World Enough and Time
Episode / June 25, 2017

Aired 24 June 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW As with all opening instalments of Doctor Who’s multi-part stories, ‘World Enough and Time’ is charged with providing the exposition and plot developments that will hopefully pay off in the upcoming series ten finale, ‘The Doctor Falls.’ However, as has been controversially heavily publicized, there is more than enough intrigue as the original Mondasian Cybermen return to the screen for the first time in over fifty years and John Simm’s Master reappears to cross paths with Michelle Gomez’s Missy. Fortunately, rather than reveling in pure spectacle, ‘World Enough and Time’ is an episode brimming with clever ideas and superb atmosphere and imagery as the dark story of a 400-mile-long colony ship experiencing differing rates of passing time because of a nearby black hole’s gravitational distortion unfolds. With generations passing at the bottom of the ship as only days pass at the top, the story does well with presenting a world so diseased and decrepit that the alternative of upgrading to a cybernetic being seems viable. Many Cybermen stories over the years have been rather explicit with the body horror that the conversion process entails, but the sight of isolated, cloth-wrapped individuals in a…

Real Time
Audio / May 15, 2017

Original Webcast 2 August – 6 September 2002 Audio CD Released December 2002 Before the BBC relaunch of Doctor Who in 2005, it was primarily on the shoulders of Big Finish to keep up any sort of official adventures while the BBC tried to figure out just what exactly it wanted to do with the franchise following the failed backdoor pilot featuring Paul McGann. Following the first official BBCi webcast ‘Death Comes to Time’ featuring Sylvester McCoy, the BBC teamed with Big Finish to offer the much-maligned Sixth Doctor a more official chance at redemption by bringing Colin Baker back into the public consciousness. Fortunately, ‘Real Time’ succeeds admirably in that regard, removing Colin Baker from the behind-the-scenes turmoil that plagued his tenure on television and portraying the arrogance and sense of grandeur that so defined his character in an overall softer and more amenable light. The script wisely does not eliminate the more contentious aspects of this Doctor here, but it admirably explains why such divisive mannerisms and actions that would seem out of place for any other incarnation are perfectly logical and perhaps for the greater good in their own right. This is perhaps best explored when the…

Silver Nemesis
Episode / May 6, 2017

Aired 23 November – 7 December 1988 To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Doctor Who, producer John Nathan-Turner chose silver as a pervading theme, almost by necessity bringing the infamous Cybermen back to fill that stipulation as the story attempts to continue the darker and more mature stylings of this season’s predecessors. As a comet named Nemesis crashes near Windsor Castle, the Doctor and Ace find themselves in a race against several competing factions to reach it while the question of just who the Doctor is begins to come to the forefront. Unfortunately, ‘Silver Nemesis’ is something of a mess that simply throws too many ideas around as if hoping that some of them will find traction, resulting in a three-part story that seems like it has been haphazardly edited down from four parts. Worse yet, there is startlingly little actual plot to the story besides the quest, but it still comes off as cluttered because of the large supporting cast of Lady Peinforte and Richard, de Flores and the Nazis, and the squadron of Cybermen all in competition against the Doctor and Ace. The truth of Nemesis being a living statue composed of Validium that holds immense destructive capabilities…

Attack of the Cybermen
Episode / April 7, 2017

Aired 5 – 12 January 1985 Doctor Who has always been at its best when it maintains an air of accessibility that allows long-time fans and newcomers alike to enjoy the programme in equal measure. However, with John Nathan –Turner as producer, the 1980s serials frequently relied on continuity to varying extent and success to drive their narratives forward. This had been increasingly clear as Peter Davison’s time as the Fifth Doctor progressed, but perhaps no classic serial relied quite so much on the past as ‘Attack of the Cybermen,’ that decision to alienate casual viewers made all the stranger given that home video releases of previous tales were not yet commonplace, that ‘The Tenth Planet’ aired some twenty years earlier, and that several episodes referenced were missing from the video archives at the time. Indeed, ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ seems to exist solely for the most loyal fans. However, its frequent acknowledgement of long-past events, names, and places end up being rather trivial to events as a whole, and the lack of explanation to put this cascade of continuity into context effectively eliminates any chance of a newcomer or even a casual fan from enjoying and fully understanding the…

The Five Doctors
Episode / March 24, 2017

Aired 23 November 1983 ‘The Five Doctors’ represents the culmination of twenty years of Doctor Who, a feature-length special that does its best to bring the five distinct eras of the franchise together with a cavalcade of guest appearances by friends and foes alike. From the outset, it’s clear that writer Terrance Dicks is not striving to offer a meaningful story that explores the depth of the Doctor as a character or that fundamentally changes the core nature of Doctor Who, but ‘The Five Doctors’ is an unequivocal success when taken simply as a nostalgic celebration that focuses more on spectacle than on story. It’s interesting to note just how much attention is drawn to the questions regarding continuity that allow this adventure to take place, especially as continuity seemed to be pervading the programme more and more at the time. Part of this, naturally, is down to Tom Baker choosing not to reprise his role for the special after so recently departing. While the inclusion of scenes from the unfinished ‘Shada’ do at least allow a cameo of sorts for both Baker and Lalla Ward, it means that some of the resulting pairings of Doctors and companions are a…

Return to Telos
Audio / March 17, 2017

Released August 2015 ‘Return to Telos’ marks the finale of the fourth run of The Fourth Doctor Adventures and the conclusion to the more character-driven openness of ‘The Fate of Krelos.’ With the advertised return of the Cybermen and Jamie as the Fourth Doctor and Leela intrude upon the Second Doctor’s earlier adventure to Telos, it’s fair to say that ‘Return to Telos’ is one of the most eagerly-anticipated titles in the range to date. Nicholas Briggs both writes and directs ‘Return to Telos,’ and so it’s not surprising that the pacing and tension are so consistent as a seemingly unsolvable problem presents itself. Unfortunately, the script fails to capitalize on its immensely intriguing hook, instead choosing to focus on simply talking about potential devastating consequences with dialogue laden with clunky exposition and technobabble. Jamie’s kilt was a nice bit of foreshadowing in the previous adventure, but the realization that the deadly mistake made during ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ now wreaking havoc for the Fourth Doctor is that Jamie rubbed up against cyber-particles that have remained dormant in his kilt until now is rather underwhelming. There is the intrigue surrounding how those same particles have come to result in the…

Earthshock
Episode / March 7, 2017

Aired 8 – 16 March 1982 Doctor Who has produced its fair share of memorable episodes and moments in its long history, but few have had such a lasting and powerful impact as ‘Earthshock.’ The Doctor and his companions court danger in every adventure, and yet an assumed and unwritten rule is that the heroes always escape alive and more or less intact. There may be some bruises or shock that warrant reflection upon the way, but the Doctor is a safety net in a family programme who protects those he takes aboard. ‘Earthshock’ breaks that rule, however, and for the first time since Katarina and Sara Kingdom- neither of whom can be classified as a true companion due to the brevity of their inclusion- in the Hartnell era, a companion suffers the ultimate fate. A three-companion TARDIS with a dynamic young Doctor was always going to be problematic, especially when Davison proved so quickly that he could step out of Tom Baker’s sizable shadow and make the role his own. In retrospect, it’s probably unsurprising that Matthew Waterhouse’s Adric would be the companion to go, Waterhouse having been on the show the longest despite his inexperience that sometimes showed…

Last of the Cybermen
Audio / December 30, 2016

Released May 2015 Ten years after the assault on Telos that effectively ended the Great Cyber War, the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe set out to explore the meaning of a giant Cyber-head at the galaxy’s furthest reaches. As his companions try to discover if the universe has really seen the end of the Cybermen, though, so, too, do they try to discover just who the man in the multicoloured coat claiming to be the Doctor truly is and how he has come to be there in their own Doctor’s place. Although the reason for later Doctors suddenly appearing in their earlier incarnations’ timelines is still not addressed, Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor is the perfect counterpoint to Patrick Troughton’s Second, especially as the Sixth’s characterization here is an amalgamation of the earlier televised Sixth incarnation along with the more mellowed and compassionate audio version. Subtlety is out the window here, and Colin Baker is clearly relishing the opportunity to add a slightly more antagonistic and gruff edge to his character while still staying true to the years of characterization at Big Finish. However, it’s the companions that keep this tale firmly rooted in the Second Doctor’s era, and both Frazer Hines…

Revenge of the Cybermen
Episode / November 29, 2016

Aired 19 April – 10 May 1975 Following a genuine classic with the Daleks in ‘Genesis of the Daleks,’ Doctor Who attempts to reintroduce another iconic menace in the form of the Cybermen. Unfortunately, the fact that it took several years for the concept to come to fruition with a script that featured heavy rewrites hardly makes ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ the foe’s strongest showcase. ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ proved that a weakened and dormant Cyberman army can still present an immense threat, but the attempt by ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ to recapture that sense falls flat as it’s painfully clear that there are just four Cybermen who are hardly the epitome of their race. Robert Holmes revised the script quite a bit, and though he is unquestionably one of the great forces behind the classic series’s success, he writes the Cybermen as far too emotional to mesh with everything that has been portrayed in earlier stories. The Cybermen have always been written at their best as an anonymous force, and the individuality and emotional language on display is far removed from this concept, the title of the serial itself even implying an emotional edge. Perhaps more notable is the…

The Invasion
Episode / October 18, 2016

Aired 2 November – 21 December 1968 After the delightful surrealism of ‘The Mind Robber,’ Doctor Who returns firmly to the contemporary invasion story that had proven so popular with earlier stories such as ‘The Web of Fear.’ And while ‘The Web of Fear’ may have laid the groundwork for what would become a staple of the Third Doctor era, ‘The Invasion’ perfects it, bringing Nicholas Courtney’s now-promoted Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart back into the mix as the iconic Cybermen return. In retrospect, it’s surprising that an eight-part story would take four episodes to reveal the villains’ true identities. Yet given how popular the Cybermen were at the time with this being their fifth appearance in only three years, it makes sense for the plot to take a slower approach to the revelation even as sporadic hints are dropped. While the first half may suffer from the occasional padded and repetitive scene, the focus on the very human Tobias Vaughn, leader of International Electromatics, is far from boring. Kevin Stoney had previously played Mavic Chen in ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan,’ and he again imbues his traitorous character with a combination of charisma, egotism, and temper that is fascinating, putting a kinder and…