Menu

Welcome to Episode 196…

The News

The BBC and EscapeHunt.com have teamed up to offer a Who-themed Escape Room starting later this year and get into all the Who details from last weekend’s San Diego Comic Con.

Merch Corner

DWM subscribers are going to get text-less covers from now on, the first 13th Doctor book to accompany the new series is out in Sep, the War Master is back at Big Finish and there’s a new Sonic Screwdriver in town.

“Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?” Review

A little bit of back story for our super-detective Sarah Jane this week accompanied by a very shady alien. Does our journey through the SJA happily continue or are we tricked into a dud?

Thank you for joining us for 196. Next week it’s classic Who and the Fifth Doctor is back for Snakedance. Have a super week and until next time – Allons-y!

Previously in Part One, I took a closer look at the Regenerations of the first four Doctors. This time, I’ll be tackling those of the 1980s Doctors…

Peter Davison - 'The Caves of Androzani' (1984)
Peter Davison – ‘The Caves of Androzani’ (1984)

Now we come to what I believe to be the best regeneration, and indeed the best regeneration story. ‘The Caves of Androzani’ gives Peter Davison the best send-off any Doctor has ever had. I’ve always felt this story is like an epilogue to the Fifth Doctor era; ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ is, for me at least, the big finale. The scenes with Davros, in particular, speak volumes of this incarnation’s character, and the departure of long-running companion Tegan makes it feel like an ending. What Caves gives us is one last hurrah for this Doctor and a conclusion to his character arc.

“Curiosity’s always been my downfall”

This incarnation was far more vulnerable than any who had come before him. His biggest flaw was his curiosity; one of his ‘defining characteristics’. This frequently got him into trouble and in one story, it led to an adventure with some Cybermen. We all know how that ended. It may not be visible on the surface, but the death of Adric haunts the Fifth Doctor until his end. It does become apparent, however, when he says goodbye to his other companions. He is clearly devastated when Nyssa chooses to stay on Terminus. He is devastated again when Tegan can no longer stand to travel with him due to just how many deaths she has witnessed, and he is reluctantly forced to kill Kamelion. In a way he failed to save all of his companions, barring Turlough. His final line, however, almost foreshadows the adventure the Doctor and Peri are about to find themselves on. The ending of ‘Planet of Fire’ very nicely sets up the final story, as the Doctor is clearly very reluctant to have another life in his hands.

“Look after him won’t you? He gets into the most terrible trouble”

Caves is a very different tale to most others. There aren’t innocent people that need liberating, there are no allies – the Doctor and Peri are caught between two warring sides and just need to leave. To put this very kind and vulnerable incarnation into this story is a great idea, and it’s very telling that at the end, he regenerates in a much brasher incarnation to perhaps cope better with these situations.  In classic Fifth Doctor fashion, it is his curiosity that gets them into this situation.

When Peri is on the verge of death, the Doctor is determined that this time he will save his companion. Suffering from Spectrox Toxaemia himself, he goes through a lot to find the cure and even fights off his regeneration at the end of part three to ensure he saves a girl who he doesn’t’ even know very well. A lot of Fifth Doctor stories saw many deaths that the Doctor was powerless to prevent. His desperation to save just one person really helps to emphasise that he is trying to redeem himself for his previous failures.

The final scenes where he’s carrying Peri to the TARDIS show him as a true hero, and by giving her the antidote (rather than taking it himself), he finally manages to overcome one of his major flaws – but at a price. This regeneration is my favourite. Seeing all of Davison’s companions is incredibly fitting, as well as the Master, who figured very prominently in this era. But it is the Doctor’s last dying word which perfectly brings his character to an end…

“Adric?”

Colin Baker - 'Time and the Rani' (1987)
Colin Baker – ‘Time and the Rani’ (1987)

The Sixth Doctor’s regeneration is perhaps more indicative of behind the scenes politics than of his character. This is quite a shame. Colin Baker’s vision for his Doctor was rather interesting, having him begin as arrogant and pompous but mellowing over the course of what should’ve been a lengthy stint in the role. A regeneration concluding this character arc could’ve been just as effective as Peter Davison’s. Instead, we get Sylvester McCoy in a wig. It’s quite a disappointment that the last time we see this most magnificent of incarnations is just a routine return to the TARDIS. His last words, however, are really rather amusing.

“Carrot juice, carrot juice, carrot juice…”

I don’t blame Colin Baker for declining to come back just to film the regeneration scene; the BBC had treated him horrendously. As such, there isn’t much to say other than the scene being absolutely hilarious. Colin Baker’s clothes are very baggy on the much smaller Sylvester McCoy, and the wig is quite obviously a wig. We aren’t even told how the Sixth Doctor meets his end. Does he fall off the exercise bike? Has he drunk too much carrot juice? Did Mel murder him?! This is something that should’ve really been answered. I do unashamedly love this scene though, if only for how ridiculous it is.

Thankfully, Colin has been able to play out the Sixth Doctor’s character as intended through the Big Finish audios. While he isn’t my favourite Doctor, I do rate Colin very highly and on audio, he is definitely the strongest. Big Finish has actually explored his regeneration too. I have yet to hear ‘The Last Adventure’, but I can be sure it’s much more fitting than what we got in 1987.

Sylvester McCoy - 'Doctor Who' (1996)
Sylvester McCoy – ‘Doctor Who’ (1996)

Now for a long time, I wasn’t keen on the Seventh Doctor’s Regeneration at all. This was the Doctor who tricked the Daleks and destroyed Skaro; this was the Doctor who defeated Fenric; this was the Doctor, who was far more than just another Time Lord. To see him so simply gunned down, and killed on the operating table always bothered me.

However, it has really grown on me recently. It gives us an instance of the Doctor dying in a very realistic and quite disturbing way, which is something quite different when compared to radiation poisoning or death by Spectrox Toxaemia. The main reason I’ve come round to it though is that it is very ironic – in a tragic sort of way. The Seventh Doctor was arguably the most powerful Doctor up to this point, and certainly the most devious. I almost feel like such a brutal and unfitting death is his comeuppance for the manner in which he defeated the Daleks in particular, as well as how he manipulated Ace. This incarnation was known to plan his victories before he’d even arrived, so an unexpected death works quite well.

Even though I would’ve preferred McCoy’s exit to have been handled by the likes of Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch, the one we got isn’t without merit after all.

So in conclusion, the Classic Regenerations really are a lot stronger than a lot of people give them credit for. In a lot of ways, they would go on to inspire the regenerations of the Russell T Davies era in particular. The Ninth Doctor finally finding peace could be compared to the Fifth Doctor’s death. The context surrounding the Tenth Doctor’s death meanwhile clearly borrows from those of the Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors. I’m not a huge fan of that final story, but I do think it used those elements very well.

The regenerations of the Moffat era were I less effective, and I think that’s mainly down to how much regeneration was used throughout that era. The way to solve this would be to use a different effect each time like in the Classic era. The circumstances weren’t as strong either. Grand speeches are all very well, but a good regeneration story should speak volumes about the outgoing Doctor’s character throughout. In this respect, the Eleventh Doctor really did need another year to wrap up his era’s story and the Twelfth Doctor should’ve gone during ‘The Doctor Falls’. Behind the scenes circumstances obviously stopped these things from happening, but I really do hope that the regenerations of the Chibnall era are as strong as those from long ago.

There was a lot to take away from the World Cup trailer; dippy egg for Ryan, pizza for Yaz and a chippy tea for Graham. We saw little of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, appearing right at the end having flitted through the lives of her friends, stealing chips, replacing pizzas and swapping the Sheffield Advertiser for the Beano. The Doctor’s sense of fun and mischief is clearly present in the action whilst the sense of wonder is there to see in Whittaker’s face as the trailer closes. This is not, however, an article which pores over fifty seconds of a specially-shot teaser in forensic detail. Not for us the “perhaps it’s a reactionary tabloid?” approach.

Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor in the World Cup Teaser

The timing of the trailer was quite interesting, however, introducing the Doctor’s new friends almost exactly twelve months since Whittaker’s casting was announced. With filming almost completed on the series and a year’s gap between the introduction of the Doctor and that of her new pals it’s tempting to feel as hungry for new information as poor Yaz was when her mates ate all the pizza. Personally, it’s refreshing to know so little going into a new series of Doctor Who, all we’ve been promised so far is “…a new Doctor, all-new characters, all-new monsters, all-new stories”, which is all rather tantalising. The Comic-Con panel emphasised this with both Chris Chibnall confirming there would be no Daleks this year and a trailer that emphasised the new friendships, times and worlds to be visited. The new sonic screwdriver and some gloriously colourful promotional images added to the excitement around the upcoming series whilst still playing its cards very close to its chest.

Promotional artwork for Series 11 from this year’s Comic Con

If all of that isn’t enough for you, and let’s face it you’re a Doctor Who fan, of course, it isn’t, then you could do a lot worse than watch the 2016 film Adult Life Skills which is a handy primer for how Jodie Whittaker may play the Doctor.

Whittaker plays Anna, a woman approaching 30 who is stuck in arrested development. She makes endearingly silly videos in her mother’s shed, a hobby she has shared with her brother since childhood. The reappearance of an old school friend and a bond with a troubled neighbour opens Anna’s insular world and offers her a way out of her self-imposed exile. This is a coming-of-age tale for the 20-30 something demographic, stuck in low-income jobs and still living at home with their parents.

Jodie Whittaker as Anna in “Adult Life Skills” (2016)

The film is written and directed by Rachel Deering, who won the Nora Ephron Prize at the Tribeca film festival in 2016. The award is designed to give exposure to female writer/directors, something for which Whittaker, also an executive producer on the film, is an emphatic supporter. “It’s celebrating voices being heard and [Ephron’s] voice was heard so many years ago. But then that’s so f***ing depressing, why is it still so minimal?” Deering also plays Anna’s friend Fiona and has been friends with Whittaker since they were 3 years old, which lends a real authenticity and chemistry to their scenes together and is a strong part of the film’s charm.

Alongside Doctor Who’s own step forward for gender equality, there are a couple of key factors to the film and the central performance that are pertinent to the role of the Doctor.

Peter Capaldi recently said that Doctor Who is a show about death “…it has a very, very powerful death motif in it which is that the central character dies. I think that is one of its most potent mysteries because somewhere in that people see that that’s what happens in life. You have loved ones and then they go, but you must carry on.” Without giving too much away, Adult Life Skills is also about death, a film that has what Stylist magazine called “a unique premise: a comedy about grief”. Jodie Whittaker absolutely nails this fine line between quirk, comedy and pathos which presents us with the fully rounded character of Anna and which will surely guarantee us a brilliant 13th Doctor. Indeed, Anna’s shed is like a TARDIS, offering her the ability to escape the drudgery of her day job and constant arguments with her mother through these transportive videos which see her two thumbs bickering their way through space.

Another important factor is the actor’s ability to charm a generation of children. You could see it in the way that William Hartnell visited village fetes and hospitals, the way Tom Baker was adored, or how Peter Capaldi surprised a group of kids visiting the Doctor Who Experience.

The tender, tentative friendship between Anna and cowboy obsessed Clint (played brilliantly by Ozzy Myers) is the film’s true emotional heart and calls to mind some of the strongest moments of Matt Smith’s era, where the Eleventh Doctor would provide solace or encouragement to troubled or endangered children.

Adult Life Skills is an offbeat, incredibly likeable film which ably balances moments of great sadness with great humour, a British story about loss and renewal. Which isn’t that bad a description of Doctor Who either. October will be here in no time and this show we have loved for so long is about to renew itself once more in some very safe hands indeed.

This month sees the finale in a loose trilogy of Sixth Doctor adventures. Companion-less, the Sixth Doctor has been through a lot, there was the betrayal of a friend in The Lure of the Nomad, fought off a dimensional war in Iron Bright and Hour of the Cybermen sees him come up against a lot worse than just those titular metal-meanies.

The Doctor arrives in London to find it deserted, rivers and streams have run dry and the whole country is in a strange drought. Answering a call from UNIT for aid, the Doctor soon discovers a signal coming from space and he finds a crew of desiccated corpses. But this is only the beginning, an old enemy of the Time Lord’s is waiting in the wings, the Cybermen have waited for this day for years, at last they will conquer Earth. Now and forever…

The Cover for Hour of the Cybermen
The Cover for Hour of the Cybermen

Following on from The Helliax Rift, there had been a shake-up in the UNIT family. Gone were the cosy little unit of the Brig, Yates, Benton, Bell & Osgood, among others and in had stepped a more fearsome crew, something akin to the gang around Bambara in Battlefield. This time it was Colonel Lewis Price, Medical Officer Daniel Hopkins and incoming Captain Weaver. They were more ruthless in getting things done, with the Doctor gone, they had to combat many alien threats without him. The Helliax Rift ended with the Fifth Doctor aghast at what UNIT had become. His substitute companion for that story was Hopkins, played by Blake Harrison. But a lot has happened to Hopkins between that story and this.

I won’t mention what has happened to Hopkins but it does influence his actions and beliefs in this story. It also ties into the Cybermen’s plans for humanity. UNIT  faced the Cybermen once in the Classic Series on television in The Invasion but those were very different Cybermen.

The Eighties saw a big change in the Doctor Who universe, The Daleks were only seen three times, the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors were completely different to any of the incarnations that came before them and the universe got very dangerous with the deaths of companions, Adric and Peri.

Of course, the Cybermen made their Earthshattering return in Earthshock which saw Adric die trying to stop a ship crashing into Earth. The Cybermen had undergone quite a radical change too, their costumes were changed, their faces had see-through chins, allowing the audience to see what was left of the human underneath and they took their orders from the Cyber-Leader and Lieutenant, played by David Banks and Mark Hardy.

It is these Eighties Cybermen who feature as the villains of Hour of the Cybermen, this time not voiced by Nicholas Briggs but their original actors. And it is really wonderful. They don’t sound exactly like they did, the new ring-modifier probably saw to that, but they are unmistakable as the same characters. The funny thing about this pair was always whether the Leader was as unemotional as his minions as he took perverse pleasure in making Tegan watch as the freighter hurtled towards prehistoric Earth to destroy it.

That question comes into play once more as David Banks returns, this time with a slightly more sadistic Leader, especially in a scene between him and Russ Bain as Price. Their plans are equally as sadistic which sees them removing the water from the human body as a way of forcing humanity into submitting to their conversion. These are definitely the gloriously violent Cybermen from Earthshock, Attack of the Cybermen and Silver Nemesis.

Blake Harrison puts in a tremendous performance as Daniel Hopkins once more and it goes to show what a terrific actor he is. Never having seen The Inbetweeners, I had no idea who he was before The Helliax Rift but he was so great in that, that I couldn’t wait for his return in a few months time. It will be interesting to see where the continuation of his character goes too when he hopefully returns in November’s – Warlock’s Cross.

Colin Baker has been companion-less for the last three audio adventures and it has really allowed people to see how great his Doctor really is. Big Finish has worked its magic so well with the Sixth Doctor allowing the BBC and the audience to see the full potential of the Sixth Incarnation. Colin Baker is superb, as always and it is wonderful to hear him come up against the proper Eighties Cybermen again.

The guest cast is on fine form too, particularly Frog Stone as Riva and Wayne Forrester who plays the dual role of Atriss and Captain Weaver. Both actors are tremendous, Weaver feeling a little more like the Brigadier of old which was quite nice to hear. Riva would have made an excellent companion for the Sixth Doctor, hopefully, this isn’t her only performance.

The script from Andrew Smith is excellent too. He seems to really shine when he brings back old adversaries like the Sontarans, Marshmen, Voord, Voc Robots, Movellans & Daleks. Now he gets a turn at the Cybermen and they are equally, if not better, as good as they were on television. Hour of the Cybermen is perhaps the metal-giants at their most sadistic and cruel and Smith realises that beautifully as well as continuing the UNIT story, especially that surrounding Daniel. This is another triumph for Smith. Hopefully, there is more from him in the near future.

Everything about Hour of the Cybermen allows the story to stand tall and proud, I would definitely rank it as one of the best Cybermen stories told by Big Finish. It is delightful to hear David Banks and Mark Hardy return and this had better not be the last we hear from them either. Jamie Anderson’s direction is top-notch, he has quickly become one of Big Finish’s best directors and he gets the best he possibly can out of his actors and script, long may he continue too.

Hour of the Cybermen wraps up a successful trilogy for the Sixth Doctor and it will be nice to hear more solo Six later on down the line. I’ve never been a fan of solo Doctor adventures but this trilogy may have just changed my mind, so well done Big Finish! And I love the new covers with the brand new logo on! Just look at the Big Finish page for some of the upcoming releases, they are stunning.

Well done to everyone involved. In fact, one might say, EXCELLENT – (in booming Cyber-Leader voice)!

Synopsis

Answering a call from UNIT, the Doctor arrives in London to find the streets deserted, apart from looters in possession of a valuable commodity – water.

Britain is suffering an extreme and bizarre drought. The cause is suspected to be extra-terrestrial.

The discovery of a signal being transmitted into space, and of a spacecraft whose crew are desiccated corpses, provides a possible answer. But the true enemy is an old foe of the Doctor’s.

The Cybermen have been patient, setting their plans in place over a number of years. As the final stage is implemented, in the darkest hour, the Doctor must identify who among his allies he can trust.

Written By: Andrew Smith
Directed By: Jamie Anderson

Cast

Colin Baker (The Doctor), David Banks (Cyber Leader), Mark Hardy (Cyber Lieutenant), Frog Stone (Riva), Blake Harrison (Daniel Hopkins), Wayne Forester (Atriss / Bill Parker / Captain Weaver), Russ Bain (Lewis Price / Kel). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer: John Ainsworth
Script Editor: Alan Barnes
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Welcome to Episode 195…

The News

Plenty to cover from the last two weeks including… a confirmed Christmas Special(?), New Zealand channel nabs the broadcast rights for series 11 and we discuss the recently released teaser.

Merch Corner

A new 50th Anniversary book for Lethbridge-Stewart, plenty of 13th Doctor figures inbound from SDCC and those re-released DVD boxsets from the US.

“The Satan Pit” Review

Possessed Ood, big caverns and Alien-esque air vents make up this story for our review conclusion to this 10th Doctor two-parter. We up for this or do we wish the black hole would swallow us up?

Thank you for joining us for 195. Next week we jump back to the SJA with What Ever Happened to Sarah Jane? Have a super week and until next time – Allons-y!

For something that was designed to restore a bit of mystery to the character of the Doctor ahead of the show’s regeneration in 2005, the Time War is at risk of losing its own mystique. As an ever-expanding range of wartime audio spin-offs is released by Big Finish, Mark Donaldson reviews the most recent, Time War 2 and ponders how much narrative scope a multi-dimensional war outside of normal space-time actually provides.

Slipcase artwork for "The Time War 2"
Slipcase artwork for “The Time War 2”

“I’m not part of the war, never was” the Doctor tells Cass as her gunship hurtles towards Karn in The Night of the Doctor. Later, as Ohila tries to convince him to regenerate and bring an end to the Time War, he admits “I help out where I can”. Two slightly contradictory statements, but as Steven Moffat has told us before, the Doctor always lies. Whatever the truth, these statements are sure to provide Big Finish with plenty of fuel for Time War boxed sets in the years to come.

In The Time War 1, the Doctor found himself attempting to rescue a group of refugees from a stricken starliner, stumbling into the battlefronts as he escorted them to safety, being conscripted into the war and assisting a loving husband and wife who harbour a universe-shattering secret. The Time War 2, available now, offers a similar structure, giving us the Doctor and companion Bliss, directly and indirectly, involved with the events of an ever-present conflict.

The following review contains some spoilers, it’s mostly things already on the artwork or mentioned on Big Finish’s Twitter account but do be warned. There’s a spoiler free summary right at the bottom of the page.

"The Lords of Terror" cover artwork
“The Lords of Terror” cover artwork

The opening story is Jonathan Morris’ Lords of Terror, which takes the Doctor and Bliss to Capital City, Derelovia. Capital City is Bliss’ hometown, but things have changed since her last visit, the populace lives in fear of the Daleks and the house she grew up in no longer exists. What begins as a fairly standard Dalek plotline soon becomes something much more interesting, a story about the oppressive power of fear, the lies that are told to both sides of a war and how they can be used for subjugation and a strategic advantage.

It’s also the only(?) Doctor Who story that bases a key plot point around how smelly a Dalek is. Meanwhile, the developing plotline about Bliss and her constantly changing personal history looks to be a key part of future boxed sets. These Time War ripples also handily explain why the Eighth Doctor forgets to mention Bliss (and Liv, and Helen) at the moment of his regeneration. As interesting as many of the themes Morris sets up in his script, the story eventually sacrifices them to do its Doctor Who thing. It ends with battles and explosions, which livens up your daily commute but provides an abrupt climax to an intelligent and compelling morality play which could have benefitted from an extra 50 minutes.

Taking a respite from the previous instalment’s events, the Doctor and Bliss are sitting by a pond when they’re approached by a kindly old woman with an intriguing mystery. This is the new incarnation of Big Finish villain The Eleven, now The Twelve, played brilliantly by Julia McKenzie and beautifully described by the Doctor as “The Dirty Dozen in stately tweed and shawl”.

"Planet of the Ogrons" cover artwork
“Planet of the Ogrons” cover artwork

The intriguing mystery at the heart of Guy Adams’ Planet of the Ogrons is one of the best pre-titles sequences in all of Doctor Who. The TARDIS materialises in the Gallifreyan Capitol and out steps an Ogron who believes he’s the Doctor. The Ogron “Doctor” is played by impressionist Jon Culshaw, tremendous at aping some of the Doctor’s most familiar lines. The relationship between Doctor Ogron and the Doctor himself is reminiscent of the badinage and bickering expected in multi-Doctor stories as well as the initial dismissiveness of The Doctor’s Daughter. The mystery takes them, Bliss and The Twelve to the Ogron homeworld, where they come up against “The Overseer”.

This Dalek geneticist is an odd creation, played by, who else? Nicholas Briggs. Whilst Briggs’ performance is idiosyncratic and individual enough to convey something the Daleks themselves mistrust, it is tempting to ponder what might have been achieved if the role had been given to a different actor. The score and the script suggest to us that it should be a shock that the Overseer is a Dalek but the sound design and, admittedly less obvious, ring modulation immediately indicate its origins to the listener.

Planet of the Ogrons could have been a hugely enjoyable “body swap” adventure which explores themes of heroism and the dark sides of genetic engineering. For the most part, the story is that, but the need to both involve the Daleks and position our heroes for the next story necessitates a rushed conclusion which short-changes the best aspect of the story, Doctor Ogron.

"In the Garden of Death" cover artwork
“In the Garden of Death” cover artwork

The Daleks continue to undermine the following story, In the Garden of Death, another Guy Adams script, set on a prison colony where the prisoners can’t remember who they are or what they’ve done. It’s an intriguing sci-fi premise which explores the connection between freedom and identity and calls to mind certain aspects of the seminal Heaven Sent. Whilst the identity of the inmates might be a mystery, the identity of their jailers is never in doubt. There’s always something unsatisfying about being ahead of the Doctor, waiting for him to catch up with you.

And yet the scenes where the Doctor, Bliss and The Twelve use what they do know to logically work out why they’re imprisoned are entertaining and there’s something refreshing about the Doctor having forgotten what a Dalek is. Aside from that, this is the weakest story in the set, and only really functions to get the Doctor, Bliss and the Twelve onboard a submarine.

“Jonah” cover artwork

Which brings us to the highlight of the set, Jonah by Timothy X Atack, a story which calls to mind Moby Dick, Watchmen, The Call of Cthulhu and Paul the Psychic Octopus from the 2010 World Cup. Deep underwater, in an ocean which makes both time travel and the use of blaster weapons impossible, the Daleks and the Timelords are in search of something hidden in the depths. The Twelve knows what it is, but following her imprisonment by the Daleks, no longer has control over her past selves’ voices in her head rendering her a danger to herself and others.

Much like the other stories in the set, Atack’s script has a strong sci-fi concept at its core. Unlike the other stories, it makes imaginative use of the Daleks. The Dalek depth charges are an eerie proposition, whilst their approach to “silent running” manages to both elicit a wry, meta-textual smirk and make complete sense. The added ten minutes to the runtime allows the story to breathe too and gives us some wonderfully Doctorish scenes such as his moving speech about a fallen crewmate. The climax of the story, where the Doctor quickly works out the meaning of an ominous message in order to save the life of the Twelve is a strong Doctor Who moment which demonstrates what these Time War audios are capable of achieving.

In moments like this, when The Time War 2 is strongest, it feels like a bold reimagining for the show which would have sat comfortably alongside Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on BBC2 in the late 1990s. Much like the Dominion War in the Star Trek universe, the Time War offers writers the possibility to extrapolate the essence of Doctor Who to the theatre of battle. How would that character act within a wartime setting? For how long would he be able to resist becoming cruel or cowardly? That’s the internal conflict that will plague the 8th Doctor until he dies alongside young Cass in a crater on Karn. It’s that struggle, and the mystery around the terrific Bliss and her constantly shifting personal history that will see us through the next two boxed sets in this series. There’s no point in arguing the point that the most exciting thing about the Time War was the images conjured in our imaginations, rather than experiencing it first hand when we have, at least, eight more stories confirmed.

Future boxed sets might want to rethink how much they involve the Daleks. Barry Letts once lamented that every story in Jon Pertwee’s second series had the Master as the main villain. At least Roger Delgado was a charismatic presence. The Daleks can often be incredibly one-note, especially in what is the seventh boxed set to take place during the Time War. As capable as Nicholas Briggs is of providing subtle shifts and interpretations of new Dalek characters they still feel quite limited as antagonists when they appear in every story.

The Time War 8th Doctor made his first Big Finish appearance in The Diary of River Song episode The Rulers of the Universe, where he stated that he was assisting on the fringes of the Time War, mopping up the mess left by the Daleks and the Timelords. Focusing on this period would really liven up future boxed sets, reinstating the freedom that the Doctor Who format allows whilst still being able to play in the Time War sandbox.

Spoiler Free Summary: Brimming with ideas, shame about the Daleks!

The Time War 2

£23 CD

£20 Download

Available here

Written By: Jonathan Morris, Guy Adams, Timothy X Atack
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Paul McGann (The Doctor), Rakhee Thakrar (Bliss), Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks), Jacqueline Pearce (Cardinal Ollistra), Julia McKenzie (The Twelve), Nikki Amuka-Bird (Tamasan), Amanda Root (Lendek), Rakie Ayola (Pollia / Lambda Epsilon), Guy Adams (Rendo), Simon Slater (Carvil / Shaler), Jon Culshaw (Doctor Ogron), Victor McGuire (Borton), Anya Chalotra (Ensign Murti), Tania Rodrigues (Chief Panath), Surinder Duhra (Executive Officer Omor). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Being a Doctor Who fan the last few months has felt a rollercoaster of anticipation. We went through a few weeks after Peter Capaldi’s last episode with what seemed a purposeful ploy to keep any production news under wraps by the new-fangled Chibbers production team at the helm in Cardiff. We had to amuse ourselves somehow. It was a veritable drought of news that had the drumming of fingers on tables and desks playing in a steady beat.

And then with their announcements Twitch and the BBC deluged us with choice and content. They couldn’t wait to share their goodies of classic and new Who! All the unexpected twists and turns of the last few weeks have given us gains but we have also lost…

Twitch tremors

I don’t know whether you are a World Cup football fan who was on tenterhooks watching the Columbia versus England game. I certainly was and 23. 6 million tuned in with me for the penalty shootout no doubt watching between their fingers. The event brought a countrywide collective of people together experiencing the same event at the same time. An amazing moment, a national drawing of breath. There have been moments with Twitch showing Doctor Who which have felt smaller but captured a moment. When I first heard about Twitch devoting seven weeks to streaming Doctor Who stories from the original 1963-1989 run of the show I did wonder what kind of crazy idea was this? Who tunes into a video platform for gamers to watch an old black and white television show?

The result has been such a pleasant surprise. Seeing catchphrases such as “London, 1965!”, referring to the 1st Doctor clips repeated between episodes during the first few days exploding on social media felt fresh and exciting because it meant a whole new ( young) audience was enjoying themselves discovering some of the Who gems of the 1960’s.   The statistics show a maximum of 22,462 people tuning in at any one time for Doctor Who over the last 90 days and what I love is that there is something very connecting about the process. I found myself watching Twitch against my own expectations and becoming addicted to reading some of the very funny real-time comments. The audience comments feel quite young, raw, uncensored and their interest is heartening. There’s a lot of love and its brilliant!

Twitch TV
Twitch TV

Missing Episodes with private collectors

I was very intrigued recently when Doctor Who archivist Paul Vanezis revealed that he was aware of the existence of two missing Doctor Who episodes held by private film collectors. Over the years I have read the rumours of private film collectors holding missing episodes but to have confirmation that there is ‘absolutely no question’ they do is amazing welcome news. It seems though that we will have to wait to view anything as these aren’t ‘the kind of people that you should be pressured to hand things over.” according to Mr Vanezis. Who are these people I wonder? Are they Mafiosi. Set up a meeting and you get assassinated. Surely anonymity can be a given if they don’t wish to reveal their identity.

Paul Vanezis sees it as they offer a service “There’s been a lot of criticism of film collectors by people who should really know better. Without them, these things would have been lost or destroyed years and years ago and the fact that they have survived and survived in good condition is because people have cared for them. We might not like it because we can’t see them but it’s not really for us to criticise them for preserving this material. One day we will get to see them.”

Tapes are in private hands
Missing episode tapes confirmed in private hands

I don’t really understand it if I’m honest why they wouldn’t want to share the find. If they brought the original film then it still belongs to them I assume. It’s a bit like the art collectors who spend millions of pounds on an original painting only to hide it away in a private collection. My point is it could be years before we see anything. Perhaps there’s something Gollum like in the pleasure of holding something “precious” and knowing you are the only person to be able to see it. What a shame to deny others the opportunity to view it. It’s a televisual piece of history deserving of being in the public domain.

I was sad to hear of two recent deaths ….

Helen Griffin 1958- 2018

Helen Griffin the actress and playwright died at the age of 59 which is no age now. She played Angela Price, known as Mrs Moore, in the 2006 stories ‘Rise of the Cybermen’ and ‘The Age of Steel’.

Welsh actress Helen Griffin who played the stand out role in Doctor Who’s transdimensional resurrection of the Cybermen has died aged 59. She was Mrs Moore, the tech orientated resistance fighter in the 2006 two-parter.
Welsh actress Helen Griffin who died aged 59. She was Mrs Moore, the tech-orientated resistance fighter in the 2006 two-parter.

There was something so distinctive and loveable about that little group of rebels, Mickey, Ricky, Jake and Mrs Moore all fighting Cybus industries and I love that Mrs Moore kept her ordinariness and her accent. Her character’s death was so sudden and sad. You really felt the Doctor’s sadness at her loss.

Helen is probably best known for playing the masseuse Lynette in the Welsh cult classic Twin Town, a 1997 British dark crime comedy-drama film filmed and set in Swansea. She also adapted her own play Flesh and Blood into a screenplay film Little White Lies winning a Welsh BAFTA for her performance.

Leslie Grantham 1947- 2018

He was most well-known for his role as ‘Dirty’ Den Watts in EastEnders and Leslie Grantham lived life as large as his most famous character. He was convicted of murder and served ten years in prison. What is interesting is that Louise Jameson    ( Leela), who was a prison visitor, met him and was one of the people who encouraged him to go into acting.

Leslie Grantham, ‘EastEnders’ Villain and Doctor Who actor

He played a small Doctor Who role as Kiston, a mechanical engineer, in ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ Davros took control of Kiston’s mind after he was summoned to make repairs to Davros’s chair and he was eventually killed by the Supreme Daleks.

What has been your favourite moment of the Twitch summer so far ? Post your thoughts on here or on Twitter. Let’s talk!

We Doctor Who fans love to rank things. Be it Doctors, Companions, Stories or Console Rooms we all have our favourites and least favourites. Another aspect of Doctor Who that is frequently ranked are the Doctor’s Regenerations. Many lists I’ve seen tend to focus on the obvious – the effects. In this respect, the Classic Regenerations are always going to appear more primitive. Personally, however, I’m less interested in how they look, and more interested in the context. So how well do they sum up each Doctor?

William Hartnell - 'The Tenth Planet' (1966)
William Hartnell – ‘The Tenth Planet’ (1966)

‘The Tenth Planet’ doesn’t really set the template for what was to come after. We don’t really get a sense throughout this story that this is the end, but I suppose it is fitting the biggest monsters of the following era make their debut in the story that sees it begin. This is understandable though; this was the first time the show had done this. The production team weren’t to know how big event regeneration would go on to be, let alone the fact that this idea would see Doctor Who going on for, at this point, 33 further seasons.

However, Hartnell does get a few lines which foreshadow the regeneration and they work very nicely.

“It’s far from being all over”

I find the above line to be especially eerie. The scene itself is great; The TARDIS controlling itself is a nice touch and the very grandfatherly First Doctor dying of old age is rather appropriate. But while nice, it doesn’t manage to sum up this era in as meaningful a way as those that followed.

Patrick Troughton - 'The War Games' (1969)
Patrick Troughton – ‘The War Games’ (1969)

‘The War Games’ does what the previous story failed at in providing a conclusion to the First Doctor’s tenure as well as the outgoing Second Doctor’s. In other words, it provided an extremely good conclusion to Doctor Who as it was in the 1960s.  It had been established in the very first episode that the Doctor was cut off from his home planet. It was never named and hardly discussed, even when a member of his own race like the Meddling Monk turned up. This story brings the mystery to an end. While the planet had yet to be named, we find out that the Doctor comes from a society of extremely powerful beings known as the Time Lords. Episodes 9 and 10 give us the impression that nothing could ever overcome them, and it’s a shame they were never portrayed in this way again.

The wiping of Jamie and Zoe’s memories helps to solidify this story as a fitting and rather upsetting end to Troughton’s era. However, what makes it all the more fitting is that this incarnation, the one who always ran away from the monsters, is finally caught once and for all. The thread of the Doctor not wishing to return home was started in Hartnell’s era, so as stated earlier, it also wraps up his era in a way too.

I really like the trial scene and the regeneration itself. The fact we don’t actually see it makes it very creepy indeed. It isn’t my favourite story, but I reckon episode 10 of ‘The War Games’ is the greatest single episode of the entire programme.

Jon Pertwee - 'Planet of the Spiders' (1974)
Jon Pertwee – ‘Planet of the Spiders’ (1974)

I like ‘Planet of the Spiders’. It might not be the greatest story in the world but the way in which it ends the Jon Pertwee era is something special indeed. There is definitely a sense of finality about it; UNIT HQ seems oddly quiet at the beginning of the story and it feels like things are beginning to wind down. Most of the major hallmarks of the era are here too, apart from of course the Master. Sarah Jane, the Brigadier, Benton and even Yates are present and correct, and the Doctor even receives a letter from Jo. The chase sequence gives the Whomobile one last hurrah as well as bringing Bessie back for the first time since the previous season finale. Jon Pertwee’s love of gadgetry also sees him getting to pilot a gyrocopter.

These are, however, merely the surface elements. What makes this Regeneration particularly fitting is the Doctor’s greed. Throughout his tenure, this Doctor spoke and fought against the greed of others; he outright states it as the Earth’s main threat at the end of ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’. The Master’s desire to own the universe rather than to just see it is perhaps the most notable example. With his exile to Earth, the Third Doctor was desperate to explore once more.

When this restriction was lifted, he went too far. Metabelis 3 was where he set his sights and throughout the penultimate season, reaching it was his main goal. When he finally did in ‘The Green Death’, he sealed his own fate by stealing a rare and powerful crystal. The events of the final story occur only because of him. Towards the end, the Doctor concedes that the situation is his fault and faces the fact that he too was guilty of a form of greed. This concludes his sort-of character arc and he, of course, pays a price. His final words are absolutely beautiful and begun a trend that we still see today.

So while ‘Planet of the Spiders’ might have the most simplistic regeneration effect, the context surrounding it is one the best the series ever had.

Tom Baker - 'Logopolis' (1981)
Tom Baker – ‘Logopolis’ (1981)

Logopolis isn’t quite as good as its predecessor, both in terms of story and the summing up of a Doctor – but that is to be expected. Tom Baker’s tenure can be divided into three separate eras due to the fact he went through three different producers (four if you count Barry Letts producing ‘Robot’). Each put their own distinct stamp on the programme so it would be near impossible to sum up all seven years in just one four-part serial. In this respect, Logopolis does a very good job of concluding Season 18.

John Nathan Turner’s appointment as producer saw a very different Fourth Doctor to that seen in the previous era. He was melancholic and visibly tired, and part of me thinks that he knew the end was coming right from the beginning of the Season. Themes of decay, death and entropy run throughout and in Logopolis, this is a major focus. This becomes most apparent when we see the beginning of the heat death of the universe, and the destruction of Logopolis itself. The Master serves as death; he causes these events to come about and it is his actions which see the end of the Fourth Doctor. He also serves as a nice parallel to the Doctor, as in the previous story he too was on the verge of death but was of course renewed.

The appearance of the Watcher makes it apparent that the Doctor’s death is imminent. The idea of this character is very eerie and definitely one of my favourite aspects of the story. The atmosphere throughout is very doom-laden which does make me forgive the fact it’s not summative of Tom’s entire tenure (although the villain and companion montages do help emphasise the end of an era). The introduction of both the cloister room and cloister bell really adds to this, with the Doctor noting it rings in times of catastrophe.

The manner of the Doctor’s death is something else I quite like; saving the universe from the Master of all villains is always going to be fitting, no matter which Doctor it is. I know I said I don’t tend to judge regenerations based on effects, but this take has to be my favourite visually due to the various stages of the transformation. I’d really love to see the New Series try something as different as this someday. Paddy Kinsland’s music provides a great deal of tension towards the story’s climax. When it begins to wind down as the camera pans towards the fallen Doctor, we really do get the feeling that an era has ended. The Doctor’s final words are also rather touching, carrying on from the precedent set by the previous regeneration story.

“It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…”

Join me next time when I’ll take a look at my favourite regeneration, the funniest regeneration, and maybe the strangest regeneration yet…

With Comic-Con only a week away, and some anxiety over gasp Americans seeing Series 11 footage first, Mark Donaldson looks at Doctor Who’s American connections and conventions to analyse why the US market is key to the continued success of the show.

Amy Pond flies the star spangled banner
Amy Pond flies the star spangled banner

A few weeks ago, at the beginning of England’s campaign to win the World Cup every 52 years, a rumour had begun to circulate. It claimed that a trailer for Series 11 would play during halftime of the England/Tunisia game, and even garnered a baffled response from John Barrowman. The claim was unfounded and Gary Lineker was spared from delivering another awkward intro to some Doctor Who footage. The trailers non-existence aggravated a number of vocal fans who were absolutely furious about the likelihood of a Comic-Con premiere for footage. A leaked 50-second clip soon followed, which probably cooled down a few internet hotheads (whilst turning the temperature up on some others). The ire of some of those forced to wait until after the Comic-Con panel seemed to be rooted in proprietary nationalism. A British show? Made by British people? Previewing first to Americans? Who won the bloody war of independence anyway?

Doctor Who Comic-Con Panel 2015
Doctor Who Comic-Con Panel 2015

But of course, Series 11 is launching in San Diego with a panel discussion and probable trailer (or the leaked 50-second clip). Whilst Doctor Who might sometimes feel like it’s ours, it’s also a strong, independent intellectual property that exists as part of the larger “geek” landscape, which should be allowed to hang out with whoever it wants.

Comic-Con is, first and foremost, a trade show. It’s the Cannes Film Festival with either a more relaxed or more outrageous dress-code, depending on your opinions of cosplay. This is where the new series of Marvel’s Iron Fist will be launched, where you’ll be able to see footage from the hotly anticipated Wonder Woman 1984 or attend a 10th-anniversary reunion and reminiscence over the seminal Breaking Bad. The eyes of the entertainment industry are on the San Diego Convention Center every year so where better to premiere footage from the new series of the world’s longest-running science fiction series? There’s no difference between Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker talking to fans in a hall the size of an aircraft hanger and Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker talking to marketers, licence holders and invited press in a Liverpool hotel.

Peter Capaldi, Steven Moffat and Jenna Coleman pose for photos in Mexico
Peter Capaldi, Steven Moffat and Jenna Coleman pose for photos in Mexico

Much as some of us would still like to entertain the notion of Doctor Who as an unassuming, quirky little British sci-fi show, it’s actually a globally successful brand. The highlight of the Complete Series 8 boxed set was Earth Conquest: The World Tour; a documentary following Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman as they travelled to countries like South Korea and Mexico to promote their upcoming series together. It’s a joyous watch and testament to the work that Steven Moffat put into extending the appeal of the show around the world. Key to this was Series 6, which to some is perhaps a failed experiment, but is the closest Doctor Who has ever got to aping the model of the American network show. There was a linking narrative which reached a peak halfway through, leaving our characters on an almighty cliffhanger which would not be resolved for a few months. The additional support of BBC America and the location filming for the stand-out series opener The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon also helped to entice American audiences.

Which is not to suggest that there was no relationship between Doctor Who and the USA prior to 2011. Since PBS began airing the Tom Baker serials in 1978, there was a strong American fan base, something John Nathan-Turner was keen to capitalise on in his time as executive producer. JN-T’s Transatlantic jaunts included the Doctor Who USA trailer tour, travelling around the states from 1986 to 1988 with various props and costumes on display whilst past Doctors and companions appeared in various US towns. The tour also included the first public appearance by Sylvester McCoy, three days prior to the “official” announcement of his casting as the 7th Doctor. There seems to have been less of an outcry over this than more recent US previews. Given the public confrontation between certain fans (including one future showrunner) and Pip & Jane Baker, there was maybe a feeling that the Americans were welcome to this formerly beloved show.

Pamphlet for the Doctor Who USA Tour
Pamphlet for the Doctor Who USA Tour

Doctor Who at Comic-Con isn’t a new development either, David Tennant received a rapturous welcome at his first appearance, as has each actor that has succeeded him. Wonky YouTube footage of a trailer for The End of Time made it online straight after, and in recent years, given the global online world, the BBC tends to release the Comic-Con trailers on their official YouTube channels straight after. Therefore, you probably won’t have long to wait until whatever is shown in San Diego makes it online through official channels. In fact, maybe you’ve already seen it via those unofficial channels.

And anyway, it’s not as if they’ll be screening a whole episode in advance like Fox did with the 1996 TV Movie or Amazon did by accidentally posting out the complete S7 boxed sets early so that fans were able to find out The Name of the Doctor before everyone else. The proper launch of the series will be an as yet unannounced date in October. Sure, it’s difficult, the Jodie Whittaker announcement was almost a year ago, and we’ve only had 60 minutes of new Doctor Who in that time. But that’s no reason to get proprietorial over our little British show that now belongs to everyone the World over. Comic-Con is strictly business, what is upsetting about those panels is that it’s rare for UK fans to have an equivalent. But the UK convention circuit and its gradual Americanisation is a topic for another time. In the meantime, Doctor Who will return in October, the promotional circuit begins at Comic-Con, and there are certain to be all sorts of clips, articles and interviews between now and then. If you still insist on being petty, consider that due to time differences, we’ll always get brand new episodes of Doctor Who hours before the Americans.

2016 was a sorry year for us Whovians, with no new series of the show on television, there was very little circulating except for the fantastic Big Finish audiobooks. Then it was announced earlier in that year that the BBC had been working on a brand new spin-off, one set in Coal Hill School. A project called Class.

For some fans, this was welcomed news, something new from the Doctor Who universe we could treat our eyes too. Some fans condemned it there and then but no foul-mouthing from them could halt the project. Sure enough on the 22nd October, the premiere episode, For Tonight, We Might Die aired and the series was finally available for all to see. We know how it all ended.

But Big Finish has announced that the series is coming back in the audio treatment. And again, the show has been treated with the same condemning from some vocal fans of the parent show. But Big Finish has an excellent way of taking things that weren’t all they could have been and turned them around. It is my belief that the same will happen to Class and it will find its home on audio.

Artwork for Volumes 1 & 2 of Class from Big Finish
Artwork for Volumes 1 & 2 of Class from Big Finish

I’ll quickly get this out of the way before I start properly, I enjoyed Class, I thought it was ten times better than many viewers. Of course, I wasn’t blind to its faults and believe me, there were a few but overall I really enjoyed the ride. I gave a good review on my own blog here.

But enough about me lets get on with the point of this article, the trial of Class.

Class was headed by a young-adult author, Patrick Ness who knew the show’s target audience very well. The majority of the characters in the show felt like teenagers, even if they were slightly exaggerated versions of them. There was the intelligent one in Tanya, the strong one in April, the jock in Ram and the slight outsider in Charlie. We even had the surrogate, (albeit reluctantly), mother in the form of Miss. Quill. Throw in Matteusz and we’ve got a whole gang who work brilliantly together. These guys felt like they could be kids at your school or college.

Ness had a good handle on how teenagers act but not necessarily on how they talk. With a show running the line between The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood, swearing was always going to be included and teens do swear, but some words were put together in ways that didn’t make sense. Having these characters say things that teenagers were ‘supposed’ to be saying was cringe-worthy, even I felt that as a teenager in 2016.

The acting was great though. Greg Austin, Jordan Renzo, Vivian Operah, Katherine Kelly, Fady Elsayed and Katherine Kelly always made sure they did the absolute best with the material they were given, which was, mostly top-notch. As with every series, there were always going to be a few duff episodes but the show had really begun to come into its own by the time its finale The Lost, (a subject I’ll get to in a moment,) and absolutely deserved a second series just on the basis of how this one finished!

Katherine Kelly as the the mysterious Ms. Quill
Katherine Kelly as the mysterious Miss. Quill

Greg Austin and Katherine Kelly had an already established chemistry as they had worked together on a couple of big projects before Class came along. I knew who Katherine Kelly was from her time on Coronation Street which I’ve had to endure anytime I’ve been around my Grandparents’ house, but the rest of the cast were unknowns. With the exception of read-through’s, television doesn’t a rehearsal time, prior to going in front of the cameras these days and sometimes, this can really show up an actor who isn’t matching the performance of their co-star. But all the cast looked like they had been acting together for years in the scenes they all featured in, even if those were few and far between.

That was a major issue for Class, the whole gang were very rarely together in the same scene. One of two was always off doing something else while the others were sorting things out. An episode where this is really evident is episode three – Nightvisiting – where Tanya, Ram & April, Miss Quill and Charlie & Matteusz spend most of the episode apart only to come together in a rather Sarah Jane Adventures move when Miss Quill drives through the alien with a double-decker. (Sarah Jane did it with a bus when she and Maria were trying to get into the Bubbleshock factory in Invasion of the Bane). Had the characters been together in episodes for longer, they might have worked better as a well-oiled machine. You only to look at the conclusion to For Tonight, We Might Die and The Lost to see what I mean. The Doctor and Tanya work out how to stop the Shadow Kin, Charlie and Miss Quill fend them away, April offers them an ultimatum and Ram smacks the king round the back of the head with a chair.

I’ve mentioned The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood a few times so far so let’s have a look at why they worked slightly better than Class did. Class suffered because it didn’t have an established Doctor Who character involved. I understand that Class wanted to be its own thing in the Doctor Who mythos but both The Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood, even the Australian K-9 series were using characters from the parent show but forging their own path.

The gang face worse than detention in Detained
The gang face worse than detention in Detained

Its been announced that Ace will be featured in the new audio adventures and this instantly gives us fans someone to invest in, in this new product. Given how she was supposed to feature at the end of the Fifth series of Sarah Jane Adventures, she would have been the perfect character to feature in the Class television series. Or Ian Chesterton, given how the building the action took place in was called The Barbara Wright building and it was established that Ian was a governor at the school.

Mr Armitage was the head teacher in The Caretaker and Dark Water but how cool would it have been had the headmistress been the mysterious Susan Foreman?! Of course, Mr Armitage meets a sticky end in the middle of The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo and I don’t think longtime viewers of Doctor Who would have been happy had Susan been killed off that way, I know I wouldn’t have.

Should characters like Ian and Susan have featured in Class
Should characters like Ian and Susan have featured in Class

For Tonight, We Might Die did feature the Twelfth Doctor but that was no way to set the series off. The pilot episode should have been a great way of establishing these characters as a team, Revenge of the Slitheen allows the gang in Sarah Jane to bond, gel and come together and defeat the villain. Torchwood did the same in Everything Changes/Day One. The Doctor is referenced but never seen, though he did put in appearances later on, the shows were already established with the Doctor fitted in as best as possible. And it shouldn’t be that the Doctor gets his ‘Doctor’ moment in a spin-off show. Although he has that terrific speech that was memed, tweeted and reshared to hell from The Zygon Inversion, I would argue his true ‘Doctor’ moment came when he was facing down the Shadow Kin.

Miss Quill: “Well, there’s nothing left to do then is there but to die well.

The Doctor: “You know, I never thought that was possible, dying well?”

Still, Peter Capaldi’s performance is excellent as always, even if Patrick Ness has written him like the Tenth Doctor.

Corakinus: “We’re here for the Cabinet.”

The Doctor: “Oh…the Cabinet…Well, there’s this terribly painful shop here called Ikea…”

On the subject of the Shadow Kin, how did they work as the main villains for the series? Well, quite well, in as far as an invading force like The Daleks, as they didn’t really have many motivations besides invading planets. The Daleks have always been fun because they have been the main staple of Doctor Who since 1963, we are used to seeing them Exterminating, Annihilating and Destroying.

But the parallels between the Daleks and the Nazi Party has never been blurred. In 1963, Terry Nation created and wrote the Daleks from his experiences in WW2. The Thals were the Jewish people and the Daleks were their WW2 oppressors. And that theme has never been lost, the Daleks want to wipe out anything they perceive as below themselves. The Shadow Kin only work because they are evil and invading planets is what they do. It is a character trait that gets quite old, quite fast.

But they work on their first and last appearances, we see how ruthless they are in For Tonight, We Might Die and The Lost, (I remember what a shock it was to see Ram and Tanya’s parent’s killed). Their other appearances in Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart & Brave-ish Heart, they fair a lot worse, being used for comedic value in Co-Owner and in Brave-Ish, did absolutely naff-all. And the way that April kept swinging those scimitars around was quite cringe-worthy!

The Doctor faces down the terrible machinations of the Shadow Kin
The Doctor faces down the terrible machinations of the Shadow Kin

The other baddies in this series were a lot more interesting, the alien vines that projected images of your dead loved ones, the carnivorous petals and the strange meteor and the Arn Devil proved to be much more interesting foes. The meteor brought everyone’s fears to light as well as some ugly truths, the petals had everyone at each other’s throats in how they wanted to deal with the threat and the alien vines had some very interesting reactions from people at home who had gone through the same thing as Tanya.

I had lost my father when I was seventeen too a brain tumour a few years before Class aired. Nightvisiting was a very interesting view for me, Tanya is confronted with a vision of her dead father and it made me wonder how would I have reacted to the same thing. I would have certainly acted with a little more shock than Tanya does, I would have probably sworn a lot and then passed out. But would I have taken his hand…

One major problem with Class was that it suffered from the lack of promotion from the BBC at the time. We were handed a number of promotional shots and that was it. There were no interviews ahead of time, no trailers on BBC1. There was nothing of note until the series landed in our laps. And it landed on BBC3. Now, I’m sorry, but BBC3 is a dead channel, it always has been seen, but it came off our screens and was a streaming only channel, its gone even further down the toilet. This series would have done so much better at either 8pm or 9pm on BBC2 like Torchwood did. It is a shame on the BBC that there was so little care taken with this series.

The sub-plots in Class were often a lot more interesting than the main ones, especially the one concerning the mysterious governors. Given how Coal Hill School was home to a mysterious crack in space and time, it was inevitable that some shady organisation decided to be involved behind the scenes. The headmistress, Dorothea Ames, played excellently by Pooky Quesnel has some brilliant input in the series, she pulls a gun on her students, Charlie and Matteusz, understands is knowledgeable on how April and Corakinus share a heart and takes Miss Quill on a trip to her home planet in a make-shift time machine so she can get the Arn, a device to keep her in line, out of her eye.

It all comes to ahead in the surprisingly good finale, The Lost where the Governors decide that Dorothea has failed in her mission and all turn their backs on her. Who should appear at that moment but the Weeping Angels and from those few moments, they were scarier than they have ever been since Blink. They tear her head around and kill her.

The Weeping Angels make a terrifying return in the finale
The Weeping Angels make a terrifying return in the finale

Going from that shocking reveal at the end of the series it is a shame that we never got that second series. From what I understand, it was supposed to surround a Weeping Angel Civil War but it would have been so cool to see those creatures, who worked so much better than the Shadow Kin, up against the gang from Coal Hill. Alas, we will never get to see that.

One last thing that Class was particularly good at was its LGBTQ+ representation. Doctor Who and its spin-off shows have never been shy about including this, Russell T. Davies had characters like Captain Jack and Alonso, among others and Steven Moffatt had Jenny, Vastra and Bill as well as most of the Roman centurions in The Eaters of Light. It will be interesting to see what Chris Chibnall does. Had The Sarah Jane Adventures continued, Russell T. Davies would have written that Luke had found love with his friend from University. The pair would have come back and we would have gotten Luke’s coming out story.

Class had a gay-couple as one of their main characters, Charlie and Matteusz. It was an interesting relationship because of how real it felt, thanks to the brilliant chemistry between actors, Greg Austin and Jordan Renzo. Charlie and Miss. Quill didn’t care or understand why some people shun the ideas of homosexuality. But Matteusz states that his family is deeply religious and don’t approve. The beginning of Nightvisiting even tells us that his family kicked him out, forcing him to live with Charlie and Miss. Quill.

Charlie and Matteusz face a tough decision in Brave-Ish Heart
Charlie and Matteusz face a tough decision in Brave-Ish Heart

With Jenny and Vastra living in Victorian times, Stephen Moffatt was able to show us how much times had changed and indeed, the pupils around Charlie and Matteusz didn’t care that they were dating. That isn’t meant in a horrible way, they just didn’t see anything wrong with it, which is the way the world should be. People shouldn’t have a say in who someone can or can’t love, no matter what creed, colour, size or sexuality you happen to be. Maybe this was the most important lesson that Class had to teach the world.

I said at the beginning of this large piece of waffle, that I enjoyed Class when it originally aired. I still do, even if I’m not blind to its faults. It is a shame that we didn’t get that second series for it. Like composer, Blair Mowat said in Doctor Who Magazine:

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Torchwood were still finding their feet in their opening year.”

And that was really what Class was doing, it was slowly finding its feet. The second season of Buffy is some of the best television I’ve seen produced, I’ve no doubt that Class would have strived to reach those heights. Now that Big Finish has taken the show on and are about to give it a brand new lease on life, maybe it will. With the inclusion of Ace and the Daleks, I’ve no doubt it will be a hit.