Archive for the Specials Category

“The Night Of The Doctor”

Posted in New Who, Specials with tags , , , , , on October 27, 2014 by Review The Who

DW Special - The Night Of The Doctor

STORY
A young space pilot named Cass is attempting to stop her ship from crashing headlong into the planet Karn. She tries to send out a distress signal but the malfunctioning ship’s computer thinks she’s calling for medical aid. Cass may not need a Doctor, but one is about to show up…

REVIEW
After years of wondering and waiting, it finally happened. Fans the world over had long desired an on-screen return for Paul McGann, whose Eighth Doctor had become the most written about in novels and the most recorded in Big Finish audio adventures. Every year, at least 3 or 4 threads would spring up on Doctor Who forums declaring the rumour that McGann would be returning for a cameo in New Who but they always turned out to be false…until the show’s 50th anniversary rolled around and the rumours were finally proven to be true.

I am one of probably thousands of fans who let out the most triumphant yell at the exact moment the Eighth Doctor finally waltzed back on to our TV screens, 20 seconds into this mini episode. It was nothing short of a privilege to watch McGann do his thing and do it so well. His Doctor, more than any other, is a romantic and to witness him go through the painful decision to become the antithesis of that is a powerful moment, which McGann’s performance sells perfectly without betraying the basic character of the Eighth Doctor. With the stakes being what they are, it doesn’t feel out of character for him to make the choice he knows has to be made.

The story is pretty simple; The Doctor finds a girl named Cass who needs rescuing but once she discovers that he is a Time Lord – a race she despises because of their war with the Daleks that is ruining the entire universe – she refuses to be rescued. A self-sacrificing fool to the end, The Doctor stays on-board as the damaged spaceship crashes into the planet Karn, killing Cass and The Doctor. But the sisterhood of Karn are on hand to revive him for a few minutes (leading to the perfect Eighth Doctor line; “Bring me knitting!”), at which point they beg him to step up to the plate and get involved in the war he has been avoiding for so long.

In short, The Doctor has to make a terrible choice; die right there on Karn or abandon everything he represents and stands for, drink the regenerative potion concocted by the sisterhood and regenerate into a warrior suitable to fight the Time War. The Doctor gives an impassioned speech in which he salutes all of his companions from the Big Finish audio adventures (squee!) and then asks Cass’ lifeless corpse for forgiveness before drinking the potion and regenerating into…a young John Hurt! Yes, this is where The Doctor disappears and the War Doctor steps in, still in a young man’s body at this point. By the time we see him in “The Day Of The Doctor”, he’s been fighting the Time War for hundreds of years and his body is old and “wearing a bit thin”, but seeing this brief glimpse of the young War Doctor you can almost sense the fearsome warrior he will become before he eventually turns into the bitter, heartbroken old man with yet another terrible choice to make.

RATING
In the space of 6 minutes and 40 seconds, “The Night Of The Doctor” manages to bring back the Eighth Doctor, legitimise his Big Finish audio adventures and give Paul McGann the quality of writing that he always deserved and which was sadly lacking in “The TV Movie”. It will come as no surprise to any Whovian that this anniversary short led to a massive outpouring of fan love for the Eighth Doctor and hopes that he might one day return…again. Short but so sweet, “The Night Of The Doctor” is essential viewing and a perfect 10/10.

Written and edited by Richey Hackett

“The Snowmen”

Posted in New Who, Specials with tags , , , , on October 26, 2014 by Review The Who

DW Special - The Snowmen

STORY
It’s Christmas Eve, 1892, and a very old enemy of The Doctor is putting plans into motion to wipe out the human race. But the Time Lord himself is still grieving the loss of his friends, Amy and Rory, and doesn’t seem prepared to get involved. That is until he encounters a barmaid/governess with a very familiar face…

REVIEW
Christmas is the perfect time for Doctor Who to deliver a good old fashioned romp, with plenty of fun and some wonderful set pieces. Funny then just how often the Christmas specials seem to miss the mark. Well, 2012 must have been a particularly good year for writer Steven Moffat because from his pen came “The Snowmen”, a fun adventure set in Victorian England on Christmas Eve, with plenty of romping, killer snowmen and a little bit of mystery to set up the next companion.

Richard E Grant returns to Who as the chief villain of this story, Dr Simeon. Lonely as a child, Simeon was befriended by a talking snowman, who has guided him ever since in the ways of diabolical evil. As we later find out, the voice inside that original snowman is actually Classic Who baddie the Great Intelligence, shown here in it’s original form as a disembodied Ian McKellan. Together, the GI and Dr Simeon plan to replace humanity with ice creatures, using an alien form of snow that is able to remember and take on forms, such as the viciously evil snowmen of the episode’s title. And somewhere, Raymond Briggs is horrified.

Enter The Doctor, who isn’t really up to much these days, having taken the loss of Amy and Rory quite hard and essentially retired from adventuring. He’s set himself up in Victorian London, parking the TARDIS on a cloud (sort of) and doing his best not to involve himself in the affairs of mankind. Makes you wonder then why he chose Earth as his retirement destination but I suppose that can be waved away by the fact that he does see Earth as his second home. He still has the Paternoster Gang on hand to do things for him though and it’s when the mysterious evil snowmen first start popping up that they try to get The Doctor involved in solving the mystery, but he’s having none of it.

Then Clara shows up. The Doctor recognises something about her but as he only heard Oswin’s voice in “Asylum Of The Daleks”, he doesn’t put the pieces together until the end of the episode. Their first encounter here is a fun bit of fairytale storytelling, with Clara chasing up a flight of stairs that lead into the clouds to find the TARDIS. All good stuff, but it does make the episode drag a little. Once the main action gets going, Clara has returned to her job as a governess looking after two children, as their last governess died from drowning in a frozen pond. Little does Clara know that Dr Simeon has his eye fixed on that same pond – the ice in the water is the same as the alien snow and it remembers the form of the dead governess. This is the key element to Simeon and the GI’s plan, to take the technology they already have and apply the DNA of the resurrected ice governess to it in order to create a living ice creature that can replace humanity without having to worry about melting come Spring Break.

Sounds daft? Well, yes, it’s extremely daft but as I’ve already said in this review, Christmas is the perfect time for a good old romp and daftness is the order of the day. Cue lots of running about and The Doctor being roped in again to help destroy the ice governess before Dr Simeon can get his mits on it. There’s not much more to the story really but the emotional climax, during which The Doctor has to say goodbye to a dying Clara for a second time, nicely builds up the mystery around the character whilst also giving The Doctor his motivation to get off his arse and back out there adventuring again, if only because he needs to discover the truth behind this “impossible girl”. The performances throughout are great from all the cast but I did find myself wishing that Richard E Grant and Ian McKellan had been given a little bit more to work with. They’re not on screen that much and most of their time is spent trying to get a word in edge ways whilst The Doctor is busy flapping his gob.

RATING
“The Snowmen” is, by far, one of the better Christmas specials to date. It’s got plenty of festive fun, it reintroduces a Classic Who villain in a new and interesting way and also takes the time to further the mystery surrounding Clara that will be explored in the second half of series 7. All in all, a very merry 8/10.

Written and edited by Richey Hackett

“The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe”

Posted in New Who, Specials with tags , , , , , on August 11, 2014 by Review The Who

DW Special - The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe

STORY
It’s Christmas 1941 and Madge Arwell is taking her two young children away for the holidays. What she hasn’t told them is that their father has died, shot down in his Lancaster Bomber whilst fighting in the Second World War. But never fear! The Doctor is here to be over-the-top and annoying as all hell. Also; pointless Bill Bailey cameo!

REVIEW
New Who has seen its fair share of silliness, which is in keeping with the grand tradition of Doctor Who (“Delta and The Bannermen”, anyone?) but the 2011 Christmas special is by far one of the silliest and downright stupidest episodes ever conceived. From the word go we seem to have entered the realms of utter ridiculousness and left our suspension of disbelief in the bottom of our stockings like an unwanted satsuma.

Our story begins with The Doctor falling out of a spaceship whilst trying to put on an impact space suit. This will apparently enable him to fall through the Earth’s atmosphere, hit the ground at the speed of light and subsequently walk it off in a few hours. Oh, and now The Doctor can breathe in space. He lands on Earth in the year 1938, just in time for Christmas, and is found by Madge Arwell who is out driving. She seemingly has no problem with the idea of an alien falling out of the sky (with his helmet on backwards! oh, such hijinks!) and sets about escorting him back to the parked TARDIS. There is so much stupid in this opening 10 minutes that I damn near turned the episode off whilst rewatching it for this review. But, alas, we must solider on.

Cut to three years later and Madge’s husband is missing, presumed dead, so she’s taking the kids away for Christmas – not that they know anything about their father’s untimely war-related demise, they still think he’ll turn up in time for Christmas dinner. They go to a relatives house in Dorset and upon arriving discover that the caretaker is waiting for them. It’s The Doctor, who for some reason has decided to repay Madge’s kindness from three years prior by decking the house out like some nightmarish version of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. He also can’t use doors now because COMEDY!

It’s during these scenes, where The Doctor shows the family around the house, that Matt Smith turns in one of the worst performances of his tenure. And I say this as someone who ranks Smith quite highly in spite of the fact that the material didn’t always serve him well during his run. He’s so over the fucking top, so in your face like he’s pumped full of sugar and can’t control his facial expressions anymore. Every subtle gesticulation and nuance that made the Eleventh Doctor so memorable and quirky is turned up to eleven (see what I did there?) and it’s not long before it’s annoying the living shit out of you. Mercifully, he seems to calm down a bit as the episode goes on but it’s still a performance that leaves the scenery well and truly gnarled.

The Doctor has left a present for the kids under the tree and inside is a portal to another planet where Christmas trees grow naturally (including baubles) and it always snows. One of the children can’t resist opening a present early (we’ve all been there) and ends up getting lost on this snowy woodland world, so The Doctor and the other kid follow him in to investigate. If you’ve noticed that I’m not using the names of the children, that’s deliberate – neither one leaves any lasting impression on me whatsoever. On the planet, one of the baubles has turned into a wooden man and taken refuge in a tower, which it transpires that the entire planet’s population of trees is planning on using as an escape pod because the planet is about to be harvested using acid rain.

This is where Bill Bailey, Arabella Weir and Paul Bazely show up as the mining crew who’ve ome to carry out the harvest. Further attempts at comedy are made as they try to interrogate Madge (who has also found the portal) but can’t bring themselves to do so because she’s crying. They’re in the episode for less than 10 minutes so it’s pretty much a glorified cameo and an absolute waste of the comedic talents of Bailey and Weir.

The Doctor and Kid Female finally locate Kid Male at the top of the tower, where a crown has been placed on his head to help pull the spirits of the trees into his mind so that he can carry them to safety. I feel stupider just for writing that sentence. Kid Male isn’t strong enough though and neither is The Doctor – turns out that Madge is the perfect candidate though because she’s a mother and the trees need a “mother ship”. OH! See what THEY did there?! COMEDY!!

So the whole thing ends with Madge somehow being able to not only store thousands of tree souls in her head (again, not even batting an eyelid to how fucking bizarre her situation is), but also to fly the escape ship tower thingy off the planet THEN somehow access the time vortex, fly them all through time, act as a guiding light for her husband’s plane so that he makes it home and they all end up back in Dorset in time for Christmas dinner. In short, it’s a load of shite that comes across as bad fan fiction disguised as a parody of the show. Even a fairly lovely moment at the end where The Doctor visits Amy and Rory for Christmas dinner just isn’t enough to win me back after the 45 minutes of utter dreck that has gone before it.

RATING
As much as I love Matt Smith’s performance as the Eleventh Doctor, this is one occasion where the ham levels are dangerously high and The Doctor comes off as more of an ADHD addled teenager than a wise old time travel with a youthful twinkle in his eye. Throw in some bollocks about trees with souls and a woman who can fly a tower through the time vortex using only her desire to see her husband again and you’ve got all the makings of a Christmas turkey. Not one of Steven Moffat’s finest hours by any stretch of the imagination. A stupid 2/10.

Written and edited by Richey Hackett

“A Christmas Carol”

Posted in New Who, Specials with tags , , , , on April 30, 2014 by Review The Who

 

DW Special - A Christmas Carol

STORY
On Christmas Eve in the far future, The Doctor must find a way to bring out the compassion in a bitter old miser in order to save the passengers of a crashing space liner.

REVIEW
Doctor Who Christmas specials; sometimes they capture that magical excitement we associate with the season and other times they seem to have little or nothing to do with Christmas at all. But “A Christmas Carol” manages to strike a good balance, bringing us a strong story with plenty of action and emotional resonance all wrapped up in a traditional Christmas narrative. That’s not to say that it doesn’t fall flat on it’s arse at times, though.

The Doctor finds himself having to save 4000 people on a space liner that is crashing into a planet, due to adverse weather conditions caused by flying fish (just go with it). The only person who can help him is one Kazran Sardick (played by Michael Gambon), who controls a spire that in turn controls the cloud cover over the planet. The flying fish live within the cloud and seem to have a natural predilection for aggressiveness, so Kazran’s father built a machine that is able to tame them, allowing safe passage onto the planet. When The Doctor tries to persuade him to save the crashing ship by using the spire, Kazran refuses on the grounds that he simply doesn’t give a shit.

Taking a cue from the Dickens’ classic, The Doctor decides to go back and influence Kazran at an early age in order to bring out the more compassionate nature within. Now whilst this turns out to be enjoyable for us as an audience, seeing The Doctor interact with little Kazran and all the fun and adventures they get up to, it does present the single biggest flaw in the episode. The Doctor has always asserted that meddling at this level in someone’s timeline is dangerous and best avoided, whatever good reason you may have for doing it. But here he jumps into action without a second thought. Through interfering like this, Kazran (who The Doctor visits at several points in his life) ends up falling in love with a dying woman named Abigail, who he creepily keeps refrigerated so as to never lose her (insert your own possessiveness joke here) so in fact The Doctor has interfered with two people’s timelines now. When we later see the old Kazran berate The Doctor for meddling in his history it’s kind of hard not to blame him!

In Abigail we have the second biggest problem with the episode, namely the stunt casting of singer Katherine Jenkins. When The Doctor first visits the young Kazran he discovers that the boy wants nothing more than to see one of these flying fish everyone talks about, so The Doctor attempts to lure one. Instead the two of them are left fighting for their lives when a giant flying shark turns up in the lad’s bedroom. Only the sonically soothing tones of Abigail’s singing seem to quell the frightful fishy, a plot point that is used later to resolve the episode. And this is basically the only reason for Jenkins’ appearance. Michael Gambon is in this episode because he is a brilliant actor who brings a genuine humanity to what could have been a stereotypical character, especially by the end where Kazran has learned to appreciate the time he had with Abigail instead of hoarding what remained of it. But Jenkins can’t act; it’s that simple, folks. She is like a piece of wood with Katherine Jenkins’ face painted on it. The only time she ever comes to life is when she’s singing, which she conveniently has to do in order to resolve the plot. This kind of casting has repeatedly brought problems with it in the past so there’s no real excuse. Clearly the Peter Kay Incident taught you nothing, Mr Moffat.

Other than these two complaints though the episode proves to be one of the best Christmas specials in years. Matt Smith is at his energetic best here as The Doctor and carries the whole show with great ease, clearly having reached the point where his Doctor is second nature to him (and perhaps the audience too). His scenes with Gambon remain the most enjoyable moments of the episode. The two play off each other to great effect and, as I’ve already mentioned, Gambon manages to inject all the emotional range you would expect for a character like Kazran without his performance descending into a Scrooge parody. Some of the later scenes where we finally get to see the heart of Kazran are genuinely emotional and moving, especially the one where he moves to strike his younger self only to crumple at his feet and plead forgiveness for the miserable bastard he has become.

Of course, if you’ve ever watched “Father’s Day”, the moment Kazran hugs his younger self slightly ruins the overall effect…

RATING
Putting aside the confusing use of flying fish, a pointless singing cameo and The Doctor’s blatant disregard for his own rules, “A Christmas Carol” proves to be a fun, enjoyable episode with a big heart. Gambon delivers a wonderful performance whilst Matt Smith continues to shine with his take on The Doctor. A festively plump 8/10.

Written and edited by Richey Hackett

 

“The End Of Time (Part 2)”

Posted in New Who, Specials with tags , , , , on April 9, 2014 by Review The Who

 

DW Special - The End Of Time Part 2

STORY
The human race has been reshaped in The Master’s image but The Doctor faces an even greater threat with the return of the Time Lords.

REVIEW
What a way to call it a day. It’s rare that Doctor Who can ever really be described as ‘epic’ even when the show maker’s are aiming for exactly that. But with the conclusion to “The End Of Time”, Russell T Davies manages to not only give David Tennant’s Doctor a fitting send-off but also deliver an excellent piece of drama on a truly epic scale. And the reason it works is because it’s not the storyline that is epic, but the character development. The real case in point here being The Master.

Back in the Jon Pertwee era, when Roger Delgado was The Master, the show runner’s had plans to feature a dramatic storyline in which The Master sacrifices himself in order to save The Doctor – a shocking but ultimately affecting turnaround for the character. This never came to pass but with “The End Of Time Part 2″ we are finally given the sacrifice that never was. And for that alone you have to love Davies and his writing. The return of the Time Lords should be a joyous occasion as far as The Master is concerned, but he soon realises that not only has he been manipulated by them his entire life but also that the Time Lords had become dangerous and, frankly, a bit nuts towards the end of the Time War. This was why The Doctor had to let them fall alongside The Daleks – because they had become the greater threat.

So here the Time War is finally ended by the sacrifice of The Master, when he realises the Time Lords implanted the four beat signal in his mind (“the endless drumming”) for no reason other than to give themselves a get-out clause from the time lock. He finally sees the danger and the selfishness that has corrupted them and understands why The Doctor allowed them to die with The Daleks. The Master sacrifices himself to preserve The Doctor’s original actions at the end of the Time War and the circle is complete.

And people say Davies can’t write for shit…

Now ultimately The Master is acting out of a need for vengeance more than anything else. We can’t really argue that his whole character has suddenly changed but there is also no getting around the fact that he is saving The Doctor and indeed the universe through personal sacrifice. Personally, I feel this is the true highlight of the episode and some of the best writing RTD has ever delivered.

The build up to this epic conclusion though? Something of a mixed bag. We have some wonderful moments; The Doctor and Wilf hiding from The Master on board the spaceship, Wilf’s pleading with The Doctor to not let The Master kill him and his heartbreaking “I don’t want you to die” speech, Tennant’s brilliant performance when The Doctor realises that the Time Lords are returning and his look of sheer terror, the heart-to-heart he shares with The Master. But we also have some fairly stupid moments as well; the stairwell escape, Wilf and an alien shooting down missiles with amazing accuracy, The Doctor jumping from a height that managed to finish off the Fourth Doctor back in “Logopolis” and coming away with only a few cuts and bruises.

As for The Doctor’s inevitable end…well, it is genuinely heartbreaking when you realise who it is that knocks four times and what that means for The Doctor but it’s all a little bit overblown after that. He is overcome with emotion, even moments of outright aggression, all because he has become unwilling to meet his end. It’s a very powerful and unique approach to regeneration, sure, but I don’t think it was needed at this point. The Doctor has always approached death and regeneration very easily, perhaps you could argue too easily; surely there is some degree of trauma? It’s interesting to see it explored here and kudos to Tennant for pulling off the performance but I still feel that this approach to regeneration doesn’t quite fit and that this moment would have been better suited to The Doctor dealing with the possibility of actual death, with no chance of him regenerating. The farewell, as most fans have already commented, is way too protracted and The Doctor’s final words of “I don’t want to go.” are completely out of character for the Tenth Doctor, but Murray Gold’s score and the explosive arrival of Matt Smith still make this a wonderful moment in the show’s history.

RATING
At times a strangely moving finale, at others a bafflingly silly one, “The End Of Time Part 2” proves to be a difficult episode to either love or hate. Davies proves once more what he is capable of delivering with the show in terms of drama and character, with a particularly wonderful send-off for The Master and a bittersweet epilogue for The Doctor, but conceptual problems and some overwrought emoting make it an episode to be viewed with a fast forward button in reach so that you can skip to the good stuff. An enjoyable 7/10 then for the departure of the Tenth Doctor.

Written and edited by Richey Hackett

 

“The End Of Time (Part 1)”

Posted in New Who, Specials with tags , , , , on April 2, 2014 by Review The Who

 

DW Special - The End Of Time Part 1

STORY
The Doctor returns to Earth in search of the newly resurrected Master, all the while haunted by the knowledge of his impending death.

REVIEW
And so we come to it; the last adventure of the Tenth Doctor. After the powerful events of “The Waters Of Mars”, expectations were high for Tennant’s final outing where he must discover why the human race is suffering from nightmares, prevent the return of his own people and go up against the returned Master, all while attempting to stave off what he believes will be his actual death.

Sadly, things get off to a bad start; the return of The Master is executed in the most pants-shittingly ridiculous fashion imaginable. With more than a faint whiff of Harry Potter at play here, we see The Master brought back from the dead via the questionable ‘potions of life’. Still, setting aside this goofiness, we at least get a new take on the character as we witness The Master channelling every last morsel of Time Lord energy within him in order to compensate for the interference of his wife Lucy in the resurrection process. The Master’s ultimate goal has always been to stay alive, whatever the cost to himself or others, this time resulting in a constant need for him to eat in order to maintain his strength and life force. He’s burning too brightly and his time is growing short as a result. When he finally confronts him, The Doctor warns The Master that he needs to stop because he’s bleeding his energy away with every little display of his crazy superpowers. But of course, being The Master, he gives not one fuck.

Some fans have argued that this super powered Master was a cheap idea and that it doesn’t work. I don’t entirely agree, especially as we’ve seen Time Lords display inhuman power before (The Doctor in “The Last Of The Time Lords”, that guy in “Terror Of The Autons” who flies, etc) so I don’t consider it such a huge leap in logic or even a retcon of the character. After all, wasn’t The Master a cat person at one point? And another time his essence became a shape-shifting snake. So this kind of gig isn’t exactly new to him, is it? And yet, I will concede that there’s only so many times you can watch The Master blasting off into the air like Iron Man before you just shake your head and wonder what ever happened to character development.

Bernard Cribbins returns as Wilf, bringing all of the humanity and compassion that we know and love in this character. He is the defacto companion for this story (a nice choice to have an older companion) and throughout he is doing whatever he can to assist The Doctor, even if it’s just talking things over with him in a cafe. Wilf’s faith in The Doctor shines through at all times and that conversation in the cafe is particularly moving. It’s basically two old men talking about death but it’s done superbly. One gripe though; Russell T Davies tries to add some emotional impact by altering the nature of regeneration and it’s not only unnecessary, it’s downright unneeded. The idea that The Doctor feels that he dies and a new man walks away every time he regenerates has no basis in any previous Doctor Who story and the whole point of this one was supposed to be that The Doctor was under the impression that he was actually going to die, not regenerate. As a fan, perhaps I’m a little too defensive over such things, but the new take on regeneration played out here does the show a disservice in my opinion.

The Master is captured by a government official and used to repair a piece of alien tech that turns out to be a genetic re-sequencer. Of course, he’s just playing along until the opportunity presents itself for him to take advantage of the machine and imprint his DNA onto every person on the planet. The Master Race idea is, at first glance, profoundly daft. The problem lies mainly in the delivery I suppose because when you actually sit and think about the prospect it’s actually quite disturbing and very much the kind of lunacy The Master excels in. Presentation, then, is the key problem here; perhaps there should have been less maniacal laughter and more imposing, threatening behaviour from The Master. I can only assume that was being saved for the cliffhanger in which a passionate Timothy Dalton ushers in the return of the Time Lords with a vitriolic call to arms and a liberal deployment of spittle.

RATING
Not the stronger of the 2 parts, with some of the key moments coming across as silly when really they should have been quite sinister but, for the most part, the acting is top shelf and the emotional countdown to The Doctor’s end is quite tangible. A watchable 6/10 then for the beginning of the end.

Written and edited by Richey Hackett

 

“The Waters Of Mars”

Posted in New Who, Specials with tags , , , , on March 20, 2014 by Review The Who

DW Special - The Waters Of Mars

STORY
The Doctor takes a trip to the first Martian colony, only to discover himself walking straight into a pivotal moment in history. He knows the fate of the stations crew but will he cross the line and use that knowledge to save them?

REVIEW
Great episodes of Doctor Who tend to be the ones that have both an immediate impact upon you but also an impact that doesn’t dissipate with repeat viewings. These are the episodes that bring out the same emotions and reactions in you on the 5th or 6th viewing as they did when you first saw them. “The Waters Of Mars” certainly falls into this camp. What begins seemingly as your average Doctor-to-the-rescue plot soon descends into a brooding character study that asks the question of just how far could or should The Doctor be willing to go in order to “do the right thing”.

The crisis that takes place at Bowie Base One (who doesn’t love a Bowie reference?) is one of the few instances where The Doctor stumbles upon events that are a fixed point in time. This simply means that what happens here has to happen and always has to have happened. To change the outcome would be against the laws of time as laid down by the Time Lords. Although The Doctor is often more than happy to jump into a situation and lend a hand, such situations are usually open to multiple potential outcomes. But the crisis at Bowie Base One has to take place in order for certain moments in future history to occur, important events that are pivotal in shaping the evolution of mankind’s future exploration of the stars.

Put simply, The Doctor can’t get involved. He should have walked away the moment he realised that this was a fixed point in time but he doesn’t and this is where the drama comes into play. It’s the dark examination of The Doctor’s character that makes the episode so memorable and so captivating as opposed to the events of the story themselves. Should The Doctor interfere when he knows that he shouldn’t? His curiosity and his conscience are heavily explored as he witnesses the deaths of the bases residents at the hands of The Flood, a sort of conscious virus that has been lurking for centuries in the planets ice cores and has been unleashed by the drilling operations of this colony team, lead by the stern Captain Adelaide Brooke (played wonderfully by Lindsay Duncan).

This stands as one of David Tennant’s finest performances as The Doctor. We see him battle through his emotions as he reacts to what he’s seeing, we’re given a glimpse of the weight he shoulders from knowing the outcome of these events and we understand the pain he feels at not being able to warn the station’s inhabitants. When the situation finally becomes desperate, we witness the dark and unsettling turn as The Doctor’s deeply buried Time Lord instincts win through and he declares himself the master of time and space. He skirts dangerously close to the kind of mentality we’d expect to see in The Master, believing himself to be blessed with the right to decide what should and should not come to pass in the universe. And though events are altered, it turns out that even The Doctor cannot hault the course of history. When Brooke proves him wrong at the end of the episode, he’s brought crashing back to reality with the dreadful realisation of what he has done and terrified by what the consequences might be. Tennant’s performance throughout is a tour de force but it’s in these final moments when Ood Sigma mysteriously appears to him as the snow silently falls that Tennant delivers his most pained performance, asking his old friend if maybe this time he really has gone too far. It’s one of the truly breathtaking moments of New Who.

RATING
A fantastic examination of the results of The Doctor’s decisions, with one of Davies’ most accomplished scripts and a spell-binding performance from David Tennant. A future classic if ever there was one. Nothing less than 10/10.

Written and edited by Richey Hackett