The Two Doctors
Episode / April 12, 2017

Aired 16 February – 2 March 1985 ‘The Two Doctors’ has a mixed reputation and is unabashedly a far departure from the somewhat lighter and more celebratory nature of the previous multi-Doctor tales ‘The Three Doctors’ and ‘The Five Doctors.’ Indeed, writer Robert Holmes’s trademark cynicism fits in perfectly with the more sinister trajectory Doctor Who began taking under producer John Nathan-Turner, though he also manages to impart a more likable edge to the gruff Sixth Doctor as the character’s insults are tempered by a genuine sense of wit and intelligence, firmly establishing him as the genuine Doctor by the end of events while paired with his second incarnation. Anyone with knowledge of the Second Doctor would be forgiven for thinking that ‘The Two Doctors’ would emphasize the character’s more comedic and impish nature that has only become more fondly remembered in the years since his regeneration. And although Patrick Troughton does prove adept at stealing the scene whenever he can instill a bit of comedy into proceedings, the serial as a whole is incredibly dark. Unfortunately, while the Sixth Doctor is purposefully a bit rough around the edges, even if the more violent means by which the writers chose…

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…

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…

The Space Pirates
Episode / October 22, 2016

Aired 8 March – 12 April 1969 With five of six episodes missing from the video archives, ‘The Space Pirates’ is the final incomplete serial in Doctor Who’s vast library. Unfortunately, the surviving episode doesn’t really capture the scope and breadth of this sprawling space opera, and the reputation of this penultimate Troughton episode suffers as a result, but the very human affairs in the vastness of space offer something unique for the era and unquestionably still hold merit even if the end result is not classified as a classic. The strongest aspect of ‘The Space Pirates’ is undoubtedly Robert Holmes’s characterization, building upon a trend started with the main villain his previous script ‘The Krotons.’ Jay Mack plays the dubiously over-the-top commander of the International Space Corps to great effect even if the performance is sometimes a bit too much as the character ignores obvious clues and distances himself from his crew. Gordon Gostelow’s Milo Clancey proves to be the perfect contrast to General Hermack, standing up to and humiliating him at every opportunity. His mustachioed cowboy appearance again may be too egregious for some, but it is keeping in line with the slightly grandiloquent tone of the serial.…

The Seeds of Death
Episode / October 21, 2016

Aired 25 January – 1 March 1969 Following a run of relatively varied story types, Doctor Who returns to its trusted base under siege formula with ‘The Seeds of Death,’ once more showcasing the Ice Warrior race that had made such an impact just as the titular foe a year earlier. Although the story plays it relatively safe in regards to overall plot despite some rather forward-thinking and chilling segments, ‘The Seeds of Death’ certainly offers plenty of spectacle and ends up being another fine example of the Troughton era. Wisely, ‘The Seeds of Death’ uses a moonbase as the setting, tapping into the space race that consumed the public consciousness as the Apollo 11 moon landing neared. It seems superfluous to the story that such a significant portion of the beginning is dedicated to the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe experiencing the entire rocket sequence from takeoff to landing since the T-Mat transmat device is fixed before they even arrive on the moon, but this again shows just how exciting the overall prospect of rocket travel was at the time. Intriguingly and in a moment of prescience, the transmat technology has dulled humanity’s sense of exploration and ambition since instantaneous…

The Krotons
Episode / October 19, 2016

Aired 28 December 1968 – 18 January 1969 ‘The Krotons’ is another serial that Doctor Who fans do not hold in incredibly high regard, but for a long time it was the only complete Patrick Troughton episode remaining in the video archives. ‘The Krotons’ has a rather long history to it, the concept originating as a play entitled The Trap and initially being rejected as a Doctor Who serial during William Hartnell’s time when anticipation for the Mechanoids’ success during ‘The Chase’ was at its highest. Yet as Frazer Hines decided to renew his contract for one more year to leave alongside Patrick Troughton, other scripts were running into issues, and Robert Holmes became an increasingly important figure for Doctor Who as ‘The Krotons’ was pushed forward in the production order. Even if the story does ultimately give off the impression of being a rather low-budget runaround and not necessarily indicative of the true essence of the Troughton era, but that is an inherently invigorating prospect as the Doctor and his companions arrive in a world already overtaken and get to be reactive as figures of change rather than proactive as figures of protection and stability. In that respect, 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…

The Mind Robber
Episode / October 18, 2016

Aired 14 September – 12 October 1968 Following on directly from ‘The Dominators,’ the Doctor forces an emergency departure from the rising lava on Dulkis, taking the TARDIS out of space and time and materializing in what initially seems to be a white void. Yet as Jamie hears bagpipes and finds himself in his homeland and Zoe sees images of her home City on the TARDIS scanner, they soon find that the supposed reality of their situation is much stranger than they could ever imagine. The strongest aspect of Doctor Who is its incredible flexibility, able to shift genres and formats effortlessly, and ‘The Mind Robber’ certainly takes advantage of that premise as it offers a trip further into the absurd realm of childish imagination than any episode before and arguably since. As the story veered out of the universe of Doctor Who and into the universe of fiction in general, the public response was initially quite lukewarm, but its willingness to shatter storytelling conventions and its forward-thinking nature has rightfully earned it a much more flattering reputation as time has passed. As the threat shifts from white robots to a mysterious force that breaks the TARDIS apart and invades…

The Dominators
Episode / October 17, 2016

Aired 10 August – 7 September 1968 ‘The Dominators’ kicks off Doctor Who’s sixth season with a fairly tepid affair that has since increased in notoriety for simply managing to survive in the video archives unblemished while so many other stories have fallen victim to the video purge. As the titular Dominators land on the planet Dulkis with their mining robots the Quarks, assessing the viability of the planet’s population for slave labour before turning the planet into a radioactive mass to fuel the needs of their own people, the scene is certainly set for another strong story. Unfortunately, there are several notable flaws that prevent the intriguing plot from being fully realized on screen. In a story with quite a few guest actors, only Ronald Allen as the Dominator Rago manages to stand out with a truly great performance. His physical presence, body language, terse delivery of lines, and ruthless looks are the one indication that this race is one to be feared, and he ends up being the one shining point aside from the regulars as events progress. Fellow Dominator Toba played by Kenneth Ives comes off as rather shallow in comparison, the script writing him as a…

The Wheel in Space
Episode / October 16, 2016

Aired 27 April – 1 June 1968 ‘The Wheel in Space’ often tends to be overlooked with so many classics with visual episodes surviving fighting for attention and fame during a very strong season. The Cybermen return once more to bookend the season, this time planning to use the titular space station as a beacon for another invasion of Earth, and the claustrophobic and sterile corridors and environment make for a perfect setting for yet another tense siege. Still stricken by the emotional departure of Victoria, the Doctor and Jamie land on the Silver Carrier, a seemingly deserted ship. The first episode makes great use of the desolation and allows Troughton and Hines plenty of opportunity to shine as they explore and soon find themselves threatened by both a Servo robot and a laser from the Wheel. Indeed, as the heroes become ore intertwined with events proper, the direction and sound design continue to evoke an eerie and tense feeling that helps underscore the inherent danger. Unfortunately, the Cybermen on display here are a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, they are presented as an incredibly formidable force, and their brute strength comes into focus here more…