Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: The Infinite Quest (Part 7)

doctor who infinite quest david tennant tenth doctor cartoon animation animated cosgrove hall gary russell alan barnes cbbc

The fleshy bipeds are stupid.

I am starting to feel like a stupid, fleshy biped doing these.

Quite apart from the fact that I’m not convinced anyone is reading them and it’s a little bit of a waste of my time, The Infinite Quest was never meant to be put under this much scrutiny. It’s a little bit of strange ephemera to entertain a group of eight-year-olds, as a bonus part of what was essentially Who Peter. No one was ever meant to write 500 words about every three-minute chunk, and it’s doing a disservice to The Infinite Quest – and indeed anyone who worked on it – to expect it to stand up to that.

Which is essentially my way of saying sorry to Alan Barnes and Gary Russell for all the critique I’m lobbing their way while trying to draw blood from a stone write hundreds of words about The Infinite Quest every week. I like to think they’d react with mild bemusement rather than being particularly offended or anything like that.

But, since Eurovision has delayed 42 for a week that means we don’t have any celebratory Tenth Doctor content without The Infinite Quest. It occurs to me only now that what I should have done was written about the omnibus edition for yesterday’s missing 42 slot, since part of the reason I decided to cover this on a weekly basis was because I couldn’t figure out where to place a full review of the omnibus edition. Oh well. You live and learn. (Or not, as the case may be – I’m probably going to review the omnibus edition on its own anyway, and I suspect there’s a roughly fifty-fifty chance that I’ll go on to do this with Dreamland as well. My apologies in advance to Phil Ford, but at least I’ve said nice things about Into the Dalek before anyway.)

So, back to The Infinite Quest, where I’ve returned to my old trick of writing nearly four hundred words of unrelated nonsense before actually getting down to talking about the little minisode.

I confess, I was a bit disappointed with this one. Previous episodes had some nice little commentary and thematic concerns about moral issues – piracy, capitalism, war profiteering, that sort of thing. It might have been nice, then, had the big bug creatures not been revealed to be the villains; if it were actually the humans who were forcing them to leave their world, rather than vice versa. It could have added another layer of depth to what’s proving to be a relatively flat (haha) story – with that twist in the tale, there would have been a little bit more meat to the story. Given the nature of the story and constraints placed upon it by the format, The Infinite Quest needs to be a bit more about interesting dialogue, concepts and conversations than about big action set pieces. Sometimes it manages that, and sometimes it struggles to be ‘for kids’, under the assumption that means explosions and action sequences. It’s an imperfect marriage.

But for all that it is an imperfect marriage, and for all that I do criticise The Infinite Quest, that is because I am doing so from a boring critical perspective as (arguably) an adult. And at the end of the day, this isn’t for me now, and it never was. I shouldn’t be too harsh on it for not being something it was never supposed to be.

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Doctor Who Review: Knock Knock

doctor who review knock knock series 10 peter capaldi twelfth doctor bill potts pearl mackie david suchet landlord

Stop it. There’s no living puddles or weird robots, big fish. It’s just a new house, and people you don’t know. Not scary at all.

The problem with promising “the ultimate haunted house” is that it has to then do something to be ultimate.

Going into Knock Knock, I had quite high hopes – it was combining the big name celebrity actor with the big name celebrity writer, giving us an episode that promised to be the apotheosis of a particular genre within Doctor Who. Admittedly I did have a few concerns there; I’ve let my hopes get too high before, and then been let down accordingly. Even though I did find this one disappointing, it wasn’t because my hopes were too high. Generally speaking, it’s simply that it failed with what it set out to do – give us the ultimate haunted house story.

I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem for Doctor Who to repeat itself or return to the same well multiple times; it’s just that when it does, it has to be able to bring something new to the table. You can do another haunted house story – why not? It’s a great archetype, and I don’t know that anyone could really point to a definitive example of the genre within Doctor Who. (Night Terrors? Hide? Both decent entries, but also both offer potential to improve upon.) But when you do this haunted house story again, there has to be something to it that makes it meaningfully different from the previous iterations of the idea.

Sadly, Knock Knock doesn’t manage this – indeed, it almost goes out of its way to feel derivative. There’s very little here that we haven’t seen before. Obviously, there’s the haunted house structure itself, but let’s take it further – there’s the wood monster from The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, for example, in a reveal that’s utterly stunted because of how proliferated the trailers and suchlike have been with shots of the Dryad. Equally, there’s also the twist ending from The Doctor Dances, though of course it fails to actually imitate what made the twist work in that instance. Nothing changes as a result of the knowledge the Landlord is actually the Dryad’s son, rather than her father – it’s just a throwaway little detail, seemingly included for the sake of having a twist.

None of this is awful, exactly. There’s something entirely competent in its execution of the haunted house format. It’s just that it doesn’t actually do anything particularly interesting with the tropes, or do anything that’s hugely engrossing. While rewatching it for this review, I found it quite difficult to actually pay much attention – devoid of the marginal interest it commanded simply by virtue of being new, it’s just a bit boring.

But not just because it’s a rehash of what we’ve seen before.

doctor who review knock knock mike bartlett mandeep dhillon shireen bill potts pearl mackie david suchet landlord

The other big issue with this episode is the supporting cast. Principally, it’s because they’re just painfully generic – and at times, veer into being a bit irritating as a result. There’s not a great deal of substance to any of them. I’m not sure whether that’s a result of the writing, or down to the acting – certainly, the one that come across with the most personality (Shireen, played by Mandeep Dhillon) manages to primarily as a result of the actress’ own talent rather than the material she got particularly. But even then, these aren’t characters who feel meaningfully real in any sense. You can do better in the time you’ve got – and if not, it’d be more effective to cut the size of the cast down rather than to grapple poorly with a lot of them. Part of the point of the large cast is to be able to gradually pick them off, yes – but that only works if we care about them.

(As a slight aside – when watching this, I was reminded of Russell T Davies’ worries about Donna being too far removed from children’s lives, basically because she was living an adult life and so on. Is the same not true of these students, with their house hunting and freshers parties and whatnot? That’s not a slight against the episode, just something that caught my attention and got me wondering.)

The problem gets worse when it starts to extent to Bill, though, as Pearl Mackie is given some of the most generic companion material here so far. It’s her reaction to death that’s a problem primarily – in that she doesn’t really have one. Part of the success of Thin Ice was its absolutely fantastic material surrounding Bill’s response to seeing someone die in front of her – Knock Knock largely ignores this, and has her watch someone who’s supposed to have been a lifelong best friend die with nary a tear.

You could argue that Knock Knock shouldn’t try to repeat the ideas other episodes advanced, but if you look at the story as a whole, that’s clearly nonsense. So why doesn’t Bill respond more significantly to the deaths of her friends? It’s a bit like Rose not reacting to Jackie’s death, or Martha shrugging off Tish being eaten. It just doesn’t work for the character.

The eventual return of the supporting cast hampers the episode somewhat too. I’m loathe to suggest that characters need to die for a drama to have consequences, but it’s clear this was a throwaway return to deliberately avoid consequence to what happened. It leaves the episode without any real lasting impact – though given Bill’s initial reaction to Shireen’s apparent death, it’s not clear we would have seen one anyway.

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Is there anything good in this episode?

Yes, actually. I recognise that I likely seem quite negative here, but that’s simply because I’ve front weighted my complaints. It’s not so much that the episode is bad, it’s just that there’s a lot about that doesn’t reach beyond just okay – it’s not a hugely ambitious episode. But still – it’s a competently executed piece of television that was, at least on first watch, reasonably entertaining. So what’s in there to like?

Well, even if the celebrity writer disappoints, our celebrity actor certainly doesn’t – David Suchet does a great job as the Landlord, as you’d expect from an actor of his stature. Does the part make a lick of sense? No, not really. But Suchet does a great job with the role, and even comes close to making that ‘twist’ at the end make sense, transitioning seamlessly into a child’s understanding of an authority figure. It’s still a mess of a part, because it’s not really written very consistently across the episode… but still.

There’s also something quite intriguing about the sound mixing on this episode. I didn’t listen to the binaural version of the episode – I’d planned to, but never really found the time in the end – but it was clear watching throughout that it’d be quite impressive. It’s nice to see them pursuing these idiosyncratic little details, and pushing what the show can and does do – although admittedly only on a technical level.

But, even then, it’s almost like actively searching for something to celebrate. There’s just not a lot of substance to Knock Knock – it’s possibly the most emphatically ‘whatever’ episode of Doctor Who that we’ve had in a long time.

In a sense, it’s a bit like an empty house; the foundations were there, but there’s nothing inside.

6/10

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Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: The Infinite Quest (Part 6)

doctor who infinite quest review martha jones freema agyeman david tennant tenth doctor cartoon animation animated dreamland

A business proposition? Is that what you’re calling it?

Let’s try to engage with this seriously for a moment, because it’s always worth giving that a go every so often.

The sixth part of The Infinite Quest sees the characters in their first new location in a while, and once again The Infinite Quest does make an impressive attempt at trying to be a version of Doctor Who that you couldn’t necessarily achieve on the actual television. Certainly, the swarms of bugs, the giant insect queen, and the frog man aren’t something you would have been able to see onscreen in Series 3 – yet at the same time they still feel at home there, growing organically from Russell T Davies’ somewhat singular fascination with aliens that are based on animals. (I’ll have to ask him about that someday.)

It still faces the limitations of the genre, though – naturally it does. Cosgrove Hall are reliant on a particular form of Flash animation that basically means the people characters are all very static; there’s none of the visual fluidity and kineticism needed to make these creatures really stand out. The insect queen fares a little better, actually, as they make the interesting choice to blend in some 3D animation – though, at the same time, it is a bit distracting. You almost wish they’d been able to do something in a more Simpsons or Tom and Jerry art style; this is fundamentally limited in motion in a way that you don’t want a Doctor Who story to be.

It’s perhaps an overly simplistic way of looking at it, but it occurred to me while I was watching this one – we haven’t seen the Doctor and Martha running in this story, have we? Given that’s something of a hallmark of Doctor Who, you’d expect it to be here; particularly given that, if this is meant to be for kids, it’s probably going to aim for the same sort of tone as the monster two-parters at the beginning of each series, which are always based on running around a bit.

That in turn supports my increasing belief as I’ve been watching these – that they’re not actually for children. Not really, not in any meaningful sense. I can’t imagine a huge part of the Totally Doctor Who audience responded to this in a really positive way; the vaguest recollection I can muster was being a bit disappointed the first episode, and watching it once as an omnibus version. And I was watching Totally Doctor Who every week! For this to have made so little of an impact say something, no?

But if it’s not for kids, then who is it for? I started to get the impression that actually it might have been for older Doctor Who fans, watching the show with their children. (Or just because obsessively consuming everything to do with the show is what we do.) Certainly, there are ideas within it – oil pirates, war profiteering – that are a bit more mature than you’d expect in something like this, to the point of feeling a bit out of place and underdeveloped. So, is it for them?

Well, no, to be honest. It’s a bit of throwaway nonsense created so the BBC Red Button service had something prestige to show itself off for, that also got attached to Totally Doctor Who.

And that shows.

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Doctor Who Explainer – Who is Susan Foreman, and is she coming back to the show?

doctor who susan foreman theory return series 10 jodie whittaker

We’ve had references to her from time to time before, of course; often whenever the Doctor talks about his family, Susan is implicit within that. But over the course of series 10, those references have been far more explicit. Her picture in The Pilot is the most obvious, of course, but in yesterday’s Knock Knock there were some quite overt references too. Bill referring to the Doctor as her grandfather certainly puts one in mind of Susan, while the Landlord’s description of losing his daughter is very evocative of Susan’s final fate.

Certainly, there are fans who would be pleased – and none moreso than Peter Capaldi. A lifelong fan, Capaldi has been talking about his wish to see Susan return to the series for some time now, and even said the same to Carole Ann Ford when she visited the Doctor Who set.

I know, I know; “Susan is returning” is something of a staple for madcap Doctor Who theories. But I’ve never made one before, so really, it’s my turn. And a lot of those references are beginning to look just a little proleptic…

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Doctor Who – What’s in the vault?

doctor who the vault missy hd

For the past few weeks, Doctor Who has been teasing audiences with a locked room mystery. It’s one of the oldest puzzles in storytelling – what’s in the box?

Here are some of the most popular theories that have developed over the past few weeks, ranked from most to least convincing – if you’re worried about spoilers, turn back now!

An article for Yahoo, covering some of my theories as to what might be in the Vault!

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Doctor Who Review: Thin Ice

doctor who thin ice review peter capaldi twelfth doctor pearl mackie bill potts title sequence card

Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life. A life without privilege.

I suspect it says a lot that I’m already starting to run out of ways to describe just how good Bill – and, by extension, Pearl Mackie – is. Three episodes in and you’re making this much of an impression? That’s surely a hallmark of a successful companion.

Once again, we’re getting an episode that’s largely defined by Bill, but it’s one that’s done so in a markedly different way from Smile and The Pilot. Where Thin Ice’s two predecessors relied on fairly simple plots to give Bill the space to take centre stage, Thin Ice itself builds its approach to history around Bill’s perspective, and the manner in which Bill’s perspective is going to differ from (almost) every companion who’s gone before her. (More on which shortly.)

As a result, then, the episode feels a lot like Bill’s story in much the same way the previous two episodes did, while at the same time allowing it to touch on some deeper themes and ideas. There’s a lot here that we’ve actually never seen from a companion before, which again is a great way to make Bill distinct – not only is it her fears and concerns about time travel (which of course give way to her wonderful enthusiasm soon enough) but her reaction to seeing someone die for the first time. We haven’t seen a companion respond in that way before ever; not only is it a very clever way of continuing Bill’s premise as the companion who challenges the accepted norms of the genre, it’s just a very nice moment.

It’s one that Pearl Mackie does some brilliant work with, here getting a real chance to show her range as an actress. She gets to continue doing a lot of what she’s good at, of course; the enthusiasm I love so much, and that wonderful charm and charisma that have made people take to her as a companion so quickly. But at the same time, Mackie is given the chance to continue pushing and developing Bill’s relationship with the Doctor – Thin Ice is the first time there’s a meaningful challenge or conflict between the pair – and Mackie carries that brilliantly. If anyone still had doubts at this point (though surely no one did) this is undoubtedly the final proof of how abundantly skilled she is; she managed to hit that complex point between fear, revulsion and anger at the Doctor, yet still ensuring it grew from the closeness of their relationship, absolutely perfectly.

And so, Thin Ice is a great conclusion to the trilogy of episodes that introduce a new companion – although it’s very lucky to have such a great companion to introduce in Bill, and a great actor to bring the material to life in Pearl Mackie.

doctor who thin ice review bill potts pearl mackie period dress sarah dollard bill anderson feather hd screenshot

I suspect it also says a lot that I can already tell I’m going to start running out of ways to describe just how good Sarah Dollard is. Two episodes in and you’re making this much of an impression? Well, that’s surely a hallmark of a phenomenal writer.

The first time I saw an episode of television she wrote was actually an episode of You, Me and the Apocalypse, a tragically short-lived comedy-drama about the end of the world. Dollard’s episode was the fifth one, and while not exactly an event episode, it was clearly one of the best – her deft handling of the characters was expert, and there were some wonderfully poignant moments. (I said this to her at the time, and she said it was lovely of me to say. I count that as something of a personal achievement.)

And, of course, everyone knows how good Face the Raven was. That’s just sort of an accepted fact, and I don’t need to tell you that again. It’s nice to see, then, Dollard coming back and proving that it wasn’t just a one-off success, but a high benchmark of quality that’s evident across of her work (that I’ve seen). It’d be an absolute tragedy if she didn’t return under Chris Chibnall, or indeed take over the whole shebang herself in a few years’ time.

But it’s worth pausing for a second to reflect on just what it is that’s so good about this episode. I mean, obviously, there is a lot – we’ve already spoken about how wonderful the moments examining Bill’s reactions to death are, and I’m going to talk about that speech in a moment. The bit that stood out to me, though, was the pacing and structure of the piece.

Admittedly, that’s not necessarily the sort of thing that you’d instinctively pick up on; certainly, it’s not as easily noticeable as the lovely dialogue. However, it’s just as important in many ways – Thin Ice is a really well put together piece of Doctor Who. It moves along at a quick pace, yes, but it’s more accurate to describe it as an expert pace – Thin Ice gels together exceptionally well, and it manages to hit all the right beats while letting them all breathe appropriately. I genuinely think you could study this one to work out how to put a Doctor Who episode together well.

So, it’s an excellent effort from Sarah Dollard here, giving us what’s arguably the platonic Doctor Who episode. I can’t wait to see what she does next – Doctor Who or not.

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The bit that everyone spoke about when the episode aired, and the bit that I loved and immediately started gushing about, was that speech from the Doctor about the value of a human life. And, obviously, the punch.

On the most basic level, it works really well within the episode. It’s the moment where the Doctor more meaningfully addresses Bill’s concerns – the demonstration that actually, he does care. And, of course, it is a lovely speech. Plus, the punch is great on a couple of levels – a moment of triumph, absolutely, but also as payoff to the joke about the Doctor’s comment about needing to be charming. It is, literally, a punchline.

More than that, though, this is probably one of the better handlings of injustice and inequality that we’ve seen in Doctor Who. It’s not so much simplistic as it is straightforward, but it benefits from being deeply emphatic in how it advances these ideas; it’s utterly unforgiving in its rejection of racism, its subtle critique of imperialism, and that redistribution of wealth at the end. It’s perhaps odd to be able to praise an episode of Doctor Who for saying racism is bad, but that does feel increasingly necessary these days – despite having been filmed in August 2016 and written before that, Thin Ice manages to be deeply in tune with the zeitgeist of 2017, and does an excellent job at being post-Trump/post-Brexit Doctor Who.

Similarly, it’s also one of the better handlings of race in Doctor Who, in that it… actually does address and acknowledge Bill’s race. It gets it exactly right in the way that The Shakespeare Code got it entirely wrong; we’ve seen what it’s like when they drop the ball on this issue, and Thin Ice is obviously all the better for getting it right.

Ultimately, then, I loved Thin Ice. I could talk about it at length, really; in a way, I’m almost disappointed with this review, because I don’t think I’ve done the episode justice. But then – much like with my review of Face the Raven last time – Knock Knock is about to start, and it’s time to post the review.

Much like Face the Raven again…

10/10

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Patrick Ness on his new book Release, the future of his Doctor Who spinoff Class, and more

patrick ness class release books doctor who interview class season 2 big finish the rest of us just live here

I hope that Class takes their concerns seriously – not overly seriously, but seriously. I hope it shows them as human beings, as more than one-dimensional human beings – they fight, they squabble, they love and they care and they’re brave and they’re frightened. The same kind of complexity that we always see in adults in drama – and again, that’s something I always wanted to see as a teenager, I felt like I was only seeing one kind of teen on screen.

Class is a real effort to make them fully rounded, and full of contradictions, and making their own choices – driving the action, they make the choices, it’s not a show about a bunch of young people sitting around watching adults make all the choices. They’re the ones that drive the plot forward, and it matters because they’re doing it. So, hopefully, it’s that – it’s paying a teenager the compliment of saying you’re a fully rounded human being.

So, here it is – my Patrick Ness interview! I’m extremely pleased with this piece – felt like the appropriate way to round off my experience with Class. It is, to the best of my knowledge, still the most detailed interview Patrick Ness has given about Class. This took place before the American broadcast, so it’s a little scant on details about his departure, and the cancellation of the show; someday, I’d love to chat to him about it again.

(Of course, on the above, there’s been some rumblings lately that Big Finish might be bringing Class back to our screens. Or, ears, rather. If they do, I’m going to have to pursue some interviews, because I do still rather like the fact that I’m the definitive Class interviewer, and I’d like to maintain that title…)

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Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: The Lazarus Experiment

doctor who the lazarus experiment stephen greenhorn richard clark russell t davies ten years of the tenth doctor martha jones harold saxon

Oh, Martha Jones, you’re a star!

For the third week in a row, we’ve got an episode that isn’t particularly highly thought of – indeed, it’s another one of those that’s largely criticised and looked down upon.

I remember watching this one a few years ago, specifically because I found out that it wasn’t very popular but remembered quite enjoying it. And, indeed, I enjoyed watching it again. In fact, I just went back and checked my comments on it, because I wrote about it on a forum – and I thought it was “just brilliant”, apparently! Then I started criticising Neil Cross, which I’d probably be less inclined to do now, I suppose. Funny how four years change things.

On paper, there’s a lot of stuff that works; indeed, when translated to the screen, there are a lot of things that work too. Most of that is Mark Gatiss, actually. He’s clearly having a whale of a time, and enlivens the whole episode. Sure, he’s only playing around with an established trope, but he carves out a space for himself within it – chewing the scenery with great gusto, yet still managing to bring a degree of pathos to it where necessary. Even though it’s something we’re innately familiar with anyway – the mad scientist is a hallmark of the science fiction genre, stretching back as far as Frankenstein (though I’m inclined to argue that’s more horror than sci-fi, but anyway) – it’s not something that new Doctor Who had done up to this point. And, thinking about it, it’s not something they’ve done since – the closest I can think of is Miss Kizlet in The Bells of St. John, but that’s a bit of a stretch. Or maybe Mrs Gillyflower in The Crimson Horror? Debatable.

In any case, though, that means that Professor Lazarus, wonderfully unsubtle in both name and performance, is something of the definitive mad scientist of the new series of Doctor Who. Generally speaking, he fills that role quite well – like I said, Mark Gatiss gives a great performance – and the idea of the youth effect is actually quite a neat effect. And, of course, there’s a monster! It’s big and weird and fills the monster role very nicely. I don’t have much to say beyond that, but it

All of which is to say that, on its own, this is a nice episode. It’s an entertaining enough way to spend forty minutes, and that’s all it needs to be if you happen to be flicking through Netflix or just want to rewatch a non-event, almost casual Tennant story.

But it’s when taken in context of the rest of the season around it that The Lazarus Experiment just doesn’t quite work.

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Oddly, you can view The Lazarus Experiment as being something of a centrepoint for a lot of the themes of the Davies era. It’s one of the ones that most overtly grapples with the idea of the “curse of the Time Lord”, as the phrase was coined; where something like School Reunion dealt with this theme, The Lazarus Experiment tries to be about this theme, building itself around that idea. There are lengthy monologues (distinct from soliloquys, I now know) that are almost entirely about that – consider that line everyone loves to quote, “one person could live more in twenty years than another in eighty”. It’s dialogue that reaches for profundity, and it gives the episode a semblance of weight that goes beyond the mad scientist runaround it could have been.

But then, while it might reach for profundity, it doesn’t quite get it. Certainly, something like School Reunion is able to tackle those themes and have a degree of greater resonance because it has a tangible material connection to the past in Sarah Jane Smith. You can see the impact of the Doctor’s longevity, and that has a far greater impact than Mark Gatiss sat naked wearing a shock blanket in a cathedral.

If the episode lacks substance in that regard, then it would have to find it elsewhere – that makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, the problem with the quasi-profound dialogue is that it doesn’t really ring true. As is often the way with episodes that could have been great, it stumbles across the right stance to take without realising, and moves quickly forward: the moment when Lazarus asks the Doctor “who are you to judge me?” is key. Obviously, it’s playing on the fact that the Doctor is, actually, very old, but in some respects, it’s missing the point – which it gets so close too with “imagine what I could do in two lives, or three, or four”. With, of course, the implicit “or ten” following on shortly afterwards.

That’s what The Lazarus Experiment should have done, really. Mounted a challenge against the Doctor. I’m not suggesting he need to be accused of being a hypocrite or anything, but equally, this is the Doctor criticising a man for making himself younger to live longer, when David Tennant is eight years younger than Chris Eccleston. The idea that the Doctor gets younger every time he regenerates is an established one, if not necessarily accurate; the fact he lives lots of lifetimes is just a fact. There’s the potential for something interesting and introspective there – not dark and intense drama particularly, but you could absolutely pitch something at the same level as Thin Ice and how it interrogated the Doctor’s inclination to move on from deaths quickly. It wouldn’t have been difficult to do, particularly; given the mysterious Mr Saxon is Lazarus’ shady benefactor, it’d be easy to give him some knowledge of the Doctor. And, indeed, it could feed quite nicely into Francine’s problems with the Doctor, which are similarly unsupported.

It’s quite odd, really, that this episode waffles around the idea of criticising the Doctor, but ultimately stops short of it. Because he’s actually deeply, deeply unlikable here.

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The treatment of Martha in this series is one of the most contentious things about it; it’s this episode that tends to be one of the big examples in terms of the critique. It’s not difficult to see why.

A lot it stems from wider concerns to the series that don’t necessarily originate with this episode – that’s what I mean about this episode diminishing as a result of being placed in its wider context. It’s the choice to present Martha as being gifted individual trips, rather than taken on as an actual companion – in essence, the Doctor is stringing her along. Really, at times, it seems like he’s deliberately teasing her, if not treating her as somehow fundamentally lesser.

I’m not convinced this reflects poorly on Martha, as such; her willingness to put her foot down and demand appropriate respect is admirable, and foreshadows her eventual departure neatly enough. The character is, admittedly, weakened somewhat for still having this unrequited love for a man who has, frankly, treated her horribly – which is, for all I’m willing to forgive The Lazarus Experiment the demand of the series arc, particularly evident in the dialogue here. There’s a vein running through a lot of the Doctor’s interactions with Martha that feel condescending and dismissive, if not indeed outright cruel.

I wasn’t, I have to say, particularly pleased about that at all. Why would I be? The Doctor is not a character I want to dislike. Particularly this Doctor – my Doctor – and it’s a real lapse that this issue ever arose. You can really tell that Russell T Davies was ill and unable to be as actively involved in the production of this series (not that he would have rewritten Stephen Greenhorn’s episode, but certainly could have given him a few notes!) – although, then again, it’s obvious enough that the unrequited love angle was his idea. Maybe it just wouldn’t work at all.

(Well, actually. What should have happened is for The Lazarus Experiment to be moved forward, switching places with Gridlock; the cruelty of stringing her along would have diminished considerably if it wasn’t for such a long time. And, actually, I can’t help but feel that an appearance from Sarah Jane would have helped as well, although that’s another kettle of worms entirely.)

On a related note, incidentally: the depiction of Francine here is quite poor, isn’t it? There’s no real weight behind her dislike of the Doctor – basically just the fact that he seems to be Martha’s boyfriend, and she’s not heard of him before tonight? Even her eventual news from Mr Saxon doesn’t gel, because we don’t know who Mr Saxon is; it makes Francine an antagonistic force in a way that Jackie never was, so we can’t quite sympathise with her when we absolutely should. Once again it does seem that the episode is stunted for not properly criticising the Doctor, when almost every aspect of the episode demands it, if not needs it to function properly.

So, sadly, it’s a weak instalment from Series 3 here. Plenty of fun in places, and I’m glad it exists for the sole reason of letting Mark Gatiss be a Doctor Who villain (filmed on his birthday, no less!), but beyond that… well, there are certain weaknesses it just can’t move beyond. It’s very much not the work of brilliance I thought it once was.

5/10

Related:

Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor Reviews

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Everything you need to know about The Defenders, the Marvel Netflix show that unites Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist

The Defenders marvel netflix daredevil jessica jones luke cage iron fist

It’s the culmination of a television epic that’s been building for nearly three years – the small screen equivalent of The Avengers.

It’ll draw together four of your favourite Marvel superheroes, and pit them against an imposing villain, played by the legendary Sigourney Weaver.

Who wouldn’t want to see that?

That line very nearly read “it’ll draw together your three favourite Marvel superheroes, and Iron Fist” before I decided it was a bit unfair. Having said that, though, the picture Metro used on the article (click through to see!) is just a bit of marvellous serendipity.

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It’s Star Wars Day! Here are 7 Star Wars anthology films they should make

star wars anthology a star wars story obi wan kenobi princess leia boba fett han solo jabba the hutt mace windu old republic jedi sith

Star Wars is fast becoming an annual staple at the cinema, with a new release planned every year up until 2020. As part of the ‘Star Wars Story’ brand, however, it seems likely we’ll see these Star Wars films continuing indefinitely – one a year, every year, forever.

We had Rogue One just last year; a young Han Solo film is set to appear in 2018 and another mystery flick is planned for 2020. What could this mystery film be? And when Disney begins to develop films for 2021 and beyond, which aspects of the Star Wars galaxy should they tackle?

It’ll be interesting to see if any of the ideas here – which I’ll tell you are Young Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, the First Jedi, Mace Windu vs Boba Fett, The Old Republic, an unrelated love story in the middle of the Empire, and Jabba the Hutt – ever actually materialise.

Certainly, I suspect that the Boba Fett movie will include Mace Windu to some extent – it’s the most obvious version of the story, and I think in positioning it as more of a Mace Windu movie than a Boba Fett film there’s a way of making it at least a little bit more interesting. An Obi-Wan film is confirmed, and I figure the First Jedi or the Old Republic will have some relevance to Rian Johnson’s new trilogy.

A Leia movie is still the best idea, as it goes. Increasingly, I’m convinced it’s the most important film for Star Wars to make at this point. They need to diversify it a bit, really.

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