Doctor Who – The Time War 1

timewar1While a war throughout time and space is waged between the Time Lords and Daleks, the Doctor and his companion Sheena enjoy a trip on a galactic pleasure vessel Theseus. Cleverly using his psychic paper, the Doctor procures a room for the duo and soon enough they begin to uncover a sordid mystery beneath the glamour of the Theseus involving a galactic goblin taking its toll from the crafts which pass over its ‘bridge.’ All in all, a standard adventure until reality shifts and the Theseus is a refugee ship… and his companion changes names… twice.

Residue and fallout from the Time War has reached the Doctor despite his attempts to escape its pull. The Theseus crashes on a planet which is awash with temporal weapon radiation, causing the fauna and flora to climb up and down evolutionary ladders. Forests turn lush and decrepit in the blink of an eye and the simian-like natives are both primitive and advanced. The Doctor is quite literally drafted into the war and the Daleks draw ever closer to annihilation of their enemy, the Time Lords of Gallifrey.

I have differing opinions of this first installment of the Time War. It starts off interesting enough then turns into a long slog through a jungle (as interesting to listen to as it would be to watch in screen) and perks up a bit toward the end when the Doctor is the maverick who refuses to fit in at the Time Lord boot camp. The Doctor is separated from his friends from the crash of the Theseus, Quarren and Rupor, by Cardinal Ollistra who shows an abnormal interest in them. In the end, Quarren is not at all who he appears and his past is called into question as the universe hangs in the balance.

I think my biggest gripe is that the audio shares far too much with the Nu Who TV series, even to the point of a magic button that can unravel any and all problems. Only Time War 1 combines the magic button with a character and a last minute grasp for the heart strings. The revelation of Quarren was another twist in a series of turns that this four part story took, and one too many in my opinion.

I typically enjoy the Eighth Doctor audios immensely and Paul McGann is in fine form here, but the script and guest cast (especially Bliss) fell beneath my expectations. It was almost a chore to make it through to the end! I hate to sound negative but by and large this was a disappointment for me and not the blockbuster opener to a new series of Eighth Doctor stories that I had hoped for. Maybe Ravenous will be better?

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Doctor Who – The Bodysnatchers

Body_snatchers_cover.jpgStrange goings on are afoot in Victorian London. Massive creatures stalk a local factory late at night and the owner, Nathaniel Seers, is not the man he once was; having transformed from a once kind and friendly individual into a cold and stern man. The Doctor and Sam arrive just in time to see a man devoured by a monster from the sea. Noting the time period, the Doctor calls upon the aid of his old friend Professor George Litefoot who had proven so helpful against the dreaded Magnus Greel a number of lives ago. Against an army from another world utilizing bizarre technology, the Doctor and his friends must take up arms against the Zygon horde for the future of the humanity.

The Body Snatchers is something of a mish-mash of stories, combining The Talons of Weng Chiang with Terror of the Zygons (two of my all time favorite adventures), although the novel gets quite gruesome at times. Set during a time when men were worked to the bone in unsafe factories, corpses were stolen in the night, grisly pub punch ups grew relentless in their brutality, bodies washed up with regularity from the Thames and bodies of children were uncovered with the thaw, nestled together into frozen blocks… it’s all quite unsettling.

The flippant and witty Eighth persona of the Doctor along with the unflappable Sam Jones and the quaint gentleman George Litefoot, provide some offset to the violence. However, the Zygons themselves, a monster that strangely only appeared once in the classic series are powerfully threatening. Their organic technology and bizarre physiognomy are fleshed out (if you can excuse the term) in this novel, even expanding the race into different strata from warrior to scientist and different genders as well. Fans of Zygons have a lot to chew on here.

A lovely blend of Victorian adventure and mystery along with body horror alien invasion, The Body Snatchers is a memorable and thrilling entry in the adventures of the Eighth Doctor.

Doctor Who: Vampire Science

Vampire_science_coverFrom the 1980 adventure State of Decay, vampires have been a major part of Doctor Who lore. In the televised story, the Fourth Doctor explained that the Time Lords have a sworn responsibility to eliminate all vampires as part of his people’s war with the creatures many centuries ago. That said, it is surprising that there are so few stories on TV in which the Doctor faces this moral conundrum. Happily there are quite a few novels.

Following up on the rather challenging novel, The Eight Doctors, Vampire Science is an enthralling adventure which challenges the intelligence of the Eighth Doctor as well as his nerve. In the opening chapter it appears that the Doctor has embarked on an all-out war against the vampires, cornering one in an alley and stabbing it in the chest. A young woman named Caroline witnesses the whole affair and it has such an impact that years later she has a scrapbook of vampire stories in the news and follows any clues when she is not busy trying to cure cancer.

The Doctor and his companion Sam rejoin Caroline after her boyfriend becomes kidnapped by a clan of vampires and finally the Doctor shows his hand. He has no intention of wiping out his enemies. He intends to cure them, or at least create a food substitute to prevent them from preying on the living. To accomplish this he must walk a very fine line and risk the trust that his followers have in him. He must also try to reduce casualties as much as possible and escape death himself.

The vampires operate out of a kink nightclub (which strangely serves coffee and salad) and has strata of social structures. The old guard are barely cognizant of their surroundings while the ‘youngsters’ (turned in 1957) are wild and dramatic, led by a charismatic grandstander Slake, who is more than happy to borrow from pop culture vampire myths. But the young gang is far more deadly than they appear while the old guard is led by a brilliant woman named Harris with hundreds of years of medical knowledge who has secret controversial plans for their future.

When Harris and the Doctor pool more than their resources, they become entangled in blood. Harris has the challenge of convincing her people that they can trust a Time Lord, a mythical being who should be sworn to exterminate the vampires. And the Doctor has the soldiers of U.N.I.T. chomping at the bit to charge in guns blazing. Yet the Doctor is determined to find a solution that does not include genocide and instead a promising future of hope.

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Sam Jones

The new companion Sam Jones has a spotty rep with fans. A seventeen year old who is very passionate and fiery while also being quite mopey and catty… she’s a perfect teenager. Early on Sam is attacked by a vampire and spends much of the book seething with revenge. She is also very jealous of Caroline who moons over the Doctor. She struggles to find common ground with the Doctor who, in her opinion, has sided with murderous creatures who suck the life out of innocents. At the same time, she tries to take the high road and extend compassion to her enemies no matter their undead status. That said, she’s not above taking matters into her own hands and getting them very dirty. I’m not sure where the negative reaction comes from for Sam, but so far I quite like her.

Paul_McGann_EighthDoctorVampire Science is a very dense book filled with twists and turns and plenty of nerve-wracking moments. The Doctor is also still coming to terms with his new incarnation and is oblivious to the impact his attractive new face has on others. His added responsibility for Caroline is especially trying as she becomes enthralled by the appeal of a dreamy bachelor who travels through space and time (Russell T Davies was obviously paying close attention to this. There are some lovely scenes in the TARDIS in which he shows Caroline a room filled with butterflies which flutter in his hair as he welcomes it all. This is a romantic Doctor, no longer the scheming manipulative 7th incarnation. This Doctor lives in the moment and is far more impulsive than previous personas.

After the slog that was The Eight Doctors, Vampire Science was a welcome change. Filled with drama, action, horror and even humor it is a grand start to the new Doctor.

Doctor Who – The Eight Doctors

Doctor_Who_Eight_Doctors_NovelFollowing the exciting adventure on the eve of a new millennium in San Francisco, the rejuvenated Doctor is ready for a whole new universe of adventures. Unfortunately, he has to slog his way through this novel first.

The Eight Doctors is BBC Book by Terrance Dicks, the same author who penned hundreds of novelizations of classic Doctor Who stories and a few original ones as well when Virgin Press got a hold of the franchise in the 90’s. This guy know what’s what in Doctor Who. He can tell his Ogrons from his Zygons and which Doctor has an ‘old – young face.’ He can also tell a ripping yarn and while there are good parts to this novel, it is by and large a chore. It feels like homework that must be done before game time on a school night.

In the book, the Doctor wanders in to check on the Eye of Harmony (which the author quickly notes is not really the actual eye which is located on Gallifrey and supplies all TARDISes with power). He notices a bit of grit in the Eye. The grit is actually a booby trap left by the Master and takes away an indeterminate amount of the Doctor’s memories. He wanders again into the classic all-white console room and has a compulsion to ‘trust the TARDIS.’ He starts on a journey through his past starting at 76 Totters Lane, the junkyard a short drive from Coal Hill School.

The Doctor meets Samantha Jones who is in deep trouble with some local school kids who want her to sell crack (the author notes the experience of crack for anyone unsure). The Doctor ends up in jail, charged with possession (yes, this really happens) and will only tell the policemen the truth; that he is a time traveling alien. Through a series of events all parties end up right back at the junkyard by the TARDIS and the Doctor runs right back inside and leaves. He leaves Sam with the angry members (but keeps the bag of crack – because priorities, I guess).

What follows is a by the numbers series of episodes in which the new Doctor meets an old incarnation during a key moment of their lives. The two lock eyes and the Doctor gets a skoch more memory, chats to himself for a bit then leaves. That is the formula, more or less, until he reaches the Sixth Doctor during his trial. Then things get sticky and the plot so convoluted that poor Terrance spends far more time explaining the story he is pulling from than telling a new one. This is followed by the Master exposing the corruption on Gallifrey via TV. The Doctor tries to quell a revolution from the Shobogans in a pub and… it’s all a mess and not really worth getting into.

In the end the Doctor regains his memory and has a sudden flash of realization that he left Sam to the mercies of a gang of armed drug pushers. He flits back to hurl the bag of crack at the leader of the gang just as the police arrive and Sam runs into the TARDIS to become his new companion. She doesn’t question his alien-ness or the spaceship because she is a teenager well versed in pop culture (much like Izzy from the comic strip and in some ways Rose).

I have recently started in on this series of Eighth Doctor adventures with Dreamstone Moon being my first (which I recommend). I recall reading that this book had a bad reputation and I can certainly see why. It’s a slog and so chock full of continuity that it has little reason to exist. Little light is shed on the classic stories to even make this a nostalgia cruise. It’s a video game a fan would be excited by at first but as the prospect of reliving old stories became being told those stories instead, it would get decidedly dull.

Next up, Vampire Science.

Also, some B-movie reviews. So bookmark this page!

Doctor Who on Twitch

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Back in the day, I would watch classic episodes on my local PBS station. There were small conventions, tape trading and bragging over seeing rare stories. It was a different era, but there was a community. But now there is a new, far more inclusive, fan community online. For the first time, fans old and new are able to watch classic Doctor Who from the first episode in 1963 to the last in 1989… in order.

It may have started a mild curiosity on after dinner TV, but now it’s a bold online adventure.

Twitch is streaming the program in blocks starting at 11 AM PDT and repeating twice more Monday through Friday (the weekend withdrawal is brutal). The blocks consist of of 14-18 episodes, spanning two-three stories a day. I have long held the belief that fans of the new program (2005-) would find nothing worth seeing in the classic series. The Twitch stream has proven me happily wrong.

DrWho_Hartnell_WebPlanetViewers have swooned over the brave Ian and marveled at the resolute Barbara, demanded The Web Planet when the stream broke, clamored at Pat Troughton and Frazer Hines, and cried emoji tears when both the First and Second Doctor’s eras ended. Currently Jon Pertwee is enjoying a new popularity as the dashing Third Doctor.

Colin Baker

The Sixth Doctor – Colin Baker

Will Colin Baker receive a glowing reception? I honestly cannot hazard a guess.

For a full schedule, click here https://www.doctorwho.tv/watch/twitch/

 

What’s next for Doctor Who?

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With a Christmas Special “The Return of Dr. Mysterio” almost upon us and a new season looming, the rumors are coming in regarding what fans can expect next for Doctor Who.

One popular rumor is that Chris Chibnall will be changing the creative process and using a team of writers to construct the season rather than individual scripts. The rumor goes on to state that in the 11th series after Moffat’s departure, Chris Chibnall will be getting a ‘clean slate,’ meaning a different direction, a new face for The Doctor and a new companion along with a new but familiar tone hearkening back to the the Tennant era.

Via DoctorWhoTV:

Insiders say the Broadchurch writer will have a “clean slate” to start afresh for his first series – rather bad news for actress Pearl Mackie, who plays new assistant Bill in Steven Moffat’s last run, currently filming for next year.

Pearl, 29, yet to be seen by viewers, is said to have been signed on a one-year contract and is expected to depart with Peter Capaldi , 58, and Moffat after 2017’s Christmas special.

The replacement Time Lord is likely to be played by a younger actor in a bid to help boost the flagging sales of dolls, books, DVDs and toys.

Our source says: “BBC management wants a return to the format from the David Tennant era, when you had a dashing male lead and young female companion.

“Merchandising has dropped off sharply in recent years and there is a strong desire to boost the show’s popularity among kids.”

One way to do that, of course, is by returning to its traditional tea-time slot, rather than the post-Strictly position it languished in last year.

Next year’s show is expected to air in spring rather than autumn, to avoid the Saturday clash with Strictly.

Chibnall, putting the finishes to the third and final series of ITV’s Broadchurch, will very soon put together his own team of writers and producers for Doctor Who. They are expected to work in parallel with Moffat’s unit, who finish up in the late spring of next year.

BBC chiefs have also stressed that they want a full series every year (there hasn’t been one at all in 2016) and more accessible story arcs than those seen in recent times.

Each time the classic series underwent a change that involved a new producer, there were more often than not massive changes. The problem in predicting the course of modern Doctor Who is that the pop culture landscape has changed so drastically. Whereas the constant change was once a strength of Doctor Who’s appeal it is now something of a detriment. dten-crying

Each time the modern Doctor regenerates, the internet weeps with agony as viewers swear they will never watch now that ‘their Doctor’ is gone. This was especially true during the transition from Tennant to Smith but soon the viewers came back or were replaced with an even larger group of fans.

tumblr_inline_mwjez7uh6q1qz53j7During the Matt Smith era, Doctor Who became a true international phenomena and (I wager to say) garnered more attention than the series had ever seen before. Video games, home video releases and streaming media along with special showings and 3D trailers in cinemas made Doctor Who a mega blockbuster. The 50th anniversary special was the pinnacle of this popularity. Anyone unfamiliar with Doctor Who before 2013 found that it had become inescapable (for good or ill).

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Then showrunner Steven Moffat made a bold choice following this period by changing the character, who had been a mad adventurer and heart-throb into a cranky and moody alien who worked within his own morality. This softened some then took a massive twist in the ninth season when the previously pensive and streamlined ‘thin white duke’ no nonsense Time Lord entered playing electric guitar atop a tank dressed in baggy trousers, a hoodie and Raybans in place of his signature sonic screwdriver.

DoctorWho_MagiciansApprentice_Doctor_ShadesThis was a sign of a troubled series.

Now I am a fan of the previous season and think that without the usual gimmicks and events, Moffat rose to the occasion and crafted a (more or less) stronger season. The writing was sharper, the aliens more interesting and the flow of the season more unpredictable. However, the Doctor had become whimsical and catered to a younger audience in a rather embarrassing way. The program gambled on change and got nervous when rating slipped. That may be the case again as Moffat, whom the BBC may view as having a golden touch, leaves.

But to imitate the Tennant era will not fool anyone, even the fans of that period. I have every hope that Doctor Who will continue to evolve and change (even when I don’t like the changes) as it moves forward. Further, I hope it takes greater risks and embraces more unusual storytelling techniques rather than the standard ‘Bill and Ted’ time travel formula that it has enjoyed for the past five years.

Flux aeterna.

Once More Unto the Breach – The War Doctor Returns

A secret incarnation of the Doctor forgotten after the horrors of the Time War, the era of the ‘War Doctor,’ as he became known, is still a mysterious chapter in Doctor Who’s long history.

John-Hurt-as-the-Doctor
Played by Sir John Hurt, CBE, the War Doctor was invented by Steven Moffat after he was unable to obtain the services of Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. This left a new avenue open to the program that seemed contrived in the lead-in story ‘Name of the Doctor,’ but blossomed into one of the most unexpected and fantastic casting moments. A knight became a Doctor!

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This scraggly angry incarnation of the Time Lord was forged in the fires of war, a persona chosen by the Doctor’s eighth incarnation as he lay dying on the planet Karn during the Time War. Stricken from the Doctor’s personal history, he redeemed himself in the 50th anniversary episode when he teamed up with twelve other incarnations to end the Time War and save his home world of Gallifrey rather than destroy it. He of course quickly forgot this cooperative encounter before transforming into the grief-stricken and traumatized Ninth Doctor.

Yes, one of the greatest incarnations of the Doctor is without a number and is known only as ‘The War Doctor.’

Glimpses of the War Doctor have been seen since he was last on screen (such as the flashback in ‘Listen’) but he has not enjoyed any further adventures… until now.

Thanks to Big Finish, fans will be getting more of the John Hurt in the TARDIS with a special audio adventure box set and a preview was just revealed.

Via The Radio Times:

doctor-who-day-of-the-doctor-john-hurtExactly two years after John Hurt stole the Doctor Who 50th anniversary show, we have the very first clip of his return as the War Doctor.
Hurt is coming back to Who for a series of 12 all-new episodes from audio drama producers Big Finish. The first box set, Only the Monstrous, is set to be released this December.

This exclusive clip comes from the first episode of the new run, titled The Innocent, which finds the War Doctor in the midst of the Time War, before the events of 50th anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor.

“I’ve seen too much of this war already,” Hurt’s weary voice says in the clip – although by the sound of it, he has plenty of tricks (OK, explosives) up his sleeve to help him in the Time Lords’ battle against the Daleks.

And for all the fighting, the War Doctor clearly still has a touch of humanity, saving two “patsies” from approaching Daleks.

Hurt’s character has not been seen since the episode marking the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, where the War Doctor (or ‘Captain Grumpy’, whichever you prefer), appeared alongside Matt Smith and David Tennant’s Doctors.

The new audio dramas are written and directed by Nicholas Briggs, who says he couldn’t wait to explore Who’s 50th anniversary back story in more detail.

“The story of the Doctor who refuses to call himself the Doctor in order to do the unthinkable upon the ultimate battlefield — all of space and time — was irresistible to me,” he said.

“Such a deeply disturbing and engaging character created by the formidable talents of writer Steven Moffat and actor John Hurt. It’s such a privilege to be working on this.”

Doctor Who explores the Web Planet and meets the Zarbi

The Web Planet

DrWho_Hartnell_WebPlanetStory 2.05
Written by Bill Strutton
Transmitted 13 February 1965 to 20 March 1965

Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction TV series. A cult phenomenon today, it was transmitted to over 80 countries back in the 1960’s and revered as a unique program combining the elements of fantasy, high adventure and sci-fi. In comparison to the series as it stands today, Doctor Who was geared as an educational program for children back when it first aired with entertainment a secondary concern or means to an end.

Sydney Newman’s team of writers performed extensive research before the first script was even commissioned. But in its second year, Doctor Who was a runaway hit (thanks in large part to the popularity of the Daleks).

Celebrating its 52nd anniversary this week, I decided to take an in-depth look at an often-forgotten adventure, the ‘one with the giant insects.’ Not just overlooked, the Web Planet was believed to be lost until prints were discovered in the 70’s.

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Phew!

Bill Strutton’s script came at a time when Doctor Who was very experimental and looking to stretch its creative muscles. Some say that The Web Planet was too ambitious and given the thrown together nature of some episodes (such as an entire race of grubs introduced to extend the story some more) in comparison to the inspired brilliance of others, I am inclined to agree.

Director Richard Martin, who had previously worked with the Daleks in their first televised appearance, excels at crafting bizarre captivating alien worlds. The costumes designed by Daphne Dare who worked on over 87 episodes of Doctor Who are outstanding. Additionally, the music (performed on glass tubes) is otherworldly and the camera effects make the studio filming unique. All of these creative factors combine to produce an adventure that stupefies the viewer and demands to be watched. This is a classic that does indeed push the boundaries of what Doctor Who can accomplish.

However… it’s all a bit of a mess.

The TARDIS crew arrive on Vortis after a fun romp in ancient Rome. The Doctor and Ian don what appear to be designer atmosphere suits and explore the planet while the TARDIS is hijacked by an unknown force and dragged across the lunar-like terrain.

They are soon drawn into a battle between the butterfly people called Menoptera and the ant people called Zarbi. Things get weird when it is revealed that the Zarbi are only operating under the control of a disembodied evil consciousness called ‘the Animus,’ represented by a tangled mass of tendrils and a creepy voice.

The plot stumbles along through SIX episodes with some truly hilarious (though unintentionally so) moments such as William Russell struggling to act with William Hartnell who is at a loss for his lines (bless the man, I know he wasn’t well but this occasion is a side-ripper in which Russell just stares at the elder actor saying “Hmm?” several times), a rogue Zarbi who rams headlong into a camera and a giggling crew member who interrupts a dramatic cave-in. I can just imagine the cast wondering aloud ‘What are we doing??!!’ Having lost his patience, Hartnell even calls out the absurdity of the situation, referring to a communication device as a ‘hair dryer.’


All that accepted, I have to admit that I have a great fondness for the Web Planet. It explores the fantastical side of children’s entertainment and sure, the giant ants are goofy but the Animus is spine-tingling. The cast is (with some exceptions) in fine form and the Menoptera are just awe-inspiring. Hardly as graceful as a butterfly, but fascinating.

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To make matters more interesting, the Animus is one of many disembodied evil entities called the Great Old Ones who survived the death of a previous universe. The pantheon of Great Old Ones include the Great Intelligence, the Fendhal, Fenric, the Nestene Consciousness and the Celestial Toymaker (check out this amazing resource for more in-depth information). See what you can do with a presumably silly idea and some imagination? Make it akin to HP Lovecraft’s mythology.

In case you’re wondering why anyone would be even remotely interested in this story, keep in mind that it had the highest viewing figures of the program in the 60’s with 13.5 million tuning in. Yes, the Zarbi gave the Daleks a run for their money back in the day. Writers were so enamored by the killer ants that the Doctor returned to Vortis six more times in other guises.

Given current leading man Peter Capaldi’s fondness for the classics, don’t be surprised if you see a return trip to Vortis in the near future. And after reading this, you’ll be in the more-informed cool kid club.

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The Fifth Doctor Who returned to the Web Planet in this Big Finish audio adventure.

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The Zarbi and Menoptera appear in the Dr Who comic strip

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Doctor Who and the Web Planet book cover for Portuguese release

Doctor Who ‘Sleep No More’

“Sleep, that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care. The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath. Balm of hurt minds, chief nourisher in life’s great feast. Congratulations, Professor. You’ve revolutionised the labour market. You’ve conquered nature… You’ve also created an abomination.”
DrWho_CapaldiStory 9.09
Written by Mark Gattis
Transmitted 14 November

In sharp contrast to previous sequences, Clara and the Doctor are not the centerpiece of this week’s story. Sleep No More is an experimental episode told via ‘found footage’using a first-person point of view.

Sleep No More has been getting damning reviews from fans, but I quite like it. Even though this is essentially ‘Attack of the Eye Boogers,’ it’s just a spin on the traditional ‘base under siege’ story that has been used since the 1960’s. The added flair is that the monsters win in the end in a way that doesn’t really make sense. Quite a change of pace from the Doctor defeating the monster in a way that makes no sense!

For the uninitiated, Doctor Who is a long-running science fiction series that screened for 26 years from 1963-89 with a triumphant return in 2005. Doctor Who’s greatest strength is its variety and outlandish style.  The leading man (referred to only as ‘The Doctor’) has changed twelve times over its 50 years with more to come and each time this change occurs, the character of the Doctor has altered.

2QTV3FnAided (and often hampered) by young travelling companions, the Doctor faces dangerous obstacles and bizarre aliens throughout the entirety of time and space (but usually England). Whereas the 1963-89 program had limited success that tapered off toward the end, the current series has obtained a strong following. The program is a cult phenomenon combining elements of science fiction, fantasy, history, comedy, action and drama. It really is like no other TV program and as such it’s an acquired taste.

In this week’s installment ‘Sleep No More,’ the time travelers are aimlessly wandering about before being discovered by a rescue operation to a space station orbiting Neptune. The station appears to be empty and as the exploration continues, a series of sleep pods, called Morpheus, are found. Clara gets snared into one of the pods and is immediately placed into a sleep state with a hologram of dancing girls hovering over the lid. The cloned ‘grunt’ notices that one of the pods is occupied and Gagan Rassmussen, the man who opened this episode explaining the unusual nature of the narrative.

After much prodding, Rassmussen explains that he has been enhancing the Morpheus pods which compress sleep into 5 minute bursts allowing the surviving members of the human race to be more productive. The Doctor is horrified by this revelation and explains the importance of sleep for the quality of life, citing poets and playwrights from human history to back this up.

In no time, strange horrific monsters attack the survivor, rescue team and the TARDIS crew. To add to the confusion, the creatures are reduced to sand-like granules when under stress. Then the satellite begins a drastic fall from orbit and a loss of heat shielding. Using his sonic sunglasses and the helmets worn by the soldiers, the Doctor defuses the situation but cannot understand how or why the creatures (dubbed ‘Sandmen’ by Clara) could do this.

After Rassmussen is devoured by a Sandman, the Doctor and Clara lead a daring chase through the satellite with the only surviving member of the rescue squad, Nagata. Befuddled, the Doctor pieces together that the entire affair is being masterminded by Rassmussen but cannot understand why. The scientist gladly explains that a side-effect of the Morpheus’ ability to compress sleep is the creation of a new, superior, life form. He endeavors to aid this new life form which can find its way into a victim’s body through the corner of one’s eye with dreams of galactic conquest. The Doctor defies Rassmussen and manages an explosive escape.

Even after defeating a monster made of five years’s worth of Sandman material, the Doctor is not convinced that he has succeeded in foiling Rassmussen’s scheme. In a video that only the viewer can see, Rassmussen reveals that the invasion is through the video itself and that if it is being viewed, the Sandmen are already on the move.

Sleep No More is the second foray into first person point of view as a mode of storytelling (previously used in Love & Monsters), but this attempt was far more in-depth with only footage via headcams and security footage used, eventually including Clara and Nagata’s point of view sans camera.

There has been outcry over this episode with viewers claiming that it is incomplete and incomprehensible. Interviews with Gattis have revealed that the initial script was two-parter, but maintained the open ending. A devoted fan and scribe of novels, audio adventures and several episodes for the new program, Gatiss added nods to the classic era. The Doctor casually mentions The Silurians (from the 1972 story, the Sea Devils), the Great Catastrophe (introduced in the underrated 1984 story Frontios), and even a ‘When I say run, run!’ command dating back to the Troughton era. Gatiss was influenced by classic adventures that hinted at a vast future at war and strove the leave hints at this in his script, but due to the truncated length of the story from two to one parts, these details get muddied and confuse the action.

The visuals of Sleep No More are quite striking and the stellar acting ability of Capaldi (whose face fills the screen much of the 45 minutes) is top notch. After a foray into decidedly wacky behavior earlier in the year, it appears that the ‘Thin White Duke’ of old is back. From next week’s preview images, it seems be seen that he has ditched the disheveled hoodie and check trousers for a more refined look including a red velvet jacket that would be at home with Third Doctor Who, Jon Pertwee.

The ninth series of Doctor Who has been controversial with fans. As any regular reader of my blog will attest, I am much more critical of the new series in comparison to the 1963-89 program. However, I have been re-watching the past few years with a much more casual eye and recognized the strength of the new series lies in its ability to fascinate viewers with bizarre situations and visuals that cannot be found elsewhere. From a room full of ventriloquist’s dummies in an alien hotel to graffiti that comes to life and a lion-headed fire-breathing alien… Doctor Who excels at leaving viewers scratching their heads wondering what they just witnessed.

… and hopefully come back for more.

The 2005-present Doctor Who program has added a new element of melodrama which more often than not hampered my enjoyment but was still an essential part of its success. Just mention Rose Tyler to a fan and they will tear up. The past few years has seen a departure from the ‘Doctor in love’ angle as well as a less hug-able leading man. I applaud these changes, but as the viewing figures and outcry indicates, I could be in the minority. The 9th series has been incredibly ambitious with all two-part stories with the exception of two episodes (this week and next). This year’s 9 installments are wildly diverse in tone, use time travel in new ways, explore topical subjects using fantastical characters and introduce a new layer of absurdity to the program.

After seeing the negative reception it received online, I entered this week’s episode with low expectations but was pleasantly surprised. While not a classic, Sleep No More is chilling and weird with a threat so deadly that even the Doctor cannot fathom it. And we could use more of that. Open endings have been used before in Idiot’s Lantern (where did the Wire come from?) Impossible Planet (was the Beast really the Devil? Was it Sutekh? Did the Doctor defeat it) and even Listen (what was that thing knocking at the door and hiding under the bedding?), but fans seem to be furious that this story was not resolved.

Personally, I think that the muddy nature of a script crammed with too many ideas due to a reduced running time and a monster essentially made from grit that you scrape out of the corner of your eye are the main problems preventing enjoyment of this story. But even accepting those limitations, it moves quickly and introduces a new scary monster as well as clever tech and some positively unsettling moments. Even the Doctor admits to being scared!

DrWho_SleepNoMore

Note- Mark Gatiss has confirmed that Steven Moffat has already asked him to write a sequel to this story.

The 2015 ratings so far (via DrWhoTV):

The Magician’s Apprentice 4.58m (overnight) 6.54m (final) AI 84
The Witch’s Familiar 3.7m (overnight) 5.71m (final) AI 83
Under the Lake 3.7m (overnight) 5.63m (final) AI 84
Before the Flood 4.38m (overnight) 6.05m (final) AI 83
The Girl Who Died 4.85m (overnight) 6.56m (final) AI 82
The Woman Who Lived 4.34m (overnight) 6.11m (final) AI 81
The Zygon Invasion 3.87m (overnight) 5.76m (final) AI 82
The Zygon Inversion 4.13m (overnight) 6.03m (final) AI 84
Sleep No More 4.0m (overnight) TBC (final) AI 78

The complete 2014 ratings: show

Overnight figures only include those who watched it live and those who recorded and watched it later that night.

Final figures includes those who recorded and watched within a week, making them a more accurate measure of how many were watching.

Live Plus 7 (L+7) counts those who watched live and all repeats, including iPlayer, within seven days following broadcast.

The Audience Appreciation Index (AI) is a score out of 100 which is used as an indicator of the public’s appreciation for a show. Over 90 is considered exceptional, 85 or over is excellent, 60 or less is poor, and less than 55 is very poor.

Next time: Face the Raven

Time to say goodbye

Time to say goodbye

Read more Doctor Who reviews

Read more Doctor Who reviews

The Doctor to make a special visit this Holiday

Since its return in 2005, the Doctor Who Christmas Special has been traditional. Some are better than others, but this year, fans will see the return of roguish time travelling flirt (and Roger Daltrey impersonator), River Song. The time line of River Song is so convoluted that this could be the time that the Doctor hands her a specially designed sonic screwdriver or teaches her to drive the TARDIS. Or not. We have seen River’s death, her birth, regeneration, her wedding and even her ghost, so I’m unclear on what is left for her to do… but the special guest star isn’t the only reason to get excited.

The 2015 Doctor Who Christmas Special will also be shown on the big screen on December 28th!

Doctor-Who-Christmas-2015

Via BBC America:

Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston together on the big screen? Where do we sign up?

For the first time, the Doctor Who Christmas special, which will premiere Christmas Day on BBC AMERICA, will also hit U.S. cinemas, with BBC Worldwide North America and Fathom Events announcing a two-night special theatrical event. The event will be in theaters December 28 and 29 at 7:30 pm local time and feature an exclusive interview with Alex Kingston, who is returning as River Song for the special, as well as a 15-minute behind-the-scenes “making of” featurette starring Peter Capaldi, Steven Moffat and more.

The theatrical event is expected to screen in nearly 300 theaters, according to a press release. Tickets can be purchased starting Friday, November 13 by visiting the Fathom Events website or a participating theater’s box office. For a complete list of theater locations, visit the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change).

Here’s the description of the Christmas special as announced:

It’s Christmas Day in the future and the TARDIS is parked on a snowy village street, covered in icicles, awaiting its next adventure. Time traveler River Song meets her husband’s new incarnation, in the form of Peter Capaldi, for the first time this Christmas.