My life went downhill.
What happened in Doctor Who terms.
THE RUNAWAY BRIDE
As much a part of season three as season two, I think I enjoyed this most of the Christmas specials. The plot is tight and surprisingly complex (see how the pockets, Mars and coffee lines turn out to be vital to the story) and yet so many people damn it, as if they missed all the scenes that explained it all. Catherine Tait manages to make an unlikeable woman who we're clearly not seeing at her best sympathetic to the point you kinda don't want her to die. New heartbroken Doctor gives DT something good to work with, keeping the smugness levels under control. As for the Saxon arc, it was nice that the fact it was obvious that Saxon was the new, ruthless anti-alien Prime Minister, this was the least important part to notice. Would this have been better as episode 2.7 with Rose getting over the loss of Mickey? Maybe, maybe not, but it can't have been worse than The Idiot's Lantern...
Thank GOD It Was Just a Rumor: Donna was actually a super being to replace the White Guardian
SMITH & JONES
Another good opening episode, and its legacy of Galactic Police, H20 scoops and ex-brothers is as impressive as the fact most of the cast have done Doctor Who before. Freema Agyeman is wonderful from the get go, and the Doctor's 'bunion' cover story is an out of the blue strategy I never saw coming; good that the Doctor still has new sides, albeit a return to Eccleston's "I may be suicidal but don't touch me" attitude. A lovely self-contained episode with, like RTD's immediate preceeding episode, a vieled dig at Torchwood. Odd how the Plasmavore's shout of "Burn With Me" turned out to be a total coincidence and nothing important at all. Why they didn't use Albion Hospital?
Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the hospital would end up on Mars and we'd meet the Ice Warriors who would then fight to the death with the Sontarans
THE SHAKESPEARE CODE
With what is clearly the music from Pirates of the Carribean ringing in our ears, we have the most fun historical story so far: as the Doctor makes it clear, it's not different from the present and the people are not stupid just because it's a few centuries earlier. Shakespeare is finally portrayed as someone the Doctor would actually want to spend time with rather than a weak-willed loser (The Chase), a kid who got famous by reading his own work before he wrote it (Time of the Daleks) and both a rejected Blackadder guest and a gritty northern Richard III (god help me, The Kingmaker). The witches didn't particularly impress me, but for a one off villain they worked well. The Doctor shows off some psychic powers and Elizabeth I wants his head chopped off - and one of those things is actually important, the other one a throwaway gag. Just a pity this renders A Groatsworth of Wit non canonical (first rewrite of the year).
Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the original title was Martha The Vampire Slayer
Another one of RTD's confused 5 billion stories, with an endless car park, giant crabs, drug dependency, and the Face of Boe all crammed together and not quite gelling. What happened to the Macra? Why is the Doctor against the Pharmascists, since they're legal and accepted by this society? And, seriously, was anyone surprised at the FOB's final words? The ones we knew about in 2005? Entertaining, but its genesis in series two is shown by all the confused bollocks going on. I still cried at points though. What season two needed, total conviction, and a reference to Saxon no one noticed.
Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the whole 'there's not another Time Lord but you're not alone' thing would be ingeniously resolved with the reveal Saxon was the Valeyard
DALEKS IN MANHATTEN
Probably the weakest of this series, visiting New York and we see a cold, miserable place full of pitiful down and outs and total scumbags. Not exciting at all, since the story is confined to one theatre and a big park with none of the cool touristy attractions. Wow - aliens using a major landmark as an antennae! That hasn't been done since... two episodes previously, with the Carrionites and the Globe. Or the Plasmavore and the hospital. Or the Rachnoss and the Thames... Dear dear. The only unspectacular "normal" Dalek adventure since Destiny of the Daleks (from which this one steals many sound effects) the plot's baffled over what the Daleks are actually trying to do, with lightning apparently being a different sort of radiation that absorbs DNA and... stuff. I dunno where that's going. The idea of continuing battles between the Doctor and the Cult of Skaro are ruined as they are wiped out in their second appearance, leaving only one Dalek left. Disappointing: the original outline on the New York docks worked so much better, though Tullulah is another companion that got away.
Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the pig slaves were actually the Weevils from Torchwood. Actually, it's a pity this wasn't true because otherwise the pointless fanged aliens might actually, you know, have a reason for existing...
THE LAZARUS EXPERIMENT
Martha does Aliens of London, returning home to her family and finding odd shinanegans and stuff happening. Not a lot of depth here, with a guy effectively shouting at his own DNA to make him young, and turning himself into a monster. All makes sense until the Doctor explains it's some evolutionary dead end. Enjoyable stuff that rounds off the first half of the season well, with Mark Gattiss actually putting some effort into acting and the plot makes sense. Only one question is left: what exactly did Sinister Man tell Martha's mother?
Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the Forge would be involved.
A trip to the forty-second century in real time was always going to put a strain on plot and character development, since this basically a remake of Planet of Evil (second remake this year), it shows all the hallmarks of Chibnall's other work (doomed lovers, alien possession, locked inside your own home, countdowns) mixed with the fact it's actually quite good. Is there more than one? Did RTD beat some sense into him? Does Torchwood just bring out the worst in writers? A nifty concept allows this otherwise totally standalone episode to be bolted onto the ongoing storyarc - it's just a pity the week's gap didn't happen after this one, instead of The Lazarus Experiment, as it would have cranked the WTF?!? factor for the next story...
Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: Chris Chibnal would put as much effort into writing it as he does Torchwood
It feels like a New Adventure. Every scene has the vibe that this is what would have been on TV in 1993 had the books been televised. Even with the Tenth Doctor and Martha (which is ironic when you read the real book and see the cameo of the Tenth Doctor in it). The first adaptation to totally cancel out the original, we are left with the unambiguous statement that the NAs aren't canon. Or at least, not after the time war. The Family of Blood and the scarecrows are creepy as hell, and is that REALLY Wil Scarlet with a stroke glowing green and talking like a robot? The boy's got range, you can't deny that. The Doctor's ruthlessness at the end is unnerving to say the least, and the final sequence is the biggest change between the book at the movie: in one, the telepathic young lad becomes an ambulance officer to save lives, in the other, he becomes a soldier for exactly the same reason. We're left to judge whether the old man at the end made the right choice or not.
Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the Rani was in it
Once I get past my fury that Stephen Moffat did little to no work on the story bar scripting his annual story What I Did On My Christmas Holidays By Sally Sparrow (another remake, rendering the original uncanon!), it has to be said Blink is one of the most terrifying stories there is, made all the more impressive we get to know no one for more than ten minutes when the evil shit goes down. It all works until the rather pointless "there are more out there" final sequence, which, when coupled with the Next Time trailer, loses any impact. Another problem is that Moffat's Rose-esque Martha wasn't fixed by the production team, making her appear like a selfish insensitive cow to Billy Shepton. Nevertheless, a triumph of New Who.
Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the annual story Moffat was ripping off was actually going to be Out Of the Corner of Your Eye
THE INFINITE QUEST
Once again, Cosgrove Hall fail spectacularly to do a Doctor Who cartoon and we get some drawings of heads talking to each other and bouncing up and down. Literally, animated. That aside, we get a roller coaster ride through the universe of Doctor Who comic strips, with skeleton pirates, manure-eating insects, and the universe's prison run by psycho robots, and impossible to reconcile with any decent continuity. ASH is wasted as the bandaged Balthazaar, but at least his voice can be recognized, unlike others. When watched in one go, it's an enjoyable craziness. Once you get over the fact no one's legs move.
Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: uh... were there any rumors about this?
THE SOUND OF DRUMS
Three parts, three regulars, three monsters, and even now a bit more than some can handle. The Toclafane finally arrive on screen after their abortive attempts in Dalek and The Satan Pit, the Doctor's Christmas Day revolution comes back to haunt him, as does Captain Jack. We all thought the Doctor assumed he was dead, but no, he ran away deliberately! God, it makes you wonder how many other 'fudged' ideas are just plot points as yet unresolved? Derek Jacobi is, as expected, brilliant as the Master, creating a completely well defined incarnation in three minutes, and just as wonderful Professor Yana. But John Simms' incarnation is just out and out evil. Insane. Cruel. And not stupid. Perhaps best of all, the Master isn't being defined as an opponent of Jon Pertwee's Doctor, but the one we're with now. The only possible complaint I have is that, well, it's another remake. Of the comics this time. Anyone who's read End of the Line (and RTD wrote straight to the mag itself to say how good it was) will find the Futurekind and refugees familiar, while the Master laying traps for the Doctor after gaining an army from another dimension and an obsession with the heart of the time vortex rings a bell from Embrace the Glory. And as ever The Flood provides the conclusion, with the Doctor briefly gaining godlike power. Again. The only other problem is that the end of an era feel with the death of the Master, the departure of Jack and Martha and putting Rose to bed, makes the predictable "something incredible barges into the console room" season ending a waste of time. Especially as a much better one was in offing all along.
Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the Toclafane were really the Gelth. Or the Time Lords. Or the Daleks.
If only someone edited the end of The Last of the Time Lords so the "what-what-what" ending featured the Fifth Doctor... Peter Davison performs brilliantly, but it's his angry, arrogant, take no prisoners Fifth Doctor from the audios rather than the quiet, desperate man we saw on TV. While I loved this underrated incarnation getting his dues, it only makes any sense if you assume the Fifth Doctor had incredibly low self esteem. Which isn't much of a leap, really. Once again, a CiN special manages to explain a huge plothole in the Christmas special, with the worrying idea no one noticed until it was too late...
Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: there would be lots of comedy involving the two Doctors insurance details
VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED
This disaster movie puts the Doctor through the ringer - why does RTD seem so determined to reset the Doctor to hurt lonely man every year? This time, at least, the Doctor's godlike abilites are shoved back in his face as he confronts the fact he can't - despite his claims - do anything and his promises are just that. Kylie Minogue's performance is very good but I just can't suspend belief. It's like a comic relief sketch and it's impossible to think even for a moment she's an alien waitress and not a pop princess, which makes the idea of her joining the TARDIS full time ridiculous. Who were they kidding? The plot works well, with only one real problem (which could simply be down to an edited scene), but the nasty suspicion that the story is being built around remade scenes of Horror of Fang Rock, Robots of Death, Earthshock and countless other 'obstacle course' adventures. Clive Swift's Copper is brilliant, and should have been the companion. Oh, one other problem, the 'Titantic crashes in the TARDIS' idea is just wasted and you get the feeling RTD wished he hadn't done it, since it really makes the rumors a more interesting plotline: Astrid Peth (which means 'Part TARDIS') is a living avatar to repair the damage to the ship. But no. It gets fixed by hitting the rewind button. All in all, the story ends up too bleak and dark to enjoy a second time, especially odd since RTD promised a lighter approach.
Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the villain would be played by Hugh Grant
The Warkeeper's Crown
The Tenth Doctor and the Brigadier find a world full of warring elves, demons and trolls, a lovely story - the only downside is that it makes a TV appearance by the Brigadier unlikely. They should adapt this, they really should...
The Woman Who Sold The World
The Doctor and Martha find a city being destroyed by giant robots who are actually day care centres for children for people waiting in the queues of their major bank. Er... truly demented Douglas Adams type stuff, and like most comics of late, it's too densely written to enjoy in monthly bites.
A rejected one off Doctor Who Adventures strip, with the Doctor saving the world from the back seat of a bus. Too many of these things with too little plot.
Doctor Who meets Shackleton. Unfinished as yet, you can tell some people involved are getting bored, with the Doctor's mind showing a montage of images from Seasons 12 and 13 rather than anything more recent, and Martha being clad in her Atmospheric Density Jacket, which gives the disturbing impression she's trying to enhance her breasts by clipping Cybermats to them.
All in all?
Better than 2006.
And finally, what does Gabriel Chase have to say after Voyage of the Damned?
A third Christmas special, broadcast as the filling in an EastEnders sandwich, was boosted by the presence of ex-soapstar-turned-internationally celebrated songstress Kylie Minogue and claimed ratings of over 12 million.
Oooh, keeping close to the actual facts...
even though the show was still an important weapon in the BBC's armoury, cracks were beginning to show in its thin veneer of superficiality
How can a veneer of superficiality be thin?! And shouldn't it be "cracks ARE showing"?
Please don't tell me you're going to say it's all going to hell...
Agyeman was farmed out to Torchwood at the end of the third series
NO NO NO! WHY DOESN'T HE EVER NOTICE THE TRUTH?!
to make way for a returning Catherine Tate, presumably because Tate was worth more gossip column inches than Agyeman
Things have changed? Does he not realize this?
whilst Billie Piper was rumoured to be returning to the show for the finale of series four
Rumored? Confirmed in the press and by anyone who's seen filming counts as rumored?!
More disturbing was the announcement that Doctor Who wouldn't be run at all in 2009
Well, this is a pack of shit for a start. The 'announcement' was made before Voyage of the Damned screened, and it IS going to be on in 2009!
owing to Tennant appearing in a theatrical run of Macbeth, something that would never have happened during the original series
You missed 1985 then?
God, at least he didn't ask us "Are the cracks beginning to show?" again.