nuWho Reviews - From Start to Hurt!

Discussion in 'Media Central' started by NAHTMMM, Jul 27, 2014.

  1. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Perpetually sondering

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    I saw the ending of that episode recently, and it's heart-breaking, but at the same time, yeah, it felt a little cheap. Obviously you can't do the exact same thing to save Donna as to save Rose when her head got overloaded, you have to be original somehow, but I'm looking forward to watching Donna's season to see how the end of her run feels in context. I'm not sure if putting a human with an overloaded brain through the Chameleon Arch would end well though.
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  2. Ebeneezer Goode

    Ebeneezer Goode Gobshite

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    I always figured they could have used the Arch to Gallifreyan her up, they've then got her available as needed, and if she never comes back, it's not like they've not Chuck Cunninghammed characters before (Doctors Daughter)

    Big Finish would have been right on the Donna Noble Adventures too.
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  3. 14thDoctor

    14thDoctor Oi

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    Since End of Time established that the "Doctor Donna" was still unconsciously trying to help out, I'd hoped that a filthy rich Donna would have been able to continue to do so even more effectively.

    I really wanted a follow-up to the Sarah Jane Adventures where Rani and Clyde get hired as a journalist and photographer by a newspaper that Donna now owns for.... Well, Donna can't remember why she hired them, exactly. But Donna keeps sending them out to cover random stories that inevitably lead to aliens, even if they can't tell her what they actually found. "Go report on a pie eating contest in Glasgow, I have a feeling it'll be a big deal." And then Sontarans show up. Stuff like that.
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  4. matthunter

    matthunter Ice Bear

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    I don't think you could "Gallifreyan up" a human with the Chameleon Arch, or the whole "Last of the Time Lords" thing would be a bit pointless. We see how much effort goes into creating a Gallifreyan/human hybrid in Series 5, and it's not even clear then exactly what percentage Time Lord that individual is... can regenerate, yes... how often? Two hearts? Not sure. Mega brain? She's smart, but needs a diary to keep track of stuff. Can't sense Time Lords, even the one she's VERY familiar with just in a new body she doesn't have an org chart entry for....
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  5. Ebeneezer Goode

    Ebeneezer Goode Gobshite

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    It always retcons things, and magic technology things up as required. I mean, the Dr being half human has been quietly ignored since the 90s, and as something with its origins as a program for kids, it always keeps enough fantasy to allow it flexibility, so it's not like the shows internal logic can't be rejigged if needed.

    Had they wanted to, they could've done something between just chavving her off and making her Hyperqueen of the Known Universe.
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  6. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Perpetually sondering

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    [​IMG]

    3x10 - Blink

    Here’s another high concept for you: what if David Tennant doesn’t even play a main character?

    A blonde sneaks over a gate from the rainy nighttime street outside into the dry, dawning courtyard of an abandoned estate called Wester Drumlins. As she snaps pictures of the ruined interior, she gradually uncovers a message behind peeling wallpaper, warning Sally Sparrow against weeping angels and insisting she duck.

    The blonde, who is named Sally Sparrow curiously enough, finally takes the hint and ducks as something heavy flies through where her head was. Nobody in the direction it came from, just a very detailed statue of an angel with hands over its eyes. The message is signed LOVE FROM THE DOCTOR (1969).

    Sally goes to her friend Kathy’s home to talk about this. Her friend’s living room is full of screens with David Tennant on them, warning the viewer, “Don’t blink. Blink and you’re dead.”

    At this point Sally actually phones Kathy, and we learn (1) it’s 1 AM, (2) Kathy is used to her friend’s eccentricities but 1 AM is a bit much, (3) Kathy is hosting her brother Larry who likes to walk around naked.

    This is a good episode to call out the set dressing again. Obviously the abandoned house, but look at the image up top for Kathy’s messy house invaded by her brother. That’s storytelling.

    The two women go and explore Wester Drumlins. Sally is sure the angel is nearer the house than it was last night.

    The doorbell rings. It’s a well-dressed man looking for “Sally Sparrow”. He was told to bring an old letter here at this exact moment to give her. While Sally roots around for identification, Kathy is startled by a tiny sound. Nothing to look at except that angel statue. She turns away and we see the statue is getting aggressive.

    Sally tries to pry further information out of the man. He’s been holding onto the letter since it was given to him by Katherine Wainwright, née Nightengale (Kathy’s last name). His grandmother. Sally hears a thump as she demands if this is a joke, then when she goes to find Kathy, Kathy is gone. The angel is back in place.

    Kathy lands in a cow pasture in 1920 Hull. Kathy can’t process any of it. Sally can’t process her end either, looking at aged photographs of a Kathy look-alike and reading a letter that informs her Kathy went to 1920 and married the first chap she met. Sally throws the whole packet down and rushes upstairs to look for Kathy, finding several more angel statues. A key dangles from one angel’s hand. As she observes it, we see both of the angels behind have uncovered their eyes. She takes the key, moves around looking at it, and we see that they each cover their eyes when she moves across our line of sight. Creepy!

    A noise downstairs causes Sally to lunge out of the third angel’s grasp. Kathy’s grandson is leaving. She chases after, and we see there are angels in the windows watching her go.

    Sally cries as she reads the rest of the letter. She leaves flowers at Kathy’s grave, watched by an angel statue.

    [​IMG]
    “Are you following me?”
    “I’m bored, you’re clearly barmy, and I’ve never seen a woman in trousers as tight as yours.”

    Kathy’s letter tells Sally to break the news to Larry, so Sally heads to Larry’s DVD store. She goes in the back to find Tennant is on TV there too.

    Larry is happy to explain his obsession. (As best he can with the pause button “slipping” so Tennant can keep dropping enigmatic phrases.) Larry has found this recording as an Easter egg on 17 different DVDs. Larry leaves Sally alone to hear Tennant’s big “timey-wimey” bit, to warn us that this episode will not make sense in the usual linear fashion. Sally comments that that sentence ended poorly, and the Doctor agrees it got away from him. Startling, but not necessarily spooky. But then Sally says it’s like he can hear her, and the Doctor says “Well, I can hear you.” Sally has had enough weirdness and stomps out. “Go to the police, you stupid woman,” she hears, and turns to see the front clerk talking to his TV.

    So Sally goes to the police. This episode embraces the premise of watching mundane people encounter the fantastic, and so Sally is very mundane (and so the Angels are not a fatal threat — watching everyone die a grisly death is less interesting than watching them live afterwards). Sally will avoid fantastic ideas as much as possible, and seek mundane aid. Kathy herself lives out a mundane life, with no apparent concern as to how it happened. As iconic as the Angels became, this episode is not about them, it’s focused on the ordinary people experiencing them without a Time Lord directly present.

    At the station, a detective, Billy Shipton, comes to get her out of the police’s hair, but gets snagged by her pretty face. Tally another “black man attracted to a white woman” for the relaunch.

    Billy shows Sally a whole parking lot of cars left abandoned at the estate, their drivers never seen again. There’s a fake police box that was found there too, someone’s prank to put the cherry on the sundae. That done, he hits on Sally hard and she likes it. This deep into a regular episode, the courtship would not get this much time and detail. Shipton’s big question would develop the mystery, not be a pickup line. But again, this is about ordinary people living their lives.

    As Sally leaves, Shipton glances back at the police box and, impossibly, there’s a whole swarm of angel statues around it. The detective goes over to investigate and eventually blinks. He lands in 1969, where the Doctor and Martha explain the premise. The Weeping Angels are the “nicest psychopaths in the universe”: they kill your present and live off of your could-have-been energy while you become dust in the wind in the past.

    The Doctor has made a “timey-wimey detector” to find other Angel victims. He’s proud to show it off to Shipton. It looks to be made out of a film reel, a postcard, and other bits, and it says Edith Keeler must die explodes hens.

    [​IMG]
    One of the most disgusting things you can do in Angel society is to stick your finger in a keyhole. And he’s doing it in public! Uuugh!

    Meanwhile Sally has remembered the key and goes back to try it on the police box. She’s interrupted by a phone call. It’s from an elderly Shipton, bedridden but still lively, who has a message from the Doctor.

    He found his own Sally in the past and had a good life. The Doctor’s message is to look at Larry’s list of DVDs. (Between the key and the list and the wall message, and some of the camera work, this kinda feels like a point-and-click adventure game.) Shipton got into the DVD business and added those Easter egg scenes for the Doctor. The Doctor also told him that the day he met Sally again would be his last. Rather than gloomy fatalism, Shipton was encouraged by this promise of one more meeting. Sally, distressed, stays with him to the end.

    This is not some grand story about the Doctor saving the planet. This is about a few individual lives, and how the Doctor does what he can for them. Sometimes doctors can’t heal if they don’t want two-thirds of the universe to explode. Sometimes there isn’t any desire for healing: life has continued and the person finds they wouldn’t want it any other way. But the Doctor can assist the victims and protect others.

    Sally calls Larry and tells him the 17 DVDs are the exact list of movies she owns. They meet up for the denouement at Wester Drumlins and settle in to watch the Doctor’s monologue from the beginning.

    Now is the fun bit where everything they say lines up perfectly with the Doctor’s replies. (Martha is annoyed at having to work retail to support the Doctor.) Sally wants to know how the Doctor knows what they’ll say. The Doctor tells her to look to her left — at Larry, who is making a transcript.

    The Doctor gets down to business. The Angels are yet another of those races that formed right after the Big Bang, and their thing is being quantum-locked: “They don’t exist when they’re being observed. The moment they are seen by any other living creature, they freeze into rock. No choice, it’s a fact of their biology.” I’m quoting this because, for all that I enjoy Matt Smith’s Angel two-parter, I don’t think that it respects this statement. But we’ll get there in time.

    The Doctor emphasizes why you don’t blink. Keep an eye on that angel statue that’s outside the window. If the Angels get into the TARDIS, they’ll eat enough energy to destroy the Sun. Now it’s a world-ending threat. But it’s a terribly uninteresting threat, because we are focused on the threat to these two individuals. The Doctor says they need to send the police box back to him, but he can’t tell them how because the transcript stops at this point.

    Sally and Larry argue over what to do next, but realize they’ve forgotten the statue. They turn and here’s another jump scare, the angel reaching out and baring its teeth. Larry tries desperately to keep his eyes open while Sally finds all the doors are locked. He looks away for one moment and the angel is in his face. The two flee into the cellar, where they find the other three angels surrounding the police box.

    Larry wonders why one of the Angels is pointing at the light bulb, and the bulb starts to flicker. Just when they seemed almost home free. There’s a mad scramble to get into the police box, where a hologram tells them to use one of the DVDs. The box starts rocking as the Angels rock it back and forth, but Larry loads the DVD and the alien tech powers up. The box disappears, but leaves behind the two humans at the mercy of the Angels.

    Or does it? The Angels are frozen in attack pose. They can all see each other so they’re all mutually quantum-locked. They’ll never move again . . . until the house is bulldozed or sold, anyway.

    Afterward, Larry and Sally are in the DVD shop. They’re co-owners now. Larry is telling her to let the Angels go and maybe focus on other things, but Sally can’t accept a universe with loose ends. The Doctor and Martha pull up outside the shop and now Sally understands. She gives the Doctor the transcript and a warning about 1969 (a reason/excuse for him to include the year in the wall message to really make the teaser tease). The Doctor and Martha take their bow and arrows and go to see about four things and a lizard, and Sally takes Larry’s hand and returns to her mundane life with a satisfied sense of closure.

    And then we get snapshots of sculptures around town while the Doctor reminds us not to blink. No, not even if the statue has a moustache.

    This montage is important, not just to send your children to bed terrified, but to fulfill the Angels’ potential as fairies. Consider: fairies are a hidden folk who are all around us, that’s part of their appeal. Fairies whisk people away to another place for their own purposes. They’re an ancient, dangerous race beyond our ken, but they live by concrete rules (the Doctor delivers the necessary Angel folklore) that you can exploit to keep them at bay. The brazenly fairy-tale names of Sparrow and Nightengale fit in now. The Angels probably cannot, however, substitute one of their own for your baby without you noticing.

    This is a nice break for Tennant and Agyeman, who had a lot of Acting to do in the previous two-parter. It’s a story not about them, but about four mundane people. So the guest stars’ lives matter more than in most Doctor Who, with the pacing being willing to wait their most poignant moments out: to let Shipton and Sally have a full flirtation exchange, to let Sally linger at Kathy’s graveside and by Shipton’s deathbed. There is no need here for action movie pacing, no need for an urgent event to kick the plot back into high gear once a scene has achieved a minimum of plot relevance and background. The episode thrives on this pace, drip-feeding tension and fear until the final scenes. The guest stars and writing all do their parts to make the core characters lively and human.

    There is also no grand thematic message. And yet there is an attitude, as the people sent back in time are not destroyed by it. Kathy has her fresh start in life, loves well, leaves a family behind. Shipton finds a love of his own, does well in business. Neither seem regretful about what has happened to them. There is something here about the human spirit, and how we can carry on when everything seems to have been taken from us. There is the implicit reassurance that Kathy and Shipton are not mere hapless victims, but are allowed to be their own people with happy endings.

    And yet the Angels are as scary as if they were literal killers. The (mild) jumpscares and ambient music help, and the stalking and lowered lighting add to our tension. But also, everyone considers them to kill their victims, and obviously nobody wants to be jolted out of their life into the distant past.

    This was the favorite episode of KJ’s mother, who didn’t much care for most sci-fi, and probably it’s a favorite of a lot of people who aren’t into aliens and spacetime travels, but like stories about ordinary people and will watch things their loved ones watch. You want to get that kind of person into Doctor Who? This episode.

    Rating: 4 winged weeping angels
    Favorite dialogue: The Doctor: People don’t understand time. It’s not what you think it is.
    Sally: Then what is it?
    The Doctor: Complicated.
    Sally: Tell me.
    The Doctor: Very complicated.
    Sally: I’m clever and I’m listening. And don’t patronize me because people have died and I’m not happy. Tell me.
    The Doctor: People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.

    Is it bigger on the inside?: no, but the Doctor wasn’t present to be disappointed

    How did the Doctor know to tell Sally to duck?: Probably she told Shipton about the message and Shipton told the Doctor
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  7. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Perpetually sondering

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    3x11 - Utopia

    Screaming
    SCREAMING
    SCREAMING


    I thought I was safe. I thought, finally, by now, we must be free. Free of all things Roxiflapdoodle. Surely the writers were done reminding us of the Slitheen episodes?

    The preview lulled me into expecting this episode would have nothing to do with Earth. And yet we open with the TARDIS in Cardiff, to top off its tank with that fissure from “Boom Town”. Martha remembers that day and wants to know if the Doctor caused the associated earthquake. Even the most world-shaking events can leave 99.999% of a planet’s population clueless as to what just happened.

    The Doctor sees Captain Jack Harkness running toward the TARDIS on a monitor, makes a face, and pulls the lever. Jack makes a doofy leap for the dematerializing TARDIS and sparks fly. Jack hangs on for dear life while the TARDIS careens toward the end of the universe.

    Somewhere else, tribal humanoids are interested to know that “humans are coming.” These humanoids are distinguished with wiry hair, face decoration, and the desire to yell “HUUUUUUUMAAAAN” when they see a Homo sapiens. A middling teaser. Still, I would add a half-point to this episode’s rating, no questions asked, if they added a little Jack Harkness clinging to the TARDIS during the title sequence. Cowards.

    We find an old professor, Yana, and a blue-green bugfaced woman, Chantho, in a control room. They’re surrounded by ye olde 1980s technology. Yana declares there’s someone being hunted on the surface, too bad we can’t spare the guards to rescue him. Someone calls Yana to ask how work is proceeding on the Footprint. He says uh yeah, definitely everything’s great, wonderful.

    On the TARDIS, the Doctor pretends to be weirded out by going too far, farther than any Time Lord has been, and then grins and steps outside. Everything after the teaser has felt very old-school Doctor Who and I appreciate that. The TARDIS has even landed on a random scrubby hillside.

    Well, Martha finds Jack lying on the ground. The Doctor looks on in dismay. But despite Martha’s efforts, Jack’s dead. Until he gives her a jump scare (she immediately gets over it) and announces he’s better, well enough to use the old Jack Harkness charm on her. Jack’s conversation with the Doctor includes phrases like “regeneration” (priming casual viewers for the episode’s end), “you abandoned me”, and “everyone adores Rose” (that last is implicit). Martha’s back to resenting Rose just a bit.

    Jack tells Martha how he escaped the end of “The Parting of the Ways”. His vortex manipulator misfired, dropped him in 1869, and burned out. He spent over a century waiting for a Doctor who was written by people who knew Jack existed. Martha voices concern that the Doctor will get “busy” one day and leave her behind too, after all she isn’t blonde like Rose. The Doctor has had enough of his past being aired out. He accuses them of blogging.

    They find a city built into a ravine. It’s long abandoned, killed by time, like much of the rest of the universe. At this point they observe the manhunt and intervene. The Doctor scolds Jack for aiming to kill, so he fires warning shots to scare the humanoids off. The human directs them to a facility, everyone shows a guard their non-pointy teeth, and they get in safe.

    A guard fires warning shots and prepares to kill if the humanoids, the Futurekind, don’t go away. Jack is a little annoyed the Doctor doesn’t tell him off; when the Doctor says the guard isn’t his responsibility, Jack mutters “And I am? That’s a change.”

    The fleeing man says his name is Padra and asks to be taken to Utopia. Down below, Professor Yana receives news of new humans. He’s excited for another scientist and rushes out, quivering excitedly. Meanwhile our heroes look for Padra’s family in a refugee camp hallway while the Doctor enthuses about how indomitable humanity is. You went through phases of being gas or digitized, sure, but here you are, back in humanoid shape and still around at the end of everything!

    Padra finds his family and the Doctor finds a tempting doorway. Jack helps him hack it and it opens onto a central space containing a rocket. We also see at least one of the refugees/passengers has Futurekind teeth and hissing tendencies.

    In the control room, The Doctor puts on his nerd glasses and tries to cool Jack’s jets while helping the Professor harmonize his doowhatsit.

    Meanwhile, Martha is poking around in Jack’s luggage and finds the hand the Doctor lost way back in “The Christmas Invasion”. Rather than clone an evil Doctor with it, Jack used it to detect the Eleventh Doctor’s presence. Martha has a hard time accepting the Doctor can regrow a hand. The Doctor is humbled to find nobody here has heard of Time Lords. Chantho is likewise likely the last of her species.

    Now we find out what Utopia refers to. This is a nice bit, evoking wonder and mystery, while basically saying “IDK, but there was a Utopia Project millennia ago and we think that’s what’s signalling us now.”

    The Doctor confronts Yana: You haven’t told anyone the rocket can’t fly, have you? The Doctor still doesn’t understand the local tech, but he tries sonicing something and the whole lot lights up. “I forgot to tell you: I’m brilliant.” He smiles.

    So the refugees and scientists prepare to depart, while the ‘kind notice the increased activity at the base.

    The Doctor heaps unprecedented admiration and praise on Yana, insinuating that he sees Yana as an intellectual equal. Yana modestly admits he’s not a real professor (any more than the Doctor is necessarily a real doctor, get it) because there haven’t been any universities for a thousand years. But for all his brilliance, the special Footprint magic that makes the rocket work has to be activated from his control room. So he’ll stay behind, and Chantho will stay with him out of loyalty.

    But good news: the blue box has been found and brought into the base. Yana doesn’t like the sight of it at all. He reacts like the TARDIS is a ghost from his distant past.

    Yana admits to the Doctor that sometimes he gets the sound of drums in his head, intensifying over time as if they’re approaching. Meanwhile Martha commiserates with Chan over admiring a great man who barely notices they exist.

    A man is sent into a red room to fix couplings so the rocket can go zoom. Yana and company watch from the control room. The worker must wear protective gear because the room is full of technobabble radiation. You might think this was ripped off of the end of The Wrath of Khan, but there are not one but several pedestals in the room for the man to fix. So there.

    At this point a Futurekind intruder decides to sabotage the power grid. Things start to go pear-shaped, and the guy at the door to the red room yells at the guy inside to get out, who decides he’d rather stay and get the job done. But this still isn’t TWOK at all, because instead of a lingering death scene the repairman just poofs into sparkles. Jack rips a couple of giant wire guides out of opposite walls and just mashes them together. It goes poorly for him.

    Martha gives Jack emergency resuscitation. The Doctor pulls her off of Jack and suggests that Jack can go into the fatal radiation room to finish the couplings when he gets back up. Yana turns to the TARDIS and hears those drums again, accompanied by a whispering voice.

    Jack starts fixing the couplings while listing for the Doctor all the times he’s died. The Doctor admits he ran away from Jack. He claims he knew when he met Jack that there was something wrong about him, that Jack was already “a fixed point in time and space. That’s never meant to happen.” Jack cordially scolds him for being prejudiced. It’s all in all a nice conversation, and Jack feels much better integrated into this episode.

    They chat while, listening in, Martha makes a Face about Rose and Yana hears a voice whisper about Daleks. The Doctor says a Time Lord with the power of the heart of the TARDIS would become a vengeful god, but Rose was human, and so used the power well. It’s another indication of the Doctor’s appreciation of Homo sapiens.

    The Doctor finally asks Jack, very seriously, if he would like to die. Jack doesn’t know at this point. In the control room, Yana patters about the legends of time travel and how he’s always being late and look at this pocket watch, it never keeps time. Martha naturally gets curious. She presses him on the watch, finds it looks like the Doctor’s, gets excited.

    I have the feeling Martha is in the process of making a Big Mistake.

    Martha runs off to tell the Doctor, who’s started the rocket countdown to launch. Martha insists it has to be the same watch as the Doctor’s, and isn’t it wonderful that Yana could be another Time Lord? Again, Tennant nails the acting, as he holds back apprehension while he works the blast off controls, then once that’s done, he turns his intense focus on her and demands full details.

    Martha has broken the watch’s perception filter, and now it is whispering to Yana to open it and receive its majesty. He opens it, and gets turned back into a Time Lord as the Doctor anxiously imagines what might be happening. The rocket launches safely, but now we have a new, shocking plot with a few minutes to go.

    This plot kicks off with Yana shutting the Doctor and friends out and disabling the security perimeter. The Futurekind, angry to see the humans escape their reach forever, are happy to invade.

    Chantho is upset by Yana going nuts and steels her gentle soul to shoot him. Yana appreciates the excuse to zap her with a power line. Her cutesy language tics irritate him, and he blames her for never bringing the watch to his attention. He declares that he is not the Professor, but . . . The Master. And he zaps her.

    The Master ignores the Doctor shouting for him to open the control room’s door, but continues to go about his business. Yana, in her dying moments, shoots her old colleague. The Doctor gets in the room just in time to see the awakened Time Lord slip into the TARDIS, detached Doctor hand in hand.

    For this episode, the TARDIS doors have a little latch on the inside. The Master latches the Doctor out and makes his way to the central console to super-lock him out. The TARDIS windows are also transparent enough to let the Doctor see the light as the wounded Master regenerates, aiming for something young like what the Doctor has.

    Pleased with his new voice (which Martha recognizes from somewhere), the Master taunts the Doctor and sets the TARDIS into spacetime motion. The Doctor steels himself and sonics his own TARDIS. Sparks fly, but the Master prevails. The TARDIS disappears with the Futurekind mob prying the center door open and the Doctor staring angrily at the spot where his beloved sports car used to be.

    Uh-oh.

    We don’t see much from the Master as himself here, but he’s clearly not a nice guy. Arrogant, self-centered, spiteful, quick to take advantage, on the other hand it’s nice to see someone who just enjoys winning. His megalomania and frenemyship with the Doctor are not yet on display.

    The reveal was foreshadowed by the Doctor treating Yana as someone worthy of rare respect. Also, the technology was alien to the Doctor, but he could instinctively tell what to do to get it working.

    At this point, the question of how exactly the Doctor ended the Time War is unanswered, so the Master survived the end because he was in human form. We’ll see later that he just needed to be away from Gallifrey.

    Other than that, not much to say about this episode. The main attractions are the Master revealed and Jack interacting with Martha and the Doctor. The actual plot that takes up most of the episode is largely old hat, only fleshed out with a brief plot complication and a couple of named refugees.

    Jack is back. He’s a little put out over being “abandoned” after Rose accidentally got his dial permanently stuck on "Alive", but it doesn’t alter his good humour. That, and the pain he goes through when he fails to die, add a little dimension to his character.

    Rating: 3 insect assistants
    Favorite dialogue: Jack: It’s called a vortex manipulator. He’s not the only one who can time travel.
    The Doctor: Oh excuse me, that is not time travel. It’s like, I’ve got a sports car, you’ve got a space hopper.
    Martha: Oh ho ho, boys and their toys!

    You Are Not Alone: YANA
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  8. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Perpetually sondering

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    03 x 12 - The Sound of Drums

    So the Doctor sonics Jack’s vortex manipulator and they all (painfully) emergency warp out from the deathtrap to modern-day Britain. They have a daunting job ahead of them.

    The Master has the TARDIS and a new face. Seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But the Doctor is sure the Master will be here and now, as he soniced the TARDIS so that only the “redial last number” button works. And he’ll know the Master on sight because Time Lords can sense each other across great distances apparently. (I don’t think this has any basis in prior episodes, it’s just a borderline-unnecessary “cool” plot point that will be immediately forgotten.)

    That’s not cutting down the odds fast enough for the plot gods, so a random public video screen starts playing a clip about the new Prime Minister, Harold Saxon. Martha recognized the Master’s voice as his at the end of last episode. Saxon announces that Great Britain is sick enough to need a doctor.

    Saxon joins a Cabinet meeting and plays the naive, all-rhetoric buffoon who doesn’t know how government actually works. I sleep well at night knowing that this is science fiction, and nobody like that could possibly become the leader of a major government in our reality. He references the Slitheen mess by noting that Downing Street has been rebuilt. There will be a reckoning, Davies. Just you wait. Saxon then makes an affected, corny speech and tosses his paperwork up into the air.

    He then drops the goofiness and starts chewing the Cabinet out as turncoats who only supported him when they saw he would win. So he puts on a gas mask and gasses them all. He does thumbs-up one dying man who calls him insane.

    At her apartment, Martha ignores her sister Tish’s voicemail because what are the odds of her job being plot-relevant twice in a row? The internet reveals that Saxon wrote a novel, became Secretary of Defense, and shot down the Racnoss snowflake.

    Tish, whom Saxon has hired to do nothing much, fails to stop a reporter from getting a private interview with Mrs. Saxon. We see what sort of person this Master would choose as a wife. She’s kind of just an ordinary woman, blonde possibly because the Master figured that was what was popular. The reporter warns Mrs. Saxon that her husband is a dangerous cipher. He didn’t exist before launching an Archangel network of cellphone satellites, back when Harriet Jones fell out of favour. Harold enters just as his wife pretends to falter. He admits he is the Master, and materializes some floating spheres into the room. The spheres talk childishly amongst themselves, manifest Sharp Pointy Things, and attack the reporter.

    The Saxons flee the carnage. Mrs. Saxon freaks out that Archangel hasn’t gotten to 100% of the population. Are there other holdouts out there? Her husband hugs her and promises everything will end tomorrow.

    Saxon broadcasts a message that he’s been contacted by an alien race called the Toclafane. These little spheres promise gifts to humanity in return for friendship. Tomorrow they will reveal themselves to everyone on Earth, personally, even down to . . . the medical students? The Doctor immediately looks behind Martha’s telly and finds a goofy bomb with countdown attached.

    After they escape the massive fireball, Martha panics and starts calling her family. Her mum tries to lure her home with a promise of parental reconciliation, but Martha correctly smells outside interference and her dad warns her off. Martha insists on going to the rescue. The Doctor and Jack tag along. But her parents are arrested, and Tish is nabbed just as she calls her. Scared and helpless, Martha blames the Doctor.

    Martha next tries to phone her brother. But Saxon taps in to taunt her. The Doctor takes over Martha’s end of the conversation, and the Master gets serious. We find now that the Doctor and Master were children together. The Doctor tells the Master that Gallifrey is gone, Time Lords gone, Daleks basically gone.

    The Master says the Time Lords resurrected him to fight in the Time War, but when the Daleks did a Big Uh-Oh, he got scared and ran, changing into a human to avoid detection. He deduces that the Doctor must have been the one to end the War. What did it feel like, Doctor?

    The Doctor wants the Master to stop fighting, or at least fight him on a different planet. Then it gets creepy as the Master drums out that pattern while saying he’s still hearing the drums in his head but now they’re everywhere else too, can’t you hear them, Doctor? Here they come.

    The Master further announces that the Doctor’s trio are being televised as terrorists, and Jack’s ‘little gang’ is off in the Himalayas where they can’t help anyone. At the sight of a security camera, the Doctor realizes the Master really does have total control. So he does what the Master wants, and runs.

    The Master flips through international news stations, enjoying the stir he’s caused, but settles on watching the Teletubbies. One of the spheres pops in, impatient, and warns him that the darkness is approaching and its kind needs to run. The spheres have voices that are mildly electronic and borderline childlike.

    Back with the fugitives, Martha and Jack gang up on the Doctor to get answers. The Doctor explains that yes, Gallifrey was legendary and beautiful, and liked giving itself exciting names. But the Time Lords also liked to treat their children to a good up-close look at the raw power of the Time Vortex that underlies reality, and oddly enough, some eight-year-olds couldn’t handle that. Maybe that’s what drove the Master mad.

    Jack receives some mysterious files from an unknown source on his Apple time vortex manipulator watch. Put them right on the laptop, security is for chumps, the Doctor enthuses. But Jack has a confession: he works for Torchwood. The Doctor gets angry at him, but Jack says all the bad old parts of Torchwood were destroyed during “Doomsday”. Jack took over the few people left and rebuilt Torchwood to honor the Doctor. The Doctor accepts this and they watch the file, a video from the reporter lady spilling what she knows.

    The Doctor sonics someone’s phone and gets the Master’s drumbeat out of it, that we’ve been seeing as a tic from a lot of people. It carries a subtle suggestion to trust Harold Saxon. It also hid the Master’s Time Lordiness from the Doctor, and that’s why he didn’t know the Master was on the planet. Sure.

    Turns out, the Doctor has three TARDIS keys on his person. He tinkers with them so that their inherent perception filter works to deflect attention from anyone who might be wearing one of them. It’s just like when you fancy someone who doesn’t even know you exist, he says quite directly to Martha. Jack empathizes with her.

    Well, you know Americans, always have to be the most important people in the room. So their Bush-alike President has flown to Britain to inform Saxon that he and UNIT will handle first contact. Saxon clowns at him, but you can’t distract an American from throwing his weight around. Doctor and friends watch this from the sidelines.

    After the Americans leave, the Master senses there’s something interesting in the Doctor’s direction. But he’s distracted by the police pulling up with Martha’s family in handcuffs. At that sight, Martha and Jack are ready to kill the Master. But the Doctor says the Master is his responsibility — to save, not to kill. It’s like Captain Kirk beaming down to retrieve another captain who’s meddling on a primitive planet.

    Our heroes teleport to the aircraft carrier where the Toclafane will introduce themselves to the world. It’s a flying carrier, but not as nice as SHIELD’s since UNIT runs on a TV budget. On the carrier they find the TARDIS. Hooray! But the interior is a scary red and the central console is gutted. The Master has cannibalized the TARDIS into a “Paradox Machine”. It’s set to go off at 8:02 AM, which is the time the Master said something big was going to happen.

    The Doctor can’t un-paradox the TARDIS until he knows what the something big is. But if he gets a TARDIS key on the Master, the Master’s own perception field will be cancelled out, and people will stop trusting him.

    The President gives a nice speech and the Toclafane arrive. But the spheres only want to talk to “Mr. Master”. Saxon jumps up, laughs, and announces for the cameras that he’ll take control of the world now. He cues a sphere and the President goes up in fire. The Doctor gets nabbed as he rushes for the Master, and the Master says hi to him and “the girlie and the freak.” He shoots Jack dead with a laser screwdriver and looks forward to doing it again.

    Now comes the surprise callback for the season, as the Master says he was involved with the Lazarus project enough to get Tish her job there, and to get the Lazarus technology assimilated into his laser screwdriver. And having analyzed the Doctor’s hand that Jack was carrying around, he has the ability to turn the Doctor super-duper old. Which he does. The zapped Doctor goes into a goofy time-lapse flailing bit while Jack tells Martha to retreat. But Martha tends to the newly wizened Doctor.

    The Master brings in her family to taunt her and activates the Paradox Machine, announcing the end of the world. And the sky indeed splits open like the Apocalypse, and six billion Toclafane come pouring in from another dimension. The Master proves his brilliance by using “decimate” exactly correctly and telling the spheres to kill 10% of humans. As screaming reports of massacres flood in, Martha makes her choice. She backs away from the Doctor, looks at her family and Jack, and teleports out. On the ground she witnesses the devastation firsthand as the Master and his wife gloat to the Doctor.

    So the season again ends with a massive invasion of Earth. The Daleks, then the Cybermen, now the Master controlling these things. They’re new to world domination, but they come with their own peppy music to compensate.

    This is a strong episode, full of fear and tension and drama. It would be much less if the Master were played over the top. John Simm plays him intelligent, amoral, and above all self-controlled, not drawn astray from his plans by vendettas or sadism or displays of ego. He’s an entertaining mix of “ordinary person” and “insane megalonaniac”. His relationship with his wife isn’t warm or passionate -- it's a bit impersonal on both ends, really -- but it doesn’t carry the detachment or disgust one might expect from an egotist forced to pretend to accept an inferior being as his equal. When he kisses or comforts her, he means it. He flips through channels or chats with people like a normal human being (when he's not playing the clown). He even winces away from the reporter lady’s screams, when I would expect other Masters to revel in the cruelty. It seems as if the showrunners were going for a Master who is amoral and cunning, but otherwise an ordinary person, part of whose brain twists him into domination and cruelty.

    There is a sense of the Doctor and crew making headway but never accomplishing anything. All they find is how complete the Master’s plans already are. All they can do is run.

    It’s not played up, but there is a sense of horror to find that the Master has perverted our beloved TARDIS into a tool of evil.

    Rating: 3 balls of floating death
    Favorite dialogue: The Master: Before we start all that, I just want to say thank you. Thank you, one and all. You ugly, fat faced bunch of wet, snivelling traitors.
    Cabinet Member: Yes, quite, very funny. But I think —
    The Master: No. No, that wasn’t funny. You see, I’m not making myself very clear. Funny is like this. *grin* Not funny is like this. *frown* And right now, I’m not like *grin* I’m like *frown* because you are traitors. Yes, you are! As soon as you saw the vote swinging my way, you abandoned your parties and you jumped on the Saxon bandwagon. So this is your reward.
    Cabinet Member: Excuse me, Prime Minister. Do you mind my asking, what is that?
    The Master: (muffled) It’s a gas mask.
    Cabinet Member: I beg your pardon?
    The Master: It’s a gas mask.
    Cabinet Member: Yes, but, er, why are you wearing it?
    The Master: Well, because of the gas.

    Harold Saxon: from two Saxon kings of England named Harold, a pseudonym somewhat more subtle than Ford Prefect
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2024
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  9. matthunter

    matthunter Ice Bear

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    Gathered three TARDIS keys. Martha has one, the Doctor does, and Jack had one as well that he never got a chance to return before the Doctor left him on Satellite 5.
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  10. matthunter

    matthunter Ice Bear

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    However: Mister Saxon IS an anagram of Master No. Six. Which he was, if you count the number of TV actors playing the role and Eric Roberts (Big Finish get screwed, as usual, as does Jonathan Pryce from The Curse of Fatal Death).
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  11. matthunter

    matthunter Ice Bear

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    Interesting point from the recap page on TV Tropes - which I've confirmed by checking my copy of The Writer's Tale by Russell Tea Lady.

    Other fun fact: this is the first ever ep of televised Who to show a black Time Lord (in the Doctor's flashback to Gallifrey), not counting Lenny Henry parodying the show.
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  12. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Perpetually sondering

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    Jackie also says Britain has already entered a "Golden Age" in "The Christmas Invasion".
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  13. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Perpetually sondering

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    Ah yes, that does make sense.
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  14. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Perpetually sondering

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    [​IMG]

    03 x 13 - Last of the Time Lords

    We drop back in a year later to find that extraterrestrials are being warned away from Earth while it undergoes extinction. I guess that hyperspace bypass project will have to go on hold.

    On the planet itself, the resistance has smuggled Martha back into Britain, so that she can meet a Professor Docherty. Martha’s a local legend: she walked all the way across America and was the only survivor when Japan was, uh, wiped out. Maybe J.J. Abrams consulted on this episode. Maybe the Master got fed up with a constant stream of mechas and magical girls coming after him. It’s whispered that only Martha can kill the Master. But her escort, Tom, thinks the world might be beyond saving already.

    The Master is living it up in his flying fortress. Masterriffic pop music, plenty of space to sashay and give his wife makeout time, and that raised platform foreships where all eyes are on him. He even has a big bell to ring that brings the wizened Doctor crawling out of a little tent. The Master shoves the Doctor into a wheelchair and pushes him around while singing along to ‘My heart is dead, I don’t know if I should kill you, you’d probably come back to life or go to Heaven anyway.’

    The Master tries to interest the Doctor in the new Time Lord Empire he means to build, needles him about figuring the Toclafane out, and wants to know what he told Martha before she teleported away. But the Doctor gives no satisfaction.

    Toclafane drop in on Tom to see what he’s up to. Tom’s license to travel appeases them, and with a laugh over the coming warfare they fly off. Martha recaps the whole TARDIS key thing to explain why they didn’t notice her.

    A minor revolt breaks out on the Master’s carrier. Jack pulls free of the chains that keep him on display. But he runs into a squad and lets himself be shot dead. Martha’s dad sabotages the systems, and Martha’s mum throws the Doctor the laser screwdriver in the confusion. The Master just laughs it off: the screwdriver is keyed to him alone. He zaps Martha’s mum to make her say sorry. “Didn’t you learn anything from the blessed Saint Martha?” he asks.

    Martha joins Docherty in time to watch a broadcast from the Master. He wants to crush any hope anyone has in Martha by showing what he can do to the great and powerful Doctor (incidentally mentioning the Doctor is 900 years old). So he screwdrivers the Doctor good and hard, and that time-motion lapse frenzy happens again. When it’s done, the Doctor has fallen, and the camera shows only the Master looking toward the floor. Out of the Doctor’s clothes crawls a small E.T.-Gollum-Dobby thing. Do you think that’s how Time Lord aging works? Probably not. Martha holds back tears and chooses to be happy the Doctor’s alive.

    [​IMG]
    Nasty tricksy Master took my youth, yes Precious!

    Martha’s group plots to take out the Archangel satellites and deal with the Toclafane. They use readings from a lightning bolt that killed a Toclafane to capture a sphere.

    The Master tells the Doctor, now living in a birdcage, that his rocket invasion begins tomorrow. He’ll attack one civilization after another until he’s created a new Gallifreyan empire in his own image.

    Docherty opens a captured sphere and finds a wrinkly humanoid face inside. It wakes up and tells Martha thank you for helping send us to Utopia. These are the humans whom the Doctor’s party sent off toward the mysterious call of Utopia two episodes ago. Elsewhere, the Master and his wife Lucy talk about how they went to Utopia (the only other timeframe the Doctor’s last-minute screwdrivering allowed the hijacked TARDIS to travel to) and found a future of nothingness. Lucy decided to turn nihilist (I suspect it wasn’t that big a leap), and the Master decided to bring the self-destructing humans back in spherical form to kill off their ancestors. The Master gets to destroy and rule over what isn’t destroyed, and the Toclafane enjoy killing. It’s a fair deal all around. The TARDIS paradox machine protects the universe against the resulting grandfather paradox.

    The Doctor protests that the Master is changing the entire universe’s history. The Master says he has that right as a Time Lord. A Time Lord partnered with humans, the greatest monsters, haven’t you always dreamt of that, Doctor?

    Of course he hasn’t. But “monsters” echoes the Doctor’s reaction when Harriet Jones ordered the Sycorax ship blown up back in “The Christmas Invasion”. I’m sure that’s deliberate, given the Doctor’s severed hand from that episode has been key to this story.

    Martha says she’s been crossing the world on a quest for a special UNIT gun and four chemicals it uses, that should kill a Time Lord permanently. The last chemical is in London. This is the first time in this relaunch that we’re told the Master has been to Earth before, that he isn’t just a new character invented for this story.

    But Docherty wants to know if Martha can bring herself to kill the Master. She’s right to wonder. Martha is doing all this because she has to, but she’s still a healer at heart, not a killer. Martha and Tom leave to bunk in a slavehouse (browns and yellow lights, naturally). There, she evangelizes to the workers about the Doctor.

    But Docherty tattles what she’s learned to the Master, for the sake of her son. It’s exciting news for the Master, who bounces in in his houserobe to tell the Doctor about it. And then he goes down to Britain to meet Martha.

    Martha surrenders herself rather than give the Master cause to kill everyone protecting her. He zaps her backpack, kills Tom when he rushes out to protect Martha, and jeers that the Doctor has taught Martha well. Well, since he brings it up now.

    We’ve seen what effect the Doctor can have on individuals. Rose, Jack, Martha, Redfern, even Jackie. He ennobles them, encourages their best. Not everyone gets there (Adam). But he’s a positive influence that brings out the qualities of humanity that appeal to him.

    The Master has had a year to influence humanity, and his results are different. He sees the monstrous qualities in humanity and cultivates those he finds useful, inducing fear and hate. (Martha’s own family now broods on killing the Master.) He knows he has one last obstacle to full mastery over Earth: hope. He will kill it by killing Martha.

    Anyway, the Master does the predictable thing and takes Martha to his carrier so he can kill her in front of the Doctor and the world after a countdown. For this scene, everyone’s dressed in dark, except the bright red of Mrs. Saxon and the Doctor’s frail stripes, against the light browns and grays of the pilot room. The Master gloats, digging at any inferiority complex that Martha might have about Rose. But Martha is self-assured: the Master’s confidence finally cracks her up. And now she takes control of the conversation. The gun was a decoy so that the Master wouldn’t realize her true threat: evangelizing the whole world about how awesome a savior the Doctor is. The Master even calls the next step “prayer”: everyone starts to think and chant the word “Doctor” as the countdown hits zero. Even Mrs. Saxon sees which way the wind is blowing and joins in. This feeds through the mind-control satellites, reversing the Doctor’s aging and destroying his cage.

    Sure, why not.

    The Master angrily orders everyone to stop. But, the Doctor tells him, thinking is the one thing he can’t control. (I thought influencing people’s thinking was how he got into the world’s good graces, but okay.) “Tell me the human race is degenerate now, when they can do this,” the Doctor says, reverting to regular Tennant age. Honestly, Martha’s solo, global quest of the past year is a far better example of humanity’s good nature, but this is properly the whole world’s moment.

    The Doctor Force-yanks the Master’s screwdriver out of his hand. Because a psychic network intended to influence people’s thoughts gives you telekinesis obviously. The Doctor floats over to the Master, who cowers and yells futilely, and hugs and forgives him.

    But the Master has one last move: threaten to slaughter the planet with the Toclafane unless — no, he just calls on the spheres to defend the paradoxed TARDIS. Jack takes a few armed men to see about that.

    Jack gets past all the stabby things . . . somehow . . . and shoots up the TARDIS control console plunger. It blows up, and fortunately this rewinds everything instead of tying the Milky Way into a spacetime pretzel or something. Martha gets to hold hands with the Doctor while things rewind.

    The airship shakes all over and the people on the ground are screaming as Earth spins and revolves backward a year and a day. To just after President not-Bush died, but before six billion killers arrive from the other end of the universe. Nobody outside the airship will remember that year: the Doctor returns to obscurity and the status quo largely resets. Martha’s family still wants to kill the Master, and her mother actually points a gun at him. But she’s not so far gone into hatred as to pull the trigger.

    The Doctor claims charge of the Master. He decides to settle down and live in the TARDIS with his mortal enemy. “Now I have someone to care for”, he says, a double meaning to show his disregard for Martha. But Lucy impassively shoots the Master anyway. Happy to have me dying in your arms? the Master asks the Doctor. The Master would rather cease to exist than live “imprisoned” with the triumphant Doctor. With sad music playing, the Doctor reminds the Master of all those wonderful adventures we’ve had together (a second admission that these two share a pre-relaunch history). But the Master decides he’s okay with dying if he can call it a win over the Doctor. All he hopes is that the drums will stop. The Doctor spends his grief there, then burns the Master’s body on a pyre.

    Martha gives Docherty a bouquet and absolution for a crime Docherty has no idea about. The Doctor invites Jack along as companion, but Jack came out of this with a heightened sense of responsibility for his Torchwood buddies over on his spin-off show.

    The Doctor respects the choice, but depowers Jack’s teleport armband. He can’t depower Jack’s infinite lives hack, though. Jack laughs that off. He gets in a zinger before leaving: he was the pride of his little Boeshane settlement when he left to join the Time Agency. His nickname was “The face of Boe“. A bit contrived but not out of line for the new series, compared with “Bad Wolf” and the double meaning of “Silence will fall.” The Doctor and Martha pull some great faces as they wrestle with the possibility that Jack’s head gets even huger in the distant future.

    Martha calls Tom, but hangs up. This is not the same person she met “yesterday”. What can she even say to start a relationship with him? She goes into the TARDIS and shares a look with the Doctor. He understands. Her family is traumatized, and she can’t abandon them to go sailing off with the Doctor. All he can tell her is “Thank you” and “You saved the world.” But we see his anguish when he hugs her. Martha pecks him on the cheek and leaves, but she can’t leave it all unsaid. And so she goes back into the TARDIS and tells him about a friend who wasted years pining over a love that would never be requited. Martha won’t make that mistake. The Doctor can only nod and offer her nothing. The air cleared, Martha gives him a phone in case of emergency and leaves for good. The Doctor is left alone with just a little grief on his face for her and for the loss of the Master. And by the Master’s pyre, someone picks up a green ring.

    I know what’ll cheer everyone up: the Titanic somehow breaches the TARDIS wall. Merry Christmas special, let’s watch lots of people die!

    So, this is the new Master. I haven’t seen much of the Masters from the old series, so I’m at a handicap here. But he’s pretty in line with what I expect from a Master: arrogant, cunning, sadistic. Except that he doesn’t chew the scenery. No, he lights it on fire and burns it to a crisp, and then dips bits of the ashes into acid for amusement.

    The Master relishes defeating the Doctor, but not explicitly as revenge for all the times the Doctor has thwarted him before. At the end of last episode, he even says “We meet at last, Doctor.” Same as if they’d never met ever. And yet this Master hits the ground running, as if he needs no justification as someone who can defeat the Doctor. The show has its cake and eats it too, making sense for old and new fans alike.

    The Master is not defeated precisely because of arrogance or needless cruelty. Rather, the way in which he carries out his intentions is predictable enough that Martha can plan accordingly: taking her to the airship to show the Doctor and the whole world her death destroys hope and feeds his ego; setting a countdown allows the world to have a single moment to focus on all together, with Martha right there to tell the plan to everyone she didn’t meet on her journey. The ticky-brained Master is defeated through his own established tics.

    I’m gonna be honest, this guy doesn’t really look like the Master at all. He’s some random Guy in a generic suit. The actor absolutely nails the madness, brilliance, and self-confidence in his performance without looking the part.

    The Master claims that, as a Time Lord, he has the right to change the universe’s history. This calls back to “Utopia” when the Doctor was talking about how awesome Rose was, when she absorbed the power of the TARDIS. She didn’t go mad with power like a Time Lord would have done. We can also recall “Boom Town” when the Doctor said he’d make a bad, overbearing god. These were all written by Davies, so it’s apparent that he has some ideas about the Time Lords. Much like Vulcans controlling their heightened emotions so they don’t set fire to everything, the Time Lords may completely refuse to interact with the rest of the universe because they can’t trust themselves to not go straight from “Hello” to power-mad tyrants. Maybe the Master would be the end result for a lot of Time Lords who stared into the Vortex and heard it whisper back.

    Lucy Saxon was kind of a weak point for me. I’d have liked to see either a little more independent thought from her, or seen her lack of personality more strongly framed. But the way they handled her was fine. She’s largely used to amplify the current mood. She also tells us about the Master by being a non-entity, just a pretty face he can slot into the role of Wife and not rely on for anything. And that’s enough.

    This isn’t the first time the relaunch has resolved a plot through “Like, human willpower/emotion can do anything, maaan! You just gotta feel hard enough!” ("Fear Her") and it won’t be the last. Here, it’s at least built around turning a willpower-damping device against the oppressor, even if the effects aren’t supported by what the satellites are built to do. Billions of people believing that the Master was trustworthy certainly didn’t make him trustworthy.

    I feel this is intended to come across as a celebration of the Doctor. The Doctor has been mentioned several times as not sticking around for the adulation of the worlds he saves, but now is our big moment to see him get his due. “Love and Monsters” showed several ways that fans interact with the character of the Doctor, and this offers another: admiration of the Doctor and what he represents. He offers kindness and hope, heroism, a way out of a mess. That’s definitely part of the show’s appeal for me, and something I like in Star Trek too.

    In the end, this is an enjoyable two-parter despite the handwaving required for the resolution, with high stakes, action, and careful character work. Martha gets a good send-off. There are a lot of callbacks to a lot of previous episodes, which has become a hallmark of this era of the show.

    Rating: 3 red herring gun parts
    Favorite dialogue: The Doctor (to Jack): I can’t have you walking around with a time-travelling teleport. You could go anywhere. Twice. Second time to apologize.

    Doctor Who: Last of the Time Lords: was floated as a possible title of a Doctor Who movie way back when. Much more intriguing than Doctor Who: The Movie, wouldn’t you think?
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  15. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Perpetually sondering

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    Doctor Who owes its existence as something other than a forgotten children’s show to its adaptability to staff changeover. Regeneration was how the show kept going after William Hartnell’s health forced him to step down as the Doctor after less than four full seasons. Classic Who survived a lot of Doctors and Companions coming and going, but the relaunch might have been different. Especially with greater importance put on Rose’s character, her arc, and her particular relationship with the Doctor. Could the show keep the magic going after the original Doctor and Companion were both gone after just two seasons?

    The answer is largely yes. The third season had a few clunkers, but was about as watchable as the first two. Any weakness in the plots is not due to the Doctor or the new Companion. Martha is a strong, well-rounded character without being patterned after Rose — she also develops feelings for the Doctor, yes, but she starts from a different place and the Doctor shuts her out differently. It did get a little old, about five or six episodes in, having this particular scab picked at repeatedly. But in each case bringing it up makes sense in context, and either it develops Martha’s character or it’s natural for her family to jump to conclusions about this handsome strange man. We see in the scarecrow two-parter how Martha accepts her position outside of the Doctor’s attentions. Hers is a selfless love, not the pouty, possessive love that Rose had.

    Martha is also brainier than Rose. She’s a little more proactive about recognizing and embracing some of the settings the Doctor brings her to (Shakespeare London, 1930 America). Her medical training is used to good advantage without going out of the way to write contrivances for a physician to solve. Her desire to help the vulnerable subtly determines her actions: she’s willing to stay and tend to the wounded in “Evolution of the Daleks”, and her instinct is to tend to the Doctor when he gets aged in “The Sound of Drums”. She also thinks of her family’s well-being before any other considerations several times in “The Sound of Drums”.

    In the end, her role as the one keeping her family from falling apart (as seen in “Smith and Jones”) is what lets her leave the TARDIS on a positive note. Like Mickey staying in another universe to care for his grandmother, Martha stays with her family to help them cope with their trauma, rather than to escape an unrequited crush. And she has the self-worth to tell the Doctor how she feels without expecting anything in return.

    Martha is proof that you can write a strong, competent sidekick for the Doctor without fear of stealing his spotlight (looking at you, Romana I showrunners). If you can’t tell: I like Martha, even if she isn't always the most entertaining personality to wind up and let go. Her most memorable moments for me are largely either quiet drama or decision moments like in the scarecrow story, or triumphs like in "Last of the Time Lords", as contrasted with Rose's free and easy spirit or Donna being amusingly awful.

    In this season, Tennant going full-blown eccentric mainly seems to be used to underscore his strangeness to new people: with Martha in “Smith and Jones” and with Billy Shipton in “Blink”. The showrunners are confident in Tennant’s acting, and give him plenty of opportunities to exercise it: off the top of my head, “The Family of Blood” and “Last of the Time Lords” would both be much less without his nuanced emotions.

    Tennant’s Doctor often feels like the Doctor pretty nearly pared down to his essence, as contrasted with, let’s say, Eccleston or Matt Smith. That makes him an ideal choice for something like the “Human Nature” two-parter or “Blink”, where Eccleston’s judgmental tendencies or Smith’s gregarious nature would be an unnecessary layer of character distracting from a strong story. Or, again, the end of “Last of the Time Lords”, where the Doctor’s concern for the Master feels unfiltered through “how this personality feels about the Master.”

    The Tenth Doctor does seem to have a theme of “avoidance” this season. In “Gridlock” we see how he’s dealing with the destruction of Gallifrey and his people. He doesn’t lash out at others, like the Ninth might charitably be suspected of doing. He just keeps the pain locked away as he goes about life. He avoids opening the question of Rose as much as he can with Donna and then with Martha. And in “Utopia” we see that he doesn’t want to face Jack Harkness, though it’s an open question as to how much of that is guilt over leaving Jack behind and how much is avoiding the fixed point that Jack represents. He also tries to avoid the Family in the “Human Nature” two-parter and brings death to a boarding school as a result. But he doesn’t avoid the Master, and he’ll change his life to keep an eye on the Master for the rest of their existences. Not the choice of a man who doesn't offer second chances.

    Jack returns in “Utopia” and feels a better fit for the rest of the show around him. I think he plays as well off of Eccleston as Tennant, so that’s not it. I would say Jack’s simple, buoyant personality works better in a plot that isn’t as gritty as the “Empty Child” two-parter. But I think he mainly has less shallowness to him now. He’s more serious, more to-the-point under that demeanor, and he feels a bit wronged by the Doctor in “Utopia” even as he 99.9% lets bygones be bygones. The Doctor nips in the bud any opportunity for Jack to flirt, which allows that to remain part of his personality without derailing the scene.

    This season also sees the re-introduction of the Master. I talked about the new guy at the end of “The Sound of Drums” and “Last of the Time Lords”, but obviously the Master is another huge part of the franchise, and it says something that the showrunners were willing to wait until the third season to bring him in. The Face of Boe thread is given an ending, at the end of the third season after he was introduced in the second episode of the first season. The CGI continues to improve. It’s pretty good at this point.

    Something I didn’t know at the time: there’s a Second Doctor story, “The Evil of the Daleks”, that clearly served as a blueprint for the “Daleks in Manhattan” two-parter. In “Evil”, the Daleks force the Doctor to help them understand and assimilate human nature, claiming that humanity must have something worthwhile for survival. The Doctor isn’t worried, because humanity is too free-thinking. But the Daleks double-cross him and use his work to turn humans into Daleks. But the Doctor does the old switcheroo to make the Dalekization process turn regular Daleks human instead, and the humanized Daleks start irritating the Daleks in charge by asking why they should follow orders. Then the Daleks in charge start killing the human Daleks and the human Daleks fight back. You remember my disdain for the idea that Time Lords are free thinkers? Well, that exists because it was a plot point in the original. A warning against copying too closely from your inspiration.

    Final scores:
    4: (2) The Family of Blood, Blink
    3.5: (1) Human Nature
    3: (7) Smith and Jones, The Shakespeare Code, Gridlock, 42, Utopia, The Sound of Drums, Last of the Time Lords
    2: (1) The Lazarus Experiment
    1.5: (1) Daleks in Manhattan
    1: (1) Evolution of the Daleks

    Average rating: 2.85 out of 4
    Number of “watch it again” (3-plus) episodes: 10/13
    Number of “never again” (sub-2) episodes: 2/13
    Number of episodes set in the UK: 8/13 (if you fully count “Smith and Jones”)

    Least favorite episode: “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks” were just frustrating with how poor they were. “Evolution” was the most frustrating.
    Favorite episode: “The Family of Blood” is an enthralling conclusion to a great first part.
    Worst episode: “Evolution of the Daleks” flat-out fell down on the job. You can argue “Daleks in Manhattan” set it up for failure, but “Evolution” had so many little opportunities to be better than it was.
    Best episode: “Blink” and “The Family of Blood” are both legitimate choices. Everything comes together so well in both episodes. I lean toward “The Family of Blood” for its themes, drama, heartbreak, Tennant’s acting, and scary scarecrows.
    Disappointing episode: “42” was pretty good, but once I recognized the episode, I was hoping it would be really pretty good, you know? how dare you B̷̙̥͉͂̍͝U̶̧̨̳͉̤̘͋̏̈̆̾R̸̢͇̠̎̆̽́̿N̸̳̐ ̷̨̯̪̥̂̊̓̌ͅW̷̝̤̍͒͛͊̍̅I̷͖̫̻͔͂͂T̸̥͓̏̓̎̽̊̽Ḫ̷̠͚̟̃ ̸̤̄͆M̸̫̄E̵̡̢̟̻͆͂̀̅͒̽
    Surprise episode: I didn’t expect so much subtext in “Gridlock”. Once I caught on to the subtext, I then expected to find out that the overworld had abandoned those living underground deliberately, through either self-interest or apathy. So everyone topside being dead was a second surprise.

    Things Doctor Who has made scary forever:

    • Mannequins
    • Children wearing gas masks
    • Wireless earpieces
    • Tarped-off sections of buildings
    • Scarecrows
    • Mirrors
    • Angel statues
    • Not pig-men

    A summary of this season and a sneak peek of the future
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  16. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Perpetually sondering

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    We're sorry, this thread has encountered technical difficulties. Richard just showed up and it's going to be a while before I can go ten seconds without minding the cows.
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  17. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Perpetually sondering

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    [​IMG]

    Voyage of the Damned

    So we left off with the Titanic‘s bow crashing through the wall of the TARDIS. The Doctor quickly CGIs that breach closed before Winslet or DiCaprio can fall in. He hops the TARDIS on board and gives it a comforting pat as he exits.

    The Titanic dining room is lavish, with deep, rich browns and yellows (naturally) and even green wreaths and golden angel statues (Hosts). One angel whirs its head about to meet the Doctor’s gaze. A short Darth Maul walks by. It seems we have a case of TITANIC IIINN SPAAAACE. This spaceship, styled inside and out like an Earth ocean liner, is visiting Earth to observe Christmas.

    Also visiting Earth is Kylie Minogue, according to the guest star credit. Huh. You may remember the Doctor quoted her back in “The Idiot’s Lantern”. My thoughts on her transience are unaltered.

    Back from the credits, Midshipman Frame introduces himself on the bridge as a raw young sailor. In the dining room, the Doctor gets a few basic details out of a golden angel “Host” before it malfunctions. (It’s sent to Deck 31 with other malfunctioning angels.) This Titanic is on a “primitive cultures” cruise. It was simply named after the most famous Earth ship. Well, it’s not like the Challenger or Flying Dutchman would have been more optimistic choices.

    The Doctor chats with a waitress, Astrid “Kylie” Peth in such a way that I would suspect he was coming on to me. But Astrid innocently chats about how she hired onto this cruise, just for a change, just to see the universe. The Doctor lets on he’s a stowaway, and Astrid is charmed.

    The Doctor moves on to Morvin and Foon, a couple whose idea of fancy dress — gorgeous purple and black — doesn’t mesh with the other tourists. They won their tickets in a soap opera trivia contest. (Remember how the Doctor aimed for New Earth’s slums in “Gridlock”. He likes the common people.) They’ve enjoyed food all their lives by the looks of them, and Foon has a messy, housewife hairdo, so you can take your pick as to what the other guests are laughing at. The Doctor sonics a champagne bottle to pop all over the jeerers. He then joins a call for shore leave, bringing Astrid along.

    Midshipman Frame calls the crusty old captain’s attention to an odd power surge and then to a meteoroid shower some distance away. Maybe Brits talk different but scientifically, meteoroids are, by definition, in space. That means they should not be on fire, the way these rocks are when Mr. Frame points his ordinary binoculars off-screen to . . . look at an offscreen display? Or through a window? At distant, fast-moving rocks? Cute visual, but I don’t think space numbers work like that.

    So the tour guide/historian gives everyone teleport bracelets and announces they’re going to “old London Town in the country of Yoo-Kay” and oh. OH! OH! OH! THAT’S RICHARD’S VOICE!! THAT IS RICHARD. LOOK HOW FAR HE WENT TO GET AWAY FROM HYACINTH. Yet here he is, returning to his doom. He must be the damned this voyage belongs to.

    [​IMG]
    This used to be a caption, but I dumped all my “minding the cows” jokes here and their mass collapsed it into a black hole.

    Richard the Earth Specialist muddles Christmas culture with the current state of affairs on Earth, attributing huge claws to Mr. Santa. Don’t know why he would think a husband would need protective sharp things.

    They all teleport down while the Doctor is trying to hint that the mini-Maul with a gum tree seed for a head might not fit in on Earth. Astrid loves the sights and stenches, but the Doctor is distressed by the empty streets. A man explains that Londoners have caught on to the violent Christmas specials, and so everyone (except himself and God Save The Queen) has left town.

    The Doctor reassures him that nothing weird will happen. But then the landing party abruptly gets beamed up, right in front of the poor guy. The crew smooths it over as a power fluctuation.

    Meanwhile the meteoroids change course toward the Titanic. The captain, who has been super suspicious this whole time, refuses to increase shields and even magnetizes the hull to draw the rocks toward them.

    The Doctor, curious about that power fluctuation, sonics a PR screen and swings it open, the cruise line’s chairman still beaming an Unscrupulous Businessman Smile, to get at the computer behind it. He finds that the ship’s shields are down.

    [​IMG]
    Nothing clever to say, just wanted to inflict this image on you. Merry Cinco de Mayo (the anniversary of when Mexico invented a heavier-than-water beef condiment) and pleasant dreams!

    The captain pulls a gun on Frame and shoots him when Frame tries to raise shields. The Doctor tries to warn everyone of the danger, but is hauled away by attendants. His new friends try to intervene, while a fist-sized rock crashes through a window and lands at the feet of a gambler, Rickston Slade. Slade asks an angel about the shielding, and the angel informs him that “You are all going to die.” Oh snap.

    The first of the rocks hits, and guests run from a massive fireball. There’s a lot of chaotic people throwing themselves across the field of view, but nobody lands in a cake this time. On Deck 31, the “broken” angels line themselves up neatly, ignoring a nearby trapped man calling for help. An angel finally deigns to tell him that they are now only angels of death. Then it hurls its halo into his face with gratuitous “sharp blade” foley.

    A steward tries to calm everyone down while Richard happily accepts first aid from Kylie Minogue in a frilly dress. The steward opens the wrong door and gets vented into space. Then the TARDIS goes drifting by, and its safety protocols activate, causing it to go land on Earth as the nearest big mass.

    If you were wondering whether we’d get “decaying orbit” nonsense: yes, yes we will. If the engines don’t get fixed, the ship will crash and wipe out all Earth life. It won’t matter if you’re in London or not. This is called “irony” or, if you prefer, “The Universe Really Is Out To Get You.” The Doctor tells Frame to stick a bandage on the engines while he gives his friends a confused but heroic pep talk. Everyone shows their skills on the climb toward the bridge: Richard describes Futurama Christmas, Mini-Maul and Astrid squeeze through openings, Morvin and Foon work on repairing an angel, and Slade insults people and refuses to help anyone else.

    Mini-Maul — who insists on going by Bannakaffalatta — has a rather hurried scene where he confesses to Astrid that he’s a cyborg, she says well cheer up you’re getting equal rights, and he hits on her and she accepts. The point is he needs her to press a button to recharge his batteries.

    Meanwhile Frame checks in with the kitchen. The people in there are alive but trapped, until the angels come in and kill them all. Frame reports this to the Doctor just as Morvin and Foon bring their angel online. It immediately begins strangling Morvin. The Doctor gets him loose and they all retreat. The Doctor gets the angel to tell him that its orders are coming from Deck 31 before he flees. Frame super-deadlock-seals the bridge to keep out the angels (and unfortunately trap himself).

    Astrid shares some flirty dialogue with the Doctor (who implies he took the last room that left Joseph and Mary to settle for a stable) and Richard comes over to ask about SOSing Earth. Can’t the humans send up a space shuffle? He has to confess his alma mater is a couple of rungs below DeVry. He spent his younger days as a travelling salesman (I wonder why he wouldn’t want to be home every night) and had nothing to show for it when he reached retirement age. So he fudged his credentials to get this job and experience Earth. But now there will be Serious Investigations into this incident and Richard expects to die in jail for fraud.

    With the angels banging their way through the bulkhead, the party travels on to a rickety bridge over the flaming engine (because of course). Morton takes a wrong step and his weight breaks through the approach platform, plunging him to death. Slade says see, I told you they’re fat. Fortunately, Richard’s allowed to tell him to shut up. But then the angels stop their pounding at the door. Richard points out flying angels descending on them from some other entrance.

    The angels’ halos swoop around and injure the rapidly tiring party. But Bannakaffalatta disables them with a cyborg EMP. Predictably, the strain is too much and he has a brave death scene with Astrid.

    An angel that fell onto the rickety bridge is coming back to life. The Doctor guesses security overrides until it pauses. This gives Foon time to sneak up behind it and pull it off the bridge with her.

    The Doctor has had enough death. He delegates: Richard will find a way to SOS, and Slade will open doors with the sonic (the Doctor has preset it to that function). The Doctor helps Astrid charge the EMP while they discuss the possibility of her travelling with him. She insists on kissing him before he heads off to find Deck 31, each party promptly running into the thick of an angel chorus (I’m guessing that’s the correct plural).

    For the Doctor, the security override from before works again. It also lets the Doctor ask three questions before normal killing service resumes. The Doctor promptly blows the first two questions without thinking about it. So he identifies himself as a stowaway, and suggests they’ve only been told to kill staff and passengers. Stowaways should be arrested and taken to an authority figure, which must be on the deck he’s trying to get to anyway. The angels agree and escort him.

    Having gotten her group where they’re going, Astrid becomes the Local Main Character, delegating the EMP to Richard and attempting an SOS herself. Met with failure, she cajoles Frame into teleporting her to where the Doctor was going. Rule 1 of being a Companion: never stay where the Doctor puts you.

    The Doctor meets Max down there, now a cyborg with one good eye, hiding out in an indestructible chamber. His face is the only human thing visible, so you see how he’s not like Cassandra at all despite having much the same scheme of using robots to kill people on an Earth-adjacent spaceship for financial reasons.

    The Doctor works out why he wants Earth dead. Max Capricorn Cruises is on the rocks and Max has been voted out by the board, so as revenge for kicking him out of his business, Max has engineered this disaster to destroy their stock and send the board to prison for mass murder. The Doctor works himself up into an outrage, but Max simply demonstrates he could have killed the engines at any point by doing so now. An angel is about to kill the Doctor, but Astrid has gotten hold of a forklift! You know what’s coming: she picks up Max and pulls him over the edge into the engines.

    A grim Doctor beckons two angels over to him and they speed him upward as dramatic background fires whiz by. They crash through the bridge floor and he takes over, steering the Titanic into a dive. He calls Buckingham Palace (under his personal code) to warn them, then the engines re-ignite and he can pull up just in time, the Queen thanking him as a giant ocean liner flies over her head. Everyone whoops as the framed portrait of Max behind the pilot wheel falls off the wall and catches fire.

    [​IMG]
    Not a transformation sequence from a magical girl anime. Probably.

    The Doctor remembers Astrid was wearing a teleport bracelet that would have put her in the teleport buffer when it noticed her falling into the engine. He tries to bring her pattern out of suspension, but the equipment is fried and she isn’t River Song. He called himself unsinkable a moment ago, but now he can only kick the equipment and yell at it that he can do anything! Well, you can’t buck the guest star budget, Doctor, the BBC won’t pay for a season of both Kylie and Catherine. The most he can do is to assemble an “echo” of Astrid’s atoms that he can kiss goodbye before scattering them to space. Maybe Martha’s exit interview has him rethinking his emotional approach.

    Afterwards, the Doctor dwells on all the dead people whose lives he’d promised to save. He’s not in a mood for Slade’s boastful avarice, or Richard musing that if the Doctor had the power of a Crow to decide who lives or dies, he’d be a monster. (I’m sure this isn’t foreshadowing anything at all.) But it reminds the Doctor that he can still decide who stays out of jail. So he takes Richard back down to Earth.

    By the TARDIS, Richard points out that the “snowfall” is probably cinders from the stuff that the damaged Titanic vented to space. The Doctor is in one of his “I am a rock, I am an island” moods, so he leaves Richard to retire comfortably on the planet he came to see. Just warn him against large, assertive, floral women. Richard is thrilled at the prospect of owning a door and hugs the Doctor, and the Doctor smiles. One last acknowledgement of Astrid, and we’re done.

    The sympathetic characters (Astrid, the couple, Richard) are out to see the universe. Slade and Max look out for #1. It’s a common Who pattern.

    Kylie Minogue does well as the guest star, portraying a long-time hospitality worker with a lot of empathy and a practical desire to travel.

    There are a few more “making things up on the spot” moments than usual in this episode, with the teleports suddenly able to rescue their users and hold them in suspension, or the angels automatically obeying the nearest “authority” figure so that the Doctor can make them fly him to the bridge. But it’s a Christmas episode, we’re playing a bit fast and loose. Still, the cheese wasn’t as fun as in previous Christmas installments. Possibly the most dead people in any of the Christmas specials I’ve seen, too.

    Rating: 3 Host robot angels

    Favorite dialogue: The Doctor: Bad name for a ship. Either that, or this suit is really unlucky.

    Kylie who?: WHO CARES, IT’S RICHARD (RIP Clive Swift)
    Fun fact: our primitive space shuffles and satellites orbit just fine without needing constant power to the thrusters, we use something called physics
    Another Douglas Adams shoutout: The Doctor randomly tries “Forty-two” as a security override code

    Christmas Rankings:
    1. The Christmas Invasion
    2. The Runaway Bride
    3. Voyage of the Damned
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  18. matthunter

    matthunter Ice Bear

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    YOU SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH AND STAND TO ATTENTION WHEN CRIBBINS IS ON SCREEN.

    You recognised Clive Swift so don't feign ignorance, or I'll do something 'orrible to your ears.
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  19. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Perpetually sondering

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    He did seem familiar, but I wasn't sure if I recognized him from another episode or elsewhere and the post was already overlong even by my standards, so I didn't comment on him.
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  20. matthunter

    matthunter Ice Bear

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    I'll be fair and admit this is the first time Cribbins has appeared in Who for a LONG time, and previously only in the Peter Cushing movies as Tom Campbell:

    1cd2ac2a-6ea0-441c-b2de-4a8cb8656cfb_2842x1210.jpg

    He will later have a much bigger role in Who as his character in this ep gets linked to the family of a companion.

    Cribbins, though, is a fucking LEGEND in the UK for anyone who has seen the Wombles or engaged in pretty much any kids TV in the 1970s or 80s.

    Sadly, he died earlier this year, ironically just before his final ever Who appearance.
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  21. NAHTMMM

    NAHTMMM Perpetually sondering

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    Not sure if you're aware, but PBS regularly ran Keeping Up Appearances with As Time Goes By in America in the '90s, which is how I know about that.

    I'm pretty sketchy on the rest of Tennant's run outside of the Silence in the Library two-parter. I'm also Not Good with faces and distrust myself to recognize anyone less obvious than say Patrick Stewart, but I'm better with voices. I watched a clip of the four Hobbits talking about Bernard Hill, and I had no idea who was who until they started talking.
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