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Doctor Who: A Beginner’s Guide to Time Travel Pt. 3

We’re back! For you, it’s been 7 days, for Ethan and Justin, a mere few seconds. That’s the beauty of time travel. We hope you enjoyed last week’s recommendations. This week we’ll be closing out our beginner’s guide to Doctor Who by giving you a look at adventures from Doctors 9 through 13. These stories will encompass what is considered the modern era of the show. After a hiatus of 16 years, barring one exception as mentioned last week, the show returned in 2005 and has since taken the world by storm.

We’ll give you two stories from each Doctor’s era. One chosen by Ethan, one by Justin. These will be a look at the kind of stories that encompass the era they’re from. We want to give you a distilled experience of what each Doctor is like so you can decide what best fits your tastes. So here we go. Let’s take a trip into the Vortex!

The 9th Doctor – Christopher Eccelston (2005)

“Well, you can stay there if you want. But right now, there’s this plasma storm brewing in the Horsehead Nebula. Fires are burning ten million miles wide. I could fly the TARDIS right into the heart of it, then ride the shock wave all the way out, hurtle right across the sky and end up… anywhere. Your choice.” – The 9th Doctor (World War Three)

  • Dalek (Ethan’s Pick) – When Doctor Who returned in 2005, showrunner Russel T. Davies spent the first 5 episodes establishing the characters, both Christopher Eccelston’s war-ravaged Doctor, and Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler. But then, in the sixth episode, Davies, and scriptwriter Robert Shearman, introduced a whole new generation to the Doctor’s greatest enemies, the Daleks. What makes this episode so effective in bringing the terror of the Daleks to the screen is that there’s just one, just one Dalek, in an underground bunker, rampaging through dozens of helpless people. We also get an incredible scene between the Doctor and this lone Dalek in which he unleashes a diatribe of built-up rage that shows just how well-cast Eccelston was as the Lonely God.
  • The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances (Justin’s Pick) – When people tell you that Steven Moffat is a big deal, this episode is usually the reason why. Tracking a mysterious object through the vacuum of space, the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler are transported to London at the height of the Blitz. But the city is under siege by more than just bombs as a creepy “gas mask plague” has swept through the war wards and bombed-out neighborhoods, freezing the populace in terror. While plenty creepy and packed with scares, this two-parter also displays Moffat’s cunning wordplay, dynamic characters (like Captain Jack Harkness, making his debut here), and tremendous episode hooks positioning it as the first real “standout” episode of the reborn franchise. Just this once, dear readers, everybody lived and it’s just as powerful today as it was then.

The 10th Doctor – David Tennant (2005-2010)

“I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I’m 903 years old, and I’m the man who’s gonna save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below.” – The 10th Doctor (Voyage of the Damned)

  • The Girl in the Fireplace (Ethan’s Pick) – Possibly the most emotional episode in the show’s history. We see David Tennant’s 10th Doctor at his most romantic, before being utterly devastated come episode’s end. A ship in the 51st Century lies deserted, only its robotic attendants remain. They believe that to repair the ship, a brain must be acquired. To achieve this, they open a window into the past, specifically the life of one Madame de Pompadour. The Doctor must save her. From here, the episode only gets better. To get the full effect of the episode’s magic, it must be experienced. Prepare to cry.
  • Human Nature/The Family of Blood (Justin’s Pick) – Though the Doctor loves humans, he rarely gets a chance to live as one. That was until Paul Cornell’s seminal Seventh Doctor novel Human Nature, which he later adapted into one of the best episodes of David Tennant’s tenure. Doggedly pursued by an interstellar blood cult, the Doctor and Martha Jones (a tremendously underrated modern companion) are forced to go “undercover” in pre-WWI England, moonlighting as staff of a boy’s school. For Martha, that means just getting a new job, but for the Doctor, that means changing everything about himself. Down to his very DNA. What follows is an emotionally charged, immensely creepy, and thunderously sad exploration of the Doctor as a heroic archetype and the chaos that touches the towns and peoples he comes into contact with. Basically, you come for the bloodthirsty scarecrows, but you stay for the bravura performances of Tennant, Freema Agyeman, and guest star Jessica Hynes (she of Spaced fame).

The 11th Doctor – Matt Smith (2010-2013)

“There’s something you better understand about me, ‘cause it’s important and one day your life may depend on it. I am definitely a madman in a box.” – The 11th Doctor (The Eleventh Hour)

  • The Doctor’s Wife (Justin’s Pick) – The Doctor has often claimed that the TARDIS was alive, but what happens when that becomes explicit? One of the best episodes of the Matt Smith era that’s what. Scripted by British Invasion icon Neil Gaiman and containing one of the most skin-crawling performances from Micheal Sheen, The Doctor’s Wife just feels instantly special. A message from a long-assumed-dead Time Lord brings the Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory outside of normal space to a junk planet called House, filled to bursting with the wreckage of ships past. But House carries with it the power to steal the TARDIS’ soul, transporting it from its shell into the patchwork body of a woman who lives on the planet, Astrid (an angelic Suranne Jones). From there the Doctor and his companions must learn to trust this woman while learning the true meaning of “being bigger on the inside”. A towering achievement for the show as it starts to hit its peak of popularity, on both sides of the ocean.
  • The God Complex (Ethan’s Pick) – A seemingly endless 80’s hotel. Groups of people plucked from space and time. Every room is filled with a person’s fear. One of those rooms is yours. If you find it, you will praise Him. if you praise Him, you will die. This is what the Doctor, Amy, and Rory find when the TARDIS brings them to the hotel. Throughout the history of the show, there have been many so-called “almost-companions”, those characters who the Doctor takes a shine to, who he offers the chance to travel with him, but for one reason or another, they don’t. This episode contains the best of these “almost-companions” in Rita. She’s delightful and you’ll love her. Oh, and the episode also contains perhaps the best examination of faith the show has ever done.

The 12th Doctor – Peter Capaldi (2013-2017)

“Winning? Is that what you think it’s about? I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone – or because I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone… I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent! And above all it’s kind! It’s just that. Just kind.” – The 12th Doctor (The Doctor Falls)

  • Listen (Justin’s Pick) – Arguably the Rosetta Stone of Peter Capaldi’s tersely entertaining Twelfth Doctor. Newly regenerated and left to his own devices in the TARDIS, the Doctor has a theory. That a set of creatures can be so silent, so imperceptible by other creatures, that they can evolve to have flawless camouflage, blending into the background of a thousand worlds. And what would they do with their evolutionary superiority? LISTEN, naturally. Pulling the thread from 80s Leeds to ancient Gallifrey, the Doctor and Clara discover that “fear is a superpower” and set up one of this era’s most affecting leitmotifs. One that stretches all the way into both Clara Oswald’s and the 12th Doctor’s final moments.
  • Under the Lake / Before the Flood (Ethan’s Pick) – The Doctor and Clara arrive at a deserted base. There they discover strange goings-on and a terrified crew. This is the premise for numerous “Base Under Siege” episodes of Doctor Who. A lot of the episodes we’ve recommended fit into this sub-genre, but they all had other qualities that made them perfect starting points. But what makes this two-parter incredible is it is the perfect distillation of the “Base Under Siege” story. The scares are high. The supporting cast is delightful. It does something unique with the structure of the show. And you get wonderful performances from both Peter Capaldi’s very Scottish Doctor and the ever incredible Jenna Coleman’s Clara. My personal favorite TARDIS team, and one of my favorite episodes ever.

The 13th Doctor – Jodie Whittaker (2017-Present)

“You want the whole universe. Someone who has seen it all, and that’s me. I’ve lived longer, seen more, loved more, and lost more. I can share it all with you, anything you want to know about what you never had.” – The 13th Doctor (It Takes You Away)

  • The Woman Who Fell to Earth (Ethan’s Pick) – We’ve strived throughout these beginner’s guides to avoid regeneration stories as best as possible, but this is, on top of being an excellent story, the cleanest fresh start the show has had since it was brought back in 2005. Jodie Whittaker takes over the role of the Doctor, becoming the first woman to play the part, and she is incredible right out of the gate, nailing everything the Doctor should be, no matter what you may hear from idiots on the internet. We’re also introduced to the Doc’s new companions. Ryan and Yaz are fun and well-rounded characters, but you will fall in love with Bradley Walsh’s Graham, the fourth person in this TARDIS quartet. Just wonderful stuff.
  • Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror (Justin’s Pick) – Though it doesn’t have quite the personal resonance of Jodie Whittaker’s first “historical” episode Rosa, the Fam’s later dip into history is still one for the record books. Materializing in 1903, the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions connect with the great inventor (played with an understated grace by Goran Višnjić) after rescuing him from stranded alien spider-monsters looking to return to their home planet. Ya know, that old chestnut. My attempt at levity aside, this episode really makes wonderful use of both it’s time period and historical guest star, providing yet another high class drama that only Doctor Who could really provide.

And that’s that! We hope you’ve enjoyed our three-part beginner’s guide to the greatest show on TV. We’ll back in the future with more recommendations from the world of Doctor Who. Or maybe we’ve already given those recommendations. Time travel, it;s a tricky business to get right…

Categories
Television

Doctor Who: A Beginner’s Guide to Time Travel Pt. 2

We’re back! For you, it’s been 7 days, for Ethan and Justin, a mere few seconds. That’s the beauty of time travel. We hope you enjoyed last week’s recommendations. This week we’ll give you a look at adventures from Doctors 5, 6, 7, and 8. We’ll give you two stories from each Doctor’s era. One chosen by Ethan, one by Justin. These will be a look at the kind of stories that encompass the era they’re from. We want to give you a distilled experience of what each Doctor is like so you can decide what best fits your tastes. So here we go. Let’s take a trip into the Vortex!

The 5th Doctor – Peter Davison (1981-1984)

“When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well-prepared meal? For some people, small, beautiful events are what life is all about!” – The 5th Doctor (Earthshock)

  • Earthshock (Ethan’s Pick) – One of the most famous stories of the classic era. Chiefly for showing the Doctor actually lose. How and what does he lose? Well, I’m not telling. You’ll need to watch to find out. What I will tell you though is this is where Peter Davison comes into his own as the Doctor, showing he has the steely nerve of an action hero behind the brave heart he wears on his sleeve. Assisted by an unusually large TARDIS team, the Doctor comes up against his old enemies the Cybermen, returning to the show for the first time in 7 years. They are plotting to wipe out the Earth, but what else is new? For an action-packed ride of a story with a heartbreaking ending, this is the one for you. Just make sure to bring some tissues.
  • The Caves of Androzani (Justin’s Pick) – The platonic ideal of a “regeneration episode”. Landing on the backwater planet Androzani Minor, the Fifth Doctor and companion Peri Brown are just looking for a little galactic R&R. But when they are mistaken for a pair of gun runners, arrested, and exposed to a deadly toxin native to Androzani, the Doctor must sacrifice everything to save his friend and Androzani Minor. Displaying a ticking dread and tension the classic era never really displayed before, and only in a couple instances after, viewers are forced to watch arguably the noblest Doctor basically die across the whole serial, fighting the effects of the toxin while still attempting a brave face for his friends. A fitting (and very in-character) end for Peter Davison while also delivering a stirringly contained example for “regeneration” episodes for years to come. 

The 6th Doctor – Colin Baker (1984-1986)

“Planets come and go. Star perish. Matter disperses, coalesces, forms into other patterns, other worlds. Nothing can be eternal.” – The 6th Doctor (The Mysterious Planet)

  • Vengeance on Varos (Justin’s Pick) – Do ya like Doctor Who? Do ya like 2000AD? Well, what if I told you there is basically a whole ass 2000AD prog ABOUT the Doctor? That’s basically Vengeance on Varos in a nutshell. Freshly regenerated, the Doctor is looking to repair his TARDIS. And the only place he can find a rare element to do so is on the planet Varos, a grubby little world that is obsessed with its televised state executions framed as reality TV. Alongside providing the show one of its weirdest cult favorite monsters, Vengeance on Varos is a nasty bit of future shock that feels right at home during the Colin Baker era. 
  • Revelation of the Daleks (Ethan’s Pick) – The Doctor and Peri take a trip to the planet Necros to visit the funeral home Tranquil Repose. There they discover Daleks doing some truly horrific experiments on the dead for their creator, Davros. A dark, brooding tale full of death and destruction that stands as Colin Baker’s only on-screen encounter with the Doctor’s greatest enemies. Check this out if you’re looking for a story that encapsulates the Doctor’s relationship with the Daleks during this era of the show.

The 7th Doctor – Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989, 1996)

“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea’s asleep, and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, and somewhere else the tea’s getting cold. Come on Ace. We’ve got work to do.” – The 7th Doctor (Survival)

  • Battlefield (Justin’s Pick) – A stone-cold classic of an episode. Materializing in the English countryside, the Doctor and Ace find a UNIT convoy in trouble. While transporting a nuclear weapon for disposal, the convoy comes under attack from the forces of Morgane Le Fey, who is after more than just the convoy’s payload. Complicating matters is the body of King Arthur in the lake and why does Le Fey keep calling the Doctor “Merlin”? That’s just the TIP of the iceberg for this jam-packed episode. 
  • The Curse of Fenric (Ethan’s Pick) – A unique story in the history of the show, this was filmed entirely on location, giving the events that transpire a rather cinematic feel unlike any other from the show’s original run. The Doctor and Ace arrive at a seaside village during the height of World War 2 and quickly become embroiled in a tale of vampires, Russian heroes, and corrupted British soldiers. But in the shadows is an old enemy of the Doctor’s, looking to finish a game centuries in the making. For a story that shows the Doctor at his most Machievlian, you can’t go wrong with this.

The 8th Doctor – Paul McGann (1996, 2013)

“You feel that pounding in your heart? That tightness in the pit of your stomach? The blood rushing to your head do you know what that is? That’s adventure. The thrill and the fear, and the joy of stepping into the unknown. That’s why we’re all here, and that’s why we’re alive!” – The 8th Doctor (Storm Warning)

  • The TV Movie (Justin’s Pick) – the thought of “American” Doctor Who might be dubious, to say the least, but that doesn’t make the TV Movie any less interesting. Produced as a co-production between the BBC and American studio Fox, the TV Movie was intended to be a brand new relaunch for the show. While transporting the ashes of the Master back to Gallifrey, the Seventh Doctor is killed by an errant gunshot, regenerating under the care of a Dr. Grace Holloway. Unfortunately, the Master too gets another life and new Doctor Paul McGann and his new American companion must defeat the Master and recover the Doctor’s TARDIS before certain doom. Cheesy, sure, but immensely charming thanks to McGann’s infectious energy and a stately new take on our favorite Time Lord. After this adventure, Paul McGann only got one more televised story as the Doctor, which will be mentioned below. However, what he, and we the audience, did get was a slew of incredible full-cast audio adventures from the good folk over at Big Finish Productions. We’re planning a much more extensive look at these in a future article. But for now, if you do find yourself enjoying these couple of stories with the 8th Doctor, then rest assured there’s much more out there than first appears.
  • The Night of the Doctor (Ethan’s Pick) – Nearly 20 years since his first appearance, Paul McGann got to return to our screens to close the loop on his Doctor’s life. Bringing along the experience of hundreds of audio stories he’s performed in the meantime. McGann’s Doctor is very different, war ravaged, beaten down, alone, but still the same man at heart. He packs a hell of a punch in less than 10 minutes, showing he deserved many more adventures on our screen than he got.

And that’s it for now. Let us know if you check out any of our recommendations, and make sure to come back next week for even more!

Categories
Television

Doctor Who: A Beginner’s Guide to Time Travel Pt. 1

Adventures in time and space sound like a lot of fun, and no one has done that better than the BBC series Doctor Who. However, it’s been going on for nearly 60 years and can be a daunting task when looking for a good starting place. There are over 850 episodes totaling nearly 300 stories. It’s a lot.

But that’s where we come in. The GateCrashers Doctor Who extraordinaires, Ethan and Justin! A quick rundown on how this is going to work: Over three articles covering Doctors 1-4, 5-9, and 9-13 respectively, we’ll give you two episodes from each Doctor’s era. One chosen by Ethan, one by Justin. These will be a look at the kind of stories that encompass the era they’re from. We want to give you a distilled experience of what each Doctor is like so you can decide what best fits your tastes. So here we go. Let’s take a trip into the Vortex!

The 1st Doctor – William Hartnell (1963-1966)

“Have you ever thought what it’s like to be wanderers in the Fourth Dimension? Have you? If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds, and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you?” -The 1st Doctor (An Unearthly Child)

  • The Mutants (Ethan’s Pick) – While not the first episode of the show, Doctor Who as we know it today would not exist without it. It may have not even made it past its first season. This is the episode that introduces The Doctor to his arch-enemies, the Daleks, and they are terrifying. It’s easy to see how these villains gripped the public consciousness. Set on a distant planet, The Doctor and his companions have to find a way to defeat the metallic drones or risk losing their lives. For an excellent early episode of the show full of great moments with both Doctor and companion, you can’t go wrong with this.
  • The Romans (Justin’s Pick) – Not the first “historical” episode of the show, but certainly one of its most fun. Waylaid slightly in the time of the Romans, The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki are forced to take refuge in an abandoned estate on the outskirts of Rome while the TARDIS repairs itself. But mistaken identities and historical intrigues gather them all to the ancient city, where Emperor Nero is tuning up his fiddle. Though optically kind of dicey in parts, The Romans shows a real cheek and historical detail for the show and proves that even the early days had some knack for charming hijinks amid real settings and eras.

The 2nd Doctor – Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)

“There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which act against everything we believe in. They must be fought.” – The 2nd Doctor (The Moonbase)

  • The Invasion (Ethan’s Pick) – Moving on to the 2nd Doctor, a much more personable, quirky incarnation than his predecessor. This story sees The Doctor, and his companions Jamie and Zoe, coming up against some of his greatest foes, the Cybermen, in then-present day London. A great entry in the canon, it introduces one of the most important aspects to the series, UNIT. The military force tasked with protecting the planet from extraterrestrial forces. And with this comes The Doctor’s greatest ally, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Arguably the most beloved recurring character in the show’s history. If you want a truly epic story, that features some of the most evocative imagery in the show’s history, this is the one to watch.
  • The War Games (Justin’s Pick) – This was the moment that, as the kids say, shit got real for Doctor Who. Co-written by the absolute powerhouses of Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks, two names that would become synonymous with Doctor Who, this mammoth serial finds The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe locked in a war that doesn’t make sense. A megalomaniac known as the War Lord has been kidnapping and brainwashing soldiers from across time, sweeping them up and depositing them into a grand conflict for their own amusement. But beyond that incredible setup, The War Games finds The Doctor facing his own people, The Time Lords, for the very first time, explicitly naming his race and setting the show up for all sorts of mind-bending Time Lordy insanity for literal decades to come. A true watershed moment for the show, early even, in its own run.

The 3rd Doctor – Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)

“Courage isn’t just a matter of being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.” – The 3rd Doctor (Planet of the Daleks)

  • The Dæmons (Ethan’s Pick) – The Doctor’s third incarnation, having been stranded on Earth by his own people at the start of this new life, has set up shop as UNIT’s scientific advisor, assisted by the ever loveable Jo Grant. Also on Earth, concocting plots in the shadows is The Master, The Doctor’s old friend from his home planet, now a suave, maniacal bad guy. He’s been causing a fair amount of trouble for The Doctor, Jo, and UNIT. This story sees him attempting to awaken an ancient demon beneath a church in an old English town. The UNIT family, as they’re lovingly known, all come together to put a stop to this latest nefarious scheme. It’s some of the purest fun ever had in the show. If you’re looking for a story where the cast is just having a grand old time, this is the one for you.
  • The Green Death (Justin’s Pick) – The Third Doctor, having regained his ability to travel in space and time, faces a personal metamorphosis in The Green Death. A mine in South Wales has been poisoning the populace of the town. Making matters worse, large insects have been plaguing the workers as well, causing the Doctor and UNIT to leap into action. But while The Green Death is a wonderful example of the sort of eco-conscious, grounded storytelling the Pertwee Era excelled at, this serial also marks the final appearance of Pertwee’s companion, Jo Grant, as played by actual ray of human sunshine. Katy Manning. Though bittersweet, The Green Death provides a wonderful send-off for Jo, and sets the blueprint for the show’s always affecting take on the exits of companions for years to come.

The 4th Doctor – Tom Baker (1974-1981)

“The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common – they don’t change their views to fit the facts. They change the facts to fit their views, which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs changing.” – The 4th Doctor (The Face of Evil

  • Terror of the Zygons (Ethan’s Pick) – If The Invasion was the beginning of the UNIT era of the show, and The Dæmons was that era’s high point, then Terror of the Zygons is its grand finale. Having been away from Earth for some time, The Doctor, now in his fourth incarnation, along with his companions the iconic Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and the loveable idiot Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter), return to help UNIT investigate strange goings-on in the Scottish Highlands. A major portion of Tom Baker’s run was very much immersed in the horror genre, and this kicked that off. Featuring treks through foggy forests, shapeshifting aliens, and a constant sense of unease, this is the story to introduce you to the darker side of Doctor Who.
  • City of Death (Justin’s Pick) – Probably the closest Doctor Who has ever gotten to a “party episode”. Fresh off the regeneration of Romana (passing from iconic actress Mary Tamm to the equally iconic and inhumanly adorable Lalla Ward), the Doctor and Romana II find themselves in “present-day” (read: 1979) Paris thanks to the TARDIS Randomizer. But not content with sightseeing, the pair are swept into the dangerous time experiments of a roguish count, played by Julian Glover who is absolutely playing to the rafters here. Funny, breezily performed, and more than a little goofy, this episode is perfect for a rowdy Sunday screening for your non-dork friends to show just how it can sing during this iconic run with Baker. Also of note, this episode carries with it a tremendous BritCom cameo and a script co-written by Douglas Adams (using a pen name made up of his name and the names of two other writers). Watch while having a stiff double ice water!

And that’s it for now. Let us know if you check out any of our recommendations, and make sure to come back next week for even more!

Categories
Film

Doctor Who – Revolution of the Daleks: Review

Starring: Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole, Bradley Walsh, John Barrowman, Chris Noth, and Nicholas Briggs

Written by Chris Chibnall
Directed by Lee Haven Jones

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

“*YOU* *WILL NOT* *ESCAPE US, DOCTOOOOOR!*”
“Yes, I will. Every time.”

Justin Partridge: The Doctor and her beloved Fam reunite just in time to stop a brand new Dalek invasion in Revolution of the Daleks, Doctor Who’s latest “Festive Special”.

WELCOME to GateCrasher’s inaugural Doctor Who review column! I am Justin Partridge, the galaxy’s worst Doctor Who fan and highly emotional follower of the show since the 2005 reboot (and slightly before, but that’s for later).

Joining me on this wild, wonderful journey is GC social media maven and actual British person, Ethan <Last Name Redacted By Orders From The Division>!! How are you doing, Ethan?

Ethan: I’m doing great, thanks, Justin. Much happier after a LONG year to have the Doctor back in my life. Speaking of which, I’ve been watching the show much the same, since March 2005 and have been crying over it ever since, with a bit beforehand as well (but again, that’s for later).

JP: And we are here to pick through the whole of this new festive special. Honestly, now having slept on it and seen it at least twice for this opening column, I might even call it one of my favorite episodes of the Jodie/Chibnall era! I sincerely can’t wait for this. Talking Doctor Who with other fans is the kinda insanity I live for so I can’t wait to crack on.

ETHAN: I agree completely. I thought after finishing it for the first time it was the best of the current era, and having done a second viewing I think I can say definitively that it is, at least for me. And as our Twitter DM’s show, we can talk about this mad, wonderful show an awful lot.

Photograph: BBC Studios

JP: ENOUGH of the preambing! Let’s GET IN!

So we open roughly directly after last year’s Festive Special Resolution. Well, specifically we open 367 Minutes After the Doctor and the Fam’s defeat of the Reconnaissance Dalek.

Though the husk and screaming squid inside the Recon Dalek has been destroyed, private sector interests led by Chris Noth’s Jack Robertson are tipped off to its transport and promptly whisk it away for their own nefarious purposes.

It’s a very OOD opening but one that instantly engages I think. Not only do we have some juicy texture connecting it to the previous special (of which it is arguably a direct sequel to) but we get hefty check-ins with our incarcerated Doctor and the stranded Fam.

What about you, Ethan? How did this specifically silly but well laid out opening grab ya?

E: Much like the rest of the episode I loved it. Right from the off, with the parodic “A Long Time Ago” text, I knew we were in for something special. I especially enjoyed how we got to see what happens to the mess the Doctor leaves after they’ve saved the World. Granted, it doesn’t go well for this delivery driver, but it’s fun to know the government has a place for it all. (Maybe one we’ll see in the future *eyes emoji*)

And then after those glorious titles, we get right into what happened to the Dalek casing, and what exactly the delightfully awful Jack Robertson, who I will be referring to as Mr. Big from now on, has been up to.

Justin, your thoughts on this rather… politically resonant scene?

Photograph: BBC Studios

JP: Truly, truly loved it

We got little bits and bobs about how the Daleks were going to be appropriated as security drones and how they had been woven into the fabrics of British infrastructure (at least as much as Chibs allowed us to know).

But seeing the episode just fully leaning into this aspect almost IMMEDIATELY (heightened to a tremendous level of visual intensity by director Lee Haven Jones) was a real treat. Doubly so as it was scaffolded to tremendous character beats for the Fam and the still imprisoned Doctor, languishing in the Judoon prison counting cameras and reciting books to herself from memory.

So after this cold open, we are tossed roughly ten months to a year into the future. Ryan, Yaz, and Graham are trying to move on with their lives while Mr. Big is calling in deals with the newly installed Prime Minister Jo Patterson, once a lowly undersecretary who tipped off Mr. Big to the transport of the Dalek shell, starting her rise to 10 Downing Street.

It’s all kinda shoe leathery, I’ll admit, and the time skip isn’t handled as well as the opening, boldly credited vignettes but it’s filled with great character moments from the whole Fam, buffeted with more heartbreaking check-ins with the Doctor. 

The plot itself is very McCoy Era Dalek intrigue, veering dangerously close to Dalek-Hammer 40k as two factions of Daleks square off for control of the planet and the pleasure of killing the Doctor. To be totally honest, it got a LOT crazier than I was expecting it to for being away for so long but it’s all very much rooted in the character and Jodie’s Doctor (much to the episode’s strength).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We have to talk about The Doctor in prison. So while the Fam is Defending The Earth, the Doctor has spent what seems like years in the orbiting prison asteroid. Every day she is summoned from her sleep, given “exercise” through a yard filled with monster-iffic cameos, and then marched back to her cell in order to do it all again the next day.

My stance on Jodie is pretty well known at this point as I somehow conned a whole other website to let me scream about how much I love her and her take on the Time Lord but MAN ALIVE is this just a great sequence of acting from her. She’s selling every single inch of the pain of her confinement just in looks and slow, almost lumbering movements. Almost as if her inner light (forgive me the Care Bear terminology) has been stifled instantaneously with the separation from her Fam and TARDIS.

What did you think, Ethan? Am I projecting? Is it just because she’s been gone so long?

E: You are definitely NOT projecting. I too love Jodie a whole bunch. Everything in her prison scenes is incredible, having some of the most vulnerable moments we’ve seen not just from 13, but her previous incarnations as well.

One line specifically stood out to me in showing how even in this vulnerable state she still hasn’t lost that spark of goodness inside her, and her want to help. “Stay strong, people counting on you”. In an episode filled with great lines from the Doc, this one stood out to me as being an almost perfect distillation of the Doctor’s mission. A “never be cruel, never be cowardly” for a new decade, so to speak.

And then:

CAPTAIN JACK HARKNESS.

Photograph: BBC Studios

He’s back, ready to break the Doc out of prison with a plan involving some impossible gadget, a lot of running, and of course, his handy Vortex Manipulator smuggled who knows how. There’s not a moment lost between them. John Barrowman heaps the cheese factor of Jack on hard. And after his great, but all too brief encounter with the Fam last year, it’s great to have him meeting a new Doctor for the first time.

Once they escape with a time (and space) jump, they end up in the TARDIS with plans to get back with the Fam. Although there’s bound to be some timey-wimey mishaps going on there.

How did you feel about the good Captain being back in the fold?

JP: I am of two minds about Jack. 

On one hand, Barrowman has an instant cocksure charm with like…everybody. Something his appearance in Fugitive of the Judoon played up quite nicely, allowing him to be the foil for the Fam and not yet the Doctor. Chibnall even makes a few callbacks to the snap flash connections Jack made with Yaz, Graham, and Ryan while the Doc was getting her world shattered (not for the last time in that series, mind you).

That same instant chemistry extends to him and Jodie, which I’m very happy to see. Their madcap escape from the prison, inspired by speed runs of Super Monkey Ball apparently, is a wonderful button on the melancholically repetitive life we’ve seen the Doctor settle into.

There is also a truly wonderful scene between Jack and Yaz, en-route to investigate the Dalek infrastructure, wherein Jack provides a crash course in the emotional fallout of being a Companion. What that takes from you, what that gifts to you, and how it can all end at the blink of an eye. Barrowman and Gill play the moment beautifully, once again given a keen theatrical look by the close-up heavy direction of Jones. By now you’ve heard the line he drops here “You don’t get to choose when it’s over”, which is some Martha Jones erasure I can’t abide but the moment is strong throughout an episode filled with good moments.

At the same time…Barrowman is problematic, having engaged in some Intermediate Level Hacky Transphobia at some conventions, on top of just being a generally polarizing and slightly chippy character when it comes to his involvement within Doctor Who. It’s bittersweet I think for sure.

But also at the same time, I’m infamously NOT a Torchwood person so I might not be sitting in the cheap seats his inclusions are playing to.

WHAT ABOUT YOU, THOUGH?! I think you for sure have more contact with Jack and Torchwood than I do. To me, it’s like, HES fine in bursts and guest spots but I don’t want him recurring again.

(Especially with the incoming…new addition.)

E: Jack, and Barrowman, can be especially polarising (thank you for bringing that up, by the way). To specifically target how Jack can be a bit much, so to speak. I’d say he works better as a Doctor Who character than a Torchwood character. Outside of Series 3 and a few select episodes of earlier series’  I was never much of a Torchwood guy myself. Doctor Who should not be an adult, even if it’s a spin-off. Jack works far better when he’s being, to borrow a term from the great Mickey Smith, “Captain Cheesecake”. A goofy, innuendo-laden character.

And you mentioned you don’t necessarily want him recurring, and I agree, but based on how the episode ends I can see the production team, and Chibnall especially, with his history working on Torchwood, bringing Jack into a Brigadier-type role. A recurring ally to help the Doctor when they’re on present-day Earth. Which the episode establishes Jack will be sticking around for a while as he mentions catching up with Gwen Cooper, a Torchwood alumnus.

Jumping tracks, I want to talk about the Fam. Firstly, Yaz. Now I can shout about this in a public forum, Yaz is CLEARLY in love with the Doctor. Everything she does during those 10 months without her is trying to find a way to reunite. That’s not something any old friend would do. Now granted, there is nothing set in stone regarding this, but it’s hard not to look at it in this way. Hopefully next series we’ll see some further development regarding their connection.

*breathes* Sorry about that. Just needed to get that off my chest. How did you find the Fam in this episode?

Photograph: BBC Studios

JP: Aw, god I would truly love for Jack to become the new Brigadier. I also think that’s a wonderful bit of comparative language. He absolutely works better on Who because Who takes advantage of Barrowman’s natural theatricality and genuine sincerity when saying shit like “Dalek Clone Farm” and “Warpstar”.

BUT ALSO, a very strong Fam episode too! For all the monster-based hijinks of the prison sequence and the regular check-ins on the dawn of these new Drone Daleks, the Fam is very much front and centre throughout Chibnall’s script. This is a relief if I am being honest because I was genuinely convinced someone was going to die, prompting one of the other companions to leave in grief.

But that didn’t make what we got any less heartbreaking, despite Chibnall’s wonderful explanation of the exiting companions’ reasons for doing so. I will also agree that Yaz and the Doctor’s exchanges throughout the episode are…rather charged. There is an intensity not only to the way Yaz is reacting to the returned Doctor but a real yearning behind the eyes of Gill in this episode that I hope she gets a chance to turn into the further text of the show. I normally don’t love much when the Doctor has romantic relationship’s with the companions (because ya know…ew) but I would really love if maybe this leads to Yaz confronting some stuff about her own feelings toward women in general, joining her alongside Tegan and Nyssa as the latest Friends of Ace within DW.

I also really enjoy that the script doesn’t let the Doctor instantly off the hook for the huge gap in time in which the Fam thought she might have been dead (Ryan going as far as to just ASSUME she is, in some wonderful bits of pragmatism showing through in this story). Instead, they make her confront it with each of them in one-on-one scenes. My only complaint with this is that I wish she could have gotten a bit more face time with Graham, but the other scenes are so strong, it doesn’t really hamper my enjoyment of the whole thing. 

As the Doctor, Jack, and the Fam regroup into the TARDIS, the episode then starts to take on a pretty breathless pace. You see, apparently Curtis from Misfits, who has been working for Mr.Big cloned a naked Dalek from DNA strands left inside the husk the Recon Dalek. Naturally, this leads to the Recon Dalek immediately jabbing a tendril into his brain and making him work to allow the Recon Dalek a foothold in the galaxy from which to conquer with this new off-shoot Dalek variants (introduced to the world in a fawning live address from the new Prime Minister. Harriet Jones, eat your heart out).

It is full tilt Ben Aaronovitch madness and it really starts to sing here. Obviously, people’s mileages are going to vary as to if they find the Daleks intimidating or not, but the episode really works hard to sell the threat of them, offering imposing vistas of Daleks choking the skies around Bristol with the TARDIS keeping watch after landing on top of the iconic Suspension Bridge.

But it isn’t just all smashy-smashy pew-pew stuff (though there is plenty of that too). There is even a hefty amount of piss-taking surrounding the American obsession with power and freedom, the security state, drone policing, and the nature of hate. The latter was given a truly imposing brass personification in the return of the 2005-2006 Dalek designs. All gleaming brass and booming Briggsian voice modulations. I have to admit, I audibly SCREAMED seeing the, I guess “modern classic” designed Daleks? They are certainly the Daleks that I personally feel the most connection to (even though I am quite fond of the New Paradigm “Power Rangers” Daleks DO NOT @ ME).

So even with all this amazing character stuff and wonderful acting moments, we get like…a Dalek-on-Dalek war with some social commentary to boot. Kinda the best-case scenario, really. I saw someone say that they wished the episode was “meaner”, but…this is also an episode where the Recon Dalek is gunned down after appealing rationally for their life having “given their life to the Dalek cause”.

What did you think of this Dalek court drama that unfolded within the oversized runtime, Ethan?

E: Oh I ate it up. A Dalek Civil War is, as you mentioned, a very specific Aaronovitch-ian type story, drawing a lot from his work on the classic episode Remembrance of the Daleks, which also happened to have some up-front politicking to say.

And then we get THE moment. The Nu-Daleks have been defeated, leaving the Doctor with a Dalek Death Squad to face down. So what does she do? She does what any good hero does. Pulls a Luke Skywalker. Fools the Daleks into a spare TARDIS that was lying around (it’s a long story), making it seem she’s there, before revealing she was (force) projecting herself via hologram from the One and Only TARDIS. And in turn sets the spare to self-destruct, vanquishing the threat.

Touching back on what you said about Ryan and Graham’s departure, I’m in full agreement that it was a genuinely touching scene, allowing them to go out on their own terms. Ryan’s chat with the Doctor earlier on was nothing short of brilliant, and a great way of teeing up that he had moved on from adventures in time and space. Graham, while I too wish he’d had a bit more prominence in the episode itself, is the member of the Fam who has had the most character development during the previous two series. And so letting the episode focus more on Ryan and Yaz was a smart choice on Chibnell’s end.

Besides, Graham gets the best, most emotional line of the episode as he and Ryan leave, a couple of Psychic Papers in hand, off to defend the Earth:

“We do get aliens in Sheffield”.

A brilliant call back to his first appearance and a fitting send-off. I’m getting a bit emotional, so Justin, any final thoughts?

Photograph: BBC Studios

JP: I MEAN, only to also say that I was just wracking sobs throughout the last twenty minutes of this thing too. But you nailed it, they absolutely go out on their own terms. And moreover, it feels genuinely earned in a way that I don’t think a lot of modern companions got a chance to leave with. Most of the time it just felt like a story thing, in which they HAD to leave either to get some new job or to lead their own show somewhere.

But I feel really great about where we leave Ryan and Graham, as well as where we leave the Doctor and Yaz, both still standing in the box that can give them infinity and still know that “it’s okay to feel sad”. I, uh, might have needed to hear that during a year that constantly made me a level of sadness that I didn’t even know was possible.

But all told honestly, I think Revolution of the Daleks is going to be an episode that just appreciates the further away we get from 2020. Not only is it a tremendous follow-up episode to the series that preceded it, but an episode that encapsulates everything fun and highly emotional about Doctor Who in one slickly produced, tremendously acted package.

I couldn’t have asked for a better episode to start out this column with. We need a name now. And suggestions on where we should go next. We have talked about books. We have talked about audios. There is a whole ass Dalek cartoon on YouTube we could do. The world is our…space oyster, I dunno. You tell us.

Until then, be seeing you.

SONIC PULSES (or whatever else we want to call this).

-We touched on it a bit, but we get mentions of Gwen Cooper and her son here which is really fun. 

-Mr. Big’s constant shittiness and capitalist biases provide the episode some really funny lines from him (which Noth delivers the hell out of). We hope he pops back up just to get annoyed at the fact that he’s popped back up in another episode.

-Another Highlight Line: “Are you feeling insecure, because you seem to need a lot of praise…” “I DO?!”.

-Ethan has read/listened to most all the Time Lord Victorious content and keeps shaming Justin about it. It is decidedly NOT (it is) COOL.

-We also mentioned the “spare TARDIS”. This being the TARDIS of the Jo Martin Doctor (or Fugitive Doctor which also sounds tres badass) which also served as Yaz’s makeshift HQ post-The Timeless Children. Guessing she’s gonna be a touch mad to know her ride got crunched and sent to the heart of no-space. 

-If you desire more Dalek goodness and intrigue, the Big Finish website is running a sale on a TON of Dalek-centred productions until the 8th. 

-Highlights include the just-released first volume of Out Of Time, which finds the Fourth and Tenth Doctors squaring off against the pepper pots in a church that exists outside of reality, The Time Lord Victorious Dalek Time Squad Trilogy, and finally, the Sixth Doctor adventure Order of the Daleks, which features a freaking STAINED GLASS DALEK. *EN-JOOOOOY!!!*