The Doctor Falls
Episode / July 2, 2017

Aired 01 July 2017 SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW Crafting a satisfying finale for any series of modern Doctor Who is an incredibly daunting task, having to reference and wrap up lingering storylines and character arcs while also providing the requisite emotion and logic to satisfy loyal viewers while catering to the largest audience possible. With Peter Capaldi’s departure publically being touted as only one episode away during this year’s Christmas special, ‘The Doctor Falls’ carries even more weight than most, and Bill’s conversion into a Mondasian Cyberman in the presence of two iterations of the Master certainly sets the stage for a bombastic adventure, one that as a whole is one of the most satisfying finales to date. While some may lament that John Simm’s Master and Michelle Gomez’s Missy were not even more prevalent, each of their scenes together is pitch perfect and helps to lend a sense of earnestness to Gomez’s wonderfully unpredictable version as she flits between reverting to her old self and standing beside the Doctor in his continuing battle against evil. Simm’s version is so overtly evil that he is willing to destroy himself to prevent anything he does during any of his lives that could…

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…

The Mark of the Rani
Episode / April 10, 2017

Aired 2 – 9 February 1985 ‘The Mark of the Rani’ is something of an underrated Doctor Who story, light on plot and eventually falling into pantomime territory but also making for an excellent debut for the villainous Time Lady the Rani while also portraying the bombastic and argumentative Sixth Doctor in his most heroic and compassionate light yet. With the inclusion of the Master in a more subservient and subsidiary role as well, ‘The Mark of the Rani’ does sometimes feel like it has a lengthy list of certain things it is trying to achieve and incorporate, but the facetiousness and cheekiness of the script remains a highlight that manages to serve as a beacon of optimism and levity within an ever more dangerous universe. This is a far from perfect characterization for the Sixth Doctor, but ‘The Mark of the Rani’ makes significant strides in toning down the overwhelming brashness and arrogance that has come to define the character in his early stories. He regularly interacts with Peri in a fashion that isn’t completely demeaning even while he revels in taking the opportunity to teach her a lesson, but he also shows remorse at the plight of the…

Planet of Fire
Episode / April 4, 2017

Aired 23 February – 2 March 1984 Writer Peter Grimwade was given an immense task when writing ‘Planet of Fire,’ effectively ushering in a definitive closure of sorts for the Peter Davison era following Tegan’s rather unexpected departure at the end of the preceding serial. Although the second half does devolve into a fairly generic tale, the fact that the script is able to so effectively introduce new companion Peri while also writing out Kamelion, Turlough, and seemingly the Master is a testament to the quality of the writing from the man who had delivered the less-than-stellar ‘Time-Flight’ the year before. While the Fifth Doctor never loses his more optimistic outlook on the universe, it is intriguing to note just how much the events of this third season have taken a toll on him physically and emotionally. The sheer brutality that the universe has thrown at him was, understandably, the reason that Tegan decided to leave so abruptly, and mercifully the ramifications of Tegan’s departure are dealt with in a much more meaningful fashion that previous companions’, Adric’s tragic death included. In some respects it is understandable that the Doctor cannot simply change course without second thought as he has…

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…

The King’s Demons
Episode / March 24, 2017

Aired 15 – 16 March 1983 The inclusion of the Master in the celebratory nature of Doctor Who’s twentieth season with its cavalcade of familiar faces was an inevitability following the iconic foe’s recent resurgence during the transition from the Fourth Doctor to the Fifth. Unfortunately, even though ‘The King’s Demons’ was not intended to be the de facto season finale before the anniversary special ‘The Five Doctors’ aired later in the year, it nonetheless marks one of the weaker stories of the Davison era so far. As was the case with the preceding year’s final story ‘Time-Flight,’ itself a less than inspiring story, the Master here seems to be included simply because he is a familiar face rather than because the script has anything new or novel to do with him. It’s fair to say that the character peaked in ‘The Keeper of Trakken,’ but he has since become a generic villain whose motivations are questionable at best. As it is, he is the most instantly recognisable foe of this anniversary season, but structuring the two-part story so that his reveal is the cliffhanger of the first is inherently flawed and really only gives a brief glimpse of the…

Death Match
Audio / March 10, 2017

Released April 2015 Following the intriguing events of ‘Requiem for the Rocket Men’ in which Leela departed the TARDIS to pursue her relationship with Marshall, ‘Death Match’ serves as an indirect sequel of sorts that deals with the ramifications of that choice, offering wonderful moments of characterization and bringing the Master much more to the forefront in the process. With societal elites’ champions vying for their very lives against each other and the environment, danger is rampant as the only rule is to kill or be killed. It’s inevitable from the start given known continuity that Leela will end up back with the Doctor, but it’s nonetheless immensely satisfying to see the effect that Leela’s absence has aboard the TARDIS as the Doctor and K9 grow increasingly agitated with each other. At the same time, even as the Master becomes much more than a tangential threat as he was in the preceding tale, it’s intriguing to note the disparity of viewpoints and morality that the two Time Lords hold, the Master convinced that their race has the inherent right to decide the order of things as well as who lives and who dies whereas the Doctor is content to merely…

Time-Flight
Episode / March 10, 2017

Aired 22 – 30 March 1982 Following the highly-praised ‘Earthshock’ that saw the devastating departure of Adric and the grandiose return of the Cybermen in a rather traditional base-under-siege format, ‘Time-Flight’ is tasked with closing out a fairly solid introductory season for Peter Davison that has proven how versatile, commanding, and charismatic he can be. Unfortunately, for all of the ambition that ‘Time-Flight’ boasts, the nonsensical plot, clumsy dialogue, and financial limitation result in the season going out with a whimper remembered for all of the wrong reasons. The underlying concept of a hijack in time as a Concorde jet is transported to prehistoric Earth is an immensely intriguing one amid a story bursting with clever ideas, but the script is so visual and reliant on its settings that there is no realistic way that the limited BBC budget could ever hope to accomplish anything passing for realism. At the same time, few of the ideas are ever really allowed to flourish with any sense of depth and cohesion. Accordingly, an organism that is an amalgamation of an entire race with one personality never gets the depth of exploration it begs for, its existence instead awkwardly brought up and later…

Requiem for the Rocket Men
Audio / March 8, 2017

Released March 2015 The Rocket Men were one of the undisputed standout successes of The Companion Chronicles range, a dangerous foe that perfectly captured the imagination and spirit of pulp comic and action adventures of old. Now finding their way into The Fourth Doctor Adventures, they find themselves the captors of the Doctor himself as the King of the Rocket Men, Shandar, prepares to meet with the Master who is in need of allies. Regardless of the fact that the blurb on the case of ‘Requiem for the Rocket Men’ completely spoils the fact that the Master is present and that events will unfold from his point of view, the story itself is a complete breath of fresh air that makes excellent use of plot devices that seem incredibly obvious in retrospect but have surprisingly never fully been utilized before. Truly, ‘Requiem for the Rocket Men’ completely bucks tradition, not only keeping the Doctor shrouded in secrecy with only a few telltale laughs giving his presence away before his grand reveal but also highlighting the calculating and scheming side of this often bombastic and reckless incarnation as he finally has the opportunity to directly confront the Rocket Men after being…

The Keeper of Traken
Episode / February 16, 2017

Aired 31 January – 21 February 1981 Death and decay have been constant narrative streams through Tom Baker’s final series of adventures, and ‘The Keeper of Traken’ runs with those themes and utilizes the impending departure of the leading man to add a tremendous deal of weight to a satisfying tale upon the peaceful world of Traken that might otherwise have seemed a bit too excessive. Considering that the script had to undergo several late changes to accommodate a shift in the production staff’s desires, prime examples being the surprising revival of the Master and the impetus put on the character of Nyssa as Sarah Sutton was eventually asked to become a companion, due credit must be given to writer Johnny Byrne and script editor Christopher H Bidmead for managing to still craft such a coherent and enjoyable story. The titular Keeper of Traken is quite an intriguing notion, and the fact that he is not immortal and all-powerful only makes him more so. Sensing that a powerful evil is invading his idyllic planet of purified goodness that makes evil shrivel away, he calls upon the Doctor who is still hurting from the departure of Romana and K9 for help.…