Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: Dalek

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It’s a mutation. The Dalek race was genetically engineered. Every single emotion was removed except hate.

It’s the Daleks!

The Daleks have been a staple of Doctor Who since day one. (Or week six, if you like, making it oddly appropriate that it’s the sixth episode of the new series which features the Daleks). They’re iconic. They’re right up there with the TARDIS and Tom Baker’s scarf – in fact, they’re probably above them. No, they are above them. The Daleks have a history.

So bringing them back like this is kind of a big thing. (It’s a massive thing). Hell of a lot riding on this one, wasn’t there?

Robert Shearman wrote this one, and he did an absolutely fantastic job. It’s really, really amazing. And I’m not just saying that because he’s on tumblr!

One of my favourite bits about this story is how, at times, the Doctor is actually scarier than the Dalek. That’s amazing, and it comes from the brilliant writing and the equally wonderful acting. Quite early on, when the Doctor first encounters the Dalek, and he mocks it, sneers at it – that was unsettling in the extreme. It’s not only the actions of the Daleks, but the reaction they prompt from the Doctor that makes them so potent in this episode – and for me, this reaction carried a lot more weight than when the Doctor was simply scared. (Which says a lot, considering how scared he got!)

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That of course feeds into the rather wonderful dichotomy between Doctor and Dalek here, where each act almost as mirrors of the other. One of my favourite Dalek scenes in the entire episode is it’s first meeting with Rose, where it manipulates her… it’s something rather Doctor-esque, actually.

You’ve also got the “You would make a good Dalek” moment. Obviously, it’s a great scene, you don’t need me to say that – the fact it’s quoted almost constantly is evidence enough. But I’m going to say it anyway, because wow. It’s fantastically written, and brought to life astonishingly well. This episode is probably Christopher Eccleston’s finest hour as the Doctor. It’s just brilliant; it sets the relationship between the Doctor and the Daleks for years to come, and it establishes the Daleks as a real threat. The Doctor’s anger, grief, and fear are all so wonderfully realised that you can’t help fear the Daleks alongside him.

The Dalek itself provides a fair few reasons to be scared as well. Other than when we saw it’s manipulative side, which I will always hold up as one of the Scariest Dalek Moments Ever™, we see it completely lay waste to the entire museum (which, by the way, is a fantastic premise and setting. Loved the Cyberman moment as well). The one that stands out the most is the electrocution scene; the Dalek isn’t just cruel, it’s sadistic as well. That’s frightening.

(And Simmons with the sink plunge- sorry, extrapolator. I think that’s the name of it anyway, I’d have to check… I’ve just come back from writing a later part of this review, I just remembered another moment that I thought was great!)

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In another episode, the Dalek and the Doctor might overshadow the rest of the cast – and, to be fair, they almost do. But the strength of the other characters means that this is never quite the case. Van Statten and Goddard are both brilliant creations, and I loved them throughout – there’s some nice moments of humour from the pair of them. Adam too fares pretty well, but doesn’t leave as much of an impact as the other two.

Rose is again acting as our audience surrogate, and asks all the important questions – like, for example, “what the hell Doctor?”. She’s us in this equation, which is brilliant. There really wasn’t a better way to use her in this episode.

(Although, and this is totally unrelated, she’s quite bad at running, isn’t she? I mean I know she was on the phone at the time but come on, your life is in danger… sorry, rambling!)

The direction is fantastic as well – Joe Ahearne did a really great job with it all. I can absolutely understand why Christopher Eccleston sings his praises, the direction on this episode is wonderful.

So… 10/10, I think. That’s the first perfect episode of the season – woohoo!

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: World War Three

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Do you think I don’t know that? ‘Cause this is my life, Jackie – it’s not fun, it’s not smart, it’s just standing up and making a decision because nobody else will.

Yeah alright this is a weird one. It’s… it’s weird, okay. But weird is good! I like weird.

Anyways, I tell you what I want to talk about. Ferengi.

I’ve always thought the Ferengi were kinda like the Slitheen – profit-driven, often a family business, that sort of thing. But there’s also another similarity – the Ferengi were originally going to be villains, like the Klingons. That was the original pitch for the big eared, profit-driven little guys. But eventually they realised that the Ferengi were just a bit ridiculous, so they were changed to more comic characters. Which was good! Quark was one of the best characters of DS9!

So, I’m just thinking… maybe that’s the way to treat the Slitheen as well? Not quite villains, but they’ve the potential to be something more interesting.

So, last week we left off with the Doctor, Rose & Harriet Jones, and Mickey all in different, dangerous situations involving Slitheen. We knew they’d get out of it – not just in a cynical TV watching way, but because there was a trailer. Whoops.

Anyway, the Doctor uses the Slitheen’s own trap against them, electrocuting the one in the room with him. And, in quite a clever conceit, this actually affects them all. It’s a pretty interesting idea (though not as central as I remember it) which brings up some interesting questions about the Slitheen.

What it leads into, though, is a sort of comedic scene with the Slitheen struggling to get back into its skinsuit (a pretty chilling bit of body horror if you dwell on it, but the episode never really does). And that’s indicative of a lot of this episode – it seems to jolt between two extremes, never being quite serious or quite a comedy.

But… you know, as it goes, I think that’s okay? What we don’t necessarily remember in retrospect is that Doctor Who was in a pretty precarious position at this stage. They had to make sure they appealed to as wide an audience as possible. And… fine, this doesn’t mesh all that well. The jokes for the kids and the drama for the adults aren’t as cohesive as they are in later years. But, you know, everyone is allowed to stumble along the way.

So long as you don’t expect this episode to be, say, Midnight, or Vengeance on Varos, you’re going to get a lot out of it. It’s a good episode!

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Having said that, there is a lot to like. If the episode swung one way or the other – full comedy, or fully serious – it probably would be a bit better.

There’s a sort of character arc for the Doctor and Mickey, for example. The Doctor treats Mickey in a rather horrible, dismissive way in the first episode – he doesn’t really care about what Mickey went through, likely because of what the Doctor’s just been through himself.

As the episode progresses though, both viewer and the Doctor begin to respect Mickey, to the point that the Doctor invites him to come aboard the TARDIS. And that’s the point of the way he was treated in the first part of the episode; it’s a very deliberate choice. Whether it was the right choice, or the most Doctor-like portrayal, is certainly debatable, but I liked it.

And on the other side of it, there’s some really, really funny lines. Personal favourite was this entire exchange:

Slitheen: Aaaaahhh, Excuse me? Your device will do what? Triplicate the flammability?

The Doctor: Is that what I said?

Slitheen: You’re making it up!

The Doctor: Oh well, nice try. Harriet,

[offers Harriet Jones the decanter]

The Doctor: Have a drink. I think you’re gonna need it.

Harriet Jones: You pass it to the left first.

The Doctor: Sorry.

[hands it to Rose]

Absolutely hilarious. Loved it.

It’s all the stuff like that which makes me wish it had meshed a bit better – you don’t need the Slitheen to be quite so farcical with all the one-liners like that. That would have struck a much, much better balance than what we got, and probably would have improved the overall quality of it.

Because, of course, you’ve still got some relatively heavy stuff, which might have made more of an impact in a slightly more serious episode – all of the stuff about Rose’s safety, for example. That could have been expanded a fair bit. (Ah, but should it have been? Could they have done that? Was Doctor Who safe enough at that point? Probably not)

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Also, two other things I loved: Christopher Eccleston’s ‘serious’ acting, and Harriet Jones taking charge of the missile strike. There are lots of little touches there, where Eccleston really sells that the Doctor is now a man who’s seen far more bloodshed than he would ever have liked to. It’s also particularly telling that he describes his life as being neither fun nor smart – it says something about the way he views his travels now, and the way the War changed him. It’s really, really impressive.

(Especially when you think about what he’s saying – I could save the world but lose you. It’s something of a microcosm-like depiction of the decision which he made to end the Time War – I could save creation, but isolate myself forever. It’s actually a really layered moment – I didn’t realise the connotations until a few hours after I’d finished the rest of this review, let alone whilst watching it. It’s probably something that didn’t survive the John Hurt retcon as well as it could have…)

Same goes for Harriet Jones – fantastic character. That moment where she takes charge is rather lovely, if sadly brief. It foreshadows some of her later decisions though, doesn’t it? You can quite clearly see that this is the same woman as in The Christmas Invasion, or The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End.

So… ultimate estimation of the episode?

Eh, I’m struggling. It could have been a bit more coherent, there could have been a better blend of the two aspects. That certainly drags it down. But there really was so much to love about it, on both sides of the court.

Hmm. Okay, whatever. 7/10. But it’s a very different seven out of ten to the other seven out of tens, because it’s a different episode. So there.

(Next week though, wow. That is an effective trailer. I got chills, and I’ve already seen the episode and know what it means. God, imagine it, back in 2005. That must have been amazing)

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: Winner Takes All

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It’s not fair, is it, when we’re forced into pitying someone we hate. Feels like the world’s turned topsy-turvy. But it’s all right. You’re still allowed to hate them. As long as you don’t gloat at their downfall, that’s all.

love this book.

I know, cutting right to the chase here. Normally I’d have a little paragraph of introduction, talking about how prolific an author Jacqueline Raynor is, mentioning all the other books she’s written, all of those things – but, nope, none of that. I just really love this book.

First of all, there’s a really, really great premise. Aliens are exploiting human greed in the most contemporary and banal of ways; through lottery scratchcards. That lends it a really, really realistic touch. There’s some very, very deep moments, and they’re all really… true. All the conflicting emotions, for example, are done exceptionally well. Rose is glad that someone died, yet at the same time she’s revolted at herself for thinking that – but doesn’t care, because the person who died was quite so horrible. That’s really, really fantastic, and it’s written brilliantly.

As well as that, there’s some great moments for the Doctor, which you can really just imagine Christopher Eccleston performing. There’s some funny scenes, showing the less serious side to the Doctor, like when he’s joking around and making puns with Rose – that was really nice, and it did feel like something that you might see in an actual episode. On the other side of it, which is borne from another aspect of the plot, there’s a point at which the Doctor has to control Rose so as to be able to save the day – and he absolutely hates it. He hates the fact he has to degrade her, remove her autonomy, control her like that. You can imagine the steel in Eccleston’s eyes when he talks about it.

So, another great book then. Definitely reccomend this one; it’s absolutely brilliant.

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: Aliens of London

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So maybe this is it! First contact! The day mankind officially comes into contact with an alien race. I’m not interfering because you’ve got to handle this on your own. That’s when the human race finally grows up. Just this morning you were all tiny and small and made of clay! Now you can expand!

Steven Moffat wrote a short story once, with a lecture about the Doctor. And the lecturer, one Professor Candy, was talking about the effect the Doctor had on people. In this lecture, he mentions a Mr and Mrs Brown, who have to talk to some nice policeman, who are digging up their back garden. “Oh, don’t worry officer,” they say “Peri isn’t dead, she’s a Warrior Queen on Thoros Beta.”

Now, I’ve not read that story, but I imagine it was a very good one. It’s a pretty clever idea, isn’t it? What happens to the companions’ families who’re left behind? Generally, it’s not been explored in Classic Who. Off the top of my head… Victoria had a family, but they died, Adric had a brother, who also died, Tegan had an Aunt who they did visit once, Sarah Jane had an Aunt that was never really present, and then… Ace has her friends, that she returns to in Survival, but I don’t think that big of a deal is made of them.

So, here and now with Rose’s family is pretty much uncharted territory for Doctor Who. It’s a new step in a new direction – and that’s great! Doctor Who should always being going to new places, seeing what works, and how the show can always be innovative.

For this review, I’m going to focus mainly on the “domestic” side of things, as it were, because that’s the primary focus of this episode. I’ll talk a little bit about the Slitheen, but not much.

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The episode starts off on a high note, with a really amazing scene with Camille Coduri, who plays Rose’s mum Jackie. Rose comes in and says hello to Jackie as though she’d only been away for a night, because that’s what happened, as far as she knows. And then Jackie looks at her, and you can see so much emotion on her face. It’s a really fantastic scene.

That continues throughout the episode – the standard of acting with our regulars is very high, and it helps to create a really moving story. The missing year idea is really fantastic, and it’s very clearly shown how it affected them all – Jackie’s grief, Mickey’s isolation, and Rose’s guilt.

Christopher Eccleston does really well here as well. I mentioned last week that he seemed a bit at odds when doing “happy acting” – that’s not the case here at all. He’s clearly, fantastically enthusiastic about the idea of human’s making first contact, and it’s a brilliant, very Doctor-y portrayal. Consider him jumping up a few points in my opinion of him…

When we make the jump to Downing Street, the episode continues to perform well, although perhaps not as well as the other parts of the episode. The fart jokes… personally, I’m not against them. They really don’t bother me that much, because they’re pretty trivial things. I did wonder, admittedly, whether the episode would have been better without them, and the aliens had been a bit more serious. I think… maybe. Equally though, the fart jokes are hardly a focus, so it wouldn’t have been a huge difference.

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This is also the first cliffhanger of the revived series! It’s a Doctor Who tradition revived! Making you question whether or not a character is going to make it to next week, make you wonder how they’ll get out of that scrape, how everything will –

Oh never mind there’s a trailer whatever…

Yes, anyways, episode rating. I think I’m going to give this episode a 7/10.

The question now is… will next week’s installment be that good? Will it be better? Will it-

Oh hang on wait let’s check the trailer…

the Doctor uses the Slitheen’s own trap against them – a pretty chilling bit of body horror – something of a microcosm-like depiction of the decision which he made to end the Time War – I’m struggling – I got chills – imagine that back in 2005 – it must have been amazing

See you next week!

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: The Unquiet Dead

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Think about it, though. Christmas 1860. It happened once. Just once, and it’s… gone, it’s finished. It’ll never happen again. Except for you. You can go back and see days that are dead and gone, a hundred thousand sunsets ago. No wonder you never stay still.

First historical episode of Series One! Cardiff, 1869. Not Naples, 1860 – you can tell it’s the same Doctor just from his piloting skills…

First new writer of the series as well – it’s Mark Gatiss’ turn to take the stand. And he does really, very well. There’s some very funny lines in there – Charles Dickens asking “What the Shakespeare?” had me laughing aloud, and the “I love a happy medium” part. There’s lots of other clever little bits of dialogue too; plenty of great speeches, talking about wonder and understanding, which is something of a theme for the episode – there’s Rose on her first trip into the past, and Charles Dickens’ becoming just a bit less cynical. It’s really very good. Very Doctor Who as well I’d argue – if one of the central aspects of Doctor Who isn’t about learning, and always keeping an open mind, then I don’t know what is.

Rose gets some nice character development here too – her story is really being taken bit by bit, and being quite thoroughly explored. It’s quite a big thing, this first trip into the past. Which, obviously, it would be – travelling with the Doctor like this is quite a privilege, and a really awesome experience.

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We also see more of the Doctor, and he’s put in a new situation as well. In the last few weeks, it’s generally been broody Doctor, and it’s only now we’re seeing the Doctor being really happy, enjoying himself. And… well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag I guess. At times, it works well, and feels very genuine. Other times, it’s a bit more forced. It’s more the displays of enthusiasm that feel forced – other bits, like general happy moments, seem fine. Still, the moment where the Doctor realises who Charles Dickens is does work really well, so perhaps I’m just being nitpicky. (Or maybe it’s on purpose – the Doctor hasn’t been enthusiastic for a while, Time War and all, so Eccleston was deliberately reining it in. If I remember correctly, he does get enthusiastic later in the series, so maybe…)

The Gelth are really good – Ghosts! At Christmas! With Charles Dickens! – and throw up some very interesting questions of morality. Rose and the Doctor’s arguments about organ donations highlight in a pretty interesting way the Doctor’s alien-ness, as well as how important saving lives has become to him in wake of the Time War. (Also, I want to link to this article, which examines the idea in more depth. It’s really great, I recommend reading it)

Speaking of Charles Dickens, Simon Callow does a really great job as the great author. It’s a very good portrayal, both in the writing and the acting – the tired, slightly cynical Dickens has a great character arc where he realises that “there are more things in heave and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy”. It’s quite emotional at times actually.

The other cast members are good too, not that there’s very many of them. Eve Myles is great as Gwyneth, bringing an interesting character to life. Contrasting her with Rose, in the same way as Raffalo in The End of the World, is a pretty clever way to show the culture shock of time travel, and how society changes. I’ve not seen the reconstructions, but I’d say this is quite the same as Susan talking to Ping-Cho in Marco Polo – it’s the same series, even underneath all it’s differences.

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Victorian (Production) Values

It’s also worth mentioning that it looks great – really good production values. The BBC does period drama pretty well, doesn’t it? I wonder why that is. Hmm. Anyways, Victorian Cardiff is brought to life really well, and looks very authentic.

This is a great episode; I think, should I be trying to introduce someone to Doctor Who for the first time, this is one of the episodes I’d have them watch. (You can tell it’s that good because the BBC agree; when trying to introduce a whole new generation to Doctor Who, this is one of the episodes they chose)

8/10

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A Private Eye Companion

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So I mentioned a while ago that when I first saw Danny Pink, my first assumption was that he was some sort of detective. Anyways, since then I’ve been thinking about that, and how it might work in a series… Because, you know, if you’re going to have a detective companion, show them doing some actual detection – and who better for them to investigate than the Doctor?

So, the way I’m thinking this would work is if you use the detective (who probably needs a name. I’ll call him Danny for now) as the viewpoint for the series. Sort of a Doctor-lite set of episodes, similar in style to Blink. That probably wouldn’t be able to sustain itself for thirteen episodes though, so it’d probably be better suited to a split series set up.

Anyway, the very first episode would be quite a standard one. Alien invasion style piece, in a similar vein to Smith and JonesDanny the detective could help Twelve and Clara (just because it’s easy to use them as an example here, it’d work with any other Doctor/Companion set) to sort out the whole thing, wonderful, done. There doesn’t need to be anything specific here, it can just be a pretty generic invasion story.

At the end of it though, there is no offer for Danny to be joining the TARDIS crew, they just leave him there. Now, this could be what prompts him to go looking for the Doctor, but maybe not. Hell, maybe he doesn’t even like the Doctor very much, and thinks he needs to be stopped, which is why he goes looking for him. (But that might be a bit silly)

What I’m also thinking is that it shouldn’t be set in the present day, because that’s boring. If we can, I’d take it outside of England as well, but that might be a bit difficult. I’m leaning towards the 90s, maybe, or even earlier to give it a sort of noir setting. (Doing this first part of the series entirely in black and white would either be the best or worst decision. No inbetween)

So then you’ve got the next five episodes or so, which would all follow a similar ish structure; Danny does some investigating, looking to find the Doctor.

But, obviously, just investigating is boring. No one is interested in that, and it probably wouldn’t sustain all that many episodes… so, the basic structure of the series would be as follows –

  • Episode 2: This one would be a little more detective-y, showing Danny investigating the Doctor and Clara. Alongside that though, he’d have to deal with doing his job. So we could have something of a proper murder mystery detective story. In keeping with the fact that this is, you know, Doctor Who, the perpetrators of the crime could be aliens, or other time travellers, whatever. Potentially, lets say, these aliens were trying to find the Doctor; potentially that’s what prompts him to start his investigation.
    I’m considering whether or not Danny should be working on behalf of a mysterious client, who’s interested in the Doctor. That sets up some intrigue, and gives a bit more weight to the overall plot arc.
  • Episode 3: This time, investigations into the Doctor take on a more central part of the episode. In fact, I’m wondering whether this one should be a more comedic episode; some sequences of near misses with the Doctor could potentially be very funny, but might undermine some of the effect of Danny’s character. Maybe this one could also start to show some of Danny’s family and social life, defining him some more as a character.
  • Episode 4 and 5: Two parter, and much darker in tone as well. This is where I’m sort of leaning towards the 90s setting. Here, Danny would be kidnapped by UNIT – a very dark, gritty, morally ambiguous 90s UNIT, rife with corruption. From there, it’s something of a prison story, with subsequent breakout. How dark can it be made I wonder?  As many boundaries as possible should be pushed for this one. We should feel as let down by UNIT as the Doctor would when he finds out. (Maybe there should be a moment where we expect it to be revealed this is Torchwood or something, but it’s not, it’s definetly UNIT).
    If Danny starts the series as a relatively optimistic, happy guy, these are the episodes where he becomes much closer to the cynical, disenfranchised detective mould.
  • Episode 6: Out in the real world again, Danny is continuing investigations into the Doctor. (Maybe if he was given any family in episode 3, UNIT could have killed them in episodes 4 and 5, meaning this search for the Doctor is all he has left…? Is that too far?)
    Anyways, yes. If Danny did have a mysterious client, they would be the big bad for the episode. (Ooh, what if they’re the Valeyard?) The Doctor and Clara would need to return this episode, to meet up with Danny.
    From there, it’s all pretty simple – another, standard Doctor Who episode. The thing is though, Danny is much more of a pivotal character in this one than he was back in episode 1; the things he’s learnt about the Doctor actually all come in quite useful, etc.
    After that, it’s pretty simple – the day is saved, and Danny joins the Doctor and Clara for adventuring across time and space. (although… I’m not quite sure why he would? Especially if going for the “Doctor is bad” kind of idea with Danny. Not sure)

So… what do you think?

Note: 4 years later, I do think this is a little overly grim, if still a basically interesting concept.

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: The Clockwise Man

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“You know,’ the Doctor said, resuming his pacing, ‘how sometimes you only appreciate something when it is taken away from you?’
‘You mean my freedom?’
‘I mean more like the hum of the central heating or the air-conditioning. You only notice it was there when it stops. While it’s constant, part of the nature of the things, it’s unremarkable. Just the way things are. Your brain doesn’t even bother to tell you about it, unless there is a change that might be important.” 

Books! People never really stop loving books. And Doctor Who has a pretty longstanding tradition with books – from Target Novels to the books that kept the show alive during the ‘wilderness era’. So why should this new Doctor be any different?

Across the 13 weeks Christopher Eccleston played the Doctor, there were 6 novels written featuring the Ninth Doctor… So, as part of this Ninth Doctor lookback, I’ll also be attempting to review each of them.

The first then is Justin Richards‘ The Clockwise Man…

Justin Richards is, I think it’s rather fair to say, something of a prolific Doctor Who writer. Lots and lots of novels. And all of them pretty good I think. I like his novels.

And this is another really good one! As a Doctor Who novel should, it does something that you couldn’t really get away with on television. It’s a lot more measured in pace, rather more akin to a 90-minute movie than the 45-minute episodes we get. What that means is that you can build up the intrigue, and draw things out a little – not so much so that the reader gets bored, but enough for Richards to set up a few plot twists, and make sure nothing finishes too quickly.

The plot is fantastic. There’s a great setting, and it’s got some really interesting ideas at its heart; revolutionaries of all races. Actually, ‘revolutions’ seems to be a rather present theme at all times – Bolshevik revolutions, the conspiracy plotted in Sir George’s House, Shade Vassily’s plans, and, of course, the revolutions of the clock. That’s really clever actually. (And, obviously, any mentions of Russia and the Bolsheviks earn points in my book.) The prose too is really evocative, and it paints a great picture of 1920s London; with every word, you really are there. It’s very well written stuff.

(Also, there’s a lot of weird similarities to The Girl in the Fireplace, at least in regards to the monsters. There’s even the same ticking motif, with similar “There’s no clock in here” reveals. Odd, that.)

The Doctor and Rose are characterised really well – which is pretty impressive, because I don’t think there would have been much more than the scripts when this book would have been written? There’s lots of little moments where you can really picture Chris Eccleston’s hard stare as he thinks about the Time War. There’s a lot of that, and it’s really well done.

The other supporting characters are great too; I particularly liked Aske and Repple, for all their weird dual identity subplots. Very well done.

So, in all, a great book. At 300ish pages, it’s not going to take you too long to read, and I’d definitely recommend it.

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: The End of the World

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You lot. You spend all your time thinking about dying. Like you’re going to get killed by eggs or beef or global warming or asteroids. But you never take the time to imagine the impossible. That maybe you survive. 

Second episode! The End of the World is written, like Rose, by Russell T Davies, head writer and impetus behind the return of the series as it is. It’s also directed by Euros Lyn, who’ll go on to direct a lot of stories later on in RTD’s Doctor Who. He’s a very capable director.

Anyways, this story is about, as the title may have suggested, the End of the World. Not through any diabolical or nefarious schemes however – this is literally the end of the world, as currently expected. The sun expands, and the Earth is consumed. Whilst a party goes on in space.

And, during this party, someone’s sabotaging the station and killing the guests.

That’s one hell of a premise.

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This episode starts out great, with some nice interactions between Rose and the Doctor. Like last week, there’s quite a focus on character moments over plot – the Doctor really takes the fore here, as opposed to his background part last week. It makes a very good showcase for Christopher Eccleston’s acting (seriously, there’s some great scenes where he conveys a hell of a lot with just a look. A look) and really advances the Doctor’s character. We’re getting a deeper look, and beginning to understand, all that about the Time War – you can see, if you’re looking for it, all the subtle ways in which it’s affected him. How deliberate this was I don’t know, but it’s definitely impressed me.

The other focus, or aim, of this episode is to show the breadth of Doctor Who’s story telling capacity. Last week we had a home invasion, now we have a space whodunnit. Whilst the detective-y murder mystery side isn’t showcased that much, the space part is really ramped up. There’s some really great alien make up here – the Pakoos and the Forrest of Cheem stand out in particular.

There’s also an interesting idea about money and celebrity, which is partially explored through Cassandra. Although, not much beyond a quite perfunctory “Greed is bad, so’s vanity”. There’s some much more interesting things at work in the background, generally with the Doctor.

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The plot… is weak, I suppose. Not weak, that suggests it’s bad. Thin is perhaps a better term, because there’s not very much of it. And the ending does revolve around a pretty big contrivance – the fans. It’s a little bit ridiculous, but also somewhat endearing.

(Also, not necessarily a detraction, but something I noticed – this episode seems to have been written when they weren’t entirely sure if they’d have a child audience. They throw around words like “bitch” and ask if Rose is a prostitute or a concubine. It’s hardly edgy, adult stuff, but I don’t think they’ve ever been in Doctor Who since. So, yeah, interesting to note.)

I’m thinking… an 8/10 for this episode. Good entertainment, and unlike Rose, I think I would watch this one simply for the enjoyment of watching it.

Related:

Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor Reviews

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