ashildr's another female who-might-be-good-might-be-bad along the lines of River Song and Missy and doesn't she like to talk! Chitter chatter permeated the episode as if there were no plot at all (admittedly there wasn't much) and this could have all been done in 25 minutes. It was nicely made as most episodes are and even some extras got paid to be in this one but Ashildr wasn't quite as interesting as I'd hoped she'd be and why she remembers Clara's name and not her own beats me. Like most of the bad girl characters who appear in the series Ashildr has issues with the Dr but likes him really and it has a familiar deja-vu about it all over again.

The plot was tiny so the Sam character was a nice diversion and who was in the same vein as Richard Mace from The Visitation, a story referenced by use of the word Terrileptil in this episode. Such touches are nice. His was a good fun character and I'd prefer to see him back than Ashildr now but I guess they'll both be back in another what-a-coincidence kind of way.

Is Ashildr the Dr's  mother? Just throwing that one out there. They have certain things in common such as the 'losing people' kinda gubbins, she wants to get out into space and travel and can live a very long time if not forever. She might age slowly but if she were to meet a Timelord along the way who fancies her they just might want to produce a Time Tot or two. There's the mention of the Dr being half human in the Paul McGann episode from 1996 and this series' fascination with a hybrid species of Timelord and... whatever along with the idea of the Dr running away from Gallifrey because of it, well perhaps that instead of it being a hybrid of Timelord and Dalek as Davros preposterously proposed earlier in the series, what if it was Timelord and human. There's also that ever so small point that Ashildr had forgotten her real name by this episode and the Dr obviously never goes by his real name either, so like mother like son. Plus the Dr seemed to recognise Ashildr last episode and saved her out of all the people he could ever have saved.

Of course I could be wrong.

The oo-er titter-ye-not double entendres were unexpected in a family show but then again if you know both meanings then you know both meanings if you know what I mean. Simon Groom long ago said "What a beautiful pair of knockers" as an obvious double-entendre on children's programme Blue Peter back in the day and he got away with that so those that appeared in this Who episode were just as harmless, which is the point of double-entendres.

The guitar thing's going to get dull, I can feel it, the spoons from way-back-when used to make me groan and the guitar thing's now making me do the same thing.

Nice to see Clara make an appearance as I'd predicted to people that she weren't going to be in this one (or the next two): this is a nice way of writing a character slowly out of a series, but one which hopefully won't end in a third-party "She says she'd like to stay in London and she sends you her love" kind of way.

There's not a lot else to comment on in this episode as there weren't a lot to it to comment on.

5
7 The Zygon Invasion Broadcast: 31st October 2015.  BlipView written 1st November 2015.

For this story it's nice to see that there's been a 100% increase in Zygon costumes from that seen in Day of the Doctor even if this still only represents 50% of the number that appeared in 1975's Terror of the Zygons. But it's the thought that counts. Now if it were the Daleks ooh there'd be loads all standing (not standing exactly) around in all different varieties but the Zygons had best be pleased with two.

This is a direct sequel to the much un-loved by me resolution to the Zygon plot in Day of the Doctor and whilst a necessary evil only makes that 50-years-celebrating special even more weak as it doesn't even stand up on its own anymore. Not special if it needs to be continued in another story is it no it isn't.

The story started dull and lifeless with a lot of chat chat (again) but by the end of the episode it was tight and gripping. I was bored by early parts of the episode and even when the soldier was deciding whether to shoot his 'mother' or not this wasn't so much tense as a time to 'Get on with it!' (by that I mean get on with the plot not get on with shooting your mother) 'cos it just dragged. I actually said 'Get on with it!' at that time.

Plot on a pinhead: The unsatisfactory resolution to the Zygon story in Day of the Doctor is resurrected in a Zygon-splinter-group-wants-to-control-the-Earth kind of way.

The Zygons' modus operandi is to copy other beings and once again this is hardly interesting. Whether it be Autons, Slitheen or Zygons they all have the same modus operandi. It would be nice to see the Zygons taking up some other idea. They are one of the best designed creatures to appear in the series so seeing them in all their rubbery blob-ness doing something just as sinister but without all the copying stuff would be cool. Get this story out of the way, get them a rest, bring them back but give them something else to do.

The Osgoods were great fun and the question mark jumper and collars were wonderful touches albeit that further into the episode the surviving Osgood questioned the Dr about the question marks. This question is all too suddenly being asked in light of Davros' questioning of the Dr and the other questions asked along the way. Too many questions coincidentally all at the same time. Along with the hybrid stuff: nothing then it's all the time.

That guitar, groan.

Where there's doubles there's time for people to play two roles. You know it's going to happen because it always happens. I thought the twist would be that it was the Dr who was duplicated (would that be a twist? No) but it was Clara who turned out to be duplicated at some point along the way. Still, it was good to see Clara in spite of being wrong in previously saying that I didn't think she'd be in this story much.

There were some extras again in this story, was set over a number of different locations and had a cliff-hanger ending so it was pretty ok really and it will likely get better next episode. There's just no way it could turn into another 'talk around the table' bore as with Cold Blood and Day of the Doctor, there's just no way. No way.

5
8 The Zygon Inversion Broadcast: 7th November 2015.  BlipView written 8th November 2015.

It certainly wasn't resolved by characters talking round a table but they sure did stand around it. But it was no bore.

The escape from the plane with the help of a strong-willed Clara was an unusual (original?) way of resolving a cliff-hanger.

I find the use of doubles / duplicates tedious, it's a good way of saving money sure and gives actors a chance to play another version of themselves but it is one of the most well-worn devices ever constructed for film and TV. It's not confined to science fiction either, a lot of TV series I watched as a kid had a double story at some point whether it be comedy or drama. Back in the '80s one particularly dull series of Dynasty had a Krystle look-a-like dulling the senses for nearly the entire series.

Which brings me to Bonnie Clara. At first I thought 'Here we go again' as the amount of extras on-screen dried up, the amount of scene locations fizzled out and Bonnie took centre stage. And dull it was for a while until I realised how well Jenna was playing her. Boringly predictably evil-smile-type or multi-layered? Both, at first the former, then later the latter.

It wasn't a surprise that Kate turned out to be Kate rather than Zygon Kate but it was pleasing to hear 'Five rounds rapid' make an appearance, it was a nice and cheeky reference to her screen father's character.

Once we get to the Osgood boxes and the talk round the table stuff it's incredibly good. I hadn't expected it to be good let alone this good; 'Here we go again' is what I thought (yet again) at this point but once again my expectations were turned on their head. Peter Capaldi gets a lot to say (a lot!) and he is brilliant. The script at this point is perfect and Peter says the lines (lots of them!) with absolute conviction; this has become his episode. We've had to wait a long time to get a perfect scene for his Doctor and this was it. The strength of feeling pouring from his Doctor, the absolute belief that there was only futility in going to war, the baring of his Doctor's soul, it was all brilliant and thankfully stark of humour. This was the Doctor telling it as it is, and this is going to be one of the most-remembered speeches in years to come. Jenna was excellent too, managing to make me as a viewer forget I was seeing the same actor as the one that played Clara. Flawless writing, flawless acting. I can't praise this scene enough.

Petronella Osgood was flawless too, Ingrid Oliver is a remarkable find in acting terms and she simply must come back again (and again). I could have cried when Osgood turned down the Doctor's invitation to travel in the Tardis as the character is so appealing: you knew Osgood would turn him down but it still stung as you're left wondering why a character who's a fan of the Doctor would turn down the chance; she could have been returned to the exact same time to look after the boxes at some future point. Should Osgood be the next companion (please yes) this would be a real dream come true.

Plot on a pinhead: Budget for the story running out the plot reverts to type with a few characters played by the regular and semi-regular cast talking around a table until the running time is up and the bad alien has been talked out of starting a war. But it's all done so well.

8
9 Sleep No More Broadcast: 14th November 2015.  BlipView written 15th November 2015.

Monsters stalking humans, mad scientist, base under siege, this one had it all.

Daft reason for the existence of the monsters, no reason given for plans of the mad scientist, uninteresting humans, this one had it all.

In the hunt for new ideas, the idea of eye-dust created monsters is right up there with 'The Moon Is An Egg' and this episode would have been more at home in the previous series because of it. It was plain silly.

Plot on a pinhead: Whatever you do don't blink I mean sleep because there's some eye-dust monsters on the loose because of it. Ohhhh dear.

The humans managed to be dull and I didn't care who lived or died, the whole thing was dull. Boring. How, given it was a base-under-siege story? Is it possible that once the reason behind the menace is explained all reality goes out of the window? Perhaps it's easier to believe that Cybermen want to destroy the Earth from the Moon than believe that eye-dust creatures, made from bits of humans (what?) want to do whatever it is they want to do. But to be fair, it was dull right from the start.

From the beginning you sense that the episode is aiming for clever above intelligence: clever camera use, a tale told from the humans' side not the Dr & Clara's, against the fact this is clearly a simple monster-stalks-human-in-base-under-siege story but with the most silly (have I used that word again) reason behind it. It all fell completely flat for me.

Aiming for clever they even forgot to put in the beginning title sequence, they..what, they meant to leave it out?? Even though there was an end title sequence?? It was meant to show this was a video being shown across all media in the future? But had an end title sequence??? So they could have had the beginning title sequence and just not had a pre-credit sequence??? Sadly this wasn't the script to have anything so.. clever?... done to it. In fact it is just annoying.

This is at least the second script where a boffin creates a machine to help mankind and monsters are borne of it: see the equally dull The Lazarus Experiment.

Thankfully this one wasn't a 2-parter and this is the most positive aspect of the episode. Actually, that's not quite true. There'll be people who loved this episode as much as the others in the series so far and for them it must be good to have had nine good episodes to watch, lucky so-and-so's.

To be honest I could go on and on about other aspects of this episode (about the characters & the lines, oh those lines! And that irritating end speech, and---) but I think It's best I don't. I just didn't much care for this one.

2
10 Face The Raven Broadcast: 21st November 2015.  BlipView written 22nd November 2015.

Plot on a pinhead: The Doctor visits Harry Potter World and for the second time this series the Doctor walks into a trap set by an arch enemy, possibly even the same one but 99.9% chance it's Missy this time. Clara does a Rory and we're supposed to believe she's dead but of course she isn't because who would be silly enough to kill Clara by magic pigeon sorry raven?

Diagon Alley for aliens, the street had the same kind of fantasy elements you'd expect from a Wizarding tale, making me wonder just how much the Harry Potter books / films meant to, and influenced, the writer of this script.

The Raven and the two-headed girl were as fantastical a creature as any belonging to JK's fantasy world as was Snake Man in the first episode of the series so one wonders if Sci-Fi is being side-lined in favour of this kind of magic stuff which would be fine if it wasn't so obvious.

I like the idea of an alien sub-society hiding in secret in a magic alleyway but it is too close to the Wizarding one in Harry Potter's world for real comfort.

Have I emphasized this point enough yet?

So, two episodes this year have had somebody trying to get the Dr's attention with the intention of teleporting him somewhere else. Last time it was in the first Dalek episode, this time it's Ashildr (on Missy's orders?) setting Rigsy up with a countdown tattoo. Both episodes have had fantasy creatures. Both have had Clara supposedly killed off near the episode's conclusion. This is where a Script Editor would come in handy.

A major plus for this episode was that this was a nicely made episode, the street scenes were nicely atmospheric and the Dr's anger towards Ashildr at the end was more believable than Clara being dead. See you soon Clara.

Rigsy could have been anybody in this one, there wasn't a lot of depth written to his character this time around and this was disappointing. He is played by a darn good actor and I had been looking forward to seeing him again. Did Rigsy really leave a baby behind on their own? Did the Dr promise to get Rigsy back at the point he had left? That should have been made clearer.

The ten minutes or so of the Dr and Clara talking about Clara's impending Death by Magic Pigeon Sorry Raven was all a bit pointless as she will be back as if by magic at some point in the next two episodes. I didn't feel at all sad at anything going on because it was all artificially constructed. If she ain't dead how can one be sad, that's how it goes. Even if she is dead (ha!) then I still won't be sad as it's difficult to take seriously that she has been killed by a magic pigeon sorry raven. This is as close as it gets to Kylie's falling to death in a forklift in Voyage of the Damned for snigger-bility to take it at all seriously.

For all it's faults though, this was an entertaining episode and I liked it.

This is a 3-parter? Nice. Let's be having more of that.

7
11 Heaven Sent Broadcast: 28th November 2015.  BlipView written 29th November 2015.

Plot on a pinhead: Answers on a postcard to...

The Doctor believes Clara's dead even if I don't and this helped shape a very good atmosphere for this episode. There actually did feel a sense of loss because of the clever way that narration linked with visuals throughout.

It was a long episode and was clear from the trailer that the Dr was likely getting most of the scenes to himself, which could have been a bore but for the script, acting, filming and editing. It could all have been done in a normal running time but having slept on it overnight suspect it had the right running time for its purpose, I wouldn't cut one second of it.

Without knowing what was really going on throughout most of it, and as my fellow Mini Time Team fellow, the irrepressible Andrew O'Day said, it felt like the Dr was in the Matrix a la The Deadly Assassin & Trial of a Timelord, it was so dreamlike. Eventually there seemed to be an explanation of sorts and it was a remarkably clever one.

I liked the idea of the Dr thinking fast to come up with answers and ways out and this was once again a very clever touch.

Funny though that the one thing that was updated each time the Dr re-lived the same experiences was that the diamond wall was altered whereas everything else reverted to the same as it was when he first appeared. I've no idea why that is unless I missed an important on-screen explanation (ha ha I know!) but overall this was a mightily impressive episode. I've no idea why any of what happened happened or why it led to Gallifrey but I liked it a lot.

The ending, with the Dr finally back on Gallifrey, was simply awesome in spite of my being befuddled as at how anything that had happened had led up to that point. He's back! but what are they going to do with The Timelords now that  they are back?

Plot on a pinhead Redux: The Dr re-lives the same adventure over and over again to somehow get back to Gallifrey in some way that I don't get.

8
12 Hell Bent Broadcast: 5th December 2015.  BlipView written 6th December 2015.

Plot on a pinhead: In order to save Clara the embarrassment of being killed by a magic pigeon raven the Dr takes her out of time and there's some muddled something or other about a hybrid, along with Gallifrey and Timelords.

I wonder how many viewers were pleased that Clara's fate worse than death (the manner of her death) has been indefinitely stalled, in relation to the number of viewers who feel cheated that yet another character has cheated death, in relation to the number of viewers who wish she'd stayed dead. No idea.

Blow me down if my assumption that Rassilon had been brought back to lead the Timelords in the Time War was wrong and that as per someone referring to the Dr it was Rassilon who was responsible for starting the Time War. So why had the Timelords resurrected him in the first place then? See you in a later series Rassilon.

You know, all those times the Dr met up with Borusa back in the '70s and '80s, yet nobody felt the need to mention the word hybrid back then, it's almost like that whole plot's been made up just for this series with no duty of care for the past! I know, who'd buy into that? Just to give the Dr a whole different reason to have left Gallifrey in the first place. In terms of re-writing history, they've re-decorated: I don't like it. Not one bit. The re-writing of the Dr's modus operandi purely for a muddled something about a hybrid is purely irritating. I mean, why now???

When that Timelord regenerated into a woman after being shot for no reason by the Dr all I thought was 'Not again, why are they all doing this all of a sudden?' Not content with Missy or the one mentioned in The Doctor's Wife this is now seemingly the rage for the Timelords. It could be their way of ensuring equality in the High Council but is this a politically correct move too far? No idea.

The episode started out interestingly enough as it looked like it was going to be about Gallifrey but roughly half-way in turned its attention 100% to Clara and her fate, just as The Snowmen had started off being about Snowmen and then half-way through turned its attention 100% to Clara MK II. This time it was more interesting, and at least we knew this was definitely her last appearance, though this was another small-scale ending to a series as it centred once again around the two main characters. 'Tis a small universe.

I'd wondered if the diner-Clara was going to turn out to be another splinter of the real thing but was happy when she turned out to be the real thing, though wasn't the idea that the Timelords wouldn't be able to get to her if she either didn't remember him or he didn't remember her? Somehow? I'm thinking that de-materialising the Tardis-Diner from around the Dr might have given him a clue as to who she was and that her face appearing on the Tardis door as per Rigsy might well reinforce any suspicion. I liked all this anyway as this was a much better farewell than the Harry Potter one two episodes ago. It's not often an actor gets two farewell episodes in a series, let alone the very same series. Mind you, Clara had two farewell episodes last year, Death in Heaven and Last Christmas (sort of).

Presumably the future time-travelling Danny-like character who appeared in Listen is an off-shoot of some other Clara or more likely not, that one's been completely over-looked, but anybody who can re-write the Dr's personal history isn't likely to worry about re-writing their own characters' personal history or more likely just forgetting about it.

Peter Capaldi was excellent throughout, his Dr angry and willing to break all the rules to save Clara in a 'Don't let Adric know I've done this' kind of way and shows how much the Dr has been affected by his many years of isolation from the Timelords.

As with the the question of how many Dr's there have been so far, it's best not to ask how old he is now either. It's frankly a redundant question now, it's been made impossibly complicated with the 'Two billion', no, 'Four billion' figures now being banded about. Numbers just don't mean a thing now, and this distances me very greatly from the series I've watched and (mostly) loved all my life. There was an attachment because we knew where each Dr fitted and had some idea of his age but now it's gone past the point where there's any meaning to either concept. I feel that as a fan; I wonder what the general audience makes of such ridiculous figures.

But I digress, the Dr was excellent in this episode, and I liked the fact he was heroically trying to save his companion, just as Peter Davison's Dr heroically went out of his way to save Peri in The Caves of Androzni. The relationship between the two characters in this episode was perfect, even if the Dr's forgotten he can hunt out another version of Clara if he really wants to.

Where it all fell flat was in the dialogue between the Dr and Ashildr relating to the hybrid, which went on so long I had no idea what they were talking about. The hybrid was the Dr and Clara? Am I right? Who knows. The Dr ran away from Gallifrey in a Time-Can-Be-Re-written moment because of this? Why?

The non-surprise revelation that Ashildr was at the end of time grated as much as the where-and-why-did-this-hybrid-nonsense-suddenly-appear-out-of-the-blue plot and why is the Dr suddenly bumping into her all the time? Coincidence he never met her all those times he was on Earth in all his other incarnations eh? Was Ashildr brought into the series just for this moment? ha ha I'd like to think so.

The Tardis set that Clara and Ashildr've run off in is a fantastic homage to the past and would be welcome back again oh yes.

The good news for Big Finish is that there's a whole new series of full-cast audio adventures just waiting to unfurl itself on the world as The Adventures of Clara and Me if they can get the rights to it if they haven't already.

Overnight I'm not as impressed with this episode as I was when I watched it, I would have given it 10 / 10 last night but the more I think about it the less perfect it is. As I'd said to someone who shall be named Andrew O'Day last night, if this episode had appeared earlier in the series I would have hated it, it only works at all because it is Clara's absolutely, definitely, completely, last episode. Had it appeared earlier in this series I would have said it was too small-universe-y and too Clara-centric.

The Christmas episode is on Christmas Day at 5:15pm which is a bit different from the 8pm-onwards slot the series has recently been in, which is good as its target audience might now be able to tune in and watch assuming they haven't forgotten all about this series by now. And for me I can get to bed earlier, ah wait, Mrs Brown's Boys is on.

Update 25th December 2016: It crossed my mind that if the hybrid was of the Dr and a companion, isn't Donna back in Journey's End a more worthy candidate of the term hybrid? She did actually have a Timelord mind. the explanation could then be that in the re-telling of the story something got lost in translation (just as it did between author of this episode and this viewer who remains otherwise perplexed by the whole hybrid issue) so that Clara gets mistaken for Donna, 'cos Clara gets around a bit as various versions of herself. Look, it's not a brilliant theory, I appreciate that, but it'll get me to sleep at night.

8
13 The Husbands of River Song Broadcast: 25th December 2015.  BlipView written 29th December 2015.

Plot on a pinhead: At first glance this appears to be a trite story about the hunt for a diamond but on reflection it is surprisingly exactly that. And the Dr says a final goodbye to River for the 4th time.

Am writing this before the memory fades and before the temptation to read all the other, much better, reviews sets in. Ooh it's been tempting. Had to get Crimbo out the way first of course though, me the cat and the turkey all had a timetable to stick to. Still, here we are all fah-la-lah'd and ho-ho-ho'd to excess and ready to count down the days to next Christmas so here we go.

Other than a bit of snow in a surprisingly quick return to Diagon Alley there weren't a lot of references to Christmas and I liked this, this meant there was room for a good plot that wasn't at the expense of Christmas iconography and even though we didn't get a good plot it was nevertheless great fun. Alex Kingston's River Song was highly entertaining and Peter Capaldi's Dr made for good symmetry with her. I liked the interplay between the two, though River's inexplicable failure to recognise him as the Dr for most of the episode seemed a little far-fetched. Still, this is a Christmas episode so anything goes, right? Even credulity?

River was playful though the idea she's hunting, and has married, for a diamond, is a million miles away from the character we first met in Silence In The Library. Still, this is Christmas and anything goes, right?

Talking of that bountiful episode and of our first meeting with River, did she seem in that particular episode to be somebody who'd concluded that she must be near the end of her life because her diary was almost full? She seemed quite chirpy to me, so that last 24-year night on whatever planet it was must have done her the world of good. One wonders what angst teenager Adrian Mole might have similarly suffered as he reached the end of his first diary but I doubt he concluded he was going to pop off. Just buy another diary River love.

The Matt Dr, at the time he gave River the diary, surely didn't know how thick a diary she'd need for the whole of here 200 year life even though he'd seen the diary before, it's the fact he had seen the diary before that made him give the diary to her, surely?

Onto the final-for-the-4th-time farewell, and... the first one was in Forest of the Dead, then that extra on one of the DVDs (with Matt's Dr), then The Name of the Doctor and now this one... you think, blimey, he's only just said goodbye to Clara for the 4th time, so... the first one was in Death in Heaven (hmm, or was it Kill The Moon?), then Last Christmas (sort of), then Catch The Pigeon I mean Face The Raven, then Hell Bent... isn't this constant saying goodbye to the same people wearing thinner that a 1st Dr's body? The fact that he's said goodbye to two people within two episodes seems less interesting as having two base-under-siege stories in a row, (unless those two are Sleep No More and Return to Sleep No More obviously).

Three different Drs have now said a final farewell to River over many hundreds (if not billions) of years of their lives, Tennant, Smith and now Capaldi: I look forward to the next final farewell with a future Dr.

Onto the guest cast and Matt Lucas gets this year's trophy for the 'Why Did They Hire Somebody So Good But Only Give Him A Small Role' award. The man is quite genuinely one of the best character actors ever so a much bigger presence from him would have been the sensible thing to have. The role he played was too small for it to be considered a major achievement within his own career and is a surprisingly small role for someone so huge within the industry. Greg Davies similarly didn't have a major role but to be fair he's no Matt Lucas so this was fine. He was almost likeable in his sublime over-the-top performance but I doubt he's going to appear at the top of anyone's Favourite Villain list. He remains a top comedian though, and his stand-up DVDs are very entertaining.

The visual effect of the creature pulling half it's head away was the sort of thing that would have seen many a Video Nasty banned back in the day but the effect was incredulously and astonishingly performed. It was perfect as ferpect can be so major kudos to the people that perfected that one.

With River's non-recognition of the Dr I was beginning to think she'd had a memory wipe as part of some re-writing of time but no, she knew what the Tardis was and didn't for one second then believe she was in the presence of the Dr. I don't buy it but it was fun anyway kind of.

It was an episode that for me started off dull then got more entertaining once the Dr and River were together, it made for a good disguise to a weak plot: diamond indeed. On the other hand you do need to be a genius to keep up with what's going on when it comes to all the timey-wimey stuff: how many casual viewers are likely to remember the whole River timeline stuff and realise the significance of her being on that planet at the end of the episode, prior to going off to the Library. I suspect many got lost at that point.

Overall, not as good as Last Christmas as it was more character than plot (second episode in a row) but not bad either.

The episode was broadcast in the UK at 5:15pm Christmas Day.

Text & phone conversations betwixt members of the Oxford Mini Time-Tim:

5:31pm Andrew: This is quite entertaining

5:32pm Me: It is?!

5:41pm Me: It's become entertaining now

Silence from Andrew until 6:20pm when he phoned me:

Andrew: I didn't enjoy that

Me: I like it now.

7:09pm Andrew: What time is eenders

This is why we're not working for a professional magazine devoted to this TV series.

5 (prev 6)
14

The Return Of Doctor Mysterio

Broadcast: 25th December 2016.  BlipView written 25th December 2016.

This is a short review as a) I liked the story and b) the cat's making cocktails and he sure knows how to make them.

Plot on a pinhead: The Dr is responsible for another human being  becoming augmented with superhuman abilities (Ashildr, and very indirectly, Captain Jack, and probably others, you tell me) as well as resurrecting Nardol from the previous adventure. Throw in some brain creatures, a love interest for the superhero, some fun banter and some good effects and mix into one large bowl of enjoyment.

This was an easy to follow adventure and it was great fun. It's going to take me a second viewing to make sure I didn't miss anything as it zipped along quite lively as well as amiably. I liked the guest cast and thanks especially go to Matt Lucas for coming back for a few more lines, he's gonna be fun.

Thanks also go to the BBC for showing it well before my bedtime as that made it easier to watch than most of last series as I wasn't longing to go to sleep. Hope the next series is shown around 7pm though, that seems the optimum time for new Who, and still before my bedtime.

The Dr was more fun than of late, a few laughs here and there make him more likeable as well as more rounded.

I liked all the comic book connection stuff, it made me feel nostalgic for American comics of yester-year, might go read some.

The references to River Song, veiled and not-so-veiled, did somehow bring it down a bit though, do we have to keep being sad she's gone, she's been dead since 2008 after all and we're still saying goodbye!!! Please let that be an end, the end this time. We never had this with Adric.

On the other hand yes I like the fact we're getting to keep Nardol. Now if we could bring back Donna and have them together that would be cool. One of those gem stones could fix her yeah? Yes I think so.

Okay, cocktails time. Coming now pussycat.

7


Season 9 Overview by Tim Harris (Saturday 6th February 2016)

I enjoyed this series a lot more than the previous one and I think it stands up well on its own. I enjoyed the return of cliff-hangers, even the false one at the end of The Girl Who Died, which clearly didn't follow on to the next episode. I also enjoyed the return of a more balanced Dr-Companion combo; unlike last series' Kill The Moon I can't think of a time this series where the Dr literally hands over the plot to the Companion in a 'You deal with it' kind of way. Thank crikey for that.

Clara is a much more likeable character this series because she doesn't whine about anything and actually seems to quite enjoy travelling with the Dr.

The writing overall was nicely done and with the exception of Sleep No More restored my faith in a series I'd been losing that faith in for the two previous series. Ironic that the most recognisable plot device in Dr Who, a base-under-siege, lots of running around episode should turn out to be the weakest in Sleep No More. The fact that it was an episode that simply irritated due to its assumed cleverness of seeing a story from a camera point of view and of leaving out the title sequence just emphasised how strikingly wrong a direction an episode can go in. Thankfully. If it were all perfect it would all become dull, and this wasn't a series that was dull overall. Even the weakest episode has a place in a series because it serves to show how varied a series can be, plus that particular story will have appealed to a great many viewers in spite of my own views and I guarantee it will be an episode I'll watch again when I'm in the mood to. I used to dislike The Time Monster with a passion plus most of series 17 back in the day but I (mostly) enjoyed The Time Monster last time I watched it and I can watch all the stories of series 17 and find something to like in all of them. I just have to be in the right mood to watch those stories and I don't rend to watch them all in a row.

So shall it be with Sleep No More; it, along with all the other stories of season 9, will merge in with the previous 52 years' worth of Dr Who, I'll watch stories when I'm in the mood to watch them, all higgledy-piggledy, amongst the stories of all the other Drs, and it will find its place to be watched at the time I'm in the mood to watch it. I bet I like it more next time, it'll probably be sandwiched between 3rd and 7th Dr stories, Who knows. There was a time in the 70's where I didn't enjoy whole swathes of stories and I pretty much like all of them now to a greater or lesser degree. If you want to see what I mean please see my scant review of The Face of Evil from Series 14.

Peter Capaldi's Dr was much more a Dr I could recognise this series, not that I thought he was bad last series, just that he wasn't given a lot to do, and I think he's found his feet. He certainly seems to stand on them a lot whilst delivering long speeches but this is Peter's forte as his Malcolm Tucker role in The Thick Of It had long ago proved. This is playing to his strengths and has been (Hughie Greene lines aside) a very commanding performance this series. Long may he continue. I think I'd have found Matt Smith a hard act to follow no matter who had taken over as Dr but Peter has managed to do it. So knowing our luck he'll leave after the next series butihopenot!

This series put Dr Who near the top of My Top Programmes of 2015.

I wanted to leave writing this overview until I'd had a chance to sleep on it for a month or two and in that time Steven Moffatt has announced his departure after the next series. It's been a blast (no, really), his series' will be those that people come back to in the future and who, watching them amongst the likes of Terminus, Underworld and The Horns of Nimon, will appreciate those episodes as much as, if not more, than those of the previous Producers. Sure, characters like River and Clara might get multiple exit episodes each but spread out amongst the Pertwees, Bakers, Tennants et al, will each be appreciated even more greatly in an individual way  than had they all been watched close together. Stories assume classic status over a period of time and there's a good chunk of Moffat-led episodes that will, in time, be considered classics.

Steven has helped maintain the series' popularity throughout the world and the constant reference to Dr Who in The Big Bang Theory both delight and show just how recognised the series is.

There will be many who will miss Steven's style of story-telling but there's always a time to move on and he has picked his time, so this gives an opportunity for a new Head Writer to join the series. Chris Chibnall is an interesting choice and his writing is good. It'll be different but that's good in itself isn't it? Contrasts, different styles, different ethos, all to the series' good I'd think. Like anybody else I'd hate for the series to get stuck in a chronic hysteresis, cor blimey no.

Personally I hope Peter Capaldi stays on board the Tardis for another 3 series just as I'd always hoped the same for Tennant and Smith: he is The Doctor.

Moffat has one more series to go and I'm not unhappy that there's a wait for it. I like the idea that Dr Who doesn't have to be on the same time every year, routine is terrible, and the Dr's life should never be routine. One new episode in 2016? Fine by me. I'll likely like the next series even more having waited for it. Hopefully it's being shown in one go and not split in two though. With cliff-hangers. Whatever happens, we have to make the most of the Moffat era of Dr Who because it is coming to an end, whether we liked all / some / none of it or not. It's been a blast so far for me though (with some notable asides of course).


My Minimal Reviews of 'Doctor Who' Season 10 (2017)

  Episode Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 The Pilot Broadcast: 15th April 2017.  BlipView written 16th April 2017.

He's back and it's about thyme, I mean time, as thyme can be re-written.

This is a different Dr from the one introduced a little while back in An Unearthly Child, this one now actively encourages human contact as per his wanting to tutor Bill for whatever reason there is to do that.

Plot on a pinhead: The Dr's been at some University for 70 years as part of some sub-plot to be rationally explained (hopefully) at some point during this series and one of the staff there takes an unusual interest in him. The Dr therefore decides to privately tutor her whilst by coincidence some mysterious happenings relating to a puddle are happening onsite at that University. Then some time travel stuff whilst being tracked by a genuinely creepy creature and after letting her go cue a happy ending.

The Dr and co are on the sidelines of the Dalek / Movellans clash whilst dealing with an alien that has a crush on Bill. What's happened?

The Dr's now based at a University, sister-series Class is set at a school, both have mysterious events happening on-site, I, oh let's move on.

I like Bill, I like Nardole, the Dr's okay, the Movellans were nice to see albeit I would have enjoyed their appearance more had I not known they were appearing (as with the Macra in Gridlock), but having seen the trailer that had them in had likely hoped they were going to be part of a larger story. Cameos should perhaps be left out of trailers for that reason. Unless this is a clever way of showing a future story though I think the Dr says it's the past. I fear the appearance of the Mondas Cybermen later in the series may turn out to be similarly disappointing.

Nods to the past such as Movellans, old Sonic Screwdrivers, Out Of Order signs, photos of Susan are all nice but nicer when they're part of a good plot rather than a reminder of good old times.

As to the plot, it seemed to take a while to turn up, wasn't that interesting and was resolved without incident. It didn't grab me.

My original review for this episode was going to be the word "Oh".

Update 22nd April 2017: I re-watched this episode the next night and I enjoyed it more. Sure it has a small cast, effects that have been used in other episodes (The Waters Of Mars), very little real plot for a while, yet Bill is such a likeable character that it's not as bad as I first thought it was. The introduction to the Tardis scene was particularly well done.

5 (prev 4)
2 Smile Broadcast: 22nd April 2017.  BlipView written 22nd April 2017.

Plot on a pinhead: Whatever you do, don't Blink / Breathe / Frown (delete as appropriate). Robots kill their human creators and The Dr switches them off & on again. Oh, and Anthony from The Royle Family turns up in a cameo role.

There was so little going for this one right from the start, with only the series regulars turning up to speak most of the lines. The problem is that when you only have a small cast there's no threat because you know the regulars are going to survive and in this particular era of Dr Who, even if they are killed they would be brought back to life in some way anyway. So, no threat. Even Nardole didn't get many lines.

The episode, in spite of the tight-budget-inducing weakness mentioned above, was blooming good anyway in a 'Prove me wrong whydon't'cha' kind of way. I liked it. Though... it does seem odd that the Dr is all too keen to blow the place up before thinking of switching it off and on again.

At the core of this episode was a clever idea and it was nicely filmed. It looked very pretty even. I will watch this again before long I reckon. It did seem a waste to only get in a guest cast for so very few scenes though, this does make the series look cheap no matter how clever the story is. This is the second episode of this series and the second to have a small cast and this will wear thin if this is the way the rest of the series goes.

Side point: Is this the beginning of the Earth colony that turns up in 1988's The Happiness Patrol? No wait I'll try and explain. Is there a story passed on over the generations that the initial colonists were killed because they didn't smile and that this got twisted over the course of time into the society we see later? You're not convinced are you? The Kandyman could be a future version of the Emojibot? No? Sure? Okay.

6
3 Thin Ice Broadcast: 29th April 2017.  BlipView written 30th April 2017.

Plot on a pinhead: Some unexplained captive creature eats people and its resulting doo-doos prop up a nasty rich person's lifestyle. The willing-to-do-anything-crooked-for-money con-artist child thieves get rewarded with his house and money at the end and proves that it pays to be crooked as long as the Dr likes you.

This one looked like it had money spent on it and even had people other than the regular cast say some lines in what seemed to be a very enjoyable episode with good effects and an atmosphere akin to that during the RTD days. Even the bit where the Dr handed the plot over to Bill in a Kill The Moon way ("You choose Bill, it's your planet even though I've saved it a bunch of times before without bothering to ask anyone") didn't annoy me as much as it should have.

The other bit that had Clara written all over it in a "Was this script a leftover from when Clara was in it?" way was when Bill was doing all the "How many people have you killed and are you all right with that?" gubbins which tickled my irritation levels but didn't quite poke it into red.

Onto the cast and it was brilliant, the kids were cool and getting Nathan Barley in as the bad guy was a particularly good bit of casting that I hadn't picked up on before watching.  Total f*****g Mexico in my opinion.

Bill Potts is a really really good character, she's honest in her opinions, willing to try anything, she's uncomplicated, dizzy and funny in places. Pearl is excellent and I'm already thinking that if Bill's only a one-series companion this is going to be as sad as it was with Martha Jones and Donna Noble leaving after only a series.

Who's knocking on the vault? Nardole knows and he ain't saying. I like this sub-plot, it's kept simple in exactly the way the hybrid sub-plot wasn't last series. Much appreciated.

For two episodes in a row the Dr's stated he's 2000 years old, he's seriously rounding down how old he is now but this is also appreciated as it keeps it more accessible. Let's just not keep mentioning his age in the first place.

7
4 Knock Knock Broadcast: 6th May 2017.  BlipView written 13th May 2017.

Plot on a pinhead: A wooden creature-thing along with beetles consume lodgers in a dark house that should have been the house in Fear Her all those years ago. The events in the episode take place every 20 years? and the Landlord is the father of the wooden creature or the son of the wooden creature and not sure it matters which round way it is.

Pluses for this episode are David Suchet, the cast in general, and that the Dr doesn't already know there's something happening right from the start, unlike in Hide in Season 7.

It was nice of the wooden-creature effect from The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe to make an appearance in this story, just as it was nice to see the water effect from The Waters of Mars make an appearance in The Pilot recently. I'm only wondering what other previously-used effects will make a reappearance this series.

I'm not a fan of film & TV ghost stories, they all tend to employ the same creaking floorboards / knocking on doors / strange sounds cliches in general so my mind wandered a few times whilst this one was on. The eventual 'what it was all about' wiffle waffle didn't particularly engage me either. The walls were made of beetles just as the walls in Smile were made of robots. I'm never gonnna trust a wall in Dr Who again.

Who's behind the door of the vault? Well, this is series that's meant to be a good starting point for new viewers so I'm currently assuming it's no-one we've come across before 'cos that would be off-putting to new viewers wouldn't it?

I didn't rush to write about this one because it's an average episode and it was kinda flat. Tell you what though, at least I can remember some of this episode a week later whereas I can't remember one second of the trailer for the next episode, so that bodes well !!!

5
5 Oxygen Broadcast: 13th May 2017.  BlipView written 14th May 2017.

Plot on a pinhead: Space zombies! Yay!

Now this was a good one! From the outset it just had the right look and feel of a very very good episode. It's the first one off this series that I'd have liked to have been a 2-parter, though it did have a kind-of cliff-hanger anyway so I'm happy with that. Must re-watch the trailer for this episode from the last episode and see why I didn't remember it!

This one had mood, menace and a very good storyline, how good is that? It's even goodlier when characters other than the trio of regular cast members turn up for the fun, and then the tension cranks up even more.

The scene where Mr Blue (can't remember his name, did he have a name?) confuses Bill's surprise at his blue colour into a form of racism, this was so clever. Bill's stumbling over trying to reassure Mr Blue that she's not racist is a gem. Bill is brilliant, keep her I say. She's me fave companion since Donna Noble, Pearl is fantastic. Keep her Chibnall, keep her!

I liked the Dr a lot in this one too, Peter's Dr seemed more caring whilst at the same time coping with a lot going on underneath. A very clever interpretation of the role in this episode. Now it's finally sinking in that we've had a really good Dr and now starting to miss him before he goes.

The effects of the humans becoming zombies was well achieved, the dead stare was excellent, the zombie walking was so well choreographed, the reason for the deaths was original and refreshing, the resolution wholly satisfying. The whole thing was highly satisfying. Just a cotton picking shame it hadn't been a 2-part story with more characters and more tension over what happens if any of them get trapped anywhere. Very good anyway.

This is the 3rd episode this particular writer's written that has been creatively imaginative and this particular one felt so original and so fresh.

The Dr going blind was well handled and very effective also, a very clever way to go, another good reason why this one would have worked even better as a 2-parter. But the final twist that the Dr is still blind at the end of the episode, well I didn't see that coming! Didn't see, geddit? Okay no doubt that was too obvious an obvious joke but I'll take any humour at the moment over and above last night's Eurovision Song Contest. Romania were robbed of victory and the winning song was plain dull. Don't people know a good song when they hear it? Yodle-a-hee-no.

8
6 Extremis Broadcast: 20th May 2017.  BlipView written 21st May 2017.

Plot on a pinhead: Ooh it was a clever one. The Pope sends the Dr to look for a book that, once read, makes people seemingly commit suicide, and the Pope wants to know why they'd do this. Why he'd make the Dr read it is perhaps open to discussion. Then it turns out that the world isn't real so has any of this series been real? Wait, it's all fiction, forget it.

This was one of those where you watch for a while, think that nothing's happening and then find out more's been going on than you thought. I hadn't actually spotted who wrote this one (I'm trying not to pay too much attention to who wrote / directed each episode 'cos I don't want to have pre-conceived ideas about how much I'm likely to enjoy it) but after a while I sensed a feeling of Moffatt's penmanship as it became more and more clear how intelligent this one was.

I didn't really get all the stuff with the Pope and as to why the Tardis gift of language translation didn't work upon this occasion, it wasn't an ancient language he was speaking such as that back in The Impossible Planet but then it wasn't real was it.

Having said that, if this is a hologram world how come the Veritas exists? Why would it exist? Was that explained? No idea, you probably paid more attention to that than me.

Loved the idea that this wasn't the real world, that this wasn't the real Dr, Bill & Nardole, that was such a cool idea. Very original. Still, it's about a book in a vast library and Steven's used a library before in Silence In The Library, and that one involved a copy of the world that wasn't real too, with Donna in the dream-like whatsit. Still who cares? I enjoyed that one, I enjoyed this one.

The creatures represent a new menace in the series and it's about time we had a new menace. Daleks, Cybermen & Ice Warriors are all good and fine but we needed a new and nasty protagonist. It's nice to know it's not just the Daleks who want to conquer humanity so I'm quite happy for something different to come along.

The appearance of Missy was nice although that seems to tie up exactly with who I thought was in the vault so I'm hoping there's still some kind of twist to come once it's open. Maybe the Kandyman or Fifi are in there with her, I'm holding out hope.

How had Missy got away from the Daleks, why was she to be executed, I'm sure we'll never find out so let's move onto the Dr who was brilliant in this. Peter C as the blind Dr is far more understated and therefore greater than he's ever been, this is a great performance. I love it in fact. Nardole's assistance is amusing as well as practical and I'm really enjoying this series overall, it does feel quite fresh and new.

I like the fact that the hologram Dr is able to text a message to the real Dr along with a copy of the non-real book and I don't care that there's absolutely no way this could happen and won't dwell too much on the 'If he sends it from his un-real self won't it just come back to him' dilemma and I suggest we all do the same.

Another reference to Star Trek this week (To Boldly Go.. last week and Holodeck this week), have the production team been sneakily watching programmes other than Who recently? Oh yes, apparently there are programmes other than Who, but why?

Keep Bill, don't Kill Bill, she is just the best, she's an uncomplicated companion but interesting by nature. A blooming good performance. So far this has been a great last series for our Peter, and we're already half way through. Now time seems to be marching too fast.

Well, let's see what the Space Monks get up to next week. These aren't going to become the Headless Monks are they? Or The Silence / Silents?

7
7 The Pyramid at the End of the World
If you run a Windows 10 update on your laptop and your wi-fi connection disappears all you need to do is:

1) Connect via cable from your wi-fi router to your laptop (to get a connection to the internet)
2) Update your Wireless Network Adapter Driver (this may take a while) and then your wi-fi should come back to life. Well it worked for me anyway.
3) Restart your laptop anyway as this will make sure the laptop is fully updated.
4) Then comes the fun bit. Once happy that all is working compose a carefully constructed email to Microsoft beginning "Dear Leave-It-To-Myself-To-Work-Out-Why-Your-Update-Made-My-Wireless-Disappear Sirs or Madams, I'd like to express my delight at your clodhopping
skovoxblitzerpink upgrade for firstly taking two hours to download/install then making my laptop internet-unusable for longer than it takes to count the collective amount of common sense amongst you." Then proceed to let forth to include phrases such as "Why do your gunkmonkey updates not forewarn us this might happen? And tell us how to sort it out should these things happen?". A list of swear words and phrases for use in such an email may be available on request. If I can be arsed.

And now I'm back online:

Broadcast: 27th May 2017.  BlipView written 28th May 2017.

Plot on a pinhead: Space Monks offer to help Earth defeat a bacteria that forms part of the 1% that Domestos cannot kill. They have a Pyramid and everything.

With thanks to Arsenal winning 2-1 to Chelsea in the FA Cup Final; didn't so much care who won but glad it didn't go to extra time / penalties as that would have meant Dr Who being delayed or postponed.

Before watching this one I'd just told he who's named Andrew O'Day who was my sole guest round me house last night that I was actively trying not to know who was writing or directing each episode in advance so that I wouldn't have pre-conceived ideas. He said "Okay, let me tell you at what point I can recognise who's written this one".

The episode began, up came the caption "Previously:", seconds later up came the caption "Now:" and Andrew chipped in "This point: it's Moffat". How we both laughed out loud. Well I guess you had to be there.

It was an unusual re-cap in that it combined clips from the previous episode with new bits, wonder how many times in the history of TV that's ever happened before.

Anyway, Space Monks turn up in a Pyramid and UNIT forget to contact the Dr leaving it to the wider UN to get a hold of him via Bill who should really be in the next series too as she's that good, and she tootles off on a plane ride that ultimately gets her, the Dr & Nardole to this Pyramid. Human and aliens have a good old chin-wag and it's abundantly clear before long that this is going to be a jump-around talky episode with lots of extras not doing much. Lots of UN soldiers not shooting anything for instance.

Meanwhile in a lab a chap accidentally puts a decimal point in the wrong place and creates a super bacteria that will wipe out humanity and it's up to a blind Dr to sort it. He becomes un-blind at the part of the script that calls for it and Earth is saved but with a catch: Earth is now under control of the Space Monks.

A little while ago the Dr wanted mankind to make its own choice about a creature under the Thames and previously about a creature that's been hatched out of the Moon (if you haven't seen that one I'd watch anything else instead) now in this one when mankind is attempting to make its own decision the Dr is more than willing to butt in. If I could work out the point I'm trying to make here I'd be one up on the point of this episode which I struggled with. Someone in the room I was in described the script as "Moffatt twaddle" which wasn't me but I felt that this was perhaps a not-too-interesting episode overall even with some fine actors who had lines to speak over and above the regular cast.

I don't tend to favour scripts set here one second, there another, eeny meenie miney mo and all that, and it felt like another mish-mash of half-realised ideas. The superbug stuff should have been more heavily played on once the jig was up, lots of deaths would have served as a better threat. As it was, one person died before Bill betrayed the entire world to save the Dr's eyesight to save the Dr's life. Didn't really take to that.

There was something fresh different and clever about having the Dr blind. He ain't blind now so am left wondering what the heck the point of that was; not just so Bill could betray Earth to get the Dr's eyesight back surely? And no I didn't call you Shirley.

Onto the trailer for next week, and it's a case of I Spy, with my little Eye, something beginning with A, as in "I Spy A Plot Reset Button Being Pressed Again with Everything Being Set Back To What It Was Before" as the phrase "The Monks have always been here" sent a shiver of The Big Bang and Last of the Timelords familiarity up my spine. Yeesh.

5
8 The Lie of the Land Broadcast: 3rd June 2017.  BlipView written 4th June 2017.

Plot on a pinhead: Nothing happens or at least nothing is seen to happen as everything is reset at the end and humans have no memory of what happened. Not for the first time since the series returned in 2005.

This one wasn't actually as terrible as I thought it was going to be although the predictable 'six monks I mean six months later' and total-reset scenarios did their best to make me go "Not again" again. That aside, I just have one or two questions about this story, none of which are probably worth mentioning, but really, you want to hear them? Is that Bill's dead mum I'm speaking to? Okay Bill's dead mum, they are:

Why do the Monks use the Dr for the broadcasts?

Why do the Monks want Earth to think they the Monks have been a part of Earth's history since forever?

Why is the Dr on a ship somewhere at sea to make the broadcasts?

Why does the Dr go all out to announce his arrival back on land thus risking his plan of attack?

Why do the Space Monks need to use a fake copy of Earth in the episode Extremis to work out Earth's weaknesses when nothing that happens since bears any relation to that episode?

Why does the Dr pretend to begin to regenerate?

Why does Bill speak to her mother who died many years ago?

Why does Bill speaking to her dead mother save the Earth?

Why are there lots of soldiers not using guns once more?

Why is Missy, in any way, starting to feel remorse at who she's killed? Why would she?

There's plenty here to keep our uncle Steven Moffat busy in his regular Doctor Who Magazine column. Now who's going to ask him?

6
9 The Empress of Mars Broadcast: 10th June 2017.  BlipView written 11th June 2017.

Plot on a pinhead: Another clumsy Ice Warrior manages to crash-land on Earth and this time takes some 19th Century soldiers back to Mars to find his Empress & fellow warriors who've characteristically for Doctor Who been sleeping longer than their alarm clock was set for. They just like sleeping don't they? Whether it be in ice or now in some hive thing. Cue some arguing between humans and Ice Warriors and once again everybody ends up being friends just in time for next week's trailer.

The NASA stuff felt embarrassing to watch, why were the Dr & co there anyway, it felt like a forced scene that had been tacked on at the beginning. Had that shot of the message on Mars been at the end of a previous episode where the Dr & friends had been involved in a story set at NASA and thus leading onto this adventure, well that would have been a whole different ball game. So it all felt like a very rushed clumsy reason to get the Dr & chums to Mars. Couldn't they have just landed on Mars, seen some soldiers in caves, assumed they were on earth then, gasp! find out they're on Mars instead?

Equally rushed was the explanation of why there were 19th Century soldiers on Mars. This would have been better as a 2-parter where such explanations could have been better paced. Pretty much like everything else: suddenly the Empress is awake after 5000 years (why?), suddenly the Ice Warriors are being revived, the man in charge is  no longer in charge, now he's back in charge, now he's a supposed coward, now he's a brave warrior; if he's a deserter how the heck is he in charge in the first place? Does that ever happen in the army, didn't it become popular to shoot deserters? When t'Empress questions whether she has revived enough warriors and guesses the ones she has will do for now you think well it's only taken you a few seconds to revive these ones so why not revive a bunch more?

Ice Warriors do like sleeping don't they? At least three of their televised stories have been based on Warriors being in some form of suspended animation, and why were they asleep in this one? The competition between the Silurians, Sea Devils and Ice Warriors for longest deep sleep looks set to continue for some time to come. What if we sleep through the result.

Not sure why an Empress was a big deal (necessity) for the plot or why she was so interested in what Bill had to say over and above the men, is she gender-ist, didn't get the point of that. But then I'm only a man and couldn't be expected to understand such things as that. And what's this hive thing all about? Ice Warriors? Hive? Ice Warriors in a hive? Nah, I don't buy that, least, not without an explanation.

Nice to see a picture of Pauline Collins dressed up as Queen Victoria in a photo on Mars, it's these kinds of touches that remind you how good the RTD years were heh heh. No, seriously, it was a gentle tender nod to a previous story and it worked nicely. "Sleep no more!" exclaims the Queen Empress in a knowing nod to last year's story of the same name written by the same person as this one. Made me chuckle that did.

As to why the Tardis wanted Nardole to go and fetch Missy is a mystery that's either likely to be explained quickly in the next episode or just as likely quickly moved on from (was Missy in the trailer for next week, don't think so) but it's an interesting one.

Towards the end anticipation grew as the Dr sent out a distress message for reasons only the script knows, it grew because as a viewer I was thinking "Please let it be you know who that responds, please..." and it blooming well was! Alpha Centauri you absolute beauty, welcome back after all these years. I don't care if Alpha has a phallus-like appearance, it was good to see and hear him/her. The original voice actor too! Fantastic! This was the moment of the series for me and raised this episode to a very special warm place in my heart. It was a moment that casual viewers would have taken with a pinch of instantly forgotten salt but for us long-term fans it was a glorious golden moment in Who history.

Overall I thought this was a great episode that would have benefited from having a second episode, it was that good.

8
10 The Eaters of Light Now if only this episode had been the second part of last week's story instead of a new story, *sigh*.

Broadcast: 17th June 2017.  BlipView written 18th June 2017.

Plot on a pinhead: Another gateway on Earth leading to other dimensions, another creature attempting to get through from it, some Romans, some crows along with an explanation as to why they caw, and a bit of Missy.

I found this dull. Some good direction in places though, Nardole was fun too. Mostly filmed on location also and there was some atmosphere. It was dull though. Lots of angst, a bit about foes coming together to defeat a bigger enemy, the Dr about to do the right thing, humans doing the right thing instead, it just seemed all, well, weakly executed to me. Maybe it was just the script I didn't take to but for me this is the weak one of the series.

When the plot ran out there was some stuff with Missy which wasn't too interesting either and the trailer for next week indicated a small cast in peril in a flat looking set of clips.

4
11 World Enough and Time Broadcast: 24th June 2017.  BlipView written 24th June 2017.

Plot on a pinhead: Genesis of the Cybermen and when The Master met Missy.

Wow did you see this one? It was so good wasn't it? I didn't even spot that it was The Master underneath that disguise either so if only we hadn't known John Simm was going to turn up 'cos that would have been even better!

The death of Bill was well done and likely to remain a big memory of any younger viewers watching. She'll be back to her old self by the end of the next episode though, if the Dr can resurrect Nardole who's a cyborg he can do it for Bill.

The science of time running at different speeds at different ends of the ship due to the gravitational pull of the black hole was highly believable and just wonderful. We'll forget that the Dr could have moved from one end of the ship to the other in the Tardis and travelled back in time and look at the fact he's named Doctor Who. I loved all of this, it felt right to me. Thank you Steven that was a perfect idea.

The gradual build up of the almost humans into proto-Cybermen into Cybermen was well done and the atmosphere for this episode was just about perfect. Perhaps if there had been other characters who disappeared along the way that could have added to this but overall I'm just quibbling for nothing because I loved what we were given.

It came as no surprise that Bill was the Cyberman especially as a Jackie Tyler, The Brigadier and Danny Pink had previously been converted but I can't see that Bill will remain one.

Missy was wonderful and the Master was just as wonderful. He ain't gonna like what he's become I suspect even if they seem to be teaming up at the end of that episode.

Where's it all going to end eh? A lot to speculate on and I'm not going to do much of that here, I'd hate to be anywhere near right.

I think the trailer for next week showed the two types of Cybermen that have appeared since the series return in 2005 as well as the creepy Mondas Cybermen who I love. Should be interesting. Not many human type characters for them to be defeated by though I suspect.

Talking of Mondas Cybermen the voices were spot on, so glad they're similar to The Tenth Planet voices and not a re-worked version. "Pain. Pain. Pain.." just brilliant intelligent writing here.

Wasn't sure why there was a cityscape on the ship but once again this is a tiny matter.

It was a near-perfect episode and I just hope it all holds together for the next, final, hour long finale.

9
12 The Doctor Falls Broadcast: 1st July 2017.  BlipView written 1st July 2017.

That was just about the best, perfect episode ever, incredibly moving, very creepy, very intense, there are simply not enough words to justify or encapsulate what I saw.

Plot on a pinhead: The Dr wins the day but doesn't want to carry on in what is an epoch moment.

Bill's plight was so affecting, she's just too good a character to feel anything other than total loss that she's gone, of how Bill must have felt at her situation of not being human anymore. Completely heartbreaking stuff. Those Cybermen sure have a way of creating dark moments for the Dr and his friends, Adric not forgotten. The children being scared of Bill was just tear-jerking, yet conversely helped make the episode brilliant because of this.

Seeing Bill see herself as human emphasised just how awful Bill's situation was and in itself was enough to have me feeling intensely sad for her. Such a wonderful created performance from such a bright star that is Pearl Mackie.

The mention of Marinus was very nice, touching on a Doctor Who Magazine comic strip that had Voord becoming Cybermen and that was just one of a staggering amount of fantastic moments in this quite senses-bewildering masterpiece.

Nardole finally had his day, becoming mentor and father-like figure to the band of humans he so carefully looked after, I loved this aspect of the story. It was touching on pathos which in fiction is a plot device I particularly enjoy. Matt Lucas was an addition to the series that I welcomed and I am pleased his character has got a possibly happy ending.

Missy was clearly torn between being her old bad self and of helping the Dr and it was an astonishing Dr-free moment that saw the Master and Missy end each other's existence. Surprising and brilliant. Is Missy dead? Wow. Somehow I thought the Dr would be there at the end but wow.

The guest cast were excellent and one hopes Nardole has found his life partner, as with Bill and hers. I couldn't believe how happy I was that Bill was helped back to a third existence for her, this time with a real sense that she could ultimately be happy. Very intelligently written and superbly put across on screen.

The direction was simply immaculate throughout, a level of high professionalism displayed on a truly creative scale, very film-like and with a score that simply underscored the brilliance of this episode. The music score as with the direction was in a league above anything I can remember in Who and that music is going to remain etched in my mind.

"You may be a Doctor but I am The Doctor", a fantastic almost joke-y line when uttered by Tom Baker's Doctor in Robot, here used to brilliant effect both times we hear it. Both times we hear it there is no denying the unmistakeable belief that this is the absolute truth. A line uttered in perfection by both Peter Capaldi and David Bradley. And how good to see David Bradley confirming all the rumours I'd been trying to avoid, there is so much already to look forward to and and fear the end of for the Christmas episode.

A lot of this appeared to be filmed on location and it was just too perfect, we've been waiting for an episode this good for a very long time.

Even whilst writing this I've had messages from a number of people saying how much they liked this episode and I cannot even begin to say just how much I agree with them. Excellent effects throughout, those explosions are the biggest we've seen aren't they, a million miles away from the explosions in Battlefield all those years ago.

There's a real sense of loss at this Tardis team splitting to go their individual ways, it's so sad that we're losing all three characters in quick succession, Bill will be missed so much, Nardole will be missed and Peter Capaldi's Doctor will be hard to say goodbye to at all he's become that good. 'Good', what an ineffective way to describe the power of Peter's Doctor when he tells the Master and Missy to listen to him, how he explains why he does what he does, the power of having taken his Dr from a tetchy cuddle-free Dr in Deep Breath to this highly emotive and frankly heroic Dr.

"And above all, it's kind. It's just that. Just kind." One of the most simple philosophies to live by and what a beautiful simple message from the Doctor. Why be cruel just because you are powerful? Be kind. I loved that speech, it's at the core of the Doctor and it hides under the mask the Doctor often shows. It's an exquisite speech and through its beautiful simplicity is utterly powerful but kind. The Doctor doesn't want enemies of Missy and the Master, he wants them to see that friendship is better, for them all to stand together, but he'll never know that Missy was on her way back to stand side-by-side with him, how painfully touching that was.

This Doctor doesn't want to regenerate a la Master in Last of the Timelords and it's all so effectively real and captivating. There'll be a point where there'll be no Doctor and it will likely be because the doctor himself makes that choice. The weight of the multi-verse on his shoulders, the loss of friends and of having to try not to feel emotions to keep himself from bursting, all of that played out in this episode and it was nigh on impossible not to get caught up in that. What a brilliant Doctor Peter Capaldi has made, what skilful brilliant writing Steven Moffat has provided.

I could go on and on about how perfect each and every nuance of script was, how perfect every tweak of every actor's believable character was, but the words fail me and this is one of those times I wish they wouldn't. This was just brilliant and I can only mourn that there is not much more of this to come.

Thank you Steven, thank you Peter, thank you Pearl, thank you Matt, thank you Michelle, thank you John.

Just perfect.

10
13      

Doctor Who First Series - The Definitive Harris Guide

A positive tick indicates whether I feel a full series / season each Dr first appears in is at least great.

First Dr William Hartnell  
2nd Dr Patrick Troughton  
3rd Dr Jon Pertwee  
4th Dr Tom Baker  
5th Dr Peter Davison  
6th Dr Colin Baker    
7th Dr Sylvester McCoy    
8th Dr Paul McGann   Well, doesn't really count does it?
9th Dr Christopher Eccleston Why'd'ya leave so soon? Why???
10th Dr David Tennant  
11th Dr Matt Smith    
12th Dr Peter Capaldi   Zoings! My least favourite introductory series to date.

My Minimal Reviews of 'Torchwood: Miracle Day'

  Episode Title Review

Score Out Of 10 (10 being the highest)

1 The New World People stop dying: not a great hook for a series. Turns the old 'world's population in peril from being killed' scenario upside down (no one is in peril) and is all the less interesting for it. 5
2 Rendition Not much sci-fi here, and why does this series feel like it's more padding than plot? 5
3 Dead of Night Immensely dull: the whole government-agency-with-people-working-for-the-bad-guys shtick has been done to death in many other series (24 in particular). 2
4 Escape to L.A. Hello, this has started to get interesting now: even Oswald Danes seems to have a proper place in this plot now. I can live without all the family plots going on though: father, sister, nieces, husband, father - borrrrring! Bring on the sci-fi! 7
5 The Categories of Life Back to being dull. There's a real sense that this could all have been done a lot faster. 5
6 The Middle Men Really losing interest now, much as I like Jack, Gwen, Rex and Esther. 5
7 Immortal Sins An interminable time spent showing what went on with Jack and what's-is-name in 1920s New York. The scenes between Jack and Gwen were good though. 6
8 End of the Road Another episode that seemed not to have much to do with the actual plot: Jack's New York boyfriend not dead, then is dead, so what? Alien technology under the floorboards, so what? 6
9 The Gathering The Blessing looks visually unimpressive but finally, finally, the plot is building to some kind of climax. Whatever this has actually been about. 7
10 The Bloodline If this had been the last part of a tight 5 part series I would have said how brilliant the series was. As it stands, this is simply a brilliant episode at the end of a sedentary, almost somnambulist bore.

Although Jack has been shown to come back from the dead many times this episode has such a fatalistic feel that I doubted that this would happen this time. I was also surprised to see Rex come back to life, but the episode runs at such a pace that even something that perhaps in retrospect seemed 'obvious', was a complete and welcome event.

I'd been expecting Rex to die at the end of this series, I was surprised it turned out to be Esther. Now that Rex lives as Jack lives, could it mean there's now debate as to who becomes The Face of Boe that we saw in Doctor Who? Although Jack refers to his nickname as being that, hmm, maybe there are two big heads who live for billions of years?

My only negative against this episode is that the Three Families, a dull enemy, lives to plot further dullness. This was something I'd been dreading would happen and should they be involved in any future series this would not endear me to it. That brings it further into typical TV thriller territory and I'd prefer Torchwood to stick to it's alien background that suggests 'this is where it all changes'.

It seems Torchwood faces yet another uncertain future, even before the series began I sensed this may be the last we see, it always seems to be a programme that has to fight for its existence. I really hope this wasn't the last series because in spite of the tremendous cast it was a flat experience overall, and I'd want Torchwood to get back to the greatness of series 2 and 3. More sci-fi, less typical thriller.

If Torchwood were to return with a new series I'd hope it would consist of more than one story; 4 or 5 part stories would be great, but a 10 part story has to contain more than episodes relating to plane journeys, car journeys and alien technology under the floorboards.

10

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